Saturday, February 03, 2007
I have accepted the challenge
The RPM Challenge, that is. You can follow in great detail on my page there. I will also post notable milestones and stuff here, too.
Here's what I wrote for my first blog entry there:
Alright, let's do this.
Having spent so much time over the last few years returning to pop/rock songwriting and singing, shifting over to something new like "hip-hop" is both refreshing and a bit intimidating. Of course, it's going to be my version of hip-hop, but that's what makes it interesting for me, and presumably for the listeners.
The challenge is that I am trying hard to make something with artistic value - it's far too easy for me to just crap out something that sounds like music. I could bang out 10 1-minute songs (like The Residents' "Commercial Album") in an afternoon. I could do a 35-minute improvisation in, well, 35 minutes. But that's a cop-out. I want to make a real record.
I've been kicking around the idea of a record called "Decayed, Decayed" for a while. I've been making music for over 20 years - two decades. I'm also getting old. Entropy wins. Things fall apart. I thought it might be fun to write some "answers" to songs I've written during my life. Create something about disintegration - of my self, of the world, of life - we live in apocalyptic times. And tip my hat to rap and hip-hop, as well as some old favorites.
"Rock is dead." "Hip-Hop is the new rock." Does it then follow that Hip-Hop is dead?
I remember being completely blown away hearing "The Message" in grade school. I grew up breakdancing to Run-D.M.C., grooving to Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" (the scratching in it changed my life, seriously), and thrilling to the music technology used in so much early hip-hop. That stuff just seemed so much more inventive, exciting, and futuristic than boring old guitars and drums. Tracks like Afrika Bambaataa's "Looking for the Perfect Beat" and "Planet Rock" sat on mix tapes next to Thomas Dolby and Gary Numan.
I hacked together a mixer out of stereo components and Radio Shack cables and destroyed many records making my own "scratch dubs" and cassette edits. My brother and I "discovered" the Beastie Boys via the "She's On It" 12-inch single before "Licensed To Ill" dropped. Everyone else hated it - we loved it.
In college, I dug into Public Enemy around the same time I dug into the original MC - musique concrete as created by Pierre Henri and Pierre Schaeffer. I also started listening to alternative electronic groups like Nitzer Ebb and Suicide, who seemed to have something in common with hip-hop and Detroit techno. Minimal, stark tracks consisting of little more than a drum machine, bass synth, and somebody whispering, talking, or screaming.
A few months ago I started thinking about what sort of record I wanted to make after finishing my faux new wave epic with Sid Luscious and The Pants. All these thoughts went bouncing around in my head. I thought about some of the new hip-hop that I really like - DJ Shadow and the Mo' Wax gang, Missy Elliott, The Coup. I figured I'd give it a try.
Then the RPM Challenge came along. Hip-hop is the news - it should be made fast and disposed of fast.
Alright. Let's do this. Here we go.