Ah yes, I have prepared a special segment featuring my friend and mastering guy Amir Alexander. Definitely making some moves, and case in point with this new digital release from Plan B entitled Sonic Subversion EP. I’ll let Amir elaborate on himself and this release.
Amir what up homie?
Hakim my man, at the moment, a lot of things are up. I’m lucky to be a part of a very inspiring collective of very creative, unique individuals. I have found a true home in Plan B Recordings. I am focused on building the brand Vanguard Sound! Plus, a bunch of other personal growth/self realization stuff. So, I have a full plate.
Channeling: A man speaks and then a gritty driving bass accompanied by some syncopated chords that begin to take you to the altered states through the hypnotizing grooves of the lower sound registers. Lost in the groove, channeling knowledge is dropped into the psyche.
So Where are your from, who are your influences?
I’m an army brat so I say that I am from the “states”. I moved around a lot as a child. Eventually settling in Florida, where my parents are from. I graduated high school and then lived all over the state for a minute. I eventually moved out to San Francisco where I spent a couple years or so. For the last six years I’ve lived in Chicago, and/or the Chi-‘Burbs.
My first influence as a DJ was Mr. Larry Levan. Even before I had ever heard a mixtape, I was aware of his legend. I decided that I too wanted to touch people in that way. Ron Hardy also tops that list.
As far as DJ.’s I’ve heard live go, Vanguard Sound Crew member DJ. Chang a.k.a. Carlitos Corcho would’ve been the first.
As you may be aware, Florida is primarily known for unsophisticated commercial sounds (notice that I didn’t say music). When I first encountered Chang, he was playing real house. As opposed to the prominent of the sound of the state, which I have labeled halfway house. Chang, along with my other Florida influence Chris Milo a.k.a. DJ. Three, were champions of quality underground techno, which I love.
The next major influences are members of the same San Francisco clique, “The Wicked Crew” Those gentlemen are DJ.’s Marky, and Garth. Their crew is single handedly credited as the collective who brought house/techno to San Fran/Cali in the late 80’s early 90’s. They threw legendary full moon parties on isolated beaches though out the state. Old school style. You had to go to the check point and then call for more directions to find out where the party was.
My last influence as a DJ. hails from Chicago. As you know, I just left there after a six year stint. Anyone who lives there for any amount of time will dicover that the best DJ’s in Chi don’t got much press, and many are unknown outside of their neighborhoods.
I had heard all of these big names who sounded like they were going through the motions. Then I heard Traxx……
I like him ’cause he plays like me. I could tell that he comes from the same place sonically. He influenced me to keep doing me.
It is the same with my production influences with the exception of one.
Robert Hood (Detroit), Omar S. (Detroit), Dj. Spider (NYC), and Dakini9 a.k.a. Lola (NYC).
I was blessed to make a bit of a name for myself in Chicago relatively quickly. Upon completion of that task, which is no small feat, I dropped out of the local Dj. rat race to focus solely on production.
For 2 1/2 years I didn’t go out and I didn’t listen to any music I didn’t write except for the occasional track sent to me by my producer friends. I purposely lost touch with the outside world so that I could access the “God within”.
When I resurfaced, minimal was the new it. I quickly began to discover that I was making minimal without ever having heard of it. What’s more is that I heard elements in both Robert Hood and Omar S.’s tracks that were not too dissimilar from what I do. Needless to say, it was major validation because as I began to study and catch up with the “scene”, I realized that the world loved these men, and if I could figure out how to be heard, they might love me as well. Then the universe led me to Plan B. I had the exact same experience with Spider and Lola. I had never heard of them, but when I heard the first note of the first track of theirs, I knew that Plan B was my home. The final influence as a producer is and has been you. Through the fellowship and support you provide me I am able to do my thing knowing that at least one person is listening. Thank-You Hakim.
How would you describe your musical taste?
Eclectic. Provocative and Varied. In my school days I was a skateboarding b-boy who was also in jazz band etc. so I came into contact with a wide spectrum of music. Every thing from New York hip hop to punk rock bands such as the Dead Kennedy’s, to Bach, and Mozart as well as the dance music of the period. I learned early on to be open to new experiences, sounds, people and points of view.
Deep Banger: Dark and gritty the acid bass grabs you as the bass bins shiver. The neo acid grooves takes you on a dark journey of tones with subtle passing sounds to accompany you on the ride.
How long have you been producing and djing?
I decided to become a Dj. In the fall of 1993. My first mix tape was a pause mix on one turntable and a cassette player. I bought my first set of decks and an old Gemini mixer in April of 94. Technics SL-D202 and a SL-D303 the ones with the tiny little rotary pitch control. When I started learning how to mix records, I was attracted to the difficulty/ challenge of learning to match beats. I loved the fact that it was hard, and that to get to any level of proficiency, you had to practice your ass off. Back then it was considered cool to be good at something. These days it seems that it’s all about short cuts. The true disk jock loves everything about the vinyl format, Everything! Being a Dj. was never about taking short cuts. I have been told that I sound anti digital, which is not the case at all. I am against the systematic killing of the vinyl based recording industry that we all owe a major debt of gratitude to. Being that I have, and will most likely continue to have some of my releases out digitally, I have been forced to adapt. Records are heavy. They were when we all started. Nothing changed. If you are a vinyl jock for long enough you will lose or have some of your favorites stolen from you. It’s always been the case, so all of the convenience based excuses fall on deaf ears when it comes to me. What the fuck ever. Pioneer and laziness is killing us. The old school heads would use their reel to reel players the way that I use c.d.’s…… as a supplement, or a third turntable.
Every now and again there will be music that is not available in vinyl format. That’s when I use c.d.’s.
I started producing with my friend Chris Mitchell in 1998. I had an electric bass, and he had an Akai MPC 2000 w/effects and the 8 line outs, a Boss Dr-202 Dr. Sampler. The one with the sweet filter, and ring modulator, a Roland tone generator, and a Juno 106. When I moved to San Fran I didn’t have access to any gear other than my electric bass, turn tables and the sampler that Chris gave me. When I got back to Florida in 2000 or so, I began making music on a Roland mc303 groove box for 3 years really learning how to program until I finally got a computer in 2003.
Jabberwocky: Happy beats masked with a bit of flange with acid house undertones. A voice is heard, encouraging you to listen closer and dance to the sounds at hand.
Where can we find your other releases?
My releases that are not on Plan B Recordings NYC can be found on Bearatone Recordings Chicago. And eventually Machining Dreams, (I hope).
What’s your philosophy on making music?
Let’s see…… I can start by stating that I believe that an artist should try to give their best effort every time, and that there is no room for playing it safe amongst the elite in this field. The day you start to play it safe or go through the motions is the day that you should get out of the way. I am blessed with among other things, the gift of long vision. I wish to contribute to the postmodernist sociological history of art culture as a whole. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Parker, Coltrane. Ornette Coleman, Sun Rah, Hendrix, etc. History will record their contributions. I am just trying to do what it takes to be in that club. For me as an artist, I wish to inspire someone. To do for someone else, what was done for me. And most importantly. I believe that one should strive to be genuine and not be afraid to find their own voice/sound.
Nocturnal: The bass undertones guide the chords and drive the track. Probably best banged late at night, preferably on a dance floor. The melody takes it over the top, completing the presentation of the tones though the various spectrum of octaves ranges.
So I’m also part of Vanguard Sound!, since it is your vision could you elaborate more as to what it is and where it is going?
Amir: Wow! This might be a very long multi-part answer………..
We can and are really going to get deep on this………
Thank-you so much for being the catalyst. In that you asked me to define Vanguard Sound As I see it.
It’s all about fuckin’ shit up sonically!
Hakim: Yeah, this crew is about your vision.
It’s about making everyone involved stretch a bit
It’s about the first time you heard some crazy ass shit you’d never heard before, and instantly knowing that you’ve finally found your home, it’s about facilitating that experience for our decedents, as our ancestors did for us.
It’s about excellence! It’s about fun and for us, the Vanguard Crew, it’s about war!
We are artists!
We do what we do because we have to. It is our life purpose. Vanguard Sound is about a coup de tat.
I, as Guerrilla Soul a.k.a Agent #8 am a reconnaissance shape shifter.
My purpose as said agent is to identify and co opt sleeper cells.
I am a politician, a world Bridger bringing disparate militias together.
We are all co captains in this regiment who seek vengeance upon the idolaters and worshipers of hype and excess……
As previously stated Vanguard Sound seeks to subvert the dominant paradigm… the exposure of the truth…….
There you have it my friend.
It used to be cool to be smart and different. I know that went out of style but with Vanguard Sound we can bring it all back to basics. The music.
Flowing … that’s cool.
Sky’s the limit but as artists we support and bring out the best in each other.
Sounds like a good philosophy.
People used to look at me like I had a turd on my forehead when I would get on this in the Chi.
The purpose is to advance the art form. Because it really is art.
You can tell by the music where producers are coming from.
Basically just do what you feel.
Feel…….. that’s right! You know it when it’s right. Hakim you have helped me to begin the process of defining the parameters.
I think people have a hard time understanding my creative process. I just do whatever with my music.
Because you sir, are an artist.
I always felt them. I just hadn’t manifested them into the material world
But, I understood it from the jump.
That’s why even though I moved to Florida, in many ways between us it’s like I never left.
Real recognizes Real.
Back to the war…..
Evil forces have taken this music/culture that we love so much and reduced it to a gimmicky product
We Will take it back!
I’m on a mission too.
Between the members of the crew we got around 130 years of perspective
You are on a mission, that’s how we linked up. As espionage Agent8, I am duty bound to attempt to make allies of those I recognize as true soldiers who don’t give a fuck. I have thrown everything into the pot a far as this shit goes. Chez Damier said if you really believe in what you’re doing then take a risk.
We are about to build a legend…. the future is now, and we will bring it as a battalion.
We all are.
One fiber is a thread, several can braid and become a rope. We are all much stronger together, but we still all hold our own much like the Wu Tang Clan.
Overwhelming force of numbers.
It’s gonna be somebody…. we are true of intention and, we’ve put in work. why not us?
There you have a synopsis of Amir Alexander and his music life. I will leave this post with a mix from Amir called:
Jack the Clipper