Sam Spiegel is an American DJ, producer, composer, and director from New York who grew up in Manhattan and Westchester County. As a child, Spiegel studied classical voice, cello, and flute. By his teens, he enjoyed hip-hop music and went on to become one of the genre’s most prominent figures. In addition to creating his own material, Spiegel has worked with musicians such as Ben Lee, Maroon 5, Kanye West, Ceelo Green, and Anderson .Paak. He has scored commercials for companies including Converse, Levi’s, Reebok, ESPN, T Mobile, Jose Cuervo, and Saturn. Though he attempts to create music free of record label restraints, Spiegel also licenses his songs whenever possible so as to maximize exposure for his work.
Spiegel is the brother of film director Spike Jonze. In 2016, Spiegel began releasing music under his own name, Sam Spiegel. The first release under this new moniker was “Mutant Brain (feat. Assassin)” which he produced with Miami based DJ and producer, Ape Drums and released through Interscope Records. “Mutant Brain” was featured in the Spike Jonze-directed short film, “Kenzo World, A New Fragrance”, for the French brand Kenzo.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Sam to chat about his career, recording process, and tips for aspiring artists.
What’s the first thing you do when you open a session?
Hit play, kick back, and listen to the whole song as is, before i dive in and start changing stuff.
Do you have any tips for upcoming producers and engineers?
Stay true to who you are and what you love. The things that you are excited about and want to work on, those are usually the things that will be fruitful and satisfying in your career and resonate with other people. Making art can come from a lot of different things like pain and struggle, but I usually create from joy. The things that I’ve been most excited about and had the most fun making are also the things people have seemed to enjoy the most.
What are your 5 most used plugins or current favorite plugins?
– UAD Teletronix LA2A (silver)
– UAD ATR-102
– UAD Studer
– UAD Galaxy tape
– UAD EMT 140
I love UAD plugs!
What are some of your favorite VSTs?
D16 – Toraverb, and Devastor
Dadalife – Sausage Fattener
XFER – OTT, LFO tool, Serum
What’s the best tip you could give about recording vocals and guitar?
Use a great mic, great pre-amp, and light compression. and most importantly, have a great vocalist or guitar player! I tend to generally like a mixture of vintage and new gear. I usually use a vintage Neumann U47 from the 50’s, a Neve 1084 mic pre, a Teletronix LA2A, and Fabfilter’s Pro-Q.
Do you prefer to engineer your own sessions when you are producing?
I like to engineer if it’s a simple session. If it’s complicated with a lot of inputs and especially live inputs, I like to have an engineer or at least an assistant engineer.
What was one defining moment in your career?
The day I released “The Spirit of Apollo” the N.A.S.A. record. Also, when “Hello Tomorrow” came out. it was the first song I was a part of that was a hit, and it was the first time that I released a song with Karen O, who has been a big part of my musical stratosphere.
What’s your favorite song that you mixed and/or produced?
Right now, it’s probably “One Last Time” which just came out. It’s just so dope. It’s a banger but it’s a sexy ass slow jam too. Baby making music.
Who are some of your biggest influences and why?
James Brown and Rza. These are dudes that have a huge and new vision, that worked hard and executed their vision that changed music and culture forever.
What are you listening to right now?
I’ve been listening to a lot of African music lately: Mulatu Estatke, William Onyeabor, Steve Monite.
How do you feel about the current state of music?
I think music is amazing. I love the diversity of what people listen to. You don’t have to be silo’d to a certain type of music like you did when I was a kid. Everyone listens to everything now. And as artists, we now have this amazing access and direct communication with our fans.
Tell us about a time when you needed to change your production style to accommodate an artist.
What do you do for fun when you aren’t working on music?
Watching movies, breakdancing, hanging with my cat Wutang.
Is there any artist you want to work with that you haven’t had an opportunity to yet?
I would love to work with PARTYNEXTDOOR. He’s such a dope artist. Such a great writer. Looking forward to doing something with him.
Some of Spiegel’s credits include:
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Show Your Bones”
Adidas – “Hello Tomorrow”
N.A.S.A – “Gifted” (featuring Kanye West, Santigold, and Lykke Li)
N.A.S.A – “Money” (featuring David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge, and Z-Trip)
N.A.S.A – “Strange Enough” (featuring Karen O, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Fatlip)