5 Questions (And more!) with Rags #57 - AppleCat

I first saw AppleCat at Rifflandia in 2016, almost completely by accident – a beautiful, cosmically tremendous accident – and was taken in right away. Her mesmerizing, supple bass was more warming than anything else I'd ever heard that could be called “dubstep.” It made me groove and dance, but there was something else that I hadn't heard in my electronic music up until that point. It was soothing in a way that I hadn't experienced the genre before, oozing with new ideas and an energy that I hadn't felt in that setting. That night in the red-brick-embrace of Lucky Bar, I realized how few female/feminine Djs I had in my diet. I had got lazy and hadn't dug much. In such a male-dominated landscape, feminine voices often get drowned or pushed to the side. It takes sometimes takes energy to find this stuff on your own. So I started putting energy there. I started looking at festival rosters differently, started seeking out new voices in my bass adventures. AppleCat set that off inside of me. To top off my own journey with her music, she won over a whole new set of friends at this years Rifflandia. I was lucky enough to get some of her time in between her seemingly endless musical output, shows and her involvement with the incredible multi-platform media project Amplify Her, which you should 100% check out and support. (You'll notice a couple of extra questions on the docket today and that's because she answered my stuff so eloquently, it felt a shame to cut up her words.)

How did you get involved with Amplify Her? How has that process been? What's been the most surprising part of the experience for you?
I was the initial inspiration to the Documentary Amplify Her. I met the film's co-director Ian Mackenzie at Burning Man in 2012. He experienced me perform live for the first time and was apparently struck. What he experienced was a weaving, a tapestry of sound set to bring the audience on a journey from start to finish. He mentioned to me something about a film he wanted to make and the Dark Feminine's Unique offering to the world of music; and honestly I kind of shrugged it off. Clearly he was serious. Five years later the film, the graphic novel and the animation are being released and I am kind of awash in bewilderment - So where will this take me and the other Women involved in the film? I have absolutely no idea. With such vulnerable parts of my personal life exposed, I cannot help but feel bashful - yet more empowered than I have ever been. What would it mean to be transparent with our stories? and thus have our greatest wounds be transmuted to our greatest gifts. As David Bowie said, "I don't know where I'm going from here, but i promise it won't be boring"

How long have been creating music? What has creating music taught you about yourself?
I have been writing songs and performing music since I was 17 and sneaking into bars to perform. Music is something that has always been with me, kept me grounded and never abandoned me even in times where it felt like everything else did. That said pre AppleCat it was a pretty solo venture, and for the most part I sang with my eyes closed, too scared to let anyone in. I have been performing as an electronic artist since early 2011. Stepping into my AppleCat project has allowed me the space to tell the deep primal sensual stories that live inside of all of us. It has taught me about the intimacy of tending to a crowd, the connection to the fans and loved ones that arises as I guide their experience (and they mine). It is absolutely integral to the person I have become. I would not be so attentive, inspired, creative, empathic and unabashedly myself should I have not taken this route.

1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money? Yes and I am inclined to lie, but wont. I remember it could be one of three CDs: the Sailor Moon soundtrack, Aqua - Aquarium, or The Crow soundtrack. That said, I am pretty sure it was the Sailor Moon Soundtrack, and yes I can still recall a fair amount of the song lyrics. (♪ fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight ♪......)

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5 Questions with Rags #56 - Makemdef (of Chuurch)

Justin 'Makemdef' MacLean came onto my radar as one half of the mighty CHUURCH. Their groovy, weird and driving 'Lean Bass' sank its hooks deep into my eardrums right away. My Shambhala crew came together and re-energized to their music when Chuurch had their Sunday 4am set moved up to Saturday at 8pm in the face of the threatening forest fires nearby. Watching Makemdef on stage pantomiming around like some kind of possessed bass priest, may be the greatest spectacle I've ever seen behind a set of decks. Turns out homie is a hella great hip-hop producer as well, working with some of Canada's finest like Snak the Ripper, Moka Only and Emotionz. Which really, considering the obvious and deep hip-hop influence in Chuurch's ysht, shouldn't come as a surprise. Last week Makemdef unleashed a pretty amazing beat-tape that any head should be putting in their ears. I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes of his valuable time where we definitely talked Chuurch, but managed to squeeze in a quick 5 Questions in which we cover breakfast sandwiches, his greatest fear and the glory that is Nas.

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

It was Nas God's Son. It blew my mind, I'd never heard anything like that before. My identity changed after hearing Nas, it was crazy.

2. I think that's the proper human response to really listening to Nas for the first time. <laugh> When is the last time you did something for the first time? (I don't normally comment on how people answer these things, but the enthusiasm in homie's voice for new experiences and new art and the quickness with which he answered this really made me smile and was frankly, just a tad inspiring.)

Oh man, every day. When I'm traveling I see and experience new things all of the time. I think the last time I saw something new, I saw the biggest metal sculpture that emits flame. That's a crazy thing to see. Different scenes everywhere. It's crazy how you can experience something for the first time, but also for the thousandth time. Every day I try to do something like that. There are some pretty significant ones - I wish I knew the very last new thing like that I experienced. Even just new scenes, like when you walk into a carnival or something. Oh! I saw a big bass carnival, this is cool. I was camped next to this giant carnival. There was something like 17 dancers wearing different masks, it felt like a huge circus. I was sitting there while they're getting geared up. It felt like I was going to fight alongside all these dance warriors. It was really neat, they were training around the campsite area. It felt very warrior-style. I'd never sat around a circus while people practiced. That was new and cool.

3. What's the last thing that made you seriously belly-laugh?

Probably some joke my girlfriend told me. She makes me laugh a lot. My girlfriend, final answer.

Photo by BEEDEE. 

Photo by BEEDEE

4. What's your best memory of a teacher growing up?

<laughs> I had a grade 7 art teacher who used to have a little something extra in her thermos of orange juice. Thinking about that always makes me laugh. I went to this prototype high school in Nova Scotia for kids with attention deficit and stuff like that. There was only like 60 kids in the whole school. Kids from the ghetto and rich kids. Kids had ADD, ADHD, Tourette's or sometimes all three. Gym class would get a little crazy. It was cool.

5. You get two guest questions today. The first one comes from the legendary Z-Trip...What is your greatest fear?

Getting comfortable. For sure. That's a silent killer, that one.

6. The other question comes from the homie Flamingosis...If you could only eat one type of breakfast sandwich for every meal the rest of your life, what kind of breakfast sandwich would you eat?

That's deadly, I like that question. I don't eat pork, so I like just a straight-up regular breakfast sandwich. A little cheese and an English muffin and some egg. Totally down with that. I could live off that. In the morning, just basic like that.

You put any butter or mayo or ketchup or anything on that bad boy?

Nah. Just me and grease. Well, I'd go with some monterey jack cheese instead of regular cheese. A nice organic egg just taken out of the chicken coup.

5 Questions with Rags #55 - Z-Trip

One of the most recognizable names in Djing, Z-Trip's hunger for all of the best music, no matter where it comes from, has made him one of the most accessible Djs around, acting as common ground for all varieties of music fans. The person who has deep respect from serious hip-hop heads and major ravers alike is a rare and wonderful thing and there might be no one who strides through the deep streets those two worlds with such ease as Z-Trip. In the vast career of Z-Trip, bookending a decade of Rifflandia might seem like a small thing. But to me, Z-Trip's name being high up on lineup of this massive festival in my hometown is representative of both the genreless taste of the festival and my own natural disdain of genre labels. I was honoured to get the opportunity to talk to an OG and ask him my silly questions before he lay down the days most exciting and unpredictable set. Despite hearing nothing but stories about how nice and welcoming the homie was, I was understandably nervous coming to the meeting, but within moments we were into the goods, nerding out on music. Once he had his phone out, showing me video of him rocking the night before with A Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, Melle Mel and Scoprio of the Furious Five, I knew everything was going to be a-okay. 
1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?
It was the Story of Star Wars. It was a narration, long play. Basically it was the movie on an album with a booklet with pictures and shit in it. And I memorized the shit out of it. 
Did you buy it thinking it was the music?
I didn't know what the fuck it was. I was just a kid and was like, “Star Wars! Yeah! I'm gonna get it!” I still have that record.
Do you still listen to it?
I've sampled it in things. I haven't sat down and listened to the record in a very long time...but I don't need to because I know it all. I know the sound effects and shit because I listened to it religiously. Back in the day you grabbed whatever media you could that had a connection to the movie or whatever. You couldn't just get Star Wars, you had to go the theatre to see it and that was it. Now everything's just out there. But I had a piece of this movie on that record that I could listen to, close my eyes and envision it. See the movie all over again. It was dope. 
2. When's the last time you did something for the first time?
It's probably some stupid, mundane thing like, “Oh, I tired this mushroom or something.” Not mushrooms! I don't like the taste of mushrooms, I'm not talking about hallucinogenics. <laugh> These days, I try to do these cleanses. I'm not 18 years old anymore, just raging and going nuts. Whenever you do anything – I run a lot, and if I'm running and hurt my ankle it takes three weeks instead of three days to heal. So I've been trying a lot of different things. Right now is my first time trying to go vegan. I've been vegetarian in the past. I'm about two weeks into being a vegan. 
How do you feel?
I love it. I actually don't miss it. It's harder on the road though. Travelling fucking sucks for food anyway, but try adding these levels of not eating dairy or meat or anything. Oh yeah, good luck, you're just eating french fries. Fucking veggie burgers and french fries. Trying to find the good vegan spots is the thing that's on my list now.

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CHUURCH: Building a base with Lean Bass.

Chuurch has established themselves as one of the most forward-thinking acts in the ever-expanding world of bass music, playing massive numbers of shows and festivals around North America, winning over new fans (UUnion Members, as they've been appropriately dubbed) wherever they lay their beats. As the influence of religious institutions wanes as time goes by, and people find new places to commune, Chuurch may be one of the most aptly named acts in music right now. Their signature 'Lean Bass' is a yin-yang of dark/moody and fun/groovy. Chuurch's is a sound that bridges those gaps between light and dark, welcoming all listeners from wherever they may come from.

“I'm a hip-hop producer, I've produced for Snak the Ripper and a bunch of other cats, and Jeff's (Aka EviCtion) classically trained, he has a degree in jazz theory but he makes electronic music. That's the preface of how it starts. We get into the same room and we really just don't stop,” recalls Justin (aka Makemdef), of the genesis of Chuurch. “We lived in the same house for two years and a bit. We just moved out of there this summer. We went through a lot but the one thing we did was just make beats all the time. All the time. All the time. It's crazy. We had the cops at our house so many times from noise complaints,” he says with a laugh, as he's readying to board  a bus for a 15 hour ride to drop the grooves to the UUnion in and around the West Coast. “I figure in a year or 40 down the road, I'll be looking back at this laughing about those first 15 hour bus rides just to make it work. It's gotta go into the book, for sure.”

Chuurch2.jpg

Those years of living together, amassing a huge backlog of music and learning to work relentlessly with each is starting to pay off in spades, as the duo are always showing up to wherever they are called with new music, new sounds for the ever-hungry ears and hips of dance-floor goers. “We really love making beats. We have a new beat for every different festival, for every new show we played. We just walk around and think, 'What's the crowd like? Who are we playing for?' Whether it's East Coast, California, wherever it was, what kind of beat do we want to make? We just manifest it, just conjure it up. That's why we have so many beats. We just get carried away. We're both really hungry. We're both complete polar opposites in every spectrum with a similar goal and common denominator.”

Whatever differences the duo may have are entirely irrelevant as the two have found a musical synergy that eludes many throughout their travels. “At FozzyFest, I walk into the green room at the stage and Jeff is sitting there, first time I've seen him in over a month, and he doesn't even say 'Hi.' He just looks up with his headphones on, at his laptop, and just waves me over and hands me the headphones. He had taken the stuff I had sent him from point A to point B. We were working on this song right off the bat seeing each other. We exported it 18 minutes before we started and it was the first song of our set,” Justin drops with a casualness that belies the incredible musical feat he just described.

It's that respect for the art and dedication to new ideas – as well as just being really fucking good at making music – that is helping Chuurch build a strong, dedicated fanbase. “Me and him just do what we do 100%, same as you do what you do 100%. Same as of all of the people involved in making this whole scene economically sensible. That's what it takes, is ninjas. There's no small part to it when it comes to contributing to this. That's what it's all about. You can totally remind someone having a shitty day that it's all good, just those simple gestures, offering your own personal gifts. A person can just take it and run with it. That's what it's all about – building each other up so we can keep building the culture up.”

Keep up with all things CHUURCH over at their Facebook page and the UUnion Fanpage

#festivalseason - Rifflandia celebrates 10 years of beating up on genre standards.

What are we doing here? Are we celebrating the end of summer or the beginning of fall? It doesn't really matter. In just a few days Rifflandia will once again take over my beloved home of Victoria. Three nights and three days (Spanning four total days) of music,traversing endless territories of world-known and local acts, live and electronic musics, bound by no genre, Rifflandia looks to be more all-encompassing that ever in its triumphant, 10th year of of delivering aural goodness to the Canadian west coast. With all that music on nine stages, there's as much as ever to sort through and this year I'm taking a slightly different approach. Rather than trying to absorb all of the hip-hop and bass music I can, this year, in honour of Riff's 10th birthday, my must-sees are going to spread out over more sonic space than ever – but also still with lots of bass music and hip-hop vibes – trying to get a little bit of everything into this years Essential 4 Successful Rifflandia Guide.

Fox Glove – Thursday, Copper Owl, 11-11:45PM

As I've been alive with functioning ears in Victoria for the last few years, I had heard whispers of Fox Glove for a long time before I finally had the the pleasure of witnessing the folk power trio. On the Tall Tree main stage earlier this summer Fox Glove laid down the most affecting performance I've seen in a long time. Since I lost my shit in an unstoppable flood of tears and a nose stuffed beyond belief, Fox Glove's achingly beautiful harmonies have been burned into my brain. This Rifflandia – one of the dancingest Rifflandias yet – if you're looking for music that's going to let you breathe and make you feel deep things inside of yourself that maybe you forgot how to feel, set aside a little bit of time for Fox Glove on night 1.

Murge/Astrocolor – Saturday, Phillips Backyard, 9-11PM

I didn't combine these two because they are sonically similar. They're not. I mean, they both hit the best pleasure centres in my brain and ears with their smooth musical stylings. Here I group them together because no two acts in the last couple of years have got me quite as riled up about my local music scene. I've spent the better part of a year talking up the fresh, warm hip-hop of Murge and the weird and smooth live acid house of Astrocolor. It doesn't matter how many times I see them, I'm getting something new, and more importantly something good, to dance to. These two acts, back-to-back, moving the masses at the big stage at Phillips Backyard is really going to be something special. If you like good music that get into your blood stream, accessible dance music that's going to make you move whether you want to or not, you should make it a point to be down at Phillips on Saturday night.

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