Loop Sessions: Montreal's 'church' for beatmakers
Event has become a place where beatmakers can congregate and make music as a community
Beatmaking can be a solitary endeavour.
The art form — usually associated with hip hop, but not confined to it — consists of producing music by sampling existing songs, looping said samples and adding sound effects.
For beatmakers, the whole process involves the use of machines and software and often happens within the confines of one's bedroom, basement, attic or some other isolated room.
But Loop Sessions, an event held at the café and record shop 180g, has become the place for Montreal beatmakers to congregate and make music as a community.
"We're geeks," says Loop Sessions co-founder Mahdi Saoula, who goes by Dr. MaD. "We love to talk about RCA cables and stereo channels, stuff like that. We can have hours of conversations."
Held the last Wednesday of every month in partnership with Artbeat Montreal, Loop Sessions aims to create "an opportunity learn new things, exchange, and basically, meet a lot of new dope people that are part of our beatmaking scene," Saoula says.
The pair met more than a decade ago, when Piensa was Saoula's high-school English teacher.
At the time, Saoula says, beatmaking was the most accessible way for him to make music.
"I always wanted to make music when I was a kid. I wanted to learn piano. The problem is that it was too expensive."
Saoula was introduced to the music production software, FL Studio, then known as Fruity Loops, and would go on to co-found the beatmaking duo Loop Pilots with Piensa.
From Brazil to Montreal
It was while releasing music in Brazil that the pair discovered Beat Brasilis, the weekly Sao Paulo event that became the inspiration for Montreal's Loop Sessions.
Both events follow the same formula.
The first beatmaker to arrive selects a vinyl record from a crate. Then, on a first-come-first-serve basis, each person has five to 10 minutes to listen to the record and sample it.
The beatmakers then take their samples to their respective work stations and have up to five hours to create a beat.
At the end of the night, the beatmakers assemble to share their creations before they each get uploaded to Soundcloud.
The record being sampled that day was Quebec singer-songwriter Diane Tell's 1980 vinyl En Fleche, as selected by DJ and producer Phil Sparkz.
Some used samplers — a machine that can be as large as a desktop computer, like the MPC4000, or as small as a book, like the SP-404.
Others used more modern methods, using their laptops to connect hardware, such as MIDI controllers and grooveboxes, to the music production software of their choice — FL Studio or Ableton Live.
"It's like church for electronic musicians, loop-based musicians, people into hip-hop and diggers — the beat diggers, the crate diggers," says Dante Maxwell, a participant who likens beatmakers to visual artists who make collage.
"I book the afternoon off work, and I show up early and I'm happy as a clam," he says. "This is as spiritual as it gets for me."
From Montreal to the world
Saoula believes part of Loop Sessions' popularity can be attributed to the fact the beatmakers crave community.
"I feel like we needed that, to just come together and meet," Saoula says.
The concept has done so well in Montreal that it now has offshoots on two continents: Loop Sessions Paris, Loop Sessions Brussels, and more recently, Loop Sessions Vancouver.
"Rather than building walls, we build bridges between the nations. It's more than just people having fun in a room for a couple hours in a month and that's it," he says. "It's ... creating a network and exporting cultures."
For many participants, Loop Sessions has become a catalyst for something more.
"The boost that I saw in my confidence and my beatmaking was exponential since the first Loop Sessions," says van Landen.
He's since collaborated with other artists and released music on a record label.
"People reacting in a positive way to stuff that's so personal to you is very empowering. It just makes you want to want to carry on making more beats, basically. It's beautiful. "