THOR BALDURSSON’S ENDGAME

David Bowie once recalled in an interview about his time with Brian Eno while the two were famously making the Berlin Trilogy: “Eno came running in and said, ‘I have heard the sound of the future.’… he puts on “I Feel Love,” by Donna Summer. ‘This is it, look no further. This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.’ Which was more or less right.”

I Feel Love,” produced by the great Giorgio Moroder swept Europe, eventually hitting the US and charted on the Billboard Hot 100 that summer. The throbbing disco smash was an enormous breakthrough for its arranger, a little known songwriter out of Iceland named Þórir Baldursson.

Born in 1944, Þórir (known also as Thor) grew up playing keys before notching some huge songwriting, arranging, and production credits later in life. He transitioned gradually from jazz to disco, with studio work that included ABBA, Elton John, and Grace Jones. “I Feel Love” is now a signature song in Donna Summer’s oeuvre and became commonplace sample fodder for ‘90s dance cuts, even Blondie and Madonna tapped its monster break for late-in-the-game dance-pop revivalism. 

Þórir was also apart of another leading-edge arrangement, the oft-sampled “Sing Sing” by Gaz, which of course contained the foundational skeletal shakers that later became Baltimore club music’s backbone. Along with “Amen Brother” and “Apache,” “Sing Sing’s” break was a staple in early Grandmaster Flash routines and subsequently lifted by everybody from RZA to Kylie Minogue.

Through the years Þórir’s name has been so butchered, so miswritten that there are at least twenty different spellings to his credit. Some of them muddied through translation, others perhaps out of sheer laziness (“S.P. Bala” for one– not even close). Strange for a musician whose output spans back to the ‘60s and who’s still very much conscious of the fact. Says Þórir: “Music has been my sole source of income since the 1950s so this is my 61st year in this profession.”

Some of Þórir’s work was used on DJ Platurn’s Breaking The Ice, an esteemed mix of rare Icelandic grooves from his and his father’s collection. Through ties with his motherland, Platurn connected us with Þórir himself, who at a cantankerous 75 years of age, took time to humor us– if only briefly. It’s always incredibly satisfying and gives you hope to see artists succeed solely on the merit of their art for so long. Hats off.

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THE MAKING OF KOOL KEITH’S “LIVIN’ ASTRO”

I recently spoke with Doc Oct himself, Dicky Long Docking aka Dr. Dooom aka Poppa Large– aka the one and only, Kool Keith. Black Elvis/Lost In Space turns 20 this year and I had Keith break down the making off the album’s hit single, “Livin’ Astro.” Every time I have an opportunity to speak with Keith, I take it. And every time we talk I’m reminded of how hilarious and eccentric he indeed is. Far-out and probably not from our galaxy, Keith pulls back the curtain on what went into the making of “Livin’ Astro” HERE.

CHERRIES ON TOP

I occasionally contribute to this great print publication, Globetrotter Magazine, an international brand focusing on music, culture, fashion, and travel through an Asian and African diasporic lens. I’m all about it. I’ve written and edited some pieces for them but recently discovered this little Q&A I did with DJ Shred One, Shelia Hernando, co-owner of Cherries Records from a few years back. Other co-owner is of course Meaty Ogre, the prolific Galapagos4 producer during Chicago’s backpack boom (I always dug his stuff with Qwel). Learn more about them and their great music operation HERE.

KIND OF BLU

I spoke with Blu a few years ago and cannot think of a better platform for it to reemerge on than POW. Glad to have a supportive repository for evergreen material with lots more to come. The original piece ran in Wax Poetics Issue #59 but there were so much interview leftovers I wanted to house it somewhere given his sizable and loyal fanbase. Plus, who doesn’t love his work with producer Exile, Give Me Flowers While I Can Smell Them and Below The Heavens? Blu has solidified a name for himself but is still kind of slept on by the masses, I think.

CHOPPIN’ IT UP WITH BENNY

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If I sat down for dinner with Benny the Butcher, I’d probably ask him the same questions I did in this new interview for Okayplayer. Super conversational, we talked Another Bad Creation’s “Iesha,” his friendship with Raekwon, and his early years in Buffalo, New York. I was late to Griselda but seriously, the only thing better than their recent streak is how quick their rise was (Check out Hitler on Steroids, it’s crammed with back-to-back good tracks).

Brothers Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine recently signed to Shady Records. and hopefully won’t deviate far from what made them great to begin with. More than just a pleasant surprise, Benny’s Tana Talk 3 is one of the year’s best releases– extra nod to Daringer for his consistent production and mastery of the mournful soul loop.

PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY / THIS IS HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE – MASTA ACE

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Earlier this year, I had a pretty extensive talk with Masta Ace about his history and was just real honored to hear stories about the Juice Crew, that Biz Markie puppet, and just a ton of stories and insight. More importantly, he’s in good spirits and good health, so thumbs up to that. READ IT HERE.

I was recently in LA and saw this “Born To Roll” poster on the wall of Delicious Pizza. A few weeks back, we spoke with J-Zone and he said something to the effect of, “Masta Ace should be Top 5 alone for how he’s been able to adapt through the years.” There’s certainly some truth to that; just level of difficulty alone, how hard is to do what Ace has done?

SMALL PROFESSOR RECORD RUNDOWN

Been very impressed by Small Pro’s beats and I’m sorta late to his music. Love the name and the nod, dude is out of Philly, and a super nice cat. My type of boom-bap, like this cut for Zilla Rocca. His latest is a big one, as he carries both the production and responsibility of helming a posthumous Sean Price album (called 86 Witness , off Coalmine Records). Here’s a Record Rundown with Jamil for Wax Po, read it HERE.

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I DEED IT: “THE MAKING OF…”

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A new side column for POW, this “Making of…” series consists of little oral histories behind some of the greatest cuts ever. First up is the the single “You Never Knew,” from Hiero off their first group joint, 3rd Eye Vision. Other standouts on here are of course “At The Helm,” or “Oakland Blackouts.” (I’ve always really liked this A-Plus remix of “The Who.” ) “You Never Knew” proved to be a big single off this release, complete with an awesome DIY Hawaiian music video that’s great to look back on. With Del, A-Plus and Tajai– peep HERE. And more to come.

NEW SOUL FOR OLD SOULS

My dude Brandon Roos and I put together a little Q&A for NTTG’s site with members from Durand Jones and the Indications. Some friends turned me on to their first record and the new one, American Love Call (Colemine Records) is a really lovely followup in so many ways, particularly drummer Aaron Frazer’s widening presence. They put on a great live show and are currently touring the new record, catch them if you can.

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THE SECRET HISTORY OF DELICIOUS VINYL

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Arguably one of the best logos in the history of logos, Delicious Vinyl’s reign as the longest running, truly truly indie record label commands respect. While I don’t ever bump Young MC, I surely still throw on Bizarre Ride and loved hearing Mike Ross (DV’s co-founder) talk about hearing Pharcyde’s demo for the first time. I spoke with founder Mike Ross and Leslie Cooney, the young A&R who we should all thank for help bringing “Passin’ Me By” to the masses (and more). And let us not forget THIS in 1993.

DV was recently in the public consciousness when co-founder Matt Dike passed away earlier this year. Dike by all accounts was a fascinating person who you cannot deny understood music and how modernity impacts its making– he arranged the making of the Beastie’s Paul’s Boutique by orchestrating sessions with the Dust Brothers, who were early DV adopters and whom Dike named, according to Ross. Their legacy is not only ongoing (this year they’re aggressively exploring Caribbean tunes) but Ross now has two pizza joints in LA, of course called Delicious Pizza– brilliant, and what a dream to marry music and food. Their understanding of music and business savvy is really inspiring. Okayplayer published the piece which you can read HERE.

THE SOUTH HAS SOMETHING TO SAY

Editor’s Note: South Bay activist, longtime struggle rap auteur, and 1/3 of DadBodRapPod, Demone Carter, took a second to explore a fleeting yet impactful moment in hip-hop– the ’95 Source Awards where a babyfaced 3 Stacks unapologetically announced the South’s arrival and subsequent industry takeover. Really glad to add Mr. Carter to our long list of thoughtful contributors and looking forward to seeing what he comes with next. Thanks Demone! – DM

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August 3rd 1995, a dashiki-clad Andre Benjamin glared into the audience gathered at Madison Square Garden for the Source Awards and made a boldly prophetic proclamation.

“The South got something to say” his words drifted into a sea of open hostility. In our world of 24/7 social media antagonism, that statement may not seem like much, but it was a big deal. A culturally redefining big deal.

To understand the weight of Dre’s prophecy, we have to look at what the rap landscape looked like in 1995. Notorious B.I.G was making his ascent as King of New York, a coastal rap war was brewing with Bad Boy and Death Row Records at the center, and a soon to be legendary rap group from Atlanta was taking the hip-hop world by storm on the strength of an absolutely perfect debut album called SouthernPlayalisticCadillacMusic.

Continue reading “THE SOUTH HAS SOMETHING TO SAY”

DJ PREMIER BREAKS DOWN MOMENT OF TRUTH TRACK-BY-TRACK.

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As Moment of Truth turns twenty I realize just how well much it’s aged; “Robbinhood Theory,” “What I’m Here 4,” “Above The Clouds,” so many high points. It’s my favorite Gang Starr album (Hard to Earn, close second) and I had the huge honor of speaking with Preemo and listening to him break down every song from the album with incredible candor and color. You can see how the stories behind the tracks really shaped the album and its overall sunken mood in particular. Check it out on Wax Poetics. Thank you Preemo. Guru RIP.

FOR HYMN, SOULY.

Editor’s Note: Nerdtorious squad and producer of DadBodRapPod, Nate LeBlanc, recently revisited LA rapper/poet Hymnal. In an expansive piece that reaches behind Hymnal’s words for meaning, it simultaneously showcases the remarkably fertile patchwork of personalities and crews during the rap boom of 1990s LA. Concurrently published on our homie’s terrific site, Passion of the Weiss— DM

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Hymnal is an LA-based writer, MC, and vocalist whose work is defined by poetic diction, melodic delivery, and a writing style characterized by inscrutable tangles of phrases that are nevertheless loaded with meaning. With a long but sporadic discography behind him, Hymnal has been involved in some of the most creative projects to emerge from the LA underground and continues to create thoughtful and highly original material. At the same time, he is a bit of a mystery.

Continue reading “FOR HYMN, SOULY.”

#DBRP

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If you’re of a certain age and don’t mind brainy, unsolicited opinions, check out this little side podcast we just started. Featuring longtime Nerdotrious contributor Nate LeBlanc and hometown hero Demone Carter, aka San Jose’s MC Dem One. We discuss old man topics with cool weekly guests renagin from industry insiders and artists (as of this writing, the legendary Prince Paul and venerated MC Myka 9 have been on… with much more to come!) Take a listen to those episodes if you have dishes to do or errands to run– and peep upcoming episodes HERE. #DBRP

The Late Great Paul C

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I helped edit this very thorough, very detailed piece on the mythical– and perhaps rap’s most underrated, known-yet-unknown producer ever– Paul C. If you’re curious as to why Ultramag’s Critical Beatdown (and a few others of that era) sounded so hard and so advanced, it’s all because of Paul, his deep record collection and forward thinking studio techniques. This piece examines his history and tragic death, exploring more of what eventually became huge hip-hop lore. Written music journalist Gino Sorcinelli. Read it HERE.

Who Got Da Props???

fullsizerender-27fullsizerender-28Over 2 years in the making, and after tons of orchestration, we’re proud to announce that Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage, a record that arguably changed the landscape of ’90s rap releases that followed, has been given the full reissue treatment. I was asked by Fat Beats to write extensive liner notes for which I am honored and thankful for the killer efforts the entire team did to bring this to fruition. Check it out and pre-order HERE. PROPS!

POW’S BEST RAP SONGS OF 2016

Passion of the Weiss (POW) is currently one of my favorite music blogs and is ran by my dude, prolific journalist Jeff Weiss. I was asked to write about one of the year’s best cuts, “Nas Album Done” by DJ Khaled ft. Nas. Read my review below and check the rest of the thoughtfully compiled year end list HERE .

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[#31] Forget the song’s 8-minute video featuring Khaled in different brightly colored satin shirts—here’s the real major key: Nas’ agelessly nimble tongue and the track’s underpinning “Fu-Gee-La” sample. Here, Nasir sounds like he just finished a Gandhi marathon, successfully tricking his wisdom with the system that imprisoned his son. He’s on fire, backed by bombastic drums and a voice that’s gracefully aged like an Argentinian malbec; textured, smooth yet robust.

In an era where dexterous bars are seldom celebrated, this has enough energy to keep both the millennial and aging classicist happy. Both self-referential and forward moving, says Nas: “To every baby on the album cover existing/This trend I was setting came to fruition.” Seemingly full circle for the MC who at 16 boasted about kidnapping the president’s wife without a plan.

The minimalist production knocks while Nas himself even proves a bit clairvoyant, touching on our now president-elect’s cheap pursuits while shouting out the marginalized: “Celebrity Apprentice a devil show/Big up to Africa, Mexico.” So when exactly will Nas’ album actually be done? He’s recently had fire moments and for whatever reason seems reinvigorated. Dismissing any new hip-hop that came after you is decidedly very non-hip-hop, but there’s nothing wrong in relishing older cats whom are shockingly spry. The song title itself is at worst inaccurate, and at best premature, but it shows why we still owe the prodigious one our due patience. — DAVID MA

Thank You, Sharon Jones

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I was honored to write an appreciation piece on Sharon which you can read HERE. These last couple weeks have been gut wrenching and just when you think it’s letting up, news came that Sharon had passed. To say we’re heartbroken is an understatement. What a gut punch. She was one of the best live performers I ever saw and seemingly just a tough, kind person.

She was kind enough to write a little foreword for our piece on Binky Griptite, years ago, done just as a favor. Thank you so much Sharon.

Galt Macdermot’s Essential Song List

galtI recently connected with legendary composer Galt Macdermot and wrote a short primer on his essential recordings (heads might find the list tepid but this is meant to be broad, quick swath of his jams). In the end, that’s the beauty of Macdermot’s enormously effusive catalogue– there’s so much to celebrate. Take a look / listen to the story, written for Redbull Music Academy (HERE). Thank you so much Galt, huge honor.

Casual’s Fear Itself

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I’ve always thought Fear Itself should be rated higher when in it comes to Bay Area rap classics. ‘93 Til… and Del’s solo works are all celebrated but Fear Itself is somehow never mentioned despite charting well on Billboard, getting significant play, and aging particularly well compared to its counterparts. I decided to document the album track-by-track– with Casual and producer Domino– about the making of Fear Itself for one of my favorite sites, the homie Jeff Weiss’ Passion of The Weiss. READ IT HERE.

NEWS UPDATE!!!

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Not exactly breaking news, but we’ve finally set up an Instagram account! We’re suuuuuper late to the party but we’ll make up for it with a bunch of old man shit we’ve accumulated through the years. Expect lots of music, fandom, ephemera, and exuberance! So far, the response has been terrific. Find us on IG at:  NERDTORIOUS_BLOG

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Also, after years dillydallying I decided to get some stuff made for loyalists. The first of our 45 adapters series is (obviously) Bowie. Others to follow are Nina Simone and Serge Gainsbourg. Hit us at NERDTORIOUS@gmail.com with ‘ADAPTERS’ in the subject and *BOOM* we’ll immeditely ship!

*Also, you can find me on Twitter (@_davidma) and longtime contributor Nate (@natejleblanc). Many thanks!!!

Let Em Know Chuck…

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I had the immense honor of speaking again with Chuck D, this time, for The Guardian (which you can read HERE). Conducted right around both the Democratic and Republican national conventions, my main focus was politics in modern America. The published version was shortened and is quite edited, so I’ll be running the full piece on Medium in a few months. Given this heightened, frenzied political climate, Chuck D is the perfect person to speak with. Per usual, he doesn’t disappoint. *fist up

 

The Prince Issue

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I never really wrote about Prince (or for that matter, Bowie) when he recently passed. I mean, what can be said that hasn’t already been? And in any case, words seem inadequate in describing their immense work and influence.

Wax Poetics is however re-releasing a special version of their epic Prince issue containing some serious coverage that any Prince– or music– fan could devour. I covered Blood Orange in the issue whose work is a terrific reminder of Prince’s sonic progeny. Honored to be a part of the issue which you can grab HERE  (before it’s gone forever!).

 

Legacy: Billy Paul

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Everyone’s heard “Me and Mrs. Jones” but I admittedly was never hugely into Billy Paul beyond his biggest hit. His work with TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) is also well known and revered but their releases were always a little too long and lavish for my taste. I was nevertheless pleasantly surprised recently to learn that in many ways Billy preceded Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield in terms of putting out politically aggressive, smoothed-out ’70s soul. After spending an afternoon listening to Billy– and though I’m certainly not an expert–I chose my top 5 tracks for The Guardian which you can read/listen to HERE. You were electric in the smoothest way possible. RIP Billy. 

 

Rolling Stone: Give The Drummer Some!

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Very excited and honored to contribute to this large group piece for Rolling Stone’s list of “100 Greatest Drummers”.  The reaction was great, hearing people debate, praise and talk shit about the list. I wouldn’t have minded a few more funk or African drummers but I get the list’s purpose. Spoiler alert: John Bonham (above) is #1. Take a look at the rest HERE. 

 

“Please Say You’ll Love Me”: The Jillettes

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I love how the snare hits so hard while the vocals stay so light and sweet, almost fluttery– it’s both radiant and a bit tepid but it’s a fitting juxtaposition given the tone and subject matter. It’s a Jamaican soul joint (from 1962) that, at the end of the day, I could listen to at least a few times throughout the day. The Jillettes seem to be another one of those rare girl groups where only shreds of info and history exist; send any our way if you’re up on the their brief yet striking stint.

 

 

Midnight Moroder: The Bowie Session

Anyone who knows me knows that Bowie was (and is) a top, all time artist, second only perhaps to Kurosawa. So of course Bowie was fresh on my mind when I recently spoke with disco/electronic pioneer, Giorgio Moroder.

The interview was for an upcoming piece on Moroder’s long history and music and took place only a few days after Bowie’s passing. It was a subject that Moroder gushed about while recalling their time together– specifically when they first met and their late night studio session for the song “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”off the Cat People soundtrack.

Below is a small excerpt taken from the interview (which will be published in full very soon for Cuepoint). RIP Bowie, hero of heroes. -DM

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“I met David a long time ago when he had his first hit with “Space Oddity”. I met him in Switzerland at a TV show appearance we did together. When he walked into the room I thought ‘here’s this good-looking guy who’s also very interestingly dressed!’ I had a couple bubblegum pop records out at the time and like I said, “Space Oddity” was already out. It remains my favorite song by him.”

We kept a little bit in contact through the years but nothing major. In the mid ’70s he called me and asked if he could use one of my studios to record an upcoming project. The particular studio [Musicland] was in Munich and I told him I was really busy at the time to meet up. Plus, the studio was being used by all kinds of people, Blondie, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, so forth. So I recommended him to use a studio in Berlin I had used quite frequently in the late ’60s. He apparently did and spoke highly of it years later when we met again.”

“We’d met again in Montreux, Switzerland and I remember David walking into the room, tall and handsome like before. At the time I was doing an album, a soundtrack for a film called Cat People. This was the early ‘80s if I remember correctly and we needed the main theme. I decided then that there was only one person who could sing it and that was David.”

“The image of the film was perfect for him to be associated with and I thought the song was good for him; it had this sort of strange arrangement and backwards sounds. And all the added audio, of course, David really liked. We actually recorded it really fast, it was a late night session and only took a little over an hour.”

“The funny thing I recall is that the director of the film was also there working in the studio late. He was overseeing a bunch of stuff that day and watched as we hung out and recorded. It took us only two takes to get everything right. But the director said ‘No, no, we need to do that again!’”

“Directors, I think, are used to taking multiple takes onset, doing everything over and over. But this was the music studio. So David, I remember, was very polite and said ‘If you want another take, okay. But Giorgio and I think it’s absolutely perfect.’ David then stood up and just walked out. I knew David and presumed he went for a smoke or something. But the director didn’t say a single word after that. And that’s what you hear now, a song made in two takes.”

“Many years later when David would come to Los Angeles, we would meet. I miss him dearly.” — Giorgio Moroder

Savagely Good: Tiny Yong

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“Le Sauvage (He Is No Good)” [Rigolo, 1964]

I’ve always been fascinated with diasporas, especially in relation to Asian ones that mirror my own. Tiny Yong was a Cambodian born Vietnamese girl who ended up in France as an actress, subsequently releasing a slew of minor tracks during the 1960s as a side career. There isn’t much info on Ms. Yong’s musical history besides a few conflicting accounts online. She’s an aquarius and is now 71, presumably living in France. Any info would be nice. In the meantime, peep this gorgeous, melodic number.

Triplet Twins

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The Triplet Twins’ “Pretty Please” isn’t lyrically moving (most Soul revolves around love and heartache anyways) but its effusive rhythm and vocal harmonies are really striking. It prompts head nods and maybe even a quick Shazam– and it’s under 2 minutes. Love this one, it leaves you wanting more and I can’t help but think it’s the type of pleasant, sunny, perfectly appropriate song my mom would dig. More quick music posts to come.

Talking Records with Big Boi

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Been so busy I completely forgot to plug a quick piece I did with the one and only, Sir Luscious himself, Big Boi of Outkast. Having listened to Outkast for decades now, it was certainly an honor to chop it up with Big about powerfully impactful records that’ve aided his outlook on music and  life. It’s another one I was happy to do for Ego Trip, which you can read HERE. Some of Big’s choices were replete with insight and surely expected, but Kate Bush? For real? Dig it.

A Complete Oral History of Third Sight

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Upcoming: we’re proud to announce that a bunch of interviews and editing is underway to document the history of Third Sight– one of the South Bay area’s most long running, most dark, most contemplative, most raw, most interesting rap groups to ever come along; weird cuts and scratches of the most left-field samples coupled with monotoned, referential rhymes anchor (their now 15-year old) sound.

We’ll be speaking in-depth with MC Jihad as well as the legendary D-Styles (Invsbl Skratch Piklz) about their releases and overall musical approach. This will hopefully all coincide nicely with their upcoming album “IV”, as well as a welcomed flood of unreleased tracks slated for the new year. Calling all nerds!

King Kendrick

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Always excited when I’m asked to contribute to Wax Poetics Japan, especially because their market allows them to explore real deeply into subject matter in a way that the American market doesn’t. The recent one focused on the best rap record of 2015 (and perhaps of the last decade), Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Pick it up HERE and many thanks again to the Wax Po crew out of Tokyo.

Catch The Blast of A Hype Verse

61_Cover_Ghostface Man, been so busy I forgot to mention a recent cover story I did with one of the greatest ever– the uncanny, most venerable, most natural rappers to ever do it, Tony Starks himself, Ghostface. We went over hilarious ODB memories and pretty much detailed his entire catalogue, touching on rather baroque benchmarks and his profound prolific streak. As of this writing, the followup to his Adrian Younge collab, 12 Reasons To Die Pt. II, is slated for release, as is a VERY VERY much anticipated album with DOOM. Go HERE to pick up what I consider to be– at least up to this point– the most in-depth piece with Ghostface ever written.

UPDATE: Wax Po just made the entire piece available online. Take a gander HERE.

Reminisce Over Pete

pete post Pete Rock’s long-awaited followup to his Petestrumentals album is finally here. But unlike its predecessor, and partially due to the ever changing landscape of how people get their music, Petestrumentals 2 is available totally for free, featuring a memorable, head nodding tribute to Dilla (“Dilla Bouce (RIP)”). Go HERE for a listen.

Hearing this reminded me of a talk I did with Pete a while back; we discussed his famous production histories and essential records that profoundly inspired his own style. For example, when asked about the last time he spoke with Biggie, said Pete: “Man, it was right before he died. He told me: ‘Pete, my raps sound best with you and Large Pro. I love that shit!’ That was the last thing he said to me before he died, I swear.” You can read the article in full HERE.

WANDERLUST

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Quick plug: I recently helped edit the latest issue of Globetrotter Magazine, a music, art/design, style and culture publication that dares to exist in the rapidly decaying world of print publishing– it’s 2015 afterall. This issue features Afrobeat legend Tony Allen, Parisian beatmaker Onra, menswear maestro Jeff Staple, and a stunning photo essay from Kathmandu among so much other interesting, worldwide happenings. Honored to be apart of something that’s hard to pigeonhole while making a sincere effort to capture the global community. It’s a big thick book you’d likely find at bookstores and airports. To purchase, or for more info, head over to their Facebook Page and make friends.

Dollar Bin Goodies With Brian Coleman

When I was in graduate school, Check The Technique was one of the guiding books for my thesis. It not only served the assignment well, but was also every bit as entertaining as its predecessor, Rakim Told Me. I nerded out over specific tracks and their backstories and always thought Brian’s approach and clean presentation really did the subjects justice.

Brian Coleman’s new book, Check the Technique Volume 2: More Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies (Wax Facts Press) is more of the same, a wonderfully written celebration of all these songs and artists we grew up loving. Who knew MF Doom’s initial moniker, Zev Love X, was “X Evolvez” spelled backwards? Mindblown! For info and ordering links, visit: www.WaxFactsPress.com.

It’s completely gratifying and an obvious honor to have Brian stop by with a guest post. With the highly anticipated Check The Technique Vol.2 out now, here’s a snapshot on Mr. Coleman’s mantra when it comes to digging for vinyl. Many thanks sir! – DM

Check the Technique Vol 2 FRONT COVER HIREZ

By Brian Coleman

I am a digger. Some of my best friends are diggers. And I love hanging with them and shooting the shit. But when it comes to music, I get frustrated at times because they go for obscurity at most costs, and don’t smell the roses in front of their faces. And by roses, I mean records we can all find every day in broad daylight (vs. dank basements of shady record stores).

So here are some records I randomly grabbed from my collection in a matter of 15 minutes (dig-free), records that should be readily available if you choose to seek them out. These are jams that, for the most part, I have loved since high school– which wasn’t exactly yesterday– and I still love as much today as I did then. Support your local record store!!!!! Buy vinyl!!!! FUCK CDs!!!!!

The Young Adults – “Complex World”Helping Others (Heartbreak Hits, 1989)

Okay, I guess this is a little obscure, but it’s still a dollar record if/when you see it. Goofy drunk-rock from a band I first learned about in the amazing flick of the same name (“Complex World”), based around the debauchery at Providence, RI rock fleabag venue Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel.

Bad Brains – “Re-Ignition”I Against I – (SST Records, 1986)

H.R. is listed as “throat” in the liners, but he was heart and soul, too. This was later in the group’s career (at least their career making great records), but proved they still had it. One of the greatest live bands I have ever seen.

The Carpenters – “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft” Passage (A&M Records, 1977)

If you can think of something cooler than Karen Carpenter summoning space aliens, please let me know.

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band “Dropout Boogie”Safe as Milk (Buddah Records, 1970)

Off-kilter, raspy, drug-inspired (I can only assume) and actually somewhat sensible, lyrically. Desert heatstroke rock. Fucking excellent. Continue reading “Dollar Bin Goodies With Brian Coleman”

Filipino Fire!!!

Regular readers will notice we dig international music, especially of the forgotten, funky, soulful, and psych variety. We’ve covered Sinn Sithamouth and other pioneering artists who’ve been criminally overlooked for various (and sometimes, terribly regrettable) reasons. Our good bud DJ Basura has put together an assortment of lost grooves from the Philippines, all culled from glorious, crackly vinyl– lots of breaks, lots of fuzz, and endearing covers. Based on these effusive selections, hopefully more of the same is afoot. Some words from Basura on his fantastic new mix below.

PICTURED: RONNIE VILLAR & THE FIREDONS
PICTURED: RONNIE VILLAR & THE FIREDONS

Says Basura: “This mix was inspired by labels seeking to unearth good ‘world music’, like Folkways (now Smithsonian Folkways) and Sublime Frequencies. Ranging from a wide variety of genres including rock, pop, garage, soul, disco, funk, jazz, psych, & Filipino folk dance mainly from the 60’s-80’s (There’s even a surf song and a couple of James Brown covers, amongst others on here!), my goal was to simply shed some light on music made in the Philippines from the past. It’s not an actual ‘mix’ as what most would consider a ‘mix’ to be these days (it’s neither completely beat matched nor made specifically for the dance floor, though you can certainly groove to most of it), this is a collection/compilation more than anything else. This is just an inkling of what seems to be a mainly untapped resource (the past history of Filipino music). Hopefully this could lead to more awesome Filipino compilations/mixes that I put out.”

****************GRAB BASURA’S FILIPINO FOLKWAYS MIX’ HERE

Beauty and the Beat

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Though I’m not too into Alicia Keys’ music, it was fun and eyeopening researching her backstory. She came from truly humble beginnings and her subsequent ascent into greatness is almost unmatched as far as modern r&b artists go. Like her or not, she’s immensely talented with brains to boot– and she’s not hard on the eyes either, which was something of a hurdle if you want your artistry to be taken seriously. A free ride to Colombia University AND a record deal with Columbia Records, all while she was 16? Must be nice. The article ended up as this month’s cover story for Wax Poetics’ Japan and since Nerdtorious has a pretty sizable Japanese readership, here’s the link to WPJ’s latest issue. On stands now, kampai!

Going To The Chapel : Quantic in SF

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Will ‘Quantic’ Holland stopped by The Chapel in San Francisco last week, showing off chops that made him known throughout the States, Europe, and South America. His style’s pretty accessible, considering he incorporates different genres into his work over a 9 album course starting in 2001. We spoke a while back, touching on his upbringing, the groundswell of support he’s received, and his work with a personal favorite of mine, Alice Russell. Below is a quick Q&A. – DM

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**Here’s a ‘Best Of Quantic’ mix from a few years back by none other than J-Rocc of the Beat Junkies.

Talk a bit about your musical background and history a bit. What instruments do you play? What was the first instrument you picked up? Which would you say is your main one?

My Mum and Dad were into alot of music before I was born, my father played Guitar on Welsh Television regurarly in his teens and my mother played fiddle and sang, they were quite a musical couple interested in Folk music in general, Bluegrass, English Folk, Irish. By the time I was born, my father had taken up banjo and both him and my mother had a house full of instruments, dulcimers, ukeleles, a piano and various british made banjos. My sisters had a ukeleles each and I was taught to play guitar by my dad as well as reluctantly taking piano lessons with my mothers friend. It turned out I was pretty hopeless at it all and rarely enjoyed singing in the family car like my twin sisters did.

Your father was pretty influential then.

Yeah, he was a lecturer and part time computer programmer, so as the 80s progressed, our music room was gradually filled with computer equipment, first a BBC Micro and then various Archimedes machines. My father showed me how to program bits of code and eventually, once computers progressed, how to sample and record. He also bought me a cheap electric guitar once I had gotten into my Iron Maiden ‘Powerslave’ period and out the other side into Nirvana. At 16 my mother leant me money to buy a simpe yamaha sampler and that got me interested in looping, especially using the onboard mic to loop up piano chords and use instruments from the house. Around that time I had inherited a Uher portable reel to reel tape recorder from an uncle on my mothers side who had a sound recording business and I had an uncle on my fathers side who was a DJ and record producer. I remember him bringing us a 45 to house, one each for me and my sisters, he was into managing pop groups and seemed a world away from my household’s folky outlook. But gradually the idea of producing records and stylizing sound in a recorded fashion dawned on me.

Which albums have most profoundly affected you?

There are a few landmark records for me, when I first heard Sly Stone’s ‘If You Want Me to Stay’ that blew me away, so did Carla Bley’s ‘Escalater Over the Hill’. I also remember loving Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath at a young age, their Drums and Guitars seemed so powerful and expressive. As I got further into music and it became more accessible with the internet, I discovered more by Moondog, Richie Ray, Fela Kuti, Arthur Verocai. More recently, hearing ‘Krishnanda’ by Pedro Santos from Brasil changed my ears forever. From getting into 45s at a young age, I had the luck of coming across some really good Northern Soul and Jazz. I managed to pick records cheap like Pearly Queen’s ‘Quit Jivin’ and Russell Gorden’s ‘Double Booty Bump’ and started playing at house partys with my friend Russ Porter. I was lucky, because the Midlands and Northern England has a strong appreciation of American Black Soul, Ballads and Dance music. I was growing up in a period where I could find Chicago and Miami 45s in my local store for cheap but also there was good Dum and Bass being produced, great and exciting UK urban music being made, it was a good time. The Midlands is not the most picturesque of places, but it had alot of Soul.

When you write a composition, do you purposely try to incorporate different stylistic elements or does it occur naturally as it’s being written?

Continue reading “Going To The Chapel : Quantic in SF”