California Colors, the new collaborative EP from Ernie Fresh, Mophono, and Egyptian Lover, pays homage to the days where b-boys, graffiti artists, and emcees perfected their skills over the sounds of funky synths and old school drum machines. Officially celebrating its release this Saturday, the party will feature live performances by Egyptian Lover, Zackey Force Funk, Mophono, and Ernie Fresh.
Also on the bill is Electro Freeze Force, a collaborative DJ/production duo from Mophono and artist Young Aundee. The pair’s performances resemble “a fun party curated in the ’80s by Fab Five Freddy at a darker CBGB’s,” Mophono says. We got a chance to chat with Young Aundee and Mophono about California Colors, producing and DJing together, and their favorite musical machines.
California Colors Release Party takes place this Saturday, Sept. 2, at The Great Northern.
How did you guys meet?
Aundee: I played keys and sang in the live hip-hop group Who Cares for close to a decade. We played along side Mophono at the Elbo Room around 2006. Since then developed a super active music production and DJing relationship.
Mophono: I was aware of Aundee’s talent after meeting him through friends. Musicians who know multiple genres so thoroughly are far and few between. So after bumping into Aundee at super heady nerd rap shows and also at intellectual futuristic underground beat head clubs and then partying with him at hardcore synth-punk goth shows, I knew we saw eye-to-eye.
Tell us about your production/DJ duo Electro Freeze Force.
A: It’s our take on neo-futurism in hip-hop/electro freestyle production in music. Benji and I met through the pseudo-back-packer and beat machine scene but always felt outside. We share a love of early industrial music — TG, DAF, Chris and Cosey, et cetera — and of course staple electro: Kraftwerk, Egyptian Lover, Cybotron. This idea is a way to borrow the harshness of one genre and amalgamate it with what we’ve learned from hip-hop.
M: After getting to know Aundee and Ernie and performing a few times with their rap project Who Cares they invited me go to RUSK Studio’s in L.A. to co-produce some music with Egyptian Lover. It was in those sessions that we were blessed with some of the original electro art form knowledge and on that day united to form Electro Freeze Force.
How did you come up with the name?
A: It’s the name we gave to our production/DJing duo. It’s a combination of the name of this specialty snowcone machine Electro Freeze and Man Parish’s crew from the famous rap anthem “Boogie Down Bronx.”
M: I associate the words Electro Freeze Force with an era that is synonymous with the tools, style energy and enthusiasm that we build from. We do intentionally create with our forefathers and old school culture in mind but very much push our selves and the craft into the future as far as we can see and with anyone else that wants to come along. As Whodini says, “you do your dance and I’ll do mine, and we’ll all dance along to the same bass line.”
What do you like most about DJing together?
A: Benji is vetted in a city that to me once use to represent all the best things about turntable culture in S.F. He’s been doing it since way before cats where hitting the stage with laptops to play their hour of this months bangers of the download universe. He has impeccable taste and the strongest convictions of any one I’ve ever worked with. I truly humbled and honored to even get on decks with a DJ of his caliber.
M: I really view Sprockets, the night that Aundee and I host in Sacramento, to be something unique and special in its musical arc. Not many people play industrial punk and old-school rap beats together. … I always approach the night as if it were a fun party curated in the ’80s by Fab Five Freddy at a darker CBGB’s.
Tell about California Colors. What was the most challenging part of completing this project?
M: All aspects of the music industry are changing rapidly. For example, the recording process, formats and releasing, communication, label promotion, campaign structures, gatherings, and events are all a whirlwind of information generally telling you as an artist not to be unique, risk-taking, true to the art form, boundary-pushing, or thoughtful and intelligent. This sound we are creating, we consider to be timeless instead of current or obvious.
The way I think this record rises above all of that is in the approach we took and the choices we made while forming the music. One example in the process that we took is that we drove to L.A. and recorded in person at RUSK Studios with the engineer Masaki and all of Egypts’ (Egyptian Lover) analog gear. Most people in today’s process do this all on the same laptop that they upload it with. This kind of hand-to-hand analog process hopefully benefits product and the listener in the end.
This album sounds like an ode to the old school electro vibes of the late ’80s early ’90s. What were you guys listening to back then?
M: There are about five major hat tips in this project. … Kraftwerk, Run DMC, Mantronix, Def Jam’s first few releases, and Detroit electro. Honorable mention, “Egypt Egypt” was my first favorite song I ever had.
It’s hard to pick favorites, but which track resonates the most with each of you?
A: My favorite is the track “Candy Stryper,” not only because it is the epitome of timeless electro but that fact that Egypt felt it enough to lend his vocal styling to further validate that fact.
M: “California Colors.” Skip on beat tools on the vinyl on 45. Try it out, lift the needle, and fuck around.
Graffiti, b-boying, emceeing, and DJing. Which one do you wish you were the best at?
A: Definitely DJing. I love learning the history and origins of the things I’m influenced by. I can’t paint or dance for shit even though I enjoy dancing.
M: Ultimately, I chose DJing a long time ago but I try and enlist people who I feel are the best and am lucky to be surrounded by such talented people
What’s currently your favorite music-making machine?
A: I’m passionately in love with my late-’70s Moog Rogue. I’ve been making melodies with it for a little over two years now. All of the synth and keyboard work on the California Colors EP are analog. There is no piano roll or quantization; Benji edits everything by hand.
M: Drum machines, synths and percussion … from extremely high-end to small portable and shitty.
What kind of jams will be played Saturday?
M: I think the musical focus on the night is wrapped up pretty accurately in the EP’s title track “California Colors” and “Candy Stryper.” Heavy 808 drum machine rhythms, thought provoking raps about graffiti and fantastic live hip-hop and electronic performances.