Kill The Vultures

HHC: In 1999 Oddjobs released its first album: "Conflict And Compromise". How many copies of this album were pressed ?

Crescent Moon: Like a thousand, probably.

Anatomy: We were 15 years old and we sold them just around town.

HHC: It's hard to find the album even in MP3! So I guess there is no chance of the album being reedited ?

CM: No I hope not! (laughs)

A: It's very immature; it's pretty bad I think.

HHC: In 2001, you announced a CMI (Cases Of Mistaken Identity) album that never came out, why ?

A: In 2001 we made "Drums" as Oddjobs. Originally CMI was the name of a larger group of people that we were in, there were graffiti writers and break dancers. It was this collective. At the time for Oddjobs there were not very many of us and we were going to do an Oddjobs album and a CMI album. And then we just ended CMI and a couple of people... well, one of the people from CMI came in to join Oddjobs and we just continued as Oddjobs. CMI was like high school crew.

CM: Oddjobs was basically everyone who was serious enough to want to continue music after high school.

A: Everyone else got into other weird shit. (laughs)

HHC: Why did Oddjobs disband after "Expose Negative" ?

A: "Expose Negative" was actually made by the other producer (cf.: Deetalx) and he was producing that and I was producing the Kill The Vultures album. And before that we had both worked on the Oddjobs stuff, it was the first time we were making separate music. Usually he and I collaborated on everything. As I was starting to make this other stuff and he was making one thing, we all sort of agreed that we really liked the direction of the Kill The Vultures material and that it was far more representative of what we wanted to be making, so we just decided to focus entirely on that.

HHC: But why exactly didn't you (Anatomy) produce any tracks on "Expose Negative" ?

A: Basically it's because I was working on the Kill The Vultures material at that time. Both me and the other producer had completely different musical visions at that time, I wanted to make something that was really minimalist, trashy and noisy; but he wanted to make a more high quality hip-hop album. So we had different ideas.

HHC: How come Nomi and Advizer don't appear on "The Careless Flame" ?

CM: Neither Advizer nor Nomi live in the same city as us. So basically they are busy with their own lives. Nomi has a group, Power Struggle, all of his creative energy goes into that. Advizer is in school full-time, he's about to become a doctor; he's a professor at University in Chicago. So they just don't have time to record.

HHC: Ok, but are they still members of the group ?

A: It's like an extended family, but Alexei and I do most of the recording. The new album is just Alexei and I, but when they are in town we record and probably will put out singles and stuff like that. The stuff we do with them is a little bit more... The stuff we've been doing with them is a bit more punk-oriented, whereas the stuff we do without them is more hip-hop/jazz.

HHC: If you had to describe the Kill The Vultures sound in a few words to those who don't know your music yet, what would you say ?

A: I would say "urban noir", it's ritualistic.

CM: In a general sense I always just say it's experimental hip-hop because it's the easier way to not have to go into great detail; but I like "urban noir", like a kind of crime narrative, especially with the new album, that is more of a detailed description of what it is.

A: Probably a lot more minimalist jazz influences, I think it's probably a constant part of it.

HHC: Jazz is predominant in the Kill The Vultures sound, can you gives us the name of some of your favourite jazz artists or albums ?

A: That's interesting. Hmm... I'm trying to think of who really just blows me away... I think Thelonious Monk is one we always seem to bring up.

CM: The greats, of course, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, it's hard to name one without naming them all!

A: One thing I really like is just hearing jazz records, I don't always look for names and things, if I'm at a club or something and that someone is playing something, I like to make sure I can go and check out live music or hear things here and there. In the past few years I've been a lot more interested in just hearing sounds and music, as opposed to following groups, there really aren't a lot of group that I've been following closely, just the sound in general, I like hearing a saxophone here and a bass there...

HHC: The "Midnight Pine EP" has a much smoother sound with beautiful and calm jazz samples, compared to your two previous LP's where the sound is rougher. What was the idea behind this EP ? Can we expect similar, smoother sounds on your further projects or not ?

CM: I think the "Midnight Pine EP" was definitely a departure from the other records, they are obviously very different, and that was really more of a concept album, kind of a side project. Someone had approached us about doing a soundtrack, they just gave us some really loose themes, so we went ahead and made this record and honestly I don't know if we're doing anything quite as smooth as that but I think the new album has more in common with "Midnight Pine" than probably "The Careless Flame" or the self titled album. The new album is way more hip-hop and jazz and not so much like punk.

A: We kept some of the heavier elements of the older stuff and kind of focused on mixing those with some of the more complex jazz melodies; the drum beats are heavier and there's the hard hitting drums and stuff, so yeah, it's kind of a mix with some new elements thrown in. I think the big change that happened for the "Midnight Pine" is that we quit using electric guitars or any of that type of stuff, and we quit having as much ambient noises, this album is far more aggressive than "Midnight Pine" but more subdued, less trash at the same time.

HHC: Could you tell us about the current Minneapolis hip-hop scene ? Are there any artists like the Doomtree collective that we should start paying closer attention to ?

A: Yeah definitely Doomtree! The people in Doomtree and Big Quarters, and obviously Rhymesayers has a big impact. There's a lot of other stuff going on too.

CM: A lot of people migrated to Minneapolis from other Midwest cities and it wasn't like that when we were first coming up on the local scene, it was only people from Minneapolis and St Paul. But now it's like Rhymesayers has become a very established independent hip-hop label so now they put out MF Doom, they're going to put out an Abstract Rude record, they work with all types of people, it's hard to even think of it as a crew, I mean it is a crew but it's such an established label, I think of it first and foremost like it's a monument in Minneapolis. Doomtree, that's a crew, and then they all individually do their thing as well; as Anatomy said Big Quarters, they are a favourite of mine; Toki Wright is a solo emcee, he backs Brother Ali when he goes on tour. Those are some of the good ones.

HHC: What's on your playlist these days ? What was the last album that blew you away ?

A: I've been kind of impressed with the MGMT album, I think this stuff is kinda cool, like pretty pop music.

CM: I like the last Lil' Wayne album "The Carter III". The Portishead album is pretty dope. I'm a big Cat Power fan. I think I've been listening probably to older stuff, it's hard to keep up with all the new releases.

HHC: Like many other artists you have released some material exclusively for Japan. Do you notice a difference in the way your music is received in Japan, Europe or USA ?

A: As far as Japan is concerned, I honestly have no idea how it was received there because we've never toured there...

HHC: You released the "Fun Boy EP" exclusively for Japan...

A: It was sort of like a humour concept (laughs), we released that in Japan but as far as what people thought about it, I wasn't there on tour to hear from people, so I don't how they received it.

HHC: But you sold all the copies ?

A: Yeah we sold them all, so they must have liked it! As far as the difference between Europe and the US is concerned, to say how it was received, I don't know how it's different, there is definitely a big experimental music scene in Europe, in the US we're usually drawing more people like punk-hiphop-jazz, whereas here there's actually almost a genre of experimental music which encompasses a huge amount of stuff, there's a way to communicate that type of stuff. I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that there's more of an experimental scene here (laughs).

HHC: What equipment do you use for your production work ?

A: I use an MPC2000, Pro-Tools, we use some reel to reels, which is probably the only part that is really at all different, recording-wise. I think most people are using Pro-Tools now but we incorporate reel to reels into some of the recording stuff. There's some live instrumentation too.

HHC: How many vinyls do you own, are you a mad crate digger ?

A: Well I used to own a room, well a wall full of records (laughs), and I got rid of most of them and I kept my favourites hip-hop records so I have a handful and I particularly like records from the early 90's, some of the boom bap stuff. What I mostly do for records is I have friend who has a huge record collection, he's like a very serious collector and he lets me come and hang out at his house and flip through the records, it's like a library over there! (laughs) So I just borrow records and use them, but I don't own a lot anymore.

HHC: Crescent Moon, can you tell us about the group you created with your wife, Roma Di Luna ? What made you decide to make folks songs ?

CM: Bob Dylan! I got to a point where I was pretty much only listening to hip-hop for many years and then I heard a Bob Dylan record, it opened my ears and my eyes and made me realize that you can make really good music in many different styles. So I wanted to learn how to play guitar and I wanted to learn how to write songs like that, so I started messing around with that. And basically I ended up getting married to my girlfriend from high school a couple of years after that and she played violin, she'd been taking lessons since she was a kid, and we wanted to have something to do together so we just started playing, performing in little coffee shops around town as a duo. Usually we just cover old folk songs and sometimes we write our own stuff. Eventually we started recording and putting out CD's, we had friends that played other instruments and said " what if we added drums, what if we added bass, what if we added electric guitars!". Now with the full group, there are seven of us in total, but we still play just as a duo sometimes.

HHC: Roma Di Luna has not as yet been signed to a label. Do you want to keep this group with your wife as a "hobby" or is it a project that you aim to develop in the future and maybe get signed on a label ?

CM: It would be my dream to be able to just do music as a living, I mean that would be phenomenal. I guess in the meantime we have to make ends meet so we both work day jobs, so we haven't had the time to really get it out there, but in the meantime we've been just getting established, at least in the Twin Cities, and getting a good reputation there so it feels like it's still growing even though hardly anyone outside of the Twin Cities really knows who we are. But yeah, I think we're going to continue.

HHC: Your answer addresses part of my next question: do you still have "odd jobs" on top of making music ? Or do you live of your music nowadays ?

A: Ironically, we didn't have jobs when we were doing Oddjobs. Oddjobs was our job, and now we have odd jobs as day jobs (laughs). We no longer live off our music. We have to work to put food on the table, and I like cars too (laughs).

CM: Yeah, I've been painting houses for years, I do that a lot and I work as a cook at delis and cafés and stuff.

HHC: Crescent Moon, in an early 2006 interview I conducted with Buck 65, he told us that you were an artist to watch closely in coming years. You and him have a lot in common, and your careers have evolved in a similar manner, from hip-hop to folk. Do you know him well ?

CM: Yeah we're definitely friends, I don't keep in touch with him too much... I e-mail him now and then.

A: We toured with him with Oddjobs.

CM: Yeah, we had some shows back in the day. I've always admired his work and I've always been curious about what he puts out too.

A: I really like his stuff, it's really good.

HHC: Nomi is not here but do you know if there's any news on the Power Struggle album in progress ?

A: I don't know, I haven't talked to him for a little while. The last one came out not very long ago, so I would imagine that it will take him a little while to get the next one out.

HHC: But the album was released at the same period as the first Kill The Vultures album ?

A: Oh there is a second Power Struggle album (ndlr: "Hearts And Minds"), I don't think he had a label for it so he put it out on or something, so it'll probably take him a little while to get another one out.

HHC: Ten years after the first Oddjobs album, what's your perspective on your first decade of music ? What are the positive and negative things that music has brought you ? And how do you think your music might evolve in the next ten years ?

A: I feel really good about all the Kill The Vultures stuff, it was all done like it was personal enough where we... whether people liked it or not... There's nothing we could lose because it was exactly what we want it to be, so there are no regrets in something like that. Whereas with the Oddjobs stuff, none of it was really up to the standard that I'd like it to be, so I think that the "Drums" album could have been very good if we had to do it again, and there are lot of things I'd like to do because there's something I liked about "Drums". Other than that I don't really think much about the Oddjobs stuff. As far as the next ten years are concerned, I think definitely just trying to develop structures a little more, we're starting to make the textures more minimalist. I'm starting to get interested in maybe trying to use numbers in the future, to communicate messages through the structure of the songs if that makes any sense, like a more architectural approach to the songs or something.

CM: We also talked about adding hand drums and play some stuff live...

A: Yeah, I play some Spanish guitar and things like that, and I'd like to mess around with doing some theme albums that use classical guitar melodies exclusively or mix stuff with drums (not the album but the instrument). I just sort of like playing around with some of those type of things.

CM: Yeah, I look back on Oddjobs very fondly, we had some great times, we had to do it. Really when I look back to the first album we ever made, it feels like "ok, we've come a long way", that's how I feel when I look at it, so it was just a necessary trial and error. It's all about trying to figure out what kind of music you're trying to make, what your contribution will be. I really have no idea what the next ten years will look like, I think I agree with Stephen (Anatomy) that whether or not... I can't judge or predict how people will receive any of our music but I think as long as we stay true to ourselves... I mean that's really how I see the Kill The Vultures as opposed to Oddjobs, I feel like with Oddjobs we were trying to cater to a certain crowd, we were trying to impress people with a certain sound, and of course at the bottom of my heart I want someone to like our music but at the end of the day if we're not satisfied with it then I feel like it will be all for nothing. So I think as long as we just keep making the kind of music that we really believe in, and enjoy making it, then it will be ok.

HHC: I saw on KTV's myspace page that you posted a new extract from an upcoming album called "Ecce Beast". Can you give us more info about this new album ?

A: We'd brought it on tour here but it's actually not released yet, we just finished it. So we're getting ready to find a new label and start the marketing, there's no telling when it will be released, before too long, for now the wheels are just starting to turn on this, so it's new but we don't have a date of release yet.

HHC: Will it be a 30-minute format album like your previous ones ?

A: It's 45 minutes long. For some reason I wanted to do a 30-minute project, then another 30-minute one, then a 45-minute one, then a 30-minute... It's some sort of mathematical thing that draws me to that format (laughs), I don't know why but for this one it's a 45-minute format.

HHC: Are there any other projects besides "Ecce Beast" that you are working on ?

A: No, not for the moment, but there is a Hollywood horror movie coming out that will use one of our songs, '7-8-9' on the first Kill The Vultures album. That could be interesting (laughs).

HHC: Any last words ?

CM: Au revoir!

Interview by Phara
Retranscription by Phara and Naïma
Photos by Benjamin Segura
July 2009

P.S. : Interview originally recorded in Februrary 2009.

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