5Q :: Hosey returns hip-hop to rap-free rootsWhile they’re not household names yet, the guys in Hosey are cooking up some truly exciting music out Manhattan way. Familiarize yourself now.
While they’re not household names yet, the guys in Hosey are cooking up some truly exciting music out Manhattan way. Not only are DJ Patrik Phalen and bassist Matt Hughes breaking the decades-strong mainstream hip-hop formula (they release lyric-free records, preferring samples and instrumentation over potentially distracting egos), they’re also bringing the popular genre back to its oft-forgotten roots.
Phalen explains how the duo is achieving this — and why Hosey is the way it is — in this exclusive interview with the Budgeteer:
Budgeteer: What prompted you and Matt to release your music vocal-free instead of shopping your backing tracks around to different rap groups for them to use on their albums?
Phalen: We began years ago as a much more traditional guitar-oriented band and we made the transition from that to [having] a more sample-based and turntable-driven sound so gradually that there was never really a point where we said, “We’re making hip-hop now! Get an MC!”
We started throwing long monologues from movies over songs as soon as we got our first 4-track [recorder] and realized we could run a VCR straight into it. We didn’t even know that what we were doing was “sampling.”
I got into scratching as a way to actively play with those snippets from various media as if they were lyrics. Once the turntables entered the picture it was game over for the verse-chorus structure as far as we were concerned. That was a huge relief, because we really like instrumental music but we always felt a little obligated to add lyrics and have a vocalist. This was the perfect sidestep around that problem.
And it’s crazy, because we can still imbue a lot of meaning into the songs, because what can you say that hasn’t already been said before? You just have to find it, or let it find you. Sampling possesses a very simple and direct elegance that a lot of lyrics lack.
How do Hosey tracks come together? Is it collaborative, or does Matt come in after you’ve laid out a track and add his bass parts?
It is a totally collaborative process. Matt and I have been making music together since we were in high school, so we have a pretty analogous mindset when it comes to music. We still get together and play music every day, like we just skipped sixth period.
Most songs start out sounding similar to “Like an Animal.” We find a musical sample we like and just start jamming with it. In fact, that track was conceived and recorded in about an hour; it is a perfect example of how our songs sound in their most embryonic forms.
Like most bands, when we hit on something we think is cool, we both start laughing uncontrollably, then we drink a little beer and, if we can go right back into it, we know it’s solid. Then we’ll start elaborating on it — making the drums more complex, adding key changes, etc. — until we end up with a track like “I Just Wanna Go Home” or “Suburbs of Cybertron.” Then again, some tracks are like “Mode 7,” which we originally wrote for acoustic guitar and bass and then reinterpreted for the album (see “News to Use” below).
When you perform as the backing group for rappers like Domer, BrokeMC and Bisc1, do you ever feel restricted creatively — vs. working on Hosey records or doing DJ sets — or are those guys pretty open to you doing your own thing?
It’s incredibly restrictive; that’s why we don’t particularly like performing with MCs. They are essentially no different from singers or frontmen. They’re trying to get across some sort of meaning and they’re trying to get the audience to feel them. They are “artists” and have a totally different agenda than musicians.
As a musician, I just want the room I’m in to feel alive — who cares if you know about my political views or how my girlfriend walked out with the Versace dress? Music is about communicating something deeper than language. It is the most simple of man’s joys — and it may be our oldest invention. Why junk it up with a bunch of words? Remember that hip-hop started out as a DJ’s medium.
As for Hosey live shows and us doing our own thing, here’s the deal with turntablism: It is a constant struggle against things going wrong. Being off by just one 16th of a beat can change the structure of an entire track. Turntables are the only “instruments” that play themselves; all I can do is start and stop them in various ways. The whole concept is about screwing up otherwise-fine recordings. Musically, it is very exciting; lyrically, I imagine it’s a little frustrating.
How has the pay-what-you-want model been working for you guys? Does it seem to get your music in more homes?
Well, we are millionaires now, so it’s going alright.
Seriously though, the model works well for us. We’re kind of uncomfortable thinking about money in relation to our music, so PWYW is a convenient way for us to pass the buck — no pun intended — on that question to the fans.
The only reason that PWYW works at all is thanks to BandCamp.com, the Web site where we hustle our music. Their model allows an independent musician to make money even if someone only has a few dollars to spend. If we were trying to promote our music the traditional way — on a record label — we would be making pieces of a penny for every record sold. With BandCamp.com, the cut is much more fair, more so than any other music “store” in the world. It is incredibly refreshing from an independent musician’s perspective.
Have you ever envisioned Hosey as something more than a studio group ... perhaps scoring a video game or something else of that sort?
It’s funny that you mention video games. Most people my age have memories of holding a cassette deck up to their radio to record a song off the airwaves. I remember holding the deck up to the TV so I could record music from video games. Scoring music for a video game is something we’ve always wanted to do. How about a game where every sound effect and piece of music is actually remixed from an old arcade game or pinball machine? That would be a lot of fun.
We play a lot of live shows, so of course we would love to make that as spectacular as possible: overstuffed exploding piñatas, a giant malfunctioning Benjamin Franklinstein android, some nonlethal lasers of some sort … you know, all the usual garish displays of excess. We’ve also been scoring and sequencing music for modern dance companies here in NYC, which is a lot of fun. It’s a really effective way to meet girls.
NEWS TO USE
Listen to (and pay what you want for) Hosey’s albums — including the new one, “Goodbye Bikini Island” — at http://hosey.bandcamp.com/.