To get us sufficiently warmed up for this Sunday, Mutant Beat Dance unleashes a second set of 5 exclusive snippets from their new 25-track album; plus a candid interview featuring Steve Summers, the new addition to the project. The trio will make their European debut at Strange Sounds From Beyond 2017.
How did the spirits come together for MBD and what is their message?
Beau Wanzer: I met Melvin around 2002 when I was working at this record store called “Weekend Records and Soap”. He would come in and and we’d geek out on music. We didn’t start working on music until a couple of years afterwards. It was a very fluid working experience… we would just hook up the machines and start jamming with no real intent to release anything. As for a message, I don’t know. We like trying new things when we record… not sticking to the same template, keeping ourselves stimulated.
Steve Summers: I only recently joined the group. I’ve known both Melvin and Beau for many years but this is the first time all three of us have worked on music together.
Traxx: First off, there is no message; we’re weirdos that fiend for the machine mechanics of the early age of analog and I met Beau at Weekend Records & Soap ran by Jim Magas and his wife Bridgette. I went there lots because the store was very close to where I lived at the time so I’d go buy wax but also hung out. I was making my first tracks on Gigolo records with two guys from Chicago to form The Dirty Criminals and I would come to the store and would see Beau there and wonder what his story was.
As stated above, working together came a couple of years later. There was no plan in which we’re gonna become a group and make music. I simply said: “If you wanna come over to my house and smoke, come thru” and Beau said: “I’ll bring some keyboards” so we dabbled with sounds, focusing on Chicago style warehouse ideas minus acid and really nothing solid came about after several visits he made to my place, but each time we met we always wanted to do a different idea than the last time because we knew it would get boring doing the same situation.
We haven’t received any transmissions from MBD for a while, surely something must have been cooking… Can you share any of your plans with us?
Beau Wanzer: We are always recording when we are in the same city. We’ve amassed a lot of music over the years, a lot of which is unreleased. We just finished up a new record. Some songs are old, some are new. Our good friend Jason Letkiewicz (Steve Summers) recently moved to Chicago and has been working on some tracks with us. It’s been a very fluid working environment/relationship and he is now part of the project. He’s contributed a lot to the new record and will be joining us on stage for the Strange Sounds Festival.
Steve Summers: The past few months were fairly intensive as we focused on completing the 25-track album that was recently announced on the Mutant Beat Dance page. After that we switched over to writing all-new material for the festival. And in preparing this new set I feel that we’ve gotten into an interesting zone where the different ideas coming from each person are fitting together well with each other.
Traxx: When I’m home… and in the last 10 years it’s been barely at all. In over a year’s time I would just have been home for one month. The rest of the time I’ve been on the road and we have been recording, but only when it’s been possible and that’s not really much time at all. The album has been developing for over 2 years, which has been deadly serious for me because I had to explain to Beau what I wanted to do for this album; not just making 8-10 songs and then walking away. I don’t like to be in people’s face all the time with music products but when I do I want to make sure they won’t come around for a long while, which gave me the idea for this album just like the 3rd edition of The Modern Electronic Element Series.
With Summers I personally asked him to join the project because he’s a unique talent like so many others I know who don’t receive the recognition they deserve; so I asked and he locked in to bring the behemoth madness to the table for the last few months, working harder than he ever has with much more than just electronic instruments, but then also working on a brand new set of songs only for this festival. Because the album was so crucial to complete we all didn’t want to go back in and try to create live versions of songs nobody has even heard at all. Of course nobody knows what we’re gonna do but there won’t be songs from anything we’ve done in the past, so don’t think we’re coming to cheese you out with hits because that’s not how I roll at all.
Is there an ethic that conducts the group whilst you’re producing?
Beau Wanzer: No. Not really. We just play with the equipment until we find something we like. We sometimes disagree on what we do and don’t like…and I think that’s good.
Steve Summers: To draw on our musical knowledge and connection to the past while continually experimenting to push our ideas forward. No egos about who does which part so long as the result is sick.
Traxx: Summers answered the question as I would have.
Any particular studio set-up MBD requires for maximum output?
Beau Wanzer: Again, it’s always changing. There is no one piece of gear that we rely on. We like to change our working methods and experiment with different setups etc. I think that’s important. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Making mistakes can sometimes work to our advantage and develop an idea that we hadn’t intended.
Steve Summers: A heavily machine-based set-up that requires constant interaction between us and the hardware. The musical ideas are there before but we create the structure and flow in real time as we record. Also keeping it loose enough for many unplanned moments to find their way each time.
Traxx: They both said what I would’ve said.
If you had to select a non-musical piece of art that describes your music, which one would it be and why?
Beau Wanzer: Hmmm… I like really stupid shit lol. So I’d have to say the movies of Frank Henenlotter best describes my contribution to Mutant Beat Dance. I show up with my deformed Siamese twin brother attached to my waist and Melvin tries to pry it off me. He can’t…so we use him to our advantage.
Steve Summers: Maybe not so much a particular non-musical art piece but I do tend to approach the music-making process in a similar way to painting by trying to create interesting colors and subtle gradients via smudged edges.
Traxx: Star Wars from the old days till now, the story arc of the timeline. This would take entirely too long to explain because the jedi/sith is already deeply a part of my DNA on a level most already think I’m crazy for but I laugh because I have incredible powers beyond my own limits.
What made us the platform for MBD to debut in Europe? We have to say we’re honored!
Beau Wanzer: I’ve played for Strange Sounds on Red Light Radio and have always enjoyed the open-mindedness and the people involved. Rush Hour has also been nothing but supportive over the years and I think they are equally great. Just good vibes all around! Truly Grateful!
Traxx: Strange Sounds invited me for the first edition of this festival last year and invited me again this year but I said to myself: “Why play wax again and rare material at a festival made for weird people?” Personally I wanted to have this project play for those who’re open-minded in a European setting when the time was right, but most importantly for those who want the alternate route to losing their minds!
You have witnessed the past and the present of the music industry; where are we going in the future?
Beau Wanzer: I tend not to think too much about the future, mostly focus on the immediate and what’s in front of me. I do think nostalgia plays a huge role in how our brains work…whether that be in music, art, etc. We tend to gravitate towards our subconscious comfort zones anyway.
Steve Summers: There has been such an explosion of artists, labels etc. in the last five years that a lot of current music that is interesting is going unnoticed. I have to imagine the future will look a bit like it does now with people discovering music that slipped through the cracks from a decade or two before and getting inspired by it.
Traxx: I stay TRUE to the neverending school of learning.
Thanks, Mutant Beat Dance!
Photo credits: shot by Marianna