Ten Shits with Dan Snaith
What an honor it was for me to catch up with one of the most impressive sound
samplers of the past few years, Dan Snaith (aka Manitoba). This year brought us
his most accomplished work yet, with Up in Flames. It seems as if things
are looking up for Dan, and he says we should be expecting great things from him
in the future. Although he claims to not know what he's doing when compiling his
albums, I can't help but think he's being a little bit humble. Here's what he
had to say:
Amneziak (Tiny Mix Tapes): Hello Dan, thanks for taking some time out
for a few words. How are things going? Having a good summer so far?
Manitoba (Dan Snaith): It's been horrible. All this touring is killing me
- traveling, fine foods, beautiful women, sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and
rich creamy sauces. I can't take it any more. We're off to Italy again this
Amneziak: I'd like to start by saying how much I truly love Up in
Flames. I think it's a very beautiful album, and quite a departure from your
previous work. I read your description as calling it “some next level Timbaland/Brian
Wilson-type shit.” How did this thematic change come about?
Manitoba: I was bored with the music that was coming out that sounded
like my first album, and with electronic music in general. I ended up just
making the album I wanted to make and ignoring people's expectations of it; and
this is what came out. I didn't think too much about it.
Amneziak: It's a very “summery” sounding album to me. It's obviously
influenced by sixties pop, so was part of your intent to use these sounds as a
way of creating a summertime album?
Manitoba: I actually made it in the most miserable, rainy part of the
British winter; so it probably came out sounding sunny as a reaction to that.
The sixties pop influences are there because at the time I was buying lots of
old psych records. I was struck by how new some of the records I dug out sounded
(for example: Ithaca's A Game for all Who Know). They sounded much newer
than all the old Warp rip-off electronic music that was coming out at the time.
Amneziak: One of the things I've always enjoyed about artists like you
is your ability to make your audience hear a once used sound in a completely
different light. It's almost as if you're saying, “Hey don't let this music die.
It's still highly pleasing.” Is this your intention, or is it simply your way of
taking the things you've loved about music and adding your own sense of artistry
Manitoba: To me, music with samples always sounds richer than music
that is obviously all recorded at the same time; or all recorded with electronic
instruments, or whatever. I think it's a good way to let a lot of my influences
come through, too. At the end of the day, it's how I was introduced to making
this kind of music - with hip-hop and sample-based records like Endtroducing
and stuff around that time.
Amneziak: Part of the true beauty of Up in Flames is the fact that,
although sampled, everything comes together in a seamless manner and doesn't
sound like it's actually samples? Of the overall process, how much time would
you say is spent fine-tuning this aspect of your albums to have them appear
Manitoba: I spent a massive amount of time on each of the tracks on
this album because there are so many samples in each track. I think that helps
everything blend together. Definitely the most difficult thing about making
sample based music is to make the samples fit together to make something new and
give them a new character in the track. A lot of it is just trial and error -
trying out all sorts of shit until something really sits right.
Amneziak: While we're on the subject of sampling, the drums you used
on the song “Twins” blows my mind and really makes me smile every time I hear
it. They're obviously from a school band record, and make the song one of my
favorites. Do you spend a lot of time digging for records in between albums, in
your spare time, or on tour, etc.? Are you a record/music/beat junkie?
Manitoba: Yeah, definitely. I'm not as bad as some people I know, but
to a large extent that's how I came at this kind of music.
Amneziak: The number of sample-based musicians seems to be at an
all-time high, and it takes a lot to set oneself apart from the rest of the
field: which you do. What do you like to do to stay ahead of the game and keep
things fresh? Is there a simple philosophy that you have?
Manitoba: Shit, no. I don't have a clue what I'm doing. I think it's
important to have the best drum breaks! That keeps you ahead of the game as far
as I'm concerned. You can tell lazy producers who are just chopping up the same
old shit over and over again, because it ends up sounding weak. Apart from that,
who knows? I can't see the point of making music that sounds like someone else,
so I guess making something that sounds original is important to me on some
Amneziak: One aspect of the music industry I think is suffering is the
actual documentation of the process. Meaning, with our technology the way it is,
I'd like to see more artists making DVD's of their actual process. To see
Endtroducing, Disintegration, or even Endless Summer, would give music fans a
whole new perspective of life behind the album. To me the process is just as
interesting as the final product. Would you ever like to do something like that
or is the process just too personal to share?
Manitoba: I think it's just too boring to share! I spend so much time
on these tracks and it all looks pretty much the same - me sitting in front of a
computer, me grabbing a few old records from a pile on the floor and trying them
out, me playing the guitar badly. Not much worthy of documentation! This way of
recording doesn't have the “locked in a shed for 3 weeks” appeal of normal
recording either. It's more like “locked in a shed intermittently for 2 years.”
Amneziak: As I stated in my review of Up in Flames, the genre of
hip-hop has started to become a loosely used word to describe just about
anything that is sample-based with a good beat. In your opinion, is Up in Flames
a hip-hop record or something completely different?
Manitoba: I definitely wouldn't call it a hip-hop record, but there are
certain things in there that I think come from my listening to loads of hip-hop.
People are always asking why I don't have more of a hip-hop influence in my
music. I guess I've seen it done so poorly so many times (see the entire Anticon
back catalogue, all of British mid-tempo dance music, etc.) that I don't want to
fuck with it. At the same time, I kind of figure the drums are done with hip-hop
in mind. Good hip-hop is the only music that doesn't have shit drums these days.
Amneziak: Where do you see sample-based music heading in, say, the
next five years? Do you ever worry that it may be “done to death,” or are there
endless possibilities that the DJ will just have push?
Manitoba: I think it'll just mix together with rock music, this, that
and whatever; but it won't really be a problem. I'm pretty confident that I'm
going to be making killer records in five years, so if you lose faith in
everyone else, keep your eyes on me! I'm not really too concerned about the
genre or way of recording. If people run out of ideas with sample music, they'll
do something else. It doesn't really matter what the mechanics of it are.
Amneziak: Earlier we discussed your sampling on Up in Flames. Would
you mind briefly describing your equipment you used for it?
Manitoba: A shit computer with a really basic sequencer, records, a
few different keyboards, a couple guitars, and percussion. That's about it, I
Amneziak: Since the two albums are a bit different, is this the same
equipment you used for Start Breaking My Heart?
Manitoba: Almost exactly the same.
Amneziak: You're pretty good friends with Kieran Hebden, Koushik Ghosh,
and Scott Herren. Other than maybe touring together or talking on the phone, do
you guys ever have time to get together to collaborate on any songs or ideas?
Manitoba: Koushik and I occasionally think about working on shit
together. We did this thing called Ludemaar (which was pretty dope), but may not
ever see the light of day. Kieran and I are too busy these days to be able to
collaborate at the moment, although it would be great to one day. It's more
about all of us just being super-busy than anything else.
Amneziak: I have personally not had the opportunity to see you live
(geographically challenged), but I have heard that you are just incredible live?
Can you briefly give us less fortunate fans an idea of what you like to do in
this type of setting?
Manitoba: Where do you live? I'm trying to get to more and more of
North America. We're doing the Southern states with Broadcast later this year.
Next album I need to get a proper Canadian tour in - riding on the back of polar
bears. Live, we've got two drummers, full-synced visuals for the whole show, and
guitars, keyboards, etc. We also all wear bear masks and hoodies. I'm thinking
of buying a collection of 12" weather balloons for the next tour.
Amneziak: If I may, I'd like to touch again briefly on your
friend/co-writer, Koushik. I have his Battle Rhymes EP, which is a very nice
little package of music. Can you tell us whether he is working on new material
or not? If so, will you be involved in any part of the process?
Manitoba: Yeah, he's got a 12" coming out on Stones Throw later this
fall. He's working on a lot of shit at the moment. I think he might even be
doing an album sometime soon. He works very slowly, and only on things that he
wants. He spent most of the last year working on an album of Kurupt covers. As I
said, we very well may collaborate again under the name Ludemaar.
Amneziak: At some point in my interviews, I like to see what you're
listening to. As music lovers, it always gives us (the reader and fan) good
insight into our favorite artists' crates to know what's been on the turntable.
So, what are you listening to these days that's really been moving you?
Manitoba: Lightning Bolt, Madvillain, Dizzee Rascal, King Geedorah,
lots of old Can, Neu!, and free jazz again. That's about it!
Amneziak: On your website, you mention a band called The Jimmy Cake
that you really like. Are there any others out there that you feel deserve some
recognition that we should be looking out for in the near future?
Manitoba: I'd like to see this Madvillain thing, which is Madlib and
MF Doom really take off because they're the best shit happening in my opinion.
I'm always going on about Koushik, too - I'd like to see him release some shit
and get recognized. I'd like to see Lightning Bolt get more recognition in the
UK because then they'd come and do a gig over here. There's this digital dub
producer, Iration Steppas, who's been at it for ages (and his stuff kills it),
but there's not much likelihood of him getting more exposure - he's not very
fashionable and he's not from New York.
Amneziak: Heard any good jokes lately?
Manitoba: No. Not any with punchlines, unfortunately.
Amneziak: And finally, this is where I like to give you (the artist)
time to do or say anything you'd like. Interviews are always about you answering
our questions, but this is your time to type or paste anything you want us to
know or see. Whether it's a poem, painting, picture, movie, website, or anything
else, just have fun with it!
Manitoba: Just a couple things to recommend... you ever seen that
show The Prisoner? Check it out. It's not quite Twin Peaks, but almost. Also, if
you're ever in London, try barbecuing pineapple burgers on a roof in North
London. It has worked for me.