On October 3rd, Stones Throw and [adult swim] release their collaborative Chrome Children CD/DVD, a celebration of dusty and dusted (there's a difference!) gems from the Stones Throw famalam. We chatted with label head Peanut Butter Wolf recently about Chrome Children, remembering Dilla, Madlib's Nikes and much more, you can read up on it after the jump.
The DVD portion of Chrome Children was shot at the FADER SXSW tent.What do you remember from the night that it was being filmed?
There was a lot of stuff going on, I just remember I was DJing for some of the artists and I also had to worry about my own DJ sets. But as far as the show it all worked out well, I didn’t even realize it was going to be filmed and put on the DVD, it’s probably better that I didn’t.
Are you happy with the finished Chrome Children as a representation of the label?
The DVD I always thought of as extra content. But as far as that component, we hadn’t done a show with everybody there together outside of LA. I don’t know when the last time was, if ever. I don’t know if we’ve had that many artists from the roster in the same place at the same time. For me, that was like a huge celebration, you know? We had a lot of our friends there, it really made it more of a house party vibe. I was on the mic a lot just acting kind of stupid, not really taking anything too seriously other than just partying and performing our songs for the people. As far as the CD itself, I basically told everybody before the album was getting done, You’d better give me a few songs and let me pick the best ones, I don’t want this to be just like another compilation where everybody just gives me a throwaway song that didn’t make their album. I told them to treat this like a real big opportunity to get your stuff heard. A lot of the artists on the label, I think they are super talented and haven’t reached as many people as they need to, so I think they understood that and realized this was an opportunity as well.
I thought it was cool that you included the Dilla song [“Never Felt Like This”] from his Rough Draft EP. Did you know in advance that you wanted to use that one?
I knew right away when we got the multitracks for it. The way that the vinyl came out for Rough Draft, I always felt that it could have been mixed down again or whatever. I would talk to Dilla about putting Rough Draft in its entirety on Stones Throw because it was a vinyl only release on a European label. But that track…I would ask him about doing a whole album like that, where he is singing. It’s not like R&B singing or anything, its like some dark, early 80s Cabaret Voltaire…I don’t know, new wave’s not really the word for it, but like early industrial, you know? Like early Front 242, goth music like Joy Division or something. Whenever I would bug him about that when I saw him, he would kinda just laugh it off and stuff. I don’t know that he was ever interested in doing a whole album like that, but that song to me…I don’t know what it was about it, but I really fell in love with it.
Donuts has really given Stones Throw one of it’s biggest years ever.
Possibly, we’ll see when the year-end charts come out and everything. If we get voted label of the year then I will tell you yes. I think Dilla’s passing…he definitely uplifted us in his passing. I personally think he and Madlb are the two most important musicians of our generation. They are like the Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon of our generation.
The attention that release got must have been so bittersweet though.
When Dilla passed away I wanted to close down the office and just re-evaluate everything. For me it was really frustrating that his passing was almost what it took for so many people to even listen to his stuff. I had really high profile people in hip-hop calling me like, “I never knew about this cat, and when I heard the De La song and the Pharcyde song, and the Tribe, and so on, and Common, I had no idea he was doing all this.” That kind of stuff was really tough for me to understand.
How do you feel about it now? Is it any easier to work through?
Well, when he passed away right away we all knew that his suffering would be over, so that was the one thing that helped us get through it. Even people that didn’t know him were extremely touched by it because his music was so powerful, it wasn’t just another Top 40 hit song, it was so meaningful.
What were your feelings on how the Baron Zen project was recieved?
There were definitely people that got it right away. Man, I was happy for that. Like Other Music, you know, those are people that I really respect their opinion, and they gave it a really good review. There was this guy that tried to book Baron Zen for a live show, but they wanted Baron Zen to open for Daniel Johnston, I wasn’t familiar with Daniel Johnston’s work so I looked him up on the internet and found out there was a movie on his life and I went and saw the movie and I fell in love with Daniel Johnston’s stuff so I was like, Wow, this guy put Baron Zen in the same category. So that’s cool. Steve, the guy that did the Baron Zen album, he’s been my best friend since like fourth grade. We grew up listening to the same music and that’s why I put out that podcast with “DJ Chris and DJ Steve.” It was like a radio show—you know, a fictitious radio show we did when we were 12 years old, pretending like we were radio DJs. Even if nobody understood it I would be happy that the record came out.
I read somewhere that you were planning various remixes for the Baron Zen songs.
The remixes are all done now, actually. We’re just getting ready to release it next year. We got a remix from Arabian Prince—another guy that Steve and I really looked up to when we were kids. So you know, that’s the kind of stuff that, for me, makes it worth it as a label.
Have you done any other production recently?
I did a Baron Zen remix, taking an acapella and just building a whole song around it. It was one of the first productions I did where I was using instruments beyond a sampler, a lot of drum machines and synthesizers and stuff.
Do you still record on your own with any regularity, or is it more like the occasional project here and there?
It’s more like mixtapes—mix CDs. I did that 666 mix on 6/6/06 halfway as a joke, but then of course religious people thought it was really distasteful. And I just did a mix of all my old school hip-hop 7”s, because I’ve been collecting hip- hop on 45 for years and I thought that would be fun to do. To me it’s just as much fun as doing production.
One of the funniest parts on the A-Trak DVD that came out this year was seeing you guys playing around with the toy instruments.
A-Trak was one of the first artists, musicians, whatever that I was able to be myself around, and just clown around because he was all for it and does the same thing. That’s something a lot of our artists all have in common. Madlib, and even Dilla—like when Dilla was alive, he was so funny all the time. On the mic he was serious but he did have that sense of humor side to him.
The Quasimoto stuff instantly gets people to loosen up when they hear it. It’s not comedy music but it has that quality to it.
Definitely, I remember when I first heard it—the little skit where he is in the record store and the goofy white guy has got it all wrong in terms of what stuff he’s looking for. It’s a situation we’ve all come across.
What do you have planned after Chrome Children, looking toward 2007?
There’s so many. We just signed Guilty Simpson, so he’s working towards his album. Percee P is getting his album finished, his first album even though he’s been recording since ’88. The Baron Zen remixes obviously. There’s an Arabian Prince greatest hits record we’re looking to put out. A lot of early ‘80s electro stuff that kinda hasn’t been heard outside of like two people.
Is it all him on production, or are there guests on it?
It’s all his production and his rapping. His early ‘80s stuff was really Kraftwerk influenced, I guess like Cybotron as well, Juan Atkins and stuff.
Do you think now is a particularly ripe time for people to rediscover that era of LA electro?
I think it is. I’ve always really embraced it, for me electro was…as a kid, that’s really the first hip-hop that I was religiously going out and buying the 12”s of. There is so much good west coast electro. Even living in LA, nobody plays it, we’re more likely to hear it in Germany where those singles are really rare records to them. I’m glad to be an LA label and able to put that out, to show what hip-hop was like 25 years ago in LA.
When you are working on reissues do you ever suggest to the original artists to work with new people, and do new original tracks with artists that are out today?
We’ve definitely tried in the past. With Arabian Prince that’s kind of why I asked him to do the remix for Baron Zen, mainly because Steve loves his music so much. I think that with all this “electroclash” that’s out now, I think those artists should be coming to Arabian Prince for a remix, you know?
Is that something you would want to facilitate? You mentioned the people that reached out to you to find out more about Dilla—do you make suggestions to more mainstream people in the industry about Stones Throw artists, like “There’s this guy you should work with…”
Definitely. Fab 5 Freddy gave me a call and he was saying that Hip-Hop Honors is coming up, and they want to involve Dilla’s legacy somehow. I think Dilla’s MPC should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And probably some day it will be, but for now…it’s hard to say. In the mean time we’ll just keep putting out his music and getting more people to find out about him.
The label really goes out of its way to keep doing the vinyl releases, but you guys also have so much stuff on iTunes, and you’re doing the podcasts and everything else. What other areas would you like to bring Stones Throw into?
Film and clothing. I really think that there needs to be a documentary on Madlib, and that’s something that we’ve always talked about. Madlib is very introverted, I can’t really imagine the camera following him around. He has said that he’s up for doing it after seeing documentaries on Sun Ra and a couple other guys. So I think that is something that needs to be preserved.
As far as the clothing, the response to those Quasimoto Dunks is pretty crazy.
Yeah I know. Nike did 50 pairs and we had way more than 50 people that we wanted to get them to. We’re hoping for them to do a second run, it looks like they are not gonna do it now. But the fact that they even did it is really cool and we’re really thankful. They could have done that with anybody, but they did it with us. As far as the clothing, I guess I’ve always…there’s not enough men’s clothes out there that I like, personally.
Do you consider yourself a fashionable dude?
Haaaaaah….no. In high school I was always just buying stuff at thrift stores and no one really understood it back then. I’d like to take more chances than I do, I guess.