18 Oct #vinyloftheday – Sammy Bananas Interview
Sammy Bananas. Fool’s Gold secret weapon. The Original Sexy Sax Man. One half of Telephoned. A Certified Banana. Known for rocking parties and creating some of the most memorable edit / remix records from the last decade, his approach is always funky and never trendy. We interviewed Sammy to learn a little more about the man and his vinyl collection.
1. What was it that got you into Music Production/DJ-ing? Mostly it was an expansion in my love of Hip-Hop and Electronic Music. In the mid 90s I got really into Tribe and Gangstarr, as well as the MTV “Amp” compilation on the electronic side. DJing seemed like the next step to participate in both of these cultures. Also, a lot of the records from the local hip-hop scene in Boston were only coming out on vinyl, so I had to have a turntable to listen. Around the same time I was experimenting with digital recording using Cakewalk, and started making beats using that program.
2. Do you remember the first (or the earliest) record you bought? It was either The Prodigy’s “Music for the Jilted Generation” or Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz “Deja Vu.” That gives you a pretty accurate view of my tastes in 1998.
3. How would you describe your record collection? What sort of records can we find in it? I would say the majority of my collection is early 2000s “underground” rap, and old Jazz / soul records. That’s mostly because this is the time period when I was ravenously buying records. I’d buy the older records to sample (and because I’m a jazz fan in general) and the newer ones to keep up with the scene.
4. Where do you usually shop for vinyl records? Any records you’ve discovered in unlikely places? Nowadays I mostly do my vinyl buying on discogs because it’s so easy to fill specific holes in my collection, or get tracks that I’d love to have on wax. I still go to A-1 in NYC, which is my favorite shop anywhere. Back in ’01 when I started going here, I was always amazed by the cubbies they kept behind the cash register with names like “Primo” (DJ Premier) and “soul brother #1 (Pete Rock) on them.
5. What is it about the format that you love? I love that it’s a physical structure of sound and music. It is sound waves literally written onto plastic, and there’s something that always seemed so cool about that. The tactile nature of how you can manipulate sound when playing a record is also pretty incredible. In this digital age, and as someone that presses records myself, I now appreciate the way it can give the listener a strong connection to the music. I love what digital DJing has made possible, but you just feel a stronger connection to the music and it feels more valuable if you’ve paid money for a physical product.
6. How did the idea for the “Mr Flex” cutout figure on your “Flexin EP” come about? Mr. Flex started from the fact that I’ve really been getting into elaborate vinyl packaging. I figure if I’m going to make a record in 2014, I want it to have a collector appeal; something extra going on so it’s not just be a slab of wax. Last year for my “Bootlegs Vol. 1” release, I did a play on the classic Andy Warhol Velvet Underground cover, but then printed a collage like full-color sleeve that you “peel back” when you take the bright yellow record out. With the new Fool’s Gold record, label boss Nick Catchdubs had an idea of playing off the classic cardboard Halloween skeleton to make a flexible figure that accompanied the “Flexin EP”. I reached out to my amazing designer friend Razauno to create a flexy banana, and this is what he came up with!! The back panel of the record is a DIY cutout to make your own Mr. Flex. It’s an immediately classic image and I feel like we could have a whole Spongebob-esque cartoon based around him and his friends!
7. Do you reckon that vinyl can still be relevant in this digital day and age? I think it’s definitely relevant because as everything becomes more digital, there arises an increasing urge to make some things harder to get. Scenes and cultural movements are realizing that it might be nice not to have everyone be able to access your work instantaneously; to keep it part of a smaller group of fans and allow it to mature and grow in that way. For music, vinyl is the best way to realize this. Since it’s a physical object, people could even start doing single-copy pressings and treat them like visual art (in fact, Wu-Tang just announced they are doing this with their new album.) Aside from that, it’s the most fun way to pay money for music. CDs always felt cheap and disposable (thanks to CD-rs), and it’s hard to convince yourself to pay $10 for a few MB of files. But paying $15 for a physical object that you can hold, love and keep forever?? I think that’s something that still has a lot of appeal, even to younger “digital natives.”
8. What’s your thoughts on the Record Store Day movement? I know there are mixed feelings about it, but I’m a fan. Adding to what I was saying above, a lot of younger people (who buy most of the music) don’t actually know what it feels like to purchase a vinyl record. However, everyone reading this knows that it’s an infectious feeling. Still, there needs to be a way to get new fans hooked, and I think that Record Store Day is a really great tool for that.
9. Imagine you’ll be stuck on a desert island for a year and you could only bring along 5 records, (along with a record player of course). Name us five records you would bring along, and why. Les McCann – Layers Very vibey, great lyrical use of early synths before people got really prog-y and let the electronics dictate the direction of the music. A pre-fusion classic. Michael Jackson – Dangerous This is really the first album that I fell in love with and felt was my own. I have other fav MJ songs, but this is my fav album. It says a lot about all the music I’ve made since then. Basement Jaxx – Remedy My favorite dance album. I love these dudes. Some guys are Daft Punk heads, but I’m totally a Jaxx head. Bouncy, occasionally zany, extra funky dance pop jams. Michael White – Go With The Flow Jazz violin?? This is one of my all time favorites. I bought this not knowing what it was, but it provided many a sample and many a quality listen. In fact, I’m going to throw this on the Tech 12 right now 🙂 Sugarcubes – Leash Called Love 12″ Bjork is another one of my favorite artists, and the Todd Terry remix on this 12″ is like a preview of what was to come on her first solo record “Debut.”