Musical Shangri La & AI DAW Sampling
An interview with platinum-selling songwriter and producer Riley Knapp (RKCB, Julia Michaels, Niall Horan)
“I am having a BLAST sampling AI Music with RipX DAW PRO! I love the ability to do whatever I want with any audio source. RipX DAW PRO gives me access to audio as if I created that audio myself. The possibilities are endless, but I use it a lot for inspiration, sampling, creation and overall audio moulding.”
Growing up in a musical family, listening to music constantly, being inspired by his father and jamming along to bands like Green Day, Riley played drums in a variety of middle and high school bands, joined the Vans Warped Tour aged 14, his first ‘big break’ that crystallised his passion for music and kick-started his career, then worked as a session drummer in the Phoenix/LA areas.
“After touring the Vans Warped Tour, I began to get a lot of jobs playing drums on people’s albums. I’d fly out to LA almost every weekend in high school to play drums for different bands and artists, and worked with some truly prolific musicians and producers. It was this experience that taught me a lot of studio etiquette at such a young age, which gave me a professional advantage later in life. I then went to music college and began realising I had a passion for all forms of music, including songwriting and production.”
A man of diverse musical influences with a particular fondness for underground sounds, he once worked with Rick Rubin at his famous Shangri La studios.
“I’m constantly inspired (and always have been) by different forms of creativity within music and music production, which has led me to find inspiration in a lot of ‘underground’ artists/producers such as Jai Paul, Jack Garratt, James Blake and anyone who’s name starts with a ‘J’ (just kidding).
I’ve also always been fascinated with Rick Rubin’s approach to music. Someone who has little traditional musical gifts, but can also influence some of the most important music of my generation must have some sort of super power. I realised during my time working at Shangri La that creativity and music all stem from one source which is available to everyone. Letting go of one’s pre-conceived notions that they aren’t a musician or that they can’t write songs is the key to actually doing those things. This forever changed how I approach music making & collaborating.”
Perhaps best known for his RKCB project with musical partner Casey Bart; after meeting at a masterclass with Young Guru, they each got to play a song they wrote and produced. This then lead to the most fulfilling experience of Riley’s career so far, even penning and producing some platinum records!
“We heard each other’s music and immediately spoke after class, hoping to collaborate. This came to fruition, and the first song we ever wrote together happened to go viral online, leading to us signing a publishing deal, dropping out of college and pursuing the project full-time.
We then went on to make multiple EP’s, signed a record deal, toured the world and really accomplished everything I had dreamed of as a child (aside from winning a Grammy!). Over the years, music we’ve written and produced has amassed well over 1 billion streams, and is still continuing to impact listeners every day. The experiences here are truly amazing, and when I look back on them, it almost doesn’t feel real.
The music was always 100% up to Casey and I, and it taught me everything I value most about my artistic skill sets now. As far as outside projects, working with some of our idols such as Julia Michaels was (and continues to be) a mind-blowing experience. Julia is an intimidating talent wrapped up in the nicest human you’ll ever meet. Casey and I stayed true to ourselves and each other throughout our entire musical journey.
A lot of people in the industry can get ‘lost’ and lose touch with themselves, their purpose and the reasons they loved music in the first place. But we worked hard to never hit this impasse, and pushed each other away from this direction constantly. I look back at everything we accomplished feeling beyond proud.”
Happiest when producing at home in the studio, remix-wise, Riley’s particularly proud of RKCB’s take on ‘Don’t Pull Away’ by j.Views.
“That song impacted me in a deep way when it came out, so the opportunity to get to add our own touch to it was beyond special.
I’m a total studio rat, although live shows are a unique experience that can’t be replicated in any other form. Some of my fondest memories are actually being on tour with my best friends, feeling proud every day.”
As for his favourite studio gear?
X Mic: SM7
Monitors: Focal Twin6
DAW: RipX DAW PRO & Logic Pro
Headphones: Audeze LCD-X
Plug In: Black Box
Synth: Korg Minilogue
Hardware gear: Lavry Gold
Riley also values traditional and AI sampling as an artform and started at a young age, using Garageband on the iPhone to capture random moments that he’d then use in songs, later leading to RipX DAW PRO.
“This evolved when I began using Ableton Live, and really got familiar with manipulating audio and the artform behind that. This led me to RipX DAW PRO, which in my opinion is the best sampling program by FAR. I can do things within RipX DAW PRO that I truly never thought would be possible in my musical career. With AI music coming into play as well, the possibilities of sound creation and capturing ‘moments’ are endless.
I am having a BLAST sampling AI Music with RipX DAW PRO! I love the ability to do whatever I want with any audio source. RipX DAW PRO gives me access to audio as if I created that audio myself. The possibilities are endless, but I use it a lot for inspiration, sampling, creation and overall audio moulding.
I’ve used it a LOT to create samples using AI audio, and then using those samples in music I make. I’ve also sent some sample packs to peers to show them that humans and AI can collaborate effectively.
However, if you are going to sample AI Music, do so from a trusted source. Read the TOS for every piece of AI tech that you use. Do your due diligence into where the software sourced their training data, and what they plan on doing with yours.”
As for his predictions on the future of music, AI and music technology in general?
“The future of music will be more ‘taste’ than ‘talent’ based. With the barrier to entry into music creation becoming lower by the day, our collective musical output will be based far more on what people enjoy rather than people trying to be impressive. This excites me deeply. There are so many new tools coming out that will allow people with great taste but no musician know-how to begin creating music that they hear in their heads but could never actually perform. Imagine if this technology was around when Rick Rubin was younger.
Music tech will continue to advance to suit the creator. I don’t think humans will ever be replaced by AI, so we should all be excited about the upcoming decade of change. At the end of the day, humans enjoy creating music, and we create music for ourselves and other humans. Not for robots.”
Finally, any advice to someone starting out in the music industry?
“Focus on learning as many facets of music creation as possible. Be a jack of all trades. Develop an overarching understanding of what makes music special, and the routes to achieve that. The world is changing rapidly, and only those who can adapt on the drop of a dime will continue to thrive in inspiration, not bogged down by intimidation.”
Find out more about RKCB HERE.