I’m not even going to try to describe what LA-based NGUZUNGUZU sound like… to be honest, I don’t have a clue. Instead, I’d suggest that you give their independent deut EP a listen, which is available for free on their website… hopefully it will transport you to another universe within your mind where you can give it a meaningful description of your own.
I spoke to both NGUZUs (Asma & Daniel) just before they drove twenty four hours to SXSW, and they talked a bit about their tremendous vision- community, taking pride in being weird, plans to overthrow the status quo and create a new virtual reality world of future club music.
At request of the Nguzus, I have included both their responses under the same NGUZU heading. So even though there is only one “NGUZU” responding to my questions, there are three people in the interview. Got it? Cool, it only gets weirder from here.
Interview by Brendan Arnott (my text in bold).
What can you tell us about the origins of NguzuNguzu?
NGUZU: Origins? As in, how we started out? Or our name?
Both would be great. Maybe a bit about when you started making music together and what inspired the type of music you’re making.
NGUZU: Well, we started making beats together for fun on cassette tape. Super improvised with no edits, really raw live takes with mpc 2000 classic and keyboards. We made mixtapes that were always sort of dancey or raw beats that you could bump hard in your Chevy. Our friends really responded to these tapes and we began using Ableton and started sending stems to each other via emails. We compiled like 30 tracks onto cdr from cassette and sent it out to some people. Kingdom got a hold of one and we’ve been friends ever since.
NGUZU: Kingdom was and is a huge inspiration. He heard one of our cassettes a while back, contacted us and remixed like 2 of our tracks: OXXYGENERATION and HATE2WAIT on his mixtape volume 2.
Speaking of inspirations, the fluokids blog tryed to describe your sound as “Blaqstarr meets trance” -how do you feel about that?
NGUZU: Blaqstarr is a HUGE inspiration from way back hearing his tracks on 92Q.
And then the name NGUZUNGUZU also refers to figureheads of protective spirits…
NGUZU: We named ourselves NGUZUNGUZU after a type of wooden canoe prow carving from the Solomon Islands. We liked the name firstly for its phonetics,when repeated rapidly it sounds like a digeridoo. And the idea of this guiding figure on our craft of sonic explorations. Something like a beacon, a navigational tool, a compass that points us in various directions.
I like the idea of thinking about music as a navigational tool, and I notice that as much as you are musicians, there also seems to be a strong graphic design element to your work. In your latest video for “Got U / A Ring To It“, it’s almost like the images bring an entirely new dimension to the song. What do you find interesting about the intersection of images and music in your work?
NGUZU: Leilah Weinraub made the video for “Got U“; we exchanged several ideas and I sent her some designs and rough animations for it. I feel that the imagery brings allows the music to say a lot more, or to say something specific. With that video for example .. there is a lot more content and meaning that you can associate with that song that you wouldnt necessarilly otherwise. We are working right now with Blackmoth, an amazing video maker in Bmore that also works with Kingdom. She makes amazing videos and music videos. We were just looking at her video flyer for Club Vortex a while back and it really takes you there to this amazing virtual space. Asma and I both come from Visual Arts backgrounds.
(NGUZU sends me the video link) Wow, it’s like a Diva Windows 95 screensaver on acid!
NGUZU: Haha, I like that description.
NGUZU: Thinking of sound visually is very important in it’s design and creation. How the bass weaves with the kick… melody sits on top
NGUZU: Is this making sense?
NGUZU: …Meets CGI meets the 4th of July.
NGUZU: Virtual 3d fireworks please!
Speaking of the intersections between video and sound, you were the musical directors for Wu Ingrid Tsang’s film “Damelo Todo” (Give Me Everything), which is a snapshot Latina transgender women making alliance with queer performance artists at The Silver Platter, a downtown LA queer bar. You were also DJs for Tuesday’s Wildness night, correct?
NGUZU: The Silver Platter! hehe. It’s in the Macarthur Park area of LA, not downtown, by the way. The film is mostly about the bar Silver Platter, how it started as a latin gay bar and became a sort of haven for the queens later on. Then Wu Ingrid Tsang ties in the story of Wildness, our Tuesday night party… which is on hiatus now because legal issues dealing with ownership rights of the bar.
NGUZU: And the story of a trans person migrating to Los Angeles and finding the bar.
Did the music that you played while DJing influence your musical score for the film?
NGUZU: Yes, many peers and influences came through!
NGUZU: Yes definitely, a very strong influence were the guest DJs and performers at our party. We also made new music for parts of the film (and are making new music) that are not party scenes, they’re sad scenes. Party scenes mostly feature music we played at the club. We collaborated on a cover of a Gloria Trevi track with Maluca, and we’re collaborating with German vocalist Marichien Danz as well. She’s the voice of melancholy. In creating new music to score the film, we drew a lot from the mood & feeling of the bar.
NGUZU: Lots of Cumbia & Cumbia Sonidera.. Diva samples with tons of echo…
Speaking of these inspirations – When I learned that you’ve been involved in the Wildness club nights, I started thinking about representation – to me, Wildness very clearly evokes that it is a space for queer & trans folks of color… kind of creating spaces for folks that sometimes don’t have that freedom to go out and dance without harassment. Is a queer identity important to how you see yourselves as musicians? Would you openly define yourselves as queer, or is it a discussion that you feel doesn’t add anything to the kind of music you make? (Realizing that “queer identity” is pretty subjective)
NGUZU: We didn’t create a safe space at the silver platter for the Trans or Queer community. That space was there and we worked with them. Our Tuesday night was different from the regular nights which were pretty quiet all week except for the crazy weekend drag shows, when the place goes nuts.
NGUZU: I think it’s very important to us as musicians what communities we work with with, and where we find community. But we don’t have any concrete label for our music. Except maybe GLOBAL CLUB. Or VISUAL HOUSE!
You’ve built an entire mixtape of re-edits around Art of Noise’s track “Moments in Love”: What do you love about that song, or what it represents?
NGUZU: Oh yes, well, that song is the icon of “baby making music”. Growing up in Maryland they played it damn near every night on the radio for the SLOW JAMS set. Sometimes mixing in sex noises… Every time it is remixed, it becomes a classic all over again. The melody is infectious, simple and poignant – able to mutate into ALL sorts of genres… even a sweet murder song. (Krayzie Bone’s “Murda Mo”)
NGUZU: Melt with all drum patterns, become recontextualized… but always remain “Moments in Love”. Riding that melody all over the place…
Riding it like a turtle sliding around on ice? (watch the 1:35 mark of this video for reference)
NGUZU: Hahah! With a wig on! That video!
That’s what I’ll always remember about the video…. a little turtle going “whooooo” while sliding across the ice. Or maybe instead of “whoo”, sliding around with a neutral facial expression, thinking “someday, I will kill all the humans for making me do this”.
NGUZU: So fuckin’ weird, haha. I put a giant tortoise in an artshow once. EARTH CLUB.
NGUZU: My love for that track is what it became as a sample for all sorts of music genres. How it has been pulled, twisted, mutated for so many years… and continues to be used! It’ll never get old. TIMELESS.
Speaking of timeless music – your new EP is out for free download on your website. I like it a lot. Why did you give it for free?
NGUZU: We wanted to get the music out there. We were frustrated at how slow things move with record labels and official releases and how to plot the release of a song and we thought releasing it for free the way we did was the most effective thing to do. We get so much for free we wanted to just give it away.
What collaboration would you like to see Mixpak involved in?
NGUZU: Us and Mixpak? or Mixpak and someone?
Let’s say Mixpak and anyone.
NGUZU: DJ Mouse,…. DJ Cleo would be dooope! Work with some female MCs! Nicki Minaj!
NGUZU: Get em’ Mamis in Bmore. Pink Dollaz!
What are our hopes for 2010, and do you have any parting advice you’d like to leave us with?
NGUZU: Our hopes for 2010 is that this new music (global club) thing will continue to develop in interesting ways incorporating new voices sounds and exciting new techniques, to say the least. More peoples travelling to more places. More sounds travelling to new places. Overthrow the staus quo. Become hackers, create a virtual reality club, 24/7!
I think that virtual reality club exists, and it’s called Dump.fm.
NGUZU: Yeah, that shit’s crazy. LOL Boys, they were the ones who told me about that.
Haha yeah, they turned me onto it as well.
NGUZU: They are dope.
NGUZUNGUZU: But anyway, hopes for 210. Connections! STAY CONNEKTED. Hack the mainframe. 2010 Global Club rules! 2012 ZORGA WORLD TOUR! Get ready.
NGUZUNGUZU: Keep collaborating with more MCs!
NGUZUNGUZU: Advice: free your mind from all pressure.
Thanks very much to NGUZUNGUZU for the lovely chat. Keep watch, they’ve got the future on lock.