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hip-hop

Grandmaster Flash explains how he created the drum break

Grandmaster Flash

Drum beats only exist because one DJ, Grandmaster Flash, decided to get ‘scientific.’ In an interview with the Washington Post, the hip-hop pioneer recounts the inspiration and creation behind the drum break:

“My mother and my sister used to have house parties. What I noticed is the part [of the record] where there was a drum solo, the crowd would become more reactive at that point. I’m like oh wow — so why isn’t that most of the record? How can I take this 10-second part that I, personally, thought should be the whole entire record and — If I was speaking in 2016 — manually edit it and cut and paste it on time to the beat?”

To spin the record counterclockwise, Flash had to experiment with all facets of the turntable including the needle, rubber matting, experimenting with hardening some felt — materials that he stole from his mother who was a seamstress.

“I came from a scientific approach. Once I came up with the queuing, the proper needle, the “wafer,” duplicate copies of records, the mixer, which I had to rebuild, I was able to take a 10 second drumbeat and make it seamlessly 10 minutes.”

He then tested his own recorded vinyl albums on various turntables: Fisher Price, Magnavox, before landing on Technics which nailed the right record speed. Flash was doing all this at a time when even putting fingerprints on a record was “a major violation to vinyl.”

As soon as Flash had all the tools and identified the “the get down” or climax of the song, he was able to create drum loops in a process called the backspin technique or “quick-mix theory.” It wasn’t before long he teamed up with MCs to rhyme over the beats, thus laying the foundation for hip-hop.

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Culture Fashion Music

Vans honor David Bowie with sneakers designed after his album covers

Vans honor David Bowie with sneakers designed after his album covers

Vans released a line of shoes themed to commemorate the late David Bowie and his artful genius. Each of the four designs in The Vans x David Bowie collection mimic the artist’s album covers, including Blackstar and Aladdin Sane from his earlier glam era.

 

You can read more about the special collection here.

Categories
Creativity Music

Brian Eno on what he learned from David Bowie in making art

The ‘write what you know’ trope works because it’s easier to write the truth. But what’s authentic isn’t always what’s best for the art.

David Bowie modified his voice when he sang “I’m Afraid of Americans.” He wanted to make sure the tone matched up with the voice of the character (himself) portraying it. He interpreted music through motion. Brian Eno said that Bowie did what was best for the song, not clinging to the usual memoir approach of a singer.

“A lot of people think that singers should always be sincere, that it has to be their own soul coming out. That’s b — — — -. What you’re really doing is working like a playwright. You’re making little plays and the singer is the lead character.”

Brian Eno

Eno encourages fictional storytelling. Making art is an act. It’s supposed to be fantasy. But some artists think that the truth is what sets them free and leave it to their fans are there to sort it out.

“It’s that ridiculous teenage idea that when Mick Jagger sings, he’s telling you something about his own life. It’s so arrogant to think that people would want to know about it. This is my problem with Tracey Emin. Who f****** cares.”

Brian Eno

Art breaks the rules. It takes inspiration from the real world to create something new. It dances with fear. Artists continue dreaming into adulthood, without taking everything so seriously.

“Children learn through play, adults learn through art.”

David Bowie, 1967

Eno’s modus operandi it to make stuff that’s “a continuation of what we do as children.” He recently released a new album on Warp Records called The Ship. He also created a ‘visual music’ light piece called The Zenith. Eno creates things he wished existed.

Both Eno and Bowie teach us to have fun with our curiosity by showing the world what we can see in our heads.

Categories
Creativity Culture Music

The obsession with Kate Bush, explained

kate bush eat the music tricky

I first heard of artist Kate Bush on Tricky’s Back to Mine album in 2003. The former Massive Attack frontman also had this to say about the singer:

“I don’t believe in god, but if I did, [Kate Bush’s] music would be my Bible.”

Watch any of her iconic music videos. Her unique fashion sense and dances inspired the likes of Bjork and Tori Amos. Like David Bowie, she interpreted music as an act and sang and danced in a way that befitted the character of the song. So why wasn’t she a star like Bowie? One of her biggest admirers, Andre 3000 of Outkast, once explained:

“Kate Bush’s music opened my mind up. She was so bugged-out, man, but I felt her. She’s so f*ckin’ dope, so underrated and so off the radar.”

Before Bush became a recluse, she made 50 demo tapes by the age of fifteen, got signed, and eventually went on tour in 1979 to promote her first album The Kick Inside. As Emmanuel Happsis writes for KQED writes:

“And then she stopped touring completely, as if to say, I don’t need your validation. I will release life-changing music on my own schedule whenever I want and you will flake on your friends to stay home and cry to it.”

Like the release of any new iPhone, her life secrecy inspired ever more interest. She even made fans wait 12 years between album releases — she released Aerial in 2005 after 1993’s The Red Shoes. And finally, 35 years later, she’s back on tour in London.

Bush took an unusual, slow route to making music – making her fanbase beg for her reappearance. After a long wait, it is a relief to have her back.

Do yourself a favor and catch up on everything in ‘Kate Bush: A Crash Course for the Non-Believer.’

Categories
Music Video

The gift of Elton John, the piano man 🎹

When advertising is done right, it doesn’t feel like advertising. Take a look back at the life of Elton John in this beautiful life montage. The video reminds me of Nike’s nostalgic commercial showcasing the home video archives of Serena Williams.   

Categories
Arts Music Photography

Adventures in record collecting

The Dust & Grooves Book

Photographer

The Dust & Grooves Book3

The Dust & Grooves Book 4

Photographer and blogger Eilon Paz has put together a book Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting, which features more than 130 vinyl collectors across the world.

The images are amazing and diverse, ranging from the Italian man who owns the world’s largest collection of colored vinyl records to an owner who collects only Beatles’ White Album records.

Says Paz in an interview with Slate Magazine on capturing the vinyl enthusiasts:

It’s just me and the camera and that’s it. It’s like two friends hanging out listening to records and then I shoot some photos. It builds a very intimate moment between me and my subjects. When they talk about music they lose all their inhibitions. They just really enjoy it.

Vinyl has been having a resurgence the last few years as a reaction to the digitization of everything. As the most famous rock DJ John Peel promptly noted: “Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don’t have any surface noise. I said, ‘Listen, mate, life has surface noise.”

You can buy the 436-page book on the Dust & Grooves website or Amazon.

Categories
Books Music Photography reggae

Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London

Covers: Retracing Reggae Record Sleeves in London

3 new vinyls p/mo based on your music tastes 💕, Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London
3 new vinyls p/mo based on your music tastes 💕

Alex Bartsch spent the last ten years photographing the original locations of some of his favorite UK reggae vinyl covers from 1967 to 1987. Holding each sleeve up to arm’s length, he meshes the past and present of London’s surroundings.

While Googling came handy, what he found in his research was that most of the shoots took place outside the record label offices themselves. He told Huck Magazine:

“It often starts with the information on the record sleeve but many of them don’t offer much to go on. I have learned through doing this project that a good place to start is the area where the label was based. Sometimes it was just outside the door of the record label.”

Some of the artists included in his book Covers: Retracing Reggae Record Sleeves in London include Bob Marley & The Wailers, Alton Ellis, Peter Tosh, Delroy Wilson, and more.

Snag a copy on One Love Books here or on Amazon UK.

Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London, peter tosh

Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London

Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London

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Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London

Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London

Categories
Electronic Music

Mezzanine: ‘The album that still sounds like tomorrow’

massive attack mezzanine 20 year anniversary

Music writer Michael A. Gonzales penned a dynamite article celebrating the 20th-anniversary release of [easyazon_link identifier=”B00FMF3R76″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Mezzanine[/easyazon_link] from UK band Massive Attack.

Mezzanine is an album best listened to loud, preferably on earphones, to properly hear the layers of weirdness and rhythms, a soulful sound collage that was miles away from the “Parklifes” and “Champagne Supernovas” of their Brit-pop contemporaries Blur and Oasis.

Along with the likes of fellow Bristol-based artists Portishead and Tricky, the band helped usher in an era of trip-hop. The trip-hop genre mashed hip-hop and electronica, adding layers of rock, soul, and dub. Mezzanine was therefore fresh and original, contrary to the DJ sampling on the group’s previous two albums [easyazon_link identifier=”B01L388UBI” locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Blue Lines[/easyazon_link] and [easyazon_link identifier=”B000TEVJYS” locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Protection[/easyazon_link].

The trip-hop label was bestowed on the group by the Brit journalist Jonathan Taylor to describe the trippy music that was simultaneously street and psychedelic. Trip-hop was a tag that, like jazz, was often rejected by the practitioners, but it fit perfectly.

Mezzanine contained 4 singles, each matched by a dark and intriguing music video (see below). It’s also worth mentioning that one of the three key band members, Robert Del Naja, is rumored to be street artist Banksy.

To celebrate the album’s 20th anniversary, the band decided to release the album in DNA format. 920,000 DNA strands make it the second-largest file ever stored in DNA. This is sure to make it forever timeless.

Categories
beats Music Video

MF DOOM x Madlib: Speaking through music

MF DOOM recaps his experience with producer Madlib when they recorded the epic [easyazon_link identifier=”B0788FT3QV” locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Madvillainy[/easyazon_link] album 14 years ago.

“We spoke through the music. He’ll (Madlib) hear the joint and that’s like my conversation with him. And I’d hear a beat, and that’s like what he was saying to me.”

There are so many gems on the [easyazon_link identifier=”B0788FT3QV” locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Madvillainy[/easyazon_link] album but if I had to choose one (re: a few):

Music as telepathy. Beats as [easyazon_link identifier=”B0788FT3QV” locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Madvillainy[/easyazon_link]

Categories
Music

Bob Marley for eternity

Bob Marley would’ve been 73 years old today. To celebrate the reggae legend, watch teenage cellist and 2016’s BBC Young Musician of the Year winner Sheku Kanneh-Mason perform a cello version of Marley’s “No Woman No Cry.”

Also be sure to check out the New Yorker piece that looks back at Marley’s legacy, including the oral history of the artist as documented by Marley-expert [easyazon_link identifier=”039305845X” locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Roger Steffens[/easyazon_link].

Upon his death bed, Marley left some final words for his son Stephen: “Money can’t buy life.”