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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#festivalseason - There are way too many amazing musical people to see at Shambhala20. Here are a few highlights to help deal with the crushing burden of choice.

The best thing about the legendary Shambhala Music Festival – hidden away in the Kootenay mountains, in Salmo, BC – also happens to be the worst thing about the legendary Shambhala Music Festival: There is an overstuffed cornucopia of a lineup that is completely impossible for one human person to consume. With six stages thumping bass near-endlessly , Shambhala has something for everyone in amongst the chaos. Whatever your groove is, there's something on the Farm to satisfy your bass-lust. Rather than attempt to run down the near-endless list of everything Rags Music is hoping to check out, or to randomly select things with little to no regard for scheduling, I'm going to recommend an artist (or two) per stage with the “Rags Music Home-run Guarantee,” spaced out throughout the four days (Hint: Get there for early entry on Thursday. It's worth it). This being a milestone year 20 for the Festival, I'm going to try to split the list between new faces and what could appropriately be called Shambhala Legends. I promise, if you catch even a couple of these things, your ears will be very happy.

THE AMP - MAT THE ALIEN b2b The LIBRARIAN - Thursday @ 12-1:30pm

Like I said previously, I'm getting into Shambhala Legends mode this year and this begins with planning my Day 1 festivities around a few festival cornerstones. Opening the AMP with Mat the Alien & The Librarian?! Yes, please! Mat the Alien is a DJ I'm happy to see any time I can. The veteran bass master is as versatile as anyone in the galaxy, able to shift moods and genres on a dime, and a fantastic scratcher to boot! Big, big legends vibes on this. The Librarian is someone I've been wanting to see properly for a long time. Her dark, spacey bass vibes call to me. Now is the time. I caught a very tiny portion of her set at Shambhala last year and everyone I've talked to who just returned from Bass Coast (Her home bass) said hers was the set of the weekend. I blew my chance to see them when they toured together for their Mutiny tour, but honestly, would it have been as good as seeing them team up to wreck the AMP at Shambs? Nah. This'll be better.

FRACTAL FOREST – MARTEN HØRGER – Sunday @ 1:30-2:30am

Finally! I get to see Marty fuckin' Horgs, the German bass phenom in his proper environment – the middle of an old tree, armed with a bananas powerful PK sound rig. Marten Horger has been one of my go-tos any time I need a little extra OOMPH! ZORP! BLAMO! in my breaks diet. His mixes and tracks come at your ears like a crazed monkey with a knife, but the monkey is wearing a little hat, so while it's pretty dangerous, it's also super fun! A veteran of the always reliable PUNKS label, Horger, the talent behind of some of my absolute favourite tracks like “Blood” and “Deeper Down,” I can, in the words of the immortal Vince McMahon, “GUARAN-DAM-TEE” Horger will lay down the perfect blast of hard breaks energy to fuel through the last few hours of your Sunday night. (And he's a past answerer of the 5 Questions! Extra points!) Also, Horger also just recently got into the world of drum 'n' bass – a world I still don't understand – with an uplifting gem of a track that hit me right away!

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#festivalseason - The Phillips Backyard Weekender brings the goods once again in year 5.

In a very short time, the Phillips Backyard Weekender has grown into a calendar-mark-worthy event in the Victoria summer. Over three days, the Weekender – hosted in the back lot of Phillips Brewery, the brightest jewel in world of Victoria beer – annually brings a lineup that stretches across a staggeringly vast array of genres and moods, bringing a little something for everyone, no matter where your tastes fall in the musical spectrum. This year was no different – with a newly added second stage (Dubbed the “Picnic-er”) packed with local talent, and a main stage that rarely experienced downtime, the Weekender was yet another feast for those with big musical appetites. There was a ton of tunes to take in and process, but here are the acts that made each pop and crack for this lover of groove.

Friday – Oddisee

I've been obsessed with The Iceberg, since its release in February of this year. It's one of the most thoughtful, precise and powerful records of any genre, not just hip-hop, that's come across my ears in some time. A new Oddisee album is always a welcome gift to the world, but the good homie really kicked it up a notch with The Iceberg and I to say I was excited to see these songs live would have been an understatement. Oddisee came to Victoria ready to go. The sound was fantastic, all of Oddisee's intensely thoughtful and precise raps were crystal clear – overcoming an all-too-common problem with live hip-hop shows. Audience interaction is and always should be a huge part of rap and Oddisee kept everyone engaged with the show having the crowd sing along with varied, and properly spaced out, singalongs, including Iceberg standout “Like Really.” (I've been singing “notlikereally” in a loop to myself for a week now.) With all that interaction there was very little asking us to throw our hands in the air. In fact, he only asked us to do it once, which is the correct number of times to instruct the crowd to throw their hands up.

“Hold It Back” and “Want To Be Free” pulsed and roared on that crisp soundsystem, Oddisee's nimble raps dancing around and through the beats. The rapid-fire rhymes of “Killing Time” from 2013's Tangible Dream were a welcome surprise, but the incredible sets highlight might have been a trap remix of “Want Something Done.” The track was a perfect display of Oddisee's immense talent as an MC, reworking lyrics originally set to a more classicist hip-hop beat and shifting them to perfectly fit a hyper-modern beat. Oddisee would be achieve Lord status in any era of hip-hop. We're incredibly lucky to have him working so prolifically right now, in our time. I talked with a number of people who were at the festival who pointed to the good homie as their “festival discovery” and the world is probably a little bit better of a place for it. A huge thank you to the folks behind the Weekender for bringing Oddisee to Victoria and giving him a proper introduction to the city I call home.

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#festivalseason - Once again, Tall Tree was a cornucopia of sonic delights and beautiful people.

In the eight years since its inception, Tall Tree Music Festival has built itself as paragon of musical diversity, bringing in acts spanning across genres and helping reinforce the sometimes shaky bridge between DJs/rave culture and live bands/rock festivals. Way up high in clouds on Brown's Mountain in Port Renfrew, BC, the people of Tall Tree have created a place where musical cultures stand proudly side by side, interacting with each other in a way that is wholly inspiring. Every year I make the trek up and down the mountain and every year I am refilled with musical Love and this year was no different. The entire three days up high was jam-packed with incredible music and grooves, a near-endless aural smorgasbord. Here are half a dozen (+1) acts, ranging an incredible sonic spectrum, that blew my overly critical ass away and left a dent on my eardrums.

Note: I think it's time that Tall Tree made Murge's “Tiny Dancer” rework the official festival anthem. It kind of already is, but let's make that official, okay everyone?


Astrocolor's latest EP Astrocolor IIwith its silky, smoky and incredibly smooth sound – has been indispensable listening since its release earlier this year. As I marched up to the top of the mountain at midnight on Saturday night, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, apart from some smooth beats. What I and the rest of the packed Stump & Stone Stage got went way beyond just smooth beats. We were treated to a ridiculously fun, engaging and endlessly musical set a group guys clearly doing what they love. Playing cuts from both Eps (Including standouts from II “Push Too Hard” <feat. Fox Glove> and “Figure It Out) and stuff I haven't heard before, the group dazzled everyone in hearing radius with their uber-colourful dreamscape funk. The love that Astrocolor radiated from the stage was quickly absorbed by the crowd – like the music was water and the audience was a jubilant ShamWow – and blasted back at the group with incredible force. As I wandered back and forth through the crowd I overhead such comments as “This is incredible.” “What is this?!” “This isn't what I expected.” And every one of those statements I overheard was delivered with palpable joy and wonder. If you like any or all of the following: dancing, fun, colours, smooth funk, disco, house or jazz, you should 100% be trying to track down the next Astrocolor show near you.

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5 Questions with Rags #52b - Illvis Freshly (Jesus and Danimal)

If you've been paying attention to West Coast music at all in the last couple years, you've probably seen the Illvis Freshly around. Legit: They're pretty inescapable and it's easy to see why. Their heavy-hitting, ultra-fun, partyrific electronic rap songs are sure-fire ear-crushers, made for those days and nights with all the friends. As the summer finally taken hold of us all, Illvis Freshly's music is even more relevant, assured to keep you moving in time with all this glorious weather. And as we are now in the midst Festival Season, they're bound to show up in your face and plug your ear holes up with funky rap goodness – having already smashed up audiences at Victoria Ska & Reggae Fest, Tall Tree, KAMP Festival with more to come, including a stop at Legend's Valley in August. In part B of the first ever 2-part entry into the live questions, we get down with the charismatic MC duo Danimal and Jesus.

Check Part A with Doyle and Phil here!

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

Danimal: It was basically my own money because I facilitated it happening and got my mom to pay my friend. I got Jam by Michael Jackson. He had a Columbia House CD thing and I wanted one.

Do you still listen to it?

D: Not routinely. But there are times. You can't go out and not hear Michael Jackson, so, sort of.

Jesus: This is pretty tough because when I first started getting music I'd listen to the radio with my tape player and tape songs. I was sneaky like that. In terms of tapes, the first tape I can remember buying and having in my hand is Beastie Boys' License to Ill. It's the first one I can think of that I went out and bought because I wanted to hear all of the tracks.

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