After a bunch of quality singles, Randy Barracuda has now finally released his first album - needless to say, the record is a monster. I'll promise you instant shivers as soon as the ambient sounds of the intro set in. And after that it's just the baddest and dirtiest grooves garnished with the sweetest, most soulful vocals you can imagine, plus bits and pieces of psychedelia, afro, cosmic, krautrock and old school synth funk dropping by to say hello.
The anthemic Skweee like a pig
There's a certain mystery about it, pointing to a hidden essence but denying it at the same time. The more I listened to it, the more enigmatic it got, until I finally decided to ask the man himself. So without further ado I present to you: Randy Barracuda. (Be warned though - the interview was conducted in a skweeee state of mind. Headaches and feelings of disorientation might occur.)
C.R.: I just listened to The Message again yesterday, and it now it felt like proto-skweee to me: the slow pace, the erratic, chopped up rhythm, the deep funk combined with weird electronic sounds. Has the whole world suddenly turned skweee or has it been around us all the time? What other songs/artists influenced the sound of skweee, and what artists were influential for your own sound?
Randy: Well, The Message was definitely one of those tracks that "did it" to me when I was a teenager. I remember getting high and listening to it over and over again. It also influenced "Duck Butter" for example. Other artists that were extremely influential for me: Parliament, Kraftwerk, Ramsey 2C-3D, Zapp, Airplay & Troy The Wonderboy, Whodini, Dr. Dre... Also synth pop, leftfield disco, modern R&B and Chicago acid played a big role. A lot of the tracks that now sound like proto-skweee (Ryuichi Sakamoto: Riot In Lagos, Pekka Airaksinen: Buddhas Of Golden Light...) I hadn't heard back then, so I can't really say that they influenced me.
C.R.:Your album seems like quite a departure from the hectic & aggressive sounds that dominated the last Imatran Voima record. Also, seeing how diverse the tunes are, is this rather a collection of songs you made over the years or is there an overarching concept behind it?
Randy: When I listen to the last Imatran Voima album now, I can't really recognize myself in it anymore. It’s definitely the soundrack for the years 2005 - 2007: angry, chaotic, distorted and paranoid. It wasn't the easiest time of my life: Speed, alcohol and despair were the keywords for that period. Or like me and Jaakko (Fresh-O-Lex) used to say: fear, self-loathing, hate and industrial alienation.
Imatran Voima - Welfare State of Mind
Last week I finished "Notes From Underground" by Dostoyevsky and just started giggling because it really reminded me of those days. Alone in the basement, frustrated and broke, stench of mold in my nostrils.
I'm very glad that you asked if the new album is just a compilation of tracks: It definitely is. After making two concept albums I wanted to let myself go and just make a straightforward record with no higher structure behind it. It's almost like an old library record (The electronic moods of Barracuda or some shit like that). Musicwise it's an homage to my psychedelic roots: Can, Harmonia, Kraftwerk (surprise, surprise), Tangerine Dream, La Düsseldorf, Hawkwind, Captain Beefheart and also modern soul with its rich and luscious synthesizer sounds and smooth soulful vocals...
C.R.: Haha, „The electronic moods of Barracuda“ - that would have been a great title! What about the psychedelia-turned-computer-age cover art? Is this visual skweee?
Randy: The cover art was done by the man behind Flogsta Danshall: Frans Carlqvist aka Pavan aka Afrika Bambaattaa of Skweee. It's also a part of the library theme. I wanted to have some spacey optical art and he provided it. I don't know if it's visual Skweee, but I think so since he single-handedly created the whole imagery of the label.
the album cover
C.R.: What is the challenge to creating a skweee tune? Compared to producing traditional electro, is it any different/harder? Why the slow pace? Do people still dance to this?
Randy: Well, of course first it wasn't hard because I just felt like I was funking to my own groove. I just started doing it because I felt I had nothing more to give to the contemporary electro scene. To be honest I even have no fuckin' idea what that is. (Fuck, there's a banner of a Dutch dating service blinking on the screen and the woman in the ad looks a bit like my old girlfriend. Very disturbing.) But yeah, making Skweee is great fun because it still is quite an open field and you can just throw in your own interpretation.
And yes, people dance to it. Last weekend I dj'd in a Stockholm club with Mesak from Mr Velcro Fastener. We mostly played 90-100 bpm Skweee and 400 people went loco. You just have to start dancing with your shoulders (think of R. Kelly, haha) and then move downwards, not the other way around.
performing Duck Butter live @Sonar festival 2008
C.R.: Sounds good to me! Now, one thing that I am still confused about is that Skweee seems to uphold an 8-bit/low tech aesthetic, but your music is rife with lush analogue sounds and an undeniable pop sensibility (in the same way that Roger Troutman wrote beautiful pop songs). How about that?
Randy: Don't be confused! When I was young and insecure I was ashamed of writing melodic songs. Now I'm old and I can do what the fuck I want! Ain't life grand?
The way I see it is that lot of Skweee is meant to sound two-dimensional, skeletal and dry and that's the absolute beauty in it. But since I am the starchild my shit is operating in all eleven different dimensions.
C.R.: I am still busy counting the dimensions ... but seriously though: In most of the songs, there is a palpable undercurrent of SOUL which I find remarkable cause it introduces a nonidentical, almost transcendent quality to your music that goes well beyond the immanence of your fellow skweeesters. Would you agree?
Randy: I think there is lots of soul in Skweee music. Just listen to tracks like "We Could Be Skweeeroes" by Eero Johannes, "People Die, Love Don't" by Daniel Savio, "Directors Musices" by Markis Sage or "Mouth Everest" by Beem and you'll see what I mean.
I also think that essentially it is the MOST soulful electronic music genre at the moment: Take a look at the Ibiza death camps of mass produced meaningless house and techno muzak floating in the blogosphere. Tracks made on monday and forgot on tuesday. And why? By popular demand? Where’s all the love and passion? I spoke to George Clinton two weeks ago and it really seems that his prophecy still holds: The Placebo Syndrome hasn’t gone anywhere. 2009 - enter the zone of zero funkativity.
Back to the start: I'm thrilled that you found transcendent qualities in my music, because that's the ultimate compliment I can get. I've always been quite a sentimental person and I think that's one of the reasons behind my output. I feel some sort of a bond with the German romantics of 19th century and their longing for distant realities. Maybe that's the transcendent undercurrent in my music.
And of course we can’t forget the singin’ caveman Michael Black Electro! Without him there wouldn't be 'nuff SOUL on the album. Rock on, brother!
C.R.: Damn inspiring words - thanks a lot for your time and may the funk be with you!
Randy Barracuda's album is available via Flogsta Danshall.