Bryan Wilson: From Brit Awards to Boom Dice

Toronto born Bryan Wilson, also known as Boom Dice, is not only a fantastic producer, mixer or artist, he’s also the founder of a newly launched label Boom Dice Presents. He’s been making a huge name out for himself since he started his career and it looks like he might be destined for success. Bryan is a Multi-Grammy nominated and Brit award winning producer/artist who has worked with global acts such as Sofi Tukker, Stormzy and Mabel amongst many others. His releases under the ‘Boom Dice’ name have been performed at one of the biggest electronic music festivals: Hardfest, reached #11 on Australia’s Triple J Unearthed Pop Charts, and has been covered by the BBC in the UK. He’s been checking off milestones one after the other and it doesn’t look like he’s planning on stopping. We spoke to him about Boom Dice Presents, future plans, his most memorable moments of his career, and his latest collaboration with Sola “Embers”.

The Curve: Your latest single “Embers” just came out a few days ago, can you tell me a bit more about it?

Boom Dice: “Embers” was a piece of music I was sitting on for a while. The original version was very different than what we hear now but Sola’s management hit me up and basically asked if I wanted to do something with her. I thought her voice was amazing and so we kind of fired this track back and forth and this is what we ended up going with which I think was a natural pairing. Sometimes I might be sitting on a song or an instrumental waiting for the right artist to pair with. Sometimes it’s for somebody else, and sometimes it’s for me. So when I make tracks, I don’t always necessarily know what it’s going to be for and that was definitely the case for this song at first.

TC: How was it woking with Sola?

BD: Good, you know we haven’t actually even met, which is probably a common thing with the events of the last year [laughs]. She’s up in Manchester. I’m here in London, but for most of last year I was in Canada so before I left I sent her the beat. I put her in touch with this long time writer friend of mine Hamish Barnes who set up sessions between the two of them to come up with the concept and figure out exactly what the track was going to be about. Then we had just zoom meetings to make progress and it wasn’t finished until I got back that at the beginning of this year, January, February or somewhere around that time. She sent me the vocal tracks back that she recorded herself up in Manchester and I folded the rest into the track in my studio here in London. Everything was 100% remote, which I think is the new way of working and it has it’s benefits too.

TC: Was it hard for you to change from working with artists in person to working remotely?

BD: I think it depends who you ask. For me, I was pretty much working alone anyways for years and years. Sometimes it would be by choice, other times just the fact that I have international clients. So I was pretty used to that anyway. I’ll just get on with the job no matter what, but there’s obviously something to be said about feeding off the creativity of people in the room and being able to deliver a different kind of vibe, or aesthetic that you wouldn’t get with sending files back and forth. But it has made the lazy people out there learn how to record basic demos themselves which I think is a huge step forward for them.

TC: What’s your creativity process like?

BD: It depends what I’m doing but usually what’s been happening with my label releases so far, which we will probably talk a little bit more about that later on [laughs], is that I’ll send them a beat to start coming up with ideas remotely or with a paired writer. I like to make sure we have a strong concept from the beginning before I push record. There’s a lot of people out there that could probably nail any instrumental that I send to them, you know great singers, but they might not all be artists, and there’s a big difference there to me. So if we’re going to really put something out, I like to actually invest in the creatives that possess a creative sparkon all levels and are artists. Acts that will put the time into thinking about concept and making sure everything is catchy and on point. Usually that gets established right at the beginning with rough versions. I don’t like to waste other peoples time and I don’t like to waste my time so making sure that everybody is on the same page straight from the beginning is super important to me. And then once that is out of the way, they’ll record their own vocals (unless we do the session together). I try to make sure their setup is technically good enough so that they’re not sending me tracks back with a bus horn on it or something. And then I’ll do my thing. After that I’ll massage the audio, mix it and send it back and forth to make sure that everyone is happy. I’d say one huge element of where my skills come out is in the vocal production. I usually have a very clear idea about the layers that I want a vocalist to record, or creative little effects that come in and out of the song. That’s usually the kind of stuff that excites me. And that’s the kind of thing that I bring to the table when I’m working with somebody. It makes a big difference between a real polished solid piece of music versus a demo. It’s those little things that I call ‘Nuggets’ that people remember.

TC: Was the creativity process any different working on this track?

BD: I mean every single one of them is different. You know if I compare this single versus the last, it was a lot more sort of international. One thing that I’ve been getting excited about doing is trying to get people from different places involved.The last single for example I was in Canada for a bit and I was also in London while one of the writers was in Mexico, another in the UK and then the artist was in Copenhagen and then somewhere in Switzerland after that [laughs]. You know what I find really amazing is that it doesn’t matter anymore where you are or what gear you have (in most cases if you have the right knowledge). And “Embers” kind of came about in a similar way. Compared to something that you work on from scratch with somebody in the same studio, you get a completely different outcome sometimes, but both methods have their pros and cons.

TC: Who’s your inspiration?

BD: That’s a big question [chuckle]. I don’t know and I don’t really think that way when I approach my work. There is one person who I would say I probably modelled my career off, and he’s just a legend. His name is Manny Marroquin. He’s a big name mixer and engineer who has done everything and worked with everyone for at least 20 years. He was one of the first people that I reached out to when I was maybe 16 or 17 roughly. I just dropped him an email and he welcomed me to the crazy world of music and told me that I should prepare myself for lots of different strange things and he was right! He still works with the biggest names globally so I respect his longevity too. He is definitely somebody who inspires me because he can jump between different genres, and people know they will get a good result no matter what. I’ve spent my career really trying to establish myself as a go to person that can work in any kind of environment and deliver high level results. I’d say he’s probably at the top of the list in terms of people within the industry that inspire me and I think that’s a better answer than if I was to name artists because we’re doing different things and artists have different goals so I can’t really compare.

TC: What’s next for you as Boom Dice?

BD: The artist/producer project under the ‘Boom Dice’ name started as a way for me to showcase all the great talent that I was working with. I noticed it didn’t matter where I was in the world, be it New York, LA here in London, Toronto where I’m from and elsewhere, that when you’re doing writing sessions, you’re kind of at the whim of the artists and their teams in terms of what they’re going to do after with what you create. In most cases, it was blowing my mind that everyone would be spending time being creative and having fun, which is great because practice makes perfect, except nobody had a plan for any of the work afterwards. So I thought, well what’s the point of this? This was a problem for me and I don’t like wasting time. Why don’t I actually just be the solution to this problem instead of waiting for an artist who might put something out, or they just might disappear in the end. I might never hear even from them again. I thought I’ll just learn all of the stuff that I need to know in terms of being the record label and providing solutions for distribution and all of these different aspects that I didn’t really have much of a need to do before. And that was where the ‘Boom Dice Presents’ label/artist showcase platform was born. We’re at the point now where we had few releases and it’s really just started and so is the learning as A&R. I’m getting help in all sorts of different areas. I’ve signed a distribution deal for all of the releases while singing myself up for neighbouring rights and publishing. All sorts of positive things that I never expected to be part of but infrastructure is important in any business. I want to make sure that everybody who gets involved with us knows what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, that everything is above board. We want to pair with artists and companies that want to grow to mutual benefit. So we will invest in artists and projects that are already investing in themselves. Boom Dice Presents down the line might turn into a joint venture with a major label where we can utilize a greater marketing platform. Perhaps we’ll get into publishing, and there’s a few young up and coming producers that I also want to sign. I’ve got big big plans, but I have to take it one step at a time. And so for now we’re focusing on projects with great artists that I think are awesome that I think are going to do great things. So that’s where it’s at so far with an indication of the future aims.

TC: You’ve got to trust the process.

BD: That’s right, that’s right. And be patient!

TC: So, can you tease us about any upcoming releases from Boom Dice Present?

BD: Well actually I don’t wanna speak too soon. I also don’t know if she would want me to name her, but there’s an upcoming artist that I think is amazing. She’s a Florida born artist who is an actress based in Serbia. We’ve done a track. It’s basically ready to go we just gotta figure out what we’re doing. This pandemic screwed things up a little bit because the last time we talked I was wanting to fly to Serbia to do a little cameo in the music video [laughs]. So it’s gotten pushed back a little bit, but that song is going to be the next one. It’s a dark R ‘n’ B trap sort of alt pop song. Very much a fitting follow up to ‘Embers’. I’ve also got myself involved in a couple of NFT ideas. I don’t want to give away details yet, but we are trying to just do things differently and experiment a little in that space. I want ‘Boom Dice Presents’ to be driving change for anyone that we help. I don’t want to just work with the same old methods all the time. I feel like there’s a reason that the music business is so behind. Everybody should just start trying to make baby steps to positive change, and maybe it’ll be more fair and accessible for everybody.

TC: Is there an artist you want to work with that you haven’t yet had the opportunity to work with?

BD: Oh yeah, I mean there’s always new artists I’d love to work with. I would love to work with somebody in the high end pop level like Dua Lipa or with Migos on the beatmaking front. On the underground scene there’s this artist named Julia Wolf that I just discovered who I think is phenomenal. I believe she’s based out of New York. There’s so many good artists out there. You have to break it down into different levels because, you know, I can say I want to work with Dua Lipa, but unless that comes through the chain of 20 different people that have to approve it it’s unrealistic. Whereas you pick somebody on the come-up that has their artist project together, but they’re unknown, the freedom is greater. That’s really the kind of stuff that excites me, because then we can do whatever we want and be the driving factor of what happens with it afterward. Exciting times out there and for artists that aren’t always learning new things, you will get left behind for sure.

TC: You worked on a lot of exciting projects so do you have a favourite musical projects that you’ve worked on?

BD: It’s really hard to top certain milestones, you know, there were projects that were fun for different reasons, but if you consider that for a long time my one goal was to be acknowledged by the Recording Academy and getting Grammy Award nominations or wins and all that stuff, I’d have to say the Sofi Tukker material that I worked on is hard to top. Because the very first song that we did and we were lucky enough to get nominated for a Grammy. It’s really this hard work and the Apple commercials that kind of set them off. But equally another first would be the Stormzy record ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’. Fraser T. Smith, the producer of that record, asked me to be involved and then we know what happened there in the end. Mercury Prize nominations, Brit Awards, being the UK number one etc. I basically hit every accolade that there is with that one and it was my first UK number one. Lots of good plaques from that and that’s where I won my Brit award as well. So that’s also pretty special. I’d have to say that those two are the top of the list even though they are under roles that I don’t really care that much about anymore as my goal posts change. It marks a moment in time for me on the journey.

TC: What would be your advice for someone who wants to start a career as a producer?  

BD: Do something else [we both burst into laughter]. No, I’m kidding. I’m just kidding. I mean you really have to have thick skin. You need to be able to understand that nothing is personal. You’ll have to be able to take rejection. But you also need to have your head on properly. You know more than skill in the studio, what actually worked for me most was the fact that I was a decent person. In our industry, if you’re not a decent person and you don’t treat people well, then it doesn’t really matter what skill level you are. You’re not going to be wanted in the room. I’ve noticed over the years with different assistants that’s kind of the hard thing for them to understand where they fit into the equation. It can be really unusual to understand a traditional studio environment let alone what to do with music once you’re ready. There is all sorts of unspoken strange roles that come into play. But again, most of it comes down to being able to be a sensible person. Don’t overstep, be mindful of your opinions and who you are speaking to, be respecful, and that will take you far. You can always learn technical skills, but those human qualities are much harder to come by.

You can follow Boom Dice’s journey here:

Boom Dice Presents: