Says Who? and DJ Vindictiv got their first full album coming up, which will see their usual ingredients of hip hop, soul and jazz blended with raw electronics, crazy tempos and more experimental sounds. Time for a conversation with the Dutch artists. On how jazz musicians set a good example for everyone, narrow-minded hip hop attitudes, the benefits of having an open mind, and more.
The Find Magazine is guest of honor in the picturesque city of Middelburg, capital of Zeeland, a province in The Netherlands. Hosts of the night: Says Who? & DJ Vindictiv. In 2010, they gave away their atmospheric Fremdvibes EP online. Give it a spin below and listen to it while you read their story. At the end of this interview you can check out “Oceans,” an exclusive preview of their forthcoming project.
How jazz cats set a good example
Some fine jazz is playing in the background. When asked what the genre means to them, both producers express their admiration for jazz musicians. Says Who?: “When I watch jazz artists play, I always feel like I’m just toying around with beats a little. It’s always very inspiring to listen to jazz. A while ago we went to see José James and on the ride home we were just buzzing with energy.”
“Jazz cats are some of the coolest people to hang with,” says Vindictiv. “Always laid back and really open-minded. When I was about 24 years old and started playing with jazz musicians, I thought ‘damn, I’ve been DJing for ten years and I’m still no good.’ But these guys turn it around, they love what you do, because they recognize it’s something new. They know you don’t have a Thelonious or a Coltrane who paved the way for you, and they respect that.”
It’s all about positive energy
“That’s when I thought, ‘wow’. These people, who’ve been making music for decades, already played The Knitting Factory, made so many records, had huge record deals… if they’re that cool towards me, then I don’t want to have anything to do with those narrow-minded, ignorant attitudes anymore. It’s all about positive energy.”
Jazz musicians’ positive energy and ‘it is what it is’ kind of attitude, as Vindictiv describes it, also applies to their new project. Maybe that explains why the two chose not to pressure themselves with a deadline. “Now we make music when we feel we should. Then we see what happens. Maybe we invite an emcee, maybe a trumpet player, maybe it’s complete as-is.”
“The feel really trumps the technique”
Vindictiv started DJing twenty years ago and also started producing later on. Says Who? began making beats about eight years ago. The Zeeuwen [inhabitants of Zeeland] share a huge love for hip hop, but prove to be pretty critical of the genre.
“If the rapper is a genius but the beat is wack, I won’t listen to it,” Says Who? states as he lights a cigarette. Vindictiv continues: “The sound of an emcee’s voice is crucial too. The feel really trumps the technique. I heard a few tracks off the new Eminem record recently. Difficult flows, complex rhyming… I almost cried,” he jokes. “But how for instance Kendrick Lamar can play with his voice, on the other hand, that’s really cool. And Redman’s still a hero when it comes to that.”
Redman, the Funk Doctor Spock. Highly influential to these two producers, as it turns out. Says Who?: “When I got Muddy Waters on tape, that’s when hip hop really got a hold of me.” Vindictiv joins in and passionately discusses Redman’s early moves with EPMD, his productions under the Reggie Noble moniker, and how he’s still at it.
“De La Soul also still got it, after all those years. I have to admit, though, that through the years I’ve became a lot less interested in what rappers are doing.” Says Who? seconds him: “I’m mostly listening to jazz nowadays, and I’m really into world music.” The two recommend checking out Salif Keïta and Mayra Andrade.
Having an open mind pays off
Clearly, Says Who? and Vindictiv have been broadening their horizon. It’s a natural development, Vindictiv explains: “Discovering new things is good for you. When you’re young, you may have this stubborn, puristic attitude. Hip hop, funk, jazz, that’s it: everything else is wack.” He laughs. “I also play in a band called Pieter Matthys & Sons Uniques. A cross-over of dub, ska and pop. I learn a lot from these guys. When it comes to hip hop artists, you see a lot of them won’t step into the unknown. But it really pays off to do so; you’ll benefit from the experience somehow.”
Exploring new sounds and making progress
“For this new project we’ve been exploring different tempos, rocking different grooves – it’s a different sound than the Fremdvibes EP,” Says Who? announces. “We’ve got these raw synths that we recorded the old-fashioned way. Analogue, real time. And my sister’s been bringing me instruments from her travels abroad, so we’ve got some interesting new sounds coming up.” The beatsmith also notices how he’s been sampling differently than before. “Now, when I listen to a record a few more times, I find new sounds and I think to myself ‘how did I not hear this before’.”
Vindictiv: “That’s how you know you’re making progress. I was listening to Terilekst’s new beats on Soundcloud recently. Real hammonds; a heavier sound with more details. You can hear how he’s looking for more as well. I’m also trying a lot of new stuff. A lot of it will never see the light of day, but it’s invaluable. Progress: bit by bit.”
Says Who? has his perfectionism to deal with. “When I check out a tune I made a couple of days ago, I often wonder what I was doing.” Vindictiv tackles it from a different perspective: he often feels that imperfection adds value. “So there’s a lot to discuss in the production process. We can get pretty critical, but it’s often good to leave it be, because if you overanalyze, you paralyze.”
‘Hashtag epic’ and the art of deejaying
Following your intuiton and sticking with it. “The things you do should match with ‘the nature of the beast’. I can’t play in a place like Jimmy Woo [a trendy club in Amsterdam] and afterwards send a tweet that it was #epic.” Vindictiv is frowning. “This soap actor was spinning tunes there recently, and people were like, this DJ is killing it. Let’s be honest – probably not. Everyone’s all hyped up because the DJ is a celebrity, not because they’re brilliant on the ones and twos. I’m fine with them doing that – but you won’t see me there.”
Vindictiv used to be part of DJ Grazzhoppa‘s DJ big band. “It’s a lot of fun to produce something together with a bunch of DJs. There were twelve of us, now they’re with six. Together you have a great opportunity to show the craziness you can achieve with turntables. That’s not DJ Tiësto or Swedish House Maffia rocking a USB-stick, you know. I think that’s the reason why C2C is huge.”
“C2C, right?! 20Syl, what a hero,” Says Who? continues. “Hocus Pocus is awesome.” Our conversation ends with a discussion about more inspiring artists, from Blu & Exile to Kev Brown and Oddissee. And: “The Find, right! We’ll see if we’ve got a new track to go with that for you guys.”
Here it is. Check out the beautiful “Oceans” by Says Who? & DJ Vindictiv, a The Find Mag exclusive available for free. For your pleasure: