5 Questions with Rags #48 - Steve Raskin of Fort Knox Five

I've written extensively about the effect Fort Knox Five has had on my listening habits. (Here and here and here and here.) One of my entry points into electronic music, FK5 remains a staple of my listening diet to this day. Their Funk the World series is an endless stream of funky greatness. Their albums and remixes are always relentlessly funky and instantly accessible. When I start to get sucked into the world of ultra-heavy, mostly-dark bass music, Fort Knox Five is right there to lighten things, splash some colour into my ears and get me back to the roots of Funk. In all this time pouring their music into my ears, writing about and even interview FK5, Steve Raskin has escaped me. I finally managed to catch up with him at home in DC during a brief break before he's back out into the world, back to my beloved Canadian West Coast - Including two HUGE shows in Vancouver on 4/14 with Shambhala vets Spiltmilk and Hoola at FIVESIXTY, then a funky-skunky 4/20 party in Victoria at Distrikt.

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

The fist album I bought with my own money was the soundtrack to The Beatles' Yellow Submarine. I remember being fascinated with all the psychedelic imagery and singable songs that I still listen to.

2. If you could spend the day with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?

I would have killed to have been able to spend a day with David Bowie. Pretty sure I would have just nodded my head and not said a word no matter what we were doing!

3. What's your most positive memory of a school teacher growing up?

My grandmother was an art teacher and convinced me at an early age that you can do art for a living… Blew my little mind!

Photo by Oberto Photography. 

Photo by Oberto Photography

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

This year I tried Yoga for the first time. For real...

5. I always get a guest question from the last answerer, but today you get two! The first one is from Dan aka FxFarmer of Funkanomics... What means LOVE to you?

Love the wording of this question from one of the funkiest Germans I know….

LOVE - colours everything you do - the good and the bad - taking you to high highs and low lows - and always worth the journey

6. The second guest question is from the actual last answerer of the questions...Singer/songwriter/ruffian B.A. Johnston asks.... Which 80s wrestler best describes your sound?

Andre the Giant - because he’s larger than life!

Upon doing a bit more reading after his interview, I realized that Raskin is also part of THUNDERBALL! Don't know how that one slipped by me, but either way, listen to this fresh Thunderball track!

#festivalseason - Shambhala dropped the lineup for Year 20. I am immediately discombobulated with excitement.

Deep in the Kootenay mountains, on the Salmo River Ranch, Shambhala Music Festival has grown from a small party to a six-staged, laser-reinforced party Voltron, powered by the thousands of beautiful, open-minded, peace-seeking dance enthusiasts that flock to it every year. About to celebrate its 20th Anniversary, Shambhala has once again put together an over-stuffed lineup of the finest in international and local electronic artists, covering nearly every imaginable nook and cranny under the “electronic/bass music” umbrella. With two of the six stages set to under from-the-ground-up reconstruction, the physicality of the festival is ready to take a change, even after some really nice upgrades from last year (ie: Next-level lasering and that huge garden upgrade right in the middle of the Festival. Lovely.).

Photo by Joffrey Photo.

Photo by Joffrey Photo.

There are a lot of familiar names coming back to celebrate the big 2-0 and really, I wouldn't have it any other way. Familiar faces like STICKYBUDS, EXCISION, JPOD the BEAT CHEF, NEON STEVE, SMALLTOWN DJs and SLYNK return back home for their annual throwdowns, while old vets like KRAFTY KUTS, DEEKLINE, STANTON WARRIORS, MARTEN HØRGER and ED SOLO all make triumphant returns to the FARM. Fresh faces like REZZ and HAYWYRE (Okay, they both debuted last year, but that's still pretty fresh considering we're at year 20), POMO (The man responsible for the beats on “Dang!” and “Am I Wrong?,” two of the best songs of 2016) and, the dance gods have looked down upon me and blessed me with my #1 Shambhala wish for 2017, THE POLISH AMBASSADOR finally makes the trip up to the Farm to hold court for all us deep-groove seekers. To help make things just a little bit easier, Rags Music has compiled a short playlist to help power the early steps of sonic research, or really, just some tunes to get you groovin' and in the mood. This list will surely continue to grow in the coming weeks and months. Only the top of the pyramid has been revealed thus far.

Your Shambhala 20 Headliners... More artists to be announced when stage-by-stage lineup releases start on April 17.

Tickets are sold out, because they sold in a mere 16 hours last September! If you are buying resale tickets please be careful and take precautions to avoid scammers! And Good Luck. If you were lucky and smart enough to get your tickets back in that short window, GET YOUR DANCING SHOES READY. IT'S GONNA BE A SPECIAL YEAR.

Photo by Xavier Photography. 

Photo by Xavier Photography

#festivalseason - Once again, Tall Tree is coming at your ears hard.

Over the past 7 years, Tall Tree has risen to the top of BC's endlessly growing list of bloody awesome music festivals. Over here on Vancouver Island, up on Brown's Mountain in Port Renfrew, in the clouds, overlooking the world below like the gods themselves, Tall Tree has split the difference between laid back alt-rock festival and balls-to-the-wall rave, creating one of the most unique festival experiences around. Vancouver Island runs at a different pace than anywhere else in the province, nay, the country, and Tall Tree exemplifies all the facets of what makes being a music fan here on the Island so fucking great. Be as normal, as weird, as chill, as wild as you want...ON A MOUTAIN.

On a lineup as deep as ever with local favourites (And past 5 Questions guests) like Mat the Alien, SkiiTour, and Pigeon Hole, Tall Tree has expanded their reach further than usual to pack their roster more full than ever. Here are the first six acts that jumped out to my eyes on my first look through the lineup. Get after it, good people.

Shapeshifter NZ

As I struggle to find myself a solid foothold on the vast mountain that is drum 'n' bass, Shapeshifter has found their way into my life like some kind of blessing from the headphone gods. The New Zealand 5-piece play relentlessly pretty liquid drum 'n' bass, throwing in heavy dollops of soul and dub reggae. Their live shows have garnered them sell-out, large-scale tours around their home country and spots at legendary festivals like Glastonbury. Highlighted by the ethereal but earthy vocals of P. Digsss, Shapeshifter's engaging live DnB opens up the genre to a whole new level of accessibility. It's important work, helping new aural seekers uncover the intense mysteries of this powerful form of music.

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5 Questions with Rags #47 - B.A. Johnston

B.A. Johnston is apparently some kind of Canadian folk hero. Every time I mention him, to people across various culture and genre affiliations, there is some kind of recognition. I've been criminally unaware of his presence until just recently, with the release of his fucking glorious new album Gremlins 3. The album is full of fascinatingly obtuse songs about doing whippits whilst working a grocery store, getting drunk on Sourpuss (That awful, awful “liquor” we all drank in our early 20s), getting drunk in a canoe, getting drunk on cheap beer, and slowly turning into his grandmother. The song that really grabbed me ears on the record was “No Wanna Shambhala,” a song about the confusing, wrecked feeling that comes at the end of a multi-day festival. It could be about any festival, really, as Mr. Johnston was so kind to offer up.

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1. What's the first album you bought with your own money?

The first album I bought with my own money was The English Beat – I Just Can't Stop It. I don't listen to it all the time, but I still have it. I listen to it maybe twice a year or something. It's kind of weird to listen to records you knew 20 years ago and you still know it perfectly.

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

I don't know. I'm very old. Hmmm...nothing's coming up...Cleaning a toilet a year ago. That might be the last new thing I did. It's not very pleasant. I always assumed they were just clean but then I looked at them more closely and there's stuff inside. I realized I have to clean them.

Wait, wait, wait. How did you get this far in life without having to ever clean a toilet? What kind of blessed life have you lived?

Roommates. Also, I pee perfectly into the centre so I never leave a mess, so I never thought it was my problem.

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Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers - Mar. 15, 2017 @ Sugar, Victoria, BC

Passionate. Engaging. Dramatic. Interesting. I could sit here all day using adjectives to describe Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers' performance at Sugar Nightclub the other night and they'd all be true, but no justice would be done. This was a musical masterclass from Caplan, Canada's philosopher troubadour and owner of one of music's finest beards. Caplan & Co's music is ridiculously theatrical and had me captivated more than folk music has got ahold of me in some time.

First off, and most ridiculously impressive, was the band's punctuality! This may seem like an insane thing to bring up in a review, but when a headliner at a club show is on the stage at 10, as advertised, it is a thing of goddamned beauty, especially on a weeknight. It's a small thing that shows a respect for the audience and starts things off on a nice little note. From the get-go, the sound mixing was on-point. Volume distortion is a constant battle at smaller club shows, especially with a powerful (and important) lead singer, but this was crystal clear – the Casual Smokers loud, but Caplan's voice front and centre, like it needed to be. The crispness of the mixing allowed to crowd to focus on and bond with the songs. These magnificent songs deserve to be heard as clearly possible. 

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