First off, I felt totally blessed to be able to have a nice long conversation with a pioneer like FreQ Nasty. Initially because of outside circumstances the interview almost didn't happen, but he made time to reschedule with Fabric and find time to talk to me. The man has done a lot for musical history and boundaries, pushing breakbeat music, and electronica by fusing it with Jamaican vibes, as well as political messages. His charity Giveback has helped bring a conscious message to dance music and hopefully will not only move people's feet but also their minds towards work for change (which we REALLY need in this day and age). I ended up abandoning a lot of my initial questions because I was so interested in what we were talking about. I'm really happy to have spoke with him and am proud of this interview.
FreQ Nasty's Fabriclive (#42) is coming out this next week on October 13, 2008 in the UK (and on November 11, 2008 for those of us in the United States). It's a blisteringly propulsive mix of fidget house, dubstep, breakbeat, and things you can't even put a label on. It grabs you and will not let go from start to finish. It is easily one of my favourite Fabric mixes ever and I highly suggest it. If the first half doesn't get you moving you probably don't have a pulse! From the beginning track from Saul Williams declaring political intent, to the zeitgeist Santogold track that he did with Switch ("Creator"), to the new school funk of Leon Jean Marie, the balls to the wall energy or Cadence Weapon, and the numerous dubstep and breaks tracks, it's just a classic without question! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do... here's a taste from the track he did with Bassnectar for Giveback...
SECOND THING THAT SHOULD BE MENTIONED HERE... due to an extremely windy day, and doing the interview on a picnic table at work, my iPod recording mic seemed to glitch out worse than ever (this happened with the Simian Mobile Disco interview too). It's made me realize I need a different digital recorder! This was probably my best interview I've ever done because I was able to go off my script more and have a good talk about politics and music. THAT was the plus. The minus is that I have about 19 minutes of audio........... and only 14 minutes of it recorded. There are strange gaps and glitches so I'm stitching this interview back together as best I can. I think the really important parts made it (i.e. him talking) but I apologize for what I lost and I promise it won't happen again. I think it was mostly parts with me talking so no big deal:) I should mention there was a lot of laughing going on so I'm not even making note of it while transcribing. You can tell where it's funny lol... With that said here's the interview...
ISoA: Your mix is very timely... in fact it really shows how far ahead of your time you've been. With the recent surge in hip-hop and electronica merging as well as the emergence of dubstep how do you feel about the current musical landscape? Because certainly your music has helped pave the way for new artists...
FreQ Nasty: Thank you for that. Yeah it's great because there's two things... one is the dub music and fusion and the stuff that's coming out now, I've been feeling that music since it's inception, and it's taken on more dance music stuff. Then garage and breakbeat have been half timed into dubstep and there's this odd sort of meeting point. Everything has become this sort of melting point and it's awesome to see new forms of music develop and come through... and on the other side you think 'what's next', what else can we twist and fuse and move forward into a new space you know?
ISoA: Going back to the so called 'current musical landscape'... a lot of genres have been dominating for the last couple of years, stuff like Baltimore club, bloghouse, and we've seen a holding pattern... are there any sounds you see becoming big in the next year?
FreQ Nasty: This sort of crop of scenes and sounds... this cultural palette that people have been working with... On the house side, and electro, and the minimal side and fidget side of things, I mean I have major ADD, but I feel like I have heard all this stuff before! As far as finding a new sound I think that palatte is nuked now. I mean there's still a lot of producers making great records but if I never heard another Baltimore record I wouldn't be upset about it.
ISoA: Speaking of new music, your track with Santogold is out of this world awesome. How did that come about?
FreQ Nasty: Dave Switch and I were touring Australia together. We enjoyed each others music, we ended up playing before or after each other, and we had an appreciation for what the other person does so decided to jump into the studio together in Sydney. We only had a day in the studio so we didn't really finish anything, that was in January '06 or '07... and then we ended up in New York we busted out some beats and started looking for a vocalist. We were out in Seattle at a club with Diplo, and Santi White was there, and he said "Check this singer out, she's awesome" so we went into the studio with her and did that track. And we found out afterwards that Diplo had never heard her sing before! He had just heard that she was good! She hadn't rapped like that either for a long long time. She said "I haven't done anything like that for like 15 years, this is weird" but it turned out great.
ISoA: Are there any other young artists you're working with in the future, or want to work with?
FreQ Nasty: In terms of vocalists... There's a lot of cats coming out of the underground dubstep scene that are doing crazy different stuff... for them, what they heard was the beginnings of the dubstep scene and they're starting to move it along already. In terms of underground vibes theres a lot of great dancehall artists out there, there's a lot of grime and dubstep MCs that are great, but really for me it's about people who can write good hooks and good songs. Anyone can spit on a track... I mean there's a lot of great hip hop MCs here, or in NY, or LA; the difference is the ones who can write good hooks. That's why Santogold has done so well, is she can write great hooks and great songs. She's a really good writer. You can see her writing skills on that album.
ISoA: When you're putting together a mix like this do you find yourself wishing you could put in more tracks than you can fit on a CD? Is it hard to choose what is going to make the mix?
FreQ Nasty: I think I got Fabric to clear more tracks than every artist ever bar one! I had load of new minimal stuff from Berlin, and I had all sorts of shit. I got to the point where I was like I'm not going to chuck a bunch of stuff on here just to say, 'Hey, look at me I listen to loads of new underground music!', you know what I mean? For me it was stuff that connected to me. And also there's some cool stuff in odd pockets around the world, and you wanna choose stuff that sounds great on a big system, that's why I went in the direction I did... I found some cool lo-fi bits but they didn't sound as good against some of the better produced dubstep and breaks and the UK Baltimore stuff. You want to choose what flows well at the end of the day!
ISoA: It flows really well, it really caught my attention. Those first 6 tracks grabbed me so hard that suddenly I realized I was almost all the way through the mix!
FreQ Nasty: I was a little bit worried what people might think about coming in so hard and heavy straight away, but like I said in the (Fabic Press) bio, that's how I'm playing at the moment just coming in on 11. Maybe chill out a bit toward the end, start out heavy and take it somewhere different and maybe chill out toward the end. Most mix cds start out slow and take you on this linear journey but this one just comes out and slaps you on the head straight away!
ISoA: You recently posted a track in support of "March To Tibet" with Bassnectar for Giveback. How did that come about?
FreQ Nasty: I'm one of the founders of Giveback and it was me and some other cats who just wanted to to do something cool that allowed musicians to do something. And that wasn't really a platform for musicians to get out there and say 'I want my music to do this, or I want it to help with this cause' so I'm going to make a track and give the campaign a track and let all my fans know it's up there' and then allow the fans to be involved in the campaign. We started off with the 'March For Tibet' campaign with Bassnectar, and we raised money for a bunch of those guys to march for Tibet, and to raise money, and to raise awareness with a human rights record. and then we had the 'Harmony Fest' in Norhtern California which was to get clean water for this village in Ethiopia... you know you hear these stories about these villages and it's not really real, but you go into a campaign like this, and we try be organized and let people know where were going with it, and if you look at it you have a full fleshed out campaign to let people know what's going on and what we've achieved. It's not like chucking $20 to Greenpeace and wondering where the fuck it went! I'm giving money, and I know where it's going to, AND I'm getting a cool track from artists that I like.
ISoA: I think that's an important part in things like this nowadays. It's important for artists to come out and say something. The best way to get people involved is what you're doing because young people can get closer to a cause when they see 'Hey, here's a person I really admire, and I like their music, so maybe I should take a closer look at what's going on'... it's probably the best way to get the message across.
FreQ Nasty: I like that..
ISoA: Looking back to the past, it seems a lot of people a moment where they really felt like they had "made it"... was there a moment where you felt like "wow, this is it!"
FreQ Nasty: I'm still waiting for it! Some people are good at maybe having a little celebration or clocking what's happened in the last few years but I'm not really good at that you know? I try to get to one place and by the time I've gotten there I'm kind of over it already like "wicked I've done that, that's great" but the journey has to go further still! I'm trying to change that a little but I guess if there's one thing I remember... having toured by myself as a DJ, and I don't have a DJ partner and I don't have another production partner, most of the time it was just me over the last 10 years or more. And when I did the 'Video Nasty' tour, we had a drummer two MCs and I was like "This is what it would be like being in a band touring the world!" We had me, and some motion graphics people, and animators, and you know we put together this crazy 6 to 8 screen show with all this political crazy shit that looked good as well... and you know we went and jammed it out! And we went around the world; museums, Australia, and Russia, and the UK... and I remember thinking "This is what it would be like being in a band with a bunch of people you really like" because I got to pick the people and they were really good. I got the best of the best, I got to tour with music that I've made with this incredibly talented group of people, and we really get on, and I remember thinking this is why I started out, to spread a conscious message with cutting edge music. That's what a lot of the artists were doing when I was a kid from Public Enemy to KRS 1, to Rage Against the Machine, to Jane's Addiction... they were all people who had some message other than "Let's Rock!"
ISoA: For some reason political music doesn't seem to really be as prominent in the US anymore, at least political artists getting their way to the mainstream and actually getting heard. There's sort of a political vacuum here in the U.S. as far as the public goes...
FreQ Nasty: There's a lot of stuff going on in America that's very underground, and I think (it's changed since) the days where things like Rock the Vote were around. I mean when it first came through it was this big revolution, but it's kind of have changed... I think it's symptomatic of the state of culture in general. Now you're in a position where you have to go so far to get one group of people's attention in this day and age. In Europe? People are watching TV, but they're watching very diverse things. I mean 18-30 year old males are on the internet and god knows what they're looking at you know? They're not listening to the radio and they're not reading the press. The information is quite dispersed. Who knows where it's going now with the economy with the world, and in the States; people have become quite complacent about the miracles we enjoy every day, where if you lived in India or Africa you wouldn't take for granted.
And that kids was the interview. We talked briefly about music and I was expressing my love for my "local" scene here in the Midwest (Ghostly International, JDSY, Matthew Dear, Detroit techno, Chicago house) and perhaps running into each other when he's in the area. He's a great guy, fun to talk to, with a good word to express about important causes, and he makes fucking ridiculously good music. Cop that Fabriclive 42 kids!
Here's a video highlighting Giveback's video showing the human rights abuse going on in Tibet...
Once again, thank you for stopping by... this will no doubt be the BEST month ever in Arcadian history so keep checking back! And thanks for all the support!