• Daniel Melfi

The important questions: What does it take to make authentic music?

Daniel Melfi: As I began to record the drums – after only two years of practice – I realized that I had no true connection to the instrument

 

The year is 2040. I used to produce music in my studio, but recently it’s become a bit of a zoo.

 

Let me explain: Sometime around 2017, I decided to change my life completely and take a vow of authenticity.

 

As an electronic music producer, I was used to creating songs efficiently with the assistance of samples – small chunks of somebody else’s work. It started a way of sneaking in homages to my favourite artists and promoting some obscure bits of music that begged for more attention. By combining a few basic beats from the hottest sample pack, along with a soulful vocal by some long-gone singer I had no relation with, I would only be a few sponsored Facebook posts away from finding my tracks in Top 10 lists.

 

But it all came crashing down. My perspective would be forever altered.

 

My marketing manager told me one day that if I wanted to get better bookings, make more money and greater notoriety, I would have to be more “authentic.”

 

I wasn’t sure what he meant. Then I started doing some research and came across a number of musical artists who, as strange as it sounds, make their own songs, even at times recording the instruments live, themselves.

 

I knew this was my ticket to the big time. I realized that fans thought it was even cooler to make your own music than use somebody else’s. If I wasn’t in this industry for spotlight, then why was I here, right? I immediately set to buying a set of original Pearl drums and told myself I wouldn’t leave the studio until I had perfected the art of drumming.

 

As I began to record the drums – after only two years of practice – I realized that I had no true connection to the instrument. I hadn’t crafted it, nor did I know where it came from. I wasn’t necessarily concerned by that on a personal level, but if my popularity depended on authenticity, then I would be a fool to ignore the potential to be more synergetic with my music.

 

Off into the woods I went. When I returned with two pieces of fresh, high-quality maple wood from southern Ontario, I assembled the drum with a brand-new hide from the local tanner.

It didn’t last long. Between learning to play, chopping wood and assembling the drum, I felt it was a waste to use someone else’s material to finish the project. Naturally, I traded some old unnecessary studio machines like my computer for a small plot of land and a couple of young French goats.

 

Jean-Paul has been growing now for almost a decade, his hide will be the finest yet. Back in 2025, I came close with his brother Simone, but a tragic accident rendered his offering unusable. I’m hoping that with the help of Jean-Paul, my dreams of an authentic snare drum will finally come true.

 

It presents a problem for the future however; I’ll have to begin my studies of electrical engineering.

 

I couldn’t possibly listen to my music on speakers I didn’t build myself.

 

Originally published on The National Post.