Traversing the Ego and Talking Musicianship with The Internet [TMN Exclusive Interview]

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On ‘Ego Death,’ The Internet have truly caught up to their initial vision just around the same time the rest of the music scene is striving to do the same.

The Internet
Special Affair

When The Internet, spearheaded by Syd the Kyd and Matt Martians, put out their first album Purple Naked Ladiesin 2011, they were already ahead of the curve. That debut, which was a collection of the first material the two had ever made together–with Syd on the mic and Matt on the boards–favored jazz, neo-soul, N.E.R.D.-esque vibes tied together with silky R&B vocals and unique hip-hop-tinted lyricism. Their predilection for live instrumentation and extended jams, the type that could be heard on Matt Martian’s Jet Age of Tomorrow projects, led the duo, who first met on MySpace, to put together a 6-piece band that would help them catch up to the ambitions expressed on their debut. The resulting project was their sophomore record, Feel Good, which progressed their sound with the help of that ensemble who brought a marked musicianship to match Matt and Syd’s executive direction.

With deeply collaborative albums like Kendrick Lamar‘s To Pimp a Butterfly and The Social Experiment‘s Surf both solidifying the reincarnation of funk, soul and live instrumentation in hip-hop and R&B, it’s clearer than ever just how innovative The Internet were with their undertakings. Their latest album, Ego Death, which is out now, continues that progression building off the rawness of their debut all the while incorporating the complexity of its predecessor. More than ever, it feels like The Internet, who describe the project as their most collaborative yet, have congealed into sonic bliss.

Musically, Ego Death finds itself in a place minimalism, which is not to be confused with simplicity. There’s gorgeous jams through out on tracks like the Janelle Monae-featuring “Gabby,” moments of bounce on cuts like the Kaytranada-assisted “Girl” and bedroom anthems like “Special Affair.”  What ends up really bringing cohesion to the project are Syd’s captivating voice and the common theme encapsulated by the album’s title–an inner-conflict between a heightened ego and a broken one. On Ego Death, The Internet have truly caught up to their initial vision just around the same time the rest of the music scene is striving to do the same.

We were lucky enough to chat with Syd and Matt about the MySpace days, Odd Future and the making of Ego Death. Pick up your copy and read the full Q&A below. 

Ego Death

 iTunes || Spotify 

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TMN: What were your earliest musical memories, as far as what was playing around the house or anything that you were listening to growing up that you felt like has influenced your sound?

Matt: I think my very first memory was hearing my dad play stuff in the car all the time. My very first memory musically was The Commodores song called “Machine Gun.” It’s a song that has no lyrics or anything, it’s just a fucking jam–a jam-out Commodores song. And I remember I would always ask my dad to play it on repeat, and as a kid I didn’t know this wasn’t normal, but now that I’m older I realize that type of music is not something a normal five year old really grabs onto. Because I’ve never been a trained musician, but I’ve always known what sounded good and what not to do, which is kind of a gift in itself.

Syd: Me, I grew up listening to a lot of like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, India Arie, Musiq Soulchild and a lot of reggae like a lot of Maxi Priest, Steel Pulse, and Third World. Yeah, my dad is part of kind of a musical family, his brother is very involved in the music industry in Jamaica, and my mom is just like a huge fan of music. She still wants to be an engineer, like me.

TMN: So, building off of that, when did you guys first start making music?

Matt: I would say I started late; I was a late bloomer. I was 17 and it was like my first year of college. It got to the point where I got sick of waiting on my favorite bands to put music out. And I always felt like the good bands took forever to put music out and the trash bands would put music out every three years. So, it was like, you know, N.E.R.D. would come out with an album then you wouldn’t hear shit like, “Nigga I been waiting four years! I’m not gonna wait four years for twelve songs!” So, for me it was more like teach me how to fish, eat forever type of situation.

Syd: I took piano lessons as a kid and all that, but I didn’t start making music on my own until I was like 14 when my dad got me a laptop for school and it had Garage Band. I just started and I knew at that point that I wanted to do something involved in music, I just didn’t know what. Then I realized “oh a producer,” and then I realized “oh I’m not that good at this…” (Laughs). So I just started engineering instead just to stay involved one way or another and to make money.

TMN: So, I know Matt you had done some production work with Odd Future in general. Syd were you the first person to get in touch with Matt or was it through being a member of Odd Future yourself?

Syd: No, Matt was in Odd Future way before me, like years before me. Matt is an original member, he’s like one of the first members. I was a fan of his, because he had the Super 3. I was a fan of the Super 3 so I used to just message him like “Hey, give me advice on beats” and he used to give me advice.

Matt: Right. It’s kind of weird when I think about it now, like we’re best friends and we’re in a band together, because it really was like fate. So, me and Tyler (The Creator) linked up like a few years before I met Syd, this was on MySpace as well. The Internet is just the embodiment of both, and how a lot of our lives have changed because of it. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Internet. So, we basically connected through MySpace, bouncing ideas, then she got into Odd Future. I was already in Odd Future so we got even closer. It kind of happened organically, how it was supposed to happen. It was nothing forced, it was more so like we both had very similar interests, and we grew up from very similar backgrounds so it just makes a lot of sense.
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[Dojo By the Bay] Main Attrakionz: Finding Clarity in the Clouds

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We’re excited to welcome MondreM.A.N. and Squadda Bambino of Main Attrakionz to our first ever Dojo By the Bay series, a monthly interview feature focused on talented artists from the San Francisco Bay Area. 

In 2011, North Oakland’s Main Attrakionz first emerged on the national scene with their Blackberry Ku$h and 808s & Dark Grapes II mixtapes, helping pioneer a style of hip-hop that combines ethereal, lo-fi production with stream-of-conscious flows–a style that rose around the same time as experimentation by Lil B, who Squadda’s produced a number of tracks for, but had an accessibility, positivity and technique all its own. 

Dubbed “cloud rap,” their approach on those projects resonated with up ’n coming talent from around the country resulting in collaborations and co-signs from the likes of A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and Clams Casino. Their ability to combine street lyricism and a distinct Bay Area flavor with atmospheric, hazy instrumentals culminated on their 2012 debut album, Bossalinis & Fooliyones, a polished collection of songs with an array of fitting, top-notch production to match. Over the last three years, Squadda and Mondre have continued to churn out projects under their Green Ova collective while working on their long-anticipated sophomore album, 808s & Dark Grapes III, which is fully produced by Friendzone and set to drop on June 30th. 

That breakout year was far from the start for Squadda Bambino (pictured below left) and MondreM.A.N. (right), the emcees behind Main Attrakionz, though. Growing up, the two absorbed anything that was available to them through music videos and radio during a time when rap was flourishing in the mainstream. Their rap careers began at about 12 years old on karaoke machines and any instrumentals they could get their hands on. Squadda and Mondre joined forces in the seventh grade when they entered talent shows together and, their early and shared vision of success, made them quick best friends along with their Green Ova family which solidified not long after. 

808s & Dark Grapes III

 Buy || Spotify || Soundcloud

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I used to rap about see-through PS2s and shit. Fantasy raps

Main Attrakionz
G.O. Style featuring Dope G, Robby Rob and Lo C4

TMN: What’s one musical memory that stood out to you as kids?

MondreM.A.N.: I’m going to say me buying my first CD. I was like 9 years old. My first CDs I ever bought were B.G.‘s Checkmate and Big Tymers’ I Got That Work. Moms let me buy it, had a cd player. Just, damn, listening to all those lyrics man, that blew my mind away. From there, became a Cash Money fan. I just became a fan of their movement. I realized there was 6 of them, in-house producer, kind of like a family and shit. They were doing their thing back then.

Squadda B: Yeah, Cash Money, was definitely influential. Also, Onyx “Slam” back in the day. I’ve seen a video of me rapping Onyx back in the day.

TMN: You guys first started rapping together at Carter Middle School. Can you take us back to your mindset during those days?

Squadda: Just a thirst to make it happen–a thirst and a fantasy. Really wanting that shit but it not really seeming like reality yet.

TMN: In general, you seem to really rap about what you live but, as kids, what did you rap about?

Squadda: I used to rap about see-through PS2s and shit. Fantasy raps. You know, our visions.

Mondre: We had the imagination, man. [We rapped about] shit niggas ain’t have.

TMN: You started rapping on Karaoke machines and whatever instrumentals you could find. What were some of the ones that stood out to you back then?

Squadda: All the traditional shit—that’s what was presented to us. You get your 50 cent instrumentals, you could find that. You could get the down south ones real then but you couldn’t really get a lot of beats back then, and nobody was giving us them. So, we were on a lot of instrumentals, products of the music and what was going on. We rapped on David Banner & Lil Flip, “Like A Pimp.” We rapped on Lil Flip “Game Over” and “Blood Hound,” 50 Cent back in middle school. 

TMN: Did you listen to anything outside of hip-hop growing up?

Squadda: It’s funny because whatever was on the TV or radio was what was making it happen back then. You’re watching TV, see what comes on, top 20 hits—all that shit had influence on us. It’s just evolving to the point where we’re like just making whatever we like to hear now to replace that shit. Songs still come to me to this day from the 90’s or early 2000s—just life has a big influence on everybody. We just re-do it and re-create.

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TMN: Can you talk a bit about the formation of Green Ova? 

Squadda: We always had families. In middle school we were part of a squad but in high school there was just too many people. There’s only 6 of us now and if you listen to 808s & Dark Grapes III songs we got all of them on there–Robbie Rob, Dope G, Lo Da Kid and Shady Blaze. It just evolved and came to where it is now but we always kind of rapped with a lot of people and moved with big numbers.

TMN: Squadda, as a producer yourself, you always use some really interesting samples. Where do you usually look for those?

Squadda: It’s evolved. Always trying to recreate what influenced us. I would always hear about producers with vinyls and shit but I always grew up with hella CDs so I kind of wanted to make it a thing and create my own culture out of what really touched on me. It’s always different but that’s why I like working with Friendzone because they kind of have a culture of their own too of how they find samples. 

TMN: With the Internet being such an integral role in your careers thus far, what are your thoughts on its role in the music industry in this era?

Squadda: Shit, if you got your head on straight, it can only be a good thing. I love it. I remember hearing about other artists really talking about us. It’s a good thing to have so many people have other ways to find your music other than going to a store. Yeah, the money changes and things change, but I think it’s great.

TMN: Mondre, what’s your favorite thing about working with Squadda? And visa versa?

Mondre: I mean, shit, everything man. Watching him grow, you know what I’m saying? With the beats, the music and everything. Shit, I say everything man. We came in this together and we still here. Better than ever. Wiser and everything.

Squadda: Just bringing the flavor, man. When he come with the effort, it’s real nice. The flows that he comes with every time, you can definitely count on it—it’s consistent. From when I first rapped with him, you know Mondre’s gonna come with it. Makes you think about your shit even more. It’s fun working with him because you know he’s going come with something. It’s kind of rare for me to feel like that too. I don’t really get that feeling rapping with other people—no disrespect. But it’s always been like that since we were kids with Mondre.

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Milky Chance Talk SXSW, 25,000 Miles, and Red Hot Chili Peppers [TMN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

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Milky Chance
Stolen Dance

The month of March is quite the intense stretch for us music bloggers. Yes, it’s an incredible time, what with Ultra and SXSW landing in the same timeframe. Not to mention that Coachella, Bonnaroo, EDC and more are just around the corner. Sometimes though, with that insane vortex of information swirling around us, content slips through the cracks. Today is a perfect example of that, as we bring you our SXSW interview with German sensation Milky Chance.

We won’t take up any more time with how this amazing interview should have come out a long time ago. Instead, we ask that you please sit back, relax, and enjoy the read.

TMN: So first off, let’s talk about SXSW. How’s it going so far?

Philipp: We had our first show yesterday.It was really good. It was pretty late at 12, and we’re still kind of like adjusting to the time shift, so it was really late for us, but it was a cool show. And yeah, it seems to be like, I mean it’s a huge festival. I just looked in the thing like where all the artists are named, and it’s crazy.

Clemens: The sad thing about when you come here and see all the artists that you want to see but you don’t have time because you’re so busy, and you’ve got like 5 gigs in 3 days, and doing interviews, and on and on. So, that’s kind of the bad side of a showcase festival.

TMN: We feel your pain. (Laughs) Yeah, our schedule is just back-to-back all the way down, trying to run across the city. So, I saw on Facebook you guys are doing its #AroundTheUSIn80Days, is that the hashtag you guys are using? Talk to us about that a little bit.

Philipp: Umm yeah, I mean it was pretty funny. We were sitting here on the way to America, and we were just talking like how could we name the hashtag?

Together: 25,000 miles

Philipp: And, so that’s one time around the earth, so we were like yeah let’s name it like in one day uh around the world, and then it was like we are also 80 days in America, so we just kind of like, you know the movie?

Clemens: Around The World In 80 Days, so we just named it like this. It fits perfectly. It was really funny.

TMN: How has the reception been for you guys in the States? We have to imagine that like in Germany, you guys kind of have your home crowd and stuff like that, but when you first came over here and started doing shows before this stint

Philipp: Maybe people are a little more extroverted, like a little bit more enthusiastic, but I don’t know, it’s hard to make a difference between nationalities of crowds because it just depends on the daily thing – like the mood, the venue, our mood, like spark…

Clemens: Spark in the air

Philipp: So, yeah maybe probably a little more crazy? But in a good way. Besides that, I don’t know, I don’t think there’s a big difference.

TMN: Have you had any cities in the U.S. stand out in particular?

Philipp: San Francisco was awesome.

Clemens: I liked New York as well. We played in the Bowery Ballroom.
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[TMN Exclusive Interview] Jaykode Talks Dream Festivals, In N’ Out Burgers and New Music

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JayKode
BeeHive (Out Now)

Only a few days ago, rising bass aficionado, JayKode, released massive track, “BeeHive,” via Buygore. The piece is an elaborate scheme of electronic and live instrumentals that create a sound he labels as “classical bass.” You can hear JayKode demonstrating his mastery of both the piano and guitar, as well as production through out the track.

After having a listen of “BeeHive,” TMN was eager to get to know the producer behind the intense and intricately structured tune.

TMN: Many who listen to your music may be unaware that you’re not only a producer, but additionally, a classically trained musician. What made you decide to create electronic music?

JayKode: It’s been a long and interesting journey. I’ve been doing music almost my whole life. Like you mentioned, I started playing the piano when I was 7, then picked up the guitar when I was 13. Ever since then, I told myself that my number 1 goal in life would be to get my music out there to the world. Back then, I was heavy into the hardcore and metal scene but as I was growing out of it, I started getting into electronic music because all my friends were listening to it. This is back in 2007/2008, so the music was very different compared to how it is now but there was this energy and heaviness that really appealed to me. It was actually very similar to metal as far as composition, build-ups, drops/breakdowns, etc…Once I discovered Wolfgang Gartner, who is still one of my biggest inspirations to this day, I realized that I can actually use my classical skills and guitar skills and combine them to make some really dope electronic music. I feel like he was one of the first to really break that barrier by combining extremely melodic/classical elements with super distorted basslines and I immediately fell in love with his music because of that. That’s really when I embarked on this journey.


TMN: Would you consider electronic music the most predominant genre in CA at this time?

JayKode: I think so. I mean hip-hop is still a very big part of California, and more specifically Los Angeles, culture but I don’t think it’s bigger than electronic music. I know this is an overused example, but look at the Sahara tent at Coachella. Every year they put more and more emphasis on that stage and it keeps getting bigger and crazier with each festival. Sometimes it’s even more crowded than the main stage. It’s also mostly what you hear on the radio nowadays as well. Whether we want to accept it or not, the boundaries between pop and electronic music are becoming almost non-existent at this point. Mainstream pop nowadays IS mostly electronic music.

Read the rest of our interview with JayKode after the jump!

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Moving Castle Interviews [TMN RESIDENCY]

As we close out our month of Moving Castle, we wanted to take a moment to get to know a few of their members. This should come as no surprise to you, as we always include an interview with our Residency program. However, this particular one required a little change of pace.

It would have been mayhem to write and execute a half dozen individual set of questions, so, we sent out a Google form with a standard set of questions. Some cover their artistry, some are just downright silly.

Sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and spend some time learning about a handful of quickly rising artists.

CATT MOOP (1/2 of HYDRABADD)

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Moving Castle Mix Chapter 3 (PreCounterpoint)

TMN: Talk to us about how you got into music. Was in encouraged by your family growing up, or did you get into later in life?

I’ve always been into music but my first experiences were when I got a keyboard for Christmas when I was 10. Then I got into Linkin Park in elementary school, followed it into a metal band, and then when that ended me and Nabhanyu formed HYDRABADD. Then production and DJing became my focus and I’ve been at it ever since.

TMN: What was your first live performance like?

My first live performance was playing guitar in middle school with a cover band at a bar/restaurant doing Green Day songs and Sweet Child O’ Mine lol. I did the solos, it was tight.

TMN: Tell us about one moment in your musical career that has made you say “Holy shit! I can’t believe that just happened.”

There’s been so so so so so so many but most recently diplo liking my snoop/pharrell remix was crazy. It’s still unbelievable to me that people of that caliber are finding things that I’m making at home.

The most memorable was being selected as one of 25 ppl in the southeast to participate in RBMA’s Basscamp program at Bonnaroo. They had studios on site and lectures from people like Mannie Fresh and Thundercat, it was unbelievable spending personal time with them and also working with all the other participants.

TMN: How long have you been a part of Moving Castle?

Since Volume 3, Porsche Sunset was my first contribution

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The Hip-Hop Dojo: May 2015 (Artist Spotlight: Mayo)

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Welcome back to the Hip-Hop Dojo, everyone. By now we assume you all know the protocol, but in case you need a refresher, the Hip-Hop Dojo is a monthly feature split it up into three distinct components: the artist spotlight, our monthly playlist and our mixtape roundup. May was a busy month for hip-hop, there’s no denying that. Our latest edition of the Hip-Hop Dojo is a little lighter on the playlist side, but it’s definitely not lacking in quality tracks. Meanwhile, our mixtape section is loaded, with about 20 different projects we believe you absolutely need to check out.

The selection process for our monthly spotlight is never easy, and there’s often an internal struggle as we narrow down the list of names we’d like to approach about the opportunity. When we found out that Mayo had re-emerged onto the scene recently though, we couldn’t think of a better choice to be our Spotlight Artist for the month of May. The LA via Chicago transplant recently ended an eight month hiatus with the release of his latest song, “My Girl”, the first in a revolutionary series of singles that will comprise his Summer Story. You may or may not have heard of Mayo, and one look at his SoundCloud will let you know that the man likes to keep his releases tight and his lips even tighter. We had a chance to sit down and chat with Mayo and he opened up to us about everything from long distance relationships to dropping out of college and his breast cancer awareness campaign. After hearing from the man himself, we promise you’ll never forget the name.

Read on to find out what Mayo had to say, and afterwards click over to the next page to listen to this month’s playlist. On our final page you’ll find reviews of all of our favorite projects to drop during the month of May.

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The Music Ninja Chats About Record Labels, Johnny Walker and Musical Soul Mates With Thee Cool Cats [TMN Exclusive Interview]

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Thee Cool Cats
Interview w/ The Music Ninja

Mexican – U.S. Border straddling, genre-eschewing underground dance duo Thee Cool Cats have caught our ears for years now. From their first trio of tracks (we’ll talk about it that a little further into the interview) their Toolroom debut “Swerve” to their most recent single on co-founded label the Altus Project “Thee Corner”, we’ve seen a multitude of genre work from Tony Edit & Gerry Arellano in their brief existence. This past week, during Movement Music Festival in Detroit, we had the chance to catch up with the boys at their headlining gig for INSVNE’s official afterparty for one of the most raucous and alcohol-fueled interviews we’ve ever done. Check out the entire transcript below, and some of our favorite Thee Cool Cats tunes sprinkled in to keep things interesting.

The Music Ninja (TMN): Alright, we’re here live with Tony Edit & Gerry Arellano, otherwise known as the amazing Thee Cool Cats. And, we’re just going to get right into it! So, your bios have both Mexico & Arizona listed. Are the two of you currently living in the same city now?

Thee Cool Cats – (Tony Edit): Well… we kind of do this whole thing where I live in Mexico and Gerry hangs out in the United States, but we live on the border. So, I think that’s why our whole thing is so diverse ya know? Gerry stays about an hour away from me, but we get together at least once a week at the studio we have in Calexico. It’s a town in Mexicali, at our boy’s Diego house. Shout out to Diego for letting us use that thing!

TMN: Producing in the arena of House and dance in general. We’re exposed to so many collaborations all the time, what drew you two together to actually say “we’re going to do everything together” and be Thee Cool Cats?

Thee Cool Cats – (Tony Edit): That’s a funny story actually. I’m gonna let Gerry answer that one.

Thee Cool Cats – (Gerry Arellano): It just happened sort of naturally actually. I mean, the first time I saw this guy was back in 2009, I went to a Boys Noize concert and  (gestures towards Tony) these guys opened up for them.

Tony: I used to have this other duo, called Disco Villains, with my boy Louie Fresco, and we did a bunch of tracks… track with MSTRKRFTand Bloody Beetroots, and we did an official remix for “We Are Your Friends” for Justice…

TMN: Yeah we remember that!

Tony: Yeah… so we kind of like started popping off in our home town, in Mexicali. So… Gerry went to one of our shows! And back then, you know how electro was really…

TMN: When it was still kind of indie and hard?

Gerry: Yeah exactly.

Tony: Yeah! And it was also like, thrashy and punk rock back then too. It wasn’t anything like it is now you know, like progressive and shit, it was punk rock. So, I used to get pretty crazy and jump off the stage, go into the crowd and give people champagne, and do crazy shit like that…

*Everyone collectively chuckles*

Tony: So it was one of those nights, and I jumped off the stage and was just walking through the crowd, giving people champagne and taking some pictures, and this kid was like “Hey man, would you sign my ticket?!” And I said yeah, fuck it I’ll sign your ticket! **Laughs** I think it was the first time I ever actually signed a ticket.

Gerry: And that was the only time I ever took a sharpie to an event!

Tony: And then.. Later on. I started getting messages from this kid like, “Hey, what do you think about this track?”, and I would give him little suggestions like, you know what, you need to change this little part or this progression you know? And Gerry at the time was making like kind of, progressive-y, housey beats back then… I don’t know what it was… I mean it was cool! Don’t get me wrong. So anyway, I would tell him, change this, or play with the structure here, and stuff like that. So, one day me and Louie stopped doing the Disco Villains thing, because he started doing like the #19, ketamine house, real slowed down stuff, so we just kind stopped you know? And I was still like…

TMN: Giving people the bounce? Getting the bounce going? *Group laughs again*

Tony: So it took me like a year in between projects. I started making some moombahton and then fucking… it took me a while to find something right? But then I heard “Goodies” by Amine Edge & Dance, and I was like ‘damn’!… This is me! You know what I’m saying? So I heard that tune and then Gerry sent me a track that he’d been working on, he had been working on some deep stuff, but the bassline was really cool, it was a little bit harder. So I said “Hey Gerry, this is something we should do.” And I sent him “Goodies” and he was like “This is fucking hot man!”. And then he said “You know what man, I’ve got this studio here in Calexico etc..” So I just went over there for probably like 6 hours and we made three tracks. We made “Hand on the Pump”, “Miss My Love” and we made which one?…

Gerry: It was umm…. I cant remember. *Group laughs again*

Thee Cool Cats
Miss My Love (Preview) (Out Now Nurvous Rec. Exclusively on Beatport)

Tony: So anyway, it was so cool because we just instantly clicked man. As soon as we went in there I’d just start something and then send it to Gerry and we wouldn’t even talk and all of a sudden it was done!

Gerry: We were just reading each others’ minds man.

Tony: And so, that’s just how it happened. Oh, but wait! So anyway, while we were there, Gerry was like “Do you remember when you played that Boys Noize show? You went down into the crowd, and I actually met you that day.” And I was like “Really”? Because I don’t remember that kind of shit, especially when I’m playing! *We all laugh again* So then he pulls out the ticket, and sure enough, there’s my signature on Gerry’s ticket, and he’s still got it on him!

TMN: No way?! That is so crazy… So anyway, touching on the studio and living in different cities. You guys are consistently churning out quality productions. You’ve released on Nurvous, Toolroom, CUFF, Bunny Tiger…

Tony: Get Physical.

Thee Cool Cats
Attitude (Keep It G)

TMN: Yeah the list seems to go on! How do you guys find the time living in different cities to get in the studio together so consistently, and how does that creative process work?

Gerry: We just make the time, honestly. You know, it’s about dedication and just hustling every single second man.

Tony: To be honest with you too, for us it’s all about communication. You know what I mean? Because, sometimes, there will be a time where we go without talking for a week and it’ll start feeling weird… You know how when you’re in a relationship?… And you don’t talk to your girl for like a week right?

Gerry: *laughs* Kind of though!

Tony: So anyway, now me and Gerry, we talk every day. It doesn’t even have to be about music. It can just be about stuff that’s going on, whatever. So every day we make sure that we talk and communicate. So if Gerry’s working on something he’ll let me know “Hey I got this idea I’ve been working on”, or if I have an idea, I’ll talk to Gerry, and like I said, we make sure we get together at least every two weeks. And when we’re together, I’ll show him something, and he’ll show me something and it just automatically clicks. Like, I swear to God when I say this, and it might sound a little gay, and it is a little gay. *room laughs again* But, Gerry’s like my musical soul mate. Like we don’t even have to talk, and then we have the same mentality… I don’t know I might’ve imposed this mentality on Gerry a little bit, but we’ve always had this vision of Thee Cool Cats to where it’s diverse and we don’t want to get pigeonholed into any one thing. That’s like when you were saying, we can make a track on Nurvous at 112 BPM, like “Miss My Love”, and at the same time make something like “Hand on the Pump” – which is like banging G-House or make tech-house for Toolroom. You know what I mean? So we want to make sure Thee Cool Cats is something where anybody who hears a track or goes to one of our shows or something like that, they can relate to it.

TMN: Fuck yeah, that’s why we love you guys.

Tony: So we kind of want to make sure we hit all angles at all times, but, make sure that the music is quality. So if you’ve heard our stuff, it’s always quality and we don’t like to release stuff that’s not really well made you know?

TMN: Definitely. So, we kind of talked about other labels a little bit, but you guys actually with Lee M. Kelsall and Sean Roman just started The Altus Project, which “Thee Corner” from you guys was the first release, which we covered, and then Rob Made has a release coming up. How did that whole team come about? What was the decision like to get behind an entire label?

Tony: I don’t wanna sound like a dick or anything about it but, it started because Lee had his moment in the spotlight when the Hot Creations stuff was going off, and had a release with them, and we always liked his music, and then two years ago we met  at BPM, and he had moved to Mexico, and he told us “Look man, I’m in Mexico, I’m doing shows, and I’m going to start an agency and call it Altus Project.” And so it actually started as a booking agency, and he told me “We’ve got Sean Roman, we’ve got my boys Moonwalk, Newbie Nerdz, and I want to sign you guys”. And who else was on it?

Gerry: I think it was like Bryce P or something…

Tony: Yeah some weird name or something. Like an old school legendary guy. So we said, “You know what, we don’t have any representation in Mexico right now, sure man, we’ll jump on and you seem like a really cool guy.” So we got together, and he set up our first tour in Mexico, and he brought Sean over from Canada. And I had liked Sean’s music before and he seemed like a cool guy too, and then when we all met and got together we all just clicked. Like with Sean it felt like he was family. Like, he’s the most Mexican Canadian we’ve ever met. *Room keeps laughing*

TMN: Mexican Canadian? That’s one of the best things we’ve ever heard!

Tony: You know what’s hilarious, we were all in Mexico one time doing our shows together for that tour, and we would get into the cab right? And, the cab driver would start speaking fucking Spanish to Sean because he looks more Mexican than all of us. You know, he’s real dark skinned, so the cab driver would turn around and be like “Ey, cuando vamos?” (TMN needs to learn better Spanish!). And he would be like, “Don’t look at me man!” and point to me and Gerry *More Spanish gets spoken a little too rapidly for this Ninja Gringo*, you know because we’re real light-skinned Mexicans and we live near the border so we both speak English really well. But, it was really funny, and we all just had this thing and we had a lot of fun and we started making music together and it just clicked after that. And then, all of a sudden Lee was like “Hey, I want to start a label, what do you guys think?” I said well we might as well. But we’re really not 100% hands on into it. We’re there because they’re our friends, you know what I mean? Because we feel like we’re not at a place in our career where we can be running a label completely. We’re probably going to start a label of our own…

Gerry: maybe 5 or 6 years down the line.

Tony: But we’re not there yet. We’ll help and you know we’ll do remixes whenever anyone asks for us to do remixes on Altus, but anyway the next release on Altus is from Moonwalk.

TMN: Yeah we were going to ask what else you guys had coming out.

Tony: Yeah I think it’s from Moonwalk or Newbie Nerdz, and they asked specifically for us to do the remix because you know it’s our label.

Vanilla Ace & Chad Tyson
TapA$$ (Thee Cool Cats Remix)

TMN: Well we we’ve been talking about Mexican Canadians and traveling, and you guys have played all around the world. You’ve played Sankeys in Ibiza, the main room at Ministry of Sound in London. Your sets are known for getting into a couple different corners of the dancefloor. You guys get into the techy stuff, you get into the soulful stuff, the gangster stuff of course. Do you think all of those worldy influences translate into your production and into your sets?

Gerry: I think what it is more, is just the pure love of all music. You know because that’s where it all comes form, where our style comes from, you know loving all music and wanting to do it.

Tony: I think it come from our parents too actually. Like, my Dad made me listen to everything when I was young. We would listen to disco, he would make me listen to The Beatles, this Mexcian folk music that’s called “banda” which is you know like kind of polka, German inspired stuff. So we’ve always, I mean my taste in music has always been really diverse and so has Gerry’s.

TMN: So do you both have traditional musical backgrounds growing up?

Gerry: Yeah we both have backgrounds in music. I grew up studying classical music for a couple years.

TMN: Yeah I grew up playing the trumpet.

Gerry: That’s awesome. Yeah I was in Drum Line at my school.

Tony: Yeah, this dude used to play in Drum Line.

Gerry: I would write scores, and do all of that shit. So that’s where it definitely came from.

Tony: Mine’s not really in that traditional sense, but I learned music from doing band in school and stuff, but I like to think that my education came from my Dad. Because my Dad used to be a DJ in the 70’s. Like he used to spin crazy disco and soul and stuff like that.

Gerry: And he had the coolest name, what is it again?

Tony: Yeah the disco was called Friends & Lovers. So I learned a lot from that. I would listen to the Beach Boys to The Beatles and then I would listen to Lenny Kravitz then I would listen to Blues Brothers… My Dad used to have a Blues Brothers cover band.

TMN: Well that’s going to bring us to our next question, I’m kind of over all of the normal questions. Let’s go to what I like to call “The Lightning Round”, where we like to talk about some fun shit. So, you obviously both have pretty lifelong music obsessions. If there was one DJ, act, or producer in the history of time that you could go b2b with for three hours at the venue of your choice, who would it be?

Tony: Does it have to be a DJ?

TMN: Let’s say anything actually…

Tony: Stevie Wonder.

TMN: What about you Gerry?

Gerry: Led Zeppelin. That is no question man! Are you kidding, Led dude?

Tony: I was this close to going with Pharrel though…

TMN: Ooohhh, good one too.

Gerry: Yeah damn.

Tony: Like the early Neptunes stuff, and N*E*R*D when they were doing stuff for Jay-Z and Clipse, me and Gerry go back and listen to that stuff still. Our next single on CUFF is something we actually modeled after one of the Neptunes tracks that they did with Jay-Z, it’s even got the same drums, but I mean we obviously had to redo it other than that. It’s called “G-Stack”, and it’s going to be big. And we’ll play it tonight, you’ll like it.

TMN: Hell yeah. Staying on that note, what’s the last live performance or concert you went to that really moved, inspired or affected you in some way?

Gerry: For me the most, incredible, life changing concert was Coachella 2012 seeing Justice, and then fucking Dre & Snoop finish it off man. That was insane.

Tony: I’ll give you two because you’re not going to know the first one. The first one was a band called Sol Esterio (?) from Argentina, they’re like a late 80’s early 90’s rock band. Really famous in Latin America. It’s kind of like Gothic-rock.. like a Spanish The Smiths or New Order and The Clash, super cool, it was really amazing. And, it’s crazy because the lead singer, he’s one of my personal legends, he just fell into a coma like three years ago, because he used to do so much coke in the 80’s. They literally said that. Like, that dude just did too much coke in the 80’s….

TMN: Do you guys collect vinyl at all? And if you do what’s your favorite record in your collection?

Tony: Michael Jackson – Thriller

Gerry: Most definitely. Led Zeppelin – IV, and Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon, both original records held by my Dad in the 70’s.

Tony: His Dad is fucking amazing bro.

TMN: Why Zep and Floyd? We’ve been hearing a lot of classic power and psych rock from your end Gerry.

Gerry: Because, that was definitely my Dad’s thing.

Tony: His Dad is cool man, like a fucking Mexican Chuck Norris.

Gerry: And he’s like a spiritual dude. You know like Karate, and some spiritual shit like that.

Tony: Wait, wait, wait, let me give you my second concert from before!

TMN: Oh yeah, shit, sorry!

Tony: The last one that really blew my mind. You know when you’re in the crowd and just like “Why the fuck can’t I make this?” and have one of those moments. We played at Hard Day of the Dead last year right in L.A.? And I saw Gesaffelstein. *Let it be known that the entire drunken room of five erupts in approval at the mention of the French producer and we can’t quite differentiate between each voice for a moment…*

Gerry: It stresses me out how good his music is man!

Tony: So, when they opened the door, it was like the air left the room you know? You know he’s just got like that swag you know? Like he just stands there smoking his cigarette and can just raise his hand and the place goes absolutely crazy. And it was one of the firs times where I thought, why cant we make this music? It was so inspirational to me, that like we kind of modeled some of our aesthetic around it and have the mysterious aspect to us too.

TMN: Man, everything that you guys have been saying has made me realize I’m such a big fan of Thee Cool Cats!

Tony: Now when people are taking a picture and they’re like “I can’t see your face”, I’m just like “I don’t care bitch”. *Room erupts yet again in laughter*

TMN: Gerry, what is your actual drink of choice when playing a Thee Cool Cats set?

Gerry: Johnny Walker, Black label. Easy.

Tony: Same. We do Johnny Walker and Moet Champagne. I just have to have a bottle of Moet up there because you know it looks cool and we can share it hahaha. I’ll slap a Thee Cool Cats sticker on it so people are asking when it’s coming out.

TMN: Okay, okay, this is the last question we always like to end with. Especially being Thee Cool Cats, if your guys’ music could be one type of animal, what type would it be? I have a few in mind because of like, the shapeshifting quality of your sound…

Gerry: A mother-fucking Tiger-Eagle! *We’ve all been drinking at this point and are laughing a little too hard*

Tony: I’m a go with a.. Manatee. You know what I’m saying? They just chillin’, ain’t nobody fuck with ’em you know what I mean? He’s just coasting, he can go in the ocean, he can go in fresh water, he’s a mammal, but he’s also kind of a fish, he can go wherever. Or like a… what are those lizards that can change colors?

TMN: A chameleon! That’s what I wanted to say.

Tony: Or a fucking cat… *One last round of laughter from us all*

TMN: Well thank you so much for sitting down with us, and I can’t thank you enough, we’ve been wanting to do this for so long, and we’re so happy to finally get a chance to hang out!

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