Something that links acts like dub artists and Three 6 Mafia, and then the Vacation EP in particular, is vocal manipulation. Pitching down, pitching up, mangling vocals – what was your rationale for using vocals in the way you did?
“I think ideally I’ve always wanted to work with singers. Not always, but there’s something obviously really important and beautiful about the human voice. It’s a texture that you can’t get with an instrument. I didn’t have a singer lying around, so I had a bunch of old R&B a capellas. I grew up on that kind of stuff, and I love late 90s, early 2000s R&B stuff, so that’s the singing style I really get into. Beyonce, Mariah, Aaliyah, stuff like that. That’s what I was taking from. In terms of the chopping and pitching down, I’ve also been a huge fan always of Screwed music. I just love that sound. Even pitched down hi-hats. I realized only recently that the main thing I love about Screwed music is the fucking pitched down hi-hats! So even in regular tempo songs, I’ll just start pitching down the drums to give it that quality. Same shit we were talking about before, I like certain sounding things. That’s definitely a big part, chopping and screwing certain vocal parts.”
“Originally they wanted to book me for my real big live set, the Bad Vibes thing. I only did it once in LA, and it’s such a bitch to move around. It’s just me, but there’s a guitar, a bass, a loop pedal, an SP404, a space echo, my computer and a synth. So I’d need a shit-ton of money: not to get paid to do such a thing, but to travel with all that stuff, ship it, have enough people to carry it with me. It was just too much for their budget! So they ended up just booking for less for a standard Ableton set.”
The basic package!
“Yeah, yeah, the basic package. It’ll be the same set I’ve been playing recently, but I haven’t played it here yet. And definitely some newer stuff too.”
“I realised only recently that the main thing I love about Screwed music is the fucking pitched down hi-hats!”
Clearly from that Bad Vibes set, you’re thinking hard about how to replicate or elaborate what you do in the studio in a live setting. Do you have pipe dreams about what you’ll be able to do live with the right means?
“Totally. Ideally to have somebody else playing with me, at least one other person. There’s not that much that you can do as a one man band. I had a bunch of predetermined loops already set up, and the rest I was trying to recreate as much as possible on the spot. But there was only so much I could do. So definitely, to have somebody else. Again, it’s one of those things – I just don’t work that well with other people a lot of the time. Not that I get really controlling or mad, I’m not one of those kind of people – I just know exactly what I want to do, but I’m really bad at communicating, so ideally to have someone that’s a good friend of mine would be rad. But right now all my friends are fucking travelling musicians or whatever. Hopefully soon. I’m not getting paid that much for whatever, so I want to be able to have an incentive for somebody to play with me. It has to be a viable option first of all to have someone travel with me and play. Pipe dream, long-term goal is to have more of a real live setup that I wouldn’t be scared to do by myself.”
I’m right in thinking you’re New York-based now, right?
“Yeah, though I’m actually going to be back in LA soon.”
As a corollary to that: for a few years now, everybody’s been writing about the ‘LA beat scene’, and it’s become something very different to what I imagine it’s like working there as an artist.
“[with some vehemence] Yeah.”
“I think it can definitely be helpful in a certain sense for people that have never heard certain artists before. If someone’s never heard me and they like Flying Lotus or something like that, and then they get turned onto this whole scene…I grew up there, so it’s kind of inevitable that I would be influenced by all that stuff and the same stuff that they were influenced by. It helps in that sense, in that it helps people find music. In another sense, I never really aspired to be only a part of that and nothing else, you know what I mean? When I get boxed into that, I don’t necessarily feel I fit into that category. A lot of what people think about when they think of that scene is electronic versions of Dilla beats, which totally has its place, and I listen to all that shit still. But the music I make, I’m not like, ‘Oh, I have to break away from this! I don’t want to fit in the box!’ – I’m not trying to do that. But the music I like to make doesn’t necessarily fit in with all the LA stuff that’s still going on. It’s neither here nor there – I think finally people are starting to see it as something outside of that also, which is good. I like that, because I want to play in a band, I like to play guitar and stuff like that – I don’t think that would be a widely accepted thing at Low End Theory. It has its good things and its bad things.”
“The music I like to make doesn’t necessarily fit in with all the LA stuff that’s still going on.”
[Following throat-slitting signals from the publicist] I’m sorry to do this to you, but considering we’re out of time: your new record. Three adjectives?
“Honestly, nothing to say yet because I don’t even know what I like and what’s going to be on there. I don’t know what the album is, I don’t know what it’s going to be called, I doubt there are even any songs yet. I’m guessing it’s going to be a while. Hopefully later this summer I’ll have some time to sit down and see what the adjectives are.”