Sunday, July 31, 2016

DOOM Gets Animated at The Hand of Dus T' for "Gas Drawls" & Now-Again/Rappcats Announces Villainous OPERATION: DOOMSDAY 2-LP Re-issue (The Witzard Micro-interview)

"If you are one of the few who have known about MF DOOM’s debut album since the year it first dropped (1999), you’ll know there’s been a few versions of the album to come out. There’s been bonus tracks, bootlegs, CD's, tapes, and even a lunch box edition. But here’s the thing about OPERATION: DOOMSDAY— it’s a Hip-Hop classic! Those who don’t have it, need it. The record keeps selling out, and they keep making more. Just like The Beatles, if The Beatles came to destroy Rap," Egon's Now-Again-affiliated online record store Rappcats wrote within a rather "villainous" press release. Egon's co-conspirator and revered Beatsmith-In-Chief, Madlib has had a particularly mysterious, light years ahead of its time, and oddly progressive relationship with the self-proclaimed METAL-FACE[D] VILLAIN since unveiling their lone collaborative project, MADVILLAINY, amongst the terribly unsuspecting world nearly 12 years ago. Now, upon Rappcats latest OPERATION: DOOMSDAY re-release in collaboration with Fondle 'Em and Metal Face Records, Now-Again have re-appropriated MM.. FOOD artist Jason Jagel's 2011 2-CD lunch box re-issue cover art, which somewhat suspiciously re-worked Stones Throw's in-house artist Jeff Jank's iconic OPERATION: DOOMSDAY cover image. I recently reached out to the Los Angeles-based Tumblr animator behind newly-unveiled unofficial "Gas Drawls," which although it wasn't initially sanctioned by DOOM's camp, "got the DOOM stamp-of-approval just last week." Now, what I've included below is a wonderfully descriptive, yet all-too-brief four-question micro-interview with "Gas Drawls" animator Dus T' Garcia; haphazardly coinciding with Garcia's DOOM-sanctioned 20th century-reminiscent animation, Rappcats, Metal Face, and Fondle 'Em Records have unveiled yet another cross-label 2-LP pressing of OPERATION: DOOMSDAY on black and red split vinyl with either Jeff Jank's original 1999 artwork or Jason Jagel's 2010-11 artistic re-work.

I. What made you decide to create your own "Gas Drawls" animation?

DOOM symbolizes everything sonically, culturally, and artistically— everything I love about Hip-Hop. I think a better question is: why wouldn’t I? My main goal was just being inspired by his legacy, his artistry, and his energy as a person. His whole discography [is] a vast mine of gems in dub sacks. My main goal though, was to give back to the Hip-Hop community. Hip-Hop has given me tremendous spiritual guidance and I guess, this is my way of giving back. That and also, I thought it would be really cool to dream if he actually got to see it.

II. From where did you get your inspirations for "Gas Drawls'" various scenes and overall stylistic, and in this case, rather villainous, feel?

The whole film was inspired from various sources. Primarily the culture and community of Hip-Hop, the art of Jason Jagel, and master craftsmanship of MF DOOM. I really wanted it to be as dense, intentional, and true to its source material. Many music videos tend to be really disconnected from [their] lyrical content or feel from the song. Plus, like many fan films, its usually a collage of different things that don’t match up with [the] source material. I wanted the video to feel as if DOOM directed it himself. From what I’ve seen though, I’m glad the Hip-Hop community [has] deemed it worthy and giving its source material justice. It was a sweet challenge.

I’m heavily inspired by early 20th century animation. Interestingly enough, much of early graffiti art was reminiscent of early animation. So, oddly enough, it all strangely connected well. Though, its something that just tends to creep on me. I was raised with a lot of old cartoons, so I can’t help it, I guess. It’s been ingrained into my DNA and jumps through my fingertips!

Since the DOOM mythos has much variation and multiple personalities, I felt it was important to give the film a multitude of styles that all still in some way, stand together in the same source. I think based on the response, the Hip-Hop community picked up on that [positively]. I guess overall, I was trying to re-create the experience of sampling, as DJ's did with breaks, and translate it into animation.

III. What made you pick "Gas Drawls" out of the vast selection of worthy tracks housed within OPERATION: DOOMSDAY?

"Gas Drawls” to me, encompasses DOOM. It best represents his sound, style, and even within its innovative, and sometimes prophetic feel, it still retains the OG spirit of the B-Boy. I also was highly mesmerized by the double entendres, and obscure references in this song. Spinning that track with its beat, I felt as if I was being told a music puzzle and I was able to interpret it through animation.

IV. Did "the DOOM stamp of approval" come directly from DOOM himself, Rappcats, Metal Face Records, or someone else from DOOM's camp?

I got a lot of buzz on my Tumblr for a post that was just an animation test for the film. It reached Jeff Jank from Stones Throw Records, who told me he liked it and asked me if there was anything he could do to help. The rest is history. Words can’t describe how ecstatic I was once I received word that DOOM himself saw the video. Definitely a memory that will never fade so long [as] I’m in this skin!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Daptone's Sister Imprint, WICK Records Signs Brooklyn Garage Rockers, THE MYSTERY LIGHTS (Mike Brandon & L.A. Solano Interview)

"Daptone [Records’] newest imprint, WICK, has been established to create the kind of records that fans want from a truly Rock "N" Roll record label. Using the same recording techniques that have made the likes of Daptone Soul legends Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and Charles Bradley, Daptone’s House of Soul has been developing a sound as exciting and authentic as anything you’ll hear on the airwaves today. WICK Records will be a go-to destination for fans of Rock "N" Roll and the release schedule will include quality archival releases, along with the latest swingin’ combos," Daptone's newly-formed sister imprint, WICK Records wrote within a powerful mission statement affixed to their Soundcloud page; "Follow Me Down," the lead single from New York-based greenhorns THE MYSTERY LIGHTS, was amongst their first batch of inaugural releases, along with well-received 7-inch "Too Many Girls/Too Tough to Bear." I first, rather unknowingly, got in touch with Daptone co-founder Neal Sugarman through a Bandcamp message sent on a whim and in turn, the band's publicist, Wendy at Tell All Your Friends PR a few weeks back; thus, leading up to this very interview with founding members Mike Brandon & L.A. Solano, I've had the opportunity to relentless spin THE MYSTERY LIGHTS' critically-acclaimed self-titled WICK Records debut, which I would best liken to an unholy mixture of post-2000's Garage Rockers The Strokes and Classic Rock forefathers The Rolling Stones. So, sit back, crack open a beer, fire up a few hot dogs, pop open a lawn chair, and delve into this inclusive all-bases-covered (sorry, for yet another baseball pun) interview with L.A. Solano & Mike Brandon!


Matt Horowitz
The Witzard "Rock Curator"

I. Your Jonathan Toubin-penned press bio notes that "Mike Brandon and L.A. Solano have been in many different versions of The Mystery Lights under assorted monikers since their teens;"about how long would you estimate The Mystery Lights have been a loosely-formed band? What were a few of your previous and since abandoned band names?

Mike Brandon: We date back [about] 10-15 years. We started the band in high school. The first name we had was The Numbers, but it was too close to The High Numbers (pre-The Who), so we shortly after changed it to The Mystery Lights, which [surprisingly] wasn't taken! It was perfect, rolled off the tongue, and felt right. L.A. originally brought the name to the table. He pulled out a piece of paper with the name drawn across it and there it was: our new name.

II. How did The Mystery Lights ultimately end up aligning with Daptone Records' newly-formed Rock imprint, WICK Records? How did you become so lucky to get in on the ground level as their first signed act?

Mike: They came to a gig of ours last summer or the summer before that, can't quite remember. After the show, they approached us and invited us to check out their studio in Brooklyn. Being huge fans of everything Daptone does, we immediately accepted the invitation. We went to the studio and bonded heavily over our extremely similar taste in music, [particularly] Garage Rock. Real raw, soulful, fuzzed out, nasty tunes, mostly from the 1960’s. We listened to tons of records and talked a lot about why we like what we like, seeming to all have the same opinions [and] likes/dislikes. It felt right. So, they told us about this idea of starting a Rock "N" Roll subsidiary, and asked if we wanted to be the first on it and make some records together. We said "yes" with no hesitation, of course. Now, we are family and plan to make lots of records together! We feel very honored to be working with them and look forward to a long road ahead with the Daptone family.

III. Have you always been fans and supporters of Daptone Records' genre-reshaping output... if so, what would you then, likely list as a handful of your personal favorite releases?

Mike: Everything they do is pure bliss. To name a few of my personal favorites: Make The Road By Walking by The Menahan Street Band. Thomas Brenneck is an absolute genius and his bands are always so tight and talented. No Time for Dreaming by the amazing Charles Bradley. Also don't want to forget Lee Fields [& The Expressions], Sharon Jones, Naomi Shelton— the list goes on... There’s actually a Daptone comp. I’m very fond of called Daptone’s 7-inch Singles Collection, Vol. 2. I’d say that’s on the top 5 most listened to records of mine. Every song is a gem. [It's] a good representation of what Daptone is all about.

IV. We, here at The Witzard, I'm proud to admit, pride ourselves on regularly covering a seamless fusion of Hip-Hop and Rock "N" Roll. Have you fellas ever (or would you ever) seriously consider recording a Hip-Hop-minded, emcee-assisted 7-inch or 12-inch?

Mike: We love Hip-Hop, so we would absolutely be into that! I’ve actually thought about doing some "Hip-Hop," sort of more similar to the way Adrian Younge produces and composes. That record he did with Ghostface Killah, 12 Reasons to Die is unbelievable, start to finish! I also really loved his [collaboration] with William Hart from The Delfonics, I honestly listen to the Adrian Younge Presents: The Delfonics album 3-4 times a week, no joke. Big Hip-Hop fan— Too $hort, Easy-E, Brotha Lynch Hung, Run-D.M.C. Wu-Tang Clan, Immortal Technique, X-Rated, Blowfly... the list goes on and on.

V. How exactly would you describe your 1960's retro-futuristic sound debuted across The Mystery Lights and its companion pre-album 7-inch, for someone who may not have heard your music? I would personally be inclined to say it exits somewhere in between The Rolling Stones and The Strokes!!!

L.A. Solano: We still love a lot of the music that initially got interested in making our own music. One obvious one that gets brought up a lot is the Nuggets compilations. We still love those recordings, but we were also obsessed with 1977-era Punk from New York when we got started. The usual 60’s San Francisco hippy Blues/Psych/Folk stuff left a big mark on us, as well. That was a good jump off point, as well as the British Blues coming out around the same time to the older Delta Blues players who inspired that generation of musicians. We love Post-Punk, Krautrock, and Jazz, and really anything that is raw, genuine, and interesting. We do not really try to confine ourselves to a genre, but it comes out a certain way based on how we know how to play and based on our loose approach. We do not necessarily aim for perfection and embrace a less restricted [approach] to our own music. It's just the way we work that allows for more improvisation (and also has to do with lack of practice).

VI. For those who may still be unaware, would you care to explain the overall concept/treatments behind your first two released music videos, "Follow Me Home" and "Melt?"

L.A.: Our buddy Rob Weird came to us with his vision for "Follow Me Home." He wanted to capture the NYC without the usual cliches you usually associate with New York Rock "N" Roll. It was a quick and rushed shoot and we were lucky to have a good friend, Ricky Powell (street photographer) agree to act in the video. Rob Weird is an old pal of ours and really loves burn-outs and bongos, so we just rolled with his vision for the video. "Melt" was also thrown together between tours and features our old friend Bob Gamber of The Vinyl Revolution in Monterey, California. He is the coolest dude and has always supported The Mystery Lights since our early days. We thought it would be cool to have him in the video. L.A. shot and animated [it] just before our European tour.

VII. How would you say The Mystery Lights sound has evolved and progressed since the release of your "Too Many Girls/Too Tough to Bear" 7-inch to your recent self-titled WICK Records debut?

Mike: The 7-inch was a lot cleaner. The full-length is definitely dirtier and a lot more raw-sounding. That single was a sort of test run with WICK, where we took a step back and wanted to see how they worked. You can hear the difference on the LP, where we were a bit more vocal about the sounds we wanted. We wanted to get closer to the sounds we were getting from our own home tape demos and Wayne [Gordon] (co-producer/engineer/WICK co-founder) really helped us achieve a happy medium between the sounds we thought we wanted and more polished, yet uncompromised aesthetic.

VIII. What would you most likely cite as a few of your greatest influences (be it bands, artists, albums, genres, etc.) during the writing and recording of your recent self-titled debut?

Mike: We are inspired by so many different styles of much that it’s really difficult to narrow down exactly what had a big influence on the record, but to name a few I’d have to say there are definite inspirations by Dead Moon, Television, Country Joe & The Fish, Billy Childish, [and Bob Marley &] The Wailers. All heavily inspired us.

IX. Although this might admittedly be self-imposed "career suicide:" my first two purchases to go along with my late 90's Walkman were Jagged Little Pill and a Mariah Carey CD (I know— utterly terrible). Do you guys happen to remember what your first CD or cassette purchases might have been and how did they unintentionally end up affecting your musical career?

Mike: Oh yes, for me personally, AC/DC's Back In Black and Poison's Look What The Cat Dragged In, particularly the song "Talk Dirty to Me" ...These made me want to start a band and are some of the first [CD's] I can really remember purchasing. Then, of course, there’s the Best of Bowie album and Nirvana's Nevermind album I [can] specifically remember going to the store and purchasing. Some of my firsts.

L.A.: I remember buying the Chumbabawamba tape, [Tubthumper]. Not sure why, but that one sticks out as one of the earliest. Kevin [Harris] was a big LFO ("Summer Girls") fan and I think he still is.

X. I recently read a Rolling Stone interview wherein Mike Brandon asserted that "[Daptone's] approach to recording is exactly what we would hope for in a record label... real deal, all analog, all tape; there's not one computer in the studio whatsoever and they do everything live." Would you care to briefly elaborate on WICK/Daptone Records' typical recording process(es)?

L.A.: We had been recording a lot of demos at home to 4 and 8-track tape machines and had been enjoying the results. We have always been unsatisfied in professional studio settings, so it was a nice change to find that Daptone shared a stripped-down approach. We pretty much tracked the record live (to 8-tracks) and it really forced the band to be on point and to make decisions on the spot. It's a fun and sometimes harder way to work, than to just overdub everything and helped us capture a live sound on record. It was nice to be able to work in a way that was familiar to us, yet have the benefit of Daptone’s techniques to get the sounds just right.

XI. Did you fellas have a chance to work with any of Daptone's revered in-house roster of session musicians— The Dap-Kings, The Budos Band, Antibalas, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Menahan Street Band, El Michels Affair, The Sugarman 3, etc.— during your recording of The Mystery Lights at Daptone's infamous House of Soul Studio?

Mike: Neal Sugarman sat in with us a few times during the session. We almost got him to play some sax on a track! We would absolutely love to [collaborate] with some of those guys, of course and hope to do so in the near future.

XII. Now that you've effectively released your self-titled WICK Records debut, what's in store next for The Mystery Lights?

Mike: We are currently on tour now with The Night Beats. We’ll be crossing the U.S. twice ending the tour [at the] end of August. As soon as we get back, we head to Europe to play Oslo, and then the Modern Sky Music Festival in Helsenki August 26-28th. Then, come September, we play the Meltasia Festival in the Catskills at some [abandoned] zoo (can't wait for that). Then, we get back in the studio and begin immediately working on album #2! Also, there are plans to go back to Europe in January, but other than that, our biggest next step is churning out another 45 to promote the next record. Gotta keep 'em coming!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

"Cutting It Up" with Jurassic 5/Ozomatli DJ & Brainfreeze Co-creator Cut Chemist On The Eve of The Audience's Following (The Witzard Interview)

"The Audience's Following is a 10-year anniversary fan club edition version of The Audience's Listening. I like to call this the bizzaro version follow-up to [The Audience's Listening], as it features songs that never made the cut and demo versions of songs that did. There are also B-sides from vinyl singles, plus a special mix of the original song sampled for "What's The Altitude" by Curtis Knight[-Zeus]. Have fun listening to the album that was almost released 10 years ago. It's the follow-up and the audience is still following and listening and... whatever else," world-renowned DJ Lucas "Cut Chemist" Macfadden wrote within a short 7/11 Bandcamp description attached to The Audience's Following. Now, I don't mean to get all fanboy here, but I've been actively wishing and working on scoring an interview with Cut Chemist for about 3-5 years now; I can remember purchasing Jurassic 5, Cut's on-again off-again and recently reunited group's Power In Numbers (2002), which I can honestly say was (and still is) amongst my first favorite Hip-Hop albums! In addition to his work with long-time crews Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli, Cut Chemist has worked with everyone from Brainfreeze co-creator DJ Shadow to Hip-Hop-indebted Alt. Rockers Incubus and has even toured the world with the likes of "She Wolf" songstress herself, Shakira; Macfadden has appeared in a number of critically-acclaimed feature films including Juno, Up In The Air, and Jennifer's Body as fittingly, either a DJ or chemist. The Audience's Following, Cut Chemist's quasi-follow-up and "bizzaro" step-brother to his 2006 debut, The Audience's Listening is currently available in all of its 15-track glory from Macfadden's own A Stable Sound imprint and can be purchased a thrifty, well-deserved $12 on his personal Bandcamp page. "Slurp slurp!"


Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Founder & Editor-In-Chief

I. How does The Audience’s Following relate to its 10-year-old predecessor The Audience’s Listening? Now, correct me, if I’m wrong: but is it essentially a “bizarro” collection full of B-sides, remixes, demos, and incomplete tracks from the Cutting room floor?

That's exactly how it relates. These songs were recorded during the same sessions as the album The Audience's Listening. Some were intended to be B-side only songs, some promo only material, [and] some actual songs that were changed at the last minute.

II. You previously told me that “[“Sea of Time” is] the song I sampled. I have the reel for the [Curtis Knight-Zeus] album and mixed down a special instrumental for this occasion;” how would you attempt to best describe your unconventional process of deconstructing and reconstructing “Sea of Time” into what would eventually become “What’s The Altitude?”

I think the description "deconstructing and reconstructing" might not be the best, but just simply "sampled;" I sampled the opening guitar and bass riff and sped it up, as the basis of the song. It was an odd riff that I found sexy and playful, like the lyrics to the song, so I thought it made a better match than the original beat I had for it, which was more break beat Rock-sounding.

III. What’s the correlation or musical relationship between Curtis Knight Zeus’ “Sea of Time,” “Addictive” from The Audience’s Following, and the final product- “What’s The Altitude?”

The Rock break beat-sounding sample I originally made for “What's The Altitude,” then was re written as a song called “Addictive” also featuring Hymnal. It became a staple when performing shows, even though it wasn't released on the album. A few years later, it got licensed to Skate 2 video game and garnered some recognition from the gamer community. I was always asked if and when it would be released.

IV. Now, I know you guys have released a handful of stand-alone tracks since somewhat suddenly reforming back in 2013-14, but do you and your Jurassic 5 brethren have any immediate plans to record and release a proper, and might I add, long-awaited, follow-up to Feedback (2006)?

Jurassic 5 has no plans to release newly recorded material, at least until we finish releasing older unreleased songs from previous album sessions. So far, we've released two. There are many more to go!

V. How does your recording process differ when recording a 45-centric album like Brainfreeze with DJ Shadow and a more emcee-based producer’s album like The Audience’s Listening/Following?

The mix CD’s I've done with DJ Shadow are simply just that, mix CD’s. An artist album is an entirely different “ball of wax,” so to speak. It takes much more time and requires a different sense of arranging, as these are 3-minute compositions that involve both sampling and live instrument playing/music-writing. It's an artist expression, rather than a display of just musical taste, so a lot more thought goes into how it relates to me as an artist and as a person.

VI. While The Audience’s Following was refurbished and released to coincide with its predecessor’s recent 10-year anniversary (fittingly 7/11), what ultimately made you decide to revisit these abandoned or formative album sessions now?

I chose to release this material for a few reasons. One, I wanted to do something special for the 10-year anniversary. Originally, I was going to just re-issue [The Audience's Listening] on vinyl, as it was 10 years ago, but then as I was going through old [hard] drives, I realized I could offer something that would help complete a narrative to the story. The thought process of what evolved and became the album and stories told, were cut that were meant to be told on future singles. Unfortunately, the campaign didn't get that far and these singles couldn't come out, except for “Mean Gene” and “Beats Thru Space."

VII. How did you happen to get in touch with recently reformed She Wants Revenge to re-work “What’s The Altitude?” for their Electro-based CD maxi-single remix? What were your feelings concerning Adam 12 & Justin Warfield's submitted The Audience’s Following re-work?

Just so we are clear, [She Wants Revenge] did the “Altitude” remix on 2006 when they were still a relatively new group. I've known Adam 12 for years in the LA DJ circuit. I was a fan of Justin's Rap stuff from years ago. I liked what they were doing and I thought it would be a great way to tap into the [Indie] Rock scene which I really liked at the time. A lot of [The Audience’s Listening] was inspired by OK Computer, Nirvana, and The White Stripes, believe it or not. I think I had my label reach out to them and they said “yes.” I'm sure the DJ connection with Adam helped their decision, but I was also flattered that they liked the song. I remember playing it in Barcelona during Sonar Festival in 2005 well before it came out. Diplo, who was DJing everywhere in the world that I was at the time, came up to me and told me how much he liked the song and that it would blow up. I was happy to hear that as it was a special song for me. I've known Hymnal since I was 12-years-old and I felt like we made a very unique-sounding song together.

VIII. Walk me through this, if you can, Cut Chemist: how does a song like A. “O Jardim “ or B. “Siesta” (demo) transform into something so completely different, yet their progressive final products, “The Garden” and “Storm?” How many iterations do you generally go through before ultimately ending up with you finalized album versions?

How does “O Jardim” and “Siesta” sound so different than their finished products? The answer is a lot of time spent: “O Jardim” is the live musician session recorded in Brazil in 2002. It was intended to be used as pieces to a song and not a song on its own. “The Garden” went through years of evolution, before I deemed it finished. The songs embryonic stages started in 1993. Throughout the years, it would evolve into what would be “The Garden” and a lot of its transformation had to do with that session in Brazil. It [really has] such a life beyond [the] arrangement of samples. It helped give [The Audience’s Listening] range beyond just a DJ album for me.

“Siesta” is also considered a “sketch” of the song that would become “Storm.” I knew I wanted Edan on the album. He enlisted Mr. Lif on his own, which was fine by me, as I was a fan, but didn't know him personally. The beat was a rare 45 with a rugged break beat, which was the template for my album in 2004. It was that year that I wanted to challenge myself with more [uncharted] territory. This is when I found the “Vox Populi! Megamix” song, when I was in Rome. I wanted something more Psychedelic and Electronic. I put that under their verses and a light switch in my head flickered on. This was the sound I was looking for and they were the perfect emcees to usher that in.

IX. How would you describe your 2013 world-music compilation Cut Chemist Presents FUNK OFF: Vox Populi! & Pacific 231 and its companion limited run "FUNK OFF MEGAMIX" 12-inch? What is their musical relationship to your noteworthy compositions "The Storm" and "Work My Mind?"

This was a head-scratcher for some. I love this project. It all started with the new direction of “Storm” when I found that Vox Populi! record in Rome in 2004. It kind of changed my life. Once I was hip to their existence, I had to search for more of their [catalog]. When I found them on MySpace, I made friends with the man behind the group [Axel Kyrou] and he sent me all their material. I was fascinated by it all. I wanted to sample everything, but I also decided to share their genius with the world by releasing a compilation of my favorite songs of theirs. The comp. is called Cut Chemist Presents FUNK OFF. I was asked by my Japanese label, who first licensed this project, to do a mix for Cut Chemist fans in order to present it in a more DJ-friendly context; this is how the “FUNK OFF MEGAMIX” came about. It was a great way to introduce this music in exactly the way I wanted it to be heard... as Hip-Hop! “Storm” and “Work My Mind” are both songs that sample music from this catalog; on my upcoming album, I will feature more [songs], including a sequel to “Storm” featuring Edan and Mr. Lif again and I will also include some new music collaborations with Vox Populi! that I'm very excited about.

X. Are you able to divulge any information concerning your proper follow-up to your last full-length, Sound of The Police (2010)? Will it likely feature the re-appearance of “Outro (Revisited)” or Chali 2na & Hymnal-assisted “Work My Mind?”

Sound of The Police was not an artist album. It was a mix album, much like the ones I did with DJ Shadow. I think [The] Audience's Following is the closest to a follow-up album to The Audience's Listening, hence the title. I've been working on a new album that originally was a home for the songs “Outro (Revisited)” and “Work My Mind,” but I'll have to see how the album shapes up, to see if those stories still fit in context with the narrative. So far, “Outro” has become a lonely island, where as “Work My Mind” is still on the album tracklist.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

WeGrowWax Presents: Polish Trip-Hoppers Sound Me Blend The Silky Smooth Stylings of Amy Winehouse, Cut Chemist & jj On 2 Tone Trumpet-laden "Growing" (Album Promo Mix)

"Sound Me fully embodies the ambiance and a sense of dualism captured between a dark past giving way to a brighter future. Inspired by the struggle of living day-to-day in working class Poland, Aani spins her lyricism into an art that paints a picture of love lost searching for a genuine connection, in a world that seems to have long forgotten the almost reminiscent old school values embedded in the unique style delivered by Sound Me," WeGrowWax wrote within a self-contained press release shared on Polish Trip-Hoppers Sound Me's mysteriously sparse Bandcamp page. Upon a first listen to Sound Me's snippet-laced "Growing" (Album Promo Mix), my well-trained ear immediately sensed notes of Amy Winehouse backed by Jurassic 5 in-house DJ's Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark, as well as skilled songstresses Joss Stone, Macy Grey, and jj frontwoman Elin Kastlander—all of course, backed by Mayer Hawthorne-esque trumpet work. "[Sound Me is] a perfect concoction of heavy-hitting drum breaks, dubby instrumentation, angelic vocals... deep and moody soundscapes laced with dark, hypnotic beats, and powerful vocals remind us of Massive Attack, but bringing a new flavour [to 1990's] Trip-Hop."

Primary vocalist and song-writer Aani formed Sound Me along with beatsmith DJ Mr. K and trumpet player Przemysław Klisik (whose name I'm not even going to begin to try to pronounce) around September 2012, after which they quietly released Growing pre-singles "Heart's Tale" and "Inside" during April-May 2014, nearly two years before any further signs of said attached album. While Sound Me's 12-track Growing has now been previewed within a sprawling nearly 6-minute "Album Promo Mix," two of which—lead single "Heart's Tale" and "High Heels"—have received equally head (and record)-scratching and deeply evocative, European-tinged LemonSniff-directed visual treatments; Growing is currently available for pre-order ahead of its soon forthcoming August 19th world-wide release, after which CD orders are scheduled to ship within a matter of five days. For those who favor digital mediums, WeGrowWax additionally estimates that Growing will become available digitally sometime around September 2016. Massive Attack, Portishead, and Tricky-loving (aging) Trip-Hoppers assemble!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Alex Belth-affiliated Hip-Hop Producer & DJ Ras Beats Presents Roc Marciano, Elzhi & Masta Ace-assisted CONTROL YOUR OWN "Wit No Pressure" (Worldwyde Recordings)

"What's goin' on? My friend Alex Belth referred me to you. I'm releasing an album on Tuesday, [July 19th] on Hip-Hop Indie label Worldwyde Recordings. I'm lookin' to submit to magazines and blogs who write about or review Hip-Hop. Let me know, if that fits what you do," read a rather interesting cold-submitted email I received Friday afternoon; low and behold, Ras Beats is a Queens by way of Denmark Hip-Hop producer and DJ who used to work alongside Esquire Classic Editor Alex Belth at DJ Premier, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, The Beatnuts producer JuJu, Lord Finesse, and Large Professor's favorite late 90's East Village record store, The Sound Library. Rasmus “Ras Beats” Jensen has been "a Hip-Hop head since discovering turntables and records, raised on the greats of the golden era, Ras' production stays true to the original sound of Hip-Hop. Dusty records, drum breaks, chopped up, and re-arranged samples" reads a fragmented chunk of Ras Beats' own Facebook Bio— qualities exemplified time and time again throughout the course of his sprawling 14-track "debut" Worldwyde Recordings full-length, CONTROL YOUR OWN.

"Growing up with a very musical father and older brother, Ras was hooked on Hip-Hop since gettin' his first taste;" CONTROL YOUR OWN houses a wide array of sharp-tongued Hip-Hop luminaries including Gangrene-affiliated emcee Roc Marciano, Masta Ace, Elzhi, Sadat X, A.G. and Diggin' In the Crates emcee O.C. Having raked up some 11,000 Soundcloud plays since being uploaded just under a month ago, Roc Marciano-helmed "Wit No Pressure" has quickly become CONTROL YOUR OWN's critically-acclaimed pseudo-lead single; although, Worldwyde Recordings mysteriously (pre-)released a double-sided 12-inch showcasing Masta Ace & Sadat X-assisted "Let It be/Survive" as early as 2011. CONTROL YOUR OWN's uncharacteristically early Tuesday Worldwyde-release was accompanied by a befittingly no frills "Wit No Pressure" performance video directed by Eddie Costas. Ras Beats is suspiciously absent throughout the majority of Costas' bare bones Queens-style treatment, however, if you pay close attention during the first five seconds (underneath "RAS BEATS") and around 3-3:05, you can see a couple shadowy split-second glimpses of beatsmith Rasmus Jensen himself.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Agents of The Machine: DC Hardcore Revivalists Pure Disgust Unleash Pummeling, Self-titled "Full-length" (Bandcamp self-released)

"The NWODCHC [New Wave of DC Hardcore] is so powerful and on the rise. It’s great to see young kids being in the center of it all as well. It’s even cooler to see that all my friends are [getting] on bigger labels, putting the name of DC back on the map. You've got Protester putting a record out on Triple-B Records, Stand Off putting one out on Youngblood, Red Death putting something out on Lockin' Out... I love it all. My friends are what keep me here, and I love every single one of them and what they're doing," Pure Disgust frontman Rob Watson recently revealed to DC-based publication Bandwidth; it's fitting that Washington, DC is currently experiencing a period of musical rebirth— nearly some 40 years after 1980's Hardcore founding fathers Bad Brains, Fugazi, Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins, Scream, Rites of Spring, Embrace, etc. initially burst onto the scene.

Watson formed Pure Disgust along with fellow youth rebellion-minded buddies Ace Mendoza, Brendan Reichhardt, Daniel Peña, and Robin Zeijlon around 2013. They've unleashed two pummeling mile-a-minute EP's, four hand-made Xerox'ed tour cassettes, and their Bandcamp-released self-titled "full-length" last Wednesday, June 13th. Now, yes, I wrote "full-length," as you'll see within the previous sentence because even though it's a 10-track album, Pure Disgust, albeit in true 1980's Hardcore-reminiscent fashion, barely clocks in at a brief neck-snapping 20 minutes. "Pure Disgust’s lyrics are just reflections of it... I would like [white] people to come to understand what it’s like to be a punk/person of color, but honestly, I couldn’t care less what white people think of my lyrics. I don’t write it for them. I live to make white people uncomfortable," Rob Watson continued during his April 2015 Bandwidth interview; with that said, Pure Disgust is currently available at the band's own Bandcamp page, as well as their righteous Chained EP, Pure Disgust 7-inch, and Demo 2013 at either a FREE or name-your-price rate.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH: A Tastefully "Aggressive" Conversation with Echo Beds' Vocalist, Tape Loop & Bass Player Keith Curts (The Witzard Interview)

Denver-bred genre-defying Echo Beds are the inagural signees to politically-charged emcee and former Anticon founder Tim "sole" Holland's latest label venture, Black Box Tapes. I would likely describe Echo Beds' rather long-winded "overdriventapehissnoisewalllandscapemetaldrumpummelpain- facevolumetherapy" sound of something strangely evocative of what an imagined missing link between late 80's-1990's Industrial Rock forefathers Nine Inch Nails and their critically-acclaimed modern day counterparts, Noise/Aggro-Rap group Death Grips; an obtuse indefinable sound, better yet, self-described by vocalist/bass player Keith Curts and beat-maker Tom Nelson as "a caterwaul of contact-mic'd oil drums, broken cymbals, battered basses, unrecognizable tape loops, and dilapidated voices with the expressed intention of volume as therapy and put it through the grinder of self-practiced D.I.Y. ethos;" with all that said, I'm proud to finally be able to present an interview conducted via email with Echo Beds co-founder and spokesman, Keith Curts. It's been a heavily enjoyable, yet temporarily stalled, process conducted in spurts over the course of the past 2-3 months, all the while, Keith & Tom plotted a frantic 21-city West Coast tour co-aligning with NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH's multi-tiered release. So, sit back, thoroughly enjoy, crack open a soda pop or cold beer, and headbang along with this highly "aggressive" Echo Beds interview (while actively trying not to get an aneurysm)!!!


The Witzard Founder & Namesake,
Matt Horowitz

I. While you've been a band since 2010, what finally made you guys feel ready or made the circumstances feel right to unleash your proper "debut" album, NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH?

Well, to be completely honest, we had a couple false starts with beginning the recording process of this record a couple years ago. We had recorded a couple tracks and just weren't happy with our performances of them. We both felt like it could have been done better and that perhaps we needed more time to "road test" things before committing them to tape. Once we had the songs together it really took on a life of its own—we went into a great local studio called Black In Bluhm with our good buddy Chris Fogal at the helm. He got great takes for us to work with and we enlisted the help of some amazing local musicians from Shroud, Church Fire, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, and Pythian Whispers, as well as our dear poet/artist friend Giles Cassels to help us fill it out and add to the process. It turned out to be a great experience—everyone brought their A-game! So, at this point, we [had] great sounding stems, but it wasn't telling the "story" we wanted it to. It wasn't a linear experience yet. That's where the brilliance of Charles Ballas and Jeremy Averitt came in. See, Charles had just gotten back from Detroit, where he was working on the most recent Wolf Eyes album and we ran into one another and he started telling us about all these new ideas he had and how we could apply them to our album. So he, [my bandmate] Tom, and I teamed up with Jeremy Averitt, who is a local multi-instrumentalist and incredible audio engineer/sound guy—and we sat around for a few months going back and forth with ideas. This record has just as much of them in it as it does of us and the timing couldn't have been better. They have sorta become our Martin Hannett [Editor’s note: Hannett was the icon 1970-80’s producer behind Joy Division’s genre-shaping Unknown Pleasures, Closer, and Still.]

II. While I personally sense notes evocative of both Nine Inch Nails and their modern day Aggro-Rap counterparts Death Grips, as well as one-time Kanye West collaborators SALEM, what particular artists or bands would you likely cite as your greatest sources of influence?

Pretty much everything on Gravity Records—a lot of the Wax Trax back catalog—experimental Dub Reggae—and things like Missing Foundation, Killing Joke, Public Enemy, Coil, [Public Image Ltd], [Throbbing Gristle], Christian Death, Bauhaus, and the like, as well as a lot of Classical composers. Also, it must be said that, in our opinion, Death Grips live is f**king untouchable. They are incredible. Kanye? Not so much.

III. What exactly is Echo Beds' connection to sole; did I read that Keith was once roommates with sole & Skyrider Band emcee Tim Holland? How did you guys come to get back in touch with Tim and ultimately, end up signing to his newly-formed label imprint, Black Box Tapes?

Yeah—so, Keith and Tim were housemates at the legendary 923 Post Street house in San Francisco back in the mid-90's, when Anticon was just an idea coming into fruition. The video for “Bottle of Humans” was shot in front of the house... it even features some of the other roommates—fast forward about 12 years, and we both ended up landing in Denver and ran into one another on the street. Then, we just kept in touch and kept one another in the loop through the years—so, when the album was done, we sent it to him and he was way into it and wanted to release it on his new imprint! Tim has always had a ton of integrity and fought against all the bullsh*t this world scoops up and feeds us all daily—so, [Black Box Tapes] was a perfect fit for our own social commentary. He's the most solid dude!

IV. How would you say Echo Beds have grown as a band since 2010 and how has your sound, style, overall aesthetic, etc. changed over the past six years?

Sometimes, it feels like an eon has passed—we seem to continually change/evolve—whether it's our ideas or the ways in which we come to them, we keep pushing ourselves harder and harder. When we first started we were literally on the ground. Soon after, we began to play standing. We also used to build a lot of our own gear, pedals, APC's, oscillators, contact mics, etc. and it was always a goal to keep everything organic and not rely on electronics, such as drum machines, samplers, sequencers, synths, etc. for sounds… we decided to do everything the absolute hardest way possible and we proved to ourselves that we could do it in the process. There was also a point where we had a third member and it was pretty open as to who was playing what or singing or whatever. It was more abstract and haphazard. Since then, we have whittled it back down to a duo and everything works much more smoothly this way. The songs have become more linear and "song like"—it feels more efficient and solid now. We have also begun to break our own rules and employ the usefulness of a sampler and an electronic drum pad, while keeping the organic component very much an integral part of our performances.

V. Do you have any immediate plans to record any material with Black Box Tapes founder and renown politically-charged emcee, sole? I would even go as far as to say that NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH track "Obvious Signs of Forced Entry" has an underlying Hip-Hop feel.

We will DEFINITELY be doing a collaboration with sole in the near future. It's a perfect pairing. We are big fans of one another's work!

VI. What are each of your respective roles in the band, Keith & Tom (ie: instruments, programming, etc.)? How does the typical Echo Beds writing and recording process normally play out?

Tom and I both have equal say as far as song-writing goes. It's democratic in that sense. We both have things we excel at and things we aren't so good at, so we help to balance one another out in that way. Both of us are full of ideas constantly, so there has to be a level of quality-control put into practice. We have a lot of respect for one another and talk most things through pretty well, in order to reach a shared decision; of course, sometimes we both have to suspend disbelief to see what lies on the other side. We call it trust.

VII. Your unique sound has been described as genre-less or "overdriventapehissnoisewalllandscapemetaldrumpummelpainfacevolumetherapy;" how did you happen upon this nearly unclassifiable sound pallet?

Keith made that up as a mash-up of things the music brings to mind. It's always just been about therapy and less about fitting [into] a box. It's an exorcism every time.

VIII. Now, I've seen at least three alternate covers to seemingly accompany NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH's various formats, as well as Sailor Records' self-described "gloss black ink matte black jacket" LP cover; what can you tell me about the record's various cover images (or lack there of)?

Good point—so, the vinyl version was lagging and we were about to hit the road for three weeks of shows, so we took a photo Keith took a few years ago and made it [into] a simple cover for the test press version of the LP (a hand-stamped run of 30) that we took with us. The actual record was finally released this month and it has the artwork that we worked on with James Livingston/Black Horizons. The tape was the same artwork, just not a gloss print on matte like the jacket of the actual LP.

IX. I know it's a little late (or too early) to assemble a year-end list, but what might you cite as a few of your favorite albums, EP's, singles, mixtapes, etc. of let's say, the past 12-18 months?

- Soft Kill: Heresy
- All Your Sisters: Uncomfortable Skin
- Esses: No Light In This Fire
- Alaric: End of Mirrors
- Muslimgauze re-issues on VOD
- Burning: Silver After Death
- Gnod: Mirror
- Bestial Mouths: Heartless
- Youth Code: Commitment to Complications
- The new Voight album, [Shadow//Excision] is a banger
- Renne Ruin's mixtapes always rule hard

X. What can you tell me about your seemingly self-constructed 50 gallon "steel drums," contact mics, and hand-made effects pedals utilized throughout NEW ICONS OF A VILE FAITH, as well as your recent West Coast US Tour?

It took us a long, LONG time to dial it in. Too many failed attempts. It's pretty streamlined now—we decided to go through our buddy Crank Sturgeon and we use his "plug ugly" contact mics exclusively. Dude's a wizard!

As far as the oil drum—it's affectionately referred to as a part of our "mobile meth lab" and we carry that thing all around the country. It's part of the family, at this point. No, neither of us are into meth.

XI. It would appear as though the concept of a so-called "super-group" is as alive and well today, as it was back in 1966-68 when Eric Clapton unknowingly formed and soon disbanded Cream, with everyone from members of Mastodon and Deftones to Iggy Pop & Josh Homme having recently formed super-groups; with that said, if you could form a super-group with any musicians dead or alive, who would you likely choose and why?

We want Keith Moon around age 19—pure force. We want John Carpenter—genius mood creator. We want Jhonn [Balance] and [Peter] "Sleazy" [Christopherson]—one last time. We want [David] Bowie—period; that would be some seriously mental and unsettling sh*t!

XII. Let's just say, for argument's sake that nearly everyone in the world has at least one favorite Prince song, whether they would openly like to admit it or not... what would you choose as your personal favorite Prince-related singles, tracks, or albums, Keith & Tom?

Prince's genius cannot ever be understated. He was beyond brilliant. That being said—the one he did with The Muppets, ["Starfish and Coffee"] is a total favorite.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Jay Z's Magna Carta... Holy Grail Collaborator Sumach "Gonjasufi" Valentine Re-emerges with "Maniac Depressant" & "Surfinfinity" from Forthcoming CALLUS (Warp Records)

"GOING INTO THE SPACE... I GIVE SO MUCH OF MY HEART... OPENING MYSELF UP TO THE WORLD... AS MY SOUL BECOMES PUBLIC DOMAIN, [WHICH IS] A BEAUTIFUL THING... BUT WITH THAT ALSO COMES [YOU KNOW] HATRED [AND SH*T]... I'VE HAD TO GROW THIS CALLUS [AROUND MYSELF] TO PROTECT MY HEART," vocalist, producer, DJ, and yoga teacher Sumach "Gonjasufi" Valentine warbled within a crackly, baren Warp Records message dubbed Callus (Introduction), which additionally included a fragment of his as-yet-unreleased song, "Surfinfinity." For those who may be largely unfamiliar, Sumach's biggest claim to fame would likely be working alongside Jay Z and producer Kyambo "Hip Hop" Joshu on his genre-eschewing Magna Carta... Holy Grail (which samples "Nikels and Dimes") and was once described by Pitchfork Senior Editor Ryan Dombal as "a scraggly, scary, smoked-out croak that creeps like the spiritual offspring of George Clinton and Leadbelly." Gonjasufi has recorded and self-released a wide array of thought-provoking music under a number of aliases including Sumach, Randy Johnson, Plant Lyphe, Kilowattz, Masters of The Universe, and most recently, Gonjasufi around the Los Angeles area since 1994.

"That's the callus. How can you not be in pain? It ain't about getting past that sh*t. It's about growing into it. I peeled through all these layers to get to the core. I channeled all the misunderstanding and misery and torment—that's what it is, torment—into this," Gonjasufi revealed within a statement issued along with his soon forthcoming Warp Records follow-up to his untitled Hit+Run 777 7-inch recorded with fellow Brainfeeder affiliate Ras_G, CALLUS; "written and recorded over four years, split between Las Vegas and Gonjasufi's home in the California desert, CALLUS is arguably the musician's most soul-baring and cathartic collection," which seems to have been a rather self-reflective album creation process wherein Valentine was forced to embrace his inner feelings of hurt and anger, channeling them to create something eerily beautiful. "Maniac Depressant" is our first full-length preview of CALLUS since Sumach's self-produced baseball-themed 2011 solo effort, The Ninth Inning EP. It's a feedback-driven stripped down affair wherein he painfully croons, "Once in a while I feel I'll krack. Once in a while I feel I can. Once in a while I feel I can't... I'm a manic depressant." CALLUS is currently available for pre-order in 2-LP, CD, and digital formats from Warp Records subsidiary Bleep ahead of its fast approaching August 19th world-wide release.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"DEMONSTRATION Not For Sale:" FLOSSTRADAMUS DJ-producer Josh Young Unveils Genre-defying, 33-track STEAL THIS MIXTAPE as Me2 (Fool's Gold Records)

"What I love about [STEAL] THIS MIXTAPE is that it's a bridge from the mash-ups that we all loved 10 years ago to the modern style of production. Josh [Young] basically grabbed ANY genre of music an threw it all into his blender and what came out is all consistent," Fool's Gold Records founder @atrak ecstatically wrote about self-described "beast known as @yehme2" during a lengthy Monday afternoon Instagram post. One half of Chicago-based Hip-Hop and EDM-influenced DJ duo FLOSSTRADAMUS supposedly challenged himself to staggering "beat-a-day challenge that would quickly morph into Me2," which eventually morphed into the 33-track of a genre-less mega-album that is his System of a Down-referencing STEAL THIS MIXTAPE; Young's 50-minute debut mixtape somehow manages to effortlessly harvest and re-purpose samples "stolen" from the likes of FLOSSTRADAMUS, newly-freed Gucci Mane, Nicki Minaj & Beyoncé, Paul Wall, Missy Elliott, Fleetwood Mac, Nine Inch Nails, Calvin Harris & Rihanna, M83, System of a Down, Justice, Gwen Stefani, Chicago, Guy Ritchie-championed The Stranglers, Brandy, Jenifer Lewis & Roz Ryan (showcased below), Ol' Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, and I'm sure plenty of additional artists I have yet to discover.

Now, I've actively been listening to STEAL THIS MIXTAPE
during my commute to and from work throughout the course of the week since its Fourth of July Weekend surprise-release and I can quite honestly say, it's comparable to early 2000's genre-defying albums such as Night Ripper and The Beatles & Jay-Z-melding The Grey Album; however, whereas Girl Talk and Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley)'s critically-acclaimed "Revolution"ary concoctions were more so seamless, yet beautifully disjointed, mash-up style albums, Me2's genre label-rattling Fool's Gold "debut" teeters a bit more along the lines of a NIN Further Down The Spiral-reminiscent, DJ-helmed and for the most part, Hip-Hop-less remix album—seemingly re-appropriating the original vocal and instrumental pairings without ruthlessly gutting their most arguably recognizable parts. Fool's Gold Records is currently offering Me2's STEAL THIS MIXTAPE for FREE download and streaming at BitTorrent, livemixtapes, Soundcloud, and similar-minded sites, as well as an exclusive black-and-white Me2 "Logo" Golf Cap PRE-ORDER (while I'm hoping to see a 2-LP vinyl package before too long)!

Monday, July 4, 2016

[I wish it was longer]: Scratching The Surface with Baltimore Beatsmith John Bachman & "Train of Though" + Jumbled at DATBEET#2 In Manassas, Virginia 2xVideo Premier (The Witzard Interview)

"about the album... Proof that [there] is still sample-based Boom-Bap from Baltimore. When you get a chance, please check out the new album from Jumbled, called [I wish it was longer]. When Jumbled sent early demos to friends, many responded that they were disappointed with the brevity of the project. All songs are produced by Jumbled, in his home in Northeast Baltimore. As with most albums, this project took almost 2 years to complete, between working, making beats, and organizing collaborations with emcees. This album is meant to be a showcase of production, which is enhanced by guest vocals," read the introductory paragraph of a cold email submission sent by self-described "teacher, husband, beat-maker, [and] dish washer" John Bachman. Mr. Bachman, a high school engineering teacher, records sample and Bmore Club-based Hip-Hop as Jumbled during his nights and weekends off. I fostered quite a relationship with John online over the course of the past month, during which he has told me about self-recording a 6-inch at Third Man Records, his Ableton high school beat club, disappearing "World's On Fire" emcee Izaac, and the creation of his aforementioned album, [I wish it was longer]; all of which has led to this very 11-question interview you're about to delve into momentarily, inter-spliced with not one,but two exclusive music videos John Bachman sent me along with his answers, which I'm proud to present within this space!!! Enjoy, my fellow beat-heads!


Matt Horowitz
The Witzard Editor-In-Chief

I. How did you first get into rapping and beat-making? What would you site as your greatest influences during this formative period?

I’m not really sure how I got started. I wanted to make beats and realized you could use a sampler, so I think I got some birthday money (circa 2003) and bought a Roland SP-303 that I still use today. My first attempt was for Dwell (who raps on “Train of Thought”) to make some beats for him, that were basically loops. I was in a Grindcore band with my friend Clint (aka salk.) and he came over and I pushed him into rapping. We were both rapping over my beats and some borrowed beats and I released two solo Rap albums. But [I] eventually wanted to focus more on making beats and getting more creative.

I was always influenced by Rick Rubin-era Def Jam and the Beastie Boys. I tried to absorb everything RZA did when I was in high school and worshipped at the Kanye altar in college. I think that DJ Premier is my all-time favorite and love the versatility of Edan. I listen to a lot of podcasts and want to hear how the masters, like Diamond D and Marley Marl, created their beats.

II. What was your typical production and recording process like for your latest album, [I wish it was longer] (WIWL)?

My usual process is sitting down early Saturday or Sunday mornings and pulling samples. I love flipping through dollar bins for things that look interesting or lesser known albums of familiar musicians (Jazz, Soul, [Classic] Rock) I might use a drum break record to provide a backbeat, or sample those drums, and play them live with the sample. I try to add some bass or organ to give the track some layers, but sometimes it doesn’t need it. Most of the time, I pull a sample into the SP-303 and trim it. While I mostly use Ableton for playing live, I make almost all of my beats in Audacity.

III. You've been self-described as a "teacher, husband, beat-maker, [and] dish washer;" what can you tell me about your Ableton beat club established along with your high school students?

Unfortunately, my previous school didn’t have many activities outside of sports. Two years ago, I contacted Ableton and their customer rep was an old friend. After raising some money using GoFundMe and getting a good deal from Ableton, I was able to get an educational license. I struggle with showing them too much and just want them to explore the program and make music they are excited about. I try to promote it in school, but I think kids are afraid to try new things. [Although,] I had a few this year that would come after school almost every day.

IV. What are you working on next, John in the wake or your just released album, [I wish it was longer]? I believe you mentioned the possibly of a Disco and Bmore Club breaks-sampling album, correct?

I’ve been pretty busy the last few months with shows and finishing up at school. I’m hoping to finish up a new batch of beats in the next few weeks for collabs, then start working on some new Baltimore Club tracks. I’ve made two EP’s so far that have been really fun. I generally sample parts from 1970-80’s songs and layer them over Baltimore Club breaks. It’s a fun departure—especially when sometimes you buy records and they turn out to be too Dance-y or too Electronic. Baltimore Club’s popularity seems to come in waves, but I’ve been a fan since high school and have been trying to find older songs, either online or on vinyl.

V. I know you had a show at #DATBEET2 last month, Thursday, June 16th. How did the format for that end up turning out... rapping, singing, DJing, cipher-style, etc?

DATBEET was great! Manassas is about 90 minutes outside of Baltimore. The event was hosted by Fleetwood Deville (based out of DC), and had performances from Chris Flight, Groovy D, SkyhighRY, and Arxhy. I was able to play some beats in between Rap sets and encouraged emcees to come up and freestyle. This type of event is ideal for me—playing short sets and linking with new people. These events are critical for encouraging new talent and meeting new people. Everyone at DATBEET was super supportive and made me want to play more events like this!

A few years ago, I got involved with Llamadon, which is a Hip-Hop collective in Baltimore. Dylan and Andrew (from Llamadon) started organizing Beet Trip, which is a live beat cypher with emcees freestlying over top. I’m a little older than most people in that circle and my style felt older. Most producers had a clean-modern Rap feel to their beats and I would come through with dusty samples and drum loops that weren’t quantized. But even the rappers that only used Trap beats wanted to flow over an old school beat. I’ve always loved big beats and samples and keep trying to find new and old artists that do that style well.

VI. What can you tell my readers and I about your limited edition lathe-cut 8-inch [I wish it was longer] records; does it contain all of the album's tracks or just the emcee-led cuts?

I have a lot of records—I’m not really a collector—but want to get as much as I can, for the least amount of money. I have some records that I buy to listen to, but many just for sampling.

I’ve never had records pressed, but hear from friends that do, that it is expensive and stressful. I wanted something that would be more limited and less expensive. So, I researched a few companies and decided to use (who have since dissolved into three smaller companies)—and I think it turned out great! Due to the length of the record, I was only able to fit the songs that have vocals on them, but the rest of the album is free online, so anyone can grab it.

Another inspiration for this was when I went to Nashville two summers ago and recorded a beat in the Third Man Records [Voice-o-Graph] machine. It sounds like it’s 100 years old and [is] limited to one copy!

VII. How did you go about recruiting WIWL's various Baltimore and Pittsburgh area emcees? Can you briefly speak on the album's sharp-tongued emcees?

Choosing artists to work with is the easiest part of this project. I picked people that are friends and very skilled at their craft. The last track I received for this project was track with Bito Sureiya (from NASA8). After meeting Bito at Beet Trip and facing him in a head-to-head beat battle, I emailed him asking him to record a track. To my surprise, he sent it back later that day—recorded, mixed, and mastered. I joked that we should do a whole album together, which turned into our Mental Static project. We have been playing shows with that project for most of this year, but I had to get another track from him for WIWL. The track with Berko Lover came very organically. Though we’ve only met in real life a few times, she takes my beats to a new level. She rapped over an organ beat a few years back (“Rhodes”) and tackled one of my Baltimore Club beats last year for my Boom EP.

“Ineita Break” by Stillborn Identity was probably the first track I heard with vocals. Stillborn (aka Cody Jones) lives in Pittsburgh, we are able to collaborate and work together to create music we are very proud of. He also appears on the Bigelow Riders track—with fellow Pittsburgher Davy Hamburgers and Brooklyn-via-Pittsburgh emcee Jack Wilson. Jack (aka DJ Brewer) heard “That’s The Way It Goes” beat and it felt like a Bigelow Riders beat, but reminded me of a J-Zone beat.

Finally, “Train of Thought” is collaboration between two of my oldest friends and influences in Hip-Hop. Dwell is a retired rapper, father of three, but is an amazing emcee, and engineer. I was in a duo with salk. for years (Napalm Def), who pours his heart out on every track. I was eager to put both of them on a track together.

VIII. When I first received your initial email and heard WIWL, I was almost instantly reminded of DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist's infamous 45-scratching magnum opus Brainfreeze! Would you care to speak on the album's underlying samples—most notably your "Lesson"-style spoken word interludes?

After a few “beat apes” (blended beats), I wanted to attempt a full-length album. After looking at a few “producer-centric” albums, I liked the format of Memory Man’s [Broadcast One] album, alternating between beats and songs with vocals. The songs with vocal samples were an attempt to give the album some cohesion, instead of just random songs grouped together. I liked the sample from “Terri Gross,” since it almost explains what it is like to be a producer, which is hard to explain to some people.

I think if I could [choose to] have someone Rap or sing on all of my beats, I would. Since Llamadon started Beet Trip, there has been a big movement in Baltimore for a beat scene. Eu-IV, Urban Shaman, HippuHoppuOtaku and more have been doing great things!

I’m definitely influenced by DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist! Entroducing... is one of my all-time favorite albums and I have a 4-foot poster of the cover up in my office. I got to see them last year on tour together and love watching their excitement in the [2001] documentary, Scratch.

IX. For fans of your latest, and might I add-impeccable, Jumbled album [I wish it was longer], where exactly do you suggest begin when delving into your back catalog? Are there any particular records would you recommend starting with?

I think if they like my beats, obviously check out my two mixtapes; In Between Stops was my first concentrated effort at making an actual beat tape, while Unessential Instrumentals has more material. Both are examples of me trying to cram as many beats [as I could] into a short window. I can’t stand when producers let beats ride out for 3-4 minutes that don’t change or evolve at all.

My first attempt at making an entire album came out earlier this year. Mental Static was a collaborative album with NASA8 emcee Bito Sureiya. He took that project to the next level with great raps, ad-libs, and using sound clips to tie the entire project together. It really has a MADVILLAINY feel to it for me.

I’ve tried to compile some collaborations on Soundcloud with many great artists (and some have used on their albums). But I think now, I’m interested in doing more EP’s or albums—with more collaborations.

X. What might you specify as a few of your personal favorite Hip-Hop albums or albums of any genre of the past 6-8 months? Would you likely cite any of said albums as sources of inspiration during WIWL's creation?

Most of my favorites from 2016 have been from friends! ialive & Darko The Super from Philadelphia released a project called [Hell Hole] Store, which I picked up on tape. Height Keech from Baltimore has ventured off in a new direction on his Unending Blaze, Vol. 1 EP. Local emcee and songstress Anna Notte put out her second EP and used one my of my favorite beats I’ve ever made called “Ppl Are Mean.” I just set up a great show in Baltimore that a group called So Nice Yesterday played. They just put out their album called [Best Party Ever] and is a mix of Rap, R&B, and Baltimore Club.

I’ve been meaning to pick up J Dilla’s [THE] DIARY, but have heard some of the songs before. I liked a few from Kanye’s [The Life of Pablo]—but didn’t like a lot of it. Finally, the new J-Zone, which picks up where his last album left off.

I’ve been listening to Google Play when driving or doing chores lately—Your Old Droog, Gang Starr, Group Home, Step Brothers (Evidence + The Alchemist), but that also exposes me to stuff I wouldn’t normally hear, but like!

XI. * BONUS QUESTION * We previously spoke about it through an all-too-brief Twitter exch@nge; but what can you tell my readers about [I wish it was longer] bonus track #15 "World's On Fire” and its rather mysterious "disappearing" emcee, Izaac?

I went to an event called Baltimore Beat Club that I played beats at and had an open mic cypher. I don't think Izaac lived in the city, but came to this Beat Club and to the next one—that I couldn't make. He produced his own stuff on GarageBand, but I sent him some beats that he liked. [He] sent me this one and I tweaked it a little. But since then, he's deleted his Soundcloud, Facebook, and Twitter.

ACTUALLY, I tried to look him up again and he changed his Rap name to Mick Boche and relocated to San Diego!!!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Lex Records Presents: Prefuse 73, Asher Roth Collaborator Michael Christmas (Fudge) & Alex Mali's Lady Parts-referencing "In My Shoes"

"Fudge came together during several sessions in the summer and fall of 2015 at Nick Hook's Green Point studio. Prefuse 73 [Guillermo Scott Herren] brought along a hard drive full of beats. [Michael] Christmas wrote to the instrumentals in the studio, and recorded the vocals the same day, as friends swung by to check it out; some of the drop-ins at the studio ended up joining in the recording, not least D.R.A.M. who brings lifted soul vocals on the album track "All Points South,'" Lex Records wrote within a comprehensive on-site Fudge press release earlier this past week. Although this is Herren's first full-length recorded alongside an emcee, he's previously worked with a number of revered Hip-Hop legends including, but not limited to Ghostface Killah, Jewel-runner El-P, Mos Def, Aesop Rock, fellow Lex label mate DOOM, GZA, Death Grips drummer Zach Hill, and RJD2; while Michael Christmas is "a 22-year-old Boston emcee, who has spent the last two years dropping his debut and sophomore mixtapes and touring the USA, opening for Logic and Mac Miller." Christmas recently appeared alongside Asher Roth and fellow newcomer Larry June on one of the "I Love College" emcee's countless post-RetroHash loosies, "Laundry." Fudge's premier Lady Parts single, complete with provocative Todd James-designed artwork, "In My Shoes" is a slightly disjointed and beautifully spaced out Hip-Hop jam that's reminiscent of fellow Manchester-based Electro-Hip-Hop producer Star Slinger and Four Tet's J Dilla & Guilty Simpson-assisted "AS SERIOUS as your life" (Jay Dee Remix). Prefuse 73 & Michael Christmas' debut project together as Fudge, Lady Parts, is currently available for pre-order at the Lex Records Shop in your choice of Ltd. ed. 12" coloured vinyl or CD packages, ahead of their 15-track album's impending September 9th release date.

Friday, July 1, 2016

"Whole Food is nutrition for your mind and spirit:" Gensu Dean & Denmark Vessey Unveil Mouth-watering 7evenThirty & Iman Omari-assisted "Black Love" (Mello Music Group)

"This full-length collaboration between Gensu Dean and Denmark Vessey comes packed with all the vitamins and nutrients you could possibly need without any of the frivolous packaging. The pair's debut as a duo on Mello Music Group imagines mugshot spreads in Newsweek and blood dripping down starched white aprons, and there are no $6 cappuccinos in sight," reads an incredibly well-written fragmented chunk of Dean and Vessey's forthcoming Whole Food Bandcamp press release. It appears as though While Food (which will be unleashed upon the unsuspecting world July 29th) will be a class rapper-producer Jaylib-style affair; "on Whole Food, [Denmark Vessey] expands his purview to encompass the whole human body, from the biscuits and gravy weighing down your stomach to bullet wounds in your abdomen. And he does it all with empathy, wit, and supreme technical skill," Mello Music Group ferociously continued. One-time Guilty Simpson and Planet Asia collaborator and boom-bastic producer Gensu Dean managed to whip up an electric organ-laden Stevie Wonder-reminiscent soundbed, fittingly titled "Black Love," that's perfectly suited for Denmark Vessey, 7evenThirty, and Iman Omari's Golden Era Hip-Hop-evoking 1-2-3 punch of a powerhouse tandem flow. Whole Food—"nutrition for your mind and spirit"—has been preceded by two sharp-tongued pre-album singles, which are either available for FREE no-strings-attached download or if you feel so inclined, instant download after pre-ordering Gensu Dean & Denmark Vessey's sprawling 12-track Mello Music Group debut. The Roots-affiliated publication okayplayer recently premiered Vessey's own eerily introspective Exile-produced "deadly combination of dopeness and real talk," "Think Happy Thoughts," lifted from his critically-acclaimed 2015 EP, Martin Lucid Dream.