Nov 10, 2014

Babelfishh

babelfishh

Photo by Dave Creaney

I started the interview with the underground wildman known as Babelfishh in April, and over the next few months we exchanged e-mails about his creative process, music, genre bending titles, and life. If you aren’t familiar with the man’s music, I feel kind of bad for you, but I also don’t blame you either. You don’t see his name plastered across these trendy taste-maker blogs, or on heavy tour schedules either. But, if you are always hungry for something pushing the limits of art in hip-hop (like I am), then you might have ran across him on the Decorative Stamp Label page dropping music with Evak1 as Prison Soup. You might have also ran into his crazy Howl Bender, or Eyeless Terror tapes on the always amazing I Had An Accident Records label last year. No matter where you may or may not know him from, take the time and read our interview, then hunt down everything he’s done, and be prepared to have your mind fucked proper.

I’m sure the most obvious question someone who doesn’t know you might ask is where did the name Babelfishh come from and how did you first start making music under that name?

Basically, I was reading Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as I was gathering my first cluster of self-assembled songs. At the time I was clueless to how popular Douglas Adams was and thought that I had picked an obscure and rather fitting name based on a species mentioned in that book, I was wrong. At the time I guess I believed the name worked well with my music based on the definition of both babel and babble. I threw the extra H on the end because I liked the way it all looked when written as one word.

What is your earliest memory of wanting to make music for yourself?

I must have been 15 or 16 when friends first started bringing hip-hop tapes into our circle, which was mainly engrossed by punk and metal. I was confused at first, but then quickly fell in love with stuff like Mobb Deep, three 6 mafia, and a multitude of underground west coast and dirty south rappers. That whole sway in taste got my friends and I into the idea of making some sort of poor-man’s spin on rap ourselves. It wasn’t until I was twenty and moved halfway across the country to Texas that I became completely possessed by it.

babelfishh

Your style is an amalgamation of your punk, metal and the hip-hop roots, and can at times be very abrasive and heavy. Did you ever find it difficult playing some hip-hop shows with something that isn’t so “clear” as far as typical boom bap, jazz loop protocol?

It’s not that it’s difficult – maybe just far from an ideal setup that can affect me a bit. I generally like getting the feeling that I always leave a feeling of confusion in the heads of a few of those in attendance, no matter what kind of show setting it is.

What was the first piece of equipment you used to make beats on your own; did you start off with the dollar bin record jazz samples, or was it always those crazy punk/guitar chops?

My roommate when I was 18/19 had a Roland 808. I first started using that to piece together the very first songs on my own. Even then I sampled AM radio and generated my own noise to manipulate and re-appropriate later. I did have a very small faze of crate-digging and such after I acquired my first Dr. Sample though. Always have been more into the sampling of oddball obscure cassettes along with noise making.

babelfishh

You have been releasing cassettes for some time now, and it is obvious you were ahead of the current “cool” moment that they are having. Outside of wax and CDs what made you want to drop albums on a format that had kind of been forgotten?

Cassettes have been littered throughout my rooms ever since I first found music. Even before I started releasing them – I would dub my newer songs onto tape in order to get a more balanced listen back, as well as add some grit. Good albums have poignant beginnings and endings – tapes give you two sides to be creative with your starts and stops. Fuck, and j-cards are just fun to design – the whole packaging of tapes is pleasurable thing to design. Aside from that I’ve always loved the griminess that tapes add to heavier noisy music. Cd’s are fucking frisbees, and when burning them at home, they usually ended up with some un-explainable pop somewhere because my computers have always been slow and ancient. The tape decks I own are my work horses and I hope they never die.

Your music has a very heavy tone to it all, outside of the production style. Where do the songs and ideas pull from; are these a lot of personal thoughts or just creative writing and storytelling?

I pen things out in numerous ways and I’ve always found that descriptive writing came to me easily. Whether on the road, sitting under bridges, exploring industrial area, random happenings at the metal shop I work at, etc. Other parts stem from the misanthropic rage that hatches in us living in today’s world. Throw that in with a billion hidden references that have to do with myself and the good folks I run with and we have a good start. An important thing is for songs to not be too easy to figure out, if ever. I like the idea of people (who give a fuck) listening dozens of times and possibly catching sometime new with each listen, because songs certainly last longer that way.

‘Noise Rap’ seems to be a tag people are throwing on a lot of music that’s coming out from bands like CLIPPINGS, Moodie Black, and the now defunct Death Grips. Your sound would probably be thrown into that realm, but has existed for longer then it appears any of these other folks have been around. Do you think it’s telling of our times and the fact that not many people are latching on to one genre as a “home base”? Do you think labeling like this does anything at all positive?

This is a difficult one to answer considering I don’t know much about this said sub-genre – or about what people are in to outside of certain realms. That terms does hit me though as something that should arise from an affinity for abrasive and brutal music – but should never lose touch with the written word in order to obtain that description. After all, isn’t that why anyone should even begin to construct rap related music? I surely could use any help in the description department so I don’t have to explain it 11,000 different ways.

What’s the hardest thing about working a day job and being an artist? Do you ever wish you could do it full time as an artist?

The main thing that is difficult (at times) about it is just generally being too fatigued after long hours to go home and handle music business on the table. I do sort of get a slight taste of vomit in my mouth imagining me knowing all the ins and outs of how the music business works as well, it’s just not for me. I think I’d also have a hard time summoning content to write about without the angst that builds from working like hell. You also learn to appreciate your tours a lot more after months of working and planning them out. I’ve never been compelled to design music for the masses…therefore – give me a shovel or a stack of blueprints and I’ll keep the next song or tour in the back of my skull.

What’s on the horizon musically for you? Will there be another Prison Soup album? Another solo record? Throne Burners LP? Secrets please, I want secrets.

Hey, I’m not one to let out secrets from the cave. My cohorts and I are always plotting and albums will fall. For now I’m just trying to record when the mood hits and stack cash before I move into my truck with a dog and tour/travel for a while. All hails. All destruction.

Follow Babelfishh here:
babelfishh.bigcartel.com
babelfishh.bandcamp.com

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