Category Archives: Interviews

The Life of a Modern Record Dealer: Max from Brewerytown Beats

by Chris Burrell // @crispychrisx

Brewerytown Beats 45s

Max Ochester, owner of Brewerytown Beats, in front of the well stocked 7″ display at his store

Max Ochester, Mt. Airy native and owner of Brewerytown Beats, lived all over before coming back to Philly and setting up shop at 29th and Girard in Brewerytown. This month marks the one-year anniversary of his shop being open, so I sat down with him at Sarah’s Place for a beer to talk about his love of vinyl, selling records to Q-Tip at age 14 and why moving sucks when you’re a vinyl fiend. His one-hour ALL VINYL set from the EMM is rad and gives you a glimpse into some of the electro funky goodness that he carries in his store.

CB: Did you have record stores before?

Max: No, this is the first record store that I’ve done. When I moved back to Philly, I handled art for four years and worked odd jobs. Then, it got to the point where I had enough records and said, “I’m just gonna do it and see what happens.” I started looking on Craigslist. There was one guy in West Philly who worked for a record label for about 15 years and had amassed this huge collection of stuff. He had really good taste and was selling it all because his wife got a job in upstate New York. I went over to his house about four times and eventually, bought everything that he had. He was giving me a great deal and I probably bought 600-1000 records each time. By the end of it, my basement had about 10,000 records and that was enough to fill the crates in the store and open up.

CB: Some people move around with their collections. Any vinyl head knows that moving with records is an absolute pain. Was your collection always in one central location?

Max: No, it definitely wasn’t in just one spot. I brought around 500 records to the Caribbean and left about 100 there. From the Caribbean, I moved to Seattle and started collecting heavily. Then, I moved from Seattle to New Orleans and spent about $500 shipping on media mail to move 12-15 crates down there. When I moved back to Philly, I had about 1000 pieces and drove down in a van and picked them all up. Moving is the biggest pain in the ass when you have records. God forbid you live on the third floor and have a shit ton of records. I’m looking to move to a new place where I can build out a record room and it has to be on the first floor; that’s one of my requirements for a new house.

Max getting his dig on...

Any vinyl fiend will tell you that the rush of flipping through a stack of records is a bona fide addiction!

CB: What were the regional fluctuations in what you were finding?

Max: Down in New Orleans, you’ll see Meters records that aren’t as scarce as they are up here – supply and demand, basically. I witnessed Questlove in a crazy bargaining process at a record show I put on in Philly that was like that. The record was a really funky Herbie Hancock offshoot and Questlove was trying to talk the guy down from like $400 to $200. He finally got him down to $250 and bought it. Six months later, I visited my friend in Seattle and saw the same exact record on the wall in a store for $20. It was just more popular out there and I guess there were more copies of it. So yeah, there are definitely regional differences in what you see.

CB: I was talking with one of the guys we had on the marathon who’s an old house head and bought at Funk-o-Mart, 611, etc. What have you seen over the years in Philly as stores have come and gone?

Max: All those were thriving at one point. It was Armand’s611, Funk-o-Mart and Sound of Market (they just closed I believe). Those were big time spots for DJs to go. Since I left, it seems like everybody’s kinda gone down the tubes. My personal opinion is that people don’t know how to do stuff online. That’s the only way I’m making it now. I’ve got Discogs and eBay accounts (both named “BrewerytownBeats”). There’s a whole philosophy to them both. On eBay you put out your premium shit, start out at low prices and wherever it goes, it goes. You kinda just gotta give up on caring if you make so much money. Discogs is a whole different game. You put out cheap stuff, you put out good quality stuff and people will buy it. I got guys down in Brazil right now that are buying 30 records at a time, but it’s like $2-5 records. Just today, I got Peanut Butter Wolf buying something and a couple weeks ago I sold to Onra from France. I looked on Wolf’s want list and he has like 30 to 40 things, all amazing shit. It’s cool to recognize that those people are looking at your stuff.

Old WKDU "Scrapple" comp

Max has got records for DAYS – including this old WKDU “SCRAPPLE!” comp circa who knows when.

CB: What were your music tastes growing up?

At first, I listened to more of the hair metal stuff: Def Leppard, Poison and all that bullshit. I remember in 8th grade, everybody in my school was like, “What the fuck are you listening to that for?” Eventually, I got into De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and all that. At that same time, I had a neighbor growing up who was a record dealer and sold to the hip hop guys in New York. When I was 14, he asked me to come and help him move records. I walked into a show in New York and literally every hip hop idol that I ever looked up to was buying records from him. I was selling records to Q-Tip, Kid Capri, Diamond D and Pete Rock. The guy that I worked for, David Ozenbaugh AKA Ozy, knew that these guys were serious because they’d spend a lot of money, but he had no idea who they were. I started hipping him to the fact that, “Hey, this is Q-Tip,” and he got really into it and knew all the samples he sold. Ozy knows what other people don’t know – I’ve watched him pick up a dollar record from somebody’s crate then walk four tables down and sell it for $300. That’s when I started listening to the samples in music I liked.

CB: Do you ever see demand spike for a sample after a track blows up?

Max: The “Bound” sample – I had two copies of the 45. I put one online for $12 and it was bought immediately and I was like, why? Then I heard the Kanye song and I put the next one up for $40. I appreciate the knowledge of knowing where people get their samples from. I also enjoy the hunt of finding the sample because some things you’ll find very easily and some things will take you forever to find or hit you hard in the wallet. You’ll see it pop up on eBay and you’re like, “Ugh I could spend $60 or I could take my girl to dinner.” Most record dudes will spend $60 on it.

CB: What’s the most special record you have in your collection?

That would have to be the Windows album by Jack Wilkins. Jack Wilkins was a jazz guitarist who had a couple albums, but this one album was his super funky soulful jazz album. In the early 90s, I watched Q-Tip buy the album from Ozy, later sampling it for “Sucka N—-”  off Midnight Marauders. I looked for the album forever. Everywhere I went, I would always make a point of asking for that album, but they never had it. About 3 years ago, my whole family got together for Christmas and did our presents. Then, my aunt came up to me at the end of it and handed me a box and is like, Here, this is for you.” She and my girlfriend had gotten together and bought it for me – fifteen years later, I finally had it. I didn’t even listen to it when I got home. I left it on the shelf and didn’t touch it until I got interviewed by some other guys. I told them it was my favorite album and put it on to listen, not even knowing if it skipped, but it played perfect.

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If you’re a record collector you MUST make a trip out to Brewerytown Beats at 1207 N. 29th St.

Brewerytown Beats was one of the many local businesses that supported the 2014 Electronic Music Marathon.

You can support WKDU, Musicopia and The Village of Arts & Humanities by heading over to wkdu.org/emm and buying station merch or making a donation.

All the sets from the EMM are being posted over at our Soundcloud – thanks for your support!

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Hella Decent: the DJ Sega story

by Chris Burrell // @crispychrisx

DJ Sega on the decks

DJ Sega ROCKING the decks for the EMM. Zero headphones used, folks.

DJ Sega is one of the most unique and groundbreaking artists to come out of Philly. He was one of the original artists signed to Mad Decent and has remixed the craziest variety of songs with the Philly club sound that he helped pioneer (e.g. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Theme – DJ Sega remix). His set at the EMM was absolutely INSANE. My jaw was on the floor as he pulled out track after track of unexpected / WTF goodness. Sit back and listen to his set and read our chat about the start of his career, current projects and the original Mad Decent HQ. Yeah, we talked about the Diplo beef too…

*BIG UP George Lawrence for bringing Sega through*

CB: How are you and where are you at right now?

DJ Sega: I’m alive…that’s what counts. Right now, I’m in my hometown Philly. I’ve been staying in South Philly lately.

CB: How did you first start getting into music?

Sega: I was born into music. My parents were choir directors and my father was a DJ in the Nicetown area for almost 40 years, playing classic soul, funk, hip hop and other feel good music. My little sister and I grew up being a little competitive when it came to the music we collected. We competed on who would get an album first. My first tape was James Brown 20 All-Time Greatest Hits and the first album I had was Bad by Michael Jackson.

CB: Were you DJing before you started producing?

Sega: My production came before I took DJing seriously as a career. I received an email survey asking for feedback on this music production software called Acoustica Beatcraft. I gave my ideas and then received an email saying that not only did they use my ideas, but that they were giving me the software for free also. I cut and edited samples in a wave editor and made music for my own entertainment. I was going through a lot in that year and needed an escape. That’s where my imagination and the producing came in. This is my 10 year anniversary of producing!

CB: What was some of the first club music you listened to?

Sega: Baltimore club of course. I first heard it in my Dad’s car. He ran into the bar and left me with the radio on for a few minutes, and that’s when I first heard “Doo Doo Brown” by 2 Hyped Brothers & A Dog. I must’ve been about eight! Later, I was in disbelief when I went to a teen night at an arcade up by Erie Ave and they were playing club music. They had the events in the laser tag area – so it was neon paint and black light all over the place.

I knew the sound, but to experience it in a club for the first time with a sound system was incredible! The bass under my feet, the breaks in my face, the girls on my lap – but we won’t talk about that. I still remember the songs that were played that night but I had no idea I’d be making it myself.

DJ Sega poses for us in our vinyl library.

DJ Sega poses for us in our vinyl library.

CB: Then you started spinning gigs? How did you learn to DJ?

Sega: I’ve always played in front of a live audience and never really “practiced” before. Not because I’m on some Allen Iverson stuff – I’ve just never owned equipment to practice on. You have DJs out there that have all the equipment and only want to look good having it – they don’t really love this stuff.

CB: How did you take your career to the next level?

Sega: I always heard my mixtapes being blasted out of cars and houses, but they were only being sold at one location, one day a week. I started getting my mixtapes into some stores downtown like Armand’s. That’s where I met Dirty South Joe. He introduced me to Diplo and we talked about this new label he was starting at the time (Mad Decent). I became one of first artists signed to Mad Decent and invited their crew to come check out my regular party. Diplo, Switch, Joe and his girl all came to check it out. Switch bought all of my mixtapes that night.

CB: What were those initial vibes like at Mad Decent?

Sega: It was a big creative family – Diplo, Derek (DJA), Paul Devro, Blaqstarr, Rye Rye and me. It was fun and productive and we all shared ideas and helped each other out. Those initial block parties were crazy – 2010 in particular. It was the first year the block party was on tour and also the last time it was at the mausoleum at 12th and Spring Garden. I guess my set ran a little over my allotted 20/25 minutes and I was told to cut the music off. The crowd was in a frenzy, chanting my name and wanting an encore. After that show, I was put on the lineup for NYC.

CB: What do you think it is that drives people wild for SEGA?

Sega: I think that I’m reaching into a part of people that they forget all about. For example, I flipped the Power Rangers theme and when I’d play it out, I’d just see the smiles come on people’s faces. That theme song was how I got into rock and metal. In 7th grade, I caught Headbanger’s Ball one morning and saw the video for Mudvayne’s “Dig”. I ended up remixing that track and when I met Dirty South Joe, that was the song that motivated him to partner up so fast. People couldn’t believe my rock and metal remixes because of the way that the sound was manipulated and even more so that it was coming from a black kid from Philly. That’s what my latest HellaSonix project is about. I decided that since I’m in my 10th year producing, I would go back to my roots and remix everything from Yes to Aphex Twin.

CB: Let’s talk about ‘the tweet’ from Diplo – give me the context around that whole thing.

Sega: I take care of my disabled family members and have been doing so for years. My mother was in two car accidents and my uncle is deaf and mute. I used to come to the mausoleum late and Diplo would ask me why wasn’t I there earlier or more often. I would tell him there’s some shit going on at home. Recently, the city condemned the house my family was living in and I had to move everything out, literally overnight. I was raising money to help – didn’t ask Diplo for any money – and then he tweeted at me what he did. I didn’t even know he had a problem with me. I was just trying to take care of my family with a crazy situation.

CB: And you’ve heard nothing from him since the tweet, correct?

Sega: There was a little bit of back and forth and talks from people telling me he’s contacted them for my number. I got contacted by everybody except from him. People asked what happened so much that I got sick of it and posted everything on a blog in chronological order. I wanted to get past it, but at the same time I refuse to be in that long list of people that bow down or fold to someone, no matter how much power they have. However, I don’t want people to think that everybody at Mad Decent is evil because they aren’t. In fact, some of the crew that works for Mad Decent donated to my GoFundMe page to help my family.

CB: I’m sorry to hear about the whole situation.

Sega: I feel like I had to show that people that no matter how low you think you may be, you still can fight. I’m just glad for the experience. I’ve always been on the DIY tip as far as my career and I can only imagine what will come next. Me going from being Diplo’s first “protege” to a “bum” is an achievement in itself. But why would somebody that high up on the power ladder come at me in front of millions? All while I’m going through shit? There must be something he knows that I don’t…

CB: So what do you currently have in the works?

Sega: I’m always working on music. I have three projects I’m working on right now: the next volume to my Sixer series, a special edition of HellaSonix and my second EP of all original material called, “Is That Your EP Too?” I also play big events and last minute gigs. You have to stay tuned to catch me out because anything can happen at the drop of a hat. One minute I could be here in Philly and the next I could get a call to come out to Tokyo. I love Japan. STAY TUNED!

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DJ Sega spun the EMM to help us raise money for our station, Musicopia, and The Village of Arts & Humanities

Please support WKDU and these great nonprofits organizations by heading over to wkdu.org/emm and buying station merch or making a donation.

Much more aural pleasure from the EMM to come. Follow WKDU on Soundcloud &  Twitter @WKDU for the latest.

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Pizza Partying with DJ SYLO & Jansen

DJ SYLO & Jansen rocking the homely DJ booth at the 700 Club in Northern Liberties for STUNTLOCO.

DJ SYLO and Jansen rocking the homely DJ booth at the 700 Club for STUNTLOCO.

by Chris Burrell // @crispychrisx

It was hot in our studio when DJ SYLO and Jansen came through and laid down a two hour set as part of our newly revamped Electronic Music Marathon. These two young Philly producer / DJ / party starters definitely delivered one of the sickest sets of the marathon, dropping everything from MK and Cajmere to Blawan, Jam City, and LOL Boys. They’ve got a ton of stuff going on individually, but have also lit up North Broad Street together with their Pizza Party series as of late. I can’t wait to see what power moves both these guys have in store for the very near future. Listen back to their set from the EMM and peep our chat here:


CB: How did you guys link up?

SYLO: Earlier in our Temple days, me and some homies were throwing parties under the name SFO – So Far Out ENT. Our CEO, Dubz the Don, was fresh as hell. He and Jansen linked up and that led to me meeting Jansen. SFO parties were wild – the last one we did had 700 kids in it, diverse both in terms of crowd and music.

Jansen: That was when I was still a lost little freshman taking photos and stuff. I started DJ-ing the next year and got my start spinning with this Philly rapper named Tayyib Ali. I was kicking it with him a lot, going to shows and then he just had the idea for me to spin for him. That threw me into the fire in terms of doing a live show.

CB: How did you guys get your first turntable set up?

Jansen: I spent loan money to buy some some tables off Craigslist that didn’t work too well and got a mixer for my birthday. I was lucky because my uncle who used to DJ back in the day was trying to sell his old 1200s, so I sold the shitty Numark ones I had and kept his.

SYLO: I used to go to my homie’s spot in high school and watch this documentary Scratch over and over, it’s about DJing. He had tables too, so we would mess around on those. But he believed in me and sold me his tables for super cheap and I was out. I have vivid memories of listening to “Life’s A Bitch” at his spot.

CB: That’s crazy – I talked with Matthew Law a few months back, and he also brought up watching Scratch. If you had to pick 2 tracks from HS or college that were super influential to you, what would they be?

Jansen: I grew up on hip hop/rap and lived in VA, so I was always into the trap shit and Southern rap, but was also always into some weirder electronic/dance/alternative type shit. I remember one of the first house parties I went to, I heard “Baptism” by Crystal Castles and it blew my mind. I liked them a lot because they were really different, original and hard. Second, and more important, was sometime during my sophomore year when I came across this Maya Jane Coles mix, I think it was like a live set. That mix opened my eyes to deep house and a more mature chilled-out side of house that I still love/play/produce today!

CB: Any reason why you gravitated towards the female artists, Jansen?

Jansen: I have no idea. Alice’s voice with Ethan Kath’s production is so unique to me and Maya Jane Coles is just like a goddess. The track “What They Say” – I saw the light when I heard that record.

SYLO: When I was first getting into club/electronic music in high school, I found Tittsworth – WTF (Nadastrom Remix) on hypem.com. I looked up Nadastrom and found out that they were from DC (I’m from Takoma Park, MD, inside the beltway) AND that they were playing this all ages party called Blisspop @ The 930 Club in a week. We got a crew together, put a bunch of vodka in water bottles and took the metro down to the club.

I remember so clearly THE MOMENT that I stepped into the club – everything changed. You gotta hear club music IN THE CLUB!

Number two I’ll say is the Two Inch Punch remix of that Birdy song “People Help The People”. I found that jawn in 2011 when I was living in London – it sent my whole taste in a more loved up, deep direction. New Bobby Shmurda also!

CB: Fast forward to today – tell me about the order of what happened between all the different things you guys have going on now.

SYLO: STUNTLOCO was born almost 2 years ago. Sammy Slice had been rocking Silk City on Thursdays for 5+ years and was looking for a young DJ to pass the night on to. I guested a couple times with him as a tryout and made the cut. I’ve been rocking every Thursday since [moved it to the 700 club in March]. Now, the whole thing has grown to the point where STUNTLOCO is something bigger – it’s our movement, it’s our crew, it’s a feeling that’s found across everything that we do. The crew is whoever is rocking with us: me, Matt Ford the MC, Daniel the photographer, Grace on visuals, Benz on marketing, Jansen spinning – it’s mad people, some more involved than others.

Jansen: Yeah so my point of view: STUNTLOCO (inspired by a Hispanic board game) was at Silk City for a while. I had been part of the fam for a while, but didn’t spin it until it moved to the 700 club. Then the Pizza Party just like came out of nowhere in a meeting.

SYLO: It started as this free secret house party, then just kept growing.

The idea was that we needed to throw a party for the people – get back to the roots and throw an ill house party.

We did four of those that were really awesome and then I was skating around looking for a venue for another party. I had thrown in the towel and went to go get a slice at Alessandros. When I saw they had a bar, you should’ve seen my face. The manager was there at the time and the rest is history.

Here’s a rare Pizza Party 3 gif:

Pizza Party 3 LIT UP.

Pizza Party 3 with the proper vibes going. You can catch Pizza Party pretty much on a monthly basis at Alessandros on North Broad St.

Jansen: Originally, I had a specially designated “house set” which has grown into this beautiful thing where I can spin warm-vibey-pizza sounding house music – PIZZA HOUSE.

CB: What is a pizza sounding house track?

Jansen: It’s many sounds – Kaytranada fused with Julio Bashmore and a hint of French Express.

CB: One last thing – why pizza?

SYLO: Pizza is the universal comfort food. It’s amazing how many different types of people love pizza.

The whole point is to bring people together. Thank you pizza.

Jansen: Pizza is one of the better things earth has to offer. What’s better than eating a fresh piece of pizza and dancing to some groovy shit? I want pizza right now!

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TONIGHT, catch DJ SYLO at the 700 club for STUNTLOCO  and catch Jansen as 1/2 of P.S. 118 opening up for Huxley at The Dolphin Tavern.

Also, check out more information on the Electronic Music Marathon – it’s a fundraiser between WKDU, Musicopia, and The Village of Arts & Humanities >>>> wkdu.org/emm

We’ll be posting the rest of the audio from the EMM throughout November, STAY TUNED !!!

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Pre-EMM chat with Blueshift on house music, brunch

by Chris Burrell // @crispychrisx

Ahead of his set on the #2014EMM, I caught up with Philly DJ and producer Blueshift to chat about house music, changing tastes (music and otherwise), and the Philly scene. He’s got a release out on the legendary New York label Nurvous Recordings, and was the co-founder of the highly acclaimed French Express blog, amongst manyyy other things.

Blueshift in the mix!

Blueshift is one of the many artists we are honored to have as part of our 2014 Electronic Music Marathon. He’s a sick DJ and reps the deeper, house-y sounds – don’t miss his set!

Chris B: Wassup man, thanks for linking up, and looking forward to having you on the EMM!

Blueshift: Noo problem, man – happy to chat, and stoked to participate!

CB: So, how did you get into house music?

Blueshift: I’ve always been a fan of 80′s music. Even as a kid, synthesizer-heavy stuff caught my ear. I loved Eurodance! When I discovered dance music and really got into it, it was mainly the harder stuff like hard trance and such. Over the years, I just branched out and moved to different genres.

CB: What was one of the first tracks like that that you loved?

Blueshift: Snap! – “Rhythm Is a Dancer” is one I always really liked.

CB: As you got older, what was some of the dance-y stuff you got into?

Blueshift: In the later years of high school, I was really getting into music, but listened relatively passively. I remember this one track by Ghost in the Machine called “A Time Long Forgotten” – I listened to that a lot. I think I had a few Hybrid tracks around then, too. College is where I discovered internet radio dance music stations and got into hard house and trance. Stuff like Tidy Boys and Tunnel Trance Force.

CB: So how did you end up moving towards the funky side of things?

Blueshift: Just through changing tastes. I moved from trance, to progressive stuff, and somewhere around 2006/2007 my ear really caught onto the french house and nu-disco sound.

CB: Around that time for me, that was Justice / MSTRKRFT – what was it for you?

Blueshift: I liked their sound, but for me it was the Lifelike/Fred Falke/Alan Braxe crew that really did it for me. Thinking back, the turning point might have been when my friend played one of James Grant’s early Anjunabeats Worldwide shows for me, and I heard Michael Cassette’s tracks for the first time. Something about it just seemed to combine trance, but with a pure 80′s sound and it totally shoved my taste in that direction for the next few years.

CB: They are both awesome crews – as a side note, have you heard Erol’s fabric live mix? Pure FILTHH.

Blueshift: I haven’t! I’ll load it up on queue for today :D

CB: Have you always been based out of Philly?

Blueshift: For the most part. I was in NJ for a couple years for the last year of high school and for college, but moved back around 2006.

CB: I feel like the ‘scene’ here has kind of blossomed recently – tell me about your experiences in Philly – as a resident, as a DJ, etc

Blueshift: The scene in Philly DEFINITELY has exploded in the past two years or so. The caliber of artists coming through now is so great. We have tons of awesome and current acts in on a regular basis, and lots of smaller groups popping up as well. There’s a pretty steady rotating lineup of good gigs. Philly can also be a pretty tough city to get a handle on though; I’ve played a wide range of shows here, from empty to packed, but I’m definitely grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to play here.

CB: Who are some of your artist homeys in Philly that we should know about?

Blueshift: The Worldtown peeps have been putting out some great tracks recently (and crushing it with their events) **editor’s note: they’re spinning for us on the EMM, too!**, Apt One always brings the heat **also spinning for the EMM**, Les Professionnels are super pro **ALSO spinning for the EMM**, and PS 118 has some really tight stuff upcoming. Maggs Bruchez are also some of my favorite Philly producers.

CB: Where’s your fave brunch spot?

Blueshift: Cafe Renata in West Philly. I’m always there. I’ve also found myself at Broad Street Diner a bunch recently.

CB: I love pork roll – how do you feel about pork roll?

Blueshift: Pork roll is great, man. Blew my mind when I first heard it called Taylor Ham.

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The 11th annual Electronic Music Marathon will take place October 10-13 on WKDU. 91.7 FM Philadelphia / wkdu.org worldwide!!!!

Tune in for our amazing lineup of DJs, on-air giveaways, and support college radio and arts education while you’re at it!!!!!

Get @ us all weekend long during the marathon for info / giveaways | @wkdu #2014EMM

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“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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West Philly and Worldwide – Breaking it down with Matthew Law

by Chris Burrell // @crispychrisx

Matthew Law FKA 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 – you might know me from before as 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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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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