Food for Animals: Interview
Be Groovy or Leave
Comprised of childhood friends Ricky Rabbit and Vulture Voltaire, DC-based duo
Food For Animals are taking hip-hop to avenues that I'm not quite sure exist
yet. Eschewing popular hyper-speed soul samples in favor of dense,
meticulously-constructed noise collages that wouldn't be out of place on a Mego
compilation, FFA conjures a sound reminiscent of Dälek if, in addition to the
putrid washes of noise, you added a few catchy hooks and an MC more concerned
with getting down to business than lulling audiences into a trance. Over the
past year or so, FFA have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with,
garnering numerous high-profile press clips and logging tours with groups as
diverse as Q And Not U (Dischord) and Manhunter (Ghostly). I got a chance to sit
down and chat with Food For Animals mouthpiece Vulture Voltaire (a.k.a. Andrew
Field-Pickering) about the group's history and future, some tunes he's been
digging lately, as well as -- at the time -- the impending election.
How did Food For Animals get started?
Well, I knew Ricky Rabbit (Nick) a little bit and I was going with him and like
6 other people in this van to a show in VA in April '03. He had this CD with a
bunch of noise tracks on it and one like rappable beat. He knew I rapped a
little bit, so I got that song from him and started writing to it.
Which song was that?
It became "Brand New." I really liked the vocal sample.
What is that sample? It sounds like some kids jumping rope or skipping.
Nick used to substitute teach and that's a chopped up version of some
kindergarteners singing, "I'll start/and you go second."
Could you explain the name of the group?
Well, everything in "culture" as we know it is kind of like food, you know?
Digesting information in any way it comes to you. Music at its base form is
stimulation for animals. Well, I mean anything at its base form is stimulation
for animals. So food for animals sounds better. It just sort of means "something
for you to digest, however you see fit." You can either love the taste or spit
it out or chew a little bit, you know? It's a playful name.
That sounds like a great sort of catchall for hip-hop in general -- taking
anything and everything around you and creating something new from the pieces.
There's that too.
How did you develop your style as an emcee?
Well I do a lot of writing. Freestyling is fun and all but I kind of reserve it
for fucking around with buddies or my brother.
Were there any rappers you looked up to when you were developing your style?
I listen to everything pretty much, but my main love is mid '90s NY shit: Mobb
Deep, Wu-Tang, Nas, Jay-Z. I mean I still love almost everything Ghostface or
What do you listen to outside of the realm of hip-hop? A lot of Scavengers
sounds inspired by electronic or noise music.
Should I just give you, like, a list of favorites?
[Laughs] Sure, if you'd like.
I listen to a lot of that stuff. New stuff I like: harsh noise stuff like Pita
or Wolf Eyes, Italo Disco, Ghostly stuff, this dance group Manhunter from around
here are fucking awesome... Fennesz, Autechre, Skam records stuff. Microhouse
and sort of "new" dance music a la Akufen. The new Boredoms.
Aw, man. I'm really looking forward to hearing the new Boredoms record. How
The second song is real chill and awesome, but the first song is soooooo good
like a big ass freakout with awesome piano and shit.
Is it just two really long songs like on Soul Discharge?
Two real long songs, yeah. It's a lot like Vision Creation Newsun.
How do you incorporate this wide array of music into your work on the mic?
Actually…I retract that question. QUESTION RETRACTED!
It's like asking why a rainbow is so beautiful or why the mountains are so
Next question: I think an interview should essentially be a forum for
whatever the artist wants to discuss, so...what do you want to talk about?
What's on your mind?
Well, now the new Boredoms is on my mind. I'm gonna listen to that shit when I
Are you at work now?
What do you do? You design webpages, right?
Ummm... here and there I do graphics work. Right now I'm filling in for a
secretary at the movie theatre I work at.
Ian Mackaye used to take tickets at a movie theatre in Georgetown and wrote a
lot of Minor Threat songs while working nights. Is this a continuation of one
his DC legacies?
Very much so, yes. With more pot smoking.
[Laughs] So I take it Food For Animals aren't continuing the DC straight edge
So you probably won't get that distro deal with Dischord, then.
I mean, I don't think they don't mind if I hit a little grass.
Dischord or the movie theater management?
I know you did some touring with Q And Not U. Any interesting stories from
Those guys are great. They have very eclectic tastes and are very organized and
awesome. They're also very supportive -- Chris is very inspiringly hyperactive
and excited about things. All of us in FFA kinda keep it chilled out, low key.
But Chris is a boost of energy pretty much, so all the shows with them are real
fun. Plus tons of people come.
You played with Q at CMJ a few weeks ago, right?
How did that go?
Cool. So, what inspires your lyrics?
My lyrics for our newer songs are inspired by sort of gut reactions to things.
Are you politically active? I couldn't help but notice the "When I say 'fuck
you' I really mean 'fuck George Bush'" line from "Elephants."
I'm politically active through the music for sure. In terms of protests and
such, so much of that seems to be like the rites of passage more than something
with actual meaning behind it
I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment, but maybe "politically active"
wasn't the best choice of words. Maybe, "do you feel inspired by the goings-on
in your hometown"?
I definitely have more of a fear and loathing for George Bush than hatred. I
mean I feel like he's actually a fucking lunatic. I mean he bases decisions on
God, you know? And says God talks to him.
Maybe we should be included in the axis of evil.
Dude, it's like back to your question of political stuff I do. It seems much
more important to avoid certain shit like humongous corporations that have no
regard for anything and like bad culture -- commodified youth rebellion on MTV,
…Than to go on VH1 with a shirt that says "Fuck The Government" while still
being exploited and pimped out by the very same corporations you're claiming to
I mean that's cool as long as the intent is correct. Yeah, you know.
What's the political climate like in DC now? Are things really heating up in
Ummmmm... well no. But it might, you know? If George Bush gets elected again, I
feel like I might flip out a little bit.
I think we'll all flip out with you. When are we going to see a FFA
I'd say probably in 2005 for sure, but I'm not sure when. It's very, very young
How does the new material compare to the stuff on Scavengers?
We've been playing one new song live and its harsher. The lyrics are more
aggressive and pessimistic and dark. But that's not really indicative of the
rest of the newer stuff that will come.
So, there's still a chance we'll see a FFA party jam on the next record?
Hey, man -- we party. I would love to write the quintessential lefty party jam.
Maybe I will.
3rd bass remix!
MIAMI BASS remix.
Miami Sound Machine Remix! Tell me about Ethan and Muckamuck. What is
Ethan's record label. I know Ethan from being in band with him when I was 15-18.
He heard FFA and decided he liked it enough to put it out and work real hard for
What does 'Muckamuck' mean exactly?
Oh well I'm not sure. That's kind of Ethan's brain in a nutshell.
I'm out of questions. Anything else you want to add?
Thank you very much for the interview and the interest in the group.
It's no problem. Any last words for the children?
Be groovy or leave.