Salva’s been making beats as long as he’s been tying his shoelaces, and his tracks have been making little fires throughout the club sphere since at least 2008. But 2012 was owned by the man, helped in no small part by the huge success of his remix of Kanye West’s Mercy, with fellow beat head RL Grime (easily one of the loudest tunes of the festival season!).
Salva’s history is diverse, having cut his teeth in Chicago on hip hop, techno, house and everything else that makes the city great, before moving to Los Angeles to join the burgeoning beats scene. A regular in the legendary ‘Low End Theory’ Club, Salva’s productions swing wildly between genres, incorporating street rhythms with classic club drive. His tracks stand out for their brutal drum programming and sophisticated synth work.
We’ve loved him here at FFF for a long time, and finally got a chance to have a few words with him in Barcelona before his set at the Sonar 2012 Festival.
Brenmar is a name running a storm through the dance underground. While his addictive Rn’B remixes have been hot for a minute now, 2012 was undoubtedly Brenmar’s own year. His new slew of dancefloor-focused productions, and relentless tour schedule have made him a must-see in many a dedicated raver’s summer handbook.
FFF pinned down Brenmar for a quick chat in Barcelona, just after his set as part of the Sonar 2012 Festival. He talks to us about his unrelenting work ethic, moving from Chicago to New York and his mission to bring more street into the club.
On the eve of the massive Sonar 2012 festival in Barcelona, Suckafish P Jones caught up with synth-wizard, studio guru and all round nice guy Nick Hook. Beginning his serious musical journey as the Keyboard player for Warner Brothers signed Men, Women and Children, Nick rapidly began to make waves in New York’s electronic underground, first as a member of Cubic Zirconia, and later as a producer for L-Vis 1990, El-P and famously, Azaelia Banks‘ crossover hit, ‘212’. Nick is currently making a stamp with his own productions, which see him exploiting his love of drum machines, vintage synthesizers and down and dirty dance music to ever-surprising results.
Go check his debut release for Scion, ‘Without You’, and his forthcoming collaborative EP with Matrixxxman and Vin Sol for Classicworks (released in March 2013)
Mark Pritchard has released music under a multitude of aliases. From Reload to Global Communication, Jedi Knights and more recently Harmonic 313, his monikers chart the history of electronic dance music. His most recent project is Africa Hitech: a collaboration with Steve Spacek that has output the 2010 EP HiTecherous, and now the breakout success of their debut LP, 93 Million Miles. With 2010/11 also finding growing awareness for his solo work as Mark Pritchard and Harmonic 313, we spoke at length on his recent work with Radiohead, Wiley, Trim and Bonobo; and discovers, exclusively, the exciting releases that he has planned for 2012 and beyond.
How were your shows in Sydney and Melbourne last weekend? It went really well, it was really nice to see Sydney come out in force with 800-1000 people jumping around to that kind of line-up. Last year I did a similar gig in Melbourne with Flying Lotus, but it was Dam Funk and Gaslamp Killer and that was amazing, so I expected Sydney to be good and Melbourne to be amazing, but Sydney was almost the better of the two.
The crowd at The Metro went mad for Out in The Streets. What are you reflections on the success of what some are calling the most DJ’d tune of 2011? Like a lot of these things, the track came out of nowhere and it was quite unexpected. I did it for a documentary on footwork that Warp were producing last year, called Wild 100s, and they wanted a track for a [footwork dance] battle scene. I stayed up all night and made it (that was July 2010) and sent it to them, they really liked it.
I played it out and gave it to a few people and straight away they were saying ‘yeah this tune goes off’ and more and more people were getting their head around the footwork thing; around the time of Phillip D. Kick’s jungle kind of thing [the now-defunct pseudonym of UK tunesmith Om Unit].
It worked with that and I’d been playing jungle together with footwork because its 160 bpm and I found if I played 80 bpm alongside footwork and jungle, i could play more of it in sets. So it is kind of a combination of everyone getting into that sound and obviously is a big sample that everyone knew, David Rodigan [MBE] was playing it and bigging us up so that was cool, it really really helped the album (Africa Hitech’s 93 million miles).
I was a little bit worried that leading with that as a single would give out a signal to people and then when the album came out it would be different. But it kind of worked in our favour as a big club tune that drew people in to the album and when people heard it, it made people get on board a little bit more because it was unexpected.
So what was your first exposure to footwork, what got you into it? I was really in to Chicago house from the 80’s and 90’s but ghetto-tech wasn’t quite my thing, even though it was really good fun club music. Then around the time Footcrab [Addison Groove] was first getting played out somebody showed me some videos of some [footwork dance] battling and I was like ‘this is mad’. At a similar time, Mike Paradinas [the Planet Mu records boss – read the footwork feature with Paradias here] started excitedly sending me stuff and thought it was amazing. I just did a track with Addison Groove for his album which is out in March.
I met DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn in Madrid last year at the Red Bull Music Academy where they were doing an interview which explained they’re journey and why it [footwork] happened. Rashad was telling me that there was stuff, like the stuff i would call footwork now, that had been done ten years ago but nobody liked it. But more recently there was a slight shift on the rhythm (from the classic electro in ghetto-tech and juke feel towards footwork) and for me, that was when i was in.
Moving on to your recent spate of remixes, the Radiohead one’s sounded a lot like your early Music for TV and Film work… Yeah it’s all done on old synths, no plugins, but the mix is more Harmonic 313 sounding, but a different tempo and vibe. Neither of them were clubby: I actually wanted to do something clubby and I started loads, six or more ideas and just thought I’d see how it goes as I didn’t have much time. It takes me ages, for example, the Gonjasufi remix took me a month. Theres a good chance that might of been the reason I got the Radiohead remix; because I was doing something completely different.
I was a bit worried because I didn’t know what people would make of it. The initial reactions from the Radiohead fans were quite harsh. When you think about it, Radiohead fans are a certain kind of music fan, they feel ownership over the band, so having me do some weird psychedelic version; people were moaning that I didn’t use the vocal, saying they didn’t get it. Then luckily, later on a few people made a few comments saying the right kind of things, referring to kraut rock, etc, and then I thought ‘Okay, some people understand’.
What was the weapon of choice for the remixes? It was EMS, a very old synth that looks like computer battleships (an old 80’s kids game), it’s got pins you have to plug in. It’s just a weird synth, you never know what the hell your gonna get out of it; it’s just really random and most of the sounds are from that. For the drums, I’ve got this old weird drum machine with a speaker built in and I mic’d it up. They’re quite heavy listening both those mixes, not just something you flick on; they’re quite moody and dark and maybe not everyones cup of tea. Hopefully people go back and listen to it again though.
You’ve also got a Bonobo remix coming out with some retro sounding beats [listen to it here on Ninjatune]: how did you go about making it? That’s the same drum machine I used for the Radiohead remixes. I picked up this Ace Tone drum machine and used that for the drums and played the guitar with a mellotron [an electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replay keyboard originally developed and built in Birmingham, England in the early 1960s] and a plugin to do the bass. Then when I was in England touring I went to my friends studio in the UK and we put the guitar through his Fender twin amplifier.
You worked with Wiley on his latest LP Evolve Or Be Extinct, how did it come about? What was the experience like? He’s probably my favourite MC from the UK. It’s a close call but his flows and timing are amazing and he has so much energy and charisma it was amazing to work with him and I actually really wanted him on the Harmonic 313 album, but at the time I didn’t have the connection. Then he was in Australia [in 2009] and I played before him at The Metro and I gave him the album promo. I said ‘I really wanted you on this album, have a listen, if you ever want to, I’d love to do something’. I think my name rung a bell, he was vaguely familiar with me and I said ‘I’ve got a studio here, come in for a few days if you want’ and he said ‘I’ll come in tomorrow’. He came to the studio and then stayed for a week. I was just playing him loads of beats, trying some faster things and we ended up recording those two tracks on the album. I got on really well with him, he’s kind of similar to me; he just has to do music all of the time and that’s it.
I was surprised he chose those beats as they’re quite old but I’m really glad they made it on to the album and I’d love to work more with him. There’s a few grime people I really wanna work with… in the last couple of years I found grime more exciting than dubstep a lot of the time. I think Terror Danjah, Royal T, and a few other people like Trim and P-Money drop new albums this year so hopefully we’ll see grime break out a bit more.
Following you last 12 inch together, will we see you on Trim’s next album as well? He’s done three tracks recently and I’m always sending him bits or bobs so theres a good chance that will happen; there was one late last year and there’s another two which he’s said he wants to do.
Let’s get back to back to your own solo productions: a lot of your cover artwork and sounds are clearly influenced by science fiction, whats next in this area for you? Yeah I’m into sci-fi films, but I also like disco, house and boogie, uplifting things. When I went to clubs I’d like the moody and heavy stuff, that’s why I like grime music, some dubstep and also avant garde classical stuff like Karlheinz Stockhausen; I like the powerful emotion that can come through.
The next album I’m gonna do on Warp is all electronic avant garde classical music; I’ve been working on it for over seven years now in the background. I’m in a bit of a tricky situation where I’ve built up these projects and need to keep them flowing but I really need to make the switch this year where the club stuff takes a back seat to this album, or at least get really stuck into it. It’s taking too long for me to get this done so I’ve gotta make it my main focus. I’m not sure yet but i think it will be under the name Reload or Music for TV and Film, thats what Warp want me to do … and they have signed me to do it this year.
I did an album in ‘93 under the name Reload, its kinds of like Aphex Twin era – industrial electronic stuff – but this [new album] is not about clubs, or trends. It’s kind of avant garde, not using any plugins, all old school gear, really dark, sad and emotional, not particularly noisy, but quite full on stuff. So I’ll be balancing it out with the other club stuff too, or ill go mad.
Does that mean more Harmonic 313 releases in 2012? I definitely want to get a couple of Harmonic 313 EP’s out this year thats for certain. Lion is a priority for me to put out as an EP with a couple of new tracks too, then an all new EP quickly after it. I definitely will do another Harmonic 313 album but its not going happen this year – its physically impossible – but I can say I’ve got quite a lot of Harmonic 313 stuff backed up, and it will be different from the last album for certain. The rough plan is for more regular digital releases; hopefully every month there will be two tracks coming out. I went through it the other day and theres about 30 tracks, that’s just me, which I really want to get out this year.
Manuel Sepulveda, the guy that does all the Hyperdub records artwork will be back for the cover art along with Andy Gilmore for Africa Hitech. There is also a remix of one of the Wiley tracks I’ve gotta finish off for next week, then theres a remix for Far Out records and new Africa Hitech coming too. Once those are done I’ll switch my focus to the Reload album.
Is it a burden or a boon to have so many monikers? Originally it was a necessity, for example genre purists just wouldn’t be interested in anything out of the bracket, so in the 90’s we used to make new music with different names and not tell people. But even now some people can be closed minded about genres: when I did the Harmonic 313 stuff, people made comments like “finally your doing some dope shit”, writing everything else off. They might say “you used to do all that house stuff , now you’ve done some proper raw thing”. So basically, the moniker’s help with that, but it’s a terrible business plan and now is the worst time in music to have heaps of pseudonyms as people are generally a lot more open minded now.
As an artist, how do you find living in Sydney? I like living here: scene wise it kind of goes up and down. When I first moved here I found it really hard to get gigs and play the kind of music I wanted to play. Over time I found like minded people and eventually they were everywhere around me and as those scenes grew and got stronger across australia.
In the last year its changed a little bit, maybe the hype of dubstep has killed things a bit, but also access to the right kind of venues. We need different sized sound systems between 200 and 400 to cater for the middle ground a bit more. The Phoenix bar is one of my favourite places to play; when they did the Void nights there, it was a nice sound system, no fashion, just people listening to music.
I heard about Dro Carey a week or so before this post via local Sydney DJ Nicky Damage and instantly wanted to know more. A trip to Dro Carey’s Tumblr and Vimeo sites soon became an epic audio visual journey through this prolific artists catalogue of original music. I quickly realised big things were happening and this was confirmed when i read that the Sydney based producer is one of FACT magazines top 10 producers to watch in 2011 with a string of upcoming releases at home and abroad. After making contact i was promptly provided with an exclusive Dro Carey mix for Forcefed Fistfuls (listen below), along with an illuminating Q&A session.
FFF:Whats happening with your latest releases? DC: I did the Trilogy Tapes one – Venus Knock. That was an EP limited to 200 pressings but because they sold out in a week 200 more have been repressed. Another Trilogy Tapes release is finished and coming soon, titled LBEP. And another Trilogy one is in the works, titled Chion Edits. As well as an EP for Ramp recordings called Journey With The Heavy that’s gonna be double vinyl. Finally there’s the Much Coke EP coming out in March on Sydney label Templar Sound. On Hum and Buzz [Ed: run by Ikonika and Optimum] I have the Candy Red/Hungry Horse single coming.
What can you tell us about your collab with UK Grime producer and MC TRIM? Aidan Bennison of Templar Sound organized that. He asked Trim over twitter and some supportive folks like Fact and Ben UFO essentially kept that request bumped up the twitter feed, if that makes sense. He heard the beat and put something together within a week or so. He sent the acapella stems and I did a new mixdown and that’s gonna be on the Much Coke release on Templar Sound. It was a weird experience because for so long I’d been contacting MCs to no avail and then this suddenly came about without me doing anything!
Your Vimeo channel is packed full; who is doing the video? I do those videos. Through mainly found footage and sometimes segments I’ve filmed myself. I feel it can be a good compliment to the music and also for promotion as well.
What are some of your main musical influences? I’m influenced by a range of music and production styles, Detroit Techno, Chicago house, garage rhythms, R&B, avant-garde/minimal synth records.
You mentioned in your Fact magazine interview “Even my most sugary productions are based around subliminal experiences of awkwardness, aggression and guilt”. As a producer… and a neurotic, I think i understand… does this mean music is ‘therapy’ for you? I guess its therapy. I mean the core goal is to construct something fun and worth listening to, but also there’s this ridiculous undercurrent essentially that embodies all those emotional things. It’s very hard to provide evidence for this, given its electronic music, and I’m really not trying to simulate depth that isn’t there. Basically I’ll just say that yeah its an outlet for a range of neuroses. Hungry Horse was probably the first conscious realization of this, as it is an elaborate pun/inside joke concerning an ex-girlfriend (which is really lame now that I think about it).
Whats your argument for producers letting their guard down; are you yourself capable of being anything other than honest in your music making, or could you whip out a pop track anytime if you wanted? Actually, whipping out a pop track would be the pinnacle of honesty for me. In fact I’m going to have take an issue with ‘whipping out’… Writing a pop/hit song is the hardest thing for an artist to achieve. It takes more skill than any other musical pursuit. I am many stages from developing to that point and it is the ultimate thing I can hope for. It’s years away. Like I’m streetfighting right now, kicking a few dudes in the faces and impressing a small pit of people, but I want to be olympic.Some kind of Taekwondo gold medal. Refining your sound is never a corruption of an ideal, I don’t believe selling out exists. Letting your guard down is a matter of aiming for this but still being yourself, of not being elitist no matter what rung of the music world you’re on. Perhaps what I mean is that your personality can sell out.
You seem to be well noticed overseas, but still underground here in Australia. Is this accurate, and do you see this changing? It’s like Momus predicted, the internet age allows us not 15 minutes of fame, but to be famous to 15 people. And for me 10 of them are in Japan and 4 in the UK. Or some ratio like that. I’m underground everywhere, but I guess you could say I’m Artesian when it comes to Australia. Wouldn’t mind tunneling up to underground status.
Dro Carey Forcefed Fistfuls Mix
Stagga – Ghetto Yutes
Nochexxx – Timepiece
Crooked Luck – Steel
Sir Fresh & DJ Critical – I’m Smooth
DJ Q – Final Boss
Seiji – Sticks
Sinden vs. SBTRKT – Seekwal / GS Boyz – I Wanna C Ya Acapella
GS Boyz – I Wanna C Ya Acapella
Royal T – Orangeade (Walton Edit)
Kahn – Helter Skelter
Soulja Boy & Lil B – That Boy Can Fly (Gucci Wings)
Terror Danjah – Ride 4 Me
Young Jeezy – I Got This
Dro Carey – Delirium Event Line
George Fitzgerald – Don’t You (SCB Edit)
James Fox – Put It Back (Ramadanman Refix)
James T. Cotton – On Time (Rick Wade’s Grimetime Remix)
Chromatic – Hypnotic
BD1982 – Utukku (Ikonika & Optimum Remix)
Yong 3rd & Tay 3rd – Fucc Dat Nigga (Tell Em I Said It)
Follow Dro Carey at his bursting tumblr and listen to his release over at Boomkat.
Lunice is a natural born entertainer who has the drive, sound, and dexterity to make us move. He was able to get a firm grip of the beats scene across Canada and the United States and has since launched into Europe’s future beats scenes. This young producer has put out remixes out on prominent labels such as Mad Decent, Young Turks, Big Dada, Top Billin’ and Scottish label LuckyMe. Our own future beats baron, Monk Fly, spoke to Lunice on the eve of his arrival in Australia for the Musica festival.
FFF: Hi Lunice, where might we be talking to you from? Lunice: I’m in London at the moment, about to play London Eye later today, so I’m just going to be working on some music for now, it’s going to be a busy day.
For those who haven’t been lucky enough to have heard your music before can you give us an idea of how you found your sound? I’ve always been into chop sample type instrumentals, but I wanted to do something a little more than that. When I did my first gig it wasn’t really the kind of music that I play now, it was more on the dance electro side of it, that’s what I really got into, electro music and dance music in general. But then after the first two, three gigs, I started to think about playing more of my own stuff out and in order to do that I couldn’t just play my hip hop jazz type beats, so I was trying to figure out how to mix in the sound of synthesizers and what not, into my whole rap type instrumentals, and that’s when I came across Rustie, Hudson Mohawke and Mike Slott.
Those guys were really good pointing out where I could take my sound. So like with hearing Rustie, you can just hear his sound but with different influences from all types of genres, and that is pretty much how I’ve always worked. I come mostly from hip hop in general, so everything I do is presented in that way, and that’s what I hear in their music, so it gave me the big idea to keep pushing my sound, and eventually I figured out how to incorporate new rhythms in my time; at the right temp kind of thing, and it just evolve from there and after three years its become something where you can recognize my own sound.
I’ve been really enjoying your One Hunned and Stacker Upper EPs out on Lucky Me, how did a lad from Montreal end up on a label from Glasgow? Yer well Lucky Me used to be a Glasgow thing but branched out to London and beyond and afterward I used to do a night called Turbo Crunk and we were such big fans of Lucky Me that we had Rustie, Hudson Mohawke and Mike Slott over for one night. It was one of craziest nights I’ve ever had and from there it was pretty crazy cause more and more we would find ourselves at different gig together. Just by coincidence the promoters thought that it would be a good combo, so just from doing a bunch of shows we became good friends and then one day they hit me up and said “yo do you want to work on a record for Lucky Me” and I’m like “what, oh man, yer alright”.
You’re from Montreal and mentioned you used to run a night there, what’s the beat scene like at the moment and is your night still running?
The scene is a lot more crazy nowadays, five years ago it was more like we were doing our nights and people were like what’s this rap with all these sounds and stuff, but now it’s like groups of people starting their own nights coming from those nights that we had been doing, So it’s generally cool in terms of new faces and new talent and just new music in general, so it’s pretty cool in Montreal at the moment, it’s just gone way way out from there. our night stopped about two or three years ago though.
Your laptop got stolen on the first night of your UK tour, how did that affect your gigs? Yeah that’s true, but I only missed one gig, but at least I showed up I was like “hi guys”, but yeah I coped. All the guys on twitter were like “you can do it” and they sent me toons, so from everyone’s support and being positive, I just was like alright, I gotta keep doing this tour. I had two days off, but hadn’t slept for three days, so I slept the first day and then the next day went out and got a new Mac Book Pro, downloaded all these toons, work on my set overnight and then the next night I played Manchester and killed it… so yer I coped pretty well.
In your live shows you invest a lot of energy B-Boying and performing, I’m wondering is that a really important part of your live set to you, and also how do you prepare yourself to give it that much energy?
I never thought it to be the most important part of the set, it just came naturally because I already had this showmanship kind of thing going already; I used to be a B-Boy and all that, so playing my first gig I remember I was like “well I’m on stage I guess i’m gonna perform right, so I just went on stage to have fun and kept in mind to have fun. In terms of getting ready for it, at the start I didn’t think about it, but it obviously tires you out a bit if you do it in succession for like a week or two or three, so I just make sure I’m physically good to go, but even if I’m tired I still go crazy, I just find ways to keep going.
Great! We’re looking forward to having your live show down in Australia for the first time. For all the production nerds out there can you tell us a bit about your studio?
It’s real simple, it’s straight up Fruity Loops, [laughs], sorry guys; I mean I got one synth and the rest are VSTs and what not, but in the end I mean it’s like who makes the record. I remember when I started to do beats, I did some research and I am a huge fan of 9 Wonder and he used Fruity Loops so I was like “let’s try that out”. The day I was able to chop samples and put a beat on top of it I was like “oh I love this” and I just felt comfortable with it… a lot of people are like it’s too simple but you find your way round it to make something complex. A lot of people I know use Fruity Loops too and the music the make you wouldn’t believe they made it in Fruity Loops, but you watch them do it and what’s really interesting is that everyone finds their own way around it to make something complex. Out live I use Ableton and a MPD controller.
A lot of producers these days write under different aliases to experiment with different genres, is there going to be any Lunice side projects? Yer definitely. The main reason I choose my real name was, well first I couldn’t come up with anything clever, but also I was like if I use my real name it doesn’t pigeon hole me to just to rap beats, an example would be the remixes I’ve been doing with Diplo right. We’ve been working on new stuff together and it’s all been pretty experimental, doing different sounds with different chord progressions that we like, any ideas we get we record it and build it up into song, and that’s exactly how I like to work, it’s to always find different sounds.
I’ve also been doing some soundtracks, which is something I love too; in University I studied in film and communications, putting together stuff like that has always been my thing too. I always like to branch out into new things and you know in the future I definitely would like to work with a classical trained opera singer and not make it into some rap beat, it can be something completely different, as long as it’s something I’m intrigued and I want to do research on.
What have you been listen to of late and what’s been inspiring you?
I’ve actually been listening to game music, game soundtracks and listening to certain ways and techniques that the producer has used to create such big and orchestral sounds while limited to just midi sounds. Other than that I’ve been into the bigger than life sounds like the Self Made mixtapes and all that stuff; what’s really intriguing about it is I hear a lot more influences in there these days; and juke, I’m really loving juke, I mean the hi-hat rhythms and snares when they come in its crazy right, it’s all over the place but so together you know.
What’s the Purp Walk?
[Laughs] that’s one of those random thing [laughs], oh man, alright the Purp walk is practically just like Blood Stacking and Purp Walking together. I mean it makes purple right [laughs], so its like Blood Stacking and Purp Walking at the same time, I’m just being peaceful, I just want them to be together you know [laughs].
Well thanks for the chat Lunice, we look forward to having you down in Sydney to play Musica Festival Oct 22 in Tumbalong Park & The Chinese Laundry later on that night.
Thanks, looking forward to coming to OZ!
The Gaslamp Killer, defies classification. Born William Benjamin Bensussen, he earned his moniker after his wild destroying sets in the Gaslamp districts of San Diego. He lets us in on the mysterious dynamics of his partnership with Gonjasufi, how he’ll never make music without live instrumentation, the new artists coming out of LA and how he can’t wait to hit up Australia and New Zealand with Stereosonic and Melbourne Music Week.
FFF: Your Death Gate EP jumps from classic hip hop sources like the Ethiopiques to super digital ‘future’ beats. How do you resolve the distance between the soft and the raw? What does this EP mean to you creatively? The Gaslamp Killer (GLK): I always try to bring some 60s and 70s elements into my music and my deejay sets. I don’t think I will ever make any music without having some live instrumentation elements included. The Death Gate EP was just another collection of stuff I had been working on around that time (that didn’t make the Gonjasufi record). Hopefully it showed some various GLK styles and was a really fun release for me.
How would you describe the creative process between Gonjasufi and yourself? What do you enjoy most about working and hanging out together? I hear something that sounds like him, sounds like the Gonjasufi vibe and I sample it and re-edit it. Then I would email it to him and within a few days, weeks or months I would get an email back with a new song. Always impressive coming fromSumach.
What are your weapons of choice when making your productions? And how did you come to start music production and DJ’ing? Roland 303, Dr. Sample, Pro Tools, Serato, Beatmaker2 for iPad, my drum kit, Moog Voyager, various noise makers. My older friends were always doing graffiti and rapping while I was still just dancing at all the shows.
Then I started seeing more deejays emerging from the scene and I started going to raves and seeing deejays there rocking huge crowds. Just one dude rocking such big rooms of people. I knew right there and then that deejaying is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and I feel that making beats goes hand in hand with deejaying if you progress naturally.
I really like the artwork on I Spit On Your Grave, and Lake of Fire. I’m wondering who is behind the artwork, and what attracts you to this kind of look?Shepard Fairey [who designed the Barack Obama ‘Hope’ poster] asked me to do a mix cd for his brand Obey. Then he drew me off of a photo by Theo Jemison as he saw fit (just like he does with almost all his drawings). It was mostly his idea. The mix was made over the course of six months with a little help from my friends Kutmah and Free The Robots.
Hell and The Lake Of Fire was a mix that I made for Hit and Run Crew Los Angeles. Brandy Flower (the founder of H+R) has been making art for me since 2005 and when he asked me to make a mix CD I tried to get as weird as possible, so he did the same with the art. I guess its always dark but thats not really my intention all the time. Usually just happens that way.
You’ve been touted as being a purveyor of ‘international mystery music’, does this reflect your sound accurately? And what exactly is ‘international mystery music’? I guess it means that I play alot of unknown stuff from around the world. Not too many people have heard alot of the music that I am playing.
Most of my friends and I know all of the joints. But the average music listener just doesn’t know. So I guess that could be a reason why “they” call it that.
Are you hearing a musical evolution on the West Coast? Is L.A having a musical resurgence? LA has always had amazing musicians and we have always been evolved comparatively.
It’s a classic breeding ground for this shit, so nothing has changed but the amount of attention we happen to be getting at this moment thanks to guys like Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, Daedelus, Tyler The Creator and Odd Future and many many more artists that are killing the game right now coming out of LA.
Did you previous tours to Australia and New Zealand provide any echoes with California and L.A? Do we have much in common? The energy is very similar in Califronia to Australia and New Zealand. I feel a certain mellow beach vibe in the air when I go to Australia and New Zealand as well. Even though LA and alot of California has a rough city vibe to it sometimes as well, I still feel like that ocean energy takes over.
You tend to work with highly emotive, or intense music – be it a dubstep banger or a psych rock journey. How much of this is therapy and how much of it is science? If the songs dont have energy then the people won’t have energy. Simple as that.
What do you think of British artists like Bullion and Paul White? And the Lucky Me collective? Do this resonate with what you and the brainfeeder crew are doing? Of course. they are some of my fav crews doing it right now! Hudson Mohawke, Rustie, Lunice, Machine Drum, Bullion, Paul White… these are the closest relatives we have! Coast 2 Coast ya heard!
What are you looking forward to next for your music / life? New Gonjasufi music. New GLK music. New Computer Killer music. Not to mention my Australia and New Zealand tour coming up too! Very excited to play there again! So much new music to play for you guys! Its gonna be a great tour!
Multi-instrumentalist Jonti began assembling music after his departure from South Africa to Australia. Since settling down in Sydney, Jonti has recorded with luminaries Mark Ronson, Santigold, Sean Lennon and producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile). Whilst Jonti describes his own music as simple, his new label head Peanut Butter Wolf sees it as anything but that. “I understand the pop references because his music is so catchy, but the arrangements blew me away. I couldn’t figure out how the hell he did what he did. That he did it all on his own at such an early age kinda scared me. I knew right away I needed to add him to the roster.”
Prince Nod: Firstly, who was Danimals and what did Jonti do with him? Jonti: Danimals is my alter ego/best friend who allows me to do what I do. In the write up of the Sine And Moon podcast I explain my relationship with him.
Jonti sounds like a full band, but Peanut Butter Wolf leads me to believe it is all you, can this be true? I think that comes from listening to certain records, loving them so and trying to recreate them with what I’ve got. I usually do love the sound of real mechanic electronic music, but for the Twirligig project i tried to make it sound like you were listening to a raw record from the future.
When you met Peanut Butter Wolf, do you remember what kind of sneakers he was wearing? I cant, but they were undeniably ill!
What is your most beat oriented track? That’s a tough one, most of the tracks start out with beats. Although, I will say that there’s a song on the album called Cyclic Love which was a traditional hip hop beat-tape beat with an MC.
How in the hell did you end up recording with Mark Ronson, Santigold, Sean Lennon and John Agnello? It was for a competition to write and record a song with Mark Ronson for a commercial. It was a brilliant experience, in which i got to write a song a day with many artists along with a bunch of my friends. For the past few years I also played in a band called Sherlock’s Daughter and we cut the first record with the brilliant Mr. Agnello last year.
Tell us about your new album’s single, Fireworks Spraying Moon, the lyrics and the gorgeous video that goes with it… That song is probably the most simple and direct lyrically. It’s about romanticising that moment you were sitting in a giant golden chair on a hill with a loved one and the moon was giving you a personal fireworks show.
I met up with the director Hank [Henry ‘Hank’ DeMaio] on my first visit, and I can’t remember how, but we just decided we wanted to do a video for that song. Hank had an idea involving chemicals and mirrors which I really liked, which is what created a lot of the effects and eventually the final album art.
Tell us about your discography? How have things progressed and changed? Well I’ve only released the one single so far (as Jonti). But I do live in my own world, where I’ve released dozens of albums. Sine And Moon was one of them. I first started making tracks with this brilliant windows freesynth called the TS-404, then started doing pop on a 4-track, then got a sampler and did straight beats for a couple of years, and then i started expanding on that a few years ago. The second album for Stones Throw is based around a time when i was into really cathartic music, and I’m in a different world now though.
How does it feel being Australia’s first signing to Stones Throw? I’m blessed, and am grateful everyday. It’s somewhere i never dreamed I would be, but did dream of getting there. Just goes to show how important dreams are. One layer of the album is a dedication to Stones Throw, with references and samples hidden in nearly every track. I really never thought they would hear it.
Are you a massive Stones Throw fan? Who is your favourite artist from the label? Most of the roster has been massively influential but Madlib is maybe my favourite musician. i cant tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had trying to figure out how some Yesterdays New Quintet stuff was done, or even some beat that took him five minutes to make was done.
Can you tell us about the selections in you recent Stones Throw Podcast…Sure! As I mentioned earlier, Sine And Moon was one of those albums in my personal discography and it was probably the most recent one before Twirligig and there is also a mix based around most of those songs. [You can download the Sine And Moon album via Stones Throw Records for free, by clicking the artwork below]
We spoke at James Blake’s Sydney about the use of vocals; what is your approach to this? A lot of the time I’d rather have the beat tell the story, and have the vocals be another loop or texture on top of everything. As if the words and melodies were there on a sequencer grid. I wish I could write like a troubadour sometimes though heh. I think James Blake is amazing at painting a picture with a looped verse and have the music kinda dictate it’s meaning as it goes.
Your music is fresh and boldly pretty with complex production and melodic arrangements, but what is your sonic message to the world? I think there’s something great about lots of broken sounds working together confidently to try create something bold. I don’t know why but i like that idea.
Alex Smoke’s music may reside on the dancefloor along with his renowned live sets, but it also resonates so much further than this. With a production style drawn from a myriad of influences that blur the boundaries between electronica, techno, classical and hip hop, Alex Smoke evolves in new directions with every new project he undertakes, musically consistently fulfilling, regardless of the listener’s preferred genre. In his own words “I’m playing live so it’s full of synth, drum machine and cables.” Currently on tour in Australia, Alex catches up with Sean Taylor between Perth and Melbourne.
FFF:How was Perth, enjoy the gig? Alex:Gig was a cracker. Had a great gig there last time too. The people are fully involved and there was a nice atmosphere. People had told me the scene had shrunk, but as long as people are out and dancing you’d never know it. It was busy.
What do you do when you perform? Is there a big gap between production and performance for you? Yeah I guess so. Performance for me is essentially music for dancing to, whereas in my productions I’m more focussed on the musical content and it covers a much wider range of styles. When you’re performing, the music naturally molds itself to the demands of the audience as you’re always listening to the flow and watching the response.
For a while I had to stand still during my sets after an operation, and it totally ruined it for me, as without actually dancing and moving it became really hard to guage how it felt on the floor. I have all my music broken down into component loops, kick drum, bassline, synth1 etc, then I’ve got a drum machine for playing and a small synth. On top of that i have my own vocals which I use depending on the feel of the night. Some nights suit it more than others.
How did you get involved with Soma records and what was the highlight of your time there? I got involved through friends who worked there. I used to send them demos by the bucket load over several years, and then one day they asked me to try a Funk D’void remix which went well, and suddenly my production just came good and I had a clear view of how it should sound. The first EP and album were done within the year and that was that. I was lucky, but I also grafted hard. Highlight was getting the first album offer from Glenn at Soma, as it was something I really wanted.
Glasgow seems to be a hotbed for electronic music, why do you think this is? There’s a culture of musical knowledge there, where people are proud of having their own tastes and styles, and this is a very rich bed for producers to grow from. We also have a going out culture because the weather is crap, and an excellent record shop (rubadub.co.uk) which really binds the community together. The rest is probably the mushrooms from the golf courses.
What’s your favourite club in Glasgow? I have two really. The Sub Club is where I cut my teeth when I was younger and I’d be there religiously every weekend till the lights came up, listening to Harri and Domenic play deep house. It really was a special thing for me.
Later I also grew to love Club69 in Paisley, which is a nightmare to get to and from but which is definitely the purest club in the UK. It’s underneath a curry house in Paisley, and has been home to all the visiting dignitaries over the years, from Drexciya to Mad Mike to a very memorable Ghostly showcase just as Matthew Dear was appearing on the scene. It’s a bare-bones, small dark damp room, camouflage netting and a bar that used to be a guy from the restaurant handing out tinnies. you can get spirits now though.
How was your 2010 album Lux received and what were you trying to achieve with it? I was worried how it might be received as it was a long time between my first and second albums and it was very different in style from Paradolia, but the response was great and we sold all of them so I’m glad people came with me. I really wanted to use the opportunity to explore new ideas and new techniques, and just to push out in new directions. It took so long between finishing and release that I was fully sick of it by the time it was out, but now I can listen with a bit of distance.
Tell us about the Faust soundtrack project you did? I had done a classical piece last year for an ensemble called the Scottish Ensemble, for 12 strings, and I really wanted to continue to push into classical composition so I wrote a full score for the 1926 silent film of Faust. It’s written for string quintet but there’s also a large sound design element to the soundtrack, where i’ve used references to Faustian pacts in the sound design. It was a labour of love, but by far the most satisfying thing I’ve done, and unquestionably the best music too as far as I’m concerned.
How has your classical training influenced your electronic work? I think it’s given me a real taste for melody and harmony, and that now comes very naturally to me. I played the cello form the age of six and piano too, although I was pretty crap at it, and then the drums when i was at thirteen. I also sang full time in a cathedral choir from when I was nine and that’s been a massive influence as I know choral music back to front as a result. I still love it.
What’s the mission behind your Music of the Month series? DJ charts can be very prosaic, and so ephemeral that you can’t help suspecting that the DJ’s chosen a few things which they don’t even like that much just to fill in the space. So i like the idea of having music of the month to cover everything I’ve newly discovered in a month, even if some of it is a year old. I don’t include really old stuff as that risks making the whole thing seem out of date.
I also want it to represent all the good music I’ve heard, not just the ten best promos from one particular micro-genre. I’ll also never chart my own records, as I think that sucks. I did it once at the request of a distributor and instantly felt cheap. So it’s a chart for people to investigate and broaden their horizons people won’t like everything on it probably, but they’ll know that everything is quality and carefully considered.
What’s in your record bag for the Australia gigs? I’m playing live so it’s full of synth, drum machine and cables.