5 Questions with Rags #67 - Neil James Cooke-Dallin (Astrocolor, Stray Cougar, Righteous Rainbows of Togetherness)

A musical pillar of Victoria unto himself, James Cooke and his many projects – Righteous Rainbows of Togetherness, Stray Cougar and Astrocolor, my obsession of 2017 (into 2018, apparently) – have been helping keep my hometown way groovy and just a little bit more weird for some time now. It's actually kind of staggering the amount of creative energy this one human being seems to not only contain, but is able to harness and use effectively. “It's just what I love to do. They're all quite different, in terms of what I'm getting out of them. It's feeding a different part of my soul with each project.” It must be a pretty ravenous musical soul inside his body, because the homie never stops. A captivating performer, you should always take the chance to see Cooke playing/mixing his music live, in the flesh, because it's always guaranteed to be high-creativity and high-accessibility, the hardest things to balance in music.

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

<laughs> Yeah, I do. <more laughing> It was Quiet Riot Mental Health. My buddy's brother ended up getting two copies of it for Christmas one year, so he was selling one of them and I was in grade 2 and I bought a copy of Quiet Riot on the school playground from him.

I remember being weirded out as a kid the first time I saw that cover. Made me feel kinda funny.

I think I was pretty normalized to it by then. I'd been around metal and rock a lot just by virtue of having friends with older brothers and some of my parents' friends. I had Ozzy Osbourne Bark at the Moon on 12 inch already and I don't know if there's a weirder album cover than that. Things were getting a lot more gentrified by the time I purchased Quiet Riot.

When's the last time you listened to Quiet Riot?

<laugh> That's a good question. I'm pretty sure I pulled out “Cum on Feel the Noise” or “Mental Health” sometime in the last year and a half.

Come on, it was definitely only “Cum On Feel The Noise.”
Ahh, I was pretty into “Bang Your Head.”

2. What's your favourite household chore?

I would say I enjoy doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. I really enjoy seeing how nice it looks when everything's cleaned up. Have my girlfriend come home and see it and have her evening be that much better.

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Let's all take a few minutes to appreciate Chali 2na. (And listen to some of his finest guest spots.)

Chali 2na makes his near-annual Victoria appearance this Friday (June 30) and an appearance from the Verbal Herman Munster is always a reason to look back at why and how this giant of hip-hop has remained such an unmissable act wherever he appears. Ask me on any given day for my top 3 Mcs and Chali 2na will be somewhere on that list. Obviously the beginning is Jurassic 5, but it's his never-ending stream of consistently great, inventive solo work and guest appearances that has made him such a mainstay on the headphones and stereos in my life. As much as any MC on the planet, 2na has kept up with modern sounds in the ever-shifting hip-hop landscape, never hollowly imitating them but always taking the pieces that suit his sound and style, making them his own. More impressive than almost anything he's done, is his willingness to embrace EDM, in all of its forms. His ubiquitous presence in electronic music has kept him at the forefront of the genre and his status as a hip-hop legend has helped introduced new music fans to the roots of the music that helped spawn all of this. It's a logical progression and one that I'm shocked more rappers haven't leaned into. But luckily for everyone who likes those real goods, Chali 2na remains everywhere, smothering everything he touches with that good, classic hip-hop flavour. Now I'll take a look back at a dozen of the homies best, most diverse tracks and appearances (Or at least my favourites) to present a mere glimpse of the versatility of one of the GOATs.

I listen to the whole of Hip-Hop. I don’t segregate between it because I know and understand where it all was spawned and I give everybody their space to be an artist, where a lot of fans are probably like “What?! You listen to Snoop Dogg?!” But yeah, I listen to it all...I feel like I’ve done a lot Hip-Hop wise and now it’s a journey through music more than it is just Hip-Hop. Changing the band and all that, I’m just trying to tap into music. If it’s good music, I’m just trying to be a part of it.” - Chali 2na, interview with Rags Music, 2014

N.A.S.A – There's a Party feat. George Clinton and Chali 2na

This might be an odd one to start this list off, but it made its way onto a lot of my playlists after Chali explained to me the significance of the song. “You know, to be perfectly honest, it’s not one of my best guest appearances, but the fact that he is who is… I did a song called ‘There’s a Party' on the NASA album, ‘Spirit of Apollo’, a song with George Clinton and I’m so proud of that. Just the experience of doing that song with him is just priceless, you can’t trade that for the world. Like I said, it may not be one of my best songs but it’s definitely a milestone for me.”

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#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 .&nbsp;

Photo by Xavier Photography

5 Questions with Rags #39 - The Russ Liquid Test

In the build-up to Shambhala this past year, there was no act I was more excited to check out than the Russ Liquid Test. For about as long as I've been into electronic Russ Liquid's name has been a mark of quality – groovy, funky quality. The idea of seeing his musical vision through the prism of a live act at Shambhala, one of the great venues on Earth to see live music, had my ear-pussy soaked with anticipation. The power trio – Liquid, guitarist Andrew Block and drummer Nick Mercadel – battled through early sound problems (With some timely help from Miss Erica Dee) and delivered one of my favourite sets of the weekend. Even better, soon after I arrived home from the Farm, still abuzz with all the great music, the trio released their first official single, “FNK FWD” (feat. Steve Swatkins), a wonderful glitchy dose of bright, lively funk. It's a perfect night-starter or pick-me-up on a shitty day. Even luckier than getting this into my eyes, I managed to meet up with the Russ Liquid Test at Shambhala to get them down with the 5 Questions, in which we discuss Stevie Wonder, the beautiful tragedy that is Mardis Gras and the some of the guys' most positive school memories.

Keep abreast of things Russ Liquid over on the ol' Facebook and Twitter.

And, more importantly, keep up on the musical happenings over on Soundcloud.

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

Andrew Block: Doggystyle. Actually, I bought two at the same time. Doggystyle and Aerosmith Get A Grip.

And which one do you listen to more today?

AB: Doggystyle. At the time though, Aerosmith, actually.

Russ Liquid: The Beatles The White Album.

Favourite track?

RL: Oh man, there's so many of them. I like “Savoy Truffle.”

Nick Mercadel: It was a Stevie Wonder record. I don't know which one it was but I know my first purchase was a Stevie Wonder record in an actual brick & mortar store.

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#festivalseason - An in-depth musical review by a Groove Rider at Shambhala.

There is no experience like Shambhala. The mountain setting, the Life-giving river, the PK Sound, the hoards of beautiful people, the ridiculous stage designs, the colours, the art...all of it combines for one of the most unique experiences any of us are likely to find on this planet. But all of this pivots on the music. The best Djs, spanning nearly every genre of dance music you can imagine, provide the soundtrack for all the ridiculousness and that soundtrack is the thing is thing that keeps me coming back year in and year out. There are many places to read about the people and the culture of Shambhala, albums of photos by people far more qualified than me documenting the bliss (Check the Shambhala FB page for a cornucopia of said photo albums). So with that, here is my overly long, in-depth look at the way I spent my musical time on the Farm this year.

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