Studio Visit: Derek Linzy

Studio Visit: Derek Linzy

Derek Linzy, 36, of Champaign is a music producer and engineer and musician who will lead the first of four National Endowment for the Arts-funded Open Scene workshops at the Independent Media Center in Urbana.

How did you end up being selected for Open Scene?

I did a summer workshop last year with (the hip-hop duo) Mother Nature. I volunteered to do a beat-making session as part of their curriculum. That ended up catching the attention of one of the directors here at the IMC and at the Boys and Girls Club. They asked if I was able to do a similar program for them. Then the program director here, Blair Smith, basically gave me a heads-up about Open Scene and that it might be wise for me to put my name in the mix to see what would happen.

What will you do for Open Scene?

I'll direct a workshop called "The Essentials of Making Beats." It's really geared toward giving kids (ages 16 to 24) exposure to the creative, technical and business aspects of the music industry so they get hands-on experience with how things work.

Will there be an Open Scene public session after your workshop?

Yes, we'll be open to the public from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and then from 2 to 4 p.m. next Sunday for a showcase of the recordings we produced and an artist dialogue, led by me.

How did you get into the business?

I started music production, ironically, when I was in the Marine Corps from 1998 to 2002. After my last tour in Japan, I really got more into it and hooked back up with my younger brother and we started our own demo recording studio in the back of my dad's house. We were recording R&B and hip-hop. We had a lot of local artists who wanted to record music. Some wanted a demo to provide record labels. We were a one-stop shop for making demos. We also recorded there a member of the Ghetto Boys, based out of Houston. Then I started to fly out to work with other celebrities. I was in L.A. a lot working with Coolio at one point.

Didn't you work with Prince?

Prince came a few years after that. I actually was attending an audio recording school in Minneapolis from 2010 to '14 called IPR (Institute of Production and Recording at the College of Creative Arts). One of my production instructors, Walt Chancellor, was a really good friend of Prince; he earned a platinum album working with him. So basically, little did I know, Walt was keeping an eye on me all semester. I was at the studio 18 to 20 hours a day. I was a studio rat. Prince was looking for something new and fresh. He told Walt, "Give me the hardest-working student you've got" and my name was put into the mix. We played phone tag with Prince for about a year. Finally, they called again and gave us the address to Paisley Park, and we were told Prince was waiting for us. So I went out there. He had tasks he would give his manager to have me perform. Everything was a test. I had to do a lot of tasks, mixing his music, doing inventory for all his equipment — he had a lot of guitars. On the third day I was there, we accidentally bumped into each other. We almost collided in a hallway.

What was he like?

He was a lot cooler than people think. He was very down to earth. He was a jokester. He would get on you if you messed up. I was there for three months, off and on. After I moved back to Illinois in '14, I was still doing consulting work for him. Prince nicknamed me "Pro Tools Guy." He would say, "Call Derek, we've got a problem." I stuck around longer with Prince than most people did. He was known for firing people. After he went back on tour with the band, I was working with, 3rdeyegirl, I wasn't needed as much. So I moved back here. In February of last year, Prince's manager called me to come back and work. I was psyched to head back up to Paisley Park and Prince died in April. Last summer, they called me again to come up and help as they converted Paisley Park into a museum, but I was working on my bachelor's degree in communications and electronic media at Eastern Illinois University. I'll finish that up in the fall. It'll be one of four degrees I have.

Are you still recording and producing in the studio behind your father's home?

No. Right now, 90 percent of my business, DLNZ Productions, is online. I rent other studio spaces if I need to record bigger ensembles. After I got back here, I started doing more production and mixing. I was doing television scoring for the Oxygen Network, and "The Rickey Smiley Show."

What instruments do you play yourself?

I play piano, guitar and keys. I'm self-taught. I play with a local band called Eclectic Soul. I've been working with them about 14 years. We do soul, jazz and R&B.

Topics (2):Art, Music