Monday, March 01, 2004

stick it in your ear

an interview with Ming & FS by todd ~ photos by todd ~ In the small but rapidly growing college town of Lawrence, Kansas, Ming and FS came out on Valentine's day to rock our world at a place lovingly dubbed by many, The Granasty (aka The Granada). The duo, renowned for their live instrumental sound as well as the four turntable set up, set the crowd off. These two have shared the stage with performers Run DMC, Sting, Mix Master Mike, as well as many other artists. Shortly after sound check for this particular event, phocas had an opportunity to sit down and talk with them

phocas: How did you two get together?

Ming: We got together when we are playing in a rock band in New York called Millis. We were playing something that sounded like trip hop to me. I knew some people in the dance music industry, while we were playing in the band. We got together, worked out a few brief tracks and were signed.

FS: I didn’t know that there was an electronic music industry at that point. I was buried in jazz and hip hop.

phocas: Have you always implemented instrumentation into your shows?

Ming: In production yes, in our live shows, not until the last couple of years. We were pushing the boundaries of the dance music community with the four turntable set up. As it became a more recognized form of dj’ing and with the adapting and understanding of the four turntable deal, we started adding more elements.

phocas: I know that you play the guitar and the bass live in your performances, but what other instruments do you play?

Both: We play a whole bunch of other stuff including percussion.

Ming: We don’t take drums on the road though. It's just too much hassle. it is just easier to take a guitar, bass and turntables on the road.

FS: I think when we started off with instrumentation a long time ago it was accepted in your stuff. As music went on from 1996, it became a little devoid, now it is like… “You put real music in there?”. It wasn’t like that before.

Ming: Hip hop started out in a more musical place. To get it out on the streets faster, the music got a little more technical. Same with dance music. Drum and bass used to be very soulful. Music after that became very dark and technical.

FS: So when people hear a musical instrument they say “Oh my God, what is that? Is that a real guitar?”.

phocas: Is there any piece of equipment that you prefer to use?

Ming: I use an I pod and I hate it. I love it for the simplicity of it, but I hate it for the sound. It sounds like a laser box. It is one of those love-hate relationships. We also have both been into Reason. It is one of those things with the influx of software, like Band in a Box, Live and some of the other PC based stuff. At first I don’t think we took it seriously and then we got into it and we realized that Reason is one of those programs that was made just perfect for making music.

FS: Reason is a software thing. Like the MPC was a thing. The SR10 was a thing. Reason is definitely a thing. I know because I started on that stuff. I started on the MPC on non-computer based sequences, old school, and then he brought me into the computer thing. It is really intuitive. You wonder who designed this stuff?

Ming: The "Back To One" stuff is done in Reason except for the live stuff which we did in digital performer. All of the vocals and stuff are recorded in digital performer.

phocas: Have you ever thought about using Final Scratch?

Ming: No, because we use the CG1000 and it is digital turntables.

phocas: What do you think the Next Level is for Electronic Music? Currently, here in Kansas City, Electro-Clash seems to be slowly bleeding in to the scene. How does that relate to what you're up to?

Ming: (laughs) Really? Electro-Clash is already dead in New York and has been for at least a year.

FS: The 80’s are back, even in fashion. It is kind of weird. The music is dead. People want the feeling of what we had in the 80’s. That feeling of something going on.

Ming: I think overall, people are looking for that feeling that everything is OK. Unfortunately, things are not really OK out there. People are trying to make excuses for the situation that we (the US) are in. The country is being run poorly. Mostly, the things that are necessary to bringing about a musical revolution are just now starting to happen. Thing are going quite shitty. There’s not a lot of room for a lot of that to happen. The airwaves have been quite censored.

FS: The music industry is just so cramped.

Ming: We tried to figure out what was next. We played a lot of raves and then we tried to figure out what was next so before that started to fizzle out we hit the rock circuit and did that for a couple of years and then we hit the jam band seen. Since we have been able to expand our audience from the dance community, to the hip hop community, to the rock community, to the jam band community we were able to pull this eclectic group to our shows. We pull a more diversified crowd and are able to do a little more experimental stuff.

phocas: I remembered at your last show that you had said something about the war. Afterwards, I heard a few people comment that they didn't think it was right for you to use the stage as a platform to express your own political ideology. How do you feel about that?

Ming: What has happened to people is that they are really taught not to question the message. The message is constantly coming out through the television and through the radio. I think it’s the media and commercialism. Everything in your life is commercial. I don’t think I would feel this way if I thought the message was truer. But I know, being in New York when the world trade center happened, from the message that was sent out, to the rhetoric that came through, it was just a bunch of lies. We are from New York and we don’t want the war. Don’t blame the war on the twin towers. That is not what that was about. It was about oil. We didn’t want that oil war and now everybody is suffering for it.

FS: It is both a belief that is being expressed and an entertainment thing. I know I feel that way and on the other hand I know it is better to say something and let them know that something is going on and that is what our music is for me. Everything from political, to music, to everything is too safe for me. I mean everyday everybody is saying the same things. After a while it’s just everybody with their eyes rolled back and their head is safety’ed out. I think, me personally, I try to combat that as much as I can in any way. That is how our music is and has always been. I feel that music is at an all time high safety point. I mean everything that comes out is so safe. The chanciest thing is that metal band called The Darkness. At least it makes me think that these guys are out of their mind.

Ming: I think it is the constant barrage of media in commercialism. When we started we thought that we would offend everybody. Everybody told us that we couldn’t do what we wanted to do. We were just so pigheaded that we said "fuck it", we were going to do it anyway and we found that there was an audience. We were so surprised on our first record that people really liked what we did. We thought we would put out a record and everyone would say that we were making crazy people music. We thought "Hell's Kitchen" was going to fall on deaf ears. We had a great time really getting to know each other and learning musically. I learned a lot of production from him and he learned dance music stuff from me and we put our heads together and we just put this weird shit together and came up with this album. We decided we really liked it, it was received really well and all we could say was, "Wow, there are people out there that want something to think about."

phocas: What do you think about internet file-sharing, burning friends copies of CDs and whatnot?

Ming: I think cd burning is hurting record sales not necessarily the downloading of music. The quality of an entire CD is such that people just want a few songs. People are creating their own CDs. I do think it is stealing. What if somebody stole your photos, you would take it personal. If it is something that is sacred to you and someone came and took it, you would be a little pissed off too. It is kind of like somebody taking change out of your pocket.

FS: If you have 2 million, 5 million, 30 million people taking change out of your pocket your are going to be broke. People have to understand that those are not exaggerations. For us that make the music that is what it is like. You don't want to be militant about it, but you want to say this is what is special about me as an artist.

Ming: There is a value to it. It is not free. We give a lot of stuff away. We gave away 10,000 of our last mix cd's, we gave away 2,000 of our mix tapes before that. So it is not like you aren't getting something. We have 20 tracks on our site that anyone can download for free. Check our music out. You don't need to buy our music to know what we are about. If you like it go buy the record. If I have something that I have listened to and enjoy it, I will go buy the record. To me I want to support the act. It is not that much money to be able to listen to the CD 50, 60, 70 times.

FS: We buy all of the CDs that we use, we don't download them.

Ming: We buy everything that we use in the studio. We have one copy of everything, from Brittany Spears to whatever, just because we need to study it, as producers.

FS: We (internet users) are so behind the curve. It is like being told you were doing something wrong after you had done it for so long.

phocas: Though, when a band like Metallica starts whining about money it's hard to have much sympathy for them though.

Ming: It is hard to cry for Metallica, because they are making so much of it, but they are right. The guys spend 250 days on the road in a year for 10 years. They deserve to make the money that they are making. It is not up to me to decide how many millions they should make. We are not living in a socialist music industry. It is not that Metallica makes so many millions of dollars that we can just take millions of dollars from them. That is like eminem. He would have out sold the Beatles if there wasn't all of this bootlegging and burning. You have to look at that in perspective. It is not up to us where that money goes.

phocas: So, are you currently touring or working on anything in the studio?

Ming: We are not touring right now. We are going to be at the Winter Music Conference this year, playing at the Shelborne Hotel at sundown on March 9th and the State on March 10th. Also, we are currently in New York recording a bunch of new music with a hip hop group called Northern League. We have a new album that we just finished that is coming out on June 22 called Back To One. We will tour after that for our new CD.

phocas: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Ming: Watch for a new group called Northern League, Toby Lightman, and Tina Segan

FS: It is a one stop culture shock.

Ming: Oh yea... You asked about equipment. The most important piece of equipment is our ear plugs. Without ear plugs we could not make it through a tour. You will definitely go deaf. We use Westone. You go to a Ear Specialist and they will make a mold of your ear canal. That mold is sent off to a lab and they come back and fit in your ear perfectly. They also have several different filters, depending on how much you want to let in. Anyone that goes out at least once a week to clubs should definitely be wearing ear plugs, even though you always feel weird about it. Either you wear these now or you are wearing a hearing aid later. To be honest I use my ear plugs more than I use condoms.

You can keep up with these two at MingandFS.com and check out the photos from the event, PhukLuv in the gallery section of this site.

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