SEARCHING FOR CHET BAKER: Thanks for doing the interview Kyle, and I wanted to start off by asking you what got you into music? How far back was it when you discovered not only that you had an interest in doing music, but that you had talent for it?
KYLE MURDOCK: I grew up around music mainly via radio, my late uncle was a local radio disc jockey... he was my favorite uncle and every time I went over his house I would literally camp out and get lost in his lounge where he kept all his vinyl. That coupled with my love of hip-hop and wanting to try my hand at making it, started when i was in high school. I bought some equipment and had no clue what to do, but trial by fire... lol. Also, I was so annoyed with the prevalence of the Southern Master P music when I was in college that I said I'm gonna make some stuff I like that gets me back in the Native Tongue vein... and BAM, the rest is history!
SFCB: The first time I came across your work was when I first heard CrossRhodes' track "3 Sides" off of The Invitation. How did that whole CrossRhodes project come about, and how did you end up hooking up with W. Ellington Felton and Raheem DeVaughn?
KM: Funny story about that song, it was actually produced by Kev Brown, who is another dope DC area based producer/emcee. I mixed the song and produced the majority of both CrossRhodes projects but i def wanna make sure i give proper credits that song is a classic to me! I linked with Ellington and Raheem through a mutual friend whom I worked with at XM radio, which is where all those CrossRhodes sessions were recorded in the still of the night, lol. It was a very dope time to make music as it was before record deals and stuff and creatively those guys were so out the box, they helped me become as eclectic as I am musically.
SFCB: If you can, tell us about the Raheem situation, and how his signing to a label affected the CrossRhodes second album. I remember reading something about how because of the label situation, he used the name "Chronkite" on "The Invitation" album. What's the story with that?
KM: Yeah, Chronkite is Raheem's alias he uses to still record, but without the jive of Jive records stopping him! We even did a show back in 2004 where Raheem had someone dress up like Chronkite to make it seem like itwas 2 different people, it was brilliant! That dude is an amazing artist, he never writes anything down, kinda like Jay-Z's infamous "rain man" rap style, its just channeled and sung live, its amazing to witness actually. To me, Chronkite is like L.A. producer/emcee Madlib's character "Quasimoto". we know its really Madlib rhyming with his voice effected but the character has a personality of his own too!
SFCB: I noticed after listening to the first CrossRhodes album, "Limited Budget, Unlimited Quality" that when I started listening to the second album "The Invitation" that it was a bit different. It wasn't strict neo-soul/R&B in the way that the first one was. Was that a conscious decision to try something new?
KM: Yep! Again Ellington and Raheem pushed thinking outside the box, and that album definitely helped push me and my production as they were picking beats I never thought they'd like and it came out dope, I think shedding the "neo-soul" stigma was big too, so that factored in.
SFCB: I remember a great quote from DMX when his second album "Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood" was coming out, and I don't remember where it was, perhaps an MTV interview, but he was talking about how it was important not to do the same thing again and again. And I think that it's very easy for artists to fall back on what has succeeded in the past.
You take some artists who's music sounds very similar from album to album to album and it's hard to see where the growth is there, you know? Obviously fans want to hear that thing that they like about an artist, and there's a risk of alienating the fans that got you to where you are, however, there's something to be said about taking risks and trying something new.
KM: Its tough not to fall back on what makes people like you... but I think I would much rather have people like me as a producer and for just what I produce, that way they are more open to journey with you as an artist and not just for an album. But I do realize people like what they like, so some stuff gels better than others. Thankfully, for the most part with my own music, I have had people follow all my stuff, both hip-hop and the soul and beyond... and I'm thankful for that.
PANACEA - POPS SAID (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
SFCB: Talk about your group "Panacea". I understand you just released an EP.
KM: Panacea is a 2 man group, we hail from the DC area but Raw Poetic, the emcee, is originally from Philly and I am from Maryland. We met 6 years back through a mutual friend, and started recording a side project. For me it was a break from the CrossRhodes, and Raw Poetic had been working with his own live hip-hop group RPM, but the side project quickly became the main one as we got offered a record deal via Myspace and eventually signed with Rawkus Records in joint deal with a smaller label called Glow in the Dark Records in 2006.
It was a dream come true as we were on the label that helped sire the careers of Talib Kweli and Mos Def amongst others. We have 4 full length albums out, all on Itunes and the Internet. Plus, we just dropped this free EP "Corkscrew Gaps" as a way to say thanks to fans for supporting us, and to get the buzz heavy as we prepare to drop our 5th studio album top of the year!
SFCB: In addition to your music projects, you're also doing a show on XM Radio, right? Tell us about that.
KM: My show on XM is actually how many other artists know me, not so much as a producer myself but as a radio host on Sirius XM's "Subsoniq" show. Its crazy because it's like I got two separate lives, but this past year I made a concerted effort to just be "K-Murdock" and not "Doc" on Subsoniq as to make sure people know, lol.
The show has been running for 8 years strong and helped many indie progressive hip-hop artists to the nation. We are one of the last pillars on satellite radio that embodies what it was supposed to be about: revolutionary, creative radio, so im proud to be a part of this movement!
SFCB: Now you've been privy to both the DC hip Hop Scene and the LA hip hop scene. What would you classify as the major difference between the two? What do you like or dislike about the two scenes, and which do you prefer?
PANACEA - STARLITE (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
KM: Plain and simple from my observations, the west coast seems more unified, be it the progressive scene, the Hyphy scene in the Bay, or whatever. Here in DC, we got talent for days and even though a lot of artist are "friends", the unity Ii don't see it. People are very clicque-ish, which is natural, but it can be divisive too and even though you will find a good assortment of hip-hop events, it still seems disjointed at times. But there is talent galore here, believe it!
SFCB: There's been a lot in the news the past several years involving piracy. The RIAA is suing college kids and single mothers, and in some cases dead people. Some artists have come out against the RIAA such as Moby & Richard Marx in the wake of the multi-million dollar judgement against Jammie Thomas, while others are pro-RIAA. Where do you stand on this?
KM: I haven't made enough money off my own record sales to be too bothered by it, lol, but I wish people woudn't be so gung-ho on the piracy and peer2peer stuff. I mean I do it too, so I wont be hypocritical BUT I also do support artists, especially if they make something worth supporting. As much as consumers have waned in their buying for a number of reasons, mainly because its FREE on the internet, I also put some onus on the artists to really step up the quality level of music they release.
People screen music more than ever and a lot of it ain't passing inspection, so I feel like if something is solid, I'm gonna buy it, even if I know I can get a promo copy through my radio connects or a rapport with the artist. I guess that's why we made our EP free. People have loved it and i hope they'll BUY when the album drops since they'll have seen that we put out quality. I guess there's no real solid reason people do it, maybe because it's conveniently there, but as an artist I'm not against it!
SFCB: Years back I used to be a mad fiend for downloading music. I was grabbing any and everything, just because I had the hard drive space. Then I realized that I wasn't even listening to a lot of it. It was just sitting there. It was essentially me getting it to say I had it. And somewhere along the line I think we lose out on the joy that is discovering music.
When I first got into hip hop and discovered mixtapes, it was incredible, the feeling that I'd get when I'd see something new. In Charlottesville, Virginia where I moved after graduating high school, there was this guy that would bring his mixtape box down to the downtown mall and he would set up shop there with bootleg clothes and hats and whatnot.
And I'd look at the tapes which were A. TAPES back then, and B. no real cover art. Just a construction paper with the tracks written or typed on it. And it was a thing of beauty. I'd see all these songs from artists and be like "what? They got a new song out? They did a song with THEM? Oh that's hot!"
Now though, with the internet having been a blessing AND a curse, we get everything instantaneously. There's no waiting, there's no situation where a kid in Ohio sees a tape and was like "oh man, I didn't even know they had something out". It's on all the blogs and all the forums almost immediately, and there's an oversaturation. Hip Hop news is overflowing, and we know immediately who's rumored to be working with who, so there's no surprise anymore to find a tape that has a half a dozen songs you didn't even know about. Now the blogs have everything, and rarely does a mixtape come out that has anything that no one has heard before.
Now everything's mp3, and it's almost like the joy isn't there. There's no going to the store and deciding what to spend your 15 bucks on, and then the anticipation of getting it home and listening to it in your room. Everything's now now now, and with a fast enough connection you can have a brand new album in less than 10 minutes.
There's no more anticipation or surprise or joy to it. Have you had that same feeling?
KM: I was the same way, i used to get these DJ Precise mixtapes when i go shopping at this huge outlet mall in Virginia called Potomac Mills, and it had exclusives galore, remixes I ain't know existed, I was in hip-hop heaven and indeed it was on high-bias 90 min long Maxells! These days, it is too instant, the searching element is dwindled down to checking ya google reader's new updates from ya favorite blogs, which is cool but yeah those days are long gone! Even crate diggin is digi-surfing with some younger producers i know just trolling the internet for samples and not going to a real store and rummaging through vinyl for an afternoon.... ... the good ol days!
SFCB: You sell your own music through an online store on your website called Bandcamp. Several artists have gone the route of selling their music exclusively online, although it's usually a single album. Artists like Nine Inch Nails and Saul Williams have done this, where they essentially say "set your price. how much is this worth to you?" And I've seen that you've offered some of your music up for free, as well as charging for other material.
Do you envision that this is where the music industry is headed? To where there's no more jewel cases, no more printed artwork, it's an mp3 folder with a jpg?
KM: Yes I do, I think it'll become more incentive based, and artists gotta start getting creative in how they promo their stuff and get it to people. It's still a struggle to do it that way but at least you see more profit and the people feel like they are supporting you more directly! Bandcamp may just single-handedly save my music career as I wasn't sure how to get the stuff out the people effectively minus the record label ya know.... its a Godsend and I know more sites like that will be coming out to help as well!
SFCB: I understand you're a big gamer. What's your console of choice? What are some of your favorite games?
KM: The last 2 years, it was almost exclusively Xbox 360, however I bought a Ps3 a couple months back and am all about it now. the games I play the most are RPGs, games like Zelda, Final Fantasy, etc. I also like anything with stealth and ninja, lol... Eastern lore fascinates me big time. I'm also a big fan of the new Madden game, You can find me playing as the Bears when I'm on. Oh yeah, I'm actually doing an album that pays homage to the classic Nintendo systems with an emcee from Arizona named Random, we call it "Forever Famicom", it'll be out next year!
SFCB: I just picked up a PS3 Slim (after having a PS3 for about a year and a half, and there's no way I can see ever going to Xbox after seeing the PS3. I mean you got Uncharted 2 which is, I think, the closest to a cinematic achievement in video games as I've ever seen. You have God of War III coming out in March, plus the original God of War 1 & 2 being upgraded to HD and added trophy support on a single bluray disc coming next month. Throw in the Ratchet & Clank series, and numerous others, and the Ps3 seems to be the way to go.
Now if they could just make them region free so I can enjoy my import dvds from Japan or Korea, we'll be in business! I'm sure you would love to be able to rock your Anime dvds on the PS3, though. Are any of them non-Region 1 or 0?
KM: Yeah man, PS3 is ruining my life, I find myself on it too much these and not in my studio, lol... but yeah I love it, and I love my xbox but Sony has always been winning. My favorite game of all time, Final Fantasy 7, dropped on PS One and changed my life. I became an instant hermit my freshman year of college! I miss those days. And yeah, I used to import many DVDs from overseas, but now actually wait to by the region 1 US ones because even though I hate English dubs, I cant trust some overseas dvds. I have gotten burned a few times! lol.
SFCB: From what I hear you're also a fan of Japanese Anime. When did you first discover Anime and what are some of your favorites?
KM: Guilty as charged. Like I said, I like ninjas, samurai, etc... but Eastern philosophy is just like my thing, I totally dig it. The code of the Samurai and being loyal, almost to a fault, its very interesting. Also, the style of art in Japanime to me is far superior to the Western style, it has an air of mysticism to it. The anime and video games really inspire me musically, plus I am not always the most social dude, so being holed up in my crib watching anime ain't bad to me!
SFCB: Aside from your own music, of course, what are some of your favorite albums regardless of genre?
KM: lol! Some of my favorite albums are Tribe Called Quest's "Midnight Marauders", De La Soul's "De La Soul Is Dead", "The Roots "Do You Want More?!?!?", The Flaming Lips, "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots", Vangelis' "Blade Runner" soundtrack, Quincy Jones' "Walking in space", Herbie Hancock's "Sunlight", Foreign Exchange's "Connected". I mean the list goes on. Oh yeah, there's this electronic group from the UK named Plaid. They scored of of my favorite anime movies from 2007 called "Tekkonkinkreet". I recommond anyone checking that out, it's dope!
SFCB: Some of the music that I really like are ones in which they meld together different genres into something that is unique. There's a band out of Finland named Apocalyptica, and they play heavy metal on Cellos. And that's just incredibly cool to me. And artists like Miri Ben Ari and Karen Briggs who bring the violin to Hip Hop, or Guru and Solar who have implemented live jazz to hip hop with their Jazzmatazz albums. I think that's highly creative, unfortunately too many people have closed off their minds to hearing something that doesn't fit into their preconceived notions of what they like. And don't think outside the box and strive to not just follow the beaten path, but to forge their own trail, you know?
KM: I agree, i think radio and tv help close those minds and ears... and its worse in this day and age if you exclusively follow those mediums because they kind of help make the scope myopic, but if the beauty of the internet is people can Google anything and there's probably something out there like it, its just a matter of being more adventurous. As I have gotten older, my thirst for wanting to hear more and expand my library has gotten me away from solely hip-hop listening, to now finally getting into the Beatles and Coltrane, etc. That also helps me as beatmaker because i can study these other genres and artist and maybe find something to apply to my own music, but that's never my cause, I just wanna be well versed.
SFCB: What were some of your early influences, musically?
KM: The Native Tongues, I always wanted Panacea to be in the crew, lol. I still hope to one day produce a song for De La Soul. We'll see. Of course Michael Jackson, man him not being here is unreal. I used to listen to a lot of RnB too, like Luther, Anita Baker, and Jeffrey Osborne as my mom was always playing it so it doesn't surprise me that I wind up getting into neo-soul myself!
SFCB: And finally, before we let you go, what projects are you working on for 2010?
KM: First and foremost is the NEW Panacea album "12 Step Program" dropping at the top of the year. Then I've got 2 side projects: the aforementioned "Forever Famicom" project with my man Random, then this album with a singer named "The Ebony Bed" and a Instrumental project called "Breaks, Rhythms & Loops" as well... just to name a few :)
SFCB: Thank you for your time.