Localized – W Lounge, DJ Flash and Flare and Muscle Hawk – February 2010

Photo: Katie Panzer

Stream and download the SLUG 21st Anniversary Mixtape HERE!

SLUG Magazine is finally old enough to drink legally (like we weren’t partying hard before …)! To celebrate, we’re merging the anniversary party with Localized and throwing a massive dance party at Urban Lounge. Join us to celebrate 21 years on Friday, Feb. 19 with performances from resident W Lounge DJ Flash and Flare, electro duo Muscle Hawk and the four-piece synth-infused Mammoth.

DJ Flash and Flare

by Jessie Wood

All DJs want to be different, to stand out. Kyle Erickson, also known as DJ Flash and Flare, has done just that. In a world where DJs are defined by specific genres, Erickson wants to play “absolutely everything,” while making sure the crowd is excited and having fun. As a resident DJ at the W Lounge for over a year, and co-founder of Scenester Siege (a W Lounge event that takes place every Wednesday and occasional Fridays whose mission is to bring more dance music to Salt Lake), he has opened for some of the biggest little names in dance music, like Sammy Bananas, Designer Drugs, LAZRtag, Million $ Mano and Kid Sister.

It started two years ago with a passion for underground hip hop and a friend who had some turntables. Erickson wanted to know what DJs were doing with their hands, and within weeks, it was all he could think about. These days he uses Technics with Serato Scratch Live, MIDI for samples and Logic for production.

According to Erickson, technology like Scratch Live is pushing everything in the DJ world quickly. It makes the process infinitely less time consuming and virtually eliminates the grunt work of DJ-ing—marking records, cueing up records, digging through records and hauling them around town. This, along with easy access to new music, requires a good DJ to focus on progressing as a musician and expanding their music creatively. To be a successful DJ these days, you have to know a lot about computer software and hardware. This technical aspect to DJ-ing has grown with the technology. “DJing is really really really geeky nowadays,” Erickson says. Ultimately, knowing the ins and outs of your software and hardware (along with a good ear for music and reading the dance floor) is the key to being a good DJ.

Erickson was influenced by the turntablism movement, as well as DJs A-Trak, Z-Trip, Craze, and especially Diplo, who he says has “a perfect balance of something weird with something people will be familiar with. Different, but not too different.” Asked about whether he prefers dance music or hip hop, Erickson says, “the more and more I got into dance music, the crappier mainstream hip hop was getting and it was pissing me off, so now it’s kind of 50/50. Hip hop’s my love, and dance music is my mistress.”

A seductive mistress indeed. In the past year, Erickson and Matt Engle, founders of Scenester Siege, have brought some of the biggest DJs in the electro/house/dubstep/dance genre to Salt Lake City. The list includes Steve Aoki, AC Slater, Teenage Bad Girl, Le Castle Vania, Drop the Lime, and dozens of others. “Salt Lake has an amazing crowd,” Erickson says. “Everyone is responsive. Every DJ who comes through has as much fun as the people who are dancing.”  Erickson says that Scenester Siege grew out of a desire to see more DJs come to Salt Lake and the realization that if he wanted them, he would have to bring them out himself.  “I think it’s our duty now to keep bringing good shit,” he says.

The experience of being a resident at the W Lounge and opening for a continuous stream of experts has helped Erickson smooth and refine his sets. He used to practice all week for his Wednesday nights, but now if he knows he is practiced and prepared, he can go on and have no idea what to play, and just wing it. “It works better than building a set,” he says. “It gets better results because you’re vibing with the crowd. Plans usually don’t work out. When you have no plan, it always works out.”

Erickson is incredibly positive about the current local music scene in Salt Lake. “Per capita, for the population numbers that we have, kids are doing super cool stuff, and they’re hugely active in what they’re into … kids who are partying, and are active, are really hungry, and I think that’s huge for Salt Lake.” He throws out some names of DJs in the local scene who are paving the way: Hot Noise, Nickel & Dime, DJ Freak Show, Juggy and the Pierpont artists, and the EDP (Electric Dance Party) crew who is throwing bangers out of Provo. “We get a lot of kids from Orem and Provo at the W,” he says, “I don’t think we could have reached down there without the EDP kids.”

In 2010 Erickson wants to produce his own remixes and original tracks.  A tour in Australia is also in the works, but for now he will keep doing what he has always done in his sets—incorporating many different types of music, and making sure everyone is having fun. Although he has eclectic tastes, he’s also really picky, saying it’s got to be a great song to be played in the club. He also wants to stand apart from just the songs he plays, by manipulating them in a way that’s customized to him, to the crowd, and to that night. “I try to put my touch on absolutely every song,” Erickson says.

Stream and download the SLUG 21st Anniversary Mixtape HERE!

by Ross Solomon

Brice Okubo: Synthesizer, vocorder
Shane Asbridge: Synth-percush
Stephen Chai: Sax, synthesizer
Weston Wulle: Bass

As I took a seat with most of the band, sax-magician Stephen Chai slunk off into the shadows, a seemingly blank picture in hand. Perching it on a cabinet in the background and plugging it in, a formerly darkened dolphin sprung to life.  Cobalt waves pulse and glow in the background as the dolphin emitted a series of eerily loud clicking noises.

“Now we’re ready,” said Chai.

Mammoth was founded eight years ago by current member Brice Okubo and Chris Evans of Le Force. After a period of inactivity, Mammoth reemerged as part of the SLC music scene in July 2009 due to a sudden change in the lineup of Laserfang, Okubo, Asbridge, Chai and Wulle’s other band. “Our drummer for Laserfang had quit, and we had a show booked,” said Okubo. Not wanting to cancel the show, Okubo got some of the guys from Laserfang together and performed as a resurrected version of Mammoth. Using older Mammoth songs as the framework, they quickly put together a new set. “It was just going to be me and Shane at first, but then we kept hearing other parts that could be played, so we had Weston and Stephen join in,” said Okubo.

Since then, the guys of Mammoth have put a huge amount of effort into making the band’s sound uniquely its own. For their first few shows, Asbridge’s role in the band was to play live drums. That has since changed. “We had a show booked and Shane had to go home for Christmas, so me and Stephen decided to do some electronic drums,” said Okubo. What was originally just a quick improvisation for a single show ended up changing the layout of the band. “It turned out good enough that now we’re not going to have any drums, we’re going to program all of the beats,” said Asbridge. With this new aspect, Mammoth has created a delightfully organic and electronic style that can’t be easily compared to any other artist. Synth-heavy grooves are complimented nicely with prerecorded samples, sax, tambourines and more. This, along with Wulle’s unique style of funk-infused bass, only furthers the desire to dance to each and every song. For the future, they hope to fill out Asbridge’s band role of playing “synth-percush” by having additional percussion.

Other than Laserfang, the members of Mammoth can be found in many other bands and projects native to Utah. Asbridge was one of the founding members of Vile Blue Shades, which later recruited Okubo.

Asbridge, Chai and Wulle were involved in the now-deceased I Am Electric. Chai is currently working on recording for a solo project. “Now that I don’t have a job, it’s getting a little bit more momentum. It’s kind of afro-beatish with layered vocals,” said Chai.

Ever since Mammoth’s second coming, they’ve been becoming increasingly popular with the Salt Lake music scene. In August, they were asked to play at SLUG’s own Craft Lake City alternative art and craft festival. “It was our second show ever and [Angela Brown] just said, ‘well, you guys are headlining!’” said Chai. Donning glitter-covered bird costumes, Mammoth capped off that night spectacularly. As for shows outside of the state, only Laserfang has made its rounds around the western U.S. so far. They’ve hit cities such as Missoula, Denver and Ft. Collins. Mammoth has yet to go on tour, but they say that it’s definitely in their plans to do so.

Mammoth does not have any recorded material yet, but they should have a CD available by the time Localized happens. I had a chance to hear a couple of tracks that they’ve recorded so far, both of which did a great job capturing the feelings and energy that their live shows put out so well.

With this being SLUG Mag’s 21st birthday spectacular, we are incredibly privileged to have a band like Mammoth playing at our celebration. Having contributed so much to the Salt Lake City music community, there is no doubt that the gentlemen of Mammoth will make this a party to remember. In the past, they’ve been known to give out random instruments at their shows, so be ready to shake some Maracas and dance your pretty little Salt Lake asses off.

Stream and download the SLUG 21st Anniversary Mixtape HERE!

Muscle Hawk

by Ryan Powers

This two-man electronic juggernaut has been quickly rising to the top of Salt Lake’s music scene, playing SLUG’s own Pride Float, X96’s Big Ass Show, the Gallivan Center’s New Year’s EVE Celebration, and now SLUG’s Localized. With a unique blend of exquisitely produced beats and samples with live synths and vocals, the musical maturity and complexity of composition is anything but DIY. Understanding how such a dramatically unique band exists in Salt Lake City of all places begins with understanding the backgrounds of Greg Bower and Josh Holyoak. Greg, a long time fan of electronic music beginning in the 90s with forays into house and drum & bass, left Utah for California, where he produced strictly hip hop and rock, during a pronounced and intentional hiatus from electronic music. Greg returned to the electronic scene as part of Salt Lake’s live drum & bass group COSM.

Meanwhile, Josh’s early influences of Skinny Puppy and The Beatles and dislike for bandmates led him to building his own computers and recording, eventually creating strange sound effects inspired by aggressive electronic groups like Atari Teenage Riot.

These two producers were eventually united by their jobs, creating music and sound effects for video games, and their passion for new and avant garde electronic music.

Muscle Hawk (whose name is of course taken from a scene in Beastmaster where a hawk perches across a mighty bicep) aims for abrasive, danceable electronic music, inspired by their experience in house, drum & bass, and the French renaissance of electronic music in the 2000s––but with an “American twist.” Because both members are experienced music producers with endless hours of studio time, all hints of ‘amateur’ sounds are absent. A quick listen reveals strong hints of French moguls Daft Punk and Justice, a wide array of sounds and effects tightly sequenced to a master 4/4 beat that’s as danceable as house, but as dynamic as avant garde.

Muscle Hawk live is an exciting departure from both the traditional DJ show and the traditional rock concert, occupying both realms simultaneously––Greg controlling the master sequence via laptop and a supercharged mixer with Josh on keys and the occasional bass.
SLUG: For the uninitiated, it can be hard to distinguish what is happening on stage—there are keyboards, lightshows, occasional live drummers, and one prominent laptop and mixer setup. So what is happening on stage? Are you checking your e-mail on that laptop or what?
Greg Bower: What we are doing is we have a custom version of Rockband on our Mac. We have specialty modifications. We play Rockband live. We actually wrote the album in Rockband.
Josh Holyoak: Well, to be fair, we did use Guitar Hero a bit… [Actually,] we have different backing tracks of drums and click tracks so we can hear what we are playing to.  The mixer interacts with the computer and we can bring in and out different elements of a track. I’ll play live keyboards through distortion pedals, occasionally a bass to add a funk element. Greg also adds live keyboards. Occasionally we’ll add a live drummer for bigger shows, light shows, something to engage the audience visually on the same level or better than a full rock band.

SLUG: Most electronic producers make a career out of DJ-ing or remixing, but Muscle Hawk has been curiously absent from the DJ booth. Why?
Bower: Well, that is because we don’t know how to DJ. We are asked on occasion, but it is something we’ve never taken the time to learn and become good at.

SLUG: Do you have a lot of other producers or DJs doing remixes?
Bower: We have some local remixes of our new single, “Set Yourself on Fire” coming from local DJs Bandwagon, Hot Noise and JSJ.

SLUG: With electronic musicians in particular, a lot of musicians rely heavily on a particular piece of software or equipment, which eventually shapes their sound. Do you feel the equipment you use in production influences your music and songwriting?
Bower: I’d say our equipment and tools are a pretty large influence, it is the palette that we have to work from. But, for us, we don’t really limit our palette. For example, I’ll go to YouTube and find an 80s funk video and microsample the actual YouTube clip.
Holyoak: We would initially try and find the high quality version of the song from YouTube to sample, but found that sometimes the lo-fi YouTube sample sounded cooler in the final mix.
Bower: Right. As far as the actual production software, we use Pro Tools, which is essentially a blank canvas. We have a lot of things to choose from: We have hardware synths, software synths, samplers. So, for me, it doesn’t depend as much on the equipment as it does on knowing the tricks to make what you have work.
Holyoak: The ease of recording, the ease of using the software makes the software not influence the music as much. I use mostly hardware synths, so the software only records what I’m playing on the keys and running through pedals.

SLUG: How do you feel about sampling other musicians’ songs or effects for use in your own album?
Bower: If you are just using a second of sound, a snare or kick drum that is just sound–– but if you are Vanilla Ice stealing from Queen an entire bassline, I mean, that’s just not cool. Or doing what P. Diddy did in the 90s––we had nothing to do with that.

SLUG: I have evidence that shows otherwise.
Bower: Yes. Actually I wrote that album.

P. Diddy involvement or not, check out some of Muscle Hawk’s tracks at myspace.com/musclehawk and their live show at SLUG Localized Friday, Feb. 19 at the Urban Lounge.

Photo: Katie Panzer Photo: David Newkirk Photo: David Newkirk