Truancy Volume 60: Bookworms

When a debut release finds its way into almost every year-end list, it’s hard to not take a little notice of Brooklyn-based producer Bookworms. Having been taken under the wing of Ron Morelli and the L.I.E.S Records crew since his move from San Francisco to the Big Apple around a year ago, the young producer made his mark around May with the release of a hand-stamped white label containing the tracks “Love Triangle” and “African Rhythms.” Things slowly continued with a live show at the L.I.E.S Boiler Room takeover in New York and the inclusion of his track “360 Waves” in the recent L.I.E.S “American Noise” compilation, which rounds off the year wonderfully. With little to no information on the producer on the web we decided to hit him up for an interview and mixtape which he kindly delivered in the form of our sixtieth Truancy Volume: a thirty minute mix filled with the kind of music you can expect to hear out from the man in 2013.

Truancy Volume 60: Bookworms by TRUANTS

Firstly, I want to congratulate you on the L.I.E.S. record. It deservedly found its way into a lot of of 2012 end-of-year lists. We are curious to find out about the backstory of the release and especially “African Rhythms,” which has been floating around the web from early 2009 it seems. “Thanks, dude! Well it’s kind of hard to explain, but yeah…I made “African Rhythms back in 2008 on my MPC 1000 in San Francisco, California. It was inspired by a lot of things, but it mostly came from this song that was also called “African Rhythms” by this punk noise sort-of band called Mi Ami. They were playing a lot of gigs in San Francisco at the time. I really liked and still really enjoy that band and the original song they did, but I started to feel funny about the title. I wanted to play with the name and make my own version of it, kind of like when people do dub versions or like how people redo each other’s songs on hip-hop mix tapes. I didn’t sample the song in any way, and just sampled from other stuff which wasn’t very African. So yeah at this point, it was just an idea in my head because I had this percussion loop on my MPC, which was just a loop from an old jazz record. Every time I would hear it I would just think “I want to make a song with this and call it ‘African Rhythms’.” I told two of my friends about the name idea and they were like “Oh no you can’t do that, that’s already a Mi Ami track, that’s crazy.” This made me really want to do it. Like, it wasn’t some huge statement or anything but more of a kind of tribute to the band. I mimicked the drummer Damon’s style as I noticed at their shows that he ran his snares or parts of the drums through delay. Some people looked at it as a diss at the time in San Francisco for sure though, and I feel like most people who have my version of the record don’t know the back story. It just became this other thing in the end, haha. Shout out to Mi Ami though!”

How did the track fall into the hands of the people over at L.I.E.S.? Did you have any offers to releases the track beforehand? “Well, I was in San Francisco and XLR8R is based there and I know this dude Shawn who works there and I was trying to do a digital release and a CD of it with my crew which was Solos Records at the time. But yeah, we didn’t have enough money to put out a record so we just had him put the song on their site as a download. This was around late 2009 I guess and yeah, people were into it for it just being an MP3. Jam City played it in his Fact Mix and people were always talking about putting it out for like years. Hitting me up, talking about making some wax but in the end it always turned out they were fronting. It was like a year ago and I had just moved to New York where all the cool shit happens and I met Ron Morelli through my buddy Jason (Steve Summers). Jason played Ron some of my stuff which he liked and then asked me to send him some more tracks. I sent them over and the record was out in like a month and a day or some shit. Massive shout out to Ron for taking a chance on that record. Fuck yeah, haha!”

Big up on Ron Morelli for that one, then! I was going to ask why you felt L.I.E.S. was a good starting platform for your debut release but I guess you already answered that, unless you wanted to add anything else? Had you heard of L.I.E.S. prior to moving to New York? “L.I.E.S. is so fucking dope. I had heard of the label again through Jason who I met in San Francisco through the Mi Ami dudes in 2008. He was always sending me records and telling me about new releases he had on all these labels and a lot of them were new to me. But yeah, he was saying this dude Ron Morelli was going to put out this record he had done under the alias Malvoeaux, that was like this crazy disco house loop. I was like, I want this and I ordered it from him because he had moved away by this point. So yeah, I’m a L.I.E.S. fan from the get-go as that was the very first record the label put out, haha.”

Stream: Bookworms – African Rhythms (L.I.E.S Records)

Going back to the band Mi Ami – I’m keen to know how you originally met the guys and if similar types of music are a major part of your daily listening? “Yeah, I mean I’ve always been into all kinds of music. Like I’ve been listening to punk, hip-hop, pop, noise and drone, Björk, grime, Eno, folk, Judy Collins and electronic music since way back and which I still enjoy now. As for the Mi Ami guys, I sort of met them through me and Damon dating girls who knew each other and we smoked weed together outside a party. I think we had also talked on MySpace at the very beginning. San Francisco is just hella small, almost too small and you end of meeting mad people at shows and bars.”

When along the timeline of all that type of music did you get into producing and DJing? “Well, I started making beats on a Playstation around the year 2000. It was that game called Music Generator which I’ve heard a few producers say they started producing on as well. I still have my old tapes where I would record beats from the Playstation to a boombox because there was no way to get it on CD and I didn’t have a burner. Perhaps I’ll put some of these tape recordings on my Soundcloud or something. I thought I was making some crazy drum and bass but generally I had no idea was I was doing haha, I then moved to a computer and then some sampler and some synths. I didn’t start DJing till much later. To be honest I didn’t think I would be able to do it but my friend Bret (CB Radio) was like “You already know how to line two samplers up in your sampler, just do that with two records.” Then it all started to make sense.”

Moving on though I wanted to talk about your move to New York. Is it quite normal for people to make the move from San Francisco and can you tell us how the two cities might differ from each other? “The weed is better and more abundant in San Francisco, but they got some cool trees out here too, haha. The Mexican food is also better back in San Francisco but no-one really wants to hear about that shit. I mean, they got some alright Mexican food here in NYC but you really got to look hard. I guess SF is hella mellow and like I said earlier really small. It’s got to be only seven by seven miles, literally. I love New York though. I wanted to live here since I was like 15 and wanted to come out here and skate all the cool ill east coast spots which I’d seen in the skate videos back then. I don’t know really, it’s hard to explain the differences besides the mexican food and the pot.” I hear ’99cent Hot Pizza’ is a good place to eat in NYC? Ha. “Haha yes, I ate there today again. It’s just this shitty cheap pizza place, but I really like the atmosphere and the name. The place has ’99cent Hot Pizza’ on this huge banner out front. I’ve been talking about that on twitter way too much. I think Anthony Naples is into it too although he might have been joking…☹”

You must know your fair share of the New York City nightlife by now, then? “Haha yeah, I mean when I first moved here I went out a lot. That was another reason why I wanted to move here, to just have new places to go out. Like you can only go out drinking till 2am in bars in San Francisco whilst in New York it’s like 4am. They generally have later licensing laws so I can go see some DJ for much longer. Maximum raving, haha! I really like to go the Mutual Dreaming parties at 285 Kent and just a lot of shows that my friends and some of the L.I.E.S. dudes do at this placed called Actualized Center that is like an underground yoga studio. It has a lot of mellow and crazy fun shows. I’m playing at 285 Kent on February 8th, for anyone interested.”

Obviously don’t give away any of your secrets, but could you tell us a little about your current set up and any production rituals you may have when working on tunes? “The MPC 1000 has been the main center of my set up since like 2006. I made the tracks on that L.I.E.S. record with just an MPC, a delay and a turntable for samples. For the newer stuff I’ve been doing (one song is on that “American Noise” compilation that L.I.E.S. just did, it’s called “360waves”) I use the MPC with samples, but I also use the MPC to sequence synths (mostly like Junos) and whatever drum machines I can get my hands on at any given time. From there I’ll just do a live take with the machines running and just let them run and feel it out. The ritual is that I like to smoke a little grass and listen to some weird music to get me in the zone.”

Stream: Bookworms & Steve Summers – STE 007

Right, I hear you have been working on tunes with Steve Summers for a debut release on his new label Confused House. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Summers and how you first came about to making tunes with him?  “Yeah, really stoked on working with Steve. He’s just a general super easy and chill dude. We were hanging out a lot in San Francisco right before he moved away, so when I moved to New York we just started kicking it a lot and sometimes we would just hook up gear at whoever’s house and try to make a track for fun. As time went on, we started to have a bunch of tracks and they were sounding sweeter and sweeter but there was still no plan to release any of it. One day however we had a jam with with Steve, Damon (Magic Touch/half of Mi Ami) and Aurora Halal who sets up and promotes the Mutual Dreaming parties. Steve then played that for Ron and he was down to put it out on L.I.E.S but we couldn’t come up with a band name. Since it was just more of a one-off because Damon doesn’t live in New York and therefore wouldn’t be able to play shows, we just decided to call it “Unknown Artist”. Then I think we realised that we could put some more of these improvised jams out and me and Steve had just became room-mates, so we started recording hella stuff. We recorded almost every night since the summer really started, haha. We just got the test pressings today for the Confused House 001 release, and I’m about to listen to them in a little bit!  It’s under the name ‘Bookworms and Steve Summers’ because we still can’t come up with any good band names. Some people may be interested to know that some of it was recorded while we were stuck inside during super storm Sandy. It will be out in February, I  think. So you’ll have to look out for that, I’m stoked on it!”

Ah, dope! I understand Steve predominantly likes to use hardware so is it more a case of just jamming on some hardware all evening then purposely planning and putting a track together? Or maybe a mixture of both? “Yeah for sure, we never talk that much about how we want it to sound most of the time. We just sit down, pick out some gear and try to change the set-up every few times and just let it run until we agree to record. Then we just like improvise the structure with all the parts we just came up with. A lot of it sounds crazy and we must have recorded around 100 tracks the last year. Sometimes we don’t even check the levels and just go for it, haha.” Ha, am I right in thinking a lot of these might not see the light of day? “Well, Steve is going to put some out. I think he has three records lined up that he wants to put out and we are talking to some other labels too about putting some other stuff out but nothing is official yet.”

Is there anyone else you’re hoping to, or would like to, collaborate with in the future? “I want to collab with Steve Reich. I would also be cool to jam with the Sex Tags dudes. I’ve talked to Madteo about doing something in the future so hopefully that pans out. Like Madteo is a rad dude and he is a very interesting person to meet in New York for sure. Working with Basic Channel would also be tight.”

Moving onto last couple of questions, what can we expect from you in 2013, if it hasn’t been mentioned already? “I’m going to do another record on L.I.E.S, but like a non white label one, haha. We are about to break out the full colour stickers for this one, baby! That and a bunch of Confused House stuff with Steve. Steve and I and our friend Lori have also done a remix of Huerco S., but it’s under his Royal Crown Of Sweden alias and word on the street is that ************ is going to put that shit out, but if some shit goes down you did not hear that from me. There’s also some other stuff I don’t want to say yet as it’s not confirmed!”

Last question, when was the last time you danced and what is your drink of choice? “I was dancing to Wiley when I was riding my bike home today listening to my iPod. I dance on my bike a lot. As for drink I really like Budweiser now. Fuck it, it’s cheap.”

Riccardo Villella
Riccardo Villella

OG at Truants / Graphic Designer / DJ as Melmoth Twitter Soundcloud

3 thoughts on “Truancy Volume 60: Bookworms”

  1. Diamed–I gotta hand it to you: like Jimmy Buffet you have just one tune, but you play it well. I do wish you’d learn another song, just for vatiery.We homeschooled our son, but for none of the reasons you stated. And the myriad issues that homeschoolers have with the government/teachers’ union schools haven’t much to do with your polemic.When we chose to home school, our annual income was about 20,000.00 a year. We were hardly the white well-to-do. Some parents are just ornery, Diamed, they *want* to teach their children *themselves.*Race and your other demographics never entered into it. Our son was above average intelligence, could read when he was four, and would have been bored in a school.When he got to the higher grades and got a scholarship to a good school, he was disenchanted. Liked the teachers, but the “cool” attitude toward learning that his peers assumed drove him nuts. He was excited about Dante; they were bored.We took him out of that Friends’ School when the upper grade curriculum turned to minority aggrieved literature. No dead white men, especially not Shakespeare.So he transferred to a small, rural school with few credentialized teachers. But they were dedicated and knew their stuff. He actually had a Civics class…taught by a retired military man.The school took anyone with tuition (and also did scholarships). We had Indians, blacks, Asians, and a few Muslims from Iran.Yes, it was mostly white, but it was largely lower middle class parents who valued education, plus the kids of a few professioanls. These kids will be the future bankers, lawyers, firemen, insurance salesmen etc., that are the backbone of any thriving small American town.Please learn another tune.

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