Chicago footwork will forever be associated with hardware: Shredded beats, ghostly samples and quaking sub-bass made on MPC samplers and brought to life in ferocious dance battles. That’s also the case with genre pioneer RP Boo, who’s been at the vanguard of footwork for over two decades – from the 1999 blueprint of ‘The Godzilla Track’ through the icy futurism of his albums on UK label Planet Mu.
But while he’s best known as an MPC power user, RP Boo has recently been wooed by the limitless potential of digital software, reigniting that feeling of being an awed beginner. “I was so used to working with analogue machines and I felt I couldn’t really get what I want out of software plugins and stuff like that,” he says. But hearing what other people were achieving through software convinced him that “that’s where I need to go, because my imagination was really there.”
Download the stems from RP Boo’s sketch here, then remix, re-use, and repurpose them any way you like.
Making the sketch was an opportunity to get to grips with his new setup combining NI software with tactile machines – including, of course, the Maschine. He started out with “a nice dark synth, so I could feel myself going into a battle of Chicago footwork, like a wrestler’s theme music as he walks to the ring.” Inside Analog Dreams he picked out the spooky sci-fi preset 1984 and tweaked it with the Raum/Airy EQ. Searching around for a rhythm, Kontakt Studio Drummer leapt out at him, he jokes, “as if it was saying ‘please beat with me and let’s make an impact’.”
Next he indulged his dreams of playing in an orchestra by adding the Stradivari Violin in Kontakt as a counterpoint to the dark synth, with additional shaping from Kontakt’s Solid EQ. Finally, a “finisher note” was supplied by the Drunken Band preset in Kontakt’s orchestral underscoring toolkit Arkhis, ending the sketch on an unexpected ripple of steel: “I am a big kid at heart,” he admits.
I didn’t think that I had the tools to show me the future, but I had them all the time.
As a newbie to most of the software, RP worked out what he was doing the same way the rest of us do – by watching videos on YouTube. He barely scratched the surface. “I was running Komplete 11, but I never really opened up the full program until after I finished the sketch. I coulda went crazy,” he laughs. “Now I want to know more. I didn’t think that I had the tools to show me the future, but I had them all the time.”
Making sketches suits him as a composer – he’d rather start a new project than go back to an old one, because you never know what you might make next. “You could be able to create a new genre, who knows? Instead of going back to something that you left, just do what’s on your mind.” When Planet Mu’s Mike Paradinas heard ‘B’ware’ for the first time, he remembers, the track wasn’t finished but his label boss convinced him to put it out anyway. To his surprise, people loved it: “Just because you think it’s not finished, it could be something great to everyone else.”
With over 25 years’ of experience under his belt, an album in his back pocket (he’s waiting for Covid to blow over) and an updated studio full of untapped potential, RP Boo sets an example for anyone feeling hesitant about switching things up. Take a tip from an old pro: “Every day is a new day of learning.”
Words: Chal Ravens