Give us a brief introduction to your current list of projects.
2010 is proving to be a very interesting year already… I just finished doing a score for a feature length film by the Suicide Girls (which is aptly called, “Suicide Girls Must Die”), Giovanni Marks and I are working on new Labwaste material, I am going to produce a record for Big Jus, I’m working with an artist called Blackbird on a project code named ‘Black Electro’ (which is more sleazy dance shit), I have a new record that I am very slowly working on, and in between all of that I’ll be doing various things on behalf of Ableton (I’m a certified trainer)…
Tell us more about the sleazy dance shit.
I’ve spent a lot of time making these dark emotional beats and heavy songs, and when I hooked up with Blackbird (he has released two albums with AlphaPup and was part of the extremely slept on group Darkleaf) we just started to record stuff with no real direction initially, but I knew I wanted to do something different with him. He’s an incredible performer, and just an interesting personality, and it gave me a chance to work with a very different kind of artist who wasn’t worried about being the hardest rapper or making these dreary heavy songs. We started making some more uptempo dancey sexy sleazy songs and it’s just been fun… it is very different from most of the stuff I’ve worked on, and I’m hoping we can find a good label to push the project through once it’s finished. You can hear some of the rough songs at myspace.com/starttheengine.
It’s been a while since Global Phlowtations…what should people know about your involvement in that group?
It has been a looooong while since Global Phlowtations… hahaha!! Well, I was one of the original members, I made the majority of the beats (though I was only one of four producers… everybody made beats, but I made the most), I rapped, and engineered the majority of our recording sessions (using our trusty Tascam Portastudio 4-track). I was never the leader of the group (that was always Zagu Brown), but I probably had the biggest influence on our sound.
How did you transition from Global Phlowtations to Adlib to Thavius Beck?
At the time that I moved to LA in 1996, I was already calling myself Adlib. The name came about because I played tenor sax in school and since I was one of the best musicians in the school band, I always got to solo on our songs. So I was the dude who adlibbed all the time… anyway, in 1996 I moved to LA and met Zagu, Nairb, Sach, and everyone else and we formed Global Phlowtations. The idea was that we would focus on more positive music and creative hard hitting beats.
The group was always comprised of solo artists (we were essentially a west coast Wu-Tang), so me doing solo Adlib projects was just a natural progression. I made so much stuff that it didn’t make sense for me to not do solo projects, so I started releasing stuff, mainly instrumental projects with my weirder beats.
Ultimately what lead to me ditching Adlib and going with my real name was two-fold: The main thing I told people was that I wanted to be taken more seriously by people outside of underground hip-hop, and I thought Adlib sounded kind of silly after a certain age. But the real reason is because I was really fucking tired of people calling me Madlib. That shit infuriated me. It takes much more effort to confuse Thavius Beck with someone else’s name (although a lot of people write my name as Thavius Black, which is equally annoying).
Dialogue just dropped and features you a lot more on the microphone. Give us some thoughts on Dialogue in contrast to your previous solo releases.
I try to make every album different, and Dialogue was basically my rap album. My first solo project was called VS., and it was a 10 song EP made of one verse songs… since then I haven’t really rapped very much on my albums. Most of the solo projects I made as Adlib were essentially just beat tapes with different themes… My first album with Mush records (Decomposition) was more of an attempt to keep up with the electronic producers of the day… when I made THRU, I was thinking about getting my music licensed for visual media, so I tried to make it more brooding and cinematic… When it was time to make Dialogue, I had gone through so much stuff in my life that I felt like I had a reason to rap again… I doubt I’ll do another album like that for a while…
One track that stood out was “Money.” Do you think society is becoming more or less materialistic?
Society has always been materialistic, there just happens to be more material for people to chase after and worship nowadays… And honestly, unless you were born and live completely off the land in a remote forest somewhere with no connection to modern ways of life, you are bred to be a consumer from birth. Our entire society and way of life is based on being materialistic… the more shit you have, the more successful you are supposed to be.
Any tour plans where we can check you?
No current tour plans really… I hope to get back to Europe this fall and play out there. I haven’t had much luck touring the states, but I have a few spot dates here and there. My main focus right now is working on these new projects and trying to network with some people who can help me get to another level.
How have your travels across the ocean informed your outlook on life?
To me, the best thing about traveling to different countries is being exposed to so many different ways of life and seeing remnants of the local peoples history… Being an American, we’re used to seeing buildings that are at the most a couple hundred years old, but when you go to Europe you see old castles and churches that have been around for 500 or 600 years… places that have survived numerous wars… structures built for royalty… etc. It really broadened my outlook on what it meant to be part of something bigger than the United States.
What keeps you relaxed?
Well, making music is usually a pretty relaxing thing for me if I’m just doing it for fun… it’s my way to escape from all the BS around me. I also enjoy a lot of comedy… I like stand up and goofy british shows (The IT Crowd is one of my favorites)… laughing is generally relaxing… and if all else fails there is always weed.
Tell us more about your collaborations, specifically with K-the-I???
The thing with K-the-I??? was a label connection… The guy who runs Mush suggested we do an album, so Kiki moved out to LA a couple years ago specifically to work on our album together. The process was very easy… I had a bunch of open beats, gave them to him and told him to write songs that were still him, but a bit more accessible, and we recorded several songs every weekend for about two months until the album was done. Kiki was very open to my suggestions, so everything flowed very smoothly. He’s an easy dude to work with. Big Jus and I haven’t started working on our album yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing how that will come together. He is very hands on and wants a very specific sound, so approaching that project will be different from the K-the-I thing… When I collaborate with someone, my goal is to bring out something in them that no one was able to before… otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a point. Even in my work with Saul Williams, you can hear the music I worked on and see how different it is from the other songs he’s done… it’s all about putting your stamp on something and creating something new.
If you could covet one piece of vintage equipment to add to your gear, what would it be and why?
Probably a high quality 2 inch reel-to-reel, but I would have to have a dedicated maintenance person come with it. I would love to have that true analog tape warmth on my mixes, and be able to take advantage of that warm fuzzy analog distortion… that or a Neumann U87… preferably both…
If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose?
I would hope to not be trapped anywhere for a month, let alone a tv show… if I’m not watching sports or comedy, I try my best to avoid the tv. Having said that, I guess I could spend a month in the world of the Flight of the Concords… I imagine that would be the most bizarre month of my life… hahaha!!
Last words? Shouts?
I just want to thank everyone who was supported my music and still has an interest in what I’m doing. I have a lot on the horizon so there will be lots of new music pretty soon… stay tuned…