Mad Rad - Sound In The Signals Interview

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The new album The Youth Die Young is your second album. Your group has had a big year this year and the hype has really been building. Are you excited to be going into the new year with a new album? Can you tell me a little about how you recorded this album? Where did you record it at and what were some of the influences lyrically?

P Smoov: We are very excited to head into 2011 with TYDY. I am very proud of this piece of work. We recorded the album at my studio (The Robot Room). The studio was in Ravenna during the early part of making this album and then re-located to Belltown. The sessions consisted a lot of Buffalo Madonna and I locking ourselves in the studio for 4-8hr chunks. I would start a beat and as the parts developed we would start conceptualizing lyrically on where we wanted the song to go. It's a very collaborative process that involves more than just writing a dope beat and spitting a hot 16.

Radjaw: Having this record come out at this time is a really great feeling. After a tumultuous year or two, it is good to see a lot of our hard work come into fruition. For us, our new year begins Nov 30th and we are excited to push forward into the turn of 2011. Working with P and Buff is an absolute blessing. They really motivated me to get in the studio and work on songs even if I wasn't feeling music at the time. I feel we all help each other achieve the best of who we are as humans and musicians. A lot of our daily lifestyles, heartbreaks, and loves were major influences in the music.

I was talking to P Smoov last year around this time and he was telling me a little about the ideas he had for a new Mad Rad record. This new album really is one of the better ones I’ve heard this year. What types of things did you want to make sure you did this time around as a group? What do you think your biggest accomplishment on the album is?

P Smoov: I don't think we had any preconceived ideas about where we wanted to go as a group with this album, or what kind of sound we wanted to achieve when we started making it. It just seemed like the natural next step. My production was growing more complex and I was influenced by different sounds this time around. Our lyrics matured a bit because we as humans matured. I feel like my biggest accomplishment on this album was making beats that make you want to move, yet still had emotional content, and lots of different parts instead of loops.

Radjaw: With the new record, we wanted to make music that was smarter yet still danceable. A lot of people focus on how great we are as a live show, and bringing attention to the studio aspect of our record was equally important. We wrote songs with passion. Having Peter as a backbone of the production really helped throughout the creative process.

The title “The Youth Die Young” is a really interesting title and I thought it sounded cool when you released what it would be. Why did you go with the title and what is some of the meaning behind that title?

Radjaw: We felt it was the most powerful title we had out of the few options we had. "The Youth Die Young" can be interpreted in many ways and wanted to set some intrigue in other's minds about it. For us, keeping a theme of "You only live once." reoccurs throughout the album. If you don't live your life to the fullest, then you are dying young. Life's rewards and regrets should both be embraced without question. The minute you stop living your life is the exact same minute you die, young or old.

Stylistically people are always trying to say you are a rap group and I’ve heard the word hipster rap thrown around some. Truthfully though when you listen to Mad Rad saying you’re a hip hop group is kind of not exactly true because the new album has a lot of rock influences as well as poppier melodies. To people who pigeon whole your music as just rap how would describe your sound?

Radjaw: People are going to classify and judge things as they see fit regardless of what you call it. Our sound is smart electronic dance rap singing with a purpose. It's kind of like an orgy between LCD Soundsystem, David Byrne, and the Beastie Boys. Kind of gross if you picture that orgy, but none the less, sounds great!

P: I think when people hear this album they will have a hard time classifying it as "rap" or "hip hop". There is really very little traditional hip hop in there. Almost all of our beats on this record are at or above 120 bpm, with more influences coming from Dance, or Electronica than any other genre. We don't really care what genre people classify it as, as long as it affects them in some way.

The production/beats/instrumentation on the new album really stands out. It shows a lot of growth from the previous record and it always keep the listener guessing where the song will go next. What went into getting the beats/instrumentation together for this record? What song came together the easiest and what song took you guys a while to finish?

Radjaw: P?
P: The beats on this album didn't just happen in one sitting. I would add a new part here, or a breakdown there during all stages of production. The song "Jungle Cat" was added at the 11th hour (we completed this song relatively quickly) and it replaced a song that had been a part of the original playlist , "Electric Jesus" for a long time. We had been working on EJ for a long time but there was something that just didn't seem to work about it, so even though we had worked long and hard on the tune it didn't make the final cut. The melody for "I Want Your Blood", Buffalo and I wrote together in the in the green room at The Wild Buffalo in Bellingham, WA. Also adding live instrumentation (Benjamin Verdoes of Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, Sam Anderson of KK and his weathered underground, and Trent Moorman of Head like a Kite and Fresh Espresso) to this project added an "organic" appeal to the overall soundscape of the album. The beats on this album are definitely some of my most complex work, and some of my favorite beats I have ever made.

Stephen Gray I believe is working on “The Machine” video for the new album. Can you tell our readers about the concept of the video and when fans should expect to see it?

Radjaw: He has worked on numerous videos in Seattle and we are excited to be working with him again. The concept of the video is a play on how everything around us is working with us and against us. Everything is fueling this bigger "machine" and everything has its place. I don't want to get into too much detail about it, because I think it's going to be most epic. We are hoping to release it early 2011.

P: Here is a link to Stephan Gray's other video work: http://vimeo.com/graymatter

I think this album would sound great on vinyl. Do you have any plans for a possible vinyl release with the new album? What do you think about vinyl making such a big return to the music scene?

Radjaw: Vinyl is great and having it prominent in the music scene again is a blessing. We all have our vinyl collections, and love seeing newer shit come out as a pressing. A vinyl record is something we definitely considered putting out and something we definitely will touch on again after the CD/Web release of our record. I really like R & B maxi singles from the 90's and would love to put together something in that vain.

Anyone who’s been to your show or scene footage from shows knows that you guys give it your all on stage. How do you guys keep the energy up and what is it about stepping out on that stage and being a part of Mad Rad that really amps up not only yourselves but also the people at the shows?

Radjaw: For me, it's the only time I have in my life where I don't have one single stress. I go out there and I am just ready. My eyes roll up in the back of my head, my feet lift up off of the ground 3 inches, and I just float around with giant smile on my face. A lot of the energy I get is created with the rest of the group, it is very natural. The crowd definitely helps maintain the high level of intensity. When I am giving you my all as a performer, I expect my audience to give me their all as a listener. Once that happens, the bounce back of emotion and energy is endless.

P: Being in Mad Rad I get to share the stage with some of my favorite performers i have ever seen: Buffalo Madonna, Terry Radjaw, and Darwin. It really doesn't get much better than that. There is no shortage of excess energy when you're on stage with those fools.

Last year I felt like Seattle had this really big scene that was kind of building up like the Chicago scene had been a few years ago. A lot of the artists in Seattle still haven’t broken out big time, but we’re starting to see that breakout now with a lot of artists being recognized by national media and albums coming out by artists that are getting really positive reviews. What do you think is so special about the scene in Seattle right now? What is a group you guys really like that haven’t reached that level to were people are aware of them outside of Seattle?

Radjaw: Seattle is so special because there is so much really good music and it has a scene to thrive in. Coming from the East Coast, I've never seen so much music in one city be embraced as it is. To be able to sustain that, I think is a beautiful thing. I love how many great friends I have met because of this music regardless of what type of music we make. It's great to have differences and I'm glad we are a part of it. As far as breaking out I'd love to see Beat Connection get more attention. I am also very excited for the OC Notes/Rik Rude project Metal Chocolates. I think it's a record that needs to be shared with the world.

p: I'd like to see Fresh Espresso break out. ha

I don’t want to ask too many questions about Fresh Espresso, for those who don’t know this is PSmoov’s other project. I saw on twitter where a question was posted: What should we call our new album? When do you think people can expect to hear a new Fresh Espresso record?

Radjaw: I think they should call it "Monster" or "Fresh Espresso Is The Best". I'd guess to say it'd be done in Spring of 2011, and for now you can hear a lot of the new music at Fresh shows.

P: We're aiming for spring. The new album is a beast! I am really excited to get it out. Rik and I are whole new monsters on this one.

I guess that about wraps it up. Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have any closing comments?

p: You only live once.

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