Is it me or does a lot of the best current club music seem to be inspired by the slaloming-down-the-Himalayas rush induced by crystal meth and coke? Now, I'm not advocating the intake of those drugs, but it's hard to deny that their effects can lead to some extraordinary recording sessions. And, you've surely noticed, lots of people high on the stuff can really bust some intricate moves to this new ultra-vivid, hyperkinetic beat origami.
No matter your extracurricular proclivities, you may need an illicit boost to truly get into the rambunctious grooves laid down by today's savviest selectors... one of whom is Spank Rock's producer/DJ xxxchange. The East Coast trio are on the verge of becoming the name to drop at your cutting-edge club night, making M.I.A. and Diplo (a big Spank Rock fan, by the way) seem so 2005. This is usually cause for nausea due to overexposure, but, thankfully, Spank Rock—who also include DJ Chris Rockswell and MC Naeem Juwan—are too skillful to be damned as mere ephemeral media darlings.
Their forthcoming debut album on Big Dada, YoYoYoYoYo, brandishes glittery and grimy tracks that siphon influences from the Bronx (hiphop), London (grime, dubstep), Jamaica (dub), Brazil (baile funk), Germany (Kraftwerkian electro), and Baltimore (raw booty-tech). This music's roots lie in dusty vinyl and antiseptic silicon. It sounds simultaneously old school and next level. It's both pop and avant-garde, Teutonically tight and ludicrously loose. And it's a contender for best album of 2006.
Like many of the most interesting groups, Spank Rock are paradoxical. MC Naeem Juwan's verses filter 2 Live Crew's libidinous-as-usual raunchiness through Fresh Prince's PG-rated demeanor. And in an act of unexpected chivalry, Spank Rock hand their dirtiest lyrics to their backing vocalists the Typical Girls—check out "Bump" for the nasty evidence. (Incidentally, there's more talk about ass on YoYoYoYoYo than you'll hear in a year of proctology journals.)
In light of these horndog fixations, it's amusing to discover xxxchange's background. "I was never part of the music scene in Baltimore when growing up there," says xxxchange, AKA Alex Epton. "I went to the Peabody Conservatory about once a week when I was in high school. Later I went to music school at the New England Conservatory in Boston. I basically failed out. Then I went to NYU, which had a really good recording studio, where I spent a lot of time. During this period I was playing drums in the band Zero Zero, which was one of the first DFA-produced bands. I learned a lot about programming on Pro Tools and Logic from [Zero Zero programmer] Dave Idea. I also interned for DFA for about a year."
Despite his lofty schooling history, xxxchange doesn't view DJing as a way to "educate" crowds. "I'm mainly a producer, so I save the intellectual stuff for the studio. When DJing, I just want people to have fun. They pay their money to go out and drink and party, so they need some good party music. Once you've got people having a good time, you can slip in some weird stuff and see how they react."
On This Is Spank Rock (Money Studies), xxxchange and Rockswell slip in plenty of weird stuff while replicating the effect of a jukebox programmed by an ADD-afflicted genius with a deep record collection. For instance, they prove how amazingly well a pitched-up Suzanne Vega in "Tom's Diner" segues into Can's militarily funky "Vitamin C," which then gloriously transitions into the Zombies' '60s psych-pop gem "Time of the Season." (Layering a Missy Elliott a cappella over that adds yet more sparkle to the mix.) Hiphop is probably the ultimate mongrel music, so mashing up styles as Spank Rock do is essentially reaffirming the genre's original spirit.
"Yeah, that's exactly right!" xxxchange concurs. "What we do with Spank Rock is really about respecting the spirit of hiphop. Hopefully, we'll be able to add something good to the history."
Are Spank Rock prepared for fame and the media crush when YoYoYoYoYo blows up? "Man, we're in Europe doing the promo tour right now! I never imagined it would be this big... and the record's not even out yet! Maybe I'll get some more production work!" And probably more ass, which will in turn produce yet more creative inspiration. Never underestimate the motivational power of firstname.lastname@example.org