Interviews with Shine Brida and Eyes & Teeth

I.  INTRODUCTION

Shine Brida X Eyes and Teeth’s  Murders album hit me like IV fish scale.  It was like two beautiful women ran up behind me on the street and started beating me bloody with silver baseball bats.  2014 has been rife with disappointments of all shapes and sizes, least of all the vast majority of new music that I tried and failed to form a connection with.  But Murders, man, Murders is an exception.  Murders doesn’t care that I’m older, fatter and sadder.  Murders makes me feel like a miserable kid again instead of a miserable adult.  Hendrix was right.  ‘Music sweet music, wish I could caress…’  I want to make love to Murders and start a new life with Murders and introduce Murders to my family and get jealous when other people like Murders and start drinking again when Murders says I’m acting weird…it’s a good album, in other words.

It has been my pleasure to interview the two musicians responsible for bringing Murders into this world of ours.  As a fan of the “creative process”, I found their answers to be absolutely delicious.

II. SHINE BRIDA

 Me: Give us some background on Murders.  How did it begin?  Was Shine Brida involved from the outset, who contacted who first, etc.?  How long did this project take, from its inception up to its release on Halloween?

Shine Brida:  I met Eyes and Teeth after Lexi Hex approached me to do a collaboration song earlier this year. She sent me a bunch of beats, and the one I ended up choosing for our song was one of Eyes and Teeth’s. That song ended up becoming “Meth Lab For Cutie” which appeared on my second mixtape “Mind Reverser”. After that song came out, Eyes and Teeth messaged me and asked if I’d like to use another of his beats for a solo track. I said… Sure. He sent me a tonne of beats, and in the end I couldn’t pick just one or two and so we decided to do a whole EP.  I named it Murders after listening through the order I’d chosen for the tracks – it was called Murders before any lyrics had been written. The word was floating around my head, and I knew that was the EP. I had the beats since August, but since I was wrapping up “Mind Reverser” (which was released on september 8th), I didn’t get a chance to write for Murders until the second week of september. I wrote and recorded all my words in about one month, a little extra time was taken to send my tracks back and forth to my regular collaborator Trent Steelz from the rap group Southern Raised who mixed all my vocals out in Georgia.

Me: One of the things I love about this record is that it’s starkly progressive while simultaneously managing to tip its cap to several previous music trends.   It essentially teaches listeners how to listen to it, and ultimately how to follow you into the future.  Listening to it, I hear Maxinquaye-era Tricky (Shine Brida herself sounds a bit like MIA by way of Martina Topley Bird), early RZA, and Madlib.  Would you say these are accurate musical reference points?

Shine Brida: I consider myself a person of the past and future for sure. I’m really glad that comes across in my music. When I say past I don’t even mean our current cultural past, I am an avid historian (9th Century England through Medieval to Early Modern) and I (whether consciously or unconsciously) put those atmospheres into what I’m working on. But Maxinquaye in particular is a great reference point for me, it sounds so dark and English in a way that the popular perception of being English doesn’t address. Rap wise i do find myself very influenced by current UK hip-hop artists like Ocean Wisdom and Edward Scissortongue, who just have so much to say for themselves that they’ve really stepped the game up. A lot of artists seem to not try anymore, even new artists. They feel like they don’t have to or something. Maybe they don’t, but I’m not interested in making a cool sounding song that has no substance. My earliest influences would be people like Mike Patton and Anthony Kiedis, though. Anthony Kiedis changed my life.

Me: Another of the things I love about this record is the extent to which you’ve obfuscated the process of its inception.  I close my eyes and I cannot picture the DAW project file.  Everything sounds a bit vintage; I mentioned RZA above because I detect an Emax or Ensoniq flavor.  What gear did you use to make this record?

Shine Brida:  For my part, not much. I don’t even have a mic. I don’t even have a mainframe computer. I played the tracks into my ipad through the speaker to make a scratch track and recorded my verses through the inbuilt mic on that, on top of the scratch track Then I sent the a cappellas and the  scratch track (as a guide for how the flow sits) along with the beat to Trent Steelz and he mixed my vocals on for me. I write all my words by hand in a notebook. Sometimes in pieces scattered throughout the notebook although really I drive myself crazy with that. So, I don’t have a mic or a mainframe computer and I write all my words with a pen. Once I wrote a whole book with a pen. I have two notebooks, one for lyrics and thoughts and lists, and one because I’m learning Norwegian.

Me: Please give us some background about yourself as a musician.  How did you start, how long ago did you start, and how did you get from who you were then to who you are now?

Shine Brida: I’m a bit sick I think. So my music didn’t really work until I decided to be okay with that. I say decided because it’s not a fully realized thing. I’m not completely zen or anything like that. I just decided to try or something. Like, I should make lemonade instead of throw up on myself. So I became a rapper because there’s more room for words. I’ve been writing lyrics since I was 13 and they just got more and more verbose. I started writing journals when I was 15 and I’m a prolific letter writer too. Basically, I became a rapper because I’m scared of forgetting stuff. So I’m telling everyone everything, I’m communicating it all the time, and then everyone else will remember small parts of all this reality and we can hold it all for longer. It’s actually really futile. Half the time I see a huge point to what I’m doing, and half the time not at all. I still feel like the same person I was half my life ago, and I can’t believe how far away it is. I didn’t see myself change.

Me: What was the most challenging aspect of this project, and how did you surmount it?

Shine Brida: I don’t think I ever felt worried about anything to do with this project. I was too busy worrying about lots of other things. This kind of slipped through.

Me: You describe the record as WitchHop.  While I agree that there’s a definite witch house flavor present in Murders (thereby absolutely justifying your genre description), I’d argue that there’s less of the witch on this record than on, say, Dusted.  One of the hallmarks of Witch House is the thick haze, as well as a forced distancing between the artist and the listener; it’s rather impenetrable and esoteric.  Murders strikes me as being a rather ‘warm’ record, actually.  The vintage sampler production sound contributes greatly to this, but the melodic content and the mixing invites the listener inside in a way that’s atypical of a lot of witch house (with more than a few notable exceptions, of course; AAimon and Bad America being two that come to mind).  The witchyness of Murders seems to come from the record’s themes, the use of sampled film dialogue and the lyrical content.  Furthermore, witch house is something of an umbrella term; it encompasses electronica, hip hop, edm, ambient and free form experimental.  Pardon the clichéd question,  but what does witch house mean to you?  How do you define it?  Where does your music stand in relation to it?

Shine Brida: I chose the label “witch hop” because I had always believed that the word “witch” appears in “witch house” as a qualifier for the atmosphere or tone – ie witchy house music. A lot of my music (and I feel a lot of “Murders”) feels to me like witchy hip-hop music. Thus witch-hop. Although I have many other influences of course, not least my native genres of UK grime and trip-hop which I think show themselves throughout the album too. To me, witch house is the modern day black metal. It’s almost uncomfortable in its brutality sometimes, and I think it’s going to prove to be a product of its time (which is a compliment not an insult), but it is aggressively atmospheric and rebellious against current trends, which is difficult to be now as so many things are played out – witch house rebels not by creating an anti-product, but by incorporating many of the elements of popular or classic “untouchable” trends and irreverently churning them up. As I have always looked back on the height of black metal with admiration, and a little envy since I wasn’t there, I am hugely excited to experience witch house (and its cousin genres) as it is happening.

III. Eyes & Teeth

Me: Give us some background on Murders.  How did it begin? 

 Eyes and teeth: I first became aware of Brida via the enigmatic Lolita rapper Lexxxi Hexxx.  Through twitter, I had a few exchanges with Lexxxi, who I believe came into my infosphere via the ubiquitous Miles Farewell of Dior Sentai.

I was fascinated by this weird gothic Hip Hop Lolita from parts unknown and I fancied hearing her over some of my Music.

I sent her some tracks via email, and she ended up recording ‘Meth Lab For Cutie’.  When she sent ‘Meth Lab For Cutie’ back to me, I was instantly bewitched by Shine Brida. The way she whispers ‘Eyes and Teeth’ in the beginning of the track entranced me. It was imperative that I made Music with this wondrous creature.

So I emailed Brida, told her I really liked how she sounded, and I sent her a bunch of music. Like probably 50 tracks.

I was amazed with her response and focus.

She basically replied with the ‘MURDERS’ track list, the titles of all the songs, and which instrumentals she was using for each track. I was blown away. This made me realize I was working with someone of a different caliber than the average bear.

MURDERS IS SHINE BRIDA’S CREATION.

All I did is make the music. She put the pieces together.

Brida is the most professional and sharp person I have ever worked with.  She would send back the tracks, beautifully mixed, with her vocals embedded perfectly within the soundscapes.

Trent Steelz did one hell of a job mixing Brida’s vocals.

All the credit goes to him for that.

I was very impressed with Brida’s track selection.

She picked quite a few of my favorite babies that have been looking for a home for years.

Me: Was Shine Brida involved from the outset, who contacted who first, etc.?  How long did this project take, from its inception up to its release on Halloween?

Eyes and Teeth: I believe me and Brida began talking in August.

A Halloween release was imminent.

She had a vision with MURDERS.

We realized it.

Me: One of the things I love about this record is that it’s starkly progressive while simultaneously managing to tip its cap to several previous music trends.   It essentially teaches listeners how to listen to it, and ultimately how to follow you into the future.  Listening to it, I hear Maxinquaye-era Tricky (Shine Brida herself sounds a bit like MIA by way of Martina Topley Bird), early RZA, and Madlib.  Would you say these are accurate musical reference points?

Eyes and teeth: Thank you very much. Those are some astute observations. Musically, I am an omnivore.

Humans by nature are collectors. I happened to be bit by the music bug. I have voraciously recorded and collected music since I was a wee lad. I remember I had one of those Sony tape recorders. I was probably 9 or 10. This would’ve been 1981, 1982… I used to record commercials from television, stuff from the radio, then play with the recording device slowing it down, trying to play it backwards, etc.

This is essentially what I do now, albeit with more advanced tools.

There is magic in sampling. I remember reading ‘The Job’ from William S Burroughs, he spoke of doing tape cut up experiments, triggering panic and riots via playback of riots, etc. All of that is intuitively in many of us. The need to harness bits of our reality and recapitulate them. That is essentially what the music making process is for me. That’s the elemental level.

On the object level, actual music, it has run like a current thru my life and influenced me since I can remember. I was lucky. I grew up in the Detroit area. My young ears were able to receive transmissions from the Electrifying Mojo and Brave New Waves from Windsor.

On television, we had shows like The Scene and The New Dance Show. Showing the young teens of suburbia how to jit, introducing us to Kraftwerk, Miami bass, Detroit techno, etc. I consider myself very blessed.

Detroit is FUNKY.

Wanna hear a crazy conspiracy theory I have?

Parke-Davis Pharmaceuticals had laboratories in Detroit and Rochester.

Parke-Davis invented PCP and Ketamine.

I postulate that some of the failed experiments  (pre-cursors to PCP and Ketamine) ended up in the Metro Detroit water table.

This enhanced water was used for baths, gardening, drinking, etc. The fish consumed it as well. Trophic magnification did it’s thing. Viola! Everybody in the Metro Detroit area is dusted. With dustedness comes enhanced sonic perception and rhythmic evolution.

The result? Motown, Iggy Pop, Madonna, Bill Laswell, Jack White, Eminem, Techno, all those Parliament and Funkadelic albums were recorded here, etc.

I realize this sounds completely insane, but it is fun to think about.

When it comes to musical influences, Raymond Scott, Bruce Haack, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, George Clinton, the Bomb Squad, J.G. Thirlwell, Devo, Tom Warrior, Mike Patton, Black Sabbath, Can, Sonic Youth, Steinski, DJ Shadow, Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert, Venetian Snares, Phoenecia, Otto Von Schirach, Coil, Merzbow, Boredoms, Whitehouse, Destroy All Monsters, Stooges, just to name a few.

Me: One of the things I love about this record is the extent to which you’ve obfuscated the process of its inception.  I close my eyes and I cannot picture the DAW project file.  Everything sounds a bit vintage; I mentioned RZA above because I detect an Emax or Ensoniq flavor.  What gear did you use to make this record?

Eyes and Teeth: The Music on MURDERS comes from a wide range of time.  Everything you hear was created between 1999 and 2013.  When I make a piece of music, I never do it for a specific reason or purpose. Pretty much everything I have made happened organically. For example, the music for the first track (MURDER ONE) was one of the first things I ever made.  I made this in 1999 when I first started to use a computer for making music. The beats that make up the track were made in Fruity Loops from sounds I sampled with Sound Forge. I sequenced the beats and samples in ACID on a Windows 98 Gateway. Hence the old skool sound. I love that Brida picked that out as the lead track. She destroys that beat. When I made that, I had no idea that someone would be rapping on it. The thought never entered my mind.

ISAAC NEWTON was made in 2008 I believe. Sample from the amazing psychedelic Jesus Franco film ‘VENUS IN FUR’, a 1970’s Female Convict Scorpion film from Japan, a 1960’s HG Lewis gore film, and few other ones. I think I used samples from 9 different sources for this. The samples were made using Sound Forge and recording direct from DVD’s, one was recorded in the room from the TV (that gives it a little noise and grit). The samples were assembled in Ableton. One of the samples I put into FL studio and dropped a few drum samples on it.

JAMES ST JAMES. 2006, recovering from cancer in Florida. Made completely in FL Studio. Samples from Al Green, Herbaliser, snares and claps from different records, not sure about the guitar hit.

LATE FOR WORK was assembled from loops and breaks I sampled from many places in Ableton.

 You get the picture. No two tracks were made the same. Sounds coming from a vast array of sources. Raymond Scott samples from 50’s, weird 60’s films, etc. 

PULP FICTION obviously comes from Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’, Big L, ODB, and another secret place. Obviously I didn’t get clearance for any of these samples.


Me: Please give us some background about yourself as a musician.  How did you start, how long ago did you start, and how did you get from who you were then to who you are now?

Eyes and Teeth:I was blessed to come from a good family and exposed to instruments at a young age. Piano Lessons at 5 for a few years, saxophone in school band 5th-10th Grade. Bought my first guitar from a pawn show with money I saved from caddying summer of 8th grade (1986). Keyboards were around probably from the age of 15 onward. Bought my first Drum Machine (Roland R-5) in 94 I think.

I first began using a computer to make music in 98-99.

At first I used ACID and used it as basically a 4-track, recording layers of guitar and keyboard over a simple drum loop.

The first time I saw a wav file opened up in Sound Forge was a revelation. I realized that I had the ability to alter the wav file, past two wav files on top of each other, take small parts of sound from sound files, etc. This changed everything and I quickly became sample crazy. I bought a mini-disc recorder in 2001 to record sounds from the environment. I would chop these up and put them into beats and loops. Things just evolved from there.

Me: What was the most challenging aspect of this project, and how did you surmount it?

Eyes and Teeth: There was nothing challenging about this project. It was pure magick. The only challenge came when I got into the CD creation phase. I used CDBaby to manufacture the CD’s. It took a little back and forth to get the CD art the right dpi and size for printing of the insert and tray inlay.  Other than that, MURDERS just kind of happened. Almost as if it was guided by an outside force.

Me: You describe the record as WitchHop.  While I agree that there’s a definite witch house flavor present in Murders (thereby absolutely justifying your genre description), I’d argue that there’s less of the witch on this record than on, say, Dusted.  One of the hallmarks of Witch House is the thick haze, as well as a forced distancing between the artist and the listener; it’s rather impenetrable and esoteric.  Murders strikes me as being a rather ‘warm’ record, actually.  The vintage sampler production sound contributes greatly to this, but the melodic content and the mixing invites the listener inside in a way that’s atypical of a lot of witch house (with more than a few notable exceptions, of course; AAimon and Bad America being two that come to mind).  The witchyness of Murders seems to come from the record’s themes, the use of sampled film dialogue and the lyrical content.  Furthermore, witch house is something of an umbrella term; it encompasses electronica, hip hop, edm, ambient and free form experimental.  Pardon the clichéd question,  but what does witch house mean to you?  How do you define it?  Where does your music stand in relation to it?

Eyes and Teeth: I have never liked labels. Labels confine. The only reason I called it ‘Witch Hop’, is that I like how it sounds. ‘Witch Hop’ just sounds cool. If you want to get technical, it is really just a Hip Hop record. But it seemed lame just to call it ‘Hip Hop’. Plus, people who are into labels might be more apt to listen to something called ‘Witch Hop’. Ever since 2001, I have called my music ‘Dark Wave’, that was the coolest sounding genre to pick from the list the Windows Media Player listed.

Me: Please forgive the last question’s verbosity.  Having said that, I shall now type even more.
   As you can probably tell, the defining characteristics of Witch House are something I’ve given some thought to.  I usually categorize my own music as witch house, though I consider this categorization to be primarily implicit rather than explicit. I feel as though my music has appeal to fans of witch house; I label it as such primarily for marketing purposes, though I think the drug-damaged, unhinged and half-deranged underpinnings of witch house are absolutely present in my stuff as well.  I get the sense that the same holds true for you to a certain extent, though I could of course be wrong in this estimation

Eyes and Teeth: As for musical reference points, the RZA detection is very astute.

I fell head over heels in love with Hip Hop circa 1993, 1994, New York style Boom Bap.  Especially DJ Premiere.  Go listen to ‘Hard To Earn’. The shit is timeless, Hip Hop perfection.

I would be remiss not to mention the Bomb Squad. Fear of a Black Planet was recorded on tape! Shocklee is a Scientist and true Master.  My ears were spoiled by the Bomb Squad, D.I.T.C. Premier, Native Tongues, Dust Brothers, etc.

An album like ‘Fear of a Black Planet’ or ‘Paul’s Boutique’ could never be commercially released today.  Trying to secure usage rights to all the samples used on those two albums would be a maddening, and insanely expensive endeavor.  Take one track, Pollywannacracka for example. 17 samples just in that one track. Do the math

III. Links

Support Eyes and Teeth: 
http://beatsandblood.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/beatsandblood
https://www.facebook.com/pcplsd

Support Shine Brida: 
https://www.facebook.com/shinebrida
http://shinebrida.bandcamp.com/

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