new zealand music journalist

Wu Tang Interview - U God

U-God-w.jpg

By Jimmy Ness and originally written for Passionweiss.

Lamont Jody Hawkins is better known by his rap alias U-God, but it’s the “Four Bar Killer” nickname that has defined his career. Wu Tang’s mastermind RZA treated each member of the iconic group like a chess piece and used their individual strengths in a specific way while recording their early work. Unfortunately for U-God, this meant that his gruff voice was used sparingly and he often had to make the most of spitting a quick four bars before it was someone else’s turn.

Hawkins, who never had a fully produced RZA solo album like several other members, has often expressed his bitterness at being delegated to being a pawn in the Wu strategy. He left the group in 2004, recorded this documentary, and attempted to sue RZA for $170,000.

However, childhood friends often fight like brothers and the members have reconnected. U-God rejoined Wu Tang shortly after leaving and his 2009 solo LP “Dopium” was well received. Hawkins also released the new album, The Keynote Speaker on July 23, while Wu Tang is embarking on a 20th Anniversary tour during the next few months. 

Despite his reputation for a bad temper and history of being unspoken during interviews, U-God was relatively guarded over the phone and he gave many one-word answers. However, we did chat about his introduction to rap, being around Ol’ Dirty Bastard, stepping away from the “Four Bar Killer” title and of course the new Wu Tang album.

When you first got started you were beatboxing for Cappadonna?

Yeah that’s true. I’m a superb beatboxer. Superior beatbox specialist heh heh. I still do it every now and then.

Who is Scotty Wotty? He’s on some of your most recent solo work and Ghostface famously mentions him on “Nutmeg.”

Well, Scotty Wotty was like my mentor in rhyming. He knew me since I was a baby, he was the first dude in the hood who was really nice, who was close to us and could really rhyme. I came and got him back, came and found him and dug him up and put him out there. But you know, he’s still got it.

You also knew Raekwon since you were children and your parents were friends?

Yeah, his mother and my mother lived in the same building in Brooklyn, East New York. We all migrated over to Staten Island at about the same time.

Is it true you were playing with a loaded gun and nearly shot him when you were kids?

(laughs) I can’t believe you said that man. Yeah, yeah little kid stuff. Wow, I can’t believe ya’ll are still talking about that.

Your uncle helped introduce you to rap?

He used to go to Harlem World and bring me back little tapes of the battles that were going on back at the stage when I was a little kid, and you know, kind of got me into hip-hop.

You went to jail for almost three years around the time that 36 Chambers was being recorded, but before that you put yourself through college for a few years off drug money?

That’s right. I studied Business Management.

Was there a point during Wu Tang’s earlier years, where you suddenly thought “wow we’ve got something special?”

Yeah you know, in the beginning when we all started doing it. It wasn’t when we blew up. I already knew what my brothers were capable of doing before we became Wu Tang. I had a pre-determined, pre-meditated situation where I already knew. It was like a business.

There’s an interesting quote from you where you said “I can talk about Wu Tang, but don’t let me hear anyone else talk about them. That’s my family.”

Exactly (laughs) no comment on that.

ODB remains one of the most unique characters that has ever existed in hip-hop. What was it like being around him?

Well you know that’s family man. He might be Wu and ODB, and wild and stuff, but to me that’s my brother man. It ain’t nothing. It’s like Meth, that’s my family too but people be going crazy when the see the dude, and I be like tsk maaaan that’s my fam. It’s like he’s special, but he’s not that special like ya’ll would see him. But I love my brothers man.

Looking back on your career, do you have anyone who you are proudest to have worked with?

I’ve worked with a lot of different people… umm Rick Rubin, a lot of different people. We met so many good people, it’s hard to even say. You know what I mean? Well, Issac Hayes. He’s a good guy man, quiet, keeps to himself. People are human beings you know. People are just regular man.

You’ve been known for having quite a wild temper, do you think you’ve calmed with age?

Yeah, yeah man. I’m not the only one that’s like that. Don’t make it sound like I’m the only bad guy. I wasn’t the only bad guy, stop making it seem like I’m the only one that’s crazy like that (laughs). I wasn’t the only one.

Your writing style has changed over time. At first your style was quite straight forward, then around the time of Wu Tang Forever your style was a bit more abstract, a bit more slanged out. And now it’s gone back to being how it was originally. Were you making these changes on purpose?

Yes, yes I do change my style up because I can’t stay the same, plus my attitude changes with my style. My process is kinda crazy man. I go through a lot because I sit still, I meditate. I don’t know, I use the lower levels of my brain. It’s just different.

You’ve spoken a lot about how you feel you are quite underrated, do you feel like now is your time to shine? Dopium was well received, and now you’re coming out with Keynote Speaker?

We’ll I can’t tell which way things are going to go or what they are going to lead to, but when I came up with “Keynote Speaker” that’s exactly what I was saying because I’ve basically come to the forefront, to step to the podium and talk to you. So you know, whatever happens happens. People like good music – they gravitate toward it. They do – they do, they don’t – they don’t, but this record right here is my Illmatic. So this is what I’m doing right now. I’m not the four bar killer anymore. I used to be, but that’s not what I’m about no more.

Tell us about the track “Black Shampoo” off Wu Tang Forever, it’s definitely a unique song.

People tease me about that record, I get mixed reviews. I get laughed at. 

A little bit of all of the above, but how do you feel about the track?

It definitely shows a different side of U-God. You switched your style up quite a bit on there. 

Okay…

Of course I have to ask about the new Wu Tang stuff, do you feel like you guys can make a full comeback with a solid record?

Well, we gon’ try baby. We gon’ give it our all.

What about the production? Because not everyone was happy with the way that 8 Diagrams turned out.

Well we going to figure it out when we cross that bridge, you know what I mean? Hopefully it will come out good and we can be happy with it.

I'm travelling again!

tulum photograph


Greetings. In case you didn't know/care I'm currently in Mexico dodging organ harvesters before heading to America, Iceland and London. I'm falling asleep on the beach and forgetting what day it is, but give me until late March and this website will be updated as per normal. If you want to pay me big dollars to write about music for you, I'll be checking my emails with a naive sense of hope. Peace and congratulations for surviving 2012.

Vintersorg Interview

vintersorg
                             
By Jimmy Ness

This is the extended version of my first feature for Noisey/Vice. You can check it out here.

While you, dear reader, might have enjoyed black metal for the corpse paint, lavish leather outfits and Satan worship, if you were weird like me you listened to it for the educational value. Andreas Hedlund, also known as Vintersorg after the band he founded in 1996, sings about his passion for science, astronomy, philosophy and nature. Long before I peeled off my metal spikes and put away the impaled bovine heads, I spent hours absorbing his thought-provoking brand of metal.

The 39 year-old plays multiple instruments and leads about half a dozen other projects including Borknagar, Fission, Havayoth, Cronian and Otyg. Despite having cult status among fans, he rarely performs live and instead focuses on his job as a primary school teacher.

His music incorporates folk and progressive elements, and has been labeled everything from space metal to avant garde. But one thing is for certain, if you have never heard someone scream about Christopher Columbus over blast beat drumming, you're in for a treat.

Vintersorg recently called me from Sweden and while my 13 year-old self wept tears of joy, we chatted about being a black metal school teacher, his favourite scientific theories and man’s relationship with nature.

When did you become interested in space, science and the earth?

I guess my interest in these subjects came along with the fact that I was born, in a way. Of course I didn’t really investigate it from the very beginning. When you are a newborn, you don’t have the ability to understand who you are and what you are in this kind of world. But as soon as my mind woke up, I was very interested in all of the subjects that refer to man and nature. I live quite remotely from big cities. I live very far north in Sweden quite near the Polar Circle actually, so I’ve always had these elements around me, the elements of nature. For me I didn’t actually think of it as an interest because it was just my ordinary life. Then of course when I grew up I understood that you could choose a life from another perspective - if you are living in a big city or if you’re living out in the desert or whatever. My mind was just open from the beginning from where I was standing. As a child, you just relate to what you see around you.

Why did you start to write about this stuff in your lyrics?

I don’t know really. For me it was very natural to write about this stuff because that was the world I was growing up in. Of course when you spend so many years with these kind of surroundings you start to get more interested in them. I was learning more about nature so when you are learning more about nature, you are learning more about science. From the beginning of course I was looking at nature from a visual point of view, but after a while you start learning about the other stuff behind the obvious visual kind of things. I always felt a very strong connection with science, nature and folklore. I don’t see that they are opposites. Folklore is of course a kind of pagan belief, but they saw nature from a different perspective they didn’t know about science. I don’t blame them. I think folklore still has a place in life. Of course from our historical perspective, but also from looking at nature with a romantic perspective.   

Do you have a favourite scientific theory that you think one day might be proven to be true?

Some years ago I kind of soaked my mind with that stuff for 24 hours a day. I follow the progress in science but not as frequently as I did five, six, seven years ago. I believe Stephen Hawking’s theory called T.O.E (Theory Of Everything). I think somehow you can find out the theory that connects all of the other theories together, but that one is of course very obscure and hard to translate into our way of thinking. I think there is one great theory that will connect all the other theories. I see wholeness in everything actually.

You are a primary school teacher. What grade and what subject do you teach?

I teach children everything from when they are six years old. I teach several subjects right now.  I teach scientific stuff, I also have done some social stuff. I work all my days with children and I think that’s the best way you can have a relationship with humanity because children are so new into this world. They have all this curiosity, they are so open minded. Many adults are also open minded, but when you are a child you don’t have this baggage of cultural stuff, this baggage of religious stuff, you don’t even know what they are. I really like to work with kids because they are so curious about stuff. They want to learn. In seventh grade your mind is filled with other things, your testosterone increases [laughs].

Do any of the students, parents or teachers know that you are a progressive black metal singer?

Yup. I’m 39 years old, so I have parents that are at my age. I live in a small town so they know me perfectly. They know me as a musician and also some of them are my friends and that’s no problem. I’m a very open minded person. I’m very open with who I am and what I do. So everybody knows what I do and everybody’s cool with that. Everybody actually thinks it’s really cool to have a teacher that’s kind of a… well they think of me as a rock star, but I don’t think of me as a rock star. You know the drill.

Are you ever tempted to yell at the students in your black metal voice?

Actually I don’t really do that. Of course kids push your buttons, your invisible buttons at times. But there’s a thing that I do when I go into the school building, I remind myself that the first rule of working with kids is don’t let them push your buttons and when they try to do to it I remind myself that he or she is just trying to do that. But I’m not getting offended by it, so I stay very cool and it’s whatever. I don’t really yell at the children at school with my black metal voice but if you ask my kids at home, they may have another theory about that.

What made you choose a steady occupation over touring full time?

Because of kids again actually. I became a father 9 years ago and before that I was kind of having that debate with myself. Like am I going to become a professional musician all year long? So then I had a son and then it was not a debate for me anymore. It was very clear. It was about the time I was pursuing my teacher degree so it was very natural for me to stay at home, have my daytime job and be with my kids. Then two years later I had a daughter, so for me it’s been a very easy choice to stay at home and be with my children. But I like to do some gigs now and then. So now we are doing some festivals and stuff. With Borknagar, everybody in the band except the drummer has kids so everybody is kind of in the same position.

One of my favourite songs of yours is “The Explorer.” Can you tell us about the concept behind this song?

First of all, that album [Visions from the Spiral Generator] was kind of a leap in another direction. I wanted to make it very clear that this how I feel about life and everything. The song “The Explorer” for me is kind of a statement - that is a little bit who I am. I refer to other explorers in the lyrics a little bit, but for me I see myself as an explorer as well. I don’t know everything, I’ve never been the kind of guy that thinks “Oh, I’m the best in the world, I know everything, I have the authority to that or do this.” For me, I’m totally the opposite. I’m a little bit of a curious guy. I’m a little bit of a shy guy. I think “how is this going to work? What is this all about?” Some would see this as a kind of insecurity, but I know who I am. I always try to be a better person. I want to see how I can benefit things in the world and also that will mean I will be a better person. But also I’m totally a nature freak. I’m not a Greenpeace freak, personally I think they are using the wrong means to do their thing. I don’t quite know how to put it so let me use an example: you see a bulldozer going to put down a rainforest. They drill a hole in the bulldozer’s gas tank, so alright the bulldozer isn’t going to devastate the rainforest, but the fire will.

Your two most recent albums Jordpuls and Orkan are part of a series of four albums, one dedicated to each element of the planet. 
Why did you decide to move from space back down to earth?

For me, I couldn’t really let this kind of stuff go away. The four elements have been my guiding star since I was kid, you know. Of course the four elements in the classical theatrical way isn’t really how we see the world now days cause that’s from the old Greek stuff, but I still like the four elements as kind of a symbolic theme as to how life is built up, how we can feel it, how we can see it, hear it, everything.

You’re not the cliché black metal musician. You don’t wear corpse paint or just sing about negative themes. You’re an open-minded family man. Does that seem strange to you? 

Well I haven’t really thought about it that much. Someone would probably think that I’m not the right one for the job at some times, but on the other hand I like black metal for all of its aspects. I like death metal. I like progressive rock from the 60s and 70s. I like heavy metal from the 80s. I like so many different kinds of music, so I have never tried to adapt myself. I try to express something and I try to express it out of passion. I really feel like I have a kind of addiction to music.

Your folk band OTYG has recently reformed. Can you tell us about the line-up and if you plan to do any shows?

No shows planned at the moment, but we are doing a new album with totally brand new songs. It’s going to be something really special actually. All the members that have been in the band are going to be on the album. So the drummer from the first album is going to do like half of the album and the drummer from the second album is going to do the other half. It’s going to be a big happy family thing.

You are constantly creating new music. How do you stay inspired?

I would say you are asking the wrong guy, cause I don’t really know! I’ve been addicted to music since I was like four to six years old. I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life. I’ve been a caretaker. I’ve been a car mechanic. I’ve done so much different stuff work wise and now I’m a teacher, but music has been my best and most comforting friend since I was very young. I can’t really imagine my life without music. Some people really don’t care about music at all, but for me it’s like a drug. It’s a very friendly drug because it makes you really think and it makes you feel. I can’t explain it more than that.    

Musicians from Scandinavia always seem to have a strong connection to nature. Why do you think this is?

I don’t know really. For me, I’m so bred into it that I don’t really know how to answer. I think everybody is interested in nature, it just depends on where you are living. Here in Scandinavia there are not that much people per square mile so everybody has a relationship with nature in one form or another. But also in terms of the definition, what is nature? A city, isn’t that nature? Well from my point of view its not really, from my point of view nature is a thing that man hasn’t made, but it’s a tricky kind of question. Nature has so many elements that appeal to man. For example, you have a black forest. It appeals to a lot of emotions, so it could appeal to like fear or it could appeal to excitement. It’s totally different depending how you see it. Nature has so many things that man is dependant on and also has so many feelings wound up in it. I think it’s very natural to use that kind of force as an inspiration source.

I heard you’ve actually gone and lived in the wild before?

Yeah, between 96 and 99 I lived in a cabin in the woods. But of course I had some connection with the outside, I cut back into my small town from time to time to get some stuff but for three years I lived in an old cabin and it was actually one of the best things I could do with my life at the time.

Wow…

Yeah, and it just fulfilled my vision of how life could be. When you wake up in that old cabin, it’s 2 minus degrees indoors and you know you have to get up and make a f**king fire. [laughs] You know in the winter I had to go to the lake, and make a really big hole in the ice with an axe to get water. You know that you’re alive when you do that kind of stuff. 

MWill - As Above So Below review

new zealand music blog

By Jimmy Ness and originally published at Passionweiss

After seeing the above cover art, my third eye was opened and all of the sacred chakras were energized. Either that or I wanted to hear what a beat tape from Marley Marl’s 19 year old son MWill sounded like. I love esoteric stuff, but ever since people claimed Jay-Z was in the illumaniti, artists everywhere have been pandering to basement conspiracists with half-hearted masonry references and stupid owl t-shirts. If mystical cults are using all of their elite power to get people to listen to Drake, they’re doing something wrong.

With my scorn for hipster Hermeticism in mind, I approached this project from a critical distance. Had all of the work gone into making obscure references in the track listing or would it be legitimately interesting? Luckily, it was the latter. As Above So Below is an instrumental EP dedicated to and featuring samples from progressive rockers The Alan Parson’s Project. 

Usually beat tapes can’t hold my attention, but there’s a lot going on. In just over 30 minutes, it packs spoken word, rap samples, classic prog and futuristic loops. “Elohim” features a catchy guitar sample, Homer Simpson introduces “Atlantis” and “Zohar” is a lo-fi dreamscape for drug trips on rainy days.

If you’re expecting MWill to carry his father’s legacy with authentic boom-bap beats for the “real” hip-hoppers, you’ll be disappointed with these astral sounds. MWill instead pays subtle tribute to Marley Marl by mixing lines such as “rap annihilist flowing like Pegasus” with chilled electronics. Plus, a Lords of the Underground guest spot. 

After all, it’s important to respect the past, but there’s nothing better than innovation. Talent can come from good genetics. The reptilian humanoids that control modern society will be pleased with this record. Even if they don’t have ears.

Janine and Homebrew dodge bullets in the R&B matrix

janine and the mixtape bullets

By Jimmy Ness

Coming from a small country like New Zealand creates a strange inferiority complex. You have a constant urge to compete against the bigger and badder nations. Being the inventors of the electric fence and the tranquilizer gun might not count for a lot overall, but we really do have some genuine talent hidden amongst all the sheep. New York based, Auckland musician Janine and the Mixtape definitely belongs with the capable few we can be proud of.

Janine, 23, uses a battle metaphor for her harmful relationship on the remix to “Bullets.” She’s dodging hot lead from a dark place, and predicting the next pull of the trigger. Her dream-like vocals create a melancholic vibe to this scenario and Janine’s definitely an impressive singer.

Kiwi stoners Homebrew also jump into the soundscape with Haz Beats supplying a post dub-step beat and Tom Scott rapping with a bitter edge. I support anyone who wears gold rope chains and quotes Biggie in 2012, so look out for her upcoming EP or I’ll be forced to call the New Zealand Task Force.
  

The PotW Staff Remembers Their First Favorite Album


Music listeners are essentially dopamine addicts. The chemicals are secreted every time we hear a song we love.  We all remember the CD that changed us from casual listeners into audio fiends. Maybe we enjoyed the smooth grooves of a boyband or decided Sisqo had some street cred, but there’s nothing quite like discovering that life-changing album. Even if it was Creed’s greatest hits. Allow us to wax nostalgic for a second.



My introduction to music had an uncertain beginning. As an eight year old, I went through the painful process of being forced to return several albums by god-fearing parents. Targets included: Coolio for explicit language/bad hair, The Bloodhound Gang for poo jokes and boy band All-4-One, of “I Swear” fame, for sweetly harmonizing sex metaphors.

Months after letting Bryan Adams and a Christian rap tape gather dust, I sat watching Space Jam in a small theater. During the scene when a young Michael Jordan dunks, my eyes watered as I pictured myself also soaring through the air. I was blissfully unaware of a future in which I would a) still be white and b) only grow to the height of Big Sean. However, as soon as I could convince my family I wasn’t about to turn into Satan, the Space Jam soundtrack was in my uncoordinated little hands.

It was a crash course in rap and R&B, featuring everyone from Jay-Z to D’Angelo, to disappearing acts like Changing Faces and my former musical brethren All-4-One. Before his underage rendezvous gained interest, R Kelly sung his anthem “I Believe I Can Fly,” Coolio gave inspirational life advice which he clearly didn’t follow on “The Winner,” and Biz Markie met the Spin Doctors on “That’s The Way I Like It.” There was also a mysterious artist called “feat”or “ft,” who seemed incredibly prolific and appeared on almost every song. I distinctly remember telling people they were my favorite artist, until I discovered months later that “ft” was actually short for featuring.

“Hit Em High” was the album’s posse cut and undoubtedly my personal favorite. Somehow it managed to sound hardcore despite featuring no swear words, a feat even that the mighty Lil Romeo was unable to achieve. I listened to the soundtrack almost every day and could rap the lyrics word for word. My perception of music was forever altered and although my basketball career tanked, my obsession with everything audio had begun. It wasn’t until years later that my musical taste regressed to Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. Oh the follies of youth.

 


I'm going to Hawaii!

Not that anyone cares, but I'll be drinking out of coconuts, getting sun burnt and playing tiny guitars in Hawaii for the next week so if this website isn't updated for a minute, you know why! Also speaking of Hawaii, have you ever seen Jay-Z's early video "Hawaiian Sophie"with his mentor Jaz-O? It's terrrrible. 



Bodega Bamz ft Willie Hex - P.A.P.I

asap tan boys

Written by Jimmy Ness and originally published at Passionweiss

Fried chicken, Versace robes and spilled champagne, the Tanboys dabble in decadence. Bodega Bamz and Willie Hex trade verses about the high life over 808s and a haunting melody. The relatively unknown Hex flows particularly well, name dropping Cam’ron, Attila the Hun, Reggie Miller and… Boy George. He also looks like a skinny Big Pun, which is probably important to those who reside in The Bronx.

As you can tell from the “P.A.P.I” video, which features cameos from Yamboghini and A$AP Ferg, the crew are buddies with fellow Harlemites A$AP. They also share stylistic similarities, the most obvious being their quasi-cinematic videos. Both groups favor lavish imagery, in this case A$AP’s trademark gold grills and the Tanboys affinity for holding razor blades in their mouths. They also use creative flair instead of shooting homemade videos next to a borrowed car with borrowed broads.

“P.A.P.I” is inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of Jesus and his disciples “The Last Supper.” However, I am still confused about the significance of the guy ripping his singlet at the end of the video like a 90s Usher. Rap game Latino Backstreet Boyz?

I’ve been checking for these guys since Bamz killed this track in May and while I’m not fully sold on Tanboys, along with “My Name Is,” he’s putting out some good stuff. One thing to consider though: would these songs still be getting as much play if not for their unique videos? Will you still be checking for A$AP and Tanboys once the hype dies down and you realize how hard it is to eat or brush your teeth with a grill on? Time and your dental plan will tell.

Ab Soul - Nibiru

ab soul tde
Written by yours truly and originally published at Passionweiss

Ab-Soul stunts with the ancient gods and turns his on Mesopotamian swag. Each TDE member is releasing a new song this week and he follows Jay Rock’s “YOLA” with raps about aliens, pyramids, and conspiracies. If you’re not part of the hip-hop star-gazer society or you don’t wear a lab coat over your Wu Forever shirt, you probably didn’t know “Nibiru” is named after a concept in Babylonian astronomy. It’s something obscure about the highest point in the sun’s path around the earth, which I can barely understand and I doubt Soul fully grasps. His real name is Herbert Anthony Stevens IV though, and that would make an excellent alias for a spectacled professor who spends his time in dusty libraries reading books longer than the Bible.

A Middle-eastern female vocal repeats during “Nibiru” and it sounds similar to the classic Ofra Haza loop on Eric B & Rakim’s “Paid and Full” (Coldcut Remix.) This is a unique track and its subject matter guarantees you won’t be hearing it in a club or car sound system any time soon. Soulo spits enough spiritual and paranormal references to make Jay Electronica assume the lotus position. The black lipped one also mentions wacky conspiracy theories about the Illuminati and fallen angels, which the unemployed and underage will enjoy debating in the Youtube comments section.

Like he hinted on Control System earlier in the year, which featured the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life as cover art, Ab Soul is clearly interested in the esoteric. That makes him 100 times cooler or geekier depending on your feelings toward Aleister Crowley and sun spirits named Marduk who throw lightning bolts.

The Crystal Method interview

Disclaimer: I was a kid when I wrote this so please withhold any judgements on quality :)

Dance duo The Crystal Method rode the commercial boom of electronica in the 90s and haven't let up since. Their music has appeared in more than 30 films and currently serves as the soundtrack to TV crime series Bones. Groove Guide magazine tries to discover the secret to making a decade of toe tapping beats.

By Jimmy Ness

Glow sticks and sweaty pill-poppers are the first things that come to mind when you imagine dance parties. But Ken Jordan, one half of iconic duo The Crystal Method, says there was more to the electronic scene in the 1990s.

"Early on it was kind of renegade. It was still a lot of raves. They were not that well organised, they were not at normal venues. You wouldn't even be sure the event was going to happen."

"For us, we were interested in the whole thing. Yeah there were drugs on the scene, but we were more interested in the music, the lights and the big stages. You have to make music that sounds good to sober people too."

Ken sounds remarkably grounded considering how far The Crystal Method has come. Before co-creating one of America's most popular electronic groups, he met music partner Scott Kirkland while they were working at a supermarket in Las Vegas.

The pair made their own studio dubbed "The Bomb Shelter" in a house they owned together.

"We built it inside of a garage. We didn't know how to build anything so we weren't very good at construction, but somehow those walls and the ceiling stayed up for like 13 years," Ken laughs.

"It was a real amateur job and it kind of looked a mess, but it sounded pretty good and it was soundproof. Early on we had no air conditioning. It was pretty rough in there, it was tough to invite people to come over to work."

Their first album Vegas came out four years after they started The Crystal Method in 1993. It was a breakout success reaching platinum status in the states with many songs used in film, advertising and game soundtracks.

Unlike dance acts who are good for a ringtone download and forgotten a minute later, they proved themselves to be a group worth knowing about.

The Crystal Method were invited to provide music for Hugh Jackman's latest film Real Steel and recently worked on a Nike soundtrack designed specifically for exercise. The group is also famed for their collaborations and have worked with Tom Morello, Scott Weiland and Pete Hook of New Order.

But what lead them to DJing? Ken says, in his casual way, that electronic music was "sort of like a natural progression."

"We liked Depeche Mode and stuff like that. It was just something you could do with samples, synthesisers and drum machines. So it just kind of lead down that road and then we went to some raves, and we were like wow this is great music."

The duo further ensured their longevity with a broad sound which included experimentation with rock and heavy metal influences.

Ken says that's not likely to change either.

"Rock is what we grew up listening to before we started making music. That's what Scott's dad played for him and my older brother for me. We love it then, we've always loved it and I think that will always be a part of our sound."

Sounds fair enough to me.

Excuses...


I know I haven't been updating much lately, but it's not another case of a writer running out of steam.

I've been travelling from New Zealand to Brazil and across America. I'm currently in Miami, but will be settling in Canada soon, so more updates to come then.



Elzhi interview

Elzhi interview

Jason Powers, better known as Elzhi, has dealt with the death of close friends and the break-up of his group Slum Village, but he still sounds as passionate as ever. 

“It’s more than getting paid. You can’t even put into words how it feels to put the mic out and have the crowd finish your sentence. I love to create. I love to write something, put it down in the studio and play it back. It’s a beautiful feeling man. I do it for the whole experience." 

Elzhi joined underground favourites Slum Village in 2001, a group often praised as the reincarnation of A Tribe Called Quest. Legendary producer J Dilla was partly responsible for bringing Elzhi into the group and helped him to get his first paid music gig. 

Sadly, Dilla passed away in 2006 after a battle with Lupus disease. Founding Slum Village member Baatin also died three years later due to mysterious circumstances surrounding a struggle with mental illness. 

After their 2010 release Villa Manifesto, Elzhi announced his departure from the group citing shady managers and underhanded labels. 

Despite a traumatic decade, he says he never considered quitting rap. “The way it affected my music, it made me want to get a lot more personal. You can’t just bottle those feelings up inside, so the only way I know how to get them out is express it through my music. It’s almost therapeutic for me. It’s almost like medicine.”

Anathallo interview

Anathallo interview

Anathallo’s latest album Floating World is one of my most treasured albums and being the nice guys (and gal) they are, they decided to let me interview multi-talented band member Andrew Dost.

Currently touring the U.S and Canada, Anathallo have been very busy, so I count myself lucky for the opportunity. Thanks man! 

Thank you for interviewing me!

You guys have a very “pretty” sound going on, I can often imagine you all holding hands and sitting around a family dinner whilst singing haha. 

That actually isn’t too far from the truth sometimes. Most of the band just moved to Chicago, and they’ve been having lots of pot-lucks and themed parties, so I think that’s pretty accurate. We definitely have our disagreements like any band, but things are the most fun, and creatively stimulating, when it feels like we’re a big family, so we try to nurture that atmosphere.

Ha, actually in all seriousness you have such a unique sound on the newest album. For a group with eight core members the creative process must be somewhat hectic, tell us about how you guys operate as a band. How does everything work as far as songwriting and coming up with such creative ideas?

It’s a pretty complex process, and one that I’d say is based more on relationships than on musical ideas. With so many people, with so many different ideas about where a song should go, a lot of the process is communication. We talk about everything, even ridiculous tiny details that we probably shouldn’t waste time with. But that’s the fun of it - everyone shares, we all throw ideas in, then we weed through and edit until we have something we can all agree on, something we all believe in and want to play night after night.