Prefuse and Resist
Producer Prefuse 73 Extinguishes the Glitch-Hop Competition
A question like that is simply too good to be limited to one magazine's interview with one artist. Surely, any semisuccessful person would offer a response at least as louche, as self-involved, as faaabulous, daaarling. Then I was offered the opportunity to talk to Scott Herren, the glitch-hop producer better known as Prefuse 73. His 2001 Warp Records debut, Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives, had turned him into an instant cult figure among both post-rave dance fans and hip-hop cognoscenti; even Beyoncé Knowles has professed herself a fan. Who could resist?
Two weeks later, and the interview is on. Herren, an Atlanta native who now lives in Barcelona, Spain, is in New York promoting his new album, One Word Extinguisher. First things being first, the question is duly popped. "Excuse me?" Herren asks.
Has the sex gotten better since Vocal Studies came out?
"Are you serious?" he replies. "Hell no! I don't get any sex, man! Shit, I'm an isolationist. I think I just locked my publicist out of my room.
"You know," Herren continues, laughing, "I was in a relationship during the first record, and this is actually a relevant question to this whole thing. I was really, really in love with her. This is a breakup record, actually. It's not marketed like that, and the titles don't reflect it, but I was sad, in my studio with my head down, no sex, nothing."
If you want to play armchair psychologist, there are two ways to detect this by listening to One Word Extinguisher. One is that it's more fractured than its predecessors. The core bits of Extinguisher's songs are treated and processed more heavily than on either Uprock Narratives or last year's The '92 vs.' 02 Collection EP; they're also shorter, and there are more of 'em. The other is that even when Herren goes for laughs (see the 30-second redneck joke "Southerners--Interlude"), or rappers Diverse (on "Plastic") and Mr. Lif (on "Huevos With Jeff and Rani") show up to add a little gravity to the proceedings, most of the album has a daydreamy feel. Impatience, an inability to concentrate--gee, sounds like heartbreak.
But such interpretations, while obviously and deliberately a stretch, do indicate how Herren is evolving. On Uprock Narratives, he devised a mutant hip-hop in which rap vocals merged with the other instruments in the mix, the voice becoming just one rhythmic element among many. On '92 vs. '02, the pig Latin MC boasts of "When Irony Wears Thin" and the breakbeats, gleaming acoustic guitar, and cut-up female vocals of "Love You Bring" were even fuller-bodied, pointing toward a more song-oriented follow-through.
That's not quite what happens, though. Herren, whose alias stems from a reference to his favorite sample sources--pre-fusion jazz recorded before 1973--seems to be moving closer to the present day: The stiff yet funky bass and beats of "Detchibe" add up to an odd but appealing marriage of laptop glitch and new-jack swing. "Uprock and Invigorate" is a mélange of bubbly synthetic textures--reedy bass line, zooming synths, glossy electric piano--over crunchy hand claps. "Why I Love You," "The End of Biters--International," "The Color of Tempo," and "Styles That Fade Away With a Colonnade--Reprise" isolate and reconfigure snippets of female vocals--sometimes a syllable, sometimes an entire line--to create odd but alluring tapestries.
Herren credits part of this burst of ideas to his new surroundings. "My father is from Barcelona," he says. "I grew up in Atlanta; that's the reason why I wanted to get away and in touch with a cultural side of myself. I do have some nice musical equipment, but I mostly have a small room in Barcelona. I shut myself off so hard when I'm recording--I get so out of it, I forget how to talk at the end of the day. I have to watch a movie or listen to someone else's music to flush out mine. But I'm working on my other project really hard there--it's all sung in Spanish and Catalan, and it's the best music I've ever made. It's just working.
"My last day job was catering food in Atlanta. I was able to go early in the morning and get off at 2 p.m., then have all the rest of the day to make music. Before that I was a bartender, and it sucked. I'm the type of person who can interact with people--I'm not a total social freak or anything--but when I make my music I tend to do it in solitude."
Could Herren record in his hotel room? "The room I'm in right now is super flossed out," he replies with some amazement. "It's really upscale. There's a very nice work desk right here, it's curved, there's a fax machine underneath it, my laptop's on top of it. It goes across the entire room, I wish I had something like this where I live."
Finally, time for one more stupid question: Who is Herren's favorite other person named Scott? "Ahhhh!" he shouts into the line. "I don't like Scotts! Every other Scott I know is a fucking dick. I hate the name Scott. My birth first name is Guillermo, and I prefer that." Fine, but not even one? "Oh, Scott Baio from Charles in Charge is all right," he finally says. "So I guess one is OK." After all, if the sex isn't getting better, something has to be.
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