A Q&A with Scott Melker, a.k.a. the Melker Project

With over 15 years as a DJ, Scott Melker, who records and performs under the moniker of the Melker Project, has shared stages with the likes of some of the world’s most popular and beloved DJs and acts including DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ AM, Public EnemySlick RickDoug E. FreshKanye West, the Wu Tang Clan. Q-TipNe-YoT.I. and a list of others — thanks in particular to the fact that he has developed  reputation for possessing rather wide-ranging, crowd-pleasing tastes and to his skills on the 1s and 2s. 

As the Melker Project, Melker has been rather prolific of late, as he’s released four EPs focused on mashing up the work of a specific artist whose work he admires with contemporary hip-hop – and it’s done in a way that will likely bring comparisons to the likes of Girl Talk and others, as Melker’s work, much like his contemporaries is a marvel of slick and very modern production techniques; however, unlike his contemporaries, Melker’s work manages to be much more deliberate and thought out, as he spends time carefully re-recording much of the material he mashes up.  And in turn, there’s a greater sense of nuance to what he’s doing – material is subtly modernized when necessary without subverting the vocal sample’s spirit.  

Last November, he released the Ballin’ Oats EP, which focused on the work of Hall and Oates to critical praise. A few months later, he released Trill Collins, which was Melker’s love letter to Phil Collins (who had a period of a couple of years where he was like the hottest shit in pop music). The first single off that album, was an incredibly slick mash up of Nas’ “One Mic“ with Phil Collins‘ "In the Air Tonight,” titled “In the Air ToNas.” It works because both songs manage to possess an inner sense of anxiety and dread in their own right.

Melker’s most recent effort, Red Hot Trilli Peppers focuses on the work of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band whose work generally strikes me as being the most amenable to mashing up with hip-hop because of the band’s influences of hip-hop and funk. Of course, the album firmly cements  Melker’s reputation for an incredibly slick production style – but perhaps more important., that Melker has an incredible ear for mashing together songs that make sense sonically and tonally. In particular, check out "California-Love-ication,” a track that mashes up 2Pac and Dr. Dre’s “California Love” with RHCP’s “Californication” and “Scar Tissue Makes You Act Right” which mashes up RHCP’s “Scar Tissue” with Yo Gotti and Young Jeezy’s “Act Right.” If those remixes don’t melt your mind, nothing will. 

in this edition of the Q&A, Melker talks about his increasingly deliberate creative process, which interestingly enough sometimes involves a bit of trial and error; his sharing stages with the likes of Snoop Dogg, and having some of his musical heroes be aware of, and enjoy his work; and he offers some pertinent and important advice to artists trying to make a name for themselves, after spending more than 15 years in the music business.

Check it out below.  

imageScott Melker, a.k.a., the Melker Project rocking a live crowd on the 1s and 2s. 

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WRH: How did you get into music and when did you know it was your calling?

Scott Melker: My parents tell me that my favorite song when I was one was “Second Hand News” by Fleetwood Mac, and that I used to dance in my crib when it would come on. I seriously can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a driving a force in my life. I started playing the piano when I was five, so that is probably the definitive moment when I knew that my passion lay with music. 

WRH: Who are your influences?

SM: That’s a tough question because I enjoy so many different styles of music. When I was a child I was a competitive pianist and was obsessed with classical music, playing Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, etc. At the time, my older brother was listening to a lot of early hip hop, rock, R&B etc. so some of the first artists I remember really loving were Run DMC, The Beastie Boys, New Edition, Bon Jovi and Men At Work. Oh, and The Gucci Crew II. Random, I know. I was always a huge Stevie Wonder fan – to the point where I would learn to play every song on the piano with my eyes closed.

WRH: What are you listening to right now?

SM: Right now? At this moment? I am listening to Donny Hathaway’s Extensions Of A Man while answering these questions. Generally, I listen to a lot of really bad, ignorant hip-hop. I hate myself for it, but I can’t help it.

WRH: You’ve been extremely prolific of late, releasing a number of mashup mixtapes. The mashups focus on the work of one particular artist mashed up with that of another artist — Trill Collins (which focuses on Phil Collins) and Red Hot Trilli Peppers (which focuses on the Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Ballin’ Oates (which focuses on Hall and Oates) are among the most recent that come to my mind. How do you go about choosing the artists you’re paying homage to? And how do you choose which emcee and song to mash up?

SM: I have a startlingly long list of ideas for projects, most of which never see the light of day. I generally choose artists that are popular enough to make people want to listen, but also who have catalogues that lend well towards my remixing style. It’s not easy to find 5 or 6 songs by a single artist that are workable, much less to find isolated vocals to use. As for whom I choose to mash it up with – this can happen in a few ways.  Sometimes it is straight up trial and error, where I take a bunch of ideas and see which one works best. Most often, the tracks are built from the ground up together (like “Rich Girl Meets Rich Boy”), where I know exactly which two tracks will match thematically. 

WRH: In the case of Trill Collins, you re-recorded the instrumental sections to modernize some aspects of the song, while retaining the original vocals. Is this common for all of your mashups? How long does it take to create a mashup? When do you know that you have a finished track? 

SM: This is common for almost all of my mashups now, as my style has evolved. It takes me a very long time to create one of my tracks, because I generally play all of the different parts, find new sounds to use, etc. On average, each track takes a few full days of work at minimum. And I usually create roughly 10 tracks, choosing the 5 best ones.

It is hard to describe how I “know” when a track is finished – it’s more a feeling than anything else. At a certain point it just seems perfect, so I let it be.

WRH: You’ve shared stages with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Naughty by Nature, DJ AM, Public Enemy, Doug E. Fresh, Kanye West, the Wu-Tang Clan, Q-Tip, Ne-Yo, T.I. and others. How is it like to perform with people you’ve admired for most of your life, and for them to know you and your work? Who is on your dream list of artists you’d love to perform with?  

SM: I have definitely lived a charmed life to some degree – it’s amazing every time I get to share a stage with one of these musicians. Having someone like John Oates speak positively about Ballin’ Oates was truly incredible and flattering, knowing that some of these artists actually enjoy my reinterpretations of their work. As far as my dream list… if you ask my wife the only person on the list would be Justin Timberlake, but I digress.  For me, Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, Hall & Oates, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Prince (although he would likely hate my music) and Weird Al Yankovic. Seriously, that dude rules. 

WRH: You’ve been in the music industry for well over 15 years. What advice can you give to artists who are trying to make a name for themselves? Is there anything you’d do over? 

The industry is incredibly different now than it was 15 years ago – it’s the Wild West. The Internet has opened endless doors for artists, who can thrive outside of the label and corporate music machine. At the end of the day though, the best way to make a name is to create good music, and continue putting it out until people take notice. Do everything you can to be heard – send your tracks to blogs, labels, friends etc.  Share them on social media. Beg other people to share them on their social media. Get your work into the ears of as many potential fans as possible.

As for what I would do over? I would be born about 15 years later… it is so much easier now, and DJs are far more respected.