Germs, ya know. And before you can crack the obvious crass joke, you should know it’s not just Spears. Rotem is serially monogamous and usually single. By choice. “I was celibate for two years at one point,” Rotem says. “No dating, no social interaction, just work. I’m a very selective person. I’m not one of those easygoing guys. I’m particular and controlling. But it’s not like I say, ‘Hey, I’m an asshole, that’s the way it is.’ I’m working on it. Or, at least, I’m trying to.”
Inside Chalice, Rotem presses a button and fires up his massive Apple-fueled control room: keyboards on the right, drum machine on the left, and a glowing sound board in the middle. The familiar Mac start-up chime booms in the speakers and an image of “Bizarro Rotem” flashes on the monitor. Super-greased hair, shades, white jacket and chain, and a woman on each shoulder.
“My friends know that’s not the real me,” Rotem says. “But when I’m out there, I don’t want to be seen in my workout shorts with chocolate on my shirt.”
The walls are lined with platinum certificates: 50 Cent, Rihanna, D12, The Game. Rotem doesn’t drink, so the fact that the Three 6 Mafia left their stash of booze in his office doesn’t blow his skirt up. A half-empty bottle of Purell, however, gets much use. A few squirts into his palms and he’s ready to demonstrate how he makes his millions.
With the help of Pro Tools, Rotem lays down a few elegant, gauzy piano chords, loops them into a chorus of syncopated hand claps, and underlays the whole affair with a thunderous bass line. Voilà! A beat. Thousands more just like it are hanging around his hard drive looking for a home on the pop charts.
“I think the obssessiveness and perfectionism is what makes me good at what I do,” Rotem says. “I’m not content to have something pretty good. I want perfection. I grew up listening to masterpieces of art, and now I want to be the guy who makes that kind of music.”
Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls” is a solid start. A singsong mash-up of hip-hop, doo-wop, and dancehall, it’s immediately memorable thanks to the incessant bass pluck of “Stand By Me,” for which Ben E. King is being paid handsomely.
Rotem discovered Kingstonhis first and, as of right now, only signing to Beluga Heightson MySpace. Kingston’s debut (which was rushed to meet demand for “Beautiful Girls”) is also the first time Rotem has produced every track on an album. Now that he has total control of an artist, his plans for world radio domination start right here.
“This is the second single,” Rotem says, cueing up a song called “Me Love” that already sounds like a smash, if only because of the liberal use of the laconic Oh, oh-oh, oh-oh-oh’s of Led Zeppelin’s “D’yer Mak’er.” Rotem insists he needs a string of hits to reach the rarefied level of production titans like Timbaland or Pharrell. It sounds like he might have it.