Monday, 30 May 2011

SciFi Stu

From his beginnings as part of an experimental avant-rock sound collective to his production work with the likes of Count Bass D, Vast Aire and Moka Only, Stewart Hamilton knows that his work in the studio is as much about pushing boundaries as it is about pushing buttons. From John Coltrane to Shellac, and from Public Enemy to Stereolab; Stu knows his stuff- and it shows. As he gets to work mixing his forthcoming album, we take a minute to hear his side of things.

We've just narrowly avoided being Raptured. What would you have done if you knew you only had a couple of hours left before being blasted into oblivion?
a) Fuck
b) Drink beer
c) Smoke some shit
Haha! I've never really thought about it. Probably all of the above… But let's hope we don't see that event any time soon. Things are just getting interesting.

What do you think about piracy- on the high seas, and within music?
I have infinitely more respect for the seafaring pirate.
Bootlegging is destroying the music industry. Full stop. People make up all kinds of excuses to justify bootlegging, but at the end of the day artists are receiving zero support and are struggling to make ends meet. I have had folks email me and ask where they can get my music for free!? What the fuck? Both my albums were ripped and distributed for free on release day. Like anything else on this planet, music is a product, a product as desired as any other. Why people think it's fine to steal is beyond me. I wish people could see the damage this causes. Soon enough they will, because independent artists will begin to think "What's the point?" To my true supporters I am eternally grateful and I thank you.

What was the first record you bought with your own money?
Hmm...Def Leppard. 'Hysteria.' I think. That was a looooong time ago! Haha!

What was the record that really switched you on to Hip Hop?
Although I'd heard bits and pieces before, my first real engagement with Hip Hop was probably the cover/collaboration on 'Bring The Noize' with Public Enemy and Anthrax. I was mainly a metalhead before that. 

You used to play in some pretty interesting post-rock bands. How did you come to start producing hip-hop? 
I was messing with electronic music around the same time I was playing in bands. Hip Hop has always been a sound I love so I thought I'd try it out…Haha!

Back then, which artists drew you towards the kind of Hip Hop you make now?
Back then I was listening to a lot of different types of music. Acts like Wu, Cannibal Ox and MF DOOM really inspire me... Generally people making smart music.

What's your favourite era of Hip Hop? 
I'm mainly inspired by the 'golden era' sound. 1990s.

Do you make tracks with particular people in mind? Is it always a collabo from the beginning, or do you have instrumentals sitting there for when you need them?
I tend to make a beat then decide who might suit it. I recently produced a full LP for a group called Veteran Assassins, and that was the first time I had to focus on a collection of tracks. The album is out in August. I'm working on my third LP now. This album will be more cohesive... Slicker.

Is this a change of direction then?
Nah, not a change of direction, but a more focussed approach. An alignment of skills I have gained in beat production, post production and the way I approach a project.

How do you get in touch with the artists you work with? Who's your dream MC to have on a track?
My US label connections have been really helpful getting in touch with dope MCs. I'm really proud to have some important artists on my music. I'd like to work with DOOM, Planet Asia, Mos Def and Has-Lo in the future.

Who's been your favourite artist to work with? 
I like working with people who are enthusiastic and honest. The MCs I choose are typically humble dudes who buck the trend and continue to make real music from the heart. I have to mention my early work with Tha Connection from Hempstead, New York. Hus and Smoovth are real musicians with a genuine love for Hip Hop, they brought me here really. 

What kind of set up do you use
Ableton Live 8, Akai MPD 26, various VSTs… Beer.
How long does it take to have a finished track ready for release?
Depends really, I can make a demo beat in a few hours... After that it's up to the MCs to write and record. This can take a while, understandably, and then comes post-processing. I think the quickest I have brought a track to life is about a week and that was only due to a deadline. I think the process should be a natural as possible. On the other hand you could make a classic in a day with the right motivation and some luck.

Do you get a chance to take in much live Hip Hop? Do you play live yourself?
Live music doesn't thrill me like it used to although I will still make an effort to see the stuff I love. My dream festival would be Shellac, Wu Tang, Slayer, Stereolab, MF DOOM, The For Carnation, Public Enemy, Radiohead, Do Make Say Think, Cannibal Ox, Venetian Snares, Vektor, Moka Only, Aphex Twin, Bjork, Low, Weezer, Tortoise, Squarepusher, Non Phixion, Rodan, Oddisee, Portishead, Megadeth, Broadcast and eh... John Shuttleworth for the close.
As for me playing live, I plan to get into action soon. I'll be looking to hook up with some touring MCs next year. I also have some provisional plans to head to the US for a mini-tour next summer. 

Tell us about Digi Crates and Domination Recordings.
Digi Crates was set up by my dude Hus in NY. He's from a group called Tha Connection, one of the first groups I worked with- back in 2008. I will be releasing again through DigiCrates in the near future. Domination is my other label… It is incredible to be releasing music on a label with some of my favourite artists, guys like Count Bass D, Moka Only, Spectac and Remarkable Mayor… the list goes on. I have a great amount of respect for new labels bringing out good untainted music and Digi Crates are doing just that.

Shout outs?
Shout out to Neil Macdonald for the interview and generally being the MAN... And my supporters for making it all worthwhile. I truly appreciate it.

To prove how much SciFi appreciates it, he's giving away 100 downloads of 'The Will', his track with Vast Aire, 4th Place and Jonwayne. Get it right here...

The Will Feat Vast Aire, 4th Place & Jonwayne by SciFi Stu

You can reach out to Stewart at his facebook page, here. His itunes page is here, and there's more stuff on the Veteran Assasins here.

Monday, 16 May 2011


Although he's probably best known to us for writing and producing the soundtrack to Flip's 'Extremely Sorry' video, transplanted Englishman Piers Baron has worked with drum and bass superheroes Adam F, DJ Fresh, Stanton Warriors and Pendulum- with whom he scored a number 1 in the UK Dance Chart. In making the Flip soundtrack he worked with Dave Lombardo of Slayer, Snoop Dogg and Motorhead's Lemmy, and is a contributor to the blog, along with Geoff Rowley, Arto Saari and Todd Bratrud. Enough reason for us to want to talk to him right there.

You've been putting out a load of records for about ten years now. How did you come to be hanging around with a load of smelly skateboarders? Do you skate?
Ha, well, I used to skate, SS20 being my local store. It was actually Mon (Barbour) who gave me my first break DJing at Source (a night SS20 sponsored). I met Geoff Rowley around 2003 and did a little bit of work on Really Sorry. Our friendship grew from there. As did my relationship with the rest of the team.

How did the Extremely Sorry soundtrack come about?
Geoff and (Jeremy) Fox really wanted to do something that would set their video apart from all the others, an original soundtrack had never been done before, so they asked me whether I could pull it off.

How much of it was 'written'? It all sounds live, but I'm guessing there's a lot of samples in there...
No, it was all played. I played everything on the soundtrack with the exception of drums- some of which Dave Lombardo played- and the bass on 'Stand By Me', which Lemmy played.

Who's idea was it to have Lemmy doing 'Stand By Me'? It worked really well for Geoff's section.
We originally had something different in mind for Geoffs part, when Geoff spoke with Lemmy and we found out he was down, it was a no brainer. Geoff and I decided that something old would be great, Lemmy absolutely nailed it. He loves old music, he has another band called 'The Head Cat', check them out if you don’t know, they play rockabilly, blues and rock and roll. Some really fond memories of making that song for a lot of reasons- not all of them musical!

What's Lemmy like? Did he drink JD and Coke with speed or was it all vitamin shakes and Berocca?
Lemmy’s a gent, a really nice guy. He’s really cool to spend time with as he has lots of stories from his past and other bands he’s met. We definitely got through some booze, he loves a tear up, he loves Jack and

Was it hard to get the guests you had to agree to contribute? How did the process compare to collaborations you've done in the past?
It was actually pretty easy, we got our first choice on each song. Flip is a big deal in the USA, most people have heard about the brand, so between mine and Geoff’s connections it came together pretty nicely.

Were you actually spending time in the studio with these people, or was it mostly done via email?
Mostly in the studio together, it's always nice to be in the studio with people, but with some people it just wasn’t possible. For instance Steve McBean from Black Mountain was done via email and a few phone conversations, and that song turned out great. The unique thing about about a project like this is that we were working with consummate professionals who have lots of experience of making records. Based on that it made my job easier than it could have been.

                                                                      Photo by Arto Saari

How much input did the team have during the production?
All the riders got their say, it was a team effort. Myself, Geoff, Ewan (Bowman) and Fox had the final say. David (Gonzales) actually played on one of the tracks as well- he's a pretty gifted lead guitar player- so he came in and unleashed some hell.

I seems like quite a big move for an established British D&B artist to move to LA. What made you take the plunge?
I guess it was a big move, but with my drum and bass career I had achieved everything I'd set out to, it was time to move on before I stared repeating myself. It felt like a natural progression.

Could you feel the pressure of having to soundtrack one of the most-anticipated skateboard videos of all time?
No, you can't think like that on any project, no matter how big or small. You're just putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, its not conducive to writing good music. The night of the premiere was pretty monstrous, there were 4,500 people there, and the whole skate industry. I guess it hit me a little more then. Flip did a really good job at keeping me shielded from any of the nonsense that can come with working on a project of this size.

How was the reaction to the soundtrack?
It's been really good, anyone in the industry who has made videos knows full well the enormity of what we did. There was a few dickheads talking shit on the forums, but in all honesty they're not qualified to pull apart an audio visual production in a constructive manner. I have had nothing but love from other pros and film makers.

Do you think more videos will have a specifically-scored soundtrack in the future?
Without question, the way skateboarding is now, with the budgets involved and the crossover potential, scored music is the future.

How did the Pendulum collaboration come about? Was it always your plan to take it as far as you did?
When I was making drum and bass I was signed to the same label as Pendulum (Breakbeat Kaos), myself and Rob (Swire) got together for a night in the studio and made a track which got released, great memories from that period of time albeit a bit hazy, I definitely used to get pretty out of control back then, the first house those guys lived in was a full blown party house, it was fucking mental. And I don’t say that lightly.

What do you think of drum and bass moving back into a retro jungle sound? Is there any new ground left to tread?
For sure, drum and bass has some of the most talented producers in the world- it'll never die, it'll just keep diversifying. Personally I like it, jungle is where it started. It went retro 10 years ago when Total Science hit the scene.

What do you think of dubstep?
It's personally not for me, in fact that whole thing kicking off was one of the reasons I started to feel some distance from the drum and bass scene and moved to LA. Maximum respect to everyone involved though,
it’s a highly creative scene at the moment.

What piece of music are you the proudest to have worked on?
I'm proud of everything I have released, I don’t put my name on anything unless im 110% happy with it. Extremely Sorry and Volcom’s 9191 Snow movie have definitely been high points. Working with Lemmy, Dave Lombardo, A Place To Bury Strangers, those have been high points also.

What do you have on the horizon?
This year is looking pretty busy. I'm currently working with Greg Hunt on a TV commercial for Vans to promote Geoffs new shoe. Working on my solo album a soundtrack with James Lavelle and a yet to be announced action sports soundtrack...

What's the gnarliest thing you've seen hanging out with the Flip lot?
Skating wise, its Flip! its always fucking gnarly, Gonzo and Luan are fucking ridiculous, going to the Mega Ramp when Bob was filming his Extremely Sorry part- as you can imagine- was mental. I think Bob put
together something that people will talk about for years to come.

Are you glad to see Arto back on Flip?
Yeah without a doubt, it's epic, Arto is a top man, he has been wrestling with leaving since he left I think, respect to him for coming home! I'm looking forward to working with him once more.

Take A Worm For A Walk Week

Chances are you might not have heard of Take A Worm For A Walk Week, but it's quite likely- as they prepare for the release of their third album- that you'll be hearing and seeing them soon. Although they admit they create quite a niche sound, there's something about them for everybody. Whether you're a fan of mind-boggling musicianship, stupid songs, jumping around, laughing, drinking or going deaf there's something for you to love. They're all these things rolled into a big musical sausage and thrown at your face. After two albums of exquisitely crafted technical mayhem, they've honed their sound, taken time out from their day jobs (they all play in successful indie bands), got their act together and written their masterpiece. A good time, therefore, to thrust some questions at guitarist Johnny Docherty and singer Joe Quimby (his real name).

Describe what kind of music you do. In one word. One word not ending in 'core'.
JD- Useless.
JQ- Not ending in 'core'? Ironically I've just updated the Wikipedia page that somebody did for us, and I think 'ending in core' makes sense this time because it's an original term. 'Pattercore'. I think that's a wee bit more acceptable. We'll be the one and only 'Pattercore' band.

If you cut a worm in half you get two dead worms. What would happen if I cut you in half?

JQ- There'd be less of me. Less of me, but twice. There's a lot of my belly, so I wouldn't mind being cut in half. Vertically. I'd be slimmer.
JD- My guts would spill all over the floor. It'd form the shape of a German Shepherd. With two heads. And three legs.

Why is the new album better than the other two?
JD- When I started writing for the new album the songs were still in the same vein as the first two. We decided to all contribute, and re-write what material we had. We've got a record now that combines all our personalities.
JQ- We took a lot more time to write it. There's a lot more ideas in it. With each album we've done we've changed our sound, but there's a very drastic change here. There's no more screaming. I want to sing in my own accent, which I did previously, although you couldn't tell because I was screaming so horrendously. This one is a lot more intelligent, but still frantic. This one I can listen to over and over, and I think the first two very much represented our age at the time- I just liked to run around and piss people off and scream in their faces. It's a lot more mature and coherent. We were too metal for the indie fans and too indie for the metal fans so we wanted to change that.

Are there any cover versions on it? Why do cover versions? Can you not write enough songs?
JD- None. We only liked doing covers because it felt great to destroy somebody's heart and soul, with our concoction of misery.
JQ- I've no idea why we did that cover, although a lot of people seemed really into it. It helped the album get to a bigger audience, but with this album we had so much stuff that there was no room for a cover.

 Has this album got songs with verses and choruses?
JQ- This album very much does. That's one thing that we wanted to incorporate. There was verse/chorus on the second album (The Monroe Transfer), but to the outsider it just sounded like a whole bunch of parts.There was repeats, but no-one could really get their head round it or identify them. This album is a lot more song-based and a lot of that was premeditated before we went to record.

You're all in other bands. Do you get more pussy playing in an indie band?

 JD- We're all celibate hardcore Christians.
JQ- No. I actiually get more tang playing in Take A Worm. I think a lot of that comes down to, err... the nature of the audience. But I don't think being in a band gets a person tang. It comes down to the patter, and what he's willing to do to the opposite sex. Or same sex.

Who's the most talented?

JD- Me. They say I've got the fastest fingers since Captain Birdseye lost his boat.
JQ- All of us. Everybody's talented in different ways. I think for the instruments, each one is the best at their instrument that you could wish for. There's no one that could be replaced. Although Johnny's the most gay. And he's the most covered in chicken.

What's been your best experience since the band began?

 JQ- Being able to get away with writing music that people enjoy. It wouldn't come down to doing shows or anything like that, but the big thing for me would be doing the Maida Vale session in London for the BBC. That studio's got such a history. Joy Division recorded there. That's pretty much it for me. Although I was really hungover and couldn't stop farting so it kind of balances out.
JD- Maida Vale was fun, but I'd probably say getting a really herb-y kebab in Newcastle once.

Have you ever had a near-death experience?

JD- I ODed on ketamine in a hotel room in Sheffield on the Twilight Sad support tour. That was really nice...

What kind of music were you exposed to as kids?
JQ- When I was wee my mum was really into stuff like Wham and Tears for Fears. In the last four years I've kind of went back to Tears for Fears. Before it became popular. I realise they're becoming quite popular again. When I got a bit older I got really into The Cure.
JD-  When I was growing up I was subjected to Chris Rea, Simple Minds, Eurythmics... great artists like that. Then I got into grindcore and sludge bands, like Hard to Swallow, Iron Monkey, Logical Nonsense, Unsane... all that stuff.

 What are you listening to now?
JQ- Right now? I'm pretty much exclusively listening to drone, of the ambient nature. Things like Xela, anything on Type Records, 12k Records, Digitalis Ltd kind of stuff... Pretty much a bunch of bands that nobody's heard of. I'm into really pretentious stuff. The most straighforward answer would probably be Katy Perry's 'Firework'.

Would you do a show with Lady Gaga?

JD- YES! I'd give her fellatio.
JQ- Of course. Yes. Hands down. Straight away.

If you had a screensaver for your brain, what would it look like?
JD- A bottle of booze.
JQ- Burritos.

Does your van stink?

JQ- It stinks all the time. It stinks of piss, shit, cum, rape, shit, burritos, alcohol... did I mention cum?
JD- It smells of Iain's cancerous asshole. It smells of piss, pies and booze.

What's the stupidest thing you've been compared to?

JQ- Grindcore, as a genre, as a whole. 'Technical thrash'. All that sort of bullshit. Bands that we've never heard of, never listen to and would never want to listen to. We were coming from the spazzy edge of things, and it just seemed to go over everyone's heads. Although that was purely in Britain. Anybody in Britain that hears something really fast and quick, they automatically call it 'grind'. Fuck that shit.

I once read a review of one of your live shows and it said that you 'emit a disquietude'. What do you think of that?

 JQ- That we stink? We do. We make no bones about it. We get up people's noses both with our music and our odour. 

What's your favourite record of the 21st Century?
 JD- I can honestly say that 'Happiness' by Hurts is my favourite record of the 21st Century. 

What are the best and worst bands you've played with?
JQ- Worst were Ministry. Although itt was a great show to play, playing to 2,000 people and pissing them all off. The best tour we've done was with The Twilight Sad, because that's more our kind of crowd. Other worst ones would be... just any smelly, short-wearing shit grindcore band that we had to play with every time in London.

What are the plans for the year, once the album's out?
JQ- With being in other busy bands, we'll have to take our time with it this time. Once it's out we'll tour sporadically, but we're all full-time musicians so we have to go with our other bands a lot. But we're definitely going to play as many shows as possible.

Listen to TAWFAWW here.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Alex Moul

A Bite My Wire interview with Alex Moul is long overdue. The guy turned pro at 15 (we think) and immediately beat Ed Templeton in his first pro contest. He went on to blow minds with every one of his video parts, noseblunt-slid handrails 15 years ago, and late-flipped over picnic benches. You should do yourself a favour and track down as many of his parts as you can. When he went to the US with Flip in '94 industry heads turned, and the rest is history.
All the while, Alex has been DJing and producing drum and bass music, eventually signing to DJ Lee and Brillo's 'Timeless' label. He's still skating- repping Santa Cruz- still making beats and is one of the nicest people in skateboarding.

What are you up to just now? What's happening?
Music-wise, I've just started a few new things. There's a few bugs in the studio that need fixing... when I say studio... I mean my bedroom. Dead tech! It might take a bit, I've got to get some new hard-drives and stuff like that. Skating-wise, I've just got over a couple of injuries. I was out skating the whole weekend. I'm pretty cream crackered, I got kidnapped by the Santa Cruz team- they whisked me off, I thought I was only going out to skate for the night at the Vans park but it ended up all weekend, staying in hotels. Skated a pool with Salba on Saturday! It was pretty cool to meet him. An old legend, he's currently on Santa Cruz veterans division. 

Is there any trick you can't late shove-it out of?
Haha! Many. There are many tricks I can't late shove-it out of!

What do you think of the current crop of 'live' drum and bass bands like Pendulum, who sell out arenas, compared to what people like London Elektricity and Reprazent were doing years ago?
Hmm... That's a good question. I think Pendulum, and Chase and Status, and people like that make wicked tunes and they're bringing drum and bass to a much wider audience. I heard a Pendulum tune on KROQ out here, which is a rock station! I don't know if I can really compare it to London Elektricity and Reprazent back in the day, I only really saw Krust play live in LA- which was a long time ago- and that was pretty cool, but obviously that's on a smaller scale. Seeing anyone beat the drums at that speed is amazing anyway. So anyway, I think it's a good thing. Why not?! The thing about drum and bass is there's no rules. Go for it, do what you want! 

What do you see in the future for drum and bass?
I don't know, usually with drum and bass it goes full-circle. I've noticed there's a lot more jungle sort of tunes being produced again at the moment, which is nice. Then there's all this drum-step malarkey which is happening, you know? Some of it I get along with, but mostly I like to keep it drum and bass. It's quite trendy out here in California at the moment to just play big drum-step tunes and shy away from the actual drum and bass, and I'm not really down for that, although I'll lob one in every now and again if it's good. As far as the future, production's just going to get better and better. I hope mine does anyway! Ha! There's all sorts of genres coming out. You've got the electro, the disco-y vibe, and then the tech-y stuff. It's going to be good. I like a bit of everything so it suits me! 

Where do you go to find music nowadays?
Well, it is the MP3 era, so I actually get a lot of music off artists I know in England, they tend to send me over tunes on AIM and things like that. Off of people like Total Science and Camo and Krooked. That bloke Camo... I hit him up last year to ask him to send me some tunes, and he was cool with that, then I saw some skate footage of him- he's an absolutely amazing skater! If I can't get the tunes I'm looking for I'll find them online, on Drum and Bass Arena or, or any of those sort of sites. 

Who's doing it for you at the moment? Any recommendations?
Yep, again- Camo and Krooked. The Brookes Brothers, (DJ) Fresh, Total Science... there's too many to mention, there's loads of really good people out there at the moment. Artificial Intelligence, Days of Rage, VIPs... loads of people! 

How did you get switched on to drum and bass?
I got into DJing and the music scene before it was really called drum and bass- it was just rave music. When rave music cut off into all different genres, when all of a sudden it went from just being 'dance music' to house music, techno, jungle, drum and bass, all these different categories. It was kind of a shame. I just went the drum and bass route. All the new drum and bass is influenced by the old scene, so that's pretty good. 

It seemed like you totally committed yourself to it, with skateboarding taking a bit of a back seat for a while, around about the time your records came out. Were you conscious of this at the time? How did you split your time between the two?
I don't know if I totally committed myself to it, or if maybe I didn't really notice... I'd kind of got burnt out on skateboarding for a bit, on the way he whole attitude was in England, and I was DJing a lot and working in a record store. I met this bloke called Graham, also know as Lucida, and he had a little bedroom studio, and he was like "Would you be interested in making a tune?" He was from my hometown, Abingdon, so we made a tune and it got a bit of interest, so we made a couple more, and we had a little release on Code-001 Records. Then the next thing we did, we got signed to Timeless Recordings so we started doing stuff for them. As for skateboarding... I suppose I was mostly DJing, working in the shop and making tunes at that point... skateboarding do go on the backburner- I'm conscious of it now, yeah! I would skate every now and again, it's not like I just totally gave up but I'd just skate on my own rather than be in any kind of limelight. I wasn't skating a lot, every few months or something. Skating was on the backburner and music was my main focus, so it's not even like I split my time between the two! Haha! 

What kind of people were you DJing with?
In those days it was people like Total Science, DJ Lee... I had a gig at Speed (legendary drum and bass club) for a while, so LTJ Bukem, Fabio, Kemistry & Storm, all sorts of people. I used to DJ at the Zodiac too, in Oxford. I had my slot there, and whoever was headlining would go on after me so pretty much everybody who was big in the drum and bass scene! 

What kind of gear were you using then? What about now?
All we had was an Akai MPC60 and an SY85 keyboard. That was it. We didn't even have a mixing desk at first. Then we got a little 12 channel mixing desk thing, and we got some sort of an effects unit. We'd have to borrow DAT machines to master stuff. That was all we had then. Nowadays I use a computer, I've got the bedroom studio going on here, so I do everything myself. I use Logic and various Native Instruments plug-ins. Probably the same shit that most people use these days for making electronic music! No outboard stuff, it's the digital age isn't it? 

What do you think of all the changes that have come about since you had records out, like digital distribution and the lack of vinyl?
At first with CDs I was like "Oh God, how terrible", because I do love the feel of vinyl. I missed the feel of it, the smell of it and cutting dubplates and stuff. But financially it wasn't that good for me anymore. I'd have to spend $40 on a dubplate and travel up to LA. Or to Music House when I lived in London to cut plates.Now you can finish a tune, burn it and play it out that night. It's a lot more convenient but I do miss a bit of dubplate action! It's good now. You can't really bring it back. Why would you? You can play stuff out now and see the reaction. You can think "Do I need to change the levels, or the mix down?" or what have you. 

Do you still DJ as much out there?
Yep, I'm DJing out here in LA and in San Diego. Wherever I can get bookings. I do some stuff for a crew called Adrenalin who put on nights out here. There's a good crew of drum and bass people out here, like DJ Toxic, the Heavy Hitters, STF-1 and the Merge crew. There's some good stuff in LA, but I haven't been playing up there recently. My last gigs have been in San Diego, Orange County and around here in Huntington Beach. I'm still loving it an enjoying the vibe. 

What music do you think works best in a skate video? Have you got a favourite skate video soundtrack?
Good bloody question. I don't know. I think probably the good old rock music vibe is still the best way to go. The Lakai video had some pretty wicked tunes actually, like that Fischerspooner tune ('All We Are') and M83 ('Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun') at the beginning. Arcade Fire ('No Cars Go') too. But I don't know. Probably the rock, sort of indie vibe is best. Favourite skate video soundtrack... that's too difficult. My favourite video is Blind's 'Video Days' so I'll probably just say the soundtrack to that. I hope I can get away with that! 

What do you think of music being commissioned for a skateboard video?
My mate Baron did the Flip stuff, and I thought a lot of it was pretty good. Unfortunately it was kind of hated on a little bit but you can't please everybody every day of your life can you? I thought the tunes were good and I love Baron's music. I love what he makes drum and bass-wise, and whatever else he makes, whatever his vibe is. If people want to do it they should go for it. It's good for producers, they can get paid for a big project, but if I was making a full skate video I don't know if I'd do it. I certainly put some of my tunes in an old On Video part and I don't know if people really noticed. It was all down-tempo stuff that never got released, and some people know about it and some don't. But why not? Get the music out there anyway you can! 

 Were you the youngest ever UK pro?
I don't know! Probably? I didn't even want to turn pro. They sort of forced me into it. What was I? 15? I think they wanted me to turn pro even before then, but I was like "Hell no! I'm too scared!"

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Chuck Treece

Anyone who saw the opening street section in Powell Peralta's 1988 video 'Public Domain' will know- or be able to tell you- how that section smashed open the floodgates for street skating as we know it today. It's likely that if that section hadn't appeared when it did, things would be pretty different now... we might well all be wearing lyrca and doing flatland freestyle, or vert doubles in pink headbands. As much as the filming and skateboarding in this ams section shook the skate world, this grainy black-and-white televised revolution wouldn't have had quite the same impact were it not for the tune used- 'Weakness', by former Santa Cruz pro Chuck Treece's band McRad. The music fitted the section perfectly- both were raw, fast, hard, gritty, innovative, stylish- and punk. These few short minutes were a massive, necessary, turning point for skateboarding. And that's not all Treece has done.
From being a pro skateboarder and soundtracking some of the most influential Santa Cruz and Powell Peralta videos of all time, to playing with artists as diverse as Bad Brains, Urge Overkill, Sting, Pearl Jam, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and Billy Joel it's fair to say that multi-instrumentalist Chuck Treece has achieved a lot. Still living in Philadelphia, Chuck finds enough time to record and tour with the re-formed McRad, look after his kids (who also play music and skateboard) and rip the FDR park as often as he can. He even made time to have a chat with us here at Bite My Wire. Read and be inspired.

What have you been up to recently?
Making things happen they way I want them to go and all... Mainly recording more music, writing more songs- different styles of songs. Skateboarding as much as I can, enjoying my kids and family. I just won a Pew (Philly music college) grant and I'm about to finish a new McRad LP, and re-release a bunch of music... more than anything have fun.
Have you always been musical? I'm guessing you started out pretty young...
I started out with music at age 2 and started playing drums at age 6. At 8 years of age I was playing shows with my father’s top 40 cover band. My parents supported my music from the start- I'm so stoked they took a chance with me and music. They weren't  music industry people. I learned a lot from going through the motions and learning how to support myself and my family though music and skateboarding. 

 Who first switched you on to punk rock? What bands were you digging at the time?
My friend Mark Manuti started me off on my punk rock sessions. We had a band together called Jerry's Kids in '81. We all lived in Delaware and Mark and I skated Sherry Hill all the time, and he would crank Devo, Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Police, 999, Buzzcocks, Joe Jackson and a bunch of other groups. The Sex Pistols were my favourite. Then I started listening to Black Flag, Minor Threat and  Bad Brains. Tom Groholski was responsible for turning me on to those bands. Music was always centered around skateboarding. It's so crazy to think that skaters would act like real artists when it comes to the music they listen to. I always loved music and would listen to most styles of music as well as punk rock. I wanted to learn how they were getting the tones, and the energy behind the music got me thinking about the way I lived my life. Then I learned how to play 'God Save the Queen' by the Sex Pistols from a good friend of mine called Todd Werny. Todd also showed me how to play a bar chords on guitar- I freaked out and went right into learning all my favorite punk songs, and then I went back and learned all the songs I listened to on guitar, bass and drums.

So when did skateboarding come into the picture? 
I started to check out what skateboarding was all about around the age of 11- it was metal wheels and decks with no grip tape. Then I moved to the 'burbs and my dad went out and purchased a skateboard for me. I've stayed on since age 13. I'm 46 now and I still love skateboarding. FDR skatepark!.
What were your parents and teachers like when you were growing up? Your parents sound cool, but skateboarding and playing punk rock aren't the most widely accepted things for a teenager to be doing...
Growing up in the 'burbs rocked. My school was fun and my parents let me do the things I wanted to do. We all go through the process of being accepted by the people we look up to. I'm glad I had the chances to live my life through the events that I chose, and the times and hobbies that I loved and put my effort and respect into. That’s the only way kids learn how to be responsible- get out there and get it done. No one really understands why kids do what they do... it’s all living at the end of the day, we all want our families and loved ones as safe as possible.

As you were growing up, how did you find the East coast scene at the time? Your first show was with Minor Threat. That must have been pretty rad.
The East coast scene and the Philly scene were filled with tons of creative people. I grew up with the best skaters, musicians, punk rockers and all these other people living out their dreams. We had Love Hall in Philly and that’s where McRad opened up for Minor Threat. I still have the VHS tape from that show. I trip out the the shorts and socks we are were rocking. We didn’t care about much other than having fun and playing shows with the bands we looked up to. That and skating and hanging out with the people we looked up to. Philadelphia is a great city to grow up in.
Did the music take a back seat when you turned pro?
I put the same energy into to both. My responsibilities changed when i turned pro. I had more pressure on myself to skate better and to create better- that’s all being pro is- take it to the next level and respect what you're going for. Direction in proper thought tactics. Goal driven people get things done at a pro level. Turning pro means you've turned your entire world into being as perfect as you can get it. The business is another story...

How did you get involved with Powell Peralta?
Through Stacy Peralta. I wrote him a letter when i was 14 years of age after reading his interview in Skateboarder magazine. I was so stoked that Stacy took the time to tell me about all of what he was doing with creating the Bones Brigade and how he wanted to make skateboarding a bit different from how he grew up in it. It’s amazing when you get good thoughts to come to life. 

Who do you think were the best out of all the other Skate Rock compilation bands?
I liked them all. If I would have to choose it would be JFA and the Big Boys, however Earl and H.R. (of Bad Brains) were skateboarding before most of us- they lived in Hawaii with their parents and learned how to surf and skate when they were kids. So the Bad Brains would be my favourite skate group.

Who have been your favourite musicians to work with, and why?
All musicians are my favourite to work with. I've had fun learning from all sorts of musicians. If I were to choose it would be my kids, and then my parents. I have a blast making music with my family - my brother Chris too - he plays guitar, bass and drums. My kids play music... Creating with people that you respect is the best.

Who have been your favourite people to skate with, and why?
My favourite people to skate with would be the FDR skatepark locals, Tom Groholski, Tommy G from SF, Isaac Treece, Kieran Treece, Jurni Treece and Dovi Treece (Chuck's kids). So many sessions and so many parks, ramps and bowls. It was all about having a good time with people you met at the spot and then people who you considered family. That’s what made skating and music have the best memories. 

What are you listening to these days?
Black Sabbath. Tons of reggae music. I've been listening to whatever makes my ears happy.
You've worked with so many people, musically- what was it like recording a whole album completely on your own?
I learned how to create music from the respect and love that I had for music. The people and all the great situations made learn how to keep it moving through my age of music. Now I get to choose what I do and how I do all of my work. Before I felt like it was choosing me. Being around talented people or people with a ton of drive for what they want to do rocks. Pushing the limits makes a certain sound in life. It’s like walking down the street and hearing a band rehearse off in the distance, it sounds like fun... Or when a skater is cruising down the street. You know there's some dedication and/or just plain fun happening... always moving.
Do you still skate FDR every day?
I skate FDR about once a week, or whenever I can get there. I was there a couple of days ago. I love that park, it keeps you on your toes... concrete...

Who would win in a downhill between you and Brian Brannon?
Brian would probably win and all, for where I am now with downhill skating... I still have to practice my downhill skating. Brian is a rad skater for sure. I'm so stoked he still has JFA going.
What's in the future for Chuck Treece? What are you working on?
'Never Ending Dominant  Force' is the next McRad LP. I have a couple of side-projects titled Jessie Texas and Jah Jah Rank’n. Reggae style rock and some punk-country with Pink Floyd styles thrown in the mix of all of it. I plan on being a better father and overall person. I have a lot more to do and I don’t want it to get in the way of having a good time with being creative.

What records do you think are essential listening?
Black Sabbath, Basement Five, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Bad Brains, Squeeze, David Bowie and whatever make you feel good about music... music is like your personal doctor. It heals your life up and makes you think about what you're doing at all times. It can also take you away to a better place when you're stressed or unhappy. Whatever you put into to music you get it right back.

Cool. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Is there anything else you want to say?
Stoked to be involved with Robot Gut, Ace Trucks, Bambusa Skateboards and all the people who have supported my dreams thougout my life and onto the future.
So stoked to make these dreams come true- it may sound like fantasy talk, but it makes a fantsy much better when the talking comes the person who follows their dreams..
Thanks for having me involved with this interview.
I've been working on a trip to Brazil with Ray Barbee- we leave today and it's been some work getting our work visas.
All of y'all learn how to travel and learn about what it takes to get in and out the place you live in....the right way...


Mogwai are a rock band from Glasgow, and they can sometimes make some pretty beautiful music. Sometimes it's barely there, no more than a distant hum creeping out of the speakers, a delicate melody suspended in the air. And sometimes it's ferocious, brutal and crushing, with volume and tone that you can physically feel. And very often these two sonic extremes occur within the same 'song'. It would be wrong to suggest that Mogwai write 'songs', as their music is devoid of verse and chorus, and the amount of tracks they've written with lyrics over their fifteen years can be counted on one hand. Stuart Braithwaite- former skateboarder, guitar player and writer of Mogwai's music thinks "lyrics are a real comfort to people. They like to sing along and when they can't do that with us they get a bit annoyed".
It's never been clear whether Mogwai set out to annoy people, although producing 'Blur are shite" t-shirts at the height of Britpop, naming an album after a notorious Glasgow gang (Come On Die Young) and dressing head-to-toe in Kappa ned-wear tracksuits did little to endear them to the mainstream.
Despite refusing to play by standard industry rules, Mogwai have been releasing stunning records for fifteen years now and their new album, 'Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will' should be out right about now on their own Rock Action label in Europe, and on Sub Pop in the US.
You'll know of the cute, fluffy little guy in the Gremlins films that turned into a deranged, vicious killer. Whether deliberate or not, it makes for a good comparison to the band's music. 'Mogwai' translates as 'evil spirit' in Cantonese- which also seems entirely appropriate.
We spoke to Stuart while he was stranded in a snowbound Swedish airport, but words can do very little justice to hearing- or witnessing live- the power and intensity of Mogwai's music. Do your own research, and fall in love with them.

When were you skating the most?

Probably the late 80s and early 90s. I've skated since then but that's when I would skate from when I got up to when I went to sleep. I used to skateboard on tour quite a lot.

Why the move from Matador to Sub Pop in the US?
We'd blagged all the Pavement records and thought we could do with some Mudhoney!

Can you describe the new album? Are there lyrics?
Only one song has lyrics. It's mostly instrumental and is pretty varied. There are quite a few songs that are relatively fast for us.

What are you listening to at the moment/albums of the year?
I love 'King Knight', the Salem record (see last month's BMW for more info) and the Oneohtrix Point Never album 'Returnal' (cinematic synth retro-ism from Boston). There's been a load of great records released this year. It's been a good year for music.

                                                                Photo by Neale Smith

Mogwai are justifiably known for their live shows. What's the best live show you've ever seen?
I saw The Cramps at a festival in Spain soon after we started and it was the best show I've ever seen. They were outrageously good!

I bet you're delighted that all the Britpop bands are reforming.

I like Pulp actually so I'm pretty into that one.

Mogwai always get compared to Slint. What do you think about that?
I think we were one of the first bands to really name-check Slint so I think there is an element of laziness. I can think of worse bands to compared to though to be fair!

What was it like working with Roky Erickson, leader of the seminal 13th Floor Elevators?
It was awesome. He's a lovely guy and one of my all time musical heroes. It was an honour.

Is there a track or an album you're especially pleased with?
I think our second album C.O.D.Y. is our best. I'm proud of a lot of our records but that one stands out for me.

What's in the pipeline for Mogwai and Rock Action in 2011?
Mogwai will be on tour for most of the year and the label will be busy too I'm sure. I'm looking forward to the second Remember Remember (groovy, psychedlic, pastoral Glaswegian post-rock) album getting done.

I seem to remember you being sponsored by adidas. How did that come about?
We've never been actually sponsored by anyone but we have a good friend at adidas who gives us shoes and another friend of ours used to give us Kappa stuff too. I had an awesome Juventus bathrobe!!

Records Of The Year, 2010

Forest Swords - Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee)
Sensational psychedlic hip-hop/dubstep/drone, made from processed guitars and bass, fragmented vocal samples, dubbed-out drones and David Lynchian atmospherics. A widescreen vision of an indefinably bleak yet lovely late-night England. This one-man project from the Wirral has constructed one of the finest albums the UK underground has heard for a while- imagine Burial crossed with the Velvet Underground crossed with Aphex Twin crossed with Ennio Morricone and produced by Timbaland and you're getting close.

Various - The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia In 1970s Nigeria (Soundway)
A compilation of some of the most exciting music from one of the world's most exciting places, and its most exciting time. The audible nods to Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and James Brown ensure this collection is going to be appreciated across the board, and not just by the crate-diggers. Afro Rock and spaced-out funk like you've never heard, these tracks from forty-ish years ago are an astonishing hybrid of the psychedelic sounds of San Francisco and London at a time of genuine musical revolution. 

Darkstar - North (Hyperdub)
It's easy to love the Hyperdub label but this, Darkstar's debut long player, truly is exceptional. Like a mixture of the synthesized sound of seventies Sheffield or Berlin, the trio have created the perfect accompaniment to the dark skies and rain outside. Blissfully melancholic, this will appeal to fans of the Human League as much as it does to fans of Burial and Radiohead. An instant classic.

Grinderman - Grinderman 2 (Anti)
Nick Cave has been paying more attention to his Grinderman 'side project' than to anything else since its 2007 self-titled debut. Scuzzy and schizophrenic, this album explores the same themes as it's predecessor- love, life, fear, death and sex- and forces you to take the side of the unhinged sociopathic storyteller. Intense, lurching and savage. Like a good film sequel you don't need to know the first part to love this. And you should.

Errors - Come Down With Me (Rock Action)
Gorgeously textured and layered to perfection, these ten mind-bendingly brilliant instrumental tracks from the Glaswegian art-rock four piece make LCD Soundsystem look about as much fun as an album of Jereme Rogers B-sides. This is fizzy, pulsating dance music made from the heart, by humans. A beautiful, soaring, joyous record that will sound as good on headphones at four in the morning as it will booming out of a PA in a sweaty club.

Salem - King Knight (IAMSound Records)
Menacing, narcotic atmospherics laced with other-wordly, disjointed raps. Like a mixture of southern hip-hop and early shoegaze, Salem have released one of the most truly unique albums we've heard all year. Tinny percussion simultaneously holds the music together and pulls it apart, crushed beneath abrasive distortion and over-driven bass.

Quantic presenta Flowering Inferno- Dog With a Rope (Tru Thoughts)
Will 'Quantic' Holland has always had a bit of a gift for blending rhythms and breaks from an enormous range of genres, usually ending up with the kind of soul/funk grooves the average crate-digger could only imagine. Thankfully this latest project is no different, and mixes Columbian musicians with his own innovative beats, creating a South American hip-hop dub-funk masterpiece. Totally unique, and utterly essential.

The Drums- The Drums (Moshi Moshi)
Never mind the hipster hype, The Drums' debut album is genuinely excellent. Although hailing from Brooklyn, the four-piece make jittery post-punk that's so melodic you'd swear they were California born and bred. Reverb-soaked guitars, Jesus and Mary Chain drums and lyrics that could pass for Morrissey's own mean there's a lot to like here- if you can get past the aforementioned hipster stigma. Whether they can follow it up remains to be seen, but this album will secure them a place in a lot of 2010 best-of lists.

Watain- Lawless Darkness (Season of Mist)
Steering closer to the crust-punk and thrash sounds that were always underlying in Watain's previous three albums, 'Lawless Darkness' sees the Swedish black metal band turn out their most immediately-accessible record so far. And access it you should. Don't be confused into thinking black metal is all about painted faces and sheeps heads (only some of it is), this is as melodic as it is malevolent and as dynamic as it is demonic. Watain banish any preconceptions to hell - yet this is a hard-hitting, relentless, complicated, precision-crafted piece of work.

Caribou- Swim (City Slang)
Intended as "dance music that sounds like it's made out of water", Dan Snaith (Caribou) has- probably by accident- created an album that's going to stand tall as a benchmark in electronic music production for years. A distant, melancholic album about loneliness employing elements of minimal techno, space-rock and house? If 'post-electronica' existed, this would be its most important album.

U.S. Girls- Go Grey (Siltbreeze)
Raw, lo-fi tape and vocal manipulation. Warm currents and complex beauty, like a 23rd Century Brian Eno.
Best Coast- Crazy For You (Mexican Summer)
Classic indie-pop with honey-glazed female vocals. Shimmering, melodic and charming.
Flying Lotus- Cosmogramma (Warp)
A synthesized retro sci-fi view of a futurist LA. Fractured hip-hop from another dimension.
Liars- Sisterworld (Mute)
New York art-rock made to charm and confuse.
Lali Puna- Our Inventions (Morr)
Lo-fi electronic pop at it's finest, and in 2010 it has never sounded more relevant.
Big Boi- Sir Lucious Left Foot The Son Of Chico Dusty (Island/Def Jam)
The solo album from the, err, 'other one' in OutKast is quite an achievement. It's not often the boundaries of hip-hop get pushed any further- they're almost about to burst as they are- but 'Sir Lucious...' does exactly that.
Darkthrone- Circle the Wagons (Peaceville Records)
14th album of crust/black metal from Darkthrone, and quite a polished production. Essential for fans, or a great place to start for anybody else.
Four Tet- There Is Love In You (Domino)
Burbling synths, detached vocals, clicks and cuts. Effervescent and exhilarating
Richard Skelton- Landings (Type)
Ambient modern-classical post-rock. Expressive, haunting and beautiful.
Strong Arm Steady- In Search of Stoney Jackson (Now Again)
Heavyweight west-coast hip-hop from modern-day musical mastermind Madlib.
Gnaw Their Tongues- Rend It Each Other Like Wild Beasts (At War With False Noise)
Harsh shrieking noise colliding with detuned symphonic strings and horns, and piano. A bad trip in a John Carpenter movie.
Tricky- Mixed Race (Domino)
Haunting, melancholic and tough. An absolute return to form, this is Tricky at his best. Up there with Maxinquaye.
Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest (4AD)
Mind-boggling, intricate and technical. Exhilirating experimentalism from Boston.
Mount Kimbie- Crooks & Lovers
(Hotflush Recordings)
Smart, spooky dance music with pop sensibilities that mixes hip-hop and R&B, drone and dubstep.
Wavves- King of the Beach (Fat Possum)
Major-key party-punk that owes as much to the Beach Boys as it does to 70s and 80s skate-rock.
Aloe Blacc- Good Things (Stones Throw)
Absolutely authentic 1970s-soul sounding record, from LA's answer to Gil Scott-Heron.
Brotha Lynch Hung- Dinner and a Movie (Strange Music)
Concept horrorcore hip-hop. BLH has been in the game for 13 years now, and this is his finest moment. Not for the faint of heart.
How to Swim- Retina (Or More Fun Than a Vat of Love) (Personal Hygiene Records)
Dizzyingly thrilling orchestral indie nine-piece, sounding like the offspring of Pavement and Vampire Weekend