By Erin Wolf, Special to OnMilwaukee   Published May 03, 2016 at 12:06 PM

AUTOMatic is undeniably a savvy crew, fronted by scene veterans A.P.R.I.M.E. (emcee, producer), TrellMatic (producer) and JDL Rockwell (DJ, production). The trio has consistently created fresh, upbeat and funky yet structured sounds since its inception in the late '00s. Very much influenced by the '90s with its easygoing but conscious hip-hop style, AUTOMatic’s output is simply great danceable stuff with a great message.

AUTOMatic, along with the House of M, helped pave the way for the recent Milwaukee hip hop explosion. On last year’s "Arising" EP, they were still pushing forward with their solid foundation of modern R&B influences mixed in with the jazzy stuff, but they also began edging it up by throwing in a bit of experimentation with some electronica-infused sounds.

The group’s latest release is centered around A.P.R.I.M.E.’s more solo-leaning project under the alias of "3099." Although admittedly still AUTOMatic, the group’s latest EP is indebted more heavily writing-wise to its leader, fittingly entitled "AUTOMatic Presents: 3099." On it, they dig even more smoothly into their effortless balance between classic and more modern sounds, steadily adding on those burgeoning new elements of sound and adding depth of field thanks to a strong collaborative spirit. In the past, they’ve worked with younger local artists Vincent Van Great and El Shareef; on "3099," they prominently feature guest vocals by local R&B crooner Lex Allen.

On Tuesday, April 26, AUTOMatic played on WMSE’s Local/Live, the same day as the release of "3099," playing two live sets that featured songs from that new EP as well as unreleased material set for release in the fall. During the interview portion, AUTOMatic mentioned several times the great influence musicians like Herbie Hancock had upon their own creative output. Fittingly, AUTOMatic chose to feature "Come Running to Me" from Herbie Hancock (from his 1978 album, "Sunlight") at the end of Local/Live for the "This Is Your Song" segment, where the musical guest chooses one musician or group (and one song) that has influenced their own music.

Catch the full segment in the WMSE archives, and below, get AUTOMatic’s producer TrellMatic’s take on why Herbie Hancock, in particular, is their biggest influence.

The lowdown

  • Musician/Band: AUTOMatic
  • WMSE’s Local/Live Date: Tuesday, April 26, 2016
  • "This Is Your Song" pick: "Come Running to Me" by Herbie Hancock (from the album "Sunlight," released in 1978 on Columbia Records)
  • Interviewed: TrellMatic (producer)

What/when is your first memory of hearing this particular song?

Most people know him as "J Dilla," but I was introduced to him as JD from Slum Village before the name change. I first heard that sample on Slum Villages’ first full-length release, "Fantastic, Vol. 2," on a song called "Get Dis Money," and the way the sample was arranged, it kind of gives you that futuristic sound … more like a funk, West Coast kind of fusion deal … almost like something that Super Cat or maybe Dre would have sampled when I first heard it. And ironically, Dre did end up sampling that song – I think he even sampled the Slum Village version of it.

When you first hear the song, the part that was sampled was not until way later in the song, and it goes back to how Herbie constructs his songs – they’re almost in three, four parts. If you listened to the way it was sampled, from the beginning, it sounds like two different songs; you don’t even have similarities all throughout the song, but when you listen to it, it all makes sense in his totality I guess. That song has so many different arrangements and things about it that are so good, how could you not like that sample even if you don’t like that type of music? It’s just a really well-constructed song, so I can understand how someone like J Dilla would sample such a great piece of work.

Me personally, I actually sampled that song twice. The first time I sampled that songs was for the first debut album, "Audiology." I sampled it for a song called "Running" [which is a two-part song].

Was it the first song you listened to from this musician or group?

The first song I remember hearing growing up, when I was a kid, was (Herbie Hancock's) "Rockit." I remember seeing a video, maybe on MTV, where he’s in a factory and constructing a robot or an android of some sort. He’s playing the synthesizer, too. I think that was the first time I think I heard the vocoder … there are all these moving parts, and the music was electronic and really funky and I was like, "Oh. Wow. This is different from Michael Jackson." And I think "Thriller" was out at the time. That song and video was something that I thought was cool and different (compared to "Thriller").

In what specific way does this song or artist influence your own music?

Just from listening to his catalogue, just the soulfulness, the organic feel that he has in his music, from the way he arranges his songs. He is one of those artists that went from being traditional to making songs that were outside of the box as far as fusion.

I mean, you had a few other fusion artists like Roy Ayers and Lonnie Liston Smith, but Herbie? He took it to a whole new level. He took jazz to a whole new level. Listening to that really influenced me when I do my samples to not make music in a traditional manner. Music has gone really mechanical with the trap sound a lot of 808s and high-end stuff. Me, I like music that’s full, dusty, warm, melodic … chords and bass lines ... things like that. And if I’m sampling something by Herbie, I want it to have an obscure feel – something you’ve never heard before or thought to sample and take.

If you could ask this artist only one question, what would it be?

What keeps him going? Herbie has to be in his mid to late '70s, and he’s constantly working with newer artists. When you hear these artists, you can tell that they are influenced by Herbie, not like he’s making music with someone that’s totally left field per se. He’s been doing this for so long, so I’d like to know what keeps him going and what is his motivation is to be doing it beyond retirement age, keep touring and stay working in the studio.

Have you ever seen a live show, and did it meet your expectations?

I have not had the pleasure to see Herbie perform as of yet, but if I see he’s coming to the Riverside or the Milwaukee Theater or anything of the sorts, I will definitely be one of the first in line or online to get my ticket. The only artist I had the pleasure to see in that same vein would be Roy Ayers. I got a chance to see him and Bobbi Humphrey in concert back in the early 2000s. I also got to see Ramsey Lewis the year prior, so I would love to see Herbie live in concert next. He’s still out there doing stuff with one of the younger jazz musicians, Terrace Martin (who is a saxophonist). That would be great to see [those two and] two generations of jazz.

Local/Live on WMSE airs every Tuesday on WMSE from 6 to 7 p.m. Listen live, in the archives at or simply tune your radio (in the Milwaukee area) to 91.7 FM at the 6 o’clock hour.