Evan Gabriel

Posts Tagged ‘Waxed Out’

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

AUDIBLE: Don’t Sleep on the Kingdom

In Audible, Current on September 19, 2013 at 6:52 pm

A few months back I published an interview I did with Allan Kingdom and Franklin Bibiloni. Speaking with those cats was a lot of fun and I really believe in their philosophy. There’s no hiding the fact that Allan is blowing up right now. And he should be. Why? His new ep “Talk To Strangers” is catching mandatory rec. Check out the St. Paul native killing the game in his video for “UVAJE’D” directed by Checho Freire.

ROMA, ’11

In Anywhere But Here on August 16, 2013 at 5:47 pm

ROMA, '11

“Now I am certain of success. I go down with the water and come up with the water. I follow it and forget myself, I survive because I don’t struggle against the water’s superior power. That’s all.”

-Chuang-tse, “Wu Wei”


In Anywhere But Here on July 12, 2013 at 8:55 pm
"'The intellect is the soul's pimp.' She had not wanted to know what he meant, but of course he had gone on and explained that the intellect was constantly seducing the soul with knowledge, when all the soul needed was its own wisdom.""

“‘The intellect is the soul’s pimp.’ She had not wanted to know what he meant, but of course he had gone on and explained that the intellect was constantly seducing the soul with knowledge, when all the soul needed was its own wisdom.””– Paul Bowles, The Spider’s House

AUDIBLE: A-Trak’s Boiler Room Set

In Audible on July 9, 2013 at 12:53 am

Standing among the sea of sweat in Portland’s Wonder Ballroom last summer, glumness crept over me as the club’s lights came back on.

Why? Wasn’t seeing Nosaj Thing, Flying Lotus, and A-Trak plus the flask of rum in my pocket enough to guarantee a good night? For some, maybe. For me, I just couldn’t help but wish A-Trak would let lose and dig into his legendary beatjuggles, rather than bang dance songs for candy-eyed hipsters.

As an 11-year-old DJing in battles around the Twin Cities, it didn’t take long for older cats to put me onto A-Trak, who started in Montreal before quickly excelling on an international level and becoming the youngest DJ ever to win a Disco Mix Club (DMC) title in Japan at the ripe age of 16.

Although the DMCs went bankrupt before I could get myself to Tokyo, I kept battling, kept looking up to Canadian kid. At 16 years old, I bought “Sunglasses Is A Must,” A-Trak’s self-produced documentary, and continued to be astounded by his skills. Weather catching praise from the likes of Ice T, Prince Paul, Red Alert or Kanye West, whom he began DJing for circa 2006, everyone can appreciate a guy with a cool jacket who produces bangers. But A-Trak is more than just that.

In the graffiti world there are kings. Djing has its Grand Masters. And even though the brother of Chromeo’s David “Dave 1” Macklovitch is no longer solely considered a turntablist, (Danny Brown is signed to his Fool’s Gold record label) but rather headed towards the EDM sunset, it’s safe to say A-Trak will soon approach the DJ Hall of Fame.

Check this video of Trizzy absolutely killing his Boiler Room set and making me wish I had saved up some cash to make the haj to Los Angeles.

Favorites: the Mannie Fresh/Lil Wayne “Go DJ” beatjuggle @8:00. Oh yeah, and the J Dilla drops at the end are aiight.


TRAVEL: In the Medina

In Anywhere But Here on June 28, 2013 at 2:08 am

Under the sunshine, under the mosque’s minarets, under the rising engine fumes, another world exists. In the old towns, sheet metal covers slender walkways of pisé mud brick walls, giving home to the collections of merchants stalls known in the Middle East and Northern Africa as medinas, or souks.

Souk in Tangiers

Souk in Tangiers

These tunnels of commerce have thrived for centuries. Obscured, often dim alleys await the visitor with a stark change of pace from newly developed Ville Nouvelles. In Morocco’s large cities, causeways of shops run for miles and add to the mystique of places like Tangier—what Paul Bowles called the “classical dream equipment of tunnels, ramparts, ruins, dungeons, and cliffs.”

Abruptly in Fez’s Medina, I realize I can barely breath. Unlike Marrakech’s open J’emma El Fna, Fez’s old townhas no opening. Just continuously cramped passageways. Every side has options to browse. Soon it is clear the lanes do not deposit me at a destination, like stairs to a room. The stairs simply continue. I keep a pace of intent as to repel hustlers. Though starting to feel the pressure build. No air and narrow walls. Mounting paranoia. Quickly, I duck into a café where I huddle down, order my food, and eat in peace.

The Medina offers a crossover into the ancient world. Merchants still sell spices of saffron and cumin, along with salts, and dried bodies of chicken and sheep that hang upside down with bellies like fleece. The maâlems, or master artisans, chat in front of their shops. Change is easily made with neighbors. The shab al A’hwa greets a boy arriving to the café with the morning’s supply of mint leaves on the back of his bike. Visiting friends drop in on to clear or collect debts. Walking past, one hears hammering and live crafting of copper or silver tea trays. Dyes from Saharan oils and minerals find their way into the symmetrical sewing of rugs, creams contrast dark-blue backdrops and form matrices in each. Textiles of crimsons, green, and purple are tucked away in shelves, awaiting the grasps of customers. Shop’s corners are stacked with felt hats, gold-dyed cowhide slippers, and almond or wine-dark leather jackets. Old men with shaky eyes eek along in long djellaba coverings, holding canes. Youngsters swipe passed on mopeds but despite their beeping, banter prevails on the cobblestone streets. Like the ancient Agora in Athens, the medina remains a place to meet, to gossip, and argue politics over lunch before heading back to the job. Most of all, the medina is the theater of barter for goods.

Life in the souk is slow paced. It is disrespectful for travelers to rush deals. Although disputes over prices may appear unorthodox to the Westerner, it is a part of cultural tradition. As Akbar Ahmed points out, the Islamic tradition is “rooted in thought and debate, a tradition going back to the prophet himself. The history of Islam is the history of ideas and their power to affect people’s actions.”Due to the charismatic nature of the maâlems, simply making it out of the customer/artisan role-play without overspending is a battle.

At the Hotel Central Palis in Marrakech, Nathan and I overlook the Jaamah El fna. Even from our roof, the buzzing square of flickering lights and wafts of meat smoke is intimidating. Yet we decide to enter for a late dinner. With noise on all sides, I feel lightheaded as if floating. Everything moves in the slow pace of desert life. We keep in single file to avoid clipping heals. As drums beat nearby, I spot a group of older woman, all covered in hijabs and reading the palms of their daughters while waiting for customers.

“Are you scared of snakes?” I hear from behind.


Eagle Eyes

Easily enough, one can become overwhelmed in any medina. Small charges often get hairy. In Fez, Francois and I explore the old town’s famous tanneries. A guide shows us up to a roof where we see cow skins soaking in stone baths of deep red dye. He hands us mint leaves to block the powerful stench. After leaving the rooftop, our guide disappears. I assume he is attending to other business in his leather shop. We head out, but while slinking our way through a tunnel, he remerges to demand a tip, looking disgusted that we left.

“Dh1000,” he insists.

“Too much,” I respond, stone faced in sunglasses.

When we settle on Dh500, his tone changes and we shake hands professionally, the dank tunnel having become a negotiation room.

this is... The Neighborhood

the Story within the Story


that almighty turn up

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