You know how sometimes the best way to find out about an artist is to have a friend give you a recommendation? Well, that’s exactly how I discovered pH10. RapReviews’ own DJ Flash was the person who put me on to pH10 and once I heard their music I was so impressed with the colorful mix of Hip-Hop and electronica that I had to sit down with the group’s Recone Helmut (right in pic) to find out more. During the interview I not only received a history lesson regarding the music and the goals of pH10, but Helmut also shared this thoughts on the Drum and Bass scene and why he feels the internet may be making things a little too easy for aspiring artists.
Adam Bernard: Start me off by giving me the pH10 story. Who is pH10, where are you from, how did you meet and when did you start making music together? Yeah, that’s a lot, I know.
Recone Helmut: pH10 has been around for over ten years. The group was formed circa 1997 in Colorado while both Clark ov Saturn and I were still in college. That same year we released our first four song demo and moved to Brooklyn, NY. By the middle of ’98 we were signed to Mutant Sound System and on tour overseas with Dr. Israel. Since then we’ve played all over the US, Canada and Europe, released four full length records, and landed a fair amount of licensing deals in mainstream media.
AB: Your music seamlessly mixes Hip-Hop with the dance floor electronica in a way I don’t think many have heard before. How was the pH10 style born and how has it evolved since you conceived it?
RH: While working with Clark ov Saturn we had a more straight up Electronic sound, a pure pile-of-synths kinda vibe, but honestly my intentions were always to bring in some Hip-Hop flavor and that finally happened starting with Helmutvision . Like most music, the pH10 sound simply reflects the background and musical passions of its creator. I’m a man who essentially grew up on Metal and Punk Rock, but always found some time for Public Enemy and 2 Live Crew. Awe yeah, I loved me some PUH PUH PUH PUH PUH PUBLIC ENEMY. I got to meet Hank Shockley a few years back when pH10 performed at Remix Hotel in NYC. It was like meeting God himself.
AB: When you listen back to your first recordings do you cringe, laugh, or do they fill you with pride.
RH: All three, but honestly I am proud of everything that pH10 has released. It’s hard not to be. I might sound like an old dried up bastard when I say this, but in the mid to late 90’s the electronic underground was about figuring shit out, making shit work for you; finding an old sequencer or sampler in a pawn shop and somehow folding it into your rig. Two dudes on stage with a bunch of gear trying not to suck. Now that everything is driven by computers the spirit of the thing has changed. The ease of use and easy access is a mixed blessing. It’s kinda like when I was a kid growing up in the Hudson Valley, which is just north of NYC but very rural, my buddies and I had to drive 50 miles to the one record store that sold underground records. The whole way there you’re hoping that they have at least a couple of items on your list, a list that you compiled by reading magazines and talking to friends for weeks before you finally made that trip. Compare that with a kid today firing up iTunes and having instant access to every record ever made. He has the opportunity to experiment more and find some abstract shit, but the shift in the level-of-effort has profoundly changed the music scene itself, for both fans and producers, and I’m not sure that it’s for the better.
AB: Your recent hard work has culminated in the release of your latest album, Well Connected. Tell me a bit about the record. What were you goals going in?
RH: We’ve got the goods – guest MCs, guest turntablists, guest producers and even a cool intro from Brian Bell-Fortune himself, the guy who literally wrote the book on Drum and Bass. The album that came before this, Helmutvision, went in a softer, almost crossover, direction and I think a lot of people expected more of that on this disk. Instead we brought them the nastiest, noisiest, scariest, loudest, and by far the heaviest, pH10 release to date. It’s a beast. Also, we’ve achieved a level of production on this one that was lacking from the previous releases. Our records always sounded okay but not as balanced as they could be. We would use bass as a crutch and the songs ended up with that Disco Smile sound, lacking punch. Not so on Well Connected. It sounds more like a Hip-Hop record than a DnB record, which I like. As for goals, we make records ‘cause that’s what we do. Honestly the only goal is to keep making music and doing it our own way. We do well when it comes to sales and we’ve had a bit of luck with licensing, but it’s honestly not about that, it’s just a creative outlet that keeps my studio packed with colorful characters and keeps me out of the poker rooms.
AB: Break down the album’s title for me. In what ways do you feel you and your music are Well Connected?
RH: Well Connected is the name of a hidden song on our first record that featured Ish, Soothsayer and Dr. Israel from Trumystic Sound System. I’ve always liked the name and as our records themselves started taking on the concept of that song, which is bring everyone together to make something cool, I decided to reuse the name as an album title.
AB: Complete this phrase: Put on a pH10 song when…
RH: Your speakers have been very naughty and they need a good spanking.
AB: Finally, Hip-Hop heads are known for being a finicky bunch. I’m wondering, have you seen more Hip-Hop fans gravitating towards your music, or have the dance music fans been more receptive?
RH: There is no one more finicky than the electronic music crowd, especially Drum and Bass heads. Compared to them, Hip-Hop fans are downright open minded. Genres and trends are so narrowly defined in the Drum and Bass world that people basically listen to EXACTLY what they like for a short period of time and then they’re over it, it’s in the bin, gone forever. It’s more of a technology life cycle than an artistic one. The critics are no better, they treat electronic music as a novelty act whose only value is delivering a new fad every few years. pH10 has never followed trends, not that we could if we tried, we just make what we feel like making and consequently we’re always getting accused of being dated and old school. This is ridiculous to me. Can you imagine if rock was treated like this? “I really like the new Shaft Harness record but heavy guitars, pensive vocals and a 4/4 beat are so 1978.” As a matter of fact, I’ve thought recently of just blowing off electronic music all together for a while and producing some rock records, or maybe some Hip-Hop records. Yeah, fuck it, I’m goin’ Hip-Hop. All emcees, send your demos firstname.lastname@example.org.