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Steve Pageot: Key Factor

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As a composer, producer, engineer and performer, Steve Pageot epitomizes musical genius. The Brooklyn-born, Canadian-raised Pageot has been making music longer than he could read it. By the time he was in high school he had already won the highly-esteemed Canadian Music Competition, and these days he’s got an impressive range of experience under his belt.

After signing a management agreement under Ron Lawrence Productions, who boasts hits with Faith Evans, the late The Notorious B.I.G., Carl Thomas and LL Cool J, Pageot produced “The War Iz On” with Loud recording artist Krayzie Bone on the platinum album Thug Mentality 1999. That opened the door to working on projects with Aretha Franklin, Ruben Studdard, Wyclef and many others.

Dubbed the industry’s “best kept secret,” Pageot has proven his diverse abilities by crossing over into the world of musical composition for television shows and commercials. We found out that there seems to be nothing he can’t do when given a pen and an instrument.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Now I know that you were born into a family of well-known musicians. Who are some of these people?

Steve Pageot: My dad, Fritz, is a bass player and I have a brother who is 28 – he’s an accomplished piano player – he’s a piano player for the Cirque du Soleil. His name is Ricky. My 16-year-old brother plays drums, and he just opened up for a popular recording artist in Montreal actually. Then my uncle’s an accomplished producer. It’s all in the family.

AHHA: Sounds like the Jackson 5. Did your dad force you and your brothers to practice for hours and hours? [laughs]

Steve: Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that. My dad was trying to put a little Jackson 5 thing together, but the only problem was that I was the only child. It was just so much pressure. So when my little brother was born we would all practice together on Sundays. He didn’t want us to become mediocre musicians, so we all went to school to study music. So when my little brother came up, he had no choice. His two big brothers were

musicians, so he had to be too.

AHHA: How did you get with producer Ron Lawrence?

Steve: I was working at Sony studios in 1997 and was working on a project with this artist names Michelle. She used to be an A&R, and she introduced me to Ron. He had produced “Hypnotize” with Biggie, so he was popular. We exchanged numbers and I kept in touch. One day, I finally called him and said I wanted to play the flute on one of his recordings. [I] guess he wasn’t really feeling that…a flute player on a track. Then I heard he was looking for a keys player. I called him up and told him that I play keys and we linked up soon after that.

AHHA: You got your big break after doing your first major production for Krayzie Bone. How was it working with a rap artist for the first time, with your musical roots so deep in soul and R&B?

Steve: Well, it was brand new. Working with a rap artist is a whole different setting. Like, he doesn’t have to repeat his one line three and four times to get the melody. But when I was working with Krayzie Bone, I worked with him as if I was doing an R&B track. That brought a different element.

AHHA: I see. The single you produced, “The War Iz On,” was on the album Thug

Mentality 1999, which went platinum. Producers struggle for years to be a part of a platinum album, but you started out on top of the game, how did you feel at that moment?

Steve: It felt really good because it’s something I always wanted to do. I spent a lot of time struggling, trying to get into the music industry, so that platinum project was my gratification. A lot of people start their grind when they get in, but mine started way before that. It felt really good to be a part of that project.

AHHA: Do you feel like you set the bar pretty high for yourself, with future productions and albums?

Steve: I think I did set [the bar] really high, and it was a little bit of pressure on me because it made me work even harder at being better than before. With a lot of producers, every project leads to another project that will eventually make them go platinum. So it made me say, “Wow, this is really serious.” So every project I took on after that point had to go at least platinum. I couldn’t settle for less.

AHHA: And so you move on to a queen with a platinum recording history. How did you get from Krayzie Bone to Aretha Franklin?

Steve: [laughs] A friend of mine worked at Relativity Records and he told me that Krayzie would be in town, [he said] “Won’t you bring some tracks and we meet at The Hit Factory.” I did, and [Krayzie] was really feeling the first track. Two days later, I was at work, and my friend told me we had to be in L.A. I was like, “Look this ain’t the time to be playing.” But he was serious.

In 2003, Ron set up a system where he would have writers come in everyday, working on songs. When I was in the studio working on tracks, I’d hear everything going on. One of the tracks L.A. Reid heard and gave it to Aretha Franklin. She ended up getting a Grammy for it, and since I helped engineer it, I received a Grammy too…setting the bar even higher.

AHHA: That’s amazing. A lot of producers today aren’t raw musicians, but you were actually a little child prodigy I hear.

Steve: Yeah, something like that.

AHHA: So humble I see.

Steve: [laughs]

AHHA: While most people associate you with Canada, you were in fact born in NYC. What was it like growing up in Canada?

Steve: It was a nice. The lifestyle in Canada is really passive. It’s calm and peaceful. They’re focused on life instead of material things. But out here in New York, the lifestyle is fast and so you have to be on your p’s and q’s. I had to change my whole way of thinking when I got out here, ‘cause if you snooze you loose.

AHHA: You also produce music for commercials and TV shows. How did you get into that?

Steve: Well, one day I was at Soul Café, and my friend introduced me to a woman working on Arista. I told her I was a composer also, and she said she had a friend looking for composers. She sent him my work and he liked it, so I started composing for shows and commercials. It’s very hard to break into that business; harder than the music business, I think. But it’s very lucrative.

AHHA: Wow, I’ve never heard that. Is the creative process different for you?

Steve: Yeah, because [when you’re] doing music for TV, you have to think really fast, because it’s merely 15 to 30 seconds. So it’s not like a Hip-Hop or R&B track where you have four minutes to express your creativity. A jingle is cut into 30 seconds. This experience comes in handy when I’m in the recording studio with artists, because I’m quick.

AHHA: Who have you met in the industry, thus far, that you would say has had the most profound impact on you as an individual?

Steve: I’d say Ron Lawrence, because he told me from the beginning that when I got money, I shouldn’t waste it. He told me everything he went through so I didn’t have to go through it. His work ethic was impressive, and he schooled me on just about everything. He taught me to make tracks, because of even though you’re a musician, it doesn’t mean you can do a track. Prince Charles Alexander had a huge impact on me on the engineering front. He’s one of the best music engineers out there.

AHHA: You had a brief run-in with Sean “Diddy” Combs early in your career. What was that experience like, and what did you learn from it?

Steve: You research a lot. [laughs]

AHHA: That’s my job.

Steve: [Diddy] was the first person I met in the industry back in 1993. He was the first person to critique my music. Like I said, Montreal was passive, but in New York everything is quick and much tougher. So when Diddy heard my music, he was brutally honest about him not feeling it, and it hurt. So I took that situation, worked at it, and made it at bigger situation. I went home and bought all the hottest tracks and compared them to mine. That’s where I found what I needed to take my music to the next level. Having that meeting with Diddy helped make me the producer I am today.

AHHA: Seems like you’re making New York your home. You recently started training as a teacher with the School of Audio Engineering, and are lecturing at the 92nd Street Y, we hear.

Steve: Yeah, it’s great because it’s like giving back to society everything I learned in this business. So before they graduate, I tell them what it’s really like out here in the industry, and they really appreciate the honesty. I love it. I think giving back is always good.

AHHA: Fun stuff. So what new projects are you working on?

Steve: I signed a deal with MTV last year to produce tracks for different shows. I did Run’s House</i?. My next show is the Kimora Lee Show and Rob and Big Black. Also, I’m playing the flute on Talib Kweli’s song “Listen,” his new single from his album. And I got a song coming out next month on Bone Thugs’ new album called “Call me.” They’re saying it could be the next classic Hip-Hop song.

AHHA: What direction would you like to see music take over the next couple of years?

Steve: The way that music is going nowadays, there’s no substance. People aren’t studying music like Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, and it isn’t being transferred to the next person. Today, a lot of people are insecure and scared to tell people how they got the snare, how they got the kick, etcetera. So if people want to become the next Quincy Jones or Babyface, you have to study music at the core. So I produce, but I also play the flute and the keyboard just about everyday, because that’s what will set me apart. People think that just because they do beats that they’re producers – it doesn’t. Studying and honing your craft is what makes you the best.

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