Thursday, November 15, 2018

"VAN HALEN... GOREFEST, AUTOPSY, DEF LEPPARD & SPAZZ:" The Legend of SPAZZ & Kool Keith/Dr. Octagon (Turned Out A Punk)

It all started just a few days ago, when I saw a post on F*CKED UP frontman Damian "Pink Eyes" Abraham's Instagram page (@leftfordamian.) He was teasing a then-upcoming episode of his weekly podcast, Turned Out A Punk, featuring Chris Dodge from "The Beastie Boys of Hardcore," SPAZZ. A photograph of @mrchrisdodge was surrounded by images of No Use for A Name, NOFX frontman Fat Mike, CROSSED OUT, Kool Keith, Southern Lord Records, Melt Banana, and The Melvins. I (@sharpcheddar856) posed an exclamatory question through comment, "Woah, now, what's Chris' relation to Kool Keith!?" Fellow Instagram Punker @bengonzales815sl soon Replied: "@sharpcheddar856 Kool Keith did a guest spot on a SPAZZ record," which I soon learned, was in fact, SPAZZ's 1997 album, La Revancha. Later, Damian Abraham himself, actually, Replied back, as well: "@bengonzales815sl @sharpcheddar856 they are also name checked on Dr. Oc." Hip-Hop heads will immediately know, he's of course, referring to Kool Keith's 1996 album, Dr. Octagonecologyst, painstakingly created with Dan The Automator, DJ Qbert & KutMasta Kurt under the collaborative alias of Dr. Octagon.

With a little digital sleuthing, I soon stumbled upon a 2007 RIPPED OPEN BY METAL EXPLOSIONS (ROBME) article fittingly titled "KOOL KEITH: AUTOPSY, DEF LEPPARD AND SPAZZ??!?" Lo and behold, it was penned by Eons One AKA Kung-Fu Dan AKA SPAZZ's own Dan Lactose, who's HEALER / DJ EONS Presents: DANK GOBLINS split was recently featured within these very pages of The Witzard. He quickly confirmed the validity of the 2007 ROBME Blogspot piece in question and had, indeed, met Kool Keith & Dan The Automator that fateful night in either 1995, 1996, 1998, or 1997... Below, we've included DJ Eons One's original 2007 post in full explaining the relationship and mutual admiration between SPAZZ & Kool Keith/Dr. Octagon. While the aforementioned Chris Dodge-centric episode of Turned Out A Punk can currently be found, according to Damian Abraham, "at all the best podcast stores!!!" Kool Keith, Dan The Automator & DJ Qbert miraculously reunited earlier this year for the third proper Dr. Octagon album, Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation. Chris Dodge's latest D-beat/Hardcore band, TRAPPIST, recently unleashed a phenomenal beer-themed album called Ancient Brewing Tactics on Relapse Records. Tankcrimes re-released three essential SPAZZ albums—Crush Kill Destroy, La Revancha & Dwarf Jester Rising—earlier this year, which have now been made available digitally for the first time in 20+ years.

"I used to play in a Hardcore band called SPAZZ. We were around from 1993-2000 and put out a ton of records and played a bunch of shows. We recorded our second album, La Revancha, in 1997, which had a drop by Kool Keith on it. It totally bugged everyone out, at the time, (including myself) and I'm constantly asked to tell the story how it all came about, so I figured I'd write it up here and give you all the real deal.

SPAZZ was heavily inspired by the Underground Hip-Hop explosion of the 90's. Hirax Max (drums) and I were avid listeners of college radio mix shows and I was DJ'ing and collecting Hip-Hop 12-inches and making beats, much to the chagrin of some die-hard punks. If you check out our lyrics, there's tons of references to old Hip-Hop tracks and we even named our third album, Crush Kill Destroy, as an homage to Organized Konfusion homaging the [Ultramagnetic MC's]. I can safely say I was listening to a lot more Hip-Hop than Hardcore while we were doing the band.

Our friend, Neil, was a childhood friend of Dan The Automator and had met Keith [when he] took a trip with Dan out to NY. Neil told of Keith's infamous peep show and video arcade route and told us Keith's pockets were bulging with change ready to begin the trek. He even brought Max back a signed promo poster for the Four Horsemen LP. I was jealous. One night, Max calls me up and says Neil had just called him to see if we wanted to meet Kool Keith up in SF. Max had school or something, so he called me and said I should call Neil back ASAP. I called Neil, got directions and in my haste, grabbed my recently purchased Basement Tapes [1984-1990] LP that happened to be sitting out... Keith was in town recording the Dr. Octagon LP at Dan's parents' house. I drove up to SF, met Neil in front of the house, and we ended up chillin' in Dan's room while they were working on "Girl Let Me Touch You," waiting for them to take a break. [They] finished their take and Keith emerged from the makeshift vocal booth. We chopped it up a bit and I showed him the Basement Tapes LP and he got pretty bummed."

"He asked where I got it and he said Ced was doing all sorts of sh*t with their material and he had no say in any of it. I told him where I picked it up and he asked Dan if they could go there tomorrow so he could buy one. Then, he reached down beside Dan's bed and pulled out this huge blue duffle bag. "Do you like Max Hardcore?" he asked, as he unzipped the bag, which was stuffed full of VHS porno tapes. He started pulling out different tapes and talking about [them]. We talked porn for a minute. Somehow, we started talking about Metal bands—I think, Neil told Keith he should check out SPAZZ or something. "Do you like Gorefest?" he asked. I told him they were alright. "Do you like Autopsy?" I told him, of course, and that I knew one of those dudes. Keith was pumped. I told him I had a tape of the record we were working on and Dan The Automator threw it in, so we could check it out. Keith was bugging out on it. He asked if I could do that same guitar sound on the record they were working on. I said, "no problem" and told him I would get in touch with them tomorrow. I asked Keith if he could do a shout-out for us and we would put it on the record. Automator flipped the tape over and recorded Keith's drop that you hear on La Revancha.

The next day, I called the phone number Automator had given me to figure out if and when I could go back up to the studio and do some guitar. I never got through and they never called me back. "Andy Boy" is credited as playing guitar on the track and while I cannot confirm or deny it, Neil told me it was Andy ["Airbourne" Anderson] from Attitude Adjustment. I was happy enough to chill with Keith and get that drop. To this day, it has to be one of the most bonkers Hardcore/Hip-Hop cross-overs in the history of music. The Judgement Night soundtrack has nothin' on this!

A few days later, Neil called and told us that Keith had mentioned SPAZZ in one of his new rhymes. What the f**k??? We never thought it would see the light of day, until we heard "I'm Destructive." Holy sh*t! The line taken almost word-for-word from the conversation Keith and I had that night. And then, Dr. Octagon drops and completely blows up, etc. etc. I'm not sure how many people who were listening to SPAZZ were also, listening to Ultramagnetic, at the time, but it seemed that EVERYONE was listening to the Dr. Octagon LP. A lot of people were catching the SPAZZ reference and asking us about it. I'm not sure if Keith ever got a copy of La Revancha (I'm still holding one for you, man!) but I hope someone has played it for him, at some point. It's one of my favorite records we recorded and I'm stoked to have a Hip-Hop legend on it. Yeah, I know that this post is on some fanboy ish, but it's Poppa Large; The One, Rhythm X; KOOL MOTHERF***IN' KEITH!!!"

- Eons One (@DanLactose) 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Alap Now & Merc Yes Return with First MRC Riddims Single Since SICKA THAN YOUR AVERAGE "Tilted" (Internet & Weed Recordings)

MRC Riddims is a Stoner Tech-House, Pop, Dancefloor & EDM DJ/production team consisting of Alap "Alap Now" Momin & Marc "Merc Yes" Sorrillo. Alap Now has either played with or recorded music as BKGD Audio, Deadverse, Numbers Not Names, This Immortal Coil, and MGR, as well as functioning as Oktopus, a founding member of Noise-Rap pioneers dälek from 1998-2010. Merc Yes, on the other hand, has functioned as a multi-instrumentalist for New Jersey-based Shoegaze/Noise Rock band All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors for the past 22 years, as well as having a hand in Ifwhen and his own Marc Sorrillo Audio Production. It appears as though Alap Now & Merc Yes first met when Alap engineered All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors' 1996-98 albums All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors & Turning Into Small; they even appeared together 10 years later on a 2008 split 12-inch entitled dälek vs. Ifwhen ‎– Hear Less / No Good Trying with two Deadverse (Alap/Oktopus) remixes on Side B. Earlier this year, MRC Riddims released their debut full-length, SICKA THAN YOUR AVERAGE, on Alap's own Internet & Weed Recordings. From what I understand, it's a 14-track quasi-compilation album of previously released singles and vinyl EP's issued by Araçá Recs & Silver Rocket Records, as well as original tracks featuring John Morrision, Subtitle, and Miss TK.

Now, MRC Riddims have returned with their first proper release, "Titled" since SICKA THAN YOUR AVERAGE. "Its deep thump and a playful bounce are a common thread throughout their distinct sound," reads a press statement from Internet & Weed. "Even when they journey into their deepest, heaviest moments, MRC Riddims never take you too far away from that feeling you had the first time you stepped into a roller rink as a kid!" it continues. It appears as though, from what I can gather, that "Titled" is merely the first of many upcoming singles to be released from MRC Roddims. Alap Now says, "we will be releasing a bunch of singles throughout the next year and then, a second compilation album [in] late 2019" similar to SICKA THAN YOUR AVERAGE. "Tilted" is also, accompanied by a quick, yet thorough, 1 minute-long video teaser uploaded to Internet & Weed Recordings' YouTube channel. It's very reminiscent, to my ears, at least, to Ice-T & MR.X's recent EDM/Hip-Hop-centric output on their newly-formed label, EBE NATION. MRC Riddims' "Tilted" is currently available on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify, and like-minded digital streaming services.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

DJ Filthy Rich Lets Loose A Clan Called Wu - Enter: The Marauders In Honor of 36 Chambers & Midnight Marauders' 25th Anniversaries

As any well-rounded Hip-Hop head should already know, we recently celebrated the 25th anniversaries of two of Hip-Hop's most revered and widely-loved albums: Wu-Tang Clan's monumental debut, Enter: The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and A Tribe Called Quest's third album, Midnight Marauders both originally released on November 9th, 1993. Wu-Tang's 9 surviving clansmen, as well as ODB's son, Young Dirty Bastard (@DirtyBastardJr) have recently been making the rounds in celebration of their 25th anniversary; making recent appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Good Morning America, and in Staten Island AKA "Shaolin" in honor of Wu-Tang Clan Day. Wu-Tang also, dropped a career-spanning documentary called For The Children: 25 Years of Enter: The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers.) A Tribe Called Quest's surviving members—Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Jarobi White—on the other hand, have remained a bit more silent since their 2016 "final" album with founding member, Phife Dawg, We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service. I've personally, been a fan of both albums, since I first discovered Wu-Tang & Tribe around 2002, but I, honestly, had no idea 36 Chambers & Midnight Marauders were both released on the same day and initially, distributed by RCA through Loud/Jive Records. Now, to celebrate Wu-Tang & Tribe's 25th anniversaries, Toronto, Canada-based DJ Filthy Rich has assembled a 30-minute mix/blendtape with Wu-Tang Clan's expertly-woven rhymes atop A Tribe Called Quest, Skeff Anselm & Large Professor's dusty instrumentals from Midnight Marauders. He's even fittingly dubbed it "a clan called Wu - Enter the Marauders." Check out DJ Filthy Rich's story about his relationship with the albums, as well as the making-of A Clan Called Wu - Enter: The Marauders directly from his Soundcloud page down below the break. 👐

"November 9, 1993 will forever go down as one of the greatest days in Hip-Hop history. Two of the genre's most revered albums dropped on the same day: Wu-Tang Clan's debut, Enter: The [Wu-Tang] (36 Chambers) & A Tribe Called Quest's third LP, Midnight Marauders. I remember riding my bike to the mall, with money I had earned from my after-school job. I had anticipated this day for a while and saved up in advance to pick up both CD's—at that age, $40 felt like $500. For the months that followed, both albums fought for playing time on my single-disc CD player. One moment, I was transported to the boulevard of Linden and the next, to the rugged streets of Shaolin. Those albums stayed in my rotation forever (literally!)

To mark the 25th anniversary of both LP's, I thought it might be a good idea to try and take the vocals from Wu-Tang's album and blend them over the instrumentals from Midnight Marauders. I wasn't sure it would work at first, but as is usually the case, inspiration hit at midnight, when I was trying to sleep—the coincidence of the timing is not lost on me. A couple of hours later, I managed to pair up every single Wu-Tang vocal with a suitable beat from MM. The intent was not to improve on the originals in any way... that would be impossible, as I consider them both to be perfect bodies of work. Rather, it was about orchestrating a fun concept and putting a totally new spin on these well-worn classics. The contrast of Wu's gritty street raps over Tribe's Jazzy production works in a pleasantly unexpected way. Now, I present to you my personal tribute to these legendary groups: A Clan Called Wu - Enter: The Marauders [a blendtape by DJ Filthy Rich]."

- DJ Filthy Rich (@djfilthyrich416)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Weekend Money Unveil "Guatemala" Music Video from Long-awaited Third Album 8-Ball Emoji (Directed By: Gina Amama) 🎱

Weekend Money (or W$) are a Hip-Hop/Electronic duo consisting of emcee NE$$ AKA @NESSTAGRAM and producer/vocalist Amar "Baghdaddy" Ibrahim AKA @AmarBagh & @Bagh3d. NE$$ & Baghdaddy originally hail from Philly & Iraq, respectively, but are currently based somewhere in-between Philly, Brooklyn, and Miami. Weekend Money, during their earliest aughts, were affiliated with now-defunct Das Racist and, at one point, were even signed to Heems' label, Greedhead Music. NE$$ is also, one-half of The A-Alikes, a crew with affiliation to dead prez and their "militant rhyme crew," People's Army. I can still vividly remember seeing W$ at one of Das Racist's final gigs at Union Transfer in Philly right around the same time as their 2013 debut EP, Naked City. If I'm remembering correctly, I believe, Baghdaddy & NE$$ nearly ripped through the entirety of their genre-blending as-yet-unreleased 9-track EP. Now, if my memory is serving me correctly, I believe, in addition to Das Racist & Weekend Money, Greedhead affiliates LE1F, Lakutis, and SAFE also performed at Union Transfer that fateful night in October of 2012.

It's likely, best described by this scenario from Weekend Money's own Facebook page: "if "Ether"-era Nas had French Electro-Dance tandem Justice as his backing band." Weekend Money's music, to my ear, at least, also contains sonic allusions to Pharrell & The Neptunes/N*E*R*D, Kid Cudi, A$AP Rocky, Chromeo, The Cool Kids, and even 80's Electro-Rap. NE$$ says a weekly series called "Weekend Money Wednesdays" is poised to start within a matter of weeks. Perhaps, most phenomenally, Weekend Money's sophomore release, Queen-referencing Freddie Merkury (2014) contains tracks entitled "W$ Will Rock You," "Trapper Keeper" with Fat Tony, and "Clockworkin;'" the latter, yes, containing lyrics such as, "We gettin' guap around the clock tonight / We gettin' guap, guap, guap 'til the broad dadlight / We gettin' guap. We gettin' guap around the clock tonight" delivered in a similar cadence to Bill Haley & His Comets' 1954 smash-hit, "Rock Around The Clock." It's been a few years since Freddie Merkury and there have been a couple false starts, but NE$$ & Baghdaddy are planning to return on Art Basel Weekend with their third full-length release, 8-Ball Emoji.

Weekend Money's "Guatemala" video follows a brief hiatus, which allowed for free time to work on personal projects, such as Bagh's 3-D/VR art installation, Escape to Guatemala and NE$$' Brooklyn-based art space, World Money Gallery. "After my Brooklyn apartment burned down, I had two options: cry about it or find creative release. I chose creative release," says creative director Gina Amama. "A space that was once so dear to me within minutes, lost its charm and became a house haunted with charred walls, burnt furniture, and rubble. "Guatemala" brought me a feeling of a mysterious and dark space. Being able to capture that essence and create from a situation that seemed hopeless was monumental," Amama continued. It appears as though "Guatemala" is just the first of many striking music videos to be released from 8-Ball Emoji. Weekend Money's long-awaited third album, 8-Ball Emoji, will be independently released on Friday, December 7th during Miami's infamous Art Basel Weekend.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Ice-T & Charlie Funk vs. The Mighty Mocambos - "BOUNCE THAT A$$" REMIX Music Video & Exclusive 7-inch (Mocambo Records)

As you may recall, The Witzard published comprehensive interviews with both Ice-T & MR.X from EBE NATION, as well as Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band multi-instrumentalist/band leader Björn Wagner right around the same time just a few months back. Now, it appears as though Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band's self-described "alter-ego" or "evil twin" band, The Mighty Mocambos have joined forces with EBE NATION founders Ice-T & Afrika Islam AKA MR.X under his zany Funk-tastic alter-ego, Charlie Funk. Here's how Björn Wagner tells it: "the story is rather short: we met Charlie back with [Afrika] Bambaataa in Hamburg, performed together at Reeperbahn Festival, and recorded "Zulu Walk" & "Battle" in Hamburg. The tracks ended up on The Future Is Here (2011) record." "We kept in touch and recorded more songs for the second album. When Charlie was planning his new label with Ice, he approached us to do this Funk version. Parts of the video were shot in Hamburg, so we could make our video version for the ["Bounce That A$$"] Remix," Wagner continued, referring to The Mighty Mocambos' 2015 album, Showdown. The Mighty Mocambos seemingly still consists of Ben Greenslade-Stanton, Bernhard Hümmer, Nichola Richards, Sascha Weise, Sebastian Drescher, Victor Kohn, and of course, band leader Björn Wagner.

Aside from The Future Is Here & Showdown, The Mighty Mocambos quietly released a 2009 album entitled This Is Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos on their own Mocambo Records, as well as an assortment of 7-inch singles issued by Favorite Recordings, Légère Recordings, Love Lane, Old Capital, Soul Seed Records, and Tramp Records. Ice-T is, of course, a world-renown emcee and frontman of Thrash/Heavy Metal band, Body Count, as well as an award-winning actor on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) since 2000. Early on in his career, Ice worked closely with Afrika Islam on his first three albums, Rhyme Pays, POWER, and The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech... Just Watch What You Say! as well as 1991's O.G. Original Gangster. Now, Ice-T & Afrika Islam have effectively reunited, after years DJ'ing overseas as MR.X, to form a world-class EDM/Hip-Hop label, Electronic Beat Empire AKA EBE NATION, together. MR.X's first two releases on the imprint, The Brutal EP and HIP HOP DJS DONT PLAY TECHNO, are currently available on Ice-T & Afrika Islam's EBE NATION imprint. The Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band's second full-length, The Serpent's Mouth, is currently available on Big Crown Records; while, I hear, The Mighty Mocambos are holed up in Hamburg, Germany earnestly working on their third proper long-player.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Sweatin' On The Dance Floor: Australian DJ, Producer, Turntablist & Briztronix Founder DJ Bacon "Cuts It Up" with The Witzard (Interview)

"DJ Bacon is one of Brisbane's best known and best loved DJ's. He began performing in the mid-1990's at some of the city's formative venues. Across 20 years in Melbourne and Brisbane, he has played at most of Australia's iconic club venues and events. He is a former QLD DMC DJ Champion and Qmusic Award winner. He is rightly famous in the Australian music underground for his effortless blend of Hip-Hop, Soul, and Funk from every era. DJ residencies across the country have included world-class venues, such as Laruche, Cloudland, Revolver (Melbourne,) First Floor, The Evelyn, E55, Kerbside, Lychee Lounge, X&Y Bar, Press Club, Bavarian Bier Cafe, Sake Restaurant, Rumpus Room, Brooklyn Standard, and more. DJ supports of note have included all-time Hip-Hop pioneers, such as Grandmaster Flash, DJ Shadow, DJ Dexter, Cut Chemist, Jurassic 5, The Roots, and many more. With his band, Briztronix, he has won QLD Music Awards, released 3 full-length LP's, and appeared on dozens of compilation CD's and vinyl."

- DJ Bacon (@therealdjbacon)

I. So, I HAVE to know: how in the world did you ever get your DJ name, DJ Bacon?

Everyone loves the name. Even vegetarians. I just had to own it and i have. It goes back to when I was in my teens and bacon sandwiches were like a religious experience for crushing hangovers. My mate, Goo, said I should call myself "DJ Bacon" 'cause I was always making bacon sandwiches for us because we were always hungover. I thought it was hilarious and stuck with it... that was around '94. I don't take myself too seriously; I'm not like DJ Lethal or DJ Killer B—just DJ Bacon!

II. How did you first get into Hip-Hop/Rap and what exactly made you decide to start mashing up, remixing, and blending together your favorite artists?

I got into Hip-Hop in '86 when I first heard "Walk This Way" on a compilation, Greatest Summer Hits-type deal. I had a mate, Mark Nair (RIP) who had a mate that he dubbed the Raising Hell cassette from and I remembered how much I loved "Walk This Way," so I copped the album myself. This was the coolest music I'd ever heard—particularly, growing up in Australia and having zero exposure to Hip-Hop on the radio. I started collecting Rap records from this point—all the Def Jam releases, plus, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, The Fat Boys, Ice-T, some early Breakdance/Electro compilations, and Run-D.M.C. religiously—they were #1. I got every piece of their stuff on every format I could find, which was difficult in Brisbane pre-Internet.

I started making pause mixtapes for my friends on this very primitive 3-in-1 stereo my dad had that would let me actually play the CD and phono channels at the same time—I think because it was so dodgy... but it was cool I could play an [instrumental] on vinyl and put some spoken word or something similar over the top; that was like '94ish that I started giving close mates these really bad tapes. I never even knew what a DJ mixer was then. I wondered how Terminator X and [Jam Master] Jay and all these guys would repeat the sound sometimes without the scratch sound.... My mate, Goo, hooked up with his neighbour, DJ Cybex, around the same time, who was and still is the illest Electro B-boy DJ legend. He gave us so many tapes and we went to his house and saw all the records and DJ mixer and he showed me how it all worked... I was already so into this stuff—this just catapulted me into like, "this is my deal now."

III. About how many songs do you typically sample/incorporate into a track such as your AC/DC & Run-D.M.C. blending "Back In Hell" Mega-mix?

For the "Back In Hell" Mega-mix I used literally just the two records Back In [Black] and Raising Hell—all vinyl. If you know these albums well, you will notice a piece of each song from both albums in the mix—sometimes, a tiny drum fill—other times, a loop or a whole acapella... I did have to use the "Walk This Way" and "My Adidas" [acapellas] from digital, as I couldn't find them on wax. Previous to this mix, the mega-mixes I made used an artist's whole catalougue, so for the "RUN-BST" mix, I'd say over 150 samples from the two bands, Run-D.M.C. & Beastie Boys, that I used.

IV. What's the difference between your "Back In Hell" Mega-mix and recently re-released "Back In Hell" (7" Black Adidas Edit)? Also, congrats on your first 7-inch!

Oh, thanks, yeah... the 7-inch version is only 3 minutes and 30 seconds [long]. I just looped an instrumental section and made it the outro to cut it to 3:30. So, it's like the first part, you could say... the full mix is over 7 minutes.

V. How exactly are your "RUN-BST" (Run-D.M.C./Beastie Boys) and it's "sequel," "Fear of An O.G." (Public Enemy/Ice-T) mega-mixes sonically related to each other?

I used a similar formula: keeping the music in key and making the samples rhyme... but, I think, the production on a lot of Hip-Hop from '88-92 is already incredible—I would just try different loops over each other and try to see what worked. They were both mastered by my mate, Chris Stevens. I'm by no means technical when it comes to sound and frequencies, etc. I just trust my ears, but Chris may have a better answer.

VI. On the heels of Ad-Rock & Mike D-penned BEASTIE BOYS BOOK, would you mind briefly discussing your "Sure Shot" (Rock Steady Remix) and "Shake Your Rump" (DJ BACON 80'S RAP MEGA-MIX)?

I'm really only just getting into remixing... I prefer the tough slog of the mega-mix and really pushing the limits. The "Sure Shot" Remix took me an hour—I put it on Bandcamp and people really liked it... now, it's on the 7-inch and DJ's are playing it. I walked past a DJ yesterday playing it. I just love the Beastie Boys so much that it's always fun for me to use their music 'cause it makes me feel young and I get excited about music, when using their stuff. The 80'S RAP REMIX is more of a conceptual remix trying to fit a lot of dope loops into the one song... I really like it, but need to keep working on the mix of it—the 808 kick is killing stereos and annoying Chris, my mastering guy... not unlike the Beastie Boys tale in the book about the "Hold It Now, Hit It" 808 kick... however, I should point out: I made this remix well before the book's release.

VII. Now, I know Briztronix's first album in 11 years, Briztronix IV, was released just this past September... but so yourself, Ben Eltham & RUFFLES have any immediate plans for "Briztronix V" ?

Well, we haven't really given this new release, IV, a proper push yet. I think 10 years in the wilderness, we are just throwing it out there now to see what reaction we get, at the moment... I'm super proud of the record and all the work Ben and Kieran and I put in to make it sound like it does. I've listened to it about 500 times and [I'm] still not sick of it. All feedback has been positive, but I really think with how busy we are, it's difficult to promote an underground instrumental release that is firmly not aimed at the radio. It's destined to be a slept-on classic, though, mark my words. No immediate plans for V yet, but one of us is always putting something together; a beat or some synths or loops, so it's ever-evolving.

VIII. What type of feedback have you received thus far from artists you've remixed, sampled, mega-mixed, etc.?

Great feedback. I mean, there is a fine line between biting and homeage—I think, purely, with the amount of work I put into these mixes, they are embraced. I was always weird about putting images of other artists on my stuff, but when the artists themselves give you props, it makes it OK, I think. The best example of this is when I released an Ice-T/Public Enemy mash-up that I spent ages on... I Tweeted to Ice-T [@FINALLEVEL] to let him know and he straight Tweeted it to Chuck D [@MrChuckD] saying it's the hardest mash-up he's ever heard... so, I was completely stoked—I mean, the first gig I ever saw was PE & Ice-T, so these guys are literally my heroes. Getting a message from Ice-T, like "homie..." it's a trip.

IX. For every project you've recorded and released, about how many ideas do you generally scrap? What specific criteria, in your opinion, is essential for a solid project base?

The idea is everything. The execution is the fun easy part, but it must be a great concept... sure, I could go and do a Native Tongues mega-mix and it would be great and I could spend six months making that as intricate and funky as all Hell, but that's not an original idea. Mixing Run-D.M.C. & AC/DC together—trying to make those two completely different things the same—that's an idea... a rather time consuming one, but now, people are like, really, really, really enjoying that mix... the feedback has been incredible! Chuck D loves it and told all his Followers about it, for example.

X. What else are you currently working on or preparing for imminent release?

I'm going to drop another 45RPM 7-inch shortly... probably, in The New Year, but maybe sooner, but yeah, I need to tie up a couple loose ends for it and see if I have the capacity to make it happen this year or not. I'm literally spending a few hours everyday, at the moment, shipping vinyl all over the world from my room—my first 45 release from October is still going off in The UK and I've now nearly sold out of the second lot of 150—there might be about 40 left on my Bandcamp... so, it may not sound like lots of records, but when you pack, sign, post, sticker, and fill out customs forms for every one, then, line up at the post office and wait, etc. that sh*t takes a huge chunk out your day! I've been getting my kids to help put stickers on the records and they love it.

PS: your copy is on the way, Matt. Posted that today. Thanks, my friend!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Various Artists V: How Compilations Influenced a Generation - Let Them Know: The Story of Youth Brigade & BYO Records (Halloween Hangover)

INTRODUCTION: Maybe, it's in the gray hairs that I've started finding in my thinning hair. Maybe, it's that dreaded third decade of life that seems to have been rearing it's ugly face around every corner. Maybe, it's a quarter life crisis, but something has been keeping me up at night. I sometimes, stay awake into the early hours of the morning spinning records and fumbling with CD jackets from high school, grasping hold of my youth for dear life. I search out elusive first presses of albums I'd somehow, lost to time, hoping that they'll somehow, tighten the thread leading from middle school to adulthood.

To be clear, I'm not fishing my torn band T-shirts or bondage pants from the depths of my closet, but as I make the transition into my 30's, shedding roommates and getting oil changes at regularly scheduled intervals, I can't help ruminating on where these albums came from and how they've shaped me. I can't help begging the question, "How did I get here?"

How I've come to be surrounded by this specific collection of music is largely, the consequence of efforts made by larger labels and their annual sampler CD's, but even today, I search out small Indie labels that pump out quality collections of exclusivities and excellent representations of a variety of music scenes.

Typically, priced at $4-5.00 and featuring, sometimes, up to 40 songs from just as many bands, compilations have always served as convenient and affordable ways to discover new and obscure bands. This is imperative to the formative years of a generation of listeners; compilations were the compass that one used to navigate the endless sea of Punk Rock and consequently, Hip-Hop, Hardcore, Indie, Reggae, etc. etc. ad infinitum. Many of these discs were used as shovels to tunnel into cozy nests of Punk records and artistic eccentricities.

It's this ability to influence and inform listeners that I'll be here every month to discuss. I'll be stopping The Witzard by to shed light on those discount albums in the so often overlooked "Various Artists" bins of the world, along with their influences within their communities, within their genres, and within the chronology of listener interests all across the globe, here in, Various Artists: How Compilations Influenced a Generation.

VARIOUS ARTISTS V: If a person were to subscribe to The Tralfamadorian's non-linear concept of time, there is a version of myself standing with my head between the floor joists of a Northern Illinois basement: I'm frozen in amber. I'm held still, arrested inside of an instant forever. But there are other versions of me, too, standing in roller rink parking lots; standing in Midwestern backyards, next to fires that rage inside of steel drums.

There is an army of snot-nosed versions of myself, clutching at nearly-frozen cans of beer. I'm standing in bars. I'm crowd surfing in living rooms. I'm shouting when I speak in garages, but without these images, I'd never know that any of these suspended moments existed. I'd never remember them.

What I remember are Halloween shows in basements and tribute shows in roller rinks. I remember shows in garages so cold that you couldn't feel your fingers. I remember shows in living rooms so hot that the ceiling bled condensation and the floor bent and bowed with the weight of 100 dancing misfits. I remember Shot Baker pretending to be Minor Threat. I remember bands forming out of the wood paneling of parties to perform as Operation Ivy... as The Ramones... as The Lunachicks.

I remember zombie-themed proms hosted in suburban lake houses and I remember washing stamps and X's, penned in permanent marker, from the backs of my hands; tearing wristbands, wrinkled with sweat and spilled beer, from my forearms. There are bands that exist only inside of the blurred memories of a single party. Groups that existed for a single night, founded on the mutual love of some obscure band or another.

It was nine years ago—nearly to the month—when Better Youth Organization (BYO) and American Hardcore giants, Youth Brigade took this idea to its natural conclusion, celebrating 25 years of activity with their multi-media release, Let Them Know: The Story of BYO & Youth Brigade.

Pressed to a translucent red double-LP and housed inside of a coffee table book complete with DVD documentary, Let Them Know tells an all-encompassing oral history of one of Punk Rock's most important mainstays.

Boasting an ambitious 31 tracks, the album compiles BYO artists as they pay tribute to one another and to the label that brought them all together. And in much the same way that we always did as kids; by covering tracks that reach as far back as the label's 1982 inception from The US, The UK, and Canada, respectively.

Despite some of these artists being separated by oceans and decades, there's a continuity in the tonality throughout these discs that's reminiscent of early Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords bands; labels either critical to, or inspired by, the progressive DIY ethos of Better Youth Organization. Sensible, when considering Ashers' cover of Bad Religion's "In The Night" (1981) and NOFX's contribution, a prim and polished version of Battalion of Saints' "No More Lies" (1982.)

And maybe, it's the burnt color in the leafs that line these country roads and city sidewalks, but hearing some of these songs re-imagined, I can't help thinking of those long Fall nights in the parking lots of civic centers and VFW halls. I can't help thinking of those early BYO albums, held in the grimy hands of versions of myself that stand in skate shops or hide in Wal-Mart bathrooms, shoving security tags down the toilet. It brings to mind those late nights in high school where a person went home smelling like a bonfire, their heads spinning like vinyl LP's, skipping forward over the boring bits and playing over all of the best hooks. If they went home at all.

This double-disc breathes new life into old songs, bridging generational divides as well as blending genres. Whether it's Matt Skiba's Indie-Pop take on "I Scream" (The Brigade, 1986) or Krum Bums' grit-filled Street Punk rendition of "Hating Every Minute" (Alkaline Trio, 2004,) there truly is a conversation at every turn on this album. Conversations I've had many times.

These efforts remind listeners that we're not alone in our influences. Not only are we influenced by 7 Seconds, but so are The Bouncing Souls. The Briefs have the same Adolescents records on their shelves that we do. Suddenly, we're no more alone in the world than we were at those Halloween parties, singing the same songs as a hundred other kids. Paying homage to the bands that set us apart from our family, the kids at the skate park, our classmates, or our co-workers in the first place.

After 36 years of failed rhetorical statements on the part of the Hardcore community, songs about unity, oftentimes, seem like trite, tired tropes more than honest statements. Bits of cliché sensationalism more than genuine sentiment, but there's something in Kevin Seconds' strained vocal chords as 7 Seconds finishes this album off.

There's something about this Folk-injected cover of "Sink with California" (Youth Brigade, 1983) that puts the listener around a campfire with their heroes and suggests that the balding punks still believe in what they say. Suddenly, there are younger versions of myself in cold, crowded garages singing cover songs, dressed like an idiot, because admission is free with a costume.

John E. Swan (@midwest_stress) is a novelist and short story writer, as well as freelance editor and journalist. His first novel, Any Way to Elsewhere, takes its name from a compilation cassette that he curated during his time with Berserk Records. It can be ordered here. When he's not writing, he can be found making music in and around Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he lives with his girlfriend and their dog, Diesel.