Throwback Thursday: Big Shot’s 2010 Interview With Mux Mool

MUX_MOOL

In 2010, Carl Ritger (a.k.a. Radere) connected with Brooklyn-based producer Brian Lindgren (a.k.a.Mux Mool) and talked to him about his hazy, ever-evolving sound and how he connected with Ghostly International. As the conversation below reveals, Ritger learned that Lindgren never met a genre he didn’t like.

Since debuting on the scene in 2006 with a single track on the Brooklyn-based Moodgadget imprint’s Rorschach Suite compilation, Brian Lindgren — a.k.a. Mux Mool — has rapidly carved a niche out for himself in the ever more crowded musical landscape. Pairing blunted, Dilla-esque hip-hop with a penchant for blog-house aesthetics, he’s earned his notoriety the old-fashioned way, touring: relentlessly and marketing the hell out of his work. Big Shot caught up with the producer shortly after the release of his Ghostly International debut, Skulltaste, earlier this spring, touching on everything from his approach to keeping laptop performances interesting to his feelings about being constantly compared to Ghostly label mate Dabrye.

Listening to your latest album, Skulltaste, it’s clear that your musical output is the product of a lifelong obsession with music of all genres, from dub to disco to hip-hop and back. Where do you draw your inspiration from? What sort of records do you find yourself listening to when you’re not building your own beats?
Mux Mool: I’m a firm believer that if you produce music, especially electronically, that one must be aware of the dynamics and history of all music. I would say very few of us are actually born into a listening world of indie beat music; rather, we all come to it at a certain point after we’ve been exposed to many, many other music. My listening tastes tend to vary greatly from day to day. I think that because of “I’ve always been into electronic music. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever made music without the help of a computer or sampler.” Being more or less inundated with “beat” music on the regular, I try to listen to things that cleanse my palate. That could be anything from Slayer to Enya, or Big Business to Dream Academy.

Have you always been an electronic musician, or did you play in bands before discovering the joys of software?
I’ve always been into electronic music. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever made music without the help of a computer or sampler. I was in choir in school — I think my voice is pretty terrible, though.

You’re known for using an extremely minimal set-up, both in the studio and in performance. What kind of gear and software are you using these days?
Same thing as I’ve been using since the beginning, really: computer and MIDI keyboard to create, and computer and M-Audio Trigger Finger to perform. Ableton Live and Reason are staples. I can’t really keep up with gear, and a lot of how actual sound works is confusing to me. I just know how a computer works. Also, I can’t really afford to purchase new things with any kind of regularity, and programs like Ableton are so deep already that I find more in just exploring that than constantly switching gear. Also, being able to do one-off shows and only bring one bag that has everything I need in it is fucking awesome. It’s like a port-a-party.

“From what I understand, Dabrye is a smarter and more serious guy than me; I’m definitely more goofball.”

You seem to be out on the road constantly, a bit of a rarity for modern electronic musicians. What drives you to tour so much? Do you feel it helps you build your “brand,” or does it run deeper than that for you?
I am not on the road as much as I’d like to be. I’d be gone all the time if I could. I know a lot of electronic musicians that tour a lot more than I do, though. The current state of the music world is in is kind of rough. No one is really making money off of record sales, and I don’t see record labels as eager to pick up new artists in general because of the lack of income from that side. For musicians, playing live is really one of the only ways to have a steady income. I know a lot of producers [historically] don’t want to play live, or the gear is too bulky to afford to move, or there just isn’t enough interest in having them come play because to an audience we are all basically just playing solitaire or checking e-mail on stag It’s not very interesting. I’m trying to find ways to make it interesting: getting on the mic or dancing, whatever. It’s not necessarily a way to get more popular, but it’s the best way to reach people on a visceral level where it’s you and your computer noise going directly into their brains at harmful levels.

How did your working relationship with Ghostly International come about?
Coming to Ghostly was a tailoring process. I started working with [A&R man] Jakub [Alexander] at Moodgadget in 2006. I was just a hobby musician then. Over time I wanted to do more and more. Ghostly picked up “Night Court” for the Ghostly Swim compilation, and I think that song did pretty well there. I eventually pitched an album idea to [label owner] Sam [Valenti IV], and he liked it. I think I’m just really lucky…and really patient.

Do artists like Ghostly International mainstay Dabrye make you uncomfortable? Do you feel that the two of you share the same sort of “aesthetic space”?
I don’t know how or why that would make me uncomfortable. Any comparisons there would just be flattering, as Dabrye is a great producer. I don’t really think we share the same aesthetic space, either. From what I understand, Dabrye is a smarter and more serious guy than me; I’m definitely more goofball.

What’s next for the Mux Mool project? Back to the studio? Back out on the road?
I have a few things in the works. More songs, yes. More remixes, more EPs, some MCs, some upbeat, some slower, a bunch of drawings, maybe a comic book, T-shirts, more shows, bigger shows, costumes, choreography…and nudity.

Throwback Thursday: Our 2011 Interview with Hyperdub’s Kode9

Kode9

Hyperdub’s Steve Goodman lives a double life, juggling a career in academia, running his label, and making some of the headiest dubstep on the planet. Here’s an unpublished interview Zack Kerns conducted with Goodman in New York City back in 2011. 

“Dubstep as a world has become so complicated and diverse, to the point where the word is almost meaningless. In a way, that’s great for the music because there’s not a direct correlation between the word and a sound.” Coming from Hyperdub label boss, Steve Goodman, better known to many as Kode9, this could be one of the only generalizations that rings true anymore in regards to the loaded genre descriptor. For those who have followed the scene’s trajectory over the course of the past decade, it might seem almost surreal that the term has been stretched this thin, somehow encompassing everything from James Blake to Skrillex. Still, what is equally striking is that, in the midst of all the decontextualization, Kode9 could very well be the most qualified person to definitively make that statement.

Before bloggers were grappling with micro-genres and pop stars began singing over half-time wobbles, “dubstep” was a niche term used almost exclusively to reference the dark, bass-heavy two-step mutations that Kode9 and contemporaries such as Loefah and Digital Mystikz were producing back in the early to mid-2000s. And yet, in spite of the runaway inertia now characterizing the music’s evolution (as well as its rampant over-saturation), Kode9 has forged one of the more thoughtful and respected pathways into the present day. After introducing the world to Burial and cementing his own talent with his production work, he’s managed to constantly build upon his credibility by taking on an increasing number of roles, at the core of which is Hyperdub. As a label, it’s one of the most admirably influential imprints to take shape in the past decade, one that is continually broadening its scope without ever compromising its principles. As it stands, in 2011 he is a successful DJ/producer and a noted author/philosopher/teacher — in essence, a true renaissance man of low-end culture. Now officially an international figure, he is set to drop his sophomore album with long-time collaborator, MC Spaceape, entitled Black Sun, nearly five years after their debut. Of course, in these accelerated times, five years is almost a generation, and so it seems that this particular sunrise will be shedding light on a radically altered landscape — one in which they are originators and innovators, but once again, merely wanderers in a strange new terrain.

On first listen, you’ll notice that they’ve instinctively re-oriented themselves to this environment — Memories of the Future was almost singularly rooted in meditative tempos, brooding toplines, and the pure physicality of subsonic bass pressure, yet right from the start, opener “Black Smoke,” charges into the unknown with a bold intensity that had been previously withheld.

“We didn’t want to do anything quite as heavy or catatonic as the first one,” explains Kode9, “‘Black Smoke’ is almost like our exorcism of the first album —getting it out of our system…it’s actually quite an uplifting track as it builds and becomes more frantic.”

“It’s still that post apocalyptic, fictional world in which that album takes place, but it’s dealing with: different moods, and different colors…literally, it’s not such a dark place.”

The cleansing does make way for new shapes and sounds, and even five years down the line, they are still in command of a distinctly unique style. Like before, many of their tracks are driven solely by the swell of bass pulses and ambient percussive textures — in some instances it can even catch you off guard (Oh wait, I’m not actually hearing this drum-work, it’s just being implied). “It’s something we like doing occasionally,” says Kode9 about these stealthy rhythms that wind their way through the negative space. “How can you get momentum going without any drums? That’s our own little sub genre called bass fiction.”

Of course, this bass fiction was being actualized on Memories of the Future as well — in fact, the dynamic between Kode9’s moody soundscapes and the creeping tension of Spaceape’s raspy poetry was tailor-fit from the start — but it’s how they’ve fleshed it all out this time around that really gives it a sense of progression. In addition to the expanded sonic palette, the claustrophobic nature of their first outing has also given way to a greater sense of freedom, as well as a noticeably wider range of emotions.

kode9 steve goodman

“It just doesn’t have so much on its shoulders; it’s not so weighed down,” admits Kode9. “I mean, it’s still that post apocalyptic, fictional world in which that album takes place, but it’s dealing with different things than the first album dealt with: different moods, and different colors…literally, it’s not such a dark place. I think it’s quite a surreal place, but it’s not just one characterized by…dread.”

In some ways, it’s not too surprising that much of that nervous anticipation has been funnelled elsewhere. Sure, traces of dread still linger, but so much has occurred in and around the fictions that they’ve constructed over the past few years, it’s as if many of the events they foretold have literally come to pass. In that sense, they are traversing the aftermath of their own vision, one that has exploded across an array of consciousness, and at this point, they have no choice but to inhabit this mutant terrain.

On the other hand, something about these compounding parallels seems to have had a sobering effect as well.  Spaceape’s lyrics in particular seem much more grounded topically, and his confessional tales about relationships and physical decay can seem disarmingly real amid all the sci-fi abstractions. And Kode9’s productions come across as substantially more alert throughout: even on the final track, “Kryon,” a collaboration with Flying Lotus that has been surprisingly stripped of its rhythmic propulsion, the layered wall of synths creates a stark yet demanding kind of ambience, something that you wouldn’t have come across in the first album’s deep, contemplative haze.

As to the specifics behind the message they’re sounding? Well, that is ultimately up to interpretation, but one thing is for sure: they have been at the core of a powerful idea for some time now, one that continues to radiate outwards in fascinating ways. Despite that, there are signs that indicate it has grown too massive and might already be buckling under the gravity of its own weight. It could all be inevitable, but if the energy is still there, maybe this darker breed of light can escape that pull, unveiling new future sonics in the wake of its shadowy glow.

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Throwback Thursday: Big Shot’s 2010 Interview with Autchere

Autchere

In 2010 pioneering British electronic-music duo Autchere — Rob Brown and Sean Booth — issued their tenth album, Oversteps. Sean Booth talked candidly with David Abravanel about the group’s legacy, producing their tenth album and another new direction for the group.

Few groups have inspired the level of listener awe and rever- ence as Autechre. A cursory glance at past writings about the duo of Sean Booth and Rob Brown suggests that even critics have a hard time describing the duo’s music without resorting to Dickian sci-fi clichés, or at least Russolo-esque statements about the paradigm-blasting future of music. Process always seems to come to the forefront in discussions of Autechre, with many an article painting them as shrouded computer-music alchemists, cloistered away in a lab from which come successive mindfucks of mechanical beat blasts. Ostensibly, the launching point is techno — looking back at their 1993 debut album, Incunabula, establishes this — but through embracing the kitchen sink of avant-garde compositional processes, haven’t Autechre moved into their own realm?

Given the tendency of his music toward such haughty, esoteric interpretation, Sean Booth is a disarmingly familiar interview. Early on in the conversation, the topic turns to graffiti. Discussing a track on Autechre’s upcoming tenth album, Oversteps, “krYlon,” named after the spray-paint brand, Booth waxes nostalgic.

“We were fucking up!” he exclaims. “I was in three crews in Manchester from ‘85 to about ‘87, ‘88, we were really up. I was a tagger, I didn’t do pieces — I was pretty shit with a can, to be honest. I wasn’t a piecing kind of person; Rob was, though, [he] used to try and do pieces, although they weren’t brilliant.” Booth alludes to other friends of his with “proper talent” who still write today, before confirming that, yes, he had a number of handles around Manchester, and no, he won’t share them (“that’s not how it works,” he says with a laugh). It’s a funny and honest look at Autechre’s origins as two excited kids into hip-hop culture, far from the cold- ly inhuman image their music tends to inspire in many (possibly technophobic?) reviewers.

A cursory glance at hyperactive fan-forum threads leading up to the release of Oversteps reveals fans who are willing to forego medical bills for a deluxe Autechre vinyl pre-order, and, in an even stranger turn of events, those who have, either to mess with people or to take advantage of the opportunity for distribution, published their own material labeled as Oversteps leaks.

Booth’s casual demeanor is appropriate in discussing Oversteps, an album with more empty space and gradual development than Autechre have released in some time. After delivering their sonically hardest album to date, 2005’s Untilted, and then their most disjointed (though in a striking way), 2008’s bursting-at-the-seams Quaristice, the duo took a step back into more contemplative, fleshed-out space for the latest record. When pressed about the studio process behind Oversteps, Booth describes it as “an unconscious studio effort: We didn’t start out with an endpoint in mind — we never do, really,” he explains. “It’s more like, you have an idea which is very simple, which leads you to have other ideas. We might just have one sound, playing one note, as a base point. But that will inspire other sounds, and eventually you end up with a track.”

While the tour in support of Untilted inspired the long jam sessions that were eventually pared down to the tracks on 2008’s Quaristice, the tour behind the latter album sent Autechre in a completely different direction. “After coming back off the last tour, we’d just been playing beats, basically,” says Booth. “We didn’t want to do any tracks with beats for a bit. Most of the material we did when we came back was like that; almost the polar opposite of what we’d been doing on tour. It wasn’t pattern-based, and it wasn’t for dancing to, really.” Booth reflects that he and Brown go through these phases regularly: “It’s difficult to play a live set for two months without getting a little bit bored with the type of material that you’re playing […] [though] we don’t really mind getting bored with stuff. It’s an important stage to go through, because it pushes you to do something new, or at least, not to do what you were doing. That’s where this album comes from—not really caring where we go next.”

Autchere 2010

Oversteps further reflects the lessons learned from the making of Quaristice, certainly a unique album in Autechre’s oeuvre. “It felt like the tracks didn’t really occu- py the same space as each other,“ offers Booth, “but it kind of made sense, from the point of view of having a lot of them and having them really sharp […] [Quaristice] was certainly more of a compilation than any of the albums we’ve done since Incunabula.” Not that this process, involving live recording of jams to two tracks, was perfect. “With hindsight,” admits Booth, “I know that there were things about it that we could have changed. But, we were kind of lost in the moment at the time. We wouldn’t have done the tracks that we [did], had we been that bothered about it.” Coming from the aforementioned more minimal and organic origins, Oversteps allowed for the meticulous and specific sculpting of tracks. “There was more focus this time on making the album a cohesive piece,” says Booth.

More than perhaps any other album, Oversteps is a delight for synthesizer enthusiasts, with tracks like “pt2ph8” and “see on see” functioning as showcases for sublime digital patches. Frequency Modulation, a form of digital synthesis which is commonly used for modeling unusual harmonic material — and, it should be noted, requires diligent editing for such purposes—takes a front seat on the record. Booth is particularly fond of the Yamaha FS1R and Native Instruments’ virtual FM8, two instruments that exemplify both the limitless possibilities inherent in FM synthesis, and the ceaseless tweaking required for it to really pay off. Oversteps is also padded by rich analog sounds, like the AAS Tasman virtual modular synth, and Booth’s beloved Nord Modular. “When I look at a Nord,” gushes Booth, “I get this warm feeling.”

Booth and Brown work in different studios, but thanks to technological advances, that’s less of a barrier than ever to the collaborative process. Speaking about studios provides a good opportunity to probe into Autechre’s ever-changing gear setup, both for studio and live works. For the last few tours, Autechre have eschewed laptops in live settings in favor of hardware samplers and synthesizers. It’s a more stable setup, suggests Booth, but one that also limits them to triggering and manipulating patterns when performing. “We’ve become better programmers,” boasts Booth, “and our systems don’t fail as often [as they used to]. We’ll be using computers again in ven- ues in the near future.” Using Max/MSP, they’re are able to perform more specific and sweeping manipulations to the control sequences being sent out to their gear.

Perhaps the greatest thrill about Oversteps is the feeling that Autechre could release something next month with a sound miles apart in origin.

Autechre’s live sets are reputable for being dense pastiches of largely unre- leased or heavily retooled work. The idea originates from long before Max/MSP entered the fray. “The whole idea of the live stuff being different,” explains Booth, “started because originally we were work- ing with Roland drum machines and Roland sync — the [MC-]202, [TR-]606, and stuff like that. The most efficient way of making tracks with a setup like that is just to record them in one take, and do the track live. The tracks have more vibe if you do that, basically — all the best house tracks were recorded that way.” This live lightning-capture process, explains Booth, is exemplified on a track like “Oval Moon,” Autechre’s contribution to the recently- released Warp 20 compilation: “That was made in the time you’d take to listen to it, basically […] made in an afternoon, really.”

Reminiscing about their days as an unsigned act playing on pirate radio, Booth reveals that there are potentially hundreds of tapes of unreleased early material floating around. “At the time, we were too embarrassed to consider releasing [it],” says Booth about this early work. “But it’s funny, listening back to it now, you realize some of it’s not that bad!” Not that fans of the group’s early sound should hold their breath for reissues, an uncomfortable prospect that Booth considers “a bit like publishing your childhood diaries.”

Going back to the myth behind Autechre, particularly after such an honest conversation, it’s clear that Autechre’s fan community plays a large part in the pedestal upon which Booth and Brown have been placed. A cursory glance at hyperactive fan-forum threads leading up to the release of Oversteps reveals fans who are willing to forego medical bills for a deluxe Autechre vinyl pre-order, and, in an even stranger turn of events, those who have, either to mess with people or to take advantage of the opportunity for distribution, published their own material labeled as Oversteps leaks.

“Reputation carries a lot of weight,” says Booth, “it’s an interesting phenomenon that people would want to take advantage of. Ultimately, the whole thing’s a huge compliment, you can’t read it any other way.” It’s interesting to note that Booth is a keen observer to these communities, and has listened to every fake leak released — some of which he enjoys. Regarding the Ae fan community as a whole, Booth seems stuck between enormous gratitude and bewilderment. “We seem to attract people who are really into detail, and quite often those people find it hard to see the big picture,” says Booth, in reference to Autechre fans who attempt to obsessively document the group’s compositional process (particularly their Max/MSP patches), before going back on his statement with a bit of tongue-in-cheek uncertainty — “fuck knows!” Booth himself is also clearly a process-head, having been into building things on a granular level from an early age (unsurprisingly and like many electronic-music makers, he loved LEGO as a child). This focus on process might be that golden-nugget secret to the irresistibility of Autechre. Looking at the precedent for warping existing processes in electronic dance music, Booth credits as major influences Newbuild and 90, the first two albums from 808 State, a group that features past Autechre touring-mate Graham Massey.

Whether it’s 808 State with acid house, A Guy Called Gerald with jungle, or J Dilla with Detroit hip-hop, Booth’s favorite artists seem to be the ones who manage to make the most lasting impressions for a particular genre by reinventing it for them- selves. So, too, have Autechre done this in their career, bursting out of the intelligent techno scene from the early ‘90s to define (and then, again, supersede) the popularity of glitch music, finally settling in their cur- rent status as impossibly ageless and perpetually ahead-of-the-curve musicians. The reverence is well justified, and perhaps the greatest thrill about Oversteps is the feeling that Autechre could release something next month with a sound miles apart in origin, yet still uniquely their own and unquestionably brilliant.

Throwback Thursday: Big Shot’s 2010 Interview with Luke Steele of Empire of the Sun

empire of the sun

For Throwback Thursday, we revisit our 2010 interview with Empire of the Sun’s Luke Steele.

After releasing one of the best albums of 2009, Australia’s Empire of the Sun and their sprawling live show are finally making their way to North America. Luke Steele recounts a year filled with fine-tuning their ever-expanding theatrical live show, laying down vocals for Jay-Z’s latest album, and celebrating with Hova in London.

He spent years making guitar driven alt-rock in The Sleepy Jackson, but now singer-songwriter Luke Steele is walking on a dream in Empire of the Sun. Along with partner Nick Littlemore of Aussie dance twosome Pnau, the duo’s effortless concoction of heady pop-dance surfaced precisely when the genre was lacking the stuff that sets aside the men from the boys: songs. Not too pop, not too electronic, Empire of the Sun’s flawless debut was the singalong album of 2009. Consider their barrage of hit singles, ranging from the effervescent dance-pop of “Walking On A Dream” to the anthemic, electro-acoustic jangle of “We Are the People,” and it’s no wonder why this pair from Oz dominated the charts last year.

“Obviously we want to do a second record, but we can’t use the same approach. You can only meet your wife once and get married, you know?”

Where Fischerspooner’s fuck-dance-let’s-art ethos was bathed in irony, Steele and Littlemore’s concept is a virtual fantasyland, a place where women look like blue marlins, love rules, and chivalry isn’t dead. In an age where music videos aren’t the marketing tool they were at the end of the last Millennium, their elegantly appointed clips looked more like acid-washed daydreams, complete with cinematic scenery and colorful characters that inadvertently defined a new style while racking up millions of plays on YouTube.

Calling from his home in Perth in Western Australia, Luke Steele takes a slow, deep breath when asked what North Americans can expect from the band’s live show. “Oh, man. It’s become epic,” he says slowly, trying to find the right words to describe the ever-evolving audio-visual sensory onslaught that includes musicians, dancers, and all sorts of choreography. “It first started more as a theater piece, and now I think it’s gone over the hook. I think it’s original and inventive, and I think it’ll bend people’s minds.”

Steele directs EOTS’s visuals with his wife, and it’s impressive to see how he’s been able to realize his vision with Littlemoore since taking a breather from The Sleepy Jackson, a far more traditional rock endeavor.

“It started from a grain of salt and grew into a mountain, thanks to our imaginations,” Steele explains of Empire’s inception. “It’s like opening a door, brushing one stroke on a canvas, and watching it into a thousand.”

The seeds of Empire of the Sun were planted in 2000. “We got introduced through the record company, then met up at a bar and got to work the next day,” Steele says. “It was pretty obvious that we had an amazing chemistry during that first day. Nick was in his electronic cut-up phase, making samples, piecing them together like a puzzle and writing a chorus and melody.”

Six years later, they connected again in Sydney. Since they both live on different coasts and never see each other, they started talking about getting a studio in the States and writing with people in America because there was a lack of quality dance songs. “I think it instigated a healthy competition for us to write a masterpiece,” offers Steele.

Once they entered the studio, their creativity progressed at a rapid pace. Hourlong jam sessions birthed hooks and melodies that were later stitched together into the songs that became their debut album. The process was effortless and Steele reports the title track “was written in 20 minutes.”

While there’s been a load of remixes from the album [“I picked two or three,” Steele says, “and there’s another 40,000 that have filtered in. I love the Danger Mouse remix, which is killer, and we use it at the end of the live set. That guy is amazing. All of the remixes are unique in their own way.”], he says they won’t allow the group’s songs to be edited in order to garner more radioplay.

Steele walks himself through a conversation with his label out loud and plays the temperamental artiste.

“No, the song stays as it is. Edits for Japan or other countries – what are you talking about? Argh!”

With select North American shows in August, including an appearance on the Perry Farrell stage at Lollapaloza [“We never do a regular show? It’s going to be the biggest show we’ve ever played. I’m going to set myself on fire or blow myself out of a cannonball.”], Steele is looking forward to finally bringing the show to the U.S. The upcoming jaunt will also allow Steele and Littlemore the chance to travel and gain inspiration and more perspective.

“This record happened so naturally — it’s the easiest record I’ve ever done. I’ve thought about it: How else do I make another record so easy like this? It doesn’t happen—it’s a one-off.”

Steele says they have 20 EOTS tracks in the works, but this year has been set aside to tour America, Europe and Japan, so the earliest their second album will see the light of day is 2011. “We kind of want to play these songs around the world before we do another record,” he says, making a fair point. “Obviously we want to do a second record, but we can’t use the same approach. You can only meet your wife once and get married, you know? The first is always the best, then you have to experiment and become inventive and hope for the best. It’s hard.”

Before we hang up, I ask Steele about his appearance on “What We Talkin’ About” on Jay-Z’s latest album, The Blueprint 3. It’s undoubtedly a story he will be telling forever. “I got all of these e-mails from management and the [record] company in the States. He wants you, man. Now!” Facing a deadline that wouldn’t allow for a 25-hour flight to NYC, Steel tracked his vocals in Perth and sent his files via e-mail.

“I got a phone call around 3:30 in the morning [from Jay-Z]… [Impersonates an American accent, but sounds more like Marlon Brando in The Godfather] This is killer man… I love it!” And that was that. “I later got to meet him in London at a Chinese restaurant. We drank Cristal and Dom Perignon. He’s a pretty cool cat… Empire state of hip-hop. Everyone uses the word surreal to describe situations like that one, but that experience was pretty surreal.”

Life imitating art couldn’t happen to a better person.

Throwback Thursday: Big Shot’s 2011 Interview with M83’s Anthony Gonzalez

m83 anthony gonzalez

For Throwback Thursday we dial the clock back to 2011, when we talked to M83’s Anthony Gonzalez about his ambitious double album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, which was regarded as one of the best albums of the year. Here we talked to Gonzalez about the ambitious album and how ’90s alt-culture informed the now-classic album.

When you hit play on disc one of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, the new album by M83, you know you’re in for something big. The album’s intro opens with a rising ambiance intercut with an arpeggio of synthesizers. A frail monologue can be heard among the rising action before we hear M83’s mastermind, Anthony Gonzalez, yell out “I carry on!” His voice sounds like it has never before – a commanding lead that wails into the night sky. The rest of that opening track is handled by Zola Jesus whose chilly tenor gives the album a stately and memorable intro. Speaking with Gonzalez about the collaboration, it was apparently a mutual desire to work with each other. “I just wanted to do something with her for a long time. I’m a big fan of her music and for me it was almost obvious I needed her for the album. She was a fan of M83 as well. It was cool. We were both very fond of each other.”

The size of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is a large factor in the listening experience. M83 songs are always aimed skyward but this record also packs in as much lengthwise. At two discs, totaling at a length of 72 minutes, it’s their longest and perhaps best work to date. The inspiration for such a large scale structure came from a few different places, one of them being from ’90s alternative heavyweights, the Smashing Pumpkins. “When I was a kid and I first bought Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, I remember I was so excited about it. I mean I skipped school to be able to go to the record store, and waited in line in the morning and then went back home to listen to the album like ten times in the same day. I was just excited, and I feel my new album is kind of a tribute to this era of music where we used to go to the record store and wait for the album of our favorite band.”

“I feel my new album is kind of a tribute to this era of music where we used to go to the record store and wait for the album of our favorite band.”

Aside from the ballad “Wait” borrowing a little bit of Billy Corgan’s guitar tone from “Thru the Eyes of Ruby,” the Pumpkins influence is more in the vein of size, not sound. Continuing the nostalgia-fest started on Saturdays = Youth, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming relies heavily on 1980’s style production, an age of gated reverb and squeaky clean sonics. “The sound of the ’80s is a big influence. The way they used to mix the albums at the time and the way they used to produce albums was definitely a huge influence on this album. You know sometimes when you listen to an ’80s album and it sounds super clean and bright sounding. We wanted to achieve the same thing in terms of soundscape.”

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Helping Gonzalez achieve that sound was one of the unsung heroes of the ’90s and 00s, Justin Meldal-Johnson. Best known for his work as Beck’s bassist, Meldal-Johnson has performed with dozens of seminal artists since the early ’90s such as Air, Goldfrapp, and Tori Amos. Meldal-Johnson came into contact with Gonzalez when he was touring with Nine Inch Nails in 2009.

“Justin is one of the nicest guys on the planet and I felt like because we shared this same vision of music, it was like really easy to work with him, you know, he was flawless. And we never had any issues of communication. We were always getting along very well…He came to me very genuinely, in a very sincere way saying that he wanted to work on this album with me. And I trusted him and am really happy with the results.”

Those results are pretty spectacular. Tracks like “Midnight City,” “Reunion” and “OK Pal” are all mountain sized anthems that pull at the heartstrings and your dancing feet at the same time. Breathy ballads like “Wait” and “Splendor,” the latter which features Brad Laner from Medicine, are lovely dreamscapes that wash over with a heavy euphoric feeling.

While Gonzalez had reportedly set out to make a dark record this time out, he ended up making his most accessible and varied and one that asks the listener to hurry up and join in the fantasy.

Throwback Thursday: DJ Krush Looks Back on 20 Years

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In 2011, we interviewed Japanese turntable legend DJ Krush (a.k.a. Hideaki Ishii) about celebrating two decades in the mix, his plans for the future and his thoughts on the earthquake and tsunami which devastated his country that year. For the first edition of Throwback Thursday, we’re republishing our conversation with one of hip-hop’s master mixers.

DJ Krush is celebrating 20 years in the business, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. To commemorate his anniversary, Japan’s king of spin is about to embark on a worldwide tour and will continue releasing new material via iTunes in preparation for a looming new solo album. Hugh Bohane got a chance to interview him just after his recent U.S tour.

What have been some of the best memories of your 20 year career so far?
DJ Krush: There have been many special memories in last 20 years and it’s hard to pick one. But if I had to pick one, I would say that one would be joining a band called Method of Defiance with Bill Laswell and Bernie Worrell (of P-Funk fame), who are both legends and have both been important artists for a long time, even before I started my DJ career.

How did this year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan effect you personally?
It’s was just such a sad story… some of my relatives live in Tohoku, where the earthquake hit. They were all safe but received some damage to their home. My city, Tokyo, looks like it is getting back to normal, but if you go to the Tohoku area there are many people still living in temporary housing and it will take time before they can return to any kind of a normal living existence. As you know we are still having the nuclear problem as well. I can’t begin to describe the clean up but the whole experience has had a big influence on both my ordinary life and my life as an artist.

How have your tours been going?
Most of my tours for this year are finished and they were all great tours and I had a wonderful time in each city. My 20th anniversary world tour will start from this December. I will be touring China in December, Europe next January and also in late March, America in mid February, and Australia and New Zealand in early March. Looking forward to seeing people from all over the world real soon.

What’s your feeling when you are playing on stage in front of large crowds?
I’m always so happy but I also feel tense as well.

What’s the best kind of audience to play to?
I’m happy to perform to any kind of audience who are interested in DJ Krush.

What’s the best part about being a DJ?
This can best be described in my music and how I communicate through my music…

What’s the hardest part?
I’m always changing but some of the audience tend to stereotype me into one style or into one set of songs… sometimes this kind of stereotyping makes it hard.

What records have you bought recently and or are listening to?
I’m currently working and producing in the studio, so I don’t buy or listen to other music just at the moment.

DJ Krush

Rumor has it you maybe working on a new solo album and that there maybe a release coming, could you tell us about it?
I just started a monthly single project that is part of my 20th anniversary project. This is released digitally at the moment and the first two singles are on iTunes now. There will be further monthly releases throughout 2012. I am planning to release songs on vinyl as well.

What’s the process of making a DJ Krush album like?
I just throw all of my originality into it, in the same way I have done with all my previous work.

Your last album Jaku blended lush, traditional Japanese folk with hip-hop. Can we expect more Japanese traditional fusion on future albums?
Maybe you can!

What advice would you give to any young DJs starting out?
Find your own style, have your own vision and keep doing it.

“I think the most important point is that we (people) need to use technology and not let technology use us.”

Where do you see DJ technology going in the future? I have no idea about this. But I think the most important point is that we (people) need to use technology and not let technology use us.

Who are some Japanese artists that are inspiring you lately?

MC Sibitt is just one of the more interesting Japanese artists inspiring me at the moment.

Who are you looking forward to collaborating with in future?

I have some people already in mind, but I will have to let you know later!