FUGITIVE / Bootleg Tapes Interview with the Vampire

Photography by Brain Kelly and Kyle Keese

FUGITIVE is always on the run. If there’s one thing I couldn’t stress more about the Brooklyn producer/DJ, it’s that tracking him down can be a caper. Actually, bits of his Swim Team crew and I have a Tumblr idea involving videos and pics of us/people waiting out front of and breaking into the many hideouts of FUGITIVE’s dwellings. Subsequently, this apartment is also where FUGITIVE hosts a production/manufacturing studio for his label Bootleg Tapes and clothing company, Craigslist. But nothing pulls FUGITIVE from a good live gig, which instantly demands audience participation upon shifting tracks, burning what’s already lit into a fire that continues to evolve the current NYC club scene (especially its hidden, darker corners).

Although he feels his name has always been FUGITIVE, he recently began adding the moniker to bills, having formerly used Lord$M$. But his moniker change to FUGITIVE really does best describe his relentless DJ style, HD production frantics, nondescript fashion sense, and airplane-mode communication. Below is the chronicle of conversations (photography by Brain Kelly and Kyle Keese) we’ve had throughout 2015 depicting his life, having always been one long chase scene, living the hustle since day one.

ALSO, exclusive to Tiny Mix Tapes is a mix (below) by FUGITIVE for your listening pleasure throughout the reading, including some familiar and unreleased surprises:


Bedroom, Bushwick

What was one of your first albums you purchased on your own? *Knocks a stack of CDs*

The first CD I ever bought was from Coconuts or something, and it was that Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz release with “Dejà Vu” on it, which was a pop song at the time, but the album, Make It Reign was hard. And it had a Parental Advisory sticker on it. So, I remember going in and telling the girl that it was for my brother’s birthday; I was like nine, I had to promise her it was for his birthday and like act like I knew nothing about the music. I was just trying to be a good little brother and buy him a birthday present.

So you mostly started out buying cassette tapes?

Since my brother is 10 years older than me, and we had different fathers who both weren’t in our lives, he and I bonded closely. So around the age five or six, I’d start hanging around him and his friends, smoking weed and shit really young, and listening to a lot of their music. Instead of being turned down at stores to buy tapes, he’d just make me mixes and bootlegs on blank tapes, and in the long-run it helped because my mom would know I shouldn’t be listening to something with that Parental Advisory sticker on it. I would have folders and briefcases that held all these tapes that I cherished, and as I’d get into other music, buying Korn and other shit, I’d cut the Parental Advisory out, color a piece of paper similar to the j-card, and tape it in so she wouldn’t know. Or just flip the j-card. And for awhile my brother lived with his father in Connecticut, and he’d record Hot 97 DJ Clue’s 90-minute mixes (Monday Night Mixtape). So he’d record it, write in all the artists, and these were the bootleg tapes he’d make. Some I still cherish today.

A lot of the time, my brother had me listen to hip-hop, which was a nice, steady in-take, rather than how I was jumping around to all these different types and genres. Eventually, I began purchasing bootleg tapes around Canal Street, ones my brother didn’t have and especially G-Unit mixtapes. G-Unit mixtapes were and are my favorite to find, because their whole vibe was bringing the mainstream back to the streets. But everything was so bootleg about it, like the cover art and even the music. Like, 50 Cent bootlegs his own song, flipping his original lyrics by singing over it again, just shitting on his original song because these mixtapes weren’t gaining revenue going directly back to him, unless it’d be on the low. And I loved how he was killing it underground while also remaining on the front pages of magazines. All the while people would be bummed I’m so into Southern rap or 50, but also hearing stories about how he’d come through the hood with a top-drop Hummer, killing it in Bay Ridge.

But I’d say my most cherished G-Unit mixtape I found in Harlem, which is now a bootleg of a bootleg because I lost the original, and it was by Cutmaster C, who overdubbed it so loud that you need to level out your sound, and thus is itself super-bootleg, but with bootleg tracks as an official G-Unit release. It’s just a good look for them. It’s called G-Unit Summer Mixtape.

This is interesting to me because a lot of your releases aren’t albums at all; most of your releases are mixes or collaborations, side from last year’s Wonton Swoosh.

I think being a DJ first is what that directly stems from because I like to showcase my style and energy so people can get a direction of where I am in my own music, and find our where it fits into what I make. Like, most of the Boiler Room set was all my work, except for some Acemo and cakedog works. But I’ve been a DJ since a young age, so it’s more about creating this personality for what I do. So since the age of like 15, I’ve been into doing record DJing at parties, and then later bars and clubs, doing it with Andre and other friends. And it’s taken me a long time to how I make music today because I do make a lot of other things, learning the functionality of hardware and software, and the design of making different sounds I want to make. “16stoned” is a good representation of this, having that song in my head, spending a couple days getting a good flow, and letting it just come out naturally than through a process of sound creation.

In terms of production, and as an audiophile, I find a lot of inspiration from Daniel Lopatin work as Oneohtrix Point Never and his label Software, from gathering artists, to his vision and appearance as an artist. There’s no gimmick with him. He doesn’t try-to-not-try. It’s just about his music. I was really excited when he signed my pal Cayman.

I want the intensity of the siren to sound like the city is right behind you. Putting listeners into my environment is how I use my influence and making FUGITIVE music is inspired by the peak high of your night. I want people (high on molly or not) to obtain that same vision. Like tapping into a consciousness that creates anxiety and then drops it just as much in the music as one would settle with emotion.

What names have you used throughout your lineage? BessedOf was definitely not your first moniker

My first name was Yess Milk, and I have a video on YouTube where I sample Herbie Hancock. But I’d always looked at LORD$M$ as my outlet for having FUN. Where I’m at now with making music under my current moniker, FUGITIVE, I can make club music fun and quality rather than a joke. Take it seriously. Directing it to club and dance and DJ work, like with Swim Team events. Though, I’ve been sleeping on the moniker Placebo De Niro in the back of my head for a bit now, and am looking to use it to generate more original music and self-made samples and orchestrating music. I’ll be working more of that stuff on the side, especially when I’m more completely aligned with myself as an musician. My whole life I’ve been working up to the point I’m at now, and a lot of people have been trying to get me to stop and concentrate on just one thing, but I’ve always had this urge to always be working on everything, so now I’m in this place where I couldn’t be if I hadn’t explored all these possibilities. So I was constantly working on learning all this shit at the same time, making anyone around me insane, while learning to refine my organizational skills, my fucking time management, and scheduling just because that’s who I am.

You mentioned you didn’t have you father in your life, so assuming you were with your mother, did SHE go insane because of your maximalist attitude?

I actually got kicked out when I was 15. I just got into bad shit when I was young. So even as I was young, when I wasn’t making music, her soul and jazz LP collection would influence my tastes in music a lot. She also has a large cassette collection as well, so on Sundays, she’d make brunch and I’d go through her collection and play some. But I was mostly into the maturity of these records, looking at the art work, who helped orchestrated the album in the credits, then looking up who was in what other albums I liked, etc. Which led me to DJ for a jazz club for three years when I was about 19 or 20.

And my first night I was really nervous; my mom and a couple of friends came; it was at this spot called Mono + Mono on E. Fourth St. between First and Second Ave.s; it was really nice, this psychopath owner — who I had a wonderful relationship with — had a rotisserie of album covers that just went around the place that would fall on tables sometimes; totally dangerous, but it all was very nice. There [were] almost 50,000 records on this one giant wall. I could just walk in there and pick out a bunch of records to play, DJing their collection. Then he gave me my own nights, DJing hip hop and instrumentals. The owner just really liked my tastes, he was paying me good, free meals and beers, my friends their always got food; it was just a really cool spot. But it ended up burning down, [and] just beforehand, he was talking to me about buying this $3,000 vintage, analog record player, put it up front and let me DJ on that.

Driving Ford Fusion, Interior, Brooklyn

Left.

Do you have your driver’s license?

Yes, but it’s suspended. Due to being too risky while working for a catering company out on Long Island.

You gotta do, though. Is that how you met DJLILMATT69/ Yung/DaddyAOL?

Not through catering, but he and I have known each other for a long time. Before Swim Team, We used to have a similar crew called Deity Gang, which was comprised of a rapper ( Sidewalk Kal), and we started to form ideas and opinions, but Kal thought they were all corny, so that crew split because it was just unorganized.

Left or straight?

Stay straight for awhile. I met Matt through this girl VHVLwhile talking with her and her boyfriend at the time Baebro outside a venue about who they were listening to most at the time, and they were like, “You don’t know Mattron?” You two need to link ASAP!” So I messaged him on SoundCloud, and we started talking, which rarely happens because we never answer back to people on SoundCloud. It took us a couple weeks to hook up, but when we did, we VHS-taped the whole thing and we’re pretty much the same now as we were then. And he became someone who’d enable the comfortability with myself. From that, we moved in together and and I got him a job at Supreme, we tried to take the opportunity to do our own project, and it all opened up doors outside of beat-tape/scene work. We butt-heads, and get over things together, so it’s really important that I met someone like Matt in my life to expand myself. Left. And this relationship snowballed into Swim Team; Color Plus and AceMo signing on originally as a mini Swim Team, evolving into the current crew. *Lights up*

I never want to label my work as sample-based music because that connotation has a bad sound to me. I sample sounds. I sample hits. I sample myself. It’s not like I’m recording instruments dictated to like… it just sounds free to me.

How did John (a.k.a. DJ JOHN BROOKLYN, a.k.a. Kanyon) come on the Swim Team scene?

I don’t know if he hit me up first or vice-versa, but I was really into his shit back then because it was super-futuristic. And even though Matt was not a big fan of Kanyon music at that time, he and John were friends, but didn’t know John was Kanyon. So the first instance of meeting John was at some show I played, we all hung out, and he has helped with the initial and now aesthetics of Swim Team, generally just being a great edition to the crew. It wasn’t until this past summer that we started hangout out way more often. He’s just smart, has good detail to him, he’s a quiet killer.

Parked Ford Fusion, Interior, Forrest Hills

I’m aware you’re a big William Cooper fan. How do you see his influence upon/within Bootleg Tapes?

Growing up, my mom would have weird friends she’d make me hang out and talk with, just to have guys in my life, and one was just a huge conspiracy theorist, who I don’t think my mom knew about, and would try to trip me out like, “Man, there’s aliens everywhere. Good and bad ones. Shapeshifters.” And out of all the shit he told me, only William Cooper’s writings stuck. He showed me this two-hour long video of William Cooper going over the Kennedy assassination, pointing out all the flaws and cover-ups. So I got into a lot of the truth in his character, which I’ve been reading up on his writings and readings since then. What sparks me up the most about him — but not to get too deep because there are plenty of William Cooper fans out there — he’d come out with a lot of evidence overnight at once because he knew drawing a lot of attention to it would be the best way into surviving and not being knocked off.

… His mentality of not wanting to do what he was doing, but not doing so would be ludicrous, is exactly what I find inspirational about William Cooper. I am into making music into a reality of, “Why would you make that?” But being specific about not caring about the question of “Why” and just trying to ascertain that originality.

Shopping in Trader Joe’s, Interior, Forrest Hills

So this thought process is pretty much interchangeable between Swim Team and Bootleg?

Exactly. It’d all for originality. When people look back on these musics, I want them to think, “Why did they make music like that?” It’s a lot easier to think of what FUGITIVE’s style because I don’t hold back. As you were saying, how I have more mixes than “releases,” I’ve just been patiently waiting to put out stuff that is my style rather than trying to make a certain sound. And that’s been an interesting road to want to make a bunch of different music. “RULER (9” Edit)” was easy too because we cut up that vocal and used it to the full extend. There’s also rumors about Kanyon and me being well-endowed.

Shit, Bryant wanted me to get some oats.

Right now, I’m in a place of not having emotional attachment of outside things when I make shit. It’s nice to be able to sit down and concentrate on my music that way without my feelings overtaking my composition process.

Yeah, shit, where did you two dudes meet up?

Bryant and I met up at a Dirty Tapes event. *Blows Raspberry*

How long did it take to make ??LAMPGOD??**L_RD//$M$??**$$EXT8PE???

Bryant has a real patience with music that I respect. It’s at his own speed. And it was right before ??LAMPGOD??**L_RD//$M$??**$$EXT8PE?? came out. Actually, the sales from ??LAMPGOD??**L_RD//$M$??**$$EXT8PE?? helped him move in to an apartment with me. The first time we hung out, we spoke all night and about theory and artists, and found we were into the same shit when it came to being over certain aspects of current music making. Around 2:30 AM, we plugged in two 404s separately to a mixer, and we showed each other the samples we’d be using briefly, but nothing else on how we’d mix. We recorded this initial interaction on a CS-5, the interaction was so organic together, and the tape clicked exactly at five minutes when we brought the levels down to finish.

What are you using them chia seeds for?

Actually, this is Bryant’s creation: a banana, cocoa, chia seeds, honey, rolled oats, cayenne pepper, and peanut butter. Excuse me.

LADY: “Sorry

All good. The smoothie is really good. So we ended up recording ??LAMPGOD??**L_RD//$M$??**$$EXT8PE?? a couple months later, just chilling together. Originally, it was going to be a Dirty Tapes release, as we were helping with the label, but weren’t exactly feeling appreciated for our work, nor was Daniel completely down with our ideas, so we decided to record the tape and put it out ourselves. Putting it out on Bootleg was easy because it was the first release: buying and making the tape, putting it out ourselves. As LAMPGOD, Bryant uses a lot of VHS samples, so we made it in five days, locked in my room, him cutting up video samples, me cutting up music samples, then visa versa, both editing what we give each other.

This started as a two-day project, but at the time, had to leave on the fifth day of recording, so we mastered and cut it that day. Iit was Bootleg Tapes’ first release. No sleep. I actually fell asleep showing him the cover art I made, was falling back, and awoke seconds later to a shirtless Bryant also blacked out. I also started smoking NewPees again because of ??LAMPGOD??**L_RD//$M$??**$$EXT8PE??. Upon his return, he helped me with the first few Bootleg Tapes, which was a blessing.

Where did the conception for Simulator come about?

Simulator was initially a moniker I used for exploring dance music on the side, but privately. So we combined skills again, locking ourselves in a room; I showed him one track to give an example of what I wanted to work with, and he brought back a track of just completely insane shit, which is pretty much the second track on Glass Brixx Vol.1. It was exactly what I wanted to hear: the completely next level of what I was already trying to shoot for, which then I would try to reach there too with every track thereafter. At this point, Glass Brixx Vol.1 is one of my favorite Bootleg Tapes. Oh, shit, gluten-free flour? I’m going to make EVERYTHING with this!

Like what?

LIKE WHAT? Everything I can’t already eat: pizza, bread, dough, etc. I’m getting ALL the shit that’s gluten-free here.

Parked Ford Fusion, Interior, Forrest Hills

In the same sense of working with Bryant, as you do with a lot of producers, I got a drop on some future news that you and James “Dreams” West were collaborating on a new project. Care to information drop that?

He’s a good pal, James. New project is called Spiderman 3. It’s just some deep-house stuff we’re both psyched on. And it’s music we wouldn’t be making if *DROPS CHANGE* we were doing it alone. We’re just both doing other shit separately, so making a deep-house together was just what we wanted to do. I was just like, “Yo, you and me are Spiderman 3. We have this track of a few synths and sampling: let’s make this happen and let’s make it work.” And now it’s the perfect setting. I’ll roll to his house, grip weed, get stoned, make tracks, dip out, listen to em the next day, and they turn out really good. So rather than setting up studio time, most of these tracks are just hang time.

Since we’re both pretty lose, but also have a good connection and understanding of making music, we’ll just take turns on making part of the song while the other sits there and rolls up another joint. So he’ll make the drums, and then turn to me and ask if I’ll program them as he smokes. Switching on and off.

I am into making music into a reality of, “Why would you make that?” But being specific about not caring about the question of “Why” and just trying to ascertain that originality.

You just collaborate so much with mixing and production work that is so rarely done in this music scene, so it’s unexpected. Who haven’t you collaborated with and would like to in the future?

I’ve been really blessed with getting to reach out to artists that I like, which I’m thankful for. It’s hard to think about having collaborated with DJ NJ DRONE, D/P/I, AceMo, and just the Swim Team crew in general, outside of Bryant and James. Definitely Cakedog (Ahnnu) is one. But new opportunities will always open up as I continue to meet new people, so it’ll be a totally different echelon of artistry through my enjoyment of discovering new personalities.

Making music and putting stuff out on Bootleg makes this all more relative than just hearing new tracks online. Like, the establishment of physical tapes and putting a heavier honor to the label and the music we represent is exactly what I’m trying to create as an experience. That and not being scared to make this connection with certain artists. If it’s corny or people aren’t into it, that’s OK to agree and just move on to the next person who does see me eye-to-eye. It’s all about connecting like-minds.

Even just looking at the whole roster of Bootleg, I want it to come back around and be able to put out more releases for these people, like Kanyon, Jay Curry, etc. AceMo has something coming out that’s solid, as well as a collaborative AceMo/FUGITIVE EP. I can never stop thinking of expansion.

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