He was one of funk and garage’s most respected sessions men, but you may not have recognized his name despite his work with P-Funk, Was (Not Was) and Patti Smith. 2002 has changed all that. After co-writing “Lose Yourself” and other trix with Eminem – and winning an Oscar for it, Luis Resto is now one of the primary movers in the Rap kingdom.
By Sandee Rager
As I drove to Ferndale, Michigan for an interview, I played the radio loud and enjoyed whatever came on for the drive. When the song “Lose Yourself” came on, I turned up the volume even more. I pulled up behind several buildings, not sure I was in the right place. I used my cell phone to call the number Luis Resto gave me to make sure. Resto answered to assure me I was in the right place by telling me he was behind me. I looked in my rearview mirror to see him sitting in his candy apple red VW bug on his cell.
“Good timing,” he said on the phone.
I meet him at 54 Sound, the studio that has served as the beat lab for the Shady Records crew.
He gave me a tour of the surprisingly big studio inside that doesn’t look so big from the outside. We sat in the main studio surrounded by blood red walls, black speakers mounted in the walls across from the huge sound board, several headphones rested on desks, records adorned the floor leaning against a wall, and we sat comfortably on a long, black leather couch against the back wall.
“Wanna hold it?” Resto asked as he opened a bag from off the floor. He pulled out an object covered by a red and white towel to unveil the Oscar he and Eminem won for best song ‘Lose Yourself’ at the Academy Awards ceremony.
“It’s a lot heavier than you think,” he added as this golden beauty sank in my hands.
Resto looked relaxed and refreshed with his dark, curly shoulder length hair pulled back into a low ponytail, gray knee-length shorts, a white short sleeved shirt with tan spots in a random pattern on it and sandals.
“The point of getting into music was to play music,” Resto said. And that was the focal point of his love and our conversation. The entire process of creating his art is very “Zen-like” to him. “I like seeing structure made from basically nothing. It’s like architecture. I definitely like the process more than liking the end result. It helps to experience what an artist feels.”
His musical building process started at the age of 8 and was a family affair. His two older brothers played guitar and this stirred Resto into music himself. His grandmother played piano and encouraged him to play it.
As we talked, various people were walking around the studio, talking and working. A voice from the other room beckoned Resto for a phone call and he excused himself. Suddenly, the power in the entire studio went out. People scurried around the studio with flashlights trying to salvage what they were working on and to continue what they needed to do. I sat angled so the daylight from the windows in the other room would light my notepad as we continued the interview.
He spoke very highly of his experience at Interlochen at the ages of 13 and 14. He expanded his musical talents in this experience in succession with piano, violin, guitar, cello, and synthesizer. It was, his three brothers that introduced him to rock-n-roll. This set Resto on another tuneful path. He started to combine and mesh all the styles he had learned in his life thus far: Salsa from his parents, rock from his brothers and everything else from classes.
He took to the synthesizer before many musicians in those days.
Resto found himself in that enviable position of being “ahead of him time”.
“Can I get you anything?” Resto asked as he got up. “Coffee?”
I agreed to a cup. “How do you take it?” he asked from the other room.
“Black with sugar,” I responded and he returned within seconds with a white Styrofoam cup of steaming coffee.
“I have to speak to Joel [Martin – the owner of 54 Sound], excuse me again,” he said and disappeared into the other room. A high pitched beep (presumably from the backup power supply) in succession of four times happened every 15 seconds in the background as people rushed around still dealing with the power outage.
Resto’s piano teacher, Irwin Krinsky had introduced Resto to Don Was. It was this introduction that really got the ball rolling on his career. It lead to Resto becoming a member of the group WasNotWas. This was his first real studio gig and it lasted 10 years before he decided to split from the group to work on his own music.
“I never regret any choices I made,” Resto said with certainty in his voice.
When he split from WasNotWas he was left to find other avenues to support himself and his wife and two kids.
“I got involved with advertising,” he said “I needed money to support a family.”
He had a love/hate relationship with advertising music. He loved that he was still dealing with music, but hated the 30 to 60 seconds splurges of music he was limited to writing.
“I prefer doing songs more than splurges,” he said. “I grew up on TV and that’s why I probably did well at ads.”
After struggling with the dim lighting of the studio, Luis and I moved into a more lit room. This room housed some old school, arcade style video game machines, a desk with books on it – one of which was Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, a black couch next to a TV with a DVD player, a coffee table, and two red chairs.
Resto sat on the black couch, leaned forward and back shifting his weight when he spoke of his time and experience working with Patti Smith.
“I love the way she performs,” Resto electrified. His eyes grew wide and his arms and hands became visually expressive as if he were talking with them. “She’s really unbelievable, an amazing artist.”
Of all the work he had done until that time with Smith, she was the first to give him writing credits in the liner notes of the CD’s he worked on.
Laurie Anderson was another musician he spoke of. Resto is a fan of Anderson’s work and she has influenced him as well.
Working with so many different artists over the years, he was forced to travel a lot. This became tough on him, his finances and family. There were times when the work didn’t pay so well and debt became an evil shadow for Resto. Having a consistent job at home would have been ideal.
In 2001 Resto received a call from Martin that would make it all possible. Martin asked him if he would work with Eminem on D-12’s album Devil’s Night.
“I listen to any styles and all styles,[of music]” Resto said, but rap wasn’t something he had exposed himself to very much.
When they spoke, Martin asked him if he had even heard of Eminem. Resto had but was not familiar with his music at the time. All he had heard was the edited version of My Name Is on the radio. After his conversation with Martin, he went out and bought the album.
At first, he was first turned off by Eminem’s lyrics. But Martin, who had worked with Eminem already, encouraged Resto to really listen to the stories he was telling. Resto did so and agreed to take the D-12 job. As he worked with Eminem and got to know him personally, his opinion and tune changed.
“He’s an amazing writer,” Resto said about Eminem. “There’s just no doubt he can paint an amazing picture.”
He began working with him more and other artists on Shady Records. The grounded gig keeps him in Detroit and with his family 24/7. The only time work has pulled him away is when he went on tour with Eminem for on month for the movie 8 Mile.
As if on cue, voices in the other room began to multiply and a few men walked into the room just inside the doorway, stood and talked. A few seconds behind them walked in Eminem. He has a white rag tied on top of his head and casually attired in black pants and a white t-shirt. He carried a large, black bag on his shoulder.
“Marshall,” Resto called to Eminem who was engaged in conversation. “I want you to meet someone. This is Sandee from Marsdust magazine.”
He took attention and time away from what he was doing to greet me and firmly shake my hand.
Resto’s latest accomplishment has been working on Cheers the next Obie Trice album.
“It’s a beautiful album,” he commented. “It’ll knock you out. I really like Obie.”
He will begin working on the next D12 album, then another Eminem album and by that time he predicts 50 Cent may want to do another album. Some say that Resto works with some of the angriest rappers in the business. He finds it interesting to be in his place. He sees both sides of all these musicians. What they write and rap about and what the public hears can be hard to swallow and cause controversy. Resto doesn’t let that get in the way of his work.
“It comes from a deep place in the musicians,” Resto said. “There’s nobody I can’t work with.”
He has built a good trust with Eminem and likes seeing what happens with the artists he works with.
Everyone had work to do (even with the power out) putting finishing touches on things to get ready for Eminem’s concert that night. Resto and I decided to move to a diner down the street. The place was filled with wonderful smells of home cooking, people filled about every table except two toward the back, and waitresses zoomed around taking care of their tables. We sat at one of the back tables against a sidewall
As active as his present life is, he still has his eye on future projects outside of Shady Records.
“I’m conjuring up what my next show will be,” Resto said.
Coffee was poured and food was ordered.
He has his own company called Resto World Music. Things are presently crazy with putting the finishing touched on getting the studio up and running; wiring, cameras and other technical work.
“Things are going at a break-neck pace,” he said.
Resto World Music is an international flavor of music combining jazz, salsa, Spanish, and rock.
He enjoys the fact that he has more time to spend with his family. He recently read one of the Harry Potter books with his son. His wife turned him onto reading science fiction. He likes the works of Ray Bradbury. He reads tech manuals as well.
In addition to sci-fi reading, he like the sci-fi screen.
“I went to every monster flick there was,” he said. “I’m a sucker for the effects. I have to see the latest effects.”
Some of his favorites are Alien, Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, ET, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
He continues to work like a dog in the studio with several projects going on at one time and the awesome ability of balancing a family and personal life.