Unprecedented access to one of the most vast, and varied, indie music libraries on the planet. That’s what producer Smoke, of Oldominion, was presented with when K Records approached him about doing a special project for the label.

The project, which is titled All Your Friend’s Friends, took nearly two years, and listening to literally hundreds of albums, to complete. Released last month, it serves as both an overview of the sound, and style, of the Pacific Northwest’s hip-hop scene, and an homage to the musical aesthetic of the Olympia, WA, label.

RapReviews caught up with Smoke to find out more about All Your Friend’s Friends, and the unique qualities of the hip-hop scene of the Pacific Northwest. Smoke also discussed why Olympia is more of a hub for the arts than Seattle, and told a story about how Macklemore lent a hand with situation involving the Seattle Seahawks.

Adam Bernard: Being involved with NYC’s hip-hop scene, I know one scene can have dozens of different sounds, and completely different communities of artists. What do you feel is the common musical bond of the cities of the Northwest?

Smoke: For the most part, everything’s real dark. We have a very dark sound in the whole Northwest. I always find it funny the super happy-go-lucky hip-hop has made it out of Seattle, and that’s not even a 5% representation of what the music sounds like.

AB: Does the darkness come from being in a place where it rains a lot?

Smoke: Yeah, I tend to feel like because it rains a lot things are just a little bit more serious. It’s not like it’s stereotypes, where you’re totally screwed nine months out of the year, (but) it’s really a good four month stretch where you just don’t see the sun at all. We start working on music during those periods, and then summer comes and everything is still kind of dark. It’s kind of like a carryover.

AB: It sounds like you’re almost hip-hop’s version of film noir.

Smoke: Kind of. I’ve been on tour a few times, and gone around the country a lot, and we definitely have a very unique sound with hip-hop. It is a lot darker, a lot more serious, I don’t want to say (it’s) super artsy, but it kinda has that sort of a theme going on.

AB: You put two years of effort into this project with K Records. It blew me away when I heard you were initially approached in 2012.

Smoke: Yes, I was approached in 2012. From when we got the super thumbs up, to getting the album mastered and sent to manufacturing, it was almost two years. I had to go through 365 albums. I took all my material from these albums, so I had to be very thorough. Once I got all the albums on my hard drive I didn’t allow myself to make a beat until I went through everything. As I was listening to it, if I heard something (I wanted to use) I’d just take it. I’d loop it, and I’d file it away. I was real methodical with that, because I didn’t want to miss anything, and for every song you can find that you want to sample from K Records, they have a dub plate of it, which is kind of a unique thing.

The editing down of all the information, in and of itself, that was like a three month process.

AB: Did you take a break at any time, or was it just three months straight of listening to music?

Smoke: I carved out about four to six hours a day just for listening. I run a studio, so on top of my workload I had to find time to listen to the music. When l left the studio at night, I’d go home, (get) on my laptop, and jam out to some of the stuff.

AB: So you had your normal day in the studio, then you went home and were trying to get through at least four to six albums before you went to bed?

Smoke: Yeah, pretty much. Some days I’d block the days off and just listen all day, sample all day, file away all day. I had a pretty organized system for filing things away where I’d file it away all in what key it was in, and its feel for everything. It totally worked out, because then when I started being able to make the beats, after I went through the whole three months of filing stuff away, the beats got made in a month and a half. They just came out.

AB: Those three to four months of listening to albums, what did that do to your interpersonal relationships?

Smoke: {*laughs*} You know, actually, everything was really cool. There was a book that came out on K Records (Love Rock Revolution: K Records and the Rise of Independent Music) that I was reading while I was doing this, so I was giving my girlfriend the whole history of K as I was going along.

AB: If she’s still your girlfriend you know you kind of have to marry her at this point.

Smoke: {*laughs*} Yeah, I know. She puts up with a lot of crap. Luckily I was really good to her in the fact that I didn’t make her listen to anything.

AB: Was going through all the music the most difficult part of the process, or did you encounter any other hurdles that were especially tough to get over?

Smoke: That was definitely the most time consuming part of the process. I didn’t want to just sample a bunch of stuff and make this album sound foreign to everything that was in K’s catalog. I wanted to get a feel for how music sounded on that label, and make something that sounds like it would come out on that label. Conceptualizing everything while listening to it, and then picking out the right samples to sound like something that would be on K, was probably the part I had to wrap my brain around the most.

AB: That description reminds me of the first Us3 project, where they had the whole Blue Note catalog, and they wanted to make it sound like a Blue Note record, but also make it a hip-hop record.

Smoke: That totally slipped my radar. I remember the lead single off of it. I’ll have to go back and examine that.

AB: When you pull back from All Your Friend’s Friends, and detach from it, and just listen to it, what excites, or surprises, you most about the album?

Smoke: I am still of the school that likes to listen to whole albums, and I’m very happy that, when I do detach, and pull back from it, it has a very unique sound, and if you’re familiar with K’s catalog it does sound like something that would come out on K… well, because it did, but it sounds like something they would put out.

I was also glad I didn’t sample a lot of well known things. (K Records founder) Calvin (Johnson) was kind of surprised that I left out a bunch of stuff. He was pretty stoked that I didn’t just go for the really well known, beat happening, things, and that I picked totally weird and obscure things to sample.

AB: Do you have any especially memorable moments from the recording process?

Smoke: Yeah, actually. There was one song in particular, “Evolve Away,” I didn’t even really like that beat very much, and XP (Xperience), he’s on a couple of the songs, I left the room to do something, and he records with me a lot, so he knows how my computer system is set up, and he started going through the beat folder. I came back down and he was like, “What is this?” I’m like, “It’s something, I don’t know, I haven’t assigned it to anybody.” He said, “Let me take it home.” He took it home, and came back in a week or two, and had my personal favorite song on the album written and recorded. I was blown away by it. That beat wasn’t even going to be used, but because he was sneaking around in my beat folder he found it and did something awesome to it.

AB: Sometimes it’s good to have nosey friends who go through your stuff.

Smoke: Yes it is, especially when it’s Xperience. That dude’s really talented.

AB: The album has a strong focus on Olympia, WA, which is interesting because I think a lot of people would probably assume Seattle would be the musical epicenter of the Pacific Northwest.

Smoke: Yeah, this is the weird thing, I’m from Seattle, but when I first moved down here (to Olympia) Macklemore was still living here. A lot of the Nirvana dudes lived in Olympia. A lot of people, before they’re famous, they live in Olympia. They never really come from Seattle. They come from the outlying areas, and when they’ve finally reached the point in their career when they’re like, we can’t be in Aberdeen, or Olympia, or Tacoma anymore, then they migrate to Seattle.

Seattle’s kind of crazy. It’s very spread out, and the cost of living there does not allow you, really, to make art, unless you have a good situation happening. Olympia is 60 miles from Seattle, and we do have a good bus system. You can hop on a bus for $3 in Seattle and end up in Olympia in an hour and a half.

AB: Give me a story from your experiences in Olympia that you feel perfectly illustrates what the scene is all about.

Smoke: Well, it’s not really a story, it’s more like how my business model works. I run a studio. I’m able to afford to rent a place for my studio, rent a place for my house, and I have a lot of people from Seattle, and Portland, and Spokane even, all come, and they’re able to stay here for a couple of days. It’s really cheap to sit out here and live, and what you have is you kind of have an arts utopia around here. There are a lot of people who can afford to do music for a living, a lot of really good musicians that I can call up at anytime, and they’ll come through with all of their gear and throw down. Olympia also has the most liberal college, it was just rated the most liberal college in America, in The Evergreen State College, where they have a lot of experimentation going on with their curriculums, and you’re able to go and basically help young musicians outline some sort of course curriculum, and they can get credit for working on music with you.

AB: That’s awesome! Staying in the area, Macklemore blew up a few years ago. When that happened, did you see an increase in interest in your scene, and did shows suddenly become more well attended, or did it turn out to be a more singular, Macklemore-centric, thing?

Smoke: I think just in the Northwest in general everyone became really excited about it because we are kind of an isolated hip-hop scene. I know Macklemore as a person, he’s a good dude, and to be able to see how he did it, I remember when he had 200 Twitter followers, and to see him build up everything that he did, in the way that he did, and how he was a master at using social media to level up, was quite a feat to watch.

AB: He also seems like he’s a genuinely nice person.

Smoke: Yeah, and dude, I’m a huge Seahawks fan, me and my dad used to watch the games, so I’ve been watching since I was a kid. I went to a game last year and I got kicked out for no reason. The security came up to me, they kicked me out of the game, and they gave me a lifetime ban. Everyone in my section was like you guys are trippin, this dude has been leading the cheers pretty much. It was a crappy situation. I caused a stink about it on Facebook, and all my friends who know me, who have watched the games with me, they wrote to the Seahawks people. The Seahawks ticket office, who banned me from the games, called me, and they were just like, “There’s absolutely nothing we can do,” so I hit up Macklemore, and he, within like two days, had me reinstated, (and) had a letter coming in from the coach’s assistant saying I’m all good to go, I can come to any game I want now. He’s still a cool dude even though he’s super famous.

AB: None of us know if there’s a body in a trunk somewhere, and that’s what got you back into the Seahawks games.

Smoke: {*laughs*} He’s still a cool dude, and still down.