A man of many talents (social media guru, musician, producer, recording engineer) -James Whetzel, blew our minds yesterday (elevating our afternoon plane of consciousness) performing live in support of the PARK(ing) Day festivities held at SAM (Seattle Art Museum).
Whetzel’s sonic journey is unlike anything we’ve ever heard in the Northwest -merging thought provoking world textures with contemporary digital club mix bliss. As you will find out in the video below, Whetzel is indeed a classically trained player -that can seriously shred on the sarod (a 25-stringed lute-like instrument from India).
James Whetzel often produces his sound under the music moniker ‘Das Dhoom’ (Dhoom means a bass hit on a South Asian drum. Das means ten in Hindi/Urdu and the in German). James is an impressive craftsman -check out the track below, Voyage of the Seven Dragons of Dhoom, his music sparks our imagination with cinematic visuals of exotic landscapes (we’re talking major motion picture soundtrack material).
Appreciation and praise goes out to Seattle Art Museum and James for participating in PARK(ing) Day -an international event whose premise invites citizens everywhere to transform metered parking spots into temporary parks. Yesterday, SAM cleared out a section of space normally devoted to parking vehicles (setting up a row of green carpeted games and design activities) inviting patrons to take a break from the city life hustle in order to create art! Thanks to both for such a refreshingly wonderful afternoon! Cheers, FYM.
Seattle world music mind benders -Das Dhoom, have a new album out titled Poetry of Dhoom -It’s a 10-track journey into the mind of James Whetzel, who aside from being a classically trained sarod player (25-stringed Indian instrument similar to the sitar) is also quite the music producer as heard in this latest release. We suggest listening to Poetry of Dhoom w/ headphones on to get the full picture of Das Dhoom’s bliss-filled fusion of sonic realities old and new. (Listen Below)
Poetry of Dhoom is: cinematic, enlightening, refreshing -heavy on complex adventure. The new record features James Whetzel’s thoughtful vocals and sarod playing prowess. This ancient sound is paired well with vigorous digital landscapes and Sebastian Lange’s spellbinding violin work. It’s music for advocates of joy.
Below, FYM features live footage from our previous article about Whetzel -performing the tune Ending to Dhoom solo in front of Seattle Art Museum on PARK(ing) Day this past September.
Want more Das Dhoom? Be sure to check out an evening three years in the making -The Poetry of Dhoom CD Release Party this Friday October 28th from 9pm-12am at SAM Remix (Seattle Art Museum, for more information on the event click HERE). Expect good vibes, formidable music, along with Whetzel performing with the full-live band version of Das Dhoom! Cheers, FYM.
In August FYM first ran into leading man James Whetzel during a free show held at the Mural Amphitheatre in Seattle Center. That’s also when FYM first heard of his stunning artistic endeavor Das Dhoom, and we have been in love with his music ever since.
(Pictured Above: James playing a solo set in front of Seattle Art Museum this past September) Das Dhoom blends the organic rhythms of India (as he is a classically trained sarod player) with more contemporary kinetic digital landscapes, creating a sonic concoction unlike anything FYM has ever heard in the Northwest. Listen to Das Dhoom’s latest release Poetry of Dhoom in its entirety HERE.
Whetzel’s music project Das Dhoom has even been receiving some recent national attention for his formidable holiday original God Rest Ye Funky Bhangra (2011 Mix) via the Washington Post, view HERE.
So in the spirit of the season FYM would like give you the gift of his music! Simply email our publicist (nick@forYoungModerns.com) with THEY LIVE in the subject line and give us your address to win. FYM will be randomly selecting five lucky readers to receive FREE albums (James Whetzel Vibrance, Das Dhoom Poetry of Dhoom), and if you’re lucky, a James Whetzel t-shirt (as worn by Emily C). Email Nick ‘Stay Golden’ Codling to enter to win HERE. Cheers, FYM.
FYM SEATTLE-WORDS: JAMES WHETZEL. GRAPHIC: J THOMAS CODLING. “Dem Can’t Stop We From Talk” by Subatomic Sound System is the best remix album I have ever heard. The politically engaged vocals of Jamaican MC Anthony B blast out with power over twelve versions that include playful Roots Reggae, funky West Coast Hip Hop, uptempo Cumbia, lusty Afro-Dub and cement melting bass music.
One of my day jobs is being the DJ for the International Fountain at Seattle Center. I’ve been making new mixes to play there almost every week for eleven years. Given my constant need for new sounds I listen to a lot of music. And my expectations when I listen to a good remix album are that I’ll enjoy maybe two or three versions out of perhaps five or six tracks. With “Dem Can’t Stop We From Talk” there are twelve versions, and every version is good—in fact almost all are great. This is completely without precedent and is in itself a remarkable achievement. It’s even more impressive given the huge stylistic range of the album.
Much credit is due to Emch the lead producer, DJ and music man behind Subatomic Sound System. He’s gathered together a great crew of producers for this project. Versions have been made by artists based in New York, the Bay Area, Austria, The Netherlands, Columbia & Mexico.
And goodness in, goodness out—another prime reason that there are so many excellent remixes is that the original track is fantastic. It was made as a collaboration of Subatomic Sound & African Hip Hop label Nomadic Wax http://nomadicwax.com/. It’s built upon a riddim which Emch named “NYC-2-Africa,” being as it is an alloy of Senegalese sabar drumming, Hip Hop and Dancehall Reggae. Emch first melded those elements together then galvanized it all with bass.
Here I should share some personal history. I’ve known Emch since back way back in the day. I played sarod on his track “Black Emperor Dub” and have recorded tabla and percussion parts for a couple Subatomic tracks. In 2009 I was part of a Canadian tour with Emch & the bi-coastal “sensitive” ragamuffin Mista Chatman.
[Photo: Emch, Chatman & Whetzel at Diversity Festival 2009 in Canada]
As a friend and collaborator it’s been exciting to see this musical star rise. In the past few years he’s performed with Viennese live dub group Dubblestandart and Dub Reggae legend Lee Scratch Perry—he produced the first official bass music remixes of Perry’s classic tracks “Iron Devil” and “Blackboard Jungle” in 2008 and he performed with Dubblestandart and Perry at Summerstage in Central Park in 2009. In 2010 he toured India and also produced “Hello, Hell is Very Low” & “Bed Athletes” which turned out to be the last recordings by Ari Up the original singer of the seminal all female punk band The Slits. He also remixed filmmaker David Lynch for the “Chrome Optimism” release with Dubblestandart.
And in 2010 he traveled to Jamaica, and through Devon D. of Peoples Records, he was introduced to the vocalist Anthony B. Emch played the NYC-2-African riddim for him and Anthony B responded by creating a fiery new version with lyrics inspired by the violent situation in Jamaica at that time as the U.S. government and Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding were demanding the extradition of Dudus Coke.
Emch returned to New York and released the first version of NYC- 2-Africa in 2011 which featured versions by Anthony B, Sierra Leonean MC Bajah, and Jahdan Blakkamoore. He also made a combination version with vocals from all three singers.
The riddim continued to be fertile and a new version called “NYC-2-India” was creating with vocals by Indian Reggae group Delhi Sultanate. I made a cameo on this version, playing backing sarod parts, listen HERE.
Likewise in 2011 Emch traveled to Moscow as part of John Forte’s “From Brooklyn to Russia With Love” project. He did a set in which Noize MC, the Russian Eminem, rapped over the NYC-2-Africa riddim. Here’s Noize MC rapping over his version on a Russian political TV program.
That year Emch connected with Columbian producer Caballo and worked on a release of Electro-Cumbia with Rebel Records and the Sancocho e’ Tigres collective, and he remixed Elephant Man’s scathing political track “Vampires and Informers,” which deserves a story unto itself.
And now in 2012 with the release of “Dem Can’t Stop We From Talk” Emch is bringing all these different threads and connections of his musical career together. The album is available on Beatport, Juno & iTunes also some tracks are available as vinyl 45s: HERE. I once told Emch that the original track with Anthony B was caffeination for the soul. With the release of the remix album you can get your soul caffeination in black tea, green tea, white tea, americano, cappuccino, drip coffee, latte and mate varieties.
Here are a couple James Whetzel favorites:
Process Rebel’s Afro-Dub Mix. Nasty synths and warped vocals have a lusty party with dub and bass. I see dancing people.
Bleepolar’s Bogotá Cumbia Remix. Que Sabor! Colombiano! Free DL.
Dubblestandart’s Kingston Riot Riddim Remix. The Vienna kings do play songs of dub, but here they deliver a hard charging Sly & Robbie meets Roots Radics style riddim.
Nate Mars’ Lightas Up Remix. Wake up to this one and you’ll dance yourself out of bed. The NYC of tranquility mix.
Fuzzy Logic’s Tropical BASS Remix. A blissful drone transforms into uptempo tropical bass.
James Whetzel, a world-class musician based out of Seattle Washington, today releases the second installment (the first being Depeche Mode’s People Are People) in his on-going covers series. It’s a tune DFA Records/Yacht fans are very familiar with: Psychic City (Voodoo City).
What most of you may not know is the track was originally written and recorded by Rich Jensen for his Two Million Years cassette from 1987 via K Records. Yacht connected and became friends with Jensen, and put the track out on their 2009 DFA Records debut See Mystery Lights.
Just as Yacht breathed new life into this unearthed classic in 2009, James Whetzel does so again in 2012. Whetzel’s take is a percussive melting-pot of organic textures, full of life and beauty.
Recently FYM had the opportunity to dig a little deeper, and ask James about the recording process of his impressive new single (which was mastered by Emch from Subatomic Sound System in New York). Read Whetzel’s thoughts, and listen to the his new version of Psychic City (Voodoo City) below:
FYM:Could you tell me a little bit about why you decided to start this series of cover songs?
James Whetzel:I decided to do covers because I thought it would help people understand where I am coming from musically. I play instruments that are less familiar to people so I want to help people come to understand that sarod and tabla are as badass as guitar and drum kit.
FYM:How many covers are you planning to do?
James Whetzel:I am thinking of doing six tracks on my own. And probably six with Das Dhoom. I’m focusing on my own EP first. I’ll put the People Are People cover version on both.
FYM:Who are you working with to produce this incredible recording?
James Whetzel:I played every instrument on the “Psychic City (Voodoo City)” cover. I also recorded all of it, mixed and produced it myself. That’s why it takes me a little extra time, and most of that extra time is mixing time. There’s sarod, sitar, accordion, mandolin, bass, tampura, tabla, darbouka, dhol, bendir, talking drum, and a bunch of cool little shakers/ high hat sound making things that I used on the track. Some of these last things are found objects, that happen to make really cool sounds.
I’ve had the sitar for awhile but decided not to use it until now, because people always think my sarod is a sitar and I wanted them to know I play sarod. But what the hell it’s a cool sound. People can think I play sitar. I just bought the accordion last month and this is the track I’ve used it on.
It’s become my new aesthetic to make my beats out of all acoustic sounds. I sort of stumbled into when I did the Depeche Mode cover. I originally intended to add electronic drums to the acoustic drums, but it sounded so cool with all the layers of percussion and it was an interesting challenge to get all my acoustic drums to have the clarity of electronic drums. And of course since I played all the drum parts it makes my beats sound totally unique. I think it’s also good to mix unique sounds with the familiarity of a cover tune. And hopefully by the end of my cover tune adventure my own sounds will have become familiar.
FYM:Is there anything else you can enlighten us on, regarding your cover of Psychic City (Voodoo City)?
James Whetzel:This is what I say in the intro:
كان عندي احلام
des beaux rêves
en la ciudad
Hindi/Urdu: In the City (literally “City in”)
Arabic: I had dreams
French: Beautiful dreams
Spanish: in the city
If you dig what you heard above purchase James Whetzel’s version of Psychic City (Voodoo City) HERE. And check out his other music project titled Das Dhoom HERE. They Live. Cheers, FYM.