Can you introduce yourself briefly with relation to your music, achievements, goals and basic biographical info?
What up world. My name is UNDA, I’m a sound designer/engineer for film and a music producer. I’m from Atlanta (ho) but I was raised in Bangkok as a child. Moved back to Atlanta in 2006, graduated from uni and was working in different sound studios and film studios around the US until I was flown back to Thailand in 2013 for a Sound Design job. I’ve been releasing my own music full time since 2015. I love long walks on the beach and whiskey.
At what age did you discover music? What was it?
My Dad would play Stevie Wonder, Parliament, Curtis Mayfield, Tupac, Earth Wind & Fire, The Ohio Players, Ice Cube, Dr Dre, and the likes around me since I can remember, so about 4 or 5 years old. It’s always been there. But my first record that I had myself (I stole it from Tower Records) was JayZ’s Vol 2, I was in the 3rd grade. Around that time I started to play violin just because I wanted to emulate those melodies. You ever heard Money Cash Hoes on a violin bruh?! Shit goes hard. I went from violin to saxophone, and in middle school I discovered DAWs such as FL Studio, Reason, & Pro Tools. I was hooked on recording & audio technology from then on. I was so focused on engineering & writing that I almost failed out of high school because I wasn’t going to class. But I received a scholarship for Sound Design for university so I think my time wasn’t wasted.
How do you describe your musical style and influences?
My producer holy trinity is DJ Quik, J Dilla, & Madlib. I think you can hear them a little in each song I make. I’ve been fortunate enough to live a wild life, so lyrically that’s what I write about. My life’s experiences and women. Women run it all.
How do you write a song? What's the process?
There is no process. Every song is written differently. Sometimes I’ll start with a melody, sometimes a rhyme, or sometimes just some drums. Who knows? When it comes, it comes.
What do you want people to know about Unda?
I make music very selfishly. I don’t make music for world peace or for the greater good of anything. I make it for myself and for the well being of my soul. If I didn’t have this outlet...I’d be dead by now. I’m 100% independent. I record, mix, produce, and write. I barely sleep. There is no huge label backing, there are no deals on the table (for now). Everything I do is out of my own pocket. I don’t say that to boast, its just that growing up in Bangkok there was no one to learn this stuff from. YouTube was not popping like that in 2001. I had to lock myself in my room and teach myself. So this is why it takes me a while to release material since I’m basically a one man studio.
Are you a proponent of digital streaming platforms?
I have mixed feelings with this. I am, because you must. Streaming platforms aren’t going away, that cat is out of the bag so it’s best to accept the technology. I’m not because artists are getting fucked with these .0007 of a cent payout per stream, while the streaming companies are making millions. To me, what’s the difference between this and getting fucked by a major label? Obviously I’m not going into specifics, but what happened to getting more power to the artists? Wasn’t this supposed to happen with this digital music revolution? Majors/Tech companies still seem to be winning. So, if you’re an independent struggling artist and want your music on streaming/digital platforms you have to pay a service to upload it. Let’s say its $20. You sell your single for $1. Out of that $1, iTunes or Amazon will take, lets say 30 cents. Not only do you have to pay them, but they also take a cut of your sale. Streaming wise, do you know how many hundreds of thousands of plays it will take for you to make that $20 back? Especially when each play is .007 of a cent?! It’s my product! Why is it making them rich but not me? How does this make any sense?
I’ve got the next 20 years planned out but people be scheming and shit so I’ll keep it to myself. I just need to stay alive.
What do you think the key to success is in a musical career?
Defining your own success and paying attention to the musical landscape. Always grow and adapt, time waits for no one so don’t get caught up. Also, beer.
You've made some pretty cool videos! Really cool - how can you do that without spending thousands of dollars?
All you need is creativity man. You don’t need money to make dope shit. That’s what the essence of hip hop is. We don’t have thousands of dollars to blow, but I have 200. Let’s stretch it out and make it work with what we have. Also, as I stated earlier I’m a sound designer for film, so I know my way around the film side of things. I write the script treatments and work with directors side by side. We work together as a team. I also try to make the shoots as fun as possible, and I have my friends in every video. Without them the videos would be pretty boring.
You are based in Bangkok. Do you feel part of the Bangkok music community? Is Unda music a reflection of the city you reside or something else?
Oh most definitely. It’s a small circle so everyone knows each other. When I first moved back I contacted everyone in the city who was doing cool shit. The only ones who replied to me were Comet Records, and they welcomed me with open arms and exposed me to different musical scenes that I didn’t even know existed in the city. UNDA is a reflection of myself, my experiences, and thoughts. Bangkok is definitely my favourite place in the world to create. I need chaos.
Are you satisfied with the options for live music in Bangkok and what suggestions would you have?
Hip hop right now in Bangkok is exciting. There’s a lot going on from labels, crews, parties, DJs, fashion, & producers. The underground scene here is only getting stronger and everyone knows each other. But I would love to see more original content. That’s where the value lies. Originality. That’s how you build a strong foundation. But I don’t want people to get it twisted and think folks aren’t working. Heads are definitely releasing fire. Shout out to everyone in the city putting in work! Y’all know who you are.
Use 3 adjectives to describe Unda
I’m really bad at describing myself. Can I just give a shout out to all the women out there? Can you imagine music without women? Thank you for the inspiration. I love y’all.
Check out the UNDA: 747 EP002 release party - for more information click here.