Wolf Diesel Mountain isn’t a by the numbers mix CD with famous people mix tape drops and basement beat juggling routines. All the songs are totally reworked with indie/post/etc. rock elements…not just guitar samples, not just drums, but all elements of the song are interpolated…everything is seamlessly blended into one continuous flow. Not random or quirky for the sake of horned rimmed glasses and stupid kissing circles. Like The Liars and Edan mix, the rock band and MC are balanced out so you appreciate the dynamics of the song structures more than, say, a Grey Album type mix with the source material chopped to hell then suffocated to death under the weight of the accapella. WDM is more than just some bush-league mp3 mash-up.
He’s the man behind the Commonwealth Kids (along with Carlo) and A Crew Called Self, once a DJ for Lex Records, son of a documentary maker, and one hell of a remixer. I bring you Buddy Peace.
The sticker on the Wolf Diesel Mountain says “a mix of broken hearts and block parties, unfaithful guitars and dusty drums.” Can you elaborate on these elements that make up Wolf Diesel Mountain (especially the unfaithful guitars)?
Haha, actually that sticker was the work of I think Phil from 2600 (or Chris – I’m not entirely sure!). I’ll try and work through it though. Well, the dusty drums are a pre-requisite for projects I work with – drums are usually high on the agenda. Just leave them out in the front room for a couple of days; you’ll get the dust on there. As for unfaithful guitars, well I guess that that’s my fault – I’ll take the guitars from one track or a group and hook them up with some others, or just another band’s music and then the infidelity strikes. I’d like to think they can all just get along but it seems that being faithful just doesn’t factor into the musical equation. On the block party side of things, I guess this isn’t quite the soundtrack to your neighbourhood throw down or city block jump-off but if I was throwing one (I haven’t yet and to be honest I wouldn’t have a clue where to start either – I’ll leave that to the more party minded folk), I’d probably play this type of stuff. So I guess for people like me, yeah this is a block party soundtrack of sorts. I hope hearts don’t get broken, naturally, but if they do then I hope this isn’t what does it. I guess there is a chance that things could get emotionally charged like but whether or not that gets taken to the limit, I suppose that’s up to the listener. 2600 Recordings takes no responsibility for heart failures though yo – just have to get that out the way.
How is Wolf Diesel Mountain different from a regular remix or mash-up album?
I think the important thing was with this mix, from the start, was that it is something I’ve been wanting to make for years and years. It’s been running through my head since the late 90’s, and there are certain ideas I’ve had since then for a project like this that I’ve kept noted down and in my brain for time when I could actually make it all. I mention this because I think I see the term ‘mash-up’ in the remix sense as quite a recent thing – I know it means different things to different people but I see it as, say, a Nas acapella with, I don’t know, a Madonna beat or something like that. There was a time a few years ago when this remix style blew up like crazy – remember when ‘Seven Nation Army’ came out? Damn, that got remixed and mashed up ridiculously. And older tracks by The Cure, Public Enemy, all that stuff. They were called bootleg mixes a lot too – I think the mash-up thing was just a new name for that. I just call them blends mostly. I’m not saying these mixes don’t have a place or a value – there have been some amazing ones and some of them sound great (The Rub DJ’s are awesome at making them – some of their tracks are insane). They definitely gave new life to certain tracks and in some ways they really made the way some folks thought about music. To DJ’s and producers (and the people behind a lot of them), this wasn’t really anything new – I guess we’ve been using acapellas and mixing this with that for years – but to someone who had only heard the pop song used for the beat, when they heard a rap or rock vocal on top it would flip it for them. Like if someone who only listened to radio tracks heard one of these mash-up mixes, it would be something special. Whether they loved it or hated it, it would have flipped it for them. That explosion a few years ago has filtered through to a lot of music in general, and there are some things that we see now that are almost expected, and that aren’t as surprising as they would have been a decade ago. Like, I know Dangermouse isn’t just a hip hop producer by any means, but seeing him working with Black Keys these days isn’t as bizarre as it may have seem a while back. It just feels right.
“I remember hearing the original track that Souls Of Mischief used for ’93 Til Infinity’ for the first time – it’s a really small sample from a pretty lengthy track, and it’s sped up a lot too. When you hear things like that… it really gets you thinking.”
So Wolf Diesel Mountain is more elaborate than just slapping together two different elements.
With Wolf Diesel Mountain, I didn’t approach it with the intention of making weird and ill-fitting or “let’s see what happens when I add THIS to THIS!” ideas. I know that the subject material isn’t seen that often together, but really I just love seeing the connections in all the music that I love. I feel it is all linked some way – whether by the artists involved or from a musical perspective. I’ve always sampled more indie rock styled music over the years – when I started getting into this kind of stuff I made a 10 minute megamix using only hip hop and indie/post rock and it sounded right. It didn’t sound as weird or strange as it could have done. I think this was part of the seed sewing process for WDM – I just wanted to tie in all the music I’ve spent all this time with together, with equipment that I love to use. It all felt right. I could have done it in separate tracks but I’ve always wanted to do this long continuous blend style, with some spoken word pieces that are from the area I was working in. I think it worked out.
Why did you, for the most part, choose to omit scratching and other “traditional” turntablist elements?
I really did think that I was going to get some more cuts and turntable tricks in there… It’s a weird one – I toyed with that idea for such a long time! I usually do hold back a little on the cuts with my mixes I guess. I scratch a lot in my own time and when I play out, but I just wanted to give some time over to the musical side, and to give a shine to the production. I wouldn’t call this a straight up hip hop mix, so I think for that reason I restrained the hardcore hip hop side just a little. What I was going to do was add cuts at the end but when I did try some stuff it seemed so gratuitous! It didn’t really fit, it just didn’t sound right in the program… I thought it would all fit in perfectly but it sounded a bit jarring. I’m glad I didn’t do it in the end – I think this sounds more like it did in my head than it would have done with cuts.
Tell me again why indie/post rock samples appeal to you and why you didn’t mess with jazz/funk/soul/etc. samples for this release.
Like I mentioned earlier really, it’s mostly because there are clear points of contact in the music – whether they are really obvious or just things that I notice. From listening to hip hop music back in the 80’s and then hearing it in the 90’s with an ear more for samples (when I started DJ’ing), I’ve always really been listening to music with that in mind. Not every single record I listen to, but I’m usually thinking of some way I can use it or flip it in some kind of sampler context. It definitely started with funk though – when I first heard the Ultimate Breaks & Beats records and heard how the loops and chops had been used, I’d always get really inspired to make stuff. It just got me more interested in different kinds of music and you do sometimes start hearing it in a kind of hip hop/funk sampling framework. And when you hear the whole funk track, say, and just the part that got sampled, I think that’s what can start the ball rolling. I remember hearing the original track that Souls Of Mischief used for ’93 Til Infinity’ for the first time – it’s a really small sample from a pretty lengthy track, and it’s sped up a lot too. When you hear things like that, or like when you hear the original track from a record that’s chopped things up really violently, it really gets you thinking. So when my friend Bill gave me a birthday tape a long time ago with just indie/post rock on it, which had a huge part to play in my education for that kind of music, I was listening to the tracks but also to what parts I could use… This was sometime in the mid-90’s. Over time I’ve definitely grown to really love and appreciate the music in it’s own right, but I’ve always got that mental notebook running with ideas for samples. It’s just music that I listen to a lot in my own time!
Tell me about the artwork that accompanies this mix.
That’s my very special lady, my girlfriend Sophie! She’s an amazing artist and her work is just so intricate and beautiful – I’m lucky enough to have seen and absorbed the archives and the catalogues and she just completely kills it with the detailed and super technical pen work goodness, and 3D work too. I had ideas for what I eventually wanted to have on the cover – it had to be a deer! – and she completely came through with the designs. I couldn’t be happier. Again, like the cuts, this would have been wrong with graf art on it, or something more hip hop looking – Sophie can rock the folk art style with style and finesse and it was perfect. She’s working on some power moves right now on the solo tip so you’ll see more from her without a doubt, and we’ve got much more collabo plans as well! Phil from 2600 handled the layout and the finalization and I think much of the rest was down to the House Of 2600, or the 2600 Mansions (or whatever the Norwich labs are called). They’re a full on production unit!
You included an alternate mix of the Wolf Diesel Mountain (download here) and a mini-mix (download here). I thought this was a good idea because you get to hear the source material. Can you tell me about the art of the mini-mix vs. the mega-mix?
I kind of set myself some boundaries with both – a couple of codes and rules and whatnot. Generally speaking, with a megamix I’d go for about 20 minutes or so. It’s a good amount of time! I remember buying 3” CDRs a while back and I wanted to make some mixes to put on them, and you can get 20 minutes of music on them…
The mini-mix is just straight up fun. I love them! I did one for ‘A Crew Called Self’, so the website would have a super-condensed mix to have as a sound clip. I did that for ‘Wolf Diesel Mountain’ too – instead of separate sound clips I thought it’d be nice to have something unique and totally different – while containing what was mainly the same music – but all edited again into a completely different form. So it’s like making a megamix of a mix. I’d probably go for less than 10 minutes. While the end result is what people hear, for me the process and the making is the real important part – that’s what I love.
One thing I like about this mix is that it engages the listener (like Outer Perimeter by Presage). What do you think is most crucial for creating this kind of listening experience?”
That Presage production is one of my favourite CDs. I wish I could say ‘records’ but just try finding that on vinyl these days… If you try and succeed, hook me up! Thanks for mentioning them in the same sentence – that’s pretty amazing to hear. One of the main aspects of that mix is the theme and the concept behind it – the whole new world order theme. It’s just such fascinating subject matter. I can’t think of any other entire (mainly instrumental) hip hop based productions that deal with that. The samples are immaculate and so well chosen, the beats are made by Jel (that’s all you need to know, come on!) and Mr. Dibbs is on the cuts. Everything works perfectly and the theme is consistent. And while it is certainly not uplifting (it’s probably one of the gloomiest listens you’ll have), the mood is judged so well. That’s what I get from it – it approaches the idea of a mix with a new perspective. Mixes in this day aren’t always just two turntables – of course you can generate pure fire with a simple setup, but it’s usually not how things are done these days. You’ll usually find more going on. So I think that one of the main ingredients for a mix that will hopefully stand the test of time and maintain interest is time. You need to give time to these things – it shows, and with me personally I always like to hear things that make me say “where the hell is that from?” – something surprising, or something flipped to make it different. That sort of thing I guess. It is hard to pinpoint but I think that’s usually what I like to hear!
And how would you attempt to recreate these in a live setting?
In a live situation, it depends on what you did with the mix and how much you can or want to add to it. I remember the live shows I did with ‘Zilla’ when we were playing out the Warp Records mix, we prepared that really hard over the phone (I don’t know but we did it!) as we lived too far from each other (without cars too) to hook up properly. We knew that there were parts to add, parts to extend and some little things we wanted to drop in to make the experience extra special. And because we had the ingredients that we had used right there, we just started hooking it up. We refined it over a few sets and it worked out great. So I think really you’d probably want to work in some exclusive parts and switch up some of the bits people might recognise, and just make it interesting in another way! At this point I haven’t started on a live version of WDM but I’ve got a few ideas – we’ll see where that goes… I do know that I can’t handle too much going on at once – like 4 turntables and 2 CDJs with samples and effects. I don’t know if I could rock that setup. It’d be fun to try though.
Do you think there’s a different type of culture that exists in England (with its history of labels like Ninja Tune) regarding digging/mixing/beat making than in the United States or elsewhere?
That’s a really interesting question to think about, that’s been on my mind quite a lot… I think in the end you just connect with whoever makes the music you like. If you happen to listen to more music from the US and particular areas there, then you’ll be looking around the places where that goes on and message boards of certain artists/labels and so on. You’ll probably be in contact with people from the US and people from your hometown that are into that stuff as well. I don’t think there should be any self imposed national limitations on what you make or who you speak to – for me, I happen to listen to more music from overseas – the US and Canada in particular – so generally I am in contact with people from around those areas, or people from the UK who have similar ways of thinking, and common goals and ideals. I love a huge amount of UK stuff as well but in ratio, it happens to be more international bound and I think more of my influences come from those areas. You mention Ninja Tune – labels like this are really open minded in their releases, and if you like their output, you’ll probably be receptive to labels from around the world and not just UK based ones.
I just reckon that you have to be proud of where you’re from, of course, but don’t limit yourself – you have to listen to as much as you can, wherever it’s from. I know I’m just saying obvious shit here but if you’re more in tuned with US music culture then so be it – do what you feel. It can all work harmoniously. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
What other projects do you have in the works?
Wolf Diesel Mountain 2! Haha, that’ll come soon – promise. I have to make sure I get some productions laced up – I have a bit that I’m kind of sitting on but I also have a bunch of ideas to get out there and a lot to work on. I’m really amped about it but I’m finding it tough to put things in order of what to work on first. I guess that’s not really a huge, tough problem is it… It’ll come together though. That’s next I think. I have a lot of remixes and collaborations to work on which are most definitely going ahead, and a lot that I’ll be exploring too – I’ll try and make some noise about it when it happens but there’s a fair bit on the agenda.
In the meantime, can we expect more crazy remixes like the one you did for Sage Francis and Anonjondoe?
Hell yeah, definitely! I did that one a really long time ago, sometime in 2003 I think. I’m working on a few at the moment and you’ll be hearing them soon, hopefully. The Wolf Diesel Mountain mix has sort of got remixing slightly out of my system for now in a way that, while I definitely still want to do them, that was like a LOT of mini remixes on one mix so that’s been enough to keep me going I guess! But as long as there are acapellas and vocals around that I can use, I’ll always be doing them.
Any final words?
Thanks loads for the questions and for giving me some space for my words. I hope everyone who picked up Wolf Diesel Mountain has so far enjoyed what they heard, and you can definitely expect some more goods of that nature and more from me soon… Give me a shout any time, for real. I’ll be around. Stay safe, be alert and be in touch. Peace folks.