Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Band of the Week

Remote Control Frequencies

"Sometimes I feel like I'm on the wrong planet..."

The journey through life or to the center of the universe, often takes many twists and turns. At times we feel like we are moving towards something, and then it can feel as though we are on the wrong planet. The second album from Chicago's Remote Control Frequencies is very much about a journey, but the destination is, at times, unknown. R-Rock and L. Grant "LG" Meadows have gone back into the studio, and with the help of bass player and studio head 'Player 1' created an album that is adventurous in both sound and story. Musically rhythmic and diverse, the loops are layered and build a perfect web of sound for the singing/rapping of R-Rock.

As the founder the music label The Secret Life of Sound, R-Rock is not only breaking new ground with his songs, but also with each new release. Featuring some of the best underground hip hop and electronic music in the city, the label prides itself as the champion of the invisible superstar. However, with the way Chicago hip hop is blowing up, artists like Sharkula, PJ Sumroc, and Radius will not stay hidden for long. With the accessibility in the sound of Tempus, I don't think RCF can stay hidden either. Even though they reveal in the mysterious, Tempus is a quality released recorded in a friendly local studio, and is one everyone should check out.

Recently, R-Rock was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): Tempus seems to have a bit of mystery surrounding it, what can you tell us about this album? Why was there no tracklisting provided with the album? Is there any truth to the alternate disc rumor?
R-Rock (RR): By my own estimation, the main mixes of Tempus, the versions that went out to college radio, are pretty 'busy' as music goes. They are almost perversely layered because it was a studio project like most RCF stuff has been to date.... this was the album where it became more like a band too, though.

We have some material, alternate takes, a remix, etc. that was going to be a kind of second disc of material from some of same sessions as Tempus. The idea was to create a 'black box' that would house the main Tempus CD, and the the alternate cover art (the flash version of which was in the e-card) as well as the second disc.

As we took RCF into more of a live phase recently with the addition of bass player Player 1 (who also recorded Tempus with us) we have stripped some of the songs down for the purpose of re-learning them and some of them actually sound better that way.... Negotiator dub-o-licious demo mix being one example of that. Maybe closer to the way a live version will sound.
Maybe we'll send out 'Black Boxes' for Christmas this year and just send them to random people who have mailordered stuff from TSLOS. It would be like a tax rebate check, only it doesn't come out of educational funding.

OA: The front page of your label's site says their is a sampling issue surrounding the official release of the album, but listening through the album I can't decipher to many samples. I'm sure you can't say what the sample was, but what are your thought's on sampling in general?
RR: That was a joke, sort of. Most of the album doesn't use any samples, except for samples/looping of our own instrumentation. There is at least one really obvious sample right at the beginning of the album, and it was brought up by at least one individual who thought we should remix the track and that created some problems in manufacturing. Its like people have never heard of Negativland or something?

Most of the samples are really sound effects, and are either distorted to the point where they don't sound anything like the source material.
There are also instrumentalists, like hip-hop producers/DJs, who use sampling as a true art form. I'm more likely to use sampling that way in some of my podcasts as sort of cinematic background chill out soundbeds for movie clips and crap like that. When I think of a producer that has made sampling a true art form, I think of Radius.

OA: The album was recorded at Chicago's Stray Dog Recording, and your relationship with them goes back a ways. How are they to work with, and how important is the recording environment to your overall sound?
RR: Player 1 and Dottie and the dogs are like family at this point. I think a good analogy would be that LG and I are like the foreign exchange students who never go back to their home country, but you kind of wish they would. RCf has recently sort of gone from being a studio project recording at SDRC to a band practicing there...Player is the bass player AND an engineer!

I think I was Stray Dog's first client ever. A lot of great Chicago artists have recorded there... Smallwire's bass player Tom has this awesome solo project he's been working on forever over there. Dave has his own project the Disappointments. Their CD was one of the main reasons I wanted to record there in the beginning, I think his newer songs were under the name the Way Downs. Maybe he'll let us put them up on the internet or something.

OA: You also run The Secret Life of Sounds label, one of the most eclectic labels in Chicago. What do you look for in a TSLOS release?
RR: Thanks! I think of TSLOS as sort of like a meeting place for artists more than a label. You can juxtapose a really dope beatmaker like Radius or a more electronic project like Zombie Mountain and match them up with a sick MC like K-the-i-??? or PJ Sumroc and it makes something really unique. We're still trying to sell the artists music for them, but we also give away a lot of stuff for free. Its kind of that era of people digging the music, but not always thinking about appreciating and supporting the artists.

I'd like to take the scientific approach of true school hip-hop and apply that kind of innovation to a noisier more experimental frame-of-reference. Punk and hardcore and even like chip music are these intensely individualistic styles, but they also seem to create a stylistic rut very quickly. A hip-hop record might sample Billy Joel right next to Cannoball Adderley. Like in remixes, the mashup things is still going strong. Controller 7 takes the Temptations and throws it in with the Young Folks beat and makes both sound Fresh. I think when you look at TSLOS's output as a whole its kind of like a mashup of artists and genres. Its like a cut and paste collage of artists who don't fit anywhere else. A mural of musical misfits and magicians marinating on the meticulous mysticism of a melodious mythopoetic montage.

OA: It's clear that Chicago hip hop is blowning up, but what are your thoughts on the Chicago electronic music scene?
RR: I just found out Miles Tillman is leaving town, Chicago electronic music is officially dead.
Chicago hip-hop is very strong and very diverse. My favorite producer in Chi City is probably PNS, and MC would be Juice or Sharkula. We had actually talked to Juice about doing a track, I'd like to make that happen. So many good artists here that really have built up their thing over the years like Molemen, Mass Hysteria, Matlock,Vakill, Thigahmahjiggee, Forest Face, etc. Too many dope MCs to put a lid on it, I feel like those who put in their time usually get better at their craft and what's happening in Chicago hip-hop right now is like the cream rising to the top.
TSLOS pretty much does their own thing, we don't get into beefing or any thug kind of action we're just the type of stay low-key do-your-own-thing artists.

The way Kanye, Kid Sister, Cool Kids and that whole scene blew up is kind of cool. They're kind of like the part of the city's music that is visible and then the rest is sort of subterranean by design.
PJ Sumroc is the next MC coming out on TSLOS, we're dropping a mixtape of his for free download before his 'PBR' album drops later this year.

OA: What's next for R-Rock and TSLOS?
RR: We're going to have to step up the podcasts and mixtapes because there is a glut of material in the can right now: my other projects Mormon Freegan, Remote Control Rockets, etc. and other people's music like Tenshun, PJ Sumroc.... is setup mostly blogstyle so whenever anybody makes a new video or something we post it there. Its kind of like a digital art gallery where people can get music except we don't serve wine or cheese. Or like back in the day when mixes were made on cassettes and they sounded super grimy but that was the style, back when people had style.

Bonus Questions:
Coffee? If yes, what type of coffee and where can you find the best cup?
RR: Yes. Intelligentsia or any independent coffee shop that isn't owned by Dr Evil.

OA: What was last great book you have read?
RR: Most recently Silent World by Jacques-Yves Cousteau. After I read all of Phillip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut's work I pretty much switched to non-fiction.

Listen to: The Negotiator (mp3) and Sanctuary (mp3)

For more infomation on Remote Control Frequencies or The Secret Sounds of Life check out their website.

No comments: