is / was turns one, talks Pittsburgh unity

Just about to turn one year old, Pittsburgh-based label is / was has already made quite the impact with fresh and timeless releases from heavy hitters and new names alike. We had a chat with label boss Tony Fairchild after he turned in this bangin’ set for the Hot Mix.
Tell us a little about the mix — what was the idea behind it?
It’s a collection of records I’ve bought over the past month or two with maybe 3-4 that have been in my collection for some time.  I think I’m starting to get to a point where my personal definition of house music is starting to congeal and define itself.  This mix is another step in the distillation process.
You’re a new imprint — how’d this all get started? Is it “is / was” or “was / is” ?
Yes, the labels (is / was & was / is) will turn 1 in April and they are my first labels.  It all started with my desire to present music from the 90’s that has maybe fallen out of the spotlight to dance floors of today.  Currently the curatorial ethos is simply releasing whatever I feel is timeless and important music.  It helps to have a kick drum too!
Looking across the state from Philly, Pittsburgh packs quite the punch with its scene / labels / parties. Tell me a little bit about the scene and what you think makes it special / different.
I think what makes Pittsburgh great is what makes Midwest techno great in general.  Heads-down, no frills, hyper-devoted people who involve themselves in dance music simply for the love of it.  It’s an example of the beautiful things that can happen to art and culture when you take money out of the equation. What I’m most proud about is how cohesive the scene is and how supportive everyone is of each other. All the contributors to our scene have their own hustle yet are able to come together to lift each other up and put wind in each other’s sails.
How do you come across some of these older projects and go about re-releasing them? What can we expect the rest of 2018 ?
Usually it starts with a record I have, or am aware of (and wish I had!), that I think has something to offer current dance floors.  Often its just a matter of contacting the artist and asking if they are interested in working together.  Facebook is a big help!
As far as what to expect from the label, there will be 4 more pairs of is / was & was / is records dropping between now and the end of the year.  Expect tunes from Mark Ambrose, Archetype, BPMF, Dar Embarks, a couple of top secret surprises and the debut of the insanely talented Teakup.  I am also launching a new label, “TerraFirm”, this spring via Subwax Distribution.  Its a very conceptual project focusing on a melodic, utopian, futuristic strain of techno.  Look for 2 releases or so this year on that imprint.
Tell me something distinctly Pittsburgh that I should know about.
I’ve only lived here for about 2.5 years so I’m not the most qualified cultural ambassador!  Our museum has a sick gem room that should be one of the first stops on any tour of the city.
What’s your favorite / least favorite thing about electronic music right now?
Favorite: watching the DJ’s and producers of my generation evolve as they mature in the scene.  I see my cohort getting more nuanced, skilled and discerning.  We aren’t the ankle-biters anymore!
Least Favorite:  Discogs prices 😦
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NEW YORK TRAX taps John Selway for 7th release, talks state of dance & New York nightlife

Founded in 2016 and based in Brooklyn, NEW YORK TRAX is an outlet for New York music, by New York artists, in New York city.
Ahead of the label’s seventh release, this one coming from techno icon John Selway under his Semblance Factor alias, we chatted with label boss Nicole about the state of electronic music, hype, and of course, New York.
Check out this mix of 100% NEW YORK TRAX releases and get a sneak peek at three upcoming releases from the label:
How did you get into electronic music? What were some of the first labels you loved?
I started going to events around the age of 18. I quickly became involved in the local scene by organizing my own events. My first big love when it comes to electronic music was hardcore techno (and it remains my favorite genre to this day). I spent a lot of time exploring the truly underground and obscure hardcore labels of the 1990s. One of my greatest discoveries was Fischkopf from Germany, Hangars Liquides from France, and, of course, New York’s Industrial Strength.
Why did you start the label? Have you done any other labels before? What’s the idea behind this label?
I started New York Trax to release music by New York producers only. The sound of New York is like its people: diverse and unique. Despite the common belief, New York Trax is not only a techno label. It releases electro, acid, hardcore, experimental, and will release even more genres in the future. What matters to me is creative sound with character. In the past, I did some work for other labels, but this is the first label that I run on my own.
What’s one thing you see a lot of labels doing wrong / right?

There is no formula for running a label and there are no limitations as to who can run a label and who cannot. As a result, concepts and sounds are constantly being recycled. I wish people asked themselves more often what is the purpose behind their projects, are they in any way original, are they contributing anything to the big picture, and so on.

What do you think is the state of New York nightlife?

New York nightlife is at its peak right now. There are a lot of venues, crews, labels, promoters etc. We have recently abolished the Cabaret Law and the office of Night Mayor was created. I hope we are off to a fresh start and an even brighter future.


What’s one thing in electronic music you wish you could change?
Less hype, more merit.
What’s your favorite post-rave snack / meal?

Sometimes I just don’t eat until Monday.

John Selway Pres. Semblance Factor EP is will be available in all fine outlets on March 19th.

NEW YORK TRAX Promo mix track list:
1. Lot.te – Graft (NYT05)
2. Richard Hinge – Changes (NYT01)
3. Dawid Dahl – Gehenna (NYT Imports 01)
4. Brenecki – The Oven (NYT02)
5. Another Alias – Craic Fiend (NYT Imports 01)
6. Alex Alben – Irin (NYT03)
7. TBA – NYT08
8. Steve Stoll – She rises up (NYT04)
9. TBA – NYT Imports 03
10. Endlec – Rhythm 387_1 (NYT Imports 02)
11. Steve Stoll – No questions please (NYT04)
12. Lot.te – Ultra Vires (NYT05)
13. Liquid Asset – Contact (NYT06)
14. John Selway – Jack the Void (Raw) (NYT07)
15. Endlec – Rhythm 401_Mix 1 (NYT Imports 02)
16. TBA – NYT Imports 04
17. John Selway – Defiance (NYT07)
18. Liquid Asset – Forgetmenot (NYT06)

Keeping it All Natural with Mat.Joe

Before throwing down at Rumor’s All Natural party, we sat down with German dance duo Mat.Joe for a chat about living in Berlin, their hip hop roots, and highlights of a crazy successful 2017. Be sure to check out their #1 Beatport house smash “Love Stream”, if you haven’t already.

WKDU: What were your first favorite hip hop and electronic artists respectively?

Mat: Oh I guess my first Hip Hop favorites were Wu Tang and Dr. Dre…it started with Yo! MTV Raps..oh damnnn, miss those times! Electronic-wise it was Ricardo Villalobos back in the minimal days.

Joe: My first Hip Hop tape was Jeru the Damaja’s “Wrath of the Math”. It blew me away! House-wise, crossover hits from Stardust, Phats & Small, Bob Sinclair, Armand Van Helden, and Daft Punk found their way into my ears when I was a teenager.

WKDU: How did hip hop / skateboarding background lead you to electronic music?

Mat.Joe: We both went to some crazy underground raves back in the days. Guess that the lovely vibes and different energy made it something special. House music is really similar to Hip Hop, Soul and R&B. Skateboarding is a big sub-culture…same with electronic music back in the days….maybe because of this, haha. We still love all those things and ride our boards in the hood as often as possible.

WKDU: What are the differences in your own two personal tastes and styles of music?

Mat.Joe: Haha…this question is in any interview we get. We both have a really similar taste and started with electronic music production in late 2011, right after we froze our Hip Hop project. It’s way more relaxed in the studio and when you play back2back if you share the same taste.

WKDU: Tell us about an ‘only in Berlin’ kind of moment you’ve had since moving there – it seems like you guys like it as a homebase.

Mat.Joe: Oh so many moments…but we guess besides the good food and the lovely cloudy sky (baaahhhh) the parties are crazy wild and they don’t stop! One time at Sisyphos we realized, ‘Oh we’re partying for 3 days already!’…Berlin is Berlin! ❤

WKDU: Closing out the year, what have been some of your most memorable moments from 2017?

Mat: Got a lot of amazing moments with a lot of cool people, great parties in different places around the world plus a successful track in “Love Stream”.

Joe: The festivals were incredible, the Brazil tour, the marathon sets we played at Lost Beach Club and like Mat said, it’s all about the moment and about connecting with the people.

WKDU: What can people expect when they see you DJ live?

Mat.Joe: Some lovely crazy boys with Mat.Joe necklaces and lots of ice cream…haha, but seriously we want to have a good time and enjoy partying with people. So come to the party and don’t be shy. Let’s drink some shots and have some breakfast at the DJ booth. Cheers!

Catch Mat.Joe in a DJ booth near you and stay “crispy” !!

An Inside Look at Night Swim Radio’s New Comp

If you enjoy diving into experimental hip hop and bouncy future beats, you owe it to yourself to check out Night Swim Radio’s latest compilation The Deep End – Volume 1. Night Swim is a Philadelphia based web radio show that has consistently selected amazing underground artists for their weekly mixes, live showcases and compilation albums. I had the pleasure of hosting NSR’s co-founder and all-around badass, Robert Ritter, for an awesome guest mix on Snack Time, so I reached back out with a couple questions to gain further insight into The Deep End and Night Swim.

Right in time for Night Swim Radio’s 2 year anniversary as one of the best tastemakers in Philly, you guys just dropped one of the hottest compilations of experimental future beats I’ve seen all summer. What has it been like getting this project together?

You’re too kind. We initially were going to try and secure some “bigger” artists for promotional purposes but then realized our first compilation should be from the Night Swim family. We sent out probably 20-30 emails and ended up with 10 artists that we have been promoting for a long time. Everyone involved is super excited to be a part and we can’t wait to keep working with them. Really just honored that they spent time on music for us to release.

How did you pick the title of the compilation, “The Deep End”? How did you tie all of the songs together?

Like our name, Jeff, the other founder, just said “how about The Deep End”? I am not very picky and said sure! We wanted to make it pool related and it just fit. Took about 10 minutes in total to design the cover once I had the name. I wanted to have the compilation run seamlessly and really craft the order but didn’t have enough time. I played the songs back and forth and landed on the order that it is, tried to split up the 3 songs with vocals. I knew I wanted to start with Pold x Baribal because that song is gorgeous.

On the weekly shows and on the new release, you feature lots of local artists who are killing it right now. Who from Philly should definitely be on everyone’s radar right now?

Kilamanzego for sure. She claims she just started producing but I don’t believe her because it is so good! Vendr is another very talented artist. Lastly, godchild makes some impressive music and goes to Drexel, although don’t quote me on that, I might be wrong.

One of your secret talents seems to be connecting artists through NSR to collaborate on tunes. One of your matchmaking successes, Rasiir and Prototyp3, got together on “The Deep End” for the track “Exodus”, which you released ahead of the full comp. How does it feel having such a direct impact on the community?

Oh man, that makes me happier than anything else Night Swim has done. Being from the Midwest, music is very communal. I used to play shows where every band knew each other and supported each other and wanted everyone to succeed. The east coast has been pretty different but I can’t get away from that desire, to help artists meet new people and grow together. The next compilation is going to be 100% collaborative, bringing together vocalists and producers.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your 2 years as founder/co-producer of Night Swim Radio?

Just trying to not care about followers and play count. Although it definitely helps to have thousands of plays, the point is creating a quality radio program and meeting and promoting new artists. You can get so wrapped up in wanting more followers and grow bitter but you have to remember that the whole point of this is to bring joy to the world, at least for me!

What do you have planned for the future?

The compilation was just the start of our newest venture, Night Swim Records. We have an EP from Prototyp3 coming out in August, definitely something with Rasiir in the works, we always release new singles through our soundcloud, and starting to plan out the next compilation!

To find out more information and keep up with new releases from Night Swim Radio, check out their brand new website, Soundcloud, Twitter, and Facebook.

WKDU Feature: Kevin Garrett

— Interview by Ryan Stone

 

You may not have heard of him yet but you probably will soon.

Kevin Garrett, a singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist from Pittsburgh by way of Brooklyn, has had quite an impressive few years, from getting cosigns from Sam Smith & Katy Perry to songwriting and producing for Beyoncé – and all off the strength of one EP and handful of singles.

Just last month (February), Garrett dropped his awaited sophomore project, another EP entitled “False Hope.” To support the album, Garrett embarked on his first headlining tour with openers A R I Z O N A.

Before his sold-out show at World Cafe Live on Friday, March 3rd, I had the opportunity to speak with the budding “odd soul” artist to see how his new music is coming along and much more.

Continue reading “WKDU Feature: Kevin Garrett”

The Black Experience on WKDU, Part 3: The John Minnis Big Bone Band

By Esmail Hamidi

Well, a lot of times things happen to you, and the only thing you can say about it is, “what can you do?”

So this blog entry is a big one for me. This blog entry covers the tape that started this whole project.

mnmn

The John Minnis Big Bone Band was a 21-piece ensemble headquartered in North Philadelphia. They were headed up by its namesake, John Minnis, the trombone player and vocalist. Among their ranks were some of the finest studio and touring musicians of Philadelphia, many still active today. And guess what radio station interviewed them in 1977?

Back in the winter, I found this tape in a dusty box with many, many others. Some of my findings on the Black Experience programs in the ’70s have been covered in Part 1 and Part 2. But this one is definitely among the crown jewels of KDU. The music they play from the band’s then-newly-released album, Classic-I Live, is top-notch. The tape’s in perfect shape. The interview…is pretty funny, to be honest. The hostess and musicians cover lots of info, with plenty of the goofy awkwardness endemic to college radio. Based on the remark that John Minnis’ birthday, May 22nd, was a Sunday coming up, I can (pretty confidently?) date the interview to Spring 1977. We might be dealing with some unreliable narrators here:  given that the record is supposed to have been released in 1979 (and how everyone on the tape seems to be feelin’ some kind of way), this date seems unlikely, but who knows.

I’ve probably listened to this interview fifty times. There was a period in the winter where I would listen to it on the way to class every morning. And while its 35 minutes are jam-packed with, well, jams, I knew I needed to track the full record down. According to the interview, if I was around in 1977, I could have picked it up at any of ten record stores – the long-defunct 3rd St. Jazz and King James Record Shop among them.

Trying to find the record: I put out feelers to all my record-collecting friends, with no luck. Apparently it was reissued in Japan in the mid-1990s, but a friend’s travels in Japan failed to yield anything other than directions to the “big band” sections of numerous record stores. Blast.  I ended up finding a copy online, and paying a stupid amount of money. But I got it. Score.

john_minnis-big_bone_band-3

The record itself has some great rough edges. The decidedly mid-fi production value of the live cuts leaves some flubbed notes out to dry. But – after all – this is a big band! The idea of 21 musicians (count ’em – 21!) churning out grooves like this live on stage is positively electrifying. I cite the extended percussion workout of “What Can You Do” (evident at the 11:30 mark in the interview) as a prime example. They just keep going. And the studio cuts are genuine rare classics. There are covers of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye tunes in there  (WHAT?!?) – someone’s bound to sample this one of these days. If you ever see this record while digging, grab it….

PS: This record was also mastered by Frank Virtue – a mentor of Gamble & Huff, and a prolific human fountain of Philadelphia independent music. And, as it weregarage rock…..

PPS: This May 22nd, 2016 is also a Sunday, as it were. If you’re reading this – happy birthday, John.

 

 

Interview: Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It.

intoit

One of our new DJs, James Friszell, caught up with Evan after Into It. Over It.’s recent show with TWIABP, The Sidekicks, and Pinegrove at the TLA last month.


James: What are your favorite record stores and venues in Philly?

Evan: I used to work at Long in the Tooth, which is at 21st and Sansom. That’s one of my favorite record stores in the world. I actually really like Repo, I just went there before here. I just played at creep earlier today, so I was there already. As far as venues, I really liked going to shows, I didn’t do it a lot, but I really liked going to shows at the North Star Bar. I feel like the North Star Bar sounds really good. I love the First Unitarian Church. I probably saw every one of my favorite bands ever play in that room, and also bands that you would never see play in a room that size ever again. Like I saw Explosions in the Sky in there, and Arcade Fire in there, and like f*cking Sigur Ros in there. But also got to see like Dillinger Four in there and Orchid, and Reiner Maria, or f*cking Braid and Getup Kids. Any one of those bands I’ve seen play in that room, I used to go there all the time. Now, I love Union Transfer, although that didn’t exist until really around the time I moved. And I mean I have a soft spot for the TLA and the Trocadero, because I saw so many shows there, that were like, my first shows ever. Philly is a great city. It’s got a really good music scene, now especially, more than ever, and yeah, I’m really fortunate to be a part of it.

J: What prompted you to go into the woods to write?

E: A big part of it was that Josh and I had never really made a record before. We’d never written before, so he’s been in the band for a couple of years, but we hadn’t written any new material together. We kind of started writing in Chicago, but we hadn’t really learned how to communicate creatively yet, and that’s a big process. That takes a while, you know, to really find your groove and find your comfort level, find the language that really creates the best material. So we’d worked on some stuff in Chicago, and it was cool, but it didn’t really feel fluid yet. We were trying to figure out a way that we could maybe find our focus, find our rhythm, and feel more comfortable. We were just spit-balling ideas about how we could write, or block off time- get the best use of our time, and the idea of going to a cabin was what came up. So we agreed that that was a really good idea. It was something that we wanted to do anyway, like that’s awesome, make a retreat out of writing which is really fortunate, and so we played a show in Vermont, in Burlington, and we fell in love with it. Like this would be the place to do it. We love the city, we love the landscape, we love the people here, everyone was really friendly. We got to the end of the night. We were settling the show, and the promoter of the show asked what we thought of Vermont. We told him that we were like, “Man we want to write a record here, this is great”. And he told us that day he had just closed on the property to have a place where bands could work on music, and so it just seemed really serendipitous, perfect timing, and we were the first band to use the space. It was great. We didn’t want to leave. It was over and we still wanted to stay, which is creeping because going into it we were kind of like “man, are we going to lose our minds”. It wasn’t like The Shining at all, it was really really cool.

J: When you were writing this, in the woods, did you feel like there was a different atmosphere about writing?

E: Yeah, it was full, panoramic windows in the cabin. So we’re looking outside, and there’s a blizzard, and it’s overlooking a lake, and a mountain, and there’s no houses for two miles. You see chimneys in the distance. So, it’s this beautiful panoramic scene, and we’re writing in the middle of it, but it was so cold outside, like negative 20 or negative 30 degrees, that we didn’t really want to interact with it. But being able to work and write and have this scenery next to us happening, made the whole experience much more pleasant and kept our mood at a pretty even keel. We were very relaxed- it was a very serene environment. It was great. People were like, “Oh yeah a cabin” and they think it’s like this dark, dreary, and it’s not. It was like one of those places on a B&B website and you look, and you’re like “who finds that place to stay in”. It was a place like that, a really really nice place.

J: That’s incredible that you got the chance to use that.

E: Oh yeah. It was a good portion of the recording budget to go and write the record there, but it was worth it, because I think it really helped us write better songs.

J: You used a different producer for this album, right?

E: John Vanderslice, yeah.

J: When you were writing, did you know you were going to be recording it analog?

E: No, I had a list of choices of people who I wanted to make a record with, and John wasn’t even on the list. He wasn’t even on my radar really. I was a fan of his music and a fan of his, but like I hadn’t thought about him. We had asked a couple people, the people who were on the list, about doing the record and nobody could do it, or the budget wasn’t enough. There were different reasons why it couldn’t work out, but multiple people on my list had, independently of each other, referred me to John. So after hearing like three or four people tell me to go to John I was like, “Man I gotta call this guy”. I called John and immediately we super got along, immediately knew what we were going for, knew what our sound was like, really liked the demos, you know? He was excited to work on it, like he wanted to work on it. And then at the end of the call I had figured out, I was like, “John’s the guy, I can’t wait”. He gets to the end of the call and he’s like, “Oh yeah, were making it to tape, you don’t have a choice. If you want to do a record, it has to be to tape”. And so I was like, “Uhhhhhhhhhh, I gotta call you back”. I had to talk to Josh and the people in the camp and be like, “is this a bad idea”. But I wanted to hire him. He was the right guy. I’m glad it all worked out. He assured us that we’d feel comfortable and that we wouldn’t even notice that it was being made to tape, and he was right. He was absolutely right. We never even noticed. It was just as comfortable as working on a computer.

J: Was that your first time going all analog?

E: Not my first time in a band, but my first time with Into It. Over It. Their/They’re/There had done it, but we just played live. That’s just us doing a performance.

J: Is production something you want to start taking more seriously?

E: It’s something I’ve always wanted to take more seriously. I’d much rather be making records than going on the road, that’s my favorite thing to do as far as being a musician. Making records, then writing, then touring, and then practicing. I feel like those are the four big things you would do if you were in a band. But yeah, making records is absolutely my favorite thing- I’d love to be doing that more than anything, but I understand that there are certain things that you have to do, not “have to do”, but should do to further the status of the things you’re working on. Like for Into It. Over It., Into It. Over It. should go on tour. And I love going on tour. The hour that we spend playing on stage is the most fun I have in my entire life. But as far as creative satisfaction- to me records are what outlives the person. When I’m dead and gone no one is going to remember the show, they’re going to remember the album. Or they will remember the show, but those memories fade with time. Whereas with the album you can continue to put on and enjoy- new people can still find that. So for me that’s the most important part of the process because that’s the part that will outlive everything.

J: How do you look at Standards now that you’re done with it?

E: It’s the best record I’ve ever done.

J: Really?

E: Without any hesitation, without any second guessing, it is the most fully formed, well performed, honest representation of Into It. Over It. that exists. They’re my favorite songs. The process was the most fun. The making of the record was the most fun. I listen to it, it doesn’t feel juvenile. It doesn’t feel rushed. My memories attached to it are all really positive. And I just think the song writing is better. I know people have a youthful attachment to Proper. When I listen to those songs it sounds phony to me sometimes. Like I love those songs, but that’s me at 25, and to me it sounds like me at 25. And to me, the songs don’t hold up in the same way that even Intersections holds up, or even f*ckin’ most of 52 weeks holds up, I think, a little bit better than Proper. And the Proper recording process wasn’t very fun. We had like 14 days, it was very fast. I was out of my mind, so much of it was thrown together at the last minute. When it comes to something that I feel very proud of, and when it’s over and said and done I can feel like “this is what I wanted to be doing and where it should be”, that’s this record. You’re asking that question like you don’t think it’s the best one.

J: I absolutely think this is your best record. *laughs* I was trying to hold back bias.

E: Good. *Chuckles warmly* If I was making records and I didn’t think the newest one was the best one, or I didn’t feel like I was making the forwards progress to continue to do things that not only make me happier as a musician, but also are me growing as a musician then I would quit. There’s no reason to keep going if I can’t at least expand in some way. Like it wouldn’t be a step backwards for me to go back to making a record on a computer, but there would have to be in the process that would further me as a player, or expand on a sonic palette that I haven’t explored yet. There’d have to be a change. It’s funny with Into It. Over It. because none of the records sound the same, but I think there’s something that kind of ties all of them together. So people that are fans of the music that I write can find something in every album that they really like, but they’re not going to get the same record twice. The reason why is because I already did that. You don’t want to hear me make the same thing again. If I made the same thing again you’d be like “well this just sounds like the last record”. Every single record has been received initially with a level of “huh”, like a tilt of the head a little bit. At first it’s like “oh I don’t get it”. Then 2 years later when everyone has had time to sit with it, that’s when everyone is like, “oh, yeaaaaah”. I put Intersections out and everyone is like, “DOESN’T SOUND LIKE PROPER”, and then I put this record out and it’s like, “DOESN’T SOUND LIKE INTERSECTIONS”, and I’m just like, “…what”. And I mean, the next one’s not going to sound like Standards- there’ll be elements of it, just like there are slight elements of every record in every record. It’ll sound like something totally new. For me that’s how I’m satisfied creatively- keep pushing myself and keep pushing people around me.

J: Do you think you want to start writing with a full band?

E: I think I’m ready to start bringing more and more people into the fold. That was a big learning experience with this record, allowing John a lot of control. I had never been able to do that before. I wasn’t able to give Ed the control that I think he should’ve had. I wasn’t able to give Brian Deck the kind of control that I feel like he should’ve had. Brian tried to talk me down on a lot of scenarios and I was like, “NO! NO-NO-NO-NO-NO”, and I was, you know, being a baby about it. But this time I kind of let John take the wheel 90% of the time and it really hit off. I’m beginning to trust other people with this a lot more, and I’m having a lot more fun bouncing ideas off of other people a lot more. That confidence I think is going to play into adding other people into the writing process in the future.