MATT: Fortunately, the 4 of us all really like a lot of different styles of music...when we mess around, we play jazz, reggae, metal, funk, or whatever comes up with us just kind of noodling. Then we play our set. You are right about the punk backbone because that is the one genre, I think, that we all really dig...its what brought us together in the first place.
ERIC: Yeah, it just kind of comes organically...we never set out really to do anything..there's no map..it just happens.
HECTOR: One person will usually have an idea, then we all can go from there.
CHRIS: Yeah, it just comes together, and usually there is the heavy punk influence somewhere in there.
MATT: So, I guess then that it is unintentional to be positive..we just really dig playing our music and dig playing together.
CHRIS: Its kind of the same answer to the first question...its because we all appreciate so many different styles of music, we can put them together cohesively.
HECTOR: We don't mind jamming any style of music, and each guy kind of has a little expertise in certain types of music..Eric and I are heavily in to punk rock, Matt, as we know, has toured all over the world with metal and speed metal bands, Chris obviously is a master hip-hop artist on his own.
MATT: That's thrash metal..haha...very similar to punk, and I've always been in to punk anyways.
Robert: Hollywood has a reputation for honing a band's ablility to handle the business end, and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way...LOL! It's hard work to catch breaks here, there's a lot of competition, and tales of "difficult deals" are many. That being said, it's a dreamland powerhouse for music. What are the best and worst things about taking your act in front of an audience in the Hollywood area?
ERIC: Here in the LA area its funny because its so saturated with bands. Any given night, a band will be playing and have say 40 50 of their fans and friends there...as soon as they are done playing, the place empties out and the next band has like 2 people there. In other states and cities people stay for the whole show and watch all the bands.
MATT: Its true, for example when I played a big festival in Germany, kids drove hundreds if not thousands of miles to camp in the dirt...but they would watch every single band every single day...you don't get that devotion here in LA...that's why you have to "manufacture" your own audience, and hopefully pick up fans along the way.
Robert: You guys recently got yourselves featured on a cable TV show, right? How was the experience of creating a scene for TV, as opposed to playing a show, or making a video for a song?
HECTOR: In this case it wasn't like that....we had already recorded the songs, and they chose them to put in the movie, so we weren't like watching a screen and writing the songs.
CHRIS: Yeah, and it was 2 songs "Vote for ME', and "I Aint What You Think" that got put into the movie 200MPH, and then 2 more songs "Get on Board" and "You Belong to Me" that got put into the TV Movie BORN BAD...which is still running on the Lifetime Channel.
Robert: This is getting to be a very digitally downloaded world these days, and people do a lot of their listening on phones and digital players. These formats can rarely capture the power presented at a live show, with amps and live mixes. If someone hears you first on their computer, and then sees the live show, what do you want them to expect when the curtain opens?
MATT: Wow, yeah, we want to create a totally different experience. I mean from tiny 2 inch speakers to the whole live production should be, and is...the difference of extremes. We basically want to blow you the fuck off the wall when you see us live. We totally support and respect all the other bands out there, but honestly, we want to put on such a bad ass show musically and visually that we want the band following us to go "holy shit...we gotta follow those guys"...which again I'm not talking shit about the other bands, but if you shoot for that goal, you will never fail at entertaining your audience to the highest degree...which is the main fucking point isn't it?
ERIC: Its all about the live show...we aren't self serving...I mean on one hand yes we want to do this as a living for the rest of our lives...but on the other hand, we do this for our fans...if someone has a fucked up day or whatever, then comes to a Straight Jackitt show, has a few beers, and gets off on a great show, and forgets his day and has an awesome time...then we have done our job...and that's what we want to do.
CHRIS: Yeah...its the entertainment business..so we ....entertain!
Robert: I hear ska weaving it's way through Straight Jackitt songs. Ska music is definately kept alive In California. Why do you think it continues to pair itself with West Coast style? I've always thought that it could be the island influence, and California is associated with beaches, etc. What drew you to ska styles and how does it feel switching from ska back into full on rocking?
HECTOR: I agree that ska is basically here in the West where it has been kept alive...especially in the OC...by bands such as No Doubt and Save Ferris. We just dig reggae and ska and stuff, so it finds its way into the music here and there.
CHRIS: We're about to drop a new reggae tune soon, too.
MATT: Yeah, its sick as hell!!!
Robert: The current line up of Straight Jackitt is featuring some recent additions, has it not? What have the changes in the line up brought to the sound of things? I've seen footage where you were featuring horn players as well, and also I heard you experimenting with some acoustic songs too. Are there plans to include other instrumentation in the tracks that you are working on now?
MATT: Yes it has...Chris is the new guy..it was a trip, I put an add our for somebody that can play rhythm guitar and can also rap really well. Within 10 minutes Chris responded....it was like fate or something...and he fits perfectly in..he plays the guitar really well, actually...and he is a flow master, with many rap albums to his credit. He was that missing link we were looking for that puts everything together...as it stands right now...nobody is replaceable...everybody has a specific job to do, and we all do it well. Yes we experimented with horns and stuff...and we like to have horns...but only on one or two songs, not in everything...like the ska songs horns work really well, but our heavy stuff they need to step aside. And the acoustic thing...sure...when we play larger venues and have an unlimited time to play we might bust one out!!
Robert: There is a very focused attack in Straight Jackitt, that seems to stem from a very tight collaboration between the bass and drums, which propels the guitars forcefully, but there's space for everyone to be heard. Lots of timely playing, but no wasted notes. What were some of your influences and shared ideas for shaping the sound we hear?
ERIC: Everybody brings something...I think we mentioned before...we all share hugely in musical influences, yet we all have our own specialty...Matt obviously comes from a punk and metal background, Hector and myself are heavy into punk and ska, and Chris is a master rapper, but we come together in this sound...for instance, we all dig Rage Against the Machine, and Rancid, and Dr. Dre or whatever...and I think you can hear that in our music.
Robert: One great strength of Straight Jackitt is patterning the music rhythmically so that it can facilitate both a singer, and also a hip hop vocalist. That can be real tricky. Is there a shift in play when someone is going to sing, as opposed to flow, over the top of a song?
CHRIS: Yeah, its kind of intentional, but then kind of not. We let the songs dictate where each part will go or where it sounds the best...but we really like having the rap parts flow with a funky beat so you can groove with it and really hear the lyrics..then BAM!! The punch, usually with heavy guitars and Matt screaming or something...like Lincoln Park, but much edgier and punkier.
Robert: Where can people go to drop in on what's happening with Straight Jackitt? What websites, social networks, or links will take you to info on available tracks, live dates, and other info? What is currently happening with Straight Jackitt, and what is coming soon?
MATT: Right now the most popular is obviously Facebook, so you can see us at www.facebook.com/straightjacktt There you kind find band info, pictures, tour dates, shows, and music to listen to. Just Google Straight Jackitt and you'll find lots of cool stuff! Our next big show is September 2nd at the El Cid Theater in Hollywood, CA. Should be a great show in our hometown..lots of fans and friends!!
And now Chris Jones serves it up in depth on Outta-Control's funk-fueled flow. Read on about the origins of the group, what it takes to bring the live show, and what happens in chopping up a mix. He takes a breather from the mic to tell me all about it...
Chris: Music is always evolving. Every genre, every style so it’s hard to say what a “good place” is. I think experimenting is great and has to be done in order for new sounds to be created and that’s definitely something you see a lot of in the underground hip-hop scene but you also see it in mainstream music as well. There is a lot of collaborating going on. Guys working with ladies, genre cross over’s. Kid Rock is a great example of that. I think you're going to continue to see collaborations, people who were branded in one genre trying to break through into another. I just want to see real artists making real music. Even if you’re rapping over a simple sampled track, make it real…put your heart into it. Don’t just say a bunch of BS that you think will sell records.
Robert: Rock, Funk, and Hip Hop all have their own beats. One huge benefit for Hip Hop is that it naturally lends itself to clubs and dance floors. People physically respond differently to beat structures. How does that look from the stage outward? Do you see people moving around and getting into it, but then really setting it off on certain songs? Do you have songs in your live set that tend to always get people moving?
Chris: here are definitely tracks that get the crowd going more than others. From the stage, you feed off the crowd so it’s always sweet to see them with their hands up really feeling the track. We try to keep our sets upbeat and fun. Keep the party going, especially in new markets or places where we have only played once or twice. If it’s your hometown crowd, you can get away with throwing a slower song in there and keep them interested. Our sets really depend on the crowd and where we are playing. If it’s a college crowd, we're going to play party songs that people can dance to. If we're playing a straight hip-hop show, we're playing hip-hop tracks. If we're playing with other live bands doing reggae rock stuff we’ll throw in a couple reggae songs. But, we always try and play to the crowd, and yes, we have our stock “get 'em hype” tracks that we always play no matter what.
Robert: It appears nowadays that some rap artists are studio creations, and an overly done production helps to mask the lack of lyrical prowess. It's nice to hear you guys coming in full on with the lyrics, and paring down on the backdrop, like on "Ride Slow", where motion is created with just a piano line that breaks into different sections. The lyrics definately do the talking. Since you guys are a "band" also, do you conceive of songs that way first, and then outfit them to be flowed upon?
Chris: Yes for sure. For our last album “Daily Dose” we got a lot of beats from outside producers. So, they came to us structured. If there was something we didn’t like, I would chop the track up in pro tools and arrange the music the way we wanted so that it would fit how we wanted to structure the song. When we write a song as a band it starts with just a jam or a riff. Somebody has an idea, plays a little piece and then we take it from there. It’s a process. Sometimes it goes fast and sometimes it goes slow. There have been songs that have literally taken us a year to write. You can flow to anything but you want it to be laid out in a way that works for every member of the group and their individual style. So we write the song, get it laid out how we want it, and then we talk and sort of work out who is going to go where. From there, we pick a topic based on the music and what we're feeling at the time and start writing the lyrics. Bada bing, bada boom…track!
Robert: In gathering up your roots, you mention Detroit, Lake Tahoe, and LA as regionalities that Outta-Control is identified with. Are there vast differences in the feel of those places, in terms of style, and have you taken on changes as a result of embedding yourselves in these different areas?
Chris: We have lived in a lot of places. Started in Detroit, moved to Lake Tahoe, then to San Diego, (where the rest of the band lives) and I’m in LA. The scenes are definitely different and so is the music from each place in a way. yet there are a lot of similar things going on in each place. But no, I don’t feel like we have taken on changes as a result of living in those different areas. We didn’t start in Detroit saying “oh man we have to be gangster”, and we didn’t move to Tahoe saying we have to make music snowboarders will like, or in SD (San Diego) trying to make surf music, or me in LA trying to be glam rock or something. LOL. We have always had our style and not tried to create anything based on a location. Sure life and things you go through alter the lyrics and content of the music but that’s natural.
Robert: As mentioned before, you guys are a "band" as well as a Hip Hop outfit. That has to present a versatility I imagine, because you're able to generate your own grooves and manipulate your own musical stew. How is the decision made on whether to bring the beats from the DJ or from the drummer? What challenges do you face when marrying technology and live performance?
Chris: We usually perform with a DJ running our tracks and I play the guitar live. We play with a drummer whenever we can. The one we started with in Tahoe didn’t work out and we haven’t been able to find anybody consistent since. Bummer. But if we had it our way we would do both. DJ scratching, drummer behind him playing over the instrumentals, guitar, live horn section, female background singers….the whole nine. The only challenge is that you need to practice more. It’s easy to run a CD or have a DJ spin your record and rap over it. When you start adding all those other live elements to the show it becomes trickier. But nothing a few practices can’t take care of. I think the reward is way worth it. Big band is visually better for the crowd and just more fun for us since we love all kinds of music. We’ve played with drummers who have never heard our music, gotten on stage, and killed the set. It just depends on how good the musicians are. We use live instruments in our recordings but it’s hard for us to get on stage and do it all. Rap, play 6 guitar lines at a time, bass, horns, strings, piano, shit there’s only 4 of us. Haha
Robert: Race is a consideration in Rap and Hip Hop at times, and it's not without its pitfalls. Have you encountered any unexpected situations when reaching out in a multi-cultural way? Has it been eventful at times? Or has it been easier than expected?
Chris: We haven’t had a problem with that man. We play shows all over and a lot of time it’s for a really diverse crowd. People who we would think would not like our stuff actually really do. Surprisingly a lot of the so-called gangster rappers love to see the live guitar on stage. We’ve blown some people away when those solos drop they kind of look at you like “What the Fuck”. Then they come up to you after your set giving you props and showing love. It’s always cool and though it happens often I still never go into a show thinking “oh man we got this they’re going to love this guitar stuff”. That will probably be the day they don’t. LOL. We played for Source Magazine once in San Francisco. I played a solo during our set and when we were done the judges made me get back up on stage and rock another one. Shit was tight.
Robert: You mentioned that the new tracks you're at work on are going to be a return to more band oriented groove construction...something you felt was missing on earlier tracks. What did you feel was missing in particular, and what will be the direction on the newer material?
Chris: We started as a band playing in my parent’s garage. We did a lot of rock, funk, with a hip hop twist. We always rapped over it but it had this super cool sound. Our first album was called “United By Divided Styles” and really brought that sound….that real Outta-Control live sound. Unfortunately, we were like 18 and had no idea what we were doing with pro tools so it sounded fucking terrible. Haha. Our next album (self-titled), was a mix between music tracks and beats from producers and our last album Daily Dose only had a couple songs that we actually produced ourselves. (The single “WE ARE” is a good example of where the sound is headed). So there has been a trend away from our roots. We want to take it back to the basics. (Which is what the album will be called) It’s going to feature some re-makes of old stuff and brand new material. Look for a more live sounding album VS. a hip-hop sample disk with a reggae, punk, funk, rock, party vibe.
Robert: When you're a Hip Hop vocalist in front of a band, with a DJ...and all that going on...what do you most like to pair the flow with? Are you listening to the beats and the bass player mostly? Do you fly along with certain melodies? When you're listening and looking to jump in with flows, what is the thing that grabs you and makes you want to do it?
Chris: When I play with a drummer I am for sure listening to him. He holds the whole group down. The lyrics are already written so you know where they need to go on the beat but I try and lock them in on the kick and snare hits to get a nice, tight, locked in sound. It’s hard not to pay attention to everybody but the drummer I think is the most important. If there’s a part of the song that is just guitar or something then obviously you’re listening to that. When we play with our DJ again I’m listening to beat not all the extra noise that goes on in the tracks. You have to trust both. Our DJ will just cut the track out for a couple bars at random spots during the set to ad that extra live “this is more than a guy playing music” feeling to the set and you just have to trust him to bring that beat back where it needs to be. He always does, we have played with him for years.
Robert: I've noticed that Outta-Control has got some entrepeneurial spirit. You guys are involved in promotion, marketing, and engineering the tracks themselves. What has the process been like for taking the helm in producing, and what tweaks and techniques have become part of your sound? If you had a wish list of things that would help you blow up bigger, what would they be?
Chris: It gets tough to do all of it yourself. You really need a good team behind you and we have that. It’s all about delegating who does what. I usually do our booking, we all help with marketing and on-line promotions. That’s probably an area where the other guys shine more than I do. I spend most of my time doing our mixes and masters, making lists of what needs to be done, what moves we want to make, prioritizing, writing and recording our instrumentals with Timmy B. As far as what tweaks have become part of our sound, it’s hard to say. I pretty much have my standard mix that I do in the studio but every song is different. Usually it’s a compressor, EQ, and reverb, with a little delay sprinkled around. We definitely do more vocal tracks than most guys that’s for sure.
Robert: Tell us about the outlets you have for checking out new drops from Outta-Control, where and when you'll be out there playing, and maybe some insight on what the new stuff is sounding like as it develops? Are you currently showcasing new songs and crowd testing them?
Chris: We always test new songs and see how they go over. It’s funny because sometimes a song you absolutely love and really want the crowd to like they won't feel as much as you want them to. Not to say they don’t like it they just don’t go crazy. After a couple of tries if the track still isn’t connecting live then even though you love it, it becomes one you don’t play live. Some songs are just better album tracks. Like I said we are recording our new album now and will be hitting the road again hard when it is done. We already have more than 400 shows under our belt and are no strangers to sleeping in cramped cars, parking lots, dirty floors, and loving every minute! We keep our sites pretty up to date and we have an actual .COM coming soon that people can check out. But for now the links are below. You can check out new music, videos, blogs, pics, status updates and more. Tell a friend….spread the word….join the Outta-Control movement! PEAAACCCEEE.