5 Questions with Rags #73 - Tom McGuire (Tom McGuire & The Brassholes)

Sometime in the last couple of months of 2018, the great YouTube algorithm smiled upon me and sent me a downright infectious tune called “Ric Flair,” by Tom McGuire & The Brassholes, a band I had definitely never heard of before. Instantly enamoured with the incredibly catchy single, the song quickly found its way into my daily listening diet. You know that feeling where you find a band but then there's only a few songs/videos to help satiate that sonic lust? Well, that's the feeling I was engulfed with when I started digging a bit more but thankfully for myself, and the rest of the unsuspecting world, Tom McGuire & The Brassholes were mere months away from releasing their self-titled debut album. “We started the record through a crowdfunding campaign last December (2017), which was ultimately successful. We recorded over January and February, and a bit of March too. It's been ready since then and we've been dying to have people have access to it. Nobody knew who were though so we had to kind of build it up to get the point where there would be interest in the album. It's been around about a year we've been waiting to show this to the world,” McGuire says, speaking to me from his home in Glasgow, as he prepares vinyl copies of the album to send to those ahead-of-the-curve listeners who preordered the album. And finally the time has come.

Released into the world January 18, Tom McGuire & The Brassholes is already starting to dazzle listeners with its scope, intimacy, storytelling and straight-ahead musical force. While the album is deep and rich, brimming flourishes and fresh ideas – a clearly thought-out and dense peice of sonic art – “Ric Flair,” that first single that hooked me and apparently a whole gaggle of other people, was created in nearly complete spontaneity. “Me and some of the guys in the band used to host jam sessions in town. Where there would be no one to play I would sometimes just make up songs on the spot to keep myself on my toes. One night I asked 'What's the next song gonna be?' And someone piped out 'Ric Flair!' Ooookay, here we go and I just spat out the chorus line and we spontaneously played the song and it was pretty sick. I held onto it...thankfully I remembered it. I went home and wrote it more fully and I'm very glad I did because it's the reason so many people are caring, having an idea of who we are.” He's right. Because as more people find that song and the album, more people are going to bring Tom McGuire & The Brassholes into their lives. And that means more people dancing, more people experiencing the sonic joy that this incredible band can deliver. And that can only be a good thing. Rags Music is proud to have Tom McGuire as a guest for this instalment of 5 Questions with Rags, as The Brassholes set off on what is sure to be a massive year for this phenomenal band.

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

First album I bought with my own money was...I used to be into punk rock. I still am actually, I love punk rock. My first record I got was a compilation from Nitro Records called Deep Thoughts and it was a killer. And I got Green Day Dookie on cassette tape. That's my roots. I remember that well. My first CD was punk rock and not some shite pop.

Yeah, I've asked that question a lot and there are some pretty regrettable answers.

I'm proud of me. There's nothing to be ashamed of for me.

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

Right now there's a lot of firsts happening for me. Being on national radio was a pretty big deal. We were on BBC Scotland when 'Ric Flair' was coming out. We went on BBC Scotland and played a session.

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A Year In West Coast Bass with Jim Vanderhorst.

2017 is the year I really felt like a legit part of the bass community here on the Canadian west coast. I've met and talked with an astonishing breadth of people with fantastical levels of skill and love for their respective crafts. Djs and producers, photographers, dancers, visual effects and lighting people, sound engineers, visual artists and writers – all working to help this music and culture we all love to thrive. One of the people who I've come to respect deeply both on a personal level and artistic level, is Jim Vanderhorst, the man behind Rebel Cause Films – the company behind some of the most unique and definitely most watchable festival and artist recaps films. His eye for his the medium and his never-ending push to show the most human parts of the culture give his videos an unparalleled warmth and sense of community. His compassion, thoughtfulness and willingness to speak up for what he believes when filming, discussing or just participating in the culture is a powerful and valuable trait. As someone who has made his name observing bass culture and translating what he sees for further consumption, I couldn't think of anyone more appropriate to help me take a look back at some of the things that made 2017 such a big year for bass music here on the best coast. As we enter a new year in bass and whatever weird-ass shit the party brings, we take a final look back at a pretty incredible 2017 with the incomparable leader of Rebel Cause Films, Jim Vanderhost.

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What's something that you've noticed in the bass community that you would like to see changed in the upcoming year or trends you'd like to see end?

There needs to be more awareness of just how bad women have it in this scene. There's a big discussion about it right now but a lot of things aren't being talked about. Like, go-go dancers are lucky to get paid enough to pay for there outfits...but they're usually not. They're getting in for free. People walk around thinking they're getting paid a bunch and treating them like shit. Like, 1% of Djs are girls. It's not promoted much and when they do get to play in this area it's an all-girls night, it's pandering and that's not helping the cause either. There are places like Calgary that have some great female acts that are starting to grow but out on the West Coast I'm not seeing it. I think a lot of shit that happens is just not fair. I think men need to really take a second and understand it's not fair. Women are organizing these entire things. Shambhala and Bass Coast are fucking run by women. And yet the talent buyers and everything are all hiring predominantly male acts. The women that are organizing everything are so busy making shit happen for us idiot men they sometimes don't notice the disservices being done. We have a huge long way to go before things are actually fair and I think we need to start taking better care of women who wanna get involved in performance, whether they're go-go dancers or Djs. Guys who want to do it should not complain about things being unfair for guys. So many male stage performers I've seen talk about how hard it is to be a man in this scene.

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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.”

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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

Jimi Needles - Of synths, sounds and Jungle Strikes.

“I recently came to the realization that I've been Djing half of my life,” Jimi Needles – world-class DJ, producer and drummer for knock-out soul band Ephemerals – recalls, talking to me from home, shortly before leaving on a well-deserved holiday. “I had my CD decks first when I was 14. I bought really cheap CD decks and hated it, then got vinyl decks when I was 15 and restarted again. Not many people did that back then. You didn't touch Cds like that. It was all vinyl and then suddenly it was all Cds and I did the opposite. I've been djing full-time about half of my djing life. And only about the last four have been giving a real shit.” Four years is probably about the length of time that Needles has been on the radar of an ever-growing contingent of bassheads here on the Canadian west coast. His Needlewurk mixes are some of the most reliable I've found, able to keep all the members of the crew happy – no matter where they lay on the spectrum of bass music enjoyment. The good homie combines his incredible arsenal of sounds, tempos and feelings, with great taste in music and a penchant for juggling the best parts from an unyielding scope of genres.

It's been a year and half since the last time I've talked to Needles. It's been a fruitful time that has seen him touring relentlessly on his own and as the drummer for Ephemerals, the creation of the Jimi Needles Band and the beginning of the final stretch toward his long-awaited debut album. “I think I've become a worse DJ and a better producer since we last talked. I've sacrificed a bit of the Djing. In the past 18 months I've really collected a bunch of sounds that I will use for all of my tracks. Every producer has their signature thing, like Stickybuds has his signature bass. 'Oh yeah, that's a Stickybuds tune there.' Featurecast has got his signature boom-bap-shuffle-drums. You can't miss those. A. Skillz has own kits and stuff. I've done a lot of tracks that share the same synth,” says Needles. “The whole album is going to speak to that synth. It'll be the “Jimi Needles Sound.” Really moving away from bootleg stuff on the album to more original stuff. It's exciting. I've really learned to create space in tracks. When I was just bootlegging I would just go, “Let's just feature loads of stuff!” Never give it a breather. You kind of learn to add those spaces in.”

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Hello people of Earth! Meet K+Lab, your reigning Intergalactic Funk Champion!

In the few years I've been listening to K+Lab, I just plainly assumed that he was an alien – an intergalatic traveller with the funky secrets of the universe, merely stopping by Earth to enrich the funkless lives of our planets inhabitants.. His brand of sonic electronic goodness is impossibly heavy, thoroughly disorienting and frankly sounds like it came from another bloody dimension. But no, he's just a normal, albeit super-funky, dude from New Zealand. His performances are impossibly heavy forays into deep space funk, as he's up on the stage, funkifying unsuspecting crowds with his producer/DJ rig and the keytar that's become something of a signature.

“People really get excited when they see the keytar,” notes K+Lab. It was the same excitement that immediately gripped him when he first discovered this powerful part of his arsenal. “I was just walking down the street one day and I saw the keytar in a shop window. I walked past it then turned around and walked back and thought, 'Well, that's gotta be mine, now.' It chose me.” It was as simple as that. A warrior found his weapon and the rest, as they say, is history.

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