Hailing from the sleepy little town of Pensacola, Florida, Kodak to Graph first cropped up on our radar a few years ago with “I keep Holding On“, a tune sampling Jackson 5’s ‘I’ll be there’, and pulling on all those post-dubstep / Burial vibes and ghostly vocals that we love so much. Having kept an eye on him ever since, it’s been really lovely to see an artist really grow and hone their sound with every new release like Michael Maleki, the man behind Kodak to Graph, has. Producing a plethora of ambient electronic music over the past year Michael has managed to craft a sound that is so dream-like and shimmeringly sweet, that it’s not surprising he’s gained a good amount of loyal listeners; for it seems that once hooked, you’re easily reeled in. “Rakshasa“ is the next monthly instalment Michael releases through the label Bad Panda Records, a label believing that ”we can carry a free culture into the twenty-first century, without artists losing and without the potential of digital technology being destroyed”. Seems idealistic, but we’re not here debating Creative Commons or their manifesto, we’re here to showcase some of the brilliant new music they’re backing and thank them for making it freely downloadable on both Bad Panda Records’ and Kodak to Graph’s Soundcloud pages.
Stream: Kodak to Graph – Rakshasa (feat. Monsoonsiren) (Bad Panda Records)
After releasing “Departure“ on Bad Panda Records last month, a track that was so ambient-ly relaxed in its style with only the faintest hint of trap, and that featured the ethereal and distorted sound of Imogen Heap’s ‘Just For Now’, it could be said that his movement and growth in the creating of “Rakshasa“ is a perfect progression. Like in past productions, Kodak to Graph stays true to his style and pays special attention to detailed layering and luscious melodies, and even tips to an Middle Eastern influence, which seems actually pretty fitting considering the title “Rakshasa” is apparently said to mean a “mythological humanoid being or unrighteous spirit” in Hinduism. It seems almost wrong then that the beginning of the track is the opposite of “unrighteous”, it’s peaceful, and holy-like in its crescendo. It’s not until the last minute where the title of the track becomes apparent, sampling Harvey Stripes “Dolly On That Molly“ ft Juicy J, does it arrive at a somewhat gritty counterpart of its beginning. It would seem this new direction could have been helped along by Nathan Menon, a young producer from Bengaluru, India going by the name of Monsoonsiren, who features alongside Kodak to Graph on this new release. We’re eagerly anticipating the next release from Kodak to Graph, so whilst we wait, here’s his latest Mirror Lock EP to wrap your ears around, and if that isnt enough, head over to Soundcloud and check out Isle, Michael Maleki’s less sample-based sound working with a full band and input from multiple individuals. Why would you not?
Words by Jess Melia, 23 May 2013. Leave a comment
Adam Marshall has been involved with music in one form or another since the late nineties. Whether trafficking records and Underground Resistance t-shirts over the Canadian border or throwing parties with a core group of friends in response to rave music, he has kept his feet firmly planted in musical soil. For the better half of the last decade he has produced music under his own name and released music from the likes of The Mole, Basic Soul Unit, and West Norwood Cassette Library through his label New Kanada. With the music and creative landscape in constant shift Adam has partnered up with another artist hailing from Toronto, XI. After meeting outside of their hometown in Berlin, the pair decided to start a live project. During one of the first warm days of the season in Berlin we sat down with Adam Marshall to chat about Toronto and his Graze project with Christian Andersen.
Why don’t we start at the beginning, we know you were active in the music scene during the nineties. How did those past experiences help you? “In the mid nineties I started getting into electronic music and the culture back in Toronto, quite heavily. At the time the rave scene in Toronto was going crazy and things were really big and impersonal. Right around that time a few friends of mine and I kind of started our own little response to what was going on by doing smaller, more focused stuff that we were really passionate about. Being so close to Chicago and Detroit, especially back in the late nineties, a lot of it had that as focus, but because we were in Toronto we had a lot of European influence as well. Back then I also worked at a record store for five years, which was one of the better record stores in the city and that was definitely a nice defining experience. I got familiar with a lot of the music that was coming out at that time and had access to a lot of it.”
Coming up through all of that and sort of getting your electronic music education in that scene how has that influenced the label and the direction you’re taking artistically? “I’d say the one defining thing with Toronto is that there are so many influences. I guess it’s sort of like London. I was influenced by stuff I was really interested in and stuff I was not interested in at all. Now, looking back I can see that mélange of influences really defines a lot of people who come from Toronto, especially after traveling. I’d say that’s definitely followed through with myself as a DJ and producer and ultimately the label because the label moves around a lot stylistically. That whole vibe is where I come from. To kind of be into one thing and stay in it for the sake of it never really occurred to a lot of us.” So you don’t have a singular influence? “I grew up with a lot of influences from a lot of different places and a lot of styles of music, some of which I might not have liked immediately, but through friends and just being open to it I was exposed to a lot of good stuff in different genres. For example, when I started buying records in Toronto at a place called Play De Records. Toronto got every record even way back then, but we’d go in and we’d be the only guys listening to house or techno in the whole store and there’d be people waiting to hear the newest Jamaican 7-inch. At that time I hated it, but I realized those experiences [helped me] like a lot of types of music these days. Those earlier experiences in Toronto really allowed me to be a chameleon, especially with the label.”
How do you usually decide on what to put out on the label? “At the beginning a lot of people I had a relationship to somehow. Lately, I’ve run into some artists over the Internet and if it clicks it just clicks. I don’t really plan a lot in advance with the label. I find that if I let stuff come to me it does. Usually, it’s one or two specially things. Fate seems to run the label quite effectively.”
Stream: Graze – Graze (New Kanada)
You’ve started a project called Graze with XI. When did you become aware of his music? “We didn’t really know each other. We knew of each other through a couple of people. When the dubstep thing was kind of taking off in Toronto Christian was really into that, but there was a lot of terrible stuff in Toronto. I heard some of Christian’s music and I didn’t know what to call it, but it was quite innovative. We never really met because we were from two very different scenes in Toronto. He was from the jungle side of things and I was from the other side. I think we both always had a mutual admiration. Then he moved over here [Berlin] about a year and half ago and I had been talking to him about signing his solo record on New Kanada. When he moved over here we became pretty close and decided to work on music together.”
How soon after you met did you guys decide to start working together? Was your work together spontaneous? “The project wasn’t that casual. We really wanted to do a project together because a lot of the music he represents and produces I was really into and he was getting into a lot of music from where I was coming from, so we knew it might work. We also knew it might be refreshing to work with someone who doesn’t do the exact same type of music. We wanted to get a project together to specifically perform live. That was the plan, assuming it all worked. The underlying idea was to get something we could tour, jam, and perform live with. I’ve been switching a lot into live performances of my own stuff, but I always wanted to do it with someone else and this presented itself, so we jumped on it. It all started working out very quickly. He’s back in Toronto now and we got everything done in about four months, which is pretty good seeing as we were both travelling quite a bit.”
It’s interesting that you wanted this to become a live show immediately. What’s the setup like? “From the live prospective I play with a lot of hardware stuff, but to tell you the truth I’ve been buying gear for so long that the stuff goes in and out, so we’re not really set to particular pieces. The songs were started together in the computer, moved back & forth, and we put the structure together just by file sharing. We were never actually in the same room, apart from mixdowns and when we had the songs done and jammed them out. The actual working on music we did separately. Since we had this in mind from the beginning everything’s ready to be stripped, stemmed, and looped effectively in a more hardware scenario. So the live side is a lot more hardware based, but the creation and production isn’t.” Have you guys played live together yet? “We’ve jammed a lot together, but no official shows yet. We’re not doing any gigs until Mutek because we wanted to wait until the record comes out.”
Playing Mutek as your first gig together is kind of a big deal. Do you guys have any larger goals for you project? “We almost have the next album finished, so that’s the trajectory – releasing a full length, probably in the fall. We just have to figure out where the home is and how that’s going to roll. Again, we’d like to tour with this as much as we can.”
Are shopping the album around? “We don’t have anywhere distinctly in mind and this is what happened with the “Graze” release – we were really happy with it and thinking about getting it on a bigger label, but in the end that just didn’t make sense. I’m happy we went with New Kanada, but as a moving on trajectory I’d consider something else for a full length. I don’t know if New Kanada’s built for full length releases.”
Words by Jonathon Alcindor, 22 May 2013. Leave a comment
On first listen of fthrsn, pinning a genre to what comes next might be difficult. All sorts of sounds circulate around a wailing voice and chants and it’s all somewhat disorienting, but it works in the context of Macklin Underdown’s endeavor. A Performing Arts Technology major at the University of Michigan, his studies have allowed him to “develop skills in music composition, audio/video production, interactive art, code art, and design.” Macklin makes vocal-based bedroom pop (self-described as “lo-fi” and “feel-good”) with distant & inviting vocals that reach higher notes than you’d expect. You can hear the feel-good vibes often in songs like “My First Love” that bring whistles in to carry melodies as his voice sways with the rhythm of the song.
Stream: fthrsn – What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up
His releases all share themes of loneliness, relationships, coming-of-age, and longing. Some songs can reach out to spacey, twinkling pop combining intricate percussion like “Colors” off his first EP. Others can get a hold of some real emotion like the endearing & devotional closer “Over You” on his most recent release “Middle School Swag“. The song builds in magnitude as it goes – highlighting his talent of adding and removing all the right layers to change the songs direction, yet still piling harmonies of vocals and manipulation to form a distinct, unwavering sound.
Fthrsn shows a range of regional influences across his discography – from oriental sounds of “On Your Way” to the prevailing tropical groove of much of his recordings. A case could be made for a strong Animal Collective influence on an act like fthrsn’s, which blends the same kind of howling you may find from Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) with interesting, but still head-nod worthy, rhythms. Above all else, fthrsn’s voice is what’s raising eyebrows; the dude has range, no doubt.
Since 2011, fthrsn has continued to evolve and master a niche sound that’s all too catchy to be avoided. He’s part of GRL MTN, a collective of Michigan musicians (who released a really great compilation last year), and has plenty of material on Youtube featuring some raw and unbridled performances. Check the video below for his song “Middle School Dance” to get the best glimpse into the fthrsn aesthetic and download all his material at his bandcamp, which you can pay to DL or get for free via alternate links on the bandcamp page.
Stream: fthrsn – Middle School Swag
fthrsn’s Middle School Swag is available now.
Words by Kyle Brayton, 20 May 2013. Leave a comment
To promote the release of his wonderful debut album The Boat Party, Kyle Hall has prepared a very special edition of the Resident Advisor mix series. He has stated that the album comes as backlash against EDM’s current ubiquity in American mainstream music culture, and this intention is certainly reciprocated here. Whereas today’s chart topping sounds glisten and sparkle, here the songs are harsh and, for the most part, melody-less, making them the antithesis of radio friendly. To add to already rugged track selection, Kyle utilised much reverb and recorded the mix to tape giving it a beautiful warm and distorted aesthetic. When taken together, the mix allows one to gain an even greater admiration for his debut by hearing how tracks similar to the album cuts function in a set and they present a compelling vision of the raw, crunchy, free-form and beat-heavy sound for which he is becoming known.
Stream: Kyle Hall aka KMFH – Resident Advisor Mix (Wild Oats Music)
If you live in England, you may be constantly fooled into believing that summer is really here, that the foul jacket-wearing weather is finally over. But like the cruel mistress she is, England lives up to its rubbish weather stereotype, and lols in our faces every other day with a miserable, seemingly never-ending cloud of doom. But fear the fuck not. We can pretend. And if you don’t live in England, or the sun does decide to show it’s face, then all the better to enjoy this disco mix from Late Nite Tuff Guy. LNTG is soon to embark on his European tour and so graces us with a DJ mix to give us an idea of what to expect from his live set, reworking classics such as ‘Lovely Day’, ‘Nobody’ and throwing in his brilliant ‘Hold Tite’ rework, he’s living up to his name as “Disco Vigilante’. Also a big congrats to the man himself for his version of ‘Too Young To Die‘ being chosen by Jamiroquai as the winner of his official remix competition; 2013 is turning into a big year for him.
Stream: Late Nite Tuff Guy – Another Nite In A Disco
Liverpudlian grime don Slackk has really come out swinging this year. Alongside Mr. Mitch, Oil Gang and (Truancy Volume alumni) Logos, he has instigated what is shaping up to be one of London’s most intriguing new club nights ‘Boxed’, as well as dropping a killer EP of icy instrumental sino-grime on UTTU. With another 12” confirmed on Local Action, he has also been keeping us entertained on the regs with a monthly chronicle of the heaviest sounds to land in his inbox. Clearly enthused by the abundance of richly creative, forward-looking tracks cropping up from both established producers and newcomers, Slackk’s May mix showcases a similarly consistent level of freshness as previous editions, melded together with (largely) impeccable blends. What is perhaps most exciting about these mixes is that the beats that have you studying the tracklist for an ID most are coming from relative unknowns, with guys like Inkke, Rabit, Major Grave and Breen often providing highlights. The instalments are a telling vignette of the breadth of talent latching onto the more experimental side of instrumental grime right now, and are most definitely something to look forward to each month.
The Uncanny Valley camp usually traffic in the intersection between house, techno and vintage styles but their releases always suggest even broader tastes. During their monthly broadcasts for Dresden’s coloRadio they regularly cast their net beyond the 4×4 spectrum. The latest edition features tunes from Trinidad to Turkey and (literally) everywhere in between. Shangaan jams bubble alongside Indian disco, classic calypso and Polish Funk. It’s a choice addition to any Spring activity.
Stream: UV Funk 013: Exotica Special with Conrad Kaden (Uncanny Valley Dresden)
Dimensions Festival returns for its second outing later this year and their series of promo mixes from artists such as Mike Dehnert and Wbeeza has been whetting our appetites for the summer nicely. Perhaps our favourite of all comes from Mancunian Alex Coulton whose own unique and idiosyncratic interpretation of house and techno has made him a firm favourite at the Truants Mansion. Having already released on Bristol imprint Idle Hands in 2012, Alex has shown no signs of resting on his laurels with the exemplary “Adventures in 4×4 EP” one of our favourite releases of 2013 thus far. For his Dimensions mix, Alex collects his broad and seemingly disparate influences and fuses them seamlessly into an hour’s worth of music which will never fail to have you grooving. Track selection is well and truly on point with perennial Truants favourite “OAR003-B” a notable highlight. Highly recommended!
Stream: Alex Coulton – Dimensions Festival 2013 mix
Written by: Jess Melia, Stephanie Neptune, Matt Gibney, Oli Grant & Warren O’Neill.
At the beginning of the year, Nosaj Thing broke his three-year radio silence by releasing his much-awaited “Home” LP on Innovative Leisure after his first record “Drift” was released on Alpha Pup Records in 2009. In terms of how beat- and melody-driven “Drift” was, Jason Chung’s sophomore effort did not pick up where his debut left off musically. His followup “Home”, however, still resonated with the driving factors of the Los Angeles-based producer in his ability to create music that is emotion-driven, enchantingly layered and simply beautiful to listen to. Still, the ethereal album is evidently not a necessary indication for what we can expect from Jason in time to come. His recent collaboration with Chance The Rapper curated by Yours Truly SF displays both his firm grasp over a variety of sounds as well as his defining hip-hop influences. We had the chance to speak with Jason a while back in Amsterdam during his first European tour for “Home”, and caught up with him about the making of his latest record, his new label Timetable, vocal collaborations and Los Angeles.
Hi Jason! How have you been and how has your European tour been treating you? “The shows have been going really well so far and the crowds have been responsive. It’s still pretty early in the tour, but I’m only doing eight dates so I’m already half way now. This is the first time for me to play abroad since the new album came out, but my new visual show won’t be ready until the late summer or fall. Right now, I’m just doing more of a low trial run of my new material, just to get out and do it.”
Aside from your live shows, you’ve also recently started curating the Timetable label. Could you tell us a little bit about how this came about? “It’s an imprint under Innovative Leisure. It’s kind of crazy, when they got in contact with me they offered a deal for the “Home” album, and they also came up with the imprint offer. It felt like it was meant to be. They read my mind as it’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I realized it’s a lot of work to do something like that, so working with them and having their support behind the imprint really made me want to finally do it.”
It’s good to hear that your vision finally came together! There are a lot of small imprints around right now, what made you want to pursue your own vision for this label? “I just needed an outlet to put out new music that I was feeling first and foremost, but I also just wanted to explore and experiment with different types of media.. not only music. I started doing this with my last visual show and by working with different artists, I just think it’ll be a good way for me to experiment more. I don’t want it to strictly just be about music.” How do you see the multidisciplinary aspect of it packing out? “I haven’t really thought that far ahead yet. I’m just going along with it. I’ll just say that for now I’m really excited about it. There’s a lot in planning for the label right now.”
Could you tell us a little bit about what’s coming up for the label? We heard that you have some material coming out with Charles Murdoch, how did you come in contact with him and what made you want to release his music? “Yeah, we’ve got an EP coming up with Charles who is from Brisbane. I just got a message from him on Soundcloud and I loved everything I heard on his page. So I hit him up, found out where he’s from and told him I’m working on an imprint and he told me he was down to collaborate. We just got his EP mastered and it sounds amazing. I’m also working on a collaboration with Teebs. Everything else is still in development so I don’t want to say too much before it’s concrete.”
Besides the newcomers that you are featuring on your own label, what are some other new artists that you are particularly excited about? “I’ve been listening to this girl Julianna Barwick a lot. Julianna works a lot with vocal loops and huge reverbs, so it sounds almost angelic, like she’s singing in a cathedral. She layers her voice in a way that it’s very therapeutic to listen to. I listen to music a lot when I fly and travel in general. I’ve been listening to King Krule too, he’s a 20 year old singer/songwriter and I’m actually doing a remix for him as well. I’ve actually also been listening to a lot of stuff on Hyperdub lately. I like Scratcha DVA a lot, and the new LV record was crazy.” Yes! I’m really excited to hear new material from Ikonika as well. “Oh, yeah! Ikonika is so good. Her DJ sets are amazing. I always go back to listening to those.”
Moving on to some of your own output, you’ve just released your Home LP on Innovative Leisures. How did the time and hype surrounding his sophomore album shape your attitude going into it? “It definitely shaped me a lot and there was a lot of pressure, actually. With “Drift”, I didn’t expect to be touring and being able to be music for a living. Right after I finished that album I lost my day job, and I was just kind of freaking out. I was collecting unemployment, I didn’t have a college degree because I dropped out, and I just wasn’t sure about any of it. I actually started looking for jobs again, but then that record came out and it got a lot of good reviews. That was pretty overwhelming and unexpected, I didn’t expect any of that. After that the opportunities came to tour, and I kind of just went with that until I realized that I had to make another album. As I was making the second album, a lot changed in my life personally. I had a lot to deal with in my personal life and I moved three times while writing the record. And then, being able to tour, to work on music and make a living out of my first record; of course there’ll be a certain amount of pressure. All of this started to get to me, it was the perfect storm. That was what the record was about. In the end, I’m just glad it’s out of my system. It’s an honest record.”
Was it a conscious decision to take a distance from music throughout all of this? “I think it was more about finding the right direction. I was writing a lot of different types of music at that time.” For me personally, the album felt like a huge change from “Drift”. Do you view “Home” as a conscious change sound-wise? “I just made whatever came out of me and I went with it. With “Drift”, I was a lot younger. I made that record in about six months. Everything came out in once. I guess now I am older and things got a bit more real for me. Nowadays I’m getting myself back there again though, switching it back up. I’m getting back into that mode of making music actively again, I call it battle mode.”
Did the actual recording process of “Home” take as long as the time there was between the two releases? “It’s weird, I never really stopped writing music. I always have different sketches going on. I guess that’s the case with everybody, or at least with a lot of friends of mine who make music. We have hundreds of skeletons that we make. With albums you just put out a number of songs, but in reality you write hundreds of them.” With many of the tracks on the album being a few years old, do you feel like you’ve evolved so much up until now that people will be surprised when you release new music that you’ve hinted about previously? “Oh yeah, definitely! That might be a good thing. It’s time to get weird now.”
Stream: Nosaj Thing – Eclipse/Blue (feat. Kazu Makino)
You’ve mentioned before that putting out the “Home” LP was a difficult process for you and that the record is an introspective one for you. What about it would you describe as introspective, and what have you most importantly learned from its process creatively speaking? “Definitely. It felt more like a growing record. With “Drift” it just seemed like such a quick process. It was a basic idea and I went along with it. With “Home”, I explored more in terms of songwriting and different textures. I know that there aren’t as many driving melodies on “Home” as there are on “Drift” but I just wanted to focus more on textures and feelings. It was a very therapeutic record for me. It was like an escape, I guess.”
That makes sense, listening to the album does sound like a cathartic experience. For the lead single’s video, “Eclipse/Blue”, you collaborated with both a visual artist and choreographer to make an unforgettable video, could you share a bit on how that came to be? “I feel that so far everyone I worked with just came together naturally. For “Eclipse/Blue” I worked with Daito Manabe and he’s a crazy genius. I came across him as I was researching different artists when I was working on the first visual show. I saw his video pop up so I hit him up and he happened to be a fan of my music and what was going on in LA. He also produces music as well. He recently sent me a video of what he’s working on for the new live show. It looks amazing. I don’t even know how he does it, it’s like holograms without a screen. I hope that everything falls into place and we can tour this show, that would be my dream.”
That sounds like something to look forward to for sure. I wanted to go back to “Drift” for a little bit, because you had a remix record come out for that which was very well received. “Yeah! I felt like it kind of got lost in the mix and it never came out on vinyl. I was kind of bummed out about that to be honest, I’m gonna re-release that. That roster is crazy, they’re all some of my favourite producers! So I feel like I need to re-release that.” It was truly an incredible remix EP, that Jamie XX remix is a classic to me. Do you have any plans for a remix record for “Home”? “I didn’t get as far as doing a full remix record, but there are some remixes going on. Kyle Hall just finished a remix for me and I’m just about to send stems to Machinedrum as well.”
What has been your most memorable/unexpected reinterpretation of your own work done by another artist to date and could you tell us why? “I really like the remix that Dorian Concept did on the “Drift Remixed” record. I don’t know, that guy is just next level to me. He’s not only a really good producer technically but also a virtuoso musically, so that’s an unstoppable combination.”
You also had the amazing opportunity to remix one of Philip Glass’ tracks for a project curated by Beck. Could you tell us a little bit about how this came to be? “Yeah, that was insane. I got an email that was forwarded to me from Beck directly and I couldn’t believe it. I was just tripping out about it, so of course I immediately agreed to it. For the remix, I wanted to stick with the theme of Philip Glass’ work, so I took a more minimal approach. I think he is definitely an originator of electronic music. He was making these crazy hypnotic loops with just a piano, you know? I wanted to do a nod to that.” Did you find having the task to remix someone like Philip Glass intimidating or daunting at all? “I certainly did. For the project, they asked me what piece I wanted to do, and I didn’t really want to mess with any of the tracks that I really love. I didn’t want to touch those. I chose “Knee 1” because I felt like it had certain parts that I could work with, plus it had some vocal pieces as well. I didn’t want to mess with any of his piano pieces.”
Stream: Philip Glass – Knee 1 (Nosaj Thing Remix) (The Kora Records)
Yeah, I can imagine that the standalone piano pieces could be more intimidating to remix. I want to elaborate on the vocal element you just mentioned. On “Home”, you’ve worked with two vocalists for two different tracks. As a producer, you especially come from a hip-hop background and name people like J. Dilla, Timberland & The Neptunes as defining inspirations. Would you say that working with vocalists is always something you’ve worked towards or envisioned? “Yeah, definitely. When I first started producing I was in highschool and I was just recreating Neptunes and Dr. Dre beats. I didn’t know anyone to get my music out there, so I got into weird music more. I started listening to noise and other experimental music, just weird shit. It was a good thing though, because all of those influences are infused into my sound now, and I just really trip out that all things come around in the end. Me being able to work with someone like Kendrick Lamar or even Kazu is just crazy to me.” It does all come full circle! I saw Ryan Hemsworth validly point out that one of Justin Timberlake’s new tracks “Blue Ocean Floor” sounds like it could have been a Nosaj production. “Oh yeah! I saw that. I also had several friends text me simultaneously about that. I was like, why couldn’t he have just hit me up? [laughs]”
But going back to Kendrick Lamar, you had the opportunity to work with him before his second album on a Windows Phone collaboration, right? “I did. Actually, after we worked on that one track together, he was hitting me up for beats for “good kid, m.A.A.d city”. At the time, I was in a crazy mental state and I had nothing that I wanted to send him. I was so frustrated, because I was working on my own new album and I felt like I couldn’t make anything. I was bummed out when Kendrick was asking for beats. I mean, I’m still in contact, but still it was such a crazy opportunity to possibly be on that album, but I just went with my gut for that.”
I can imagine that being frustrating but it’s always better to go with your instinct in the end! What was it like to work with Kendrick on that collaboration, can you tell us a little bit more about how that came about? “Dave Free, who is Kendrick’s manager and also one of his producers, found out about me on a blog one day. Dave got approached for the Windows Phone thing, and I guess he just found out about me around the same time and he hit me up. It was the craziest experience. I had never actually worked in a big studio, so we met up at the studio and I had like twenty tracks to show him. I started playing the first track, and he told me that was the one. I thought to myself, wait a minute, I have much more to show you! But he had made his mind up about it and wanted to roll with that one. I felt like I had other stuff that went more hard and might have worked more and that I had in mind for him, but he’d heard the first fifteen seconds of this one and just wanted that beat. I did not expect him to pick that one, to be honest. It might have just been the vibe he was in or maybe that’s the type of beat he had in mind for this collaboration, I don’t know.”
You say you had harder beats in mind for Kendrick. Do you think that it’s necessary to go for more aggressive sounding beats when you work with rappers? I’m just reminded of this Drake remix you did a while back, and that was mellow but it worked great. “Oh yeah, wow, that was a long time ago! I suppose it’s more of a mentality I need to be in. Not necessarily that it has to go harder sound-wise, but more a mental thing for myself.” Sure, that makes sense. How did the collaboration proceed after that? “Once he picked the beat, he started singing a melody and came up with the hook on the spot. We recorded it eight times to stack it up. He’d leave the studio for fifteen minutes, come back without a paper or pen and just lay down the verse. His engineer Ali and him had this crazy telepathy going on. I was stunned at his work method. He did that a few times, recorded three verses and then Dave Free got a call from Dre, who told them that he needed them in Las Vegas to record for “Detox”. They had to bounce and I got stuck with the stems so I finished it up at home. It was crazy.”
Stream: Kendrick Lamar & Nosaj Thing – Cloud 10 (Curated by Windows Phone)
Wow! This sounds like an insane and amazing experience. You’ve had all of this experience of working with rappers as well as other types of vocalists. Does your creative process differ between the two? “The story is different each time. When I collaborated with Kazu for instance, it happened much differently. I was working on that track by myself and her voice just popped into my head. I have to mention that The Blonde Redheads is one of my favourite bands. I didn’t know Kazu or anyone that knew her, so my manager just contacted her manager. At first it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen but then her management sent it to her and she called me the very next day. I guess she was just really feeling the vibe and it happened naturally from there onwards. She sent me a quick sketch of the song that she recorded and a few months later I went to New York. We got to record it at Electric Lady, which is Jimi Hendrix’s old apartment studio, so that in itself is crazy, right? She then sent it to her friend Drew Brown who is one of the engineers for Radiohead. He did all of the reverb on it and I really thought that that brought the track to life. Later that year I got to meet him at the studio, and it was just a really humbling experience for me to work on that track.
But then for the track with Toro Y Moi for example, it’s different again. We’ve been friends for a while and we toured together a few years ago as well. Whenever we’re both in Los Angeles we just get together and work on beats and stuff. One day when I was working on the album and we were together, I played him a few tracks and he asked to get on it one of them. So it happened and I ended up keeping the first take that he recorded for that one.”
All of these experiences sound vastly different from each other. What would you say you enjoy most about all of your collaboration processes? “The general energy. The fact that you come up with ideas that you usually wouldn’t come up with on your own, that’s the beauty of the collaboration process. Also, I learn so much from each time I do it. I’m trying to do more this year. There’s some crazy collaborations coming up actually. One is with Chance The Rapper. There’s also an EP in the works with Prefuse 73 that he’s going to put out.” I recently also saw a picture of you in studio with Teebs and Fatima, is there something happening there? “Yeah! The Teebs thing is definitely happening. I hope Fatima can get on it, I think she’s kind of busy right now though. But she’s the best, that would be amazing. It’s easy for me to work with Teebs because he’s also from Los Angeles so we can meet there more often.”
Ah yes, you’ve worked with quite a lot of LA-based artists. There’s always something interesting going on there in terms of new music – if it wasn’t the Brainfeeder-related music a few years back, it’s a new wave of rappers coming from LA and surrounding cities now. As an LA native, is there a commonality you think that makes LA a specifically great breeding ground for new artists? “Los Angeles is laid-back. I always go and relax when I’m back home. It’s a place that helps me calm down in general. I think that the climate affects everything. Also, I was talking to someone about how music moves a lot quicker in the UK because everything is so close together. With all the clubs and scenes that are going on, the trends move a lot quicker. It’s so fast that it’s kind of exhausting to me. That being said, it’s still so progressive of course. But in LA everything is much more spread out and everyone is in their own pocket. It helps in creating a much more laid-back atmosphere.”
You’ve obviously toured and worked a lot outside of Los Angeles by now as well. Has the experience of touring affected the way you approach making music at all? “It has, yeah. You can feel the energy from the crowd when you’re performing. Throughout the whole set, I can always feel the mood changing and when that happens I do take mental notes for what works and not. It stays with me. That’s what inspires me to make new music as well, filling in those voids.”
When it comes to your shows, you’re someone that pays a lot of attention and detail to make your live experience a memorable one. When you create new music, is how it translates to the dancefloor something that’s always lingering on your mind? Is “accessibility” in that sense important to your creative process at all? “You would think that I never think about those sort of things at all, especially with the last record. [laughs] It’s definitely a headphone record, no one would play that out. I do think about how my music translates to the dancefloor sometimes, but at a certain point it was hard for me to think about that in relation to “Home”. At a certain point I just had to let those thoughts go and make the record that came out now. I was giving myself a lot of pressure because it takes a lot of energy to write a record but I also have to remind myself that there’s a lot more to come. I’m glad I got this one out of the way and I’m ready to move on.”
You have to look forward. What can we expect from you musically in the near future? “I’m working on a new EP and I’m working on a few remixes right now. I’ve also got a remix going on for this band called How To Destroy Angels, which is Trent Reznor’s band. Aside from that, there’s also some projects that I mentioned before with Prefuse 73 and King Krule.”
Finally, when was the last time you danced? “At home, when I was making music! Lately, the type of music that I’ve been making just makes me dance around my room.” Is that a sign of the type of sounds we can expect from you in time to come? “I think so, yeah! [laughs]”
Words by Sindhuja Shyam, 16 May 2013. Leave a comment