Nov. 2, 2010, was an important day for many fans of electronic music across the globe. The events of this particular Tuesday were unknowingly conceived in 2004, when two beat fiends met while digging for vinyl at Amoeba Music in San Francisco. For these Bay Area transplants, it was a day six years in the making — years spent crafting and refining a unique permutation of electro-infused, instrumental hip-hop. It was also the day that the bedroom-born beat project of Bryant Rutledge (as Low Limit) and Antaeus Roy (as Lando Kal) was fully realized as an international dance-music phenomenon — the day Lazer Sword finally released its self-titled debut album.
"We came up with the name Lazer Sword from a setting on our Kaoss Pad" effects sampler, Rutledge remembers over the phone from his 10th-floor apartment in downtown Los Angeles. He's doing his best to construct a timeline for his primary musical outlet while preparing for a solo DJ set at a fundraiser for an online radio station. "We came up with the name, and were like, 'Ha ha! Sick! Alright, we're Lazer Sword.' But we didn't really think about it or have any reason to need the name. We didn't play live at all. We just made songs."
Rutledge repeatedly mentions "we," a pronoun that includes the other half of Lazer Sword, Roy, who now resides in Berlin. The pair may have departed the city that brought them together, but they once lived near Cesar Chavez Street in the Mission. In a house they jokingly dubbed Fort Knocks (because of all the noise made by the beatmakers who lived there), Lazer Sword grew out of a shared love of underground hip-hop and a taste for the unfamiliar. They had both put in time at San Francisco–based music magazine XLR8R, inadvertently collecting influences and experiences that colored the early days of their project. Rutledge continues: "I started working [there], and I became hyperexposed to all this really weird music — electronic shit that neither of us were really listening to. Antaeus and I didn't really step outside of the hip-hop realm, [but] then I started bringing home, like, Ed Banger [Records] stuff. I was like, 'Whoa! It's like really really fast, crunchy hip-hop!'"
From that mix of stuttering beats, dislocated club tunes, and obscure electronic soundscapes came the earliest joint productions — glitchy electro bangers with titles like "Gucci Sweatshirt" and "Street Scooby" — that formed the foundation of Lazer Sword's hotly tipped live show. After the two built their initial collection of tracks, invitations to perform poured in from seemingly all directions.
"For like a year and a half, we hardly played any shows outside of S.F.," Rutledge recalls. "If you were into club music or going out to the club, or even hip-hop for that matter, you'd probably heard of Lazer Sword." But after gradually taking over San Francisco's dancefloors with sweaty sets at the likes of Madrone, 222 Hyde, and Mezzanine, interest spread beyond their hometown. Out of nowhere, Heineken flew the pair to Amsterdam for a one-off show. "It was totally random, and we didn't think it was real," Rutledge says. "It didn't even occur to me until we were there, like, 'We're in fucking Europe?! I've never been to Europe before!'" Flying overseas was a new experience for Lazer Sword, but it would happen regularly in the following years..
Online attention helped Lazer Sword introduce its system-shaking beat work to the thousands of fans the pair has today. As Rutledge puts it, "The live show aspect definitely took priority for a while." And that worked tremendously in Lazer Sword's favor, even if it did drastically delay the first album. Roy and Rutledge effectively gained a widespread following the old-fashioned way: touring incessantly and constantly writing new music.
"Musically, [San Francisco] is where both of us matured," Rutledge says. "The birth of our group all went down there. I don't expect that to ever happen again. I'm not going to have the time of [my] life with excitement like, 'Oh shit! We got 300 plays on our fucking MySpace player! Oh my God!'"
In some ways, it hasn't set in for Rutledge and Roy that they don't live here. As Rutledge puts it, "Every time I'm back in San Francisco at my old house, it feels like home." But where else better to celebrate the achievement that is their Lazer Sword album than where it was born? On Saturday, Dec. 4, Low Limit and Lando Kal will join with fans of their stellar beat, bass, and space noise compositions for a night of next-level revelry at Mighty. It's about damn time.