Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Deathbomb Arc's They Hate Change Talk Now, and Never Again. Gary Wilson, Pyramid Vritra & Much, Much More (The Witzard Interview)

"GENRES UNKNOWN SINCE 1998 - Our goal remains the same, as it was when we started the label: to share bleeding edge music with as wide an audience as possible. Hearing new approaches to arranging sound should be a fun adventure. The sound of Deathbomb Arc is constantly changing, as explorers reach new frontiers. We invite you along on this exciting journey.

Deathbomb Arc has had the honor to work with so many great musicians and groups; putting out some of the first music by acts such as clipping., Foot Village, Black Pus, Death Grips, Julia Holter, Signor Benedick The Moore, tik///tik, [Lana del Rabies], I.E., and Captain Ahab. We encourage you to spend some time exploring our discography and large archive of free streaming music to learn more..."

"It's our favorite holiday of all... NEW RELEASE DAY!! We've been really excited to share this one with you. The long-overdue new album from THEY HATE CHANGE. 2 years ago we released this Florida-based Hip-Hop duo's album, Cycles. Now, we are thrilled to present their latest Now, and Never Again. It is available on cassette and at all major digital platforms. Plus, they got a new "FAILED" music video. Find out what that means by watching!!

- DEATHBOMB ARC (@deathbombarc)

I. I noticed your Bandcamp page notes: "All proceeds go to The Transgender Law Center (TLC) from now until forever;" mind if I ask why They Hate Change is so passionate about this organization, in particular?

André: We wanted to make sure we supported TLC and joined Bandcamp, as they gave their portion of sales for the day to the organization. As for continuing our support, it was a decision made on Vonne's part and I support them.

Vonne: For me, being an agender person and understanding some of the struggles that trans people go through in this country, it just makes sense to contribute something to an organization that's trying to end those struggles however they can.

II. How did They Hate Change get involved with Hal Williams AKA Pyramid Vritra for your 2013-14 EP's Control & Today.? Do you have any immediate plans to collaborate again?

Vonne: Hal is, like, the reason we do what we do. When we heard his group, Jet Age of Tomorrow, we became, like, instant stans. I emailed him early They Hate Change stuff and he dug it and we asked if he'd remix our song "Brittany" from Today. and he did! We’ve just been working on stuff here and there ever since. It's always pretty random. We have a song we worked on in LA last year that we're holding, so that'll probably come out soon enough.

III. I see that "Horn & Flute," as well as "additional vocals" on "Sandy Kissed Gary Wilson Last Night" were provided by Stones Throw's own Gary Wilson; now, how exactly did Gary get involved in Today.?

Vonne: Gary is the easiest, coolest person to reach. We just DM'ed him on Twitter and asked and he was down... before we had anything out! Sent him the track and he Sent it back in like, a day and was like, "I added some additional stuff. You can take it out, if you want." Of course, we didn't!

André: All I can remember is losing my damn mind at 2:00am on a school night.

IV. How would you personally say They Hate Change's overall sound, style, delivery, etc. has changed and progressed since your last album, 2015's Cycles?

Vonne: 2015, I would say we still sounded like our influences; maybe, a combination of all of them. Cycles is really indebted to Sa-Ra and stuff like that. But Now [and Never Again] really doesn't sound like anybody else, to me, at least. I think, we really found our own swag and delivered it in our own way this time. The message and the feeling was right in Cycles, but, I think, we really pinned everything down on here. Styles, beats, everything. It just feels new.

V. What's the story behind your recent Kenny Bobby-directed "OFFICIAL FAILED MUSIC VIDEO" for "Chase" from Now, and Never Again?

André: Watching and listening to a ton of UK Grime; sorta fell into a wormhole watching Tim & Barry videos and wanted to pay homage. Bad audio, weather, and random people jumping into clips were just some of the issues we had. We agreed to just chop up the footage and keep it as raw as possible. We've had plenty of trials and errors performing live, so this was no different.

VI. What might both of you cite as your greatest sources of inspiration and influence, while you were creating Now, and Never Again?

André: Jan Jelenik, Brain Eno, and Arthur Russell.

Vonne: Jam Pony DJ's, Harmonia, and DJ Rashad. There's a couple out-takes from the album that were really No Wave-inspired, like Teenage Jesus and stuff like that. You might hear more of that soon.

VII. What exactly were your typical writing, recording, creating, production, etc. processes like during the making-of Now, and Never Again?

Vonne: We pretty much, always start with making a beat. No concept or anything, just making something. I don't remember how or why we decided which beats would get verses... it had to just be the vibe. Like, when "Opposite Side" hits, it just feels like somebody should kill it.

André: I believe, once we had [written] to "Chase," it was like, "MAYBE, we got something." After that, Vonne and I would both look at each other and grin, make a few more tweaks, and we just kept going.

VIII. Now that Deathbomb Arc has unleashed Now, and Never Again into the terribly unsuspecting world, what else do They Hate Change have planned next?

Vonne: More tapes!!! More shows. Just more music. All of our records are wild short, so, I think, something a little longer is appropriate now.

IX. For listeners who may be new to the Deathbomb Arc (DBA) catalog, what specific releases from your fellow label-mates might you suggest they listen to first?

André: The No Children compilation (2015) would be a cool place to start, I think; gives you a small glimpse into the Deathbomb Arc world. And No Smoking (2016) by Ed Balloon, which is also, a favorite of mine.

Vonne: Turbine - Thanks Karen (2000) that's the first DBA release from all those years ago and still, nothing Mainstream really sounds like it. It shows how forward-thinking Brian [Miller] is. In The End I Am a Beast from Lana del Rabies (2016) that's probably, my favorite. It's just so damn physical. It's "3-D" music.

X. What might you be able to tell The Witzard's readership about your 2017 documentary, Californian Portrait of THEY HATE CHANGE? I believe, I read it includes footage of you working with Jonathan Snipes of clipping.; are there any immediate plans for the recordings from those sessions to be widely released?

Vonne: Our friend, Bryam Castellanos, had the idea to film our trip out to LA for a show at The Smell, so that's how that came together. That Jonathan track is sick! [I don't know] if we'll put that out any time soon, but we talked to William (Hutson) recently about all of us doing something new, so that's coming for sure.

Texas "Couch Potatoes" Virgil Wolfe & Strcolctr Join Forces for Unlimited TV Dinners EP (BearTooth Collective/Couchloaf Records)

Virgil Wolfe is an Alternative Hip-Hop artist based out of Baytown, Texas who's affiliated with cunabear's BearTooth Collective tape imprint. Wolfe has been rapping and self-releasing his own material at rather rapid pace since 2015. He's previously worked alongside the likes of Alcoda, Calamity, Pacman AKA "Da Round Hero," and Symmatree of Grid Squid. For his most recent release, Virgil Wolfe joined forces with Houston-based beat-maker Strcolctr for their Unlimited TV Dinners EP. "From the doctor love story to the childhood-filled with novellas, Unlimited TV Dinners is short, sweet, and packed with flavorful melodies for the whole family to enjoy," Virgil Wolfe's Bandcamp page enthusiastically proclaims. Clocking in at just under 12 minutes—or the length of one commercial break!—Virgil Wolfe & Strcolctr manage to cover everything from doctor love storylines to the fabled "Filler Episode;" to Star Trek's "Red Shirt Dilemma" to the lack of "darker Latin people in most Spanish soap operas," as Virgil described it, via email. Virgil Wolfe x Strcolctr's Unlimited TV Dinners is now available digitally directly from Virgil Wolfe with an extremely limited run of hand-made cassette tapes on Couchloaf Records.

"We met up one time after exchanging messages about getting booked on a Couchloaf [Records] show, I performed, and we developed a nice friendship. This was right before I went on my first tour with the homie, Calamity, who had worked with me fully on the project where he made all the beats, Before The World Wakes Up (2017.) When we got back, Calamity and I had decided to work on an EP together, but we live in different states, so I started looking for someone, who would be able to help scratch that itch. I HAD to create something! I messaged Strcolctr on his personal Facebook profile, asking him if we could work on something. It turned out to be a nice collaboration, instead of a "let me buy your beats" situation.

After idea-tossing and developing, we though about the television, how it influenced us as children, teenagers and adults... We met up once a week (I live about 30 minutes or so away from him) for progress reports; he'd have a new beat, I'd have a new idea or writing. We would also, message each other and I'd send him Voice Memos of the work I had done during the mornings. I work on music early in the morning to catch enough time. I'll wake up at 5:00am, shower, drink coffee, and get to writing until about 7:30 or so, before heading into work. That's how I worked on Unlimited TV Dinners."

- Virgil Wolfe (@virgilthewolfe)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Cut Chemist & Biz Markie Video Director Joseph Armario & Animator Matt Taylor Shed Some Light On "Moonlightin' with Biz" (The Witzard Interview)

"Back in the 90's, when I first got on the phone with Biz Markie, he told me he had a 7-inch of my favorite Donovan song, "Get Thy Bearings," with an instrumental flip. "Why did you rap over the vocal on "I Told You?'" I asked. "I sampled the instrumental and put the vocals back in because it sounded better," was his reply. Four years after that conversation, I worked with @danube_productions [The Sand Dollars] and we actually, created a "Get Thy Bearings" A/B-side combo, as The Biz described, in homage to one of the greatest record collectors Hip-Hop produced. As deep as Biz is, though, he didn't have Apple & The Three Oranges' LA über-rarity, "Moon Light," one of my dude Madlib's favorite Soul songs. Mine, too. It's one of @cutchemist's, too. He and Biz made a song around it for his latest album [Die Cut]. Peep his Bio for more info. "Moon Light! Clear skies!" Love that sh*t."

- Egon (@nowagain)

I. How exactly did both of you get involved with Cut Chemist & Biz Markie's "Moonlightin' with Biz" music video from Die Cut?

Joseph Armario (Director): I had been documenting the making-of Die Cut for Luke [Cut Chemist]. When Biz came in town, Luke really wanted to do something special, something different than all the previous studio work. So, I put a white backdrop up in Luke's house and Biz did a couple takes into the camera, possibly for a music video down the line. This was in 2012.

Fast-forward to early 2018: the album is getting ready to drop, so Luke and I start talking videos. There was a guy in Chicago in the 80's who hijacked a couple television signals and broadcast some weird-a$$ footage over them. I thought, this could be a fun premise for mixing the Biz footage with animation. Luke liked the concept and this was probably, right around when I ran into Matt at Bigfoot [Lodge] and we were on our way!

Matt Taylor (Animator): I got involved in animating "Moonlightin' with Biz" when Joey hit me up about it, while we were hanging out at Bigfoot Lodge here in LA.

II. What did each of you contribute and how was it all put together to create the final "Moonlightin' with Biz" video that has now been released?

Joseph Armario: I think, we started with a big brainstorming session, where we figured out all the places we'd want animation and then, came up with a bunch of ideas for what those animations would be of; Matt would go to town and fire back these incredible animated clips, which I would then, run through old video processors I circuit bent to give each clip an authentic analog texture and psychedelic flavor. It was a lot of fun!

Matt Taylor: I contributed all the character design, animation, and text. I'd bust out animation, then, send it over to Joey, who composited. He got into this stuff called "circuit-bending," which sent the animation into a new magical realm.

III. What are each of your professional backgrounds like and how exactly did you come together to collaborate on "Moonlightin' with Biz?"

Joseph Armario: I mainly work directing live-action, short form projects. I had always wanted to work with an animator and had been a fan of Matt's work for a while. So, when the opportunity presented itself, it was a no-brainer to collaborate!

Matt Taylor: I've been animating for a while now, mostly kickin' it at Titmouse, Inc.

IV. What types of note-worthy or widely recognizable projects have each of you fellas worked on through you careers?

Joseph Armario: I was a ghost on the Travel Channel's Weird Travels; only one episode. See if you can find me.

Matt Taylor: I've worked on lots of [adult swim] shows like Metalocalypse, Superjail! and King Star King. I also, directed the Rick and Morty Exquisite Corpse [promotional short].

V. Have either of you ever met Cut Chemist & Biz Markie or have you previously collaborated with either of them in the past?

Joseph Armario: I've been friends with Luke for quite a while now and we have collaborated on many fun projects; I shot the Die Cut album cover and directed the Renegades of Rhythm concert film, amongst other things! Only got to hang with Biz one time. As you can see, it was magic!

Matt Taylor: I got to meet and go over ideas with Cut at Joey's house.

VI. Now that "Moonlightin' with Biz" has been effectively unleashed to the terribly unsuspecting masses, what are you currently working on to be released next?

Matt Taylor: I just wrapped some other freelance [work] I can't really talk about... so, I'm going to catch up around the house and take care of some laundry and dishes next. Maybe, go on a walk and see how the neighborhood is doing.

Joseph Armario: My dog is sitting here reminding me to walk her. Hey, maybe I'll see you out there, Matt!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Shout-out to Joseph Armario & Matt Taylor for participating in this comprehensive interview at The Witzard! Their collaborative "Moonlightin' with Biz" video for Cut Chemist & Biz Markie can be viewed above. Follow Joseph Armario (@jonu) and Matt Taylor (@tayliquor) on Instagram to stay up to date on their various artistic endeavors. In addition to the works mentioned above, Armario's portfolio can be viewed at JosephArmario.com and Taylor's body of work can be viewed at TaylorLiquor.com. "It's The "B" to The "I" to The "Z" M-A-R-K-I-E. Cut Chemist is down with me because I'm Ze Original; ain't no one with material like me..." - The Clown Prince of Hip-Hop

Friday, July 27, 2018

"Everything Is Fine:" South London Emcee & Producer Charles Edison Pens Beat-maker Bedrock #22 (Beats Laying About)

"My name is Charles Edison. I'm a beat-maker/producer/rapper from Essex originally, now based in South London. I started making beats roughly 10 years ago, but got semi-serious with it around five years ago. I use a mix of samples and synths in my beats and draw on quite a wide scope of influences, which I'll delve into a little bit with a couple of albums that really defined my approach to music..."


"I know this will probably be on a lot of people's lists, if you ask them about influential or definitive Hip-Hop albums, but it's a great one for illustrating what can happen, when the right people are brought together. Madlib is well-known for finding great loops and not messing with them too much; just opening them up for someone like DOOM with that free-associative flow to just let loose on. To me, it's just the perfect example of a Hip-Hop record. The samples are eclectic and there's vinyl crackle all over it. It has a very clear and strong aesthetic to it, which is something I constantly strive for in projects. I think, there's something to be learned from the simplicity of MADVILLAINY, as well. Samples, drums, and vocals. No hooks and all tracks under 3 minutes. "Fancy Clown:" I know most people would probably pick "Accordion," but I just love the way Madlib cut the sample for this one."

II. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (2010)

"Like any beat-maker, I love watching videos of artists working in the studio and I must have seen the documentary on the making-of Plastic Beach a hundred times. There's a scene [at 21:10] where Damon Albarn is discussing the album concept with Yukimi Nagano of Swedish Electro band Little Dragon and he says something which really stuck with me since it echoed exactly how I feel about the way music is made and consumed now and has influenced how I approach projects: "We've gotta start taking ownership of records again. As opposed to just being... fragmented. Just constant fragmentation of everything to be put on a playlist. There's no meditation on one thing. So, maybe, you've gotta make something so varied that it sounds like you're going through that whole mentality, when really, you're just meditating on one thing." Spot-on! What Damon does so well with Gorillaz and with this album, in particular, is a kind of "concept album" without the restrictions of sticking too closely to a narrative.

They leave just enough gaps to be able to go off on little tangents for each track and I think, those gaps are the reason they've done so well. Great art exists in the spaces between. It's the same thing as the scariest Horror movies being the ones that don't show you the monster. Because nothing is scarier to you than what your own imagination conjures and I feel like it's the same with art. It's what you perceive; it's how it resonates with you; it's the meaning you take from it and those moments of clarity can only come from what isn't spoon-fed to you. The album gives you the basic set-up: it's an island where all the plastic and rubbish in the sea has washed up. You fill in the rest using the tracks as vignettes to this premise and that's a very clever way of "making something so varied that it sounds like you're going through that whole mentality, when really, you're just meditating on one thing." "Empire Ants" [-feat. Little Dragon]: The build-up in this one is superb and when the main synth line drops, it's phenomenal! It just washes over you."

III. su na - Surface (2016)

"This is quite a recent find for me. I came across su na on Bandcamp, via his 2017 EP, Coral Angel, which I immediately ordered on vinyl. After keeping it on heavy rotation for a while, I looked into his other stuff and found Surface. Coral Angel is a mostly instrumental affair, whereas, Surface blends nicely with some hazy vocals that compliment his style perfectly. He draws on a range of sounds from ambient to UK Garage, Hip-Hop, and House. This one is influential for me because it most accurately conveys the kind of stuff I want to be making next and it blends elements from the aforementioned genres effortlessly. The most inspirational stuff to me is the stuff that's not "obvious." I like to be surprised, I guess, and it's harder than ever to do that these days. "Essex:" Just a lovely piece of music!"

IV. John Coltrane - Crescent (1964)

"I used to hate Jazz. And more than that, I used to hate the reason why I hated it... because "it's just noise!" It used to make me feel like a parent, out of touch with what's cool. I don't know when, specifically, my opinion towards Jazz changed, but I remember listening to John Coltrane's version of "My Favorite Things" and because it's such a familiar song, I could appreciate the improvisation a lot more. Once you can learn to let one half of your brain settle in to the groove, while the other half listens to the improvisations on the scale, it stops being "just noise." It becomes exciting because you don't know what's coming next and when or if it's ever going to settle back into that groove again. Based on that listen of "My Favorite Things," I listened through some other John Coltrane bits and this was my favourite album.

The last track, "The Drum Thing," in particular, is amazing. It's over 7 minutes long and is predominantly built around a long, ambling, and incessant drum solo that seems to go on forever. The tension it builds is incredible and rather than climb to any kind of resolution, it settles right back in to the groove it started with. Hip-Hop can be very formulaic in structure: 16-bar verses, 8-bar hooks, 4-bar intros. It's easy to get stale when you're sometimes, making upwards of 5 beats a day, so keeping an album like this in the forefront is a good reminder for me to challenge the structure, sometimes, and try new things. "The Drum Thing:" It's probably not the best one to start with, if you're new to Jazz, but for the reasons stated above, it's worth checking out, at least once."

Late last night, I received a particularly tongue-in-cheek Bandcamp Notification email from Charles Edison, which read: "Wouldn't it be nice if BandCamp had a slightly better mobile player? Well, don't worry, Everything Is Fine (see what I did there?) because my new EP is now available to stream on all good platforms from today. Yes - even the one you only sign up for every time JAY-Z drops something new." Everything Is Fine is Charles Edison's first release since last year's Reception EP and overall seventh marathon Bandcamp release since 2014. The Witzard & Charles Edison previously teamed up for a few pieces of tailor-fit coverage on his two most recent releases: a comprehensive interview coinciding with Reception EP and an All-around Breakdown column to help commemorate the 1-year anniversary of Edison's deeply personal Waking Up EP. Everything Is Fine, much like Charles Edison's past works, is a concise, yet deeply personal, well-orchestrated Soul-laden 5-track EP. Everything Is Fine is currently available to stream or download from Edison's Bandcamp page, as well as a multitude of digital streaming platforms. Next up for Charles Edison will be his long-rumored Beats from The 7th Floor project, which he is currently shopping around to labels for imminent release.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ice-T & Long-time Producer Afrika Islam Form EDM/Hip-Hop Label Electronic Beat Empire & Unleash MR.X's The Brutal EP (EBE NATION)

For starters: above, you will see a rather striking image pulled from Claude "Paradise" Gray & Giuseppe "u.net" Pipitone's 2016 Wax Poetics photo-book, No Half Steppin' - An Oral & Pictorial History of New York City Club The Latin Quarter & The Birth of Hip-Hop's Golden Era. It's indeed, a photo Gray & Pipitone's book featuring Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five sharp-spitter Grandmaster Melle Mel, Afrika Islam & Ice-T taken sometime in 1986 either in or around New York's infamous club, The Latin Quarter. Afrika Islam kick-started his musical career at the tender age of 10, as he joined The Bronx-bred Hip-Hop/breakin' group, Rock Steady Crew in 1977. Islam would go on to cut his teeth acting as an apprentice under Afrika Bambaataa and was an early member of Bambaataa's international cultural awareness group, The Universal Zulu Nation. Throughout his decades-long career, Afrika Islam has repeatedly collaborated with New Jersey's own musician, rapper, song-writer, actor, record executive, record producer, and author Ice-T.

Afrika Islam single-handedly produced the entirety of Ice's first three studio albums released between 1987-89: Rhyme Pays, Power, and The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech... Just Watch What You Say! Ice-T & Afrika Islam would later collaborate on select cuts from Dennis Hopper's Colors (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack,) Rhyme $yndicate's Rhyme $yndicate Comin' Through, and Ice's fourth album, O.G. Original Gangster (1991) as well as a number of 12-inch singles and non-album tracks. Now, nearly 31 years after their first collaboration, Ice-T & Afrika Islam AKA DJ MR.X AKA Charlie Funk have reunited for their first multi-media collaboration in decades. Ice-T & MR.X have formed their own record label, Electronic Beat Empire—or just EBE NATION, for short—attempting to bridge the gap between Hip-Hop/Gangster Rap, Electronic Dance Music (EDM,) and Techno/House music. "With artwork evocative of graphic novels and images of extraterrestrial biological entities in their music videos, Ice-T & MR.X built a record label named Electronic Beat Empire; EBE is also, short for Extraterrestrial Biological Entities," EBE NATION wrote within a recent emailed press release.

Since launching around April, EBE NATION's first releases include: a MR.X REMIX of Ice-T & Afrika Islam's 1988 collaboration "COLORS," "BOUNCE THAT A$$" as Charlie Funk feat. Ice-T, "RAGE OF THE MACHINE" | MR.X WASABI BYTES | REMIX Video, MR.X's "KILLER (KILLER) DIE," and a 6-track collaborative genre-eschewing EP entitled The Brutal. "EXCLUSIVE: I mentioned last year that I was entering the EDM world! My original producer, Afrika Islam, and I have started a new EDM [label, Electronic] Beat Empire. Introducing: DJ MR.X. You've been WARNED! 💥" ICE-T (@FINALLEVEL) enthusiastically Tweeted back on July 17th. Executive Produced by both Ice-T & MR.X, Ice's first foray into EDM/EBE's inaugural release has been described as "a murderous EP of irresistibly catchy, computer-based music." MR.X & Ice-T's The Brutal EP is now available on Amazon Music, Apple Music, Beatport, Google Play, Juno Download, Napster, Soundcloud, Spotify, TIDAL, and like-minded digital streaming platforms.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Phillly Emcee Ai-Que Unveils Socially-conscious & Politically-poignant Debut Full-length The American Dream (Ai-Que MCBoogie)

Still riding high on the success of his recent single with Rolled Gold & Reef The Lost Cauze, "Nite Owl's Theme," Ai-Que AKA Ai-Que MCBoogie AKA "The Multi-faceted Rap Machine" has returned with his debut full-length, The American Dream. Ai-Que is a Philly-based emcee "heavily focused on the cultural impact and unification of global communities." Ai-Que also, moonlights as co-host of The BANGERS & MASH PODCAST (@bangersandmashtheshow) along with Ali Miller FKA Truck North of The Legendary Roots Crew. On the eve prior to The American Dream's Saturday, July 21st release, Ai-Que played a monumentous show with dead prez, Reef The Lost Cauze & DJ ANTLIVE at The Ardmore Music Hall hosted by D.R.E.S. Tha Beatnik. When asked what his greatest sources of inspiration and influence behind The American Dream were, Ai-Que stated he wanted to "create something that was sonically, more contemporary without compromising the integrity of the lyrics;" with the full intention from the get-go of making "an album that cohesively blended together [that] addressed our social climate and history, but people could play at night or going to the club, or before a game, or on a road-trip."

Diligently working with his go-to studio engineers, Ai-Que hand-selected beat stems from a slew of producers, including Eric Wortham, Aarun Simon, Thorn and E.N.O.N. Jacobs, as well as Ai-Que himself on "Escapism." "I picked beats that [sounded] like they could be on the radio. The projects I've released in the past have always been more Boom-Bap, whereas, this sounds like it was made in 2018," Ai-Que explained within an email to The Witzard. The American Dream has an underlying theme of social consciousness and political poignancy running through, similar stylistically, to "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" from Gil Scott-Heron's critically-acclaimed 1971 studio debut, Pieces of a Man. On his American Dream, Ai-Que is assisted by Arianna Cash on opener "The Savages," I-be4ever on "Cowboys&Indians," and his BANGERS & MASH PODCAST co-host Ali Miller (FKA Truck North) on appropriately-tilted Bonus Cut, "Bangers&Mash." The American Dream is available directly from Ai-Que's "Ai-Tunes," via PayPal for $11.00 or on Apple Music, Google Play, Soundcloud, Spotify, TIDAL, and like-minded digital retailers.

"The studio debut of Ai-Que, The American Dream is a concept album masterfully scripted and arranged, rich with clever lyrics and a sonic sophistication that provides listeners with an enjoyable experience, without departing from the raw messages of the songs. It is a contemporary soundscape drawing parallels between the African-American experience and American History, as well as the general American philosophy of "Get Money.'"

- Ai-Que (Soundcloud)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Various Artists II: How Compilations Influenced a Generation - Atticus: ...dragging the lake. Penned By: John E. Swan (SideOneDummy Records)

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 II: The year is 2002 and Punk Rock has been mined for all it's worth. Black Flag T-shirts can be purchased at outlet malls. Misfits stickers plaster the bumpers of young drivers' cars all across America, mistaken for some flash tattoo design or a vintage comic book character. The initial conception of the genre is nearly 40 years behind us, but that's not stopped corporate conglomerates the likes of MTV and Hot Topic from wrapping their collective fingers around the art form's throat and squeezing until money pours from it's eyes like coins from a cheap Vegas slot machine. Your classmates purchase their hair dye and nose rings from Wal-Mart. Their skateboards are unscathed and held by the trucks.

And for some reason, Blink-182's Tom DeLonge & Mark Hoppus have started a clothing company. If this sounds like a glimpse into a dystopian landscape, don't be alarmed. This indicates only that you are of sound mind, capable of differentiating between that which is genuine and that which is not. But let's not allow personal preference to blind us from the truth, which is as follows: whether or not the popularization of Punk Rock contributed to it's eventual bastardization, discs the likes of Atticus: ...dragging the lake. were a gateway to a history and sub-culture seemingly lost to the Disney-ification of American culture.

While many fans likely purchased the ...dragging the lake. series from Atticus Clothing for the sole purpose of hearing previously unreleased Blink-182 songs, the series also, opened the door for a slew of other industry giants. In 2002 alone, the franchise featured singles from debut albums from acts such as Simple Plan and The Used, bringing them into the greater American consciousness for the first time. This is to say nothing of the contributions of New Found Glory, Sugarcult, and Midtown, acts wrought with cheesy Pop hooks that appealed to the oftentimes coddling nature of American parents.

But to the credit of Hoppus and DeLonge, not everything on that first Atticus installment is coated in sugar. In fact, sprinkled throughout that first volume are valiant efforts at launching the careers of bands that the public at large still doesn't seem to be aware of over 15 years later. Bands such as Madcap, Kut U Up, and Bad Astronaut ("Featuring Members of Lagwagon") more closely resembled their Punk and Post-Punk predecessors, far removed from the greater Pop sensibilities of the majority of listeners.

While Atticus' initial attempt at defending Pop-Punk didn't exactly fall short, it seems implicit that by 2003, record label and distributor, SideOneDummy Records, saw it fit to inject the franchise with a bit more grit. On ...dragging the lake. II, we're introduced to unsung heroes and Gainesville, Florida legends, Hot Water Music, then-Vagrant Records signees, Alkaline Trio, Fat Mike's own Fat Wreck Chords new-comers, Dillinger Four, and the throaty stylings of Jim Wards' (ex-At The Drive-In) Sparta, providing an authenticity that so many burgeoning young Punk Rockers seemed starved of in the early 2000's.

So that the second volume of their compilation wasn't entirely hijacked, Blink was sure to add more than just a few lackluster radio friendly acts, championing the likes of Maxeen and Matchbook Romance, to name a couple. This resistance to music made on the fringes of the music industry shows. By this point, the young clothing company's "dead bird" and "double-crossed" logos could be found splayed across the chests of gel-encrusted, would-be skateboarders across the country. By 2003, the relationship between music and listener was almost entirely commodified, which may not have been so great for the gravel-throated zealots of the underground, but it sure did sell a lot of T-shirts, perhaps marking the death of legitimacy in Alternative music.

But for whatever can be said about the arguably unholy unions of Taking Back Sunday and Suicide Machines, Thrice and Down By Law, Volume II of ...dragging the lake. provides a much more encompassing and accurate portrait of the American Alternative music climate of the time, offering some sort of middle ground between the die-hards and the tourists.

That these more Pop-oriented acts experienced more commercial success than their traditionally-minded counterparts speaks more to the consumer market of the time and less to the credibility of our potty-mouthed Pop-Punk duo in charge. By 2004, with crystal clear vocals and over-produced guitar tones dominating airwaves and music television, the genre was finally deemed "profitable" for the first time since the late 1970's, albeit, this time, under false pretenses. With Alternative music festivals being funded by corporate sponsors and mohawks gracing album covers throughout Wal-Mart CD stands, bands founded on a more traditional ethos were forced back into their tour vans, feeding on the scraps of acts whose faces plastered glossy teen magazines and television screens.

It's a testament to the power of a teenagers dollar that by the time 2004 brought high school around for many of those original Atticus fans, ...dragging the lake. had become a jumbled mess of Pop-leaning melodies more reminiscent of the Top 40 hits that it was implicitly railing against.

Peppered in with these monotonous attempts were a handful of pseudo-Metal bands shamefully presenting themselves as "Hardcore" and likely, brought on by the unfortunate success of acts such as Avenged Sevenfold. Only Mike McColgan's (ex-Dropkick Murphys) Street Dogs represented any sort of ties to traditional Punk Rock, and even that's a stretch.

At this point in the young clothing brand's career, it seems more or less apparent that Mark Hoppus & Tom DeLonge's intent and relationship with the counter-culture and its music is significantly less pure than it had seemed a decade earlier. With ...dragging the lake. III came more cookie-cutter bands, such as Funeral for a Friend and Lydia, catering more to frat parties and the MySpace profiles of 16-year-old girls than to the tastes of those original listeners still citing Volumes I-II as being highly influential.

In a world where Motion City Soundtrack is billed as a "Punk" band, The Bled is sold as "Hardcore," and it's suggested that Alexisonfire is some sort of "Metal" band, it becomes difficult to take Atticus Clothing at all seriously. In fact, one feels comparatively lied to when musing over some of the more hair-raising songs put forth only one year earlier.

However, there appears to be a promising future for underground music as a whole, if not for Punk Rock, specifically, and it's hinted at in the contributions of The Sounds with their New Wave-infused brand of Garage Rock and The Kinison's aggressive take on Indie Rock. So whose fault is this? If our dollar is our vote, then, what's to be said for those of us who spent the later part of the 2000's pirating our favorite albums, while the dollars of our peers went to highly over-priced Fall Out Boy concert tickets and whiny Saosin albums?

While we should reserve the right to criticize these artists for their lack of originality and willingness to pander to the lowest common denominator, we must also, reject the notion that these bands are responsible for the death a genre founded on experimentation and contestation of the commonplace. These bands are mutually exclusive of the original art form and therefore, run parallel to it's timeline. Though, time and time again, it has been the case that these shallow acts have led us to treasure troughs rich with a history of political consciousness, activism, and civil disobedience. One needs only to work their way backward. And this is, perhaps, the lesson to be taken away from ...dragging the lake. and the first 10 years of the 2000's, in general.

While Hoppus and DeLonge should be held accountable for the bait-and-switch tactics that misinformed a generation, we need only to look in the mirror, when placing the blame for the mainstream's ignorance of legitimacy. Somewhere in the excitement of the Pop-Punk and Fourth Wave Emo explosion of the early 2000's, listeners became complacent and a naivety was bred that suggested that whatever the radio was giving us was all there was to be had. Fans expected to be spoon-fed originality and retailers and network executives conducted themselves accordingly, exploiting this ill-founded good faith.

As a consequence, we are a generation that bore witness to the fragmentation of a genre, whether we were aware of it or not. Any bands of substance were not so much shunned or ignored, as they were unnoticed entirely. The only alternative to obscurity seemed to be a compromise of artistic integrity and this, we see in spades as exemplified by the gentrification of the sub-culture by Pop musicians and upper class rich kids getting dropped off at basement shows in their parents' mini-vans.

Atticus may not have been responsible for this shift in the cultural soundscape, but surely, this popularization of less nuanced, carbon-copy Pop riffs promised a paycheck and by the end of the decade, it seemed everyone was buying in.

In spite of the commercial successes of so many of these bands individually, Atticus: ...dragging the lake. III went on the sell poorly, peaking at #63 on the Billboard Charts, a stark contrast, when compared to the second installment's time spent at #1.

It is, perhaps, because of this poor reception that Atticus stayed dormant for nearly half a decade before releasing 2009's mostly forgettable Atticus: IV, so far removed from the franchise's original concept that the release featured neither founding artists Blink-182 nor the original "...dragging the lake." title, further evidence that the franchise had digressed to being nothing more than a cash cow, as so many compilation series' were at that time.

Later that same year, in an attempt to stay relevant, the brand released Atticus Presents: Volume 1 and then, that following year, Atticus Atticus V Compilation. However, by this time, having alienated their original fan base in favor of a demographic now dying their hair back to natural colors, no one really seemed to care.

In the last eight years, with CD's seemingly gone the way of the outlet malls where they were initially purchased, Atticus Clothing seems to have kept mostly quiet, choosing to focus on the clothing line aspect of their brand, as this once-promising series drifts further and further into obscurity.

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. When he's not writing, he can be found making music under the moniker "t h e m e s" in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he lives with his girlfriend and their dog, Diesel.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Dusted Sounds, Volume 1 Producer & Fuzz Tones DJ LongDistanceDan Compiles Beat-maker Bedrock #21 (Dusted Industries)

"Hello, my name is LongDistanceDan originally from London, now living on The South Coast of England in Portsmouth. I make sample-based music heavily influenced by Psychedelic Rock, Raw Funk, Library Music, and Hip-Hop. I've been making music for about eight years and have released 3 EP's and an album, The Dust Man Stirs (2017) all on my own Dusted Industries label. I have selected 4 albums that have had a big influence on my own musical taste and the kind of music I try to make..."

I. Beastie Boys - Check Your Head (1992)

"I'd been aware of the Beastie Boys as a 9/10-year-old kid, due to the good and bad press they received from their debut album, License to Ill (1986.) But other than hearing "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)" and "No Sleep 'till Brooklyn" on the radio, I'd never listened to their music. Paul's Boutique (1989) passed me by, I was a 3rd Bass fan and they didn't like the Beasties much back in '89. Then, in 1992, I saw the "Pass The Mic" video on Yo! MTV Raps and my mind was blown.

This was everything I wanted to hear! It had a real Old Skool feeling and style—this was before [Jurassic 5], etc. made it cool to sound Old Skool again—plus, it combined Hip-Hop with Alternative Rock, but not in a cheesy way; this was organic and worked perfectly! I rushed out and bought Check Your Head (on cassette) and to my delight every track was gold. Being a 14-year-old Hip-Hop fan who's ears were being opened up to Grunge and Alternative Rock, along with Funk and Soul, Check Your Head ticked all the boxes.

You have the full-force Hardcore/Punk of "Time for Living" alongside the laid-back, reflective "Something's Got to Give." Neck-snapping Hip-Hop of "So What'cha Want," instrumental jams infused with Reggae, Latin, Jazz, etc. Rap tracks aimed firmly at the mosh pit, the list goes on. For all it's eclecticism, the album is tied together by a rough, raw sound and feel; this is what I love and what has really influenced my musical taste. Needless to say, Check Your Head remains one of my favourite albums of all time and opened up my love of the Beastie Boys, in general."

II. New Kingdom - Heavy Load (1993)

"I can't remember how I first heard about New Kingdom... it might have been in the NME? I dunno, but one thing is: on paper, they sounded good; on record, they sounded awesome! Yes, you can compare New Kingdom to the Beastie Boys, but that's kind of lazy. In the same way, they mixed up elements of Rock with Hip-Hop, but New Kingdom took Hip-Hop to different, far out places. This was Psychedelic, Funk-fueled Hip Hop, like you'd never heard before. They looked ridiculously cool, too: Nosaj with his huge sideburns, goatee beard, and trucker cap—"bend my hat like a trucker, sideburns burning like a Kentucky head hunter"—and Sebash with his afro, sunglasses, and biker boots.

They weren't your average Hip-Hoppers. The production was handled by third member, Scotty Hard, giving them a gritty, lo-fi feel that was undoubtedly Hip-Hop, but with a weirder, more freaked out, possibly drug-fueled sound. Add Jason Furlow's (Nosaj) distinctive growl to the mix and you have a truly unique sound and one that has stuck with me ever since. I bought everything I could; all the singles, "Good Times," "Frontman," and "Cheap Thrills," are all well-worth having, as they contained different remixes and versions often re-vocalised and one featuring a guest verse from Del The Funky Homosapien. But the Heavy Load album itself was just on another level. So raw, so funky, so weird, I loved it!

It fitted [right] in with the times, the Grungey flannel shirts, looking back to the 60's and 70's, yet it doesn't sound dated, it's too unique. I learnt all the words to all the tracks, I wanted to dress like them, they opened my mind. You can definitely site Heavy Load as a trail-blazer for the left-field Hip-Hop that was to follow in years to come—Def Jux, Antipop, anticon, etc. Their second and final album, Paradise Don't Come Cheap (1996) took things even further "out there," giving you a truly Psychedelic Hip-Hop experience. But Heavy Load with it's short, sharp, Grungey tracks was where it all started and I never looked back. In recent years, I've been in contact with Jason on social media and he's a super-cool guy! I hope (wish) that one day, he might guest on one of my tracks, you never know!"

III. Edan - Beauty & The Beat (2005)

"I was first introduced to Edan by my man, Pete Sasqwax (@sasQwax) when he played me the "Sing It Sh*tface" 12-inch. I liked it, it sounded interesting, but I can't say I loved it. I kept Edan's name in my head, as one to look out for. When I saw the "Rapperfection" 12-inch, I bought it without listening, took [it] back to the Jazz Fudge Recordings office, where I was working, at the time, and put it on the turntable. I remember asking, "is it meant to sound like that?" due to the heavily distorted drums. It definitely was and it sounded magnificent. That track got so much play (still does) and set me up for Edan's debut album, Primitive Plus (2002.) As I'm sure you know, this is a great album, full of Old Skool distorted drum machines, super-tight rhymes, and some hints of what was to come.

A few years later, I think "I See Colours" had come out on 12-inch and it was good, the B-side, "The Science of Two," was really good. I managed to get a promo copy of the album, Beauty & The Beat, and I was utterly blown away. You could hear a real shift in Edan's sound. The lo-fi rawness was still there, but instead of drum machines and classic Boom-Bap beats, there were swirls of sounds, muddy drum break, tons of reverb, reserved drums, and a whole lot more. I sat and listened to the album over and over; clocking in at a little over 30 minutes, it's easy to listen to all the way through and I think, it is best heard this way.

The album flows perfectly, taking you on a real fuzzed out, echo-filled, Psychedelic Hip-Hop trip. It made me go and listen to [The Beatles'] Sgt. Pepper's album after; for me, the sounds seemed linked. Lyrically, Edan, as ever, is on-point. However, the bragging, the slightly juvenile humour, and the calling out of wack emcees had gone or at least, been toned down. Instead, he covers topics such as depression, beauty, life, and musical heroes, but still finds time to cut loose, showing his immense lyrical skills. The guests enlisted, all previous cohorts (Mr. Lif, Insight, Dagha) fit perfectly into Edan's vision. Dagha truly kills it on one of my favourite tracks, "Rock and Roll."

Beauty & The Beat is a Psychedelic album, no doubt about it. You can play it to Psych-Rock fans and they will appreciate it. I was just starting to get into Psych-Rock, when the album came out. I'd heard bits and pieces, early Funkadelic, for example, but not much. When I heard Beauty & The Beat, I loved the sound and I wanted to hear more of what had been sampled. It helped me move onto a new musical path: into the world of bizarre and wonderful Psychedelic Rock, in all it's forms. Beauty & The Beat is definitely in my Top 10 favourite albums of all time; it is that good! I was lucky enough to support him DJ'ing in London a few years back, which was a great experience. Meeting the man himself, hanging out, he was a real friendly, humble, cool guy. Now, we just need some new music!"

IV. Malachai - Ugly Side of Love (2009)

"Back in the MySpace days, I remember seeing a picture of an artist who was Friends with some Bristol Hip-Hop producers I liked. I didn't know who they were and I don't think they had much music up on the site, but the image stuck in my head. It was of a ginger guy wearing a top hat in the bath; a while later, I was in a charity shop in Streatham Hill (London) looking through some records and I saw a 12-inch with the same picture on it, I bought it. The single was "Fading World" by Malachai or "Malakai," as it was spelt then. "Fading World" was a chilled out, dubby kind of track with production that reminded me slightly of Edan. I needed to investigate more.

I found out Malachai were producer [Scott Hendy AKA] Boca 45—known for his funky, Break Beat tracks—and singer "Gee" or Gary Ealey, also known as rapper Stepchild. The 12-inch was nice, but it just had the one track and a dub version. I wanted to hear more! Luckily, for me they had just released their debut album, Ugly Side of Love, on Geoff Barrow's Invada [Records] label. The album is glorious. It's modern Psychedelic Rock: guitars, singing, and all, but made from a Hip-Hop/Break Beat perspective. It's Funky, but weird, it "Rocks out," but keeps the beats heavy.

There's a great variety of sounds on offer here: down-tempo, dubbed out Trip-Hop, up-beat Blue-Eyed Soul, low slung, chunky Funk Rock, and more. All brought together by the superbly raw and refreshing production and Gee's distinctive vocals. Again, this album was on Repeat listens. I took my then-girlfriend (now-wife) to see them play live. They were fantastic and she loved it. I believe, they had members of Beak> in their live band. One of their songs ("Another Sun") even got played at our wedding. The band have released 2 more albums, both well-worth seeking out and I'm hoping there will more in the future, but for me, Ugly Side of Love is the one. This album is the perfect combination of Psychedelia, Hip-Hop, Funk, Rock, and more. Indie fans will like it, Hip-Hop fans will like it, everyone should hear it."

Dan Larkin is a UK-based DJ, producer, occasional emcee, record label boss, blogger, compilation curator, and music-lover. Going by LongDistanceDan when he produces, DJ's, etc. Larkin is one half of DJ crew Fuzz Tones (@FuzzTonesSouth) along with Martin Horn. Dan Larkin also, runs newly re-launched music blog, TheLeftHandSide and his own record label imprint, Dusted Industries, which both regularly showcase radio shows, podcasts, and custom mixes. Earlier this month, LongDistanceDan personally reached out to The Witzard with his with his latest release on Dusted Industries: Dusted Sounds, Volume 1.

Larkin fittingly describes Dusted Sounds as an EP/beat tape consisting of "instrumental tracks, distorted drum machines, synths, and lo-fi beats; it was made strictly using copyright-free sample packs as source material." LongDistanceDan's back catalog includes his 2017 full-length debut, The Dust Man Stirs, and a slew of genre-spanning, sample-based EP's and custom-curated compilations originally released on Dusted Industries/Myuzyk. Dusted Sounds, Volume 1, along with the entirety of LongDistanceDan's body of work, is currently available to stream or download from Dusted Industries' Bandcamp page.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Detroit-based Producer & Beat-maker all these fingers (âtƒ) Returns with First "Real" Instrument-rooted Project UNITED VIZION As Gould '72

united vizion is the first release from the artist formerly known as all these fingers AKA âtƒ. Since 2008, the mysterious Detroit-based producer and beat-maker released 50 full-length projects, as well as various EP's, singles, etc. and worked with the likes of Bishop Nehru, Darko The Super, The Hell Hole Store, Hemlock Ernst, Infinity Frequencies, Jack Wilson, Mr. Muthaf**kin' eXquire, and Yzal The Praxis. Just this past March, all these fingers uploaded his 50TH and final release as âtƒ, 悪い受信. Along with 悪い受信's digital and cassette release, âtƒ shared an extremely heart-felt note to all of his fans and supporters, which you can read in-full at the bottom of this very post. Now, just a few mere months later, âtƒ has returned under a brand new recording alias, Gould '72, with the aforementioned united vizion. When compared against his past work as all these fingers/âtƒ, Gould '72 is far more instrument-based than Hip-Hop and beat-centric; united vizion was created and recorded suing only "electro harmonix, fender, casio, farfisa, crate, mxr, roland, rhodes, moog, yamaha, maxell, shure, gem & boss." united vizion is tagged on Gould '72's newly-minted Bandcamp page as 70's, 80's, rock, surf rock, children's music, dream-pop, easy listening, library music, new age, new wave, psychedelic, soft rock, soundtrack, synth, and video game music.

Gould '72 is, in fact, named after esteemed American actor Elliott Gould—yes, Ross & Monica Geller's dad from Friends—who has been acting since the late 50's and is best known for his roles in M*A*S*H, The Long Goodbye, California Split, Ocean's Eleven, Twelve & Thirteen, American History X, Ray Donovan, 9JKL, and much, much more. a few months ago, via email, Gould '72 described united vizion to The Witzard like this: "The loose direction of this project is [obviously] all original music played on "real" instruments. I guess, there's almost a New Age-type thing going on with these tracks, but overall, I just wanted to write nostalgic, evocative melodies." Speaking on united vizion's abundant musicality, Gould '72 stated, "I've been playing guitar more than anything, so I wanted to make some fun pieces built around that, too. Overall, I just wanted to get away from making beats, finding loops, rinse, Repeat, after doing it for so long and this is what came out of it." Let's just put it this way: if you liked âtƒ's more Hip-Hop beat-centric work, you may not dig Gould '72's united vizion and if you didn't really like Gould '72's past work as âtƒ, you'll probably love united vizion. We here at The Witzard, for one, are very much looking forward to hearing what else Gould '72 has been cooking up! united vizion is currently available to stream or purchase on Bandcamp and you can Follow Gould '72 (@gouldseventytwo) on Instagram.

"i released the first ATF album in 2008. this is the 50th release in 10 years. i didn't plan that, but it feels like the right place to stop. when i first got into this, the beat scene felt different, smaller; like, there were more places to go and endless crazy styles to absorb. it felt like i knew who all the people were (prob didn't obv.) but now, it's hard to feel like part of a community, when it's so huge. there's a lot of awesome guys still doin' it, but so much of what comes out just sounds the same to me. i'm in my 30's now—which might as well be 60's for anything hip-hop-adjacent—so, i may have no idea wtf is going on.

i'm always going to be making music. it's my favorite thing to do, but whatever comes next won't be ATF and won't be beats. i luv every real fan i have out there. the kindness and support u guys have shown me over the years is just f**king awesome. i can't say "i luv u" enough. shouts to all the homies too: [Darko The Super] for always being down 2 clown, Jack [Wilson] for being an ace-in-the-hole, Chris at Grappa for being the first to put me on, the Woozy crew, Christian & Jared at [Fuzzoscope] for being the best, and to all the other incredible producers and rappers i've worked with or admired. RIP ATF."

- Gould '72 (FKA âtƒ)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

3 Feet High & Rising: "Keeping Company" with Ferentz & The Felons' Frontman, Guitarist & Song-writer Zak Ferentz (The Witzard Interview)

"Today is the day that this gets released. There are so many people to thank for this and I hope you all know who you are, so "thank you" a million times. I sat in a room writing these songs on an acoustic guitar and every time I would finish a song, I would take my guitar and go see my mother. I would go into her apartment and play the song for her, letting her hear everything first. My mother loved every song, but all she asked for me to do was to always make sure that I kept the music real and pure with lyrics that people can relate to. "Put your pain out into the world, so others can heal, Zak." Those were her exact words. So, I just want to say that is what I will always do; I will always write music to help people feel less alone. I will always write music that will have a positive message for not only myself, but for every person that listens. To anyone suffering from anxiety, depression, family problems, mental illness, addiction, fear, or any other form of suffering: just know that you're human and you join 7 billion other people, who will suffer from one of the above, at some point in their life. We are all together and we are all Felons. Peace and love!" Ferentz & The Felons frontman Zak Ferentz wrote within a heart-warming Instagram post.

Just this past Friday, July 13, 2018, New Jersey-bred Folk Rockers Ferentz & The Felons unleashed their debut EP, Hudson County, which was premiered exclusively at Pop MATTERS. Zak Ferentz himself fittingly described Hudson County as something along the lines of "having Tom Petty & Neil Young write a record for Madball." Ferentz & The Felons' phenomenal 5-track debut, Hudson County EP is now available to stream or purchase from Apple Music, Google Play, Soundcloud, Spotify, and like-minded digital retailers, as well as directly from The Felons on the road. The Witzard was lucky enough to send a batch of questions to Ferentz & The Felons' frontman, guitarist, and primary song-writer Zak Ferentz; ch-check out our comprehensive interview below, which has been lightly edited for general clarity. Shout-out to Zak Ferentz for being so honest, open, and vulnerable and essentially, putting it all out on the table for the greater good of the music-loving world!


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

I. How did you ultimately, decide on the group name "Ferentz & The Felons?" Who are your fellow Felons and what does each member contribute within the group setting?

I was going to go out as a solo artist, but I always wanted to have a solid band behind me and "Ferentz & The Felons" just sounded perfect, so it was an easy fit for the band and what I was going for musically and lyrically. As for The Felons, you have Matt Waz on drums, Robert Dudziak on bass, and Rich Catalano on lead guitar & backing vocals.

II. Now, I know you're a founding member of Metal/Hardcore band, War Story... but what were some of your greatest musical inspirations and influences while creating your Hudson County EP? I personally, sense elements of Johnny Cash, East Coast Punk/Hardcore, American tattoo culture, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and even fellow New Jersians The Gaslight Anthem throughout Hudson County!

You hit the nail on the head! I always loved a wide variety of music and all of the above are definitely influences for me. I come from an urban environment, so I always list that as an influence. There's something about being from a city that just separates you from the rest. But to better explain my influences with The Felons, it would be like having Tom Petty & Neil Young write a record for Madball haha.

III. What were The Felons' typical recording processes like while creating Hudson County? For example, how exactly was "Note to Self" created from beginning to end?

I wrote all of the songs on an acoustic guitar in my room and then, I showed them to the band and we put them together, as a whole. When we hit the studio, the songs were all about 90% complete and we took the time to put final touches on them, as we were recording.

IV. Ferentz & The Felons' debut EP, Hudson County, really seems like a deeply personal, multi-layered 5-track affair; would you mind briefly discussing the lyrical themes and real life experiences that helped shape each track, Zak?

I dug pretty deep with this first outing and, although, it seems personal, it is relatable to most people. I think of where everyone's problems start and it's usually at home with their family, so I made sure I spoke of my upbringing. I grew up in public housing with both parents battling heavy heroin addiction. Times got really tough and it took until only a few years ago to really get rid of a lot of my demons that were destroying me.

Last month, I lost my mother; she took her life with drugs and as much as I want to break down and let those demons back in, I have to think of how many people I can motivate and inspire to push forward by understanding and staying positive. There are so many people out there struggling with mental health, addiction, fear, etc. that I feel it's my duty, as a strong individual, to give back to this world with the most positive force and that's what this record is about. It's about putting my story out there, so others can feel less alone. It's about inspiring people to embrace their flaws and their demons, so that together, we can get over them.

V. If you could, hypothetically, pick just 5 "Desert Island" albums to from now until the end of eternity, which albums would you chose and why?

Tom Petty - "Wildflowers" (1994): This record should be the definition of American Rock "N" Roll. It has some of the best song-writing I've ever heard and it makes me think of the days I spent with my mother. Tom Petty will always go down as a family favorite for us.

Madball - Hold It Down (2000): Madball will always be one of my all-time favorites and to me, this record blends the old and the new. They define the DIY mentality and for that, I'll always love this band and record.

Neil Young - Harvest (1972): Lyrically and musically, genius. Neil is a man who stands behind his music, a man that lives his words, and Harvest defines his career. One of the best to ever do it!

Pantera - Vulgar Display of Power (1991): In my opinion, it's the greatest Heavy Metal album of all time. It has some of the best riffs, drums, bass lines, vocals, and lyrics ever written. This album helped mold me into the man I am today.

50 Cent - Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003): I was raised in the projects lol and when 50 hit the scene, this album blew us away. The hunger and pain in every word made me feel so much of this record. To me, this is easily, Top 5 Hip-Hop records of all-time, but for me it's #1.

VI. Now that your Hudson County EP has been effectively unleashed into the terribly unsuspecting world, what's next for Ferentz & The Felons?

We're out here pushing this release everyday. We have some really cool shows lined up and we just shot a video for a special song! I'm constantly writing and working with the band on new songs/ideas, but for now, we're going to just play this EP to as many ears as we can!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

SaIGO & 'i's Let Loose First Official Mugwampers EP 717 (Part I) & Joe Eaton-directed "The Word of God Is Recycled" [self-released EP 1/3]

Mugwampers are a Hip-Hop crew, collective, art-house, etc. hailing from Livingston, Scotland consisting of founding members, emcee SaIGO and producer 'i's. Over the course of the last few months, Mugwampers have unleashed a collection of "warm-up" projects, including 'i's failure.to.communicate and feature-filled .and then there was flowers and SaIGO's 'i's-produced spoken word project, ANOTHER TIME MAYBE . . Now, Mugwampers have returned with their first official long-form project, 717 (Part I.) A sprawling 5-track EP with sonic benchmarks and Bandcamp tags ranging from Electronic to Hip-Hop/Rap, Metal to Spoken Word, Abstract Hip-Hop to Ambient, Plunderphonics to Screamo. 717 EP1 is the first in a series of three planned EP's Mugwampers have recently recorded, which will each focus on various styles and sub-genres of Hip-Hop. Ahead of 717 (Part I) SaIGO & 'i's unleashed a music video for EP closer, "The Word of God Is Recycled" directed by Joe Eaton (@joeeverse) who, along with SaIGO, created the artwork for Mugwampers' debut EP. 'i's & SaIGO's 717(1) EP is currently available to stream or purchase from Mugwampers' Bandcamp page on a Name-Your-Price basis. I'll just say this: trust me, you're gonna wanna stay tuned because SaIGO, 'i's, and their ever-growing Mugwampers crew have a slew of releases and collaborative projects planned for the remained of 2018. Ch-check out The Witzard's EXCLUSIVE interview with both 'i's & SaIGO about all things Mugwampers, Scottish Hip-Hop, and, of course, "Denial-ridden Ambition."

Monday, July 16, 2018

Emerald Knights 2 Collaborators Mega Ran & Bag of Tricks Cat Team Up for Beat-maker Bedrock #19-20 (Respect The Underground/RandomBeats)

Bag of Tricks Cat AKA BOTC (@bagoftrickscat): "There aren't too many cats in Hip-Hop that have as many tricks in the bag as Felix. His grandma, Ann Bennett, sang the 1959 "Felix The Cat" theme song, so it was only appropriate to name himself after the iconic cartoon character. His music is relatable and honest and has gripped fans all over the world [...] Bag of Tricks Cat is currently working on his next project, The 9 Lives of Cat Daddy Kane."

I. Eminem - The Eminem Show (2002)

"This album came out when I was in 4th grade. I was an angry kid that got bullied at school, so songs like "Sing for The Moment" and "'Till I Collapse" got me through it. Definitely influenced me a lot."

II. The Roots - How I Got Over (2010)

"Not only was the band incredible, Black Thought's lyrics spoke to me on the project. When I was going to the gym a lot, "The Fire" [featuring John Legend] would play on my iPod and it felt like I had super-strength! I feel like it's [one of] the more slept-on albums in The Roots' discography."

III. JAY-Z - The Black Album (2003)

"I love this album because of how personal JAY got on it. It's also, one of those bodies of work that you can go back to years later and hear something new that you missed. "Moment of Clarity" still gives me chills."

IV. 2pac - Until The End of Time (2001)

"Even though it's not regarded as one of his best albums, it's the one that got me into his music in the first place. The emotion in Pac's delivery on "Ballad of a Dead Soulja" and "Lil' Homies" was so authentic. He made me want to be honest in the raps I was writing."

Mega Ran (@megaran): "Mega Ran's proven he can excel in story-telling, punchlines, poignancy, freestyling, and well, pretty much, any other way you can measure an MC," LA Weekly boasts. An incredible impromptu "freestyle" rapper, as well as prolific song-writer, the former teacher Ran's unique combination of fantasy and introspective Hip-Hop has found its way all over the world, into leading press outlets and most recently, into the Guinness Book of World Records. Now, that's Random."

I. Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)

"In my opinion, simply the greatest Rap album ever. The beats, the rhymes, Chuck's delivery, Flavor Flav's humor. The message. It's the complete package. So hard, so [unapologetically] raw. I still listen to it once a year, at least, when I get into album mode."

II. Lupe Fiasco - Food & Liquor (2006)

"I still feel like the bootleg version of this was better, but Lupe wowed me with his simultaneously nerdy and cool swag over dope beats. I'd never heard anything like it, at the time. I remember him saying on his MySpace page back before this came out, for producers not to send him beats unless they were remotely close to the quality of Just Blaze's "Hovi Baby" track he did for JAY-Z... and that made me instantly close down an email of beats that I was about to send to him haha."

III. Nas - God's Son (2002)

"A lot of people choose Illmatic (1994) or even It Was Written (1996) from Nas and those are classics, no doubt, but there are a few songs on this record that get me going, when I'm in a tough spot... the James Brown sample and razor sharp story-telling on "Get Down," "Made You Look," and Nas trying new flows on the 6/8 timed "Heaven." God's Son is an essential Nas album."

Honorable Mentions:

MF DOOM & Madlib - MADVILLAINY (2004)
Daft Punk - Discovery (2001)
Gravediggaz - 6 Feet Deep (1994)
Blu & Exile - Below The Heavens (2007)
D'Angelo - Brown Sugar (1995)

Zilla Rocca feverishly rhymes: "Ayo, the bottom line is I'm a crook with a deal... nobody buys records, so we rob and steal. I caught B. Dolan, his pockets were swollen. I stuck Mega Ran for Nintendo controllers. I had Karma Kids takin' off their sh*t" on Career Crooks' 50 Cent-flipping "Crook with a Deal" from Thieving As Long As I'm Breathing. If nothing else, most people know Mega Ran FKA Random for one of two things: either his affinity for old school video games or his life-long affinity for wrestling. I personally, first "met" Mega Ran & K-Murdock AKA Bits & Rhymes during the roll-out for their 2010 collaborative album, FOREVER famicom and we've been working together on comprehensive write-ups and unique hands-on coverage, such as this, ever since. Bag of Tricks Cat AKA Felix Don Gato has been self-releasing music on his own imprint, Respect The Underground, since 2012.

Felix first encountered Mega Ran during the summer of 2015 and before long, they were touring together across The Northwest, Europe, Ireland, and Canada. Bag of Tricks Cat's 2016 debut full-length, Cat's Out of The Bag featured appearances and guest verses from the likes of Mega Ran, D12 & Bookie, The D.O.C. affiliate Justus, Bizarre, and executive producer Brian Gigerich. Now, exactly three years removed from their first meeting, Bag of Tricks Cat & Mega Ran have once again teamed up for the follow-up to 2015's Emerald Knights: The Album (EP) fittingly dubbed, Emerald Knights 2. Since it's June 22nd wide release, Mega Ran & BOTC's Emerald Knights 2 has already sky-rocketed it's way atop a number of Billboard's charts: #12 on Heatseekers, #01 on Heatseekers Mountain, #36 on Independent Albums, #32 on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, and #22 on Rap Albums as of July 5, 2018. Emerald Knight 2 is currently available to purchase in either CD or digital album formats directly from Respect The Underground/RandomBeats Music.