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April 3, 2008
Electronic producers and hip-hop beat makers are a dime a dozen. I'm not talking about the really great ones - you know who you are - but the average to good ones. However, what about the artists inhabiting the space where the exhausted creative outlets of electronic music and hip-hop intersect? That stylistic crossing point is a musical subgenre that is far less explored than either of its parents, and is especially untread by knob tweakers who actually know what they are doing. Any stooge can make a banger, few can make an album that sincerely holds.

Eliot Lipp, 27, first broke the scene in 2004 with an eponymous album for Eastern Development, the label helmed by Scott Herren (aka Prefuse 73), and promptly distinguished himself with a fresh take on electronically-tinged hip-hop grooves. Since then Lipp has stayed under the radar, in part by modestly keeping his nose to the grindstone, and in some measure by his Kerouacian restlessness, having explored five different cities since turning 18. His method of songwriting has progressed through different textural stages, yet has always managed to adhere to the purity of the infectious sampled beat. While maintaining that low profile, Lipp has quietly assembed four full-length albums, three of them already released, and all of which have utilized signature breakbeats as if they were just discovered, and to great success. But Lipp is more than just BPMs and bass cut-ups - he can layer a clever, catchy synthesizer melody like nobody's business, on par with the artistic company he now keeps; Dabrye, Daedelus, and Prefuse 73.

April 8th marks the release of Lipp's fourth and current full length, The Outside, this time via Mush Records, the Los Angeles-based purveyors of cuts from Daedelus, Boom Bip, Aesop Rock, cLOUDDEAD, Labtekwon and others. I recently caught up with Lipp to talk about the evolution of his sound, the progression of his address, and laser light shows.

---


LAS: I'm sure you know the locale question is coming: It's been reported that in your life you've moved around, from Tacoma to San Francisco to Chicago to Los Angeles to New York City. I read a Textura interview in which you said that you moved to L.A. because you knew there were more opportunities there for you, but you also didn't see yourself residing there forever. Is that the same type of reason that you are now in NYC?

Lipp: I moved to New York just because I loved it so much after my first couple visits. There is definitely a lot going on here as well. I love what the people at EastVillageRadio are up to, and Jimmy Edgar and MachineDrum are out here playing all the time. I'm especially excited about the Low End Theory monthly that just started. It's every first Saturday at the Knitting Factory, and I'm the resident DJ. Daddy Kev has been doing Low End every week in L.A. for a few years and now they have a residency in New York and are flying out artists from L.A. every month for this party. The first one was amazing and it's only gonna get better.

You've also spoken of a "long list of places" that you wanted to eventually live in. What other cities have made the cut, and is there an ideal spot that you might find yourself settling in?

Well, I really like Berlin. I could live there one day but I would probably get sick of techno at some point. Rome would be cool too, but it's crazy there. I really feel at home in New York, so I'll have to stay for a while.

Do you find the music you create to have any recognizably different moods or traits depending on the city in which it is made?

For sure! I'd say my main inspiration in music comes from my environment.

I think style and fashion influence me quite a bit. I'll see someone dressed in a unique way and I'll want to make a little soundtrack for them. I go to art museums sometimes too and that always helps me get ideas, especially about ways to combine different styles from different eras to make a brand new sound. I like the MET [New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art] a lot. Some of the stuff they have there is so old, but it will blow your mind.

Similarly nomadic, you have had releases on a few different music labels - Eastern Development, Hefty, Metatronix, and now Mush. Is there a method or advantage to putting out music with a bevy of different record companies? Paralleling the geographic line of questioning, is there any label imprint that you are ultimately aiming to settle down with?

It seems harder and harder to run a label these days, so settling down is hard to do when so many record companies are calling it quits. Also I feel like I'm still trying to find my niche - my music doesn't fit too well into any category and maybe that makes it harder sell or something.

In the past, some have tagged your style as "instrumental" or "electronic" hip-hop. Regardless of how it is classified, it can best be described by your blend of funky, sampled breakbeats with sharp, composed synthesizer melodies. In listening to The Outside, it seems as though you are painting with a more stylized brush stroke, though - guitar and piano samples ("The Area"), 808 ("Beyond The City") and heavily distorted beats ("Baby Tank"), as well as vocal melodies (albeit sampled, in "Beyond The City" and "7 Mile Tunnel"). What has been the creative concept behind The Outside? Were there any new factors that were especially influential throughout your writing process?

I bought a little microphone and took walks around New York recording sounds from the city every night while making The Outside. I use some of those samples for drum sounds and transitions between songs throughout the album. There's even an interlude that is made entirely of field recordings from the city.

What made you decide to use average city sounds as part of the album?

I wouldn't say I used "average city sounds." I recorded hours and hours of material and searched for sounds that I thought were interesting. Listen to track nine ["The Meaning"] -- that's made from nothing but field recordings, and it sounds awesome! Everybody is always listening to the iPod on the train and blocking out all the racket, so it is cool to put that back into the music but in a way that sounds good.

I like to create a space for the music to exist in as well. The ambiance of the city kind of sets a stage for the song.

Much is made of the Sequential Circuits and Korg MS-20 synthesizers that you use. Do you have any formal training with these or any other piano-family instruments? Do you think that these specific synths in any way define your overall stylistic nature?

My mom played piano in church and we had one at the house. She started teaching me to play when I was about 10 years old. I think it's very different playing synthesizers, but my piano training definitely plays a role in what I do now.

The Sequential Circuits and Korg MS-20 were the first analog synths I owned and they both have such a nice sound. I play them a lot on my first few records, but I've had to branch out since then. Now I've got a big collection of vintage synths and drum machines. I try playing VSTs and plug-ins, but I still think they all kind of suck.

Some artists who may be considered contemporaries to yours - Dabrye, Prefuse 73, Slicker - have at one time or another dabbled with using MCs over the top of their work, yet you haven't to a great extent. Is there a reason for this?

For the most part I just like to make instrumental music. Sometimes vocals tend to politicize the music. I try to put a lot of emotion into what I make; I don't really want a "message" in it.

If you had your pick of five MCs to work with, who would pick, and why?

Pep Love from Heiro, he has such a dope West Coast style and a good voice too. He pulls off the positive thing, too, but without being corny.

Elzi from Slum Village, probably one of the most underrated rappers around right now. His delivery and his content on the Witness My Growth mixtape is so powerful, it's like a Tupac record or something.

Cool Breeze from Dungeon Family, he's got so much style. He's a slang innovator too. And I'm pretty sure he was the first to call it the "dirty South."

The Grouch, when I was about 17 I discovered his first album and I've been a fan ever since. He doesn't waste a word.

Amerie, I bet her and I could make a dope song together.

What about if you had your choice of five dope soundmakers to remix your shit. Again who would you pick and why?

Isolee, he finds ways to hide super complex melodies in his music. His attention to detail is pretty awesome.

Pete Rock, he's one of the best producers out there. Even after being ripped off repeatedly he always sounds original.

Black Milk, I've been a big fan of this dude for a few years. I would love to hear him put that Detroit swagger into one of my beats.

Autechre, these guys have consistently blown my mind with every release since I discovered them. I've never really wanted to sound like them just because it seems impossible to even come close.

Ceephax, this dude is just nuts!

What are some non-musical elements that influence your daily life and the methods in which you write music? Are you a sneaker freak? A sports nut? Religious zealot!!??

I like drawing and painting. I like clothes and shoes but I'm not, like, crazy about shoes. I have some Italian horror movies. And I like going on walks. New York is a fun city.

What is the bigger picture that you are hoping to achieve through the current grind of the musician's lifestyle?

I would just like to continue what I'm up to. I'm really happy with how things are right now. I would like to add a laser light show to my live set at some point too.

You'll have to further explain this laser light show. What's all involved?

It's mostly my dad that wants it. He even made up a PDF document that breaks down the prices off all the equipment involved in putting together a laser show. I guess he was always let down by the content in the designs at laser shows, and he wants me to make some badass patterns and drawings to shoot out of the lasers. Instead of like, peace signs and hearts and stuff. I think it will be awesome but I need to save up some cash first.

SEE ALSO: www.eliotlipp.net
SEE ALSO: www.mushrecords.com
SEE ALSO: www.heftyrecords.com
SEE ALSO: www.easterndevelopments.com

--
Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other articles by Josh Zanger.

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