Ming – guitars, keyboards, moog
FS – vocals, fender rhodes, moog, keybaords, turntables, bass
Ming and FS are bent on breaking out of the misconception that they’re a drum and bass outfit. Having their tracks appear on a number of drum and bass compilations, including This Is Jungle Sky v.5 and v.6, along with having a few jungle themes included in their live sets have contributed to their misunderstood identity. Ming says, “I think there’s a little misnomer that we’re drum and bass group. We have a couple drum and bass tracks on each of our records, but for the most part we’ve really been a hip-hop group. Drum and bass is just an element of hip-hop.”
People, including journalists, quickly categorize groups almost to a fault. Over the past five years or more this has been more difficult to do, which is a good thing. Artists within almost every musical style have crossed over into new territories, bringing diversity to the watered down, redundant humdrum MTV world – a good thing. We’re not using rap metal as an example, although one could if they wanted to limit their horizons.
Ming and FS take the foundations of dance music in different directions, getting away from the technical robotics of jungle and the glowstick craze of techno, and bring it all around to a more human level. Ming explains the essence of their third full length release, Subway Series, now out on OM Records, “I think people should expect a pretty diverse album. If people are down with progressive hip-hop and the more urban side of dance music, less the housey side, more the breaks and drum and bass, then they’ll be interested in what we do. The new album is a return to more of that break-oriented culture.”
Ming and FS come from the streets of New York, so it’s only natural that in some way, any music they created post 9/11 will play a part in their new release. Ming agrees, “I don’t think it’s possible to record something like this and not have it in there somewhere. We were definitely feeling it at that point…feeling the pain, how fucked up it was. I wouldn’t call it an angry or a sad record, but I think all the elements of how everyone was feeling is in the record.”
The upside to the tragedy was how it brought everyone together, jolting us into a higher level of appreciate of the people who have been in our lives and affected us in big and small ways. FS says 9/11, “sparked us to re-connect with a lot of the New York MCs that we had worked with in the past. We wanted to reestablish connections with the people we felt were doing important things in the music scene in New York. We had all gone through the same event so close to home…you could smell it from your window. So we reached out to people in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Jersey and the city to connect with them on that energy level. We wanted to do something important and new…worthwhile, not run of the mill, because you never know what’s going to happen.”
This family affair collaboration includes BlesteNation taking their hometown social message to the people on “Jingle Hell,” with tru-school hip-hop stylings. Nafis Mac, who was on their first album, Hell’s Kitchen, returns on track “The L,” a lowdown story of the violence in the streets of the city, intertwined between lazy turntable spins, bluesy guitars, and vocal samples.
Todd Simon from Macy Gray’s band first worked with them on their Applied Pressure project and comes back to add that element of sophistication with his trumpet tool of the trade on several Subway Series tracks, including “The Dope Dance,” where FS gets a Beat Box flow going to Cotton Mouf Raspy’s vocals. DK, who contributed her fluid and luscious vocal skills to Hell’s Kitchen now goes off on the trials and tribulations involved in the game of love on the bubbling bongos, tabla, and trumpet infused “Misdirected,” along with Aref Durvesh.
On the opening track, Dr. Israel contributes his dub MC vocals on beat heavy, “Steady Shot,” that brings in those tinkling keyboard elements hovering atop scratches and hardcore rhythms. 80’s hip-hop themes and Ming’s keyboard effects take center stage along with B-Boy Speedy from the New York City Breakers on “World Wide”, complimented again by Todd Simon’s trumpet skills and a speed demon rhythm race. Ming and FS really stretch their creative muscles on “Retrace,” bringing in Baba to mix in Dijeridoo, Beat Box and vocals with their shiny keyboards, rubberband turntablism, and subdued drum and bass persona.
Ming’s punk rock and guitar history brings in the edgy side of their sound, crossing over into FS’ background of classical jazz and piano, bringing those organics facets to their song structures and performances. Ming elaborates, “With all of our albums there’s always been live instrumentation – keyboards, piano, guitars. There’s just more of that on Subway Series. It will be easier for people to make the connection now that we’re playing the instruments live.”
The first show of the tour was September 17 in Cincinnati, followed by an opening for slot for Sound Tribe Sector 9. Before that, they “retired” their old set that was performed previously at the Fox show in Boulder, but this time it was for their hometown fans in New York. Ming explains how their live performances somewhat resemble a running play that runs it’s leg before it’s replaced by another, “It’s funny to call it an old set. If you’re a rock band, then you’ve got your set of songs that never get old. But for us, because we have all these routines and everything… DJ culture is such a different item. They do get old for people. So you have to keep it fresh and keep it changing.” So for this Subway Series tour, it’s a “completely new set with some occasional sprinkles of the monster jams that we must play. There’s a lot more original and remixed versions of our music in this set. And we have some classics…”
FS interjects, “We gotta play Ozzy…come on.”
Ming recalls, “Yea. We left in some landmarks, put it that way.” At the Fox show, they not only pulled classic rock gems out of the DJ bag, but retro soul and 70’s love songs were mixed with a deep jungle beat and live guitars, and the crowd went wild.
FS says that, “Even if you’ve seen us a million times, it’s going to be a new show and worthwhile to come out. People say that Subway Series has come the closest to the energy of our live show. So we’re getting closer to bring together our live and recorded material.”
This tour will include 31 dates in the U.S., and then they’ll play it by ear as far as where their music takes them next. They could end up going back to Japan where they’ve toured before. FS, the world traveler points out, “I heard they have a lot of Japanese people there. But they don’t have California rolls.”
Ming adds, “This one guy in Japan told me that Japan is America’s greatest experiment in capitalism. It’s kinda strange, but it’s got it’s own electricity so it’s pretty cool.”
For this tour they’re also bringing Reid Speed to open up the show with her drum and bass and 2-Step skills, “She’s gonna mix it up .Get everyone warmed up,” Ming says, “then we’re gonna knock ’em over.”
Ming and FS plan to include some surprise guest performances that will vary depending on where they’re playing, so they were keeping a very tight lipped about who will join them on the stages here in Colorado. If Ming had it his way, the crew would include, “John Elway. I would love to have him come out and dance in his uniform.”