Words By: Miki Hellerbach
The Producer’s Voice is a new series for GUAP where we highlight the stories of instrumental crafters. We hope to bring their stories to the forefront instead of kept behind the artist they are producing for.
Southern Maryland’s own Nate Donmoyer has had one of the most intriguing and varied careers we’ve covered on the column thus far.
The former drummer for the illustrious group Passion Pit has transitioned into solo and collaborative production for some of Rap, Pop, and Alternative’s most interesting voices. He started playing trumpet in school in third grade but on his 13th birthday, one of his Dad’s rugby player friends gifted him his old CB 700 International drum kit. That same year he also received Hammerhead, an 808 emulator, and started using FL Studio and Cubase. He eventually advanced to Pro Tools and Logic professionally, but throughout middle and high school Donmoyer was making beats for his rapper friends and playing drums in indie bands. He and his friends at the time were also heavy into experimenting with synths in the sphere of jungle music and drum and bass. That trifecta of genre immersion would become as he says his “roots” for his musical expression from then on.
Performing and touring with various bands as well as DJing after he moved to Boston would elevate Donmoyer’s career to new levels. That is how he met Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos and eventually toured with the band until around 2013. While his time with the band was an amazing period, with highlights like performing at Coachella and SNL, Donmoyer’s most fulfilling music is the stuff he’s made in the past 3 years. He’s most proud of the incredible hardcore album he put out with the LA based act Kumo 99 and some of the more recent instrumentals he’s pieced together that we discuss below.
I asked Nate Donmoyer to give the backstory of three of his top instrumentals. Take a read.
“damn Right” by Audrey Nuna
“It was so smooth. It felt efficient. There were hurdles, but I loved every second of it. Part of crystallizing into this athletic form (I’ve gotten into) over the past few years has been getting into the muscle memory of doing shit. Part of that was getting locked into a few pieces of gear I really like. The day Audrey and I met, I played the bassline on a blank template on the Behringer Model D (Analog Synth). Then I have this kitted 808 that’s my favourite. I’m lucky that this little old drum machine that I worship is still relevant. I have it set up where I can trigger it from my midi controller. So the loop is going,’ with the bass and the main drum. Then I Juno (Software Synthesizer) the rest of the chords of the chromatic bassline. Those elements were enough to loop up while Audrey was just throwing stuff down. An hour later we had a really solid demo. Her main producer did some vocal producing and sent it back, then I started going in measure by measure doing “amen” chops and sound effects. When she says the line about the Jay-Z snare I put the classic 90s crack.”
“Family Function” by Father feat. Zack Fox
“I first started with Father as a mixer. The way I worked it out with him is I’m not really a mixer mixer but I’d try to make it sound better by doing some things like swapping out a kick or something like that. That might be a no no for traditional mixing but a lot of people do that now. That role sort of warped into being more and more (actual producing), to the point where I was sending him beat packs. I sent him that one and all of a sudden he and Zack Fox were on it. The beat pattern is super influenced by Father’s beats too. There’s a few rhythmic themes he does back to “Look At Wrist” with iLoveMakonnen with patterns and finishing a phrase. When I made this beat I was mimicking them. This one he was half a mile away but we were still doin’ it mostly remote. Once I got his vocals in I figured out when to drop out the beat and tone paint. The funny thing about that one is the demo came out a few days before Christmas in 2018 on Twitter and then the final version wasn’t out for another year.”
“Revolve” by Binki
“That palette in “damn Right” with drums, synths, and saturation I used here. I also got really into The Screamers through a friend which is a late 70s early 80s LA punk band that instead of guitar they used an ARP Odyssey (Duophonic Synthesizer) and instead of bass they used a Rhodes (piano) run through a cab. But it still has the same speed. With all of that in mind I wanted to put that same speed behind this. This was another quick one. I met Binki the day we made it at a spot in Burbank. It started with the fast drum pattern and a super simple bassline. I find that to be a fertile bed for writing for singers. Simple, classic, and suggestive basslines and drums, that’s it. Usually that leaves enough space and a vacuum for a singer to step in and actually have to deliver something that has some momentum behind it. I’ve been in sessions when people want a finished beat and they don’t get excited until they hear that. Then they inevitably get on the mic and deliver the most boring vocals ever. It will work and people will run it, but it won’t last. Binki for this was just sitting on the couch writing to it and then stepped into the booth and did three takes all the way through, then the bridge later was maybe four takes. It all just felt right. Then I got the word they wanted to put it out and I had to say, “Wait a minute let me put some stuff on it.” Then I went into the measure by measure process, putting the fills in, cutting it up to make it feel somewhere between a robot and a human, and adding some little ear candy stuff too.”