This one doesn’t need much explanation. Some time back I slowed down this classic from the Beantown boyband diaspora and did a little live delay work and scratching with a similarly syrupy track from a slightly earlier Boston band (bonus PhDj points to anyone who guesses what I am cutting up). Anyway, this one goes out to all the screwed hearts out there on this Valentine’s Day 2012.
Here’s your formula for success tonight: <3=CTRL+ALT+DEL
Last week after Beat Research, I was so inspired by Trizlam and his “piquito sound system” that I came home and was rockin’ decks into the wee hours (as I do after the best of these nights). Earlier that day I had been to Stereo Jack’s where I scooped up some wax I had not yet digested and I was glad to have them waiting for me when I got home.
Among the new arrivals was a 12″ of Crosseyed and Painless (a personal favorite). When I dropped it on at 33 it was naturally screwed (it’s a 45)! Glad to have stumbled on this little gem (I love naturally screwed records and to find one of an old classic was a special treat), I was blissfully nodding along when my neck noticed it was flexing with a familiar cadence – 95 BPM or thereabouts. Mmmm, nice. Hip-Hop tempo. Perfect for the late hour and mixological ramifications.
Feeling inspired, I snatched up the first instrumental I could find, which turned out to be Mos Def & Diverse – Wylin’ Out. Perfect. The result worked both harmonically and rhythmically (and perhaps in other ways as yet undefined). To me, the combo had special significance because I hear these tracks as two Beat Research classics (or at least Flack classics). Anyway, thanks again for the inspirado Beat Research. I hope you enjoy my Screw Up* of these two tracks.
*I call this a Screw Up because its kind of a mashup where one track is screwed. Not chopped, just screwed. And in this case, nearly naturally (though It did wind up in Live for a little finishing and I slightly reorganized the Mos Def track to make the choruses fit a bit better.)
Simply put, Think Tree was one of the most important and incredible bands ever. They also happened to hail from Boston, MA. The story goes something like this. In 1986, all but one member had been in a short lived punk/keyboard outfit called Psychotech. According to this description from their last interview “It was kind of a hard-core techno band. It was sort of like a hard-core band with keyboards instead of guitars and we used to smash up keyboards and stuff.” In other words a punk/funk/keyboard outfit before the chili peppers OR nine inch nails or any of the bands that later blended hardcore and funk and/or keyboards and samples.
Consider the following historical factoids:
Meat Beat Manifesto formed in 1987 – a year after Psychotech had been tearing up stages at Boston clubs like Chet’s and the Rat and the same year Think Tree had its first show.
Nine Inch Nails started in 1988 – a year after Psychotech disbanded to start Think Tree. Think Tree had already been playing around Boston for a year by the time Nine Inch Nails was formed.
The seminal Chicago based industrial band Ministry was out around that time on Wax Trax, but they never had the groove and punk/funk angle that always found its way into Think Tree sets.
Think Tree included Peter Moore (keyboards), Will Ragano (guitar), Paul Lanctot (keyboards), Krishna Venkatesh (keyboards) and Jeff Biegert (drums). Their music and live performances blended punk/industrial aesthetics with progressive prog rock compositions played live with plenty of electronics. The video above is sadly one of the only ones on the web, but it gives you a good sense of the band at their prime. Just before the grunge tsunami hit and obliterated many lesser keyboard oriented bands, Think Tree represented the ultimate synthesis of keyboards and live punk/prog performance. In their reign as one of Boston’s most progressive and influential bands, they released Hire a Bird in 1989 as a 12″ single, a full length record “Eight / Thirteen” (which included “Hire a Bird”) in 1990, and the full length record “Like the Idea” in 1991. “Hire a Bird” was included in the Boston Phoenix’s Top 500 records of all time in 1999. They were also hilarious and irreverent to the end.
Here is a super funny interview with them on WMWM (Tufts University’s station) in 1991. It gives a good sense of their aesthetic and sonic palette as they keep interrupting the talk with goofy and ghastly electronic punctuations.
To say Think Tree was influential is to put it mildly. Rumor has it that they had a strong influence on early Nine Inch Nails (though they never did perform the Devo/Zepplin live mashup “Uncontrollable Hop” that Think Tree had planned for a special gust appearance with Reznor). Brian Eno was a fan as were many other forward thinking punk/progressive/industrial/electronic tweakers. They literally helped invent the genre “synthesizer oriented industrial prog funk”.
In the classic indy rock band story, their label Caroline Records never really gave them the support they deserved and so they never toured or got the distribution they needed to break out nationally. Once the grunge wave hit, lots of keyboard bands were kicked to the curb in favor of small guitar rock outfits with big narcotic habits. Although Think Tree paved the way for the genre, brainy synth punk was definitely out in the mid 1990s and their distinctly non-commercial aesthetic certainly didn’t help them convince the bean counters of their mass market potential. In 1993, Think Tree played their last show.
Krishna went on to form the even harder sounding El Dopa with his brother, Bassist Alex Smoller and drummer Danny Lee from Cxema. Will and Peter went on to form Count Zero, who continue the Think Tree tradition to this day. The Count Zero story is rich enough for its own long post (they have released 3 full length records, appeared in Guitar Hero, etc etc). More importantly, they are having a CD release party this Friday, May 13 up at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA.
Go see them Friday and be sure to scream out the titles of old Think Tree songs. If you are lucky, they might even play one!
Meanwhile, here is a little live mashup I made a while back with DJ Flack’s “The Story of O” and Think Tree’s classic “Hire A Bird”. Enjoy.
For the past two days I was hanging out at the Rethink Music conference in Boston. I had lots and lots of reactions, some of which I will share here over the next little while. But the one that sticks out most is that there was so little music there. I know it was mostly about new business models, but does that mean we don’t need a kick ass soundtrack? After the first panel as the wireless mics went down and the canned hotel music came back up (I think it was actually a Muzak version of a Kenny G song (if that’s even possible) I quickly tweeted “Rethink Muzak”. To the organizer’s credit, by the end of day two, I was hearing some Afropop and other less egregiously banal selections. Thanks for listening.
This reminded me of something Wayne said about musicology conferences having very little music. I guess the same could be said for the management conferences I go to (very little discussion of actual issues faced by managers). It also reminded me that back in 2003, when I was finishing up my PhD at Boston College, I was browsing around the database enclosure for music industry info and came across a Forrester Research report complete with AUDIO! I grabbed that fast thinking “someday, I am gonna remix this!” It has languished on my hard drive ever since (though I occasionally stumble over it and always laugh at the “disks are dying” phrase – when were they ever alive???).
Back at the once active Riddim Method site, we used to talk about musical discussions about music. That’s what I love the most about music, I guess. Talking about it while its playing and learning as I listen with others. So that’s what I want to propose here. A Rethink Music Remix Project.
To kick things off, I offer my own rapid prototype called Disks Keep on Dying. (There was lots of discussion at the conference of “failing fast” and I am sure that this will fit the bill). Its a quick remix I did just layering the first bit of the audio over a track I had been working on. More importantly, I include the original Forrester Audio here for all my remixologist pals to play with. I know you can do much better than I can. Have at it. Plus, its pretty interesting to listen to a prediction about the music industry from back in 2003. Not too bad really.
Without a proper soundtrack, I can’t think at all (let alone rethink).
Thanks to the organizers and panelists for a fantastic first year. Thanks also to the hidden labor at the Hynes convention center who kept bringing those bagels and keeping us in water bottles. And most of all, thanks to all my new Twitterypals. I am hooked. Your backchannel ROCKED!
Hey innernets. Here’s a new mix I did for you. It’s the story of a club dancer who grows up in the discos of New York in the late 1970s. Considering herself a genius of love she leaves New York in search of a mystical paradise filled with creole music and coconuts. Along the way she has a run in with some nasty Spanish kids in a rollerskating rink but is saved by the godfather of rap. He introduces her to some nice & smooth Spanish kids who take her in and remind her that she was once a genius of love. About that time she becomes enamored with Chicago’s lights and takes a job at a club where she is paid to move her bottom to the music. Things are ok for a little bit (at least she is dancing again) but every night after work, its bottoms up at the bar. The story gets really funked up when she starts doing it anyway she wants to and falls in love with a freakman who promises her an acting career in Hollywood but leaves her broken down in Liquorland. At least that’s what I was thinking about when I made it.
If this doesn’t make any sense, you can think of it as a postmodern allegory about the death of rollerskating jams. That’s another way to look at it, I guess.
Unfortunately, the title of the mix is somewhat misleading because there is really no disco in there. Its mostly late 1970s and early 1980s funk, boogie and other dance tunes I love to rock. There are certainly plenty of “disco” references though. And it starts with a song called discoland and ends with one called liquorland. That’s the main idea: A trip from discoland to liquorland. Understand?
Anyway, I hope you enjoy listening to it half as much as I enjoyed drinking while I made it. Like Casey said, “liquorland is a real nice place/you might want to visit but you don’t want to stay/cause if you stay you’ll never get away/and you might wind up like me someday”. Thanks for the warning Casey. See you all at the disco.
Lonnie Jordan – Discoland
Gap Band – Shake
Kid Creole and the Coconuts – Going Places
Tom Tom Club – Genius of Love (12″ dub)
Grandmaster Flash – Its Nasty
Nice and Smooth – Hip Hop Junkies (Spanish mix)
Spoonie Gee – Godfather of Rap
LV – Throw Your Hands Up
Trickernation – Rap Bounce Rockskate
Vaughn Mason – Bounce Rock Skate Roll
LV – Throw Your Hands Up
Chi-Lites – Bottoms Up
Bunny Sigler – I’m Funkin You Tonight (With my Music)
Empire – Freakman
Kool and the Gang – Hollywood Swinging
Crave – Bounce
Mighty Casey – Liquorland Pt. 2
Happy Easter and recently passed Passover. Given that my Hebrew name is Pesach, it has always been an important holiday for me. Whatever you think about organized religion, it seems like a good idea for families and friends to get together to talk about liberation at least once a year. Since the Exodus story is at the heart of the holiday, there are lots of ecumenical and inclusive approaches to this one in particular. (We always have an orange on the seder plate and some discussion of the contradictions of a diasporic people supervising the occupation of others).
Here is a musical interpretation I did some years back with my man Darren “The Bass Creator” Beaudet as part of our Dubya project. It was done live with two decks, two Lexicon Jam Man looper/delays and an ancient Mackie Micro 1202 mixer.
We looped up the break (I forget which one it is, but a familiar one for sure) then Darren looped and layered as I rocked away with some Seder records and eventually worked into some ragamuffin hip hop style (a Blood and Fire break I believe and Cutty Ranks’s “Stopper” acapella on top).
Back in 0ught 6 when this was made, Matisyahu was still fresh and I was thinking lots about Hebrew dubhop. We never really went that way, but this track at least gives an idea of some imaginary futures.
Till our next dub-hop Seder, keep on chanting down Babylon.
Thanks to all the rubberfans and funkateers who came out for (the last?) MUM this weekend! Brother Cleve, DJ Flack, Wayne&Wax, DJ Axel Foley, Dziga, Tdogg, yours truly and all the other people who volunteered their time and gear cooked up a proper P-Funk tribute all slathered up in rubbery bass, screwy syths and more bounce for your flashlight. There is nothing like dancing in the street with a few hundred of your new best friends to make you feel good about the world. Here’s some video of my set that gives you a sense of the vibe this year.
Thanks to the Somerville Arts Council for getting the community together to dance in the street.Those from funkier locations may think this sounds insane, but up here in the brainy Northeast, its often hard to get people dancing period. Forget about throwing a legal family style p-funk tribute dance party under a highway overpass. Despite the odds, that’s what we have done for the last 5 years.
This year the bass was so heavy and the funk so stanky that it made me want to take the show on the road. I kept wondering, “could a traveling caravan throwing outdoor electro-boogie-disco-breaks parties unite the country? The world?” Under a bridge in Somerville, MA this weekend, it sure seemed like it could.
Although the video clip above does not make it so clear, every year we rock together. Here’s a clip from last year with all of us on deck.
Hey all. Last week I got a short notice request to join flack and wayne at Beat Research tonight. I decided I’d use the night to showcase some of my favorite local ragamuffin hip hop. And when you are doing that, you are basically playing stuff from Jr. Rodigan’s Mastermind Records. Everyone knows the classic ragamuffin hip hop sounds popularized by Bobby Kondors via Massive B Records. Lots of folks also know the collection of stuff on Profile (including the seminal Daddy Freddy and Asher D track) not to mention all the stuff on Nervous. What most people don’t know is that in the mid-90’s, Boston was putting out raggamuffin hip-hop as good as anyplace!!!! Believe it. Like all things hip-hop, Boston’s contribs have gone less recognized than some other places. Until now.
I offer this Mastermind Monstamix to prove that the Bean was rocking the ragga sound as hard as anyplace in the mid 1990s. As usual, its pretty much unedited and done live with two decks and included here warts and all. Its also clearly not ALL mastermind stuff and veers into a little paid in full mini-mashup by the end complete with Wayne flowin’ over a PM dawn IM (which always makes me smile).
Respect to Rodigan and his collaborators including the prolific Bingy Twins who co-produced many of his hottest raggamuffin hip-hop dancefloor burners! I’ll be rocking Boston Raggamuffin Hip Hop Classix tonight at Beat Research for anyone in town.
Bigup to the beantown massive. Stay tuned for the Monstamind Master Mix that will be highlighting some lesser known scientifikal rappers from MA.
Last night, I had the honor of meeting Jr. Rodigan and playing a set of his classic 90s track while he sat and listened. Talk about pressure. He shook my hand at the end of the night though, so I guess I did it proper. Listening to his verse on One in the Chamba while he sang along next to me has to be one of my all time best musical moments! More on that track in a minute but for now, keep those Boston beats bumpin’.
Happy Halloween Y’all! I love this holiday because its the time when everyone gets to dress up and act like a kid again. I also like creepy, crawly, dark and dusty places…’cause there are sometimes records down there. So, to celebrate, here are a few tracks with a horror theme for your enjoyment. I’ll break ’em down below.
The first one, Count Dubula, is all Darren really. We were hanging out at my old apartment in Cambridge making beats and watching horror flicks. We had the audio of the DVD running through the mixer so we could mix it in live with whatever else we were doing. Classic. Finally, we had two lexicon JamMans locked to each other and some midi gear. The live sampling and midi/tempo locked delays on these make them great units for doing live dubs with samples. That’s just what Daren does here.
First, he grabbed a loop of the death scene in one JamMan. Then, he used the other JamMan to create dub effects and additional loops while the dialog of the death scene whispered and gasped and screamed along in the background. The whole mix was live, though the original was somewhat longer. No changing the timeline/looping/rearrainging though. Just condensation of the ideas that emerged and removal of the real clunkers.
Next, is Creature Double Feature. This is also a live mix, but with me on the decks playing a classic breaks record that ends with Godzilla screetches and then a big bass tone. I am doing a simple little improved doubles thing to which Darren was adding the bass drops (this might have happened after, I dunno). But its also basically a live jam. We got a kick out of the insanity of the dueling godzillas at the end and you can hear us laughing like jackals at the end (though some live mic apparently).
Finally, Haunted Castle also started at my pad, but this time used Def Rock’s MPC3000 and some freestyle from the wizard himself. Darren did some heavy clean up and post production on the original jam and then I added the scratch track live using Tino’s Halloween record today. I include this to give respect to a friend who has been a 4 elements b-boy since the early 1980s. He was taught by Dr. Freshh, was behind the legendary Monstamind/Megabug madness, is sick on the decks, is a true sensei and was featured in the important early graf book Freight Train Graffiti — all before most of you were even out of diapers. Like I said. Respect due.
He is also releasing a new record tonight Progress/Regress at Bullmoose Music up in Portsmouth NH. Get down there at 8pm to see a modern day horror author and b-boy original in action. Stick around for some other limited release Def Rock in the weeks to come.