I interviewed the guys in Side Effectz for The Lost Tapes a couple of years back as they had just then released their second full-length, "The Wood Sessioms". Hooking back up for another meeting recently, we got ready to discuss their new, and finest, project to date, which is also their first to be released on vinyl, "Wunderbaum Music". As the group was getting ready for their release party at Café Deluxe later that night, I got the rare chance of being able to discuss their music with all three of the members being present at the same time. The result is as follows...
claaa7: There's no doubt in my mind that "Wunderbaum Music" is your most focused project yet. What was different recording this album as compared to its predecessors?Linkan: This time we recorded everything in the same studio, down in Malmö, with the same equipment and were able to mix down everything exactly the same way. The last one was recorded at several different studios, by different people, and under a very long time. "Wunderbaum Music" didn't take that long time in comparison, with the use of one microphone, and the involvement of the same small clique.
claaa7: How long did it take to record the album?
Linkan: About six months, maybe? The earliest song we recorded for the LP was "Kaddu" which we had first recorded back in May 2012, and the last track was recorded sometime early this year soon before we completed the record; I think it was in January... So about eight months for the total process.
Juancan: But at the same time, the actual instrumentals were recorded and taken from various sessions over a vast amount of time. The most outstanding example of this is the "Thunderkingz" beat which I actually made a long, long time ago; maybe even getting close to ten years ago, which I think is apparent in its sound too. So although the vocal parts, sequencing and mix was done over a relatively short time span, many of the beats were crafted during different periods.
claaa7: But I still think there's a definite wholeness or musical conceptualization that is clearly evident and runs through the entire album. I was personally suprised to learn that "Thunderkings" was pretty much the oldest beat you've used on any of your three albums.
Juancan: True, but it all comes down to the vocals when you record over a short time span [like we did]. In a way, vocals are the one main thing that's really alive in the thing I think; a lot of the energy you pick up on as a listener will come from the vocals. If you listen to our first LP, and then listen to this one there's no question that Linkan sound a lot more sure as an emcee here.
Akopalips: On "The Wood Sessions" many tracks were several years old and lifted from various sessions, resulting in the lack of a truly coherent sound. There, Linkan's evolution as a rapper was spread over over a too long amount of period which was reflected on the overall sound. For this new LP, that was not a factor since it was created over a much shorter, and more focused, period which created a much stronger musical bond between the songs we used for the album. And of course, there's a lot more confidence in ourselves as artists this time around!
Linkan: Right, we've simply gotten better at pretty much everything; from writing, to production, and so forth...
claaa7: I know that you all live in three different cities. How does that affect you as a group? Could it even be considered as a strength, i.e. you're getting to grow and perfecting your ideas before meeting up to record?
Isaac: A lot more gets done once we come together now.
Linkan: Yeah, that's how I feel too. Every time I've been down to work we've recorded at least four tracks, sometimes more. So now, we are more able to complete and perfect the ideas you're working on before recording, whereas when we could record every day you didn't always put your heart into it in the same way. Now you know you have to really nail it before you go back home again.
c7: So, you're always working together in the studio as opposed to sending vocals and beats back and forth which is so popular in this day and age?
Linkan: We do send the beats between us, so that I can write whenever and wherever to the track in question, but I only record vocals once we're together in the studio. The guys won't even know what I'll spit on their respective beats until we are actually in a session.
c7: As far as the mixing, studio engineering and all that technical stuff, who was behind that on this record?
Akopalips: Most of it was done by myself, with some help from Juancan.
Juancan: Yeah, the only thing that really wasn't of our own handling was the mastering for the vinyl press, which was handled by an outside guy who did a phenomenal job. But besides that we really do as much as possible ourselves, even down to the graphic design. It's homemade ish for real!
c7: One thing that I picked up on from this album is that it has more of a true group vibe to it than I think was heard on your previous releases...
Akopalips: I think it has a lot to do with the three of us spending a lot of time together just hanging out which creates that refreshing relationship in our music that I believe is reflected in the sound of the project.
Juancan: Right. It's that, and the fact that we, by now, have done this for a long time and are all more sure of ourselves as both individual artists and in trusting each others judgments. You're a lot more comfortable about the whole process than before when you were recording material at a younger age. That was something you could really tell when we were all down in Akopalip's studio for these sessions, and ideas were just flowing out of us.
Akopalips: Yeah, the musical partnership [between us as producers] had a big effect on the LP too, I felt. Juancan gave additional touches to a lot of joints here, including the use of live guitar and synthesizers. Without that we would have lost a lot of the vibe that is now heard on it.
c7: Would you say that you used more live instrumentation in producing this album as opposed to your previous albums?
Juancan: Maybe... I.e. "Counter Clockwise" was created without the use of any samples at all?
Linkan: It depends a little on how you define it too, for example on the last album we had some guitar solos and stuff, whereas here I think the live instrumentation is more incorporated and layered in to the actual beats. "Focus" is a good example...
Akopalips: True, for "Focus" I produced the main track using samples, whereas Juancan created the intro and the beat switch in the middle of the verse playing live guitar.
Juancan: That was a very spontaneous thing too. I was just sitting listening to Isaac and Linkan creating the song, playing a few chords for myself while listening, which lead to the idea of actually building those parts into the song. A lot of things went like that this time, just playing around in the studio until something really interesting happened.
c7: Building up to the release of "Wunderbaum Music", you've released a slew of promo singles not included on the album. What's the back story on tracks like "Paciencia" and "Tha Funk"?
Linkan: "Tha Funk" was never intended for the album as it was originally a track made for a mixtape by the guy that produced it [Odd Goons], but about six months past the record date not much else were done so he scrapped the idea, enabling me to release it as a Side Effectz single.
Akopalips: That was the first track recorded from these sessions too, wasn't it?
Linkan: Yeah, it was that and "Kaddu"... "Paciencia" is a real old track that I recorded at BG Studios. That's why my voice is sounding so different on there, due to the microphone quality.
Juancan: At one point, we actually tried to fit "Paciencia" in to the album, but it didn't work at all, mainly because the quality of the sound and use of different equipment stood so much.
c7: Were there many other tracks recorded for the project that you left on the cutting room floor?
Linkan: No, there's really not much though there's that one joint called "Labor" which we still intend to remix and will come out real dope once it gets the right touch. Originally I also recorded the "Innaspace" vocals over the "Focus" beat, which really didn't work at all.
Akopalips: We have always worked from the model of picking out song concepts that we feel are interesting, before getting to work on them were we try to perfect them. We've never recorded like 30 songs and then created an album from picking out the best ones.
The original plan for "Wunderbaum" however was to make an EP with only four or five tracks, but once we got started on it, a lot of time was invested, birthing ideas and concepts so we felt we might as well add a few more tracks and make it another full-length.
c7: Linkan, you supply all the writing and vocals this time around. What can you tell us about the process?
Linkan: Something that stood out about it was that I got to record a song right after finishing writing it, resulting in a closeness between the subject matter and my vocals which is partially lost if the two processes are separated by too much time.
c7: You've used the same artist, Johanna Isaksson, for this album's artwork as you did for the previous LP. What is it about her style that you feel represents Side Effectz's music so well?
Akopalips: I think her style is spaced-out and surreal, which is very much us. I met her a few years back, and saw some of her artwork and was crazily impressed, telling her how she would be perfect for doing record covers. So when our last record was done, I immediatly thought of Johanna and asked her to do it, feeling that her style would mesh really well with our sound. We gave her some directions in what we wanted for the cover, things that are touched upon on the album in one way or another.
c7: Of much pleasure to many of your followers, this time around we gets to hear Side Effectz on vinyl. Do you think this will be the standard format for future releases as well?
Linkan: I really hope so! I just hope enough people will cop the vinyl so it'll be worth pressing up. Ever since I first started making music myself, a personal goal has been to release something on wax, so it's a great feeling to finally have accomplished that... So, if everything goes around, the plan is definitely to keep presenting our music on vinyl, since I think our music is better suited for that format and people who may be into digging.
c7: On a different note, we've heard a couple of singles from "Akopalips Now", a side project that was announced quite some time ago. How's that project coming together?
Akopalips: I will hopefully be able to put it out this winter. It's principally done; all the ideas are there, so I really just need to get it mixed down and hopefully I'll get Mariama too add vocals to a few tracks...
c7: So it won't be a 100 percent instrumental LP as, I believe, you previously had planned?
Akopalips: Well, you'll hear a few voices on there, but it will be more incorporated into the production, there won't be any verses like on "Focus" from Mariama on it but her voice will definitely be a presence that will add more life to the music. It's a very dark album though, which is a huge reason why I'm aiming for a winter release as it definitely wouldn't have felt right presenting it as a summer album.
c7: Linkan, as an emcee, are you also planning on releasing other material, outside of Side Effectz?
Linkan: Hell yeah! I'm not sure how it will materialize, but I got a lot of ideas that doesn't always fit in with what we're doing with Side Effectz. We got our own producers with Juancan and Akopalisp, and we have evolved a certain sound together, so any outside shit will definitely have a very different sound. For instance, I'd like to do more Reagge stuff...
c7: Aight peeps, looking forward to those projects and the show tonight! Last call for shout outs!
Juancan: Yeah, shout outs to Daniel [El Campeon], he's too fucking ill with it!
Linkan: Shout outs to everybody who helped out in any way with the album, and shout outs to all supporters of our music; especially the whole town of Växö who has really been behind us from the start!