Tuesday, December 30, 2008

prince language interview pt. 2

Ahmed Fakroun "Yo Son" (Prince Language edit)

A continuation of part one of my interview with Prince Language...

Tell me about the edit that got you written up on the BBC website?

So I did an edit of Ahmed Fakroun's “Soleil Soleil.” I found it in a world music store on seven inch. I had never heard of it and it really blew me away. It was this weird electro-sounding record with a Talking Heads sound, but with Arabic singing. I found two copies, with a dub on the other side, so I would extend it again. I did an edit and it did well. And there was an article on the BBC financial website did an article, implying that my edit had helped bring him to people’s attention again after living in Libya for 15 years off the radar. He was a minor hit in France in the 80s. So he contacted me on MySpace saying: “Thank you for the edit. I really appreciated you helping me expose my music to people.” And he has a bunch of other amazing material, so now I’m working to put together a compilation of it.

That to me is a nice story of how edits work. You’re not just re-hashing old songs, you’re also helping to bring attention to things that have been overlooked. You get to play that role. That’s really gratifying. He’s an amazing musician and I would love to help people hear more of his stuff. I feel I got too much credit, but it’s just a cool thing to help you reconnect with the past and perpetuate that continuum. That a guy who lives in Tripoli, Libya is in contact with me and now we email is an amazing story. I knew nothing about him when I did the edit. I found out down the road that there’s a video for it. In Libya, he’s still revered. It becomes this nice bit to offset the scholarly aspect of it.

What was something you edited early on?

Roy Ayers or Gino Soccio (both of which appear on the Editions Disco label).

Do you perceive the edit as a tool or an end in and of itself?

It started as the former. But now, both what I’ve done --it’s turned into and end itself. Sometimes you do them more under the consideration of turning these into songs, listening to arrangements. The Soccio for instance (see part one of this interview). The original is a 2 ½ minute LP cut and when I would DJ it out, I would take two copies and do doubles of it, which logically came from hip-hop. It’s a cool break so I’ll do doubles and extend it. it took me three years to go “Hey, I could do this on Sound Edit 16,” literally a two-channel cutting and pasting editing track with no grid, no nothing. It’s like doing a tape edit on computer. That’s how it starts. But then you learn about using multi-tracks and effects and layers. The one I did of “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” the Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergrass, that’s an 8/12 minute song made out of the last 2 minutes of that particular record. There’s a lot of complicated effects and programming and arrangements. I worked on and off on it 3-4 months. That became entirely different.

Do songs need to have a flaw?

One is either to go “this song is two minutes, but I’d like to play it.” You want it to go on, the wish you always have when you hear something great, you want it to continue. You don’t want it to stop. Or there are songs where you’re listening to it and the first two minutes are amazing, and then “OH MY GAWD!" This guy starts singing. What the fuck? His voice sucks or there’s some heinous part in it. Or there’s a break in it. Learning about breaks, that trained me so well to look for those little golden moments. There’s that aspect of it. There’s a problem now where a lot of times with edits, people will take out too much of the bad parts. The parts that are “bad” or “cheesy” are actually what make the other parts so much better.

It’s the same thing in language. Meaning comes from difference. If you don’t have any difference, if you just have the “great, cool” part of the song, it would be kinda bland. You can’t differentiate. Meaning comes from differentiation. When you’re working on something, you’ll fall in love with the parts you wanted to originally take out. They get endearing. That’s a real challenge, too.

When I talked to Harvey about it, he re-iterated that idea often, leaving in the bad parts.

He always repeats this anecdote, but it’s so worth it. He made an edit of “Apache,” the all-time, holy grail break of hip-hop. He always talks about doing the edit where it never goes into the break. It’s just stroking and stroking, you don’t get off. That’s brilliant to me. that’s the logical step for me now.

So is that why you use the name “Language” as a DJ name?

The nerdy aspect of it came from being interested in how language is constructed, through repetition and difference. That’s how meaning comes out of language and how linguistic structure works. And I like how that also applies to music, dance music especially. It’s based on repetition. Take minimal techno, where all of a sudden, one little hi-hat crash comes in and the whole landscape shifts. Or in reggae, the music is based on the same 30-40 riddims, but those riddims form a shared communal language.

The difference comes from the individual deejays that are on the track. It dispenses with the traditional western, European notion of everything has to be completely original. Which is bullshit. Classical composers ripped off other composers, Debussy would use folk melodies.

But if you’re making music it’s always "No! we all have this. This is all us. We’re all sharing these things. But I’m going to enact my subjectivity over this shared thing." That’s the nerdy academic origin of my name. But now I’m stuck with it and somewhat ashamed of it. It is what it is.

Do edits become a calling card for other productions?

There’s a number of trends with both good and bad aspects to them. The first one is that edits are relatively easy to do. They’re a gateway production drug. You try editing and it’s an easy way to learn about how things are arranged, how songs are made, what works and what doesn’t. That comes from DJing too. It’s the punk rock thing, it allows a lot of people access into it.

But the downside is that most of it is going to be shit. If you only need three or four chords to play, it’s great because all of a sudden someone who thought they had no chance of ever being in a band before will start a band. But most people aren’t going to be the Ramones or Wire. A lot of people are doing them just to have their name on a record. And they’re doing edits of songs that don’t need to be edited to begin with. Or taking out a perfectly good vocal out. a lot of that is the European aesthetic of vocal is bad.

People will also do edits of songs that are already edited, that has an extended, perfectly DJ-friendly mix, but you can tell they only got into disco a couple of years ago cuz it’s kinda cool now and they don’t realize the song they’re editing is classic, it’s not as rare as you think. You’ve never played it to like…to be blunt about it, you’ve never played to a black crowd and you don’t realize these records are classic dance records to a large group of people. Just listen to WBLS on a Sunday afternoon and you’d realize that. But people don’t get that.

I don’t mean to sound too cranky, it is great that people are discovering a lot of amazing music. but this is where it comes down to doing your fucking homework. The first thing you need to do is learn about the canon of dance music. and learn what all those records are. Records that you will get sick of. You’ve heard “Runaway” or “Doctor Love” three-thousand times, but the fact remains that these are amazing, brilliant records that form that shared common language that led to these other things. You have to use that as your springboard. That’s what people don’t realize.

Harvey is an example of that. Harvey is known as the guy who has taken it so far left-field and does whatever he wants. He’s the paragon of the DJ’s DJ, or being self-indulgent. Yet Harvey knows his Garage classics, Ron Hardy, he knows the cannon. I’ve seen him play sets with “White Horse” and “Erotic City,” and all them. He knows his shit. You can’t know what to deviate from until you know those core classic records. You can’t go left until you know the center...whatever bad metaphor you want.

That’s the downside of the disco revival stuff. It’s great on one hand that people are getting into it and learning about it. But people are not putting much homework into it.

But it’s hard to do the homework. If you’re into rock, you can buy the Rolling Stone book, you can buy the albums, the tomes exalting Dylan, Beatles, Stones, Hendrix. Disco is much more de-centralized.

It is. It’s word-of-mouth. You hear it going to parties and dancing to these fucking records. And ask the DJ, who might be a dick about it. You do have to put in the work. That is part of the beauty about it. It’s an oral and social history and tradition. It’s a living thing. Last Night a DJ Saved My Life remains a good starting point, but you can’t do it off the playlists either. You might not personally like all those records.

You have to find your own aesthetic and what you bring to it. I feel lucky that I come from a black music background. I was blessed to be around that, to learn that history, to have feedback and learn that way. 3-4 years ago, my friends who never came to the parties all of a sudden were more interested in it. Eric and Thomas were responsible for a lot of that, helping to make downtown kids more open to dance music. And not just be at a rock show, not remotely ironic about it. Eric and Thomas know their shit. You know those wedding records and you know their place. Rub-N-Tug are head and shoulders above the others. They realize they’re part of the continuum of the Loft and the Garage. Sure, they’ve deviated a lot from that, they’re not canonical about stuff...

They fuck with those expectations.

Yeah, but they’re still in that tradition. They operate from the assumption they wouldn’t exist without that. That’s the important thing to keep in mind.

People doing newer edits that’s obvious to edit, you have to ask yourself, ‘does this need to be put out? Does it need to be disseminated? Or are you doing an edit record because it’s easy? Some edits just aren’t that good. They don’t go anywhere. People will put stuff into Ableton and quantize the fuck out of everything.

The beauty of a lot of disco records is like the drummer was paid in cocaine before the session and he did it all and he’s vacillating 6 BPMs over the course of the track! House would lock it all in, it just sucks the soul out of it. Those are the disadvantages. But overall, it’s a good thing. As much as I complain about it, it is a good thing that more people are receptive to it and open to it. It’s the same thing that happens anytime anything grows into a bigger thing. More money, more problems. It’s an inherent truism to any social thing.

To participate in what little is left of the continuum of New York, downtown culture and dance music culture and all those things. There is a specificity. I think a lot of us really couldn’t have come out of any other place. Growing up in Chicago and learning my chops there was one thing, but it didn’t really come together and make sense to me until I got to New York. NY codified everything for me. Hercules couldn’t happen anywhere else. The DFA couldn’t have happened anywhere else. There’s something about living here and paying too much rent, the desperation and the ecstasy that can come out of that. a combination of those factors. New York means more outside of New York than it does in New York. There is still an aura about it, the sense that that brings and gives you. I don’t see anywhere else picking up the mantle. It’s still the cultural mix. The culture has gotten so much more, the scale has more mass and lowest common denominator.

Back in the day, Larry Levan was playing at the Garage and Frankie Crocker was hanging out with him. And he would hear a record Larry was playing and it would end up on WBLS the next day, the biggest black radio station.

Stores had to start stocking whatever it was Larry was playing because the next morning people would line up to buy it.

There’s those stories, just how he would crossover weird rock records like “The Magnificent Dance” or Liquid Liquid.

On my iPod, “Once in a Lifetime” came up on the walk over here!

Classic example! The fact that “Genius of Love” was at that point, the Talking Heads had never had a chart hit, and it was a source of tension. They had the biggest club record in New York. That records like that could happen. That kind of crossover –or certain records that are classics for hip-hop, The Loft, or The Garage—this mingling and diversity of scenes is an important kind of thing that NY has engendered.

Do you think NYC has an aesthetic?

Just from the backgrounds we come from, the way parties are, the fact that we can go to 4am or even later, that’s just an aesthetic that...there are certain records that only work in those contexts and seep into you. The smoke machine, 5 in the morning records. There’s certain things you don’t understand until you’ve heard them in that context.

A certain level of toxicity.

Any number of factors. Also too, being in New York is being in the context of this rich living history of people here. I remember going to Dance Trax and some old dude would talk for twenty minutes about going to the Garage for the first time. Just to hear that and to be exposed to that link, or to be able to go to the Loft and realize that this is something that has existed since 1969, the very beginning! That you can still drink at the mouth of that river… it’s like “Oh, I can still go to the whorehouse where Jelly Roll Morton rolled.” That’s what it's like, going to the absolute beginning of a music, like the beginning of jazz.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

prince language interview pt. 1

Gino Soccio: "Love is..." Edit de Prince Language

Prince Language is a busy guy. His edits of folks like Gino Soccio, Roy Ayers, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and others have been generating buzz for a few years now. And his remixes of The Rapture, MGMT, and Sons and Daughters are just a few noteworthy entries in that field, with his reworkings of LCD Soundsystem and Lindstrøm loom on the horizon. I met up with him in his Mercer Street studio where we talked about everything from free Nikes to the origins of crack cocaine, partaking in neither. (Part 2 to follow)

Are disco edits like “Fight Club” in that you have to keep it close to the vest?

I think they should be. That’s what’s unfortunate with the amount that’ve come out. When my first edit on Editions Disco came out, it wasn’t at this crazy saturation point that they are now. Back in the day, you did them and they came out, but there was a modesty about them, which appealed to me. People outside of DJs didn’t know what they were or understand the concept about them.

So I guess if I’m going around and asking about them now…

Yeah. It’s unprecedented. The fact that people now know about Todd Terje and Pilooski is an odd thing. It’s definitely unprecedented. It’s in this gray area, with legal stuff. It’s always been implicit (in making edits). Harvey’s talked about this gray area.

What were you like in high school?

I was all over the place. I was always interested in all sorts of stuff. I grew up on classic rock but also folk. My mom was into music, which was lucky, on the canon of classic rock, folk, classical music like Glenn Gould, jazz and Horace Silver. I was into hip-hop early on. The first hip-hop I hardcore got into was Public Enemy. Realistically before that, the only other hip-hop that had grabbed me was “The Super Bowl Shuffle.” I remember breakdancing as a kid, going through the alleys looking for refrigerator cardboard boxes. It was in the air, zeitgeist, so you glom onto it. PE was the first time I got a sense of the culture. As a kid, I was very into history and radical sixties politics. My mom went to Fred Hampton’s funeral at the time, the minister of information for the Black Panther party, assassinated by Chicago Police Department.

So it had to be weird to hear radical politics leap over into popular music like that.

Oh yeah! For me, I responded to it immediately and loved it. After that, I bought 12”s of “Express Yourself” and “Prophets of Rage.” I started getting into funk and rare grooves and breaks and that’s what I first started playing out. I got into hip-hop backwards from there.

And how did you trace your way back to disco?

I got into disco as part of the funk/ soul/ rare groove thing. When I first started DJing, I got exposed to what we used to call “deep disco.” It just meant what Ron Hardy would play. A typical record of that is Candido’s “Thousand Fingers Man” a huge Chicago record or Funkadoba. I listened to WBMX as a kid and hearing the Hot Mix Five. And when I started DJing, people were giving me Ron Hardy tapes and Hot Mix Five tapes. That stuff is just in the air in Chicago, that whole thing of mixing back and forth between house, new wave records, industrial and goth.

House music in Chicago is what hip-hop used to mean in New York: it meant Kraftwerk and the Monkees and James Brown and Salsoul and all that shit. In Chicago, “house” was this spectrum of Candido and First Choice and Dr. Love, Wax Trax, Ron Hardy used to play Einsterzende Neubauten. That’s the difference aesthetically between NY and Chicago dance music. In Chicago, people went for druggy, harsher stuff. You’ll hear acid on old school R&B mixes. The definition of soulful is different in Chicago. There’s a dichotomy yet there’s also a continuum. Frankie Knuckles brought that Paradise stuff over though. It wasn’t mutually exclusive.

And when I started DJing, friends of mine knew about the Ron Hardy style and I learned about those records and how they were played, the way people DJed to make them sound like house records, throwing drum tracks under things, blending records and making new things out of them. That was a big thing back then in mid-to-late 90s.

Did it mix with the indie rock side of Chicago?

Vaguely. Tortoise had Derrick Carter do a remix for them, their perfunctory nod to whatever. There was still a condescension from indie rock. A really big reason I stopped messing with indie rock for awhile was I noticed a --not even a latent but rather blatant—racism in the cultural whiteness of the scene. You’d be at a party and they’d put on The Chronic and people would be dancing but they’d be laughing at it too, which bugged the fuck out of me. This shit is not funny. It is what it is and it’s as significant and difficult and interesting as any math rock bullshit. The inherent condescension in that, same as in the art world. When I made art that dealt with hip-hop and dance music, its serious critical discourses, people didn’t get that. It was still this thing to laugh at and exoticize.

Or you’re slumming.

It’s turned into this exotic other and I was involved in it. You can just regard something as being on the equivalent level and not treat it as this totally foreign thing that you’re half-laughing at it. The ironic aspect, irony in music, is probably one of my biggest pet peeves. I have a sense of humor but when that’s the overriding aesthetic of something, there’s just too much good shit.

Once you’ve had that spiritual, church-y experience on a dancefloor, you just realize that you don’t want to be trivial about shit. It’s a real, legit thing. And I’m pretty agnostic. I’ve had close to religious, ecstatic experiences dancing to music. Once you’ve experienced that, you can’t…you can’t make it color everything to where you're just so serious.

But you don’t want to be Todd Edwards about it.

Or Joe Claussel. But you need to have that in mind. That was a big issue for me when the hipster dancey stuff appeared. A lot of those kids still didn’t get that aspect of it. Disco music is implicitly political. That’s the important thing about it. Implicit in the best sense of the word. It does have the weight of politics and social situations and groups and communities and cultures, but it’s not banging you over the head with it. But it does come out of this very real need and purpose. It came out of discos, one of the few places where people could be gay in a social, larger context.

And be black and Latino…

And just be outward and expressive. And the music reflected that. and the records reflected that. Like South Shore Commission’s “Free Man” on the surface is about a relationship. You don’t have to read too deep to get “I’m a free man.” Sylvester made the most beautifully political records ever, but they’re political in the best sense of the word. Not in a didactic sense. That’s always been an important thing for me.

As I do more of this, I wonder about how disco came out of the province of gay, black, Latino culture. and the renaissance now is…white guys.

Now it’s the province of nerdy, mostly straight white guys, which is kinda ironic in the real sense of the word. My girlfriend would say: “You and all your friends are the straight white guys who play the gayest dance music.” Part of that too is that gay culture in general has changed so radically. It’s not that society is free of homophobia, but a lot of aspects of gay culture have become mainstreamed and also caricatured. Every show has a make-over guy, a funny gay neighbor. But at the same time, gay culture, without the need for specific places and spaces, discos and gay bars, the culture changes. There’s not as much of a specifically gay culture as there was before. There still is in a lot of aspects.

That’s what trance is for.

No. Trance is really straight.

For dudes from Jersey.

They’re gayer than most actual gays. There’s still big room, Junior, banging tracks for when you’re methed up. Gay culture has evolved in that way. It is weird that it has become the province of this sort of subset of white culture. I feel lucky, in Chicago, the clubs I played at, and had a residency at, I was one of the few white people. I was mostly playing for a mostly middle and upper-middle class black crowd. I learned so much about classics.

There’s a real culture, a rich black musical culture which I was lucky to participate in and learn from. That crowd, people coming up to me asking for specific records. One of the first times I played out Sylvester “Over and Over” a dude came up and said “You must know about the Music Box and Ron Hardy. Yo, I used to go there.” And I would hear shit that way, unintentionally participating in that history yet not knowing about it. As soon as I did find out about it…to me it’s important to know about the history and context of the tracks you’re playing. I learned that when DJing reggae.

I did a reggae night at Joe’s Pub. You learn –with reggae especially—that you need to know what your records are about. You can’t just use the excuse of patois and riddim. One night I was playing Shabba Ranks “Browning.” It’s about women bleaching their skin with battery acid to look whiter. You really need to be aware. Shabba had to make a response record to that.

It’s important to know what your records mean, how they related to the other records you’re playing, where they come from, these are all things you have to take into account. You can't be overly didactic either. You’re there for a party at the end of the day. But party’s can have functions and reasons.

Party for your right to fight.

Yeah, and you can’t just overlook that and be completely hedonistic about it. If you did that, it becomes the bad aspect of what post-modernism is, this meaningless pastiche. If you want to get down to it, yeah, everything is meaningless, in the sense that it doesn’t have inherent meaning. But you need to encourage people to participate in the meaning of it and tease it out. or create new meaning. They are fluid things, but you need to encourage it and guide that river. It’s an important thing and that’s part of your role as a DJ. And with editing too, you’re trying to bring attention to certain records.

Did you learn about edits through Ron Hardy?

I knew about it and realized that he was editing. I didn’t grasp that. The way he’s repeating stuff is the same kind of aesthetic of repetition and extending things out. The Chicago idea of minimalism, house came out of basically this culture of people digging fro deeper records, but also, they stopped making disco records. People realized they had to make them longer, put an 808 under it, which morphed into house culture. There was house culture before there was house music, just like hip-hop.

Or like disco, with the culture.

Disco in that there was uptempo soul music. Disco didn’t have this revolutionary formal aspect based on pastiche and collaging and combining and re-contextualizing things. Disco turned into an aesthetic. You had MFSB, uptempo Philly Soul stuff, faster rock records. Early NY underground disco, what Mancuso was playing, “Woman” by Barrabas, records like that as a template.

Then there’s commercial disco, after SNF, record companies thinking it was a gold mine and just pumping out all this shit. 95% of which is utterly horrible. But there will be this random 5%. They didn’t give a fuck, here’s money, make records. Oh, Debussy over a disco beat. Some of those things, by law of averages, came out amazing.

Then it got bloated, imploded, turned into boogie. There was still a need for club records, but they got leaner. You had keyboards instead of string sections. But with house music and hip-hop, it was people making something new using these radical formal techniques out of those raw materials. That’s the distinction. Those were aesthetic lenses that you viewed things through. You can hear aspects of disco in Steve Miller and “Miss You,” but the 4/4 was in the air. But it wasn’t as radical as the breaks of house. Edits are a continuum through all of that. Walter Gibbons making eight-minute mixes out of multi-tracks of a three-minute soul record. Tom Moulton and Walter Gibbons are the origins of it. You have it going into Danny Krivit and then you have Francois K. the way he did 12 mixes were edits with effects on them. He’s a real template for how you do that kind of stuff. His approach is still the best approach. The Rapture remix is my version of a Francois K. mix.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

lee douglas interview

Lee Douglas - "Fuego"

Lee Douglas is a busy guy. A graphic designer by day, he not only juggles his own productions and remixes (see his "Happy House" remix for starters), but makes some fine edits to boot. His edits of Eddie Kendricks and Teddy Pendergrass are top-notch, and it's without fail that whenever I drop his edit of Fuego's "Misa Criolia (We Are The Children)" someone rushes the decks.

What kind of stuff did you get into first?

I was into punk, big time. hardcore punk. I graduated ’94.

What were you checking out?

I went to Jabberjaw every week. That whole first wave of emo, Gravity stuff. Universal of Armageddon. It was pretty cool. For that stuff, there’s a lot of backyard shows and seven inches.

Did you play in a hardcore band?

I had a band for a minute. I was the singer (both of us laugh). I just played 3-4 shows then started college. I got more into DJing and electronic stuff then.

What got you into it?

Raves and shit like that.

Were they an extension of the feeling of punk rock shows for you?

I guess it was communal in that way but I didn’t make any connections. I never bought the records, I just went to desert parties. It was more like “Let’s go to a rave in the desert.” Warehouse parties in LA were too overblown, those big raves, stupid big productions. I got into records. I got into digging for records. That time it was big to play jazz and funk. More people were digging for that shit. It was definitely a hip-hop thing. We were trying to get Moog, weirdo synth records. I liked psych rock. jazz records got really expensive around the mid-90s. I just started picking up disco records. People would just give away 50 cent disco records.

I feel that most renaissances these days come from, as certain titles get pricey, people gravitate towards whatever’s cheap and find something to gleam from them.

It’s basically what I did. I just got into disco just because the other shit was too expensive. There were a lot of crossover records. Dexter Wansel, Lonnie Liston Smith, big jazz breaks that David Mancuso would play.

How did you find out about Mancuso and that sort of stuff?

There was a resurgence then. This was probably 2000 something, when those Strut/ Nuphonic comps came back out. I think a big thing for me was that first Keep on Jumping compilation. It has every classic New York jam.

Digging for cheap records, were you just looking for breaks?

I was DJing and there were some disco records that fit into that category, like Sylvia Striplin and shit like that. you start grabbing more of that. I started DJing breaks and stuff, rare grooves. When I was playing disco records, I didn’t know anyone else that was playing them.

What was the response in LA?

It was always just a small group of friends. It wasn’t like I had a night in a big room.

Does LA have much of a disco history to it?

I have no idea. There’s a big gay community in West Hollywood, but I have no idea.

Were you excited about the history of NYC's disco culture when you moved out here?

Definitely. That was what I was into. Body and Soul was still going on. There was a lot of, it just seemed more a viable thing. I didn’t really move out here specifically for that, but it was a perk.

What do you like about disco?

I don’t know. I just like the feel of it. it’s not just disco either, it’s just dance music that’s a little bit more emotionally-driven. Not just pounding tracks. Disco has more dimensionality.

I like the utopic vibe of it.


At what point did you cop to edits and how that stuff was made?

There wasn’t pre-meditation. The edits thing has been going on since the beginning. Fuck, if you want to go back, the whole reason why disco was invented was because of edits. Edits created disco rather than the other way around. Let’s edit this and make it longer. I have records from ’76 that are edits. You can hear the chops in them. Tom Moulton edited the record after the record was made. In essence, disco was created from an edit.

Whats an early edit you did?

Lamont Dozier “Going Back to My Roots.” I liked that end bit and wanted to make it longer. It would go into that part and I would keep that going. That was the first thing I did. That was just an exercise. Around that Nuphonic time, those could be thought of as edits. It’s really disco. That time disco and that form of house…Idjut Boys were doing bootlegs then. But I wasn’t hip to (DJ Harvey's) Black Cock series of edits then.

Do you perceive edits as tool or an end of itself?

It's both. It just depends what you’re editing a record for. I’ve done edits to make it more dancefloor-friendly. You just want to chop up and shit.

Is it weird that edits are its own genre and fetish thing?

I don’t really care. If there’s a good edit, I buy it. What’s annoying is how much people hype them. I don’t get it… If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. In a way, when people edit obscure expensive records but barely do any edits or treatments, that’s as annoying as editing...Michael Jackson. The problem is what I consider silly about it, people do edits for the sake of copping a name for themselves. There’s no fucking rules.

Are edits just to get peoples’ attentions, your own productions, what?

I just…my reason is my DJ set. I’ll play whatever I decide to play. If it fits in, that’s what I’m going to do. If I hear a song that needs to be changed, that’s why I do it.

Is there ever a copyright issue for you?

It never becomes a copyright thing because you don’t sell enough for it be a thing. No one’s making money on it. There’s not that much money.

How long do you spend making an edit?

That depends on what I decide to do. Sometimes they take an hour, sometimes a year. It’s good and it’s bad. Nobody can really say anything. There’s a lot of wack edits out there and wack people doing edits for wack reasons. And that’s going to just keep on happening. I like those edits by Mark E., Eric Duncan’s edits, Thomas Bullock’s edits are awesome, too.

I’ve done a lot of edits that I want to put out, but... it’s more because I’m not on top of it, or thinking about it that much. I’ll do the edit and then I forget about it. I want to put out some edits that I’ve done but honestly, I’m not in a hurry. Josh and Jacques are active in doing it. That’s why they put out my own edits. Let's just say I like good edits and I like to play edits.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

jacques renault interview

Jacques Renault - "Disco Galaxie"

Jacques Renault has already received accolades from Paper Magazine and the like and he works on numerous fronts, be it his own name, as Runaway, or with the DFA's Justin Miller as a tag-team DJ duo. His most recent edit appeared on the RVNG label and it was one of my favorites of the year. Over a slice at Marlowe and Sons, we talked about WMBX, Ian Svenonious, and of course, disco.

I played violin up through high school (before switching to viola). I didn’t get into the Velvet Underground until college. I played Carnegie Hall my senior year in high school, the All-American Orchestra. And at DePaul, I don’t want to be a professional classical musician. I did very well. I’ve always been interested in other stuff. I was really into DC hardcore stuff. I grew up in Maryland. So I was in love with that stuff. I played trumpet.

Did you play in punk bands, too?

I tried to do everything. you dabble in everything and in the end, you’re left hanging. All those stupid string and horn stabs, now I can record all that stuff.

A one-man disco band?

Exactly, layering strings and horns.

So you dropped out of music school. What prompted your change of heart?

Before I went to Chicago, I started going to this DC party called Cold Rice, the Make-Up's night, Ian Svenonious. I was hearing drum’n’bass, soul, and reggae, in the same night. After dabbling in so many things, I realized I could do this on my own. I got into the idea of DJing. Went to Art Institute and got into Sound Engineering class with David Grubbs. We’re doing tape loops. Nothing was Pro-Tools, I learned everything on samplers and tape blocks. The Pro-Tools was hard to wrap my head around. I just kept on DJing.

What did you start spinning?

I started doing soul and d’n’b and dancehall. There was a great night, Deadly Dragon Soundsystem, that’s here now. I bought house but didn’t get it, but I realized they were sampling disco.

What inspired you about disco? How did you move beyond your pre-conceived notions of it?

Hearing the hooks and stuff. Sampling of course was of interest to me. that producers were using these smalls bits for new things…Material, Metro Area, Danny Wang was a good example. I liked that stuff. The dirtiness of it. It’s similar to punk. Simonetti’s a punk kid, Love Fingers, we’re all old punk guys. How is it we’re all into disco ten years later? There’s still this…it’s limited, you can’t find it, there’s still the pleasure of finding that awesome record. Using it and being able to do something with it.

Does the stigma factor in?

Yeah. Maybe because we’re older too?

Is there a record geek aspect to the revival?

Definitely. There’s always been a little competition about who has what. The whole vinyl thing is important to disco. Oh, mine’s in mint condition. It’s like baseball cards. It’s ridiculous. There’s that geekiness, that’s maybe why. There’s that appreciation. You’re gonna go see Harvey DJ and you know he has it. It’s really amazing that someone has given that to music. Todd Terje did that same thing. He’ll make a comment about a record and suddenly (it goes up). Its interesting how many people pay attention to these things. It’s admirable how the network now works, a global network. Just how many people know my mixes or know what’s going on in New York.

Obviously disco came up in this gay Latino culture. but now it’s in indie rock. how do you feel about that shift?

It’s along the lines of people that admire that era. Mancuso’s still the guy. There’s a lot of respect for the actual sound quality. Maybe that’s part of the geekiness? How and why does it sound amazing? There’s so much attention to the mastering.

The warmth gets me. German techno isn’t moving me lately, it’s more clinical.

A lot of techno is so clean. It isn’t dirty enough. I like a lot of the sampling.

How did you learn about edits and their history?

I started listening to house and picked up re-edits, didn’t know what I was getting. I came out real backwards. I’ll just do this for fun. I only played vinyl. I had records I liked but I hated that one part so I made edits or extended certain things. I did Martin Circus that was too long and cheesy. I just took instrumentals and just played over them, Juno basslines over drum tracks. It was loose, which I liked. I tried to make edits that weren’t so recognizable. Trying to do something a little more unique that maybe more head-y people would recognize but I tried to make it my own.

Do you do edits that people know where they recognize what’s being done to it? Or is the mystery part of it?

There is a fine line. You shouldn’t be doing things that…there’s this unspoken ‘you shouldn’t repress something” that…there’s a want and desire for certain things, but maybe you shouldn’t do those. I feel like…I wouldn’t say something but it’s a bummer when something is a gem and doesn’t need to be edited. If you have a record that doesn’t need to be edited, then it shouldn’t be edited. There’s so much value to having that original. There’s an edit of Billy Ocean’s “One of Them Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)” but it doesn’t need it. or these Black Cock bootlegs (out now). There’s a lot of pride in having these. There’s a secretiveness, not wanting to share the music. But in this day and age…if someone asks me what I played, I tell them. there are people (and I respect the protectiveness).

If you wanted to hear certain edits, you had to go see that guy DJ to hear it.

It’s special who I give my edits to. A lot of people just post their edits online. I share with friends.

What do you look for in editing a song? what appeals to you about a song?

If there’s anything that appeals to me about a song…I’ll listen to a stack of records, if there’s something that catches my attention. I love the challenge of it. The fun for me is looking for anything that I can use, even beyond the break. I have a stack of records just to sample and edit. Half the time it doesn’t work.

Is it more a tool or a stand-alone work?

Half and half. There’s things that I strictly sample and build upon, to where you don’t even hear the record anymore. Or there’s a vocal hook that I restructure to make a new song. “Bad Skinned” was a record I found nothing about online. It’s not anywhere. I kept digging, nothing. It’s just some Eastern European band with all these weird effects. I only used an 1/8th of the track. It’s the worst song I ever heard, but the loops I made were amazing. It has the worst changes and I just cut and pasted different parts and made effects. Emphasized certain sounds.

Where does the edit go from here? Is it a calling card for other things, a springboard for your own productions?

Edits are a great output for showing a side of your creativity. Everything I’m doing (remixes, original music). With every edit, it’s an ode to the artist. You admire this piece of work so much you want to make it even better. It’s exciting that people are excited about edits and I hope it makes people pay attention. I hope people see my other work as well.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

the real dj spun interview

The Real DJ Spun has been a real heavy on dance culture in NY since relocating here in early 2002 to curate PS1's crucial Summer Warm-Up series. Spun also keeps up the cheeky, shadowy, under-the-radar series of "Promo Only" edits released on his Rong label. Rub-N-Tug's drum circle drubbing of Chicago's "I'm a Man" remains a classic fulcrum of 21st century disco, wherein classic rock re-established its place in "party music" crates. Man cannot live by disco alone.

So I saw some flier for Ben Cook with the Rong logo the other night. And then later on that same night, a friend and I watched The Phantom of the Paradise for the first time and we went, “Oh, riiight...”

HAHAHA! Yeah, Doug Lee did that. I saw it in the theater when it came out.

There’s a lot of fantastic shit in that movie. I can’t wait to watch it again. Okay, so just some bio stuff.

I’m from San Jose, CA. I moved here in Spring 2002 to curate the PS1 Summer Warm-Up series. I’ve been DJing since 1987, since I graduated high school. I played in punk rock bands before that.

It seems like everyone has a punk rock background. I’m curious as to why. Definitely punk rock taught me to hate disco originally. So why are there so many punk rock disco heads?

It’s good vibes, it’s about energy.

I mused on the communal aspect of it. When I found out about Mancuso I wished I had known about what he was up to during the punk rock days.

The big part of the punk rock spirit is individuality. There’s an anti-social and sarcastic and comedic aspect as well. As punk rock became more mainstream and after the backlash against disco. By the mid-80s, being into disco was as anti-establishment as you could get.

Talking to Harvey, he said of course you liked disco because you were supposed to hate it and be contrarian.

I was mostly into hip-hop but I’ve always been a fan of music, good music. That’s the trip, playing good tunes, good music, trying to express a feeling. I was into funk and soul. People get into punk and from there get into rockabilly and blues. With hip-hop, you get into the original breaks. House has its roots in disco. It’s a roots thing. For DJing, disco is the essence of where that all came from.

It doesn’t go back before disco, really. Northern soul maybe…

There have been a lot of people with that sort of dancing spirit, wanting to dance all night. From the 20’s or ancient pagan rituals. Hitting a drum, dancing around the fire. I’ve always kept all my interests. I’ve never let any of them go. I’ve liked the same things I liked as a teenager. I’ve always tried to do my own thing.

So how did you come to learn about edits?

There were already DJs doing their own special mixes on reel tape. That’s always been part of it, making special mixes for yourself. That’s where a lot of DJ edits come from making a special version for yourself. There have always been special DJ services. Since I started DJing, there were already people doing it. It got trendy again in the last few years.

In SF, were you aware of Harvey and Thom.

I met Thom the day after he came to the US. We got into house, early techno. In 1991, these English house ravers came out and they wanted to throw full moon parties on the beach. It was a party called Wicked. I was one of the few DJs in the Bay Area so we kinda gravitated towards each other. Then Thom moved to New York and I came out a few years later, but we show the same ideas and spirit.

We started Rong in 2003 with Ben Cook, who was a friend of a friend. We weren’t really that good a friend, but we’re both friends with Idjut Boys. I had moved to Seattle, then back to San Fran, then Idjut Boys asked to do a record. At that time, Ben and I were the only people into disco, so it made sense to work together. We did an album called Thick as Thieves for Noid, all disco edits. We did disco edits together. We collaborated on an original project as well. That went well as production partners. We started the label as a bi-coastal thing, repping New York and holding onto our west coast roots.

Were you thrilled about coming out here?

For me, I was excited to hear people with a little more creative approach to DJing. Things had gotten stale out west, very pedestrian house music was the way of the walk. So it was good to reconnect with Thomas and become friends with Eric. I enjoyed the Rub’n’Tug parties. Danny Wang, Metro Area, there was a cool scene with nice parties. It was nice to see people embracing a more eclectic sound, open to hearing disco and rock, anything goes. It was pretty refreshing.

It’s funny for me, knowing how disco comes up through gay, black, Latino cultures, that it’s no longer the province of gay culture.

It’s kinda sad. I know some people see it as the gentrification of this music. But it also makes sense. When you were talking about punk rock as an influence. Back in the 80’s, nobody was more disenfranchised than punk rockers. As we get older and more in-tune with that, we continue to listen to the music of a disenfranchised culture.

Is it odd that it’s so…white? Or these tight rings of people, not mingling.

New York is so cliquey. Some parties are all nerdy white kids. But you go to Santo’s for Nicky Sciano and different people come out and dance together. You can go to the Loft and there are all different kinds of people dancing. It’s a special party for sure.

What are your thoughts on the recent up tick in disco edits?

I just love music. I appreciate that people are getting into it for the music. It’s nice when I travel that people are a lot more aware of what we’re doing. That side of it is good. But it hasn’t affected me too much. It’s positive if it can help regain some glory for this great music of the past.

Does it make a difference between obscurity/ popularity?

There’s a lot of stuff I’ve seen people edit that doesn’t need editing. There’s already a masterpiece. There’s no need. I prefer to just leave it at that. I won’t point fingers. Some songs don’t need an edit, you don’t need to edit it. Covers are the new edits.

For me, having a record label, putting out original music is what that’s all about. Doing disco edits, that’s just a fun little thing on the side for us to play. It’s fun for us as DJs, but that’s not really what Rong Music is about. Right now, we’re doing some nostalgia things, but on a more original angle. We’re doing a new James Chance with some remixes. (Mentions Cody Mooney, Gary Davis).

Have there ever been copyright issues with the edits?

It’s small, we don’t make that many.

So it’s not like Chicago would ever find out. Much less Gloria Taylor.

That’s the most obvious, mainstream one we did. We want to promote the tunes, but when we do them, we don’t use any names. We want it to be for the music. We’re not promoting the artists name or hype ourselves up. The disco edits are for us and our friends, for the heads to be able to play. We don’t make very many of those. They’re limited edition. It’s just for fun.

Is it weird that it’s become more of a fetish?

It’s flattering. I’d much rather see people get into good music than shitty music. It’s refreshing. But too many people these days just look to the internet to learn about music. If you’re a DJ, you don’t learn on the internet. It’s about interacting with people on a personal level, in-person. It’s about paying attention. I have a different view than other people. It’s more about the vibe. It’s about how it feels, in the end. A lot of people get into just having the most obscure things. Original style is really important, making a statement of your own, it’s a huge part of it. That’s what moves me.

Do you think disco will move along?

I do believe in too much of a good thing. I love disco and house and techno. But I don’t want to hear any of it exclusively. It’s that punk rock contrarian spirit. Variety is the spice of life.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

special beta version

Combining two of my great loves.

Forgot to post this before splitting town, but a long-brewing feature on the revival of the disco edit finally appeared in the Village Voice. Since my previous series of disco interviews (with James Murphy,
Mike Simonetti, DJ Harvey, Thom Bullock, Johnny Jewel, and Morgan Geist) was insanely popular, and since I did a batch of interviews with many of the city's current practitioners, I will be posting some new interviews with this new batch of disco DJs soon. But first, I need to learn my ABCs...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

billy beta brockali

In the November issue of Spin, I delve into the weird world of the Rock-a-Fire Explosion and the grown-ass men who still pretend they are at their seventh birthday pizza party at Showbiz, gnoshing on pepperoni-flavored cardboard and jumping in ball pits. There's this weird "fight club" thing going on, with secret video sites that I can't put on the record, some copyright-slap fights, not to mention disquieting 'furby' imagery. But I'll be damned if anyone ever tops the "Love in the Club" video though. Chris Thrash (pictured above in his Billy Bob Brockali cypher) is straight genius of love on that one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

greta jones

No amount of emails to Grace Jones' PR lackeys sprung me to a dream interview with the lady. Guess invoking things like Vibe, Spin, Paste (jk), or The Believer (the thought of Charles Burns drawing her portrait made my editor and me giddy) don't mean a thing when you refuse to do US press. B-b-b-but Obama. Come back, Grace!

I haven't even heard her latest. Well, the delectable mathematics of Mrs. Jones plus Aeroplane has been heard and savored, though Mark E.'s edit of "La Vie en Rose" hasn't. (Anyone?) So instead I'll keep my musings about her genius to myself.

I do know that at least three of her records always have a permanent place in my heart crate. As I mentioned somewhere else, nothing allows you to make improbably broad leaps between funk, dub reggae, disco, or twitchy weird rock during a DJ set than Grace. And I do know that the woman remains a superlative interpreter of "the songbook" (which somehow includes The Normal, Bill Withers, Astor Piazzolla, Roxy Music, Tom Petty, Piaf, etc). And that the genius of her interpretation of Smokey Robinson's "The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game" lies in how her panther-muscled singing gives it another layer. And that her photo shoot with Chris Cunningham got me off of meat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


In the newest issue of Yeti, my interview with Rub-n-Tug's Thom Bullock about the return of disco appears. You may remember it from when it appeared here. The CD included also has a track from Thom (as Way of the Ancients), which the blurb notes is "a lengthy tribute to 'Set Your Controls for the Heart of the Sun.'" Y'mean it's a tribute to Om? Were that not enough, I'm pretty taken with Thom's new studio projects, be they with the son of a Pop art master or as part of a veritable supergroup.

But all week long, post-election, we had been fiending to hear Parliament's "Chocolate City" (cue low gravelly voice: "Someone told me we got LA"). So imagine how stoked we were when Rub-n-Tug took to the decks on Saturday night and greet us with: "What's happening CC? They still call it the White House, but that's a temporary condition, too. Can you dig it, CC?" That three note piano descent and back again. Over and over and over and over and over again. An auspicious start to the night.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

beLA 3

Halloween night, I wound up catching the world premiere of the Norwegian black metal documentary, Until the Light Takes Us, with a friend whose music coincidentally appears in the film (and I also heard a Black Dice jam on the soundtrack). It was one of those instances where I realized there would've been corpse-painted faces in the crowd no matter the holiday.

By no means am I an expert on black metal, nor was I ever much of a metal head (even when flashing other hesher tendencies in high school), so I was excited to catch the doc and hopefully learn a bit more about what makes black metal such a fascinating sub-genre. So it was frustrating to be plunged into the documentary expecting to already be intimately familiar with the subjects Darkthrone and Burzum and why they are important (and I would argue that they aren't important in the grand scheme of things).

For a good twenty minutes, I was uncertain just why we were following around these dudes named Fenriz and Varg. One struts around a purgatorial Oslo in black leather, the other is in a maximum security prison. Not once does the film attempt to frame the Norwegian scene for outsiders and I myself (though having heard epochal albums Transilvanian Hunger and Burzum's solo works) felt clueless. Instead, we get talking heads about why Mayhem's Dead rubbing on corpse paint was "important." As if the Misfits, KISS, The Crow or Phantom of the Paradise had never happened. Yes, perhaps in the late 80s, no teens in Oslo who were in shitty metal bands were doing it, but does that make it important on any scale greater than basement shows?

The other detraction is the music itself. Too often, we have discussions about black metal, but only scant instances of hearing the actual raw stuff. Instead, the soundtrack abounds with bleepy, dated early 2000s electronica from múm, Boards of Canada, and the like. Perhaps such sound selections would work in another story, but when they rub against the actual black metal tracks, it's painfully out of place. The instances of Darkthrone and Burzum music is fucking intense that I found myself longing to hear more of that music.

It's a shame that Until the Lights Takes Us doesn't do much to shape or frame these stories a bit better, as there's some fascinating stuff in the film. Varg Vikernes remains one of the most intense figures in underground music. How he explains the motives behind the church burnings sets the controversial incidents in a new light (no pun intended), arguing that it was a move to reclaim his Nordic pagan culture from the clutches of Christianity, Americanization and monoculture. It's fascinating how the press then distorted such acts for their own sensationalist ends, twisting it into acts of Satanism. Which in turn spawned copycat vandalism, now festooned with 666s and upside-down crosses, generating even more press coverage, fear, and misrepresentation.

For all that misguided sensationalism, it was this distorting of truth that catapulted Norwegian black metal to the forefront of musical imaginations around the world. Equally deplorable is how this deeply personal expression of music now gets exploited by high-minded artists as well. The footage of Harmony Korine tapdancing like a jackass in a gallery (in minstrelsy black metal face) or Bjarne Melgaard's clueless cash-in conceptual paintings on the subject would make anyone want to take a battleaxe to their false-metal asses.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

beLA 2

Recounting my story of that epic Halloween traffic jam to LAXers past and present elicits only a "meh" response.
But when I mention that it rained while I was in LA, they go "Holy shit! It rained?!!"

Traffic jam jams:

Animal Collective: "My Girls" "For Rev. Green" "Summertime Clothes" "Grass" "Brother Sport"
Gloria Taylor: random mp3s courtesy of Dave
Everly Brothers: Stories We Could Tell
Arthur Russell: "Habit of You"
Al Green: "Georgia Boy"
La Dusseldorf: "Cha Cha 2000"
Grace Jones: "La Vie en Rose"
Boney M: "Dancing in the Streets"
Tim Buckley: Happy Sad
The Millennium: Begin
Fleetwood Mac: "You Make Lovin' Fun"
Joni Mitchell: "Conversation"
Studio: "Life's a Beach"
Nilsson: "Drivin' Along"
Judee Sill: "The Kiss"
Yaz: "Situation" (US 12" mix)

Jams to be jammed:

Bill Withers: Still Bill
Musique: Keep on Jumpin'
France Joli: "Come to Me"
Jessi Colter: I'm Jessi Colter, Mirriam
Carrie Lucas: "Dance With You"
Freddy Fender: Are You Ready for Freddy?
Elizabeth Barraclough: Hi
Claire: "High on Love"
Travis Wammack: s/t
Ennio Morricone: Exorcist II The Heretic OST
Taana Gardner: "Heartbeat"
Joe Tex: Bumps & Bruises, I Gotcha
Sylvester: Stars, M-1015
Chicago: "Street Player"
Bohannon: "Cut Loose"
Isley Brothers: "Rockin' With Fire"
Alisha: "All Night Passion"

Saturday, November 01, 2008


So I'm out in LA this week. It's my first time out here since 1991 --seventeen years ago!-- when I came out for a drama club field trip with my high school. Our club went to see Michael Crawford in Phantom of the Opera, a bunch of people in furry tights for Cats, Lily Tomlin in Search for Intelligent Signs of Life in the Universe, and I fell asleep during each show, thus ending my fixation on theatre.

By far the best thing I did out here last time was go to Universal Studios to see the Miami Vice Stunt Spectacular. Upon developing my photos from the trip, I realized I had some 50 pics of exploding speedboats and stunt guys in white suits flying through mid-air, shot from a distance of 200 ft. or something. So this trip couldn't possibly top the awesomeness of that, but I'm trying. I have already had a quintessential LA experience though: last night I sat in a traffic jam for 5 1/2 hours!

Monday, October 27, 2008

print bedia

In the October issue of SPIN (which is about to vanish off the racks right about now), I wrote four of the blurbs for their "Strange Bedfellows" section, exploring where politics and rock have heinously intersected over the decades. I wrote about Willie, John Denver, Dickie Goodman, and the Beach Boys. Here are earlier drafts of what ultimately ran in the mag:

White House Goes Green
In September of 1980, after dueting with first lady Rosalynn Carter, redheaded outlaw (and future IRS-bust) Willie Nelson snuck out to light up a "big fat Austin torpedo" on the roof of the White House. A frequent guest of President Carter (himself a big fan of Willie), Nelson knew full well that the Secret Service observed him partake on numerous occasions. When asked about that time, Willie now cites (with that sly grin): "short-term memory — I don't remember a lot that happened then."

Political effectiveness: While the Carter Administration went down in history as ineffective, Willie ascended to stoner patron saint. But what would've happened if a dope from Texas had become President?

Rocky Mountain Snide
Wholesome folkie John Denver seemed unlikely to commit political subterfuge. But on his debut album,1969's Rhymes & Reasons, nestled alongside his future hit "Leaving on a Jet Plane," Denver sings two songs for the newly-elected Republican ticket. On "Ballad of Spiro Agnew" Denver bellows only: "I'll sing you a song of Spiro Agnew and all the things he's done," the song abruptly over in 15 seconds (lasting about as long as his term as VP), while "Ballad of Richard Nixon" is just five seconds of silence. "Agnew" songwriter Tom Paxton recalled: "John could be blunt in expressing his feelings through song." And as for penning a current VP ballad, Paxton says "it might be very short; something about what Cheney could go and do to himself."

Political effectiveness: Folk and protest go together, but anticipating Watergate by five years is pretty punk...for a Muppet-lover.

Black President Elected!
Before Girl Talk was born and when Steinski and Weird Al were still tots, copyright-trickster Dickie Goodman was already sampling and subverting pop songs (he had a #3 Billboard pop hit in 1956). For 1973's "Soul President Number One," as the Watergate investigation of Pres. Nixon intensified, Goodman used soul and funk samples to 'elect' the first black president. The new president "quotes" Barry White and Ohio Players, appoints Superfly head of FBI, gets Tricky Dick to park his car for him. "There was a huge groundswell of opinion for impeachment," Steinski says. "So Goodman capitalized by adroitly jumping on the bandwagon in an amusing fashion."

Political effectiveness: If we do elect our first black president, it remains to be seen if Barack Obama can quote old funk hits.

"Kokomo" Cocaine Codeword?
Claiming they attracted "the wrong element," when White House Secretary of the Interior James Watt refused to let the Beach Boys perform at the Washington Mall on Independence Day in 1983, there was a national uproar, even from the first lady. While Watt was correct to cite that they didn't want "to encourage drug abuse and alcoholism" (both Brian and Dennis Wilson were in bad shape), he was lectured to by President Reagan about the Boys being a "national treasure." While Mike Love protested, "we sing about patriotic themes-like 'Surfin' U.S.A.'" the Wilson brothers no doubt skipped Nancy's "Just Say No" speech.

Political effectiveness: Fortified both the president and the Beach Boys's wholesome Californian image in the American heartland and gave the band a huge boost in popularity. But it still doesn't excuse their "Full House" appearance.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

random notes on Merriweather Post Pavilion

Real Leaf House.

As the internet has revealed, I had the honor and distinct privilege to hear the latest Animal Collective album, Merriweather Post Pavilion.

You annoy-nymous posters out there will perhaps notice that I didn't say I had the album, only that I heard to it, right? Even if I did have it, the only way I have attained such a privilege is by not pretending it's my intellectual property to give away to strangers. So please stop asking.

But here's what I scratched out on that initial listen:

* a text message sent to my friend during the opening moments: "Boomy, shimmering, trippy."

* the dynamic frequencies heard to jarring and enervating effect on Strawberry Jam are now warm and immersive

*MPP is in the direction hinted at by the Pantha du Prince remix of "Peacebone," Water Curses's "Street Flash," Person Pitch, but come to fruition.

*Whereas PP had a homemade, lo-fi 4-track feel, this is given the proper full-range boom-tick

*it's going to sound sick booming out of a jeep

*flowing, ever-changing, there's a liquidity to the entire album, lots of water samples (no wonder it's being debuted at "The River Room")

*if I didn't know better, I would think the band just discovered Ecstasy, there's that telltale 'flash' to it

*have they been hanging out in Berlin techno clubs on tour?

*"Am I really all the things that are outside of me?"

* it's a continuum of the band's previous obsessions: Beach Boys, Terry Riley, Missa Luba, Kaito, Sagittarius, GAS, but in its most resplendent and assured manifestation to date

*to be filed alongside Screamadelica, Loveless


For those who missed it (like myself) or who want to re-live the magic of hearing my purr over the airwaves again (just don't spill hot coffee on your lap this time), my appearance on WNYC's Morning Edition can be heard here. Also, my "hot band" pick wants to score tampon commercials. Can I pick 'em or what?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


DJing with my friend Dave last Saturday was nothing less than a total blast. Daddy's being Daddy's, with its pressed tin tiles, snap-buttoned bros, and rustic wood surfaces, I started off with a requisite country set. For an hour, I strung together Willie's RCA sides, Dillard-Clark, Bobbie Gentry, the Glaser Brothers, Waylon, Travis Wammack, and Tony Joe White cuts before using Joe Tex's funky if clueless cover of "Ode to Billy Joe" (in which Joe obliviously turns the eerie lovelorn tale into a homoerotic murder mystery) to spring into Dave's ridiculous soul 45 mini-set.

I learned the hard way that when you bring a Supreme Grandmaster into the mix like Dave, you risk being run out of the booth, not to mention the bar and block. I've been conversing with heaps of DJs of late and while it may be possible to learn about "the canon" of classic rock or what have you, once you dip into dance/ disco/ DJ culture, there exist reams and reams of realms that will never be coherent or conveniently ordered into a guidebook. Albums you can learn about, but delving into 12"s, dubs, club mixes, 10" promos, white labels, acetates, it fractures like a post-modern tome into alternate worlds. And Dave traveled freely through them, be they Miami bass, freestyle, or boogie: Change's 1981 Armani-sleek album cut "Miracles," some collab between Luke and Lil Jon, a Gloria Taylor b-side, this Carol Williams 12" (with a drastically different mix than the 10" version), "Don't Send Nobody Else," a dash of Sinnamon.

It was all I could do to keep up (by playing Cyndi Lauper, no less). Although seeing Dave's humility as he informed a drunk blonde that he did not have Thriller on him was priceless, too. She then asked me if I brought any Wings or Journey. McCartney II doesn't count, apparently. Transcribing an interview with The Real DJ Spun today, he noted: "Too many people these days just look to the internet to learn about music. If you’re a DJ, you don’t learn on the internet. It’s about interacting with people on a personal level, in-person." So I guess I'm packing "PYT" for next time.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I will be on WNYC's Morning Edition this Tuesday (93.9 FM, 820 AM), in the 7am hour, talking about this year's installment of the CMJ Music Marathon and whether or not said-festival is still relevant in 2008. Guess which two-letter word answer I gave?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

heep see

what's stacked in front of the turntable:

The Laughing Light of Plenty: The Rose
Cloud One: Atmosphere Strut
Bohannon: Keep on Dancin'
Amon Düül II: Made in Germany
Jacques Renault: Bad Skinned

Piano Music of Erik Satie: Vol. 1-4
Animal Collective: Water Curses
Daft Punk: Discovery
ZZ Top: Degüello
Dr. Dunks: Re-Imagined in Alphabet City

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: Greatest Message's
George Coleman: Bongo Joe
Miles Davis: Pangaea
Pharoah Sanders: Village of the Pharoahs
Gwen McRae: Something So Right

Todd Rundgren: A Wizard, A True Star
The Undisputed Truth: Cosmic Truth
Irma Thomas: Sings
Willie Nelson: The Willie Way
Marc Benno: Ambush

Willie Nelson: The Words Don't Fit the Picture
Aeroplane: Pacific Air Race
Runaway: Brooklyn Club Jam
Lee Douglas: Black Disco Vol.2
Willie Nelson: The Sound of Your Mind

Friday, October 03, 2008

heep see

YouTube "research" clips:

In which "fellatio" translates as "dog licking your face."

In which a dog in a space suit sings about human loss.


These are from time spent at the MoMA's exhibit on rock and art:

In which we had to leave the museum afterwards, our minds were so blown.


In which a drunken letch runs over a teenage girl with his Rolls Royce and then dances psychedelically with her (before Papua New Guineans make her plane crash):

Monday, September 29, 2008

lookout beta

Since I haven't set a Google Alert for my name, someone had to send me this tidbit:

"Once on a roll, Berman obviously has a tough time stopping. Exhibit one: the moment when he pulled out the SF Weekly's review of his latest album, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (Drag City), and proceeded to deconstruct, word by word, the Andy Beta piece, which he described as 'the review that really angered me the most.'

"'I can say that almost every single sentence has a mistake or displayed ignorance about country music,' said Berman as he read the entire piece. 'There's so many different wrong things in there. The Statler Brothers are the exact opposite of places where beer is drunk and Stetsons get hung — they were squares.'"

Which is funny, in that I argue the same exact thing about the Silver Jews.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Definitely still in recovery mode after ATP. But that's to be expected when you turn into a pillar of light during My Bloody Valentine.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

print bedia

Berry busy, to where I'm still just catching up with these things. In the new issue of Stop Smiling (The Expat Issue) --which features a sweet interview with Daft Punk about Electroma and why they love LA-- I have an essay about actress Jean Seberg and the American Myth Machine (which apparently runs on blonde women).

And leftover from Paste, these capsule reviews:

Ballad of Narayama dir. by Shohei Imamura

“I am interested in the relationship of the lower part of the human body and the lower part of the social structure,” director Shohei Imamura famously stated and throughout his career, he constantly scratched at the polite veneer of Japanese society to reveal the animal half beneath: cruel, bloodlusty, base. Curiously, Imamura’s career began under reserved master Yasujiro Ozu, yet it also includes mentoring audacious modern director, Takahashi Miike. Splenetic and light-hearted in equal measure, Imamura’s titles mirror his subject matter: pornographers, prostitutes, killers, swine. But Ballad won Cannes prestigious Palmes d’Or in 1983 (he’s the only Japanese director to win the award twice) by taking a slightly different path. A carefully unfurling tale about how an isolated mountain village survives in its harsh climes by sending its eldest members to die on the highest peak, through Imamura’s eyes, we see how the inhabitants emulate the beasts around them, acting savagely yet remaining fraught and human.

Wings/ The Ascent dir. by Larisa Shepitko

At the vanguard of Soviet cinema after winning the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for her 1976 masterwork, The Ascent, who knows how high director Larisa Shepitko would have risen had she not been instantly killed in a car crash while scouting locations for her next film? Instead, her slim but compelling oeuvre fell into total disrepair. Censored at home, her films scarcely made it out during her lifetime, and none of them were released on DVD. And while only two of her four finished films are here, this two-disc set rescues Shepitko’s most resonant works.
Wings, from 1966, deftly sidesteps Soviet censors to steadfastly tell of a heroine war pilot who now struggles to adjust to peacetime. Dissatisfied with her lot as a teacher and mother, she drinks heavily, slowly consumed by a vainglorious but vanished past. For The Ascent, Shepitko re-imagines two Russian soldiers in a Christ-Judas parable. Captured and tortured by the Nazis, one embraces his martyred fate while another will do anything to live, even turn traitor. Starkly told against a purgatorial white of snow, two of cinema’s most searing, soul-devastating stares reside here; we now have the chance to stare back.

Before the Rain dir. Milcho Manchevski

“Time never dies, the circle is not round,” an Eastern Orthodox priest reminds his young ward in Before the Rain, a 1994 movie that was the first feature film made in the newly carved-out country of Macedonia as the Kosovo violence reached a boiling point next door. The debut of Milcho Manchevski after a career in music videos (his award-winning video for Arrested Development’s “Tennessee” is included in the Criterion edition), this evocative 1994 film draws comparisons to Pulp Fiction in that it too is told as a disjointed (yet still circular) triptych. Yet the spasmodic violence is never stylized nor ironic. A Macedonian priest shelters an Albanian girl, a London photo editor feels the ethnic conflict firsthand, and Alex, a war photographer, returns to his now-unfamiliar homeland. As the climax nears and the three stories entwine, Alex realizes what it means to be blind to this perpetuating cycle of violence.

The Furies dir. by Anthony Mann

In A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, the director esteemed that of the four westerns director Anthony Mann made in 1950, only “The Furies could have been a Greek tragedy.” With grace notes of King Lear and Dostoevsky also present amid its sere landscape, go figure that when Criterion Collection adds its first ever western to their esteemed catalog, they opt for a most idiosyncratic entry. Rather than gunplay and granite-faced cowboys, The Furies instead simmers with land rights, hostile business takeovers, and the crackling Electra complex between Stanwyck and Huston. Huston plays cattle baron T.C. Jeffords, while Stanwyck plays his daughter Vance. Alternately deemed a she-fox, unbridled philly, and herd of stampeding cattle, Vance is intent on inheriting the family land, the Furies, until her father brings home a new bride and hangs her paramour. It’s then that we learn the adage: “Hell hath no fury like Barbara Stanwyck scorned.”