Freestylers Interview

By theajaysharma

The Freestylers have just released one of the most important dance albums this year. What makes the album so important is the simple fact that you can dance to the entire record -- just put it on and it busts out the beats throughout! I found out about the Freestylers when my friend recommended them to me; at about the same time, I also heard them at a club. I picked up the import version of "We Rock Hard" and it totally knocked me on my ass.

On March 23, 1998, the Freestylers played at the World Club in Hollywood. They brought it all together with a full band, breakdancers, keyboards, and a DJ that took the place to a new level. Their concert really does the album justice because it sounds like a big party and that's exactly is what was happening on stage.

A few days later I was given the opportunity to interview them at a video shoot. As I drove up there were tons of people all around, a bunch of RV's, catering trucks . . . A video shoot for an unknown electonica band? It looked more like a Metallica video. I'm glad that Mammoth records are behind the Freestylers because they'll be the biggest dance act this year.

I was introduced to Aston Harvy and Matt Cantor who are the main music writers. DJ Jay Rock also joined the interview in its final stages.

Interview by Ajay Sharma

EO: Can you tell me how the Freestylers started?

AH: Freestylers is me and Matt and we've been doing it for about three years. Before that we were doing separate project under different names. We did a one-off whitelabel and started selling it in underground shops. Eventually we did more and more records and the track that took off for us was "B-Boy Stance" which was also the first track with vocals. That's when we got Tenor Fly involved. The band came together a little over a year ago. We started doing live shows with just me, Matt, DJ Jay-Rock, and two breakers. We did a couple of shows and it was okay but we decided to get a band together to make it more dynamic and more real. It adds sort of a 3D effect to the Freestylers sound. We were looking for a frontman that's how we got Navigator involved. The musicians were friends of friends. It came together quite naturally.

"Breaking is part of my musical history." -- Aston Harvy

EO: Why the breakdancers?

AH: We wanted to put on a show y'know? On the album there's a track called "Breaker Beats" and being into breaking is part of my musical history. It's just one of those things-- even in the early shows we had breakers and when we DJ, sometimes we have the breakers. It's part of the Freestylers collective. I think we're the only band that actually tours with breakers. Besides, everyone loves to watch breakers.

EO: Yeah, it was really interesting watching the breakers, they were really good. How does one of your songs get written?

AH: Basically, We just go into the studio with a big pile of records and sort through beats, loops, guitar riffs, and sounds. We make it up as we go along. It's really spontaneous how we make music.

EO: There's no formula, like you say, 'okay, now we're going to do a track with vocals'...

AH: There's no formula how we make music. We know what kinda track we're going to do like we'd say 'okay, this one's going to be an electro track' so we get all our electo bits out.

We usually start out with a rhythm track. and then we build it from there. We never really know where it's going to go from there.

EO: How much of the live show is pre-recorded?

AH: None of it is on DAT's, I mean, I have sequenced beats running off an MPC 2000. Apart from that the drummer plays with our breaks so it sounds like one sound. The bass player recreates all the bass sounds.

EO: The reason I bring it up was because I read an article about "Bentley Rhythm Ace" and they have a live band similar to you. They do use a lot of pre-recorded stuff because they believe that it doesn't matter how the music gets out there as long as you have applause at the end.

AH: We do have a lot of sequences, but it's not running through a DAT, it's just running through a sequencer. We layer a lot of our beats so you can hear the dynamics that there are samples as well as live instruments.

EO: Do you get a lot of Prodigy comparisons? I mean with Navigator up there it looks a lot like Maxim.

AH: No.

JR: Do they have any breakdancers, guitarists, or even any musicians?

EO: I think they have a part-time tour guitarist?

AH: Prodigy makes loads of money that's the main difference.

"It's best we stay as we are, un-genre-able."-- DJ Jay-Rock

EO: What is this video shoot for?

AH: Here We Go.

EO: I'm surprised that you're doing a video for Here We Go. I thought Ruffneck or B-Boy Stance would be the first single.

AH: Well there's already a video for Ruffneck. Here We Go is the one that all the radio people think is going to go.

EO: I was reading a live review and it was naming all the people you bring out on stage, Navigator, Tenor Fly and I was pissed 'cause I wanted Definition of Sound to come out as well so you'd play Here We Go.

AH: When we come out on our next tour we'll be playing Here We Go so one of the guys from Definition of Sound will be coming out with us.

EO: Alright! I'm already excited about the next tour!

AH: We won't be back until June.

EO: That's good, cause you're album comes out in May.

AH: Right well there are a couple of tracks that aren't going to make it on the US version. Jay-Rock's Theme won't be there obviously cause of the samples.

MC: It was deemed to wack.

AH: Check the Skillz will be on there.

EO: What about Raize it up?

AH: Umm... maybe... I don't think it's going to be on there.

EO: You played it live on Tuesday and it was just amazing.

AH: Yea, that track is killer. I think it's one that we'll save for the live shows.

EO: Do you consider yourself part of any genre? Like you're a hip-hop, techno,---

EVERYONE: naaa...

MC: morris-folk.

JR: What do you think? Do you think we fit into a genre?

EO: Not really.

JR: That's the best way to be, so next month when the next phase comes along you don't get labeled. It's best we stay as we are, un-genre-able.

EO: Was the whole tour with the Jungle Brothers?

AH: umm yeah..

EO: Did you get the same reaction across the country.

AH: No. San Francisco was a bit shit. That was probably the worst gig. Everywhere else was really good though. LA, NY and Seattle were the best gigs.

EO: Honestly, I was a bit disappointed after you left the stage and the Jungle Brothers took over. Your music is really high-energy stuff and when they came on the energy level just dropped...

AH: Well, it's a different thing isn't it? You see 9 people up on stage doing a whole load of shit. It's a lot of energy, the actual music has a lot more energy to it.

EO: Why did it take so long to release your album in the US?

AH: 'Cause we only got a deal before Christmas.

EO: Did you have a lot of labels interested?

AH: Well there was sort of a bidding war between the labels. We went with Mammoth cause we just thought they were the best. We like working with independent labels.

EO: You had a lot of majors interested as well?

AH: Yea. If you sign to a major you get lost in the water of it all, d'know what I mean?

EO: There'd be a lot more people here?

AH: yeah, exactly. They'd probably be spending 3x the money. It gets a bit silly.