The Pictish Trail play The Harley on the 2nd February, in anticipation of the event we had a quick interview with them, words by Alex G.W.
Ahead of their show at the Harley on the 10th (you can purchase tickets here), we sent a few questions Rolo Tomassi’s way about the new album, influences and playing live.
You’ve mentioned that the new album is more direct and accessible than Cosmology or Hysterics. Was this a conscious effort from the beginning? Or was it something that happened more naturally while recording, like, toning down some particularly technical or mathy bits as you recorded them?
It happened naturally with the writing I suppose. The second half to Cosmology was a side of the band I wanted to explore more of. I feel like by using the ‘mathy parts’ of our band more sparingly they have a greater impact anyway.
After working with Diplo on Cosmology you went back to self-producing with Jason Sanderson. How did this affect the recording process – was it easier or slower or more relaxed, for example?
We had a lot more time which was amazing. Cosmology was a great experience in terms of the recording but we were very limited in our room for experimentation with the time frame we had. With Astraea we took our time and made sure we got the best out of each song we could because we could.
How has having Chris and Nathan onboard affected the writing & recording process? What have they brought to the table, so to speak?
By bringing them in they brought a different way of writing to begin with. Initially they were both living in Brighton (Chris is now in Nottingham) and so we sent around a lot of demo’s and recorded every practice we had which is something we hadn’t done before. Having the demo’s and constantly listening back meant for far better rounded songs. We could hear what needed changing and what we could improve on. Both of them have a wealth of experience playing in other bands and it was just cool to have people who approached and heard things differently on board.
Has your approach to live shows changed particularly over the last year or so?
Not at all. We still play hard, fast and energetic live shows. Thats the one thing about this band that couldn’t and wouldn’t change.
The general consensus online seems to be that the new album’s name comes from the character of the same name in Greek myth (that or an acronym for the development of British drone aircraft, apparently), who was a personification of justice. There’s also a pair of scales on the album cover. What’s the significance behind the album title? Was the theme or idea of justice important lyrically?
Me and Eva spent a lot of time looking into titles for the songs and the album. Greek mythology is something we’ve always found interesting and referenced. Astraea was something that jumped out when we read into her. The song ‘The Scales of Balance’ had already been titled and that was something that tied in. Also, in a single we’d released earlier in the year there was the line ‘Golden Age, Golden Age’ and it was prophesised that Astraea would return to Earth during another Golden Age. There seemed to be these pleasant coincidences that kept cropping up. Also, quite simply, I think it sounds like an album title.
Classical stuff seems to have been an inspiration in the past too, with song titles in the past like Agamemnon – does this just stem from an interest in mythology, etc, or is there something else to it?
Its mainly based around an interest in it. I like the grandness.
You’ve picked Blood Sport and Kappa Gamma to support you on the 10th – are there any other acts, local or not, who you’re into at the moment? Were there any bands that were especially influential while you were writing Astraea?
Speaking of influences, how big an influence do other media & artforms – especially film, literature, video games – have on your music or lyrics?
Film and literature definitely. I find myself a lot more intrigued and influences by film scores and how music is put against a visual element. Especially the dynamics and the emotion it can evoke. Literature has always been really important in what we write. I’d count Brett Easton Ellis, T.S.Eliot and Truman Capote amongst my influences for my contribution towards lyrics.
Finally, if you could go back to any point in time and see a now-defunct act live, who would it be?
One of my favourite bands is a now defunct American rock band called Jejune. They put out one album and a handful of 7”s. I’d love to just be able to hear those songs live.
Stanley Brinks is the stage name of André Herman Düne formerly of the indie pop group Herman Düne. He plays Sheffield on the 12th May. You can find the Facebook event here and buy tickets from here. Small Ideas members get in for £6 OTD.
You’ve performed under a variety of different names, How do you come up with them all? What was the inspiration for the name Stanley Brinks?
All artists have a tendency to xerox themselves. I believe the only reason not to use a lot of different names is commercial: it’s hard to sell oneself this way. For many years, mostly thanks to John Peel, i didn’t even have to think about publicity at all. I came up with a lot of side projects during the Herman Düne years, also because our output was restricted by the fact that we worked exclusively with record labels. I liked Ben Dope a lot, he was me singing duets with New York characters. Still i always like best what i’ve done last. I’ve been sticking to Stanley Brinks for several years now, don’t feel like a change of style yet. Maybe i’ve just finally found myself. I like that the name doesn’t mean or refer to anything. Stanley Brinks is me after i went to Trinidad. Someone in a bar in Port-of-Spain started calling me that way - probably because i looked like some acquaintance of his - and i didn’t feel like disappointing him when i introduced myself to more and more people as the evening wore on. Later i told the story to a friend and it seemed obvious to him i should stick to it. I like to follow my friend’s advice when i can.
Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures was fantastic, are you planning any more collaborations in the future?
I love playing with the Wave Pictures too, it’ll happen again soon. We just haven’t been on the same continent at the same time lately. In a completely different - all acoustic - style, I can’t get enough of playing with the Kaniks. I like their sound so much i don’t even play an instrument myself anymore; a lot of the time i just sit in the audience and watch. No electricity. I can also focus on singing, which is fun. Norwegian folk music and caribbean rhythms are a perfect and unprecedented match. We’ve just recorded an album in an old house in Malta without bass or mandolin - that’s the Flying Kaniks - and it’s quite different, more bluesy and oriental at the same time.
Any guilty pleasures?
Anything can work, with really talented musicians. For instance i like mainstream pop music more than most of the underground or trendy stuff i get to hear. I enjoy listening to people like Lily Allen, Dido, Beyonce, Jack Johnson, Paul Simon or Leonard Cohen, and not only on the radio. Those guys all use synthetisers and shit. My favorite new guys are Jason Molina, John Darnielle, and Ish Marquez.
What’s your favourite venue to play in?
I’m not going to tell you what my favorite venue is, but i like all kinds of places that have a lot of wood in them. Sailing boats can be very good that way.
What genre or artist do you draw the most inspiration from?
My main inspiration is still the calypso music of Trinidad in the 30s and 40s, an influence that’s not reflected in our looks or choice of instruments, but becomes very obvious if you pay attention to the songs themselves.
Rising from the ashes of That Mouth, Death Rattle are Chris and Helen Hamilton. We put a couple of questions to the electronic doom duo about their new project.
Are there any continuities from That Mouth in the sound you guys are going for or is this a completely fresh start?
We see it as a fresh start, though I think there is some similarity in the general dark tone that we seem to like creating. With Death Rattle, we have this newfound freedom of not being confined to just three instruments anymore. We decided to take the approach that we could create any sound we wanted, synthetically or naturally, which has allowed for much greater creativity in the song writing.
What are the primary influences behind Death Rattle?
When we first came to France to write record in August, we decided we would start with a completely blank canvas and not try and stay within a particular genre or sound. By chance, Chris had a copy of Violator by Depeche Mode and it was the only CD we had in the van so we listened to it whenever we went out and as we began to absorb it, it started to inspire us a lot. We knew we wanted to go darker and bleaker than we had before.
Lyrically are there any recurrent themes on the album?
Yes. I (Helen) started out writing about the split of That Mouth, when it was still raw. It was quite a difficult time and the words seemed to spill out naturally. I wrote about the idea of moving on, being stripped down to just the two of us, the pressures we faced trying to carry on and do something better than we had before with less people in the band. A lot of my other lyrics come from the darker thoughts that creep in and how I try to escape them and I like using metaphors to describe things.
What influence, if any, has recording and writing in an abandoned house in France had upon the sound of Death Rattle?
It has a big influence and we feel a strong connection with the house now. We knew that we had to come back here to finish writing the album after we wrote the first three songs here. There’s something about the house and the way it makes you feel that is in tune with the music. Being isolated away from people and normal life helps to create a bubble in which to write and any ideas and feelings can’t escape. It’s also a beautiful but quite dark and desolate place in winter, often surrounded by thick fog and I think the music reflects those surroundings.
The video for The Dig is pretty creepy, whose idea was it to splice your heads together? Are you planning on following it up with more videos?
Chris came up with the concept of merging photographs of our faces together after a photos shoot we did and we both developed the video from that. We wanted to show a unity and merge between us, representing us being glued together to create this new music we’re making. ‘The Dig’ is about being in a band so it was the perfect way of representing that at the same time as making people feel a little bit sick. We are currently planning the next one for our next release in the new year and although it’s hard having no budget for music videos, as long as a strong idea is there, you keep it simple and the editor does a good job, it’s quite easy to create something good.
How has being able to write and record the album at the same time affected its sound? Do you feel like it has allowed you greater creative freedom as you don’t have to worry about the practicalities of performing it (just yet at least)?
It’s definitely allowed us to be more creative. For example, we can start layering vocals straight away to know if the song will sound like how we hear it in our heads and then by that very layering, you can go off in a new direction. I think it can only result in better song writing as you’re able to trial so much more and edit as you go along, refining the songs down as well as building them up. I think we should have started writing this way a long time ago, it’s so much more productive. We’ve just written and recorded ten new songs in one month which is a record for us (literally!).
How do you plan on performing Death Rattle material live? Are you planning on assembling a live band or are you going to keep it just you two?
We trying not to think about it too much at the moment! Each time we do, it seems to hinder our writing creativity, as we know it’s going to be a difficult task to translate the songs live. It’s very strange for us, as it’s the opposite approach to what we had with That Mouth, where the songs would be written and performed live before we’d consider recording them. We’d like to get other musicians involved to make the songs sound strong live and also keep it visually interesting but it would be good to be able to perform as a duo in smaller venues.
‘The Dig’ is available for Free Download from Bandcamp.
Yachts played for us with Tangled Hair and Love Among The Mannequins recently and absolutely blew us away, so much so that we’re having them back next month for our Killington Fall show on the 13th December. We caught up with Josh (bass and vocals) to find out what they’re all about.
Who/what is Yachts? How long have you been going?
Yachts is Rob, Josh and Perki. We’ve been rocking out together for 10 months so far.
What are your main musical influences? Are there any notable non-musical ones?
Musically I think we all appreciate bands from the post-whatever scene of the last 5 years. At the Drive-in and Trail of Dead help vocally.
I think at the end of the day we are quite a selfish band. We go entirely off what we like to play and how we want to play it.
What are your plans for the future? Are we going to be seeing any more recordings/touring from you lot any time soon?
We are closing 2011 with 4 or 5 December gigs around the north of England and hope to branch out further next year. Saving money and songs ready for recording too.
All your song titles begin with S, so far at least, is there any grand theme behind that, or is it just a coincidence?
It started as a lazy way to get round overthinking song titles. ‘S’ is for Sigarette definitely crossed a line. I hope the extra helping of the letter S will be the obvious difference between ‘Yachts’ and ‘Yacht’.
Are there any new bands you’d highly recommend, anyone you played with particularly impressed you?
Listening to a lot of Well Wisher and Vasco Da Gama. SundayxLeague up in Newcastle will break your emo heart and our boyfriends in Last Lungs are always worth a listen.
While in Dakar I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview one of the founding members of the political, rapper-led movement Y’en a Marre, Simon. Y’en a Marre, as is subsequently explained, is a relatively recent mass political movement led by rappers but also incorporating people from all areas of society that aims to prevent the current President from running in the upcoming election to be held in early 2012. They are more generally opposed to the rule of President Wade, and are looking to awaken a dormant and unaware generation of Senegalese youth to the political realities of their country. Below is an edited version of the interview, transcribed from the original recording by myself, in which Simon goes into some detail regarding the origins, intent, vision and activity of Y’en a Marre, while also talking more broadly about the socio-political role of rappers in Senegal.
S: Ok well I’ve got here with me now Simon, a rapper who’s at forefront of the political movement Y’en a Marre, and I’m here to talk to him about Y’en a Marre and the nature of the politics of rap more broadly. And I’d just like to - well I’ve only found out about this movement while in Senegal, so I’d just like to ask him if he could explain how the rappers that make up Y’en a Marre got together, and who the rappers involved are.
SIMON: He says that just for your information it is not only a rapper’s association or innovation; meaning there are also others who are not rappers. There [are] marabouts among them, the bankers, and journalists that make it. Of course the origin I mean is from the rappers, but there are so many that have joined them and made it. The context - why it was born, why it was created - [is] during the extensive power cuts we are facing here in Senegal, so meaning we could stay up to 20 hours without electricity; and then rappers, they were just arguing with journalists, journalists saying [that] ‘you are not acting, you are just writing songs but you’re not acting’, but then […] the rappers saying to journalists ‘you’re only writing papers’. And then through this argument this association was born. He says that that’s how, through this argument, that he call them, himself and others members, just to pull together, to try to create something. They said, why not take on to the street? […] and I mean that this is how this Y’en a Marre was born.
S: So I spoke to Matador yesterday and he mentioned that Y’en a Marre actually has roots further back in the 1990s, and I was wondering if this was a long term project; whether the goals that Y’en a Marre have are long term or if they’re just against President Wade.
SIMON: He said of course the idea has always been driven by the rappers, so of course from the 1990s with the emergence of a few rap groups like Positive Black Soul, Pee Froiss, and Matador and others, they had the idea here and of course they are spreading so many things. But what is new now is the engagement they have, the commitment to take it to the streets because before it was only text; they were just writing text and songs, but they never took to the streets. But now even if they’re not politician, of course it is a citizen movement but now they are taking action and being on the ground. So that is what is new to the idea that has been here, because they used to criticise, they used to – even they participated in the election of President Wade in 2000 – but now what’s changed is they have – now they are involved in the street taking action on the ground.
S: Is – alongside the thing about them being on the ground and actively involved being new - is the way that these rappers have come together to be a collective, a unified collective; is that new? Before were rappers in the ‘90s talking on their own and just commentating on their own? Is this a new thing?
SIMON: OK he say that of course for being together it’s not new, they used to have kinds of association in the domain of culture in general. But what is new now maybe is the social cause; they are together for one social cause. But it is not all the rappers that are supporting Y’en a Marre as well because there are a few rappers that are against this Y’en a Marre initiative, saying that this isn’t so – what is new is the social thing they are tackling… they used to have associations of rappers, but in the domain of culture; something like that, but different from now.
S: I’ve been speaking to and talking with, just, kids that listen to rap music and people that listen to music as well as musicians, and a couple of people have said that Y En A Marre, they just protest and just say the things that are wrong. So [in response to this] do you have a kind of political vision, or an ideology that you want to see [enacted] in politics?
SIMON: He said of course sometime they are not here having political attention at all. Of course so many people ask them maybe why not don’t you go to join the National Assembly, but they said it’s not their vision for the time being. What they want is just to be against the presidential candidacy of President Wade. According to them he cannot be candidate any more because he has finished his two terms – constitutionally – and that’s why they are against it. This is the fight, I mean the struggle now, but then they don’t have any attention to politics. Talking about this kind of - how you say? -this initiative as well, he said of course they are not only criticising, they are also giving suggestions, so meaning ideas and all; it’s not only criticising. He said that through NTS, the ‘New Type of Senegalese’, this is proof that they are beginning to have this initiative to have a new type of Senegalese: one who is not throwing papers in the dust in the street; the one who is not urinating in the street; the one who focus on his own change. The one who is saying ‘yes, this change is real: we can change ourselves’, but not to do whatever you want. This is the new thing they would like. Of course it will be, in the long run, from here to 50 years, 60 years, something like that, but here it is only politics: the candidacy of President Wade, [but] they would like to change the Senegalese to have a new type of Senegalese.
S: So will the work of Y’en a Marre continue after the elections? Will they keep informing people and holding the government to account?
SIMON: He said of course he won’t stop, they won’t stop, they will continue even with the new government that is coming, they will have a close follow up because they don’t want what we face with President Wade, I mean to face next time because with President Wade we only elected him but nobody followed him closely, we followed him blindly because [we’re] saying ‘ok he will change everything’. Only a few people give this kind of alert before; they were not followers saying ‘no we will not change anything’, but today we understand… And also from the basis [of] the young people and the children, so to introduce into them this kind of NTS, the New Type of Senegalese so they will grow up with this kind of idea. That’s the fight of Y’en a Marre.
S: Because it seems that a lot of the rappers I’ve spoken to have said that they feel they have a duty to inform people, and sensitise people, and that that’s part of what being a rapper is all about; that that is the role of the rapper. Do you agree?
SIMON: He says of course we are about that. The basis is to educate, and from that we can make people have fun, enjoy themselves, dance, something like that, but basis of the rapper is just to inform people, to tell them what happened, to sensitise people, this is the role.
S: …and does he think that musicians and rappers are central to political change in Senegal? Does he think that they are really important in holding the government to account more than in perhaps other countries such as the UK? Because in the UK musicians don’t have that role at all.
SIMON: He says of course in Senegal they have an impact on this political life because we have witnessed in 2000 election, the rappers, they have played a big role in electing President Wade, so and this [upcoming] election they have a big role in it. And then today we see that because of their action, 400,000 new people is subscribed on the electoral role, so they say this is also very important. And whenever they call, people answer, people listen to them, and this is something wonderful. Maybe the difference with England is, there, the rappers have existed a long time ago, maybe they don’t have this influence… but I added, maybe they don’t have the education; people they are aware, they are educated, they are awakened, meaning that they know what they’re doing, contrary to here; the leaders are doing whatever they want, and in England maybe, they don’t care, if you don’t do something good you have to resign. People put pressures on you. But here, no. That’s why now they have the kind of influence. Apart from those people being inside politics deeply involved, the other ones they don’t know; that’s why [Y’en a Marre’s] action is being something fruitful.
S: So are rappers almost filling a hole in government-run education; like are they almost replacing the government funding education, and running unbiased news and media? Are they filling a gap that the government isn’t filling themselves in educating people?
SIMON: He said of course for instance this enrolment on the list, it was the role of the government to do it, but they did not do it, so Y’en a Marre filled this gap. So it did it late but successfully; there were so many people that did it. And then the campaign to sensitise people, not to just throw dust in the street and all, this is the role also of the government, but they don’t do and through the songs as well they are dealing with corruption, and bad management [of resources], and so many things, so th government something they will not deal with it so this is the role [of Y’en a Marre].
S: So do you think that there could be a role for rappers in the villages and outside the cities, because as you [points to translator] said earlier, the people in the cities – in Dakar, in Saint Louis – they all know what’s going on now, thanks to rappers and musicians and through increased levels of education. And now President Wade is turning to the villages to retain his power. So do you think that rappers should be taking a more active political role in the villages?
SIMON: He said because they have done it; they have started going to the rural areas to make them awaken, and then to tell them what is happening. So: ‘if they [politicians and political representatives] give you money don’t just vote; look for the best candidate for [yourself]’, don’t just be bribed by this one because you will suffer in the long run. So this is the kind of spirit they are… and not only them, but they are a kind of spirit – he call it spirit, he said that he doesn’t want to call it cells like the politicians – that they are in the region, so a kind of group, and this group who are staying locally there, and then trying to sensitise the people. Meaning that even if they are not there, and of course they go there from time to time, but even if they are not there, there are cells, or what he call the spirit of Y’en a Marre staying in the villages just to sensitise the children.
S: What makes up the spirit of Y’en a Marre in the villages then, are there people that are constantly there or is it just the words of Y’en a Marre?
SIMON: He said that people are staying there constantly, and every time - they are living in these areas, and that’s why they live there: they create a kind of stability and then they sensitise people.
S: Are there any rappers in particular that are staying out in the villages?
SIMON: A few [villages] they have rappers, but others they do not have. It’s not forcedly you have to get a rapper inside, that’s what he said.
S: OK so now this is focusing on politics a bit more, but the rapper Thiat, I read in an interview that he claimed President Wade’s regime was among the worst in the world at the moment. Obviously that’s a bit of an over statement, but I was wondering what you thought about that.
SIMON: We can say that because we see the way they are ruling the country and wasting peoples’ money, the futilities and all, and I mean the Jola, this is among the most serious boat sinkings around the world, even more than Titanic, the worst even in the world; Jola, the boat, in 2001 it sunk, many people died and not only with the money they are spending, that’s not what we really like, meaning that they are wasting money. And also he gave the example of the plane, the presidential plane. [The money] they’ve spent is to the detriment of the population.
S: Why do you think it is that musicians are so influential in Senegalese society?
SIMON: He said that he thinks that it’s the text people are used to giving, so meaning [an] informative one, educating people, this kind of text, so [inaudible due to suffocatingly loud ringtone going off] education is important, and since they are going to university, it makes sense as well. So maybe because of this [university education] and the text as well.
S: You mentioned that there was a similar movement happening in Niger or somewhere else in West Africa, so do you think that the Y’en a Marre movement could turn into a pan-African movement, and one that could be replicated in other African countries?
SIMON: He said of course they are thinking about having an international level that is not only limited to Senegal, of course they started in Senegal, but maybe they would like afterwards, the New Type of Senegalese, but why not the New Type of African? Even they have connections with Sudan, and others - they are thinking about they are thinking about this in the long run. And why not of course the New Type of Human Being? Saying that to involve everybody; saying that now we are living under a domination, I mean, in brackets, as what we are facing is this kind of colonisation; hidden colonisation. So he said now, to tell the American, tell the European, and all, that we are all human beings, and that we can live freely on the world. So meaning that if they have the spirit that also we are under domination, we cannot work together, meaning that everybody must be free, meaning so that to have a New Type of Human Being. So it is just in the long run they are thinking about it.
Questions asked by Sam Parkin
Questions answered by Simon
Answers translated and relayed by Adama Bathily
To see the complete interview, follow this link: http://sonosenegal.tumblr.com/post/11057618430/interview-with-simon-of-yen-a-marre
I had a chat with Suzi Analogue, 23 year old beatmaker based in Philidelphia. She’s a lovely individual and I hope to see her live vereh, vereh, soon. Enjoy.
‘I really look very closely into the lives of artists who do more than one thing, because I always thought what I was doing was odd. You either have Britney spears or Timbaland, you didn’t really have one person doing different things, so my hero had to come from everywhere to make me make sense.’
Speaking from her base in Philadelphia, Mxxx Simone Sxxxxxx aka Suzi Analogue is every part the excitable, gushing music lover you could hope to talk to as she initially reels off Billie Holiday, Missy Elliot and Fat John as influences, finally admitting to being an embarrassingly huge MF Doom fan. Her encyclopaedic knowledge and appreciation of music is a result of accumulating a lot of sounds from an early age and alongside Sade and Doom she wouldn’t mind collaborating with Portishead’s Jeff Barrow: ‘I found Dummy when I was twelve so you could only imagine what it was like for a 12 year old girl finding this CD, already liking hip hop and being a female vocalist.’
Given her penchant for warped and screwed up beats and pieces you might have a hard time trying to pick out the direct cross section where x and y meet in her music.
‘Growing up in the south in Virginia with just bass music with the gold rims and the bass in the cars and the window tinted it’s like southern gangsterism, that was my reality. Those were things that I thought were so amazingly unique about growing up in the culture. I try to take elements that might be a No Limit or UGK or a Three Six Mafia tune and I try to revamp it and make it progressive and add elements based on my knowledge of music around the world to try and make it accessible to people; taking these very distinctive cultural textures, adding them together and creating something that people can get into. People can hear my story and understand who I am and what my vision is for the world through this stuff. I guess that’s the ideological explanation of my music and sound. Knowing what my more recent stuff sounds like you can really expect anything from me.’
Her sound has evolved as a result of her naturally prolific and curious approach, the 23 year old’s tracks possess a wealth of references to her past. She was making beats from the age of 14 but her love of performing stretched back further than that, from sitting in her closet singing to stuffed toys to rapping along to Timbaland and Magoo’s Up Jumps the Boogie and recording it on her Talkboy at the age of ten, the results of which can be heard on Analogue Monsta her split mixtape with LA beatmaker TOKiMONSTA.
‘Music was important it was just shown to me to be important from a very young age. It might not be like that these days because they’re taking the music programmes out of the schools so much in the United States. But back then it was a big deal and I thought it was the perfect way for me to express myself.’
Her Hydrahead music project embodies what every young producer and musician should hope to produce. Intuitive, independent but part of a movement, the tunes seem to match Suzi in her wonderfully open nature and keenness to stay comparatively elusive. She switches from the disparate, sickly sweet childlike vocals of the sexy Jump Rope to the assertive, glitchier beats and rhymes onNNXTAPE. Listening to her scatting and crooning over her playful raps encorporated with a love of layering and messing about with whatever effects she can get her hands on, suggests that the toddler singing in the closet is still very much a part of her creativity.
‘My sound, people would say, is experimental but to me it’s so concrete. It’s soul and I want everything that I do to have soul in it. You know in this techno age a lot of music has the soul ripped out of it but at the very core I want everything to have soul.’
Her latest work NNXT is released on Dopeness Galore and features two tracks, The Program and The Thing, the latter a bass heavy production featuring the breathy, dynamic vocals synonymous with Suzi’s other releases and stuffed full of the soul that she’s just so keen to maintain in her music. The Program features Stones Throw’s Dudley Perkins aka Declaime and is produced by vocalist Georgia Anne Muldrow.
‘(She) is someone that I really admired and was super inspirational to me. I loved the way that she was doing her own thing and I felt that our energies were really akin to each other.’
Suzi’s early musical development was a mixture of church choirs, theatre involvement and the world wide web. For those not lucky enough to live in a buzzing hub of music ingenuity the internet is a godsend. it’s a familiar story having an online community and a whole population of music lovers to connect with; listening to Gilles Peterson mixes, burning CDs. This is how much of Suzi’s personal journey has continued through the expanse of the cyber culture and absorbing a lot of music within her physical surroundings.
‘It’s a culture. It exists on the internet because there are other people like me who had no access to the latest, hottest, underground thing so they have to find other ways to get the same enjoyment out of it whilst still being in a remote place. But now there’s that platform so that you can meet people in LA or Tokyo or Milwaukee and we’re all listening to the same thing, and none of it is played on the radio, and none of it is played on the television so you have to really think about how powerful that is.’
She sings of living in a creative digital universe in which you can still make something on the track Holder from her 2010 NNXTAPE project: ‘Do you really know how it feels to hold something that you grew with your two hands?’
‘When I think about the power of the internet, I think about how important it is for me to make myself known virally.’ She says on her relationship with the digital world ‘I didn’t wanna ever restrict myself or who my music was available to. I want it to be available to everyone. So creating the network has been a labour of love and a journey of its own and my music and my approach to promoting it is a reflection of the network that has made it happen.’
It makes sense for most artists to exercise this autonomy over their stuff, distributing mixes and blog updates instantaneously. The likes of Jeremiah Jae and the Cxllective, Teebs and My Hollow Drum, the branches of networks and musical family trees spread far and wide. You almost have musical offshoot versions of Power Rangers. These folks aren’t waiting for an advance from any labels before they get going whether they’re joining forces or working independently.
Suzi’s own collective Klipmode based in Philadelphia came into fruition through chance meetings on Myspace. Named after a mishmash of an Ableton view and a play on busta’s Flipmode, Klipmode’s other members include Devonwho, Knxledge and Mnd dsgn. ‘We were just four people who were in similar living situations and who found solace in each other and in making music that wasn’t necessarily accepted yet.’
Given half the publicity Kreayshawn and the White Girl Mob have received with the novelty of independent female rappers within a scene renowned for its bullshit bravado and male posturing, you get the impression Suzi could do something really quite special with that sort of attention. Less inclined to put down basic bitches and without feeling the need to emulate her male contemporaries, along with TOKiMONSTA and other young female producers she plays around with darker sounds: ‘I would say if there is masculine and feminine music, I would say that my music is actually more masculine than feminine but it’s all me.’
The web of connections meant she has established relationships with many of Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder artists but she was already acquainted with Ras G before Brainfeeder was even a fully formed entity. It was through Myspace that she hooked up with TOKi who remixed one of her tracks that went on to become Nxt Msg which received interest from the holy conduits of global beat music – Gilles Peterson and Mary Anne Hobbs. ‘Toki was one of the people we would chat with a lot. People at this time weren’t really touring – we were just all sort of making bedroom beats, it wasn’t really as big as it is now. It has really kind of exploded.’
Her approach to live sets is not too dissimilar to her approach to making beats, off the cuff and unpredictable but all her.
‘I want people who come to my shows to really know who I am, what I come from my perspective of music. A lot of these show are just live mixtapes in front of you, it’s a whole 40 minutes of fun you dunno where it’s gonna go. I make sure you’re moving a little bit but then I might put on a super slow jam but then I might also start singing along with it, you know adding my own textures and looping my vocals over it. I just try to make it really fun, that’s what it is for now. In the future it’ll be something else. But right now it’s a mixtape in person.’
NNXT is out now, along with a boxed set that comes with a collector’s box, shirt and sticker that will be available through Rush Hour (Amsterdam).
Imogen de Cordova
Co.fee is the wily pseudonym of 26 year old Kofi Sefa-Boakye, member of California-based collective My Hollow Drum along with Brainfeeder’s Teebs (whose beautiful audio weavings are now featured on an Air Franceplaylist!), Bah wee, Yuk and more.
His remixes of the likes of Timbaland, Wu Tang, and a particularly impressive mix of Erykah Badu’s Soldier exhibit his penchant for seamlessly combining vinyl crate-digging booty with chart topping monsters (see his favourite remix answer- there’s no elitism going on here). In a similar vein to BF’s Gaslamp Killer he’s renowned for his exceptional live sets, which induce more than just a slight nod of the head and have garnered him enough respect to get him playing LA’s beat scene hive, Low End Theory on a regular basis.
His EP Easy Listening was released in April on Alpha Pup records and apparently had nothing to do with Burt Bacharach.
Your cousin got you into considering taking beat making seriously is that correct?
Yeah like 5 or 6 years ago my cousin was starting a label and at the same time I was playing around with Fruity Loops and just figured out how to sample, the timing of everything was real cool, long story short he liked what I made and I started making beats for the main rapper on his label, and that’s pretty much how everything started for me musically.
You’ve described Easy Listening as pretty straight forward, instrumental pop music. I like how honest that description is yet it doesn’t take anything from the tracks. Do you want to take your sound in a more ‘complex’ direction?
Not exactly more complex but I do wanna add more song writing and melodies. I always saw that as a good challenge, keeping the music heavy but still very melodic.
How do you go about putting a track together and how long does it tend to take you?
You have worked with emcees in the past, you mentioned Coincidence, what’s so different about constructing a tune to have someone rapping over the top?
Definitely after finding the right loop and improvising what synths or other sounds to play over it. I could go on for hours doing that, my heads in jam session mode. If I don’t try out variations and jam out like that I can finish pretty quick but it’s not as much fun to see how far I can go with it.
For me working with emcees isn’t too much of a stretch because I still see what I do as straight-forward hip hop, but the main difference I make and I really learned from doing so many remixes is to not have too much going on in the beat so the vocals can shine.
Neptunes, Timbaland, Madlib, J Dilla and Prince Paul. What is it about each of these individuals that made you want to try and emulate them or just make any beats?
With Timbaland, Prince Paul and Madlib I just think they have a really animated sound that’s why I listen to them so much. Also their sample selection had a big effect on me. I got even deeper into Bollywood soundtracks after hearing Timbaland and Madlib sample them so much. Prince Paul stands out also because he’s real comedic about his work which inspired me a lot.
Dilla and Neptunes to me pretty much do what I mentioned earlier, their stuff has a lot of energy and hits hard but it’s real melodic at the same time. How they pulled it off always amazed me.
Tell me a bit about Bearded Baby and how you got involved with My Hollow Drum.
Bearded Baby is a project me and Teebs were working heavily on about 4 years ago, we were just having fun experimenting and a lot of good songs came out of it.
I got involved in My Hollow Drum a little after me and Teebs started Bearded baby and he told me Chad (Yuk) was going to start a crew and wanted to know if I would be down to join, and that was it.
Collaborating with Teebs and then joining My Hollow Drum helped me grow a lot musically and made me want to take things further with beat making.
The track Kali is what first brought you to my attention on a Ras G mix (Beat Soup vol 3). Do you get a pretty big response to it whenever you include it in sets?
I got such a positive response to that track which is awesome! It was actually the first song I made for the EP. I’m a huge fan of Bollywood music especially from the 70’s & 80’s and was blown away by the original song, I really just wanted to do it justice.
What’s your favourite remix that you’ve done so far?
Justin Timberlake-Sexy back haha.
Where do you find most of your samples?
Usually I’ll go on websites of record stores and browse through their soundtrack collection and world music section, that schooled me on a lot of composers and a lot of blogs too.
Can you tell me a bit about Geekdown?
It’s a monthly night hosted by My Hollow Drum at the Crosby, a restaurant and Bar owned by Free The Robots along with two good friends of his. It’s in Orange Countyand there’re really no places for beat music out there so our night is like the main outlet to hear a lot of what’s coming out of the LA movement.
If you weren’t making beats what would you be doing?
I’d be doing a lot more with graphic design, or try to get into film
Do you do any other artistic things?
Graphic stuff and drawing (poorly) here and there ha
Have you played much outside of California or the US?
Nah I haven’t played any shows out of California or the US, I just started doing sets last year but now i’m ready to start travelling and performing.
How much influence do you think environment has had in shaping you and your music? It is largely sample based and takes a lot of influences from middle eastern and Indian soundtracks do you think you could be making the same music if you were transported to another place?
I wouldn’t experiment as much with my music if I didn’t grow up around LA, going to Low End Theory every week and eventually performing there had a positive effect on beat making. I would probably still sample regardless but I do feel my music would still sound a little different If I grew up somewhere else.
You’re Ghanaian, are you big into African music any particular Ghanaian artists that you know of or like? I know you’re a Fela fan (realise he’s Nigerian by the way).
Yeah I’m a big fan of highlife and Afrobeat, I feel like a lot of what was made in the 70’s in West Africa was amazing, There’s a Ghanaian artist named K. Frimpong he’s on a lot of the Ghana soundz compilations, But my parents also had a few of his records and that’s what opened me up to the whole genre.
There’s a dope hip hop movement going on out there now too, there’s a rapper named Wanlov he was the guy on my cousins label that I collaborated with, he’s real talented and blowing up out there now.
Ok, straight forward questions: top 3 people you’d love to collaborate with live or on record. Top 3 tracks of the moment.
Peaking Lights- All the sun that shines
What’s inspiring you at the moment? We asked Teebs this question and he claimed it was a green, health juice drink, so it could be anything.
Dope photographers and illustrators, I geek out a lot to that stuff. I have a folder full of visual art, always helps me when I have a creative block.
Any additional comments?
Looking forward to heading out to Europe
Looking forward to having you here.
Imogen de Cordova