Inside the mind of up-and-coming Buffalo producer jacebeats
UB student Jamie Catania discusses his work and philosophy
Jamie Catania believes small things can have an enormous impact on the future.
An 8 to 15-second sound bite he hears on the radio or on a record could be the next sample he needs to finish a beat, or inspire a new one. Someone he passes in the hall could help him get a job later in life and bridging connections now could be the key to impending success.
It’s all about small things having a big impact and Catania is conscious of any ripples he might make in his future with each move he makes.
The senior communication major has been producing music for almost a decade, storing hundreds of beats in his “vault” and putting a select few on his SoundCloud under the stage name ‘jacebeats.’ When Catania isn’t on campus making the most of his investment at UB, he’s producing beats for his own beat tape or collaborative projects with local artists including Ian “Ideal” LoGalbo and Devious Capo or promoting the brand, jacebeats – a name that represents his stage name, brand and company.
Above all else, Catania believes branding, communication and branching out are essential to success for himself and other up-and-coming musicians.
Jamie Catania and jacebeats have become synonymous amongst Catania’s social circle.
“They’re two in one,” said Nolan Whipple, one of Catania’s long-time friends. “I know jacebeats as Jamie. He’s a compassionate person that really cares about his work, his ethics are all there … He’s just a great person to the core.”
Catania is planning on releasing his beat tape, “What’s a Quasar to a Photon” later this year. The tape culminates eight years of learning, experimentation and an intellectual awakening that finds its way into every project he does. He says the tape will showcase the wide array of sounds his instrumental beats have to offer and highlights his belief that even the smallest bits of matter can have a huge impact.
“Something small, such as the basic form of light, which is a photon, can still have as big an impact, which is comparable to a quasar,” Catania said. “I believe we have two paths that we can take … you can go with what you’re put on this earth for because I think everyone has determined will, but you can also choose your own path and defy what you’re here for.”
He relates this theory to time travel. Going back in time and doing anything can have a drastic impact on the future and Catania applies that same logic to the present.
“Every little thing you do, you should be conscious of,” Catania said. “It can make a huge impact on what the future holds.”
Catania is his biggest critic and worst enemy. He always thinks he can do something better and tries to approach everything as both a “perfectionist and minimalist.”
Conceptually, everything jacebeats is involved in has deeper meanings. From the name of his upcoming beat tape to other projects he has in the works – like “0 Equals 1,” an album he is producing along with LoGalbo under the combined name Megapowers – Catania’s work and collaborations are rarely simple in ideology.
“The tagline for [the album] is even the concept of nothing is a something,” LoGalbo said. “You’re creating your own reality. You’re in charge of your own life and at the same time we’re all in the same boat, so we’re all one. Zero equals one.”
Catania is also working on an EP with his cousin, Sammy “Devious Capo,” Telesco entitled “The Hyman Roth EP.” The name pays homage to The Godfather: Part II.
Even with multiple projects underway, Catania wants to use his past to strengthen his future and to be conscious that each step he takes now could make or break a new opportunity. It’s all about being cognizant of the causing ripples, big or small, good or bad.
“I’m trying to focus on the present,” Catania said. “I’m always focused on what’s ahead and it makes me miss things that are going on now. Use the past to strengthen your future.”
The method to the madness
Before there can be a beat tape, album or EP, Catania needs beats and each beat begins with a “spark” – an 8-15-second sound bite that sets him off producing another beat, or takes a work in progress to the next level.
Catania sits by a turntable with a few of his friends, jamming to some music and waiting to hear a “spark” emerge from his extravagant collection of vinyl records – a collection that’s constantly expanding.
Once he hears that spark he’s off to the studio in his basement.
Watching Catania produce a beat is like watching a maestro compose a symphony. In his cluttered studio, his hands become those of a conductor without his orchestra as they quickly move from one equipment piece to the next until the sound he is looking for comes out perfectly.
From the spark, Catania molds the melody, adds his drums and creates a baseline. Making a beat can take hours of adding transitions and effects – a process which can last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. A finalized product can take six to eight hours. He has to make the beat, put it together, balance the sounds and add effects. With the help of BadTone Productions, the beats are properly mixed and mastered.
“A lot of people doing things on their own in their own home studio think they can master their music themselves, but in reality it takes a trained engineer,” Catania said. “Once I have something finished, I let them go to work. I give them my input, but they’re trained to hear certain sounds I don’t hear to make sure everything is brought out perfectly.”
Built from the bottom up
He began producing beats while he worked at McDonalds and wrestled and played football at local high school Kenmore West, just a 15-minute drive from UB’s North Campus. His extracurriculars were soon replaced by the keyboard and equipment he purchased to produce his music.
“I started from the bottom,” Catania said. “Working at McDonalds was the worst job I’ve ever had.”
Catania was always fascinated by LoGalbo and other rappers and musicians that surrounded him in high school and he searched for a creative outlet to express himself. He began messing around with some equipment one day and discovered making beats was just the conduit he was looking for. It became an obsession.
“It came from me trying to figure out a way to be creative,” Catania said. “I wanted to release this creativity that I had inside me and I knew I could do it with music. I never knew how to play an instrument, so I learned how to take sounds off old vinyl records and play this machine I have like an instrument.”
Catania’s machine is a MPC 1000, which is a sampler drum machine. The instrument has 16 squares, each representing its own sound. The speed and combination of how the squares are played determines how the sound comes out.
The young producer found fun in the funk, scanning his record collection for a few beats to set him off on the right track. Hours would pass and Catania would still be hard at work creating beats to the best of his ability.
Once he found his outlet and established the name jacebeats, Catania began investing in himself. He has spent thousands of dollars over the years developing his brand and studio setup. Catania had a logo created, worked closely with longtime friend Nolan Whipple to create videos detailing his process and inspirations and purchased better equipment.
Putting a face to the name
“I was told, ‘Before you become someone great, nationally or internationally, be someone in your city first,’” Catania said. “It’s not at all true that every successful person did it all by their self. They always had someone show them the right way [and] utilized connections too.”
Few things are more important to Catania than branding and spreading the word about jacebeats, but that wasn’t always the case.
Starting from the bottom didn’t just come from learning to produce beats with no prior knowledge – it meant making a name for himself, too.
It started with Natural Ingredients, a group LoGalbo is part of.
Catania began promoting Natural Ingredients, fostering a bond and repertoire for the group and himself. He would go from venue to venue, setting up shows and promoting bands. His infectious charisma, ability to communicate face-to-face and confidence in the music he was promoting were key.
“Jamie was always there and a part of [Natural Ingredients],” LoGalbo said. “He had his hand in the music and booking shows, talking to the right people and representing us … With Natural Ingredients, getting into the venues and helping to promote the shows, Jamie did a lot of the legwork.”
After helping promote Natural Ingredients and getting involved in Buffalo’s artistic and music scene, Catania decided it was time to focus on his beats and brand. It started with putting a face to the name.
“To see him from where he was at when he was first starting to take his beat making seriously, there wasn’t a ton of direction,” Whipple said. “He started to realize and [began] to take the brand more seriously.”
He worked with Fully Forward, a multimedia company, to produce a logo and worked closely with Whipple to produce YouTube videos about the factors that drive Catania’s creative life.
“People go on YouTube all the time and want to see what the person behind the music is actually like,” Catania said. “That’s why I invested a good amount of money into [my logo and the video] because I think it’s important. And from the research I’ve done, if you’re going to be online, people need to find your music and they have to be able to link a face to the music.”
Catania and Whipple went to high school together and have remained close ever since, constantly discussing ideas for future projects together.
The two recently published “Inspiration,” a video highlighting the elements that drive jacebeats’ creativity and music. Catania finds inspiration in everything around him. He makes multiple trips to Record Theatre each week, searching for new sparks to peak his musical interest and draws a lot of creativity from the city and people around him.
“I would say that’s also been part of him developing as a person and a brand,” Whipple said. “One of his No. 1 goals is to be able connect as many people as he can to build a community around him that does very good work. He still strives for that and it’s still very prominent in his life. With the ‘Inspiration’ video we really wanted to dig into who Jamie is, who jacebeats is. Let’s hear about you and your specific inspirations: where does your music inspiration come from?”
The three-minute video is the second video Whipple has shot for Catania in conjunction with recording, engineering and mastering through BadTone Productions, the same company jacebeats uses to engineer and master all the projects he works on.
“People say I’m clean cut, but the music I start with is dusty,” Catania says in the video.
“Inspiration” took months of conceptualization and collaboration between Whipple and Catania before they settled on what they wanted the video to be about. The video is shot all over Buffalo, highlighting Record Theatre and other well-known Buffalo sights along with a few of the many people in Catania’s social circle.
Even as he began focusing on his own brand, Catania never lost his love of making connections, building bridges and helping other people branch out. He helped establish the Cretaceous Sunday Cipher, before developing the Unsigned Hype Showcase with his cousin. Both events brought local artists together to present the best lyrics and beats they have to offer.
“He really gets things done and connects people,” LoGalbo said. “A lot of people that know each other now, you can go back in the stems of it all and be like, ‘Oh Jamie introduced them at such and such a time,’ ‘I think they know each other because of Jamie.’”
Catania said he has frequently been able to bridge the gap between people he knows but who don’t know each other.
“I’ve been known to do that with certain artists and companies in Buffalo,” he said.
While talking to people and utilizing social media to bring attention to jacebeats is important, it all begins with giving people a face to put with the name, confidence in his brand and being comfortable talking to people face-to-face.
Catania can be seen in several locations around the City of Buffalo in his video 'Inspiration.' /Courtesy of Nolan Whipple
Gotta keep your head up
Catania’s 5-foot-9 figure is hard to ignore. He’s typically dressed like he is ready for a job interview: clean shaven and sporting a colorful, pressed, button down shirt, polo or part of his eclectic fashion style.
He loves generating conversation wherever he goes. Sports talk chatters between him and another student quickly turns to discussing music or class with others.
Whenever music or careers come up, Catania isn’t shy about discussing his aspirations as a producer and giving people a glimpse into the mind of jacebeats.
“He’s a different type of artist because he is not shy,” LoGalbo said. “He is totally comfortable talking to anyone at any time. I feel like a lot of artists I know are shy and have to warm up to each other.”
Catania says it’s difficult to put yourself out there and it’s easy to be quiet and awkward. One of the biggest things Catania has noticed during his time at UB is the lack of face-to-face communication between students.
“I understand that it’s 2014 and things are different, but just from the amount of people I’ve tried striking up conversations with, a lot of people aren’t comfortable with that,” he said.
He believes a lot of people’s discomfort comes from the amount of communication they do over technology, not that he’s opposed to it or doesn’t utilize it himself. Catania’s biggest message is “don’t be afraid to talk to people” and to keep your head up.
“You got your head down and you miss your opportunity to look to your left or your right, and you never know – that person you miss in the hallway could be the person that ends up getting you the job you’re looking for, and you missed it,” Catania said.
Pulling his phone from his pocket and staring at it, Catania said, “You have your head stuck in this world – the world of information instead of the real world, which are your surroundings.”
He questions how people are going to hold up in job interviews if they can’t talk to people in their classes. He says there’s more to college than just taking classes and getting a degree – it’s also about branching out, forging connections and meeting people.
Catania loves making connections for people. He has always been fascinated with communication as a personal, academic and professional interest.
As a show promoter and burgeoning producer, talking with people is vital.
“Nothing is stronger than word of mouth,” Catania said. “Every time I’m conversing with someone, either on campus or [working at Wegmans] – I’m always in the city, in the heart of the city, dealing with different people. When ever music is brought up I mention that I’m a producer and I work with different artists.”
At UB, Catania wants to “get the most out of his investment” and meet as many people as possible. He doesn’t have someone helping him pay his tuition – it all falls on him. He sees meeting people and making connections as a valuable part of that investment.
“[Communication] is something I think about everyday because it’s what I study and what I’m interested in,” Catania said. “I try to apply that to music because if you’re afraid to talk to people and you’re an artist at UB, you’re a producer, you’re a singer, you’re a rapper and you’re not putting yourself out there to try to meet people then you’re never going to leave the position where you’re at. You’re never gonna grow exponentially.”
No matter what Catania’s working on, he’s very selective in who he works with and only collaborates with people he trusts and who trust him.
“As much as I trustJamie, I’d give him access to my bank account,” Telesco said.
Telesco, LoGalbo and Whipple agreed Catania is always there for every step of the process and ready to offer suggestions or to see what his collaborators think.
“For me, I love working with him because he will customize a lot of his stuff,” Whipple said. “He takes feedback very well, which is a very important part to running a business. I love the customizability of it, I love the fact that he can do a lot of different things and he’s a pretty focused person and I think that shows in his music capabilities.”
Whereas some college students are worried about day-to-day assignments or those in comings weeks, and months, Catania is looking five to 10 years ahead. It keeps him focused on minor things having a big impact and being driven for success.
In the next few years, Catania hopes to be a marketer at a record label or producing beats for one. His goal is to license his music to commercials, movies or a TV show.
The first step is getting his beat tape, “What’s a Quasar to a Photon,” along with other projects out to the public. In addition to his own beat tape and his collaborations with other local artists, Catania is finalizing his new website, jacebeats.us, which he hopes to launch over the summer.
“He’s always able to surprise you with something you never would of thought of that sounds amazing,” LoGalbo said. “That’s the cool factor I think. The jace factor.”
While he waits for his goals to come to fruition, Catania will continue making the most of his investments and searching for that next spark, always conscious that everything he does could have an impact on the road ahead.
As he says, “it’s still a journey and I’m nowhere near done.”
Jordan Oscar is a contributing writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org