The Best Coast is the West Coast
The raw energy of ‘80s American Punk - bands like Black Flag and Circle Jerks and the underground artist Raymond Pettibon - were among the native Californian inspirations that influenced Carol and Humberto for the KENZO Spring/Summer 2014 collection. From psychadelic rock to ska, grunge and hip hop, what makes California such a hive for counterculture music? Kenzine asked former i-D magazine music editor Milly McMahon to dive deep into the music culture of Los Angeles and environs; the harvest of which is an epic journey of the West Coast underground from then to now…
Ask any sunkissed CA resident their favourite destination in the world and their immediate answer will be 'the best coast is the West Coast.' Culturally, linguistically and ecologically rich, L.A. lifestyle rules dictate “just vibe and chill”. The world-famous trippy nightlife scene truly ignites in the AM, when the sun rises and industrial warehouse spaces light up. A true melting pot of culture, anyone and everyone is a beckoning 30 minute drive from either the crashing surf of the ocean or the peace of the mountains. No matter how crazy and warped a weekend will become, the heavenly L.A. sun and sand rejuvenates you from the outside in; the sunshine state is a multi-sensory pleasure centre.
Giving rise to a host of the most successful musical icons of generations past and present, California’s litany of success stories reads like a who's who of cool. The legacy of L.A.s flamboyant roots are secured within the diverse history of the area’s open-minded relationship with music and the sub cultures that have kindled their own genres. Crafting timeless grooves, accepting of the fashions that have influenced different sounds - no matter how extreme – L.A.s creative diversity is boundless. From surf and psychedelic rock to techno, soul to house and hardcore to DnB breaks, L.A. can take credit for a colourful roster of the world’s best musical acts: The Beachboys; Jefferson Airplane; Santana; The Byrds; The Grateful Dead; Frank Zappa; The Eagles; Janis Joplin; Motley Crew; Korn, Metallica. These bands typify historically significant musical movements of their time, while the inheritors of the West Coast - Madlib, Dam-Funk, Kendrick Lamar, Inc., Delroy Edwards, Dr Dre, SFV Acid, Ariel Pink, Shlohmo, Baths, Daedelus, Flying Lotus, Snoop Dogg - all represent the breaking homegrown talent of tomorrow.
In translating L.A.'s famously gritty, post-punk, hardcore energy into an electronic setting, techno, house, drum and bass and every dance subgenre in between currently dominate the emerging music scene on the West Coast. Recorded in the same studios that original rock records were created, Californian dance music tracks sound worn, raw and dirty. The electronic vibe is aggressive and loud; the original L.A. rock form continues to inform the evolution of house and techno. Noise bands Sun Araw and DJ Punisher write modern rock, translating the previously influential sensibilities of Black Flag and Wasted Youth into their own current thrash productions. The originators are spawning a tribe of brand new originals. Delroy Edwards raw, Southern L.A. label 'Club Resource' is a perfect example of 'noise' infiltrating a whole scope of genres. The famous L.A. riots of 1992 still feel prevalent in non-conformist, niche anti-surf rock circles (No Age and Wives), which exist in contrast to more placid surf pop acts (Wavves and Best Coast).
Converting unconventional spaces into house raves and parties, TOP 40 is the city’s number one go-to live music venue for breaking talent. A large, open space where all forms of art and life can come and share freely with one another and run by Meghan Edwards aka MISS ME MISS, TOP 40 is a multidisciplinary art show and music hall. Thinking outside of the box and encouraging the survival of good music in the city, producers in the state are focused on maintaining the feel-good vibes popularly on rotation at illegal warehouse gatherings. With a significant shift in live music events taking place in obscure venues, most live shows are now staged outside of the club and bar paradigm. Being re-appropriated to a re-purposed or altered space has helped to alter the mood and experience of artists’ sets. Record store Mount Analog is a perfect example of an impromptu, makeshift venue that has developed a reputation for staging must-attend, one off events.
Boiler Room, the world’s leading underground live music stream, now hosts amongst the most prestigious and groundbreaking shows direct from L.A.'s disused, unofficial industrial areas. Music is being created to be laid down live on a wider scale to fill vaster spaces not originally constructed to contain sound professionally. Chopped, skewered and sampled beats form the basis of DJ's sets; artists Rare Times and Inc. typify this perfume style of sexy, R&B blended song structure. The vibe is quietly rebellious, catering to the needs of audiences looking to chill, chat and just get down. Every musician, producer or DJ works alongside fellow artists who create a variety of different kinds of music; funk, techno and house crowds all attend each other’s parties. The subsequent musical cross pollination that then follows is crucial to the melodic mix of blended genres getting laid down on record.
G-Funk will always and forever be an integral part of Los Angeles musical heritage. Originally coined as ‘West Coast gangster rap’ in the ‘90s, G-Funk is a subgenre of hip hop which samples P-Funk, blended with an artificially lowered tempo. Tupac and Nate Dogg famously went on to adopt the signature laid back melodic G-Funk groove in the context of their own flow. Playing out any song by Dr. Dre -the number one pioneer of G-Funk - specifically “XXXplosive”, is the fail safe way to set any L.A. party popping. Artist Dam-Funk is a true ambassador of G-Funk spin off genre “Modern Funk” and artists Rare Times, Inc., and P. Morris continue the tradition with their own breed of Balearic funk summer sounds. Soul, jazz, funk, house, techno, and hip-hop all equally and universally relate their foundations back to black culture. Given the fact both Godfathers of rap, Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre both hail from the West Coast, the legacy that respectfully proceeds them reiterates the importance of their influence on all music created from then to now.
L.A. is home to some of the rarest and revered record labels in the world: niche imprints Friends of Friends, L.A. Club Resource and Stones Throw push forward independently, alongside major imprints Capitol Records & Warner Brothers. Former member of Friends of Friends and now independent manager and Boiler Room rep., Julian Schoen is based in hispanic Highland Park and describes his perfect evening in L.A. as typically laid back: "My ideal night out would involve a dinner, ideally KBBQ in Koreatown Ramen or Pho and then a friend’s house to hang out, drink and get ready for a party around 11 or 12. From there, we usually go to some obscure secret space either downtown or worse and party till the sun comes up." After relocating from London to L.A., Partisan signed young filmmaker Dexter Navy’s career soared when he began shooting hip hop innovators, prevalent on the West Coast scene: "In L.A. l feel the rawness of the youth working together, they're all young, wild and free with no reservations about what's cool in the city. Los Angie is always alive dusk to dawn, they love my London accent… they love us!" The city itself has becomes an enabler, an inspiring subject to the young talent it is able to nurture.
With the underground, industrial currents of the L.A. music scene proving so influential on the mainstream, California is harnessing the energies guiding the future and defining the trends of tomorrow for the rest of the world through rose tinted spectacles. Drenched in vitamin D, the sunshine state encourages all forms of eccentricity, promoting a health first culture, whilst facilitating hedonistic behaviour through a healthy haven of rave induced escapism. The future of new music is bright, the West Coast truly is the best coast.
In the second part of "The Best Coast is the West Coast", Milly speaks to L.A. electronic acts Rare Times, P. Morris and Inc. to hear their take on the climate of new music and how hot temperatures keep their audiences the coolest. Read it here.