Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Happy Accidents

I sometimes feel as though I stand alone – much like the cheese – with regard to my musical passions.

You see, I like it when, for lack of better phrasing, shit gets mixed up. I enjoy it when my hip-hop incorporates jazz breaks or my geeky rock borders on ska. I like sonic experimentation. It might not always work, but I admire those willing to take the chance.

nYgel is on a similar page. So much so that he's just released his second mixtape Free To Good Home, an album firmly rooted in the concept of combining fresh, new nerdcore with eclectic, sample-based beats from the most unlikely of sources.

How does this musical mad scientist approach his craft? Read on to find out.


You first began to make a name for yourself in the Beastie Boys remix community. Would you say the Beasties are a primary musical influence? What are your other influences?

I suppose you could say they are the primary influence, though my music never really sounds too Beastie. A lot of my music really, to me, doesn't seem to sound like anyone else's. It's not like some genre I'm trying to copy; I have an idea and then I go with it. Some of these ideas come out better than others, but it's usually not based off of anything in particular. Though certain artists do make me wish I sounded like them: people like Ratatat and Justice. I sound nothing at all like them, but they really influence me. Of course other "nerd" music as well influences me. but mostly I usually just want to do something the others aren't.

What was your introduction to nerdcore hip-hop?

Well, I'd have to say mc chris. I only knew about MC P. Pants and such from Adult Swim but, that was it until this kid at my high school had me listen to "Evergreen" in gym class one day. I took my Beastie Boys remixing skills over to the mc chris board. Everyone was pretty accepting of me and my mixes, so I called it home for quite a while. But then I got banned and got called a talentless bad word by this DJ who was losing to me in a remix contest, but that's a different story.

My introduction to real nerdcore came when I mentioned on the BBMB that I was one of the few original remixers to still post, and in that post I mentioned funky49. I suppose funky49 checked out the boards, maybe searched his name, I don't know, and found it, felt flattered, and then told me about Rhyme Torrents.

I went there and was very unimpressed, but continued on. I hadn't heard anything really powerful there and was starting to turn away... until CSHC dropped their first single "Nerdcore is Dying." After that things picked up.

What producers and DJs do you admire within the nerdcore community? How about within the larger sphere of mainstream music?

Wow, that's a hard one. I really like killsaly. He's one of the few I would really like to listen to. I obviously enjoy DJ John and Baddd Spellah (though I hated his "Fett's Vette" remix, no offense if you're reading). DJ Inubito of CSHC I like a lot as well.

As for mainstream music I like the Beastie Boys of course, their other producers like the Dust Brothers, Mario C and Mix Master Mike. Ratatat and Justice I've already mentioned. Danger Mouse due to his work with Gorillaz and Grey Album.

Other DJs beside Mix Master I like are like Shadow and such, but I want to mention this now because he needs some recognition for it: DeeJay Zap does the scratching for my tracks, he's an old friend from the Beastie Boys community and he does great stuff.

Also a guy named dj BC. He's very talented too.

Oh yeah! I'm a big fan of dj BC myself.

Why did you choose the mixtape format as the basis for your recent projects?

Well, under my theory, which is probably wrong, it is because producers/DJs (whatever I am) don't release albums. They drop mixtapes. Also because mixtapes usually are more creative and "risky," I suppose you could say. And I think what my mixtapes can do is either give smaller artists a chance to shine beside bigger artists, or offer bigger artists a chance to sorta have fun. When these bigger artists drop tracks they usually put a lot of effort in them, and, to me , my releases are a place for them to let loose. (Take YTCracker's verse on "Hyphy Dance" for example.)

How would you say Free To Good Home differs from your previous mixtape Nature's Outcasts?

I feel FTGH is a big improvement. I don't know how, but it just is.

It is far more sample oriented, and that was my original idea. I was thinking about how the Beastie Boy's second album was roughly 95% sampled music - which actually caused a number of new sampling laws to come into effect - and I started sampling things. Then I decided I wanted everything on the new album to be very sample oriented. All but a few are like that.

Also I don't have many solo tracks, which I wish I had more of, really. I liked the mixture I got from "Last Call" from NO and wanted more like that. Just not with that many people. That'd seem like I was riding off my previous success.

Mostly I wanted to stand out and improve, but still bring what I brought before.

Both projects feature an interesting mix of traditional hip-hop mixtape fare (albeit with a nerdcore slant) as well as remixed and often heavily re-sequenced modern pop and rock tracks. Are you actively trying to redefine the concept of the mixtape, or are you simply trying to put your stamp on the art form?

Not entirely understanding the real concept of a mixtape, I would say I'm just trying to put my stamp on it. I like to give my work variety. If others are like me then they get tired of hearing the same things over and over, and I feel a lot of releases around the nerdy community fall victim to their own comfort zone. I don't really have a direct example, but I think most people find their style and call it that. I want to continually change up my style and still have it be my own.

Is there an underlying theme or concept that ties all the tracks of Free To Good Home together?

They were all made by me, lol. Really no solid concept, it's just the things I created in my final months in Indiana and a few that were leftovers from NO. Actually, I guess, like I said earlier, it's just about it being a heavily sampled mixtape. That was my hope from the start of it, even though some tracks don't follow this theory.

Mixtapes in general draw on a wide and varied group of contributors, and yours are no exception. Do you typically solicit contributors to rhyme over specific, pre-selected beats, or do you tailor instrumentation to match their vocal contributions?

It changes a lot. Last time I made a lot of beats and just hoped to get some people I really liked on it. This time I had a bit of an idea of who I wanted. Sometimes this was who ended up on a track, but mostly it wasn't.

I try to either make a song that really blends with a rapper's style, or, failing that, I try to put in someone who you wouldn't think of on a track. Then sometimes I get asked to remix tracks, like funky49.
I usually reject remixes for various reasons. Mostly I don't have much time. (And now I don't have a program to remix with. Why is Sony Acid NOT Mac friendly?!)

You've worked with a number of notable artists on this album: YTCracker, Jesse Dangerously, T.Y.T., Conyeezy. With whom else would you like to collaborate?

Wordburgler! I tried to work with him on this release, but time was an issue. And MC Lars was supposed to be on Nature's Outcasts, but obviously that didn't happen. Both were time issues. Others I want to work with would be guys like Beefy (again). He turned down a track on this one. I can't remember why he did. Lucy Starkiller I want to work with. Which I sorta am. She was supposed to be on this album too. Frontalot and Shael also come to mind. But really most people I want to work with I got, or tried to get, on this one. In a month or two I'll probably have a few more that I'll want to work with.

If you could only pick one song from FTGH to serve as an example of your work to new listeners, which track would it be? Which song most clearly demonstrates the nYgel sound?

I think the "nYgel sound" is so vague none would demonstrate it too well. I really like all the tracks on the album, but I guess "Rap Fanatics" would work. It has a pretty good beat, nothing too catchy, but solid, and then three great rappers. I think any would work well. But again, my style is so varied in my opinion. Play "S@rge" and "Wicked" one after another and that kinda shows what I mean.

Lastly, nYgel, what truly inspires you?

My girlfriend. And you, Z. I want to be in the Nerd News in Brief and podcast more often.


And so I find that nYgel and I share another commonality, one outside of our shared love of musical eclecticism: we both tread heavily in areas that we do not fully understand.

This is, in fact, sort of a mantra to me: do things that you do not understand.

But unlike my meager contributions, nYgel's musical experimentation charges on through uncertainty toward a kind of natural genius. Toward a brand of musical nirvana that can only come from making the music that you want to hear.

It may confuse neophytes and put off traditionalists, but to me it smacks of authenticity. It bears the true weight of substance.

nYgel, as an artist, is defined by a flagrant disregard for the conventions of popular music, and I, for one, wouldn't have it any other way.


D-Form said...

Great interview Z. I really dug the discussion about what a mixtape really is. Growing up listening to mixtapes I've noticed how the whole concept has evolved. nYgel has put his stamp on what a modern mixtape should be.

The two best tracks to me were S@rge and Wicked. nYgel has improved a lot since the last mixtape and most of his sampling was really well done. He's a little weak when it comes to chopping samples (hyphy dance) but it takes time to learn.

Why didn't you ask how come only th Y is capitalized? It's a bith to type his name that way.

nygel said...

I didn't think hyphy dance was too bad with teh chopping. Though I probably could have shaped it better. But when you play the two bonus tracks that are chopped up pop songs, I think that shows I can chop me up some tracks ;)

And the Y is capitalized ... well... I think i mistyped it one time and capitalized it or it is for the emphasis on it being a Y and not an I. Either way, I thought it made it more unique, I now know KanYe does it like that.

And thanks for the interviews, it is awesome

antisoc said...

Wonderful interview. Thanks Z (and also nYgel.

D-Form said...

Thanks for responding on the Y thing. It's always interesting to know the stories behind the names.

On Hyphy dance I didn't mean chopped in the modern way, I meant chopped as in the sample sounds like it was chopped into a small piece and played back to create a melody etc. Overall it was a pretty good album.

nygel said...

so you mean u didnt really like the melody of it, which is chopped up, i gotcha, i just thought u meant it wasnt chopped up well. It's from the Beastie Boys - Negotiation Limerick File

MD said...

Great interview! It was really insightful.

Z. said...

Thanks, D. I actually steered clear of the name question because I have no room to talk re: weird names. ;)

But thanks for clearing it up anyway, nYg!

And I’m glad you enjoyed it, Soc and MD.

wholemilk said...

good interview, enjoyed the read!

killsaly said...

This was a great interview. Good job Z and nYgel.

Z. said...

Thanks, lads!