I did some writing for the
Rifflandia Festival Guide and one of the groups I covered was Pigeon
Hole. I first saw the duo play before Tommy Guerrero a few Rifflandias
ago and loved their raucous energy and swagger. Seemed like a good
choice for me. There wasn't enough information on the net about the duo
to write the allotted word count so, through the power of Twitter, I
contacted the duo and Dustry Melo was quick to get back to me.
All I hear is slightly more electronic hip-hop. I dunno. Labels, eh, fuck 'em. Let's not worry about that right now. Let's all just read this sweet conversation I had with Dusty Melo, one half of Nanaimo-bred gangstas, Pigeon Hole.
Rags Music: I appreciate you taking a few minutes to talk to me. There’s a disturbing lack of narrative information on you guys to cull from. Did you guys choose the name Pigeon Hole just so it would be hard for me to find stuff out about you on the internet? It’s amazing how common that term is.
Dusty Melo: That is the only reason. <laughs> Yeah.
RM: What’s the genesis of Pigeon Hole? How did you guys get together?
DM: Well, we’ve known each other since we were little kids. We went to elementary school together. We were basically gangs of gangsta rap as little kids. We started making our own gangsta rap songs as kids.
RM: What are your guys’ touchstone records?
DM: Doggie Style, The Chronic. We were huge Wu-Tang fans, NWA fans, Nas.
RM: You guys are from Nanaimo, right?
DM: Yeah, yeah.
RM: How’d you get over in Vancouver with Sweatshop?
DM: Well, Lee, the other guy from Pigeon Hole, Marmalade, he was originally from Vancouver before he moved over the Island, so he was childhood friends with Metty, Dirt Merchant from Sweatshop. Metty, over in Vancouver, had friends who were in other rap groups and eventually we all just came together to make Sweatshop Union.
RM: You guys were Creative Minds, before?
RM: When did you guys start actually rapping for yourselves? When did it turn from fandom into “I’m going to do this?”
DM: I guess probably around 2000, maybe. All through high school we played random shows on the Island and stuff. When we started up with Sweatshop there was a point, after we put out the first record and started playing show around the city, all of a sudden it was like shows started interfering with work schedules and there just came a point when we were like, “You know what, fuck it, let’s just quit our jobs and do this.”
RM: That’s gotta be a big moment.
DM: Oh, it was awesome.
RM: Sweatshop Union seems to be a bit more serious and rooted in almost a classicist hip-hop vibe, you guys seem to be much more free…am I reading that properly?
DM: For sure. That was one of our biggest things with Pigeon Hole, was for one, we can focus on a record, start to finish, just the two of us. We produce all our own stuff, we write all own songs so it was a chance to kind of do a full record. And then also just to able to get away from everything that is Sweatshop and do whatever you want, have a clean slate. You can totally just mess around on a song and you don’t have to think twice about it.
RM: Are there challenges with that freedom you didn’t anticipate?
DM: Yeah, well it’s definitely a lot more work. All in all we enjoy it. We have a good time working on music so there’s no real challenges.
RM: This is the second time you’re playing Rifflandia?
DM: This will be our second time playing as Pigeon Hole, yeah.
RM: I saw you guys the first time, before the Lytics and Chali 2na. (They actually played before Tommy Guerrero, but I at least I got the year right) It was great. I had no idea what was happening but you guys had so much energy.
DM: Haha, thanks.
RM: What do you guys enjoy about playing festivals?
DM: Oh! For one, you get the check out all these other amazing bands and meet them backstage. It exposes you to so much more music that all of a sudden you’re finding new inspiration. It’s like a party. You rarely get to hang out with that many people or meet that many new people in a weekend.
RM: Do you find you still watch music like fan?
DM: Oh, for sure. I geek out. I have to kind of hold myself back sometimes. <laughs> Like, “I should be here networking and maybe I shouldn’t be partying so much. I should be thinking about my career and trying to meet people.” But I’d rather be in the front row, going hard than I would be backstage just taking it easy.
RM: I love it. I’m on the other side of the stage and I’m always shocked when writers are taking pictures or whatever, and not dancing. Like, “Come on! Let’s go! Dance!”
DM: For sure. We just played Tall Trees this last weekend. We showed up on Thursday night. We showed up the day before to set up camp and we left on the Monday. We live for it.
RM: How was Tall Tree?
DM: It was awesome! Yeah.
RM: So, in a non Rifflandia-related question…What should I expect from Shambhala? This is going to be my first one.
DM: It’s your first one!? Oh man. It’s a game-changer. It totally changed my life on so many different levels. Musically it was a whole new level of inspiration. And then personally, it just blew my mind. You meet so many good people and everyone’s so nice and happy. It’s just a chance to step out of life for a weekend and kind of re-evaluate yourself as a person. At least for me it was. My personality is day and night to what it was before I went there. It’s amazing. Such a good time. Sonically, it blows every other festival away. We play a lot of other festivals of that kind and it just blows everything, those outdoor kind of festivals, out of the water.
RM: Sweet. I’m looking forward to it. I’m anxious.
DM: Oh, you’ll love it.
RM: When did you start getting into electronic music?
DM: The first time I went to Shambhala, probably. It was about four years ago now. I’ve always kind of enjoyed electronic music but being exposed to it on those soundsystems, really experiencing it like that, it just…all of a sudden I was like, “Oh my God! I want my music to sound as big as this. I want my music to have this power behind it.” Seeing all these people just having an awesome time, all unified feeling this music. I want my music to have that effect on people. All of a sudden I started getting into it, started getting into DJing as well and just got deep into the music, going through artists and songs. It totally rubbed off on our sound.
RM: I can certainly tell with Chimp Blood. That’s a great record. I really love “Blazing Soul.”
RM: What’s a good entry point into the music beyond Chimp Blood? Where’s the line between electronic music and your early influences?
DM: For me, the stuff that really started to get me into it, like warm-up stuff, is Major Lazer stuff. It can be super hard but it’s always got a pop sensibility to it where you could play it almost at any time. It’s super-fun but it’s not over the top, you know what I mean?
RM: That’s what I need. I find electronic music very intimidating.
DM: Yeah, check out Major Lazer, it’s awesome. Some of it can be too poppy but you’ll find good songs. It’s kind of dancehall inspired music. Floom, that guy is awesome. It’s in the vein of hip-hop but a little more out there.
RM: Good, thanks. I need all the listening homework I can get. What do you like the most about the new record?
DM: What we kind of pride ourselves on in Pigeon Hole is that we try to push ourselves and do things differently. It’s not a really forced effort, naturally it’s just what we do. With this record, comparing it to our first record, it’s a complete shift in sound but it’s all stuff we were genuinely inspired by and into. I was just so stoked it didn’t piss anyone off. I thought we were going to lose so many fans with this record because it’s not loops and samples, it’s us playing synths and drum machines. It’s a heavy record, totally different. We’ve got a couple comments maybe but all in all people who are traditional hip-hop heads are I thought wouldn’t like our record are still stoked on it because it still is our sound. Even though it’s totally different it’s still very much our sound in that our fingerprints are on.
RM: I love the aggressive sound. Even though the lyrics aren’t necessarily aggressive, the music sounds it.
DM: For sure. Our whole thing is, the most important thing, there’s no real message with Pigeon Hole records other than excitement and enjoying things. That’s the approach we have with our music. We only work on a song if we’re super-stoked with it and if you started playing the beat and you’re dancing then all of sudden you come up with lyrics. Those songs just unfold. They happen, there’s no banging your head against the wall trying to rack your brain to write a song. They just happen because you’re so excited to make them happen.
RM: Beauty. What do you want people to take away from a Pigeon Hole show?
DM: I want people to be exhausted, with a huge smile on their face. That’s our goal. When we go on stage we want to be dripping, pouring sweat, just feeling like we had the best time of our lives and we want to bring that to people. That’s the aim of our show.
RM: Thanks man. I appreciate your 10 or 12 minutes, whatever this was and I’m looking forward to Rifflandia.
DM: Yeah and I’ll see you at Shambhala, hopefully, before then.
RM: I will see you for sure there, I’m always looking for the hip-hop.