Artist Interview: Tyler Keyes

Posted in Interviews with tags , , , , , , , on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 by Tim Althaus

Tyler Keyes

For those of you who don’t know, Tyler Keyes is a producer from the Midwest who relocated to Austin, Texas so that he could make music with his partner in crime – M.i. He left everything behind in the hopes for a bright future in the music industry, and judging by the sounds on Pushing Keyes, he’s well on his way. From living with and interning for the mad man MPC deity Exile, to hooking up beats for Chamillionaire, he’s writing chapters for a book that’s already impressive to say the least. Fresh off the heels of releasing Pushing Keyes, Tyler sat down with me to answer a few questions about the album but also his experiences and influences.

Tim Althaus: Hey Tyler, how’s it going?

Tyler Keyes: It’s going well, how about you?

TA: I’m doing well man. First and foremost, I wanted to congratulate you and thank you at the same time; I know the release of the album is an exciting time for you and M.i, and I’m sure that you’ve had your hands full with promoting the album.

TK: Of course. Your site has been a long time supporter, so it’s a pleasure.

TA: We appreciate that here at Mind Inversion. First off, you know how important production is to me when it comes to determining the overall quality of a record. On Pushing Keyes, you’ve definitely pulled out all of the stops, and your drum game sounds stronger than ever. Ever since Prep Time came out, I’ve known you’re a fan of sampling, but on Pushing Keyes, it seems as though you’ve taken some cues from Ryan Lewis – in terms of an organic instrumentation feel. With that being said, how much studio instrumentation did you use on the album?

TK: Yeah, there’s a lot of live instrumentation on this project; more than I’ve ever used before. We had live recordings for tuba, violin, cello, trombone, bass, trumpet, guitar and percussion. I think that live instrumentation adds a certain dynamic that keyboard production just can’t emulate. But I also did a lot of work off of my keyboard as well.

TA: Everything just seems to have an organic feel to it. From M.i’s rhymes to the beats on the album – even the sampled tracks – everything feels very natural, and I really like that. I’m sure a large part of the feel has to do with the chemistry that you and M.i share as a producer emcee duo. That kind of leads me to my next question: You and M.i have been working together for the last year in Texas, and a year prior as well, but didn’t you start collaborating when you were living in Minneapolis? How did that working relationship start and progress?

TK: Yeah, we’ve been tag teaming it for a little while now. The Prep Time project was completed entirely through email and phone calls. When we started discussing the idea of making Pushing Keyes, I guess I was the paper, rock, scissors loser. I already had a couple of the beats made for the album, so I moved down to Austin after being in town for SXSW.

TA: Even though M.i is a great emcee, he’s also a very talented producer and jack-of-all-trades. How did you two determine that you were only going to use beats from yourself for the album?

TK: There’s an unreleased version where I handle all of the rapping and M is on the beats. Look for us to be interchanging our clothes along with the microphone for the live performance. (laughs) Nah, I leave the vocals to the professionals. We have a good chemistry when it comes to working together. A one producer and one emcee album is rare to come by, but when you do, it’s something special because the work can be so much more cohesive. You’re right about M.i being a great producer in his own respect – so him trusting me to handle all of the duties is awesome.

TA: You couldn’t be more right man. One emcee, one producer combinations are my favorite instances in Hip-Hop. When you think about duos like Gangstarr, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, and even newer cats like Blu & Exile, it’s obvious that they were meant to work together, and they were able to draw things out of each other that no one else could.

TK: You said it. Blu & Exile’s album Below the Heavens kinda laid out the blueprint in our case.

TA: Speaking of Blu, you guys were able to work with him on “Church West Texas” – which is one of my favorite songs on the album. He hasn’t been in the game for a very long time, but he’s got a strong following, and to many, Below the Heavens is a modern day classic. How does it feel for you guys to have him on the album, and how did that collaboration come about?

TK: We had Blu picked out for that song right away. A few years back I was living with his producer – Exile –  in L.A. while he was completing Fashawn’s album – Boy Meets World. I got to learn from him and see how he approached sessions. He is notorious for producing full albums, and watching it taught me not to over-control and keep trust in your writer/collaborator. Coincidentally, our video director Aaron had struck up a working relationship with Blu, so bridging the talents naturally came together.

TA: To me, Boy Meets World is a classic album, and one of the best debut albums in recent memory right alongside Below the Heavens; I can’t even imagine what it was like to watch Fashawn & Exile collaborate on that project.

TK: Yeah, it’s a great album. They were in the final stages of it when I arrived. Then the focus shifted to DagSav – the joint project with Johaz. Did you ever hear that one?

TA: Nah, I can’t say I’ve heard it

TK: Tonight

TA: (laughs) I’ll definitely check it out tonight.

TA: You guys were also able to link up with Chamillionaire for the project, and you’ve produced tracks for him a couple of different times. He’s a Grammy Award winner, and he has an extensive following in Texas. What led to you two collaborating, and ultimately ending up on the album?

TK: Yeah, he’s the man. The first beat I produced for him  – “Never Enough“-  was set aside for M.i in the early stages, but Pushing Keyes didn’t go in that direction. Cham heard it right before Ammunition was released; he scrapped the original outro he had, and he cut the new record in a couple of days. As time went on I started sliding him some of the material I was recording with M.i., and when I asked him what he thought about hopping on “Nothing You Can Do”, he was all about it.

TA: That’s awesome that you were able to make that connection man. You guys have definitely have good relationships with other emcees, but I’ve also noticed that you guys maintain good relationships and get some serious love from some of the biggest Hip-Hop blogs on the internet (i.e 2Dopeboyz, The Smoking Section, Okayplayer, Kevin Nottingham). How does that feel for you guys as artists?

TK: It’s an honor, and it reassures us that we’re doing something right. The internet is the main highway for modern day music, and those sites are some of the most heavily trafficked out there; I’ve been visiting some personally for years because of their good consistent musical content, so it’s dope that they consider our material in that same category.

TA: My personal favorite from the album is “No Money”, and you mentioned that the other day that it has been the Twitter favorite as well. M.i’s lyrics are heartfelt and ridiculously on-point, your beat is insane, and to top it all off, you got the kids from the “Hot Cheetos and Takis” video to lay down some vocals (that I absolutely love). What is your favorite track on the album? and why?

TK: My #1 song changes with the days. “Comes & Goes” and “Throwing Stones” are two of my favorites though; they both have some personal meaning to me in the lyrics. I think the beat for “Throwing Stones” is my favorite overall.

TA: “Throwing Stones” is a great song, me and Steve (mutual friend) were talking about how M.i shouts out La Crosse on that song the other day. Upon my initial listen, I didn’t even realize that he spit a verse from your point of view, and I thought that was really interesting. Did you actually write the lyrics for that or provide guidance? Or did M.i just craft those words himself?

TK: That’s actually something that we thought to do towards the end of recording, and I wish we could have done more. I had a notebook of written bars and jump off points that M could run with. He took it, and he wrote everything in his own words.

TA: It’s amazing that M.i was able to convey your thoughts so well on “Throwing Stones”, and as the song mentions, you moved from La Crosse to Minneapolis to Austin, Texas. Was leaving your comfort zone and family in the Midwest for a certain level of uncertainty a hard thing for you to do? Or was it something you were dead set on?

TK: Definitely not an easy move. I not only separated myself from my family, but also my friends and my people I came up doing music with. Austin was something that I wanted to do for myself and my career. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of the people from back home fly down for visits at least once. The city is incredible which makes for an easy transition too.

TA: Without risk, there’s no reward.

TK: There’s a lot of truth behind that.

TA: You’ve told me before that you’re heavily influenced by cats like Just Blaze, Mike Shinoda and Classified, but I’m curious, what producers are you into right now that make you want to elevate your production game?

TK: If anyone pushes my sound right now its No I.D.; his recent work with Common, Nas and Mikkey Halsted has me on my game. I also like what Soundwave is doing for Kendrick Lamar and them. Always I’m paying attention to what Kanye and Pharrell are doing musically as well.

TA: I forgot to mention Ye because I know you’re a huge fan of his, but I can’t agree more with No I.D.; everything he has been doing lately is absolutely genius.

TK: No I.D.’s got the crown right now in my opinion.

TA: Mind Inversion is a Midwest minded blog, and you’ve been a resident of both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Besides your family and friends, what’s one thing that you really miss from each state?

TK: I miss being able to say “pop” instead of soda and not catch a weird look from someone. Also, there’s nobody down here that can compare to a Wisconsinite when it comes to drinking; ya’ll can wear that title belt proudly.

TA: They definitely don’t generalize Wisconsinites as strong drinkers for nothing.

TK: It really all comes out during Oktoberfest week in my experiences; I need to go to another one of those. I’ll be the guy singing off key to Asher Roth “I Love College”.

TA: (laughs) oh man…. Are you guys going to be heading to the Midwest for any tour dates to support Pushing Keyes?

TK: For sure. I can’t wait to do a show up there; plus, M has never been properly acquainted to my mom’s strawberry rhubarb pie, so that in itself is worth a trip up north.

TA: I’m definitely looking forward to catching you guys live, so you’ll have to let me know when you’re making it this way. As a last question I have to ask, if you could work with any emcee in the game right now, who would it be?

TK: Will Smith! I think he’s still got something left in the tank, and I think I could set him up on a nice Fresh Prince type stage. That would be legendary (laughs).

TA: It sounds like the 90’s all over again. I would play the shit out of that!

TK: I just saw him performing “Summertime” on Letterman the other day – still sounding like the illest.

TA: Him and Jazzy Jeff were ahead of their time without a doubt.

TK: Pioneer status.

TA: Agreed. Well, I want to thank you for your time man, it’s much appreciated, and I hope that Pushing Keyes continues to gain momentum because it’s an incredible project. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

TK: Thanks for having me. I also want to say thank you to you and the other people out there who have been taking the music in and responding to it. We put it all out there for free so as many ears as possible would hear it and let it be their life’s soundtrack for a little while. That’s what its all about.

TA: I appreciate it Tyler, and thank you again.

Pushing Keyes is out now, and you can download it for free here.

Album Review: The Amends, What We Could Be

Posted in Album Review, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on Sunday, April 21, 2013 by Eric Gilardi

The Amends - What We Could Be

This story starts out with a band and a dream. The Boulder, CO based band, The Amends, has aspirations to gain popularity by way of self-promotion. Recently they reached out to see if I would check out their second studio album that was released earlier this year. Fortunately for them, I just started writing again and fortunately for me, I took that chance and gave the album a listen. The Amends consisting of band members Drew Weikart (Lead Vocals and Guitar), Tyler Taylor (Vocals, Keys and Rhythm Guitar), Chris Childress (Bass) and Shay Byington (Drums) caught me off guard with an album that touches base with classic rock and blues while adding that hint of Indie rock.

What We Could Be starts straight out with an edginess that says we have arrived and we have come to kick your door in. “Second Take” makes me think back to when the Arctic Monkeys first came out of the gate. You can really hear the direct message from a band that just wants to jam and make people have fun. The second track, “A Certain Speed”, keeps the party vibe going. They start out the album with a kick and you think that is what you have turned yourself on to but you better think again.

As soon as the keys hit in a “Big City Way” you get more of a blues sound to their rock music. This tells you that this band is not a one-dimensional rock group. Continue reading

Summerfest 2013: The Lineup Returns to Championship Form

Posted in Music News, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on Thursday, April 18, 2013 by Eric Gilardi

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One of the greatest music festivals in the world recently returned as a championship contender when they released their lineup for 2013. Lately, the festival seemed to rely mainly on its prestige alone. After all, it is a festival that spans over 11 days and has more than 800 acts performing on 11 different stages. The festival is a vision of the great late mayor of Milwaukee, Henry Maier, who wanted a massively relative festival that would compare to the joyous Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. He started the tradition that became Summerfest in 1968.

The lineup has been lacking the innovative music that the youth and many more have gravitated towards in recent years. This year after they released their headliners at the Marcus Amphitheater I had mixed feelings. So I was a little skeptical when I received the E-mail that their complete lineup was out but said, “What the hell” and clicked the link. To my astonishment, I was really impressed. One thing that stuck out in my mind was that they got some major electronic, Indie rock and alternative rock acts. All whom are currently relevant in their respected industries. This list includes Pretty Lights, Diplo, Empire of the Sun, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Yeasayer and MGMT. They did this while still including a lot of the older talent (Alice Cooper, 311, Foreigner and Billy Idol) and mixing in many more talented up and comers.

Another thing you have to appreciate about Summerfest is the variety of music that they bring to the many ears attending the festival. They have done a great job blending country, pop, blue grass, electronic, rock and even a little bit of hip hop into the lineup. A few other artists that would be worth seeing are: Capital Cities, Atmosphere, Trampled by Turtles, Robert Delong, Matt & Kim, AWOLNATION, Imagine Dragons, Taliban Kweli and Cake. If you are the least bit interested after reading this head over to summerfest.com/lineup for a complete listing of this year’s lineup.

Album Review: Poolside, Pacific Standard Time

Posted in Album Review, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 by Eric Gilardi

Poolside PacificStandardTime

Greatness in the most subtle form is “pure blissfulness”. Poolside, an electronic duo based out of Los Angeles, has done just that; made an album that equates to “pure blissfulness”. If you have never heard the delicate electronic music, from Filip Nikolic and Jeff Paradise, that has you wishing you were sipping a mojito poolside. Then take a gander over to that oversized lounger and order yourself a mojito. Their debut album, Pacific Standard Time, starts off real mellow and real instrumental. “Tulsa” lets you in, gets you comfy and gets you ready for the rest of what is to transpire over the course of the next 68 and a half minutes. Let me tell you, it won’t seem like that long once you drift away in this great and magical album.

The second track, “Next to You”, is an upbeat electronic jam with a chorus that is heavy on harmonic melody. Even when the harmonized lyrics are not being sung, you can still hear where they would fit in perfectly with the music.  In “Why You Wanna” they come at you with less harmony and a little more direction. Continue reading

The D.O.T.-How We All Lie

Posted in Life Perspectives from T.S. Niebeling, Mind Inversion Exclusive, Music News, News, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on Friday, April 12, 2013 by tsn_

After Mike Skinner put The Streets to rest after 5 albums I didn’t think I would hear much from the bloke.  I waited for some time, and nothing…  I followed Skinner on his blog http://mikeskinner.so and watched for him to put out something new.  Nothing happened…  I mean, there were some new posts and interesting photos, and words, but no music.  And then-a few months back, I became aware that I was literally on Mike Skinner’s personal emailing list.  A message popped up from one of my favorite anti-mainstream mainstream artists.  I had received an email from the man as if he had risen from the grave.  I was bestowed upon some great and inspiring new sound.  Kaboom!

And here it is in video form incase you missed it.  (above)

This catchy tune takes a few listens to warm up to.  You know I am crazy, so I sat around all day banging this shit out on loud, macbook style.  My GF got a little mad, by the end I was singing along (out of tune of course) and getting scolded.  I felt I knew the song and the artist a little more, I felt there was promise in this new material.  May I say I am a bit excited for the full length album?  I felt the video was entertaining (I had heard about this filming technique in Boulder, CO).  After listening to this song, and viewing the innovative video, I realized that what The D.O.T. was doing was actually pretty good.  I felt the same emotion that I had gotten from a lot of The Streets’ albums after the first and second listen, “Cult classic, not bestseller”.  But sales don’t matter, the sound is important, and this song is very catchy and has an incredibly memorable melody.  I woke this morning singing the chorus.

Before this message from Mike Skinner, I had little knowledge of The D.O.T., I assumed Skinner produced the songs.  I had no idea who the singer was.  So let me fill you in:

The D.O.T. Official Website

They have some interesting videos, venue tickets, downloadable songs, and other merchandise.

The D.O.T. project’s site is visually appealing and artsy, while remaining easy to navigate.

In all honesty I love how abstract and collectively cool Skinner is overall; most (universally), if not all of The Streets’ material is exceptionally well made, as Chuck Klosterman wrote-he (Skinner) is ‘advanced’ as an artist.  The music he puts out is real and relatable, there is an essence of humanity within his lyrics and delivery.  Also, Rob Harvey, of The Music, sounds great on vocals, and harmonizes well with Skinner.  At times I feel that Skinner wants to put more vocals into the song; however, it sounds pleasant the way it is presented.

Happily I am intrigued and I want to hear more.  If you could hook it up with a free CD, Mr. Skinner, that would be excellent, pre-release if possible???  Thanks.

Watch out for The D.O.T.’s new album “Diary” due to drop May 6, 2013.

Because Geezers truly need excitement.

R.I.P. Gavin Theory (January 30, 1985 – April 10th, 2012)

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 by Tim Althaus

G

I’ll still never forget the first time I actually met Gavin and had an in-depth musical conversation with him. Gavin was with Lucas Dix, and they were performing a Hip-Hop show at a local bar in my hometown; to be clear, this was well before Lucas & Gavin moved out to Portland.

Having an entire family that is from Kenosha, Wisconsin, I was able to find some sort of common ground with both Lucas and Gavin almost instantly, but (no offense Lucas because you know I love your music) Gavin was the producer, and I was more interested in picking his brain. I remember having an intense discussion where we talked about everyone from J Dilla to El-P, and I was able to take a sneak peek into the mind of a genius. People have always said, “be confident, but never cocky”, and upon meeting Gavin, it’s possible that people (myself included) mistook the extreme confidence that he exuded for cockiness, but in all reality, he is one of the most humble dudes I ever met.

When I listen to Escaping Stasis I’m still blown away by everything that Gavin was able to accomplish on the boards before he started using the MPC; the ethereal quality of his music is incredible – and it always has been. The first time I listened to Edifice I was completely blown away; I couldn’t believe the sounds that I was hearing. It was almost as if Pete Rock and El-P had a love child, and Gavin’s production was the bi-product. Gavin laced Edifice with spacey synths and even more sublime samples – the stuff I love. In his short time with the MPC 2500XL, it seems as though he was able to master the machine that turned regular, ordinary men into legends, and it’s unfortunate knowing that I’ll never be able to see just how far he could have pushed the boundaries of Hip-Hop by punching the pads.

In remembrance of G-Theory’s passing, Lucas Dix let this brilliant gem loose that features Sandpeople crew member IAME. The track – “Po’est Pimpin” – contains one of the last beats that Gavin ever made, and it has his signature sounds succinctly spread all over the soundscape. Me and Lucas were discussing this beat, and although it’s a toned down version of what Gavin was capable of, we both agreed that anything Gavin made was truly exceptional.

Album Review: Tyler, The Creator, Wolf

Posted in Album Review with tags , , , , , on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 by Dylan Isensee

TylerTheCreatorWolf

I would assume that you probably know who Odd Future is by now, and if you don’t know who they are, then I would assume you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years. Tyler, The Creator dropped his third album, Wolf, today, and you can say I’ve been looking forward to it. I listened to both Bastard and Goblin a ton, and Wolf will also be getting regular rotation from me. Tyler’s music seems to get better the more I listen to it. I’ll admit the first time I heard “Bastard” I didn’t really like it, but the more I listened to it the more I liked it.

Odd Future is known for having graphic material in their songs; Bastard and Goblin both had a lot of songs about murder and rape, and while Wolf definitely has it’s fair share of outrageous lyrics, Tyler has toned it down a little bit. He has definitely moved away from the ridiculous shock raps and the “fuck everybody” punk attitude. The themes that show up on Wolf include dealing with fame and success, girl problems, having an absent father, and his career thus far. His flows are all pretty nice on this album. When it comes to the beats, Tyler has stepped his production game up – a lot. The whole album is entirely produced by him, and the beats sound great. His production style is very unique and he’s definitely created his own sound.

The single off the album “Domo 23” has Tyler bragging over mischievous horns, while the following track “Answer” is much darker with Tyler longing for his late grandmother and absent father over a relaxed guitar track and bright organs. “IFHY” is one of my favorite songs on this album. Tyler talks about his conflicted love interest over a dark organ track which evolves into electric synthesizers while the darkness is continued in the bass and drums. “Rusty” is the standout track on this album. The beat almost sounds like something RZA would’ve done in the 90’s, and Tyler’s verse is on point. He basically gives all of his critics a big “fuck you” and finishes off his verse with “Fuck buying studio time, I’ma go purchase a shrink/ record the session and send all you motherfuckers a link”.

While Tyler’s production is better than it’s ever been, his rhyming hasn’t really gotten any better. He’s definitely not a bad rapper, and it’s good that he’s moved away from the rape and murder, but his rhymes aren’t any better than they were on Goblin. With that being said the album still has some of the best songs he’s ever written. There are several tracks really dive deep into his personal matters, and “Rusty” is one of his best lyrical performances to date.

Overall, Wolf is a beautiful sounding album. The production is beyond great, and rather than venting his anger like Bastard or Goblin, Tyler has opened the doors to show off the talent behind his music.

7.5/10