INTRVW w/ Detroit’s COYOTE CLEAN UP
by August Smith
Coyote Clean Up is a Detroit-based producer who has been releasing consistently strange, hazy, wonky electronic music for the past few years now. His body of work is impressive, and I was psyched to have this opportunity to discuss an array of disparate topics with him, including his upcoming new LP 2 HOT 2 WAIT, which comes out April 30th from 100% Silk. You can listen to more of his work at his Soundcloud here, like his Facebook page here, and follow him on Twitter here. And below, stream two of the tracks from the upcoming new album!
You’re gearing up for the release of a new album. What are you looking forward to most about releasing new material? How does this new album differ from your past work?
2 HOT 2 WAIT is the first record I wrote strictly for 12″ vinyl. That’s been my dream since I was about 14. Took me a bit too long, but hey, that’s life! I want to tell everyone to only listen to it on vinyl but I guess with the internet it’s a little too late for that. I’ve been real nervous awaiting the release of this record until I got the test pressings – once I put them on the turntable and dropped the needle, it was a huge sigh of relief.
2 HOT 2 WAIT is definitely more “banging” than previous releases. I had this bigger and heavier sound banging around in my head when I wrote it, mainly to drown out some recent tragic events swirling around in my head. It might be my darkest record to date, but that sounds no fun, and people have already said it sounds like it might be the “perfect summer record” so forget the darkness, put it on, and jump in the pool!
You seem like a pretty prolific artist. Your last release under the Coyote Clean Up moniker was only last November, and already you’re gearing up for another LP release, and that’s not even scratching remixes and the side project. What fuels this creative drive and strong work ethic?
I think it’s just the straight up blue collar, midwestern, work ethic. I was born in Cleveland, OH and moved to Detroit area with my family in 1989. My mother’s father owned a machine shop in Ohio that a lot of my family, including my dad, worked at, and when it closed, my dad got job up in Detroit. He was in Vietnam, my mom was an art school drop out. She’s works really hard on various projects and finally started a small business that took of. I gravitated towards the arts because through my childhood I was always doing something creative with my parents. We got an Apple IIgs in the 80’s and I fell in love with the thing. I’m no programmer, I wanted to be an architect for a while, I’m terrible at math, I’ve got developed art skills, but music has spoken to me in ways nothing else have. So I look at music as work. If I’m going to make music, even if it’s weird, lo-fi, experimental, or leftfield, even I have terrible business skills and lack knowledge in many other areas in the musical world, I at least gotta break sweat and work as hard as I can doing what I know. It’s that blue collar drive. Always out-doing yourself.
My brother was in the US Navy and there was a slight drive by my dad for me to join the military but I was like “NO WAY” plus I damaged my back pretty badly playing hockey. I kind of felt like I let my dad down by not joining the military, so whatever I did, I had to try the hardest. Bad news is, my brother came back from the NAVY suffering with PTSD. He took his own life right before I wrote 2 HOT 2 WAIT. My heart crumbled. It was devastating but made me quickly realize that maybe I do have a musical gift, and music has brought so much joy into my life that I better work as hard as I can to share my possible gift with others. That was a very pivotal point in my music making journeys. I had been thinking about all the odd global weather pattern’s causing havoc (“global warming”) and the shortness of life. That’s where the title for the record came from.
Can you tell us a little bit about your side project JAQKQUIL and your collaboration with Ontario musician ECTOPLASM? How did that project come about?
Sam, ECTOPLASM, is this quiet kid from Ontario, who I think now lives in a village north of Toronto in an old house with his grandma who he takes care of. I’m a loner myself in a lot of ways and I think there’s something really neat that comes out the creativity of loners. I’ve been working with I Had An Accident for a while now – Julia and Justin. They just put out tons of tapes by all kinds of artists. They had gotten some really cool half black / half white tape cassettes and asked me if I wanted to do something. I have so much Coyote Clean Up stuff coming out I decided to take on my first “side-project” under the JAQKQUIL name. That name comes from an old song by my old band KALKASKA (in which I sang, played guitar, and did digital electronics on the original big bulbous iMacs). I set up some simple rules for the project where are: 1) none of my vocals 2) more variations in tempos (much like the earlier Coyote Clean Up work) and 3) work with cheeky female vocal samples that I wouldn’t use in a Coyote Clean Up track. I’m really happy with how it came out, the tape looks amazing, and I’ll do more of it in the future.
Coyote Clean Up- “AWESOME LUV”
Your music always sounded very “urban” to me. How has your environment (Detroit/ the Midwest/ the internet) affected your sound and aesthetic?
I grew up listening to loads of hip-hop and R&B. My mom bought me a Yo! MTV Raps tape compilation in 1989. I skateboarded when I was younger in the early 90’s there was such great hip-hop and the best of it was on skateboarding videos. Applying that to the street, literally, by skateboarding on the street, had a big influence on me. My friends were throwing raves in the late 90’s and I’d go to a few and they were the dirtiest, sketchiest, illegal parties ever. I moved to Chicago for a year in 2000-2001 and then back to Detroit where I lived in a small studio apartment by myself with no internet, no car, and just a land line. I didn’t have a TV and there was a gas station out my window so I’d always run to the window when I heard a car banging loud beats, and it would often be some cool Chevy or something. The music I was making then was real dub (traditional reggae-dub) influenced, with folk and ambient. Making music like that and living in such a grimy urban environment really started to bleed into my work in an interesting way. Detroit is also the Motor City, and everyone in the midwest knows you spend a lot of time on the road. Listening to music while driving is on my favorite things. That adds a real specific element which I think runs through the sounds of Detroit.
I’ve always thought your music is very colorful and imagistic. I like writing about your music because I can pile on fun adjectives. Intentional? How do you evoke this sensation?
I’m a visual artist as well, and I create lots of colorful abstract paintings. I take loads of photos, I wrote graffiti for a while, I draw, I make weird videos, sculptures, odd digital art, and I never really draw strict divisions between the art forms I’m working with. All these different and colorful ideas get piled into my music and I believe that’s where the sensation erupts.
What’s it like working as an electronic musician in the birthplace of techno?
There’s load of inspiration, loads of history, huge shoes to fill and a drive to be constantly moving forward and outdoing yourself. You gotta do your time if you want to end up on map and I’m more than willing to do my time. It’s very humbling.
I often think your song titles are hilarious and intriguing. It comes off as a modern, internet-styled voice (ex. “SLO YR ROLL”, “I CANT TAKE THIS XXXX ANYMORE DOGGIE”, “IS IT KWL”). Any particular method or reasoning behind your song titles? Why the “all caps”?
I’ll let you in on a little secret, way before texting abbreviations, Prince was writing tracks with titles like “JACK U OFF”, “WHEN 2 R IN LOVE”, “I NO”, and “NOTHING COMPARES 2 U”. The originator! In the 80’s my mom once told me “Prince is sooooo cool,” and I stand by her statement. The X’s were this playful, sort of punk rock thing, my friend Rachel and I were using to chat to each other in code for a while. She designed a font for computers where every vowel is replaced with an X. Words games. I’ve always written poetry, visual poems, abstract poems, tone poems, and it’s all a play off that.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
That’s a loaded question because I have so many. The first artist that I really felt dove into my soul, as a child, was Sade. No explanation needed there, she’s the deepest. Lots of the early 90’s hip-hop and R&B with really catchy melodies and soulful vibes hit me hard. 90’s Riot Grrrl, post-punk, and lots of band from the Pacific Northwest had a great impact on me due to it’s urgency, ethics, and emotion. Shoegaze and a lot of the trip-hop stuff from the UK always struck a chord with me due to the dreamy and very human melodies. Love Morrissey. Traditional dub reggae, especially an artist named Hugh Mundell, had a huge impact on me. I loved the Two-Toned era stuff such as the Specials. The bulk of my record collection revolves around 90’s experimental music, from Chicago related to the Tortoise camp and Germany. Jim O’Rourke, Bundy K Brown, Rob Mazurek, etc. They were way ahead of the remix game. I always loved Oval, Mouse on Mars, and their related projects. I was always a big Thomas Brinkmann fan which lead me to the more 4/4 techno influences. I love all kinds of chill out tunes. Look up a track called “Life’s A Gas” by Love Inc. That’s a landmark.
Love Inc. – “Life’s A Gas”
What have you been drawing inspiration from lately?
Rediscovering old records, discovering new records, anything, and everything. I’m a fiend for music I haven’t heard before. I have really been enjoying listening to NTS Radio… broadcasted out of London. You can listen to it online at http://ntslive.co.uk/ They also archive all their shows. An artist I greatly admire, Lukid, has a new radio show that I think is just amazing. He blends all kinds of genre’s together in a real hazy, organic, messed up, ambient, loose kinda way. I love that.
Any Detroit or Midwest musicians/labels that we should definitely check out?
MGUN has been putting out some amazing dirty “techno” records. Phantasmagoria are an amazing duo who are also amazing live. Poppy electronica with live drums and with great vocals and a real forward thinking approach. I love them. Full Frontal / Tin Window from Ypsilanti are also doing really amazing work, very trippy hazy electronics. My friends Jamaican Queens, of course. Terrence Dixon has some really cool new work out, very challenging experimental techno, if you will. If you’ve never heard Moodymann, aka KDJ, look him up… that’s some real Detroit House. Oblisk is a great band in a dark kind of shoegaze vibe. Dead Pool and Moon Band is a great duo, with Nate Young from Wolf Eyes and David Shettler. I’ve been friends with David since I was a kid. He’s currently on tour with Rodriguez playing drums for him! Amazing, I must say.
Coyote Clean Up- “THE LEAST U COULD FEEL”
Did you see Spring Breakers? (I feel like your music would somehow fit in with it.)
I didn’t see Spring Breaks and I probably won’t because it looks like something that would give me an anxiety attack. Vanessa Hudgens and Gucci Mane seem kind of interesting but I don’t know much about them. I like a lot of Gucci’s songs but I don’t think he raps in the movie, does he? James Franco plays a character based off Riff Raff… I saw Riff Raff last summer live and it was pretty enjoyable so I’m not sure I can bare to see someone trying to portray him. I have mixed feelings on Harmony Korine. Some of his interviews are pretty funny, I read this one where he said he was playing basketball everyday and learning to jump higher. I try to jump higher all the time so I thank him for that inspiration, but it’s obvious he’s trying to shock and troll the film industry… and his trolling attempts aren’t really my thing. It’s 2013 and trolling is as it’s worst due to the internet. You gotta think of something new. When KIDS came out in 1995 I thought it was really going to be a movie that spoke to me because I was a little skateboarder like the kids in the movie. The soundtrack was and still is amazing. Folk Implosion’s “One Natural One” into that spooky hip-hop track. Then I finally saw the movie and couldn’t have been more disappointed. “Skateboaders are stupid”, was that the message of the movie? “Skateboards beat people up on the street with their skateboards for no reason.” Great message!
Did Roger Ebert write a review of the movie before he passed away? I don’t think he did. A friend of mine recently said “I have no idea what to think about movies now that Roger Ebert is gone.” I thought that was interesting. When I lived in Chicago, in my darkest hour, I ran into Roger Ebert in the frozen food section of Whole Foods. He was reading the the ingredients on the back of a frozen food item with the most serious critical gaze in his eyes. Something about it made my day. I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t think I know what to think of most films in general so I try to avoid them.