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17

NO JOKE Inside Himanshu Suri’s Greedhead Empire


featuring: Le1f, Laku SAFE, Dapwell and Big Baby G


utis,

Gandhi


Editor-in-Chief / Publisher Andrew Parks, Pop Mart Media aparks@self-titledmag.com Art Director / Deputy Editor Aaron Richter (M.R.S.) arichter@self-titledmag.com Managing Editor Arye Dworken adworken@self-titledmag.com Staff Photographer Caroline Mort Contributing Writers Claire Lobenfeld, Vivian Host, Austin L. Ray, Michael Tedder, Simon Vozick-Levinson Contributing Photographers Jimmy Fontaine, Jesse Jacobs, Meredith Jenks, Kyle Johnson, Jake Michaels, Ysa Pérez, Lauren Perlstein, Bryan Sheffield, Brian Sorg, Nathanael Turner, Elizabeth Weinberg, Magdalena Wosinska Advertising, Submissions & Other Inquiries Andrew Parks / self-titled 685 Metropolitan Ave. #1 Brooklyn, NY 11211 718-499-3983 aparks@self-titledmag.com

Display through forever—we’re digital, remember? Published by Pop Mart Media. All self-titled content is property of Pop Mart Media. Please do not use without permission. Copyright 2012, Pop Mart Media. —

Greedhead cover photography Ysa PÉrez



Simon Vozick-Levinson is an associate editor at Rolling Stone who can also be found muttering to himself at swvlswvl.tumblr.com. He thinks Gaius Valerius Catullus would have made a great battle rapper. A lifelong New Yorker, Simon, who profiled Himanshu Suri’s Greedhead label for this issue, lives in upper Manhattan with his wife and their overflowing bookshelves.

Photographer Meredith Jenks documented Yakuza frontman Bruce Lamont’s transformation into Robert Plant for the band Led Zeppelin 2. Some of her favorite things include making people run and jump; thrift stores; receiving mail; road trips; five-hour walks with no particular destination; her dog, Mouse; doodling; collecting cat art; and discovering new ways to season popcorn.

CONTRIBU T O R S Photography katie mccurdy ST—004

Austin L. Ray celebrated his 12th year of semi-professional pop-culture writing by eating a cold slice of pizza recently. During those dozen years, he’s sat in a dark tent with Zach Galifianakis; walked Savannah, Georgia’s streets while profiling its metal scene; and discussed Twitter with Robert Plant (whose proxy in the cover band Led Zeppelin 2, Yakuza’s Bruce Lamont, Austin interviewed for this issue). When not writing for Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club, Creative Loafing or BeerAdvocate, among many other titles, he spends his free time fielding facial-hair questions, drinking India pale ales and oogling pit bulls.

This issue’s cover photographer, Ysa Pérez, grew up in Rochester, New York, where she also attended the Rochester Institute of Technology and earned a BFA in photography. Ysa, who’s shot such musicians as A$AP Rocky, Skrillex, Chief Keef and Debbie Harry, also has an editorial background, having worked at Nylon and GQ, where, most recently, she was the magazine’s photo assistant. Ysa currently lives in Brooklyn.



#selftitledmag

— Like what you see here but think you can do better? Upload your favorite music photos to Instagram with the hashtag #selftitledmag, and you just might be featured in a future issue. And don’t forget to follow us here.



350 WORDS OR LESS From the Editor: I gotta be honest: When I first heard the knuckledragging beat and meme-baiting chorus of “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” I joined the collective chorus branding Das Racist’s breakout single as both insanely catchy and profoundly stupid. Four years later, Das Racist has shed its novelty status for biting bits of social commentary, memorable TV appearances (No Reservations’ holiday special, Conan O’Brien’s new late show, a Kmart ad), and a record deal with Megaforce and Sony. None of which comes as a surprise now that I’ve gotten to know the group’s de facto frontman, Himanshu “Heems” Suri. Media savvy and hungry for success (both his own and for those around him), the MC/Greedhead founder has put his own music on the back burner to bolster the careers of his close friends and collaborators. Suri will regain the spotlight when he drops his latest solo tape, Wild Water Kingdom, and starts up work on Das Racist’s second official full-length. As he admits in this issue’s cover package, “For whatever reason, Das Racist tricked people. So I want to trick more people.” That shouldn’t be a problem now that the rapper has reinforcements on his Greedhead label, from the art-damaged soul of SAFE to the verse-vaporizing flows of Big Baby Gandhi, Lakutis and Le1f. This issue looks at how Suri went from being a low-budget Web celebrity to a sleepless, bill-stacking businessman. ST—008

Also of note is our look at rapper/producer Le1f, with his soupy blend of black-lit breaks and booming rhymes, as well as randomness from Lakutis (sci-fi, yogurt) and Big Baby Gandhi (wrestlers). Elsewhere, Ariel Pink gets candid about the Dark Ages; Bruce Lamont transforms into Robert Plant and TEEN gets us wasted. Until our year-end issue...

Andrew Parks, Editor-in-Chief / Publisher

Five albums that have earned a spot on my year-end list

Death Grips, The Money Store Swans, The Seer Holy Other, Held Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory Chromatics, Kill for Love

— tap HERE TO SUBSCRIBE to my “Best of 2012” Spotify playlist



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Ariel Pink | TEEN Titus Andronicus | Divine Fits Tropic of Cancer How to Dress Well

short cuts


Ariel Pink photography Nathanael Turner ST—011


ROLL THE TAPE Interview Andrew Parks Photography nathanael turner

ariel pink

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The LA artist chats with us for 48 minutes about whatever the hell he wants.


self-titled: What are you thinking about? The Higgs boson discovery. It’s the standard model of psychics. They built this large hydrogen collider as a means of proving it. Who’s they? Independent scientists. They pulled everyone’s research together and reviewed it. And the puzzle pieces fit together now? They found it. They found the Higgs. It’s basically what gives mass mass. You’re reminding me of how badly I did in AP Physics. I didn’t do very well either, but I’m fascinated by lots of things. I had a really hard time with math and science. I don’t know shit about math. It’s just about concepts; it’s about what the mathematicians are saying and its correlations to the real world. There’s always a layman’s interpretation. From a theoretical point of view, someone needs to make it intelligible for people. So what’s the next step with the Higgs? That’s precisely what I’ve been wondering myself. There hasn’t been much extrapolation. It’s like they proved something that was already there. Exactly. There hasn’t been a discovery like this in 40 years—not one of this magnitude. I wonder what it’ll lead to. They’re always talking about time travel and that kind of stuff. It sounds like you’re one of those people who’s always in search of learning something new. Yes! I wanna learn something! If I have any aggro tendencies, it’s because of the lack of real stimulation and engagement. It’s a little frustrating sometimes. What’s something you read lately? Here’s something I’m reading right now. [Pink points at a book in his Ace Hotel room.]

Is this an overview of gnosticism? Yeah, it’s almost like an essay. He extrapolates bigger threads in a very cool, poetic way. I love the way it reads. It’s not like the Wikipedia article. Wikipedia gives you a nice base, but a lot of people stop there. It’s weird how it does that. We have this weird compulsion to go there for the base. It’s such an odd thing to me. It’s the Library of Alexandria; it’s the Reuters, the Associated Press of all journalism. Right? That’s really scary to me. When we were kids, we had the card catalog. And the Dewey Decimal System! I never gave two shits about that really, but I think about the implications of everything being put online, all the writings of the world being scanned. The Dead Sea Scrolls, every last bit of arcane historical... You mean how Google is supposedly scanning every book in history? Everyone is. Eventually all of the paper records will be scanned, so there’ll be a generation growing up without any books. The books may be in a warehouse if they’re not being burned. I mean, who’s preserving that stuff? The Library of Congress, right? [Laughs] Right! The Mormons are probably saving it for everybody. They’re actually known for archiving, genealogy and other records they’re preserving about history. So anyway, you get everything up online, and the books in the real world disappear. Then you turn it off. What do you mean? The power grid goes down, and that’s it. We’re back to the Dark Ages. Do you think that would be good for us because it’d essentially mean starting over? I do. The human race has a chance to start over. The latest album by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Mature Themes, is out now on 4AD. — Read the rest of our Ariel Pink interview here. ST—013


BAR TAB

Words MICHAEL TEDDER Photography ELIZABETH WEINBERG

teen

The Brooklyn group gets us drunk on a Tuesday morning. ST—014


Jane Herships is the newest member of Brooklyn’s TEEN. She plays bass, makes a mean drink with coffee and egg cream, and has already mastered answering questions such as, “So what’s it like being in a band of sisters?” “I just stay out of it,” says Herships, as we sit down for an interview and 10 am cocktails at the Williamsburg restaurant Teddy’s. “She can’t answer that honestly,” adds drummer Katherine Lieberson with a laugh. TEEN is the newest project of former Here We Go Magic member Teeny Lieberson. Its debut, In Limbo, merges terse, Motorik rhythms with buoyant, interlocking harmonies that could pass for samples from a long-lost girl group. It’s a sound the Liebersons, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, come by naturally: Dad was a contemporary composer in the Steve Reich vein (“Some of it was pretty far out” says keyboardist Lizzy), and mom sang in ’60s and ’70s blues bands. So when Teeny decided to focus on her own songs, she recruited recent New York transplants Lizzy and Katherine. Like Thanksgiving and weddings, being in a family band is easier with the help of alcohol, so as we chat at Teddy’s, each member of TEEN crafts a cocktail for self-titled to imbibe.

Lizzy’s “Brooklyn Beauty”

• Elderflower liqueur • Bombay gin • lemon juice Our take: Elegant, with a refreshing but not overpowering zest.

Katherine’s “Basically Tequila”

• Patrón • lime juice • SpLASH OF seltzer • dash of sugar Our take: To quote Katherine, it’s very “strong,” which is always a plus. We’d never knock straight tequila, and there’s no shame in keeping it simple, but it’s a competition so we have to deduct points for lack of complexity. •• •• •• ••

Jane’s “Java Jubilee”

• coffee bes • egg cream dri t nk! • coffee liqueur • secret ingredients we didn’t catch Our take: If you’re going to to start drinking at 10 am on a Tuesday, this is the drink you should have. Frothy and thick, with enough pick-me-up to convince yourself it’s not at all troubling that you’re sauced before noon. Starbucks should start marketing a version.

Teeny’s “Scotch and Ginger”

• ground ginger • Scotch • splash of soda • celery Our take: Not too complex, but points for potency, and it’s hard not to feel a little guilty when someone peels and crushes ginger so you can feel extra fancy.

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RECORDING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

titus andronicus

Photography elizabeth weinberg

ST—016


Frontman Patrick Stickles explains what really inspired his band’s third album, Local Business. 1. Lars von Trier

I learned from Antichrist’s commentary that von Trier draws his power from the blending of “documentary” and “monumental” styles. We tried to adapt this aesthetic to our recording process: The “documentary” element resulted in a commitment to capturing the raw sound of the band playing together live as a unit, and the “monumental” with the sometimes grandiose scope of the compositions. Furthermore, von Trier’s openness in addressing his own battles with anxiety enabled me to strive for greater levels of transparency and honesty in regard to my own mental-health struggles.

2. Shea Stadium

Shea Stadium is a DIY venue in Brooklyn, where Titus Andronicus learned and practiced the songs that would make up our album—and where I lived for a while and continue to volunteer. Being tight with this space has helped us stay close to our roots, while feeding off the creative energy of the bands coming in to play shows. Shea has taught us a lot about the value of community and the virtues of “local business.”

3. Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time

So much of the recording process is sitting around and waiting to do something, isolated in the studio. Thankfully, we had this Nintendo 64 classic to provide semi-constructive distraction. Link’s journey became a metaphor for our own, as we often found ourselves lost, not knowing

where to turn or how to proceed, but each successive temple conquered reminded us the value of determination and perseverance. Finally completing the game was a milestone that let us know our goals were always within our grasp.

4. Norman Mailer’s “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster”

As a twentysomething white male in Brooklyn, with a vested interest in alternative music, I felt it behooved me to address “hipsterism” in some capacity with this album. This essay by Mailer helped me understand the concept of hipsterism as “American existentialism,” a reaction to an invalidating and often terrifying world.

5. Occupy Wall Street

This movement led me to consider my own complicity within our capitalist system. This is a sticky situation for a rock band that would seek to critique consumerism, while at the same time offer up its works as a consumer product. I don’t claim to have the definitive answer, but I have come to believe that acknowledging one’s own complicity is the first step toward becoming a more productive member of society. Of course, it also helped to reaffirm the importance of local business and served as a reminder to be cautious of the corporate ogre. — read other installments of Recording under the influence with M83, perfume genius, how to dress well and more. ST—017


BIG FAN

divine fits Photography jesse jacobs Sam Brown, Dan Boeckner, touring keyboardist Alex Fischel and Britt Daniel. Their debut, A Thing Called Divine Fits, is out now via Merge. ST—018


Britt, Dan and Sam on their own damn songs. Handsome Furs, “What About Us?” (Sound Kapital, Sub Pop) Britt Daniel: I love all three of [Dan Boeckner’s] Handsome Furs records, but my favorite was the last one. “What About Us?” sounds political at times, as if he is voicing the concerns of a class of people who otherwise don’t have [a voice], but there’s also some pretty personal stuff on there, like “I’ve been living nice alone,” and “Go on and break my heart.” Boeckner: Most of the Sound Kapital record is based on my impression of the underground music scene in countries that don’t have a lot of money. I had these lyrics, and this ’90s house track I was working on with a drum machine. I was going to use those lyrics for more of a punkrock, guitar-based song, but I thought it’d be cool to put it on top of this beat. The song developed where it needed a part B, so I started singing random stuff and this sad, introspective end to the song developed. It happened by accident, and I glued those two things together. I wanted the beginning to be someone speaking for the crowd and the end them speaking for themselves.

Spoon, “Mountain to Sound” (Soft Effects, 1997) Boeckner: This is one of my favorite Spoon songs [of Britt’s]. I like how the snare sound has its own note. It’s like the melodic presence in that song. You don’t hear that a lot. Somehow I’ve connected the lyrics to being a band on tour and building this thing.... When I’m at an airport on tour, this song always comes back to me. DANIEL: This song was a collection of lines that had happened on tour. The title, “Mountain to Sound,” was a road sign I’d seen somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. There’s also all of that stuff about waiting at the airport. That was my life then. Actually, there weren’t many airports, but there was a lot of traveling in vans. We lucked into this thing where [the song] builds and builds, and then it just explodes. Because we had only four tracks, John Croslin, the producer, had this idea of hard-panning everything—the guitars all to one side, the drums all to one side. It’s totally separated, an old-school sounding recording. We did it in this tiny, tiled room. The sound of that room was unbeatable.

Sam Brown, “untitled” (unreleased) Boeckner: I don’t even know the name of my favorite song that Sam’s been involved with. It’s not a song by [Sam’s bands] the Sun or New Bomb Turks. During one of our residency show nights in LA, Sam and I were driving back to his friend Brad’s house, and he played me this solo demo recording that was amazing. It’s really upbeat and melodic. Sam’s got a great voice, like a Lindsey Buckingham–style voice. It’s almost like a power-pop song, in the best sense. Brown: That song doesn’t have a name yet. It’s just a demo. My wife went to San Francisco for the weekend, so I set up my drums in the living room and demoed a song. But then I started working with [Divine Fits] and haven’t done anything with it. I’m hoping I can get back to finishing that stuff this winter. I’m still learning the art of refinement. It’s a real skill to have the patience to find a song’s sweet spot. I’ve learned a lot about that from working with Britt. — Check out our complete Divine Fits interview here. ST—019


IN THE CITY

Words Camella Lobo Photography Jake Michaels

tropic of cancer

Camella Lobo invites us to tour LA’s dark side. ST—020


I grew up in a small Port of Los Angeles town called San Pedro. If you ask anyone who lives in LA, they will tell you not to go there, or that they’ve never heard of it. When I was a kid, there was a rumor the Black Dahlia was found in a field about five blocks from where I now live. My intrigue with living and dying horrifically in LA probably began there, along with having a father who was a homicide detective for many years. After some time living all over the place and a stint in the Midwest, I am back in this dark little seaside town, and still expecting to stumble upon a naked corpse on the hillside every morning. It’s no surprise I am fixated with locations where people have died. I guess I just refuse to believe these spaces could return to their benign states after serving as such monumental exit points for a life, big or small. There was a phrase I once heard in reference to the “rise and fall” ecosystem of Hollywood that has stuck with me: “The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.” That vision of Los Angeles has always fascinated me—that and the transient nature of a city that holds far too many dreams, both dead and alive.

Seward Avenue

Silent-movie star Marie Prevost, who starred in the film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Beautiful and the Damned, fell victim to the unfortunate downward spiral today’s Hollywood clichés were built on. After fame and failure, she died of alcoholism brought on by depression at 38. She was found in her apartment days later, after neighbors complained about her dog barking incessantly.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

You can’t walk three feet in this cemetery without stumbling upon a famous grave site. It’s basically the Hollywood Walk of Fame for the dead. Vampira (Maila Nurmi), Jayne Mansfield, Lana Clarkson, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone,

and Cecil B. Demille are all buried here. One of the most interesting things about it, to me, is that Paramount Studios is built on part of the original Hollywood Forever Cemetery. They screen movies here pretty regularly.

The Sowden House

The mysteries behind the Sowden House are as bizarre as its architecture. It’s tucked into a row of seemingly nondescript LA bungalows on a busy street in Los Feliz. It just sort of lunges at you out of nowhere with these menacing jaws. The house was built by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1920s, but it became the center of the Black Dahlia murder case in 2004 when an LAPD officer who grew up there accused his doctor father of killing Elizabeth Short in the house, along with many other women. Though the accusation was never proven, the aura of eeriness prevails.

Afton Arms

Nearly every old building at this point has a connection to some tragic old Hollywood tale. Afton Arms, a gorgeous, ivy-covered, castle-like building on the corner of El Centro and Afton Place, has many. Several notorious murders and deaths have taken place within its beautiful walls. However, what was once a raucous and scandalous building on par with the Chelsea Hotel now has a peaceful, estate-like presence, leaving no physical trace of its dark history.

Chateau Marmont

Chateau Marmont has been a landmark of Hollywood glamour for decades. The only time I’ve ever been there, I had a moment outside Room 3, where John Belushi overdosed. It still feels dark and sad. If you go online, you can Google an aerial photo from this exact spot the morning he was discovered. The same street lamp stands there now. Tropic of Cancer has two limited releases out this fall: a split Part Time Punks Radio Sessions EP with HTRK (Ghostly, Oct. 30), and an etched, onesided picture disc (Sleeperhold, Oct. 24). ST—021


LIB SERVICE

Photography aaron richter

how to

How to Dress Well’s latest album, Total Loss, is out now via Acéphale.

dress well ST—022


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is

s i th A band c alled h t dea ps i r g

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After canceling their tour and disappearing for several months, Death Grips just released its second album, NO LOVE DEEP WEB, for free online.

up next: Yakuza | Paul Banks | Greedhead William Basinski | Mount Eerie Photography bryan sheffield ST—025


m e t h o d

Words Austin L. Ray Photography meredith jenks

a c t i n g


Yakuza frontman Bruce Lamont invites us backstage as he becomes Robert Plant.

Long hair bobby-pinned tight to his skull, Bruce Lamont is blowdrying his arms and talking about concealer. A woman diligently combs and curls a blond wig on a mannequin head at a nearby table. We’re all in a cramped room filled with flowery vintage shirts, bandmates and friends, behind a stage nicknamed “Hell” at Atlanta’s cavernous Masquerade venue. Lamont, frontman for the Chicago metal band Yakuza, wears a sleeveless Zoroaster tee that displays a dizzying array of body art—tattoos that appear to vanish just past his elbows, where Lamont has been applying, spraying and drying makeup for several minutes now. “I used to do my chest and unbutton my shirt, but fuck that,” he says of his pre-show ritual. “Makeup’s too expensive.” Later tonight, Lamont will take the stage as Robert Plant, fronting the thoroughly convincing tribute act Led Zeppelin 2, which blasts through hours of rock ’n’ roll classics. Lamont’s performed in (Yakuza, Bloodiest, Circle of Animals) or collaborated with (Nachtmysitum,

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“Yakuza’s gonna

bring

kind of

money,

don’t care.”

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never

in

this

and

I


Brutal Truth, Locrian) numerous underground metal acts, in addition to his own budding solo career (this past year, he released Feral Songs for the Epic Decline). Yet Led Zeppelin has always been his first love. “My mother used to drive me and my sister to see my grandmother,” says Lamont. “I had to be four or five years old. I have these fond memories of sun coming in through the window that I equate with ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ This music’s been with me as far back as I can remember.” Once Lamont takes the Masquerade stage, a goateed bro holding an oversize can of Foster’s nods appreciatively as the band tears through “Good Times Bad Times.” Next to him near the front of the crowd is a boy in a Braves cap grinning widely and looking like he’s getting the acne melted right off of his face. “To me, this is an acting gig,” explains Lamont.

“It’s entertainment for an audience, and I want to make sure they get what they deserve. I’m always watching how people react to certain songs. I’m much more mindful of that.” Lamont has said he’s “married to [his] music,” speaking in the context of Led Zeppelin 2, but it’s clear that this project is intended to help fund the stuff he really cares about—like Yakuza, who released its sixth album, Beyul, through Profound Lore this fall. “When it comes to creative endeavors, I don’t wanna worry about any sort of income that has to be drawn from that,” he says. “I just want to be able to create, and that’s it. Yakuza’s never gonna bring in this kind of money, and I don’t care. That’s fine. It’s not about that. We don’t play for the money. We never have.” “With this, I do. Without a doubt,” Lamont adds with a laugh. “I will not even mince words.” // ST—029


LIFE STORY Interview vivian Host Photography Jimmy fontaine

paul banks


Interpol’s frontman talks primary colors, alter egos and the importance of “Dream On.” I’d ride around with my mom listening to the radio and think there were little people in the car somewhere playing the music. “Beat It” was the first piece of music where I said, “I must have that.” I got it for my birthday the year it came out. I had a red Fisher Price boom box with a handle that slid upward, and I would just listen to Thriller over and over.

I was born in England. Then we moved to the States, and I lived in Spain and Mexico before I went to college. Being 15 in Madrid was like being 22 in Manhattan. It was on. Then I came back to New Jersey for my junior year of high school, and it was like, “Oh, fuck. You mean we have to go to some house party and drink a keg? That’s all we’re doing tonight?”

Hip-hop was my first love. Before rock, I was listening to N.W.A. and Too $hort. When I was 12, this friend of mine and I had this hip-hop duo. When I was a little kid, I couldn’t listen to music I guess I was the DJ; I’d do the mixing with tape in the afternoon because it would keep me up, decks and the pause button. I loved N.W.A. and like the way coffee works. If I heard a melody any time after noon, I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I the Posse. I took all the usages of the word “bitch” finally found a safe song that I knew all the words from “A Bitch Iz a Bitch” and cut all them up for like three minutes. to, and it became like a lullaby. It was “Land of a Thousand Dances” by the wrestlers of the WWF. At 14, I decided to be a professional musician “I’ll slap you with my cane, you pencil-necked because of Nirvana. If a guidance counselor asked geek” was one of the lyrics. It was almost like I me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” learned how to meditate when I was a little. I’m I’d say, “I want to be a rock star.” They would think now one of the world’s greatest sleepers. I was kidding, but I had that epiphany, like, if that is what you want, why would you act like it isn’t? My pops worked in the car industry, but he has Just because that’s a crazy thing to wish for? a total wanderlust and wanted to see the world. ST—031


I had very pronounced tastes, but I was not a snobby music fan. I’d be introduced to stuff via mixtapes and MTV Europe, but it’s not like I was raiding the record store in Madrid. At that time, it would have been a lot of Euro-techno and house anyway. Around 14, I was listening to a classic-rock compilation CD and Aerosmith’s “Dream On” came on. That song clicked something in my brain, and I had to listen to it every day. I’m also pretty OCD, so every morning on my way to school, I would have to listen to “Dream On,” and I wouldn’t get off the bus until it was over. That was the fucking anthem for my life that year. I can play the intro to “Smoke on the Water” and “Redemption Song,” and the intro to some Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I never ever learned how to play an entire song of someone else’s. I think that made my songwriting suffer for a long time; for years, I only played riffs. I’m not that attached to possessions. The most magical thing I own is this piece-of-shit guitar—a $250 Yamaha I got in South America. It should be terrible, but I write tons of music on it and love it. I was lucky I spoke Spanish when I got to Mexico. The people in Mexico are the best hosts of any people I’ve ever met. If you go to Mexico, people really want to show you shit. It’s beautiful. It’s one of the only places where if you compliment someone on a sweater, they’ll give it to you. The cosmos put me around a certain group of people, and I had one of those expansions of consciousness [in Mexico]. I thought I was fairly hot shit, but I met people that floored me in being more wordly and cultured, with more refined tastes. I don’t think I would be the artist that I am if I didn’t meet these individuals; they opened my eyes to aesthetics on a much more subtle and hip level. Those people have gone on to be pretty successful, actually. One of them, who sold me the Les Paul I play in Interpol, just made the film Miss Bala that got into Cannes. I started in Interpol when I was in college at NYU. I graduated class of 2000. Interpol’s first show was 1998. ST—032

Interpol is [guitarist] Daniel [Kessler]’s baby. He put the band together, and the songwriting has always started with him. The reason I’m in Interpol is because Daniel’s chord progressions trigger tons of vocal ideas for me. But there’s a role that I play, and it depended on how consistent the output was between [former bassist] Carlos [D] and Daniel. Interpol’s fun like that; they push a button on me, and they get a kind of reaction. In the beginning, Carlos and I used to go out to a lot of clubs together, and I think that affected the fashion of the band. But that idea that I need the overstimulation of the city to impact creativity is wrong. I wrote a lot of music in Spain and Mexico. Now I go to the beach all the time and surf and write tons of music there. When I joined Interpol, I realized that I would probably be getting into a lot more trouble if I didn’t have the outlet of shouting into a microphone. I think its very therapeutic for certain personality types. I felt like the tropes and clichés of music had been so exhausted. I would much rather sing something that was like, “What the fuck did he just say? What does he mean?” If I had an agenda in the beginning, it was definitely to never say anything too obvious. At the same time, I would really indulge in singing an incredibly clichéd lyric sometimes. If I put one phrase that’s really cliché in the context of a bunch of phrases that are what-the-fuck moments, then it’s a cliché that’s become even more unnerving. There are shit-loads of rules in Interpol, but they’re not expressly stated. Somebody will give you a look if you’re doing something they think is lame. There’s an incredible amount of snobby editing going on. There were only a few CDs we could all agree on in the Interpol van tour we did. Jesus Lizard. I don’t even know if the Cure made the cut. I got them all listening to Ratatat. No one had a problem with that. When I had Kool Keith on a lot, there were some problems.


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ST—036


Once you’ve been through the process of getting four snobby people to agree on a song and then people start saying, “Oh, my god, it’s like Joy Division,” it’s like, “You have no idea what we went through to make that.” It’s like defining Italy by pizza. That’s how it feels when people talk about one band to define what I do as an artist.

I had goofy songs on my first record, which is something that I would never do with Interpol. The energy can be a little bit lighter. There’s happy music on my first solo record: “Girl on the Sporting News” is a goofy concept; “Unwind” is a totally jovial song. I’m comfortable being upbeat in my own music.

When I was in Interpol, Kirk Hammett from Metallica came backstage after a festival we did in Denmark and was like, “Yeah, it reminds me of this black metal that I used to listen to when I was in LA.” The fact that he didn’t come in and say “post-punk”—I loved that.

I write everything—every hi-hat, every bass note. On my latest record, I played the guitars and the drums and the bass. The only stuff I couldn’t play was strings.

Interpol is a little more poetic or subtle at times, and I’m comfortable being more blunt force.... I’m comfortable with primary colors. I put all my solo work on hold for three records and a decade. I had promised myself that I would finish the music I had been doing before Interpol, so I did...in my very odd way, pursuing my alter ego with no press and no promotion. But as you start developing an alter ego, it’s like, “Well, do I wear a mask? Is it going to be so secretive that no one would know?” Then immediately I realized that would be a big pain in the ass. I always liked the idea of alter egos. It’s fun. It’s probably more to do with a weird way of facing up to social anxiety. There’s always a degree of facade there. The same guy that’s having this conversation is not the same guy that necessarily writes or performs the song. An alter ego is sort of an indicator that you should now begin to suspend disbelief. It just sort of indicates to people, “This is not boring reality time. This is fantasy time.” Julian Plenti lives. He’s not dead. Well, that remains to be seen. Almost everything I’ve done has some angle of humor. My publicist will tell me that people don’t get that I’m being funny and they think I’m being really serious. Like, Julian Plenty was a porn name, but I thought maybe if I do it with an i, it’s almost like an Italian-American name. That, to me, was hilarious.

On my solo records, there’s often finger-picking guitar lines, which have a bit of Spanish influence to them. “Hands Away” is the only example of that in Interpol’s entire catalog, which is the song that I wrote. If you employ all five fingers to play the six strings, you can get much more out of the guitar; it’s much more like a piano. I also have a rage song on my new album that felt really good called “Paid for That.” It’s not a catchy chorus, per se, but I realized when I wrote it that it would be really fun to perform because it’s very cathartic. This song is like therapy times 10. I definitely want to explore writing music with lots and lots of aggression. With my music, the vocal ideas come sooner and they’re worked into the DNA of the composition. I like to see the song as a moving force where all the elements are equally relevant. It’s just a function of my being alive that I write music. The ideal is for me to have a label paying for me to make records forever. It doesn’t really matter how large or small the fan base is. I feel most at home in the ocean. I go to Central America to surf. I have a private paradise, and it’s very remote on the Pacific Coast near Costa Rica. I once heard a Spanish kid say, “Las olas grandes te curan de miedo,” which means “The big waves cure you of fear.” I’ve had a personal philosophy for a long time, which is “Don’t be a pussy.” It’s sort of a key piece of wisdom that I devised for myself. They’re both the same idea, but the Spanish guy’s way of putting it to this other surfer was more poetic. // ST—035


kingdom

ST—050


kingdom come

Getting to the heart and hustle of greedhead music. Photography Ysa PĂŠrez Photography assistance Brandon Isralsky Location C+G Studio Brooklyn

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All brown everything How “accidental rapper” Himanshu Suri leaped from Wall Street lackey to mixtape master with a vision for greater heights. Words Simon Vozick-Levinson

H

imanshu Suri leans back in his chair and sips single-malt Scotch from a red plastic cup. He’s listening to himself rap. It’s well after midnight, and the MC, known in the hip-hop group Das Racist as Heems, has spent the past four hours working on his new mixtape, Wild Water Kingdom, at a little studio called IshLab in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood. The sound of his distinctive rasp fills the cluttered control room, spilling equal parts blustery bravado, Dada anti-humor and disarming honesty across a canvas of shimmering synths, Indian pop samples and a gargling dial-up modem.

The voice bellowing out of the monitors is full of energy and excitement, but the guy sitting next to me—casually fly in a black T-shirt, dark jeans and scarlet socks—looks exhausted. “It’s been a long day,” he says. Suri likes to stay busy. When he’s not making head-spinningly witty music or catching a flight between shows, he’s typically negotiating deals and looking to develop tomorrow’s stars as the CEO and (until this summer) sole full-time employee of Greedhead Music, the label and management firm he founded in 2010. “When it comes to Le1f and Lakutis, their careers matter,” Suri says, citing two of Greedhead’s promising acts. “I can’t just brush it off because I’m tired in a hotel room somewhere.” He recently hired a vice president to help run the company, but the bulk of day-to-day responsibilities is still his. Before hitting the studio tonight, he took meetings with Universal Music and magazine publisher Condé Nast, checked in on Le1f’s progress at another studio and posed for red-carpet photos at “this weird Indian fashion thing.” Only then did he get back to his own project, the follow-up to this past winter’s acclaimed Nehru Jackets. Suri is close to calling it a night when he

Greedhead according to Heems

• Big Baby Gandhi

“This guy raps better than me and is also brown.”

• Das Racist

“These guys suck.”

• Headless Horseman

“A two-piece lo-fi pop outfit influenced by the Microphones and Icelandic shit I don’t know about.” ST—038


remembers that he’s been invited to contribute to a topsecret Sufjan Stevens remix project. “The deadline is September 7,” he says. “Is that tomorrow?” Engineer Daniel Lynas points out the late hour: “Actually, it’s today.” Pulling himself upright, the hard-grinding MC gets back to work.

RELAX, DON’T DO IT

On a warm afternoon in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the following week, Suri apologizes for running a few minutes late. He was held up in a meeting with MTV, where he and his best friend, Das Racist hype man Ashok “Dapwell” Kondabolu, discussed a potential Best Week Ever–style talking-head TV pilot. “The only dreams I have anymore are going over the next day’s schedule,” he says as we walk toward a coffee shop. “Idle time is where I tend to be more prone to depression and anxiety, so I try to fill up my schedule as much as I can,” he continues after we sit down with our iced green teas on the back patio. “That way, I’m too busy to stop and think about how terrible the world is.” Suri, who is 27, sees his life as a set of interlocking dualities: Indian/American, order/ chaos, business/art. This way of thinking is reflected in Greedhead’s logo—a lotus-position

• Keepaway

“A three-piece from Brooklyn that made cool sounds with not just guitars but drum machines and samplers as well!”

• King Drippa

“Post-Keepaway project from Mike Burakoff. Very wavy stuff.”

stick figure with a dollar sign for a face—though the symbolism is subtler than it may appear. The money-hungry head, he says, represents the realities of his working-class upbringing, while the meditating body stands in for the creative urges he learned to indulge as an undergrad at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University. “A lot of the drive comes out of that push and pull,” Suri says, “trying to make sense of that.” Suri’s mother and father grew up in northern India, where their families had fled from their homes in what is now Pakistan amid the vicious aftermath of British colonial rule. After his parents’ arranged marriage in India, they and a cluster of relatives settled in Queens, where Suri and his older sister were born. “My dad loves film and music and poetry, but being an immigrant,

• Lakutis

“Our best-kept secret.”

• Le1f

“Extremely talented and my ‘coolest’ friend.”

• Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

“ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS. MOST OF THE PEOPLE ON MY LABEL ARE.”

SAFE

“Electro-pop crooner in the vein of Tracy Chapman or Bobby McFerrin.”

Tony Castles

“singer Paul Sicilian is very talented. They made a great album, but I wasn’t able to put it out at the time.” ST—039


he had to suppress that and just work,” he says. “My parents wanted me to be a doctor, which is what most South Asian kids will tell you.” In ninth grade, Suri landed a coveted spot at Manhattan’s math- and science-focused Stuyvesant High School and commuted two hours each way every day. Several friends from the prestigious public school remain among his inner circle, including Kondabolu, Nehru Jackets producer Mike Finito and engineer Lynas. Like teens across the five boroughs in ST—040

the Rudy Giuliani era, they consumed vast quantities of underground and commercial rap, along with art-rock heavies like Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine. “Me, Mike, and Hima were those music dorks that always had a boombox, playing weird shit that nobody liked,” Kondabolu says. Less than a week into their junior year, the Twin Towers fell—three blocks from their school. “You could see people jumping out of windows,” Kondabolu says. “Hima got pretty bugged out after that.” Suri gets quiet when the subject comes up. “I still don’t know what effect it had on me,” he says distantly. Suri enrolled at Wesleyan on a financial-aid scholarship in the fall of 2003. “That level of wealth and whiteness was a whole other world to me,” he says. “Being called ‘Gandhi’ by a white kid in the fourth grade wasn’t as eye-opening to me as just being looked at certain ways by rich white people from New England or the South.” He picked economics as his major, with a secondary focus on South Asian art and literature. “Economics felt vocational,” he says. “I thought the least frivolous way to go to a school like Wesleyan was to study a trade.” Das Racist’s Victor “Kool A.D.” Vazquez was Suri’s resident advisor that first year, but they didn’t really bond until a few years later, growing closer after they’d both graduated and moved to New York. Suri was working in finance by then, helping place executives at Wall Street powerhouses like Goldman Sachs. Putting on a sharp suit every morning and giving job advice to older white bankers satisfied something in


“I like

the idea of

three

brown people making art and selling it themselves.”

make a career out of music, which he pursued throughout the next two years without pause, as Das Racist released three critically fêted fulllength projects and toured around the world. At the same time, Suri was building Greedhead. “I knew if I wasn’t going to be doing Wall Street, then I should do something else to fill up that business side of me,” he says. “And I didn’t want to give somebody—especially somebody white— money to be the secret person behind us. I like the idea of three brown people making art and selling it themselves.” This year, despite a scaled-back touring schedule, the members of Das Racist have reaped substantial financial rewards. Thanks to a six-figure deal Suri arranged this summer, the trio’s next LP is due in the spring as a joint release by Greedhead and Megaforce that will be distributed by Sony. He also licensed Das Racist’s fizzy summer jam “Girl” to a TV ad for Kmart, which drew a sweet paycheck and some

him. “I was really good at it,” he says. “I was making good money.” But he kept thinking about his college friends Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, whose electro-psychedelia band MGMT was blowing up throughout 2008. “I would sit at work and Google what MGMT was doing,” Suri says. “I was like, ‘Maybe this is something I can do.’ ” After work, he’d meet up with Vazquez and Kondabolu to hang out or see their friends’ bands play. They started making rap music to amuse themselves, calling themselves Das Racist after an old inside joke, and before long their sublime goof “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” surprised them by becoming an Internet smash. By the summer of 2009, they were booking several club dates a week and giving surreal, hilarious interviews to the Village Voice and the New York Times. “Hima was an animal at that time,” Kondabolu says. “We would rock out till 5, 6 in the morning, and This stuff is amazing. It’s strained, so then he would wake up at 8 and apparently it’s less fattening. I mostly go to work.” like it because of its texture. It’s very In October 2009, Suri was laid thick. The kind I like is the one where off, and that night at the CMJ the fruit is on the side in a little other Music Marathon, Das Racist cup area. I’ve been scooping the played its best show yet. “I never jam into the other section with my liked when he had that job,” spoon and mixing to a homogenous Kondabolu says. “Once he got state, but I just saw a commercial fired, I was kind of like, ‘Good.’ ” where they bend that section of the Suri was sorry to lose container until it conveniently slides the finance gig, but it gave into the main yogurt compartment. him the push he needed to

Lakutis on Greek Yogurt

ST—041


predictable criticism that he shrugs off. “It was a no-brainer,” Suri says. “What is wrong with people? I like eating in nice restaurants. I like wearing nice clothes. I like buying contemporary South Asian art. I also like sending money back to India, helping my parents with their mortgage and paying back my college loans.” (Suri estimates that he sends $300 to extended family members in India in an average month: “Sometimes an aunt’s daughter needs to go to private school. Sometimes somebody needs to get married and doesn’t have enough money to rent the hall. Stuff like that. [The money goes to] mostly relatives I don’t know, cousins I’ve never met.”) Yet Das Racist’s success has come at a cost. “We were better friends when we started,” Suri says. “We lived together, worked together and toured together. You need space after that, with anyone. I wish it didn’t take a toll on that side of things.” Those tensions within the band could help explain why Suri has shifted his focus toward tending to Greedhead’s other artists. He sees how his easy rapport with journalists and industry players has boosted his own career, and he’s eager to share the wealth. “Le1f, Lakutis, and Big Baby Gandhi might not get a chance to rap

[otherwise],” he says. “If my friends can benefit from me leveraging Das Racist contacts, I should do that. For whatever reason, Das Racist tricked people. So I want to trick more people.” He has more personal reasons, too, for taking such care with his proteges: “In a lot of ways, growing up Indian, my life has always been about pleasing my parents. I’ve always looked to find my happiness in pleasing other people. Doing that with other artists is just an extension.” Suri has called himself an “accidental rapper,” and he’s still not entirely convinced he’s on the right path. He is considering applying to Berkeley or Columbia to study South Asian art history in the fall of 2014. “I just don’t know how long people will like me or Das Racist,” he says. “I’m constantly surprised by the fact that people care.” For now, though, Suri is speeding forward, filling his calendar with commitments to stave off the idleness he dreads most of all. “Even when I want to stop and relax, I can’t do it. I just feel guilty,” he says before heading out to his next meeting. “When I stop having to manage myself in a work sense and have to manage myself as a human being, I don’t know where to start. But I’m getting better at understanding it.” //

Chris Edley of SAFE’s Recipe For Caribbean-Style Lobster Salad 1. Boil 10 1-pound lobsters. 2. Pick the meat, and chop it coarse. 3. Mix equal parts by volume of lobster meat, diced raw green pepper, julienned jicama and blanched red onion. 4. Add 1/2 cup of fresh thyme, 2 teaspoons ground allspice, 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons raw sugar, 2 teaspoons amchur powder and 1 tablespoon coriander powder. 5. Mix again. 6. Let sit while you make some fucking mayonnaise from strong mustard oil, sunflower oil, salt, lime, egg yolks and scotch bonnet. 7. Don’t listen to dubstep. 8. Your friends should already be there, and you should all drink rum and probably smoke weed. 9. Mix all the aforementioned stuff together. 10. Salt and squeeze lime to taste. 11. Serve on good little rolls.

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ST—043


ST—044


Four Songs Dapwell Will Play in the tour Van Repeatedly then Never Listen To Again 1. Trinidad James, “Females Welcomed” 2. A$AP Mob, “Bath Salt” 3. Arca, “Brokeup” 4. Blondes, “You Mean So Much To Me”


body language Raised on ballet, New York rapper/dancer Le1f examines his creative motivations and confronts being branded as “gay rap.”

Words Claire Lobenfeld Interview Andrew Parks ST—046


K

halif Diouf is hanging from the ceiling of Santos Party House, his back facing the crowd at the Chinatown club, as the audience mimics his wobbly leg work and tries to keep up with the cackling keys and murky melodies of the New York rapper’s track “Mind Body.” Mere months before and shortly after he released Dark York, his debut mixtape as Le1f, the MC was a relative unknown. But on this chilly September night, Le1f (pronounced like “leaf”) is basking in the acclaim, much of which he’s earned thanks to his crunchy breakout single, “Wut,” and its Harlem-shaking video. “I started reading, writing and learning ballet at the same time,” Le1f says in a McDonald’s, before the Santos show. “My mom and grandma saw me dancing around the house [at 4 years old] and put me in dance classes.” He plays with the camouflage flaps of his hunting cap as he tells us how he was carted from his midtown Manhattan home to the Dance Theatre of Harlem. In junior high he incorporated jazz and hip-hop to his repertoire before shipping off to Concord Academy in Massachusetts.

Le1f’s grew up listening to Immature, Missy Elliott, Aaliyah and Sade, and at Concord, classmates taught him how to use the program FruityLoops to make his own beats. (“I wasn’t aware of how electronic music was made,” he notes.) His first songs looked to inject the dance floor with politicized lyrics. “I divided them conceptually,” he says. “What I was doing was amateur and not fun. I want people to dance. I didn’t think [achieving both] was possible until M.I.A. made it.” Le1f’s friend and manager, Himanshu Suri (aka Heems of Das Racist), notes a similar parallel between the artists. “He and M.I.A. are two artists with the right aesthetics, who aren’t afraid to talk about political things over dance music and who understand that dance music doesn’t undermine more serious [content],” Suri says. “I was always inspired by Le1f in the way that I wanted Das Racist to move.” Le1f and Suri are both Wesleyan University alums (though they attended at different times and met after Suri graduated), and Das Racist used a beat by Le1f for its breakthrough “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.” That song, based off of vogue standard Masters at Work’s “The ‘Ha’ Dance,” now feels like a relic from both of their pasts. Now we have Le1f’s Dark York, imperfectly mixed and mastered to reflect its title. The MC’s distorted vocals can be difficult to decipher, but he rhymes with a familiar flow: “Honestly, me and the sidelines are a mismatch,” he boasts on “Bubbles.” “I already got the skills; I don’t really need a scout badge / No, thanks, pop; I’ll pass / I’m way too nice to finish last.” Elsewhere, he exudes sexual confidence; the second verse of “Wut” is an eye-rolling tell-off, concluding with, “Ukrainian cutie, he really wanna cuddle / The fever in his eyes, he wanna suckle on my muscle / He wanna burst my bubble and see what’s up in my jungle / A Christopher Columbus fumble’s how that cookie crumbled.” Here, the rapper reflects on his ballet origins, growing up young and gay in New York City, and why his next mixtape might remind you of having sex in a treehouse. self-titled: You’ve been involved with music for a while, but dancing was your first love, right? Right. I trained rigorously for a decade and a ST—047



half. When I went to college, I knew I wanted to pursue music professionally, so I majored in dance because it’d be so easy for me. It was like when you know a language really well, but you take the class anyway. But was it still a tough program? If you chose to make it that way, it would be, but at the end of the day, there’s two semesters of ballet. And I came in with, like, 14 years [experience]. What did your music sound like in the beginning, compared to how it sounds now? My production skills have sharpened. I wasn’t naive about sharing my music early on; I was more naive about sharing my raps. I wasn’t confident about that at all. On Dark York, it seems like you were cautious about putting your vocals right in front. My sound came from a scene of producers more than rappers, so I wanted [my vocals] to sound on level with the other instruments in the mix. But I would cringe every time I heard my vocals. How did you find your voice then? The triplets came in college, when I discovered Memphis rap from ’94, ’95. That’s where a lot of that syncopation comes from. Otherwise, I think I just got tighter and more confident about recording and performing. Considering how many people have focused on your sexuality, it’s interesting how masculine your rapping style is. If listeners didn’t listen to the lyrics or see the “Wut” video, they might have no idea whether you’re gay or straight. I don’t think so, either. [Laughs] I agree. Is any of that intentional, a way of playing with gender dynamics? It’s how my voice sounds. I can do higher things, but I’m shy about singing. If I could, I’d sing like Björk, but I’m scared to even learn how. I’ve tried, and I hate it. I just picked a set of those voices for Dark York and wrote to that. But in terms of gender dynamics and having a “straight-sounding” voice, the only song I did that on was “Fresh,” and kinda on “Giddy Up.” Lyrically, it’s gay, but my voice on those songs...

When I get drunk, my friend sometimes calls me Keith because I’ll do things like grind on a girl or Harlem shake. That’s supposedly my straight alter ego. So those two songs are from Keith. You could assume a different alter ego for every album, kinda like Kool Keith. Actually, I’m playing with a new set of voices for the next mixtape. It’s conceptually about sex, so I needed the mood to be totally different. The song “Gag” was me drunk, freaking out, but I’m trying to play with that voice a bit more. I’m also feeling the cool, melodic flow—that tenor Slick Rick does. I’m trying to do that and singing softly through AutoTune. Oh, you’re going AutoTune now, huh? Yeah. [Laughs] There’s a song with a straight-up AutoTune hook. Are there elements of R&B, too? It’s kinda R&B, like a Drake song featuring The-Dream. Your music is somewhat “post-genre,” for lack of a better term. It’s true. The way I want to work in general was inspired by artists who made that their thing. Dizzee Rascal and M.I.A. were really important to me when I was a teenager. That whole way of making rap songs is my process too now. Since

“If I could, I’d sing like

Björk.” ST—049


“I want

it

be

to

like

having sex in a

treehouse.” my mixtape came out, all I’ve been listening to is stuff like Sasha Go Hard and radio R&B. When did you start dancing? At 4. What’s your earliest memory of learning to dance? I remember being in an all-boys class when I was super young, having to be in my black tights and my white shoes, and my teacher would sit on our toes. I remember that so vividly–being in so much pain as our dance teacher put all of this pressure on so our toes would be super pointy. What’s the hardest thing you auditioned for? I was in Porgy and Bess when it was at Lincoln Center, and I did Good Morning America and the Chinese New Year parade. I was excited that I was doing shit with the big kids already. Now that you’re more focused on music, do you miss dancing? I wish I was incorporating dance a little more. I want my videos to be very choreographed in the future. If I had a major-label budget, I’d totally spend that $50,000 on rehearsals with a [dance] company. That’s my dream. ST—050

You’ve talked about some of the philosophical influences on your music before. Can you explain that side of what you’re doing? I feel like my stuff is politically reactionary in context, but I’m trying to be more abstract. I like to pull on associations and make a collage with the words. And I try to have some sense of a story told. That’s how it relates to Fluxus; I feel like Fluxus art is pre-Tumblr, where you have this found object with something scribbled on it. I want my music to be a token of these cultural associations. That’s why I start with the beat, the title of the song and the chorus because those are the things people remember the most. You mentioned M.I.A. You may be going for a lot of the same things as her, but you’re not as literal about it. I think she was literal about it because she actually experienced those things. Since her family was exiled, she gets to talk about it directly if she chooses to, whereas I get to address taxis not stopping for me or people gay-bashing me on campus. I want my music to be poppy and accessible, though. If you’re not listening to every word in my songs, they’re basically about drinking, having fun, dancing, hanging out and smoking weed. But it’s important to you that there’s more to it than that? Yeah, some real concrete things to talk about, particularly in terms of being gay, Islamophobia, and other heavy conversations that I’m interested in. I want them to peek through the party. You grew up in New York. Was it an open-minded environment for you, or did you face lots of prejudice because of your race and sexuality? I definitely did. I remember this black kid


Big Baby Gandhi’s Top five wrestlers of all time, according to him at 9 years old 5. Val Venis “This is Thanksgiving,” he says, motioning to his left leg, “and this is Christmas,” gesturing to his right. “Why don’t you come visit between the holidays?” 4. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin In third grade, I tried to do the Stunner on another kid in my

class, and I had to go to the vice principal’s office. Also, one time Steve Austin pointed a gun at Vince McMahon’s head. 3. Sting Man, this guy just looked cool. 2. The Rock The most electrifying man in all of entertainment. Originator of

the term “jabroni,” maybe, and also “Do you... smellllll... what the Rock! Is! Cooking!?!” 1. Mankind Too many ill matches to name. Few understood that his moniker symbolized humanity in the modern world. Plus, my dude talked to a sock on his hand (Mr. Socko). ST—051


pretty homogenous, straight up. So I guess we were freaks in that way.

who was also in the gifted program in middle school... It was pretty diverse, but it was mostly white Jewish kids. That kid tried to sell me out to other kids, telling them I’m gay. I never got into any altercations because I was always tall; at the end of the day, I was a big black kid. People in New York come from all kinds of different backgrounds, so they already have prejudices there. For the most part, I feel like you’re taught not to act on those prejudices. It’s not that they aren’t there; you just don’t address them. When it comes to gender, there’s lots of sexism. [Prejudice] exists across the board actually. There’s still blatant racism; it’s just not as blatant as it might be somewhere else. Were you always the minority growing up, or was it more diverse? In the classroom, no, but I’ve always had a diverse group of friends in school. My clique was people who weren’t one homogenous thing. The freaks clique? Not even the freaks. In high school, we were the cool preppy kids—me, my other light-skinned black friend, this Korean girl, a couple white people, a Jewish kid. And the other groups were ST—052

How has being surrounded by such a vibrant scene for so many years influenced you? There used to be these parties called Kill Whitey, where Black Cracker used to produce for, like, CocoRosie. They’d all be on the same label—Black Cracker, CocoRosie, Bunny Rabbit, Tha Pumpsta. That whole thread, and people like Light Asylum, are all interconnected. That whole clash of identities and genres was already in this creative circle of people. It’s about being in that lifestyle, this very nomadic, globalgypsy thing. Once there’s a new sound, it’s added to the palette of things that get played, whether it’s Baltimore club music, footwork from Chicago, baile funk when that happened, or Chicago drill now. Since you grew up in New York, were you going to parties at a much younger age? Yeah. Drop the Lime and Light Asylum would get me into all of the parties when I was 16. Shannon Funchess from Light Asylum sneaked you into shows? Yeah, the Kill Whitey parties, and Dante’s Fried Chicken. Dante’s was the first party I ever played. Did you go by the same name? It was just Leif with an “i,” but there was another Leif from the UK, so I switched it to a 1. Mixing up styles seems important to you, but it’s difficult to be completely original, right? Oh yeah. I’m not saying it’s not derivative. Everyone’s music is. You can hear when a Zomby song’s basically a Burial song. And while they’re working within the same genre, you can definitely tell them apart. I respect that.


You’re the first person I’ve ever heard name-drop Soulja Boy, Matmos, Mark Bell and Timbaland as your influences. Yeah, I like them all. What do you like about Matmos? My passion in music is making these crazy sounds, which is what they do. Dark York sounds like someone who’s in love with the possibilities of sound. Definitely. I was inspired by Matmos as a teenager. I was making music while I was studying this mode of dance that wasn’t about being literal. You have to internalize this character; it’s like theater in a way, where you’re expressing it through movement instead of words. So I was interested in pushing each sound a lot. [Matmos] does so much with that, whether they’re recording animal parts or sex in public restrooms. The way they create these textures of sound to get a story across is inspiring. Didn’t they have a record that sampled surgeries? Yeah, one of them got plastic surgery and recorded it with contact mics. I think one of them has played the other’s butthole at shows before, too. I think that’s really cool [laughs]. Have you sampled weird stuff, too? I have. I’ll sample anything. I’ll use sample banks, too, just the really weird ones. My favorite has sounds from a handball court, sneakers screeching, a water jug being hit, things like that. I’ve been into the sound of scissors lately. Do you know the direction of your next mixtape? I do, but I’m not producing anything for it. Are you giving people guidelines in terms of how you want it to sound? I collected some beats of what I’ve been feeling lately, and those things have been lounges, oxygen bars, treetops, canopies...like, you know how you see the top of a cloud in a plane? I’ll think of images like that and wonder what sounds like that. Did you get a lot of the beats back yet? What you’re describing sounds a little creepy. I think it sounds sexy [laughs]. I want it to be like having sex in a treehouse, in a fog.

Are you down-playing your political side? I feel like trying to be myself has been so political already that I’m not even concerned about it. The content of the songs is herbs, incense, breezes and sex. With the last one, I think there were

Three Sci-Fi “novels” that blew Lakutis’ mind Dune by Frank Herbert Dune is incredible in the completeness of the world it envisions. It even had a glossary of terms, either invented or borrowed from other languages. One thing that fascinated me was that it’s essentially about ecology. It hinted at the hidden oneness of all living things that, if understood, could grant a man an empire. There’s a TED Talk where this guy talks about a sustainable fish farm in Spain that’s run by this ill ecologist. I’m definitely going there when I get some free time. Star Trek: The Next Generation Not technically a novel, rather the successor to the original television series Star Trek, it’s also closer to a “space opera” than real sci-fi. One of my earliest memories is a scene in TNG where Jean-Luc Picard is crying. I remember thinking that Picard’s cover was blown and that the other dudes knew he was human. I couldn’t have been more than two or three years old. Seeing the scene years later proved I’d been way off as to what was going on. Weird. The Prestige Although The Prestige was a novel written by Christopher Priest, it was one I never read. Rather, I watched Christopher Nolan’s movie adaptation. Later, Nolan would go on to ruin the Batman franchise by casting Darryl Hammond’s Sean Connery impression as the voice of Bane. However, in these simpler times, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale were playing rival magicians. Awesome movie with a controversial twist at the end that I love. There’s a beautifully shot scene where David Bowie plays Nikola Tesla. What more could you ask for? ST—053


songs about being gay or black, but this one’s literally about sex. It could work for anyone. Have you been meaning to write this for a while? No, actually. A couple years ago, I said I’d never write a love song in my life. I thought it was the wackest shit to make a love-rap song, but now I want to do it. I don’t know why. Does that mean you fell in love lately? Nope [laughs]. I hope, maybe, I don’t know, but it’s not connected to one person.

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What got you thinking about spas and incense? I wanted it to be sensual and serene. I’m into records fitting together perfectly. I wanted Dark York to be like gritty urban slime. Now I want this to be like I’m a nymph having sex with the forest. Who are some of the producers on it? Arca, the Drum from Chicago, Boody, Shy Guy, Magic Mountain, Brenmar, FaltyDL... What’s one thing you’ve wanted to set straight about your music?


That there’s no such thing as gay rap. People need to stop saying that [laughs]. The next person that asks me about it, I’m going to frown and just say it doesn’t exist. It must be a mixed blessing to get a lot of attention recently but have it all be like, “Le1f is great...and gay! Very gay!” Right. And I’m fine with some people writing about that, but there’s more to it than that. It’s so weird because none of us sound alike. You’re not getting us fans by grouping us together; that’s

not an effective way of selling music. Me and Greedhead are way more alike than me and Zebra Katz. It’s actually rude [to group us together]. What about Greedhead have you gravitated toward? In terms of rapping, it’s one of the cyphers I’m in. My process for rapping has been me, Hima, Aleksey [“Lakutis”] and Victor [“Kool A.D.”]; we trained together. So you’ve all seen one another at your very worst? Yeah, basically [laughs]. //

Five Things Dapwell is Bringing On Tour (And Their Relative Usefulness) 1. Denim Baseball Cap with No Brim This looks like a slick denim kufi when I wear it forward. When I wear it backward, it becomes a “double-take machine.” This has all the makings of something I bring and never wear. Usefulness: None 2. Utility Coveralls I wore a navy jumpsuit for every performance over the past year. While that served me well, the material is not thick enough to stand up to winter blasts. I recently purchased a pair of olive utility coveralls in Cheyenne, Wyoming, with velcro on all the wrists and ankles, an elastic waistband, double breast pockets and the sturdy cotton I require. Usefulness: Extreme 3. Vitamins + Fish Oils + Other Pills I’ll be bringing Alive! brand multivitamins, three-a-day, no iron; fish oils; Enzyme CoQ10; probiotics; and ibuprofen. This should, in theory, make up for any nutritionally deficient parts of the tour. Usefulness: Unknown 4. Gunplay, “Take Dis” This entire two-minute song is Gunplay rapping about the effects (and after-effects) of snorting cocaine. He can’t taste food, smell things, not kill the crowd with a gun or stop losing weight. He also calls himself Jupiter Jack Daniels, a junkie, a flunkie and a dude who keeps it “one thou-wow-funky.” Usefulness: N/A 5. Gear Bag Contains: (2) XLR cables, (3) 1/4-inch to 1/4-inch cables, (1) Boss DD3 delay pedal, (1) TC Helicon Auto-Tune pedal, (2) laptop computers (PC), (2) laptop power supplies, (2) USB cables, (1) M-Audio FastTrack, (2) dual 1/4-inch to RCA cables, (1) iPhone USB cord, (1) mini-USB cord, (1) micro-USB cord, several batteries, several RCA to 1/4-inch adapters. Usefulness: None

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THE SELF-TITLED INTERVIEW

william basinski Words Andrew Parks Photography Magdalena Wosinska

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self-titled: When did you first get involved with music? In seventh grade. Then [my family] moved to Dallas in high school, and my parents put us in one of the best music programs in the country. It was a public school, [but] you had to audition. I enjoyed working hard on the clarinet, and then I pissed off my band director when I wanted to play the tenor saxophone in my senior year. Was clarinet not your choice? My mom wanted me to take choir, and I said, “No, please, I’m getting beat up enough already.”

T

he first thing I did was get cigarettes,” says ambient composer William Basinski, recounting the day he watched the Twin Towers fall from atop his Brooklyn loft. “My friend and I had just quit smoking,” he continues, “but here we were, searching for fiveyear-old cigarette butts. I thought, ‘The world’s ending. We’re going to have some real cigarettes.’ So I got them, went back home, and there was chaos on the TV. We turned that off and turned on the music.” Basinski had recently wrapped his Disintegration Loops series, so he cranked the volume, cracked open the windows and went up to his roof, where he noticed a friend across the way, who had a video camera out. “It was the last hour of daylight,” says Basinski, “so I asked her to help me frame the camera and let the tape run out. It was just devastating.” This year, the resulting audiovisual piece was added to the permanent collection of the September 11 Memorial Museum, and Temporary Residence Ltd. will release a box set of Basinski’s Disintegration Loops this fall. We caught up with Basinski, calling from his LA home, on the anniversary of 9/11. ST—058

Your parents were musicians as well? Amateur. My dad worked as an engineer for NASA when we were young. We were in Houston in the early days with the Apollo; then we moved to Florida, and Dad worked on the lunar lander. What did your mother do? My mother raised five kids: four boys and a girl. She was a tough cookie but did a great job. Did they enroll you in music lessons early? I remember taking piano lessons when I was really young—maybe 5—but I didn’t like my teacher. He kinda scared me. You eventually picked up saxophone. Was it due to discovering artists like John Coltrane? More like I wanted to be David Bowie instead of a first chair clarinetist for the philharmonic. Was Bowie your gateway out of the classical world? Yeah, then I went to North Texas State University, which had a strong big-band program in the late ’70s. When I went to audition, I heard these guys play stuff I’d never heard before, and I got so nervous. I fucked it up real bad, changed my major to composition and started on that path. You mostly listened to rock records at that time? Yeah. I had a friend who worked at a record store, so he always had everything. He had his parents’ old 1962 Lincoln Continental. We could fit eight people in there and cruise around Dallas really slow, listening to all the latest trippy, weird stuff. Did you end up finishing the composition program? No, I stayed there for two years and had some


great classes in the experimental-music program. They taught me about people like [John] Cage, which gave me inspiration to try weird things. I did this one piece with electric piano and a little portable cassette deck. Then something happened that changed everything: My friends at that time were all of these gay people from the art department on the other side of town—that really fabulous Rocky Horror crowd. They had a friend named Jamie who was the king of the art scene, but he moved to San Francisco. When he came back to visit, we fell in love. I ended up moving to San Francisco on Halloween in 1978. You jumped in a plane on Halloween? Yeah. Were you wearing a costume? I had this very “Time Warp”-y outfit on: black wool pants from the ’30s, black alligator stilettos, white shirt, little tie, a huge vintage black wool cape with red satin lining, a Cinderella mask and my saxophone in a teeny suitcase.

That’s all you brought? That’s all I brought. The stewardesses were so nice. It was me and, like, three or four other people, so they brought out the champagne, and we had a ball. Was that a typical outfit for you back then? That might have been something to go out in. We were pretty flashy and liked to do what we called “wrecking”—going out and being outrageous, wreck faces, you know? We were fashion warriors—very innocent, but crazy. How long did the two of you last in the Bay Area? For about two years. We saved our money and moved to New York on April Fool’s Day in 1980. How did the New York of your imagination compare to actually being there? We didn’t know what to expect; we were just excited to be there—living on the edge of the earth. [Laughs] It was exciting and dangerous and dirty and scary. We finally found a loft in downtown Brooklyn. ST—059


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“Our neighbors thought we were from

outer space.”

Did you end up staying there for a while? For 10 years, then they tore it down to build [the] Metrotech [school]. That was when we found the Arcadia loft in Williamsburg, around ’89.

Were you getting any recognition for your work? I got a call in ’83 from some old buddies of mine. They needed a sax player for a video and asked me if I wanted to do it. I said sure. The day we were [filming], I met the Rockats, the How was the Brooklyn scene back then? first great rockabilly revival band from the UK. Not so much a scene. In those days, you didn’t A few months later, they were putting shows have to be a trust-fund kid to move to New York. I together and asked me if I wanted to audition. I think we saved $5,000. got the gig, and later that summer, they called me because a band had canceled opening for Bowie How long did that last you? on the Serious Moonlight tour. I played with It got us our loft, but then we had to look for them in front of 30,000 people in Hershey Park jobs. The loft was big enough for three people, so and got to meet the Bowie. our friend Roger lived in the front. It was a rotten old sewing factory, but we loved it. Our neighbors Do you mean a brief handshake? thought we were from outer space when they Just a stunned hello. I was much too shy to heard the music coming out of there. wander over to his dressing room. Eventually, I Jamie had a huge studio, and I had a big old started playing with other people. I kept doing table in the back with tape decks, a shortwave my experiments though. When we moved to radio, cassette recorders and little echo things. Arcadia, everything got packed up, and I had a chance to build a real studio. At that point, I was How much time passed between college and when trying to do something a little more accessible—a you really figured out your sound? song suite called “Hymns of Oblivion.” The lyrics Well, I left something out: Jamie’s always been were from Jennifer Jaffe of Tote, one of the first a record collector. He’d come from the store big art installation groups of the ’80s. every day with arms full of them. There were two that set me on a path where I thought, “Oh, Were the lyrics prepared for you? this is allowed”—Steve Reich’s early work and No, she just wrote a stack of poems and gave Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. Its melancholiness them to me. I’d get an idea and start going with it. really hit me on the head, so I just got a bunch of junk and started experimenting with it. I wasn’t Like spoken word? worried about whether it was good; I was just No, I was singing. I worked on that for a few trying to see what I could do. years, and then I started producing other bands. The loft started as a ruin full of pigeons, but What had you done before that? it was an extraordinary building with vaulted, Some prepared piano. I also had a teacher who’d Gothic ceilings and beautiful sound. We restored taught us how to stretch your ears. We had a it within an inch of its life. great old refrigerator in San Francisco. It made this incredible sound in the freezer, so I put a Were you that handy? microphone in there and slowed it down later. All Living in New York, you learn to be a little handy, of the overtones were fantastic. from cutting hair to working with sheet rock. ST—061


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I actually helped install Andy Warhol’s first retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. So yeah, we restored the place and did shows for about seven years—Diamanda Galas, Antony got his start there. I saw Antony with [performanceart collective] Blacklips. I was so impressed with his music that I went downstairs to talk to him [afterward]. We hit it off. I helped him with a demo, and we started putting on shows. Antony was one of the first people I called when the Disintegration Loops happened. When did the Disintegration Loops project develop? The last couple days of July [2001]. I had closed my store on July 1. What kind of shop? I had a vintage shop called Ladybird on Bedford Avenue, around the corner from where I lived. Everything was telling me, “If you don’t concentrate on your work, nothing’s going to ever happen. You’re going to be an old, drunk antique dealer who won’t let anybody come into the shop.” Had you stopped doing music? I had a couple releases, but they kinda evaporated. I was close to getting evicted, so I was stressed out. I was sitting in my bedroom, reading this book The Way of Zen, which made me laugh. I was like, “Get a grip,” and decided to continue archiving these loops. I put the first loop on, and it was “Disintegration Loop 1.1.” I was blown away at how beautiful, grave and stately this melody was, but I didn’t know if I could say it was my work. It kinda scared me, so “Disintegration Loop 1.1” got set aside on this dead tree I used to hang the loops on. You were literally hanging tapes from a tree? Yeah, I had this old tree in the studio, where I could group the ones that went together in sections. Eventually those got packed up because I wanted to be more involved in mixing and other things. When I heard “Disintegration Loop 1.1” again, I started messing around, adding a French horn as a counter melody and turning on the CD recorder. I set the levels and went to make some coffee. When I came back a few minutes later, I could ST—063


“It was ST—064

exciting

and

danger


tell something was changing. [Ed. note: The tape itself was literally disintegrating.] I could see the dust in the tape path, and I thought, “Oh, my god, this is what I was afraid of. What’s gonna happen now?” It collapsed in its own beautiful way. Then I continued with the next loop. By the middle of that one, I realized, “We don’t need counter melodies here. We need to let these things do what they’re doing and get out of the way.” Over the next two days, all six loops had done their thing. I was just shaking, calling all of my friends and saying, “Get over here. You won’t believe what happened.” I spent the next two months thinking about the life and death of each individual loop. It had a very profound effect on me. And each piece was one literal loop? Yeah, of varying lengths. The shortest one was about six or seven inches long, and the longest one was maybe 15 or 16 inches long.

we put the music on really loud and went up on the roof, looking at all the smoke and thinking, “What...the...fuck...just...happened? Oh, my god. Here we go: Armageddon, the greatest show on earth, is starting. You fuckers.” My neighbors got a little freaked out when Disintegration Loops IV came on. It’s the one that catastrophically collapses. Is it impossible for you to feel disconnected from that day because you witnessed it firsthand? It makes a difference. I wish I could forget about it. Everyone was losing their minds in one way or another, going into their own “Disintegration Loops” of sadness and fear. I don’t know; I wish I didn’t have to talk about it again. It was such a horrible day. And I don’t buy the official story or anything. It doesn’t make any sense.

It must be a mixed blessing for you, to have your work held in high regard for how it relates to a national tragedy. It’s amazing they’re that short, yet you could let It is, but I can’t complain, not when all of them play for hours without getting sick of them. those poor people were murdered that day. That’s what I used to do. I liked when the I felt like this had to be an elegy, almost like loops were seamless, when you couldn’t hear a beginning or an end. It became this eternal thing. how Jacqueline Kennedy wouldn’t take off that pink Chanel suit after the president had been assassinated, even though it had blood Did you finish the first volume on September 11, and brains all over it. For three days, they were or the entire thing? desperately trying to get her to change, and she I made the work in early July and late August; was like, “No, I want them to see what they done.” then I was just listening and listening and listening. On September 11, I was going to try and It was very brave. get a job at Creative Time, which had an office in Did you have a hard time plunging yourself back the World Trade Center. But when I woke up the into your work? next morning, [the attack] had already started. The whole world changed. We were stunned and There was such a sense of anxiety, shock and fear immediately after, but I’d been working on horrified, just in utter shock. After sitting on the this beautiful work all summer. I just had to go roof and watching the towers collapse in slow through a dark night of the soul to get there. On motion in front of our eyes, we just... I mean... September 10, I thought, “This is it. I’ve lived too It was one of the most beautiful days you’d ever long. No one’s ever going to get this. Fuck it.” Now, seen in your life—a crystal clear, gorgeous day. I’m thankful and happy to show up for work. // And we could see the World Trade Center from my bedroom windows. You were about a mile away, right? A nautical mile, yeah. It was just a nightmare. So

rous

and

— Tap Here to REad our William Basinski interview in its entirety.

dirty

and

scary.” ST—065


FREE ASSOCIATION

mount eerie

Words ANDREW PARKS Photography KYLE JOHNSON ST—066


CLEAR MOON “Through the Trees pt. 2” —

E

very morning, Phil Elverum sits by the same window of his bayside home, slowly sips coffee and mulls over the abstract story lines that drive the albums he creates as Mount Eerie. Sometimes he doesn’t even leave his chair. He’ll just sit there reading or thinking about full moons, fog-cloaked beaches and maybe even black-metal blast beats. Elverum lives in Anacortes, Washington, a sleepy city with a population that’s just more than 15,000 and a social calendar that peaks with a flea-market event called “Shipwreck Day.” It’s as if time stops in Anacortes, or at least slows down enough for Elverum to fill the gaps with wandering brain waves and devastating music. “I feel like I’m always saying, ‘Yes, I know I keep talking about the wind through the trees and the mountain at night,’” Elverum writes to self-titled via e-mail, “but I’m not really talking about those things. I am a finger pointing at a thing that can’t be said.” What said thing may be is anyone’s guess, though Elverum drops hints across Clear Moon and Ocean Roar, a pair of interconnected LPs from this year that include a tarred-andfeathered take on Popol Vuh, the tunnel-vision chords of second-hand Stereolab and an attempt at recreating the rigid structure of ancient Chinese poetry. Here are the stories behind the songs, told by Elverum himself.

“This song is basically a manifesto, a foundation on which to build more confusing attempts to say my thing. Furthermore, there are references to catchphrases from my old songs. ‘The moon in the sky at noon’ refers to a line in ‘Lost Wisdom pt. 2’ from [my 2009 album] Wind’s Poem. ‘There is either no end’ refers to many Microphones songs in the Glow pt. 2 era. ‘I could see the lights of town...’ is a straight-up verse taken from ‘Through the Trees pt. 1,’ from Wind’s Poem. “I guess most of these references are from that album. I wanted to make it clear that Clear Moon was a continuation of that lineage, exploring new realms.”

“The Place Lives” — “This is maybe my favorite [Mount Eerie] song. Periodically I try to write in the format of the ancient Chinese poems that I like (by [poet] Cold Mountain especially). They are usually eight concise lines—six setting the scene, then a seemingly disconnected observation that feels like a bucket of cold water over the head. “ ‘I’ve stayed here long enough, moss has started to grow’ is a reference to an old Cold Mountain poem, where he talks about leaning against a cliff for so long that grass grows between his feet, dust settles on his head, and people come and lay offerings at what they think is his corpse. Sometimes living so resolutely rooted in a place feels that way.”

“The Place I Live” — “I distinctly remember writing this song while sitting at this weird ridge-top lookout. I was looking west over the rolling islands toward Victoria, BC, thinking about this particular place, and the painting I kept seeing around that ST—067


time called ‘Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog’— incidentally the name of a song by [Olympia black-metal band] Wolves in the Throne Room. I had come to that [spot] by trespassing through the woods on non-trails—a rare day of mental wandering, just walking slow alone and thinking. While my songs may paint a different picture, I do not do this often.”

“(something)”

place where you are only perceiving it as raw sound—pre-cognitive sound. The song is about sitting extremely still, disassembling perception to the point where nothing exists. It’s all revealed to be the whirling abstract matter that it really is.”

“Over Dark Water” —

“House Shape”

“In recording these two albums, I would periodically attempt to do orthodox ‘black-metal recordings.’ I wanted to try to make an album that was as heavy and dense as possible, which is really hard to do. It’s a trick of sounding loud even at low volumes. I don’t know how to do it, but I keep trying. “This song is one of those attempts. I was trying to do something similar to the band Menace Ruine from Montreal and really struggling with it. I couldn’t get the distorted drums to cut through in the right way. I couldn’t find the right bass-drum EQ. I had no idea how to use my voice in music like this. But then Geneviève [Castrée] from Ô Paon was in the studio, so I played her the track in progress and asked if she had ideas. She is good at improvising vocally in a big room and was into it, so I wrote some lyrics really quick. Actually, I just summarized the idea I was going for with the music in a short sequence of word bursts. “Lyrically, this is a direct link ahead to Ocean Roar; my voice saying ‘to the ocean’ clearly illustrates this link—not even a metaphor. The song is also about this northern European myth that I really like of the Oskorei, or ‘wild hunt.’ It’s about old gods sweeping over the hills at night. The idea of seeing this landscape as a rolling thing, out to the yawning void of the Pacific, taken into oblivion—this is the world where these songs happen.”

“(something)”

“Most of the year in Anacortes, the sky is a low gray. If I don’t turn on the lights, it can feel cold to the core. On one day like this, I remembered an idea I read a long time ago in an Alan Watts book, where he says to hear sounds without translating them into what they ‘are.’ Like, you hear a dog bark and you get your mind to the

— “I was rewinding a tape to get to another song and had forgotten the mic was on. All of a sudden I heard this angelic, My Bloody Valentine–sounding mystery noise. It took me many beautifully confused moments to figure out that it was the rewound sound of the song ‘Clear Moon.’ I captured it to a different tape deck and saved it for later.”

“Lone Bell” — “I was thinking about the pace and spooky warmth of Mulatu Astatke, especially ‘Yèkèrmo Sèw’ from the Broken Flowers soundtrack— particularly the way the bass sits in the music. It’s distant and round, yet somehow omnipresent. Maybe the link is not apparent, but that’s what I was going for. Lyrically, this song is a straightforward narrative about walking from my house into the void, an actual physical journey into total mind-expanded wildness. It is all triggered by the idea of a distant bell in the hills—following that imagined sound. Maybe it’s a form of self-hypnotism.”

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“This is just the organ tracks from another song of mine ‘World Heaves,’ which is on a 7-inch. I liked how they sounded by themselves. I tried to make it sound like an old tape that was disintegrating.”


“The sky

is low and

gray. If

I don’t turn on the lights, it can feel cold to the core.” ST—069


“No mysticism, no poems,

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just the real magical world.” OCEAN ROAR “Clear Moon”

“Pale Lights”

“I found the sheet music to the Twin Peaks theme on the Internet and figured out a couple chords. One of them is the foundation of this song. In the deepest throes of experimentation, I got two friends together and we played these two chords over and over along with drums in a big room. For a long time I just had this eight-minute, thick drone track that I loved but didn’t know how to deal with. I sang/spoke over it. I messed with computer vocal effects. I did all kinds of stuff. It took me a long time to make it the non-song it is.”

“I love old Stereolab—layered drones propelled by simple drum shredding. I had some friends assembled and decided to use the opportunity to make another experiment in chord endurance, like the song ‘Clear Moon.’ We played as hard and as loud as possible for probably 15 minutes, but the reel of tape ran out at 10 minutes, so that’s how long the song is. “The structure came later. I had been wanting to try an ‘insane’ mixing move for a while, like fading the music down mid-song and then having a seemingly unrelated voice say/sing some nuggets close in your ear. This technique brought out all kinds of weird things. Subtly messing with the balances can alter perception. For example, when the music is mid-fade, the hi-hat somehow gets louder.”

“Yawning Sky” — “I was sitting in the upstairs back room in my house, looking out the window on a November evening when all the light was different shades of deep blue, thinking about being out at the ocean, floating in confusion, looking up.”

“(synthesizer)” — “It’s almost a joke that this is on the record. I plugged this MIDI keyboard into my computer and opened GarageBand just to see if it worked. For a few minutes, I clicked through the different ‘strings’ settings and ended up on this one. I noodled a few minutes of MIDI chords, and that was it. It was never intended to be a thing; it was more like, ‘Oh, this is an interesting feeling.’ It felt like an essential component to Clear Moon— the pure, alien ambient clarity of just looking at a full moon in a pure black sky. No words, no meaning, just a circle.”

“Ocean Roar” — “In high school, I took a trip with my friends out to Neah Bay. We caught the last ferry, driving through windy old growth roads and arriving late at the beach in total darkness. It was a weird sensation—to hear and smell the beach, but not be able to feel our way to it—so we just slept in the ditch right there and woke up in ocean fog. This song is me remembering the ocean through all these layers of obscurity and density. “I was attempting to create a Cocteau Twins feel with washed-out chords and bouncy drums. The sound of the kids and the applause is a weird accident that I put on a demo-sketch version of the song as a joke but then ended up feeling like it took the song into a perfect feeling of total joy—an ocean glimmer beyond the breakers.” ST—071


“Ancient Times”

“Engel Der Luft”

“This is the last thing that was recorded for these albums. I felt like there needed to be some continuity carrying us back into the dark murk of the coming tracks, so I pointed a microphone at the Montessori kids playing in the park across the street and turned it up really loud. This song is kind of exactly what my dreams sound like—increasingly abstract chatter and wild voices spiraling into raw distortion.”

“This is the second time I’ve covered someone on an actual album. I just really liked this melody from Popol Vuh’s soundtrack to Fitzcarraldo and thought it would work well as an exercise in full-density black metal. I recommend looking up their version. It does not sound like mine at all.”

“instrumental”

“I Walked Home Beholding” —

“This song is in 6/8—a pretty corny time signature. I don’t know what possessed me to do this. I am always super inspired by the band Popol Vuh, and they have some pretty corny dramatic jams that I really like. I guess I was going for their style of epic cathedral jamming—also the band Earth, of course.”

“This is perhaps the only instance of lyrical clarity on Ocean Roar. The feeling I had was of working into the night on these crazy song things—just immersed in sound—and then emerging back into the real world, where everything’s totally silent. This is how I hope it feels to come to the end of these two albums—sharper and clearer, having gone through some weird fog, awake, no mysticism, no poems, just the real magical world.”

“Waves”

“instrumental”

“I was thinking about how the rolling drums of straightforward black metal are usually just steady, non-dynamic blast beats. I wondered if it would be possible to make drums that swelled and rolled rhythmically, like waves. This is my attempt at that. I can’t play that fast so I recorded each drum on its own track, in most cases doubling or quadrupling them. Again, I’m still not sure how best to use my voice over this kind of music. I’m not comfortable shrieking. So the instruments have to stop in the middle for me to say my few lines about that edge-of-the-continent mentality, floating in the wild void just off shore near Neah Bay, mid-winter, in crashing waves, half dreamt.”

“Of course I couldn’t let it resolve on something so clean and thematically wrapped. This ‘song’ is meant to be the re-insistence of the gnarly void of mystery/ poetry, an intrusion once again by the elements of distortion and magic into ‘normal’ life. Musically, I was pretty inspired by the Burzum album Belus. He has some very simple, super-repetitive overlapping guitar riffs that interlock in interesting ways and end up having a drone-y, disorienting effect. Again, the drums fade in and then out, almost as if they’re from another song, unrelated. This song signals a door opening to a new realm, a new direction, as yet unexplored— still just raw mystery in the future.” //

ST—072


“I

am

pointing that

a

at the

finger

things

can’t be said.”

ST—049


detritus

Photography caroline mort

Andreas Lagerström of Holograms’ top five best and lamest Street Fighters characters BEST— 1. Urien Urien is a muscly guy in Speedos who shoots balls and walls of energy. Back in the day of SF3, the Western community considered him bad until some Japanese dude came to the states and destroyed everyone with his aegis reflector setups. ST—074

2. Fei Long Fei is just a Bruce Lee knockoff, but I love how he plays. He’s just a complete character. You can intimidate your opponent with rekka pressure, making them afraid to walk forward, so you can slowly maneuver them into the corner, where Fei really shines. He also has ways of

ignoring fireball zoning with ex chicken wing and other amazing tools. A solid dude. 3. Rose I’ve played with Rose a bit since Alpha 2, but started using her a lot when Street Fighter 4 came out because one of my favorite players, Arturo Sanchez, used her as a pocket character. She forces you to play fundamentals, with lots of poking and zoning. I think she’s some kind of Italian fortune-teller, and her Japanese voice is really funny.


Top five saddest horn solos ever performed by non-jazz or -blues artists 1. Bright Eyes, “Landlocked Blues/One Foot in Front of the Other” 2. Sufjan Stevens, “Casimir Pulaski Day” 3. Belle & Sebastian, “The Stars of Track and Field” 4. Morphine, “You Look Like Rain” 5. Alice in Chains, “Over Now” — Michael Tedder 4. Zangief The Russian cyclone is just badass and a legend—the blueprint of all grappler characters ever. When you play against Zangief, you really have to change your whole game plan; it’s a war of attrition. I really like the New York player Aquasilk’s Zangief play. He’s protecting the Russian skies on the reg. 5. Chun Li She’s an iconic character that’s always been pretty good. (In Street Fighter 3, she was top tier.) I guess I like poking characters because that’s pretty much all she is—solid play. I also really like those huge thighs. LAMEST— 1. Akuma I think he’s the only character that’s been banned from tournament play in the history of Street Fighter. I might be wrong, but you can’t win against this guy.

2. Seth Playing against a good Seth is frustrating. Basically, his design centers around mix-ups after knockdown, and you have to guess what he’s gonna do every time. Don’t get knocked down. 3. E. Honda Honda is a good example of a down-backing, defensive-charge character. Their gameplay relies on getting the life lead and then laming you out. Guile is kind of the same but more fun to play against. (He looks cooler, too.) 4. Evil Ryu Lame-ass pandering to sweaty anime nerds. 5. Ken/Ryu I don’t dislike them, as they are both fun to play and have solid fundamentals. But if you play online, you’re gonna start hating all the noobs who just learned the dragon-punch motion and start spamming that shit like it was the only move in the game.

Top five Radiohead B-sides 1. “Gagging Order” 2. “Lewis (Mistreated)” 3. “Talk Show Host” 4. “Bangers and Mash” 5. “Melatonin” — MT

J.R. Hayes of Pig Destroyer on Catharsis’ Samsara (CrimethInc., 1997) At least a half dozen bands go by the name Catharsis, but this one was a hardcore punk band from Chapel Hill, NC. The rest of its discography is a crapshoot, but on Samsara, the band got everything right. The production is dirty without being muddy, the rhythm section is loose without being sloppy, and band mastermind Brian D delivers one of the most unrestrained and emotional performances I’ve ever heard on a hardcore record. His performance makes other bands’ records feel toothless and contrived by comparison. This can be a tough one to find, as it came out on an obscure label, but if you’re a fan of dark hardcore like Cursed, Trap Them or His Hero Is Gone, then you need this album. Thank me later. ST—075


King Dude’s top five rules King Dude abides by

1. The first rule of King Dude is that there is no Fight Club. 2. We are all King Dude. 3. We don’t die; we stay high. 4. When in doubt, rub one out. 5. If it’s too loud, don’t come a knockin. Holy Other on Richards Youngs’ Sapphie (Oblique, 1998) When ideas for songs erupt from an emotional space, it doesn’t mean that the end product will be as organic. Multiple takes can crush the life out of [music]. Although Sapphie is the first [Richard Youngs] record that wasn’t recorded in single takes, it is still recorded with “no overdubbing and no remixing,” giving it a selfexposing quality. All plucked guitar and reverb-heavy cracking voice, it was the first song-based departure for Youngs. The three tracks span 37 minutes, with a mantra-like repetition of melody leading into slow, subtle lifts. Lyrics are difficult to pick out but hardly seem necessary when intonation alone is so affecting. Although written for Youngs’ deceased Alsatian [dog], Sapphie’s lamentations have helped me through loss in all forms; it’s been the record I turn to to check that my emotions are coming from the right place. ST—076

Sean Ragon of Cult of Youth’s top five records he recommended at his Brooklyn shop, Heaven Street, recently 1. Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, Go Home! (Toxic State) easily the best punk record of the year. they just played their last ever show on september 11, so if you’re late to the party, you missed out on one of the best live bands new york had to offer in years—raging punk with serious garage influences and nihilistic lyrics. writing about this just doesn’t do it justice. the label offers it as a free download. listen to it! 2. Swans, The Seer (Young God) i’m not sure why i didn’t expect to like this because michael gira is one of the best songwriters of his generation. i guess the idea of sitting down and digesting a triple lp just seemed like a heavy task. of course, three or four minutes in, i found myself calling up a friend of mine and going, “have you heard this thing yet?” nobody really needs my help to sell this thing. we sold out of all the store’s copies in a matter of hours. 3. Various Artist, Kosmoloko (Galakthorrö) brand-new (and highly collectable) comp from one of the greatest contemporary industrial labels around. perfect mix of power electronics and analog-synth frozen pop landscapes. essential. 4. Thought Broadcast, Emergency Stairway (Editions Mego) pure and absolute vanity records (japan) worship.

add to that a dub

sensibility and an intellectual yet paranoid worldview, and you’ve got a

winner! i have never heard another artist that captures the essence of early spk and early (think mid-’70s) cabaret voltaire as well as this.

5. Hot Guts, Edges (Blind Prophet) full disclosure: i put this one out on my own label. that said, i did so because i truly think it’s one of the most incredible albums i’ve heard in years—a strange mixture of early savage republic meets early factory records.


disposing of all the awful characters that we hate. Daenerys will just get eaten by her dragon because I’m kind of tired of her and don’t want a bratty teenage girl to be the savior of Westeros. Sorry. I kinda hope something really drastic happens with Jaime to further his path of redemption—like hopefully he will join forces with Tyrion or something. That’s only four things, but I’m not sure I want to continue. This is already embarrassing enough as it is.

Photography Brian sorg

Wild Nothing’s top four responses to prompts for potential top-five lists 1. Top five Fleetwood Mac songs that should never be covered “Don’t Stop,” just because it’s my least favorite Fleetwood Mac song. The rest are fine. I’m not really one of those people that treats songs like they’re too precious to be covered, you know? Why should I care if someone covers Fleetwood Mac? It’ll either be good or bad, and if it’s bad, then I won’t listen to it. No harm in that.

2. Top five things that’d happen in the next Game of Thrones book (if it were up to me) Well, we’ll probably find out that Jon Snow is actually Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen’s love child and not Ned Stark’s bastard as everybody thinks. I read message boards and shit. It makes sense. Arya Stark will continue being awesome and changing her face and stuff,

3. Top five Game of Thrones characters I’d love to have a drink with (and what I’d talk to them about) I feel like even the children in Game of Thrones could drink me under the table. Life is rough. I’m not sure I need that. Whoever it was that I did drink with, though, we’d probably just talk about what’s beyond the wall or something. I’m kind of a conspiracy theorist and alien/ supernatural buff, so if I were in Westeros, I’d totally be that weird drunk guy being like, “Dude, the white walkers do exist!” 4. Top five things you need to know about Game of Thrones if you’re too lazy to read the books If someone is too lazy to read them, then I’d assume they probably don’t care what it’s about. But if you insist: There is violence, romance, (tw)incest, dragons, etc. “Etc.” being the fifth thing. ST—077


Photography lauren perlstein

Four things you should know about alt-disco godmother Patrice Rushen, according to Maria Minerva 1. The Men in Black theme song samples Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots,” which is, if not one of the best pop songs, then definitely one of the top disco tracks of all time. As with anyone else born in 1988, I first found out about it via Will Smith. In an interview, Rushen said that she didn’t mind [getting sampled]. I mind! Will Smith’s disco appropriation is a bigger problem; let’s just say that Will didn’t do the track any justice. 2. Rushen is the original subtle diva. I have never cared about big voices, Motown, Diana Ross, Beyoncé and all that. Their ST—078

voices are impressive, “soulful” and easy to market, but to me, showing your soul doesn’t mean going up and down five octaves, and shouting while wearing a glitter dress. Rushen keeps it simple and sweet, casual and cool yet never ceases to amaze me. I hear her influence when I listen to Janet Jackson or Aaliyah, but also in the voices of alt-disco divas such as Roisin Murphy or Dani Siciliano. 3. Rushen gave up serious jazz music to become a disco and R&B star. Even though Rushen was linked to people like Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones, she

disappointed many members of the jazz community when she signed a deal with a big label to become a mainstream artist. At times, she delivers the best of both worlds; some of her longer tracks contain amazing instrumental solos that give away her background. 4. Prince, allegedly, was madly in love with Rushen; they were working together at some point. I totally get why. I sort of perceive Rushen as the female Prince anyway, the point where sexy funk meets amazing musical talent. They don’t really make women like this anymore.


Adrian Sherwood’s top five formative records that have nothing to do with dub music 1. Ray Charles, Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music (ABC-Paramount, 1962) my father died when i was five, and then my mother lost everything. they had this big house they rented, and every time they had parties,

but the

first album someone played that made everybody happy was ray charles. i still play it out at parties.

2. Blowfly, Weird World of Blowfly (Weird World, 1973) as a kid, i had a very multiracial neighborhood; my best friends were polish and west indian, and as little boys, we liked mad things like naughty records. from america, there was blowfly, who did rude soul records. we couldn’t believe it was legal at the time. 3. Captain Beefheart, Trout Mask Repica (Reprise, 1969)

i didn’t like this at all to start with, but hanging out with a bunch of heads,

smoking weed, that was what they never stopped playing. i really got into how odd it was, how the instruments seemed to be talking to one another. it was like, but its

“where did this fucking character come from?” i didn’t love it, madness was very influential on me.

4. T. Rex, T. Rex (Reprise, 1970)

out of the glam thing, i liked two or three bowie singles, but i wasn’t a bowie head. with t. rex, i really wanted the albums. i loved the way

[frontman

marc bolan] looked and the way he sounded like he was from

another planet. i think i was 12 when his debut album came out.

5. Bill Withers, Just As I Am (Sussex, 1971)

i was getting older when i first heard this and really getting into songs. it’s really dark, heartfelt shit that i still listen to today. it got me into lyrics, which in turn got me into how heavy the message of the music from jamaica was, and then punk, which was basically saying the same

“bring

down the

system” stuff. i don’t want to sound like a hippie wanker, but there it is.

Top five situations that would not necessarily preclude Danny Brown from performing cunnilingus on you 1. Your vagina is nappy. 2. Your are in the shower. 3. You would much rather go shopping for shoes. 4. Your vagina is so flavorful it can reasonably be compared to Cajun cuisine. 5. You are in public. —MT

Michael Gira of Swans on Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy (Atlantic, 1973) I have a female companion who’s really into Led Zeppelin, so I’ve been listening to their entire catalog lately. I know he’s a guitar player, but I think Jimmy Page is a great singer. The voice of his guitar is beautiful. If I had to listen to anything of theirs, it’d be Houses of the Holy. It’s very diverse. I even like “Stairway to Heaven,” though. I think of it as a journey, from the production to the guitar playing to the whole pop phenomenon around it. Robert Plant’s vocals...they’re there. They have the correct quality to fit with that kind of heavy music because they don’t get in the way of other frequencies. But really, it’s all about the Jimmy Page experience. It’s absolutely superb. ST—079


Silent Servant created this mixed-media piece while listening to the xx’s new album, Coexist. Silent Servant’s solo debut, Negative Fasincation, is out now via Hospital Productions.