Mad Keys (Brandon McCadney) is a prolific music producer, beat maker, keyboardist, and violinist. Influenced by artists as diverse as D'Angelo, Herbie Hancock, Flying Lotus, J. Dilla and Kaytranada, his music is a winning combition of hip-hop, soul, jazz and a little bit of house.
We caught up with Mad Keys to learn more about his production process, his many projects and how he created his latest track In Orbit with LUMI Keys Studio Edition.
How did you transition from classical violinist to producer?
I don't think of it as a transition — becoming a producer was more of an addition. Back in about 2007 when I was in middle school, my older brother brought home a beat-making computer program. Those moments waking up early and staying up late making beats with him were unforgettable.
I made the decision to get serious about producing in 2017. The music theory I learned as a violinist and through studying has helped me tremendously with understanding how the music works. I try to incorporate the violin in my tracks from time to time too!
You’ve created a new composition for this film: In Orbit. What was the idea behind this track?
This piece came together organically after scrolling through ROLI Studio sounds. I usually do a lot of my production early in the morning, so changing the lighting in my room played a major role in the inspiration for the track. In the evening I’m slowing down for the day, so a more downtempo tune felt so good in the moment.
For the intro textures, I used a ROLI Studio patch called “Ivory Coast Koralimba” — then automated the cutoff and resonate frequencies to add more movement and roll off some of its initial plucking sound. When the beat comes in after the reverse triangle, I used another preset called “Oceanic Harp”. It's unlike any other sound I’ve heard. It has this nice harmonic sound after you release the keys at certain velocities, which gives the song a unique characteristic.
Why did you choose to produce this track with LUMI Keys
LUMI Keys was such a vibe to create with. As a violinist, learning vibrato helped me add a new layer of expression to my playing. Being able to add that same level of expression to playing my synths and keys was DIFFERENT. I’ve never played a keyboard that reacted in such a way. It made the process even more fun!
What's your favorite LUMI Keys feature?
It’s gotta be the MPE features. The fact I can add this level of expression as I play is insane! Usually, I would have to go and add certain effects to my sounds to achieve these expressions. That’s always a plus when saving on CPU.
How has Equator2 impacted your approach to sound design?
Equator2 has a massive sound library with so many textures to choose from and edit . You can literally create anything and everything with it. I’m definitely going to be reaching for it for future projects!
You’ve released your own sample pack: Mad Chops Vol.1 recently. What was the inspiration behind this?
I’ve always wanted to create my own sample pack, after owning so many of my favorite producer’s sample kits (Kaelin Ellis, The Kount, & Decap to name a few) and knowing how much their sounds have amplified my own. I wanted this kit to feel like old records we would dig through in vinyl stores trying to find that perfect sample.
I started working on Mad Chops Vol.1 in fall 2021 and dropped it in August 2022. To be honest, it took a year to drop because it felt intimidating to be working on something like that. I didn’t have any accolades or major credits like the producers I looked up to. As creators, we can get in our heads, a lot. That was the battle I had to overcome — I finished it this year and I’m so thankful that I did.
Do you have any advice to share for musicians hoping to build an online audience?
Get out of your head. It’s so easy to get caught up in seeing “who’s creating what” so much so that we begin to compare ourselves and overthink what we’re doing. It’s great to have inspiration, but we have to do something with that inspiration. We have to execute.
As a musician, I’ve used content creation as a tool to expand my reach, experiment with new music and sounds, and create a lane that I didn’t know was possible for a music producer. If you’re reading this and you’re debating on whether or not to make that post, drop that record/project, make that sample kit, or send that email, do it. You owe it to yourself.
What can we look forward to next from Mad Keys?
2023 is going to be the year of beat tapes, singles, collaborations, sample kits, and so much more! It all starts on Friday, January 27, with a single titled Something Different that I worked on with my homie Tamuz. Follow me stay up-to-date on this, and more releases!