Our exclusive interview with The Chef after his live performance on October 14, 2011 at Le Belmont, Montreal.
Big welcome home to the homie Lunice, who's just coming off a whirlwind of European and Australian dates that followed our Pop Montreal show with Araabmbuzik in September. We caught up with Lunice before his set to rap about his new EP, One Hunned, his collabo with Ango and Prison Garde: Nouveau Palais, and whats next for the local producer turned globetrotter.
Lunice catches a couple days at home before heading out on a final tour of 2011, across the U.S. & Canada in November. Hats off to Montreal's finest young son. Get it! One Hunned.
Current darling of blogs and bootie-shakers alike, Azaelia Banks is on a one way ticket to the top right now. We caught up with her after she wowed the crowd with rapid fire raps at our Pop Montreal 2011 show. Away from the stage it's clear that beneath her exuberant persona lies a remarkably humble and self-effacing character for someone so talented.
It's easy to be dazzled by Araab's outrageous skill with an MPC. Sure, the guy knows his way around the buttons and knobs, but Araab's greatest skill is the precision with which he matches his samples to drums. There's no other way to put it, the man is a musician's musician. We were lucky enough to catch up with Araab after our show at Pop Montreal 2011 and spend some time with a producer who is surely only at the start of a long and successful career.
'Star quality'. They say you're either born with it or you're not. By that definition Kid Sister must have some of the best genes in show-business right now. Not only do her beats sparkle with the pizazz we would expect from a protege of Kanye West, but off stage she has the charisma to match. Her effortless charm almost disarmed our entire crew when we caught up with her for a chat before her show at Pop Montreal 2011.
Each year, the Red Bull Music Academy brings together a potpourri of some of the most innovative producers, vocalists, DJs and instrumentalists from all around the world—and one of them was Montreal's very own Poirier. LOOKOUT recently got the goods on the DJ/producer's experience during the RBMA in London, just before an exciting weekend for Poirier: Karnival v.9 at Le Belmont on Friday, JunoFest at Toronto's Wrongbar on Saturday, and the Juno Awards on Sunday. Cheer for him on March 27th, as he is up for his second Juno; this time around his album Running High is nominated for Electronic Album of the Year. Despite all that activity, this particular interview focused on one place and one moment in history: the 2010 Red Bull Music Academy in London. To apply for this year's Red Bull Music Academy in Tokyo, or for more information, click here.
London is a unique place as home to many immigrants from around the world, and more specifically, as having a strong Jamaican diaspora. How did the RBMA's two-week-long session, and especially that exposure to the London scene, affect your music?
It had already been an influence for a long time. Since 1991, London, the UK, has deeply influenced my love of the bass coming from the sound system culture that Jamaicans brought into the UK back in the '50s and '60s (I highly recommend watching the BBC documentary Reggae Britannia about that specific subject). The UK urban scene, from ragga jungle to UK Garage, from Hip-Hop to UK Funky, has deep roots in the Jamaican sound system culture. Being part of the RBMA in 2010 gave me the opportunity to see that scene and be part of it. It also gave me a spot to DJ with Face-T at the Notting Hill Carnival in August 2010 at the RBMA x Major Lazer stage. Playing soca in that context was SO nice.
What RBMA lecture did you find the most inspiring?
The gold medal goes to Gabriel Roth from Daptone Records who was super honest and direct. I’ve been following what he's been doing since day one and I really respect what he has achieved. I remember buying The Daktaris CD a long time ago. It was discounted at Archambault probably because at that time nobody knew what the hell that afrobeat CD with lions on the cover was. I love when stores don't know when they have gold.
Mark Ronson was quite interesting, sharing some stories from the inside.
As well, seeing Steve Reich in person was something I was looking forward to.
I read that out of the sixty artists chosen for 2010's RBMA, there were four Canadians and three of those four were from Montreal. This can’t be a coincidence, if you ask me. What is it about Montreal artists?!
What is it about Montreal, we might even say. I think Montreal gives people a nice context to think, elaborate, meet and create. The city size is perfect. Big enough to be a big city, but not too big so people have time to chill and have a quality of life. These ingredients all together give artists fresh air to expand their thoughts into reality.
I was looking through this year’s RBMA application and it was extensive, but also really thought-provoking (for instance, one question made me recall the records that bring me to tears). Do you remember the funniest or most interesting answer you gave when you applied?
I still have the scans, let me check. To the question: "Which technical set-up do you usually utilize for your musical activities?" I answered: "The best plug-ins are IDEAS.”
And later to the question: "What's the things you can live without and why?" I answered: "Food. Water. It's pretty obvious."
Do you have any advice for this year’s applicants?
Do it. Be honest. No need to brag. It's about music. It's about the love of music. Making it, discovering it, sharing it. You don't need to pretend you're somebody else and if you're trying to be somebody else for any reason, please save yourself some time and go play outside with the kids.Read Less ↑
Amenta, a Toronto-born vocalist with an electro-soul sound, was one of the sixty participants in 2010’s Red Bull Music Academy in London. She has collaborated with Portformat, fLako and more recently, Mau’lin on a funky project dubbed “Deeper Than The Sun.” LOOKOUT recently interviewed her by email and got a glimpse into her overflowing memories of her time in London and what her musical career is like post-RBMA. To apply for this year's Red Bull Music Academy in Tokyo, or for more information, click here. The application phase ends April 4, 2011.
LOOKOUT: How did you decide to apply to RBMA?
Amenta: I heard about RBMA in 2007 when it was being held in Toronto. I saw Muhsinah perform and a friend Jesse Ohtake encouraged me to apply. By the end of 2008, I was reminded by another friend, My Man Henri, and thought I really need to do it this year. I attended the info session where Flying Lotus was speaking at RBMA Toronto and was further inspired by his account of his experience.
Do you have a hunch as to why you were picked over all the other applicants?
You mean they didn't pick me for my amazing hula-hoop skills?? Well then I don't know.
What's your most profound memory from your time at the Academy?
There are sooo many to choose from. But the show I did with Hasan at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) comes to mind. I remember telling myself: "do not **** up." I recall seeing my classmates at the very front screaming and cheering and I got all choked up. The audience was sooo amazing and I received a lot of love and support afterwards. It was a memorable night.
How has your experience with RBMA affected your musical career? Has it affected your sound or musical style?
It has helped me meet wonderful fellow artists. Who you know and who you vibe with is VERY important. The power of partnerships and friendships is not to be underestimated as a strong force that can drive and influence your career. I'm so thankful to know the people I have met through RBMA. There were a lot of instrumentalists in my term – this has influenced me greatly and allowed me to really dig deeper vocally and find new approaches with melodies and much more. One man in particular who helped me discover my potential is Hasan Hujairi - Oud Master. As I touched on before, our performance at the Institute of Contemporary Arts really taught me a lot about myself. As well, being a participant of RBMA looks damn good on your resume. Upon hearing that you were a participant, people who know you give you major points and people who don't are inclined to learn more – and that's worldwide. It's pretty amazing.
You recently collaborated with another class of 2010 participant, Mau’lin. What’s life like post-Academy in terms of sustaining relationships?
Life is good! Most of us are pretty tight. A week will not pass without me talking to at least 5 or 6 of my 2010 classmates or term 2 homies. We roll deep ;). We hit each other up for vocals or drums or relationship advice. Not to give away our class secrets, but we still use our group email to connect. It's a beautiful thing. We continue to collaborate and share ideas and/or goals for the future or simply make faces at each other on Skype. We really support each other. They are definitely family.
Do you have any advice for this year’s RBMA applicants?
Be yourself. Put as much of yourself into your application as possible. Leave an imprint. By the time you’re finished your application, RBMA people should be able to tell what you smell like. I'm not joking ;). Let your funk shine.Read Less ↑
Self-described as "Salinger on MDMA," Bikini's poppy sound, ethereal vocals and poetry-influenced lyrics evoke an affective quality that's heavy, but at the same time, irrefutably fun. However, while creating the EP RIPJDS, bandmates Nigel Diamond and Olivier Olivier weren't as collaborative as their music makes you believe (at least in the physical sense). Their musical process is somewhat seasonal, with Olivier writing poetry in the summer and using his writings to compose and record the melodies in the fall. Then, in the following spring, Diamond arranges and adds to the sequences and treatments, with no further imput from Oliver.
With cover art by New York City artist Nate Lowman, an album named after one of the most famous American authors of the 20th century, and a video, "ACheerlaeder," that borrows its visuals from Woody Allen's Celebrity, Bikini draws inspiration from the best that culture has to offer.
Check out LOOKOUT's recent interview with Bikini, a few days before they head to Montreal to open for Midnight Juggernauts at Le Belmont on November 27.
LOOKOUT: The "Salinger on MDMA" thing seems to have caught on, and not to mention the title of the EP, RIPJDS... What is it about Salinger that is so important to you and your music? Is the album a sort of tribute?
Bikini: It's not like we're trying to make the soundtrack to Franny and Zooey, it's just more of a thing that happened this year that tore us and a lot of our friends up. Now that he's gone, it's like there's not much to respect anymore, I guess that's a good thing and bad thing. I wouldn't say it's a tribute, but he has definitely influenced both Nigel and I to the point that I can't separate what's influence and what's originality.
In many ways, RIPJDS resists genre classifications. Michael Cranston from Impose Magazine felt the same way when describing "ACheerlaeder" earlier this year. On the blogosphere, Bikini has gotten a bunch of comparisons to the likes of Passion Pit and MGMT. As a musician, do genres, classifications and comparisons get frustrating?
No, people have to write something to describe it. We don't think about that much though. I feel like we're only good at one thing, one sound. I know that as time goes on and we're exposed to new resources, we'll change our sound, but we've been making this type of music since we were seventeen. It's hard to do anything else.
Were you friends first? Was it natural for you both to come together and make music?
We became friends once we both moved away to University. It was like we both grew up a lot and liked each other's grown-up self better than the adolescent ones. I remember the first song we really worked on was in Nigel's tiny room at 3772 St. Laurent. We made this song called "We Can Roll" and Nigel's roommate Justin played bass over our synth tracks - that was the first moment we realized we were going to do this.
On reading about Bikini's musical process, I was surprised to read that the finish record isn't sent back to Olivier. What are the benefits of making music that way?
I trust Nigel with my life.
What was it like to work with Nate Lowman? I read you were looking for something like his 2009 piece 'Beach Bums.' Was the final artwork everything you imagined?
Nate was amazing. I've always liked his work - he's kind of just basically the best there is right now in New York City. We were just happy he was into doing it, and the final painting he made was perfect. It was amazing to be able to have something that tied everything together for the record. Nate made these Xerox's of J.D. Salinger that we've used for the inside of the CD and posters. It's all kind of one thing, the work Nate did for us, so we've sort of used it all.Read Less ↑
To the masses, Aloe Blacc is best-known as the singer of the opening theme song for HBO's TV series "How to Make It in America." In part thanks to that, "I Need a Dollar" is considered the unofficial anthem for twenty-somethings on the grind. Having spent about sixteen years in the business, Aloe Blacc certainly knows something about the hustle. Blacc's years as an emcee has expanded into creating conscious music that spans the sounds of rap, soul, hip hop, jazz, and R&B, culminating in his most recent soul album, Good Things. In many ways, his stirring music is reminiscent of sounds from the sixties, but the lyrics are decidedly current, and tinged with a political slant. A graduate from the University of Southern California, Blacc and his distinct sound are quick to be described by music journalists and bloggers alike as smart, but his music is more than that, as Blacc straddles the worlds of art and life. Check out LOOKOUT's interview with Aloe Blacc and don't miss him live with his band The Grand Scheme on November 16, 2010 at Le Belmont.
You describe your music as "brand-new-old-soul." How is your music in dialogue with the past and how do you see yourself fitting in with "neo-soul" (if at all)?
I am a disciple of great and classic soul artists and my goal with this new album is to carry on an important tradition in soul music of making songs with social and political commentary. In my music, there are elements of some of my heroes like Al Green, Bill Withers, and Curtis Mayfield. These are just a few of the artists who have informed my style on Good Things. Quincy Jones gave some very important advice at an ASCAP conference I attended. He said that an aspiring artists should study the greats to learn all that they have done, and from this knowledge and understanding create something unique. I agree. I want to create something that is unique that has a quality of its own. I am sure that I will make soul music of all brands in the future from neo-soul to future soul and my very own brand-new-old-soul.
As a musician, do you feel like you have a responsibility to address political and social issues?
I think every adult with a conscience has a responsibility to address political and social issues. Whether you are a day labourer or a filmmaker, it is important to be aware of the issues that affect your life and have a constant dialogue about the problems and solutions. I feel like all public figures have a responsibility to address issues that affect their communities. It's important that people with access to speak loudly do so, to be a voice for the people who can not. I really appreciate someone like Michael Moore who, right or wrong, uses his access and visibility to start conversations about social, economic, and political ills. The first step is to be aware and start talking.
How did your do-it-yourself approach impact the final outcome of Good Things and your musical vision as a whole?
My first album, Shine Through, was one I wrote and produced all myself with the exception of a couple of beats from OHNO and Madlib. I worked with outside producers and musicians on Good Things and played a more hands-off role in the post-production aspect of the songs, which is much different from how I usually work, but I figured it was worth a try. I think that the beauty of working in this way is that I get to take these recordings to the next level in my live performance. It's fun to rework the songs with my band, The Grand Scheme, and produce the tracks in my own way with just the instruments we have on stage.
You've been getting quite a bit of mainstream success, especially thanks to "I Need a Dollar." As an indie artist, how do you negotiate between the industry (and the potential profits that come along with it) and your personal values and goals?
I will let you know the real answer when I get my first check for profits on the sale of the album. Album sales aren't what they used to be but I am extremely grateful for the popularity of the song. It's helping me to reach more people with my music and ultimately bring happiness to folks all over the world. I get emails and messages from fans who say that my music has helped them through hard times or brightened their day. This makes it all worth it, more than the money, or lack thereof. I look up to artists like Bono, Michael Jackson, and George Clooney who use their influence and money to make positive change in the world. I think this is the best way to deal with potential profits that come along with success.
How did focusing more exclusively on soul music in Good Things (as opposed to the multi-genre Shine Through) transform your artistry?
Focus is a good thing but I don't feel like it has transformed my artistry as much as it has transformed my growing audience's perception of me. I am still making songs in every genre because my muse has no stylistic filter. I am going to release another EMANON album with DJ Exile, which is all hip hop as usual, and every day I am coming up with new song ideas in all different genres. From a business perspective, focusing on one genre is helpful because it offers listeners the chance to develop a simple idea about me as an artist. The soul artist is an archetype that exists and is well-understood. Fortunately, a new music lover is born everyday and the tastes of music fans are broadening, so I imagine artists will not have to be so strict with genre-centrality.
Referring to the title of your album, what are the good things going on in your life right now?
Right now, I am able to travel the world with my friends who are all talented musicians. I get to write and create songs and deliver performances that make people happy. Things are quite good.