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The sine waves rumbling out of the musical fault lines on the Californian West Coast are as diverse as they are thrilling. Ranging from the Brainfeeder / Low End Theory axis in LA around Flying Lotus et al, through ballistic glitch hop, Dirtybird house, and hip hop from hyphy to Stone’s Throw and beyond. Discerning a West Coast sound out of all that seems somewhat redundant though; rather what unites many of the artists is a kind of restless, almost hyperactive creativity, experimentation and an ever-present sense of fun.
Out of this charged atmosphere Lazer Sword emerged back in 2009 with a sound that soaked up the above to create a turbo-boosted composite. A collaboration between producers Lando Kal and Low Limit, they put the best of the West into a giant robot blender to make beats that reference hip hop, Detroit, disco, electro, glitch and more, often all together. Between them they’ve cooked up releases for Innovative Leisure (a string of 12“s and the self-titled Lazer Sword debut album), Numbers (a split EP of both their solo productions), Hotflush (Lando Kal’s debut solo release, listen below) and they’ve just announced they’ve signed to Modeselektor’s Monkeytown Records. Apparently there’ll be a single in November with a new album in early 2012.
Safe to say it’s all exciting stuff but Lazer Sword’s hyperactive beat science is best experienced live, where they dissect their productions on the fly and have a lot of fun doing it. A lucky basement full of London ravers experienced just that during their last UK visit, playing an Earnest Endeavours party earlier this year. I caught up with Lando Kal for a quick interview a little while back in our nation’s capital, where we talked hyphy, Hard Wax, his move to Berlin and Michael J Fox.
How influenced is your sound by the West Coast, musically or otherwise?
Lando Kal: Though we’ve been testing new waters in the past year or so with new sounds we started out with a lot of mid-range tempo production and I think that was a direct result from growing up surrounded by West Coast rap and R&V. When we first established Lazer Sword that was right around the time the Bay Area’s hyphy movement was getting big. We ate it up knowing it was this new local sound that we absolutely loved but knew we could take influences from and make our own.
How about Berlin?
Lando Kal: Well, yeah, I have been living in Berlin for about half a year now and have already gained a lot of inspiration being here. I think any new atmosphere or work environment change is always bound to have effects creatively with making music. Plus the cold winters definitely get a dude hibernating, giving me a good reason to stay locked up in my studio and geek out hah. I’ve always had a love for classic techno and house but never really focused on the research, the history, learning who produced what etc. Luckily some friends have turned me on to incredible shops like Hard Wax. So I’ve been going in and opening my mind to new ideas, heavily influencing some of my latest production I must say.
You play your sets on laptops, what made you choose that over vinyl/CDs? Is it more of a live show?
Lando Kal: Yeah that’s exactly it. We play with midi controllers synced to our laptops because we like playing live improvised sets and enjoy the hands on aspect of it. It keeps it interesting for both the crowd and us because we’re never fully certain where we’re going to take the music on any given set. Since we play 80% our own material, we can divide all our songs into loops and clips and sound effects, giving us more control over what we play and enabling us to almost remix our material live on the spot even.
So…lazers, Lando Kal etc. Sci Fi fans? Or just Star Wars? If so, favourite sci-fi character?
Lando Kal: I wouldn’t say we’re crazy hardcore into Sci-Fi really. The name Lazer Sword actually was just the name we found from a preset setting on the Korg Kaoss Pad, but my actual middle name is Lando. Yes I admit, my parents were definitely big Star Wars freaks around when I was born. If I had to pick a favorite sci-fi character, it’d be that amazing robot Michael Jackson turns into in that Moonwalker film, or that chick from Total Recall with the three boobs.
If you could have something from the future that hasn’t been invented yet, what would it be?
Lando Kal: Well, of course it would be a jetpack no question. Or at least one of those hoverboards Michael J Fox rocks on Back To the Future 2. Ok, so maybe we’re more sci-fi fans then we thought.
Lazer Sword photograph by Teddy Fitzhugh, taken at Eastern Endeavours in February 2011