Mervin Malone
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Thursday, April 13, 2006
Mervin's 15 Questions with Chris Joss!

Aria is pleased to welcome producer, remixer and multi-instrumentalist, Chris Joss!

 

I'd like to start with your background…

 

You are French-born, and have lived in both Paris and London.

 

1. What musical and/or cultural influences did you garner from your time in both?

 

As I did a lot of studio work in Paris – I learned a lot about recording technique – but it could have been in any other city. As I grew up in France, the influences I had to digest quickly were in London. Although the two cities are only 200 miles apart, the culture-shock was sudden and strong. I've always loved music – particularly  British pop and American music in general – but France is very conservative; there are laws here that force the media(s) to play 40% of music that is sung only  in French. I've always felt that French didn't work in emulating English-sung music – and that's what it does most of the time. When it doesn't, the lyrics dominate with music in a distant background. I wasn't very happy in France and left for that reason. London was very rough the first times — I went there with pictures of "The Avengers" and the swinging '60s,  but recession was at its peak. Dance music was happening – sampling, electronics, amazing parties. For the first time, I saw new styles of music emerging, rather than hearing them 2 or 3 years later. There was music everywhere; it's just part of their culture. So I played in bands on bass and guitar in pubs a lot, sound-engineered, produced other people while making tracks on my own – influenced by producers that – with time –  I've discovered were mostly sampling old stuff, whereas I thought they were playing everything – amazing bass lines and drums that were often coming from library music. So in a way, that perverted me as after that I started using samples too, although always playing my own stuff prominently. To finish, I'd say that France is to music what England is to food  – France has good music and England has good food, but it's just not that easy to find.

 

2. Who are your musical influences in general?

 

The first big influence was the Beatles – and they still are. Glam Rock was also a big motivation in my teens, as was '70's disco – and it often pops up in my arrangements. Stevie Wonder also – up to Songs In the Key Of Life – these were records my older brother bought. The Beatles "I Am the Walrus" and other post-'66 records certainly made me see record production as a total part of song-making – creating atmospheres unheard of before and as I didn't see a live band before my late teens, records were how music existed for me. I often favoured rhythmic tracks to melodies and with time that lead me to Funk – through Kid Creole first, as they toured France a lot – then Prince, to (eventually) James Brown and all the great musicians he played with or he influenced. Sly Stone also, of course.


After I started making "soundtrack" music in '95, I began digging in the genre which I only knew from movies or series, but without being interested by who was making it. I'm ashamed to say – I was a pure product of the French media and they give no room to instrumental composers. Lalo Schiffrin, circa '67 is my favorite; Quincy Jones – before he gave up on orchestral arrangements; John Barry with "The Persuaders" theme – the images and the music made only one for me. This theme is very sad and associated with the pictures of the 2 kids growing up to become millionaires; it carries a strong feeling of nostalgia and it has nothing to do with the spirit of the series strangely but it works. "The Avengers" theme with the pictures works everytime for me.

 

Here in the West – or Stateside – much of the musical press is woefully unschooled about the aesthetic and techniques of electronica-based musicians – they often (and unfairly) dismiss the music as an exclusively keyboard/synthesizer-driven medium. You are a living refutation of this, as you are a self-taught multi-instrumentalist.

 

3. How many instruments do you play?

 

Bass, guitar, drums, keyboards and some percussions. The only problem is that it multiplies practice time and time is my enemy. I take so much of it to finish tracks, as I want to have a fresh point-of-view on each instrument like they were played by different people. Then comes sound engineering, arranging, mastering and the artwork sometimes.

 

4. Do you play all of the instruments on your most recent album, You've Been Spiked?

 

Yes – no outside musician there, apart from the occasional mashed-up sample.

 

While we're on the subject – your first album was actually The Man with the Suitcase – a concept album in the style of a soundtrack to an imagined '60s television show.

 

5. What inspired you in the creation and recording of The Man with the Suitcase?

In '95, a friend got a tape of Lalo Schifrin's "Mission Impossible" and "Mannix". Movie samples and soundtrack atmospheres had already appeared on Ninja Tune, Mo'Wax – Portishead had awakened (again) the interest for Lalo Schifrin. It was music that had inspired me unconsciously in my youth. I still find these two albums have a fantastic vibe.

So I did that track after hearing the tape at his place. One of the sounds I used was called "Suitcase Rhodes" – multisamples of one of the Rhodes electric pianos, and as the track had that theme vibe, I found it funny to call it "The Man With the Suitcase" – a reference to many series and movies that started with "the man"; "The Man From Uncle", "...with a golden arm" etc. The problem is that I'd never heard of the existing series "Man in a Suitcase" which was never aired in France -- if it was I missed it. Needless to say, if I'd known I would have called it something else...

A few days later I went and borrowed the tape and did the second track "The Wait". Then I stopped and went back to making drum 'n' bass – my passion of the moment. A few months later I started doing a blaxploitation track – a genre I knew nothing about apart from hearing it in car chases, but I'd never even heard the name "blaxploitation" until I bought the compilation of the same name much later – I sent these 3 tracks around to labels with drum 'n' bass tracks – as I had no sense of commercial coherence – but no one answered me. In '98, I bought my first PC and gathered the tracks I'd made in the past 3 years that had movie samples or atmospheres in them and made the cover to look like an old record with a text pretending I was a famous composer from the '60s. I chose an imaginary series, as I'd been inspired by them and because imaginary movie soundtracks had already been made. In '98, I thought it was already too late to do that, but when you look now, so many people have done it that it has become a genre. I sent the album to many labels in London but no one wanted it. 

The Man with the Suitcase is an ingenious recording, as is its follow-up, Dr Rhythm – both are hard-to-find.

 

6. Are there any plans to reissue either album?

 

Some tracks use movie samples like vocal snippets, which are close to impossible to clear – it would be a dangerous move. I would love to re-work the tracks and replace the samples, but all the masters are lost on the first LP due to a harddrive explosion in the days before backing-up was financially accessible. Maybe Dr Rhythm, if I find the time, which is unlikely right now. The thing is – it took me 2 years to make this album, but when Italian label Irma released it, nobody liked it. In France, their distributor – yet a childhood friend of my publisher/co-producer – didn't want to sell it. I didn't get a single review in any magazine worldwide – that really depressed me as you can imagine. So, I thought I was going in the wrong direction and it took me some time to re-adjust, which is why 'Spiked is quite different. So working on it again is not very motivating, although people write me about Dr Rhythm more than my other releases.

 

Your music seems heavily inspired by blaxploitation-era soul and funk, as well as disco. Indeed, tracks like "Drink Me Hot", "Wrong Alley Street (Part 1)", and "Discotheque Dancing" – all from "You've Been Spiked" – convey this the most.

 

7. Do you have any favorite soundtracks from that era (Blaxploitation: circa late'60s - mid '70s) to speak of?

 

Curtis Mayfield's Superfly and Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man as entire albums are really good. But then there are lots of good tracks in many movies — Johnny Pate's "Shaft in Africa", Issac Hayes' "Truck Turner", Gene Page's "Blacula" and many others.

 

You possess the often elusive interpretive gift for soundtrack composition. Indeed, you contributed several outstanding tracks to the Inside Deep Throat – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack; "Love is Strange" – "Theme From Deep Throat" – "Open Mouth Surgery"...

 

8. Do you have anymore soundtrack projects in the works?

 

No, but I'd love to — it's not my decision. Relatives or friends who know nothing about the music business, regularly ask me: "Why don't you do movie soundtracks?"and I have to explain that this is a very closed circle — a lot of people want to get in, not many do. It's a bit like: "Why don't you make a number 1?" and they go "yeah, why don't you ?"

 

And speaking of the soundtrack for "Inside Deep Throat" – there is a beautiful trip hop track produced by you that is featured in the film, but not available on the commercial soundtrack called "More Tingles". [It's playing at the Peace Bisquit website.]

 

9. Will "More Tingles" remain exclusively promotional, or are there plans to include it as a bonus track or such on a future album?

 

As could confirm Bill Coleman – the music supervisor of the movie whom I'm grateful to have enabled me to work on it – clearance for the dialogues or samples or tracks kept changing from day-to-day for months. I only just saw it on DVD; curious as I am, the first thing I did was going straight to the end and was surprised to hear "More Tingles". I'd been told it couldn't be used for the DVD – only for the theatrical release. Another surprise came from the credits where I'm credited as a performer, not a writer. It's true I used samples from a track from "Deep Throat" but made another one from that. But after seeing the movie, which explains very well who the rights belong to, I understand totally why and wouldn't even dream of claiming anything. So, no it won't be released anywhere – not by me anyway.

 

Going back to the You've Been Spike album – the set includes a myriad of wonderful styles – the aforementioned blaxploitation era-inspired tracks -- as well as the more disco-oriented ones like "A Part in That Show" – are beautifully offset by downbeat numbers like "Riviera 69", and the sensual "Waves of Love".

 

10. Do you have any plans to do an exclusively trip hop and/or downbeat full-length recording?

 

No not really – I don't plan ahead, I just make tracks and ditch the ones I can't get to sound how I want or that I get bored with after working on them on and off for 2 years. If I can work on them 2 years after I started them, that means they should stand the test of time – for me anyway as I have a low boredom threshold.

 

You have some excellent remix work out there: "Sugar Daddy" by Yerba Buena — Jody Watley's "Looking for a New Love 05" — "Chick a boom" by Joe Bataan.

 

11. What forthcoming remixes should we be on the lookout for?

 

A Woody Herman & Tito Puente remix in a broken beat style for Sunswept Music. I've also been doing production work for Cazwell, which is not exactly remixing as I'm following guidelines but that's fun to make and I love the tracks.


12. What singer or musician would you like to work with in the future?

 

I don't have names in mind, but whoever can sing well, would like to work with me and don't mind not getting paid for her/his hard work. The same goes for horn and string players. I'm joking but there's some truth in here as my record sales aren't big. I'm creating a space on Myspace.com and will try to meet people through that.

 

13. Are there any planned collaborations with your Eighteenth Street Lounge [ESL] Music label-mates, Thievery Corporation in the works?

 

Not that I know. I know there's an "ESL remixed" project but I don't know who remixes who.  I've never met them yet. I'm waiting for the biometric passports to be able to fly to the U.S., as now it's impossible to go there — there's a 4-month wait to get a visa – even if you have good reasons to go.

 

14. What are you listening to these days?

 

I just got the new Ursula 1000, which is excellent; we have a lot of common influences. I only have little time to listen to music as I'm so busy doing some (music) and rest my ears when I'm not, but I listen to what I'm being sent from other artists, or when searching something on the net I always end up on a music site. I'm trying to follow what's happening but there's so much music these days.

 

I often go back to '60s' and '70s' music. I feel the freedom, or hope of freedom representative of these years can be heard in the music – a reflection of the surroundings.

 

And lastly…

 

15. Do you have a title for your forthcoming fourth album?

 

No not yet – that always comes last – just like the titles of the tracks – I keep the working titles until the very last minute. I sometimes use name generators – you create a database of words and the program assembles them randomly and I keep the ones I like – not many though; "Drink Me Hot" came like this.

You can visit Chris at his official site,  chrisjoss.free.fr. Also, check out Chris' page at the Eighteenth Street Lounge website, as well as Bill Coleman's PeaceBisquit.com.

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Posted at 06:12 am by Mervin Malone
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Ivan's 13 Questions with Hip-House King, Doug Lazy!

Aria is pleased to welcome the leader of the oft-forgotten genre of Hip-House, Mr. Doug Lazy.

 

It's been quite a few years since we heard the name "Doug Lazy," so…

 

1) Let's take some time to hear what you're up to and what you've been doing since the glory days of Hip-House.

 

Well – what I have done since the Hip-House days are radio and commercial production. I was also in a hip-hop group called "3 Steps From Nowhere", which released one album back in the mid '90s; our single — called "Pass It On" — got a lot of video play on Rap City. I've done remixes like Aaliyah's "Rock The Boat," and voiceover work heard nationwide on radio and television. I've even produced hip hop joints for known artists but you wouldn't know because I didn't use the "Doug Lazy" name. It wasn't a smart move at the time to try to produce hip-hop with a known house music name. Perception is reality and unfortunately, people's perception was – a house producer could not produce authentic hip-hop – at least that's what I ran into. So, in a nutshell, I'm still doing everything I've been doing for years, and as far as the hip-hop name, (laughs), it will come out soon enough.

 

Just to go back a little to the history of Hip-House…

2) Where did Hip-House originate, and how did you get started in the genre?

I have to say it originated in Chi-town. I will tell you it didn't start with me. The first joint I heard was Tyree Cooper's "Turn Up The Bass." I was like, "what the f@*k??????" Then I heard Fast Eddie's joints. I credit both of these cats with making me want to do Hip-House. I even told Eddie this on his MySpace page. I think he pretty much was my favorite in the Hip-House game.

As far as how I got started, I was a DJ at the time I first heard Hip-House. I was mixing on radio in Washington, D.C., and had dabbled a bit in making beats. The story on how I created "Let It Roll" was funny. I had a Friday night mixshow and mixed every week from 7 p.m. to midnight. I mixed while the on-air DJ did his thing on the mic. One particular week I played a beat for him to talk over — that beat was called "King of the Beats" by Mantronik. This beat had the incredible "Bell Loop" first used by me, then used by Snap and Chill Rob G for the two versions of "The Power." What made me use it was the on-air DJ came in the room and said, "what was that beat you were playing while I was talking on the air?" – I told him what it was and then he told me he had gotten three callers who called in asking what it was. I was like, "hmmmmm." I went into the station's production studio after I was off the air and hooked the bell loop up to a house beat. It was as simple as that. The other DJ who mixed at the station was Sir Charles Dixon (now of Music Choice). He heard it and — being the smart dude he is — hooked me up with Vaughan Mason of "Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll" fame, who also lived in DC at the time. That hook-up changed my life. I have to give Sir Charles credit for that. We re-recorded it on Vaughan's studio equipment and I dropped the lyrics that same day. Vaughan released it on his label Grove Street Records and that's when the fuse was lit.

There were very few Hip-House artists and several that come to mind are K-Yze, Freedom Williams from C+C Music Factory and Queen Latifah with "Come Into My House" …

 

3) What do you think of the other Hip-House artists and songs that were released around the same time that your hits were out?

I never considered Queen Latifah a Hip-House artist, although she was at one of my shows and called me "Mr. Lazy" (laughs).

Freedom Williams was my boy. He will forever have my respect. One regret I have was that Freedom always asked me to produce for his album but I was always too busy. He used to go on before me sometimes at shows and perform. Imagine how much I kicked myself in the ass when C+C snatched him up. After that there was no need for me to produce him. What I respect about him is that after he opened for me in those early days before C+C, he showed me love when I performed on the same show with C+C — and it was me opening up for him/them. He was like, "We got Doug Lazy in the building!" and, he showed me love on stage while they were performing. He is a true entertainer.

K-Yze.... (laughs) Okay, let me say this. I performed with him several times and although he may not admit it, there was a rivalry between us as far as performing. I think he was a competitive dude and that made me want to beat him when we performed on the same show. When his song "Stomp" came out, he became the man (for a minute). His show was hot and I would be lying if I said I wasn't watching with a bit of hate (yeah I sipped from the haterade cup also). But it made me perform that much harder, so we got the best of them a few nights also. His song "Stomp" soon started to fade, but I kept coming with the hits, so... um... NEXT!

 

The reign of Hip-House was extremely short…

4) Why do you think Hip-House was such a fleeting genre?

I wish I knew. It was like a one-night stand. Hit it and quit it. If I had to guess, I think it was that both the hip-hop crowd and the house crowd turned their backs on it. Maybe to both sides it was cool and something new, but then it got boring. All I know is it was fun while it was big.

5) What is your take on how house music merged with hip-hop to create its own genre?


It was only a matter of time. Rap is always evolving, and it will inject itself into any form of music. It just happened to inject itself into a house beat one day. That's the only way I can describe it. Me being hip-hop from day one, I know there's always someone that will be creative and take it somewhere it hasn't gone.

 

You had the opportunity to work with such heavy-hitters as Marc Anthony, "Little" Louie Vega and India…

6) What was it like working with them on "Ride On The Rhythm"?

It was quick. I wrote the lyrics on the train up to NYC, walked into the studio, said what's up to Louie and Marc, went in the booth and dropped the heat. I came out, said goodbye to Louie and Marc and went back and got on the train. I think I was there maybe 30 minutes or less. They were cool. The MAW (Masters at Work) sound is on the next level. When I heard the final product I was like, "Ahhhhhhh!!!"

Let's talk about your album, Doug Lazy Gettin' Crazy. You had three hit songs with "Let It Roll," "Let The Rhythm Pump," and "H.O.U.S.E…"

 

7) When you released your first single, were you surprised by its success?


Surprised is an understatement. I was shocked! It didn't even sink in until months after Atlantic signed me. One day I just said "Damn, I'm doing it big with this Hip-House music." It was such a good time during the making of the album. I had never seen money like I was seeing, and I was so relaxed while producing it. No pressure. That's why I think I hit it with three number ones. It was so cool checking the Billboard dance chart every week. "Let It Roll" was my first, and my most favorite song that I have ever done. A song I did in a few hours changed my life forever. To this day they are STILL coming out with "Let It Roll" remixes (off the same acapella). Every year it's another one. Just hit up Google and you will see.

You were definitely the king of hip-house.

 

8) How did you get discovered/signed to Atlantic?

I appreciate the "King" comment. After Vaughan Mason released "Let It Roll" on his label, it got some club play in the Dallas area. Now this is what I have been told as far as how it went down. Basically, some guys heard it in Texas in the clubs and saw the reaction of the crowd. These dudes were the ears of one of the Atlantic reps in NYC. So, in a nutshell, they called him and let him know about the record -- and then Atlantic called me. I got signed very fast. What's crazy is that it was so fast it was like a blur to me. "Let It Roll" was a song that was unstoppable. That's the only way I can describe it. Once it got out into the world it was like a storm. "Let It Roll" was an instant-reaction record. It was raw as hell. If you listen to it you can hear the bell loop going offbeat several times during the song. Even my lyrics were not perfect, just RAW sounds, and I think that came across on the record that gave it that edge.

9) Why wasn't there a follow-up to Doug Lazy Gettin' Crazy?


Two words: HAMMER PANTS!  I knew I was doomed when – at the start of doing my second album – the dude at Atlantic asked if I could dance like Hammer, and if I had any pants like he wears. After realizing this dude was serious and was not smoking crack, I proceeded to leave and go back to D.C. radio. I couldn't do it (be Hammer). We were so close with the first album. See that's the problem. When you get an artist that gets close on the first release, EVERYONE wants to be the one to take him to the next level on the second album. I got caught up in that and the politics. Needless to say I walked away from my second album. I always had radio to fall back on because I started in radio before doing records. And I was very good on air. So to walk away was not as hard as someone who is only living to record a CD. Hip-House faded out anyway, so it really didn't matter.

10) If there were one thing you could change about your career, what would it be?


Not one thing. Period. I was part of a movement and even though the style didn't last long, I was a major player in it.


11) What are your thoughts on the state of house music and/or hip-hop today?


I'm loving both. I never get into the "music ain't the same" bull, or that "back in the day" thing. As I stated, I consider myself hip-hop more than house. I love both but that's what I have always been. Everything changes in music. New things come up to make it fresh. Being able to accept change is what separates a lot of people. Myself, I always welcome new things. This is one reason I have been able to rock a house beat that would get the club bouncing, then produce a hip-hop track that the hardest "gangsta" would appreciate.

12) Do you think the new LL Cool J/Jennifer Lopez track, "Control Myself," somewhat fits into the Hip-House category? Will it ever make a comeback?


I think that track is an uptempo, poppish rap song. That's it. Personally I think it's the farthest thing from a Hip-House song. My wife digs that song. It's a nice formula to that joint. As far as Hip-House making a comeback, no, not the way it was. Maybe it will come around again with a different twist on it.

And finally…

 

13) Can we expect to hear from Doug Lazy again?

Yeah, no doubt. In more ways than one. I am attacking the hip-hop and house production. My plate is full, which is a good thing. I decided about two months ago that I was going to do a follow up to Doug Lazy Gettin' Crazy. I made this decision because of the crazy sampling of songs I did over 15 years ago. Even Fatboy Slim sampled my voice from "Let The Rhythm Pump" for the Charlie's Angels movie (2000). I always wanted to know what would have happened if I had released a second album, and it's time to find out. But, I want to make it filled with the musical growth I have had over the years. I will take my time with it and hopefully it will get the party jumping.

 

You can visit Doug Lazy online at www.myspace.com/douglazy.  


Posted at 07:59 am by Mervin Malone
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