The Peanut Butter Wolf Jukebox Feature for URB

peanut-butter-wolf-urb-featureI recently interviewed Chris Manak (Peanut Butter Wolf) of Stones Throw Records for URB Magazine. Here’s an excerpt. Please click through the links to read the entire article.

I first saw Stones Throw Records owner Chris Manak DJing 45 records as Peanut Butter Wolf more than a decade ago in a dank Seattle club. While he rarely made eye contact with the audience during his performance, he dug through his record cases with unconcealed glee. He was a shy type whose subdued and yet surly attitude was somewhat compelling. He didn’t seem to be an introvert, or an extrovert either, really. He wasn’t punk or shy for the usual rebellious sake of alienating people. There was a struggle taking place, a struggle that wasn’t appreciable by those who weren’t inquisitive. There was a reason he sought out the far reaches of popular culture. He collected and played obscure 45 records plundered from global flea markets. He donned strange haberdashery that had nothing to do with trendy headwear. He spent thousands pressing vinyl that had no apparent revenue potential.

If you were paying close enough attention, the subtext seemed to read: the hype isn’t what makes the music. The money, the scene, and the popularity aren’t what make movements. What compels and inspires is usually at odds with mass culture. It’s adjacent. It’s perpendicular. It’s genuine and difficult. And it might not make you rich.

Read the full article on URB.

My DJ Colette Mixtape

Image courtesy Colette Marino
Image courtesy Colette Marino

It’s 1996 and I’m traversing Interstate 80 somewhere in Illinois on the way to a rave in Chicago with my new friend Jonathan. We’re listening to my prized and well-worn DJ Colette mixtape. She sings “Rise up, riiiise…” over an expertly layered track when the tape seizes up in the deck of my Mitsubishi. I press pause, then eject, hoping to rescue the thing. For some reason unbeknownst to me, Jonathan grabs it, unspooling the magnetic tape, and hastily throws it out the passenger window. I watch in the rearview mirror as the spool unwinds behind us into the dividing line of highway and into the darkness punctuated by headlights. I mourn the loss of my prized analog artifact, and also silently curse my poor choice in litterbug passengers.

Fast forward.

2000, Seattle, Washington: As a contributing writer for San Francisco’s XLR8R Magazine, I interview the SuperJane collective (DJs Colette Marino, Heather Robinson, Shannon Ialongo or Dayhota and Darlene Jackson, a.k.a. Lady D) for a cover story touting the ladies as house music underground’s most promising new DJs and producers. This is the first cover story for the SuperJane ladies (it is also my first), and cements their celebrity status in the world of electronic music.

Fast forward.

2005, Miami, Florida’s Winter Music Conference. As WMC memories tend to blur together into an amalgamation of DJs, glinting disco balls, business cards, clubs, pool parties and over-exuberance, I can’t remember whether I saw Colette at a Red Bull mansion afterhours event or at some club. But I do remember the specific interplay of light chiseling her high cheekbones as she sang, lyrically lilting in alto, completely in the moment.

Pause.

In 2000, when the SuperJane article first appeared on the cover of XLR8R, the landscape of house music releases was relatively barren, as compared to today’s proliferation of labels, producers and releases. Production was expensive, access to affordable software was difficult, manufacturing and distribution were major roadblocks, and the space-time continuum still separated artist and label from fan discovery. Today, new house tracks are a MixCloud, SoundCloud, Beatport, Twitter or Facebook click away. Yet today, as always, the percentage of quality releases is far outnumbered by watered-down dreck. It’s rare to seize upon a house album that’s consistent, smartly produced and timeless.

Fast forward.

Last week, I met Colette at Aroma Café in Studio City, California. The house music maven has launched her Candy Talk label, and released a superlative album, When The Music’s Loud, spanning genres from acid house to classic Chicago house and Italo-disco. I love Colette’s new album even more than I adored that ill-fated ‘90s mixtape. She’s won various awards, including Best Song Used in a Commercial via DanceStar for her Motorola licensing deal, and her music has appeared in movies like The Devil Wears Prada. She’s married actor and rock music star Thomas Ian Nicholas, she tours on a weekly basis, and she has a son, Nolan. She’s preparing for the reunion of the SuperJane collective at Hollywood’s King King later that week, and also for the premiere of the Girl documentary, directed by Kandeyce Jorden and featuring DJs Sandra Collins, DJ Rap, DJ Irene, Lady D and Colette, among others. Our conversation spans topics from her production partners to DJing while pregnant.

Colette_WhenTheMusicsLoud_Final_600t

SC: How did your new album, When The Music’s Loud, come together?

CM: This record took about three years. I’m more of a singer-songwriter, so I collaborated with many different producers on the album: Tim K, Santiago & Bushido, Teenwolf and Nick Chacona. I’d either work with them in the studio, or swap tracks digitally back and forth. Tim K and I wrote all of the songs together, which was a first for me. Usually I write with many different people, but I feel like writing with one person made a stronger record. Even though the album is very diverse and musically travels a lot, having the same songwriting partner…

SC: Made the album more cohesive?

CM: Yes. Since Tim K and I wrote all of the songs together, I feel like they relate to one another even when musically they might be very different. The other great thing about working with Tim is that he introduced me to Teenwolf, who produced Ninjasonik’s “Somebody Gonna Get Pregnant.” I was actually pregnant during this time so the video was extra fun and funny to me. It was a very unique experience for me, too, being pregnant while writing…

SC: You have life growing inside you as you’re creating music! It must have influenced the creative process. Budding, growth…

CM: It was amazing! It was a very special and happy time for me. Even though the songs on the record are not specifically about my son, I will forever listen to this record and think about my first moments of becoming a mama.

SC: I wanted to ask you about DJing while pregnant. I have a DJ friend, DJ Sparatik, who’s 5 months pregnant right now and trying to organize a warehouse party event where she’ll be performing. She was discussing the party with one of her friends, and when she mentioned that she’d be DJing the party, he responded with, “Oh, I don’t want to see that,” meaning he didn’t want to see a pregnant woman DJ.

CM: I’ve had friends DJ up until their last trimester. I think the issue was more with your friend’s pal, and that’s unfortunate for him, because pregnancy is a celebration. Why wouldn’t you play music? I, and [the other SuperJane women] Darlene [DJ Lady D] and Heather all played during our pregnancies and got really positive feedback. I played a show in Mexico City where everyone wanted to take a picture rubbing my belly. It was very cute.

SC: That’s so sweet! How have you been able to balance everything? You tour often, you have a family, you produce music and have a record label…

CM: It’s challenging. Luckily, my husband is an amazing dad, and we also get a lot of help from his mom. Since we both have careers, we try to balance our family and work life as much as possible. We have a two-year-old named Nolan who has added the most amazing dynamic to our family. It’s incredibly fun and incredibly hard. There isn’t really a free moment, but that’s okay. It’s all worth it.

SC: Tell me about your label, Candy Talk.

I launched Candy Talk very quietly two years ago. When The Music’s Loud is the first album I’ve released on my own. It’s been six years since my last album, Push. I wanted to start a label so I could have complete creative freedom. I’m really happy to be releasing my own music, and not worrying about making a label happy. I compare it to the first time you drive a car by yourself just after getting your license. There’s this freedom that’s indescribable. That’s what this label feels like. It’s overwhelming, but at the same time, I’m really happy to work with people I respect and adore musically.

SC: Are you releasing When The Music’s Loud in different formats as well as digitally?

CM: Right now it’s available digitally on iTunes, Beatport and Traxsource. We’re releasing the physical CD in two weeks, and then the first single, “Hotwire,” will be released on vinyl. It’s my first vinyl release in eight years, which is very exciting.

SC: Right, you had several stellar vinyl releases. Weren’t you on the legendary Afterhours label created by Mazi, Johnny Fiasco, DJ Lego and Spero?

CM: Yes, I was on Afterhours. And, guess what?

SC: What?

CM: Moody’s coming back!

SC: YAY! Moody, DJ Bad Boy Bill’s classic Chicago house music label, released tracks from 1996 and then closed its doors in 2005, right? They’re back!?

CM: Yes. Moody re-released everything a couple weeks ago on Beatport, and now they’re gearing up to release new material.

SC: Good. The Moody house music mainstay is back at ‘em. I meant to ask you before we wrap this up: what are your top venues to play? I know that’s a difficult question…

CM: It’s a very difficult question! King King in Los Angeles has become my favorite spot hands down. In San Francisco, I really love Mighty. Lanai in Austin has a great outdoor space that I love playing at. I’m also a huge fan of Reflections in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. My favorite club to play in my hometown Chicago is Smart Bar. I had my first residency there in 1998 and it was the first club where I really learned how to DJ.

So what are you looking forward to in the coming weeks?

CM: I’m playing with SuperJane at King King in LA for our 16-year reunion. So much has changed and also stayed the same since we started Superjane in ’97. Some of us have moved out of Chicago and some of us have kids now, but our friendship and love for music has continued to be very strong.

We played a few shows together over the summer in Chicago and I was able to capture the footage for my new video, “Best Of Days.” It’s a special video for me as it highlights everything I love about Chicago and this group of amazingly talented women. The whole point of SuperJane was to have women playing music together and not make a big deal about it as music is not gender specific. People were always surprised to see a woman playing records, so we wanted to have a night where you saw FOUR women playing. That was always the goal. So it’s nice that, so many years later, even though we’ve all gone on different paths, that we can still come together. It’s been a long road, but we’re having a blast, and we’re gonna keep playing our music.

What I find today, as I did sixteen years ago at that rave in Illinois, is that Colette’s music is timeless. Had that mixtape survived, I’d still be blasting it on a boom box. Hers is a talent that’s survived evolving formats: mixtapes, to vinyl, to CDs, to MP3s; now vinyl again. Colette’s talent has not only survived changing formats, but also riveted generations of music lovers. And it will play on.

Stop. Eject.

Visit the Girl website for upcoming screening and show information. Visit Colette’s site or download her new album via iTunes. Also, you can download a few free singles from the album on SoundCloud.

Read the 2000 XLR8R SuperJane article.

Image courtesy Greg Cayea
Image courtesy Greg Cayea
This post originally published on Collective310.

Cyber PR: 51 Female Music Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Advice (Part 1)

Image

Ariel Hyatt is an inspiration. A digital pioneer and music industry maven, Hyatt launched her firm, Cyber PR, after working at WNEW FM, the KSA agency and W.A.R (What are Records) in New York. As “a thought leader in the digital PR world: the founder of a successful PR firm; international speaker and educator and the author of two books on social media and marketing for artists…  Ariel’s Cyber PR process marks the intersection of social media with engaged behavior, PR, and online marketing.”

I was pleased to contribute to Ariel’s collaborative article, “51 Female Music Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Advice.” My advice: “Think before speaking, and speak with conviction.” It seems a bit straightforward and obvious, but I’m constantly amazed at business meetings, seminars and presentations where folks forget to contribute thoughtfully.

Check out more advice from other female entrepreneurs in the music industry here.

The Swashbuckling Pirate’s Guide to Record Plunder in LA

I’m a swashbuckling vinyl pirate. I’ve spent years pillaging and plundering record crates in hot pursuit of record booty: ransacking thrift store bins, scouring dusty attics and moldy basements at estate sales, seeking out record shops near and far, hunting swap meets and garage sales. The stranger the location, the better records I’d find. I scored Chipmunk Punk, the new wave offering of Chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore while thrifting my way through obscure Northern California locales: Willits, anyone? I plucked the Richard Simmons’ Reach  from the 25-cent sale bin at Salvation Army in Seattle. Imagine Richard Simmons’ shrill voice imploring you to “Lift it UP” over cheesy ’80s pop. Amazing.

Album © Universal Records

Frolicking through the autumn mist of thrift store dust bunnies, I uncovered Puff the Magic Dragon somewhere on Halsted Street in Chicago. I prized an ASWAD picture disc from the very eclectic selections of a porkpie-hat-wearing dealer at Spitalfields Market in London (I know nothing about the group, but couldn’t resist the purple picture disc prominently featuring ASWAD for the obvious reasons). The first pressing of Dick Dale’s Surfer’s Choice from Long Beach Antiques & Collectibles Market, the red vinyl Japanese pressing of Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets from that legendary San Francisco trip—each record bears a story beyond the narrative or memorabilia of a music album.

Album © Deltone
Album © Deltone

After all these globe trotting record hunts, I’ve settled in Los Angeles, where vinyl is no longer the commodity it once was. Thanks in part to the digital music backlash, record sales have reached their highest point since 1997. I don’t have to jet to Gramaphone in Chicago, Atom Heart in Montréal or Seattle’s Bop Street Records to shop vinyl—countless new retailers are popping up all over Southern California. Here’s my guide to the best new (and old) record shops of LA.

Amoeba Records – Hollywood – 6400 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028

The original, stalwart behemoth of record retailers, Amoeba is the largest independent music store in the world. The shop originally put several smaller mom-and-pop record stores out of business when it opened in 1990. I like to shop Amoeba if I have a long list of records to buy, but it’s not a place to go hunting for the unknown, as customers aren’t allowed to open plastic wrap or listen to albums before buying.

As the Record Turns – Hollywood – 6727 3/8 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028

Great selection of the classics and the relics: visit As the Record Turns for Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Getz & Gilberto and the like.

Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Avalon – Highland Park – 106 N Avenue 56, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Avalon opened within the last few months and features a well-curated selection of punk, new wave and eclectic vinyl (first pressings of several hard to find, rare punk records), along with vintage clothing, 45 cases and all sorts of ephemera.

Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Gimme Gimme – Highland Park – 4628 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90041

Featuring “rock, folk, soul, hip-hop, punk, psych, country, jazz, blues, disco, latin and more,” Gimme Gimme has a broad selection of eclectic finds. Owner Daniel Cook originally opened up shop in New York in 1994 before relocating to Highland Park 2 1/2 years ago.

Gimme Gimme. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Mono Records – Echo Park – 1805 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026

“Specializing in used and unique vinyl,” Mono Records offers a small but well-curated selection of rare gems.

Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Mount Analog - Highland Park – 5906 1/2 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90042

WOW. Mount Analog has it all: imports, first pressings, new, used, 45s, LPs, collectible box sets, vintage posters, books, postcards, box sets, strange ephemera… this is, quite simply, a music and media mecca. Mount Analog’s leftfield, IDM and techno offerings are especially stellar. After the Sisyphean ascent and descent of your usual record store selection, climbing Mount Analog is about attaining the sonic zenith. Ascension. Nirvana.

Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Ooga Booga – Downtown – 942 N Broadway #203, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Small downtown boutique featuring rare books, art and vinyl.

Origami – Echo Park – 1816 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Shop and record label Origami has an especially organized and choice selection of rare gems. Gems galore.

Permanent - Eagle Rock – 1583 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90041

Stocking both new and used vinyl in various genres, Permanent has locations in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Photo courtesy Permanent Records
Photo courtesy Permanent Records

Poo-Bah - Pasadena – 2636 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91107

Poo-Bah is a boutique shop located near Pasadena Community College with a tasteful and eclectic (but not necessarily extensive) collection of both new and used vinyl.

Rockaway Records - Silverlake – 2395 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039

Though Rockaway has a great vinyl selection, especially of first pressing, clean psychedelic rock, I usually visit for the collectibles: Family Dog original screenprint posters advertising ’60s and ’70s concerts, autographed Beach Boys memorabilia, even David Bowie “Just a Gigolo” film contact sheets. Rockaway is something of a music museum.

Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow.
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow.

Touch Vinyl - West LA – 1646 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Touch Vinyl seems like a good spot for new vinyl in several genres, but hip-hop and electronic music are especially well represented.

Vacation Vinyl - Silverlake – 3815 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Hipster Silverlake destination Vacation Vinyl has a good selection of used, fairly priced vinyl, along with a selection of new releases.

Image courtesy Vacation Vinyl
Image courtesy Vacation Vinyl

Wombleton - Highland Park – 5123 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Wombleton trudges far off of the status quo beaten path: you won’t find Britney Spears here, glory be. Featuring original pressings, imports, standard LPs and 45s.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I compiled these selections from personal favorites and those of musician and DJ friends who specialize in crate-digging record hunts. Thanks to Travis Kirschbaum, Emily Griffin, Ian RaikowAndrea LaBarge Mills and Nichole Girard for their help.

See the original post on Collective 310.

Exclusive: Producer Dave Pezzner Talks Mixtapes and Mics Inside of Monkeys

Dave Pezzner

There’s a jovial bent to Dave Pezzner’s demeanor. The Seattle producer possesses a rare brand of affability: the ability to translate a light, slap-happy approach into driving tech-house. Pezzner rocketed to underground popularity as one half of Jacob London (along with Bob Hansen), releasing on squid:recordings, Viva Recordings, and a Hydrogenated Funk EP on Carlos DaSilva’s eatHouse label. T-Mobile commissioned them to create music for a commercial following the release of 2003’s Casual Bingo on record label giant Classic, and they have since released a bevy of soulful sonic gems. Dave currently tours the world on his own, and at times, with the aid of Bob and a talking sock monkey.

In anticipation of a recent set at Montréal’s Mutek Festival, Sara Jayne Crow talked to Dave about Thingamagoops, mixtapes, the Taco Time Fanclub, and, of course, the doctored sock monkey.

Flavorwire: So. Let’s start with the sock monkey.

Dave Pezzner: (Laughs)

FW: You have a sock monkey with a microphone in its butt and red eyes that light up when you talk through it. It’s phenomenal. How was it that the sock monkey came to be part of your performances with Bob Hansen as Jacon London?

DP: Well the sock monkey is strictly for the Jacob London shows. The Pezzner show is not quite as elaborate. When Bob and I decided to perform live for the first time at the Decibel Festival [in Seattle] four years ago, we had about eight months to plan for the performance. We started with brainstorming and coming up with ideas as to how we were going to attack this show, and we started looking online at toys and different things we could bring into the performance that weren’t your typical laptop and MIDI controller live setup.

EP: Something to kinda lighten the mood?

DP: Yeah, yeah… yeah. And so we looked at Thingamagoops. We also looked at voice-changing bullhorns that have a trigger you can pull with different settings that make you sound like a robot when you talk through it.

EP: Kind of like a vocoder?

DP: Yeah. So we found one for like fifteen bucks. One day, [music producer] Matt Corwine came over, and we were talking about our live show and using this bullhorn thing, and Matt said, “I can put audio outputs into this if you want.” And we were like, “Yeah, give it to him!” A couple months later, Matt’s like, “Okay! I’m done! Here it is!” He kept the mic intact and wired it into the anus of the sock monkey! And the bullhorn lit up when you talked into it, so Matt wired the monkey so the eyes light up red when you talk into its butt.

EP: That’s quite a gift (laughing). So you used this contraption for your first live performance at Seattle’s Decibel Fest in 2005? And you had your first solo live performance at Decibel last year, as well, right?

DP: Yeah. I didn’t really do anything different for my solo show. I took the Jacob London template and used it… so I owe a lot of what I do to Bob, as well.

EP: What’s the template?

DP: The framework that’s in Ableton Live. We have it set up in eight tracks that are routed to an array of effects via MIDI controllers. It’s a system Bob and I both worked together to come up with for the last three years. For our first Decibel performance, we hadn’t yet perfected our system… it took a lot of live shows to get it to where the template stays the same, and we can just pull music out and put new music in, and it always works. We take eight tracks and insert them into this shell.

EP: What’s your full setup when you play, aside from the software?

DP: Tonight, it’s really stripped down. There is no sock monkey, and no MPC. I’ve got all my songs broken up into eight tracks, two Beringer BCF 2000 MIDI controllers…

EP: Why those?

DP: The faders are the main attraction. There are eight faders, and there’s eight knobs and 16 buttons. They’re all set up in rows like channel strips, like you’d find on a mixer, and those can be set up to work exactly like a mixer. During live shows, I can trigger a kick drum on one channel, or send the kick drum to an array of different effects, or filter it down.

EP: So you’ve been performing with Bob as Jacob London for a long time. And there was a prior incarnation of Jacob London… is that right?

DP: Vitus Dance!

EP: Yeah! Where did the name come from?

DP: The name St. Vitus Dance is a disease that attacks the nervous system and makes people twitch out. I think we actually looked pretty long and hard to come up with that name. Bob and I met each other in junior high. We’ve been friends since we were 12. In high school, we wanted to start a band. I used to go to his house after school, and we’d mess around with music… We were getting really into this rave sound that was starting to come up: Eon and Church of Ecstasy and all that shit. We’d try to mimic that using his gear… So we’d get the demo done, and I would bring it to my friends over at Taco Time, where I was working, and ask them what they thought. They were like, “It sounds so good!” and I was like, “This is my band!”

EP: How did you go from the Taco Time Fanclub to releasing records?

DP: Well, after high school, we upgraded our equipment a bit. In 1998, Carlos da Silva, who had a record store in Seattle and a label called Eat House, wanted to release a track. The label funding his label gave us a contract which basically said that they were going to own our name, likeness, and everything related to Vitus Dance. We didn’t want them to own our name… it was our first record! We decided that just for that record, we’d change our name, and see how it went. We brainstormed for awhile, and settled on the name Jacob London, who is a music attorney in Seattle. We figured that was a name that was untouchable. We figured, “It’s a music attorney’s name! You can’t own that!”

EP: Did you ever meet the attorney Jacob London?

DP: He’s my lawyer! He is! He helped me negotiate my deal with Freerange (laughing).

EP: What did he say the first time he heard of the name?

DP: He said, “How can Jacob London turn down Jacob London?” (Laughing)

EP: Awesome! So what year did you meet up with Jon Lemmon and release the albums on Viva Recordings?

DP: We started working with Viva in 2000. Jon brought us on to A & R a sister label which we called squid:records that had a bit more of a left field direction from what Viva was doing. The idea was that we would make Jacob London tracks, and then bring on other artists for mixes. Our first album was called Jacob London vs. Jacob London. They were tracks I created by myself, and Bob created by himself, and then we remixed one another. We also had great remixers like Tony Senghore and Random Factor. After Viva stopped releasing music we found a new home with Classic, which is Derrick Carter and Luke Solomon’s label.

EP: How did you come to collaborate with Classic?

DP: Just like anybody else. I sent them a demo via mail with a very heartfelt, handwritten letter telling them how much I loved their label. It was very humble. They sat on them for a few months. I figured, “Just another unanswered demo.” And then out of the blue, I get an email from Luke Solomon. At that time, I didn’t even know who Luke Solomon was. The email said, “Tracks rock. Waiting to hear from DC.” And that’s all it said! I was like, “Who are you?” (Laughing)

EP: What are you working on now?

DP: I quit my day job as a receptionist a year and a half ago with the intention of moving on to the music business, doing whatever I could to earn a living in music. My first efforts were through composing music for ads and games. But the work was pretty hard to come by so I started making house tracks, and began sending my demos to Jamie “Jimpster” [at Freerange], and he signed those tracks pretty much immediately. After my wedding last summer I was pretty hard up for cash and decided to reach out to Om Records and Freerange for remix work. I picked up a few spec projects, delivered them as fast as I could, and they’ve bought every one of them. It pulled me right up out of this little debt situation that I had. Ever since then, I just haven’t stopped. Music is my career now.

EP: What else?

DP: In early June, Om is releasing an EP called The Pezzner Mixes, which is a release of other people’s tracks that I remixed. I have an EP coming out on a London label called Urbantorque called Logan that has a little bit of a synth-y, progressive vibe to it. It’s a little different from what people are used to hearing from me but still deep and hypnotic. I’ve been doing a lot of remix work, and I’ll also be working on my full-length this summer.

See the original post on Flavorwire.

Mutek 2009

Image Matthew Cheetham

Image Matthew Cheetham

Mutek 2009 marked the electronic-orientated new media and music festival’s tenth consecutive year with too many multi-sensory delights for brain synapses to process in quick succession. Highlights included performances by Nortec Collective’s Bostitch and Fussible, GAS (Wolfgang Voigt, founder of Kompakt), Moderat (a collaboration between Modeselektor and Apparat, founder of Shitkatapult), The Orb’s Thomas Fehlmann, and a host of others.

While it can all be a bit overwhelming, turning even the most hardcore clubber into an over-stimulated and joyful zombie, Flavorpill’s Sara Jayne Crow was there in force, cataloging every blip, break, and minimal backbeat. After the jump, her observations and a series of PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS from the festival.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE MUTEK 2009 PHOTOSET ON FLAVORWIRE>>

Robert Henke (Monolake) and Christopher Bauder
The illustrious Robert Henke (Monolake) joined Christopher Bauder for “ATOM,” an installation of “compositions played on a matrix of 64 illuminated helium balloons.” Although conceptually divine, the performance was a bit underwhelming for those who had seen Henke’s Mutek performances in past years — especially 2003’s unreal Narod Niki nine-man clusterfunk with Ricardo Villalobos, Ritchie Hawtin, Dimbiman, Akufen, Dandy Jack, Daniel Bell, Cabanne and Luciano. In 2005’s “Studies for Thunder,” Henke replicated thunder through digitalia sequenced in a realtime, multi-channel framework, creating a cyclone of sound so storm-ish that the aural sensation sprung a nearly tactile phantom plop of raindrops.

Thomas Fehlmann
The Orb’s Thomas Fehlmann is still doing it after four decades of twiddling knobs and arranging chords. He sauntered onstage at Piknic èlectronik — an epic event situated on the Île Notre Dame with Montreal’s skyline as backdrop — wearing, appropriately, a blue gingham baseball cap that created the jolly appearance of a picnic on his head. Fehlmann electrified, mastering his characteristic slow, rollicking builds, voluminous arrangements, Orblivion-esque capers and space-age potluck shenanigans while doing the occasional hula dance.

Ryoji Ikeda and Carsten Nicolai
As Cyclo, for the Mutek A\VISIONS audio/visual series, Raster-Noton luminaries Ryoji Ikeda and Carsten Nicolai delivered with their usual attention to detail. The duo sampled and interwove strains of feedback together as found sound with corresponding sonic waves morphing on the screen behind them in stark black and white contrast. The performance began with controlled frenetecism and found resolution in gradual percolation of basslines anchoring the mire.

dOP
French “Cabaret house” trio dOP slid into a prime (if a wee bit early) time slot at the gorgeous Métropolis venue. The staging-staggered white placards foregrounding LED lights cascading from the ceiling and rising from the floor set an appropos surrounding for the glitzy trinity of Jonathan Illel, Clement Zemtsov and Damien Vandesande. In appearance, they’re kind of like ’80s technicolor meets the “scene” bars of The Bastille. Sunglasses as accessories (we’re talking form over function, as the club was dark) were plentiful. One of the fellows had a scarf wrapped around his forehead and knotted off to the side into a dramatic sash which yo-yo’d, nearly falling into his laptop keys and getting tossed over his shoulder as he swigged Absolut vodka out of the bottle. The singer wore a T-Shirt in this grass green color proclaiming in big white block letters, “WAIT IT GETS BIGGER,” which he eventually stripped off before inviting girls onstage. The two fellows navigating the laptops sort of sashayed the crowd into a frenzy, building their set with layered arrangements, staggered percussion, and off-kilter measures.

Ricardo Villalobos and Zip (Thomas ‘Dimbiman’ Franzmann)
Ricardo Villalobos and Zip (aka Thomas Franzmann, alter-ego Dimbiman) paired off at Piknic èlectronik for a slick seven-hour set. I arrived during the final hour of their outdoor performance as the sun set on a blustery, rainy day. Seagulls wheeled around in the wind, their bellies underlit by stadium lights below glowing clouds no longer pregnant with rain. The wind velocity matched the visceral measures of the spacious, synth-laden tracks Villalobos dropped. It had been a long, cold day, and only those built for endurance in Gore-Tex and weatherproof garb remained in the park. All present were dancing. I ignored the wind on my bare hands as Villalobos sashayed into an epic finale with a spare pendulum swinging Metronome type track. In a 2009 interview on Mutek’s site, Villalobos says he wants to make a perfect club track, but that’s doing a disservice to his music. His music is all tension, torsion and release; it’s about a spareness of sound, about what his tracks don’t say. It’s about how music unifies, once again.

Don’t Shoot, We’re Devo: Pt. 3

Image Courtesy Gerald Casale

Image Courtesy Gerald Casale

Scrunchies. Jazzercise. The Gremlin car, in all its hatchback deformity. Cone-shaped bras. Jell-o fruit salad. Members Only jackets. Hammer pants. Over the course of a decade, countless trends have lit the pop-culture landscape and receded into obsolescence. What is it, then, that endures about Devo? Why does their 1978 album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo, still sound timely nearly 40 years later. Why do their energy-dome hats still look awesome? We met with Devo’s Jerry Casale over several months to find out. In this, the third installment of our exclusive Devo interview series, Sara Jayne Crow delves into the origins of “energy-dome” hats, explores the pending McDonald’s lawsuit, and encounters the ghost of lawsuits past.

Flavorpill: Let’s talk about the beginnings of Devo, back when people lobbed beer bottles onstage while you performed. Before Saturday Night Live, before Warner Brothers records, before the lawsuits…

Jerry Casale: In a slightly different scenario, it could’ve been that the real beginning of Devo was also the end. It could’ve been over, and nothing else would have happened. We would never have had a body of work, or a history. And that’s how narrow the difference is. It’s like the whole story of Tesla.

FP: I love that you brought up Tesla right now.

JC: Why?

FP: It’s just poetic.

JC: That’s a great story. He was an amazing artist, and his legacy was besmirched. He was erased from history. Except for people like us, who know about him. That’s how it can go. That’s the difference… just that much.

FP: That’s sort of the human condition, isn’t it?

JC: That’s right. There are plenty of people today in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like the massive rape in Africa, and the People’s Democratic Republic of the Congo, or whatever the fuck it is. It’s horrifying. Where’s the great United States justice there?

FP: America is normally so obtrusive in foreign affairs. But in the case of the Congo, it’s not financially solvent, and the pain and suffering continues.

JC: The pain and suffering is unbelievable.

FP: So where do you think this is all going? All the pain, suffering, strife, pollution, devolution?

JC: There’s just going to be more and more of it. There aren’t enough powerful, good people in the world to stop the freight train of history into the black hole. There are too many evil people and subhuman victims that aren’t equipped to resist any more. The saddest thing of all is in American politics, where blue-collar people are the worst in terms of being affected by heinous policies of the Federal government that penalizes them and drives them further and further into the dirt. They are the most tricked by the very people that perpetrate their victimization. These are the people that voted twice for Bush and probably voted for McCain and Palin.

FP: Time for another tea party? Back to the beginnings of Devo question… let’s talk about something devoid of politics and pain. How about where the idea for the “energy dome” hats come about?

JC: The idea originally came from a comic book about a cancellator helmet. The character in the comic book wore the helmet so she couldn’t hear, and it made her happy because it blocked out babble from the outside world. It looked a little bit like a ceiling fixture I used to fixate on in my [Catholic] grade school. Because I hated the nuns so much, I would stare at the ceiling so I wouldn’t have to look at them. If you could imagine the energy domes turned upside down in white milk glass, they looked exactly the same. I used to love the design. And I thought, “We should make a vacuum-formed plastic hat that looks like that for Devo.” And so I set about trying to make it.

At some point, a worker in the production factory we were using asked if we were making flower pots, and I spontaneously said we were making energy domes because he pissed me off. If we gave interviews, we talked about Wilhelm Reich’s orgone box, and added that to the story after the fact. To begin with, it was more about visual design and a ridiculous idea for a hat.

FP: So what’s up with the Devo lawsuit with McDonald’s over the “New Wave Nigel” happy meal toy whose hat looks mysteriously like those hats?

JC: You know, it’s very funny. You know… McDonald’s is so frightening with the legal process that I realized how power works, true power, all over again. Even I was surprised by how avaricious it was. I’m not allowed to tell you a thing about this, or they can sue me… But there was no lawsuit.

FP: Can you at least talk about why you filed the suit?

JC: They had a promotion for Happy Meals where each decade of was represented by different characters, the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and now. Oddly enough, the ’80s character, which was the “New Wave Nigel” doll, did appear to us to be Devo. I can’t talk about it. I like how the victim becomes the victim, again.

FP: That’s been a theme, hasn’t it?

JC: Absolutely. It never stops. Whatever happened with McDonald’s… McDonald’s is a powerful corporation, and it creates reality, like Karl Rove. What they say goes. Even though we felt we were the victims, we were being treated like perpetrators and troublemakers. The fact that we’re not allowed to talk about it… you needn’t say more than that. By saying what I’m saying, I’m talking about it. That’s the problem.

It’s like the first time we were ever sued. We were sued less than every band, I think. The biggest and most furious one was where former friend and associate at Kent [State University], Bob Lewis, trumped up a suit about Devo about theft of intellectual property, which was ludicrous. Really, it was about a kid from Akron University’s college paper who tricked Mark into saying Bob Lewis was our manager, which was totally not true. Two years later, when we were getting ready to tour, and had a real manager — Elliot Roberts, who managed Neil Young, The Cars, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. This guy pulls out this tape and tries to injunct our tour, so we were forced to settle. He tried to claim that was proof his case of theft of intellectual property was real, which was totally ridiculous. It would make a great movie in and of itself, because then everyone starts arguing about the reference points for de-evolution and where it came from…

FP: Isn’t that the most devolved argument you can have?

JC: I know! Did it come from the comic book, did it come from The Island of Lost Souls, who said what first, and we were all acknowledging that we got this idea from pre-existing sources: even the song title “Jocko Homo” came from a religious pamphlet. The point is that these are influences of artistic people, and the ideas don’t belong to anyone, on that level. What may be Devo is the fact that Mark and I wrote songs with certain lyrics and played songs a certain way. That’s what made Devo, Devo. Not who read what book first.

FP: In some ways, the “New Wave Nigel” character, McDonald’s was homage to Devo.

JC: They were using a copyrighted icon that I created without asking permission. The point is, we don’t approve of what McDonald’s represents. If we had, maybe the homage would have been a compliment to us.

FP: Wasn’t there a band you were in called 15-60-75?

JC: Yes, I played both bass and drums at different times in that band.

FP: You were quoted at one point as saying that you wanted to write McDonald’s jingles with the band, because that’s what was familiar to people and was part of the mental landscape of the general populous whether they knew it or not.

JC: We were inspired by early McDonald’s advertising, because we were so horrified by it. We wanted to subvert what people liked. We wanted to take it and misappropriate it, or be transgressive about it. In our early videos, we would watch McDonald’s commercials and see what they did-we learned how to do our shot selection and edit from McDonald’s commercials. But then we mixed it with German expressionism and horrific twists to screw with people. It’s like in the “Beautiful World” video, where we show some really ridiculous, humorous image and then a starving child in Africa right after it.

FP: It’s taking the familiar editing precepts and making it into something subversive and appealing via shock, which has far more of an impact.

JC: It’s alienation by the familiar.

Related posts: Exclusive: Don’t Shoot, We’re Devo: Pt. 2
Exclusive: Devo’s Jerry Casale on De-evolution and the Meaning of ‘Whip It’