URB VOL. 19 NO. 157 SPRING 2009 www.URB.com
D ra ke , M a ye r H a we t h o r n , D a n c e s With White Girls + 96 Stars To Catch
15th Annual Next 100 F R E D A R M I S E N A -T R A K MST R K RFT TH E PRO DI GY FRANKIE KNUCKLES vs. OBAMA
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3/10/09 10:36:18 AM
GUTS Spring 2009 Issue: One Fifty Seven
THE NEXT 100 THE NEXT 100 :: 23 15 Years of naming the ones to watch staring: N.A.S.A :: 24 Intercontinental ballistic music with: THE MORNING AFTER GIRLS DANCE WITH WHITE GIRLS BURAKA SOM SISTEMA MAYER HAWETHORN BLONDE ACID CULT COLIN MONROE ASHER ROTH ACID GIRLS DRAKE U-N-I JDP and 88 more...
plus: THE PRODIGY :: 62 Oral history of the electronica kings
photo: Jason Lewis
FRED ARMISEN :: 66 My president (impersonator) is white
3/17/09 12:57:20 PM
GUTS Spring 2009 Issue: One Fifty Seven CAPACITY 10. Events: 88-Keys, Grammy Party, Notorious Premier + more 12. Mad Decent Mix CD & The Good Life Reunion 14. jeffstaple 1-2-1 with Yonehara Yasumasa 16. Red Bull Music Academy 17. Auto Envy 18. Interview with Willie Isz 20. Frankie Knuckles on Obama
STILL GOING LEAD REVIEW 71 MSTRKRFT gets stoopid
CD REVIEWS 72 A-Trak, J Dilla, Fischerspooner, Junior Boys, Lady Sovereign, Prefuse 73, Thunderheist + more SINGLES 76 Remixes return to the rave INSTUDIO 78 Damian Lazarus CLOSING 80 James Lavell
3/18/09 10:55:57 AM
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PRESIDENT + Creative director Raymond Leon Roker Editor + Content director Joshua Glazer senior editor Brandon Perkins DESIGN By pure/ROKER & rivasgrafix MARKET Editor Jolie Nguyen CONTRIBUTING Editor Michael Vazquez ( email@example.com )
URB VOL. 19 NO. 157 SPRING 2009 www.URB.com
Phonics Martin Andersson, Zach Best. Jen Boyles, Andrew Cohn, Dani Deahl, Suzanne Ely, Daiana Feuer, Paul Glanting, Brandon Ivers, jeffstaple, Steve Juon, William Ketchum, Mark S. Krüx, Christopher Lehault, Noah Levine, Lauren Mooney, Chris Pacifico, Donte Parks, Brandon Perkins, Kevin Polowy, Thomas Quinlan, Eric Ricou, Ryan Rodriguez, Joey Rubin, Karen Ruttner, Dennis Sebayan, James Shahan, Richard Thomas, Emman Twe, Tony Ware, Ben Zoltowski
D ra ke , M a ye r H a we t h o r n , D a n c e s With White Girls + 96 Stars To Catch
15th Annual Next 100 F RED A RMI S S EN A - T RA K MST RK RF T T HE PROD I G Y FRANKIE KNUCKLES vs. OBAMA
Images Tommy B, Kristin Burns, Will Calcutt, Jacqueline Castel, Curran Clark, Ryan Collard, Martin Collette, Chris Davidson, Dock EL-S, Marcus Donates, Malin Fezehai, Bob Hansen, Nate “res” Harvey, Clayton Hauck, Andrea Holton, Lara Isaacson, Victoria Jacob, Knotan, Landerphoto.net, Jenny Lang, Jason Lewis, Hotrod/ Pål Laukli, Amanda Lopez, Dominick Mastrangelo, Rob Mayer, Bradley Meinz, Julian Murray, Ana Paula Negrao, Wesley Nes, Estevan Oriol, Cara Pastore, Annie Powers, Annie Racz, Jiro Schneider, Craig Seymour, Yoshiki Suzuki, Anna Wolf, Nick Zinner
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cover photography by: Nick Zinner www.YeahYeahYeahs.com
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Cover photographer Nick Zinner plays guitar in the band Yeah Yeah Yeahs and other collaborative projects. He studied photography at Bard College and has published three separate collections of his work: No Seats on the Party Car (2001), Slept in Beds (2003) and I Hope You Are All Happy Now (2005). His work has also appeared in magazines such as Vice, Black Book, Spin, GQ, Nylon, and Rolling Stone, and has been exhibited in New York, Brussels, Osaka, and Tokyo. Nick was born in Boston and currently resides in New York City.
Like the Prodigy, Richard Thomas also has a fondness for yellow label Veuve Cliquot, which he likes to sip while watching Kings hockey and reruns of Rock of Love Bus. Having won a Maggie Award for his Oral History of Coachella in 2007, he was the first person we called to give The Prodigy the same treatment. A longtime URB contributor and LA native, he puts his root down at www.MiningTheLandfill.com.
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In addition to his work for URB as Techno Singles Editor and CD reviewer, Mark has also worked in the automotive industry since the early nineties with such companies as the Skip Barber Racing School, Audi, Land Rover and most recently a stint with General Motors. So when we decided to add some automotive content naturally we thought of this exceptional tall New Yorker with the fancy driving shoes.
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Fred Armissen photog Jason Lewis shoots people, places & things and has been blessed to do so on a global scale. More specifically, he has been shooting commercial work and simultaneously exploring the provocative nature of youth culture and its relationship to a global social environment. He has shot recent commissions in South Korea, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Tokyo and all over the United States. In general he’s just having a blast with friends and strangers alike. Check his work out at www.jasonglewis.com/blog!
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3/25/09 10:46:47 AM
3/10/09 9:57:53 AM
/ DIATRIBE N O W
L I V E
WATCH Behind-the-scenes at our N.A.S.A. cover shoot, photographed by Nick Zinner, plus a video interview with writer Rich Thomas about his Oral History of The Prodigy.
DOWNLOAD A free tracks from each and every one of out Next 100 artists. Plus an exclusive mixtape from Mad Decent and MYX Music
WIN A 500GB hard drive loaded with music from A-Trak and friends.
SUBMIT Send us your demos to become a part of URB.com/Next1000
RATE Daily reviews of the latest releases
out of time I treated myself to someting special recently. It was a normal Thursday night and I was debating between going to sleep early or getting a little more work done. I choose neither. Instead, I laid down on the couch, plugged a nice pair of headphones into my laptop, and gave a full listen to the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album, It’s Blitz. Needless to say, I can get pretty overwhelmed by new records working for a magazine like this one, so listening to a full album is a rare occurrence. And doing so while stareing at the ceiling, lost in the music—without e-mails and IMs and a million other distractions—is something I literally get to do about once a year. Maybe even less often than that. It didn’t used to be this way. I can recall a day in 1998 when I purchased both the Portishead Roseland NYC Live and Spiritualized Live at Royal Albert Hall CDs. I went back to my apartment in the middle of the day (I worked nights back then), put on the first of three discs and just—listened. Lying on the floor, looking at the walls and pondering nothing but the fantastic music coming out of the speakers. To this day, those two releases are some of my all-time faves. And I suspect It’s Blitz will become one as well. It’s certainly the disc I’ve enjoyed the most in recent months. Granted, an album must be great to begin with. But I wonder how many great albums I’ve casually passed by in my inability to truly sit and take them in. How many classics have come out in the past few years that I never took the time to really form a deep and lasting opinion? It’s a little upsetting when you think about it. I have an opinion of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs new release. It’s fantastic! The true evolution of a band who have already proven themselves exceptional. Karen O and Co. manage to explore new sounds and styles while remaining distinctly themselves. It’s the ultimate accomplishment for a band’s third album. I told YYY guitarist Nick Zinner this exact thing while working with him on the cover photo of this issue. Besides being one of my guitar heroes (and synths now too), Zinner is an accomplished shooter, with several photography books to his credit. We were lucky to get him to photograph N.A.S.A. on a of the rare weekend’s when international band members Squeak E. Clean and DJ Zegon were both in Los Angeles. And even luckier when Nick stayed up late to fix a faulty photo file just days before his band embarksed on a months long tour...Thanks Nick! I was going to review It’s Blitz in this issue. But like so many things in our accelerated culture, the Internet messed that up. Pressed by an early leak of the album, YYYs and their label decided to rush the release of the record—making the relatively slow medium of print obsolete for covering the album in a timely manner. Another reason why URB.com has become our primary outlet for music news and reviews. But all the blogspace in the galaxy doesn’t make up for the Next 100. Without sounding egotistical, the Next 100 is the issue that both URB staff, artists and fans look forward to the most each year. And while the Internet is overwhelmed with new artist and fresh tracks at a minute-by-minute pace, I like to think that the 100 acts given ink and paper here are somethng special. I’m sure they all think so. I hope everyone reading this magazine discovers some new acts to love this year—our 15th Next 100 Issue. And I hope even more people listen to the music from these acts available on URB.com. But while indulging in the modern miracle that is 100 songs by 100 artists at the click of a mouse, I hope that’s not the only way we hear music anymore. In this issue, we interview Jack O’Donnel, the owner of pro-audio companies Akai, Numark and Alesis. He discusses the tranformation of music from a “singular experience to an adjunct experience,” which does a great job putting into words the difference I’m talking about. We also take a few pages to look at the entire oral history of infamous URB cover stars The Prodigy. The group has a new album out that many will buy (it debuted at #1 in the UK) and many more will download, skip through a few tracks, and never bother again. But we hope this article will also inspire you old-schoolers to go back and revist your old Prodigy records, reliving a time when fans listened to an album on repeat, until you knew every note.
If all this sounds like ol’ man Glazer getting nostalgic while failing to keep up with the latest web-exclusive leaks, then you’re half right. While working the endless days leading up to the end of this issue (and keeping URB.com upto-the-minute and out-of-sight!) I gave in to another indulgance. Namely, a 10 hour MP3 of Danny Tenaglia recorded live in Italy in 2006. Having had my first DT revelation back in 2001, I’ve spent many hours searching in vain for one of his marathon sets online. But everyone gets caught in the Web eventually, and this epic collection on my hard drive brings me endless joy. Hell, I listened to it twice! And during that time, no matter how many addtions got made to the Hype Machine, it all just had to wait. Even in a recession, investing time in your music pays great dividens.
- Joshua Glazer
[Editor and Content Director] URB Magazine and URB.com “Music is the answer to your problems / Keep on moving and you can solve them”
NEW BLOGS all day; NEWS, MUSIC, | 8 | EVENTS and more!
3/18/09 10:40:13 AM
3/18/09 11:00:07 AM
& LIFESTYLE 88-Keys Issue Release photos by Lester Lawenko
Made In America photo by Arturo Corvarrubius
Taste Crew Holiday Party
photos by Mamiko Inoue
FNF Gra m m y Pa r ty
photos by Tone (www.photobytone.com)
Taste Crew Inauguration photos by Lester Lawenko
Notorious La Premier photos by Teri Memelo
88-Keys issue release @ The Standard Hotel (LA), produced by dubFrequency, sponsored by Planet B-Boy DVD; Made In America movie premier @ The Stronghold (Venice), presented by Global Green; FNF Grammy Party @ Paramount Studios (LA), sponsored by Red Bull and Belvedere; URB Xmas Party @ The Good Spot Issue Release (NYC), produced by The Taste Crew; Notorious LA Premier @ Nike Sport at the Montalbรกn (LA); Inauguration Party w/Pharoahe Monch @ The Space (DC), produced by The Taste Crew.
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3/17/09 12:59:32 PM
NEW FILM this is the life elevates LA’s hip-hop history Spend any time with the elder of Los Angeles hip-hop and you’ll hear tell of The Good Life, the legendary session that gave birth to a whole generation of postriot LA hip-hop. Like all good stories, a film has been made about this era entitled This Is The Life. URB got down to sponsor the opening screenings in the City of Angels, and we even got original Good Life characters (below, l-r) Pigeon John, Ellay Khule, Ava DuVarnay, Myka 9, Chali 2na and Abstract Rude to gather in the famous Leimert Park district where it all began for a rare photo shoot. Read an interview with This Is The Life director Ava Duvernay @ URB.com/ThisIsTheGoodLife photographs by Jenny Lang
URB.com x Mad Decent x MYX Music Label present: Invasion of the Loop Zombies When MYX Music Label approached URB.com about creating a mixtape, the globetrotting bad boys at Mad Decent were the first folks we called. Not just because the label is owned by one Mr. Wesley “Diplo” Pentz (who we’ve been feeling since before Mad Decent was a twinkle in his eye), but because Mad Decent music director and chief blogger Paul Devro just moved into the URB neighborhood—and bought a futon off one of our editors. Find us at SXSW, WMC or Coachella to score one of your own. Or download it now at MYXMusicLabel.com Interview with Paul Devro @ URB.com/LoopZombies URB 12 | URB.com
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W/ JEFF STAPLE & Yonehar a Yasuma I’ve known Yonehara Yasumasa (aka Yone) for almost a decade. Before we met, I was already a huge fan of his publications, Out Of Photographers and Smart Girls. Yone travels the world photographing the hottest women. He’s had books published and even crossed over into the gallery world. Yone is the man you love to hate because you wonder why you’re not doing what he does. Not bad for a guy who didn’t spend one day in a photo class. Straight from the mouth of the “hornYone,” Yonehara Yasumasa: I was working part-time with a publishing company. My first magazine was Weekly Playboy. I would hand in the manuscript but they didn’t publish it the way I intended it to be and it didn’t look like it was coming from my scene. So the only choice I saw was to become the editor myself. I ended up becoming the editor for Egg Magazine and Smart Girls Magazine. I soon started shooting because I thought it would be easier to just do it myself. I would hand out cameras to high school kids or to managers at clubs where high school girls hung out and get them to take photos for the magazine. I wanted to use professional photographers as little as possible for Egg. That idea led to Out Of Photographers, a book of amateur photography. Back then in Japan, photos were often over-edited and you could see the cameraman’s intentions. I thought photos without any intentions were much more interesting.
Soon, lots of girls were sending in photos. I would receive about 30,000 photos per issue. Pretty deep stuff too. I never let my assistants open these letters and photos. I took it upon myself to open every submission. Back then, a “high school girl” trend started that became twisted by a very Japanese and masculine culture. High school girls became sex symbols for older men. And these men thought that they could easily buy these girls for sex. But I wanted high school girls to be empowered and understand their own sexuality. I’ve never really gotten into trouble shooting these young girls. I only provide the atmosphere that allows the girls to be free to do what they want. I don’t usually give directions or tell them that they need to be more exposed to be in the photo. I shoot models, porn stars and non-professionals, but I don’t treat the girls in any special way. I try to think of what they would do if they were just hanging out in their room. If I had to choose, I think I prefer shooting non-professionals. It’s interesting to capture their tension. It’s not as fun shooting someone that is accustomed to being in front of the camera. I’m really happy that my editing career continues. I have collaborative projects coming with Zippo, WeSC, sneaker company Greedy Genius, Quolomo, artist Kozue Ayuse, producer Towa Tei, DJ Steve Aoki, and I’m also doing some new works for the Barry Friedman Gallery in New York. I shot about 50 models, all within a month and a half, so I am worn out.
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3/24/09 10:31:49 AM
TWICE AS TIGHT.
THE NEW TRAKTOR SCRATCH DUO.
DMC champions Craze and Klever stay on top of their game with TRAKTOR SCRATCH DUO. Thanks to vinyl and CDs that boast twice the timecode resolution of the competition, everything from the fastest scratches to the slowest rubs are on-point – just like vinyl. Figure in the superloud 24-bit AUDIO 4 DJ sound card and rock-solid TRAKTOR DUO software, and you’ve got a 2-deck system that’s twice as tight as any other DVS. And all at a price that makes it twice as nice. Watch Craze and Klever cut it up on Traktor Scratch Duo at www.native-instruments.com/tsduo
CHECK US OUT AT
3/18/09 11:17:17 AM
BY THE HORNS The annual traveling music-makers conference, Red Bull Music Academy, turns ten in Barcelona. The Spanish invented the disco nap. Sure, they call it “siesta,” but whatever the name, it’s the perfect mid-afternoon recharge for those all too frequent citywide clubbing marathons. With this in mind, it stands to reason that pairing two weeks in Spain with an international class of music production junkies is as natural as a pre-party booze snooze. Austrian energy drink giant Red Bull must have thought just that when they selected Barcelona for the 10th annual Red Bull Music Academy sessions. With 12 fully stocked recording studios to play in—as well as guest lecturers, workshops, jam sessions, radio broadcasts and live performances— even the small hours were filled with big sounds. The Music Academy is no stranger to exotic locations, having taken place in Berlin, São Paulo and Rome in recent years. But none of these places matched the wonderful energy of Barcelona—a city cobbled from distinct, evolving styles adhered together by a fierce sense of independence and a love of cultural identity. Not to mention an intensely social and sensual lifestyle organically sewn into the infrastructure. Here, sequestered in an environment of highly charged exchange, 64 participants representing 36 nationalities basked in the glow of global production luminaries, as well as digital workstations set up to capture whatever inspires and transpires. Both vintage and bleeding-edge gear were sourced from private collections and public sponsors and placed throughout two floors of repurposed space. What was once a textiles factory now rang with baile funk to minimal techno to neo-soul to electro to fidget house to dubstep, to name a few. A rather freeform habitat, the Music Academy’s one requirement was that participants attended the lectures. And while might you hear some yawns, you’d hear no complaints, considering the caliber of speakers. In three days Chuck D (Public Enemy), Bun B (UGK), Moritz von Oswald (Basic Channel, Maurizio, Rhythm & Sound) and Sly & Robbie occupied the couch, espousing the virtues of developing independence, capturing, as well as navigating, the production industry’s realities, and recording every moment you can while knowing when to edit. Ultimately, the Music Academy’s open-ended dialogue resulted in collaborative tracks, plus a network of global crash pads for all involved. And everyone agreed they gained a lot from the sleep they lost. by Tony Ware photographs by Landerphoto.net
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by Mark Flintoff
Unless you’ve been living on a desert island, you’re probably aware of the disaster that 2008 was for the U..S. automotive industry. This year’s forecast is just as bad, if not worse. Bailouts and restructuring are only part of the way forward. Without innovation, any company is ultimately doomed. But new vehicles take enormous amounts of time and money to develop, which makes us wonder: are there cars available in other markets that could bring back buyers at home?
A. Opel Corsa
General Motors’ U.S. vehicle in this class is the Chevy Aveo, and frankly, it’s not up to the task. GM’s European brand Opel has an answer to the competition. The Corsa is available in a full range of trim levels from fuel sipping turbo diesels to the high performance OPC version and it’s very well built inside and out.
B. Ford S-Max
Ford’s never managed to crack the minivan market dominated by the Chrysler, so why not try something different? Something that won the 2007 European Car of the Year award. It’s not just the sharp exterior that we like on the S-Max: the beautifully crafted interior puts that of any U.S. Ford product to shame. It’s more fun to drive than any MPV has a right to be and with a wide range of high tech gasoline and super frugal turbo diesel engines, its fuel economy blows the current competition in the U.S. away.
C. Ford Mondeo
You saw Daniel Craig drive it around Jamaica in Casino Royale, but you can’t buy it here. The previous Mondeo was sold in the states as the Contour and was never a huge success. But the new Mondeo is a bigger car than the old one and much better overall. Sharing its platform and engine range with the S-Max and Volvo S60 the Mondeo is truly great to drive, nicely styled and (like the S-Max) sports a top notch interior.
D. Toyota IQ
Toyota’s answer to the Smart Car uses several ingenious engineering solutions to increase interior size allowing four passengers to fit into a vehicle only marginally larger than the two seat Smart. Toyota showed a pure electric version of the IQ (the FT-EV ) at this year’s Detroit Auto Show and rumors abound that Scion will get a version of the IQ as well. Whether or not it will actually make it to the U.S. in any form is still something of a mystery.
E. Fiat 500
Fiat’s are still perceived as unreliable cars here in the states. But the 500 won the 2008 European Car of the Year award, proving the days of Fix-It-Again-Tony (F.I.A.T.) are long gone. Parallels can be drawn between the 500 and the Mini—both are well executed modern interpretations of past icons with a premium feel. The basic 500 isn’t quite as sharp a driving tool as the Mini, but the performance oriented Abarth versions run it closer. Fiat’s return to the U.S. has been mooted for years and given the recent news that Fiat is taking a 35% stake in Chrysler we’re hoping to see the 500 here sooner than later.
Watch the cars rides at URB.com/ImportEnvy
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3/24/09 10:37:59 AM
Khujo Goodie & Jnerio Jarel
TWO GOOD Khujo Goodie of Goodie Mobb and Jnerio Jarel create the third mind of Willie Isz By Jason Kordich Photographed by Cara Pastore
What do you get when you take one fourth of the legendary Goodie Mobb (Khujo Goodie) and Dr. Who Dat ( Jnerio Jarel)? The result is a collaboration quite unlike anything else you will hear this year. Willie Isz’s sonic landscape is a mixture of hip-hop, soul, rock, and electronic influences that is truly an out-ofthis-world experience. Check out what the tandem had to say about working together, the importance of diversity, and their reaction to emulators.
URB: How did you guys f irst connect? Jnerio: Being a fan of the Dungeon Family, that early Outkast and Goodie Mobb. Khujo was my favorite out of that whole crew, and I was working on the Shape of Broad Minds project and was wondering how I could get in touch with him because I wanted him on a song, but what I ended up doing was sounding like him on the chorus. On “Butterfly Away” you can hear me trying to sound like him. URB: Is it easier to work with someone that you are a fan of? Jnerio: Definitely. In addition to being into hip-hop, I am into rock, alternative, and Khujo was open to that as well. This project was a chance for Khujo to show that side of him. URB: Do you feel it is important to have the themes of your music be as diverse as the production you are rhyming over? Khujo: For some people, it is the same with every song. For me, I think it is good to have variety on the record. With Goodie Mobb and Outkast, we had to make different types of songs because Organized Noize were making so many beats, that we went through probably a thousand thought processes even before we got to the song we were actually recording.
URB: On the track “Loner” you stress the importance of doing you and not doing someone else. Is this something that has become more important? Khujo: You can look at it a couple of ways. If you are good, you are going to have someone that will emulate you, but then you will have those that emulate your style but they won’t show any kind of recognition. On the “Pop Champagne” song and the “Jumpin’ Out The Window” song they are both using that autobot. I am not mad. Jnerio: I’ve been in the position where I have been discouraged because I will hear something, and if I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was me. I just feel like ‘where do I fit in if there are so many soundalikes?’ That just means I need to go back to the lab and reconstruct the whole thing. Willie Isz Welcome 2 Georgiavanian is out in April on Lex Records
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On election night, the world’s eyes were cast on the city of Chicago. Windy city house music legend Frankie Knuckles reflects on his generation’s ascension to leadership. Ask Frankie Knuckles and he will tell you that any DJ worth their weight is a good storyteller. Likewise, our strong leader Barack Obama has empowered the nation, using the right mix of words in his command for us to stand up. URB called Frankie in his studio to uncover some more parallels between him and the president, who both call Chicago home. Wasn’t Barack Obama the one who signed the proclamation naming Jefferson Street (between Monroe and Van Buren) “Frankie Knuckles Way?” Yes. He signed off on it. Did he ever party at [infamous Chicago club] the Warehouse? I don’t think he partied at the Warehouse. He had a number of friends and people who worked in government who used to hang out at the Warehouse. Since you two are both from Chicago, do you see any similarities between you two? President Obama is originally from Hawaii; I am originally from New York. Chicago is our chosen home— the locals who were adopted by the people of Chicago. We met face-to-face at Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball three years ago. A lot of people would say a person is not fit to run a country unless they reach a certain level of maturity and experience. Is your generation finally ready? It’s difficult for me to speak on behalf of politics being that I’m not a politician. When it comes to any art form—anything that is viable and tangible, that touches and involves people on a whole—yes, it takes some experience. But it also takes a great deal of intelligence, fortitude and understanding of the human condition, by and large.
These photos were taken in Chicago at the 2008 Hot Mix 5 reunion concert. The crowd, mostly 35-45 year old house heads, were born in the same era as our President, and they continue to come out and celebrate the sounds they love and sweat it out on the dance floor.
When you interact with these people, it goes to show that you are in the right place. When I was a kid, my grandparents used to say, “You live long enough, you get to see it all go around and come around. If you are fortunate in the process when it comes back around, you become a collective part of what it is” – that’s the real reward in itself. It came around, it went around and it’s come back around. The second time around, I became a part of the collective process. words by Dennis Sebayan Photography by Craig Seymour URB 20 | URB.com
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15th Annual Next 100 Picking the Next 100 is like predicting the weather. It’s easiest to see the big fronts on the horizon. And for every day you’re wrong, there’s the next day to be right. Or maybe it’s more like Wikipedia, the cumulative collection of music megabytes floating in the virtual clouds. A thousand hypemachines—from publicists, to blogs to...Hype Machine, turning our heads like a weathervane in the storm, trying to track the best new music about to hit the streets. To make sense of it all, this year we reached out to a collective of friends and family— writers, bloggers, DJs, even interns (they’re younger and cooler than all of us). Shouts to Atomly, Thee Mike B, Elliot Lipp, Derek Puchalsky, Clifton Brett, Julio Enriquez, Chris DeLine, Emman Twe, Eric Ricou, James Outlaw, Cliffton Brett, James Friedman, Martin Andersson, Travis Big Stereo, Sleezy Trees, Donte Parks, Attorney Street and Anthony C for helping us make sense of it all. In 15 years we’vebeen doing this list, we’ve picked some winners. The Fugees, TV on the Radio, Kid Sister—a trifecta of Next 100 cover stars who have ridden the wave to bigger things over the last decade and a half. Isophlux, Delta 9, The Dead Sexy Inc.—just three of the many who haven’t fared as well. But being Next doesn’t mean being forever. It means being NOW. And with that in mind, start reading (and listening) to the 100 artist causing a storm.
Written by: Martin Andersson, Landon Antonetti, Attorney Street, Zach Best, Amorn Bholsangngam, Travis Bigstereo, Jen Boyles, Andrew Cohen, Jorge Cuellar, Dani Deahl, Daiana Feuer, Paul Glanting, Joshua Glazer, William Ketchum III, Jason Kordich, Chris Lehault , Noah Levine, Ben Meredith, Chris Nunan, Chris Pacifico, Jason Parham, Donte Parks, Kevin Polowy, Eric Ricou, Ryan Rodriguez, Joey Rubin, Karen Ruttner, Dennis Sebayan, James Shahan, Elliot Townsend, Emman Twe, Dan Vidal, Aylin Zafar URB.com
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HYPE BEASTS With an album featuring nearly 40 guests—from DJ AM to Z-Trip— N.A.S.A. have made a record for the age of collaboration. by Joshua Glazer photography by Nick Zinner
Sam Spiegel is just off the plane from Brazil, having flown from Los Angeles to Europe to São Paulo to Mexico over the course of a few days. He’s come to Monterrey to DJ an after party for Daft Punk’s Alive tour that has hit the city like a stampede this weekend. Spiegel looks the part of a modern traveling musician—baggy pant, snowboard-style jacket and hat. The only item of note is the wrap-around neck pillow, which he still has over his collar long after de-boarding the aircraft. He tells a quick story about witnessing the driver of a famous musician wearing one while parked outside his Squeak E. Clean studio. Spiegel has decided to cultivate the look—at least for a few hours. A potential trend presumably extinguished as soon as his neck got sweaty. But like many things in Spiegel’s life, he’s only told half the story. The tale that comes out later is that the driver worked for one Parliament-Funkadelic legend George Clinton who was visiting Spiegel to lay down some vocals for his six-year-in-the-making N.A.S.A. project. The neglected punch line comes when after several hours of Clinton in the vocal booth—imbibing illicit substances the duration—Spiegel sent his assistant out to the alley to check on the driver and the two ladies who were keeping him company in the SUV, only to find the driver, neck pillow and all, receiving a handjob from one of the girls—much to the amusement of everyone but the assistant. Such funky experiences are par for the course
in Spiegel’s ever swelling career. Remember, this is a guy who hangs frequently with Fat Lip, the eccentric former Pharcyde MC whom Spiegel lovingly calls the West Coast Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Fat Lip and ODB actually appear together on one of the earliest N.A.S.A. tracks, although they never shared the same studio. “I don’t think we’d get anything recorded,” Spiegel laughs at the idea. “It would be mayhem!”
Sam met DJ Zegon in 2003. Ze had come to Hollywood after a 15-year career as a pro-skater and successful DJ, producer and member of Planet Head, Brazil’s answer to Cypress Hill. (The group once spent eight days in jail for “inciting people to smoke.”) From there, he produced over 40 albums during the golden era of Brazilian hip-hop as well as various records for Monique De Oliveria, the “Brazilian Madonna.” The two met at a party hosted by DVNO (now of the Ed Banger crew) and quickly bonded over music from Zegon’s homeland. The next day, they recorded their first beat together at the guesthouse studio belonging to Mario C. (Beastie Boys, Tone Loc) where Ze was crashing. A few days later, they made another track at Spiegel’s studio. That second effort would become the song “Hip-Hop,” off their long-awaited debut album, The Spirit of Apollo that finally dropped this past February to much fanfare—but that day was a long ways off.
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First, their project would need a concept. They had a name—short for North America, South America. The premise of the record was in part inspired by this hemispherical soundclash—worlds colliding. Both suspected that a collaborations project could be fruitful, then Sam struck upon the idea of having Karen O (with whom he has been working on an aborted solo project) record vocals for the track that already paired the aforementioned ODB and Fatlip. “Fatlip and ODB are the balance of crazy hip-hop motherfuckers and Karen is also this kind of real selfdestructive force, but somebody that’s amazing too.” Spiegel pontificates about the seemingly un-natural grouping. ”We were like, ‘Maybe that’s what this record is about? Let’s bring people together just like we came together through music. [Take] people from totally different worlds and just kind of mash them together on every song—people that you’d never expect but totally make sense in a weird way.’” N.A.S.A now had their mission orders. The song, “Strange Enough,” was a perfect combination of the East Coast and West Coast hip-hop flavors that Sam and Ze loved, with O adding her trademark vox over crunchy guitar riffs. With the process in place, the team had a reason to keep making beats and recruiting guest talent. By the time The Spirit of Apollo was done, 39 guest vocalists found their way onto the records. That’s nearly twice as many than appeared on collaboration touchstones Handsome Boy Model School, UNKLE’s Psyence Fiction and the Judgment Night
Soundtrack. A quick list [deep breath]: Kanye West, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Karen O, David Byrne, RZA, Lykke Li, George Clinton, Method Man, Tom Waits, M.I.A., Chuck D, E-40, KRS-One, Sizzla, Lovefoxxx, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Fat Lip, Slim Kid Tre, Chali 2na, John Frusciante, Nina Persson, Gift of Gab, Spank Rock, DJ AM, The Cool Kids, Seu Jorge, Kool Keith, Ghostface Killah, Scarface, Z-Trip, DJ Swamp, Barbie Hatch, Amanda Blank, Santigold, Nick Zinner, Kool Kojak, DJ Babão, DJ Qbert and Ras Congo. And that’s not even counting those who didn’t make it onto the final album: Cee-Lo, Money Mark and De La Soul’s Posdnuos. And then there were some near misses: “Rakim showed up!” enthuses Zegon, still stoked by meeting the hip-hop hero behind “Paid In Full” and “Juice.” “He showed up to the studio and took the instrumental track with him [to work on]. And he almost recorded, you know. He’s a cool guy, and I think it’s going to happen sometime. I was excited— ‘Where’s the track!? Where’s the track!?’—but it didn’t happen.” The recording process took them to Sweden, Jamaica, New York and Hawaii; the final stop to catch Kanye West while he was sequestered away to record 808s and Heartbreak. This was a particularly sanguine connection as it represented the last guest to come onboard the N.A.S.A. mothership. When URB first heard some of the record over a year ago, the slot occupied by Kanye on “Gifted” was still open. Spiegel asked if we had a way to get in touch with Nas; Andre 3000 was another on the short list.
After so many years and so many vocal sessions piling on top of each other, one has to wonder how the duo decided that any song, let alone the album, was finally finished. “On ‘N.A.S.A. Music’ we needed two guys,” explains Zegon. “We came right out with Method Man and E-40—we didn’t need anyone else, we knew. [On] ‘The Mayor,’ for example, we wanted some people from cities because that’s what the song was about. Cool Kids, Ghostface and Scarface—they all recorded a different chorus and we picked the best one, which was the Cool Kids’. ‘Money’ had this empty verse; we thought about cutting it out and putting in scratching and finishing the track, but we knew we needed someone. We tried Mos Def, we tried Chuck D—it took years, but Chuck made it.” During this time, Zegon had returned to São Paulo but continued their collaboration as the project gained steam: “Sam recorded a bunch of people when I wasn’t there. He’d just call me like, ‘I have a surprise for you.’ He’d send me a track with Del, or someone I wasn’t expecting, like Chuck D. I didn’t know he was going to show up. I arrived in New York for the mixing and Sam said, ‘Look at this.’ He didn’t tell me that Chuck was coming.” Clandestine recording sessions aside, Sam and Ze have an almost brotherly connection. Whether in person, or just as likely on Instant Messanger, the two work together throughout the day, crafting remixes for their DJ sets while sharing a quick meal over the
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“I got caught up in the jaws of the Great White”
haunting glow of their laptops. That constant companionship has translated into an extremely tight 2x4 DJ set up that features both jocks bouncing tracks back and forth on Serato with video running through a mixer set between them. In the studio, there used to be a dry erase board where Spiegel and Zegon could keep track of all their guests and what track/pairing/schedule combination would work. On URB’s last visit however, the board has been erased, a testament to the finished album that is now ready for release. The board has since been filled with a complex map representing the audio and visual pieces of the N.A.S.A. documentary now being assembled from footage shot since the earliest sessions up until the real time tour that will keep the duo on the road for the rest of the spring. There is also a music video for each song—either complete or in the works—showcasing many of Spiegel and Zegon’s friends from the street art world: Shepard Fairey, Sage Vaughn, Mark Gonzalez, Barry McGee, The Date Farmers, Splunny and Marcel Dzama so far. The album itself has five separate covers, also done by the same artists. It’s sheer overkill, and exactly what you’d expect from two dudes with the gumption to put Kool Keith and Tom Waits on the same song. It’s also the perfect feast for the gluttoness monster that is the blogosphere. Ever since the earliest reports of this “super project” surfaced in 2006, the Internet has been inhaling all things N.A.S.A., and breathing out a deafening buzz. Song leaks seemed to come almost daily as the release date approached. The
capper (so far) must clearly be the full episode of “Late Night With Carson Daly” dedicated to the group, which found the duo chatting with the tattooed talk show host (in a cred-flexing Led Zeppelin t-shirt) in between slow-mo b-roll of the spacesuit clad duo live on the decks and footage of Zegon tagging up some walls around LA. “We just want to do as much of everything as we possibly can at all times,” insists Spiegel. And he’s not kidding. Beside the N.A.S.A. tour (which will reach its climax with a performance at Coachella in April) Spiegel still has a day job running Squeak E. Clean Productions, a successful commercial music company that creates tunes for everyone from Pampers to Nike. It’s a business Spiegel started at age 20—a savvy way to afford creative venture like N.A.S.A in this era of miniscule record label advances. The team of composers Spiegel leads came in handy when Kanye asked him to re-create his music “on some Star Wars shit” for the Glow in the Dark tour. Nailed to the wall above the stove in SqEC HQ, there’s a photo of Spiegel and his brother, (yes, film and video director Spike Jonez) from their teenage years. Spiegel’s neck is again supported. Only in the photo, he’s wearing a medical brace and not an inflight pillow. “We were in a triathlon,” Spiegel begins the tale. “And part of the triathlon was swimming across the Long Island Sound, where there is shark-inhabitation. There was this woman ahead of us that was struggling with a Great White and while my brother fended it off I got caught up in the jaws of the Great White, and my neck got hurt really badly. But luckily I made it out alive and it didn’t chop my head off.” Always protect ya neck. Take a Video tour of Squeak E. Clean Studios @ URB.com/NASA
3/18/09 12:09:15 PM
tim exile skyzoo
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All hail the female DJ/producer and her many dance floor wonderments. New York’s Flax has a style that touches hands with ’90s techno and coyishly darts off into the garden blushing. Her single, “You’ve Changed,” features the expansive vocals of Aussie crooner Sia and received the remix treatment from Junior Sanchez, Larry Tee, Alexander Technique, and Dre Skull before it was even officially released. The track has been lauded favorably all over; even The New Yorker pulled the fork out of its butt long enough to compliment. Flax’s remix of Heartsrevolution’s “C.Y.O.A.” is hard at work blowing up 2009. DF
“New York rap isn’t dead”…Cliches aside, Skyzoo’s fundamentally sound skill set—a transparent voice, nimble delivery, equally potent punch-line rhymes and conceptual/narrative tracks—speak for themselves. March’s Power Of Words mixtape sees Skyzoo showcasing wordplay alongside Blu, Grafh and other MCs, while their secretly-themed album, The Salvation, features production from the likes of Don Cannon and Pete Rock. The release has industry heads praising it behind closed doors as one of the best to come from the genre. WKIII
There are some MCs who are so firm in what they say that it would be blasphemous to question them. If there’s anybody who is repping that kind of belief in their words nowadays, it is definitely Diz Gibran. Another log to add to the hip-hop hearth that the West Coast has recently reignited, this Los Angeles native is versatile, touching on the joy, the pain, and all of the tiny pockets in-between. Dude goes hard. Hell, you need talent to book upcoming shows with Blu & Exile, U-N-I, The Game, Dom Kennedy and Busta Rhymes. Tell Diz it’s good and that the West is back, and he’ll tell you from experience that it never left. JS
Greg and Jamie might be the two luckiest ladies in electro—if they even play electro any more. What started out as a fun blog and questionably located club night in Orange County has become a juggernaut —with tours of the EU and pending releases on Kitsuné and IHeartComix. Just don’t call them “blog house,” ’cause while the Net worshipping masses have gassed up into big room house blunders, these girls have slowed the tempos down, creating a plodding dirty techno sound to call their own. JG
Whether as a solo artist or the outstanding bass player behind live electronic band Pnuma Trio, Alex B is a perfectionist when it comes to creating his unique mixture of analog and newer digital technology. His background as a classically trained violin player may provide some insight into how he is able to provide such lush and dynamic qualities to his music. Whether he is remixing Dilla or creating patchwork masterpieces, his resourcefulness is as prominent as his passion. Be on the lookout for his full length debut, See What It’s About. JK
A classically trained violinist, performer/producer Tim Exile began experimenting with electronic music at age 12, when he released his first drum & bass work. Exile then released mostly for Moving Shadow and John B’s Beta Recordings. After completing his degree in Philosophy, he pursued an MA in Electro-Acoustic Composition at Durham. His d&b grew increasingly experimental as his debut LP, Pro Agonist, was released in 2005 by Planet Mu. A new album on Warp Records will get more exposure still. CN
Acid girls diz gibran
The face of Rubies is rarely constant. Simone Rubi’s vocal and synth parts and Terri Loewenthal’s bass lines are backed by a changing cast of musical characters and friends whose diverse instrumentations contribute to the indie-pop soul of Rubies. Their debut record Explode from the Center showcases genredefying essence, merging pop, funk, folk and electro, resulting in a variety of tracks of which no two sound the same. ET
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This Toronto-based crew raises the bar for every “remix” artist and his Ableton Live. Turntablist Jr. Flo (of the highly-regarded Eh Team DJs), keyboardist Matisse, and drummer Tune reinterpret dancefloor hits and underground favorites, from Aaliyah to MGMT live on stage, putting postproduction effects aside. In doing so, they don’t just make party rockers, but rock parties their damn selves. JR
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Truckasauras know the value of the grind—playing clubs, basements, and even the occasional street corner. They’d already been heralded as the future of techno by the time they released last year’s debut, Tea Parties, Guns and Valor (Fourthcity), but the Seattle group’s new material moves beyond the novelty of combining an 808’s thumps, the Nintendo Game Boy’s 8-bit sequencing, and an analog gear fetish, to reveal more nuanced musical ideas. They may bear the trappings of gimmickry (American flag capes, Nintendo cartridges as bling, homoerotic Wrestlemania footage), but the headbobbing music is serious business. DP
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Luzius would like to be known as the “bringer of light” or a Nu Shooz reference, but his brand of synthesized electro allows the keys to sing all the hooks and do all the break-dancing. Exploring novel instruments such as VHS tapes via D.I.Y. recording methods, alongside the computer and synth, Loose Shus has set about creating crystal-clear dance floor-melters. If there aren’t roller-skates swirling through the song, it’s not good enough. It would be nice and fitting if Loose Shus got Aaron Behrens of Ghostland Observatory to duet with his keyboard. DF
House of House
Most would have thought that the days of 12-minute deep house tracks released as $15 vinyl-only singles would have evaporated under the heat of ADD, Ableton mash-ups, and minute-by-minute blog updates… Enter House of House, whose epic and sprawling debut, “Rushing To Paradise (Walkin’ These Streets),” will make you smack whatever Serato DJ dare drop a new song before this one plays start-to-finish. No surprise that the duo is made up of a former Tokion Magazine editor (another “dying” medium) and a member of DFA act, Still Going. JG
Certain producers have been muddling up the dance floor, trying to make a buck off nostalgia-obsessed ’80s babies for too long, and making it hard for the real deal to climb on top of the pile. So we’ll give the secretive 20-something Melbourne producer known as Miami Horror the boost he deserves after fashioning un-missable remixes for Faker, Midnight Juggernauts and the Presets. With an aural perspective not unlike Thomas Bangalter, MH’s tracks are shiny and totally irresistible, like lip-gloss on a South Beach disco. JB
ULTRNX Loose loose shus shus
Keelay & Zaire keelay and zaire
Like most blog-based artists, Germany’s ULTRNX seemingly popped out of nowhere when they won Digitalism’s “Taken Away” remix contest last year, beating out over 1,000 other entries. Fact is, ULTRNX is relatively fresh, having formed not even 12 months ago, but there’s something different from the rest of miami horror
the banging electro newbies thumping around the blogosphere—a sense of polish that comes only with time. One look into the background of bandmates, Phil de Gap and Ahoi Boi, explains everything. The duo actually has years of programming, guitar work and DJ experience, which they’ve funneled into a signature brand of thick, epic synths with a melodic backbone— think Boys Noize meets Moulinex. Who said bloghouse was dead? DD
In a time when producers are starting to get the credit they deserve, URB’s got to be on the lookout for the up-and-coming greats. That being the case, Kyle “Keelay” Pierce and Tim “Zaire” Lewis certainly stand out. This dynamic duo work from the Bay Area all the way to Virginia, colliding together to form a burst of soulful and classic melodic hip-hop beats. These cuts attracted the attention of such artists as Phonte, Blu and Planet Asia, leaving us no doubt that Keelay and Zaire will not stop there. BM
Possessing the swagger of many men comes the University everyman, Ash Roth, heir-apparent to cream-complexioned hip-hop’s throne—though you’d be two white guys shy of hip-hop literacy to compare Eminem and Ash by anything but their lack of pigmentation. Roth’s melding of a sandal-clad sophomore and hip-hop rhymecraft makes for a panty-raid prankster serving self-deprecating humor balls-deep. This niche-relevant college kid with actual rhyme ability inhabits a persona that few rappers—black or white—could ever hope to emulate. Heavy names are shouting praises of the hundred-and-nothin’-pound prospect, and ’09 will see if their proclamations of potential hold weight. RR
house of house
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Garnering universal respect from peers is not common for DJs-cum-producers. U-Tern somehow managed it, and a reputation is steadily building for this humble Vancouverite. Spreading his obvious infatuation for all things music through his blog and weekly radio show, U-Tern is one of those individuals whose passion and drive are enviable. All that is secondary though: immaculate, charming disco-funk tracks are the standout here. U-Tern’s use of real instruments and his exceptional production chops translate into truly authentic pieces of music striking that balance between nostalgia and the 21st century. ER
Cory Nitta u-tern
Canadian native Matt Morein started his career with the Peer Pressure Party Crew in Montreal, where he still helps throw the best bashes in the city. But he is probably better known to the world for the great remixes he produced last year. Artists including Thunderheirst, M.I.A., and Chromeo all got hit by the Hatch. His remix of Chromeo’s “Bonafied Lovin,” featuring the Parisian king of hipsters, Teki Latex, really put his career into overdrive. After touring around in Asia and Europe, he’s ready to unleash his own tracks with a debut single coming out on Coco Machete later this spring. MA
Atop the heap in that bar nuts bowl of remixers/mashers is one Cory Nitta, a fresh coast mix-maven primed to be plucked from obscurity and still be utterly fucking obscure (in style, at least). The synth-tech complexity of Nitta’s grind lends to his taste for the finer eccentricities in electronica, creating a fused homage to brum & bass, electroclash, and b,b,b,bass. Already utilized by Delicious Vinyl and glamster Pop Levi, Nitta, a member of duos Phillipians and Pink Enemy, is turning the right heads at the height of electropop’s comeuppance. Tastefully grimed (contradiction?), but with dynamic taste, beer-nuts analogies couldn’t keep Cory Nitta from remixing an artist near you. RR
Dibiase is the type of cat that hip-hop is calling for. In the game since the mid’90s, he has already won numerous beat battles and was runner-up in Red Bull’s “Big Tune” beat showcase. Realizing his time has come to make an impression, Dibiase has already done beats for prominent hip-hop groups, including SoCal fav U-N-I. Part of the Green Llamas, who have stations in Brooklyn, Florida and all over the states, Dibiase holds down his fort as the sole member representing the West Coast. Channeling sources that range from rare vinyl to video games to pretty much anything that piques his interest, Dibiase and his MPC know no boundaries. BM
Mapei (Jaqueline Cummings) from Stockholm, Sweden, is an MC who embraces the same side of hip-hop as M.I.A. and Amanda Blank. With a raw, in-your-face style, she can just as easily chin-check an opponent as she can make someone in the audience blush with her looks. Unlike many female MCs who use their sex appeal as their only “creditable” talent, her lyrical, battletested style is just as diverse as the aberrant narratives she provides. JK
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Combining ambient guitar melodies, churning drums and heartfelt, Bono-like vocals, The Temper Trap emit a rich, atmospheric sound that transcends other alternative wannabes. Ranked #15 on the BBC’s “Sound of 2009” survey of up-and-coming bands, this Aussie quartet has been in the studio recording their debut album, scheduled for release in early 2009. ET
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The Whip hail from Manchester, the storied home of The Hacienda, rave and acid house. Twenty years on, this quartet emerges as the city pulse’s mutated progeny. On X Marks Destination, The Whip combine jittery ballads with cathartic techno-disco, gemmed-up in blistering bass beats and biting acid sounds. Stadium raverock is finally here, and it all begs the question: Should I hug or pummel my partner on the dancefloor? DS
Mixing swing-jazz melodies such as the Charleston with house music can prove disastrous. But in the hands of nimble Austrian producer Parov Stelar, the sound becomes downright infectious. Stelar’s foundation beats and swirling synths hit with enough club sensibility to excite even the most discernable dance floor, but it’s the overlying melodies, culled from the Prohibition-Era rhythms of the Harlem Renaissance, that cause spontaneous ballroom dancing on unsuspecting dance floors. CL
New York City’s Autodrone have a haunting and kaleidoscopic strata that makes the listener’s skin crawl and raises the hair on the back of one’s neck. While wearing a love for all things Creation Records on their sleeve, their lucent pop backbone slams head-on into just a pinch of white noise, jarring vocals, lurking hooks and other instrumental nuances that are spinetingling and resplendent all at once. CP
Think about it: when was the last time a DJ got by on just playing records? Not producing, not flooding the blogs with mixes, not hustling. Those who know Derek know he should have been big a long time ago. But he didn’t want to play the games. Instead he played records. Other people’s records. Techno records! And played them so well that Spectral Sound took notice
and made him a touring DJ, without a piece of product to be sold. That should change this year, but we hardly care. Travel to NYC and catch Derek at The Bunker. Or maybe passing through your town. Some DJs are still worth leaving the house for. JR
Their official press bio’s sole declaration of “We are super-new, and somewhat secret” is an understatement, if there ever was one. Luckily for The Golden Filter, they actually have talent; otherwise, that whole coyer-than-thou jig would’ve been up a long time ago. Already having generated a buzz through their remixes of Cut Copy and Peter, Bjorn and John, their track “Solid Gold” is a breathy disco gem that’s been sweeping the Internet and garnering its own acclaim. Look for their eerie, ethereal vocals and pounding bass lines as they tour with The Presets this spring. AZ
Last time we talked to this baby-faced 33-year-old Parisian producer/DJ, he was just visiting North America for the first time and holed up in his studio remixing Jay-Z. Now he’s spreading his dancefloor fuel—a blend of fidget, Baltimore, electro and old school rave—across every continent, thanks to his Kick N Run EP out late last year. When asked why Parisian dance music is so dope, he laughed and said with a wink, “Because we copy Americans.” Oui? JB
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the golden filter
Whether harmlessly titillated or thoroughly offended by their name, it’s impossible to keep credit from where it’s due. San Antonio’s own Mexicans with Guns (side project of Ernest Gonzales) can be found sticking up eardrums all along the interwebs. What’s to be expected from such a name? B’more rhythms, ghetto-tech influences, and bass lines that sound like they’re being squeezed fresh from a robo-Floridian orange. While there aren’t really any non-remix tracks of theirs to be found right now, MwG has reworked everything from Lady Sovereign’s latest jam to SNL’s “Jizz in My Pants.” Do not fear Mexicans with Guns, and your feet will thank you. JS
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DRAKE Drake got famous when he got shot. It sounds tough and certainly a familiar plot line (perhaps a little 2002), but it’s made a hip-hop career or two. Of course, Drake wasn’t shot in real life. He was capped in a scream-less school shooting scene of the eyerolingly bad Degrassi High. Not so tough. In fact, it’s enough to completely discredit the young rapper under Lil Wayne’s wing...if Drake wasn’t one of the most exciting new voices in music. Yes, he was Wheelchair Jimmy on Canada’s Saved by the Bell-ish melodrama. Yes, that was a jheri curl. But a more important affirmation? Yes, that’s him murdering Lil Wayne on Weezy’s best verse of 2008. “Ransom” is a beast. Displaying Drake’s ability to camouflage his wordier metaphors into deceptive punch lines, it also shows that Drake isn’t hiding from his “questionable” past. “I’m the same yellow boy that used to play up on Degrassi/And pocket $20,000 to show up anywhere they asked me/Cash like Johnny/Banks like Ashley/Burnin’ like a Camel Light, stupid ho, ash me,” he spits, treating his time as a teenage star not as a plight against his authenticity, but as an after-school job that was way cooler (and lucrative) than most.
Like a perfect combination of the Toronto and Memphis worlds he grew up in, Drake’s music is more than just the Southern smoke that one could assume from the 23-year-old’s biggest hit and most high profile collaborator. While it’s hardly a perfect dissection of Kardinall Offishall and Three 6 Mafia, Caribbean flavored multiculturalism and crunk church syrup, Drake’s music allowed him to search out the “other” while happily straddling a pop line. Even as his first video saw him rapping in front of Benz and bitches in booty shorts alongside Trey Songz and he’s yet another Young Money-umbrella-ed artist, don’t expect Drake to take the typical route. Whatever that may mean in 2009. URB: You said your family was from Memphis originally. Have you still got family over there? Drake: My parents were divorced when I was very young so my father went back to Memphis. I was there at a very great time, a very influential time. Around the ages of like 12-15, like right before I started doing DeGrassi. It was around the time when Memphis actually had a dope movement, you know, Ball and G, Three 6 was doing their thing. It was that real Houston feel where everybody was just riding around to Memphis shit. That’s the one thing about the South that I love that I incorporate a lot into my music. It’s just that excitement when something new drops, just to support an artist. I mean, it was hood as fuck, being around Orange Mile and Peppertree apartments. My family’s all over Memphis so I’ve seen a lot of it, but it was a great time to soak that all in. And having contracts in Toronto, Canada, which is very multi-cultural and very safe. It was cool, it gave me two perspectives. 2008 proved is that it’s OK for pop music to be weird. Santogold and M.I.A. hopping on Jay-Z tracks, and Kanye releasing a rap album without rapping. Wayne is obviously on his own planet. How do you feel about that transition?
I think it’s amazing. I think it’s great to see rap fans finally start to appreciate music. Rap is a great form of music. But it is just that, it’s a form of music. There are other amazing genres to explore. So for Santogold and M.I.A. to crossover into that world is amazing because, a year ago, we might have listened to them in the privacy of our own space because people might have thought you were weird if you said, “Yo this is what I listen to in my free time.” It’s funny ‘cause even being in the studio the other night, I think Killer Mike summed it up best. He was just like, “Rap, at this point, without melody and without something more, [without] a musical composition to it—it’s just becoming unimpressive.” To rap and rap and rap is only great if you’re saying something potent. You have to be a Kanye, you have to be an Andre 3000, you have to be a Jay-Z, because at this point, I think without music behind it, just to rap is getting repetitive. That’s not to say that rap is dead or rap is dying, I don’t think so. I just think that the bar is getting set a little higher and I think that’s a great thing. Everybody’s gonna have their market. The Soulja Boys and the Gucci Mane’s, they’ll always have their market because, in the South, Santogold and M.I.A. may not really apply. They can’t relate to that stuff. They hear that and they may not appreciate that just yet, maybe they will one day, or maybe they won’t at all. Maybe they’ll ride with their artists and that’s their thing. But on a world level, it’s amazing to see hip-hop fans appreciating hip-hop with real music. How did the remix to Lykke Li’s “Little Bit” come about? Where was the real life inspiration? [My manager] Oliver sent [the song] to me and said that I should remix it. At first I was thinking about rapping over it, but then as i started to listen to the song I pulled up the words. I tip my hat to whoever wrote it. They’re real, human emotions when it comes to love. And me, I’m scared of love. I’m scared to commit to somebody. So my lyrics and my side of things just really came from that, from having somebody in my life that could be the right person, but I’m not ready to do anything about it right now. What did your muse think about the remix? She’s scarce with compliments, she’s a tough critic. She gave me some kind words, which to me [showed] that it meant something special. For her to recognize it, and I didn’t even tell her, was perfect. I delivered my message. That’s what life should be about as a musician. How do you deal with the conflicting views of your growth, from teen TV star to rapper to singer? I just have to rest comfortably in my head with the theory that there’s always going to be people that like and people that don’t like. Somebody who hears “Ransom” and then Googles me and sees a pictures of me in a jheri curl afro and a wheelchair might bug out for a second. But we all grow. by Brandon Perkins / Photography by Annie Racz
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Yes, they make hip-hop in Minneapolis, and no, we’re not talking about Atmosphere again. The city of snow and lakes actually has an edge, and it rears its head in long-time rappers like Muja Messiah, who isn’t so tough to not come to its defense on “Get Fresh”: “Niggaz backstabbin’ my city / like it’s all backpackin’ and hippie / like it ain’t crackin’ in my city / We don’t be rappin’ about rappin’ / We rap about what be happenin’ in the streets.” Hell, he even sounds hard on another homage he calls “U Betcha.” Now, there’s definitely something to be said for that. JB
Every band secretly wants to make music that’s a lot like losing one’s virginity: clumsy and warm, but not really understanding what’s going on. Few, however, pull off such lofty wishes. Welcome to one Wavves, who not only manages to survive, but does it well. Nathan Williams and Ryan Ulsh, the brainchildren behind such madness, need be very proud. Hailing from sunny San Diego, California, this surf-pop-indiepunk treasure brings back a certain messiness that is much needed in today’s sterile music scene. Guitar, drums and unintelligible vocals...apparently all you need to rock. JS
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who can resist sweet R&B vocals over a bumping bassline these days. Already having moved bodies on dance floors over in the UK, Mr. Blackfinger finds things lining up nicely for him Stateside, with the house and electro craze in full force. The UK Garage scene finds ways to masterfully integrate hip-hop like no one else, and with that kind of cred behind him, you can bet you’ll be hearing more of Blackfinger’s club-friendly bangers in the year to come. AZ
The Japanese Popstars
With ready-for-prime-time beats and a growing remix resume, The Japanese Popstars are on their way to making half of their name a reality. Of course, Declan McLaughlin, Gary Curran and Gareth Donoghue would have to emigrate from their native Northern Ireland if they want to make it 100% accurate. After refining their show on the UK festival circuit, the JPs bottled their expansive sounds and epic spirit for their debut LP, We Just Are. Their entrancing mix of deep grooves and peak-time energy has even caught Beyonce’s attention. They take everything over the top and seem unlikely to stop. NL
NYC-based DJ Eli Escobar has been on the underground circuit for a long time now, gaining notoriety for his mixes and ridiculously original edits. His re-interpretations of Tittsworth, Keyshia Cole and Diplo manifest his versatility. Amazingly, Escobar was initially a hip-hop beatsmith before his branching out into the world of house, and he has appropriately translated his skills over. The dude’s a talent who brings fire to anything he touches. JC
After the Internet buzz generated by the multi-talented Colin Munroe’s stirring remake of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights,” it’s easy to see why Grammy-winning songwriter/producer Dallas Austin bonded with the Canadian youngster and let him use his home studio. Munroe’s genre-bending universality on the Colin Munroe Is The Unsung Hero mixtape seamlessly features cameos by the likes of Wale and Joell Ortiz, and a revox of Bob Dylan’s “Who Shot Davey Moore.” His Motown debut, Don’t Think Less Of Me, is one to look forward to in 2009. WKIII
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THE JAPANESE PORNSTARS
Atlanta isn’t just the home of trap-rap. It’s now the domain of legions of indefi nable ghetto kids who paint pictures with guitars. This Nashville-born rapping phenom is an adventurous coagulation of electro-funk, jazz, hiphop, and soul. Spree Wilson dresses like a britpop star, plays his guitar like George Harrison and is featured on Talib Kweli song “I Am,” currently receiving heavy rotation on MTV. He is wrapping up his highly-anticipated hip-hop and rock debut, The Beauty of Chaos. “What I represent,” Wilson explains, “is someone who’s not afraid to push boundaries.” SE
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It’s inexplicable, but it seems only one girl per year gets inducted into the upper clique of techno and house DJs. But if we’re only allowed one, then J-Philip is the perfect selection to take this year’s place in the boys’ club. Her “Rumble Rumble” cut has been shaking bassbins worldwide, since her signing with Claude Von Stroke’s Dirtybird label. Get to San Fran now to catch this Chicago native at her Endup residency, before she ghosts off to Europe like so many of her peers. JG
When Scottie B puts you on, you know you’ve done something right. Symbol and DLake, collectively known as Claire Hux, come correct with a recentlyreleased mixtape, Jammin’ On The One, hosted by the aforementioned godfather of Balitmore Club. Air horns and gunshots are well-represented here, and the duo adds a much needed dose of humor and vitality to the current hip-hop scene. The music bangs with powerful, thick drums and catchy, simple melodies, courtesy of DJ Morsy. And with whole songs dedicated to nonsensical couplets and too much dick on the dance floor, Claire Hux is well-positioned to make 2009 an interesting year. ZB
Amalgamations of rock and electronic are not groundbreaking these days, but when one comes along from a trio of Brits who’ve engineered sound for the likes of the Basement Jaxx and Lady Sovereign, you need to stand up and take notice. Enter The Qemists, onepart long-time gigging bandmates (drums, bass, and guitar), one-part drum & bass DJs (two turntables and two laptops) and one-part sonic mercenaries. The 2009 debut release, Enter the Q , will ﬁnd a sweet-spot not only with the Prodigy/Pendulum/Reprazent set, but also with open-minded fans of Rage Against the Machine, Helmet, and Murphy’s Law. CL
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It’s admittedly a strange name for a band known for its mellow psychedelic sound, but Warpaint is all about the vibe. This mostly female ensemble spreads their silky vocals over gentle guitar plucks and soft bass lines to create ambient beauty. All of a sudden you’re reclining on top of a huge mushroom while the caterpillar plays the bass and Alice sings sweetly to you. They claim to sound like a dichotomous amalgamation of danger and comfort. I agree with the latter. DV
There have been few MCs with the power to attract commercial success while simultaneously commanding the respect of indie music aﬁcionados. Sim’s mission is to market the message, to package the struggle, and brand the revolution. With music to mirror his hometown of Washington DC, Sim brings the ghetto and politics face-to-face. This man is brewing a cultural cocktail set to produce truly explosive results in the coming months—you better watch every move. JR
Never content to settle into one comfortable sound or approach, Mungolian Jet Set treads the ﬁne line between the bizarre and the relatable, between experimental and pop music, between organic and electronic instrumentation. Their uncanny compositions are as atmospheric as they are infectious, ethereal as they are danceable. This year, the Norwegian collective will take their jazzinﬂected electronica around their home territory and beyond, confounding and ﬂooring audiences at once. AB
Minnesota native Mux Mool is prepared to blow fans away in 2009. After debuting on Ghostly International’s Ghostly Swim compilation last year, Brian Lindengren is a welcome addition to the Brooklyn-based Moodgadget label, whose roster already includes JDSY and Jimmy Edgar to give you an idea. Mool’s new EP, Just Saying Is All, matches chopped breaks over rolling baselines and tiers of synthesizers, playfully melding disco and funk, house and IDM, hip-hop and downtempo. Dude’s production is hard and edgy—and drops like an anvil. Wiley coyotes beware. AC
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In this day and age, Micah James sets himself apart from other hip-hop artists by the simple fact that he is not wack. As another contributor to the West Coast rap renaissance, his ﬂow is smart, funny, and abstract enough for him to rhyme whatever he wants with whatever he wants. He recently released his mixtape Agoraphobia and is offering it to the world to download…for free. Basically, he’s giving away dopeness. Besides, isn’t it about time that rappers had a new, “Yeah-I’m-light-skinded-and-your-point-is?” dude? Sorry ‘Ye, but it looks like the guys with a little less pigment might be coming back in style after all. JS
The world’s population seemed to rise when Barry White went into heavy rotation. Similarly, a stampede of pricey boutique vodkas shall certainly be squeezed from potatoes once the frosty-crisp grooves of New Look begin to drizzle into lounges. Married musically and legally, Adam Pavao creates an ambient tundra of sound for his vocalist, Sarah Ruba, to hit pitches that’ll touch you in places you didn’t know you had, holy-ghost style. Keep your ear to the ice for their forthcoming How’s My Hair? EP. PG
Xrabit and DMG
East London-based producer Xrabit laces crazy tracks for Coool Dundee and Trak Bully, two Texas MCs known collectively as Damaged Good$ (DMG$). Riding on the initial success of the single, “Killin Em,” the international trio is poised for further notoriety with “Follow the Leader,” a wacky single that should lead right into success for the group’s March 2009 debut album release, aptly titled Hello World. MW
Boss In Drama
For years, Brazil has been a hot-spot for party music, and currently leading the pack is Boss In Drama, who’s creating a name for himself with keen songwriting and production that is as deeply rooted in pop and soul as it is in ﬂoor-ﬁlling dance music. But don’t expect B.I.D to remain Brazil’s secret much longer; his debut album is just around the corner, and he’s been tapped to lend a helping hand on Bonde do Role’s next album. TBS
Armed with driving post-punk rhythms, jangly and droning guitars, and a name that is impossible to forget, TPOBPAH are poised to become 2009’s darlings of indie rock. The shoegaze-revivalists wrap their dreamy, timeless melodies around a dense guitar attack that is brutal and beautiful, painful and pure. Their self-titled debut may give dream-pop fans reason to stare at their footwear once more. AB
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Bird Peterson may have first gained notice for his electro/house/b’more takes on Busta Rhymes, Mos Def and Lil’ Wayne, but he’s come a long way since his initial features on blogs like Discobelle and Gorilla vs. Bear. Bird now reps a sizeable original catalog with releases on Nastymix and SES, and collaborations with “it” names like Tittsworth. Full of wobbles, inyour-face pumped synths, and an unabashed love for loops, this is one Mid-Atlantic champion we’re sure to see more of. DD
BURAKA SOm Sistema
To say that Buraka Som Sistema has done a lot in their three-year history is like saying that a few kids may know Mr. Rogers. Credited with birthing “progressive Kuduro,” this Portuguese foursome has been tearing up dance floors worldwide with their frantic electronic sound. As if pioneering a subgenre wasn’t enough, they came out with their first studio album, Black Diamond, and won a MTV Europe music award, all in 2008. And with M.I.A. laying vocals down, don’t come crawling back if you miss the train now. JS
After putting his unmistakable fingerprints all over remixes for MSTRKRFT, Moving Units and Julien K, Felix Cartal is finally striking out on his own with his Skeleton EP and a full-length album due this year. Crafting claustrophobic yet danceable grooves that strike a fine balance between the dangerous and the funky, Cartal is one cat who will make dancefloors crowded with the instant parties he’s committed to wax. AB
The groovy vibes of retro songbird VV Brown—the U.K.’s newest pop siren—make you want to dance. And then dance some more. A multi-instrumentalist, songwriter (the Sugababes and Pussycat Dolls are among her credits) and producer, the 22 year-old VV channels a beloved, once-idolized sound—1960s electro-pop. Her soulful narrative is infectious, earnest, and a flat-out good time. The London-based singer’s debut single, “Crying Blood,” will have your grandma doing the doo-wop like she’s 15 all over again. Moral of the story? VV Brown just wants to have fun. JP
If Afrika Bambaataa can be likened to Magic Johnson, then Theophilus London is Penny Hardaway. Magic re-imagined the prototypical look and skills-set of the point guard, changing the game with his ability to do any and everything on the floor. Much like Hardaway, Theophilus is an extension of those that redefined the position before him. London’s music also serves as a gateway to those who will later add on to that very legacy by expanding on the notions of hybridized soundscapes, and adding their own streetweb 3.0 flavor to the mix. AS bird peterson
buraka som sistema
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Combining the emotionality of M83 with the raw power of Mogwai, Seattle’s Sleepy Eyes of Death wring emotion out of sound with wailing synths, persistent guitars, and punishing, precise drums. On the rare occasion they see fit to include lyrics, they’re so processed that they simply melt into the aural assault. Live, the group overwhelms the senses even further with an extra member sparsely illuminating and drowning the stage in fog, with band members fading in and out of focus. A picture is worth a thousand words, but when you can’t see through the haze, you’re forced to let the music speak for itself. DP
Producer/DJ John Roberts is the only American on renowned German record label Dial. This is a testament to Roberts’s affinity for deep house grooves and captivating ambience. In 2008, Roberts released his debut EP Hesitate, gaining immediate attention for his slow, methodically funky grooves. Scheduled to release a follow-up EP in addition to his debut full-length, Roberts is an experimentalist in every aspect of his approach, tweaking new sounds and paying meticulous attention to every detail in the service of creating a vastly deep electronic atmosphere. ET
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Mayer Hawthorne never planned it this way. With one silly demo, seemingly made in jest, Andrew Cohen has gone from a relatively obscure DJ to Stones Throw’s newest soul-singing wonder. But it’s not how he got here that’s important. It’s that he is here—to stay. The one-man doo-wop band, discovered by Peanut Butter Wolf in 2008, will release his debut single “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” on 45, followed by a full-length album this year. Things seem to be working out for The Mayer. His silky-smooth vocals and soulful love ballads have drawn comparisons to everyone from The Four Tops to Count Bass D, earning him a chance to join one of hip-hop’s most eclectic labels. It’s a far cry from where he was just a few years ago—DJing house parties on campus in his hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. So how did Mayer Hawthorne (AKA DJ Haircut) transform himself from a backup DJ to front-man and composer? The answer might surprise you. URB: Where did the name Mayer Hawthorne come from? MH: Mayer is my real middle name, and Hawthorne is the street name I grew up on in Michigan. . .Works every time. How did you link up with Peanut Butter Wolf? I met ‘Wolf at a party in L.A. I sent him some tracks, and at first he didn’t believe it was me. Eventually he asked me to do a 45. But when he sent the contract over, it was for an album deal. So you had no idea? To be honest, I had no plans at all to do a Mayer Hawthorne record. The two demos I did were kind of a joke on the side. They weren’t meant to be serious at all. They were just for fun. When I gave ‘Wolf the tracks, I told him I wanted the single to be pressed on red, heart-shaped vinyl, and they did it! I couldn’t believe it.
Mayer Hawthorne by Andrew Cohen / Photography by Bradley Meinz
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What’s not to love about a cute, blonde, Nordic chick with squeaky vocals? Don’t let the sweet girl appearance fool you: frontwoman Mette Lindburg’s on-stage disposition is as sultry, chic and enticing as the Danish combo’s lounge-pop, which kicks you in the ass with a layer of greasy Stax Records instrumentation. CP
After founding Athens, GA blues-rock band The Whigs (who spent this past winter touring with Kings of Leon), Hank Sullivant abandoned that project in favor of being a touring player with MGMT. Take his Southern sensibility and filter it through the dippy effects pedals of the aforementioned psychpop golden boys, and you’ll have an idea of Kuroma. To date, Sullivant has been selling this debut effort exclusively through his own site and merch booths, but a higher profile resulting from gigs with Primal Scream and other legends will surely require more expansive distribution. KR
A little bit Strokes, a little bit Kings of Leon, it’s no surprise that Young Lords’ original country aspirations found their true footing on the sticky dancefloors of lower New York’s most popular nightspots. Possessed of a brotherly charisma similar to scene contemporaries, actual brothers Blair and Reed Van Nort add a sense of style to be envied by any of Silverlake’s finest. It will also come as no surprise if this five piece finds similar favor to that enjoyed by their gritty indie rock predecessors…Namely, in the arms of girls (complete the appropriate Blur lyric if you so desire). KR
Laying on the reverb thicker than a layer of Vegemite, Australia’s The Morning After Girls aren’t just another of the many “nu-gazer” acts trying to ape every My Bloody Valentine track ever made. The windswept vocals of Sascha Lucashenko amalgamate into searing guitar blusters withering through druggy hazes of fuzz and subdued urgency. CP
the asteroids galaxy tour
3/18/09 2:50:44 PM
Spry, bitter-sweet guitar licks, rumbling bass foundations, and precise, chunky drumbeats of are only part of the sound that allows London’s Cazals to push power-pop into an exciting new dimension. Their bright anthems are injected with a sense of inspired unpredictability. Whether it’s a well-placed drum-machine loop or gurgling, whooshing synths, the band is full of pleasant surprises that might make them American girls’ most beloved import since David Beckham. AB
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Formerly known as Applied Science, theirs is a story that mirrors the times. Filipino-American Dana Diaz-Tutaan met husband and bandmate Ra LaMotta while she was still living Down Under, and subsequently moved to NYC to join him on a quest to create a sound as eclectic as their past. Together, they drive punk riffs into the realm of ethereal electronic bliss, guided along by classic turntablism at its best, courtesy of DJ Big Wiz. ApSci battles frequent comparisons to Portishead, but they’re ten times sexier thanks to Tutaan’s other-worldly voice which drips of the dirty deed, and delivers the perfect counter to Ra’s biting rhymes and deadpan delivery. AZ
3/19/09 1:43:32 AM
Stepping outside of his duties as half of house music production duo Jacob London, Pezzner is leaving that moniker’s quirky sensibilities behind, opting for a more serious production aesthetic. With a warm reception to both of his first EPs on Freerange last year (including the hypnotically deep “Almost Here”), Pezzner’s only picking up steam, with over a dozen original works and remixes slated for release this year. Taking cues as much from classic house as minimal techno, Pezzner’s stepping into the spotlight not only with plenty of ideas, but with the acumen to pull them off. DP
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Martin Dawson has found his niche in schizophrenia, self-describing his musical journey as “rock, metal, some hip-hop, breakbeat & electro; techno…deep techno, tech house [and] deep electronic house.” His EPs within Mutual Society echo what King Roc calls a throwback to “the hippy albums of the ’70s”— dreamy, auditory landscapes that wonderfully emote a sense of the artist behind the work.” It seems that for King Roc, joy comes not from the body of work he produces, but the process itself. DD
Having already made a name for themselves through their scintillating live shows, Brooklyn’s Suckers are bound to burst out beyond their borough in ‘09. Adding cozy harmonies and a bubbly, deep-water tropical droning with call-andresponse harmonies, these lads melt together a peachy knack for warm and fuzzy, squiggly psychpop, complete with whistling and kooky Morricone-like druthers. CP
Points to Amazing Baby for having Dimebag Darrell in their top friends on Myspace, but there’s definitely no sign of him in their tunes. The Amazing “vibe gatherers” produce the kind of tripped out space-rock favored by friends and scene-mates MGMT and present it with a bit more messy panache. With live shows that tend to finish in shambles, this Brooklyn group are already primed to be the city’s envoys to sweaty nightclubs across the globe. KR
What’s better than two turntables? ‘Easy, four. This is a concept that Tel-Aviv’s Soulico Crew has grasped, with even more to offer. They have created a live band out of DJ equipment, busting out originals, mash-ups, mixes, and other musical treats that never sound the same twice. Their blend of Israeli beats, American hip-hop, and Jewish melodies has drawn global collaborators like Del and Pigeon John, plus Russian, Mexican, Arabic and Israeli MCs who are equally dope in different tongues. BM
Anita Blay, better known as thecocknbullkid, creates pop music—real pop music, not the forgettable, watered-down stuff that gets thrown aside. thecocknbullkid’s music is unapologetic and tough, full of punches and wit. If nu-Rrave was all style and no substance, then thecocknbullkid has hit back hard defining the post-nu-rave era as an equivalent dose of both. Take that, coupled with a real DIY spirit, and she’s already gaining the attention of tastemakers worldwide. BS
An artiste in the truest sense of the word, Pablo Picasso was known for his glaring abstract portraitures— creating visionary, detailed mosaics where others saw confusion and disarray. Los Angeles producer Ro Blvd’s idyllic beats are a lot like Picasso’s paintings— intangible, yet so sonically meticulous. His multi-layered tech-hop mash-ups back-up some of L.A.’s most heralded underground MCs (Free Speech, U-N-I and Micah James, to name but three). Not many producers can craft such an infinite world of sound with one beat, but Ro Blvd can—and does. JP URB.com
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The “rainy-day sleepy-sex” tag conferred upon Memory Cassette by a blogger couldn’t be more apt in describing this latest venture from Dayve Hawke of the Philly-based, disco-rock outfits Weird Tapes and Hail Social. Memory Cassettes is dreamy pop music, featuring a wistful female vocalist singing as though submerged underwater or from behind a magical spider web that serves as a veil between reality and the fantasy world from which they operate. All is mystery and speculation, just the way they like it. AZ
Shur-i-Kan has built a reputation for deep house excellence. The accomplished keyboardist has churned out a slew of powerful productions, from his jazz-infused debut LP, Advance (which gained support from LTJ Bukem and Mixmaster Morris), to the danceable follow-up Waypoints, and singles “Living Inside” and “Future Fantasy.” As of late, he has become an in-demand remixer, with a maturing sound that is a UK saucepot of electronica, jazz, R&B and electro. DD
You might roll your eyes at these kids from “Albucrazy,” with their hair and tattoos and “crunk/screamo/ electro” that un-ironically sits on their fan-flooded MySpace page. But while the cognoscenti scowl on their old-school list-serves, this four-piece are blowing up all-ages shows nation-wide and tagging more teenage tail then all the middle-age bloggers can bear to think about. And they’re more sonically challenging than Klaxons—think about it. JG
If a certain type of sound comes to mind when you hear the name, it’s probably pretty accurate. This husband and wife duo incorporate tribal rhythms and traditional Middle Eastern instruments into their surprisingly bubble-gummy style. Tracks like “Omar K” are sure to perk the ears of music snobs while simultaneously getting the club jumping. With the new wave of experimental, internationally-infused pop music just beginning to crest, Rainbow Arabia seem to have caught it at the perfect time. DV
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We know the current love affair between electro and hip-hop is appealing and all, but let’s not forget the perennial black sheep of the music family—indie rock. What began as a group of disgruntled musicians who found themselves suddenly getting off on the Chi-City DJ scene soon turned into an opportunity for the four-piece to bring their heaving live rock performances into the small, sweaty venues that would appreciate their love for the electronic without being automatically pigeonholed as just another hipster favorite. AZ
Portland, Oregon’s Joggers create music ‘s best described as classic rock blended with more contemporary punk with a result that is raucous but melodic, and almost math rock in its control—like the Black Keys before they got all cozy with Danger Mouse. While there is often an interesting narrative in their lyrics, the playing is the real strong point. The songwriting will come in time. JK
Boasting of “sharing the stage with” so-and-so is one of the oldest tricks in the music publicity book. But it makes perfect sense for Sweatshop Union to align themselves with left coast alt-rap pioneers and past tour mates like Blackalicious and Jurassic 5. The power-by-numbers Vancouver collective (population: 7) extends that unmistakably groovy and soulful hiphop sound north of the border. Take one listen to the horn-driven ballad “Oh My” and tell us you wouldn’t pay dues. KP
Multi-moniker pop/folk dynamo Tiago La has may have as many names as he does stories. Originally from Texas, Tiago La (or Drew Green) has traveled the world doing studio gigs for the likes of Beck as well as some of his Lex Record brethren. With one EP, Tiago La is Losing the Plot, under his belt, the man with many names is now gearing up for his first full length LP on Lex Records entitled S.A. Andre. LA
3/19/09 1:47:28 AM
Hailing from France, Breakbot displayed his true genius with some masterful synth-play on his 2008 debut Happy Rabbit, and he’s earned a name for himself in smart circles, thanks to his trademark ‘70s robo-pop remixes for Sebastian Tellier, Fatlip, PNAU, Justice, and others. He has an energetic, explosive-yet-playful sound, created through glitching, sampling, organic bass lines and the faintly audible laughter of children playing in the background. JC
This will sound familiar: Two twentysomething L.A. kids with an affinity for custom kicks and limited-edition gear wax ill poetics over Marty McFly soulscapes that would make even the late J Dilla grin. But Thurzday and Y-O are not hipsters, they’re bearers of a new torch: hybrid-hop. Cultivating a sonic jambalaya of raw lyricism, healthy swag and potent production, the duo landed on the corner of Fairfax & Melrose two years ago with the criticallyacclaimed Fried Chicken & Watermelon “street album.” Fast forward to the present and U-N-I have crafted a distinct sound, and are set to release their post-modern opus, A Love Supreme—a soundtrack for quasigangstas and afrobeat enthusiasts alike. Translation: U-N-I are you and I. JP URB 56 | URB.com
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As his album title There’s Only One implies, Buff1 is definitely uniquo solamente. The Ann Arbor-based MC is leading a new wave of hip-hop out of The Mitten and doing it his way in The Unemployment State. Whether it’s giving George Bush his props or purposefully posturing as a street hustler, Buff1’s rhymes are full of unpredictable wit, making for a tasty fix that’ll satisfy cerebral backpackers and B-Boy purists alike. Matched with some ferocious production from his high school buddies the Lab Techs, and with national and European tours under his belt, Buff1 may be The One to lead us out of this Rap recession. AC
The jazzy Earth tones of music zealot Zaki Ibrahim pulsate with a lyrical finesse so unrivaled, it’s hard to make a comparison. And to be fair, Ibrahim’s music does stand on its own (though a young Erykah Badu and Sade come to mind). Whether cloaked as electronic soul or trip-hop, her songs captivate the soul with subtle warmth and fledging wonder. Zaki Ibrahim is truth, and Eclectica —the Toronto-based singer’s latest EP—is her living testament to the world. Bear witness. JP freddie gibbs
Passion Pit front-man Michael Angelakos’ path teaches that real rock stars get prestigious East Coast educations and make music intended solely for their girlfriends’ ears. Subsequently, those tapes leak and are fetishized once the public gets word of their unorthodox origins. However, soon it becomes apparent that Passion Pit’s amalgamations of soul, electro and funk are immensely enrapturing. Chunk Of Change made it into into the hands of mover/shakers at Frenchkiss Records, who have made this one-time private gift, available to everybody! PG zaki ibrahim
In a market where ring-tone rappers outsell those who represent the struggles, victories and tragedies of street life, it seems only right to accept the dark truths that rappers like Freddie Gibbs bring to light. Like 2Pac and Biggie before him, Gibbs spits a potent mix of thug-life realities, drug-fueled escapades and street braggadocio. Balancing harder New York street styles with Houston-esque trunk-rattlers, Gibbs brings it from the heart. ET URB.com
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Few producers embody the sheer breath of dance music like Brooklyn’s AC Slater. A club casualty who’s sound germinates from a one-room era of electronic music, AC combines elements of electro, Miami bass, dubstep, and classic New York house in a bass-heavy Molotov cocktail that works as well in a Bushwick warehouse party as it does on the mainfloor at Pacha. The results have been harvested by a global stable of labels from Ministry of Sound to Against the Grain to add his infectious touch to remixes for dancefloor royalty such as Moby, Adam Freelance, Deelkine & Wizard, and Laidback Luke. CL
Deastro is Randolph Chabot’s illegitimate lovechild from Detroit, Michigan. With a live band backing his stage antics, there is not much Randolph can’t do musically. Channeling forces from the art of electronic music, ’80s influenced power-pop, indie rock, and John Travolta, Deastro has created a sound that would be hard to mimic, but quite easy to dance to. Randolph lives in the liminal area between quality and fun, making Deastro a group to keep your eyes on and kick your feet up. BM
No one is named Nancy in this Brazilian band. Camila Zamith, Praxis, Dreaduardo, Munha, Fernando Lanches, and Ivan Bicudo call themselves “ex-punks” and “diplobrats,” and the softness in their music keeps sharp little spines around its frame, like a green blade of grass. On their upcoming debut album, which was pieced together through instant messenger and Mac applications, Zamith’s smooth vocals take centerstage. Like a South American Eleni Mandell, she could be delivering the harshest line, but it sounds sweet and warm, like a concussion. DF
Riz MC is an English rapper who eschews the clichés of hip-hop for the sake of substance. Beneath grimy, minimal beats and catchy programming lies an important message. Riz Ahmed, who is of Pakistani descent, challenges issues of class, politics and war (“Post-911 Blues”) as well as religion (“Islam Versus The West”) in a caustic and comical manner that makes uncomfortable topics easier to ingest. The Oxford University alum is just as effective acting as he is MCing. After appearing in “The Road to Guantanamo,” he landed in “Shifty,” for which he earned a BIFA Awards Best Actor nomination. He is currently working on Sally Potter’s upcoming film starring Judi Dench and Lily Cole. DS nancy
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NYC/Vancouver trio Old Money has the hipster aesthetic down pat, and some may dismiss their Wale and Santigold remix projects or their releases’ elongated titles (i.e., My Apartment Smells of Rich Mahogany, or Get Your Big Ass Adidas Off My Mom’s Table Man) as gimmicky. Fortunately, their unique, electro-tinged hip-hop—check the whimsical knock of “Steve Harvey,” the trio’s ode to haircuts, and the comedian/ radio personality of the song’s namesake— is engaging enough to keep listeners interested once you catch wind of them. WKIII
JDP is a successful young MC hailing from Chicago. Finding his influence from established artists including Jay-Z and Kanye West, as well as fellow newcomers The Cool Kids, JDP released his first solo project, The Elevation EP. He’s currently hitting the club scene with the catchy hit, “Release,” produced by fellow Chicago native The Gift. Keep an eye out for upcoming releases. CN
If there were ever an argument that Europa kicks the rest of the world’s ass when it comes to electro, Siriusmo would definitely be worth some persuasive power. Berlin’s new secret weapon (born Moritz Friedrich) has the uncanny ability to make listeners his puppets. Dancing, head-nodding or chilling-out are all perfectly understandable reactions to his jams. Whether hand-crafting circuitry-guided marching bands or weaving together what sounds like the best synths the ’80s ever had to offer, Siriusmo is a master of sweet, solid production chops. It’s no wonder why Boysnoize records snatched him up. JS URB.com
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DANCE WITH WHITE GIRLS Sure, Wu-Tang alum Method Man was referencing his capricious collaborator Ol’ Dirty Bastard when he professed, “… there ain’t no father to his style” on 1993’s Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. It was a bold, decidedly apropos coinage of the mercurial rapper. In retrospect, we now understand what Meth was talking about, no one— no one! —could contain the odd, erratic soul of Russell Jones (R.I.P.). But the notorious phrase comes to mind when thinking of burgeoning DJ and producer Devin Duran Bolton, a.k.a. Frog, b.k.a. Dances With White Girls. Birthed out of 1980s-era films and savage house parties in North Philly where DJs mixed anything and everything from Baltimore club music to hiphop, Dances With White Girls, 25, is on a mission. “Thug House is my musical movement. It’s not like hip-house because it doesn’t have rap vocals and stuff like that. And I’m not trying to make pussy house music, you know what I mean?” he says, sitting in his friend’s Bushwick residence. “I’m not tryna make some feminine vocal, singing house music; I’m tryna keep it thugged-out and raw at all times. I’m not tryna have comfortable situations.”
A student of RZA’s ethereal soundscapes and Dr. Dre’s swelling synths, DWWG acquired his moniker from the Kevin Costner epic Dances With Wolves. “I took that [name] and flipped it around. I’m this black dude and the white girls are the wolves,” he says. More impressive than DWWG’s tag are his thug sonics—rapturous timbres, pounding bass, and raw mash-ups conjure nightly eargasms across New York’s underbelly. His secret? “When I make beats, I always look at Last Night’s Party pictures and listen to Paramore and No Doubt so I can understand what little white girls like,” he quips, before continuing, “I’m just tryna bring that thug element to house music.” DWWG’s December 2008 three-track EP, New Crack Swing, is just another indicator that this first signee to The Rapture’s Throne of Blood label is ripe with promise. “I like Peedi Crakk and Beanie Sigel and I try to bring that rawness to my music,” he says, “but I don’t know if that affects me as much as going to an after-hours with trannies.” by Jason Parham / Photography by Ryan Collerd
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Thieves Like Us It takes misfits to make innovative music—something that this international trio knows all too well. Consisting of two Swedes and an American, the band met in Berlin in 2002 and soon began DJing at local clubs. Something about the tired European electronic music scene seemed to bother them, so they managed to inject an edgy, almost soulful groove into the monotonous techno rhythm. DV
If you have any political/social/personal space sensibilities prior to a Ninjasonik show, prepare to throw that shit out the window. These fellas can croon, although if you’re thinking Johnny Gill, you best replace that “you sho’ look good tonight ” serenade with a little “H-I-V gon’ be the death of me” and you’ll be a bit closer to home. The Brooklyn-based band, with deep b’more club and punk influences, is more like a legion that took the internet, and Hot 97’s Miss Info by surprise last year (Google it…they roll deep!). AS
thieves like us
There’s something undeniably adorable about French girls with bangs singing along to electro-poppy, synthhappy music—and so it is with the Enfant Terrible frontwoman Clotide Floret. But be wary—Yelle she is not. Joined by Thomas Fourny on vocals, keys, guitar and (yes) Nintendo, the two bring a rock sensibility to a genre which, if not approached carefully, can waver towards the cliché. Cyril Debarge rounds out the Parisian trio, adding his touch of drums and 8-bit to a mix of eerie and delightful sound that should have people re-thinking the meaning of “French touch.” JS
Seth Troxler enfant terrible
kissy sell out
Figuring out Seth Troxler’s appeal is almost as complicated as deciphering Tesh Club, the mythical club-slash-state of mind created by Troxler and fellow young guns Ryan Crosson and Lee Curtiss, that in reality was dude’s basement, yet captured the imagination of techno’s elite across Europe. Imaginary parties turned into real music, with releases on Crosstown Rebels, Wagon Repair and Spectral Sound. He may be young—but with two parents who rolled deep with Detroit’s first wave of dance music, the formerly dreaded kid who used to sneak into clubs while underage is well versed in grown folks’ electronics. JS
Kissy Sell Out
Already proclaimed to be the biggest thing to hit the UK dance market since Pete Tong, Kissy Sell Out is the jock you had to have remix your tune in 2008 (or at least get it played on his Radio One program.) Groove Armada, Mark Ronson and Gwen Stefani all lined up to get the treatment. Now there’s an album of original material that could sell Kissy out to the rest of the world. All while still young enough (he’s 23) to make the über-mullet an acceptable fashion decision. JS
PHOTOS: Acid Girls-Tommy B, APSCI-Wesley Nes, Buraka Som Sistema-Chris Davidson, Cazals-Marcus Donates, Colin Monroe-Anna Wolf, Diz Gibran-Nate “res” Harvey, Freddie Gibbs-Ana Paula Negrao Hatchmatick-Clayton Hauck, Keelay and Zaire-Amanda Lopez, Lauren Flax-Elizabeth Weinber, Mapei-Malin Fezehai, Micha James-Jiro Schneider, Miike Snow-Knotan, Muja Messiah-Julian Murray Mungolian Jet Set-Hotrod/Pål Laukli, Ninjasonik-Dock EL-S, Old Money-Lara Isaacson, Passion Pit-Elizabeth Weinberg, Pezzner-Bob Hansen, Prairie Cartel-Dominick Mastrangelo Rainbow Arabia-Jacqueline Castel, Seth Troxler-Will Calcutt, Skyzoo-Rob Mayer, Suckers-Victoria Jacob, Pain of Being Pure At Heart-Annie Powers, Truckasaurus-Martin Collette
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PRODIGY URB157_Prodigy_r1.indd 62
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THE HARDER THEY COME From their first NRG raves in the UK to global domination and their latest #1 debut, URB examines the history of Essex’s favorite electro punks, the Prodigy. By Richard Thomas Photography by Paul Dugdale
Controversial, explosive, unapologetic, and incomparable, the Prodigy own one of the most storied and colorful histories of any band making music over the last two decades, regardless of genre. Hip-hop loving producer Liam Howlett helmed the motley group, including frontmen Maxim Reality (the black with dreads) and Keith Flynt (the white punk), along with 6-foot-7-inch dancer Leeroy Thornhill and female singer Sharky. Their ﬁrst two albums—Experience (’92) and Music For The Jilted Generation (’94)—reﬂected the disparate styles, hardcore vibes, and frenetic tempos of early UK rave, while Fat Of The Land (’97) completely redeﬁned not only what an electronic album could sound like, but what an electronic band could do with that sound on stage. The album went to #1 in 32 countries, but it wasn’t until seven years later that they followed up that groundbreaking success. Unspoken frustrations and inopportune creative timing led to less than optimal recording circumstances for the coolly received Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, which was recorded solely by Howlett. “We can see how it was confusing to people,” he says of the perceived split, “but it was an album that had to get made.” The band was pushed to the brink, but the only force stronger than their warring individual personalities was the united front they presented against all the industry vipers that would seek to transform them into a passive host for a passing fad. With over 12 million album sales under their belt, the Prodigy are the most successful electronic outﬁt in history, and as everything you’re about to read will attest to, they did it on no one’s terms but their own.
tracks, generally edgy, underground stuff. Nothing he played me I thought, “Wow, this is a hit.” Just good, edgy underground music. It was breakbeat-driven, which was slightly different to the American stuff that was around at the time. I asked him, “Do you have a vision for how you’re going to build this project?” There was no act, but he told me, “I’ve got a few guys I know and I think we’re going to put a live thing together.” I think I called him back a few days later and we offered a deal to put out an EP with some options moving forward plus a low-level advance—somewhere around £1,500.
EARLY DAZE AND THE PRODIGY EXPERIENCE
Liam Howlett: I was into Public Enemy and hiphop, totally not into acid house. I got on the train one morning and I saw one of my old school friends and he’s like, “I’ve been out all weekend going to these raves. You’ve got to come.” And I’m like, “Nah, I’m into hip-hop.” Two weeks later he gave me a bell and we ended up going around the M25 to an NRG rave, and
Nick Halkes (co-founder, XL Recordings): Liam phoned up XL and said, “Hey, I’m a DJ with a rap act called Cut 2 Kill and I’ve made some of my own stuff. I’m wondering if I can come down and play it to you.” I had a fairly open-door policy to people who wanted to hit us up with new music. The cassette had about three or four
Liam Howlett: £1,500 yeah. I bought some weed. I did, honestly. I think I put some money towards a new sampler, but then I had to wait until I got the next advance to actually pay for it. The deal was for four singles, but by the time we got to the third single we renegotiated the deal because the second single went through the roof. Maxim: The group formed and they needed a frontman. I spoke to Liam and was like, “Yeah, I’ll come down and freestyle.” So I met everybody at the ﬁrst gig. I had gone through the party scene a couple of years before and I wasn’t really into it because it was very acid-oriented. It was all about bleeps and bloops. I didn’t really get into it until it blended into the hip-hop styles, and that’s where Liam came from. When I heard his music it turned me on straight away because I could understand the beats. He was bringing the beats to the dance scene. Other people were doing that as well, but he was doing it in a different way.
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there was like 5,000 people in a field. It blew my mind. I couldn’t believe something this big could be happening illegally. Hip-hop was renegade and above the law, just in the attitude of the music, but this was something else. I didn’t do any drugs that night, but from then on I started to go to this club called The Barn. Every DJ passed through that club—Frankie Bones, Lenny Dee, all the early New York freestyle stuff. I was really into that gig because I was used to that electro sound from hip-hop. I started to do acid and experienced a whole new level of wild night. Then I was totally hooked on the music. I forgot about hip-hop. At that time in England it wasn’t a friendly scene. It was pretty closed off, quite heavily black. We went out one night to this hip-hop jam in Swiss Cottage in 1989, a few months before I went to my first rave, and we got our money taken off of us. I loved the music, but I thought, I’m never going to be accepted in this. Nick Halkes: Before we’d even mastered the official vinyl release of “Charly” I had record stores phoning me up going, “Have you got this new Prodigy single? Are you in London? We’re a record store in Birmingham. Can we drive down and meet you at a motorway service station halfway and we’ll take 200 vinyls off you?” It was a level of enthusiasm that I hadn’t experienced with any other XL release before. I was mystified. At that time in dance culture you weren’t really seeing records that were breaking off the back of acts performing live. Records were generally breaking from being big club records and having DJs play them. Liam Howlett: After we went to the clubs, we’d get in the car and I’d drive to the various parties that were happening in the area we lived. They’d hold these parties in forests, on the beach, in people’s houses out in the woods. Places you couldn’t get to. That’s where I started to see Keith. We’d stay out until 7 or 8 in the morning. Always doing E’s, man. Sharkey: I don’t think my experience was different to the boys. I was always a bit of a tomboy hanging out with the lads. You don’t have to be masculine to be brash and loud. Rave is about unity, not gender. You didn’t care who was rocking next to you as long as they had a wicked grin on their face and a big bag of doves.
Their Law: Going against the grain
Mark Fotiadis (VP and GM, Mute Records): They were dropped by [American label] Elektra after Experience, but the coincidence was that Mute was also [ending a deal] at Elektra. We left essentially at the same time that the Prodigy were exiting. To take it a step further, Moby was on Elektra at the same time, and he left. That period was an amazing turn of events with Elektra releasing Mute, Moby and Prodigy, and we all wound up together. Maxim: “Rave New World” was the first tour we ever did in America, and we were like, “What do you do on a tour?” The first thing the tour manager said to us, in a very military style, was, “Okay guys. Wake up, nine
o’ clock in the morning. Make sure you wash your pits and clean your dicks!” We’re like, “What is this?!” It was Cybersonik, Richie Hawtin’s band at the time, and Moby. Moby didn’t like us because we were smoking a lot of weed. He used to sit in the back of the tour bus, roll a towel up and block the bottom of the door so the smoke didn’t get in. We once did a show at some club in Florida where the stage was two snooker tables put together with some wood over it. The next day they came back and asked us if we’d want to judge a wet t-shirt contest.
Liam Howlett: We can talk about this now ‘cause lots of time has passed, but to be honest, Leeroy didn’t really want to do it anymore. The band was going through changes and we were like, “Listen man. You don’t want to dance anymore, and there are no other positions. So if you’re gonna leave, maybe now’s a good time.” We were sad to see Lee leave, but that was the end of that era. It was pretty clear that when Lee was on stage, it was a bit of a weird scenario. We were trying to progress and it was just pulling it back to something that the band wasn’t anymore.
Neil Mclellan (longtime co-producer, mixer and co-writer): A lot of people ask me about Music for the Jilted Generation. “That record sounds really different, even though there are lots of loops and samples.” A lot of that is because Liam was playing all of the stuff live, whether it be a hi-hat or a snare drum or triggering a drum loop. He would do that without quantizing. None of the shit on that record is quantized. He just played the samples on the keyboard, and when we ran out of tracks, we would track it to two-inch in the studio. Otherwise we would just synchronize it up and run it live. The guy’s got this incredible timing skill, and I think it comes from the fact that he really didn’t know where the quantize button was.
Richard Russell (co-founder, XL Recordings): We lived in that scene but we didn’t want to stay in that scene. We wanted to escape and reach out. No one wants to stay in a niche.
Keith Flint: There’s no democracy in great music. You listen to each other, but the person that’s ultimately going to hold themselves accountable for that music has to make the decisions. “Oh, I like your idea a bit and I like your idea and we need a bit of everyone’s idea to make this a democracy.” That don’t work. I don’t want to get too sycophantic here, but if you’ve been around greatness, you’ve been around people like Liam Howlett. End of story. And I’m no chump. I’m fucking good. I’m fucking great. But that’s a different level. Neil Mclellan: Back in the day there was a lot of angst going on with the government. The [British] government was trying to stop the youngsters from going out and having fun. That album itself had a lot of symmetry with people. We all felt a unity to keeping the party movement going, and the idea that people should be allowed to go out and dance and have fun. If you look at the album sleeve, there’s that fantastic painting of the long haired dude cutting the rope of the drawbridge with the coppers on one side of the ravine and all the partiers on the other. That pretty much sums up that whole era.
“I wasn’t intended to be played during halftime at a Lakers game,”
Fat Of The Land and the U.S. insurgency
Mark Fotiadis: “Firestarter” came out and was doing okay, and [Seattle radio station] The End asked if the band would headline their festival. What surprised us most was that the station wasn’t even playing the record. I think No Doubt went on before them, and No Doubt had a bigger profile than Prodigy, but this fellow Marco Collins took a shot out of nowhere and it absolutely work. I remember the No Doubt guys and Gwen standing there and they were just completely blown away. The second turning point was this girl Amy Finnerty who did a show at MTV called “Amped.” She approached us about participating in “Fashionably Loud.” It took months of talking to get the guys to do it. They didn’t relate to models walking around while they played their music. Liam Howlett: I was pretty freaked out by the whole thing. We didn’t want to do any TV and I felt like we had to play the game a little in American to do this. It was totally against what we were about, but we all agreed to do it. I can definitely remember arguing about it for a couple weeks. Amy Finnerty (former Director of Music Programming & Talent Relations, MTV): Everything had been timed out to the second so that the models would be finished with the fashion show as the song ended. I think the band thought they heard one of the producers say “Go,” or something to the effect that made them believe it was time to start playing, but they started before they were supposed to. No cameras were rolling. The fans immediately went crazy and the models started walking on the stage. All of the producers were waving their arms around trying to get the band to stop playing so we could start over, but nobody was paying attention. They had to turn off all of the lights in the room to get the band to stop playing. When the lights came up, one of the producers explained that we had to start the shoot over because the band started playing too soon. It wasn’t that big of a deal to the producers, but I came to find out pretty quickly that it was a very big deal to the band. They didn’t want to start the song over and play again. It was explained to me by Mark [Fotiadis] that the band had a private pre-show ritual before every performance to get them focused. They’d get into their zone and once they started playing, there was no stopping them. We all kind of hashed it out for ten minutes and the band agreed to play again. They went on the second time and everything went off great. Gerry Gerrard (CEO, Chaotica – Prodigy’s U.S. booking agency): They never had much respect for record company people at all. I remember when the president of Warner Brothers wanted to get on stage to watch them and their manager just said no, and that was their label. Jason Bentley (A&R, Maverick Records ’97-’01): In every case, [former Maverick Records CEO] Guy [Oseary] was trying to find the best way to take it to another level. Maybe at times it’s not the most discriminating idea,
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and it might seem for the artists that it’s not their vision, but at the end of the day he’s trying to make big plays. But at a certain point he was just frustrated with the inability to bring more music to the world to follow-up on the ground he had laid for their success. He had played a hand in little things like getting the Prodigy’s music to become regular rotation at things like Laker games. Maybe the artist was like, “Hey, I wasn’t intended to be played during halftime at a Lakers game,” but for Guy it was like, “Are you kidding me? This is amazing!” Amy Finnerty: We all loved “Smack My Bitch Up” at MTV, but were in a tough situation with our standards and practices department. Here we all were, anticipating the arrival of this video, and in true-to-themselves,
punk rock style they made a video that they wanted to make. Up until the video the fan base was made up of mostly electronic fans, but “Smack My Bitch Up” was hugely embraced by the alternative music crowd. Back then those crowds didn’t mix much. As soon as we got the “Firestarter” video, we put it in heavy rotation. That was really the video that blew the band out of the alternative and dance world and into the mainstream. Liam Howlett: We slammed ‘em with that video. “Okay, you want it? Now you’re fucking gonna get it.” People didn’t really kick up a fuss when the record came out. It was only when the video came out. That was the only time we really courted controversy. Four punks from Essex, man, and we loved every minute of it. Gerry Gerrard: While they were the most outrageous, manic act in the world, they were actually very mild. No after-shows. It was always back to the hotel and “What’s on pay per view?” I don’t know if I should really be telling you this, but back then they were fairly mild mannered. Mark Fotiadis: Their rider was fairly normal, but they insisted that wherever they stayed there would be 24-hour room service and access to milk shakes. Chocolate and vanilla. We would book their hotels for the radio festivals, and the first thing Keith would always ask is, “Can I get milkshakes?” It wasn’t a rock star thing. It was actually kinda cute. I was like, “You
guys are huge! Milkshakes?” Liam Howlett: It was only the champagne. Shitloads of champagne. That was basically from 2000 onwards. I can’t remember the Prodigy being big drinkers before 1999. It was ecstasy now and then, but definitely not heavy drinking after the gigs.
ready, Keith wasn’t there for me, and I felt really let down and angry by that. So we fell out from that point. I didn’t speak to him for a year. It was a bad time, you know?
Mark Fotiadis: After their Coachella set, I got into one of these vans that take you back to the hotel and Beck got in with his tour manager and his sound man. He just kept saying, “How the fuck did those guys sound like that? Why didn’t we sound like that? What did they do!?” I kept trying to explain how the guys advance their shows and how they’re particular about the proper sound and amplification. I
Keith Flint: I did my solo venture, and I think that really fucked things up. It still does my head in today thinking I shouldn’t have bothered, but I needed to create stuff, otherwise I was going to destroy myself. Really it was no more than putting my head in the sand when the guys calling me. He used to call me and I would be there. But now I wouldn’t answer the phone, and it was because I couldn’t face explaining that I had to go to another studio to do something else with other people. I am the most loyal person in the world. To not be able to look at Liam and go, “I was always there. I never fucked up. I never did
remember him looking at his tour manager with this look like, “You guys are fuckin’ dead.”
anything else,” is a fuck up in my head, and I will find that hard to live with for the rest of my life.
Conflict, resolution and rebirth
Jason Bentley: Prodigy were riding this expectation that electronic music was the “next big thing.” I think their #1 debut was very much part of that. When it dissipated, maybe people said, “Well, maybe it’s just not going to happen.” It took them seven years to put out another record, and that was ultimately the death blow to the band. I really think it was a huge mistake not to be more timely with their follow-up. Maxim: We toured Fat of the Land for seven years, and the music kinda caught up with us. Liam was always writing music so we had so many tunes in the bank, so to speak. As the years went by we were like, “Let’s play that tune, let’s play that tune!” We brought new tunes into the set all the time. So it got to about 2002 and we ran out of music. You couldn’t write music on the road like you could today. If we needed new music, we had to go back into the studio. Second, the record label wanted Fat of the Land Part 2, and Liam didn’t want to write Fat of the Land Part 2. Liam Howlett: No one did anything wrong. I was taking too long to write the next record, there’s no doubt about that, and basically the others were getting restless. Keith committed himself to his solo record, and when I was
Mike Champion (band manager): We were dropped by XL back in July 19, 2005, and we left it for 18 months to see if anyone would notice, and no one did. Then it was a question of, “Well, the band haven’t been together properly since Fat of the Land.” The band would never admit to this, but from my point of view, I think there was a point to prove for this album. Keith Flint: I don’t do any drugs anymore, and I work out pretty heavy. I get up in the morning and I cycle 80 kilometers, which is 50 miles. I then run eight miles. I eat 2000 calories a day of protein; whole foods, nothing processed. I only drink water, and my only vice in life is coffee. I do a lot of sparring and boxing training. I love the brutality of that. I do all that three days on, one day off, and three days on. That’s how I roll. Mike Champion: It’s not down to what Liam can do, because he can always write music. Basically it’s down to Maxim and Keith and how physically fit they are and the impact [with which] they can deliver the music to the audience. They’ll come a point where it might become a little bit staid or not as smack you in the face as it should be, and hopefully we’ll know when to hang our guns up. But for the time being, damage limitation is not an option. URB.com
3/18/09 12:19:31 PM
HERE COMES THE MIRROR MAN Fred Armisen is bringing back the man-for-allseasons utility player to Saturday Night Live, but not without some controversy. By Michael Vazquez Photography by Jason Lewis Styling: Michelle Ten Shot on Location at Red Bull Space, New York
THE GOVERNOR? HE AIN’T LOVIN’ YA
Just before this interview, I watch Fred Armisen’s Saturday Night Live performance as New York ’s legally blind Governor David Paterson—the unexpected fill-in for disgraced politicaltitan-in-the-making former Governor Eliot Spitzer, who’d made enemies on Wall St., City Government, and Organized Crime in Gotham. The newly-promoted Paterson is six days away from selecting a senatorial replacement for Hillary Clinton, and is currently embroiled in a campaign with powerful allies of Caroline Kennedy, who are pressuring him to select her to fill the Senate vacancy. Armisen’s impersonation of the Governor delivers what can be seen as either the exponential scale-up of a lunchroom bully turning the cafeteria into a Parthenon of shame, or a bold bit of in-your-face physical comedy. It serves as a garish reminder of our unfamiliarity with the disabled, whom society de-normalizes—as evidenced by their 70% unemployment rate despite exceptionally high number of college degrees per capita. These exact statistics the Governor cites in his rebuke of the skit. The skit climaxes with Armisen following up the bit by walking into the camera. Were it someone falling on a sidewalk it wouldn’t be funny, but in the SNL studios, Armisen’s Mr. Magoo-like schtick is inherently, reflexively, laughable. It seems to be a moment that the television audience would own more than the live audience, but the live audience’s reaction is quite audible, and they’re howling. NBC received angry calls and e-mails, and The Gov becomes the first question of this interview, which will find Armisen and myself arguing about punk philosophy during a conversation that plays out like a mash-up of SNL’s recurring spoof of MSNBC sensationaly earnest pundit-type Keith Oberman, and Armisen’s own potrayal of glib Joy “I said it, who cares” Behar, from morning talk-whatever The View.
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PUNK’S NOT DEAD, PT. 1
PUNK’S NOT DEAD, PT. 2
I know you were in punk band,Trenchmouth. To what extent did punk inform your sensibilities as a comedian? “Punk did more than just inform me about what I do with comedy; punk is the blueprint for everything that I’ve done. Punk meant more to me than anything. I really believed in The Clash, and I believed in Husker Du, The Stranglers, The Damned, and then from there I believed in Devo and Kraftwerk and they really informed everything that I do in presentation, in concept and what I wanted to become, and that’s still with me to this day. Punk will never not be a part of me; it’s a huge, huge part of me. And I don’t just mean the punk of yesteryear; I mean there are things that I consider punk now.”
Do you find any thresholds in being an effective vessel of other people’s words? Do you ever disagree, or are you just a tabula rasa? “It’s perfunctory. I really do think of it as work”
Such as? “Joanna Newsome, Marny Stern, Mary Timmons... I consider them all punks; Les Savvy Fay—they’re a huge part of what I do.” Were you surprised by the backlash [from the Paterson impersonation]? “I don’t think of anything as backlash. I had some emails of support. People in the street say such nice things to me. But I don’t consider anything backlash; to me it was like (opens hands in a resigned manner) I just don’t see it that way.” Growing up as a multi-racial kid in Long Island, did you encounter any racism, covert or explicit? “I grew up on Long Island, but also Brazil a little bit, Queens, I moved around a bit” Why the moving? “My Dad worked for IBM. So they switched us around. As far as any kind of racism, I have to honestly say I didn’t experience anything from my own experience in high school. Everyone accepted me, there was zero issue. I think if there was any issues, it was because I was a weirdo; I had a Mohawk or something.
CHANNEL THE CHANGE: BARACK OBArmisen
If a Kenyan-Kansan-American president is groundbreaking, a Japanese-Venezuelan-GermanAmerican impersonator speaks to how thorough a change Obama reflects. A local NY paper sardonically mentions Armisen’s multi-ethnicity as exempting Lorne Michaels from having to hire an African-American guy to play Obama. To date, Armisen’s Obama is a work-in-progress, often a hit-or-miss affair. Armisen says he “wasn’t thinking about his race. I know it’s a sensitive subject and I do take it seriously, but you know, things move so fast at Saturday Night Live.”
What did you have to work on that was hard? What came naturally? “What was difficult was the timbre of his voice, that deep baritone which I don’t have, so I have to fake it, and that’s hard. The things that came naturally were just little things, like the word “look” which he says a lot, so I just concentrate on the words I could do. But you know, I’m still working on it. I by no means think I’ve got it down. “The purpose of anything on the show is to make a sketch better; it’s about propelling it forward and being respectful to the writers. I write not one word of the Obama piece…not one word! It’s all them, so I have to honor that and deliver.”
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So you subjugate your personal will? “Yes, Yes! Because no one wants any of that injected into it. It’s just like: get through the words, hit your mark get through the sketch.” But do you think that for someone for whom punk is such a very personal and important philosophy, that you’re capable of divorcing yourself from the from the moral overtones? “Yeah. Because I try to come from a good place. I’m not making fun of anybody; if anything—and this is gonna sound really corny—I celebrate people. I just wanna do the best versions of people that I can…[he stops midthought]...I could be wrong about that.” But how do you feel in your off-line self? Do you ever look back at tape and say, “Wow, I really got that person?” “I can’t look at tapes. I can’t look back at any of that stuff; it really is like water, it’s like a newspaper, and it should be, it should be disposable.” Newspapers should be disposable? “Yeah. Dispose of them move on. I can’t watch myself.” So it ends with the camera. “Yeah, yeah, done, done. Someone once told me it’s not about what you did, it’s about what you do.” Yeah, but how do you reckon that with a punk philosophy where you are “the weapon” as it were? “Because when Devo had their new costumes, they moved on, and when The Clash had a new record they moved on as well—and punk ethics? I don’t believe that punk ethics are specifically DIY.” Well, the idea is that you are the weapon, no one informs your message other than yourself, and that’s different than being a vessel for writers. “But you look at any punk band, there was so much going around every band. The Sex Pistols had Malcolm McLaren. The Clash had Bernie..fucken...” Bernie Rhodes… but what about Fugazi? And The Clash ceased to be standard bearers and The Police have admitted to being punk opportunists who were there at the right time. “I sill consider that punk. The Police? Totally a punk band; Because of the music they decided to do. I think it’s punk to go against punk. They were like, ‘I know the Damned are out right now doing these really fast songs; were gonna do these tight little reggae songs’ (his hands impersonating Stewart Copeland’s cymbal-finessing) That, to me, is more punk than anything. That to me is like—not wearing the uniform. I consider The Police, full-on, a punk band.
AN EVERYMAN MAN WITH A JOBS TO DO
Fred Armisen uses the word “idol” a lot when speaking of individuals he admires, and as we run through some of the personalities he’s inhabited, his comments on Prince speak to an underlying, fanboy’s hunger that helps explain why he can be such an effective impersonator: “I’ve been doing Prince since I was seventeen years old; ‘another huge idol of mine. I’m a Prince fan forever
and I’ve been doing that impression in the mirror since I was a teenager”
Did you meet him? “I did, and he was very nice—fascinating. It was after I was playing him.” Did he approve? “In his own way, he approved…I think.” No recollection of what he said? “He doesn’t use regular language…But he was great, he was friendly to me. Huge idol. Huge, huge idol.” Favorite Prince tune? “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” You’ve said Steve Jobs is the person you enjoy impersonating the most. Why? “Because Steve Jobs is to me what rock stars used to be in the past; I think whatever happened to rock stardom transferred over to him because he turns commerce, turns inventions, into a real event. And his performances are great. He goes out there with nothing—a black shirt, jeans and he gets the audience pumped up in a way about devices that is just… It’s hypnotizing! To me, [it’s like] the excitement I had when a band was putting out a new album…he really is an idol, without a doubt.” While impersonation is the stock-in-trade for Saturday Night Live, Armisen is bringing back the man-for-allseasons utility player through a beguiling number of personas. His rubbery, part Scooby Doo, part Rick Moranis visage, menaced by heavy black glasses behind which arch Groucho eyebrows, capped by a tuft of unruly black hair, suggest that he could deliver Marx in film the way Downey did for Chaplain. Armisen wants to direct and star in his own films, and is writing scripts, which he says are “Something between comedy and drama. Something that you can’t quite figure out what it is.”
PLAYLISTS, JAM BAND-BEEF, REUNIONS
So what are you listening to these days? “Mostly Marnie Stern. She has this drummer, Zach Hill, and it’s like they’re inventing like a new kind of music. I’ve never heard anyone drum like him, he’s amazing. “Transformer,” that song? ‘Can’t stop listening to it” Armisen’s ongoing interest in the music biz is eminently manifest: He’s directed videos “as a way of staying close to the music biz, without having to actually make music,” and he played the comedy tent at Bonnaroo “‘Cause I wanted to see Joanna Newsome” At Bonnaroo, I witnessed him get into a bit of verbal jousting during a press conference with Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule after Armisen’s comment about jam band culture and long guitar solos rubbed Rolling Stone’s #23 All-Time Greatest Guitarists the wrong way. He’s also interviewed Cat Power for P4K, jammed with Les Savvy Fay, and of course, he was in a band himself, Trenchmouth, the reunion of which he says will not be added to his considerable agenda. “I don’t think anybody wants to see a comedian trying to play in his old band again,” he estimates, but admits to succumbing to reunion curiosity in the cases of other bands. “I saw The Sex Pistols,” he recounts. “I loved them because Paul Cook is a great drummer. They’re all good, they’re all great musicians. They deserved to play big places and have a lot of people come. I missed the Gang of Four reunion and I missed Wire. I saw the Bad Brains, they were great.”
Armisen gamely agrees to shoot some images on the roof in the middle of a snowstorm, and surprisingly, when planning this cover story, was available directly via e-mail, without a publicist buffer. This admirable absence of strict brand protectionism—as well as his multiple side projects—make clear he needs to be expressing himself one way or another. He regularly updates his online show “Thunder Ant” which he produces and performs with Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney.) “She’s a good friend of mine…I used to love Sleater-Kinney. We just became friends, and we started working on these video pieces. We do it solely for fun, there’s no commerce in it.”
THAT JOKE ISN’T FUNNY ANYMORE?
What you do at times is a very powerful kind of satire. But in the real world, do you think there might be some sort of self-reckoning that you might have to make with how your comedy impacts persons that you portray? “I don’t think any kind of reckoning can happen. You just have to think of SNL members of the past—they don’t have to deal with any kind of reckoning.” But you don’t know that. “No, I know that. I don’t think anyone has had to come up with any kind of moral question. It’s a fun gig. They’re just comedians and I’m just a comedian. There’s nothing important about it.” But there certainly is... “No, there’s not—I mean, important!? It could be meaningful to people, but I don’t think it sways votes; it’s just a comedy show.” It’s not just a comedy show. “It is just a comedy show.” It’s biting satire, which can carry momentum. “We don’t go into a room saying, ‘who are we going to satirize this week...“ I’m not saying there’s the intent, but the net result is some effect. There is a reaction. “I guess so, I don’t know; it’s not our intent, I don’t think we focus on that.” But why do you do political? “Because they seem funny—and it’s in the news. And by the way, you’re only talking to me right now; Lorne Michaels will give you a different answer, Jim Downey will give you a different answer, [so will] Seth Meyers. But there’s one thing I know: they do believe in this—it’s just entertainment, it’s just a comedy show.”
But you said you backed away from Lindsay and Amy and Britney because they were just too dark—so there is a stance at times. “But that also goes with laughs too, because it’s a sensitive subject. Let’s take a look at Britney Spears. It’s not just a moral thing, it’s also like, people aren’t gonna laugh at that, ‘cuz at the time it was just too tragic a story. Same thing with Amy Winehouse. I think people just aren’t going to laugh. The room gets chilled very easily; you should see the amount of stuff that we cut.”
LESS THAN ZERO
In the subsequent weeks Armisen plays the Governor again. In that same span of time Paterson surprises many, opting not to pick Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Clinton. On the surface the Governor is seemingly bucking the system, but his selection, in fact, reveals a mindset as calculating and self-serving as any other politician. (Full disclosure: I publish a pre-selection essay on The Huffington Post, making the case for the Governor to replace the corrupt appointment process with a line of Senatorial succession.) A Village Voice cover story entitled “Paterson: Duped Again” features a jarring illustration of the Governor as a woeful character, blindfolded by a local politician. Judging by the illustration, it seems that Armisen has unintentionally created a conversation on depicting the legally blind Governor’s physical attributes. The second time he plays the Governor feels like self-justification in the face of a backlash; the third performance spells out simply that ridiculing the Governor’s blindness— and by extension, whether intentional or not, blind and handicapped individuals—has become a Saturday Night Live cash cow. But the Governor’s emergence to date as just another self-serving politician certainly makes him fair game. End of story. Sort of. Somewhere between the sensationalistic moralizing of Keith Oberman and the nihilistic indifference of Joy Behar’s “I said it, who cares?”, an inchoate question about art, society, media, and statecraft remains unanswered.
But you’re the face, so I wonder, in being that vessel how do you deal with it post-performance—do you just avoid the headlines? “Oh totally. Tuesday I have to go and write something new, you know, come up with another character. I mean, you’re thinking of the political. You have to remember, there’s a lot more to the show. It’s only a small percentage.” But reeling it down to the personal—you say there’s no intent, but you’ve said you backed away from the subjects of Lindsay [Lohan] and Amy [Winehouse] and Britney [Spears]. “But that’s not political.”
Watch behind-the-scenes from the photo shoot by The New Pop @ URB.com/Armisen Quilted biker jacket, $179, by Ben Sherman; Penn Ford shirt, $89, by Original Penguin; Crew neck t-shirt, $18, by 2xist; Jeans by Levis; Albin sneakers, $90, by PF Flyers
MOVEMENT Inauguration photos by Estevan Oriol
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mstrkrft fist of god 2.5 stars
(Downtown) MSTRKRFT is like the ditch weed you smoked in high school: fun at the time, headacheinducing, and completely fucking embarrassing to pull out during moments of social one-upmanship. But this is also why no one gets originality points for hating on these guys—even they know they’re retarded. Who else but MSTRKRFT would have a track “featuring Ghostface Killah” and let him clock in exactly eight words? Who else but these poseur knuckleheads would front like they couldn’t remember last night’s “party” when, in fact, they spent it reading the Tape Op message board? The evidence points to Jesse Keller and Al-P being a lot more cynical than anyone is giving them credit for, which begs the most important question of them all: is this really what you have to listen to these days if you want to get laid at the techno show? It could be. Perhaps the hardest thing to swallow about MSTRKRFT is that their brotronica is a pretty clear window into why no one cares about finely-honed techno records anymore. The tracks on Fist of God are what people dance to, not think to. Disco records were being burned at the stake 25 years ago making the same assertion, yet it seems that even stupid dance music isn’t immune to chin-stroking reverence. Not that MSTRKRFT is the next Telex, but chastising them for giving us exactly what we want is ridiculous. Besides, Fist of God is surprisingly decent if you can manage to divorce it from its lame context. The previously mentioned Ghostface track, “Word Up,” impersonates gritty Chicago house convincingly while the N.O.R.E. & Isis-led “Bounce” is just complete cheese, but catchy when drunk. Most impressive is that once you hear the new MSTRKRFT, you can tell that it’s MSTRKRFT—despite the legions of blog pandering wannabes who cop their every plug-in. That must prove there’s some sort of art at play. Is there anything here you can flex your head to? Of course not. This is music you use to get over yourself—if you want to feel smart, go read a book. by Brandon Ivers photography by Curran Clark
In 2006, MSTRKRFT told a Canadian magazine that they were planning Fist Of God before their first album, The Look, was even released.
“It Ain’t Love” “So Deep”
Bloody Beetroots Cornelius EP
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3/18/09 12:51:34 PM
NEW REVIEWS DAILY ON URB.COM
ponder in an attempt to make sense of it all. Black Dice continues to produce highly interesting music, no doubt, but be warned that it’s not for the faint of heart or imagination. Aylin Zafar J. Dilla Dillanthology Volume 1
A-Trak Infinity +1
3.5 stars (Thrive) The amalgamation of styles culled on A-Trak’s first widely available CD after 15 years on the decks; is a daring multi-sonic adventure to be judged on the cohesion and nuances of the mix, rather than a general assessment of the music. So even if one despises a particular track, there is still room for respect. Synths and tempos embrace and begin to race on cuts like Kid Sister’s “Life On TV” and MSTRKRFT’s “Bounce,” with Sebastien Tellier’s mellow “Kilometer” slowing things down, a welcome respite from A-Trak’s injections of energetically groaning grooves, blanching testosterone and estrogen alike. To some extent, A-Trak has a tendency to stray away from dropping innovative mixes, instead focusing on showcasing new artists. This lack of turntable creativity may be due a censuring. But even if Little Boots’ “Stuck On Repeat” is well worn selection throughout the blog-run world that A-Trak dominates, it is still the perfect selection for the broader audience that a release like this hopes to captivate. Paul Glanting
Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve Re-Animations Vol. 1
(New State Music) Remixing is passé, mediocre even. But re-animation? Well, that’s alchemy. How fitting that with two flicks of their magic sticks, Erol Alkan and Richard Norris cast audio spells. Re-Animations Vol. 1 packages the duo’s choice transformations for some of indie, pop and electronica’s brightest: The Chemical Brothers,
Franz Ferdinand, Tracey Thorn and Simian Mobile Disco among them. While psych-tinted styles seek the brutality of a hallucinogenic mindfuck, BTWS opts to seduce the psyche with the gentle blend of Balearic drum lines, hollowed vocals, and a generous helping of synth space-outs. Often rivaling the originals, Vol. 1 is like a consciously-hip convo circa 1960something, garnished with spiraling inter-stellar cat calls. Midlake’s “Roscoe,” Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” and Dust Galaxy’s “Come Hear the Trumpets” are several highlights among the blinding brightness of ReAnimations’ auditory adventure into indie-dance psychedelia. Put simply, Re-Animations is mind-blowing in the most intimate and neo-romantic ways one’s mind could hope to be blown. Ryan E. Rodriguez
(Rapster) Rapster Records comes behind a litany of labels who have memorialized, and some who have even capitalized, off of the work of J Dilla. The ingenious producer, known for his laidback soulful beats, provided a slew of music production to hip-hop and soul artists during his 10-plus year tenure before passing away in 2006. Dillanthology Volume 1 is the first of Rapsters’ Dilla initiatives that will later highlight his remixes and solo work production. For now, Volume 1 wants to capture the “Classic J Dilla” circa mid to late ’90s. To do this they have compiled his work with various artists and placed it under one vinyl roof. While an anthology, absent of these instrumentals, seems irrelevant in a world of easy download hacks and personal catalogues, Dillanthology holds a mere 11 tracks of them. Erykah Badu’s “Didn’t Cha Know” is present. Pharcyde’s “Runnin” is here. But one must ask, where is A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip, and Janet Jackson’s “Got Till It’s Gone”? If anthologies are judged by their ability to showcase the artist’s best work and not just a trip down memory lane, this effort falls short. Myisha Cherry
BLACK DICE Repo
(Paw Tracks) Clearly, a fascination with pop culture and over-consumption still grips Black Dice, and their fifth fulllength album pieces together sounds from radio, TV, the internet, and adds in a splash of good ol’ fashioned moans and whispers set against the backdrop of a rattling kitchen set smack dab in Times Square. The first single off Repo, “Glazin,” is one of the more melodic tracks in the group’s history, playing with tropicália and dub. “Urban Super Mist” is a bluesy trip into outer space—banjos, glitches, and all. But honestly, this album is not for the casual listener. Repo demands your full attention. Songs like “Whirligig” are the musical equivalent of an abstract art installation, prompting its audience to sit and
FEVER RAY Fever Ray
(Mute) The Knife’s 2007 album Silent Shout was unanimously considered a masterstroke of relentlessly bleak “haunted house.” With a reputation built on obscurity as a pair, it may have been a dicey situation trying to maintain a shadowy image with a solo release. However, on Karin Dreijer Andersson’s private excursion, the ghosts not only remain intact, but the well-constructed enigma is sturdily upheld. Album opener “If I Had A Heart” is an impenetrable black strobe,
broken only when Andersson’s supremely chilling vocals pipe in “...this will never end ‘cause I want more... more, give me more, give me more...” conjuring images of fiendish depravity. Sonically, it’s made clear on follow-up track “When I Grow Up” that Fever Ray will be a loyal companion to Silent Shout, vocodered vox, vintage keys and pulsing synth drums echoing off those wet, cavernous walls. Ultimately, Fever Ray should aptly satisfy the appetites of any fans of The Knife rabid for a proper full-group release. Unyielding in its murkiness, but all the while strangely accessible, it is a generous full-bodied offering handed to us by these otherwise blurred figures. Ben Zoltowski
(FS Studios) At the end of a Fischerspooner show one has been known to find themselves covered in fake blood, champagne and confetti—yes, they are electric and they burn to shine. It’s been four years since Odyssey came out and many argue the movement died back when their first album, #1 was re-released for the fourth or fifth time. But their detached electronics are softened by concerns that ultimately inspire. On “Money Can’t Dance,” Casey Spooner states, “ Just get on up like I know you can/cuz currency can only do so much and it certainly can’t dance.” And the sexy “In a Modern World” seduces the listener with a female whispering to call and text everyone you know for a rendezvous. The darkest number is “Door Train Home” which plays like a death tarot card stating “This is the moment/this is the time/this is the end of something.” Even with the production talents of Jeff Saltzman (The Killers, The Sounds), it’s really still about seeing Fischerspooner live. But Entertainment resurrects the group. Their music disconnects, only to connect again. Lauren Mooney
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3/18/09 1:04:59 PM
THE GROUCH & ELIGH Say G & E!
(Legendary Music) The Grouch has teamed up once again with fellow Living Legends member and producer, Eligh, for a mixture of high-concept lyrical content and mesmerizing beats. The duo’s third collaboration features notable guests Slug, Sage Francis and Los Angeles’ newest hometown hero Blu, along with guest production from Flying Lotus, super-producer Rick Rock, and Zion I’s Amp Live. On “All In” The Grouch and Eligh, along with Gift of Gab and Pigeon John, rap about standing by the proverbial river and giving up everything for the life of hustling in the music business. On the title track they recall their earlier days as struggling artists over an incredible beat. These MCs have never been timid to move far beyond the guidelines of conventional hip-hop. Say G&E! is by default another “legendary” album. Christopher Nunan
GUI BORATTO Take My Breath Away
(Kompakt) An uninformed listener teased with the ascetic groove of the opening title track and rugged storms of “Atomic Soda” could easily be tricked into thinking this is actually the sophomore effort from Gui Boratto’s labelmate The Field. But by the time Take My Breath Away is done, the melodic progressions and lively rhythms make it abundantly clear that this is indeed the work of the Brazilian beatmaker. Boratto shows off a number of techno styles, and whether he’s venturing into reverberating ambience with “Godet” or squirmy techno funk on “Eggplant,” he lets everything develop at a natural pace. The obvious successor to his breakout cut “Beautiful Life” is “No Turning Back,” where
Boratto once again embeds rapturous vocals inside an overdriven techno mold, only this time he nods to Paris with a guitar grinding out the lead. Boratto’s focus remains on approaching the line of excess without tipping over. And once again he stays on the wire. Noah Levine
(Self-Released) Maybe 25 seconds. That’s about how long you can play FatherFunkMotherSalsaSonFlava in mixed company before someone asks about it. As the title suggests, Hippo’s music isn’t just a smorgasbord of funklaced hip-hop instrumentals, but rather the crescendo in a musical journey that began in Venezuela more than 25 years ago. Born Enrique Figueredo, Hippo’s beats are marked by a craftsmanship similar to the great J-Dilla (yeah, I said it). The New Mexico-based producer possesses an organic feel that seems born more of compulsion than computer. Like Dilla’s opus Donuts, his music is part beat-tape and part genius, hand-rolled for its listeners. The first standout track, “Cigarette Love,” is a breathy, laidback confessional that sounds like Serge Gainsbourg if his first name had been Sergio. “Machu Picchu” pairs hard drums with notes from an Andean flute and an eerie whistle that would be right at home in an Ennio Morricone score. Hippo keeps the proceeding cohesive with “Jungle Heavy Pt. 2,” which sounds lifted from a jukebox in an abandoned bar on the Pampas. This is an album that keeps you guessing, and will have you nodding your head one minute and turning it the next. Best of all, it’s FREE! Just checkout his blogspot: enriquefig.com/ hippo. Andrew Cohn
(International DeeJay Gigolo) German engineering can be found in other places than behind the wheel of an automobile. Take DJ Hell, a prolific techno artist credited with pioneering and promoting the electroclash sound. His aptly named double album Teufelswerk (Devil’s Work) brings this sound from night to day. “U Can Dance feat. backing vocals by Bryan Ferry” is some sort of in-joke as the Roxy Music legend takes full lead vox duties on what must be a career highlight for the glam-loving Hell. In other surprises, P. Diddy professes on “The DJ” his love for the 15 minute-long dance song spun at the after hours club. And that’s exactly what DJ Hell’s album sounds like. Even shorter tracks like “Hellracer” clock in at 6:10, but it’s on epics like “The Angst,” where Hell just lets you sink into the hypnotic trance-like groove, enjoying the high octane RPM’s of fine German engineering. Fahrvergnügen! Steve “Flash” Juon
THE JUAN MACLEAN The Future Is Now
(DFA Records) The second offering from DFA’s Juan Maclean falls short of the high expectations set by last year’s enormous single “Happy House.” With its huge buildups and triumphantly simple piano chords, the success of this single may have influenced the rest of the album detrimentally. Many of the tracks rely on similar textural elements that grow tiresome over the course of the songs. On the title track, this leads to a lifeless bass groove with Maclean singing sluggishly about the future and other well worn Kraftwerk topics. The best moments on The Future Is Now occur when the sound strays furthest from the typical DFA/beard house template. On “One Day” a back
and forth exchange between Maclean and Nancy Whang is pleasantly transposed over a beautifully fake-stringed symphony. The stabs of the faux-violin accentuate and punctuate Whang’s excellent delivery. On “No Time” the acidy bass line and buzzing synths make for a mix that’s equal parts Alexander Robotnick and Gary Numan. Taken as a whole, the album does have a certain cohesiveness that’s lacking in most dance “albums” but many of the tracks fail to break new or interesting ground, and it leaves one wishing their potential of last summer could’ve been realized. Zach Best
JUNIOR BOYS Begone Dull Care
(Domino) Sometimes less is more, as the adage goes. Thankfully, Junior Boys gets it. This restraint is precisely what makes their aesthetic so appealing—far from electronic music that ODs on glitches, blips and production acrobatics—these Canadians tread cautiously, creating carefully-crafted, intricate beats and effects. On Begone Dull Care, Junior Boys step away from their heartbreakdriven first two albums, embracing a warmer, fuller sound that more prominently features Jeremy Greenspan’s breathy vocals. Devoted fans need not worry though; the album still holds the melancholic flavor they’ve come to perfect, just with some added twinkling synths, hints at old-school R&B, and a splash of funk for good measure. Album highlight “Bits & Pieces” is pure seduction on the dance floor; with a hook like “I see you better when the lights are out,” it’s no surprise why Junior Boys are notoriously categorized as “bedroom-pop.” “Parallel Lines” similarly delves into a dreamy, dark space, whereas “Hazel” is an upbeat romp exploring new love, and “The Animator” slows it down for a sweet and simple tale of adoration, striking all the right chords. Junior Boys bring a sense of life and emotion to an oft impersonal and calculated genre. Theirs is a popularity built on human connection. Aylin Zafar
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Mr. Lif I Heard It Today
LADY SOVEREIGN Jigsaw
(Midget Records) What’s the difference between a dishwasher and a woman? A dishwasher can’t spit 16 bars of flaming hot Cheetos, which is exactly what Lady Sovereign repeatedly does on her newest and long awaited second album, Jigsaw. Why Cheetos, you might ask? Because Cheetos are a party snack; and where spilling your cup of beer on the host’s crotch-region is a party foul, Jigsaw is certainly a party favor. The first track, “Let’s Be Mates,” sets this tone to perfection. With an electro-inspired 120 BPM beat and a chorus declaring “I’m weird, and you’re weird, let’s be mates,” this is clearly a kinder, gentler Sov. This also goes for “So Human,” which repurposes The Cure’s “Close To Me” in a way you feel you already know the lyrics that go “I’m so human, it’s okay, for me to, feel this way.” This affirmative vibe permeates Jigsaw. Nothing lyrically spectacular or hip-hopfluential happens, but this release shows the sometimes troubled Sov finally putting the pieces together. And you’ll find yourself actually feeling happy for her. Save the drama for Lily Allen. Ben Meredith
(Bpitch Control) Rekindled after a false start in 2002, the Moderat project brings together two of Germany’s most talented sound architects: Modeselektor and Apparat. And much like chocolate and peanut butter before it, it is a rich and sensual pairing that should be enjoyed by many. Technical mavens that they are, the group recorded Moderat through vintage analog gear at Hansa Studios in Berlin, birthplace of albums like Heroes (David Bowie), Achtung Baby (U2), and Some Great Reward (Depeche Mode). The fidelity is top-notch, and the thorough processing of hand-played instrumentation and vocals—especially on tracks like “Porc #1” and “Rusty Nails”—gives the album a three-dimensional feel that’s missing from so many IDM-styled projects. Elsewhere, bulbous neck snappers like “Slow Match” (featuring Paul St. Hilaire) and “Sick With It” (featuring Frank Dellé of Seeed) play well against the fluttery techno instrumentals that each artist is known for. This is heady material, but it’s also extremely beautiful and catchy, and picks up right where each of their respective solo careers left off. Richard Thomas
4 stars (Bloodbot Tactical Enterprises) When Obama took office, many were curious how politically-driven artists such as Mr. Lif would respond. Three years removed from Mo Mega, Lif returns to provide that intellectualism that has been sadly absent as we celebrate the color of rims and commanders-in-chief. From speaking on the mortgage crisis and tax breaks to the stock market, the war and his hesitation to trust the government “because there is a familiar face in office” (“Welcome to the World”), I Heard It Today is a bold proclamation from a fearless MC. Concept-driven projects like I-Phantom will always be celebrated for Lif’s innovative structure and unique way of delivering a message, and he continues to grow as an artist. Here, Lif is able to maintain the narrative vibrancy of his earlier work but in a far more segmented, isolated style. Continuing to “open the mind through the rhyme,” Lif models himself as the hip-hop spokesperson for injustice (political, social, economic, religious, etc.) who stresses alarming statistics that many black high school graduates are in prison or without a job, and that many have expensive jewelry but really are not free (“PNN 1”). Allergic to the norm, Lif receives criticisms from all angles—maybe more so during times of “hope”—but he still calls out for change by asking people to take a look at themselves: “ Without unity we can never make it, look at the mirror and then sever the hatred” (“Hatred”). Poignant, focused, and thought-provoking, Lif is one of the most important MCs around—always able to provide an unconsidered (and very intriguing) point of view on highly debated issues. I Heard It Today is just another installment in his very noteworthy catalogue. Jason Kordich
Peter Bjorn and John Living Thing
(Wichita) After filling up iPods with the most memorable whistle-driven song this side of Juelz Santana, Peter Bjorn and John are out to prove that they’re more than a one hit wonder. On the follow-up to 2007’s Writer’s Block, PB&J ditch the comfortable confines of their signature airy sound in lieu of more sonically adventurous territory. Many of Living Thing ’s tracks begin sparsely, with only simple vocal melodies and drumbeats sent into the otherwise sparse mix of arrangements. As the album’s track listing progresses, gurgling analog synths, quirky guitar and bass accents often creep their way in. Other moments on the disc provide respite from the band’s sugary sweet
stylings, as tracks like “Lay It Down,” feature semi-faux nose-thumbing, cursing, and aggression—even an fbomb! Whether it’s a reach or simply the next logical step, a record like Living Thing is the sound of PB&J sacrificing their reputation in a bid to grow up artistically, and that may not be such a bad thing. Amorn Bholsagngam
Prefuse 73 Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian
(Warp ) With a collective sigh of relief, Prefuse 73 has reemerged in top form, perhaps even the best form of his career. With Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian, not only has the frustratingly prolific Guillermo Scott Herren delivered a blinding banger of a record, he’s upped the game that appeared indomitable on 2003’s One Word Extinguisher. To say his latest is a stronger outing, however, may be deceptive. Extinguisher was built around hard-edged 808 crunches, dusty Motown snaps and the occasional shards of fierce rhyme-spitting. All said and done, the record was a post-’90s hip-hop essential. Less street-ready and more psychedelic sci-fi, Everything She Touched shows Herren shedding one well-worn genre layer and entering a new one. This is an entirely new “Prefuse persona,” one few could have seen coming. With most tracks hightailing into the next, at just over 60 seconds a piece, the opportunities to really settle into the set are few and far between. This version of Prefuse is one that lives in an alternate universe, where suppressing fresh ideas is subject to imprisonment. The phased-out kick drum crush of “Parachute Panador” casually melts into the anxious, deep funk of “Punish,” with all paths eventually leading to centerpiece “Regato.” “Regato” is a stunner track, bathed in stereo-panning guitar loops and distant female moans. The cut is both contemplative, mood music and Technicolor splash, and a perfect embodiment of Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian’s surreal, reality-bending theme. Ben Zoltowski
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(Astralwerks) Known for their electropoppy European flair, Junior contrasts Royksopp’s glitchy, bone-grinding synths with an ’80s pop mystique and robust vocals from Scandinavian artists Lykke Li, Robyn and Karin Dreijer Andersson (The Knife). Each track presents a concentrated yet relatively simplistic arrangement of drums, synths and vocals, all of which come together to create frantic anxiety on some tracks (“Tricky Tricky”) and epic anthems on others (“Royksopp Forever”). Yet, despite the seemingly polar nature of such songs, the tail end of the album asserts its identity and provides an overall “chill-out” experience. In their most mature moments, the Royksopp mushroom cloud bloats and bursts, emitting a smoky puff of spores that will ultimately develop into moments of polarity and pleasure. Junior breathes new life into an already overpopulated genre of glitch and synth stab fury. So breathe deep and let it carry you away to a place far far away in the north. Elliott Townsend
Sunspot Jones The Darkside Ov Heave
(Indystar) Sunspot Jonz can’t be concerned with wealth or bother to aspire to the ranks of West Coast lyrical-Gods like Aceyalone or Abstract Rude. The only thing that’s ever been apparent or definitive of the gung-ho, undergrounder is that he prizes his musical independence. On The Darkside Ov Heaven, Sunspot basks in his sovereignty. Never one to be afraid of coming off as “gritty” or “esoteric,” the grunt and bluntness of “Suckas Play They Part” is the type of track that proves ideal for his hazy, bravado-driven musings. Six years ago, this lyrically mysticism would have been a refreshing leap into an alternate dimension of hip-hop. Today, Darkside sounds like a set of roughdrafts and half-planned concoctions. “We Own The Night” hears Jonz barking at the same shadowy figures he’s been lunging at for years, and the dense “Hug Bacardi” makes one wonder if his lyrics are actually linked to anything in the visceral world or just self-indulgent, metaphysical collages. Paul Glanting
(Big Dada) As with most good dance music, the core focus of Canadian electro-crunk unit Thunderheist is the production. On the duo’s self-titled debut, Montreal-based producer Grahm Zilla concocts catchy, simple dance beats composed of heavy bass and plenty of low-end synthetic goodness, both of which are compensated for by highpitch samples and the oft-popular cosmic disco sound. But the decisive and pristine focus on beats shouldn’t offer an excuse for the subpar chorus construction, watery lyrics and apparent addiction to self-repetition on display from vocalist Isis, who has previously proven herself capable of more than just rapping about dancing. In fact, she’s capable of more than just rapping, with “Nothing 2 Step 2” demonstrating a diva-esque vocal range. The duo’s debut does not reinvent the wheel, but Thunderheist delivers a fun, funky dance set that should offer at least a few surprises. Thomas Quinlan
TOSCA No Hassle
(!K7) Though still referenced for his brief remix collaboration with Peter Kruder, Richard Dorfmeister’s partnership with Rupert Huber has proven more fertile than his previous. On the Viennese duo’s fifth studio album, their cerebral, piano-heavy, jazz-inflected formula for ambient music breaks very little new ground. But Tosca takes baby steps away from the dub genre and scales back on bass sounds while moving closer into the world of live instrumentation. The theme—zero worries—is a groovy antidote for the illness that has plagued downtempo as it becomes a ‘90s relic. But while the genre is fading fast in the minds of pop-culture gluttons, pearls such as “Oysters in May” remind us that there are still those who care about its preservation. “Elektra Bregenz” distills Tosca’s formula down to a Euro-cooing woman asking if you’d like another wetnap. Strings flutter, guitar licks linger and a hint of samba shimmies in. Utterly charming and infinitely soothing. Suzanne Ely
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krazy baldhead “Crazy Mothafuckas” (Midfield General Remix) (Ed Banger) Not an explicit version of an older track, this remix sounds like Joey Beltram’s sub-bass classic “Energy Flash”-redux once the claxons (no relations to the band) come in at the three minute mark.
Outlander “Vamp (Prins Thomas Disko Mix)” (R&S) Nothing is more rave than piano stabs, and none were stabbier than the riff from Outlander’s 1991 classic on the R&S label—the perfect example of the Belgian sound that briefly threatened to take over the world. Prins Thomas goes beyond his usual space disco fantasies to add some conga rocking to this vintage track, reworked for the reissue of the legendary In Order To Dance compilation. Double 99 “Rip Groove (Tim Deluxe Remix)” (Ministry of Sound) Can you be ahead of your time while being retro all at once? Tim Deluxe took a stab at this 1997 house hit all the way back in 2006—an eon in modern dance floor days. It almost seems time for yet another remix of this serious bouncer that is considered one of the first ever speed garage tracks. Now there’s a sound ready to come back.
OLD SKOOL AGAIN Nu-rave might now seem like a distant and regrettable fever dream, but in its wake was left a newfound appreciation for all things old, acid and ravey. A number of recent tracks will have you dancing like it’s 1995, without dusting off the old vinyl. by Joshua Glazer with help from Gregory Bowler of Acid Girls
GUEST RE V IE WS
LARRY TEE Larry Tee is never a man at a loss for words— especially when those words are promoting the latest sound all the cool kids in the club are getting groovy to. From RuPaul (once cool, before she got famous) to electroclash (cool for being famous) and now the current hipster dance scene (famous for being cool), Tee always has the tracks that make the snobs cringe and the people dance. Here’s his top four right now...
Shoes Afro-Perculator (Shoes) Pretty much exactly what the title says, Green Velvet’s first and most enduring cut, “The Percolator,” has embedded itself into techno, house and b’more styles. Here, it fits nicely into a deep African vibe. DJ Defkline and Red Polo Outta Space VIP (Hot Cakes) A full-on cover version of the Prodigy classic, “Out Of Space,” this makes those who just grab some stems of an old track seem lazy. On the flip, they did a more traditional remix of Dizzee Rascal, showing that retro is just a state of mind. Plastikman Spastik (Dubfire Rework) (Minus) Long in need of a new groove, Richie Hawtin’s epic drum roll finally got shined up, amazingly by Dubfire of Deep Dish. Reminds us of the days when Hawtin used to wile out live on his 909.
Justin Robertson The Art of Acid CD (Harmless) Robertson was one of the original, though lesser known, acid house pioneers. This isn’t a single but rather a whole double CD mix, complete with legends Laurent Garnier and 808 State offering up exclusive remixes for this set. Those who want to get really deep will dig out Robertson’s 1995 epic Journeys By DJ mix CD.
Animal Collective- “My Girls”
(Domino) The decision of Animal Collective to use a dance promo team to push their first single off the Merriwhether Post album seems like an odd choice until you see a room of people dancing ecstatically to this unlikely anthem with no kick drum. The sheer nerve of a band to sing about their daughters’ security is a reassuring sign that music isn’t all about the “big deal.” Is this the death of the hipster esthetic?
Alexander Technique ft. Van Scott “Nightlovers”
This new generation rave anthem (don’t call it nu-rave please) by former Princess Superstar sidekick Alexander Technique and hot new producer Van Scott, brings in Chewy Chocolate Chips and a killer re-edit by JFK of MSTRKRFT to make this thing the new dancefloor monster of late. It’s been Top 10 on Hype Machine’s most blogged MP3s for the last month, and lets face it....Hype Machine is the new A&R guys.
Larry Tee- “I Love U”
(ULTRA ) Is it the 7-year-old lead vocalist or the banging techno-figit grooves from Bart B More and Bulgarian that has everyone from The Crookers and Steve Aoki banging this monster? Or is it the writer of this piece just self-promoting: it’s the new single from my upcoming album Club Badd which features Perez Hilton! Listen and find out.
Mr. Oizo- “Positif ”
(Ed Banger) Let’s face it, the bloghouse sounds of Ed Banger Records owe as much a debt to Mr. Oizo as they do to Daft Punk. It seems the new trend for up-and-coming remixers is to grab a track without permission and tear that shit up. LFO turns in a bone-rattling “official” mix that competes with the pirate mixes! But who’s gonna finally remix “Bruce WIllis Is Dead”?
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URB speaks with pro-audio owner and manager Jack O’Donnel By Michael Vazquez Jack O’Donnel may not be a musician, but as the owner of an American business trifecta comprised of Numark, Alesis and Akai (home to the storied MPC franchise) this self-described “avid music fan” conducts a symphony of musicians and product designers in the neverending quest for the right piece of gear. URB: Why would someone own three companies? Jack O’Donnel: They complement each other, you know. We’re addressing different types of musicians, so it’s the same category, and yet we are able to develop technology that might expand amongst the three brands. Any examples? It could be as simple as developing effects—which is an intensive software effort—and ﬁnding ourselves able to use it in a drum machine for Alesis, a mixer for Numark and then as part of an MPC effect for Akai. We’ve gone from air-bands to karaoke to Guitar Hero. What does that say about how we self-express? What we’re seeing is an intense need for music. And we’re using technology to make it more and more available to us. Go back to the ‘70s: the interaction you had was to sit with the music and do nothing else, and it was a major part of your life, but it was all-consuming. [Nowadays] there are deﬁnitely those times of the day where it’s all-consuming, but we are now using technology to bring music into our lives all the time. Which changes it from a singular experience to a kind of adjunct experience in our lives.
PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS Having started his career reviewing other people’s records, Damian Lazarus readys one of his own by Dan Vidal photos by Kiristin Burns At the age of 16, Damian Lazarus got a DJ residency at a local club. Even so, developing a career as a disc jockey wasn’t a top priority. An early discovery of his talent for writing pushed him down the path of music journalism— leading to an Editor position at cutting edge UK culture mag, Dazed and Confused. From there, he took his music expertise to work A&R for London Records and City Rockers before starting his own label, Crosstown Rebels. “It was a way for me to meet people in the industry, but also ﬁnd out how the machine works,” he says. “[I would see] record labels pay $10,000 for an article.” [Ed. we wish!] Learning the shady side of the music biz has made him cautious. So cautious that he only gave in to DJing in 2002 and is ﬁnally releasing his ﬁrst album this May. That debut, Smoking the Monster Out, is a special achievement for someone who used to review records for a living, and he has refused to let it become a mediocre effort. Instead of commissioning a horde of guest vocalists (as most producer/ DJs do when recording their own projects), Damian opted to take singing lessons instead, carrying a good portion of the lead vocal weight himself. He purposely steered clear of the danceﬂoor vibe, and if you ask him how he would classify the album he wouldn’t be able to tell you. All he knows is that it was risky and that it felt right. He is a perfectionist, and it is for this reason that Smoking the Monster Out has been two years in the works. “There are certain things that are expected of someone like me: a cutting edge DJ should be making cutting edge dance music. [But] I didn’t want to go down that route. I wanted to [make] something very personal; something I would want to listen to at home that has a lot of depth.” From the production to the marketing of the album, Lazarus has been hands-on in every facet of the project, even though it will be released by the Get Physical imprint instead of his own Crosstown Rebels label. The purpose of this tactic was to avoid overshadowing the other acts. Aside from DJing, running a label, and recording an al-
bum, Damian has also somehow found the time and energy to chronicle his adventures on tour with an extensive blog on his website. The entries are ﬁlled with his distinct wry commentary and there are even a collection of videos “recorded in his own unique style.” Aside from DJing, running a label, and recording an album, Damian has also somehow found the time and energy to chronicle his adventures on tour with an extensive blog on his website. The entries are ﬁlled with his distinct wry commentary and there are even a collection of videos “recorded in his own unique style.” “I think a lot of people suspect that DJs are a bit like robots – that they just show up and have to perform. I’m basically saying that we’re human… We may have spent seven hours getting there and maybe we’ve just been to a really boring dinner with some people that we don’t really like and we haven’t slept for two days, but we’re gonna do our job and have fun.”
Do you think this immersion in play-along technology hurts or enhances actual musicianship? You can look at it in both ways; we are deﬁnitely taking the optimistic approach and assuming that if more people are exposed to instruments in video games, there’s going to be a greater interest in wanting to go to the next level. You play NFL games and you don’t really know how to play football, but when you’re playing the drums on Rock Band, you’re actually doing something that is very close to what a real drummer does. Do you manufacture in the United States, and if you don’t…what would it take to manufacture [here]. The answer is yes, it’s still possible. I guess it’s what type of product you’re developing. When your components are all built in Asia, it necessitates us being near those sources. Manufacturing a guitar [is possible], and having the components for that guitar sourced locally eliminates the need for having to be in Asia for that. As things become more automated in the manufacturing process, it’s possible that we can see more products coming back here to be manufactured. And transportation costs—if they keep going up? You can start looking at the delta between manufacturing in Asia, and then the cost of transporting that product to your various markets as being a signiﬁcant enough expense that it starts looking enticing to bring it back home. If we realistically value the cost of transporting those goods around the world, it could give us pause, and we‘d start thinking that it could be brought back into the United States. That’s the biggest market for it right now.
FOUND IN THE MONSTER BOX: * Moogerfooger * Sennheiser e835 mic * Utopia Synth * Eventide Time Factor * Boss Super * Korg Kaossillator Octave OC-3
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NEW THIS MONTH... VIDEO
Tour the N.A.S.A. studio, watch Fred Armissen’s greatest SNL clips and meet the writer behind our Prodigy oral history.
Hear an MP3 from each and every one of this year’s Next 100 artist—from AC Slater to Zaki Ibrahim.
Score limited edition gear, concert tickets, collectable music, movies and games.
Extended photo galleries of DC’s historic inauguartion and Chicago’s house music OGs by Estevan Oriol and Craig Seymour
Daily blogs, CD reviews, contests, parties + more
3/18/09 1:29:25 PM
Copyright ÂŠ 2008 URB (ISSN 1081-9924) is published quarterly for $16.95 a year by NativeSon Media, Inc., 8484 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 560, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 Volume 18, Issue No. 157, Spring 2009. Periodicals Postage Paid at Beverly Hills, CA and at additional mailing office. Postmaster: Send change of address to URB, P.O. Box 469079, Escondido, CA 92046-9079.
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3/10/09 10:28:22 AM
URB proudly presents our 15th Annual Next 100 Issue, our yearly list of the artists that will matter most in the coming months (and years).