Friday, February 20, 2015

Never seen before, never heard before

I was in the studio last night looking through some unfinished material, was going to work on a track called "3 Days" but found this piece at the very beginning before everything:

I have no idea what this was for, I've used KRS One's "I'm Still #1" before, but not like this.  Figured I'd upload it and share it.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Cut the record...

This is probably the beginning of a series of outtakes/ideas/interludes that never made it onto any of my CDs.  The chance of me releasing another full-length CD is very slim, but I still would like to share some of this material.

A few things came together for this track.  The movie The Breakfast Club, Two Kings in a Cipher's "For the Brothers Who Ain't Here" video, and just some of my personal experiences, past and present.

The Breakfast Club. 
I saw this movie sometime in junior high, preferring to watch this John Hughes movie over Sixteen Candles (Long Duk Dong comments I heard in school made me really not want to see what that character was about...!).  Because of my nerdish tendencies growing up, I slightly identified with Anthony Michael Hall’s character of Brian, but the version of me would be Filipino, less talkative, with cooler sneakers.  But it was the exchanges between Judd Nelson’s and Emilio Estevez’s characters that I remembered, explained later in this post (at 1:20):

Two Kings in a Cipher. 
While I was in college, I didn’t have cable, but watched a hip- hop video show called Pump It Up that came on late Friday nights.  I caught the video “For the Brothers Who Ain’t Here.”  While parts of the song did not speak to me directly, I dug the funky beat, and wished that DOP had actually busted rhymes over the Meters - sampled track.  When he said “I could scream til my voice disappears, think until my head bursts…”  I remembered that because it described the frustration within myself at the time.  Stressed out over classes and grades, being broke, working my crappy deli job – nothing uncommon for most college students (at 2:40).

At this time, I wasn't even a Hobo and I hadn’t even met Dibbs yet, so this was one of those small musical verbal moments that kind of stayed in my head.

Personal experiences.
As a Filipino kid growing up in the '80s, it wasn't always easy for me.  I was constantly the object of racial verbal abuse by classmates, even by other Asian classmates.  It never made sense to me to have "shing shong" and "eggroll" type comments directed towards me, a Filipino kid who was born in Cincinnati and didn't speak another language except English.  (This subject could be another entire blog post by itself.)

This was a daily thing.  Back then, I wished to just kind of blend in and not attract attention to myself.

Today, I have a 9 to 5 in a laboratory, so a majority of the time I’m surrounded by people with no connection to hip hop (or any of my other interests, for that matter).  To some of my coworkers, I’m involved in a genre that’s “not music” and does nothing but “advocate(s) violence and selling crack.” 

So I don't talk too much at work, which makes me seem boring, I guess.  The thing is, I’ve had people at work either straight up ignore me or even walk away from me while standing in front of them asking them a question.  It happens a lot, but the one thing I remember is my hand catching on fire due to a chemical reaction in a test tube I was holding.  There was a violent reaction in the test tube, and small fireballs spat out and landed on my gloved hand.  I yelled, “OH SHIT!” really loud and ran to the fume hood to get the test tube out of my hand and put the fire out.  My coworkers just looked up for a second and went back to their paperwork. 

So I guess my wish of becoming somewhat invisible came true! 

And all these things became this:

This is pretty much how most sections of my past work were put together.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, February 2, 2015

Trying to find a balance

 I promised that I’d be getting back to posting tracks and breakdowns, but some things last week got in the way:  Trying to locate a bat in the adjacent room to the studio, a recording mistake that I attempted to fix via Cool Edit Pro (which I gave up trying to figure out and ended up re-recording everything), and just everyday life in general. 

The only goal I ever had music-wise was putting out material that was well received and respected.  I feel that I accomplished that – one good review was always enough to make my effort seem worth it.

Now, years after my last video project and even longer after my last full-length mixtape, and what seems like eons since my last battle, I now realize how much I miss it.  When I was more active, I led the “double-life” – long nights in the basement studio working into the early mornings or late weeknight gigs while balancing a full-time job.  But it was that double life and working on music that gave me balance.

For the past few years, I’ve been working at my normal job, considering myself a “semi-retired” turntablist.  But being surrounded 5 days a week by people who share none of your interests is difficult.  The need to be heard through my apparently dope-but-completely-unmarketable skills has never been stronger.

Thanks for reading this rambling post; I felt I had to get this off my chest.  Maybe this explains why I even started doing all of this in the first place.

Track should be finished and posted with a breakdown soon.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Once again, it's on...

Well, kind of.

Ever since The Last Amateur dropped in 2007, I've not released another full-length mixtape. The only project afterwards was my "Nowhere to Run" video track in 2011.

I've been inactive because I think I've said all I wanted to say with those last two projects, and that I had nothing more to say.

Since my self-imposed and gradual semi-retirement from DJing, I've been "living on the 'gram", that is, posting on Instagram the occasional clip of me scratching, but mostly posting pictures of my favorite things: food, footwear, and of course, fitteds.

It was my search for the Frank 151 X New Era in the Atlanta Braves colorway which renewed my interest in blogging (and music, indirectly): The bill of these has a quote from Mr. Franklin stitched on the underside:

 "If you would not be forgotten,
As soon as you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worthy reading,
Or do things worth the writing.”

I feel it’s time for me to share some of my music ideas, some of which have been on the back burner for years, and some of which may never come to fruition. But I’d like to put them out there. Why? Why not?

According to my homie Ronnie, today is National DJ Day, so I felt what better time to celebrate DJ-ness than getting back into the mix?

Still trying to figure out the format of how I’ll do this, but look for this blog to be updated regularly.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Summer Vacation (Part 1)

Short and simple with a lot of pictures since people don't like to read too much anymore. First vacation in years. Scotland and England.
First stop: Edinburgh, Scotland.
My wife Tanya and I at Edinburgh Castle:
On a day trip to St. Andrews, stopped at a small fishing village named Anstruther and saw this:
Fish and Chips Shop of the Year in the entire UK 2008-2009? Worth trying! I got this:
Wow. Unbelievably delicious. This haddock probably had less than one food mile to it.
Tanya and I at the old golf course on St. Andrews, standing on the first fairway:
Posing like a champ on the Swilcan Bridge:
I actually re-created this "Chariots of Fire" scene not far from the previous photo. I decided not to post it after seeing how funny I looked running on the beach. In a Boomer Esiason throwback jersey.
A few days later in Seahouses. For some reason I keep/kept referring to the village as "Seahorses."
North Sea behind me. Cold and windy, but beautiful here.
Later in the evening at the Olde Ship, the Seafood Platter. The only meal to beat the fish and chips posted above:
Again, unbelievable. And served cold! Mades Red Lobster seem like McDonald's.
Will post more soon. Will also be finishing recording and posting some random tracks when I return home. I know none of this is music related, but still wanted to share. Thanks for reading! John

Monday, January 16, 2012

One Year Later...

My “Nowhere to Run” video was released a year ago today. It probably has more listens than the CDs I’ve put out over the last few years. People have asked me questions about it (and still do) but never quite fully understand what I’m talking about when I answer – sample clearance, mixtapes, beats, jackin’ for beats, hip hop references, etc. When I get the blank stare, I kind of wrap it up quickly. But I felt compelled to explain it in detail here. Frankly, I think those who read this blog would understand.

The original idea for this video was supposed to be the intro for my next CD, the one after The Last Amateur. The overall concept of the entire came from Danger Mouse’s legal issues from releasing The Grey album and the arrest of DJ Drama. I thought to myself, “I’d never get caught. I would take off running!”

The skeleton of the intro was to be composed of Ghostface’s “Run”, Cappadonna’s “Run”, Kool G. Rap’s “On The Run” (both versions), Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”, K-Solo’s “Fugitive” and some movie dialogue from the movie Primal Fear.

Because of the whole running thought, I wanted to also use N.W.A’s “100 Miles and Runnin’” but it didn’t seem to fit, as it was far more up-tempo than anything else I was planning to use in the intro.

So while all these ideas were milling around in my head, I found myself recording less and less because of the daily pressures of my job. Then I got laid off.

When I was issued my blue work uniform at my current job (10 days after being laid off!), I laughed to myself and thought of the "100 Miles and Runnin'" video.

A couple of weeks later, it was announced that Scribble Jam was being cancelled indefinitely. I shelved the idea of another CD and decided to put together a video as my music project instead.

I didn’t know what to use as the base for the track at first – I ended up using “100 Miles and Runnin'" because I had ideas in my head of how I wanted to flip the concept of the track. I remember seeing the video sometime after I had bought the album on cassette (!). The running scenes in the beginning of the video looked so hardcore and intense. I wanted somehow to replicate that intensity, but in a way more relatable to me.

I started with the beat – I had a copy of James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turnit Loose”, but it was really staticky and didn’t sound very good looped up. Plus, I was going to be inserting verbals from the N.W.A song, so I wanted the levels and sound to be consistent.

There was no open beat in “100 Miles and Runnin’”, and I didn’t have the 12-inch (was there even an instrumental for this?), so I looped up one bar from the intro (you can actually hear remnants of the siren over the beat) and laid down 48 bars to tape.

Started going through the actual song, listening closely to all the inserts that Dre used. The one sample I couldn’t find was the multiple stabs at the end of Dre’s first verse. I kept thinking it was from an MC Lyte song, but my search was fruitless.

I hesitantly called Dibbs and he snorted and referred me to Kevin Beacham, whom I wasn’t able to get hold of. And to be honest, I only tried once, because it felt like such a stupid question to ask.

A few lines from other songs that I incorporated:

“Gotta go…” and “Started packing the Gucci bags like I was going on a world tour” (the “Award Tour” sample insert just came to me – yes, I realize it’s “Award Tour” and not “a world tour” haha) from “On the Run”

“Do me a favor, don’t try to catch me…” from “DWYCK”

“I leave clue after clue, but they can’t catch me yet” from “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted"

There was one really dope line from Main Source’s “Fakin’ The Funk (original version)” that I really wanted to use, but it just didn’t fit: “When the shit hits the fan / I never run and never ran / ‘Cause that’s not part of the plan…” Maybe I'll use it somewhere else in the future.

So I mapped the beat out and composed in the same manner I do my mixtapes:

My brother-in-law Dante and my homie Aaron agreed to help out by filming some of the initial running scenes. I had a rough storyboard (really rough, don't laugh), but those scenes would be filmed later:

Dante's brother Glenn is a professional film editor who lives and works in New York. He was going to be in Cincy for a few days during Thanksgiving, so we scheduled some time when we could shoot some scenes if he wasn’t doing anything.

We spent about 4 hours shooting the work/running/driving scenes. I was honestly exhausted after all the running I did. The McRib scene was breaktime!

In a nod to Eazy’s Compton hat, I wore a black and white Cincinnati Cooperstown New Era, with the Olde English "C."

I went up to New York a couple of months later and Glenn and I edited the entire project together, second by second.

Kind of funny - I never liked the title "Nowhere to Run." I have this habit of being somewhat linear with naming things: Most track titles on my CDs are movie titles, my CD titles are references to book titles, and my blog posts are either song titles or lines from songs (the more recent ones, anyway).

Glenn was right about to finalize the file and said, "What's the title?" I thought of the Martha and the Vandellas insert and it happened to be a movie title, also.

Now I feel like I've explained everything without cutting it short.

Thanks for reading, and I'll be uploading a new track soon.

Note: Someone had mentioned to me (what up Forty!) how cool it was to have put my "mad-scientist chemical self" in the video. One of the motivations to do this project in the first place was to show that not all DJs are jet-setting, globe-trotting, up-in-the-club superstars. Some of us are regular guys with jobs and normal lives - who happen to be DJs.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

And I'm a Nikehead, I make tapes that excite the feds

With all the hype in the past couple of weeks about the Jordan XI retro release and the upcoming release of the IV in February…

I couldn’t believe that these were still boxed in my basement. I should probably just get rid of these at this point, they've been worn to death and are over 10 years old.

On another note, I've been spending time in the studio working on another short track. I hope to post it up here soon.

Hope everyone had a Happy New Year!