We ventured to Bruce Forat’s studio in Studio City, California, where RZA produced and mastered the majority of the 8 Diagrams album. The following is an excerpt from our conversation with Bruce Forat and RZA.
Guitar Center: How did you guys get to know each other and what are some of the first projects you worked on together?
RZA: Well, let's see. Who told me about you? It was a guy named Dangerous D.
Bruce Forat: Dangerous D?
RZA: Yeah, right. He's actually part of a band called Stone Mecca who plays a lot on the Wu-Tang album. It was in EQ magazine. He was telling me about Bruce because I had an MPC4000 with a lot of shit in it that lost all its memory. That's the reason why I bought a Roland MV-8000. Because my whole hard drive burned out, and for a minute, you know, I thought that was years of work that I’ll never be able to use again, but D told me about a guy named Bruce Forat. Said, "Yo, he could retrieve it. He do all kind of shit." I says, "Yeah?" Brought the shit over to him and boom! He did it. Y'all have been electrical genius, you know what I mean? You know he made his own beat machine? Not too many people can say that.
But he's also a creative genius in redesigning the face of these machines. And so, when I saw some of the work he did for other artists, I was like, well, I just bought the Roland 8000, you know what I mean? Let's hook it up. Let's turn it to a Wu machine. And he was like, "Cool!" And we did it and the result… because the MV-8000 was kind of not that good looking, right?
Bruce Forat: That's right.
RZA: For real. But he brought it to life, with the two tones, the colors. He came with this little color scheme, and when Roland saw it, they fell in love with it, you know what I mean? And since then, we've been collaborating, just doing more things. And now we up to this big project right here, the Roland MV-8800. They came out with a new machine, which is better. The new machine is better than their first one as well. Works a little faster. So, the eight customized MV-8800 machines; the public will be able to get a hold of these, right?
Guitar Center: Yes, from Guitar Center exclusively.
RZA: The public will be able to buy these and keep these. And we become part of two different histories. One, Forat; I think what he's doing for hip-hop machines is legendary. I mean, it's original and he's going down in history as a legend for that. I'm glad that we’re doing this campaign right here, 'cause this shit is fat.
Guitar Center: Can you explain what it’s going to be like for the eight folks who get to sit down with you after they buy the machine?
RZA: Oh, yeah, of course. Well, talking to me, they’re definitely going to pick up a lot of information, 'cause my style of producing and my ideology of approach to music, you know what I'm saying, has its own original thing to it. Every two producers probably don't use the machine the same. Some people make beats in song mode. Some people make beats in pattern mode. Some people make patterns in the pad modes and they'll synch it up like that. Some people just use it for drums. But the unique thing is, I have years of experience with it now, so I'll give ‘em some insight on how to use it. But also, I think the inspiration you're going to get from the unique design of the machine alone is going to change it. You're going to feel cooler, you know what I mean? It's like going to DJ a party, and in the old days, they had straight-arm turntables and the guy would come in with the SP1200. This is some shit!
Guitar Center: In fact, it's a work of art, too, you know?
Bruce Forat: Exactly.
RZA: Yeah, exactly.
Guitar Center: But you can create with it.
RZA: You can actually make a million dollars with it if you’re smart enough. You know what I mean?
Guitar Center: So tell us how you interface with the MV-8800. Is there something specific about your style?
RZA: I'll just give you a little generality. I mean, for me, it depends on what setting I'm in. If I'm in a setting like a hotel room with an MV-8000, just that alone and a mic, I could make a whole song. I think the “Pro Tools” style of audio that it gives you, along with the 132 tracks of MIDI - what does that? Here, you got 132 channels of MIDI and its audio, potentially nine tracks of audio. And you can cut and paste like Pro Tools. You can plug it up to a monitor, use your mouse, use it like a computer. So those different approaches make it unique.
When I was on the road with Wu-Tang last summer, if I wanted, according to the vibe, you know, to make a song, to rap and make a beat, I was able to do it, just like that, with the MV. I think that's going to be a plus for the producers. You got your laptops, you got your Pro Tools, you got all that, but on the Pro Tools, you're not getting that feel. You're not getting that real hip hop feel.
Guitar Center: Give us a little bit of background about 8 Diagrams, not just the record, but what 8 Diagrams represent for you as an artist.
RZA: Well, see, the 8 Diagrams represents a lot. It's called the I Ching, which means Book of Changes. The number eight itself is a balancing number. You turn it sideways, it's the number of infinity. And for me, the 8 Diagrams, in the I Ching, represents that Man should calculate infinity, calculate my life, calculate what I'm doing ahead of time. I look at those things, I'm like, okay, even for us doing these machines here, and making these unique prototypes for kids to get a hold of, it's so in line with the I Ching. It's so futuristic. It's us seeing the future.
Guitar Center: So Bruce, what can you tell us about RZA? As an artist, what do you respect most about him?
Bruce Forat: His knowledge. He's so deep into all aspects of life, not just music, you know. It blows me away.
These machines will be a part of two major giveaways. Details coming soon.