Posts Tagged 'Rainydayz Remixes'

11 Songs to Be Thankful For, Vol. 2

For last year’s 11 Songs to Be Thankful For, click here.

I know you’re in pain. The music industry, no less than last year, is inundated with made for radio pop songs meant to burn brightly in the minds of middle schoolers, sell millions of copies and then fade quickly into the one hit wonder used CD bins. Some will make club playlists and stay relevant for another year or two, but most will be either forgotten or turned into the butt of some future musical joke. But these simplifications overlook a large cross section of musicians from all genres that are producing quality music that not only can get stuck in your head, but won’t make you want to put a loaded revolver to your temple to get them out. In fact, months later, these songs are still gripping and enjoyable.

Thanksgiving is over, but while you’re eating some leftovers, there’s still much to be thankful for in the way of music. For each month, a main song that stood out above the others with the album you can find it on, and a second song that I give honorable mention to for being generally kick ass. But since life isn’t a one man affair, I invited my roommate, who receives the same monthly iPod updates (see the “What I’m Hearing” posts… the links in the month names will get you there), to give her input on what songs grabbed her focus this year. 11 months, 1 main song, 1 honorable mention and 2 recommendations from the roommate will give you about 44 fantastic songs you haven’t listened to yet. I say about because in some cases you may have heard a song, and in others, we picked the same one. Enjoy!

Jan: “Breathe Me (Mylo Remix)” (Breathe Me EP) by Sia. Most people had their first introduction to Sia’s heartbreaking song through the final 5 minutes of the HBO series Six Feet Under. The song, steeped in lament and longing, is nostalgic and only further inundated with emotion from Sia’s haunting voice that at times seems to whisper. On this EP version, Mylo remixes the song by fleshing out a lush electronic sound with bass and digital flourishes around the vocals and speeding up the main melody. The result is a moving and dance-able, yet still emotional track. Honorable Mention: “Way Down in the Hole” (The Wire Soundtrack) by The Blind Boys of Alabama

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Nudez” (Rainydayz Remixes) by AmpLive. “Mushaboom (Postal Service Remix)” (Open Season) by Feist.

Feb: “Campus” (Vampire Weekend) by Vampire Weekend. When this album came out, I positively reviewed the whole thing, and now, many months later, it hasn’t lost its luster for me. With “Campus” the group uses simplicity in the vocals and instrumentation to evoke the feeling of days at college and crushes (if your college crush happened to be a professor.) The staccato lead up to the frenetic chorus is an instantly attainable indie pop that also brings to mind a Killers tune on Xanax. With the line, “In the afternoon you’re out on the stone and grass/and I’m sleeping on the balcony after class” the song takes me back to my own college balcony naps. Honorable Mention: “Weightless” (Lucky) by Nada Surf

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (Vampire Weekend) by Vampire Weekend. 2) “The Chills” (Writer’s Block) by Peter Bjorn and John

March: “Front Steps, Pt. 2 (Tough Love)” (Absolute Value) by Akrobatik. This song is haunting both lyrically and musically. The solid production includes a piano sample and string overtone that sound like they’ve been submerged in water. The murkiness is then combined with scratches and a bass and drum line that provide it with a depth that comes off simultaneously polished and street rough. All of this is so that Akrobatik can provide an incredible song about the economic and social plight within the project communities, the current state of hip-hop and the need for change within the criminal justice system. He exhorts the youth to avoid the drugs and black on black violence that help oppress them, and strive for something better by offering them his honest take in the form of “tough love.” His lyrics come from a seriously educated perspective as he recognizes that the format of the ghettos allows the upper middle class to ignore riots and financial losses inflicted by them (“And when we riot they won’t care about the dollars lost/they’re sipping cocktails while we’re throwing Molotovs“) and sees the difference between a middle class white education and the education provided in inner city schools. The entire song is filled with lines that are both mentally stimulating and potent in rhyme scheme (full lyrics here). One of the best hip-hop lines of the year comes from this song, “This ain’t a war on drugs, it’s a war on thugs/they supply the guns, we supply the bodies with slugs.” Easily in the contention for my top 5 songs of the year. Honorable Mention: “Live 4 Today” (Break A Dawn) by Zion I

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Opening Act” (Garbage Pail Kids) by Sene and Chief 2) “Muddy Water Stomp” (Garbage Pail Kids) by Sene and Chief

April: “The Things That We Could Share” (Soundboy Rock) by Groove Armada. Here’s one the roommate and I agreed on. In an age of Craigslist Missed Connections and the disconnect between people, this joyous song about the potential connections is a love song for the person you haven’t met yet. Starting with a groove bass, handclaps and “SB” chant, the electronically strained vocals through the verse beg for a balance with another person (“I need a warm hand to cool me down/I need a soft voice to drown me out”) moves into the chorus about a boy on a bus watching a girl, who is simultaneously telling her friend that he doesn’t care. When the bass line undulates and crashes into the triumphant refrain of “the things that we could share,” if you’re not dancing, you’re not breathing. Honorable Mention: “Far Away” (In Ghost Colours) by Cut Copy.

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “The Things That We Could Share” Groove Armada, Soundboy Rock. 2) “Watch As They Go” (Other People) by American Princes

May: “Winds of Change” (The Show) by EMC. Leave it to a super-group of hip-hop mainstays to write a love song to hip-hop that can surely stand as a classic. With an old static laden and sped sample singing, “Winds of change, that blow forever” EMC rips off a masterpiece devoted to the past, present and future of hip-hop, while never forgetting the overall perspective of fleeting life and inevitable change. Subjects like evolving music (MJ to Usher), technology (Beta to DVD), and clothes (Osh-Kosh to Phat Farm) are all well and good, but the highlight of this track is the last verse that takes a sad hindsight view of a hip-hop career from an old age perspective (“Holding the picture frame wishing that we didn’t age”) and the unfortunate decay that it can bring (“At 55 started forgetting lines, mumbling rhymes.”) As the rap moves to talking about freestyling with his grandchild, the song becomes both melancholy in its reminiscence and happy in the remembrance of the experiences. Honorable Mention: “Mathematics” (The Fashion) by The Fashion

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “27” (Butter and Gun$ EP) by Blue Scholars 2) “O Samba Tai” (Carolina) by Seu Jorge

June: “Watch Out (Remix)” (The 3rd World) by Immortal Technique (click here for exclusive interview). Sounding incredibly sharp over a beat that samples from the Apocalypse sounding symphony from the central battle scene in Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith and polished Green Lantern production, Immortal Technique barks through this track that cements his status as one of the most lyrically intelligent and delivery potent rappers around. Starting with his album sales off just a Source magazine quotable and moving onto direct attacks on the music industry (“they push pop music like a religion/anorexic celebrity driven, financial fantasy fiction”) and American government, Tech doesn’t take pause for a chorus here, but why bother when you can deliver like that for two and a half minutes straight? When he ends the song with, “I need more than advancements and a rented mansion,” you know that he means it, and doesn’t care who he pisses off in the process. Honorable Mention: “Let the Beat Build” (The Carter III) by Lil Wayne

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Reverse Pimpology” (The Third World) by Immortal Technique 2) “Dance Dance Dance” (Youth Novels) by Lykke Li

July: “Sittin’ On Chrome (Mr. Flash Sittin on Cr02 Remix)” (Delicious Vinyl: Rmxxology) by Masta Ace. This revamped version of the old school Masta Ace song is given all sorts of synths and electronic overtone. The verses get a video game-like sound backdrop with a fast dance beat. When the hook drops, the whole song slows down and the sample carries it. Honorable Mention: “Built to Last” (Coup de Theatre) by Haiku D’Etat

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Desperada” (Jeanius) by Jean Grae. 2) “GFC” (Como Te Llama?) by Albert Hammond Jr.

August: “Zhaoderen Nana” (Introducing Hanggai) by Hanggai. Another point of agreement with the roommate, Hanggai’s mixture of traditional Mongolian folk music and Western influences gripped us at the end of the summer and made for great lake music. The use of a an upbeat throat singer here and a rollicking strumming are contrasted with moments of full percussion. You’ll have to listen to get it. Honorable Mention: “Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You (The Twelves Remix)” (Partie Traumatic) by The Black Kids

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Zhaoderen Nana” (Introducing Hanggai) by Hanggai 2) “Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You (The Twelves Remix)” (Partie Traumatic) by The Black Kids

September: “Transitional Joint” (The Preface) by eLZhi. (full interview here) Beautiful production and a perfectly placed “just because of love” sample back Detroit’s eLZhi as he dissects relationships and the process of moving on from a failed one. Without ever losing a positive outlook, the lyrics don’t dwell on the past, but always look forward to that next glow. eLZhi acknowledges the sour experience of “rolling snake eyes” without losing sight of the feeling of “missing her like when the summer’s gone.” The delivery from verse to chorus are sensational and the beat is addictive. Honorable Mention: “Ship” (Purpleface EP) by Throw Me the Statue (interview)

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Girls and Boys In Love” (Girls and Weather) by Rumble Strips 2) “Honeybee” (Purpleface EP) by Throw Me the Statue

October: “Please Believe” (unknown) by Longshot. I’d give you a breakdown of this very solid hip-hop track, but you can click on this link and go listen to it yourself! Huzzah! Honorable Mention: “Electric Feel” (Oracular Spectacular) by MGMT

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Sadie Hawkins” (Doomtree) by Doomtree, (interview) 2) “Electric Feel” (Oracular Spectacular) by MGMT

November: “Trail of Lies” (A History of Violence) by Jedi Mind Tricks. With a South American melody and lo-fi beat, this offering from JMT’s sixth studio album examines lies perpetuated by the government and mass media, among others. The gruff voice of Vinnie Paz and the lyrics about a system in severe trouble make for a socially conscious song steeped in conspiracy theories. Honorable Mention: “Signs” (Intimacy) by Bloc Party

Jessie’s Picks: “Don Julio” (Vulture’s Wisdom, Vol. 1) by Opio 2) “Trail of Lies” (A History of Violence) by Jedi Mind Tricks

Zion I Interview

Zion I

Zion I

From their initial release, 2000‘s Mind Over Matter, to last year’s collaboration album with The Grouch, Heroes in the City of Dope, the Bay Area based duo of MC Zumbi and AmpLive known as Zion I has been making incredible music that incorporates hip-hop, world rhythms, hyphy, electronica and jazz sensibilities with intelligent lyrics looking at economic situations, social situations and meditative introspection. They’ve released an album in Japan (Break A Dawn) and have put out mix tape’s like Curb Servin‘ and remixes in the form of AmpLive’s re-working of Radiohead’s In Rainbows release. After their show at the Grand Ballroom in San Francisco on Saturday night, I got a chance to sit down with these two and ask them about their upcoming album, The Take Over, making hip-hop in the Bay Area and their favorite Zion I song.

AC: How do you determine your setlists?

Amp: For a tour, we practice before we go out, but basically our set lists have been the same the last couple of years and just changes slightly with the albums.

AC: The last album you did with The Grouch, Heroes in the City of Dope, what was it like working on The Take Over with just the two of you again?

Z: It was different because Grouch brings a whole different element, a whole different mind pattern. When we were working on Heroes, I remember sitting down and talking over each song really in depth, cause he’s a real insightful person, so we’d just talk out everything, so by the time the pen hit the paper, everything was already laid out. When it’s just Zion I, we talk about it, but my process is more about figuring it out as I go, like I feel something from the beat, and I have something but I have to remember to stay on topic. Grouch is just focused. Plus, Grouch writes half the verses too, when it’s Zion I, I have to write everything, so in that way it’s different. And I think with the beats, on Zion I stuff Amp is able to just go off more on his own. Zion I is just a more eclectic vibe, so we push a little bit harder and go off in different experimental ways.

AC: As you guys have progressed through your albums from Mind Over Matter to Deep Water Slang and the ones that have followed, what has become easier about making hip-hop for you, and what has become harder for you?

Z: Good question.

Amp: To me it’s never easy, because you don’t know if people are going to like it, and you just want it to be tight. Sometimes it’s hard knowing what to do, honestly, you have the way you feel, but sometimes it’s hard deciding what direction you want to go.

Z: For me, as a writer, it’s easier to know what I feel when I hear music because I’ve been doing it longer now as opposed to in ’95. I’ve been doing it 13 more years now, so I know what I feel. But still, like he said, you can’t get too cocky to the music or the culture, you have to be humble and a fan, you have to stay a fan. You don’t want to get old school, like you’re retro now on purpose, you have to have your ears to the street and just be open to the music. Sometimes it’s easy to get like, “Oh man, we used to do it like that back then and the new cats are doing it like this and that ain’t tight.” But you have to, as a fan of the culture, you have to have an open lingo to everything to stay fresh and relevant.

AC: That brings me to my next question. What are you guys listening to right now?

Z: In the van, we were listening to a lot of Santogold mixtapes, weren’t we? Cats just kept rotating that shit back to back. I listen to a lot of beat tapes recently, I get in my car and I’m looking for music and I’m just feeling the beat tapes. I’ve got some beat tapes from Bedrock, I’ve got this shit called Congotronics it’s club music, from Africa, it’s not even new, it’s kinda old, but it’s just really interesting. It’s hella rhythmic, with this bass sound and they take these calimbos, these thumb pianos and then they hook them up to these amplifiers so it sounds electronic, but it’s really traditional instruments, so I’ve been bumping them a lot.

AC: Zion I, E-40, Hiero are just three names in what makes up the Bay Area’s very rich hip-hop culture, I think in comparison to the rest of the United States. What is it about this scene that you think creates that?

Amp: It’s just such a big place with lots of variety, historically. The music that’s come up here, there’s a fan base that’s implanted here. There’s always a crowd for different types of music. I think there’s big energy.

Z: It’s California. People on the West Coast, we get a lot of ideas, just like the East Coast gets ideas, New York, Atlanta. On the West Coast we get ideas from a different angle, but it’s a place where people are very open to processing different perspectives, in the Bay Area especially. It has to be one of the most diverse places in the country, so I think it’s only right that our music showcases that.

A: What can people expect stylistically from The Take Over?

Amp: It’s all over the place, there’s a lot of different stuff on there. It’s definitely straight to the point in a lot of places.

Z: It’s eclectic, but there’s definitely a boom element, and there’s definitely soul, I think it’s a soulful record. Even though we go in a lot of different directions in the production, I think there’s a link through everything that’s very soulful, whether it’s the content or the singing or the way Amp produced the beat, it’s got heart to it.

AC: How many songs is Mr. Holiday going to be on on the album?

Amp: Codany Holiday. On the album, he’s on two tracks where he’s up front and then he does a lot of background vocals on a lot of stuff. You like Codany?

AC: I do. My exposure to him was through your Rainydayz Remixes.

Amp: You should go on my Myspace and download the Jamie Lidell, he did a Jamie Lidell remix.

AC: Last question here…favorite Zion I song for each of you.

Amp: From The Take Over?

AC: No, whenever. Through all of your albums, there’s a lot of music to choose from. What really stands out for you?

Z: That’s hard man.

Amp: We did a new song called “DJ DJ” that I like a lot. It’s a very DJ ready song that I think is really tight.

Z: Man, that’s really tough. What comes to my mind is either “Silly Putty” or “Innerlight,” because I remember when I wrote “Innerlight” I had just come home from meditating really tough and Amp was playing the beat already, and it just matched my state of mind so perfectly. When I wrote it, it was one of the easiest songs I wrote, ever. It just came off the pen, and it was just so easy, it just felt good. Same with “Silly Putty.”

Amp: It seems like “The Bay” was like that.

Z: Yea, but it’s just captured something different, it’s more inside, “The Bay” is more of an external thing, whereas “Innerlight” and “Silly Putty,” those were internal. “Silly Putty” I just wrote it and when Grouch got it and he just kept with it automatically and he just enhanced it. So probably those two songs because of the way they came about.

For a review of the Zion I show at the Grand Ballroom Saturday night, click here.

Zion I and The Mighty Underdogs at The Grand Ballroom

Gift of Gab of Blackalicious and Mighty Underdogs
Gift of Gab of Blackalicious and Mighty Underdogs

Zumbi of Zion I
Zumbi of Zion I

{to read Evolving Music’s interview with AmpLive, click here}
{to read Evolving Music’s interview with Zion I from after the show Saturday night, click here}

Hip-Hop shows, at their base, are usually only going to be as good as their crowds. With rock bands and other performers who play in large venues, just the sheer numbers will create an energetic atmosphere, and with pop songs, sing-a-longs easily get fans into the performance. With hip-hop, however, there are few performers who truly know all the words to their own rhymes. Often, performers will cut songs short in order to do just snippets of more popular songs. And the music is such that it requires energy from what is usually a smaller crowd, and the smaller the crowd, the harder it is to convince people to really sell out and get into it.

By these standards, the shows I have seen of Zion I have been some of the most varied in terms of audience enthusiasm and demographics of crowds. I’ve seen an incredible Zion I performance at the Fillmore where a truly live hip-hop crowd that knew their work was into it and the concert was amazing. But then I saw them a few years ago doing a back to school concert at UCLA. The venue was too large, there weren’t enough people there and the stage was set up in a way that allowed for almost no fan interaction. The people who were there mostly didn’t know the music, so what was an amazing set list got very little in the way of crowd appreciation.

On Saturday night at the Grand Ballroom, The Mighty Underdogs opened, and considering they’re made up of Gift of Gab from Blackalicious and Lateef the Truth Speaker from Latryx, they got short attention from most of the crowd. They were excellent though, bringing a speed of delivery that is difficult for most to imagine, and Gift of Gab’s ability to increase speed while maintaining a level of coherency in his diction was showcased in my second opportunity to see him do “Alphabet Aerobics” live.

And when they got to the stage, Zion I got another odd turnout in the form of what looked more like a high school dance than a hip-hop show. The majority of the people there were girls between the ages of 14 and 17. Watching them run enthusiastically during set changes to find a cigarette they could puff on was hilarious in and of itself. And what can you expect from this group other than that they’ll know the singles and their favorite songs, but won’t have the depth of knowledge of Zion I’s catalog to truly appreciate and buy into the set.

And that’s unfortunate considering that I view Zion I to be one of the hardest working live acts in hip-hop and true masters of their craft. AmpLive and Zumbi consistently work in both old favorites and new tracks, while also remembering the art of the true freestyle, with both of them taking turns improvising on either lyrics or beats. On stage, Amp becomes a grand marshal, moving the set seamlessly from one track to the next, and adding flairs through the use of a live sample and drum machine.

Zumbi (formerly Zion) is lyrically on point in all of his songs, never skipping a lyric or word, demonstrating just how well-prepared he is. Not two songs into the set he’s already worked up a sweat from interacting with the crowd, bouncing to Amp’s work and delivering the verses with an intensity and accuracy often missing in live shows. Furthermore, the performance never sounds like a canned delivery of studio albums. Zumbi’s expressions and tempo changes accentuate portions of the lyrics he finds to be important and each live show I’ve seen brings that feeling of song alteration.

In this show, the group was joined on stage by Codany Holiday, the soul singer who has crossed genres to work with AmpLive on his Rainydayz Remixes album of Radiohead’s In Rainbows. In concert, Holiday brings an energy and passion to his singing that fits right in with Zion I’s delivery and adds a soulful and musical depth to the songs. In some parts taking chorus and in other parts just adding background vocals, Holiday showed an impressive range in his pitches and was so obviously into the performance that his vocals soared and provided an excellent balance between Amp’s steady and polished hand and Zumbi’s raw energy.

For any hip-hop fan, Zion I is not a group to be missed in their studio albums or live performances, especially when the quality of the audience matches the quality of their music. Set list standouts from Saturday night included “The Drill,” “City of Dope,” “Fingerpaint,” “Silly Putty,” and three tracks off of their January release The Take Over, “Juicy Juice,” “Feel Brand New” and “Antenna.” They also mentioned onstage that the new album will include Brother Ali and Devin the Dude. It drops January 27th, 2009.

AmpLive Interview

Amplive

AmpLive has been one of the most talented and diverse producer/DJs of the last ten years. His work as part of the Zion I duo has exemplified an ability to bring in a variety of musical styles and genres to the hip-hop world. In addition to this work, Amp has worked with or done remixes for Goapele, Akon and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussy Cat Dolls. He has also produced music for ESPN‘s Sportscenter, So You Think You Can Dance?, America’s Next Top Model, and MTV’s shows Cribs and The Real World. On top of the musical creation, he has earned a Platinum Plaque for his Linkin Park remix as well as The Guardian‘s “Best Producer in the Bay,” and San Francisco Weekly‘s “Best Hip Hop Group in the Bay” awards. AmpLive’s recent release, Rainydayz Remixes, a remix album of the Radiohead album In Rainbows, has received considerable press, word of mouth, and excellent reviews. The mash-ups, utilizing and remixing pieces of the original album, received Radiohead’s blessing to be distributed for free. Because of the MixMatch nature of this album and the various production, distribution and copyright issues associated with such an undertaking, we thought it was about time to catch up with Amp and talk to him about his musical history and future, his run at the Radiohead album, and the future of the music industry and distribution models in general. Below is the interview Amp granted to Evolving Music to talk about these issues. Insert gratitude and round of applause here…

AC: Your music and production, from Mind Over Matter to Heroes in the City of Dope, always exhibits a huge variety of sounds and influences from different genres that speaks to a diverse musical enjoyment. What genres catch your ear, what is the foundation of your personal musical enjoyment, and when starting out on songs, is it a conscious effort to bring these genres in, or are they embedded and just come out in your music?

Amp: Well, I grew up exposed to different types of music. I am from Texas, so I was surrounded by country music. I played the drums at my church, listened to hip hop, skate punk and techno in middle school, took piano lessons, and was forced to watch the local symphony at least twice a month. So I look at music as a big bubble. All genres catch my ear. I feel that you can find something good in everything. When I am creating songs, I generally go off the feeling that I have or the point I want to get across versus thinking of the genre that it would be in.

AC: Zion I, at various times, has brought in collaborating MCs and producers. For Heroes in the City of Dope, Grouch was brought on for the entire album. What process do you use when determining who you’d like to work with on upcoming tracks? When you do collaborate, is there a set formula you like to use for combining with another musician, or is it a more organic process? How have your collaborations contributed to your personal growth as an artist, and do you find yourself revisiting methods you picked up from people you’ve made music with in your own?

Amp: Collaborations and observation has definitely helped me grow as a producer. When I first started in the early 90s, Spearhead X, who was a producer for Dallas Austin, taught me how to tighten my drums. While L Rock, who now is a main producer in Lil Jon‘s camp, helped with musical arrangements and learning how to play. So as I evolved and started becoming a professional years later, I took these experiences and applied them to my music. So in doing the collaboration album, Heroes in the City of Dope, I wanted to make sure there was equal input from everyone. For that album Grouch and I gave approval on the beats and the songs as they were finished. So we both had our touches on the music, even if I produced the track.

AC: Is there one genre that you most enjoy incorporating in your music, and is there any sound you’ve been wanting to work in a song that you haven’t done yet?

Amp: Hip Hop music is my basis and in my soul, so that will always be incorporated into my music. I have always wanted to do a song using a harp. Hopefully in the future that will happen!

AC: Obviously your remix of In Rainbows demonstrates an appreciation for the album. How long have you been a Radiohead fan, what initially introduced you to their music and which is your favorite song and album? Now that they’ve proven amenable to your remix effort, are you considering working on any of their other work?

Amp: Ive been a Radiohead fan since the late 90s. “Karma Police” from the album Ok Computer was what set it off for me. Even though that was their hit song and everyone liked it at that time, the hip hop feel and knock of it captured me. Then their sound got more electro and I really started getting into them. I would have to say that before In Rainbows, Kid A was my favorite album. I just think they are off the hook because they successfully push the envelope at all times. I would definitely do more remix work, just approach it differently next time.

AC: The growth of collaborations when it comes to mash-ups is something that has really been quite fast over a relatively short period of time. Was this the first time you had thought about doing something like this, and what prompted you, over any other music you might currently be listening to, to work with this album?

Amp: Well, I have always done remixes and twisted up music. I did my first mashup cd about a year ago, Beats, Remixes, and a side of Mashups, where I took all kinds of vocals, including old Zion I a cappellas, and combined them with different music. It got a really good response and people were telling me that they liked it better than the normal mashups. Thats why I thought that I could do this well.

AC: There are a few songs, “Bodysnatchers,” “House of Cards” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” from In Rainbows that you didn’t work with on the Remixes. What made you decide to work with the tracks you did?

Amp: Well, for one timing. I had started working on a remix for “House of Cards” and “Bodysnatchers,” but there wasnt enough time to finish and do what I wanted to do. Especially “Body Snatchers.” Man, that song is good!! I just messed with the songs that I felt were the easiest to remix first.

AC: Initially you received a Cease and Desist for these tracks. What was the progression from that letter to Radiohead allowing them to be distributed? Was it a process that went on through the labels, or through you and the band?

Amp: Basically, after the cease and desist came, we reached out to Radiohead. After sending them the songs and listening to them, they gave an ok for the release.

AC: What are your thoughts on the method of going without a label to start, allowing consumers to pick the price of the album and providing it for free as Radiohead did with In Rainbows? You’ve also now released and received considerable press from your remixes being available for free. What is your view of this change in distribution, and where do you see the traditional label industry heading in the next five years?

Amp: I think that it was ground breaking how they decided to do that. It was giving back to the fans who have been supporting them. By giving the album away for free at first and then offering it for sale later was saying that “for all of the people who have been supporting us, we will give you first dibs on the new record”. I think that shows respect. I think the industry is changing, but I dont know the end result. I do feel that groups will have to do more than just rely on their music for income. The song is going to be more of a business card than a product. A group’s show and merchandise are going to be the new product. I think that the traditional label is going to combine with management and marketing formats. It will be all in one.

AC: I think your description of the song as a business card for musicians is a very solid one. I think a lot of people believe that with iTunes now being the second largest music distributor in the world and songs being sold for a dollar, artists are seeing more revenue from the sale of their music. Is this a true assumption on the part of the consumer? And could you address how the change in format and distribution has altered your income from the release of Mind Over Matter, which was primarily CD and word of mouth, and has since been released on iTunes, to later albums that were released on iTunes immediately? What DOESN’T the consumer know about artist profits from their music distribution?

Amp: Well, the biggest misconception is that the artists are making more money because of iTunes. What consumers (and artists actually) need to realize, is that it takes money to make money. Having your music on iTunes is only going to sell it if you are able to spend the proper amount of money and have a working staff of people to promote where to find your music. This is where a record label or promotions company comes into play. I have always been independent so the way i see my revenue hasn’t changed as much. Because I have been putting out albums since 1997, I have been able to build a fan base that has followed my music from the CD to the digital era. So things have been consistent, in terms of the career of Zion I.

AC: In your music, what is currently holding the most interest for you and what has brought you the most enjoyment recently? You’ve been doing DJ sets now, how do these differ for you in preparation and presentation from your shows as Zion I? Is there any work being done on a new album?

Amp: Definitely doing the Rainydayz Remixes brought me enjoyment. I also have been working with the soul artist Codany Holiday and his album is sounding tight. But most of all the new Zion I album, The Take Over, has been really tight to complete. I have been DJing for years, it’s nothing new. For Zion I I just wanted to step up the game and do more than just play tracks in the back, so I make live music on stage too. But I plan to incorporate that into my djing also.

AC: The work you do with Codany Holiday on the Rainydayz album is tight. In your work on his album, are you moving more into classical soul sounds, have you been slipping hip-hop into his soul? Talk a bit about the collaboration with him and what it’s meant for both of you in terms of releasing a soul album.

Amp: Codany Holiday (pronounced Courtney) is a naturally gifted singer. So producing for him hasn’t been hard at all. The biggest challenge was the sound we wanted to go with. I thought it was best to go with what was natural to him. When you talk to him about his mentors and what singers he admires, they range from Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway to Phillip Bailey (Earth, Wind, & Fire). So I definitely wanted to use more classic soul production, but hip hop with a 2009 twist to it. The response has been great. With Codany has been down with Zion I for awhile, he has been involved in alot of our songs. Working with him and producing his album was only natural. He brings alot of ideas to the table with production and arrangements. He is “the truth” in terms of gifted soul singers.

AC: Over the years you’ve been creating music, has there been one change or innovation that has significantly altered how you think about or make music?

Amp: Definitely the use of the computer and software to make music has been the big change for me. For years I just used analog equipment, ASR10, MPC, and all the other traditional machines. Now everything is on the computer and the songs are right in front of you…makes you look at music in a different way.

AC: In terms of looking at the music visually in a different way, could you talk about how that changes your approach to making the music? Do you find yourself dealing with creation in a different way now that you see the music visually and what are those differences? Would you be willing to give a description of step by step process you take, from mental idea to finished song?

Amp: Using Pro Tools and Logic has definitely made me look at music differently. Instead of seeing beats as loops, I now have the whole song mapped out in front of me. Its like looking at a song linear instead of circular. So to make a very basic song I always start with a melody or drum pattern, then build on top of that. Once I have something going in a quick loop I spread it out in the computer by repeating that part to the length of about 5 minutes. Within that I add beat changes and other sounds.

AmpLive’s creative and dynamic approach to music is amazing. His use of various genres from a musically diverse upbringing has helped the movement infusing the hip-hop genre with new sounds and broader spectrums. He is currently on tour and working on music for Codany Holiday and the upcoming Zion I release The Take Over. You can find his music through Myspace, iTunes and any other place music is sold. Evolving Music and MixMatchMusic would like to once again thank AmpLive for his time and energy in providing this interview.


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