4AM - Interview

One month after we interviewed Octavius/William Marshall, it was time that we did the same with his fellow and beatmaker 4AM, with whom he recorded the quite recommended Electric 3rd Rail album in 2000. An interview that was quite welcome since our friend is releasing a solo record these days, Sex, Darwinism & the Jungle of Hades.

How have you become a musician, what’s your story as far as music is concerned ? Apparently, your father was a trombone player…

My father was a trombone player in a funk band, he was always giving me records as a child. I didn't really have toys as a kid, I had a broken 8track player and a Fisher Price record player. I've been playing music as long as I can remember. My parents have pictures of me at two years old playing with records.

Is 4AM the time you get up at or is it the time you go to bed at?

I used to DJ under the name "Superfly" like the Curtis Mayfield soundtrack (that album changed my life), but then Dr. Dre put out an artist named "Sooperfly" so i decided to change (after I already had it tatooed on my shoulder). Anyway, after trying a few different names I looked at the clock before I went to sleep one night and realized that I went to bed at 4am every night (i didn't have a swinging life or anything, I closed 5 nights a week at my job). I also think that 4am is a significant time, the darkest hour before dawn, the point of delerium after staying up all night, it's a very strange and calm time of day, it's usually when people that have been up all night start up with the philosophy.

When have you met with William / Octavius?

I met William just after he moved to Fresno (my hometown). He was working with some people I had just come to know, eventually, after he recorded his first Octavius e.p. (Dissent and Dissention), he started to put together a live band and asked me to join, we we're a five piece: myself, Autumn (from the Third Rail e.p. and my album), William, Taron Barefield (from the sleepover disaster, also on Third Rail and my album), and DJ Astro, someone who we unfortunately don't get along with anymore.

When and how have you started doing music together?

We started working on songs for the live set around late 1998 early 1999 I believe. Then some stuff blew up with the band and William moved to Hawaii. I started working with autumn on some stuff, then around winter 2000 William moved to San Francisco and asked me to work with him on Third Rail.

What was each musician’s involvement into Electric 3rd Rail?

William brought his words and concepts into the project. I wrote and produced the music (he picked the tracks he wanted for the project from stuff I was working on while he was away), Autumn did a verse, Taron Barefield co-produced "4:31" and John Wilson played a bunch of solos for me one day that became the glue that held the record together, pretty weird experience really.

Has William just rapped and you and the other done the beats or was it a bit more complicated?

Octavius is really William’s concept, he finds people that he feels can help him realize his vision, like Miles Davis did. He had the idea for the record and luckily we saw eye to eye on the sound he was looking for and it all kind of grew from there. Third Rail is really a collaboration project, that's why it was billed as Octavius.4am, half my stuff, half his stuff based around a singular concept.

I’ve interviewed William recently and asked him about Meat Beat Manifesto’s John Wilson featuring on your first album. He’s answered that he was one of your friends. How have you hooked up with him?

That was all blind luck, John is actually from Fresno (California, probably one of the most notoriously depressing cities in the state). He was working at a local record store that I also used to work at and frequented called Spinners records. We just started talking one day. He knew a lot about records and seemed to have met everybody. At first I thought he was just making shit up to be funny, he told me lady miss kier from dee-lite hit on him once and shit (yeah right), then I found a publicity shot of Meat Beat Manifesto (circa The Subliminal Sandwich album) and there was John, with cornrows. We got along really well and he invited me over to his house. When I went over I brought my 8track with the Third Rail tracks and he basically freestyled for me. He also made me dinner and gave me a bunch of records. He's really a super great guy and I regret falling out of touch with him. I think he's in Los Angeles now. He put out a project not long ago called "pig in a can" on the Fedora label. It's all remixes of blues songs, great stuff.

You have eclectic tastes. What would you say are your biggest influences, if such things do exist ? (you’ve mentioned Moose on Just One’s website - that’s quite a good point as far as I’m concerned)

Music has always been my life, my sound can be summed up with four basic influences: Public Enemy, shoegazer rock (Pale Saints, My Bloody Valentine, etc.), 60's and 70's soul and rocksteady (Jamaican soul really). But I am a music fanatic, there are a million albums that have all had a profound effect on my development as an artist, the hip-hop and college rock I grew up with, the soul and funk from my parents, the jazz from my hipster high school friends, whatever is moving and good basically, as long as it's good, honest, it's good music.

If you need some specifics, here are ten albums I couldn't live without:

1. MC Solaar / Prose Combat
2. Roberta Flack / First Take
3. Minnie Ripperton / Come to my Garden
4. Barbara Lewis / Many Grooves of
5. Marvin Gaye / What's Goin' on
6. Techniques/ Run Come Celebrate
7. Pale Saints / Half Life e.p. and In Ribbons
8. Johnny Ace / Memorial Album
9. Trojan Soulful reggae box set
10. Beach Boys / any album from 1965-1976

There are too many more to name

Well our webzine is about hip-hop so let’s get back to it. You’re based in California. Have you connections with people from the West Coast Underground scene (Freestyle Fellowship/Project Blowed, Shapeshifters, Living Legends, etc…)?

I'm from the same city as Planet Asia, I almost met him once. Rasco and various blends, Killa Tay, Skhoolyard massive have all spent time in Fresno. William is friends with a lot of the Anticon guys. We both used to room with Pedestrian. My main hip-hop friends are the guys from Freekshow: Digging Dessert, Fluid the Virus, those guys are massive. Dan who's now in Octavius is one of the founder of that group, look out for those guys, they're definitely something.

What’s your opinion about the current evolution of hip-hop - I mean, about labels such as Def Jux, Anticon, Rhyme Sayers, etc…

All of the new underground stuff has its strong points. Def Jux is great, Anticon is always interesting. Anyone that has a four track and a CD burner can put out an album now, which cuts both ways. There are guys that get to shine who would have never been able to get a record deal, and guys that should have never touched a mic or turntables that get a lot of attention. I'm an old fogey with hip-hop. I'm from that late 1980's early 1990's school. I started d.j.ing around late 94 early 95, did underground radio and college radio, busted gigs and house parties. Hip-hop is the culture I feel like. I've been a part of, we're around the same age, it's my generations movement, but I really can't relate to 99% of what's put out today. The last albums I dug on were things by Mike Ladd, Sach, Ini, Princess Superstar, Public Enemy. I like music that sounds like it was made by people acting their own age. I'm halfway to thirty. The last thing I want to hear is someone older that me trying to rap to someone half my age. I also think that The Nonce and the second Boogiemonsters albums were mad slept on, and last days by Onyx.

Now let’s talk about your solo album. It’s been postponed several times. When is it released and where will it be available?

The album has been a trial, it should be out November 26th. We should have it out world-wide, and also on the www.justoneent.com (just one label site). It's been through five versions over the past year and a half, lots of turmoil, but it's finally done and I feel proud of it. It's about my life really, it's all in the press release, I’ll send it to you.

Can you tell us which ideas you’ve put into this album?

The basic theme is that of a common theme. Not enough albums nowadays have a unified sound or idea. It's five to ten producers of the day backing up whatever trends a vocalist wants to embrace. I believe my album is personal. It tends to effect everyone differently, it depresses some, one of my coworkers thought it was naughty, and it is. Life is bittersweet, and so is the album. It can be a bit cheeky, or revealing. It's in the press release, one influence on this album that i think is cool (and this is really nerdy). I listen to a lot of old time radio dramas (the stuff before television and shit). I borrowed a lot of soundbites and concepts from these sources.

What’s next? Are you continuing a solo career, getting back to Octavius , featuring with another artist, creating a new band?

We're currently working on a new Octavius record. I'll be doing a spoken word project with Devoya Mayo (from my album). Dan from Octavius should be working on a project that I'll try to weasel into, and i recently did a remix for DJ Zeph and Azeem that should be on a wide hive label compilation around may of next year.

Let’s finish with our usual questions : What’s on your playlist at the moment?

Sach / Suckas Hate Me
Beth Gibbons
Brenda and the Tabulations
MC Paul Barman/ Paullelujah
Lost Generation/ Young Tough and Terrible
Beach Boys / Smile Bootleg
Donovan/ Hurdy Gurdy Man

Lots of bargain records (stuff for a dollar and under)

Do you know any French musician or hip-hop artist?

I really like French hip-hop. It may seem like I'm soft, but I love Solaar, I have all of his records. Serge Gainsbourg of course. NTM, IAM, Soon E MC, Menelik, DJ Cam. I listen to everything I can find (any suggestions?)

Can we expect you coming in Europe and France sooner or later?

I hope so. When you come from a town like I'm from, you can't help but want to travel. I really feel like Europe and France will be more receptive to my music. I want to travel and quit the day job ya' know.

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