Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good at Being in Trouble

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Throughout 50+ plus years of rock and roll, you can probably tell that bands are beginning to run out of names. I mean, pretty much anything that starts with “the” has already been taken by a rock band or sports team. How can they be expected to come up with something original when all the great ones have already been taken? Of course you can always opt for a city name, like Kansas, Chicago and Boston did (or maybe it was the cities that were named after the bands, I don’t know, I never really payed much attention in history class). But either way, bands want to call themselves something original, something that stands out without sounding like words that were randomly pieced together for the sake of originality. I mean you can really call yourselves anything if you wanted to. If you’re forming a band in the near future, The Pig Earmuuuufs or New Zealand Silly Boyz are two names that haven’t been taken yet, so you better grab them before it’s too late. Anyway, because of the sheer amount of bands that exist or have existed, and to avoid legal issues, you end up with names like Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Bombay Bicycle Club. And this phenomenon has unfortunately led me to ignore a large number of bands without even taking a chance at their music. Unknown Mortal Orchestra was always one of these bands which I chose to ignore, until today that is, and now I’m kicking myself (literally… in the face… I’m very flexible) for having looked over them. I guess I could be a little less judgemental, but then where’s all the fun in life?

So Good at Being in Trouble is a great example of that pyschedelic summer sound that I truly love. They perfectly capture that indie vibe that is simple and genuine without being pretentious. In other words, they don’t live up to their name, which no longer bothers me as much. Maybe I should listen to more groups with annoying names, but then again I just can’t see myself getting past The Airborne Toxic Event or Godspeed You! Black Emperor. But hopefully you’re less judgemental than me and you’ll enjoy this lovely tune and the accompanying video, which has Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Mclovin!) totally losing his shit. Keep it cool Mclovin, you need to respect the opposite gender with the utmost sincerity. And this goes out to all of you, my male friends; be nice, be gentle, because the women can do a lot more for than you might think. After all, you don’t want to end up in the bin like Phil Spector or in a life of negative rep like Orange Juice Simpson. Gentlemen, if you’re in a desperate situation as young Mclovin was, hit up the Ask Ron page and ask away! With a history of over 37 girlfriends and a happy marriage of 40 years, I’d say I am more than qualified to give you relationship advice.

George Clinton, the Future of Funk, and MC Hammer Pants: A Chat With Montreal’s Fonkynson

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Hola compadres! You’ll have to excuse me, I’ve been off the radar for a bit, but not to worry, I’m very much alive and feeling more than healthy. Sometimes I get lost on my 600 acre ranch and have to fight off herds of crows and overgrown field mice to find my way back, but that’s a story for another day. Either way, today is not about me, it’s all about disco-house producer Fonkynson from Montreal. I had a very fortunate chance to have a cyber-space chat with him on everything from the history of disco house, to the future of the MC Hammer pants. He’s got a very unique, upbeat sound that is just all-too danceable and that demonstrates an impressive amount of musicality. He’s already released a full EP, which you can purchase here, and has been building a solid following around his hometown.  

Most electronic producers got their start as either a musician or a dj, how did it all start for you?

I began music with guitar, blues, rock and funk. Played in a few bands when I was a kid, and used to recreate beats with drum machines. One day I came home with a MC303, and that’s when it all changed. I loved this machine, and its ability to do it all in one box. I started to produce electronic beats, and really got into it.
Meanwhile, a friend of mine who was Dj’ing at that time introduced me to the Technics Turntables, i was hooked for life. But I wasn’t so good at producing, when I listen today, I think the ideas were good but i really didn’t master the sound science at that time. Dj’ing, on the other hand, was more accessible for me.
A friend of mine told me that a club in Belgium organized a Dj contest. I made a mix tape, sent it, and was chosen for the finals. A real Dj battle! I ended up wining it and began to have gigs on a regular basis.

Your earlier songs were more about hip hop and funky breaks, but your newer stuff resembles disco house. Do you feel like the rise of the EDM scene was influential in the progression of your sound?

I arrived in Montreal 8 years ago. I used to live in Lille, north of France. I had the chance to see the French house touch rise and having gigs at that time, in Belgian clubs, in Paris, and Lille, and it made me proud to be a small part of it. So in fact, I kind of come from this House / Nu-Disco sound. I also always listened to funk, hip hop, and wanted to start a Funky Breaks project when i got here in Montreal. I released a couple of Ep’s, singles and remixes under the name Nick Fonkynson. But after a few years, i started to produce House / Nu Disco, and even in my late works in Funky Breaks, you can hear this transition.
So in a way, i just picked things up where I left them. I was dj’ing at that time, and learned to produce properly during my Funky Breaks phase. I gained maturity in audio skills, and now mix and master tracks for artists and labels.

Many of your songs sound like they have live bass guitar in them. During recording, do you mainly use midi or do you also use live instruments?

I’ve been playing guitar since 13 years old, so when I have the opportunity, I can slide in a bit of real guitar or bass. I like the organic feel of real instruments. I always try to have a bit in my records.
But it really depends on the track, and the samples used for it. Because I can also find this feeling in the samples themselves.

What’s that one song or album that was a real game changer for you?

When I heard for the first time “Exit Planet Dust” by the Chemical Brothers, It changed my opinion about electronic music. I really got into it after that, Big Beat movement, house, garage, DnB, trip hop, opened it all.

Tell me a bit about your name and how you came up with it.

When we were late teens, a bunch of friends and I used to invent and film stories of super american cops. I had to find a cool name for my role, and I came up with Nick Fuckinson. I even had a badge for it!
Sometimes we filmed scenes after going out in bars, and recreated muscled arrests with fake guns in the streets. So much fun, till someone called the real police and we ended up handcuffed ourselves, trying to explain why I have a fake badge and a fake gun. Funny times!
So anyway, when I began to play gigs, I had to find myself a name, and thought about Fuckinson, but it wasn’t too subtle. Doing Funky House, i changed it to Fonkynson.

Your sound can be primarily described as French disco house. What is it that defines that French sound that can also be heard in music by the likes of Justice, Darius, Daft Punk, Breakbot and many others?

First of all, thanks for the references! I think it’s heavy beats, artistic compression, the use of micro samples, the funky /disco basslines. There’s “un je ne sais quoi” that can be sometimes cheesy, but it’s delicious. I think they made an awesome job at recycling disco and funk, taking the essence and melt it with modern beats.

The idea for “The Right Thing” video was great, what inspired it, and what was it like working with a filmmaker?

I work as a motion designer, and wanted to do a videoclip for a long time. That was a pretty good occasion. I wanted to work with a director i know, but he wasn’t available. We discussed the concept tho. I wanted to tell a story between objects, giving feels to nonliving things interested me. We searched for a lot of objects, then took a look at the artwork for the Ep that I just received (a straw in a colorful milkshake) and thought, that’s it! We can do this with straws! I got home, purchased a fairy light that is the main light setup, then started the storyboard taking photos. Next week-end, a few friends were at my place and we shot the video.
I wish i had work with a director cause iI’m not used to this and made a couple of mistakes. Took me a lot of energy to set the dance between the glasses going in and out, according to the timing of the storyboard. Then i spent nights doing the animation in 3D, the compositing, the grading et voilà!

If you could work with one old school rapper, who would it be?

I loved T Ski Valley. A lot more come to my mind, probably better choices than T Ski, but I don’t know, I like him.

The funk sound has a long history with disco and R&B from the 60’s and 70’s but is now primarily associated with the electronic scene. It has been said that “diamonds are forever”, do you think funk is forever?

I’d say probably yes, we’ve already saw funk reinvents itself in Hip-Hop, Ghetto funk, Funky Breaks, Nu-Funk. We’ll see it disappear and reinvent itself again as we saw for Disco, rocknroll etc..
I’m happy to see that old school funk still moves people, and young kids too, I’m not anxious about funk, it has great days in front of it.

Do you think the MC hammer pants will be making a serious comeback anytime soon?

Somehow we’re still in the post 80s area, give it time, and it’ll probably will. Not sure I’ll be the first to wear it though.

Where do you see yourself and your sound going in 2014?

I’m preparing a new EP, hope to release it this year. I’m beginning collaborations, so maybe you’ll hear more singing, a bit more pop maybe. But still, the Fonkynson touch will be here for sure. And I’ll focus on gigs in Montreal, now that I caught a bit more attention here.

If you could say one thing to George Clinton, what would it be?

I’d tell him that he made me understand what Funk is about, how it works and what make a track funky, when during an interview, he explained the ‘on the one” theory. Basically, it says that funk is about putting the accent on the first beat of the bar, instead of the second. Every instruments can go wild during the bar, but they have to meet on the one.I think it’s James Brown who was the first to come up with this shit. But the way Clinton used it and explained it, made the Funk concept clear to me.

See Fonkynson’s Soundcloud here

Follow Fonkynson on Facebook here

Tame Impala – Stranger in Moscow (MJ Cover)

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What is there to say about Australian band Tame Impala that hasn’t already been said? “These goblins make a terrific tiramisu.” That probably hasn’t been said about the band. “I love their twirly sweet potato fries with the spicy mayo.” That probably hasn’t been said either, but who knows. I mean, a lot of great things have been said about the psychedelic project of musical mastermind Kevin Parker and I’m sure if he were to dress up as a goblin and make tiramisu, it would be out of this world. Ask anyone who knows me what my favourites bands are and Tame Impala is sure to be mentioned. Modern psychedelic rock is really a hit or miss, especially if you’re emulating sounds from the 60’s. They can sometimes sound like a poor recreation of songs left behind by the Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane. In other words, these are musicians who are living in vanished dream of the past. Then theres bands like Tame Impala, who instead of recreating the music of the 60’s, borrow the dreamy guitar riffs and echo’d voices and use it as a base for innovation. Their sound is at once retro and modern, dipping into sounds of the past to create something new, fresh and incredibly tasteful.

Throughout their past releases they have never disappointed, and their last album Lonerism propelled them into a whole new realm of popularity. Big fans of American pop music, they have been known to cover artists like Outkast and Kylie Minogue, so a Michael Jackson cover was bound to happen at some point. If you’re looking for that dreamy Kevin Parker sound, then you’re in luck, this cover has it in heaps and it’s got my knees shaking with excitement for their next album. And after listening to this song, I can truly say “Kevin Parker is a goat with dreadlocks,” because, well, I know it’s never been said before and after all, that’s what matters most.

Something, Something, Something

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Just about everything is better in groups of three. Three wheels, three shoes, three stings on a bass guitar, three testicles. It’s the magic number in my opinion. Think about a triangle, and how all three sides connect with each other. What a happy existence, being a triangle. I certainly wish I had been given the option of being a triangle when I was born. Instead I was yanked from the womb, given a pair of jeans and a shovel, and told to get to work. Getting to work is what I did and to hell with them anyway. I think if I had been born in a hospital, by a doctor and not at the hands of my uncle Randle, who in his drunken stupor, pulled me out by the feet, and then yelled at my mother because he wasn’t expecting me to be so naked, things might be different. It’s best not to ask why my birth went down this way, but if you’d really like to know, send me a private message and I’ll see if I can pull up some repressed memories.

Something, Something, Something is where I choose three “somethings” and then find a song that makes me think of that something. A something can be a genre of music, a band, a color, a flower, a drink, a concept, an adjective, an uncle Randle. Unlike the monthly mix or the remix report, a Something, Something, Something will not occur on a fixed schedule but rather whenever a friend, fan, or follower gives me three words they’d like me to use. So if you’ve got any ideas, send me a message or post a comment and I’ll make a Something, Something, Something just for you. This being the first one, I chose three somethings that popped into my head throughout the day, these being Something wet, Something golden, Something awesome. I won’t be writing about each selection because the concept is that the song or video itself should be able to do all the talking. Enjoy, and if you like this post, send me three somethings to keep it going!

Something Wet: 

Something Golden:

Something Awesome:

Sales – Renee

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After stepping outside for a minute to grab some fresh air and to pull a couple donuts in my Jeep, I returned to my house only to find it completely filled with the smell of raw bass music. Sorry, raw bass FISH, not to be mistaken with that stuff that makes your whole body go mental when the beat drops up on the dance floor. I may be old but I’ve been to a Bassnectar show, I know what it’s like. There are even people out there who call themselves Bassheads, who thrive off those heavy-bass-induced seizures. I can’t say I’m one of them, but I can certainly see the appeal. Anyway, my wife was preparing an enormous fish fry to celebrate our 40th anniversary. Unfortunately she is not much of a cook and I walked into the kitchen to find her standing on the counter, covered in fish blood, hurling live basses against the fridge. My first thought was, “Well okay, how else might someone put down a live bass?” And then an increment of reason set in and I realized what was wrong with this display… just about everything. After dodging a fish or two, I managed to calm her down and took over. I handed her a tall glass of lemonade and gave her the task of finding me the loveliest song she could so I could post about it. I’m happy to say, she did not disappoint.

I couldn’t find much on Sales (sounds like I’m talking about accounting) but their song Renee is incredibly delightful. Laid back, with an extremely mellow vibe and very catchy guitar riff, this song brings an easy smile to my face. This duo from the US is comprised of a female guitarist/vocalist and a be-speckled gentleman on keyboard/drum machine. A perfect little matchup for you thursday evening. I love featuring hardly-known bands, so thank you my dear, and I should get you to help me more often, just not with the fish. In fact, it may take a few days to get that image out of my head. Yeesh!

Phoenix – SOS in Bel Air (Ariel Pink’s Krystal Bamboo Remix)

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Don’t you love being that one guy in a group of friends who always puts on a song expecting them to love it and all you get are blank stares and a “what the hell is this?” Being the person in my crew that does the most in terms of researching new music, I tend to always be that guy. I remember the first time I played Animal Collective, it was close to a disaster, but they quickly came around and are now huge AC heads like me. Unfortunately, Ariel Pink was and still is one of those artists that never stuck with them. His album Before Today as Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti has always stood out for me in its demented retro form. He is one of those “out there” acts, and it’s perfectly understandable how his music wouldn’t do it for everyone. He’s like a tiny Kurt Cobain with pink hair and his music is like some sort of underground garage rock from the sixties that never really saw the light of day. Anyway, if Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffti isn’t really your thing, then that’s okay, you’ll probably appreciate his remix of Phoenix’s SOS in Bel Air nonetheless. It’s fresh, a little bit psychedelic and has that unique Ariel Pink off-kilter flair. It’s one of those songs that has me thinking, “oooh great, now I know this exists!”

RJ’s February Mix

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I can’t imagine sharing a bed with Kanye West. He’d be hogging all the covers and you’d say “Hey Kanye, you mind not hogging all the covers? I’m getting a little cold over here.” And Kanye would probably say something like: “Bitch, I am the reincarnation of jesus. I would share these covers with you if I wasn’t so busy re-writing history, god damn it! I’m just trying to express myself and create art through these here sheets and you and your team of corporate pigs keep getting in my god-damn way… huh!” I have an enormous amount of respect for Kanye as an artist but it’s probably people like me that lead to his artistic angst. I don’t feel bad though, because it’s so easy and despite him being “held back” he has undoubtedly contributed an immeasurable amount of influence to modern music. And I highly doubt Yeezy will ever read this, but if you are just know that I see you and I feel you Ye!

In other news, I present to you my RJ mix for February 2014. This is my second mix and in all regards, I am more than pleased with it. I spend a lot of time working on these mixes, but I really can’t think of a better way to spend my late nights. This one has a lot of new music from the month of February plus some older tracks that just fit the mix perfectly. It even has some more upbeat danceable parts, so feel free to bump this one at your next baby shower, once the mimosas start flowing. In terms of song choice, I think I hit the nail on the head, and in terms mixing quality, well, I think I’ve been getting a lot better. I am not a DJ, nor a sound engineer, nor a producer; I am Ron Johhnson, music blogger, snake wrangler, coffee guzzler and family man. But like anything, mixing tracks takes a lot of practice, and I am still at the bottom of Ableton Live’s very steep learning curve, although I did find myself trying out new techniques like sampling and looping which worked out favourably. If you like the mix, or even if you hate every minute of it, post a comment or send me a message and trash or praise the hell out of it, I don’t care, I would just love to hear what you think. And once again, this brings me to my end-of-month sentiments where I like to say an enormous thank you to all my loyal followers, and all those who have taken the time to peak a glance at this increment of a blog. Judging from all the new music that popped up at the end February, I am confident that the month of March is going to bring big things. That’s assuming Kanye doesn’t buy out all music ever made and re-dub it with huh’s and throaty groans. Love you Kanye <3.

Tracklist:
Captain Murphy – Disciples
Rustie – Globes
ScHoolboy Q – The Purge/RapfixCypher (20syl Remix)
Sweet Valley – Spirit Temple
Tinashe – Vulnerable (Jacuzzi Remix)
Renz – Look Good On Me
Elaksi – Want You
Hermitude x Flume – Hyperparadise (Ganz Flip)
Sweet Valley – Kingdom of Heaven
Indian Summer – Grand Rapids
AbJo – Exhibit AbJo
Chester Watson – Goldie (prod. UggzTv)
Stwo – Money Tree$ (ft. Fitzroy)
Djemba Djemba – I Just Go (Falcons Remix)
ODESZA – Sun Models ft Madelyn Grant
Renz – You Know Me
Kaytranada – Hilarity Duff
Aluna George – You Know You Like it (Tchami Remix)
Aquadrop vs. Nadastrom – Favelas (Rl Grime Private Pussy Edit)
Big Chocolate x Sir Mix-A-Lot – Baby Got Milk (Emoh Instead Edit)
Sweet Valley – The Alternate Earth