5 Questions with Rags #46 - Moontricks

If you've been around dance music in Western Canada in the last year at all, you've probably come across Moontricks. The duo, Nog and Sean, are out in these mountains and streets, making downright sexy bass music. They've become festival favourites, pleasing audiences of all stripes. (Anyone else get trapped in the line outside of Lucky Bar during Rifflandia? Goodness gracious.) It's not hard to figure out why their appeal seems so universal - the combination of deep, ultra-silky basslines and live instrumentation (Guitars, banjo, harmonica) is both new and familiar, futuristic and rustic. The fact that this all brought to our ears by two super-nice dudes is just a goddamned treat, really. It took me awhile to get these deservedly busy cats on the phone for a little chat, but I finally managed to do it, as they prepare to hit the road to help the masses thaw out from the winter and start getting ready for the warmer, sexier summer nights ahead. Go out there, see Moontricks on the road and wind up your waists.

1. Do you guys remember the first album you bought with your own money?

Sean: It was probably one of those order 10-CD club things, probably. I just remember some of the early stuff was Green Day, Sublime, Rage Against the Machine.

Nog: I tended to have mixtapes for the most parts that were just raided from my parents' collection. I don't think it was any album in particular.

Any particular song on those mixtapes that made you wanna get after it more?

N: Marvin Gaye. There was a tape that had Marvin Gaye's “Heard It Through the Grapevine.” That was a good roadtrip tune.

S: Classic.

2. When is the last time you did something for the first time?

S: That's a really good question. Ummm, we played Canmore. <laughs>

N: Yesterday I was out hiking and came across a cougar that had crawled up and died in this cave and was frozen solid in the back of this cave. It has icicles coming from the ceiling of the cave down over it. There's been a cold-snap for the last month and so there's this rock-solid cougar in a cave that we came across. That's the first time I've done that.

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5 Questions with Rags #45 - Father Funk

Father Funk had been on my radar for a little over a year before his debut in Fractal Forest at Shambhala last summer. I was not surprised when he blew the faces off everyone in the Forest to start that Friday night with the Fractal Family. However, when one notoriously picky electronic-expert-listener friend was blown away by his set as well, I knew it was something special. You see, she had seemingly moved beyond the realm of easily accessible, hard rocking party sets and needed things to be more abstract, odd...I don't even really know with her sometimes. But here was Father Funk, coming right over the middle of the plate with heater after heater, accessible and funky as hell, smashing her selective ears apart. Luckily for her, her ears still work, despite the relentless Funk assault that was unleashed that night and, luckily for the rest of us in Canada, Father Funk seemingly found a new base that weekend. I caught up with the homie in the midst of his latest Canadian tour, to talk about Jimi Hendrix, good advice and the meaning of “Love.”

Come bust a move to Father Funk's Full Frontal Funk Fest with yours truly this Family Day weekend in Victoria at Upstairs Cabaret!

1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

I think it was probably “All Killer, No Filler” by Sum 41.

Wow. Do you ever still listen to it?

Not really. I still regard it as a good album. I mean, I still listen to that sort of music but I like the ska and punk side of it. I listen to a lot of Mad Caddies, Streetlight Manifesto, Less Than Jake...bands like that. Sum 41 was more of a teen phase.

2. When is the last time you did something for the first time?

I guess, fairly often, being a DJ and going all over the world, being in different countries I've not been in. That's probably it. Oh, well I watched a hockey match last night for the first time. It was good. It wasn't a full-on professional game. My friend was having a bit of session with his local team.

Where's the last place that you went to that blew your mind with the energy they had for you?

I guess Kelowna the other weekend and them Big White (Whistler) the same weekend. I guess that was more people who didn't particularly know who I was. They were just enjoying the music I was playing. I think sometimes that's even nicer, I guess it's a bit more real when someone's responded to your music organically rather than because it's hyped up or whatever.

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5 Questions with Rags #44 - Ben Caplan (& The Casual Smokers)

There isn't a voice in Canadian like music like Ben Caplan. The deep, gravel-voiced leader of Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers is a captivating talent, writing intelligent, interesting songs and delivering them with an intense passion and formidable talent. His songs are at once modern and timeless, covering love and life, good and evil, light and dark with eloquent nimbleness. I caught up with the mysterious man from the Maritimes as he and The Casual Smokers prepare to embark on a 33-date North American tour that sees the band go coast to coast across the Great White North and dipping down over the border to help ease the minds of our southern neighbours during troubling times.

1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

I do. It was a tape, I bought Pink Floyd's Relics.

Wow, that's not usually the first Pink Floyd record people pick up.

<laughs> It was a weird one, yeah. I had an older brother who was really into Pink Floyd. I wanted to make him think I was cool by finding a tape that he didn't have.

And did it work?

I don't know. Probably not. But I got into it.

2. Speaking as an older brother, you're right, it probably didn't. When is the last time you did something for the first time?

Probably last week, but I can't tell you what it is.

A secret project?! Oooh la la.

Haha. I'll tell you what, here's another one...I went to the Banff Centre for the first time about a month ago to do some work on a theatre project that I'm building. I'm working with actors and musicians on a theatre project I'm writing and I've never done that before. That was a big first for me. I think there's eight of us in total – four musicians, two actors, a director and another writer. It's been an interesting project. 

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5 Questions with Rags #43 - Immerze

An immense talent for the art of rapping combined with a seemingly endless well of hustle has helped Toronto-to-Vancouver transplant Immerze has established himself as one of Canada's most consistent and exciting Mcs in a surprisingly short time. A grimy, big-city east-coast feel gives his tracks a reliable bottom end with a defined west-coast lightness and positivity colouring everything, splitting the difference between the two aesthetics. It's getting trickier and trickier for to bond over hip-hop with younger, burgeoning heads but Immerze gives us a fertile common ground to start from. His trap-heavy beats are tuned for a younger ear, but the positive, family-man-gangsta lyrics are perfect for the uhhh older heads among us. There's an edge, but it's not sinister. It's a delicate balancing act that Immerze pulls off perfectly. I caught him on the phone from home in Vancouver to answer our silly questions for a smoky, bottom-heavy instalments of 5 Questions with Rags.

Keeping up with that track record of consistency, Immerze just released the new video for new single “2 Cents/Black Bond.” It's dope. Get after it.

1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

Yep! 5O Cent Get Rich Or Die Tryin'. I think I bought like five of those albums. <laughs> Realistically though I bought four or five. If it wasn't in the car I was in, I would buy just so it was there. That album was religion when it came out.

What's your favourite track on there? You can only pick one..

Oh man...So many... “Many Men,” that one was on repeat heavy. Hmmm, there's so many. That album's a classic. Yeah, we'll stick with “Many Men.”

When's the last time you listened to it?

The album it its entirety? Probably about a year ago.

Do you find you get much time to listen to full albums anymore?

I always try to find time. If a new album comes out and I know I don't have time to listen to it in its entirety, I won't listen to it. Whether it's late at night or early in the morning, I'll find time. It's hard to do. You really gotta be a fan to do that. You're not doing that just skimming through. Albums that came out, like the Anderson .Paak album, I knew I wanted to be fully attentive when I listened to that, so I waited until a month or two after it came out. Then I can form my own opinion without the hype. An artist spends time making an album, so when you listen to it, at least give them the respect of listening to it yourself. Especially albums. Albums are usually pieces of a person's life. They're putting their life on wax for you to enjoy. So, to it's just shit while skimming through some tracks, that's real disrespectful.

2. What's your most positive memory of an elementary or high school teacher?

My guidance counsellor. He smoked weed every day. He would call me out of class, make it seem like we had a meeting and he'd tell me some funny-ass stories and he'd be like, “I'm fucking high bro. Don't tell anybody.” He was cool and didn't give a fuck. I though, “If all teachers were like this kids would actually want to come to school.”

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Lyrics Born changed the Hip-Hop game for me. You should listen to Lyrics Born.

As the 'Quannum Mcs' tour gets closer to nearing my hometown of Victoria and second home in Vancouver, I'm taking a look back at a couple of the ways this collective has shaped my ear, my musical sensibility and my love of hip-hop.

Please get after it and go see three of the best Mcs the west coast has produced in the last 20 years. Tickets for Victoria (Feb 24 at Distrik) can be found HERE. Tickets for Vancouver (Feb. 25 at Venue) can be found HERE. Both shows are early shows for us older heads to get our hip-hop on.

I was taken into my first live hip-hop show almost completely blind. A friend had convinced me that this guy we were going to see was going to blow me away. I'd only known of Lyrics Born from his guest spot on Blackalicious' “Release” (from Blazing Arrow), but my friend seemed to know what he was talking about, so I tagged along. That was 13 years ago, just a few days after my 19th birthday, when I was legally allowed into venues in BC. I'd never seen anyone hit the stage with that much energy. The small brick room was packed end-to-end and side-to-side. (I think one can safely assume the '190' or capacity was being pushed to the very limits.) Air was hot, space was sacred and no one could have cared less. Lyrics Born put on one helluva show. At the time, I didn't really know any of his music but I was moving and going crazy none the less. His energy and smile were utterly infectious. When his hands went up, ours went up. When he moved from side to to side, so did the crowd. By the end of the night, I was hooked.

At the time I didn't realize that the homie was part of the legendary duo Latyrx. I mean, I grew up on the west coast and had ears, so I'd heard “Balcony Beach” but I didn't put two and two together that night. And I knew of the previously mentioned spot on “Release,” but little else. I took to the internet to discover more, trying especially hard to find a song that hadn't left my head that I only assumed was called “Bad Dreams.” Turned out that I did indeed have the song title correct, but the album that was supposed to contain that song was still due out for release. I waited and waited. I remember going down to Ditch Records on release day to get my hands on Later That Day, an album that still finds regular rotation to this day. The sides of the CD's digipack is frayed and beaten up, but the music is no less hot than it was the first day I brought it home and blasted it on my headphones, laying on my bed. “Bad Dreams” still makes it way onto playlists. “Callin' Out” shows up when it's time to get pumped up for something. “Hot Bizness” has helped me thump my way through many walks around the city. “Do That There” still inspires solo dance parties in the basement, or kitchen, or even shower. You know, that bastion of safe dancing space, the shower?

Since that night, and the proceeding years of hip-hop goodness, Lyrics Born has been a constant fixture in my listening diet, even showing up at the least likely of times. I'll catch a clip of an LB song in an ad and I'll smile, be happy that the homie is getting paid to get his music out there. I remember a particularly annoying younger girl singing “I Changed My Mind,” and making me forget how bothered I was by her. I had friends coming up to me after seeing Lyrics Born at Rifflandia, telling me how much they loved that guy and asking if I knew anything about him. The world – well, my world at least – is better for having Lyrics Born in it. If the world was a perfect place we'd all have a bit of LB blasting from our radios, headphones, computers, whatever it is you listen to music on. His positivity and hustle are a constant source of inspiration but above all else, brother can rap his fucking ass off.