Evan Gabriel

Archive for the ‘INTERVIEW’ Category

Beats & Biscuits: Exporting with Art Vandelay

In Audible, INTERVIEW on October 16, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Art Vandalay in Oakland, CA.

The first time I met Art Vandelay, he was standing outside a mess hall in Naknek, Alaska, professing the significance of early James Brown recordings. On our first lunch break at the Salmon cannery, he made a simple but bold claim that resonated with me. “Those recordings are the basis of rap,” he said in his guts-stained sweatshirt.

And from that moment on, I knew one thing: I fucked with this kid Vandelay. But he wasn’t Art Vandelay yet. In fact, he’d barely begun to think about producing. But after nearly 560 hours spent working in a fish factory during the hours of 11 and 3pm, something clicked. By the end of that summer, when we’d made all of our fish money and couldn’t wait to get back to the world and cake, Vandelay did one thing. He went home, bought a laptop and began constructing beats that had been turning over in his head during those ever-elusive 560 hours.

“My music is kind of that same idea—taking old sounds and flipping their context,” Vandelay recently told me from Oakland over a Skype call as he displayed some pieces from a few of his favorite new visual collage artists.

I guess that’s why I like doing that with images too. You can take a piece of a song/image, combine it with another piece and it sounds/looks completely different than the original.” Vandelay said.” Nowadays, no information is safe from repurposing. Art based on repurposing of aural and visual information is a truly great contribution from the generations of the 1990s and 2000s.”

Collage Art

“Sprinkles on a donut, if you will.”

From the perch in his shared Oakland studio loft, Vandelay matches his passion for collage art with a current outlet in music. Approaching the recording process with bits and pieces, namely old Jazz or Blues recordings, the 24-year-old refurbishes sounds to create visions. This process allows Vandelay to breathe life into the very material he chooses to tell stories with.

“I tend to be of the same opinion as Jim Jarmusch, who said, ‘Select only things to steal that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.’”

His first EP, “Double Dippin’ the Chip,” is a cohesive collection of instrumentals that feel anything but naked without their rap overcoats. Vandelay takes his time with samples in “Mt. Gomery,” while moving to speedier, hard-hitting anthems like “YouKnowWhatItIs,” which you can practically hear any member of Dipset* spitting on.

Musically, what’s the biggest difference between “Double Dippin’” and “Ebb Side?”

“With ‘Double Dippin’ the Chip’ it was mostly playing a song through and finding the things I liked. I didn’t have a Midi controller at first, so some of those tracks are after I’d gotten going with Midi. Now I use an MPC 1000 and an SP404, the latter of which has a lot of effects that you can add with knobs while playing the track live as opposed to automating, or drawing them in on a grid. Adding all your effects live gives it a much more unique sound.

“Playing a beat live on the MPC is just more fulfilling to me than programming drums. My process changes a lot though. Sometimes I’ll just use one note from a song, put it into the sampler and then its suddenly similar to a synth that you can play chords on or write melodies. But when I find a really nice loop, it pains me to chop it into pieces. EbbSide is kind of a mix of those two approaches. The 8 bar harp loop repeats throughout the song, but there are a bunch of small, manipulated pieces layered over the top. Sprinkles on a donut, if you will.”

I recently heard a project you helped put together, Hot Records Society’s volume II, “On A Trip for Biscuits.” How did that collective come about?

“About a year and a half ago, I decided I wanted to assemble a compilation of beats from people I had been listening to mostly on Soundcloud. The idea of Hot Record Society is basically like an audio zine, we try to collect tracks from like-minded producers. Releasing a project as a group is beneficial because everyone involved gets exposed. I think it wound up being pretty cohesive and people were diggin’ it. So with the donations from our first volume, “Jive Turkeys,” we were able to compile make a second one and have a bunch of cassettes made.”

On “Jive Turkeys,” Vandelay practices patient drops and matured drums with tracks like “YoTengoDeracho.”

Why did you choose to release “Volume II: On A Trip for Biscuits” on cassette tape? “Cost of production, for one. Who knew it was so cheap to have cassettes made? But also, with a CD, you put the songs on your computer anyway. With a tape, you gotta find a tape player or play it in your car.  I think we all probably do some of our best listening in cars. Also, cassettes are very conducive to this kind of release. Having all these unmastered tracks [mixed by 39 different people] under the same lo-fi, hissing roof adds a nice cohesiveness.


“And Let’s be real, cassettes last longer. You can toss a tape out of a two-story window and it will probably still work.  One big scratch on it and a CD is done.”

At the end of October, Vandelay will leave the States to live in Ecuador.

“I’m going to go help my friend with his project to build two solar powered boats in the Amazon. I don’t really know what my role is going to be but this dude needs help because it’s a big project with a lot of different facets. Another huge draw is that I’ll hopefully have a lot of spare time to work on music.”

What’s the plan for the jungle, keep making music? Or get really fat like Marlin Brando in “Apocalypse Now? “Haha, I’m sure I’ll go to the jungle at least once, but mainly we’ll be in Quito where most of the project negotiations and politics are going down. I’m just going to take the SP sampler because it’s pretty small and very light. It also runs on AA batteries, which is perfect for traveling. Potentially I could just set up on the street with a little amp and get busy. Probably going to leave most of my gear though. Just my computer, SP and interface.”

For his next project, “MEJIWAHN,” Vandelay is planning to use a lot more small samples to make up a larger collage that is the body of the work. He hopes to find more vocal samples to lay over the tracks.

“In the end, it’s just a beat, so you need something to keep you stimulated. I mean, I try to make the songs interesting enough so that they’re not just the same loop over and over again. But you know, sometimes that’s just what it calls for. If you have a subtle non-musical sample every now and then, it can really help to carry the track.”

How is working with artists over the Internet? “It’s kinda wack. I mean, in a historical sense it’s incredible but I think things would go much smoother if I was working with the person directly. But it is amazing that I can form an artistic relationship with someone I haven’t even met. With Chester [Watson], I’m learning what that dude likes by trial and error.”

Watson, the 16-year-old walk on from St. Louis, who’s syrupy flow has been compared to Earl Sweatshirt’s, has written to 5  of Vandelay’s tracks.  Only one has been released.

Why is your Instagram handle a name I can’t pronounce “Haha, not sure if I can even pronounce it. Mejiwahn is yet to be born.”

What’s the scene in Oakland like for young artists? “There’s a lot of stuff happening in Oakland, it’s just hard to find it. I think the art and music scene has been strong for years and years though. People are just now starting to catch on, including me.”

Who are your top three influences? “Damn, top three?


“That’s tough…. I’d say in no particular order, Dorothy Ashby, Madlib, and Tribe.”

 Just Blaze or 9th Wonder? “Pete Rock.”

Cholula or Tapatio? “Valentina’s.”

Mess with the old shit, Vandelay seems to be saying through his music. In a culture of tweets and mixtapes, it’s comforting to see an artist re-engineering material that is immortal and universal, no matter the century.

Check out albums here

*Crunk Muzik son

Alchemy In Sound: An Interview with Lu Green

In Audible, INTERVIEW on August 27, 2013 at 6:56 pm
Lü Green in Minneapolis

photo by ayshams

For Lu Green, the sticky midwestern summer of 2013 has been busy, to say the least. The St. Paul native has been making music for a decade now, beginning like so many, by tapping and dragging themselves through computer software. At 22-years-old, he’s just received his diploma from the University of Minnesota and will soon depart to Shanghai, China where he’s moving to pursue art.

United Sound Studios is an unsuspectingly plain two-story redbrick building tucked into a residential block in Northeast Minneapolis. Away from work, Green, born Zane Hill, spends most of his time here, usually holed up in the recording studio or, on rarer nights, treading the gravel of the nearby train yard. On the basement level, a fully equipped recording studio sits just behind a glass door. Inside, Green is at home in front of the 64-channel console equipped with a 70-inch screen, a stack of compressors and a set of studio monitors squeezed into the soundproof walls like a partially finished Tetris game. From his laptop, Green calls up a multicolored amalgamation of audio files on Ableton before deploying a spaced-out, melodic parachute of sound that swallows the room, and us, whole.

EG: Who is Lu Green?
LG: I think the better question is, what is Lu Green? Lu Green is an ongoing project in sound exploration and design. Lu Green serves as my voice and connector between the individual and the collective whole. It is a machine, which allows me to bolster my thoughts into an accessible and universal form. The man harboring this project is just a humble dude looking to learn more about this world and manifest this passion of living through music.

EG: When did you start making music?
LG: I started producing using electronic software when I was 12. A buddy showed me how to make beats with the ever-popular Fruity Loops program and I was hooked.

EG: Ever listen to your early stuff?
LG: To be honest, listening to my earlier stuff is very much so inspiring. It is remarkable to think how infantile my knowledge of production was at that time, yet tracks and music were still being made. A testament to the beauty in simplicity.

EG: During college you studied for a year in Shanghai, where you continued making music. Now you’re headed back. How is your approach to music different this time around?

photo by lu green

Qinghai Province, photo by lu green

LG: In the several trips I’ve made to Asia, it’s always been for one reason or another besides living and making art. Last time around I was still caught up in school and trying to keep myself healthy in body, mind and spirit. Lu Green and music making at that time was much more of an open diary as opposed to being a directed effort. Now I’ve graduated from university and I feel I’ve struck a nice balance between all of those things. I’m ready to be much more effective in music making with a quiet mind.

EG: What was making music in China like?

Shanghai, China

“Most people have this general conception of China as being some sort of rising geo-political entity whose existence we ought to fear and suppress. What most don’t realize is that there are also one billion people trying to voice their existence as well. That’s a lot of culture. .”


photo by lu green

LG: China right now is very much so misunderstood by the West. Most people have this general conception of China as being some sort of rising geo-political entity whose existence we ought to fear and suppress. What most don’t realize is that there are also one billion people trying to voice their existence as well. That’s a lot of culture. That’s a lot of potential energy. Knowing that there’s nothing to fear about a billion new voices, I’ve enjoyed watching this dragon of the East—or whatever the fuck they call it—grow, and alchemize the energy off that.

EG: What’s the plan for the far East this time around?
LG: To proclaim the glory of the Dao. Haha. Actually though, to live and do work in China has been a calling of mine for quite some time and I look forward it to doing it my way, with sound, art and music.

EG: Your Soundcloud contains a myriad of genres; Tech House, Deeper House, Green Style, Regressive, Progressive…What’s up with that? Is it all House? Are you going for a ‘genre shattering’ thing?

LG: House and Electronic has been my production forte for a while. That being said, I feel that as much as I’ve grown as an artist, my variations on the theme have gotten just as complex, if not more. If I’m obligated to use words to describe the sound, I’m going to call it what I think it sounds like. In artistry, say no to genres. In production, pay your dues.

EG: What do you think about the whole EDM movement? Do you like Daft Punk? A-Trak? DJ Zedd?

LG: Seems fitting doesn’t it? The world finally connects and we all just happen to love computer music. It’s the biggest thing right now and it should be. Everyone is capable of anything production-wise, so long as you can afford a half decent laptop and pick up wifi at your local coffee shop. I saw DJ Zedd in Minneapolis last fall and he played a hell of a set. It was so obvious that he loves what he is doing and just wants to reflect that; these are the DJ’s and producers you should look up to. Having fun and being creative is what it’s all about, in any vocation.

EG: Who are some artists coming up right now that you see potential in the T.C.? In China?

LG: I’ve been a part of a production collective for some time, United Sound, which has brought together some of the best electronic musicians in the Twin Cities. Joe Christopher, aka Swervy Puckett has been creating a lot of interesting sounds that include his own take on house, trap, tech and hip-hop. I really respect him for what he does. Kris Holiday is another guy just doing his thing here in the T.C. His residency at a local club gives him an ear for production and arrangement that gets the people moving. As far as China goes, the music and sounds I’m trying to spread are very much so underground which is a large reason why I’m choosing to go there in the first place. Dead J of Beijing is a pioneer in this respect.

Lu Green, 2013

“In artistry, say no to genres. In production, pay your dues.” photo by ayshams

EG: Your new EP is called “Benevolent Tundra.” Can you tell me about the recording process? How long did it take? Work with any other artists?

LG:Benevolent Tundra” is a four track salute to Minnesota winters and all of the wisdom those cold nights alone impart on the soul. I worked on most of the ideas throughout winter but am just now finishing up on the final edits. I wanted to stay true to my origins on this one so I’ve managed to produce it alone.

EG: How important is staying DIY for Lu Green? Isn’t is easier to outsource certain creative responsibilities to, you know, the ‘professionals?’

LG: DIY started out as more of a necessity but has grown into a choice. It’s not that I have some hyper-sensitive control issues, I just honestly feel so much more fulfilled when I can manifest my ideas across the various artistic mediums in a personal and thus much more organic way. This is something that our time and generation has been blessed with—all the tools are finally at our disposal. Why wouldn’t you want to do it all yourself?

Follow Lu Green on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/zhillmusic
Instagram: http://instagram.com/zanehillmusic
Twitter: @zhillmusic

Ayshams’ photography can be seen at http://ihardlyknowher.com/ayshams

Solitary Travelers: On the Town With Allan Kingdom & Franklin

In INTERVIEW on June 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm


On an overcast afternoon in Minneapolis, Allan and Franklin sit attentively in the back of an uptown coffee shop, both artists giving off an air of stoicism, and for good reason.

Following the release of their debut collaborative project, “Allan & Franklin’s Night Out On The Town EP,” these two have not only been putting in more work than many of their peers, but the majority of artists these days. Both tackle the roles that most record execs do (or promise to do) on their own, including writing, producing and marketing their music, shooting and editing music videos and more recently, moving into multimedia performance art.

Allan, whose mother is from Tanzania and father is from South Africa, was born in Winnipeg.

“When I moved to the U.S. people were like, ‘you aren’t really American, but you aren’t really African, but you aren’t really black.’ So from never really being at home, that’s just how I approached music now,” Allan says.

I ask how geography affects the work an artist creates.

“I would say that I’m always in a state of ‘I’m not really from here.’ No matter where I’ve lived I don’t feel like I’m from that place, so there’s really no boundaries,” Allan says, referring to his music.

Franklin, 24, shares this notion of displacement.

“I’m from Florida–Jacksonville and Miami,” he says. “For me, it just makes me think like a traveler. My eyes are always wide open, taking in details. A lot of times you can be somewhere and won’t even realize what color the walls are. But I always notice, I’m always paying attention to the color of the walls.”

Franklin first caught the attention of Allan through his production.

“He [Allan] already had this cult following here, but he came to me because he liked my production. It inspired me to write,” Franklin says.

Allan, 19, studied at Saint Paul Tech and IPR where he made his 2011 album, “Trucker Music.”

“He’s been making great music for a while now, he’s got some hits, well,” Franklin catches himself, “I don’t know if I should say hits, but music that’s really been catching people’s ears.”

Although first-listeners may deem “Night Out” as a Hip Hop EP, Allan and Franklin’s sound is less boom-bap and more Frank Ocean-modern R&B suave-style, amassed with electronically influenced composition. While creative input was equal on both parts, Franklin spent most of his time in the studio grinding out the production side of songs in addition to live instrumentation from Allan’s band, Remember The Planets.

Coincidentally, the one song that Allan produced on Night Out was the very one I had trouble with.

“What’s ‘the GOAT?’” I ask, referencing a line from the fourth track of the EP.

“Greatest of all time!” Allan laughs. “It’s basically about everyone being capable of this, you know this new generation here is capable of doing everything and that’s why I have that line: ‘I defend my side,’ because I’m biased and saying we’re the best.”

As for placing pen to pad, each artist has his own process.

“Right now I’m trying to train myself to write all day,” Franklin remarks. “While I’m walking, at the gym. When it comes down to it, all the writing really goes down in my room. It’s very personal.”

I look to Allan, who seems to be imagining his methods from a removed perspective.

“Throughout the day,” he answers with ease. “I usually come up with concepts as I’m doing things, concepts for songs or hooks. Sometimes I share them with other people, but then when I’m home and in my room I sit down alone and carve it out exactly how I want it.”

The Twin Cities locals have been building momentum to move into a wider realm of expression, shedding light on their shared notion of no boundaries.

“We want to be bigger than just music, that’s why we started Friends Only,” Allan explains.

Friends Only Records is a close collective that includes everyone from rappers to models looking for exposure, not to mention a female singer.

“We have a fashion guy, that’s just his forte,” Allan says. “Everyone is talented, and these were all the people we were working with anyway. Other people kept asking us, ‘what are you guys?’ ‘what’s the name of this?’ so we said, ‘lets just put a name to what we’ve already been doing.’”

“My goal is to tour with the theater show,” Allan continues, referring to the multimedia experience that was performed at the historic Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul. “Doing that by myself is hard,” he grins.

The theater show includes choreographed dancing followed by a 25-minute movie that was put together by the Friends Only collective. Segments from “Night Out” serve as the film’s score.

There are no signs of stagnation for these dynamic individuals. Franklin is working on a new project that he coolly attributes to being about women, but quickly pulls back.


“If I say that, people will jump on it. So I’ll just say it’s still in progress,” he smiles.

Allan has just shot a video for “Achilles,” a cut from his new album, “Talk To Strangers.” He adjusts his cap in excitement, describing his first time  working with an outside production team, who he describes as “amazing editors.”

“There’s no reason to give anybody a cut who doesn’t deserve it,” Franklin speaks up, describing the hangers-on that gravitate toward young artists like vines to a porch. “We’re on it, all ourselves. I know it’s going to work,” Franklin airs optimistically, breaking to take a sip from his sweet tea.

“The biggest struggle for people is knowing what you need,” Allan points out. “Most people go out and chase something that’s not going help them, something that they want. We know what we need. We have all the pieces, it’s only a matter of fitting them together just right.”

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