Friday, September 16, 2016

The Witzard's First Ever "Cross-continental Transmission" with A Cosmic Safari Masterminds, Cold Busted Beatsmiths & Space-Funk Revivalists, Jenova 7 & Eddie Shinn (The Witzard Interview)

"ATTENTION EARTH PEOPLE! FROM THE STRANGE AND INFINITE WORLDS OF OUTER SPACE COMES A DUO OF INTERGALACTIC TRAVELERS! EXPERIENCE SOUNDS NEVER BEFORE DREAMED! ASTONISHING JOURNEYS AWAIT ON A COSMIC SAFARI WITH JENOVA 7 & EDDIE SHINN! INCOMING TRANSMISSION," reads a rather impassioned, albeit gloriously spaced out, precursor to the description attached to Cold Busted's A Cosmic Safari Bandcamp page. Self-described "producer, crate-digger, beat poet, time-traveler, [and] instrumental storyteller" Michael J. Sirois (Jenova 7) by way of Boston, Massachusetts and Ulyanovsk, Russia-based producer and Cold Busted author Eddie Shinn are separated by a half-world's distance; however, still managed to jointly co-produce "A Cosmic Safari [which] takes this international concept and launches it skyward... the album’s songs take place in an intergalactic sound-space." A Cosmic Safari is scheduled to "land" this upcoming Friday, September 9th in 11-track vinyl, 16-track emcee-assisted digital, and all-inclusive 21-track CD formats on Los Angeles-based Cold Busted Records. Now, I've been listening to A Cosmic Safari on constant loop, since receiving it from 8DPromo mid-Friday afternoon prior to this past Labor Day Weekend, and I've likened it to Beastie Boys-helmed Check Your Head and Ill Communication, Gorillaz & De La Soul's "Feel Good Inc." Donuts-indebted instrumental Hip-Hop, 1980's Acid Jazz, Lounge music, and by my girlfriend's own submission, "Skymall mid-flight shopping music,'" read my initial Labor Day Weekend A Cosmic Safari write-up; now, with that said, I hope you thoroughly enjoy the interview attached below with Jenova 7 & Eddie Shinn—conducted in the true collaborative spirit of A Cosmic Safari, via email between New Jersey, Boston, and Eddie Shinn's "home base," Russia!


Your Inter-galaxy musical safari guide,
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz

I. What was your typical beat-making and recording process for A Cosmic Safari like... especially, considering you two were separated by around 4,500 miles?

JENOVA 7: The approach was somewhat similar to what I’ve done in the past with long distance collaborations. This is my fourth time working on a full length album with an artist from another country. I made Time Travellers I & II with Mr. Moods and together, Moods and I also formed a Trip-Hop trio with Mononome [Wax Triptych]. Mr. Moods is from Canada and Mononome is from Greece and—just like with Eddie—we have never met in person. I find the process comfortable, though. Before I became a collaborator, I was a fan of these artists. I felt like I already knew them through listening to their music and eventually, fate would bring us together by being on the same labels.

The main difference between the making of A Cosmic Safari and my past collaborative albums is that almost all of the music is an original composition. I’ve been known as a crate digger and a sampler, especially with my Dusted Jazz albums, but with this record, we worked more as songwriters. This is the first album were I played the keys on every track. I would come up with melodies on a keyboard or different synths, add a drum break or drum machine loop, and then send it over to Eddie. He would take the stems, add more to the basic idea, or fully flip my “sample” into something along the same lines—but evolved. We followed a Sci-Fi theme and really allowed ourselves to get creative and out there. He would send me back the stems of a newer version, and we would go back and forth until the track was perfect.

We wrote most of the album in about two weeks. The tracks were unpolished but fairly close to being done at this point. This is where the language barrier between us finally surfaced. When we were writing the music in those first two weeks, it was quick, natural and spontaneous. But, when it came to mixing the finalized versions of the tracks, it was hard to put into words how we wanted the album to sound. Mixing language and terminology can be specific, it can be hard to translate. We took our time, dealt with some personal issues in both of our lives, and worked on mixing and mastering over the past year.

EDDIE: Hello, I agree with Michael mostly. It was a fun trip! I love this time when [I] got new ideas from him. I was choosing tunes, which most liked to me and tried make something new with it. The first track was "Dang [Ole] Trip." Michael just sent me a few keys and bass with simple beat in Trip-Hop style. [I] have to say, it was hard times because I was gonna make this track more "Lounge." It took a few hours to get the necessary "Lounge" beat and a mood. The next one was "Neon Garden." After this, we understood that [we had to try to make an] LP for Cold Busted. So, in [the] coming 1-1.5 years, we were working on it. We worked on the album as "lazy cats," slowly and [slightly past] the deadlines

II. “A Cosmic Safari’s... songs take place in an inter-galactic sound-space,” so says Cold Busted’s Bandcamp page; with that said, is there some sort of underlying concept running through the album?

JENOVA 7: Definitely, I think it can be considered a concept album. Mostly, I think it’s trying to build a certain Sci-Fi “aesthetic” in some of the weirder tones and melodies. We wanted the album to be colorful. The idea of the album being a safari suggest an adventure into the wild. We wanted that “wild” to be the universe itself. There are some happier tracks on the album, but there are also some darker ones. I think that’s what it really means to be colorful—there’s a dynamic range of vibes and emotions. The vastness of the universe emphasizes the vastness of human emotions. The lyrical songs also help tell the story of the album. One track is about longing to leave the planet you’re stuck on. Another track is about an intergalactic drug dealer. There’s even some Blade Runner in there. I think the title of the album accurately represents what the album is all about—going on a stellar adventure.

EDDIE: It's true; we wanted to get the colorful album and we got the colorful album! Awesome :P

III. Can you go into a bit of detail concerning Eddie Shinn’s unfortunate debacle with a baseball bat-wielding masked man during the making-of A Cosmic Safari?

JENOVA 7: I think it’s best if Eddie tells you the story. I remember he couldn’t work on finishing a mix of the tracks for a while because he was stuck in the hospital during recovery. He’s Russian, so he’s probably used to that kind of crazy. It didn’t seem to phase him much, though—but he wasn’t able to have his music production computer in the hospital, so it definitely delayed things a bit. There was also a period where he had been worried about not being able to finish the album because he was going to have to serve in the army. We had a lot of obstacles in the way but we managed to overcome them.

EDDIE: Haha... Damn, it was a terrible! That day, I celebrated the end of my university studies... I looked like a panda after this. My face was swollen to 2-3 times. It was a big stress for my family. But with regard to A Cosmic Safari, it was a good moment because I became unfit for military service, so this meant that I got a necessary time in order to finish [our] album. Glad that I [was still able to find] a good side, [even] in this [unfortunate] situation.

VI. What would you likely site as some of your greatest influences during the creation and recording process of A Cosmic Safari? I personally hear notes of Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication & Check Your Head, Gorillaz's “Feel Good Inc.” instrumental Hip-Hop (à la Donuts), Acid Jazz, etc.

JENOVA 7: I’m absolutely inspired by both of those artists and albums. It’s hard to say which artists specifically inspired the album, especially because it’s different than my previous work. I’m an amalgam of my inspirations. I know that on “Flying Cabs” in particular I was inspired by Herbie Hancock [...] Definitely the Head Hunters (1973) album, but specifically "Chameleon" from that album. The tone of the keys I played are directly inspired from that. Another similar one is "Doin' It" off of the Secrets album. I always loved this video from Sesame Street of Hancock playing a sampler keyboard. Watching it after being a producer, it was a nice time capsule and showed the beginnings of Hip-Hop and sample culture.

EDDIE: Yep, it's hard to say. But I can say that for "Neon Garden," I was inspired by Norman Cook and for "Dang Ole Trip" with Chel Strong, it was the track from the last album of Gorillaz, Plastic Beach. [The] track is called "Superfast Jellyfish" feat. De La Soul. You can [find] there [are] similar things. For example, xylophone keys. Loved how it sounds in "Superfast Jellyfish," so I was recording keys for our tune in the same style.

V. How did the idea for a cross-continental Funk/Hip-Hop album initially arise and ultimately, manage to come to fruition involving yourself and Eddie? Was the idea kick-started by yourselves or through Cold Busted?

JENOVA 7: I was a fan of Eddie through hearing his work on Cold Busted, and since we were label mates, he knew of my work and felt the same way about me. We initially worked on a single [collaborative] track that was meant for one of Cold Busted’s Bust Free compilation albums. After we quickly finished that track, I think Eddie said something along the lines of “what’s next?” So, I sent him a different keyboard melody I had written and we repeated the process. After two tracks, it was clear we were working on album, especially because the tone of the songs matched so well. It was new and inspiring because we fully composed the songs and felt true ownership over the music.

EDDIE: When I heard "Rat's Theme" by Jenova 7 [for the first time,] I thought that [I would] have to try make something with this guy together. His tune is so perfect sounding! However, I wasn't sure that he [wanted] the same. Therefore, I was surprised and happy when Michael said that [he] listens [to] my CD's in [his] car. It was destiny! When we were starting work on album, I didn't [really think] about main style. Just I was making music for fun. Cosmic sounds combined all tracks. It's cool that we have different styles because we got something new for us. Love it!!

VI. Would you care to briefly describe the contents of Cold Busted’s three assorted version of A Cosmic Safari containing 11, 16, and 21 tracks? Why release so many different versions of the same album?

JENOVA 7: The 11-track album is the vinyl record version. The vinyl is instrumental only. The 16-track album is the digital release version, and it includes 5 vocal tracks featuring singer K8 Marcos and rappers Chel Strong, M-Dot, J-Crizzy, Concrete Cee, and MC Dialect. The 21-track album is the CD version and is the most complete version of the album. It includes the 5 vocal tracks, as well as the "bonus" instrumental versions of those 5 vocal tracks. As far as why there are different versions, it comes down to the label being efficient. CD's can fit more minutes of music than a single vinyl record can. The vinyl version would have needed to be at least a double LP in order to fit all the tracks. That instantly doubles the cost of production (which is already high because of how expensive it is to press vinyl). I’m sure if the album sells and finds an audience, it will be repressed in a special edition double LP.

VII. What exactly was Cold Busted founder Derrick Daisey (aka DJ Vitamin D)’s role in creating A Cosmic Safari? I see he’s listed as both Designer and Executive Producer within the album’s liner notes on Bandcamp.

JENOVA 7: [Vitamin] D is not only the mastermind of Cold Busted, but he is also a graphic designer responsible for most of the album artwork on the label, so he designed all of the artwork for A Cosmic Safari. I knew the record needed a collage for album artwork because it would match well with its pastiche nature. When I mentioned that to Derrick, he already had the same idea in mind. I loved the collages he designed for Samurai Guru’s Medosphere and Pigeondust’s Moon, Wisdom & Slackness, so I anticipated he was more than capable of creating something awesome. We were able to sample retro Sci-Fi concept art, which also accentuated the album’s retro style of musical influences. Derrick also helped make some decisions regarding the release. He should also be credited with pressing my first release on vinyl, something I thought was a dream five years ago. This is my first full release on vinyl, so much love to D for believing in us.

EDDIE: About [the finalized] design, [I] have to say that Derrick made this one how it was in my imagination when I was working on album. We are all very pleased with how it looks! Also, you can see different elements in artwork, which [were] mentioned in almost all song titles: moon, ice planet, flying cabs, Space Funk, and so on. 5 years ago, when I saw Cold Busted in a catalog [for the first time,] I noticed colorful artworks, unlike other most labels. And that is what caught my attention and then, [their] music style.

VIII. How did you go about finding the 10 emcees and vocalists featured across the album’s five vocal-assisted “bonus tracks?” How did you decide which tracks you felt needed vocal assistance and which ones should just remain intact instrumentals?

JENOVA 7: One of my favorite albums from Cold Busted’s catalog is Es-K’s Serenity. It’s definitely one of the most personal and emotional albums on the label. It was a fully Hip-Hop album with a variety of emcees. Chel Strong, M-Dot, and MC Dialect were all featured on that album. I loved the entire record and admired the artists involved. Eddie and I knew that some of the tracks seemed to be calling for a human voice, while others didn’t. I reached out to some of Es-K’s collaborators, as well as some of my other admirations. Concrete Cee worked on [an] album called The Traveler's Ghost with my other label mate Skipless. He was on a track that I loved called "I'm Chillin.'" I wanted to work with him for a while and since we had become friends, I knew he was passionate about Sci-Fi and would be perfect on a dystopian-vibed track. J-Crizzy is another Cold Busted label mate who is a multi-talented cat and his vocal tone felt like a great match for that instrumental. K8 Marcos is a singer I know who went to Berklee in Boston. She’s an immensely talented vocalist and I’m working with her on some other Jazzy, Portishead-style Trip-Hop tracks, which should be out in the near future.

EDDIE: I agree with Michael; a human voice made a necessary mood for our LP. I was so excited about this because [I've] never had tracks with emcees. [I'm] grateful to Michael, [since] he personally met with M-Dot, K8 Marcos, and took part [in the] recording sessions. With other emcees, we worked remotely. Unfortunately, we could not afford to meet in person because of the long distance between us. Also, I was so surprised when [we learned that] Chel Strong is [the] son of Barrett Strong, who owns the greatest hit of [the] 60's and the last century. The title of this song is "Money (That's What I Want)." I am so grateful to everyone who has been part of our project!

IX. Would you care to speak a bit about A Cosmic Safari’s 1960-70’s old school 12-inch record-evoking cover image? How did yourself, Eddie & Vitamin D (Derrick Daisey) decide upon this particularly "spaced out" album concept?

JENOVA 7: I touched upon this in an earlier question, so I might be repeating myself, but to further elaborate, I think that space travel is about the future, but retro Sci-Fi art is from the past. That dynamic relates to our music. We have some retro influences and sounds on the record, but we’re trying to make something for the future. Calling back to retro Sci-Fi concept art, spacey collages, and retro styles of music feels like the soundtrack to a fun "cosmic safari."

EDDIE: Yes, absolutely!

X. Since A Cosmic Safari's Friday, September 9th release has just recently passed, what else might you fellas have in store for the album roll out... any special online singles, 7-inch releases, music videos, etc?

JENOVA 7: I might do a signed vinyl/CD contest or something along those lines. [It] seems like a fun idea to give out some free copies, and a signing adds that personal touch. Look out on my Twitter or Facebook accounts for any contest updates. Might be something simple such as a "like," or "retweet," or something more special like fan art submissions. A music video is also possible. I’ve been brainstorming for a music video with M-Dot for the “Space Jive” track. He loves doing videos. I’ve already directed two music videos for his own work and because we hang out often, I think it’s the most likely video to be made. And like I said earlier, there might be a special edition double LP re-release someday, if the record does well. There are also a few tracks that were completely cut from the album, so maybe those will resurface one day.

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