Published May 29, 2011Toronto rhyme maestro/producer/engineer Rob Bakker has been producing and rhyming as Muneshine since 2001. Reared in small town Saskatchewan, he's now based out of a modest two-story walk-up in Toronto's Niagara neighbourhood. Bakker's home studio could generously be described as unassuming; the room's small space is largely occupied by a mattress and shelves straining to contain an impressive record collection. The walls are adorned with promo posters for Muneshine's frequent collaborator D-Sisive, while a computer desk holds Bakker's entire production arsenal. An antiquated Akai integrated drum machine sits gathering dust; another sits at his mixing studio, drum pads burnt out from overuse.
Muneshine wistfully recalls the first beat he ever made, a flip of the Beatnuts' "No Equal," constructed the day he bought his MPC. "I chopped up parts of that beat, trying to learn how to use the MPC and create something new with samples." Even before that, Bakker vividly remembers early attempts at beat tapes using the "pause" and "record" buttons on his boombox. These days Muneshine operates slightly more modern equipment: what he describes as a "piece of shit" PC, two laptops and an Ozonic MIDI keyboard controller. He constructs his songs with Adobe Audition and employs Reason for engineering purposes, while inexpensive Rokt KRK monitors supply surprisingly potent bass.
While he's eager to explain his set-up and techniques, Muneshine is loathe to ascribe mystique to the process. "It comes from bullshitting around and making jokes. We just come up with an idea, I'll work on a beat and we come up with a melody while I look for samples." He jokingly dismisses the producer-as-shaman mystique that tends to permeate his genre: "We don't light candles or meditate and get all focused. There's no complex process. I guess the complexity comes from ideas, turning those ideas into something that sounds good."
Instrumental album A Walk In The Park (2007) as well as Status Symbol (2009) and freelance work for luminaries like Shad and D-Sisive were all crafted between these walls. Bakker's sample-heavy, head nod-inducing production reveals him as a disciple of '90s East coast rap (Pete Rock is a personal hero) but the records are mostly for show these days. Bakker began using software out of necessity but soon discovered the technology's extra benefits. "It's more versatile, I can work faster and be more productive. And I can add more original elements like MIDI instruments on top."
He enjoys augmenting his sampled music with his own compositions; though Muneshine took piano lessons as a youth, he doesn't play what he calls "real" instruments. Thus Bakker is typically self-effacing about attending college for audio engineering. "I got the degree to make my mom proud. I didn't go there thinking this was my future, I went there thinking I love music and I wanted to learn things I could apply to it." Despite his academic qualifications, Muneshine doesn't record at home and prefers to capture vocals in another studio. "The recording process is a necessity, it's not the fun part. I love mixing but I don't need more than this home studio for the moment."
Likewise, Bakker is intrigued by newer software like Reason but he concedes his innate stubbornness in regards to new technology. "I don't really change my process until I'm forced to. I always want to introduce new ideas but I'm also okay with appreciating how good the music is now." He digs for samples online through blog sites, earmarking songs that catch his ear in a series of folders. Bakker clearly takes pride in being a fast worker. "The most time-consuming part for me is finding the sample, going through and finding something that grabs you. Once I load that in, it just snowballs pretty quickly. Start to finish, the average beat takes maybe two hours or so."
Muneshine has kept busy in 2011; in February alone, he produced and mixed D-Sisive's Jonestown 2 and dropped the Larger Than Life EP with Dutch beatmakers Vinyl Frontiers. "I'm being influenced by different artists I know and work with in Toronto. I don't know if there's a Toronto sound yet but hopefully I can be a part of creating it." With his upcoming collab with Halifax producer/MC Ghettosocks as Twin Peaks, and his fourth album There Is Only Today due later this year, Muneshine will undoubtedly get that opportunity.