New Music Now 004
Julius C. Lacking, DJ Kayla Kush, and James Searl
by Ian Koss
Ink 19 magazine’s New Music Now spotlights the artists and songs we can’t get out of our heads.
Episode 004 is a love song for crankin’ new reggae sounds inspired by old traditions, with gleaming conversation among three friends about four new albums bringing joy right now.
Songwriter and bassist James Searl of Mike duSt and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad joins DJ Kayla Kush from WORT FM Madison and Ink 19’s Julius C. Lacking as they run down new tracks from The Allergies’ latest album Promises, Antidote from Mungo’s Hi-Fi, Man Like Devin’s Wheel and Shoulder – Acoustic Reggae, Rocksteady and Ska, Vol. 1. and James Searl’s own Mike duSt recording, This Is Life in the Arms of the Octopus.
Stream New Music Now for a veritable happy hour of music to make you feel good (even right now) and subscribe with your podcast platform of choice at Anchor FM. Fine the songs featured in this episode at New Music Now 04 on Spotify.
This episode was produced by Frank Dreyer, Ian Koss, Gregory Schaefer, and Rose Petralia. Our theme music was composed by Avi Bortnick—check him out online at avibortnick.com.
[00:00:00] Julius: All right. My name is Julius C lacking. I’m an on-air DJ at community radio station KAFM in Colorado’s Grand Valley and an Ink 19 contributor. I’m here with my very special guests. Please introduce yourselves.
[00:00:17] Kayla: Hey, I’m DJ Kayla Kush. I’m a radio host on WORT in Madison. I’m also a live DJ and I’m a contributor at Rootfire.
[00:00:27] James: Hey, I’m James Searl. I’m a bass player and songwriter for the band Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. We’re from Rochester, New York, and we do modern American roots reggae and psychedelic music.
[00:00:39] Julius: Great to have you on guys. Thank you for joining me. Uh, we’re going to talk about some of our favorite music here, and I’m going to kick things off by talking about The Allergies and, uh, their new album Promised Land on Jalapeño Records. Uh, have you guys heard The Allergies before?
[00:01:00] Kayla: No. I haven’t.
[00:01:03] Julius: All right, well…
[00:01:03] James: This is the first time for me as well.
[00:01:05] Julius: …you are in for a treat. This is a band out of Bristol in the UK, and they have that kind of blend of funk and hip hop and electronic music and, you know, greasy soul, like big horn stabs and stuff like that. And you know, it can sometimes be a little bit, I dunno, infectious, but it’s also like a guaranteed mood lifter, you know, like I can see how it can make you feel like you’re back at the clubs.
[00:01:32] Julius: Definitely for fans of things like Fatboy Slim, Ugly Duckling, if you know Ugly Duckling–I think they have, a couple of members, maybe a member or two in common–big horn sections, and that bouncing bass. This particular album Promised Land was assembled entirely remotely during this, fun time we’ve had just now. So, uh, let’s get you guys familiarized with what’s going on here. I mean, you know, “Going to the Party,” you can already tell from the title that it’s, this is a good introduction track. Uh, this one features the talents of Lyrics Born. Let’s hear a little bit of that.
“Going to the Party”
[00:02:16] James: It’s raw, man. Sounds like it’s like in a room, like you’re at, you’re at the show, you know.
[00:02:20] Julius: At the basement.
[00:02:21] James: In the basement. Exactly. Like small room, low ceiling, like, the speaker’s right next to your ear and it’s just beautiful.
[00:02:27] Julius: It’s hot in there.
[00:02:27] James: I I love the vibes. Yup.
[00:02:29] Julius: Um, so that was “Going to the Party” with Lyrics Born. It’s got, I don’t know, it’s got a New Orleans feel. I don’t know where 4th Street is, if that’s, you know, necessarily in New Orleans, it’s probably in Bristol, right? And it’s simple but effective, you know?
[00:02:45] James: No, I just always wonder, whenever I’m listening to music like that, that sounds so live, and it’s from a producer, I know they’re not all in the room having that party that I feel like I’m at. And so it’s always so interesting to think about, you know, where that drum take was from, what room that was in, or what studio that was from, and all the different parts. Do you know about about the group, if they make the, the tracks there, or if they’re samples?
[00:03:08] Julius: You know, I think it’s a mixture of things. I don’t know what wizardry it is. You know, honestly, sometimes I don’t want to look too much behind the curtain. I wanna, you know, just hear something like that and, you know, feel good about it.
[00:03:23] James: Oh yeah, definitely. It feels good.
[00:03:25] Kayla: Yeah, I love the way that the, they wind up in the beginning of the song, like sorta do shout outs to each other. I, I love when bands do that and they, they do it well, it’s not cheesy. It’s like, all right, let’s go.
[00:03:38] Julius: Yeah, they definitely have like that hip hop element and UK club vibe, crossover thing going, they have a lot of guest appearances. Andy Cooper from Ugly Duckling is on a couple of tracks. I don’t think I picked one of them. Uh, no, this new one, this next one is called “New Thing.” Uh, it’s a little bit more subdued, but it’s, it’s a good example of that layered production that they have. It’s it’s not quite as live sounding, but uh, let’s check it out.
[00:04:09] Julius: All right. So that was “New Thing.” Uh, you know, on the musical front, it’s just mostly bass and handclaps holding everything down, but that’s something I always loved that always gets my attention. Uh, the vocals are kind of taking the center stage here and there’s all sorts of stuff going on. And I really liked how they’re really mixing it up and doing all sorts of different things as, as the song progresses, even though you got that bass and handclaps background basically just looping, the vocals have a lot of variety and they’re adding all those little flourishes like guitars and horns, and later on in the song, there’s like a crazy dreamy psychedelic bridge going on. Uh, great stuff, really transporting. Kayla, are you still listening?
[00:04:59] Kayla: I’m here. I’m here. I feel like I want to be at their show. It’s hard for me to just listen to one song and not want to see a whole performance by this group. Um, but yeah, I love the simplicity of this track. Like you said, I always love a good hand clap. And also when a group of people sing a chorus, there’s something about that maybe ‘cause I was raised going to church. It, it always, always moves me.
[00:05:30] Julius: Call and response?
[00:05:31] Kayla: Mmm hmm.
[00:05:31] James: You’re going to get me with that bassline every time like that, that, when a track starts with a smooth, a little bit like uptempo, Motown style, bassline, like as a bass player, that bassline feels like it feels good to play, like whoever’s playing it is really in the pocket. To me, this is like a getting ready to go out, you’re excited, you’re like in the car and you got this tune playing, you’re seeing all the scenes, going to wherever you’re excited to be at. I love that feeling, you know?
[00:05:57] Julius: Yeah. It, you know, overall I find this to be like, like I said, it’s music that matches the mood. Uh, you know, you’re getting ready to go out, you’re going out, you’re driving someplace, you got the windows open, it’s loud and uh…
[00:06:11] James: Going to the party.
[00:06:12] Julius: Yeah. Going to the party. Exactly.
[00:06:15] James: But this one has like a really different sonic profile than the other tune, so it’s a nice variety and, uh, you know, difference, I found and, um, we were talking… in the end there’s like some also really cool, like record scratching like three quarters through the song and then it’s just, you know, bringing it to like another level of intensity and anticipation, it’s great.
[00:06:34] Julius: I love how stuff like this can be that background music I mentioned, or, or you can really pay attention and find all sorts of things going on, you know, it really is crammed in there. It’s like, uh, 80 tracks on the digital workstation that are all jammed up, you know, there’s…
[00:06:53] James: And they’re all firing at the end.
[00:06:55] Julius: Yeah, yeah, yeah, there’s a tambourine that comes in for two seconds or something.
[00:06:59] James: Yep. That’s good. Good builds.
[00:07:01] Julius: Okay. So that was my pick, uh, Kayla, let’s here some of…
[00:07:06] Kayla: Yeah. I just feel like I always describe music in terms of how it makes me feel, and this album truly just blew my mind when I heard it. Um, it completely blindsided me in fact, because it was a Thursday night in July, and I was home alone, you know, this just like pandemic life. And I decided to take a hit of herb and I got so lifted, I needed to ground myself and do something. I sat on my bed and I was like, well, maybe I’ll check emails, because that’s something I can do, and I saw Bandcamp had emailed me and it’s like, oh, Mungo’s Hi-Fi released this new album.
[00:07:49] Kayla: And I just click on it, and from the very first song, uh, this piano riff’s starting, and you’re like, what is this? And then it just completely chops out and dubs out and took me on this musical journey that really surprised me, but also contained a lot of things I recognized from Mungo’s Hi-Fi. So, um, every single song just completely hit me, like, oh my gosh. So yeah, they take elements of things you’ve heard before–they have Holly Cook vocals from, previous releases, they’ve got riddims from previous releases, but they take them in new directions. And what I truly thought when I heard this was that this is modern King Tubby, right here.
[00:08:39] James: Nice.
[00:08:40] Kayla: Yeah, it’s truly like they’ve done it. They’ve done it. They’ve taken this music and time traveled with it successfully. So it’s for people who love vintage reggae sounds, and then people who have a taste for heavier bass and really rich production. So a really diverse mix of voices on the album, which I love. It’s something I always love about Mungo’s Hi-Fi, is the vocalists that they bring on to their songs to do their things.
[00:09:14] Julius: James, are you familiar with, with the band?
[00:09:17] James: I am familiar only from hearing them, and it you know, it is always exactly how Kayla’s describing it. Like meditation music, music to kind of give you uh, something to sink back into if you need to let your mind wander and figure some things out, so. Mungo’s Hi-Fi has always kind of mystically come into my life, and Kayla also, has talked about them probably every time that we’ve talked in the past couple of years. So they’re on my radar, and I am randomly streaming things and a lot of it is centered in uh reggae music and electronic music and kind of where the two meet, and Mungo’s Hi-Fi is right there. Are they’re from, are they from UK?
[00:09:57] Kayla: Uh, Glasgow, Scotland.
[00:09:58] James: Glasgow, Scotland. Okay. Yeah. These guys got the heavy dose of the West Indian music, you know, over the past 40 years.
[00:10:04] Julius: Yeah, but I, one of the things I love about dub is how, how completely international it is, you know.
[00:10:09] James: Absolutely.
[00:10:10] Julius: And, yeah, you know, how many times you will listen to something and go, oh, that’s from Japan, you know, or, oh, that’s from Scotland or, but you know, you really have to start digging into it to, to find that, you know, in, in, on record it’s, it’s like in this universal language that everyone can speak.
[00:10:29] Kayla: Mmm hmm. Yeah.
[00:10:30] James: Absolutely.
[00:10:31] Kayla: Also just like the fact that they dropped an album called Antidote in the middle of a pandemic was so badass to me. I’d been going through like an existential crisis with reggae and this album just truly rejuvenated my excitement in what’s to come, from Mungo’s Hi-Fi and others, and just, Mungo’s is, is like the backbone of my live DJ sets because what I find is when I perform at festivals, like people want to hear that heavy bass nowadays. And like, if you look at my DJ sets from Natty Camp and Vibe High Fest this year it’s like, I probably have a few Mungo’s Hi-Fi songs each hour, so just major, major props to them also.
[00:11:22] Julius: Excellent. Well, let’s get into some actual examples of, um, Mungo’s Hi-Fi here. Uh, what is the first track we’re going to hear?
[00:11:32] Kayla: Right. Okay. So I guess I’ll, I’ll say “Pulsating Dub” is just such a sick track.
[00:11:40] Julius: All right, here it is.
[00:11:42] Julius: That was definitely a classic dub intro.
[00:11:45] James: Scorcher.
[00:11:46] Kayla: Yes.
[00:11:49] James: I love how the sound system culture over there, just like they’ll really present like some old school roots style. And then pretty quick into the tune, they’ll drop it way down into some disintegration dub where it’s just like a lot of space, bassline, like really grooving, really low can’t even tell it’s there for, you know, they leave a good long chunk for you to kind of sink into that next level. Um, I love it. I love it. You’re one of my top mavens of music, uh, music passing alongs. Yeah. Thanks. Always.
[00:12:22] Kayla: I mean, it made my, scalp tingle when I first heard it, and still every time I listen to it, it makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Like, it’s absolutely incredible. Also the timing of me, discovering this album, it was right after I went to Infrasound Festival, which is at Harmony Park in Minnesota, and, uh, what surprised me about Infrasound Festival is that so much of this music had like tip of the hat to reggae music. And I don’t even know if all the EDM fans realized that, you know, like the flourishes within the music, and just the origin of, EDM music. It just, something like this that Mungo’s is doing sort of brings people back to the roots of this heavy, modern bass music that so many people listen to.
[00:13:15] James: You know, I started playing bass, uh, because I come from Rochester, New York where there’s a big drum and bass scene. So like in the ’90s, late ’90s, all my friends were DJing this drum and bass music. And I didn’t know where it came from or whatever, but it’s got all of the roots of reggae in it, a lot of times just like sped up. But like, um, it’s been such a trip to see, you know, like basically drum and bass music turn into dubstep. My band Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, um, got booked once at this festival, uh, that was like a huge EDM festival and we were the only band that had instruments and they literally didn’t know what to do with us or where to set us up. And they wouldn’t admit to us that they didn’t know we weren’t dubstep. Like they, I think they booked us cause they, they got confused and that maybe they thought we were uh, they’d booked the wrong band.
[00:14:03] Kayla: Oh.
[00:14:04] James: And we were like…
[00:14:05] Julius: Sounds aggressive.
[00:14:06] James: Yeah, we were like, literally…
[00:14:08] Kayla: Was that Roth, uh, Rothbury or Electric Forest?
[00:14:11] James: No. It was like. No, it was like this festival in New York City across Rikers Island, like big electronic music fest, all these DJs. And we were just like there kind of the whole time being like, so… But then it started to be clear, it’s like, oh, I don’t think they’re equipped to like have a live band. No, this is a huge festival with like massive speakers and stuff. They literally don’t have microphones and stuff. It was hysterical. Yeah, And then I think that same summer I saw Lloyd Parks, who’s another one of the most monster bass players in Jamaican music and him and Sly just put on a clinic of what turns out is electronic music. You know, you’re watching this reggae concert, but like when they get deep, deep, deep into it, you know, that that is the rave.
[00:14:53] Julius: I like it. Uh, you know, I like how they’re not afraid to get dirty and, you know, uh, distort some things and, you know, give it that texture in there. And I mean, really following in the tradition of dub music, right, of exploring the boundaries of the studio and what could be done with a recorded track. Uh, so let’s, uh, let’s hear some more, let’s hear some more. What’s the next track you got for us, Kayla?
[00:15:19] Kayla: This, I want to say is the most moving song of the year for me personally, like it’s truly earth music. And you’ll know what I mean when you listen to, uh, not only the sounds, but the powerful lyrics in this song.
[00:15:38] Julius: All right. That is some heavy stuff.
[00:15:43] James: Yeah. What is that track though? They got that melody, maybe from the King Jammy, but the Jacqueline, Jacqueline, Jacqueline, lin, lin, lin…
[00:15:51] Kayla: Yup. Yeah. It’s an old recycled, rejuvenated, something we know, you know, that’s what, when you listen…
[00:15:58] James: It’s it’s a riddim. I don’t know what the original version is though.
[00:16:00] Kayla: When you hear it. Yes. Um, I did, I did do a bit of research and they said King Jammy originally on this one, but this song I’ve played on my radio show so many times since I heard it, I’ve purposely made myself like, not put it on the playlist every single week. I just feel like this song is so powerful and it’s, it’s dark in a way it’s dark, but uplifting. And just man, it came at a perfect time and it’s totally the product of this time and space that we’re in.
[00:16:36] Julius: It is definitely hypnotic.
[00:16:40] Kayla: Hypnotic is the word. Yeah. And, just the way that it’s so repetitive as the song goes on that’s what, good dub does for me is it just gets me into a meditative space and clears out my mind.
[00:16:55] James: Music for meditation. Yeah, it’s an aid.
[00:16:58] Kayla: Um.
[00:16:59] James: Um, there’s a sound in summer that happens when you’re maybe like in a creek or a river and there’s forest around you and it’s this long drone. It’s like, a weeeeooo and you’re hearing it like the bubbling of the waters and you’re hearing yourself breathe. That to me is what dub reminds me of a lot of the time when it kind of, comes into a song on a, with like a phaser, kind of how the song has in the intro. And when those sounds start happening, that turn into that jammy melody, it reminds me of, you know, standing in a, in a river in the summer, trying to identify like all the sounds around. Very liquid, um, and gets into that beat. It’s, it’s a good version. Really cool.
[00:17:46] Julius: I know that sound you’re talking about.
[00:17:47] James: What is that? What it’s like insects, but I don’t know what the insect.
[00:17:51] Julius: You know, there’s white noise, there’s pink noise, and I’d say that’s green noise.
[00:17:55] James: Green noise. Amen. Yeah. It’s earth noise.
[00:17:56] Julius: Only in nature.
[00:17:58] James: Yeah.
[00:17:58] Julius: Only in nature.
[00:18:00] James: The drone. Nature drones.
Man Like Devin
[00:18:02] Julius: So James, uh, time for your pick here. Uh, Man Like Devin, Wheel and Shoulder. What can you tell us about this?
[00:18:14] James: I can tell you that uh Devin is one of my favorite songwriters. Uh, he’s somebody that I was a fan of for a long time and, eventually got to meet and, uh, play a couple shows with, cause he was in a band called The Expanders. And, these are the guys that, if you were looking for the actual PhDs of reggae, these are the guys that you go to. Um, this band The Expanders and Devin particularly, got into reggae at a young age, at the right time. And a thing that I always kind of like to add in, I don’t know how Devin feels about it, but he was best friends with the son of this guy named Roger Stephens, who was kind of like the biggest archivist for Bob Marley.
[00:18:56] James: So he was with Bob, um, you know, at the height of Bob’s fame as a photographer and a friend. And when Rita Marley finds things, She sends them to Roger, who has like an archive in a vault. So Devin really grew up being really educated, kind of in a passionate way, about reggae music. It was very hard to really find out any legitimate information about it for a long time. You know, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s a great joy in my life to just even be able to know the stories or know that someone heard the sound. So, when the pandemic was happening, Devin was hosting some like weekly, you know, live streams, essentially of him…
[00:19:36] Kayla: Reggae Podclash.
[00:19:37] James: Reggae Podclash, yeah, well, he was holding, hosting the podclash, which is, a big thing too, where they’re interviewing, but right in the Podclash, they’re interviewing like legendary Jamaican players and reggae players from all over the world that, you know, you’ve wanted to hear from your whole life. That turned into my like weekly happy hour. It really brought me joy, you know, I have young kids right now, so I’m like, oh, I’m gonna like be cleaning in the house, my headphones on, and, you know, hanging out hearing, like, this guy that knows everything about all the stuff I want to know about, playing the hits.
[00:20:08] James: And then he started playing some original tunes that he had been working on and announced that he was working on an album with a engineer named Roger Reavis who actually plays keyboards for like Jason Mraz and a lot of also really wonderful reggae groups, The Aggrolites is his group. So I was excited just that, uh, this guy whose songs that I love, and I should say something about myself is that songwriting is like my favorite art form. You know, it’s a way to put an idea into a very short amount of time, and that idea pretty much stays the same as long as the song is remembered. Um, and so I really love songwriters and I love Devin as a songwriter, was very excited that he was putting out a record with somebody else that I really respect.
[00:20:55] James: And then, uh, when the record came out, it was very interesting to my ears, just because of the richness of its all acoustic instruments. It’s called Wheel and Shoulder – Acoustic Reggae, Rocksteady and Ska, Vol. 1. So this is kind of Devin taking what he knows about reggae, using the art form of writing songs, and a kind of folk music, and also the thing that I love about this record is that, uh, it’s pretty much all family members on it. His brother is a very talented multi-instrumentalist from a band called the California heap Feet Warmers, I believe. California Feet Warmers, which is also a fascinating band. And, um, Devin’s father is on this record playing harmonica.
[00:21:37] James: It’s just a beautiful album. Um, and it feels good to be a fan of somebody. But this is a record that I just feel anybody could enjoy. Uh, you don’t have to be a reggae fan. You don’t have to know anything about ska or rocksteady. These are great songs. These are beautiful instruments and really nice, uh, daytime and evening accompanying music, I find. I was putting it on outside for like summer dinners when I was visiting my wife’s family in Turkey, like on the Aegean Sea where we have like this beautiful, beautiful view. And uh, you know, Devin’s acoustic reggae, ska, and rocksteady is playing.
[00:22:14] Julius: What a juxtaposition. So what’s, what’s the first track we’re going to hear here? What, can you tell us a little bit about it?
[00:22:21] James: Yeah. The track that really, really hit me, for that, like kind of evening music kind of feel where I said, wow, this is, you know, beyond reggae. This is just a beautiful acoustic album of, uh, inspiring music that reminds me of all of my favorite, you know, nights outside and it’s called “When the Evening Come.” And I just feel like it captures that moment really well.
[00:22:43] Julius: All right. Let’s listen to “When the Evening Come.”
“When the Evening Come”
[00:22:48] Julius: I hear exactly what you mean by evening music.
[00:22:52] James: Yeah. You know, you can, you can pour a glass of wine to that one, you know. Break out the Chianti.
[00:22:57] Julius: Definitely. I love the banjo.
[00:23:00] James: Yeah, that’s what I really struck me too, is that it’s just really perfectly like punchy, and there’s a, there’s a part in reggae music called the sticky, which is often like a tenor guitar, melody that is happening and in a crazy way, it was never really done on the banjo. Yet the banjo is kind of this perfect, uh, machine to deliver it. So that that’s his brother. Um, who’s just a fantastic banjo player. Uh, and, and they really captured it really nicely. So I’m glad you heard that too.
[00:23:30] Kayla: I love it. Yeah. Thanks for, um, giving such a great explanation of the background of this album, because I’m truly a huge fan of Devin’s through The Expanders and, I was just grabbing my binder here because I have so many set lists from The Expanders and from Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. The Expanders had done their free album of covers called Old Time Something Come Back Again, and I saw they were playing on the west coast with Panda and was like, I have to go out and see The Expanders. I remember when I, when I discovered them and thought, oh my God, I can’t believe there’s a group of people doing this, in this day and age, and then going on Facebook and seeing they had like 2,000 likes and I was like, oh my god, they’re just this new, you know, I don’t know how new they were, but pretty under the radar at the time.
[00:24:27] Kayla: And then meeting Devin and he had so much knowledge about reggae and the structure of the music and the vocalist. I’m so happy to see that this album is something that really showcases just the talent that he has as songwriter. So this music is new to me and yeah, I love it.
[00:24:48] Julius: I always love it when you have an artist that really can like reach back and touch all the way to the roots, you know, there was uh… One of my all time favorite albums is from um, I’m going to say 25 plus years ago. Uh, Chris Murray, are you guys, have you heard of Chris Murray? Venice Shoreline Chris? This album was called The Four-Track Adventures of Venice Shoreline Chris.
[00:25:13] Julius: And it’s basically that, you know, very home, home recording type thing, but very raw and natural. And it’s all this one guy, Chris Murray. He was originally Canadian, I believe, he came from, uh, one of those early third wave ska bands called King Apparatus, I’m going to guess, if my memory does not betray me. Anyway, you know, and this music shares that vibe, which as I said, it’s from one of my all time favorite albums and it instantly hooks me in it’s just so honest.
[00:25:43] James: Ironically, Devin recorded this album while living in Venice.
[00:25:48] Julius: There must be something in the water.
[00:25:50] James: Yeah, there sure is.
[00:25:52] Julius: Okay. So let’s, let’s hear another track from, from Devin here, which, what is this one called?
[00:25:57] James: Yeah, this track is called “Merciless,” and it features his father on harmonica. This track, for me, is much of what reggae is supposed to be like when it comes to groove. Um, even though it’s acoustic, there’s this beautiful intro where Devin’s kind of playing what turns into the pre-chorus of the tune. And he’s playing this drum, that’s called the kete drum, which is a traditional Nyabinghi drum. Uh, it’s found in like more traditional Jamaican music and Rastafari music, and he plays it really beautifully. Then when it comes in kind of with the groove into the song, his brother on the upright bass, and Devin on the kind of like sleepy lead guitar line, kind of following the bass, they, they carve out that groove in reggae, that’s called the one drop.
[00:26:46] James: And, it’s just, this head bobbing, that thing that makes, you know, that makes you move, that makes you go back and forth with reggae music. And, uh, I think this is a great demonstration of how it can happen, uh, with acoustic instruments. And the other thing that I love about the song is that uh, the chorus takes quite a long time to drop, but for me it hits really hard because the content of the song, to me, seems to be about, uh, maybe like a refugee moving to a new place or just anybody moving from a conflict situation and coming to a new place and having people still just not really care. And Devin’s just kind of saying, it’s just, this doesn’t seem like people have any mercy anymore. You know, we don’t, nobody knows where you’re coming from. Nobody knows what you’ve been through, and the attitude is that you’re not really given a chance, I think is, is the person in the song that he’s singing about.
[00:27:36] James: So yeah, it hit me hard when I first heard it and I just, I love the power that he’s sticking with with reggae. Whereas reggae can deliver the happiest, most serene, good time, you know, healthy, rejuvenating rhythm with the baddest, hardest lyrics about the toughest things on earth, you know, and this song has that. Devin is not shy about talking about the real situation. And I’ve always, always respected him a lot on that.
[00:28:02] Kayla: I feel like truly this album is a love letter to reggae music. I just feel it.
[00:28:10] Julius: Well, yeah, I’m not surprised given the type of, um, access that this person has had to the music, you know, it’s, it was in the air, it was in the water.
[00:28:22] James: Yeah, he really loves it. You know, he studied it, and he’s played with a lot of greats, like people from The Ethiopians and just worked with a lot of different Jamaican artists, so he’s done the time.
[00:28:33] Julius: Excellent.
[00:28:34] James: Yeah.
[00:28:35] Julius: All right. So, James, now we’re going to get into your music. Uh, tell me about Mike duSt. Is, is there a special pronunciation for the capital S?
[00:28:47] James: No, there’s not. Um, it’s just that my last name is Searl. So I kind of like was treating the “s” with a little bit more, more weight. But, um, I’m not like a project guy. I don’t have a lot of different projects. This came out very naturally. I’ve been playing in the band Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad for about my whole life. You know, I met the drummer and his brother and our guitar player when I was about 11, 12 years old, and I’ve really been creating music with them the whole time. I’m almost 40. And, um, so that’s like really coming from a family of musicians, and we’re, we’re in so deep together that I’m, I’ve learned everything about music playing with other people.
[00:29:27] James: So I don’t have a lot of solo experience. I didn’t sit and practice for eight hours in my room. I had practiced for eight hours with a group of other people, I really feel that chemistry. That’s why I’m interested in music because it’s this way that you can communicate, um, on a different level than speech. And, when I was younger, it always felt like if you had uh, written music with somebody or improvised music with somebody, you, it was like equivalent to like 10 times of hanging out. You just knew them that much better, and you had that much more of a connection. And when I moved out of Rochester where they all lived and moved to Indiana, it started to occur to me that my new challenge was to learn how to make music to entertain myself and focus in on being alone.
[00:30:13] James: But I was finding myself just opening up the computer and just feeling exhausted, right when I just saw the screen. And I knew that if I was with my drummer or with a friend that we could just work out that groove in two minutes.
[00:30:25] James: But I, I don’t really know hardly anything about making music on a computer. You know, the pandemic happened. All of a sudden we weren’t playing shows. All of a sudden we weren’t getting together. So we made a plan that we were going to get together for a week and just record all the music that all of us had, you know, and that turned into just a really crazy experience.
[00:30:45] James: It had been the longest in my life that I had never played music with them or, or written a song with them. And, uh, when we got together to record what was going to be our new album, I think I went home the next day and just sobbed, you know, in this way that I hadn’t done in, maybe since I was a little kid. It was, it was truly terrifying, you know? Cause it was, it felt like the time had like rusted us, you know, and it was harder to connect than it had ever been. And it all of a sudden… almost felt like that frustration that I was feeling at the computer.
[00:31:18] James: One of the guys who was engineering and producing, his name is Matt Goodwin, he’s a great friend of ours. He plays with the band called The Movement. I went over to his house, and his nine-year-old son was using this program called Ableton, and Ableton Live is a digital audio workstation where you can record songs into it, or you can pull samples and put them together. And I was like, Ari, what are you up to?
[00:31:41] James: And he was like, oh, I’m just making an album. I make an album every night. And I was like an album every night? Why have I not been making an album every night for 20 years? He he says, yeah, I have this subscription service called Splice. And he’s, he’s like, I make a funk album. I make a hip hop album. I make a funny album and he was legitimately doing this, so I’m like, all right, man, I’m going to go home and download Splice. And you know, I got Ableton and, I sat down and I made these two records from downloading different samples that I found, and just it was just like I was working with new musicians that had already delivered the best performance. This was just like a Candyland of uh, you know, vocals from all different countries in Africa and any sound that you could have wanted.
[00:32:25] James: What modern music is, is that it’s this collection of different times all put together in an audible illusion that makes it seem like it’s all happening at once. But really when you’re hearing like the Beatles’ White Album or something, you know, John was in there taking takes one day. Paul was in there taking takes another day. Maybe they use the 57th take of some guitar part. None of it actually happened at once, but we all know it happening at once. And that’s the beauty and magic of modern recording.
[00:32:54] Julius: It’s not even Ringo playing, uh, “Back in the USSR.”
[00:32:57] James: It’s not, is it Paul?
[00:32:59] Julius: Yeah. It’s Paul.
[00:33:00] James: It’s Paul. And like, you know, Billy Preston’s on a bunch of stuff you know, people don’t know it. And, but, with this way of making music, uh, that I found to be very futuristic and completely opposite of what I had just gotten out of the studio doing, it was my favorite record of the year. So, thanks for letting me showcase it.
[00:33:18] Julius: Well, let’s, uh, judge you mercilessly on a couple of tracks. Which would you like to play first?
[00:33:23] James: You know, there was one, I feel like it’s kind of the most different of all of them, but there was one called “Tape Box” that I really liked. Uh, cause it’s just kinda like it’s, it’s just kind of a mellow vibe.
[00:33:34] Julius: All right. Let’s check out “Tape Box.”
[00:33:38] Julius: Okay. “Tape Box.” I dig it.
[00:33:43] James: Thank you.
[00:33:44] Kayla: What? This is so good. I’d never heard this before. Wow.
[00:33:48] James: Kayla, you know, like listen to Mungo’s Hi-Fi. It’s not Mungo’s Hi-Fi but a lot of it is enough in the vein of that, between dub and electronica. And what was cool about making it was that I’m just randomly looking for these sounds and there was kind of a mysticism, a digital mysticism of just coming across stuff that really hit me and then working with it in a certain way of being like, oh, wow, that’s really speaking to me and it sounds like me singing, but it’s not me singing and you know, the bassline, something I would love to play, you know, it’s like, it was, it was cool, so.
[00:34:23] Kayla: Yeah, you know, I’m not the one who first said this, but creating is making connections, you know, and, and nothing new under the sun also. So it’s like this combination that you’ve done of things that resonate with you and putting them together into something that strikes the listener, who exists in this world right now, is just incredible. And yeah, as someone who loves Mungo’s Hi-Fi, like listening to this song, it’s, something that I think a lot of people would enjoy.
[00:34:57] Julius: I think the whole concept of, you know, these small pieces of music existing, you know, in, in isolation and I don’t know without their own context and all of a sudden kind of cohering into something finished, right? Just because of the keywords you happen to put in, and maybe even the sequence of the keywords that you happen to put in, and I don’t know, I’m, I’m fascinated with the thought of, uh, all these random pieces coming together and now all of a sudden, you have to make it into a puzzle, right. And solve the puzzle and present the picture. And, uh.
[00:35:32] James: Yeah, it kind of felt magical, and like, I usually write songs with an acoustic guitar, and I literally feel like I’m like catching a song, and it was cool watching… There’s, you know, the Beatles documentary that’s out right now, it’s called Get Back, I’ve listened to, of course, all of those albums a million times, and I’ve never written a song, like “Get Back” you know, I’m not, saying I’m writing songs like Paul McCartney. But there’s a scene in it where he’s like messing around on these two chords and he catches “Get Back.” And I’m like, as a songwriter, I’m like, okay, that’s a real thing that other people do. That’s like, literally just how you write a song.
[00:36:07] James: The one thing that I really loved about this tune and why it’s called “Tape Box” is because I found a sample of like, just rewinding a tape and stopping it. Like there’s throughout the track, there’s the sound of my boombox in the nineties, basically and I put some like delay and some reverb on that. It kinda made the whole vibe of the song and then randomly found the sample where this guy is just calling them up, like “haul it up and play it back again.” You know, like talking about rewinds, you know, in the song. I’m like, okay, well that works perfectly. And I used to carry my joints around in like a tape box, a cassette tape box when I was a kid. So like, I would think about the tape box in my pocket and like listen to tapes and all that. So that’s why…
[00:36:46] Julius: Secret meaning.
[00:36:48] James: Yeah, yeah.
[00:36:48] Kayla: Yeah, I love this. It’s it’s like a collage. It’s like listening to a collage.
[00:36:53] James: Collage. It is a collage. And I told my friend Curtis Collage, when I was making it, I’m like, bro, I’m making a collage right now. Just like you, but it’s an audio collage. Guess that’s what like all that hip hop and sample music is it’s a collage.
[00:37:05] Julius: All right. Well, let’s listen to another one here. This one is “FFS.” Does that stand for what I think it stands for?
[00:37:14] James: It does. Yeah.
[00:37:15] Julius: So, uh, here is some of that.
[00:37:20] Julius: That has kind of a nice Squarepusher vibe going to it.
[00:37:23] James: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
[00:37:25] Julius: I like that.
[00:37:26] James: Very, very big compliment. I appreciate that. Big Squarepusher fan.
[00:37:30] Julius: Yeah, no, I. So that’s you adding the bass on that?
[00:37:35] James: Yeah. And it was, it was cool because it’s like, I’ve, I would always want to play over an Afro beat drum beat like that. And when I showed it to my good, good friend and musical confidant, Anselmo James and told him it was all samples, he was like, I can’t believe you found that sample, of course you’d love that bassline. That sounds just like you. Squarepusher of course he’s like, uh, you know, monster crazy bass player. So I really love what he does as the bassist of the music.
[00:38:02] Julius: And, you know, and that’s what strikes me is that, you know, there’s, there’s all this stuff going on, but kind of in the hub of it, there’s this bassline holding it down, that’s clearly um, not pieced together from a billion bits, you know, but actually coming out of a human person. Uh, so it’s always a strong statement when I hear that.
[00:38:25] James: Thank you.
[00:38:26] Kayla: There’s a lot going on in that song. It sort of reminds me of jazz, where it doesn’t have the normal structure that we’re used to here in the Western world. So yeah, I love, I love how different it was than that last track. That really intrigues me.
[00:38:44] James: Yeah, the album has a lot of different feels on it. Uh, it was cool finding a big pack of like Ranking Joe vocals, cause Ranking Joe is this prolific reggae toaster, is what, what he does. And Ranking Joe is one of the best of the best. And then when you listen to drum and bass or like electronic music, you start to realize that like Ranking Joe’s on all this stuff. And I was really stoked to find a sample pack where he’s like, “chant down Babylon system,” “chant down the Vatican.” I live in South Bend, Indiana, where Notre Dame is, so that resonated. And, uh, he was also saying, you know, “sound boy free to the north.” I come from Rochester where there’s like the North Star Press, and like any reference to the north kind of like fit well with the music that I was making. So kind of, again, all came together in a cool way for me.
[00:39:32] Julius: It all comes around full circle.
[00:39:35] James: So thanks for checking it out.
[00:39:36] Julius: Okay. Well that about wraps up this episode of New Music Now. Thank you for participating. Kayla, where can we hear your radio show?
[00:39:48] Kayla: Yes, my radio show is Saturday nights at 10 pm central on wortfm.org. We also have an archive where you can go back and listen to the past two weeks. And I also select the progressive roots playlist on Rootfire that comes out fresh every week, and that’s on Spotify, Apple Music and SoundCloud. Rootfire.net, that’s where I also have the Women in Reggae series, so you can learn more about the amazing women in this genre that I love so much. And yeah, I just want to say thank you so much for having me on the podcast and how cool that I get to be on the same podcast as James Searl, someone whose music means so much to me. So this has been great.
[00:40:36] Julius: Most excellent. So glad we could make it happen. James, where can we find your music?
[00:40:42] James: You can find it at livepanda.com and facebook.com/giantpandadub, giantpandadub on Instagram, giantpandadub on Twitter. Basically anything giant panda dub is our band Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. And you can find the Mike duSt music on SoundCloud and Spotify.
[00:41:01] Julius: Accept no substitutes.
[00:41:03] Kayla: I also want to add on all social media I’m DJ Kayla Kush.
[00:41:08] Julius: All right. My name is Julius C. Lacking. Find me at lacking.org. It has been a pleasure to host this episode. Thank you again, Kayla. Thank you, James. Thank you listener for listening. You’ll hear from us again.
[00:41:25] Kayla: Yes. Thanks for listening.
[00:41:27] James: Thank you so much, both of you.