TNGHT is less a meeting of minds than a high-speed collision
On record, Lunice and Hudson Mohawke are hardly wallflowers. The former barged onto the scene with 2010’s Stacker Upper EP, a set of Commodore 64 crunk that boiled the Glawegian collective’s signature sound down to its raw ingrdients. Last year’s One Hunned mined similar territory, and the Montreal native has since found himself picked up by Mad Decent and going viral with Azealia Banks (not to forget turning out the absolutely incendiary ‘The Good Kids’).
Hudson Mohawke, meanwhile, has been LuckyMe’s principal poster boy since Hudson’s Heeters dropped back in 2006. The former DMC finalist makes gaudy capriccios that fuse hip-hop rhythms with a wild prog-rock sensibility. In the years since 2009’s excellent Butter on Warp, he’s stayed busy with the Satin Panthers EP, some canny jingle-writing and a little odd-job work for Kanye West.
“It’s a rap record, right? Just straight rap-bangers that rappers can totally get on.” - Lunice
Their self-titled debut EP as TNGHT is a rambunctious delight: upfront, tightly wound and, more often than not, charmingly daft. Atrophied voices, hand claps and Michael Bay FX are all hurled into the mix. Lead cut ‘Bugg’n’, meanwhile, yokes pots’n’pans clatter to a trap-rap undercarriage. It’s also a triumph of economy, trading in the madcap scrimmage of Butter, say, for a ruthlessly efficient approximation of Hot97 head-snap. Warp and LuckyMe clearly have high hopes for the record, and TNGHT pays back dividends.
FACT spoke to the pair at London’s Red Bull Music Acadamy Studio on the eve of their first headline show at London’s Village Underground. They make for an odd but affectionate pair: Hudson Mohawke is measured, taciturn and gentle, wherea Lunice is ebullient and keen to natter. Major labels, beat-biting and “wiling out” were all on the agenda.
How and why did the TNGHT project first come together?
Lunice: “Really, we were both onto a point where we were just starting to find a sound, trying to sort of challenge ourselves in a way, where we wanted to see what we could come up with with the most simple layers. Like, “how big of a sound can we come up with just that?”. But that was on our solo type of thing. And when I heard [Mohawke’s] remix on Sinden’s Gucci Mane mixtape, that track that he did was on that total radio-rap type thing. That same day, I just hit him up straight on Gmail like “Yo, gotta try something out. Straight rap shit, no weird shit, just straight rap”. And he was like: “Yeah sure, let’s try it out”.
“But what was funny is that we didn’t try it out for a while, until I was actually in London for like two days or so. We were in the studio – he was working on something else at the time, and by the time he was done we were like, “let’s try something out”. Next thing you know, we have three songs that same day. And the next day, we continue trying to finish at least two or three and afterwards just started sending parts, and finished the rest of the record the time I was here again for a day or two again. We finished it then. That was pretty much it: it came from what I felt was us both being on the same idea of rap music, of where we want to push it. So we’re like, “why not just have both us try it out, see how it goes?” It’s pretty good.”
“There’s a huge difference between a beatmaker and a producer.” - Lunice
So you were paring your sound down – taking it down to a few elements…
Lunice: “Yeah, when you start out with a new sound, you’re super hype off of it, right? It’s like, “Wow, this is totally inspiring!” So you really try to explore and see how much you can push the sound without making it super weird. After a while, you just naturally want to challenge yourself, so you try to make certain parts simple. Then you straight try to make the whole thing really simple and super-tight, because that’s hard to do. So that’s pretty much what came about, the whole idea of working together. But it didn’t come as, let’s work together and make a project: it was just. “let’s work together, and that’s it – put it out, lay it out at gigs”. It was such a really great result from the whole crowd, so it was the people that made it into a project more than us really [laugh]. We’re just responding to the people whilst having fun together.”
How who would you describe the EP that you’ve created together?
Lunice: “To me – and probably to him too – it’s a rap record, right? Just straight rap-bangers that rappers can totally get on. There’s space for a rapper. What we’re intending to do with this TNGHT project is just to go straight into mainstream rap music in the States and go against all the top producers in there right now. But not only that: I also feel like this whole project is sort of a voice for all our homies, know what I mean? Not only LuckyMe, but also Night Slugs crew…all the homies of our scene put together, and this is what we’re presenting to the Americans.
“[Mohawke] was saying, a lot of people on major labels, they know we’re around. They’re very well aware of us, but don’t even bother trying to contact us. They just straight frickin’ rob us, almost. I wouldn’t say ‘rob’ – [they] just get the idea, then get another producer to do it. And for a while we were like, ‘Whatever, we’ve got our own little scene going, I don’t mind and it’s all good”. But after that we were like, “Okay, okay, hold up, it’s getting a little too obvious!”
“We didn’t think about breaking in fully until we did the TNGHT project together, and the response we got from rappers from that. We were like, “You know what? Let’s just straight bring it in. Straight bring it in. We’ve been doing this shit for years, and it’s not like we’re new or anything, it’s not like we’re new money shit, it’s not like we came out of the blue and we blew up like crazy. We’ve built a whole foundation of our work. So it’s about that time. I feel like that sort of movement is backed with all of our homies together, like: “This is us! You can’t do this shit! You can’t just take our ideas and come up with it all after all these years. We’re coming for you!’ [Laughs]. That kind of thing.”