The lions have been straight grinding as of late, and our increased clout has resulted in an influx of interviews with some dope artists. Most recently, we got down with 1/2 of Oakland production duo Bossasaurus. Egon Brainparts (right) and Negatron Johnson have been climbing up the food chain in the last few months, releasing their Dino Riders Megamix and a couple dope remixes to critical acclaim (i.e. blogs, hipsters). Egon got on the horn with us to explain “Electro-Prog-Hop,” give a progress report on their upcoming debut album, and share their views on music, in general. Catch them on a mini-tour this summer (more details as they become available), and preview some pre-historic heat over at their home base. Those checking in through work or mobile can catch an abbreviated transcript after the jump.
How did you guys link up originally?
We were friends in high school. We lived in the same neighborhood in Oakland, and Nick’s mom used to drive us to school and we used to knock WAR and Smokey Robinson and things like that in the morning. I started out MCing when I was in high school and did that for a while, but I always helped Negatron pick out the samples. And we rocked it like that back in the day, and then we went to college in separate places, and I wanted to be able to make my own beats. I picked it up then, and he kept up at it, and then we got back together in the Bay…and started doing this Bossasaurus shit.
There’s a nitch in the game. We came up on all the older hip hop producers. We love DJ Shadow’s Entroducing and RJD2 and all that shit— those fools moved on to other interesting stuff. I’m not trying to make the kind of music that they were making, but we love that kind of instrumental music that pulls from all different genres and samples.
How would you describe your sound, because I know you guys got some comparisons to Dre on that Murs remix?
What we settled on was, we call it “Electro-Prog-Hop.” Y’know, because we make some joints that sound more like Justice or Daft Punk, but it’s not exactly that. We also make joinst that are— We sat down to make the Murs joint, and we were like, we wanna make some throwback West Coast shit. It’s definitely inspired by Dre, but that’s why it’s hard for me to describe what exactly the sound is. The essential components are: we use samples, analogue synths, and drum breaks. We sequence it on the computer, but we don’t really use virtual instruments.
Can you reveal any of your tools to the trade (i.e. synths, programs, etc.)?
Basically, our process is this: we dig a lot of $1 vinyl, surf blogs that have shit that, in a record store, you’d never be able to afford. About a year and a half ago, we went on a binge, downloading all these albums, and spent a good month going through them and chopping them. It wasn’t fun. I mean, parts of it were fun, but you have to go through all the bullshit mixed in with the gems. That’s why I feel okay about sampling because— if a song is fucking classic, it’ll be real tough to make it better. Basically, we have like 7500 records chopped and sampled. Then we use Reason for sequencing. As for synths, we have the Moog Voyager, ARP Oddessey, Roland SH-9… Y’know, all old school synths. It’s just gritty and rich, and you get all the dope harmonics. It sounds so unique. So it’s a mixture of shit that’s played live and put in directly, and a little more micro-management with the mouse.
What’s the work dynamic like? Do you guys have musical backgrounds?
Negatron was in Jazz band, he was a bassist. He’d produce for us when I was rapping, but I was always instrumental to that process, picking the samples. I don’t have formal musical training, but my biggest asset is that I’ve listened to a hell of a lot of music, and I know exactly what I want. So when I go into the studio, and I have all my instruments, even though I haven’t been trained to be a pianist, I’ve practiced enough that I can get the sound I want out of each of those synthesizers. So, formal training— I’ve gotten around that.
What’s the deal with this quote on your Myspace page: They dont’ sample dance hits from 2001, loop them, add a snare to call it “Stronger,” and walk around like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.’ How do you feel about Kanye?
Man, we both don’t like Kanye very much. [Laughs] He’s not like the worst music out there, but the thing that’s tough for me is that, from the beginning when he started to pop off, it was like, “This dude is the savior. He’s bringing back the Golden Era of Hip-Hop.” But me and Negatron would listen to it and we would be like “That’s a chunky-ass sample. He just sampled 15 seconds of a song, and it’s not that hard or amazing.” And then it got to the point where he thinks he’s the shit and everyone follows along with it. It’s hard to tolerate. The whole trend of re-sampling things that came out 5 or 6 years ago… The fact that everybody is on ["Stronger"'s] nuts— That’s not ill to me. I understand how it works in a Capitalist economy, but taking someone’s song that was a hit and then twisting it around and introducing it to a new audience and it becomes an even bigger hit— We’re not into it. We like to take obscure samples, like a great 5 seconds in the middle of some Pro-Rock song that may not be totally ill, but there are great elements in that song. I think it’s really the fact that so fools geek off of it that bugs me. He’s not horrible, but he’s not the savior, either.
Tell us about this debut album you’re working on.
You’re hard-pressed to find an album that’s ill front-to-back. We have all the tracks that are in various stages of being finished. I mean, we’re not going to rush it. We want to put out classic, classic album. We don’t have a firm date, but we’re trying to build up our fanbase through performing live and internet marketing/promoting. It doesn’t make sense to put out an album before you have a fan base to appreciate it. We’re working on lots of remixes now and performing. Summer’s are beautiful for me, because I’m a 4th and 5th grade school teacher.
But it will be a concept album about a guy named Boss, and Boss is a douche bag. He’s a car salesmen, and he’s slimy in the most stereotypical car salesmen way. Basically, he says a lot words, but he ain’t really saying shit. In the middle of the album, he gets into a car accident and ends up killing a young boy. In the hospital, he’s met by Illogic, this MC from Ohio, who plays his doctor. Illogic tells him that he’s lost his ability to speak, so the second half of the album follows him learning to express himself without using his voice. So the way that’s manifested in the album is cutting up lots of different words from movies and comedy recordings and piecing them together like a collage. The point is that, through sampling technology, he finds he’s able to say more meaningful messages even though he doesn’t have his voice anymore. I want it to be intellectually interesting, because that could be one criticism of primarily instrumental music.
How did you hook up with Illogic?
We just hollered at him. He was feeling our beats, we sent him “Guidance” on our Dino Riders Megamix. We told him the concept, he watched some ER, did a little research, and we went to work. And we’re trying to holler at some other MCs… Aesop Rock… and Blu. And we’re trying to figure out how much that’ll cost. We got this dude named Beat Wrecka, this nasty beatboxer from the UK…
You guys have been making some noise with that Redman and Method Man joint. How did that come about?
It was for this context hosted by illRoots, and we didn’t even make the top 25. We have this dude who’s our manager from Always Hustle, and he’s been advising us not to blow up and piss off the blogs. Blogs have the position of being a tastemaker, which is great, and they put in a lot of time, but it was a bitter pill to swallow.