“Music is Universal”: An interview with Shabazz Palaces (August 22, 2014)

My friend Thomsen Cummings and I (Dr. Plotkin, if we haven’t met before) had the extreme pleasure of seeing Shabazz Palaces at the Union Transfer last Friday and were lucky enough to spend twenty minutes talking to them after their sound check. We headed out to the parking lot and listened to the Seattle-based duo, led by Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire, speak to us about their influences, their approach to creating music, and the future of Shabazz. They are currently touring their new album Lese Majesty, which you can check out on Sub Pop.

Left to right: Ishmael Butler (The Palaceer Lazaro Shabazz) and Tendai Maraire (image: Reality Check Berlin)

KDU: Just looking around, I’m seeing some interesting stuff here. What is that instrument on the back of your car?

TM: That is called an mbira and it originates from Zimbabwe.

KDU: Cool, can you tell me a little about it?

TM: I can tell you that where it derives from is a very spiritual place in Zimbabwe. It’s used to channel to the ancestors and to communicate with them and to communicate with other human beings. And also to party.

 KDU: Of course to party! I read that for your previous material, you guys would rehearse, perform and record, and then change of the recording as it went. On the new album, was there any approach to recording it?  Some of the lyrics and rapping kind of seem to go into the background.

IB: We don’t really subscribe to most notions of recording or approaches to music. So foreground, background, I understand what they mean in terms of the mix but not in terms of what one might focus on in any given song. It’s all one entity that’s moving forward sonically into your ears, and then hopefully into some categories and compartments of emotion.

We usually try and mix everything clear, so that there’s a certain undertow of subtle things, or sub-mixes if you will, that add to the groove. But to say the lyrics take the background, never. We’re rappers and we say everything we mean, but I understand what you’re saying. Sonically, you might hear it less loudly than you would in a normal thing but again, if you make music you should develop your own sound. It shouldn’t be a standard sound you try and fit into and that’s how we see it.

How Tendai parties (image: Twitter)

KDU: I was reading through the lyrics for They Come In Gold and I noticed a lot of contrasting ideas. The line “sepulchre, a stage alive by ghosts” seems to be hinting at a self-destructive nature, maybe about a lot of hip-hop music that’s out there.

IB: Some of it is self-destruction, some of it is destruction from outside forces that want to come in. Some want to moonlight inside our culture. They feel like because they dress up and wave their hands in a hip-hop style that they’re legitimate. And we just reject that notion. Self-destruction can be one destroying one’s self through some legitimate mechanism, but it can also be allowing destructive things to infiltrate something that should be held sacred. So that’s kind of what that song’s about.

KDU: I noticed you focus a lot on the idea of the self. Not in an attack on individualism, but you seem to be rapping against self-obsession.

IB: Well, it’s like this. Music has always been a universal thing. The individual thing is a directed plan by marketers in order to sell products. It’s not really individualism, it’s really everybody doing the same set of things disguised at individualism or told that. We’re not really trying to pick A or B in terms of what our platform is, we see it for what it is.

To have the calling of being a musician is a gift. We don’t really know where that’s from but we understand it as that. We don’t say it’s us making this music. We physically do it, the ideas come to us from somewhere, and we feel good to have the blessing of those ideas to come to us.

A lot of motherfuckers came before us that were just as good, if not better than us. So we understand where our place in the pantheon is, if you will. And we also know some motherfuckers that are hella filthy, but will never get the light of day – people we’re close to that haven’t experienced the notoriety, but have a lot of weight in our spheres of influence. We’re just seeing it for what it is, and that’s what you’re hearing in the music.

KDU: I’ve always been struck by the sound of the scream that runs through the entirety of An Echo From The Hosts That Profess Infinitum. How do you go about creating some of your trippier samples?

IB: You can come to a conclusion or a result of a sound in any way that you can. It’s not really by chance, but what happens is you record something or you sample something and you got all these processes at your fingertips. You can stack them, you can run them concurrently, you can turn them around, you can slow stuff down, speed it up… There’s an endless combination of things you can do to a sound. Also, whatever studio you’re in, whatever speakers you’re listening to, what headphones you’re using, it all affects how it might sound. When you’re doing it you’re not thinking “Okay I ran it through this, let me write that down. Then I ran it through that, let me write that down. And I had these headphones on…” The environment comes second to the instinct.

KDU: What are some musical acts that you’re listening to that are currently blowing your mind?

TM: I’ve been listening to this guy out of Zimbabwe called Jah Prayzah. And this kid out of Seattle called Porter Ray. Jah Prayzah plays contemporary Shona music [music from the Shona people of Zimbabwe] and Porter Ray does hip-hop.

IB: I like Ariel Pink, I think that’s the coolest shit I’ve heard in a while. I like the weirdness of it, the daringness of it, the creativity of it, and how all those things collude to make these songs that are poppy, but at the same time anti-pop.

KDU: What do you think the future holds for you guys?

IB: We’re always in a state of composing and recording. Right now, Tendai is working on videos for Chimurenga and we got videos for Shabazz coming out. It’s always about the proliferation of the instinct and the ideas that come from our instinct and just trying to share them. We been growing and there’s people that say they like what we do. There’s a conversation between them and us, where we put out some music and then we go on tour. We had a ceremonies of shows, we meet people, do shit like this, so we try and do our part by making some music and artwork. We got partners that are just dope. Cats that make clothes, cats that direct videos and films, so we look forward to working with them as well.

KDU: On the new album, you have a track with Catherine Harris-White from THEESATISFACTION, are you touring with them as well?

IB: No, that’s pretty rare. Obviously it’s fun as fuck when they’re around and we get to perform together. Hopefully we’ll get back through Philly, this is a good town to perform with them. We did that once at the Kung Fu Necktie, it was phenomenal.

KDU: This question has nothing to do with your music, or how you create it. If you were trapped in a room filled with food and you had to eat your way out—

IB: No, that’s a question I always ask people!

KDU: Oh, well then I definitely want to hear your answer then, you must have a good one!

IB: Watermelon man! Nice ripe watermelon. I ask girls that, seriously. But I say buried, buried alive under food. What would you want to eat your way out of? Is that your line too?

KDU: I think that opens the mental conversation a bit.

IB: It gives you a chance to see where someone’s coming from.

What are you going to do, eat your way out of a room of stew? (image: Baltimore Sun)

KDU: Thank  you so much for taking the time to have this interview with us. Do you have anything left you want to say?

IB: I just appreciate anybody listening and checking us out. If you get the chance, come see the show one of these days.

 

Check out Shabazz Palaces’ dope new album and catch them on tour at a venue near you.

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Bear in Heaven release trippy “Autumn” video

BIH’s latest album, Time is Over One Day Old is out now on Dead Oceans.

 

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by | August 26, 2014 · 2:50 pm

West Philly and Worldwide – Breaking it down with Matthew Law

Matthew Law aka DJ PHSH is a man that really shouldn’t need an introduction.

He’s rocked pretty much every spot in Philly, and has been moving asses in clubs before he was even allowed to drink. He was the tour DJ for Dave Chappelle’s Oddball Comedy Tour, the Northeast champion of the 2013 Red Bull 3Style Contest, and has spun numerous highly acclaimed gigs including LA’s the Do-Over and Low End Theory.

DJ Lil Dave and Matthew Law

Matthew Law on the 1’s and 2’s at his July Friends and Fam party, as WKDU’s own DJ Lil’ Dave vibes out.
Photo cred: Tim Blackwell, Shots Fired

It seems like forever ago that I sat down with Matt, and since then, he’s recorded the official Roots Picnic Mixtape and opened up the annual PSK event for J. Rocc, Rich Medina, Cosmo Baker, Cash Money, and Questlove – amongst his normal crazy schedule.

Peep his dope set from PSK, and read our chat to get hype for his 3rd annual PHSH TANK Block Party this weekend.

Matthew Law LIVE at PSK 7.3.2014

CB: Who are you, and what do you do?

ML: I’m Matthew Law aka DJ PHSH. I’m a DJ, producer, vision guy – I have a lot of ideas.

CB: What were your first musical memories?

ML: My parents had a theatre company together, up until I was 14. I grew up with that, and also played violin for six years.

Growing up in West Philly in the 90s, the hip hop and alternative rock stuff was really poppin, so I remember that. My Dad liked the modern rock too, so we’d go on drives and listen to Y100 or WMMR and joke around. I still remember being like 7, and listening to Pearl Jam and making fun of Eddie Vedder with all the aaayyyyy-eee-yayy-yuhhh’s.

CB: Y100, RIP! I remember them making fun of Creed also.

ML: Oh Y100 would rag on Creed so hard.

It’s a weird segway – but I remember there being such a weird feeling of race separation once I started hearing Beastie Boys and Eminem on Y100, but not any other rap. I was like, “Oh so I guess if they’re white guys it’s OK for them to be on Y100?” I thought that was really strange, and even at 12, I boycotted them for like two months. My first concert was at Veterans Stadium with Dave Matthews Band, The Roots, and Santana. I was 10, and I came for Dave Matthews Band. I had no idea who The Roots were.

I don’t have any older siblings, so when it came to hip hop, the reason I probably attached to it so much, besides a few key people, was that I really had to discover it on my own, and make it my own.

CB: So how’d you get into DJing, and what was your first set up like?

ML: I saw Scratch, the documentary, and I was like, that’s what I wanna do, I wanna try it out. I didn’t really have anybody to show me anything up until I met Illvibe Collective. It was just watching Scratch over and over again.

It’s funny because on the special edition of it, Z-Trip gave a 20 minute tutorial on how to be a DJ for the most part. Last year, I was DJing at Output with Rich Medina, Questlove, and Z-Trip, and I was like, “Yo, you were my first DJ teacher!”

My first set up was the Stanton STR 880 DJ in a box. The first pair of turntables I saw in person was from this kid I went to Hebrew school with, he got those for his Bar Mitzvah. His Bar Mitzvah was after mine, and when I saw his, I was like, “Man, I shouldn’t have gotten a guitar!”

Matthew Law, King Britt, and Questlove

Two generations of amazing West Philly artists unite – Matthew Law, King Britt, and Questlove.
Photo from @djphsh Instagram

CB: How did you start to build up a name for yourself in Philly and beyond?

ML: I started DJing the Gathering, the longest running hip hop event in Philadelphia. When I was 18, I had my first consistent gig in a club at Medusa Lounge on Tuesdays. I didn’t try to drink, and I think I got a way with a lot of stuff because I knew I was there to work. I wasn’t there to party – I was there to make the party happen.

Then in 2009, everything blew up with my first party, Superdope. Nose Go, Yis Goodwin, had a magazine called McJawn with Gwen Vo, and Leah Kauffman had just started the blog Phrequency. Sammy Slice had his party Mo Money Mo Problems, and while we were somewhat in competition, as far as the kids that were our age, we all were working together in some way.

I started Superdope when I was 20, still not drinking, and on my 21st birthday, there was a thunderstorm. I thought nobody was gonna come out, and we had over 350 people that night.

CB: How was Low End Theory when you spun out there?

ML: Low End Theory was great. It was the first time in a while that I understood that a large crowd of people might not be there to dance, cuz it’s beat heads. So they’re just looking at you like, yeah, you might hear a ‘wooh’.

CB: Let’s talk about the Matthew Law name change.

ML: My full name is Matthew Lawrence Fishman-Dickerson. I came up with DJ PHSH in 10th grade chemistry – I just needed a name. I’m producing now, and I don’t want people to get the wrong idea about what I’m capable of, so that’s why I’m going with Matthew Law.

Plus, a lot of my mentors go by their names, Statik is now Mr. Sonny James, King Britt’s real name is King Britt, Rich Medina’s real name is Rich Medina, and I thought I’d get on the bus.

CB: Tell us what to expect from your new EP.

ML: I’m currently working on it. It’s a storytelling record. Originally it was like oh I’m breaking up from DJ PHSH, but it ended up being like oh I’m breaking up with a girl and then going into a new relationship, new girl. Each track is it’s own thing – it’s a score to my own short film in my mind. I just got a bass player on it, there’s some funky samples and modern funk electronics, and a slow jam with a really ill guitar solo from Joe Jordan.

CB: Favorite closing track:

ML: Between two records.

I’m always the first one there and last one to leave, somebody better be going home with something.

Mos Def – The Pannies

Or, Jaco Pastorius – A Portrait of Tracy

It was sampled for SWV’s – The Rain.
*editor’s note – I linked to the live version of this song because it’s the shit*

CB: What’s something interesting about you outside of music?

ML: I grew up watching a lot of anime. Not like oh Pokemon’s on, Dragonball Z’s on – no, I watched Akira in a dark room by myself when I was 11. I saw Ninja Scroll when I was 9. I think it’s really funny when people try to rag on anime and act like that shit’s for nerds – it was the foundation for your entire childhood! All those cartoons you used to watch were outsourced to Asia, stop bullshitting. Do not front. I take the strongest approach possible when it comes to defending watching good anime.

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Hudson Project Recap

So I’m sitting here on Monday morning and struggling to recap the last 72 (ish?) hours. It’s a lot to sum up in a blog post, and I’m beat.

I wasn’t in shape before, and three nights of sleeping on hard ground at Winston Farm after hours of dancing my ass off have taken their toll. A lot has been and will be said about The Hudson Project, but it was definitely an experience felt nowhere else.

Thursday: Midnight Drive
Peter (of Hear Hear Mix), Kirsten (of The Cat’s Pajamas), and I all drove up from Philadelphia Thursday evening. The drive was mostly uneventful, other than being in a huge hurry because our press contact told us that we wouldn’t be able to get access after midnight.

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There’s a reason this picture was of Peter and not the speedometer.

Direct quote from PR person: “If it was a more reasonable time, we would have been able to make arrangements.”
Midnight!? Really? As if anyone in Saugerties was going to sleep all weekend. Their petulant inability to “make arrangements” really freaked us out, but we ended up getting access just fine.

This miscommunication would not be the last. Security didn’t let anyone into the festival grounds until 4AM, and it wasn’t clear why. We set up camp and crashed, hard.

2014-07-12 09.19.01

DJ Kirsten was very asleep. Also note Peter’s cardboard sleeping pad.

 

Friday: Waiting For The Drop

Highlights of Friday’s sets: Lindsay Lowend was great. Moon Hooch laid down a whole lotta echo on their funky dueling sax setup, making their live show a lot more dubby than I expected. I briefly caught up with the power trio of Wenzl McGowen, Mike Wilbur, and James Muschler backstage. The interview was short – here’s the 30-second version:

WKDU: Your instrumentation features drums and dueling saxophones. If you were to have another band featuring dueling instruments, what would they be?
WM: Dueling rottweilers.
MW: Probably not the most [PETA]-friendly answer, but yeah. Rottweilers.
JM: More drums.
WKDU: Awesome.
Dr. Dog played a perfect set. Later, Emancipator, Bro Safari, and the Flaming Lips closed out my night of diverse tunes. I missed Flying Lotus, but apparently his set was foggy and spaced-out; a propos for his midnight to 2am slot.

Saturday: Bass Cave

We didn’t make it in the venue until 4, to see Flatbush Zombies. After that, Peter and I hunkered down with some chicken wings at the Catskill Cave tent for Bit Funk, Jacques Green, and Tokimonsta. Afterwards, we met back up with Shannen (of Rock Bottom), Kirsten, and some others for Big Gigantic.

biggigantic-2

Big Gigantic overlooks the massive main stage crowd. Courtesy Kevin Earle – MCP Presents

The rain came first in the middle of Big Gigantic’s set. A truly euphoric moment. The rain poured as Big G tore into drops with saxophonic ferocity. It really was a sight to see.

Kendricklamar

Kendrick Lamar during his set at the Hudson Project. Photo courtesy of Kevin Earle – MCP Presents

Kendrick Lamar played all his usual hits, but there was something missing from his set. It didn’t help that he ended twenty minutes early, but his attempts at audience participation didn’t seem well received. I dunno, it might have just been me. Gold Panda was chillen’ as usual. I closed out the night with a healthy portion of Four Tet.

 

Sunday: The Floodson Project
The majority of Sunday was spent doing two things: waking up, and packing up. After that was all done, we managed to catch most of Chrome Sparks, which was awesome. They played a significant amount of new material, and returned for a surprise encore. “We’ve never played this song before” is definitely one of the most exciting things a performing artist can say.

20140713_144947_2

Chillen to Chromesparks. Photo courtesy Peter Liu

Peter and I were throwing it down in Catskill Cave to Issac Tichauer. We decided to go for a food break, when all acts stopped playing and a voice came over the soundsystem announcing an evacuation and delay. Holy crap! We met up with Shannen and Kirsten, and made friends with the crew who set up one of the stage tents. Security kicked everyone out of the campgrounds, and we waited out the storm in the tent crew’s box truck.

 

2014-07-13 17.16.30

Party in the Penske.

These guys were awesome. I’m reminded of the Henry Rollins quote – “They were there hours before you building the stage, and they will be there hours after you leave tearing it down.” Super down to earth.

2014-07-13 18.52.45

Mudslide disco!

What followed was total anarchy. Nobody, even staff, was sure if the festival was still on. On hills between campgrounds, mudslides started to break out. Generators and portable soundsystems brought by campers, vendors, and whoever else ensured the party would go on. Security lines were broken. Fences were getting torn down. It was clear that nobody was gonna turn down for Mother Nature.

We were getting ready to leave when we stumbled upon an impromptu dance party in the middle of the RV camping area. The occupants of a purple school bus (The Quetzal Bus, @thequetzalbus on twitter) were burnin’ it down with fat beats. In particular, I was able to track down this remix that made it into the set. Butts were shakin’. The party was not over.

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The Quetzal Bus.

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Revelers lower a makeshift shelter over the DJ booth at the Quetzal Bus.

 

We headed home once it started raining again. Our car didn’t get stuck in the muddy parking lot, but many, many others did. Reports came back on Monday of local farmers pulling out cars with tractors. As of Tuesday morning, there were still people stuck on Winston Farm. Damn.

The Hudson Project’s inaugural year was a rough one, but nearly everyone I talked to had fun. With a stacked lineup, decent amenities, and a beautiful venue, The Hudson Project had a lot to offer. Cancelling the last day was probably a smart move, considering the safety implications. It was also just announced that ticket holders will be getting refunded for the last day. Very appropriate, considering the huge amount of artists who were cancelled.
How was your time at the Hudson Project? Let us know.

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An Interview with Nashville funk nonet Dynamo

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Wil Schade: I’m here in the studio with a very special band Dynamo, who just killed an in-studio performance at WKDU. I am joined by Kevin [Gift Jr.] and Ryan [Connors], the bassist and pianist of Dynamo.

Ryan Connors: Thanks for having us.

Wil Schade: You guys are from Nashville, Tennessee. You’ve been on tour for two weeks now. How has it been?

Ryan: It’s been great man, a lot of different types of venues. One of the cool things we’ve been doing on the road is giving clinics and master classes at high schools and middle schools. Those have been really fun too. We usually do those in the mornings on weekdays. Those have been a blast, and once again different scenarios at every one of them. You never know what to expect.

Wil: So what has been the craziest moment of tour so far? I have to ask that question.

Ryan: Craziest moment of tour? Man, that’s a tough one…

Kevin: That we can say on radio, or..? [Laughs]

Ryan: Well, one story that comes to mind actually happened right before the tour. The night before we left, our drummer’s van, like a utility van, basically broke down and couldn’t start. And this was the night before we had to leave for the tour. So we basically towed it away that night, took it to the shop, and then got it two hours after we’d planned to leave that day. So we were running late to a gig in Columbus, ran into three hours of traffic, so we got there literally right before we had to play. Everyone was really stressed out but everyone played really well because they had a lot of aggression that they had to get out. [Laughs]

Wil: You’re a large group. So, what are all of your different musical backgrounds and how did you guys meet, at first?

Ryan: Seven of the nine members went to Belmont University down in Nashville Tennessee. Four of us that went there actually got our Masters in Music. We graduated just last week or two weeks ago. So that’s sort of the story there. We come from all over the map, like Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois, and upstate New York. Our keyboard player/trombone player is the only one actually from Nashville Tennessee. So we all just kinda came together from really different backgrounds like you were just saying. Kevin, our bass player, plays in churches. Some of the guys are just straight ahead jazz players. The guitarist can play, like, a country gig if he needs to. We’re all kind of well rounded, but we all enjoy this style of music I think the most. Everyone’s on board with making really great music.

Wil: You guys just released Live at Ocean Way, a live in-studio album for an audience of forty members?

Ryan: Yeah. We did three shows that day, December 8th 2013. We had three shows so that we could each have three different live takes to choose from. Each show had forty different people in each audience, so a total of 120 people attended that concert that day, and we did eight tunes at each show. Actually the album is a compilation of the last show, the 8 o clock show. So that’s what you hear on the album, that’s what you’re getting.

Wil: So how was the recording process? Was it difficult with the live aspect and getting the perfect take?

Ryan: It was extremely difficult. We didn’t make it any easier on ourselves because we actually brought in a lot of outside musicians. If you listen to the album, that’s actually 24 musicians taking part. There’s a string quartet, we beefed up our horn section so there’s a baritone, tenor, alto [saxophones], trombone, trumpet.

Wil: There’s an EVI [Electronic valve instrument] on one of the tunes I heard.

Ryan: Yeah the trumpet player also plays EVI so he took a solo on one of the tunes, which was awesome. Actually that’s Joe Anderson from Philly. He just graduated from U Arts. So two of those horn players, including Joe and Ben Ford our trombone player, showed up basically that morning and sight read the charts all day. We’re already trying to get a lot of people together to play somewhat difficult music and that didn’t make it any easier [laughs].

Wil: Speaking of difficult music, you write most of the tunes. What are some of your influences? I know when I watched the YouTube videos it looks a lot like Snarky Puppy to me.

Ryan: For sure. I think everyone in the group is a very big Snarky [Puppy] fans, myself included. I actually had a chance to go to Snarky Puppy’s live recording session for GroundUP.

Wil: ….I recognize your face now.

(Ryan’s face is the thumbnail photo for Snarky Puppy’s “Thing of Gold” video)

Ryan: [Laughs] Yeah, so I had a chance to talk with Michael League [Bassist and frontman of Snarky Puppy] and some of the guys in the band. Ever since then at live shows they’ll see me and recognize me. Their music was a big influence, but also the way that they carry themselves as a group. They’re really positive, really into music education. So that to me was a wake up call on doing things independently. Like understanding that you don’t need a tour manager and you don’t need to be signed to a record label to make good music. So that’s more of what I got out of seeing those guys, and that was their influence on us.

Wil: What has been the hardest part of being such a large band? Do you have side projects, or stuff you do other than Dynamo?

Ryan: Yeah. We’re all freelance musicians, but I think overall we pretty much make time for this group. When we’re down in Nashville we play a couple times a week at some of the venues down there, and so far we haven’t had any conflicts. I mean, if someone can’t make a gig it’s more like all or nothing. But if there are guest musicians that want to sit in that’s always something that’s cool for us to do.

Wil: I guess you guys have a large network of musicians. I mean, all the musicians you brought in on Live at Ocean Way plus if you’re in a crunch on the road and you need an extra musician.

Ryan: Yeah totally. And actually these are areas that we’re revisiting. I did my undergrad at West Chester University and so did Kevin. So while we’re in this area we’re probably going to meet some musicians that we went to school with and we’ll have them sit in, like Joe Anderson and Ben Fords. He’s out in Harrisburg so he’s going to play with us on Saturday night. So just letting people know that we’re coming through. Then if they want to come and play then by all means please do.

Wil: You guys are a fairly new band, coming together in late 2012. What was your strategy for getting yourself out there? It seems like you’re well on your way, but did you go in with any preconceived notions of how you were going to go about things?

Ryan: No. Basically my mentality was just write as much music as possible, play as many gigs as possible, and put ourselves in situations where we’re uncomfortable as much as possible. So that way we just keep growing constantly and we’re always writing new material, always trying to book a tour, and just basically challenge ourselves over and over again.

Wil: This is your first tour?

Ryan: Yeah. We did a short run-out last May, where we did one clinic up in Oswego, as well as two shows. But in terms of a fully booked tour, this is the first one.

Wil: So what’s next for you guys?

Ryan: June and July we’re actually taking a break, so you won’t hear anything from us then. But when we get back in August we have some gigs in Nashville. We’re hoping to do some run-outs in September through the fall. So run-outs to any area that’s close to Nashville like Chicago, New Orleans, North Carolina, Atlanta, any cities that we can get to and that it makes sense to go to. And then we’re probably looking at recording another album at the end of the year.

Wil: So you guys have been making new material. Have you been recording consistently? Are you guys in the works of a new album?

Ryan: Yeah, I would say we’re about halfway through getting some new material for a new album. But along the way we’ve been recording on the side with singers that we love to feature in our live shows. So the aspect there is doing covers and their arrangements of different covers. We just went in the studio right before we hit the road with Abby York and Ariel McFall. They did a version of “Rolling in the Deep” and “Sunny”, the jazz standard.

Wil: Awesome. Do you guys accept social media followers?

Ryan: Yes sir, we do.

Follow Dynamo on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. 

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Concert Review: Disclosure at Union Transfer (6/6/2014)

When A Fire Starts To Burn — Disclosure

When A Fire Starts To Burn — Disclosure

By Jonathan Plotkin

Wow okay so this is mad late but whatever. I saw Disclosure like a month ago and due to a combination of being super busy at work and super lazy when I’m not at work, it’s taken me this long to get this review out. I know you’ve been on the edge of your seats wondering how I enjoyed the Disclosure show at the Union Transfer last month and now you’re finally going to find out.

Full disclosure (pun fully intended because punz rool): I’m not “the biggest fan” of Disclosure. I’ve heard their album Settle, thought it was really cool, and then kind of forgot about it. I haven’t heard their early stuff, but I thought that album was dope and figured their show would be pretty fun. I honestly didn’t even plan on see them- I was supposed to see Kishi Bashi but then a fellow DJ at the station handed me a pair of free tickets to the thrice sold out show, so I couldn’t really say no. Not knowing what to expect, I finally rolled up some time after 9 PM, just in time for that awkward transition after the opener to the main act. I met up with my friend Chris (@CrispyChrisX) who proceeded to tell me all about house music until Disclosure got on. A good primer for the coming act, considering I missed Broadzilla since I got there late.

When Disclosure finally got to the stage, I didn’t really know what they had so many instruments set up. They had a drum kit, keyboards, bass guitar… I thought these guys were just DJs? Turns out one of the reasons their work sounds so rich and full is because they play real instruments! Of course, everyone reading this probably thinks I’m a total noob but WHATEVER man I think learning new things is great and I just wanted to share that excitement with you guys.

Anyway.

The crowd was super pumped, and since the show was super sold out, the Union Transfer was more packed than I’d ever seen it. Disclosure used that to their advantage though and got the jams pumping right away, forcing the close-packed crowd to dance with “F For You”, leading into “When A Fire Starts To Burn.” After that, they played some stuff that I didn’t recognize, but Chris told me was some of their old stuff updated with new twists (I later looked it up- I remember at least one of their old songs they played was “Flow” which sounds good on YouTube, but was incredible live). This whole time, the brothers are singing, playing live drums, and doodling around on the bass. If there’s anything I love in house music, it’s a good bassline and watching it being pulled live from an instrument is just too cool.

The duo moved back to more famous stuff from their album, which due to their excessive touring schedule was incredibly tight and well rehearsed. They kept it fresh though, adding all sorts of new elements to songs that undoubtedly were getting a little old for them. At one point, Chris turned to me and complained that he didn’t think they sounded “big enough” and that one of the drops should have gotten more of a reaction. Luckily, their next song was crowd favorite (or at least MY favorite) “Grab Her” and they had it turned up to 11 the whole time.

I especially liked how professional their light set up was. For two brothers who are barely old enough to drink at some of the shows that play in the USA, they had laser effects and projections rivaling well established bands like Chromeo and and Emancipator. The Disclosure mask made quite a few appearances, floating around the brothers’ heads and (somewhat creepily) singing along the last few tracks. From a projection display that reminded me of the video for Simian Mobile Disco song “Cerulean” to lighting the whole stage red during “When A Fire Starts To Burn”, the show was just as visually stimulating as could be (speaking of which, when they played “Stimulation” the crowd went wild with how pumped up the sound was).

Finishing the track “Help Me Lose My Mind” with plenty of audience help on the vocals, the brothers walked off stage. The crowd started chanting “Latch! Latch” and when Disclosure finally walked back on stage I thought the roof was going to fly off. Closing with a soul splitting rendition of “Latch” in which everyone sang (even me, despite only learning the lyrics after the first verse). It was a beautiful show and the vibes during it the whole time were just fantastic. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend taking the time to see Disclosure live if you get the chance. No matter if you’re feeling happy or sad, tryna dance or tryna chill, Disclosure put on one hell of a show.

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Reggae Marathon Re-Cap: Sweet Daddy Fish & Duprex Snape Break Down the History of Reggae on WKDU

By Chris Burrell

If you listen to WKDU regularly, you know that we don’t take reggae lightly – we currently have eight reggae shows on our schedule for the summer term. The only way that kind of support for one specific genre can exist is through cultivating a grassroots and dedicated listener base over many years.

The reggae marathon, which takes place every Memorial Day weekend, was instrumental in forming such a strong reggae listener base and connection with the Caribbean community in West Philly. Now in its 31st year, the reggae marathon is still going strong, as over 30 DJ’s from West Philly and beyond came out and fundraised in support of WKDU and the Red Cross Jamaica to be a part of the 100+ hour marathon.

On Saturday afternoon of the marathon, I was able to catch up with Clinton Fishley (aka Sweet Daddy Fish) to chat about the history of the event. Fishley has been involved with the marathon for 29 of its 31 years, and is heavily entrenched in the reggae scenes in West Philly and Germantown.

The reggae marathon started in 1983, when Hopeton Brown, General Manager of the station at the time, gathered DJ’s from Boston, Virginia, New York, Maryland, and beyond to connect through good reggae music and a charitable cause. The success of initial marathons was influential in establishing a large and dedicated listener base that has continued on today, where we still have numerous streams from Jamaican IP addresses each week. I phoned up my friend Duprex Snape of Jamcity Rock, who I go back to back with on Thursday nights, to get the scoop as to how reggae became such a big thing at the station.

“Once reggae was on the air, it just took off, and it was a way to stay connected to people – down in Jamaica and all over.”

Duprex has had his show, Jamcity Rock, on Thursdays from 6-9 PM for 14 years, and keeps a musical focus on the local scene and undisputed classics in the genre. One of the artists Duprex has supported on his show, who was also in the studio on Saturday, was Germantown artist Danny Roots.

Roots was born in Jamaica, grew up in East Flatbush Brooklyn, and made his way to Philly some years ago. He opened up on his musical upbringing to me, and recalled buying his first record, Dr. No Go, in Jamaica for 13 shillings and 6 pence.

This short blog post doesn’t come close to doing justice to the amazing work that these DJ’s have put in connecting the Caribbean community of West Philly through the thousands of hours they’ve logged on-air. If you’re ever looking to learn more about the genre, check out our summer schedule, tune into a reggae show, and call our studio to send BIGUPS to our amazing selectors.

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