The Best Coast is the West Coast, Part Two
“What makes L.A. magic? L.A. is unique as a birthplace for music and an inspiration for music subgenres evolving, splitting, morphing… Hushed like an exciting secret, the city of Angels offers a sun-kissed source of inspiration in contrast to the over-saturation of cultural hubs like Paris, London and Berlin. L.A. has a distinctly young vibe about it today.” In the second part of our L.A. music digest, Milly McMahon chats to L.A. electronic acts Inc., P.Morris and Rare Times to hear their take on the climate of new music and how hot temperatures keep their audiences the coolest.
(Top photo by Lonnie Gallegos)
Kansas native P. Morris moved to L.A. to live life bright and right. A member of L.A. collective Fade To Mind and label owner of Bear Club Music Group, to date P. Morris has produced for Kelela, Solange, Feist and Le1F. He is also an L.A. taco and Thai food connoisseur.
Milly McMahon: What was the first thing that struck you about LA when you initially arrived?
P. Morris : Pretty much immediately upon arriving in L.A., I was in love with the weather. It's a huge cliché, but coming from Kansas where it can go from snowing to completely sunny in a day, the stability of L.A.’s weather is a serious perk for me. Los Angeles is amazing also because there is so much nature in and around the city, as opposed to New York City which is all concrete. Here, I'm less than 30 minute drive from the ocean or the mountains or a nice hike.
M.M.: Has your musical style changed since moving there?
P.M.: Although it's too soon to say concretely, I think L.A. has started to have an effect on my music. I think at my core, I've always felt myself to be an "experimental" artist. Being here, I've learned lots of different ways to experiment with what I'm trying to do and to feel like I have that kind of freedom is priceless to me right now. In general when I was working on stuff in Lawrence, I was very closed off - more likely to be found at home working on music than out and about. Since coming here, I can't help but come into contact with a lot of different vibes and I've been very welcoming to outside ideas coming into my process.
M.M: How does that fit into the larger L.A. music scene?
P.M. : In general, we all think of Los Angeles as the breeding ground for a lot of the pop culture and pop music. Being here and around that kind of stuff, it's definitely helping to challenge and expand my idea and definition of my own music. I haven't really released any new material since moving here, but I think my next step will be me leaning into some of the stuff I've picked up since living here.
M.M. : Besides California, is there anywhere else in the world where you have an affinity?
P.M.: I recently went to the Pacific Northwest and literally fell in love. Both Washington and Oregon are incredible states, I could see myself settling down in either.
Listen to P. Morris on Soundcloud.
L.A. duo Alex Talan and Anthony Calonico a.k.a. Rare Times, release records via local independent imprint Feel So Real. Making sexy-sleazy music inspired by the West Coast’s illicit nightlife scene, the production duo share a workspace on the Bay with a pornography studio.
(Photo by Mike Harris)
Milly McMahon: How did Rare Times first become established?
Alex Talan: Anthony and I met in college and began making music together. It was lush and romantic, on a Vangelis and Berlin David Bowie tip. I'm originally from L.A. and convinced him to move down here. We moved into a warehouse space on Alameda and Olympic and started going to undergrounds nearby. Music for Dancers was a big influence on us.
M.M. : Why do you think California has become such an exciting breeding ground for new music?
A.T.: California is a beautiful place with cool, open-minded people. L.A. has a surprising amount of cheap industrial space. Musicians need spaces to live and play loud. The scene is diverse. You can see great jazz, funk, techno, house, disco and industrial. The underground is very strong. There are fewer barriers for artists. Listeners are very open to new sounds.
M.M.: What makes the west coast such a unique place for underground music movements?
A.T. : I think that the spirit of the West Coast is hedonist. No matter how dark you get with your music, it's still sunny and warm outside.
Anthony: It's hard to be segregated by scene here. Every musician/producer/DJ has friends who are into different kinds of music. There's also the people who put in the hard work to keep it going: Dublab, Mount Analog, No Way Back, As You Like It, Droid Behavior, A Club Called Rhonda, Funkmosphere, Far too many to name a few...
M.M.: How would you describe your sound?
Anthony Calonico: It's a sensual mixture of adult contemporary, house-y melodrama and a bit of jazz. I like to croon over the beat, laying something soft and beautiful over a hard contour, never disturbing the essential groove, only communicating with it. We want to lure people into our world, one that for us is filled with as many fantasies as truths. A lot of people refer to our music as retro, which is appropriate. But we're also interested in bizarre pairings, new age scales, radio pop, and going even deeper into the groove. Some of our new material is straying from pop form, and exploring longer forms.
M.M. : Most of your work references L.A., do you see yourselves more as voyeurs, looking in on L.A. life, or do you write and reflect as if you are a part of it?
A.C.: When we lived on Alameda above Sam's Hofbrau it was difficult not to be a voyeur. Sometimes when I'm on my roof in Koreatown, I play trumpet to people on the street. I try to feel their moods and tempos. I also feel like a jazz gargoyle. I like to watch, and I like to be watched.
M.M.: Why is it good to be in LA if you’re a musician?
A.T.: People are open minded and they go out every night!
M.M. :Is there a huge difference between LA in the day and LA at night?
A.C.: It can be brutal in the day, especially trapped in your car with no AC. Night often feels open and luxurious. There's a lot to explore, and it’s easier to get around. Koreatown is a great 24 hour zone. Wi Spa is best around 3am.
M.M. : What was the last thing that you saw or heard that really moved you?
A.C.: Jessie Lanza at the Bootleg Theatre in January. It was a hypnotic and beautiful experience. She appeared like a goddess in a ring of white light with long flowing hair. The house was full and everyone was in love with the music. Every song translated perfectly. The minimal arrangements were even more effective, and her voice was incredible.
Listen to Rare Times on Soundcloud.
Brotherly duo Andrew & Daniel Aged are Inc.. Longtime L.A. staples, together the darkly influenced artists have performed and recorded with Raphael Saadiq, Dam-Funk, Steve Arrington, John Legend and FKA Twigs amongst many others. Signed to 4AD, Inc. are currently planning a European tour and LP release.
M.M. : Why did you first begin making music together?
A.A.: Music is where we belong, beyond choice. It's a good for the soul.
M.M.: Before forming as a duo you worked with people like Pharrell, Cee-Lo, Elton John, how did that come about and why did you decide to form INC.?
A.A.: It was good to see all of that. As for Inc. it was just gut feelings and a spiritual blastoff.
M.M.: How would you describe the current music scene in LA/California?
A.A: I was walking with my lover at a farmers market and saw an old couple playing music together, they looked like an older Tony and Esther. l bought two tubs of hummus, and one avocado. It was ideal.
M.M.: Do you feel that LA music has changed within the last 10 years?
A.A.: It got more vegan bloated, you know that feeling?
Listen to Inc. here.
Read Part One of 'The Best Coast is the West Coast' here.
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.