Percussion Lab News & Updates
Percussion Lab keeps you up to date with news, ramblings, and anything else music related from our sphere of artists, DJs, labels, friends and contributors.

FEBRUARY 12, 2013

In a new feature for Percussion Lab called "Touching Bass," we return to past artists and continuing friends, touching base and discussing their current status as a growing artist.

This debut segment features Chrome Canyon, whom Percussion Lab interviewed nearly a year ago, soon after their first performance. Since then, Chrome Canyon has added an incredible amount to their name, including getting signed to, and releasing their then-recently completed Elemental Themes LP on, Stones Throw. We met up with Chrome Canyon's ringleader and sole producer Morgan Z  for an interview where we discuss getting signed, getting paid, and the making of his mix for Percussion Lab, which is up on the site today!

Percussion Lab: I feel like you're often introduced on the internet as one of the members of Apes & Androids, though you have in many ways gone beyond the threshold of their live notoriety, and you reach an arguably larger audience. Do you feel like this is something you will always carry with you, as Chrome Canyon and beyond?

Chrome Canyon: Ha. Ya, I feel the same way. I don't mind the legacy—the experience is one that definitely has had a huge impact on my musical outlook. So obviously I owe a lot to that band. I think Apes & Androids left a big impression on people and it warms my heart that people still remember and associate me with them. I think it's a positive thing ultimately. Seems like it's always a positive association...

PL: We had our first chat almost a year ago, when you were just beginning to get exposed. You've come a huge way from that point of performing for friends in your living room. What's it been like getting signed to Stones Throw?

CC: Getting signed has always been a "thing" that people talk about... it's this event that can supposedly make your career blossom, get you paid, make you famous, etc. But honestly, it's still a hell of a lot of work. I still work a day job, and it still feels like it's hard to get people to care about what I release. But I say all of that because I feel the real incredible part of signing to a label, especially a label like Stones Throw, is meeting and getting to know the people like Peanut Butter Wolf and Scotty Coats, who signed me. They're just incredible people who have amazing taste. It's a huge validation of what you're doing... and the support they throw behind me, even while we're all getting to know each other and while I'm figuring out what it means to put music out in the world. It's really special and such a huge part of the dream for me. These guys know what the fuck they're doing, and the fact that they'd listen to music that I made, for me, in my own little studio, and say we think you've got something here—it's really inspiring. It's a great feeling to know that all the work I'm putting into what I do has a home now.

PL: A year ago you had also mentioned you had dreams of letting Elemental Themes, "become an entire audio / visual piece. Now if I could just buy a winning lottery ticket to finance that…" Doesn't this new publicity and funding also allow for you to create these ongoing videos? That being signed to a pretty big label is your winning lottery ticket, if you will.

CC: Ha! I wish... I think it does do what you're saying, but not because there's tons of money to be tossed around. I think people have become more interested in me, like Scion—who was generous enough to pay for my last video for "Generations." But that lottery ticket would still come in handy. And about "Generations"—the opportunity to work with someone like Ace Norton, who wrote and directed it, and to have my friend Amanda Wells, who dances for Benjamin Millepied, star. That is really a dream come true... and there would be no way to do that without the label. They create those kinds of opportunities. But money is a tricky issue. I still fund a lot of what I do on my own. The videos I did for "Branches" and "Memories of a Scientist" were things that I funded on my own. But like I said... without the label, there definitely wouldn't be the opportunities there, so beyond money, there's a hell of a lot of value in the relationship for me.

PL: I feel like that's a great deal of why Chrome Canyon is so exciting to watch and listen to. There's a presence of hands on, pure creativity because you're composing the idea, you're sequencing the performance, you're sequencing the lights, and the videos are extensions into a fictional setting. I feel like if everything was taken care of and paid for something would be lost in the end aesthetic. That isn't a question, so you don't have to answer it, haha.

CC: No that's great...I think you're absolutely right. I think struggling to pull things off demands to be more creative, and that's always a really fun process. So many people help me out, and not because they're getting paid. In some ways it's another way to really feel like you're doing something worthwhile. People believe in the music, and in the vision you have for the show, and that's amazing. I hope when the money does come in (or if it does, ha) that that spark doesn't go away. But I'm not worried—there are so many things I want to do that I can't because of finances, and I think that as more money comes in, we'll find ways to do crazier and crazier things, and hopefully keep it creative and interesting.

PL: What were your ideas behind the mix for us? What driving force was there?

CC: Well for a while I was making all these mixes for people and I just got a little burnt out on new music. I feel like I go through stretches of listening to music and then there will be stretches when I just make stuff and don't do a whole lot of listening. With the mix for you guys I wanted to go outside my comfort zone and find some music that I wouldn't necessarily go to right away and concentrate my time on. And I think it paid off... I listened to a lot of new stuff and it was all really interesting. I try to make mixes that inspire me, and that's definitely the case with this mix. I feel like I was really inspired by the actual "feel" of the sounds in these tracks... not necessarily the compositions, but the actually way the sound was coming out of the speakers. I like that you can just zone out and feel the music - it's a really hypnotic mix, and that's something I'm definitely exploring in my own music.

FEBRUARY 6, 2013

Dan Wender of Brooklyn's RINSED parties greeted us with this week's feature mix. Nooka Jones sat down with Dan to pick his brain on underground/unofficial parties, the younger generation, and the RINSED beat.


PL: RINSED seems to fill a particular niche in Brooklyn's burgeoning underground/unofficial scene. What have been your biggest frustrations and accomplishments in trying to take the party out of the known venues?

Dan Wender: Our first run at trying RINSED as a ground-up, underground operation came from organizing the official after party for the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival. After pulling that off it was kind of an awakening to what the true potential of RINSED could be. We have complete creative control, we can set our own prices to suit our crowd, aesthetics can be altered without restriction, we get to make our own club every month. We're still working on some things at Le Bain & some other places in the coming months so it's not like we've sworn off known venues, but there is a certain freedom in doing everything yourself. So far the most frustrating thing is the lack of infrastructure, you'll see me running to buy ice and cranberry juice in the middle of my dj set. 

PL: The sound at RINSED varies from party to party, but the vibe maintains this persistently upbeat, relaxed attitude. Is this a product of your setup and venue, or find it mostly coming from the crowd?

Dan Wender: The way it all started was Blacky & I kind of being frustrated with the scene and the wack gigs (or lack thereof) we were playing. Us and our buddy Quinn played the first 6 parties b2b2b for 6 hours straight and the sound kind of just kept evolving as our tastes shifted.  Eventually when the party started catching on and we started booking more well-known acts we wanted to just stay true to that vibe. Our process for selecting acts is essentially just reaching out to the people we're digging who we know will attract fun people & keep everyone dancing. We like to make the party as appealing for people who just want to go out and dance to new music as it is for proper music heads and experienced clubbers. 

PL: Speaking of crowd, RINSED tends to attract a younger, more eager set of dancers. What do you make of this? Do you feel underground dance music is becoming more relatable to a younger generation?

Dan Wender: We've always had a very mixed crowd and I think that makes for the best kind of party. So many of us, especially younger people, spend so many hours a day slaving away on the internet whether it's for work or school. We're all addicted to social networks and I think right now is a more relevant time than ever to set time aside to have a real-life human experience. As people become more reliant on the internet I think the surrealistic and inhibition-free environment of a really well curated dance party will become a form of therapy to keep us all sane. 

PL: What's in plan for RINSED? What's the next thing for Dan Wender

Dan Wender: We're planning some amazing things in the coming months. We just confirmed Morgan Geist for March 8th so we'll start taking RSVPs for that next week. Right now I think we're just trying to improve our current system and expose people to some great music. I'm sure in the future we'll want to expand, my other partner A.Pop has visions of transforming a huge warehouse space into some kind of futuristic paradise so expansion is always a long term goal.  For now we're all trying to sleaken the operation and make it as good of an experience for as broad a range of people as possible. For me personally I think the goal for 2013 is to finish some of the tunes I've been working on and finally get something released. And to work on finding a special outdoor space for summer a la RINSED bbq day-rave style.

Check out their next party this Friday, a Symbols Showcase.

JANUARY 15, 2013


If you haven't heard the mix Extreme Animals just gave us, or seen the Paper Rad videos that somewhat shaped my teenage life, or read about the 4th of July fireworks fail in San Diego last summer, or listened to their awesome sounds, I suggest you click those links and begin there. For most of you, Paper Rad will be a recognizable aesthetic that you can ultimately trace back to them. One of the art collective's founders, Jacob Ciocci, has been making music with friend/musician/DJ/Dr. David Wightman (who holds a PHD in music composition from UCSD) for over 10 years as Extreme Animals. Though attention is easily held during their spastic videos/songs/live performances, the really interesting thing about these guys is the philosophy behind their sounds and the commitment they have to it. We caught up with the duo to further discuss the mix, pop vs. underground music, and having everything happen at the same time. 

Percussion Lab: Can you further explain the idea of your concept for the mix being the fireworks mishap in San Diego?

Extreme Animals: Sure! When all the fireworks went off at once from all reports it was an accident, a "fail". And yet it was both symbolically and literally very magical. In the upper left hand corner of the artwork for the mix inside the "8-ball" it says: "everything 4-ever". This is how we experience the internet, this is how it feels to be an american sometimes, and this is something we try and express in our own work. This was an over-the-top accident that was amazing—an ecstatic moment that came out of something that might seem trite or silly at first. That is another approach we embrace in our music, videos, DJ-mixes, etc.

PL: Do you feel the internet has erased the line between popular culture and the underground? Is it all just popular culture now?

EA: Sometimes it feels like the internet is manifesting a reality that existed pre-internet, just making things more obvious, showing us the "numbers/views/likes" behind pre-exisiting power structures . We have been "inter-connected" for years—there has always been a cyclical relationship between underground/small and corporate/big—now we just see it all day everyday.

But everything is definitely not all "popular" culture now. The internet has leveled the playing field in terms of who can access what.

PL: Were the choices for your mix, then, a commentary on this relationship, or were you being mostly facetious?

EA: We were definitely NOT being facetious... these are all songs that we really like. We have different relationships to the different songs but they are all songs that we feel like do a good job at "doing what they do." There's a lot of songs that aren't on the mix because we are not feeling those songs.

Maybe what you are getting at with the word "facetious" is that everything can be funny if looked at in the right way? If a David Guetta song is hilarious so is a Black Pus song. Life in general is absurd—not just major label pop stars, the WHOLE THING! We actually think a lot of music is made with a sense of humor as well—a lot of artists from all walks of life are aware that the work they make is slightly funny... especially within the realms of EDM.

In general we like artists that "go all in," that have an intensity that you can feel... This kind of music may be easier to "make fun of," but the absurdity is a bi-product of the intensity and focus, the "real-ness."

PL: Yes, but don't you think the Taylor Swift dubstep song was not a product of Taylor Swift, but of the corporation that owns her. That she's just a face for a production company that's more interested in the advertising and profit than in the "real," and that the sort of funny thing is that we can imagine a group of businesspeople sitting at a board meeting discussing how kids these days want dubstep?

EA: People in boardrooms trying to tap into youth culture is definitely a real thing that happens, but we don't see it as any less or more genuine than a noise artist with a delay pedal sitting in a warehouse trying to "break through to the other side." This is not cynicism but a conceptual way out of the "us versus them" mentality that has gotten us into so many problems—the world is not black or white, just all grey, we all have to work together to create a more humane terrain for artists... this does not mean that we need to accept big business wholeheartedly. It's more about accepting the power that corporations have (that Taylor Swift song is incredible because so many brilliant people were paid lots of money to make it) and using that power in interesting ways, the same way big business uses us! What a boring and sheltered world it would be if everyone was trying to come up with everything from scratch by themselves, if there was no stealing of ideas, if everyone just listened to Decemberists with their ears shut...

PL: This is something I've heard both of you speak about before. This idea that nothing can be owned by a person, not even ideas. I've always wondered if you've encountered any problems from, say, Monster, for using their logo on your shirts. Obviously it would be difficult to get a corporation to agree with your philosophy.

EA: Who knows why we haven't been approached by companies who own the material we use. In the case of the Monster logo we did a very simple appropriation... there's no malicious "subversion" of the logo on the shirt (we are not defacing it, or "making fun of it"), beyond the fact that we are combining it with our name. But this for us is a powerful gesture—claiming a corporate logo as self. This relates back to what we were saying earlier about Taylor Swift and power dynamics in 2013.

PL: So, would you say that what Extreme Animals is doing—has set out to do, as a kind of mission—is trying to subvert the power structure inevitably in place? By exposing the "real-ness" which is easier to spot in pop music, and then further exemplifying this in everything else? That if you look deep enough, you can find the absurdity of reality in everything?

EA: That's one of our missions... but we're also trying to make banging music at the same time :) EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE! When we make a decision of what software synth to use it is never divorced from thinking about context. But every good artist thinks on multiple levels at the same time like this. Good art has to speak to people on a gut level, open them up and make them think all at once, without being too didactic or simple-minded. There needs to be an element of paradox and mystery or it falls short... this is what we strive for.

PL: To tap into Jacob's history a little bit, is this same philosophy that inspires Paper Rad? Everything all at once. Tapping into the real.

EA: Haha! I'll answer this question by saying that the language I (Jacob) use to talk about this stuff in interviews is my personal way of thinking about what we did or do. It's my take on it. Most of me and David's ideas come out of listening to the radio while we are tour. The best ideas start out as jokes or as "non-art" ideas... out of just being around each other. There was no philosophy that existed as the "mission statement" before we got started—that would be counter to the principle of being open to surprise, or that things are constantly changing and in motion. No rules. The tricky part is that it is impossible to separate an action from it's meaning, both are enacted at the same moment and then they both change over time. It's another paradox I like about art.

PL: Speaking of touring, what is it you guys do when not touring, making music, or making art? I know that must take up a lot of time. Or is that something that is always happening?

EA: If we are not on tour, making music or making art we are talking or thinking about making things, or getting depressed or anxious about not making things...

PL: Last question: we've been in correspondence since last summer, having met for the first time sometime in October. I'm wondering, what is the process like creating a mix like this? Was this something you would pick up every so often, or is it a lot of sending back and forth between each other?

EA: It took us a long time to make this mix, because we did pass it back and forth a lot and took breaks to think about it while we worked on other projects. But now we are getting better/faster at these and David almost has a whole new one done to pass along for me to work on. Thanks a lot for asking us to do it, it made us think a lot and try out new things!

JANUARY 15, 2013

Scottish oddity Neil Landstrumm has been delivering slabs of head-scratching wax quite prolifically over the last two decades, and with each emission his sound collects another component in what is becoming a hulking Transformer of various genres & influences. Whether it's techno and hip hop in the 1990s on labels like Peace Frog and Tresor, or hip hop and grime on Planet Mu in the 2000s, the Edinburgh-residing artist seems to incorporate any electronic inflection he wishes into his deliciously loony take on dance & beat-driven music.

The latest incarnation of Landstrumm's explorations comes from an unexpected place: Hypercolor boss Jamie Russell, issuing the Montesa EP on his own Sneaker Social Club imprint. Lead track "Guzacid" is an inspired step towards acid house for the producer, a weighty cross-section of plonking synth layers ratcheted to a boisterous kick drum that only pauses for the occasional ritualistic freak-out. Dip into "HL_LM" and find yourself back in familiar Landstrumm territory: chugging through digi-charged techno that twinkles with little square-wave arpeggios like so many robotic insects fluttering overhead. It's a trademark of the artist (if there ever was one), and sends the listener plowing headlong into "Super Mousse (is on the loose)"...twisting away into his hip hop-dappled history with an unconventional, grimey sway and Spaceape-style vocals that surprisingly work.

The EP rounds out on two less memorable numbers that nonetheless manage to incorporate jungle-driven hysteria and what amounts to psychoactive drugs in aural form on "MC Aidsy Aids", followed by some grimey creature called "315" excavated from 2008, sopping wet and cold as f*ck. This Montesa EP will go under the radar of those looking for a "classier" or "deep" sound, but when it comes to the original rude bwoy sound and ethos of UK bassbin culture, this is some pretty impolite material that stands as one of the year's best and most eccentric.

Posted by Cam Curran | 0 comments