June 29, 2005

Interview: 13&God

13 & God is a long-distance collaboration between members of German band The Notwist and California-based Themselves. At first, the collaboration seemed quite vexing: members of an experimental German band that had recently taken their music into a jazzier direction meeting up with people who had helped to redefine the boundaries of hip-hop, collaborating with each other from halfway around the world? It could either prove to be quite interesting or quite self-indulgent. Thankfully, the results of this collaboration, 13 & God, turned out beautifully. The record eschews the more disjointed hip-hop experiments of the Anticon-based members, in favor of a much more tranquil sound that is, at times, quite relaxing. The Anticon-based members of the band, Doseone, Jel and Dax Pierson, had also been experimenting with this mellower side in a new project, Subtle. Both 13 & God and Subtle's plans came to an unexpected and near-tragic halt when Subtle was involved in a major bus accident that left Dax Pierson paralyzed and the future in doubt. Thankfully, through the miracle of modern medicine and a strong man's willpower, Pierson's recovery is going well, and the future of 13&God and Subtle is soon to be back on track.

Much like the recording process for
13&God, we were able to connect with Doseone, Jel and Markus Acher via email. Thanks to Brock Phillips at Motormouth for helping us get these three minds together!

First and foremost, how is Dax Pierson doing these days?

Doseone: Dax is doing well, in both spirit and mind. He remains focused and resilient in his push toward recovery. Specifically, he can move his arms at the shoulder and elbow, up to touch his face. it is what he calls "the one way elbow". He has yet to have feeling return to his hands and fingers, but he has been speedy in his recovery so far. He will return to the Bay area in August after he finishes his second session in rehabilitation, to begin again and start work with us on the next Subtle record.

Jel: Dax is doing well and is with his mom in Houston. He's begun the healing process, getting ready for more physical therapy. And hopfully back in the Bay in August.

How did the collaboration come about? Whose idea was it initially?

Doseone: I'd have to say that both Markus and I had our eyes full of "lets make music together" the first time we met at a poorly lit bar in Munchen...we had a a natural trust and inkling that we were all very similar minded...

Jel: I think it was all in our heads for a while after we met a few years back, and I don't know if the official invitation happened between Dose and Markus or Dax and Markus.

Markus: We met at a themselves show in Munich. I was a big fan of their music, of cLOUDDEAD and all the other Anticon artists, so I really wanted to see them live. We met then at the show and I was very surprised to hear that they were listening to Notwist on the tourbus. We exchanged e-mail adresses and then went on tour together two times in the US. The second time our bus broke down, and there we decided we really should record something together.

When you started the collaboration, did you have any ideas about what you wanted 13 & God to sound like? Did the final result match your initial hopes and expectations?

Doseone: Yes and no and yes. I knew I wanted to hear certain things happen, both as a professional yet untrained songsmith, and as a fan of both of our ways of making music....but I did not hear it all in a dream the night before we made it. Things took work and selectivity but on the whole, fell into place quite easily...everyone doing what they do best...and this first record was how we learned to work with one another...how to find a 13&god sound...but in the end i think songs like "superman on ice" are where we are headed...we've found a new twist on our similar but different takes on music...

Jel: We really didn't think of a master plan for the colaboration, we just laid all our ideas on the table and worked on chunks at a time.

Markus: We didnt have real intentions, except for working with the people whos music we appreciate so much. So we were open to everything. So it could have been anything in the end.

The collaboration between 13 & God was a mixture of both person-to-person collaboration and exchanges via computer/mail. Obviously not being able to collaborate together in the same studio is a disadvantage, but what were some of the advantages of not working face-to-face? Did the months of exchange make the eventual studio collaboration easier?

Doseone: They made it much eaiser...i personaly need my alone time with songs...i feel terrible about them if i don't....there is something about personalizing them and giving them an intamacy injection , that can only be done in the privacy of one's bedroom....and i experiment with vocals quite a bit as well as re-sampling sounds and deciding on song arrangement...collage like if you will...half erasing onething with another cleaner or dirtier version of it slapped on top...but the posse studio time was just as detremental to the greater scheme of the 13&god sound...one can't make all the calls alone on music. day after day..at least i can't...some songs will stump you with the greatest of ease...others seem to finish themselves...having that many gangsters of doubt and good taste in one room only puts you more in the favor of finding the perfect song...

Jel: I think that with us never making music together before and haveing the opportunity to contribute in our most comfortable environments definitely helped the process along. But when we did record together we knew what each other wanted without really saying anything .

Markus: It made it different. You always work different, when you work alone in your room, more concentrated, but also more limited, because your just alone with your ideas. I like both ways of working. But for the next record, we definitely want to develop the song together in the rehearsing room.

Musically, where does 13 & God sit between The Notwist and Subtle? Does it fill a void between the two? Did it give you the chance to pursue musical ideas that you might have had but seemingly weren't quite sure how to accomplish?

Doseone: Absolutly...i really took it upon myself to absorb as much of the notwists "fine taste" as possible...from recording processes to sound selection and grooming...markus micha and martin are all princes in what they do...and every bright light i get to work with rubs off on me...and of coarse..every old song teaches you new tricks...

Jel:Well 13 and god is the Notwist and Themselves...and i think that it's an even amount of both as a whole. But they definitely approach music from a different angle than dose, dax and I. I became more familiar with the "brothers" process and from my view, it was much more controlled than what i'm used to , but i do definitely think that was needed on our end.

Markus: For me personally, there was the possibility to work with different structures, than the verse/chorus-structures we use with the Notwist normally. That was something really new and inspiring to me. I think 13&god has its own special energy and language, but were just at the beginning.

Was 13 & God a one-off project, or will there be more?

Doseone: We will be touring the europe and the u.s. in june and september respectivly... and yes we will begin recording our next record after the next subtle and notwist records are recorded... we are a group proper...as they say in the streets...

Markus: There will be more. We just did one new song for this tour and will record it very soon.

Jel: stay tuned..........

(For more on the plight of Dax Pierson, visit his website, www.daxpierson.com.)

No comments: