The Story of Think Tree

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.

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Think Tree Interview on WMWM 1991

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.

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The story of think tree – DJ Pace

Street Space Dance 2010

DJSpock

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.

DJ Pace @ MUM 2010 from Carey Foster on Vimeo.

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.

One nation under a groove. Under a bridge.

Mastermind Monstamix: Boston’s Ragamuffin Hip-Hop History

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.

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Mastermind Monstamix

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.

peace

P.S.

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’.

Beard Fest PS

Beard Fest Finalists

Folks, what can I say. I had so much fun at the All American City Beard and Moustache Contest this weekend that I had to share some YouTube links pics and stories! Not only was it packed with supportive onlookers and fans, the facial creativity was in full effect (as the videos will attest). Two particularly awesome moments included the 12 year old kid with the barely started fuzzstache who won second place in the mustache contest and the elderly Sikh gentleman who won in the natural beard category with his wonderful whispy white beard. So great! Somerville was certainly showin’ the love this Sat.

Along with all the nice community feeling, it also gave me an excuse to play some classic rock tunes and drink free Naragansett tall boys in the afternoon. What could be better? Well, how about an impromptu DJ lesson for the kids to wrap it all up?

Beard Fest DJ Lesson

I have often noticed this when I play family style events. The kids always seem fascinated with the DJ rig and often come up wanting lessons. At one wedding, I was literally swarmed with a ring of Lilliputian onlookers all decked out in their finest. Of course, being a teacher at heart, I am always glad to mess up the mix to explain the technique to inquiring little minds.

All in all, a pretty sweet weekend. Hope to see you all next year.

Get your beard on

Todds beard

Todds beard

I’ll be spinning a rare afternoon set at Precinct in Union Sq. Somerville tomorrow, Feb 13 from 3-6. Its a facial hair party/competition, so expect plenty of classic beard rock (ZZ top, Allman’s, Steppenwolf, etc) sprinkled into my regular sonic salad. I’ll be getting itchy and scratchy all afternoon.

I know some of my local people just culled, but come represent even if you are bald faced by choice or necessity. Whatever your follicular situation, come give the hirsute among you some love! In this age of increasingly plastic people, you know we need it.

Get Your Beard On Saturday
Saturday, Feb. 13, 3-6pm
Precinct, 70 Union Sq.

Sponsored by the Somerville Arts Council

A contest & party sure to tickle your chin. Previous contests have been held in other parts of the world but nothing like this has happened in your own backyard. Jimmy DelPonte will emcee; a panel of bearded judges will issue the verdict; and DJ Pace will create the scratchy sonic backdrop. We will nibble, drink and hob-nob within a roomful of artistic facial hair. What better way to spend a winter afternoon? Contestantswill vie for prizes in 5 categories: natural full beard, free-style full beard, free-style moustache, free-style partial beard, (which includes goatees, sideburns and any other creative combination of the above), and for follicle challenged, best fake beard. To register/questions: GetYourBeardOn@gmail.com Co-produced with Todd Easton.

Here’s a little youube to get you in the mood. Reminds me I might want to bring some classic Greek Orthodox tunes too.

DJs for Peace

DJs for Peace Party

Short notice but I wanted to shout about a benefit tonight for DJs for Peace (a new initiative being brought to you by local peace/hip-hop activist Cindy Diggs). As a local DJ/Peace and Global studies graduate and Cindy fan I am definitely there. Not only that but the lineup looks amazing.

Here are the deets. But even if you can’t go, send some love Cindy’s way. She is doing amazing work as always.
______
Every year since 2006, Peace Boston has premiered their promotion for the year in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday dubbed by Peace Boston as The Ultimate Peace Weekend. This year is no exception.

On Thursday, January 21, 2010, The DJs for Peace – seventeen of New England’s best – will light up the wheels of steel, demonstrating the art of DJ battle and old school tribute as a benefit for youth fundraiser and danceoff The Beantown Bounce IV!

This year’s spin-a-thon will take place at Club Choices, 379 Somerville Ave, Somerville MA and is 21+

The event will feature special guest performances by DJ Act One’s breakdance crew The Krazy 88’s; Boston Music Award winner Lisa Bello; and a Run-DMC Tribute with DJ Cruz featuring Big Scythe and Visionary Da 3rd. Other DJs on deck for this occasion: DJ Black, DJ Daz-One, DJ Def Stef, DJ Dex, DJ Dru Nyce, EJ Spin, DJ Greg G, DJ Inkognito, DJ Jon Jack, Killer DJ, DJ Knucks, DJ Lil Nes, DJ Nestle Quick, DJ Val Beatz, and DJ Vixxx. Chip Greenidge will host.

The first forty-five patrons will receive a free gift from Peace Boston.

The Day of the DJ Meet & Greet at 7PM (for DJs only)

Guests are encouraged to dress for the occasion to win the Best of the 80’s Dress Contest and to participate in the 80’s dance competition.

Doors open for the public at 7:45. Show starts at 8:01 PM.

Admission is just $10. Guests may also purchase a copy of Peace Boston’s youth and anti-violence programming benefit CD PEACE IN THE STREETS for an additional $10.

Presented by The Knights of the Turntables and Peace Boston

For more information contact:
peaceboston@gmail.com

Def Rock at Beat Research

Thanks to everyone who showed up on Monday for the Beat Research Rep Da Bean Night. Amazing to hang with 7L, Karma, Lyrical, Nomadik, Polecat/Brick Casey, Def Rock and the Megabug crew and many others while we listened to unreleased Lecco’s Lemma tapes, TDS Mob, T-Max and so much other incredible Boston hip-hop! We all agreed we need to do it more often.

We ended the night with a surprise appearance by Def Rock and Dr. Dooriddle (of Megabug/Monstamind fame) and DJ Richie Gambles on the decks. Check them out rockin’ through a hole in the wall using the random breakbeat records I happened to bring along.

Peace to the BEANTOWN MASSIVE!

Michael Jackson’s Destiny…

….finally became clear us as the global catharsis caused by his recent passing unfolded in real time. Like so many others, I was struck/surprised by how much his loss affected me. I felt the need to pull out all my Jackson records and MP3s and spent a week awash in tunes so funky/familiar they feel encoded in in my DNA. On the day of his death, a few of us gathered at the Chicken Loft to listen and talk in a beer fueled (and ironically emotional) farewell. Earlier I had festooned my decks with all the Jackson records I could find and noticed that Destiny was right in the front. Funny/strange. Then I found the Thriller 12″ (I got where?) and realized it was the perfect size for an Album Face. So I created a little shrine and snapped away.

With Umass cap over heart, I caught this super ironical shot in which Michael looks back at his Destiny and my many, many faces. Perfect.

Farewell. Say “hi” to Elvis for us.

Thriller Instrumental for all MPFreejays! Njoy.

Makin Moves

When you have thousands of records, moving day is time of reckoning. Its the day when all those Sunday thrift store purchases come home to roost. Its the day when you wonder whether all those doubles are really necessary. Its the day when mp3s start to make sense. Its the day when you wish you had hired the cast of Ben Hur instead of the three skinny movers who just arrived from the former Soviet Union only to find themselves trapped in a different kind of gulag.

But when you are moving into a 2000 sq. foot chicken loft,  its all worth it in the end. And that’s just what we did.

Last weekend, we moved our base of operations to the legendary Chicken Loft in Cambridge. More on that soon. But we are already off to a good start. On the very first day, as we sat and sipped a bottle of Wayne’s home made wine, he looked down at his tweetyphone and exclaimed with shock and honor, “holy shit guys, MIT just saved my life”. He learned he had been selected as an MIT Mellon Fellow. Congrats Wayne. Auspicious beginnings.

Control+Alt+Delete. Talk to you again as soon as I unpack!

Lecco’s Lemma at Beat Research

As many of you know, I’ve been workin’ on an article about the history of Boston’s early rap scene for better than a year now. Its finally off to the press and I’ll certainly post it as soon as it hits the streets (if not sooner). A big part of the project was locating (and visiting!) the legendary Lecco’s Lemma tapes.

Back in the fall of 1985, DJ/painter and local music legend Magnus started a rap and electronic music show on Saturday afternoons at WMBR in Cambridge, MA. In addition to being one of the earliest rap shows in the country (which puts him in the company of folks like Mr. Magic and Red Alert), it was the first in the Bean to feature local artists regularly. As a result, it was the hub of the Hub’s earliest rap scene. Shows like Beat Street were soon to follow, but Magnus was a critical pioneer and superfan who helped to launch the careers of artists like Gangstarr, The Almighty RSO, Edo G, Big Chuck, etc. To this day, he refers to the regular attendees as “the kids” and he loved them like an older brother. Based on the interviews I did, the love and respect still flows back to Magnus from everyone who remembers the show.

According to folks like Rusty Pendleton (whose legendary Funky Fresh Records is in danger of closing – so go by a cd y’all!!!), the Lecco’s Lemma show was THE SPOT to be back in the day. He should know. After all, he was rocking the decks with his TOES back at the Talent Nights while the New Kids took notes in the background!

Still don’t believe a PhDJ/professor of management? (I don’t blame you really). Check out D. Scribe’s words on the matter from back in 2005. Or how ’bout a post from my very own early bloggy days with critical history from Type 4 and Magnus himself chiming in. For that matter, head on over to the Lecco’s Lemma page Matt put up with streamin audio and all!

The amazing thing about Magnus is that he saves everything (everything good that is). Over the years, whispered words of a lost Lecco’s Lemma tape archive were passed around among Boston hip hop junkies but no one had ever seen them or knew whether they existed for sure…until now.

Last year I was honored to visit my old friend Magnus in his lab in rural Maine and see the Lecco’s Lemma tapes. (More on the visit soon as its a story in itself). Sitting above his equally legendary collection of reggae 45’s, the three wooden wine boxes contained a litteral treasure trove of early Boston rap tapes! The first one I opened knocked me off my chair.

That hand written tape on the top says “This one’s called she’s a mutt by Edo Rock of the FTI crew”. OMG! There was Guru’s “For Magnus” tape when he was just back from college and appearing as MC Kiethy E. Right up front was Malden’s Top Choice, there was TDS Mob’s whole TAPE (!?!) on Race Records, a hand made demo tape of Boston Goes Def…and on…and on…until the break of dawn. I spent a sleepless night surrounded by Magnus’s psychedelic bio-mechanical paintings taping everything I could in 12 hours. (If you look below, you might notice that my portable protools rig is connected to…what’s that? No, no, not the cool ass reel to reel. Try the 1/8″ jack of the ca. 1989 “all in one” stereo Magnus pulled out for the purpose! More on that later)

I’ll be sharing some of the gems in all their hiss and glory this Monday night at Beat Research at the Enormous Room in Cambridge, MA.(567 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA)

The Lecco’s Lemma listening party goes from 9:30-10:00 at which point, Flack, Wayne and I will trade sets. You can be sure mine’s gonna have plenty of classic Beantown tracks in it (along with a healthy dose of the random dancefloor killers I have collected over the years).