Top Ten Albums of 2014

When I left the office life in April of this year, one of the unforeseen consequences was finding/absorbing less new music. When I was sitting at a computer with headphones on for eight hours a weekday it was easy to stay on top of new music. This year I fell off a little bit. Ok, a lot bit. Nonetheless, I still listened to enough new music to get me to a top ten of the year list. This one’s a little different for me — I didn’t scour the internet looking for things I might have missed, no last minute scrambles to listen to every damn thing, and I didn’t look at anyone else’s list either. These are the ten albums that stuck with me over 2014, each of them got multiple front-to-back listens and I kept coming back for more.

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10. Sage Francis – Copper Gone

If you’ve been a fan of Sage Francis for a decade, there’s no way you didn’t love this record. Copper Gone felt like it traveled back to the Personal Journals days, sounding far more like his work ten years ago than his more recent albums Li(f)e and Human The Death Dance. The soft-edged string arrangements and somewhat stilted sense of artiness were replaced by a raw, stripped-down production. Sage is undeniably one of the best musical storytellers in the game, but this time around it seemed like he let things happen as opposed to making them happen. It’s pretty clear that little hiatus between albums completely re-calculated his mental state — Copper Gone is one of his best albums yet.

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9. Jack White – Lazaretto

Jack White pulled the rug on us a little bit with Lazaretto. When he released “High Ball Stepper” and “Lazaretto” as singles, it seemed as if this album was going to be easily his heaviest work to date (aside from with The Dead Weather). As it turned out, the rest of the album was quite a bit mellower than the two singles, which was disappointing. There was only one other song on the album that stood up to the singles — “That Black Bat Licorice” — and it might be the best song on the album. Even though much of this album was a little softer than it should have been, the three monster songs on Lazaretto are enough to put it in my top ten — I’m a sucker for everything Jack White does.

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8. Prince – ART OFFICIAL AGE

If you’re looking for the funkiest release of 2014, look no further than ART OFFICIAL AGE. It appears that Prince’s voice hasn’t aged at all in 30 years as a rock star. It’s not even fair, in fact, it doesn’t even seem humanly possible. Naturally his guitar skills are still outrageous, but on his latest album, he mostly eschewed the shredding in favor of sexy funk riffs and raunchy R&B licks. This album is a perfect blend funk and R&B and came as one of the biggest surprises of 2014.

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7. Adebisi Shank – This Is the Third Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank

It’s a goddamn shame that Adebisi Shank called it quits shortly after the release of their 3rd album, because this one is by far their most ambitious work to date. If you liked their first two albums, the opening and closing tracks of this album will remind you of their past work. But it’s the gooey center of this album, a cluster of three tracks, that really set this one apart. Not only do they all sound different from each other, they sound completely different than anything they’ve done before. The real gem is “Sensation,” which might be the very first ‘electro’ track on the Sargent House label. This song blew my mind on first listen and I still don’t quite understand how this band came up with this song. RIP Adebisi Shank, you will be greatly missed.

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6. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead

And now for the weirdest album of 2014. Over the past couple of years, FlyLo has seemingly gotten more into trap music, so when You’re Dead came along and didn’t really have much trap influence at all, it was a pleasant surprise. In fact, this album has more jazz influence than anything else — it’s filled with a bunch of short, scattershot tracks that change the mood and flow on a dime. Nobody else in 2014 smashed genres together like Flying Lotus did on You’re Dead — it’s the perfect intersection of electronic music, hip hop, and jazz. And enough weirdness to satisfy even peak weirdos.

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5. Snarky Puppy – We Like It Here

Another year, another top five Snarky Puppy album. These guys never fail to blow my mind in all the best ways. While We Like It Here might not be the complete & cohesive work that last year’s groundUP was, it’s still a bold record that sounds like nothing else anywhere in the world. This album is cornerstoned by possibly their best track to date, the spine-tingling “Shofukan.” As soon as they started playing this one live, it was clear they had a new banger. But when the album version finally came out, “Binky” all of a sudden had competition for best Snarq Dogg song.

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4. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

After toying with everybody for a long time, only releasing a few tracks here and there that every house DJ in America immediately wanted to play, the enigmatic Todd Terje finally released his debut album, the aptly-titled It’s Album Time. Aside from one track, this entire album stood up to the near-mythical stature of his small stream of releases. The only drawback is that the material on It’s Album Time was partially recycled — it would have been better to hear all new stuff. But how can anyone really complain about hearing “Inspector Norse” again? It’s basically a perfect track. Put this on at your next house party and blow your friends’ minds with your impeccable taste in dance music.

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3. Freddie Gibbs + Madlib – Pinata

The definition of Instant Classic. On first listen of this album I was convinced that it was going to be the best album of 2014. While a couple of albums made just slightly more of an impact on me, this album is nearly perfect. It’s got everything that has made Madlib the best hip hop producer on the planet — all of his crackles, twists, and idiosyncrasies are on full display. Nobody else does what Madlib does, period. But the real surprise of this album was Freddie Gibbs, who instantly became one of my favorite rappers. This guys ability to keep flowing for extended periods of time is truly mind-boggling. At points it seems like he doesn’t breathe at all for about a minute. I simply had no clue how awesome Gibbs is. This rapper/producer combo is a true revelation.

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2. Odesza – In Return

The best electronic album of the year was an easy call. Even though Todd Terje’s album is badass all-around, what Odesza did with In Return is pretty monumental. It was instantly clear that this album was every bit the brilliant work of both Disclosure’s and Flume’s debut LPs. In fact, these three groups are all very similar in that they are some type of house music, some type of garage music, but all three are basically genre-free. And they’re three of the best electronic producers in the world. Nobody defines the difference between ‘electronic music’ and ‘EDM’ quite like these three… but I wouldn’t have said that before In Return. This album is stupidly good and cements their place near the top of the electronic music totem pole. Especially when you listen to “Bloom,” which somehow took trap and made it sound awesome — it’s by far the best appropriation of trap beats I’ve ever heard. And “Say My Name” is my favorite dance track of 2014 by a landslide — it’s basically 2014’s “Latch.”

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1. Run The Jewels 2

It was a tall order for any album to leap over Odesza and Madlib/Freddie Gibbs heading into the final quarter of the year. But as soon as I put my ears on Run The Jewels 2, it was clear that this was hands down the best album of 2014. This record is as close as it gets to an actual sledgehammer; it’s the most aggressive thing I’ve heard in a long time. It’s hip hop straight from the gut of two of the best in the game. The combo of El-P and Killer Mike is almost too good, their styles complement each other perfectly. Their raw emotions utterly pour out of this work — their anger is palpable, and it’s clear why the establishment is scared of these guys. This is what hip hop is all about — if RTJ2 doesn’t get your blood flowing, you’re definitely in a coma. The year 2014 definitely belonged to Run The Jewels.

Interview with John Medeski

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[Interview by Joel Berk | Photos by Stuart Levine]

Earlier this year jazz/funk/improv giants Medeski Martin & Wood re-joined forces with legendary guitarist John Scofield for Juice – their third studio record as Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood. While MSMW’s debut, A Go Go, was entirely Scofield material and Out Louder – their second studio record – was culled from hours of improvisation, Juice is a collection of new originals written for the album and drastically reimagined covers that are distinctly this band. This is not a trio with a guest or guitarist + backing band, this is a quartet with undeniable chemistry and a life all it’s own.

We caught up with keyboard madman, John Medeski to discuss the record and supporting tour.

about the record:

How did this record come about? What determines when it’s time for you four to get together and work on new material?

This band has a life of its own, and it seems like there comes a point when we just HAVE to get together again and make music. It was that time.

Did you have anything written for the record before Billy circulated that mix of African rhythms, or did you come into the studio with a basic idea that was fleshed out collectively?

We circulated the music as soon as we decided to record to use as inspiration, realizing that that would mean different things to each of us. It was boogaloo music, which is funk influenced latin groove music. All of us love this music. The possibilities are too many with this band, so we decided to have something to provide a little focus for this recording. Everyone came in with some ideas or tunes and as we recorded, what worked was very clear. It was fun and easy.

How does Juice differ from MSMW’s previous two studio records?

I suppose our approach was a little different from the previous recordings, maybe a combination of methods. A Go Go was Sco’s record, his music, his project. We put our sauce all over it, but he was the leader. Out Louder was a total collaboration where we worked in the studio together to create the music, completely collective. Juice is somewhere between the two. We have developed a special language over the years which made it easy to decide on a general direction then come into the studio with some music prepared, still allowing for things to happen on there own.

What sparked your inclusion of the acoustic piano on this record?

Sound is everything for us. We went for the classics: piano and organ. I think it helps give this recording a different character than the others.

How is the MSMW recording process different from making MMW records (other than the obvious inclusion of another musician)?

The process is not that different, but the addition of a different personality into the mix changes how things turn out, in the same way an intimate dinner party is effected by who is there.

Was there a conscious effort to include so many covers this time around, or did it just pan out that way? Any other cover ideas kicked around or attempted?

It wasn’t conscious, we just tried a few things, they worked, and they ended up as part of the album. “Light My Fire” was an experiment. Chris Wood brought the idea in and we didn’t know if it was going to work, but we loved it. “Sunshine of Your Love” was the surprise. We just started that one in between takes of the stuff we had planned. When we listened back, we knew we had to use it. Danny Blume’s mix took it where it needed to go.

What about John Scofield’s playing clicks so well with MMW and makes this one worth going back to time and time again?

Well, John is a great musician, one of the great guitar players out there now. We all love so much of the same music and have both been trying to do the same thing in our own different ways. We’ve been trying to keep the spirit of improvisation that is jazz while integrating and exploring other music. We have a lot of cross over between us. The chemistry that can happen in music is impossible to explain, but its strong and undeniable with MSMW. It’s a band of its own that is different than what either of us would do on our own — thus it has a life of its own.

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about the live show:

What can we expect from MSMW on tour time time out? Aside from material from Juice, what else will the set be comprised of?

We’ll be playing the music of Juice, and almost anything from the history of what we’ve done together, plus some new music of the moment that will be unique each night never to happen again.

You four have such telepathic chemistry, it’s always exciting to watch you leave the script, how much of a given MSMW show is improvised?

The basic structure of the songs is defined, but EVERYTHING else is improvised, plus we always keep the option open for anyone to take the music in another direction at any time.

Is your role on stage any different with MSMW than with other projects?

Well, I get to be an accompanist, which is one of my favorite things to do. It’s a natural role for a piano player and something I have always loved. Really, I try to deal with any music I play the same way. I listen to what is going on as a whole and try to add something that becomes part of it. Depending on so many different factors-the style or the other musicians involved, et cetera, I do different things.

What can you do live with MSMW that you can’t with other incarnations of the MMW thing?

It gives MMW a chance to be a rhythm section and take on a supportive role together when Sco is soloing, which is something we love to do.

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood’s Juice is out now via MMW’s Indirecto imprint.

Their tour continues tonight at Massey Hall in Toronto tomorrow then The Vic in Chicago on Saturday before concluding Sunday at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

Commentary: Run The Jewels at Metro

[Photos by Jon Pliske]

"The people made us a rap group"
“The people made us a rap group”

It’s hard to write an objective show review about a group that you really like. Especially when you’ve seen them four times. Especially when their modus operandi is “fuckboys beware” and they have a side project called Meow the Jewels.  Especially when they are Killer Mike and El P.

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Are you guys okay if I forgo a set list and a metaphorical description of the energy of the crowd from that night at the Metro?

The show ruled, they played all of the songs you would want them to play, I love the Metro, and Run the Jewels might be my favorite hip hop act on the planet right now.

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Alright? Cool? I think we have some more important things to get to.

Okay. Last week a Grand Jury refused to indict an NYPD officer for choking a man to death. Eric Garner. The craziest thing is, this isn’t an isolated incident. I won’t get into the laundry list of “reasons why living in America right now is fucking terrifying.”

In this country of ours, you can murder someone *on film* and get away with it. It’s crazy. It’s… wrong. It’s inhumane. It’s evil.

This has what to do with Run the Jewels? Well, everything. Hip hop and societal anxiety surrounding the issue of race/gender/poverty are intrinsically tied to one another. There has always been tension between institutionalized racism (police brutality, mandatory sentencing etc.) and Hip Hop music.

From Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” to Public Enemy’s Fear of Black Planet; from Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool to Ice T’s early stuff, et al. So called “conscious” Hip Hop — Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Brother Ali, Immortal Technique, Cunninglynguists, just to name a few. These are all artists who have used their talent to voice dissent against a system that has refused to include them. I am not just talking about being black, or being white, or whatever else. I am talking about being powerless in a society that doesn’t care about you or your future.  (My friend Ben made a good point here- what about Punk Rock and Henry Rollins et al? Punk Rock was around saying “fuck you” to the system and sticking safety pins through it’s ears while Hip Hop was still a glimmer in Soul music’s eye… but perhaps Punk doesn’t have the same relationship with race/class issues that hip hop does… but that’s for another time).

In the last 15 years it is pretty obvious that Hip Hop has gone away from the fringes of society, out of the hands of the “undesirables” and into the hands of Katy Perry and the people who orchestrated her bionic breasts. Right? Top 40 is fun to dance to and makes money. That is why Taylor swift was given a “ghetto blaster” and Jason Aldean had Ludacris guest spit on a song that I am pretty sure is an extended Chevy Truck commercial. Also, who the fuck is Jason Derulo?

The popular musical landscape is littered with shiny pop music that says little and means even less. Haters gonna hate, and we will shake it off, right?

No. Fuck that.

Fuck all of that.

We need music to do what only it has the power to do. We need it to be a reflection of our humanity. If that reflection truly is One Direction and Ariana Grande… well… I quit.

We need music and more specifically Hip Hop to be an agent of change, and to bring us together, and to make us feel things again.

Rolling Stone just named Run the Jewels 2 as the best Hip Hop album of the year (let’s pretend they didn’t give the album of the year to U2). It is pretty clear. This record released without fanfare or marketing dollars is what we want and what we need because it addresses how precariously balanced we are on the precipice of becoming totally fucked.

Let’s rewind that back for a second. Run the Jewels started as a side projects of sorts. El P had a bunch of stuff he wanted to get into the studio with after Cancer 4 Cure and Killer Mike happened to jump on some songs. Then some more. Then people told them it was good, and they turned it into an album. El P even said, “The people made us a rap group. We never set out to be one.”

They released RTJ 1 as a free download because they didn’t want to mess with all of the bullshit that comes with pushing a major record release. They wanted to get their music into the hands of the people who wanted to hear it.

Turns out, we wanted to hear it.

We are thirsty for music that has meaning and speaks to our angst. We want and need music that is honest and articulate, music that stands for something and stands up for us. This so called “conscious” Hip Hop can no longer be just the stuff of bleeding heart liberals, academic Hip Hop heads and chatty grad students. Hip Hop is conscious. Hip Hop is consciousness.

We may not be able to dismantle this horribly flawed system on our own. We all got bills to pay and shit to do and dogs to walk and gluten-free manicures to get. But we can lend our voices in dissent. We can start an open dialogue. We can vote and we can be activists in our communities and we can learn from each other and we can be kind. We can support those whose voices speak the truth and reach many. We can get together and listen to good music and go to rap shows and smoke blunts. We can be Jewel Runners. Alright?

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Okay Killer Mike and El P, you have our attention. Lead the way, homies.

Stream/Download: The Magician’s Magic Tape #47

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It’s a Tuesday morning, rush hour.  I only have like a mile to go to get to work and I cannot get on a bus to save my life…nor a train. What is going on!? Something about a bus fire…WHAT!?

It’s almost as if some higher being heard my cries for help, feeling the numbness in my face from my negative windchill journey and then, POOF! All of a sudden here we have a brand spankin’ new Magic Tape from our boy Stephen Fasano, AKA The Magician. And in true form, he gives us those money tracks that just tickle your insides. How many tricks does this guy have up his sleeve? It’s simply unbelievable.

For those in Chicagoland that made his set at The MID a couple weeks ago, there obviously is no beating a live Magician performance, however this should suffice in bringing you back down to earth and get you through this brutally cold week. This mix is far too fresh to provide a tracklist for – sorry guys, I have not had time to hunt yet. What I can tell you is that Jessie Ware is in there…so do you really need anything else? Nonetheless, it is in the works, as well as a full tracklisting and stream/download link for his Escape: All Hallows Eve set & Magic Tape #46 located below. Enjoy, and stay toasty friends.


Disciples – They Don’t Know
Klaves – Oh No
The Flexican & DJ Sef – Mother’s Day
Dante Klein – Ertesuppe
Clean Bandit – Rather Be (The Magician Remix)
Mausi – My Friend Has A Swimming Pool (The Magician Remix)
Shift K3Y – I Know
Camelphat – The Act
The Magician – Sunlight
Kokiri – Retrospect
Breach ft. Kelis – The Key
ZHU – Faded (The Magician Remix)
David Zowie – House Every Weekend
Arches – Want You
Michael Calfan – Tragic Soul


Julio Bashmore feat. J’danna – Rhythm Of Auld
Klaves – Oh No
Coko – Sunshine (ID Remix)
ID – ID
The Writers Block – Don’t Look Any Further (Love You All Over)
Kokiri – Retrospect
Kelis – Rumble (hed Kandi Ibiza 2014 Edit) (BrEaCh Remix)
Dz – House Every Weekend
Dusky – Yoohoo [17 STEPS]
Friend Within – The Holiday [HE LOVES YOU]
Drew Hill – Talk To You (Groove Armada Remix) [DANSE CLUB]
Godford – Tragic Soul (Michael Calfan Remix)

 

Interview with Golf Clap

Few artists have come up faster or stronger than Golf Clap in 2014. From their nonstop releases on Soundcloud, to their ridiculously funny social media presence, to their phenomenal live performances, Golf Clap essentially knocked this year right out of the park. I recently got to sit down with them on one of their many stops in Chicago this year to pick their minds and get some insight into one of the hottest DJ groups to emerge in 2014.

You guys came out of nowhere this year, released a lot of music, and had a lot of success. When did Golf Clap officially start? And what were you guys doing before you came together as Golf Clap?

Bryan: January 16th, 2013 is the day the Soundcloud page was made. We put a DJ mix up and said, “We are now Golf Clap.” Then March of 2013 was when the first actual record came out. So it’s been less than two years.

Hugh: The main reason why was… I was running a different label, Bryan had been doing his label, which was more of that Chicago jackin’ type sound. We were making a shift music-wise, and a lot of time what ends up happening is your name gets associated with a certain style of music and if it starts popping up in other categories, people have a tendency to skip over it because they assume it was a mislabeled thing. And we really wanted to have a fresh start and a fresh image for a different style of music. So that was the whole point of scrapping everything we were doing and changing our name.

We’ve seen a lot of fads and waves in electronic music with moombahton then dubstep and then trap, now this year it’s deep house. I’m a big fan of the current trend, and you guys kinda came up right as this deep house wave was landing. Have you guys always been into deep house? Or is it something you got into more recently?

Hugh: The deep house fad thing that you’re referring to is more people trying to associate with the phrase because its popular. But we’ve both been into, not just the jackin’ Chicago stuff, but the super deep house, and the chill soulful lounge house for a long time. We’ve been playing respectively fifteen-plus years, all music like that, and I don’t think it’s a fad, personally, I just think it’s really popular right now. And it’s convenient that it’s the popular thing, you know. We’ve both been used to being involved in this same kind of music for our whole lives and having it not be the big thing. Especially myself, coming from Detroit, it’s techno city, so house DJs and house music have always been on the backburner. We identified this as the time to really push hard because it’s getting a big audience.

Bryan: I think a lot of the reason deep house is big now is because they get Gorgon City on a Huxley remix with these big bands and shit like that. They’re probably just like, “Ok, if we got a Steve Aoki remix…” That’s intolerable for most people to listen to but, with Gorgon City or something, they can still do the radio songs, especially in Europe and stuff, Pete Tong could play it or something, you know? It’s got the crossover appeal right now.

Hugh: I think deep house, by nature, is a destination thing. Where I feel like no matter what you grew up listening to, a lot of people end up at deep house. And certain parts of it, especially the more chill stuff, is just a lot more potable. One of the things about our mixes is that they’re really deep, and you talk about a DJ ‘playing the room,’ right? Play the right music for the room… Well, when you’re listening to a DJ mix, 99% of the time, that room is chillin with your friends, or sitting in your car, and listening to crazy loud and wild music isn’t really appropriate in that room. I feel like we make music that’s for the other 90% of your life that you’re not in a nightclub. So that’s why the things that you covet are the things you end up having a true appreciation for, so we make music that people can listen to during their normal, daily lives.

It’s funny that you say that because I’ve expanded and changed my listening over the years and I feel like I kinda settled into deep house too, it’s just that groove that I love. Are you finding it difficult to make a name for yourself, or to separate yourself from the pack with deep house becoming so popular this year?

Bryan: No. Absolutely the opposite. I feel like we’re in a unique position because we… do a bunch of weird shit. We have this funny name, and we dress up like golfers, and we put all these silly things on our social media — we’re a lot more active on it than other people. We play way more shows locally than anybody I know in their local city. We throw shows, we have a record label… there’s just so much about it. And also we always take the time to talk to people at the shows. Just in general we’ll both go out and talk to anybody that want’s to talk to us while we’re at the show. We like to give people personal attention, that stuff matters a lot and it’s what makes people want to keep coming to your shows.

Hugh: A lot of people are in too big of a hurry to get famous and popular and they forget that this is a people business. It’s about being a human being and making those relationships. We had a buddy, one of the Sin Label guys, come with us up to Milwaukee last night and the main thing, he was like “You guys really go out and hang out with people and don’t hide out in the green room. You go out to the after-party and show face.” I think we have a different perspective because we throw so many shows in Detroit bringing in people where people come in not just because of their music, we bring em in to and they wanna go out and have dinner, hang out, hit the after-parties with us. Not this whole, “Drop me off at the hotel, I’ll take a cab to the venue, I’ll get there at 11:59 and I’ll book back to the hotel…” That’s just not what it’s about. I don’t know how people end up at that point, but it’s like, why did you get into this business then? Just to recluse yourself out and not show love to the people that got you where you are.

Bryan: And there’s people like Huxley, who we’ve played with three times, we ask him what he wants to do and he says, “I’m going with you guys.” I don’t even need to go back to the hotel ’til the morning, let’s go to your house… What do you guys wanna do?”

Hugh: He came over and I cooked dinner and shit. He didn’t even wanna go to the hotel, he just wanted to hang. And when we book Christian Martin, he doesn’t book his flight until like 8pm the next night because he expects to go out and party with us.

Things are picking up quickly for Country Club Disco and I’m wondering what your aim for the label is… Are you going to add a bunch of people and diversify? Are you trying to keep it all in the deep house realm?

Bryan: It’s more than a label, first of all.

Hugh: It’s a lifestyle brand.

Bryan: It’s the whole branding of everything that we have anything to do with, basically. It’s gonna be music, all the shows that we’re throwing, apparel… Right now, we’re not by any means a management company, but we have young artists that we’re helping out, sort of pseudo-managing them, which could potentially build into something like that if we got more staff. A lot of things could come out of it, it’s just supposed to be whatever the lesser word for ‘empire’ would be, but not that big of a word (laughs).

Hugh: You look at some of the big brands like Dirtybird…

Bryan: That’s the number one thing in the States that we’re going for, in terms of branding, is like what Dirtybird has done. Not the music but the branding. You know how many times I’ve talked to some random 20-something girl that goes out to shows sometimes, I ask her what kind of music she listens to, and she says, “You know, Claude [Von Stroke], most of the stuff on Dirtybird.” And that’s their answer… (laughs) And it’s not because Dirtybird — I like those guys — but it’s not because they’re so much better than everybody else. It’s because that’s what’s been shoved down everybody’s throat. Same reason why everybody knows who Drake is, or whoever the fuck else they play on the radio.

Hugh: It’s what we would consider a ‘full service label.’ A lot of labels just put out music, a real proper label should put out music, and throw events, and have apparel, and do all of those things that help an artist. You can look at Soul Clap records as a good example, with them, Wolf + Lamb, Nick Monaco, and Tanner Ross and those guys, they just pack together and throw the parties and show each other love, they hook each other up with remixes and stuff like that. That’s what we’re trying to model ourselves after.

Bryan: I feel like it keeps you on your game too. If you just associate with like-minded people who you really believe in, who are really talented… There are a lot of things that come into who we actually want to work with. Like MRJ, this guy from Poland that we’re doing a lot of stuff with. He’s 20 years old…so he’s really young, he’s really good, he works really fast, he does everything we ask him to, he makes the right kind of music, he’s a nice guy… he has all these things going for him, so that’s a really specific example of the kind of people we’re trying to push more.

Are you planning to release all of Golf Clap’s music through Country Club Disco?

Hugh: Right now, kind of the rough structure we have is that the vinyl is going to be primarily Golf Clap singles with remixes that Bryan is doing the A&R on. And the digital only stuff is where MRJ and some of these other people that we’re bringing up are going to be featured.

Bryan: A lot of it depends on the future of the vinyl business too….

Seems pretty strong right now?

Hugh: Yeah but it’s a different market. We wanna do vinyl and digital because any other label out: it doesn’t matter, you have to be available on all formats. But it’s definitely an interesting and different market to crack because the vinyl DJs in general play a different style of music. So we’re trying to build our growth and awareness within that community because vinyl guys will tend to play, especially in Detroit, it’s Omar-S and Moodyman, Kyle Hall, Theo Parrish… that stuff sells like hot cakes. Andres too, which is why we went after him for a remix. That’s not necessarily our scene our or sound, but we’re just trying to put it out there, make it available, and build awareness.

So what’s up with this new Simma Black LP then? How did that come about?

Bryan: That’s Low Steppa’s label and he’s been a huge supporter of us and we’ve been a huge supported of him and he’s somebody that if either of us makes a song and wants mix-down advice, we’ll send it to each other for an opinion. It’s just somebody we’ve worked with a lot and a lot of those songs are from when we first started Golf Clap, the first six months-ish, when we only had like 1,500 or 2,000 fans on Soundcloud, and a couple of these were free downloads for a few weeks that would peak out at 2,000 plays and a couple hundred downloads, because we didn’t have that many fans yet and we just pulled it down. Not enough people had heard them and we felt like we could pull them down, remaster them, work on them a bit, and re-release them later. Which is what we did.

Hugh: Low Steppa is kind of doing the same thing that we’ve been doing. He made a huge career for himself as Will Bailey, doing this kind of electro fidget-house thing that was going on. He scrapped all of that, started over as Low Steppa, and it’s just skyrocketed for him. He showed us a lot of early support, and that’s why we work together a lot and remix stuff for each other a lot. It’s a really cool UK label to be on right now, so we did it.

This year you guys have released a mind-boggling number of live sets and mixes… Do you guys plan to keep this pace up? You guys are doing a lot more than a lot of other people…

Bryan: Yes, because we have to. A lot of it is just for us. Hugh has the 24-hour mix in his car and he just told me he’s so fucking sick of the entire 24-hour mix. I didn’t even think that was possible but he knows every song in order, he’s listened to it like 50 times through.

Hugh: I drive a lot.

Bryan: And that’s a 24-hour mix… So your typical mix is 80 minutes. It takes one to three weeks to really cultivate songs for a mix, and that’s when we’re busting ass looking for music constantly and playing three to five shows a week — that’s how long it takes to not just have 15-20 good songs, you have to have 60-70 good songs, and then bring that down to 50… instead of playing three of one guy’s songs you cut it to two, ten of the songs don’t quite sound right… things like that help cut down a big list into something more focused for a mix.

Hugh: It looks like it’s all this extra side work, but the reality is, and I feel like a lot of DJs lack in this, or they’re lazy, or they just aren’t doing what I really think the essence of being a DJ is… we’re playing 175 shows a year, a lot of those in the same cities, which means you have to really change your music up. So we’re always running through new material, usually like two to three week average where we start over with all new material, we’re DJing this weekend in Chicago with the next batch of new stuff. When you come to a city, I mean, I don’t know what other people think, but I don’t wanna have people think they heard us play the same set before. Some people don’t notice, but the heads do, and it makes a difference to us.

Bryan: I specifically always try to remember if we play something like Pete Heller “Big Love,” or like an old Daft Punk track, a random classic, then we don’t ever wanna play it again because then it’s becomes one of those things that seems random at first, but people quickly realize you’re just still playing that track in your set every time.

Hugh: And it’s different now because back in the vinyl days, when it was just vinyl only, you’d pay someone three to four thousand dollars just to hear what they had in that crate. Things were very limited, you had to really dig to find records, and trade to get records, and those records were who you were. But now everything is what’s hot for the moment, and with the digital era that’s all the reason why we’re doing so many mixes and tracks because it’s hard to get noticed unless you’re giving people constant pressure and constant music. You might have a song get on the charts, but a month or two later it’s not there anymore. So you may or may not exist in a few months. A lot of these tracks we find, if I don’t have 20 tracks from you, I don’t even know who you are. I won’t remember the name of the producer. So to be noticeable you have to be putting out tons and tons of stuff.

That’s awesome to hear because I saw Chromeo last night and they played exactly the same set that they played the last time I saw them. Same thing with Disclosure — I saw them three times in the last year and all of their sets were incredibly similar. So it’s awesome to hear you guys say that the heads know what’s up and you want to avoid repeats.

Bryan: Well, you just named two live acts, so it’s different…

Not really though, it’s the mentality as a performer to not give the same crowd the same show repeatedly. To make a conscious effort to provide a fresh show every time out. To feel like you can’t get CAUGHT playing the same thing twice because people will notice that shit…

Hugh: Sometimes we play two or three shows in the same night. I know one time this year we flew in from New York and we played five shows that night. All of our fans came to three to five of those shows and we gotta give em a different show, what are we gonna do? Play the same set? (laughs) I just think a lot of touring guys get caught up in thinking that being in a different city means people haven’t heard the same stuff. Yeah, that’s cool, maybe some of them haven’t, but if you can do better, you should do better.

Bryan: It’s more just mediocrity in general. Alright, think about the last 20 times you went to a nightclub to see a DJ… how many times were you impressed to the point where you wanted to see them again right away? Not very often. When you go out to a nightclub, more often than not you’re drinking and hearing music and you’re with your friends and it’s cool. But it’s very rare that anybody does anything extra. They always just go up there and it seems like, “I have a whole bunch of songs I just downloaded from Beatport, I haven’t even listened to them all the way through one time. I got this promo from my friend who runs this label and I play everything from his label. I’m just gonna play it, and if it sounds good tonight, I’ll keep playing it. If it doesn’t I’ll stop playing it.” You shouldn’t be testing shit. Or the only way you do is if you’re goddamn sure that it’s fine. Same as how you shouldn’t be doing live PAs if you’re not even at the level where you feel comfortable releasing a single or something yet.

From the production side of things, is it a challenge right now to create fresh sounding stuff with the market being so flooded with deep house?

Bryan: No. For me personally I’ve always had a problem sounding too different, I think. I always have to try to conform a little bit more. A good example is how Todd Edwards sounds. His records are amazing, but they don’t fit in anybody in the entire world’s regular DJ set because it’s so unique that when you’re that unique, you either get super famous and everybody tries to copy you, or everybody thinks it’s too weird to get used to so nothing ever happens.

Hugh: It’s a weird ideal because if you want your stuff to get played by headliners then you have to sound like music headliners would want to play, that’s gonna go with their stuff. So you do wanna take risks and make cool stuff, but it’s like what he’s saying — you can’t be so unique that you’re alienating yourself from the masses. It’s a really fine line sometimes. There are always trends that music goes through — for a while we were blowing out tracks with the M1 keys and we had to stop doing that. But then it comes back… and right now it’s this thing with the square basslines that’s become popular, and the garage-y stuff too. There’s always gonna be people who say that certain stuff is played out, that the pitched-down vocals thing is played out, but somebody could always make a really big jam and suddenly it’ll be back in style again. It’s a weird thing.

That’s the thing about electronic music, as soon as you’re catching onto one thing, it’s already moving onto the next thing. It all happens so quickly…

Bryan: It’s one of those things that I wish I could have told myself ten years ago… I remember saying to myself, “I don’t really need to practice DJing, I know how to fuckin DJ, I know how to pick good music and I just show up to the club and play it.” I remember the first few times reading something like a floor in DJ Mag, when I was about 18 years old, and I just remember thinking it was such a crock of shit. I thought they tried to make everything seem like such a bigger deal than it was. I felt like they were trying to amp it up and make it seem like DJing was some big art that you had to do all this stuff to accomplish, when it really wasn’t that way. The first few times you go out and play you’re just trying not to trainwreck and play horrible music and not embarrass yourself. Then after three or four times you realize you’re not going to embarrass yourself, so you need to start playing better music. Then you go and play and one or two of your songs kill it, but the other ones don’t, then the next progression is finding more of those songs. It just keeps going up and up and when you play so many shows… you get very perfectionist about it. We will walk in and Hugh will say the lights are too bright or ask questions why they have the sound setup certain ways. We get very nit picky about this stuff and it’s not being an asshole it’s just that we throw more shows than most people we play for.

Hugh: It’s about the overall experience. The reason why I do stuff like that is because we aren’t at the point yet where we have a road/touring manager to handle it. But most of all, it’s because we’re the ones standing up on stage, everything reflects on us. If the speakers sound like shit and it’s really treble-heavy or something like that, or if the lighting is bad, it affects the overall mood, which reflects on us, and maybe on the promoter too, but mostly on us.

I think most of what people from Chicago know about Detroit is Movement Festival and a whole bunch of sports teams that they hate. There seems to be a lot of conceptions about Detroit… What would you want outsiders, especially people from Chicago, to know about your city?

Hugh: It’s the biggest small town right now, for the city and the population compared to New York, LA, and Chicago. We travel all over the place and I don’t really go to many cities where there’s as much diversity and as many things going on on a nightly basis. We’ve been really spoiled, and a lot of that has been the advent of the big Live Nation/AEG/React companies coming in and bringing these huge acts in, but it’s also a scene that is unique compared to almost every other city I’ve been to — and it hasn’t always been this way but at least the last 5-8 years, where the promoters are in communication with each other, there’s a little bit more harmony there than anywhere else I go, we all talk and we don’t step on each others toes and there’s enough clubs for everybody where for the most part there’s some cohesiveness with the scene. That’s something that’s really special. I’m surprised that with a city like Chicago, there are so many legends that live out here, and for example, we brought out for Troy’s birthday we brought out Funk, Dion and Sluggo, because he loves ghetto-house night, and we’re in the car and I said something to them about how great it was to have all of them play together, and they told me that they’ve never done that before. Those guys have been in the game for 30 years and they’ve never all played together in Chicago… That blows my mind. It just doesn’t seem like people work together out here, at least right now.

Yeah… there’s some big nightclubs here and a lot of competition, so I can see what you’re saying. It’s great to hear that it’s not like that in Detroit though. So what clubs do you play in Detroit? Where’s the good shit at?

Bryan: We do our parties at Grasshopper, that’s the majority of the stuff that we do. But we pretty much play everywhere, every once in a while. We rotate at The Works, TV Bar, Electricity and like three other places, one to five times per year, depending on who decides to throw parties and calls us

Hugh: And I guess kind of a newer thing in the past few years, I guess because of the EDM boom thing, is that the college cities are really building their own little scenes, so we take residencies in Ann Arbor and Lansing and Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids and make our way across the state playing in college cities and stuff. That’s really been one of the biggest sources for new fans and friends. And these younger cats and much more active on the social media and seem to be pretty loyal fans who want to build the scene. One of the nights we do in Ann Arbor is on a Thursday night, and by 11:00 the place is at capacity and a 100-person line out the door. It’s awesome to see the kids come out and dance. That’s also a main thing for us, people will play safe sets and it’s more of a social gathering to come and hang out and talk to your friends. Not that we push this on anybody, but we prefer crowds that don’t talk to each because they’re too busy dancing.

It’s interesting that you mentioned that people play all the different venues in Detroit, because in Chicago, certain people tend to play at certain clubs every time, there isn’t a whole lot of cross-pollination here…

Bryan: Well, not everyone in Detroit does that. And to be fair we cross-pollinate a lot more than anyone else we know. We play so much that we’re bound to play every venue in Detroit at one point or another in the year. One of our friends is going to book us every where in town. Even if the venue owner thinks we’re pieces of shit and hate our music, they’re gonna rent it out to some promoter and that promoter is gonna book us anyhow.

One of my favorite things you guys released this year on Soundcloud this year was your set from Movement. What does that festival mean to you guys and to the city of Detroit?

Hugh: I mean, I’ve been a part of it and going since the very, very beginning. I think I’ve only missed one or two years since the start of DEMF. And since Paxahau has taken over, they’ve grown the festival and brought a lot more attention to it. For us to actually get to play it, it’s obviously a huge honor, but nationally, for every DJ that we’ve brought in, they always talk about wanting to play Movement becuase it’s such a tastemaker festival and they don’t really book any fluff. Deadmau5 played like 6 or 7 years ago, but that was before he was as huge as he is now.

Bryan: There might be like five out of 120 that are ‘fluff’ or mainstream stuff now. It’s all good shit. For me, I’ve only lived in Detroit for two years now, but I’ve gone at least five times when I lived four hours away, and six or seven times total. It’s not even for Paxahau or for the people playing the shops, its for the entire city to step up and show the world they can handle the spotlight for a weekend. If you wanna throw some crazy party, there’s going to be people from all over the world who weren’t even there, who will look at the Facebook page and get all butthurt about missing it. But among the people who do attend, especially repeat attendees, they always say that it’s their favorite weekend of the year. Even among the older people who don’t go out as much anymore — they go really hard for Movement. So if you can get in the head of those people, and make a really good impression on them during they’re favorite weekend — like Electric Forest too — it goes a long way towards making new fans.

See Golf Clap TOMORROW night at Mercer113 in Chicago! Tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/o/back-to-basics-at-mercer-113-7653106349

Interview with Run The Jewels

RTJ1

If you haven’t heard of Run the Jewels yet, get out from under that rock.  They are coming to Metro in Chicago on 11/22, and I implore you, for the sake of all that is good and twisted in the world, to go see them live. It is some aggro rap that will turn the fun house mirror back on all of us. It’s probably going to make you feel some things. Tingly, mostly.

I got the chance to sit down with Killer Mike and El-P a couple of weeks ago in Tulsa (of all places). Just to give you some context, while I was transcribing this 20 minute interview, there were 120 seconds of straight laughter. While I like their music a bunch, I am mostly stoked on these two as people. See below, and get your free download here. If you are into supporting the art, you can purchase here.

Selfie city

Emma: So, Run the Jewels has kind of exploded, it’s gotten a little crazy. I wanna know how this even happened. Did you guys have a good “meetcute” or something?

El P: Well I was lookin at my first real stretch of time. I had been in and out for some Juvie offenses, but this time it looked like I was really going away. I’m talking, 3 or 4 years.

Killer Mike: In the bing.

El P: Mike sold me his friendship.

Killer Mike: For protection…

El P: In jail. For protection.

Killer Mike: I was the head of a lesbian street gang.

El P: Turned out it was actually kind of fun.

[Mike Laughs]

El P: You know, everything was fine. The witness died of “natural causes.” These things happen. You know? I thought I was hiring muscle and ended up making a friend. Then we started rapping together. That’s really how it happened.

Emma: Oh yeah?

El P: Yeah.

Emma: You met because of a lesbian street gang?

El P: Yeah, I couldn’t get in! Then I found out they were gonna fight me….

Emma: What were your chances of winning that fight?

ELP: Oh, no chance. That’s why I was hiring Mike.

Emma: So, the lesbians in jail were going to kick your ass and that is how you met Mike……. Cool.

EL P: [laughs] We just met through music. We got in the studio and met because of a friend of ours. That’s how it all started and it was pretty quick. Pretty quickly we knew that we were making good shit. Just after a couple of sessions. That’s just where it started. No one expected it to…well no one had any expectations. I didn’t. I don’t think Mike did. We just kinda ran with it. It was about music…at first. We became friends during that process. Pretty quickly.

Emma: That friendship shows in your music, for sure. Where does the name Run the Jewels come from?

ELP: It’s just an old expression that you would hear like, in the eighties. You knew if you heard that expression..

Killer Mike: Your ass was getting robbed! It wasn’t I’m about to be robbed. It wasn’t I might get robbed.

El P: You are getting robbed.

Killer Mike: You are getting robbed. Welcome to the mother fucking rocky horror picture show.

El P: So, yeah, that wasn’t something you really wanted to hear. It kinda comes from our era, we’re the same age you know?

Emma: 26?

El P: Yep. 26 years old. It’s just from an era that we came up in. Somehow that phrase made it across to Atlanta too. Pretty much a New York origin but…

Killer Mike: In Atlanta it went more like “Run Your Shit.”

El P: It was a name that I always thought was ill. I always wanted to do something with it. I was either going to call my album Run the Jewels or something else. So when it came time to name the thing…Originally the way the project started I was going to do an EP.

Emma: Ok

El P: To do between projects. I just wanted to put some music out.  Then Mike was like, “Yo, I’ll get down on an EP.” Cool. We did one song. We did two songs. We did some more. Then we thought, “oh, this might be a group.” So then I just floated the name out. Ey, let’s fuck with this. Mike went home and chewed on it for a day or two and came back…

Killer Mike: I only took a day..

El P: and was like “Let’s do that.”

Emma: So, run the jewels one was just you guys fucking around in the studio more or less? That record? Wow.

El P: To some degree. I was going into the studio, I had music already prepped. I was gonna go in and do something with it. Maybe an EP, maybe the beginning of a record. He [Mike] was like, lemmie jump on that. So it was really like, 5 songs originally. Then a couple friends of ours that we trust, were like, “You guys are fucking crazy if you don’t make this an album.”

Emma: So, why did you decide to release it the way you did? For free, a free download. There wasn’t too much hype, what was that decision like?

Tulsa wasn't ready for Mike, maybe.
Tulsa wasn’t ready for Mike, maybe.

 

Killer Mike: Cut all the bullshit.

Emma: Like, label bullshit, copyrights?

El P & Killer Mike: No No.

Killer Mike: The Bullshit is this. One of my better friends is T.I. He releases a record Tuesday. I’m gonna support his record. But… how the fuck you gonna compete with that marketing dollar? As a small, independent. So stop pretending like you can, like arguing with indie stores, whichever ones are left, about shelf space, why Best Buy didn’t pick it up, etc. Why do that when you know kids are just downloading the record anyway? Let kids download the record, tell us if you like the record. I also offer it for sale if you want to support the record. Or if you just wanna jam at a show and buy a t-shirt, do that. Give kids the choice. We just thought that it would exit us from the hustle game of “how many did ya sell,” “ how they charting.” Fuck all that.

El P: We wanted to take ourselves out of that conversation and just go for peoples hearts and minds. We figured, the more people that heard the the music, the better for us.

Killer Mike: Yup.

El P: We also figured it was a cool way to cut through the bullshit and not hafta wait. We wanted to put the record out. We wanted to say thank you to the fans who were supporting us, and had supported our other records, Cancer for Cure and Rap Music well. We didn’t give that away for free. So it all just made a lot of sense. The light bulb went off like, why don’t we just give this shit away for free? We can cut through the game and get to the fans.

Emma: Well, you know what’s crazy, doing shit that way- Chance the Rappers mix tape charted on billboard……

Killer Mike & El P: Yup

Emma: Through piracy! Through bootlegs! That shit was a free download. People were bootlegging it and selling it at record stores, enough copies that it eventually billboard charted. It’s crazy. It’s the way to do it.

El P: Oh yeah, by the way. We just emerged as the number one rising artist on billboard.

Killer Mike: No, get the fuck outta here.

El P: Yeah, I heard like a week ago.

Killer Mike: What?

Emma: Congratulations (to Mike) He doesn’t tell you anything, does he?

Killer Mike: Well, you know, I be high and shit.

EL P: Shows you how much I care about that, you mention “Billboard” and it was the first time I had thought about it.

Emma: To me, that album dropped at a real interesting time. We got a Magna Carta album that was basically a Samsung commercial with Rick Rubin on screen and no Rick Rubin on the record.

El P: We were out before Magna Carta.

Emma: But around that time right?

El P: Yeah.

Emma: All I mean is that, a lot of really hyped hip hop music was coming out, and a lot of it wasn’t actually that interesting. And then you guys drop out of no where…and it was like “Oh. Fuck. There it is.”

El P: Well thank you!

Emma: So, was the response to it all, kind of a surprise, were you expecting it? How have you felt about the feedback you are getting.

El P: You know, I think quietly, we kind of thought we had a great record. But we didn’t know what was gonna happen. We definitely didn’t know what was gonna happen, especially because we were giving it away for free, we were just jumping on a tour, it was all a little bit of an experiment for us. We couldn’t have predicted that over the year, that it would go where it went. That was a cool thing too. Everywhere that we have gotten has been because of fan reaction. Has been because, they got the record. It took our shows to a bigger place, it took the whole thing to a bigger place. TO the point where we couldn’t just be like, okay, that was one weird little project. The people made us a rap group more than we made us a rap group. We were probably perfectly cool with just moving on and doing something else. WE got a lot of love when there were some high power records out, that were getting millions of dollars worth of push, we were getting right next to them, just with no money! [laughs] It was great.

Killer Mike: You know somebody somewhere was like, “What the fuck!” “What the fuck!!! Who was their fucking marketing company!”

El P: “Who is responsible for this!”

Emma: “What do you mean it just has to be good?!”

El P: [using an old man voice] “I’ve been in this business for fifty years!”

Killer Mike: How did their name get next to! “ That was the question of the day.

Emma: So, I am finding right now, that there seem to be two things in hip hop happening- Murs has this great line in an intro to a Z-Trip song where he says “If you can’t relate to this? You’re taking this shit too seriously. It’s hip hop man, it’s fucking fun.” And I believe that, truly. But on the other hand, you know, I’m talking to a lot of older heads who are talking about current hip hop as the urban news. I’m talking to Jazzy Jeff and I ask him about Meek Mills, and you know, he says it’s important to listen to that stuff, we have to listen to that stuff because it is the truth. Both are important camps. Where do you think your music falls on that scale? Is it just fun, is there something you are trying to say? Mike, I know that you are adding your voice to the political conversation, and that’s cool. Is it important to you that your music does the same?

El P: Well, it is definitely not just about having fun. Nah, we’re complicated people, but the records are wrapped up in a vibe that I think people were craving, and there is a fun element to it. But also, we’re us. So there’s gonna be shit laced within the pretty bow of a good time, but there’s gonna be elements of things we give a shit about, that weave their way into our music. I just think that we found a cool way to get that out. To do both. For me, I always felt like there shouldn’t be two sides to anything, there shouldn’t be a line in the sand. Like, a well rounded person is funny and interesting and also can have depth those things do not have to be descriptions of different personalities. They can be the same. I know for a fact that that is how me and Mike are. That’s what we like. I think that when you listen to our record there is a lot of shit in there that we’re saying. Especially in the new one, even more so, that means something to us. We put confectionery sugar all over it. It’s not like a devious thing, it’s just sort of the way we are. We sit around and we joke around and we have fun and at the same time we are serious men, who actually have ideas.

Emma: I think that’s important. Something that is sonically interesting but also has something thoughtful beyond it.

Killer Mike: Goodie Mob. That was the perfect group for me. Southerners. Like El, there’s no need to separate those things. Sometimes, the most revolutionary act sometimes, is to be happy. In spite of all. I don’t mean that to over romanticize, like “Oh, poor people so happy.” No it’s like, my grandmother used to say, “Sometimes you gotta laugh when you wanna cry.” And this shit gets so fucking absurd, if I didn’t have someone who saw the similar things, that I do? And was willing to laugh at the absurdity of the darkness sometimes, then I would probably just be a walking schizophrenic, talking to myself, because that gets lonely. I think that what you hear as the humor in our stuff is an expression of that. Kids come out and rage like they are at a punk show, and they take care of each other, and everybody goes home to their normal lives, 5 days later they come back around and they rage. That’s what I like. When I was young I used to think that we would overtake the system…. shit is fucked up.

Emma: Fucked. Up.

Killer Mike: Everyone is gonna die or aliens are gonna claim us, one or the other. Until that happens, what you have the power to do is fellowship, be kind, enjoy one another, discuss, to use your voice as an agent of revolt….and that’s what Run the Jewels does. In every way. When I said I’d shoot a poodle? It wasn’t just about poodles.

Emma: [Laughs]

Killer Mike: You know what poodles represent! You know? We got poodles in New York who live better than you!

Emma: Totally.

Killer Mike: It’s just my way of saying that I reject that bullshit. There’s a line where I’m saying I shot a police dog. In real life if you do that you’ll go to jail for life. So. It’s just an opportunity for you to vent some of that through us, and for us to come out and show. So. Absolutely it is supposed to be fun. And absolutely you are supposed to hear issues that you care about in that. You should be able to exonerate some of the angst that you have in a fun way, while not having to diminish your own intelligence.

El P: Well, it’s art. The best art is not something that’s pedantic, or lecturey. It’s gallows humor.

Emma: It’s laughing at a funeral.

El P: Me and Mike are the guys standing at the edge of a mass grave with a gun to our head laughing cos the executioner just farted.

Emma: So, when is that gonna be in a song?

El P: The song of my life.

Emma: So, you just got fully funded for Meow the Jewels.

El P: Oh yeah. Over funded.

Emma: Which is crazy. These two are re recording RTJ2, but with cats. Is that right?

Killer Mike: Yeah.

Emma: So, what is that sound booth gonna look like? Where are you gonna get the cats?

Killer Mike: That’s a lot of pussy. Probably at an Atlanta strip club.

 [I can’t even put laugh brackets anymore, there were too many instances of us all cracking up]

All different shapes and sizes.

Emma: You got tabbys, calicos….

Killer Mike: I want a tiger!

Emma: Oh, shit.

Killer Mike: Yeah, I’m going for the big cats. I want a puma, I want a tiger, I’d like a panther. Black. Yeah, I wanna go big.

El P: But your gonna get… kittens.

Emma: So, do you have a producer lined up or…

EL P: Well, originally it was gonna be me. We were gonna do the whole record like that but of course I wasn’t really gonna do it because I was *joking*.

[Laughter]

El P: You fucks.

Emma: So now what?

El P: Well, now about 2 weeks ago I realized that it might actually happen, so I reached out and decided to invite some friends on. Just Blaze is doing a track, Alchemist is doing a track, Bauer is doing a track. Nick Hook, Gas Lamp Killer…

Emma: That’s dope.

El P: Zola Jesus, Dan the Automater, Prince Paul. I put together a list of friends that might be the greatest production album of all time…..and it’s gonna be the stupidest fucking album off all time.

Emma: If your gonna make that album, might as well be the best though. But, will there be any cats?

El P: All the music will be cat noises. Just…cat sounds.

Emma: Well, I personally can’t wait for it.

EL P: I think everyone thinks that they can’t wait for it…I don’t think everyone has thought it through enough.

Emma: But like, those folks you just listed!

El P: Oh I know, I know, it’ll be the best possible version of the worst possible album. That’s the whole thing.

Emma: So, beyond Meow the Jewels, there are options to like, “we’ll call you our friend on tour” there are all these tour packages…has anyone bought one of those?

Killer Mike: Nah, but kids are sayin they want to. After seeing Meow the Jewels happen, I’m kinda in shut the fuck up mode about it. I mean, we might fuck around and get bought by a Saudi Arabian Prince! 10 million dollars. Walk in. Perform for me!

El P: I mean, I would consider it

Killer Mike: For 10 mill? Yeah! I’d say fuck it!

Emma: I just wanna know what the lodging situation will be like at this palace.

Killer Mike: I definitely would not be able to go without my wife. Just so I could make her dress in full garb.

El P: We’ll do promotional videos for it.

Emma: Just lots of belly dancing I hope.

Killer Mike: Run the Jewels Hezbollah!

El P: Prince Niam is a glorious leader!

Killer Mike: You are given the golden A.K Killer Mike, thank you, Run the Jewels.

Emma: You guys are definitely the buddy comedy of hip hop right now. If you were the odd couple, who is Jack Lemon, who is Walter Matthau?

Killer Mike: Matthau complained more, right?

Emma: Sure.

Killer Mike: points to EL P

El P: That is…so amazing that you would even say that. It’s either “too cold” or “too hot” or he doesn’t have enough weed…or can he get a lemon. The perspective of an insane man is that everyone is insane. You know what I mean? The fact that he just said that shit just. Seals the deal. Killer Mike is out of his fucking mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview/Review: David Nelson of New Riders of the Purple Sage

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[Photos by Chris Monaghan]

This past September David Nelson, founding member of New Riders of the Purple Sage, brought his band to SPACE in Evanston. I came to the venue straight from work and almost couldn’t find this hidden gem. I was early because I had arranged an interview with Nelson before the show that night. The venue is actually a multi-use building where the front part is a busy restaurant and the back features a behind-the-scenes studio and impressive green room. Then between the studio and the restaurant there is this space: a whimsical lounge-like room with upside down umbrellas that control the room’s ambient lighting.

While the show was sold out that night, being there early gave me plenty of time get acclimated and have an intimate discussion with David Nelson before the show began. By the time I emerged from the back room, the sold out crowd had filled in all the tables that surrounded the stage and lined the walls. NRPS have been on the road for over 40 years creating music and they’ve been selling out venues like SPACE night after night across the country. This band is the real deal. While most of their contemporaries have called it quits, NRPS is still out there making magic. Guitarist Michael Falzarano has an entertaining spunk that is contagious and Buddy Cage commands his pedal steel in such a way that his talent just slides right off the strings. After all, Jerry Garcia left some pretty big shoes for Cage to fill when he left NRPS back in the early 1970’s.

The band delivered two solid hours of music that night. Overall, the progression of their well-curated setlist captured a spirit in each song that really drew me in. I asked Nelson about playing the folk classic “Peggy-O” during our interview earlier that night. He shared, “That was pitched to me by Jerry (Garcia). I went and asked him, ‘Where did you get that song?’ And he said, ‘Put’s Golden Songsters,’ because you had to go get a book to get most of these songs. Only a few people had recorded it and then, months after that, of all people, Dylan recorded it. That was a new thing to me too. I had never heard of this guy before and I was going, ‘Could that be the same song?’ You know it was such a rare song, you had to search for that one.”

NRPS exploited a deep rooted tradition with their music and started playing old folk songs long before they began creating music on their own. There is something about this type of music that is universal and very much a reason this band has been so successful over the years. Nelson is also a strong advocate for the Appalachian legacy within folk music. He explained, “To this day I still go to collect that kind of stuff. It’s still the best, really great. You can take it all the way to electric, synthesize it, you can put it in hip hop or bebop. It doesn’t matter you can take those tunes and there are some great lyrics.” These songs have endured over the years because they are timeless and still feels relevant even decades, nay centuries after they were written.

 

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Nelson is an exceptional story teller and I couldn’t help dwell on our earlier conversation as the night progressed. One story that stood out involved the transition from using traditional folk songs to NRPS writing their own music. In fact, it wasn’t until the Beatles sensation hit America that Nelson and Garcia began entertaining the idea of creating their own lyrics. “You have to realize the first Beatles records were just pop music. They didn’t sound extraordinary or anything like that but we kind of knew this was such a huge angle, it’s going to be a big huge hit. So we better check it out. It didn’t become classic until they got relaxed in their creativity and wrote stuff from like Rubber Soul or even Beatles 65 ‘Baby’s in Black.’ That was really unusual and imaginative.” Nelson explained, “Then, and only then, did we get on board. It was just like ‘OK, I’m writing songs, I’m going to try that.'”

New Riders of the Purple Sage was birthed out of the idea that music should be timeless and now, all these years later, Nelson is still proving that point. The show at SPACE drew to a conclusion with a standing ovation from the sold out crowd. It was obvious that the songs this band showcased that night carry on a legacy that Nelson and Jerry worked so hard to capture and preserve. There is no doubt this music will be around long after the New Riders are gone.

Venue Spotlight: Thalia Hall

TH

[Written by Ashley Downing + Frazier]

One of the many things Chicago is known for is our expansive music scene. This city has live music continuously pouring out of nook and cranny. There are countless factors involved in making a venue successful, none of which are simple or easy to quantify. Of course it’s important for everything to look and sound good, but the total package is much more nebulous than that.

Recently, we’ve seen wild-man Anders Osbourne and rock darlings Lake Street Dive at a new venue in the city called Thalia Hall, located a bit off the beaten-path in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago (1807 S. Allport). While it’s been open for a couple of months, it took us a little while to realize what we had here. This place is basically a live music oasis in a neighborhood mostly dominated by restaurants — there’s nothing else like this place in Pilsen… or the rest of Chicago for that matter. Simply put: in only two visits, we can say that Thalia Hall is already one of the very best music venues in Chicago.

The historic, three story building was recently renovated to its original grandeur, making the place perfect for social gatherings involving good food, good drinks and live music. The moment you walk in the building it’s impossible not to feel the energy of this place. The all-around vibe of this spot is welcoming, making you feel comfortable as soon as you cross the welcome mat and step inside. The newly restored property features a prohibition style ‘Punch House’ bar in the basement, a badass beer-centric restaurant (Dusek’s Board & Beer) on the main floor and, finally, Thalia Hall: a spectacular vintage ballroom on the top. Upon entering you feel mesmerized by the fact this place even exists — it’s like stepping back in time, but with the modern acumen you’d expect from the Schuba’s/Lincoln Hall family. When restorations were done in the ballroom, they left some of the rough edges around to show the age building, which was a really nice touch. In some spots, cracks were even left in the paint, letting the walls tell their own story. The place has so much character and history that it almost feels alive.

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As a venue, Thalia Hall has everything set in the proper place, from the bars to bathrooms. There’s plenty of room to move and the whole places just flows well. The VIP area is upstairs with specialized seating and balcony accommodations. The bars are well-spaced and run smoothly, and the selections they offered were a great surprise — they had numerous craft beers on draft and in bottles as well as a unique selection of mixed punch cocktails, all of which were priced at less than ten dollars. We highly recommend the intriguing, tequila based “Space Juice” cocktail. All of the punch drinks they serve are wild and strong concoctions structured through the science of mixology.

Sometimes you need a break from the music and the crowd of people inside the venue and it is nice to be able to step outside and get a breath of fresh air (or or have a smoke). We never recommend leaving the show, but at times you just feel the need to get away for a moment. Many venues in Chicago refuse to allow re-entry for various reasons, which is understandable but always a bummer and a bad look as well. But Thalia Hall has it figured out. They had a great re-entry system set-up with staff checking you in and out of the venue, leading you to a special spot roped off on the sidewalk next to the building. With the staff there to make sure it went accordingly, the set-up worked astonishingly well and having that option can sometimes make your evening more enjoyable.

But at the end of the day, everything else at a venue aside from the sound quality is bonus material; if a venue sounds really damn good — we will be back no matter what. And this is where Thalia Hall shines. Not only does it have all the favored bells and whistles, it boasts the sound quality to back it all up, which instantly makes it one of our favorite spots in the city. It’s obvious this place spent the time and money on the optimal sound system for this unique space. And what’s most surprising is that the best sounding spot in the whole room in the center of the balcony, which is quite a rarity but a great thing for those of us who love the balcony.

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We’re really looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Thalia Hall. This building is a gem and Chicago is lucky to have it. Although we don’t get out to Pilsen very often, there’s no doubt we will be carving out some time to visit this place and its siblings, (Dusek’s and Punch House) often.

The Tonic Room Ghost

There’s always been something a little creepy about Tonic Room. This lounge-like bar with minimal lighting and crimson walls has been providing Chicago with a steady stream of live music for many years now, but the lengthy history of this particular building leaves many to believe it is haunted. Specifically, there is a rumor floating around of a woman being murdered in the basement and that her spirit still haunts 2447 N. Halsted. However impractical it seems to entertain such an uncanny idea, Tonic Room’s history is one that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and run for the hills.

tonic room
Photo by Chris Monaghan

The current ghost theory undoubtedly stems from the 1970’s when the building was owned by Fredric de Arechaga, who took over his mother’s occult supply store after she passed away. Arechaga was a mystic that founded a whole religious order based on Pagan principles. While the front of his store sold herbs, candles, and amulets, the back room housed a Babylonian Temple where Arechaga hosted rituals and worshiped with his many followers. The fact that music and dance were often an integral part of each ritual is particularly intriguing, but the common practice of sacrificing animals was what people found most disturbing.

The mysterious order has since dissolved and long gone are the days of ritual killings, but remnants of the occult temple are still visible today. When current owner, Nic Nepo, bought the place he discovered a pentagon drawn on the basement floor. Then, during a construction project, he uncovered a sacrificial dagger buried between the walls, no doubt an artifact left behind by Arechaga. When asked about the ghost Nepo replied, “I don’t know what to believe these days.” He then shared a story about a former Tonic Room bartender that claimed to have had a first hand experience with paranormal activity.

The story goes something like this: Two bartenders were closing down the bar and having a few drinks in the basement to cap off a long night of work. One of the bartenders commented to the other that he didn’t believe the building was haunted, mocking and taunting the notion of a ghost before turning off the lights and heading home. The following day that same bartender was found in the basement of the Tonic Room unable to move — his body completely catatonic. He had to be carried up the stairs and was immediately rushed to the hospital. The bartender claimed a supernatural being had a hold on him and somehow got in his head. Terrified by the experience, he never returned to work again.

While unsettling, there is no actual evidence to support the theory that Arechaga’s rituals included the sacrifice of humans (as well as animals), but when you rewind the clock even further back, you will find that the early history of 2447 N. Halsted is wild as well…

The building was originally built in 1894 and housed a brothel where ladies of the night would use the upstairs rooms to bed their customers. It eventually became a popular hangout for the North Side Gang: Chicago’s Irish mafia in the 1920’s. They ended up turning the place into a speakeasy during prohibition when alcohol was illegal for over a decade. An underground war notoriously took over the city during this time and Lincoln Park became a hot spot for organized crime and brutal murders. This violent era in Chicago’s history was part of the reason it was nicknamed “Windy City” because politicians, police, and the mafia were practically one in the same. Territory wars fought over underground bootlegging resulted in many murders. Al Capone, leader of the Italian South Side Gang, specifically targeted Lincoln Park with hits like the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. This infamous incident took place less than one mile from where the Tonic Room stands today. Then, five years later, John Dillinger was shot down by police in the alley between Halsted and Lincoln Avenues, after catching a movie at the Biograph Theater just around the corner. The original Chicago gangsters were just as bad ass as the gangsters of today, only the had the police on their side as well. If someone had been murdered at this building, there is a very good chance their leg was tied to a brick and dropped in Lake Michigan.

Today, Tonic Room still carries on Arechaga’s legacy of song and dance, as well as the North Side Gang’s love of spirits. The building’s thick history lends itself to many theories and speculations to the point where entertaining the idea of a ghost doesn’t seem so impractical after all.

Stream: Green Velvet’s Electric Playground Podcast 10/11/14

Green Velvet

We’re baaaack…with another hot of the press edition of Green Velvet’s Electric Playground podcast.

Not many words are needed here. It’s been a minute since we put up some Beats by Jones (Curtis Jones, that is), and boy I need it to get me going on the last couple days of this rainy and cloudy week we’ve been having. Huge weekend of music ahead of us here in the Windy City – Temples, Chromeo, Beats Antique, Kygo, and Dopapod to name just a few- with enough shows to satisfy fans of any genre. Green Velvet brings us our Deep House fix today, so turn up, it’s almost Friday! Also, for those with Halloween plans still up in the air, you can catch a live set at Sound Bar.

Tracklist is located below the player. And for good measure, I’ve also included last week’s podcast added to give you a full hour of maximum head bobbing pleasure.*

  1. [00] M.in – Jesus Hates [Recovery Tech – RTCOMP 360]
  2. [05] Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons – Lovers’ Eyes (Mohe Pi Ki Najariya) (Carl Craig Remix) [Crosstown Rebels – CRM 127]
  3. [07] Shades Of Gray – Tonight Is The Night (Smash TV Remix) [Beef – CD 007]
  4. [10] Roy RosenfelD – Awkward (Noob Remix) [Form-Music – FORM 45]
  5. [13] Forest People – Dog In Elevator [UTCH – EP 0021]
  6. [18] L-Vis 1990 – Video Drone [Night Slugs – NSCC 001]
  7. [21] ID
  8. [25] Juan DDD – Black Train [Evolution – EV 008]

  1. [00] Aaron Snapes – Panther [Dirtybird – DB 114]
  2. [03] ID
  3. [05] Maceo Plex – ENTER.Space [Minus – MAX 19]
  4. [07] Traumer – Cyclo [Herzblut]
  5. [12-20] ID
  6. [21] Miss Z – Back [Brazuka – BZM 004]
  7. [22] ID
  8. [27] Chambray – Ghetto Giants [Ultramajic – LVX 009D]

*Soundfuse not liable for injuries incurred due to prolonged head-bobbing.

Interview with Michael League from Snarky Puppy

[Photo taken at Reggie’s in March 2012]

It’s been a couple of years since our last interview with Snarky Puppy and hot damn have they been busy. Over the past two years I’m pretty sure they have played in every country on Earth at least twice. And then there’s that little thing that happened where they won a Grammy too. It’s safe to say that Snarq Dogg Mania is sweeping the globe. I got the chance to sit down with Michael League before the second show of their recent two-night run at Reggie’s and it went like this:

From the fan’s perspective it seems like you guys never stop touring, you’re always on the road. How are feeling after such a busy year?

Well last year was the real crazy one, that was the 184 gig year. This year is gonna be about 150 — it’s a little lighter but not by much. The thing is we’ve been kinda slowly increasing our level of comfort on the road as things have gotten busier. We’re renting Sprinter vans and we’ve hired a crew so now we’re not schlepping our gear and setting it up, which makes a huge difference. It also lets us get about two extra hours of sleep every night because we don’t have to show up for load in. So that has really softened the stress of being on tour perpetually. We definitely get tired from time to time but we try to never let it show on stage.

You guys are good at that. So what’s the most exhausted point you’ve been over the recent nonstop touring?

Well, I remember last year we came back from Japan and we had a layover in China for like 18 hours, then we flew to New York, and I went straight from the airport in New York onto a Megabus to Washington DC because we had a gig with The Roots the next night. And after that gig my body just kinda shut down. I could barely move and I was just having all sorts of problems. We had a gig in Canada a few days after that and I waited until we got there to see a doctor… because it’s free up there and everything. But until we got there, I was done. Since then I’ve learned the warning signs of stress overload, and now everybody in the band is more aware of when someone is at their breaking point.

One part of the nonstop touring is that it’s not just America… you guys are all over the world, a truly global band. I’m curious how the crowds & fans compare over seas with American fans…

They’re very different. Each country has a different personality and the way they respond to music. The venues we play also have a big role — so if we’re playing a $75 a head jazz festival you’re gonna get a very different audience than a $20 club show on the Southside of Chicago. But everybody reacts differently — Scottish and Irish people have tons of energy and respond loudly, but in Japan and Germany they tend to be very quiet until the end of the show and they show their whole appreciation at the end. So it really depends, but we like it all, it makes us play differently.

What’s the biggest crowd you guys have played in front of so far?

I think we played for about 4,000 people at the Paris Jazz Festival, which has been the biggest show that’s just our band. We played some other festivals that have been more, but that wasn’t just us.

What’s been the biggest surprise crowd internationally? A place you showed up and didn’t expect to see many people but there was a bunch?

Ireland. I think… No, wait, it was Russia. We played a festival in St. Petersberg and the crowd was super into it, it was packed, and like 75% of them were female, which was very different from what we’re used to. It was awesome.

at Hyperion Festival in September 2013

Last night you announced that you’re working on Family Dinner Vol. 2, which is great to hear — Volume 1 was an amazing album. But I’m curious, how are we ever gonna hear any of that material live since it’s all centered around guest vocalists?

I think of records as completely separate things from live gigs. An album is an opportunity to capture a moment in time with certain people in a certain room with certain material and Family Dinner Vol. 2 is going to do just that. It’ll be eight different vocalists from Vol. 1 — no repeats. But this time we’re adding another element by having a guest instrumentalist on every track as well. So we will be combining a guest vocalist with a guest instrumentalist with Snarky Puppy backing it up, and it will be recorded in New Orleans too, which is really cool.

Obviously I have to congratulate you on the Grammy, that’s huge and it’s so cool to see a band like Snarky Puppy win an award like that. But here’s my one snarky question for Snarky Puppy… how much of the credit for the Grammy do you give to Lalah [Hathaway]?

I would say most of it. First and foremost her vocal performance on that track — acrobatics aside, obviously she does the thing where she splits her voice — but just generally her performance is something that I don’t think I’ve ever heard another vocalist do. She sings like a singer and then takes a solo like a horn player, and she improvised with Cory [Henry] beautifully… You know, it’s just an incredible performance. But the arrangement is also great, and Sput gets the credit for that…

I was gonna say, even though I was being cheeky, that song (“Something”) is like a perfect storm of music awesomeness — an otherworldly vocalist with a rare performance, combined with a composition that is so prototypically Snarky Puppy… it’s perfect.

If you listen to the original recording of the song, it sounds like nothing we would do. Sput made the arrangement very different and it ended up being really cool. Also, you also have to give Lalah credit for being on a dozen other Grammy-winning records — she has gravity in the industry. That helped us a lot too because she is already on the radar of NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences). I think all of that went into it, so she definitely deserves a ton of credit for that one.

It seems like, at least starting out, that you wrote a big chunk of Snarky Puppy’s material. You’re like a conductor in a way, writing these massive compositions for multiple instruments… So from your perspective, take a song like “Shofukan,” do you hear that whole thing together in your head before you write? Or do you break it down and start with a bass line or a guitar part? In a band with so many moving parts, how does one person write for all of that?

Well, everybody who writes songs for the band writes all the parts for their songs — so it’s not just me. We all hear these things in our head with the full band in mind from the start. For me personally, I generally start with a chordal instrument, and try to sing a melody for it. Then the last things that come are the groove and the bassline because that’s what comes most natural to me.

at Boulevard Fest in Chicago in 2013

It’s really interesting how fluid you are between the synth and the bass guitar during live shows. But I think last night was the first time I’ve seen you guys and you didn’t play the synth at all. Instead, the combo of Corey Bernhard and Justin [Stanton] laid it on extra thick in that area. But on a normal night, how do you choose when to use the guitar vs the synth? And at what times do you like to use the synth instead of the guitar?

Well, basically, they just sound different. Same range, way different sounds. So I choose based on which direction we’re going. You can try to make a guitar sound like a synth with pedals, but it won’t. Or try to make a Moog sound like a bass guitar, and it won’t. So I make decisions based around the idea that they’re very different. Another thing is that the key bass has endless sustain and with a bass guitar the sustain dies at a certain point. So I choose based on what’s going on in the moment — I don’t set out to do one or the other at specific points. And the reason I didn’t play the Moog last night is because Corey was playing it — I gave it to him for the tour.

That’s another thing…. I’ve seen you guys maybe ten or 12 times now and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Corey. You guys have Bill [Laurence], and Justin, and Cory Henry, and Shaun Martin… but then you bring in Corey out of nowhere and he killed it last night. When you bring a new person into the collective Snarky Puppy mind like that, where does the trust level have to be before they’re ‘tour ready’? With a band like yours it seems insanely difficult to just jump right in and be a part of the group.

As with anything, it always takes a little bit of time for a new person to fit into the band and for the band to get used to them… and for the him to get used to the music. Corey is a guy I’ve played with in New York, he plays with Bilal regularly, as well as a bunch of other people out there. I just love the way he plays, I love the way he supports — he’s a very spacious player and leaves a lot of room for other things to happen on the stage. He’s beautiful with chords and his sense of harmony is really unique to me. It’s really cool having him in the band. Maybe you noticed last night that there was a lot more space in the music than normal, a little less in your face, a little more subtle…

Compared to Shaun? Yeah, that’s not hard — he’s an animal.

Definitely. But also with Cory [Henry], who sounds really big too. They’re all tremendous players, but Bernhard’s personality is very different than those guys. I think both personalities work really well in the band, so it’s been a real pleasure having him because he pushes us to play differently as well.

On a similar note… on We Like It Here, the drummer wasn’t Sput, it was Larnell Lewis… Where the hell did that guy come from? He sounded so good on that album, and to come out of nowhere and sound that good with you guys took me by surprise. To fill the shoes of a drummer like Sput is a tall order, so how did that come about?

Larnell’s an old friend of mine from Toronto and he had subbed for Sput before, so he knew a couple of those tunes already. But yeah, Sput’s inability to make it for that session was a very last minute thing, so I had to just call somebody. I trusted Larnell to be able to learn the music quickly, and he learned it all basically in 24 hours, we had a super quick rehearsal the day of the first recording, and then he just started tracking. He is a freak of nature — he’s one of my favorite drummers in the world.

with Manda Magda at Metro in January 2014

Over the years I’ve come up with a rule: never miss the opening band at a Snarky Puppy show. One of the main reasons is that you guys basically just play with them. Earlier this year it was with Banda Magda at Metro, now with Philip Lassiter here at Reggie’s… How do you guys prepare to play with these opening bands and learn all their music?

Yesterday, we learned all of it at soundcheck. I mean, some of us have played with him before and we all have his record, so we put it together at soundcheck. Then today we had a little 40-minute rehearsal just to iron things out and make it cleaner than last night.

Going back to songwriting… can you describe your writing routine? At what times to big inspiration moments happen for you? When do your songs get written?

Generally right before the recording because we’re on tour all the time and I don’t have time to write, so I’ll just cram it all in right at the end. But I also have a little collection of voice memos on my phone, when I just randomly hear something in my head and I’ll sing it into my phone and save it to work on later. I’m also generally inspired after I hear a great record, even just a few seconds from a really great record will give me an idea to develop. I like writing songs from a conceptual point of view — not just sitting down and writing a melody, but hearing something in a song, taking that concept, and writing something with a similar concept. Taking something small and developing it into something big.

What would you say is the best song you’ve written so far in your life?

I don’t know man, they’re all very different. I think the best melody I’ve written is the chorus for “Thing of Gold.” I think maybe as an entire composition “Shofukan” is probably my favorite. But you know what I’m most excited about — probably because it’s the most recent — I wrote a suite for the Metropol Orchestra + Snarky Puppy, which totaled 64 people, and that will be coming out in April. That put me in a completely new headspace for writing and I was really happy with how it turned out.

Damn, I would love to see you guys play a show with a full orchestra…

It’s on the horizon.

A world tour for the Snark-estra?

We’re planning it…

If you could have any bass player replace you for one show so you could experience a Snarky Puppy show from the crowd, who would it be?

That would be a tie between Pino Palladino and Tim Lefebvre. Both of them obviously have an unbelievable groove. But Tim especially has a really crazy spectrum of sounds that he can go through. They’ve both been huge influences on me, sonically, groove-wise, feel-wise, and with tones. I think they both have a really amazing ability to play the same songs differently every night. They’re very spontaneous and inspired and I’d love to see how they would push the band in different directions.

Can you imagine being anything other than a musician?

Sure. I don’t think I’d do anything really well, but I would enjoy other things. I love writing, I love filmmaking, directing, and production. I’ve only done documentary stuff like from our records — music-based film work. But yeah, I think I could do other things I just don’t know that I’d be any good at them.

at Reggie’s in September 2014

So what does Snarky Puppy have against vinyl?

Absolutely nothing. We are printing We Like It Here in time for Christmas. And then we’re gonna slowly go in reverse chronological order pressing our albums to vinyl. We’re looking at releasing a new one every six months and then we’re gonna sell a cleverly-packaged container to hold them all so you can have like a box set at the end.

Do you guys ever plan to release official live recordings? I’d do some things for a crispy Snarky soundboard…

It’s something we have in mind. We’re kinda re-forming our record label right now and that’s a big thing on the agenda. So yes, we will start selling ‘bootlegs’ of live shows.

Say you’re making the Family Dinner album of your wildest dreams, who are three artists — living or dead — that you’d want to have on the album?

James Brown, Louis Armstrong, and Donnie Hathaway.

Alright, last question… I’ve never heard you guys play a cover song. Do you think you guys will ever play any covers? And if so, what songs would be good covers for Snarky Puppy?

When we first started we played some tunes that weren’t ours. We also played one in Sweden recently with the band that wrote the tune. So it happens from time to time. But generally speaking, we just have so much material that everyone in the band has written… Very rarely are you going to hear a band play someone else’s song better than they would. If you follow that logic, we will probably play our songs better than any other band could and we would probably play someone else’s songs worse than they would play them. That’s not to say I’m against covers, sometimes people will have a totally different take on a song and it’s very interesting. But I feel like if we’re going to put energy into learning new material, it should be our own material.

Interview with EGi (Ethereal Groove, Inc.)

[Photos by Michael Kaiz]

03_2014-10-03_Tauk-EGi_Abbey Pub_EGi_Photo by Michael Kaiz

EGi (Ethereal Groove, Inc.)

Noe Perez – Guitar, Vocals (NP)
Devon Bates – Drums (DB)
James Hernandez – Guitar, Vocals (JH)
Joe DeLucca – Bass, Vocals (JD)
Michael “Gonzo” Gonzales – Percussion (MG)

If EGi was a pizza, what ingredient would you be?
NP: I would be the cheese because I like to keep things warm and melted. It is a main ingredient in the pizza… you know you need the crust and the sauce and the sausage but you also need the cheese too. All of it needs to stay together and it’s like the cheese does that. Pizza needs every ingredient to make it good. Without cheese it sucks, without sausage it sucks.
DB: I would have to say the sausage because I am kind of like the meat as the drummer. It’s like the beefiness of it.
JH: I guess I’m the sauce, yeah, definitely the sauce. I think of myself and Noe as kind of saucy on guitars and I would definitely put Devon and Gonzo as the crust because they are just holding it all down. And Joe is the cheese on top, you know? Together we all make that fatty slice of pizza.
JD: The sauce. The way I see it, a pizza needs a crust and sauce definitely. In my opinion, to be a rock and roll band you need drums and bass. So I see the drums as the crust and the bass as the sauce.
MG: I think it would be garlic, tomato, and basil… But if I had to choose just one, I would have to be garlic because I bleed garlic.

04_2014-10-03_Tauk-EGi_Abbey Pub_EGi_Photo by Michael Kaiz

What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home?
NP: I’ve been to Mexico. I used to go every single year until I was like 16.
DB: With the band we went to Colorado a few weeks ago. That’s the farthest we’ve all traveled together. Personally, that would be my farthest as well. I went to Colorado to go see music, The String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks in 2010. It was amazing, I had a blast.
JH: I’ve actually been to Honduras and Puerto Rico so that is probably about the farthest I’ve personally traveled.
JD: We just got back from Colorado and I think that’s the furthest point on a tour. Personally, I went to Mexico once with my parents in like seventh grade. It was fun, from what I remember.
MG: I am not sure what’s further, Jamaica or the Cayman Islands. I was on a Jam Cruise once and we got to go all over but I think the Cayman Islands are farther, so the Cayman Islands.

Who in the band would you choose to be stranded on a desert island with and who would you send to outer space?
NP: Probably Devon because I’ve known him since we were 12 years old. So we’ve known each other for a long time. I would send Gonzo to outer space because he is already a space cadet and he needs to be out there.
DB: Noe is like my best friend, we’ve been friends since middle school, so I might have to say him. But at the same time Gonzo is like the easiest person to get along with. So being stuck on an island with him would probably be a lot of fun. So I have to go with Gonzo. I would send James to outer space, he’s the guy with the afro that plays guitar, just because he could use the trip. No, actually I am going to change that to Joe, the bass player because he doesn’t get out enough. So he needs to go see some stuff… the moon would be a good place for him to check out.
JH: I think it would have to be Joe for the desert island. I’ve known Joe for a very long time and we are really good friends. We are actually the two original members of the band before it even became EGi. Then to send to outer space it would have to be Noe because I would still be able to hear him from outer space.
JD: On a desert island, I would have to say James because I have known James the longest and we would make stuff work out pretty well I think. To send to outer space I would say Gonzo because he’s a space case, so that would make sense.
MG: Devon for the desert island because we connect in the band the most, like the most rhythm. Devon and I get along really well. I would send James to outer space because he would just float around in space with his afro. I don’t know, it’s like he already has a helmet on with his fro and I can tell he likes space.

07_2014-10-03_Tauk-EGi_Abbey Pub_EGi_Photo by Michael Kaiz

What is your favorite festival?
NP: My favorite festival would have to be Shoe Fest. We’ve been playing there for like three years and the community there is awesome. Really good community and good shows in general. They always have a good line up and it’s a really humble community. Good sound too and stages, the music quality is really good. Everybody just knows everybody there and every time we play there it’s just awesome. We have a great turn out and all our friends get together for that fest. I would definitely say Shoe Fest is one of the best festivals right now.
DB: Man, I wish Rothbury was still around. That was amazing. I would have to say Shoe Fest is the best festival right now. It is such a good time and everything is so homey. It’s just like a big community gathering. All the hometown crew and amazing musicians come out. The Old Shoe guys really know how to throw a party. It’s really awesome.
JH: Shoe Fest, definitely. We have played there the past three years and every time we go there it’s just the most cool, down to earth people. You get in there and you just feel it, everybody is on the same page and everyone is so chill and kind. The people that run the festival are awesome too. Every time we go there it’s just something you can’t forget.
JD: I would say Shoe Fest, we’ve been there the last few years. It’s not huge, by any means, but there’s a lot of nice people and it’s just a good time in general.
MG: Well, I don’t know if they still have it but it was a festival in Angel’s Camp, California and it was Further and Galactic. I love Galactic and I love Further. When I was there it was just awesome. Further was with Bob and Phil and they did four Dead albums in their entirety and it was amazing. But my favorite festival going on today is Shoe Fest. It’s like all my friends and it’s like home and I got to jam with Old Shoe. We did all of Terrapin Station on stage. That is kinda awesome how I like those two festivals and they both featured that whole album.

If you could add an instrument to the band, what would it be and why?
NP: Probably keyboards, that would be the one thing we would want to have in the band. I think that’s the only thing we have room for right now. Or maybe a horn section, but those are hard to come by.
DB: I would have a synth or keys just because it could fill in some gaps we might leave behind.
JH: That’s a tough call. It would be a toss up between keys and saxophone. If I had to choose one, the keys just because it could add some really good ambiance. The saxophone is also good because that is just sassy right there. It would be good so we could throw down on some funk more, you know, just bring it out more.
JD: I am always torn between horns and piano. I am going to say piano, organ or a synthesizer. The reason being because I just love the sound of it and it just adds a cool element to the whole thing.
MG: Keyboards because I just love that sound. It adds so much, they can do everything. They can even do like horn parts.

02_2014-10-03_Tauk-EGi_Abbey Pub_EGi_Photo by Michael Kaiz

If you could have a drink with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
NP: Well, I think it would have to be Trey Anastasio. Just to pick his brain and talk to him, nerd out for a bit on personal basis. Not even talk about guitar, just like talk to him about normal stuff. Nothing music related just straight up have a drink and talk.
DB: I love Bill Murray. I would love to sit down at a bar and have a few drinks with him just to see where it goes. He is such an awesome guy.
JH: If I could have a drink with somebody I think it would be David Gilmour. Without a doubt. I would love to sit down and have a beer with him. I would talk about everything from guitars to pedals to amps to just influences in his life and how he became the way he is now, playing wise. Just picking that guy’s brain because he really changed my life.
JD: I would say Mike Gordon, the bassist for Phish, just because I started playing bass because of that guy, so it would be cool to talk to him.
MG: That’s a hard one. It would probably be Bob Marley, just because he was a cool dude.

Why are you awesome and what could you do to be more awesome?
NP: Really? You are asking me this? Why am I awesome? Well, I guess I am a pretty nice guy and I smile a lot so I guess that makes me awesome. If I could be more awesome, I would be on time more often. I think that would make me more awesome.
DB: I guess I don’t think I am very awesome. To be more awesome I guess I could probably be a little more sociable. I am the guy that sits in the back of the room and watches everything happen. So I guess I could be more awesome if I talked more or broke out of my shell more. I am kinda quite and shy.
JH: Probably grow my fro out another two feet maybe. (laughs) That’s what everyone keeps telling me. But why I am awesome is probably because I am stuck in a band with four awesome guys and I have nothing but love for those guys.
JD: I guess I was born this way, so lucky me. To be more awesome, I guess I could learn some faster quadruplets on my bass.
MG: I think I am awesome because everyone else is awesome. That doesn’t necessarily make me awesome but I like to see the awesomeness in people. To be more awesome I could probably make more grilled cheese sandwiches for people that want them or need them. Maybe more need than want because if you need something you are going to want it. So that would make me more awesome, wouldn’t it?

Exclusive Mix 007: Wyllys’ Room 218 Mix

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It’s been a minute since we had an exclusive mix, so we decided to go back to the well and hit up our old friend, the waxmaster Wyllys. Unlike the other seasons, Fall is under-represented when it comes to soundtracks — it lacks just lacks an obvious vibe. Winter always brings bleak, dark sounding mixes, Spring and Summer own the bright & upbeat energy… but what about Fall? We tossed the concept of an “Autumn Mix” at Wade and this is what he sent back. See why we love this guy?

Hello kids,

It’s been a while since I released a mix and the good people over at Soundfuse asked me to do an exclusive Autumn mix. I just couldn’t refuse. It’s my absolute favorite time of year and always a very creative time for me dating back as far as I can remember writing and performing.

As it has been told, a good friend gifted me a pair of belt drive tables a few Summers before attending college, so I wasn’t exactly the worst when I got there, but still so very rough around the edges. Well, when you attend college in Poultney, VT and bring decks, you could be fucking Q Bert for all they know. They loved it and encouraged me to play for them as often as time would allow, which was often. I had my decks facing the window and the speakers pointed out to the quad or I would set them up in a friend’s room right in front of the quad which is what spread the word there was an actual DJ on campus.

Kids would come over to the room to smoke weed, clown around, play Goldeneye on N64, and the regular college dorm shit, and I would start playing all my weird records I had been buying and collecting. I had a penchant for ambient/late night tunes from the very beginning and my crate really reflected that. Kids would get lost in the tunes, ask who they were listening to, and seek out those artists. I wanted to try and recreate that spirit in this mix.

This piece of music was created as a stream of conciousness with zero planning beforehand. I gathered all my weird records in a pile and went for it. I wanted the vibe to bring you back to a huge part of my youth with love and warmth and humanity; clicks, pops, warts, and all.

I have included a tracklist so you can seek out these amazing artists and hopefully go down a few wormholes and discover even more music. A DJ’s job is to always educate as he creates. You have a civic duty to music to push people to support the artform or all is lost.

Thanks so much for all the support over the years. I can tell you the best is yet to come and there are a ton of exciting things happening in the future.

With a love supreme,

Wyllys

d

Upcoming Dates:

10.9-Garcia’s at the Capitol Theater&/Port Chester, NY
10.10-Rise/Boston, MA
10.18-The Spot/Providence, RI@
10.19-Stella Blues^/New Haven, CT
10.30-Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas$/Las Vegas, NV

& w Newton Crosby
@ w The Indobox
^ w Arclite
$ w The New Deal

1. JFK and Mrs Kennedy live from Natural Cultural Center Washington, DC 1962
2. Fripp and Eno-Wind on Water
3. Actress-Gershwin
4. Dabrye-Making it Pay
5. Ad Bourke-En Trance
6. Apeanaut-Hardwired for Geisha
7. Vine-Roma Stripped
8. Daniel Drumz-If You Want Me, Say It
9. Yoshi-Magnetic
10. Skyscaper-Skyshapes
11. Autechre-Mechanically Reclaimed
12. Prinz Thomas-Don O Van Budd
13. Piano Overlord-Triste Maita
14. Reunion-Eona
15. Dillinja-Warrior Jazz
16. Ryuichi Sakamoto-Salvation (Ashley Beedles Heaven and Earth)
17. Deepflow vs Preston Craig and Clay Ivey-Groove Control (Preston and Clay’s Warfare Mix)
18. Future Loop Foundation-Discovery

 

Album Review: Caribou – Our Love

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Dan Snaith’s Caribou project has slowly progressed from an indie rock band to more electronic leanings with each release. Our Love is his most accessible album to date and features more dance floor anthems compared to previous releases. This could be a direct result of Snaith spending more time DJing in nightclubs under his Daphni moniker, or it could just be a natural progression and a result of his current musical fascinations. His close relationship with fellow electronic luminaries like James Holden, Four Tet, and Jeremy Greenspan (Junior Boys) may also have something to do with the transformation. Whatever the case may be, he has crafted a gorgeous, psychedelic record that is a equal parts eerie and sublime; the colorful album art manages to capture that sentiment as well.

Like James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, Snaith records his albums by himself but is joined live by other band members. It’s an uncompromising method but it certainly allows his artistic expression to flow and shine through. There is a melancholic feel to almost every track — Snaith explores love and the other side of the coin: heartbreak and loss. Nowhere is that more apparent then on the last two tracks. “Back Home” finds him asking the same post-breakup questions we’ve all faced before, while the album closer “Your Love Will Set You Free” offers some closure and acceptance to a failed relationship. Each track features simple yet powerful lyrics and are some of the most intense statements on an otherwise relaxed album. Each is equally hypnotic and are proper closing tracks for a very dense record.

By now most have heard the first two singles: “Our Love” and “Can’t Do Without You.” The title track repeats a simple phrase over and over on top of symphonic synthesizers, while drum machines and a thick bass line shift the tempo and add layers to the catchy dance number. “Can’t Do Without You” is an ode Snaith’s wife and easily the finest song on the entire album. As the lead track and first single, it creates a warm inviting declaration of hope and security. Like many of the tracks on this album it is simple yet complex, full of ideas explored by countless musicians that have come before him. But only the biggest cynics will rush to judgement on that fact. What Snaith has accomplished sonically and lyrically should not be downplayed here. Many fans of Swim will not be won over by the shift to a more accessible pop sound. However, haunting tracks like “Silver” and “Dive” might ease some of those trepidations.

“Second Chance” is the lone track to feature a guest vocalist and it comes courtesy of rising Canadian electronic songwriter Jessy Lanza. It’s one of the finest tracks on the album and offers a new wrinkle, adding more layers to the overall landscape. The whimsical flutes of “Mars” have the same effect. Overall, this a standout release and one that will certainly be talked about in both indie and rave circles alike. Snaith has captured many emotions and found a way to express them in an honest and humble way with subtle sincerity underlying each track.

Stream/Download: DJ Matt ROAN of Crossfader Kings BOGA Mixtape

DJ Matt ROAN

Folks – If you have HiFi headphones, this is when they are worth their dollar.  What we have here for your listening pleasure is the first mix in a many-volume series we are working on in a new partnership with Chicago based DJ collective,Crossfader Kings. Matt Roan, a personal favorite and one of the more well-known and refined spinners this city has to offer, brings us this 2-hour beat session with a little bit of commentary (below). With countless reworks and mixes of tracks we already love, Matt Roan strings together the highest of quality cuts without fancy tricks or incessant drops, keeping audiences and listeners constantly moving. From Hot Natured to Moon Boots all the way to Justin Timberlake, the time and care put into this mixtape is evident. The audio quality has been remastered, not only with volume increases for those listening on laptop speakers or Apple earbuds, but with added analogue warmth for the audiophiles out there. Enough from me… sit back and enjoy as this gets you through your Friday. Track list below the player.

Matt Roan

DJ Matt ROAN on the mixtape:  “​I recorded this mix for a local menswear line called BOGA based here in Chicago. They planned a cool grand opening party but the venue was a little up-tight about live music… so I made them this live mix instead!  They wanted a cool mix of tunes that would keep the energy up, provide a nice soundtrack to their evening, and ramp up as the party went on.  As far as I’m concerned… MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.”

Darius – S/Ash
Phoenix – Lisztomania (Classixx Remix)
Darius – Vanyll
Moon Boots – Sugar
Lee Foss & MK – Electricity ft. Anabel Englund
Amine Edge & Dance – Lost
Hot Natured – Isis ft. The Egyptian Lover
Amber Jolene & Nolan – Everyday & Everynight (KANT Remix)
Duke Dumont – I Got U ft. Jax Jones
Anna Lunoe – Up & Down
Oliver $ & Jim Jules – Pushing On
Hercules & Love Affair – That’s Not Me ft. Gustaph
Gorgon City – Real ft. Yasmin
5 Reasons & Patrick Baker – Night Drive In Moscow (Satin Jackets Remix)
Moon Boots – C.Y.S.
Haze-M – Dance With Me
Disclosure – White Noise ft. Aluna George
Kate Boy – The Way We Are (Bixel Boys Remix)
Disclosure – Latch
Calvin Harris – Thinkin’ Bout You (Them Jeans Remix)
Duke Dumont – Need U (100%) ft. A.M.E. & M.N.E.K.
Route 94 – My Love ft. Jess Glynne
Justin Timberlake – Like I Love You (Motez Edit)
The Hood Internet – Without Pressure (Bowie/Dillon Francis)
Cyclist – Shine ft. Maiko Watson (Rogue Vogue Remix)
Ferreck Dawn & Redondo – Love Too Deep
Seal – Crazy (Bixel Boys Remix)
Josh Butler – Got A Feeling (Bontan Remix) (Pleasurekraft Edit)
Ciara – Body Party (Matt ROAN Remix)
M83 – Reunion (Mylo Remix)
Annie – Heart Beats (Krazy Fiesta Remix)

Album Review: Aphex Twin – Syro

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[Words by Adrian Gurga]

How does one go about introducing Richard D. James? He’s a rebellious Cornish producer who began producing electronic music when he was only 14, back in 1985, or possibly even earlier according to some accounts. He’s an engineer at heart who amassed a fortune and built an empire simply by playing an inventive role in emerging industries, primarily electronic music. Back in 1995 he produced a track for Nine Inch Nails, the title of which, “At the Heart of It All” I think pretty much summarizes James’s role in electronic music. In 2001, the Guardian described him as “the most inventive and influential figure in contemporary electronic music”. Thom Yorke cites James as the key inspiration for the new direction Radiohead took on their album Kid A. You might think of James somewhat as the Godfather, but really he’s far too mysterious for that role… he’s more like the Big Boss. James began investing in decommissioned military hardware when he made his first million, purchasing a tank for personal use (technically it’s not a tank, but a British-made armored scout vehicle named after a weasel, but that’s just splitting hairs). He owns an abandoned bank in London, but currently resides in Scotland, which is convenient as it allows him to spend more time aboard his submarine. He’s the perfect role model for reclusive nerds everywhere.

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This month Richard D. James released Syro, his sixth studio album as Aphex Twin. The album announcement originated via the deep web, accessible only via the Tor browser — a free browser designed to protect anonymity online — all part of a clever ploy on James’s part to teach his fans about the browser and maintaining personal privacy on the net. The album announcement was followed by street art, advertising via a blimp in London, and numerous invite-only listening parties were held around the world where diehard fans were given a special sneak peak of James’s latest opus. A super limited special edition of the album is available by lottery only and costs a small fortune. The full album is now streaming on Spotify.

While Syro is Aphex’s first release since 2001’s Drukqs, James has not been idle in the meantime. He’s now a father of two sons and is on his second marriage. He’s also been releasing a ton of music, just not as Aphex Twin, with varying levels of secrecy. As AFX, his second most common pseudonym, he released the Analord series a growing collection of EPs which contains 62 tracks to date. He also anonymously released two EPs under the alias The Tuss, only to confirm the tracks as his own just prior to Syro’s release.

Upon a first listen, Syro sounds just like classic Richard D. James. It’s high paced and glitchy with lots of bubbly sounds and what may best be described as farty bass. There’s a liberal use of the vocoder effect and lots of otherwise manipulated vocal gibberish — all pretty signature Aphex stuff. Syro has more layers than his previous work and the melodies are short, but they’re catchy and beautifully woven into the mix.

The tracks on Syro have full on Aphex-style names which include not only the track title, but also the the specific mix which ended up on the album, even the BPM is included, all encoded in a combination of English, Cornish, and imaginary words which practically only Richard D. James could understand. For example, the track title “XMAS_EVET10 [120] [thanaton3 mix]” is one of the easier titles to decipher, but the titles become increasingly more cryptic from there.

Syro is more refined and easier on the ears than some of James’s earlier work. An advancement in audio engineering mastery and overall mixing and mastering prowess can also be heard compared to his previous albums. Old Aphex can sometimes sound like your TV got into a fight with an alien radio station, and some listeners may finding it to be fatiguing to listen to, but Syro does a good job of managing the balancing act between glitchy audio terror and beautiful tranquility. Even through the staggeringly chaotic electronic riffs, there is still space between the notes, room to rest, helping to maintain this delicate balance in a manner which only Richard D. James can deliver. One track begins with a pounding bass kick, one track is all piano with birds singing in the background, and all the others are somewhere in between.

Over a decade of preparation has certainly paid off. With a 13 year gap since Drukqs, James quite literally may have spent more time producing and polishing the tracks on Syro than any of his other albums, and you can hear that difference in the mix. Tracks begin as synthesized nightmares and transition into chillingly beautiful ambient soundscapes and then back and forth through several movements — a level of composition we have not previously heard in James’s work. It’s kind of like Simon Posford meets Burial.

The album ends on a down note, which is probably satisfying for most Aphex fans, as some of his more somber tunes are some of the best (“Avril 14th” and “Girl/Boy Song” come to mind). I fantasize of a world where Richard D. James gets bumped in the head, wakes up the next day, and announces a symphonic tour with full orchestra backing as he plays on acoustic instruments and analog synthesizers. Though to be honest I’d settle for any tour or festival dates at all, even if it is just to see a mad scientist make glitchy sounds with his toys.

Stream/Download: Move D & G b2b at Louche London 2014/08/30

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David Moufang (Move D) is as quiet and unassuming as any underground DJ out there. For the last 20 years he has quietly built a solid reputation among house lovers, and perhaps garnered even more respect from his DJ peers. His addition to Fabric’s famed mix series last year is a must-listen for any fans of deep, soulful house. His all-vinyl sets always carry a perfect balance of current trends while remaining true to his 90s roots. This set at Louche in London is no different; it’s as soulful and engaging as you’d expect. He is joined for an impromptu b2b by his friend G somewhere in the middle of it. Quality stuff as always.

Stream/Download: The Magician’s Magic Tape #45

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Stephen Fassano is at it again folks. The last time we posted a Magic Tape, back in July, we knew there was going to be an extra-long wait for its next rendition. But now that we have a steamy new mixtape from The Magician, which includes tons of exclusive and unreleased material, I’ll tell you that the wait was worth it. Even more, this time we have live show to look forward to:  November 7th at The MID. It’s sure to be cold by then, but these fire beats will warm us up enough to go swimming in the deep end.

Truthfully though, words don’t do this justice. I’ve said it before and I will repeat it: There is no other recurring show or mixtape that I anticipate more than those of The Magician. Pete Tong, you keep us on our toes on Radio 1…Green Velvet, you know I got love for your podcasts until it hurts…But The Magician, he’s on another level of his own indeed. Tracklist below the player. Enjoy.

01. Disciples – They Don’t Know
02. The Flexican & Sef – Mother’s Day
03. Shift K3Y – I Know
04. Klaves – People
05. Karen Harding – Say Something (Zac Samuel remix)
06. ID – ID /
07. Sakima – Energy (Courage Remix)
08. Blonde – I Loved You
09. Higher Self ft. Lauren Mason – Ghosts
10. Syv – Holding Back
11. SRTW – We Were Young (Sascha Kloeber Remix)
12. Jessie Ware – Say You Love Me (Alex Adair Remix)
13. Fastlane & Lexi Love – Never Say No
14. Cyril Hahn ft. Ryan Ashley – Open

Interview with David Murphy of Seven Arrows (formerly of STS9)



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Earlier this year STS9 announced they were parting ways with longtime member David Murphy. While STS9 has moved on and continues to rock all over the country, it’s been quiet on Murph’s end. Frazier recently spoke with him on the phone about his new project Seven Arrows, and got a little insight into the separation with STS9.

The live debut of Seven Arrows is going down this Friday, September 5th at Concord Music Hall. Silver Wrapper hooked us up with two pairs of tickets + a FOUR PACK of tickets with a meet-and-greet with Murph himself! Head to our Facebook page for more info —> https://www.facebook.com/soundfusemagazine

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So your new project Seven Arrows is really mysterious right now. All I’ve really seen is the concert poster, so I’m curious about what we can expect in terms of who’s in the band, what does everybody play, and what do you guys sound like?



The band consists of a bunch of different players who have their own bands locally here in Colorado. People that I’ve just met over the past couple years of just being out here. It’s a full band: guitar, drums, bass, synths, and saxophone. We just started jamming together — they’ve all got some other side projects out here. So when I was writing music for Seven Arrows, they all just kinda helped me and everything fell into place. It’s been great working with them, they’re really hungry and driven. And they’re all just great players. It’s cool, and we have an EP ready to release early next week. It covers a lot of really different areas — similar I guess to what I’ve always done, whether it was Sector Nine or some other side projects. The music touches on a few different areas; there’s definitely some more happy, poppier sounding dance stuff on there. There’s darker, more astral type of psychedelic stuff that’s on there too. It really kind of hits on a lot of different areas.

Absolutely. How many original tracks do you guys have now at this point? Are you guys going to be playing any covers?

We’ve got seven original tracks so far, plus we’re doing an original track from one of the other guy’s groups. We do a couple of covers, I guess you could say. I’d say they’re more remakes or remixes. We do a couple of STS9 tracks. You know, things that I’ve written in the past so I think that’s something I never really wanted to shy that far away from. I’ve had a great career with that, tons of great music written, so I figure it’s important to play that. I think it’s fun to do, keeping that music alive, which I very much enjoy. We do a little bit of improv, which is really kind of a lost art in this day and age [laughs]. You know, all the cats in the band are so good that it’s still fun to be able to put yourself on stage and take a little bit of a risk and have a moment with the fans and the audience. It’s still new and we’re gonna see how it goes. We’re putting in a ton of rehearsal right now so we’re really feeling good about it.

Awesome. Why’d you guys pick Chicago for the live debut?

For myself, I love Chicago. It’s always been just a great city musically. To be playing music in Chicago, I feel like there’s a ton of music fans there and they go out and promote music. Since I live out here in Denver I didn’t want to just start in Denver, you know? I felt like it’d be fun to get out, try and get out of your comfort zone and get out there to see how people react to it. I love the Silver Wrapper guys. They’ve always treated me so well. So you know, I thought it’d be fun to get out of Denver and debut it somewhere else. And Chicago’s just a great place. I think people in other cities look to it. So if we show up there as well, it’ll set us up to do well in other cities. I just love Chicago [laughs] and its got great music fans, you know.

So at this point in your free time/practice time when you’re just kind of by yourself dicking around, do you spend more time playing the bass or do you spend more time producing tracks?

Over the last 8 months its really been more time producing and being in the studio and writing. I guess I enjoy that but I really love playing the bass too. You know, it’s been interesting for me over the past 8 months just learning and getting used to still playing live music pretty regularly and consistently, but not having that outlet. It’s really only been the last couple months that I’ve been pushing myself to take up gigs and really getting back into it to playing the bass. Something I’ve always done is watch sports or SportsCenter and play the bass in my spare time. Just in an enjoyable way, just relaxing. With the new project there’s a little bit of computer sequencing but even the amount of keyboards that I play compared to STS9 has just gone down a lot. There’s a lot of musicians in this group, and I think that we can really get away from having to rely on computers, and just focus more on the flow of the music and allowing other people to really have their part, everybody just being able to play these parts that we’ve written for these studio tracks. So it’s really been enjoyable. It’s been great for me too really just playing with everyone, pushing myself and getting outside of my comfort zone, and it’s been great, and playing lots of the bass guitar.

Over the past 10 years or so, tell us how have your personal musical listening interests evolved?

It’s funny, it’s gone in sort of two opposite directions. In one way, I’ve gone back to really listening to a lot of stuff that I grew up listening to when I was probably more of a teenager and in my early 20s. I’ve gone back to the music where my roots lie. I do still listen to a lot of country music now, since I’m from the South so I kinda grew up on that — a lot of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. I’ve been listening to a lot more rock that I kinda grew up on and what I was really inspired by. Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, just kinda falling back into that world. It’s just leisurely listening because it’s just kind of comfortable I guess. It kinda feels like home. But the other direction is really just digging and searching for the new artists and new music. Things that are coming out right now just to be inspired by. People have really started taking it to the next level. And it’s probably got a lot to do with how many younger cats are even, you’ve got 13, 14 year olds now just really diving into computers and Ableton and they get to write music in that way. There’s so many great artists coming out, and especially so much great music coming out of Australia right now. I’ve really just been searching a lot for the new young stuff, to continue to be inspired. Kinda two opposite ends of the spectrum [laughs].

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Well, speaking of EDM, I’m kind of curious to get your perspective on the up and down trends that we’ve been watching over during the past few years. It was like, dubstep made it big. Then trap, and then this year, it’s all about the deep house revival that’s happening. So which of those have you appreciated the most, and where do you see the next trend going in EDM?



Yeah, I mean it’s definitely going through its stages. And it seems like its happened pretty rapidly. You know how it kinda jumps from style to style. It’s all cyclical. Trap is the Miami bass sound from the late 80s and early 90s. I’m really happy that the deep house stuff is coming back. The deep house/Detroit vibe has been around for so long. Well I mean you all know being in Chicago, it’s part of it, and the mix of it as well. So I’m really excited that that’s coming back because that’s always been my favorite. It’s good to see music moving on from some styles. I’m not sure where it goes next, you know? I think it goes in for more of like the nu disco sound. I think Daft Punk kind of touched on that with their last record. I hoping to see more groups coming up in the future involving instrumentation into their and we’ll have hopefully have a new school disco revival. That’s kind of where I see it going, just adding the funk element back into it, and a little bit of that comes with the deep house. It’s hard to ever get too far away from the funk element in your music because it just feels so good. It’s danceable, it’s happy, people enjoy listening to it. And not necessarily a funkadelic, but, you know, just having that element in there. And then I think Daft Punk touched on that, and some other groups too are starting to touch on that sound. And I think that we hit on that a little bit, Seven Arrows does.

I can’t let you get off the hook without moving towards the elephant in the room. Your departure from STS9 was pretty sudden and kind of a surprise for a lot of people. And I’m wondering if you can shed a little bit of insight from your point of view on what led up to you leaving and when the decision was made for the band to part ways.

You know from the outside perspective it was definitely… I’m sure that it appeared sudden. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me personally, it was something that a lot of the personal relationships had been deteriorating pretty extremely over the course of a year before that. Having a lot of personal issues deteriorating and for myself, there was just a real disconnect on the direction that the band should be going. From the style we were playing to how we should be doing it, to how much we should be touring, and playing out. I’ve always been a big believer that you have to be releasing music for people. And in this day and age… you hear somebody’s music and the fans expect that because a lot of people have set the standard that you’re just always going to be releasing a lot of music all the time. And there’s cats out that are always doing it whether it’s remixes or singles or just putting out the tracks that you’ve made without needing to complete this masterpiece of a record. While that still is important, you still have to be keeping your fans updated with music and that was something that I’ve always done. It’s always been extremely difficult for STS9 to put out any music. To a point that it’s always stifled everything that we did.

You know, just after 17 years… there’s a lot of different feelings. For myself, it wasn’t all lining up to where it needed to go. It’s just really unfortunate that it happened the way that it did. Just as far as it being abrupt, and being the one who left the band, it’s gonna take the large majority of the blame for that. But as for myself, it had just gotten to a place where it was no fun anymore. There was no fun playing on stage. There was no fun being around those guys. Someone in the band had been making it clear that for about a year that he wanted me out of the band. You know, it had just gotten to a point to where, you know, we’re creating art, and you have to be in a good mental state for that. You really have to love what you’re doing. Being a touring musician isn’t necessarily glamorous, so you really need to be enjoying the people you’re doing it with, and love being on stage playing the music that you are. And all the life, and all the fun had just been sucked out of it. You know, it became something that you had to do so that people could pay their mortgages and take care of their kids, and while I respect that and appreciate that, you really let the fans down. But our fan base is really people who are dedicated to STS9 and don’t take that lightly. It left a huge hole in my heart and it was hard for me to have to make that decision, but at the end of the day, for me it’s about creating good music and really having fun doing it. If that’s not there, you’re really not doing anyone any favors. And I wish STS9 the best of luck. We’ve written over a 100 really great songs, and I think it’s important that there are songs out there that are being performed, that people still get to experience that, and still get to enjoy that. That’s really what it’s about. It’s not really about me or my ego or any of those guys. The music that you create really shouldn’t be about anything except that. It’s a shame it happened that way. But you know in life, life goes on. For myself, for those guys, for a band, that’s the most important thing. And the world keeps spinning.

Yes it does. Well that’s all the questions I have. I really appreciate your candor, and all the good info. Sound Tribe was the band that got me into the jam scene over 10 years ago and was a huge inspiration for me to start my website with Soundfuse. So I’ve been a huge fan.

That’s awesome man. Thanks so much.

I wish you the best of luck with your new group, crush it in Chicago next week!