Boston Beat

By 
Michael Gaskins

Dow Brain ’88

Dow Brain ’88

Dow Brain ’88 and Brad Young ’89 didn’t know each other at Berklee. But after meeting during the early 1990s, they discovered that their different skill sets and similar musical interests yielded an “aha” moment for their creative chemistry and a successful, collaborative relationship developed.

Brain is a product of the music synthesis major and Young of the MP&E program. Both were interested in sampling jazz and experimental riffs just as producers of the then-emerging rap scene were doing. They later launched two ventures: Underground Productions and BUMP (or Big Underground Music Publishing), both based in Needham, MA.

The pair penned and coproduced four songs on the British band LFO’s self-titled album, including number-one Billboard single “Summer Girls.” The legendary Clive Davis oversaw the project. This success led to a three-year publishing deal with BMG Songs.

At Underground Studios, Brain recently produced and recorded Lauren Bennett’s vocal tracks for LMFAO’s number-one hit “Party Rock Anthem.” Their BUMP Music library, which contains 3,000 tracks of vocal and instrumental music they’ve created for film and television, has yielded placements on such shows as  The Office, Weeds, Cupid, The Works, How’d You Get So Rich?, AFV, Sox Appeal, and The Sopranos.

“Early on,” says Brain, I found a huge, creative force in Boston and was able to combine that with what I learned at Berklee from teachers like Walter [Beasley] and Kurt Biederwolf. They always inspired me to try new things, and there was a lot of sampling of jazz music in rap; it was a great way to combine sounds. Music is a huge catalyst for bringing people from different backgrounds together.”

Similarly, while serving as an intern at Newbury Sound Studio after finishing his Berklee studies, Young experimented in the studio after hours working with samples and experimental riffs. He met a raw, talented rapper, Brick Casey, and began working with him. He later introduced Casey to Brain and the three worked together on a project in a small Dorchester studio. They have since collaborated extensively. Casey was “one of those musicians that stood out,” Brain recalls. “He was the perfect ingredient to add to the mix. For BUMP, our production company, Brad and I work with people all over the world, and Casey has been our most successful artist. Together, we’ve gotten placements in the Showtime series Ray Donovan. It’s funny that this partnership started in a place where we were just trying to be creative and capture interesting sounds.” The three are now creating material that resonates with the music and film industries.

The BUMP music catalog entries are diverse. “‘Spec’ stuff is largely what we do,” Brain remarks. “Music supervisors contact us wanting a particular sound or feel. A recent case was a project we did for the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. Turnaround times for these projects are usually short. I may have to call Casey on Tuesday to write lyrics and then have to submit the finished project on Wednesday or Thursday. Casey is creative, talented, and reliable. I will record his vocal in the studio and then complete the rest of the production using Logic at home.”

At a recent session, I watched Brain boot up a tune and Casey boldly step into the vocal both with just three words written on a notebook page. Casey used images from his words to evoke passion. Like a jazz soloist, he let his lyrics flow for more than eight minutes. He seamlessly changed cadence and carefully crafted each phrase as Brain captured his performance. The whole session lasted only 15 minutes. “Now Brad and Dow will fine-tune it,” Casey told me. “I trust them to perfect what we’ve started.”

Brain attributes the success of the studio and BUMP to what the duo learned at Berklee, their exposure to many different styles of music, and the chances they’ve had to experiment with various sounds. With a steadily growing client list, their continuing musical presence on TV seems assured.