WUGAZI the interview

Fugazi and the Wu Tang Clan are two iconic groups, both defining the sound of a scene and making everyone sit up and take notice of their music and their message. So what happens when you mix the two together? Well, thanks to Doomtree‘s Cecil Otter and fellow Minneapolis musician Swiss Andy, of The Swiss Army and The Millionth Word fame, we now know.

Sleep Rules Everything Around Me mysteriously appeared on Soundcloud and within half a day, the track had garnered 20,000 listens, with over 100,000 in a week. It has been one of the most talked about topics in music of late and we caught up with the two brainchildren behind the project to discuss the process of making the music, how long it took and even preferred fighting styles.

Ladies and Gentlemen, enter the Chamber of the Wugazi!

Words: Abjekt
Photo: Ben LaFond

Straight out the slums of… Minneapolis?

Cecil: Yes Sir, the centre of the Universe!

The big question first – how did you come up with the idea of putting Fugazi and Wu Tang together? Are you both big fans of both acts so know their catalogue extensively?

Cecil: Andy had been kicking around the idea for a few years before he brought it up to me. We had both been huge fans of each group since we were young, so it was easy to fall in love with the idea of WUGAZI.

Andy: Yeah, that is pretty much all that was in my headphones during the 90s.

Cecil: A one point in his life, Andy sold his guitar amp just so he could go see a Fugazi show. I sold my tickets to that same Fugazi show and bought an ice cream cone and shared it with my friend. I later broke into that show, caused a scene and got screamed at by Guy from Fugazi. He kept telling everyone that he saw me eating ice cream outside with my friend…over and over…I didn’t enjoy that at all, but the ice cream was good.

Andy: Asshole.

Did you decide on the tracks you wanted to use first or did you just play it by ear and see which Wu track fit with which Fugazi?

Cecil: We would listen through every Fugazi album and take notes on where the drum breaks, bass loops and guitar loops were. After that I would put them into Protools accordingly, find a close enough tempo to fallow the song, chop everything onto a grid and start cranking away at a song structure.”

Andy: I had a few Fugazi tracks I really wanted to use, but they were just too fast or slow for us to fit under an acapella.

Cecil: We let the samples loop in the background and begin to play Wu Tang acapellas over the song until we found the perfect match. When we found that, we would place it in the session and begin to cut, paste and stretch each verse to fit the track…then we get detailed.

Andy: We would try to use more than one song in each track. Using them more as samples for producing, than just putting one thing on top of the other.

Were there any tracks that you tried to mash together that just sounded horrible?

Cecil: Oh yeah, that’s why we put a full year into this. We have a handful of half done songs that just wouldn’t marry each other or we didn’t have a clean enough acapella to work with. The hardest thing about making the album (well, one of them) was the limited Wu Tang acapellas that we had access to. There are so many Wu Tang songs that we would have loved to do, we probably would have been able to call it Wugazi: 36 Songs if we had all the acapellas!

You’ve got 13 Chambers dropping in July, is there anything you can tell us about it other than it houses the track Sleep Rules Everything Around Me?

Cecil: Well, it will have 12 more songs and they will all be different and they will all have drums and bass and guitar and vocals, never forget the vocals!

Also, Sleep… hit 20,000 plays in 12 hours, did you think it was going to be as huge as that in such a short space of time?

Cecil: Not at all. We we’re very excited about the tracks because our friends loved them so much. We had no idea that the two groups would work together so well. We made S.R.E.A.M. the first night into the project. We lost our shit when we stretched the vocals in and took the first listen. After that night,  Wugazi was pretty much a reason to get together with a friend and lose ourselves in the moment. I don’t think either of us had any idea that so many others would like it as much as we do, but then again…it’s Wu Tang and Fugazi, who doesn’t like them?!

Andy: When Paddy Costello almost started crying, I knew we were doing something right. But never thought this would spread like it has.

Would you like to see the two bands work together, maybe do a one-off live show where Ian MacKaye battles Ghostface? Or have Guy Picciotto go hard against Method Man?

Andy: All those guys are such great musicians. Even after Fugazi, Guy produced that amazing Blonde Redhead record and Joe put out that album with John Frusciante. Putting Ian in a room with RZA, I wouldn’t even know where to start…

Cecil: Without a doubt. That would be one of the happiest days of my life.

If you had a sword style, which you would have to train in the mountains of Tibet to perfect, what would it be called?

Andy: Drunken Monkey

Cecil: Drunker Monkey

Enter the Wugazi!

Take two pioneering and legendary groups and stick them together. What have you got? Wugazi!

A mysterious entity has put the track Sleep Rules Everything Around Me online, bringing the worlds of Fugazi and the Wu Tang Clan together and melting them into the best thing we’ve heard all month. Sometimes these mash-ups are horrible, but not this one, it’s a winner.

An album, 13 Chambers, is incoming but until then check this out:

Sleep Rules Everything Around Me by WUGAZI

Wu Tang Clan – Live

Forum, London
12.06.11

The line wasn’t huge when we hit up the Forum for the second of two Wu Tang dates in North London, but after a Semtex warm-up set, it was bubbling when Alabama’s Yelawolf took to the stage. It was never going to be easy for the MC to win over the whole crowd, as many of the staunch Wu fans are a world away from his quick-fire doubletime rhyme patterns, but to his credit he amped his energy levels almost as high as his solo show at XOYO the week before and certainly gained some new fans, especially when he jumped into the crowd for an impromptu pit. An undoubted talent, both on record and on stage.

So onto the Wu. Without RZA, Raekwon and Inspectah Deck, it was a depleted crew that took to the stage and, in truth, other than Method Man and Masta Killa, it was a fairly low-energy show from the majority of them. That being said, when Mef told the crowd that they would return any energy they got from the punters, the noise levels were extremely high.

Method Man is such a charismatic man that his fronting of the show made up for the relatively dull backdrop, and when he launched himself into the crowd, it came as no surprise to the delighted fans. Running through classics such as M.E.T.H.O.D. Man, Bring Da Ruckus, Clan In Da Front and the ever singable Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit, it was as live a crowd as you could ever hope for and when the ODB tribute part of the set arrived with Shimmy Shimmy Ya and Got Your Money, every single hand was in the air, the majority of which were held in the big W sign synonymous with the New York group.

Mixed in was a great little DJ set from Mathematics which included handcuffing his arms together and taking off his shoes [not at the same time] and Ghostface falling into a small anecdote about the strength of the pound, confusion from which was resolved when he declared that POUNDS Rule Everything Around Me, [P.R.E.A.M.] before Pretty Tony told everyone to follow him on Twitter, an order followed up by U-God.

It wasn’t the best Wu Tang show I’ve ever been to, but even with depleted numbers, they still have enough hits and hype to deliver a fun live set. Now let’s get in the Gravel Pit and have a dance.

Abjekt.
Photo by Sleekly Lion.

Raekwon writing autobiography

raekwonWu-Tang member Raekwon has announced that he is planning to begin work on his autobiography soon. The rapper who played the HMV Forum this month, his second UK show spoke to AllHipHop and commented on his latest mission: “That’s in the making soon. I just gotta deal with certain things at certain times in my life. When it’s time to happen, yeah I got a great story and I’m going to tell the truth. It’ll be something that you can jump on a plane or get on the bus and say: ‘Yo that kid evolved as a man‘”.

Of his life, the rapper said: “I aint perfect, nobody’s perfect. We all do dumb shit and we all get caught up in certain situations but at the end of the day I know I became a man. I’m not no sucker nigga running around not doing right by my children, or raising them the wrong way. I’m in their life, I wish I could be in their more. But daddy gotta work. I got a vicious story that I’ma tell sooner or later“.

Look out for updates on this via his tweets and click here for a review of his London show.

Kids & Explosions

Kids & Explosions
Shit Computer
Self-Released

First of all, and before you hear the inevitable comparisons from journalists that are somehow lazier than I am, Kids & Explosions does not sound like Girl Talk. The art of making music using the pastiche method of combining elements from existing pieces of music with other elements of existing pieces of music has become such common practice that people tend to confuse regular producers with mash-up artists, or worse, all of the above with Girl Talk. Rather than utilising nostalgic references and ADHD post-ironic pop culture twisters for the benefit of a party (like the Gregg Gillis’ frequently mentioned fraternity project, or 2manydjs), Josh Raskin has sat and watched that Four Loko-fuelled bandwagon roll away while piecing together ADD jams that favour melancholic glitches with expertly placed vocal samples that manage to evoke shoegaze textures and even post-rock build-ups every so often. The end result is a collection of songs that are at once listenable, memorable, bittersweet, quietly arousing and head-nodding.

Whether it’s when the layers of ‘Babies Of The Future‘ collide as RZA ‘brings the motherfucking…’ crescendo that refuses to conclude in a ruckus, or when ‘Swear Words‘ works as a comprehensive guide to exactly what the song title suggests over twee guitars we’re continuously presented with an oxymoron so obvious it would sound terrible if anyone else was making it. But it’s anything but terrible, and when album highlight ‘Use Your Words‘ builds from gentle piano and soft female vocal sampling to Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s ‘oh baby I like it raw’ line, recontextualised into one of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching things you could ever hear, you’ll be hitting the replay button more frequently than Josh has hit ctrl+v making the damn thing.

The album can be downloaded at whatever price you decree at Josh’s website. You can – and should – stream the album in its entirety there too, alongside suitably looped gifs.

Ghostface Killah

Ghostface Killah
Apollo Kids
Def Jam

As if to make a mockery of the music press’ overzealous list making in recent years, Ghostface Killah has released new album Apollo Kids this week (December 21st), long after all major music publications have published their albums of the year. Far and away the most consistent Wu member, it’s no surprise that Apollo Kids packs a punch, but nobody could have expected this near flawless collection of classic Ghostface material. A November release date would have surely seen Apollo Kids ranking well in end of year polls, but this is typical of the casual approach Wu Tang seem to be taking to releasing albums these days. Besides, who’s going to tell Mr. Tony Starks that he needs to move his release date?

Lists aside, from the word go Apollo Kids adopts a no nonsense approach, free of skits and coming in at a lean 40 minutes in length. Yes, there are no instrumental filler tracks or martial arts outtakes to wade through this time, and I’m left wishing more Wu Tang albums had this sense of discipline. Guest spots come from the usual suspects, with Raekwon popping up on the last two tracks, while elsewhere the likes of GZA, Jim Jones, Black Thought and Busta Rhymes appear with some style. Busta in particular shines brightly on ‘Superstar’, always good for a guest spot yet rarely anything more.

Lead single ‘2getha Baby‘ seems to follow on from the bizarre production job on Wu Massacre’s single ‘Our Dreams‘, although the sharp transition between verse and soul sampling chorus seems to actually work here. Meanwhile the pick ‘n’ mix selection of producers includes Pete Rock on ‘How You Like Me Baby’, while the always brilliant Jake One steps behind the desk on album closer ‘Troublemakers’. For the most part the production borrows much from classic cuts of soul and funk, a style which Ghostface clearly feels comfortable rapping over.

Despite all the guest rappers and producers, though, it’s undoubtedly Ghostface’s album. Always lively and with a sharp turn of phrase, he effortlessly manages to light up each track with his own inimitable sense of humour. Seamlessly moving from Jimmy Neutron to hard drugs references, he has an extremely likeable personality that shines through even when rapping on a song called ‘Handcuffin’ Them Hoes’. Yup, Ghostface is back, and this is perhaps his best album since Supreme Clientele.

Sleekly Lion