Saturday night at Aisle 5 is almost always bound to be a good time. This past weekend partygoers were treated to a special show of talent with Late Night Radio, Artifakts, and Robbie Dude, playing a wide range of funk, future soul, hip-hop, and dub. These three artists were able to keep the party at a very happy, groovy level for hours.
Robbie Dude opened up the show with a distinctly hip-hop focused set, incorporating live scratching and some funky baselines and ranging from classic rap acapellas like Ludacris, to early Diddy, to Eminem. Artifakts stepped things up by having a live drummer accompany him through a full set of bass-driven funk and soul beats. We linked up with Late Night Radio, and stepped outside to ask him a few questions in the parking lot, aka the smoking section.
You’re a busy man, and spend a lot of time on the road. Tell us about this tour you’ve been on.
Yeah, I go home next weekend for Red Rocks with Thievery Corporation and Emancipator, which I’m beyond excited for. Then I do a little run in Texas - Dallas and Austin, and then festival season. That pretty much goes all Summer. I think this has been six or seven out of the last eight weeks on the road, and it’s been the last five weeks straight.
What’s your favorite thing about being on tour?
Honestly, meeting fans and meeting the people who I spend all day making music trying to reach. To actually put a face to the people who have been hitting me up on Facebook, or ones that I recognize. Becoming friends with fans, rather than just some obscure person out there listening to my music, and just playing every night.
And your least favorite thing about touring?
I love home. My perfect night is on my couch, doing jack shit. I’m a homebody.
Home means Denver?
Yeah, I’ve been there six years. I grew up in Houston, then bounced all over. I lived in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Austin and Temecula in California. Then I did this whole ski-bum thing in California, up in the mountains for three seasons, and then moved to Denver.
The future-funk / future-soul music you play is something that I think a lot of people identify as very strongly coming out of Denver, or Colorado, in general. For someone who loves this sort of music and wants to check out Denver, what’s something they should check out?
If you want to get as Denver as Denver gets, Cervantes is a music venue over there. They have two rooms, a masterpiece ballroom and then another room. It’s a thousand-person room and then a 400-person room. I played my first couple shows ever there. Every artist that’s pretty much ever come out of Colorado, even Griz, played there super early on. It’s a breeding ground for what’s next. It’s independently owned. They have Method Man and Red Man on 4/20, so it’s just as Denver as you can possibly be.
You’ve done the Vinyl Restoration series, and you’re obviously somebody who has spent a lot of time listening to old music. What’s your opinion on what a current producer’s relationship to old music should be, and where do you think the scene is going?
Well, music has always grown upon what came before it. Without blues, there wouldn’t have been rock. Without blues, there wouldn’t have been jazz. Actually, everything fucking came from blues. Everything works its way up and builds from the past. It’s actually one of the samples in my Vinyl Restoration, but it says “if you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know where you’re going." Especially with electronic music, there’s a lack of musicality, but I think there’s a big resurgence in that. Even in pop, the sound set is more organic now. People like Adele being at the top of the charts rather than a Britney Spears is a good sign, I think. Electronic music is so young, it’s hard to say what’s happening. Trends that used to last a year or a couple years, now change in six months, so I have no idea where it’s going. I know as artists, we’re more in control of that aspect than ever before, so it’s pretty much up to us.
Touching back on the Vinyl Restoration hip-hop work you’ve done, do you consider yourself a DJ, or a producer who performs live, or a musician?
Well, the Vinyl Restoration, those are all original beats that I make out of old records that I chop up. That’s my hip-hop outlet, instead of making stuff you’d want to dance to a midnight. I like both worlds, but I’ve definitely never considered myself a DJ. I suck at DJing. If you put me on two turntables, I wouldn’t know what the fuck to do. I’ve only played my music live, I don’t play anybody else’s music, so I definitely consider myself a producer. I’m working more on playing live keys, to where I could probably call myself a musician.
For the people who are going to read this interview, but won’t get to see you tonight, describe your setup.
I’m touring with a drummer now, and then I play all my tracks through Ableton on a computer. I have a keyboard that I play on and off throughout the set, and I have a drum pad that I play everything on, from basslines to synths to vocal chops and stuff that I play out live out of a drum rack. It’s definitely much more of a live element than a DJ set. I always say if you can fuck up, it means you’re actually doing something. Too much of the scene is just coasting through it, dancing, yelling at everybody… “get turnt, fam." I’m trying to bring a bit more musicality to the situation.
This is an old question, but I think it’s always a good one. Lunch with any musician living or dead?
To me, and this is kind of cliche, but the Beatles are still the best band of all time. To me it’s the way they evolved throughout their whole career. From one album to the next, they didn’t care what people were expecting, they just did what they wanted to do.
Here in Atlanta, hip-hop is everything, and specifically underground hip-hop. What do you think about the genre?
I think hip-hop’s coming back around right now, man. To me, there’s just as much or more garbage than there’s ever been. But take somebody like Chance, somebody who comes and does real shit, is independent, and is able to be one of the biggest people in the industry. That’s amazing. A$AP’s last album that he put out last year, somebody who you thought could end up going and doing some real ignorant shit, and he comes out with an amazing musical album. I love hip-hop. I still consider myself, at the root, a hip-hop producer. I’m working on a full hip-hop album right now with an MC out of Canada named Def3. We’ve got a whole bunch of rappers I looked up to on the album. I don’t really know if I can spill any of that yet. But, I’ll always make hip-hop beats. I’ll never stop, that’s my therapy. When I get tired of making crazy bass stuff, I make just simple hip-hop.
What are you about? Why should people care? What do you try to leave in your wake?
I make music that means something to me. Not every song is going to hit everyone, but I feel like whenever people do connect on that plane, it end up really hitting home and meaning something for other people. It’s easy to make people dance, but it’s hard to make people think, and that’s what I’m always aiming for. If I can hit that happy medium of both, if I can make you get the chills in a night, and fuckin’ sweat your ass off, then I did my job.
Do you try to do that musically, or lyrically?
Both. I try to bring a big variety in my sets, rather than just go hard the whole time. I try to move around a little bit. Every song, to me, has some kind of meaning or message. If I put something there, I put it there for a reason. It’s not just 'oh, maybe this’ll sound cool here.' I hope that reaches other people.
Any upcoming projects or anything you want to plug?
I’ve got a collab with the homie Manic Focus.
Should be a whole EP. We’re working on that right now. That’s gonna be a good one. That one and definitely the hip-hop album with my buddy Def3 out of Canada. That’s gonna be the next really big release I put out.
After our interview, Late Night Radio gave us all a great performance of electro soul, funk, hip-hop, and other jammy treats - all with the accompaniment of his tour drummer. People I spoke to had driven in from Birmingham and other cities around the southeast just to see him. Judging from the entire crowd's reaction, they were not disappointed. I'm starting to understand why so many of my friends are looking to Colorado as the place to be. There's good funky gold in them there hills.
Photos by Teddy Williams.