WE ARE THE DUCHAMPIONS
THEY FIND THEIR SAMPLES IN THE TRASH, BUT KEEP THEIR FRIENDSHIP A TREASURE. AVANT-HOP COLLAGE-POPPERS cLOUDDEAD DESCEND THEIR FINAL STAIRCASE.
"Yoni apparently pulled a knife on Dave in a very reactionary fashion," says the ever-nasal lyrical mosaic-maker Doseone, about his cLOUDDEAD bandmates and the kitchen scene climaxing the tumultuous making of their final album, 'Ten' (Mush). "That was like a total crescendo. Everyone needed to live apart 'cause it was too fucking much."
Three moody friends from three colleges in moody Cincinnati, business partners in California's Dadaist hip-hop Anticon collective, roommates, tourmates and bandmates; the members of cLOUDDEAD - Doseone, ADD-addled napkin-poetry scrawler why? (all lowercase, please) and sample detourneir odd nosdam (ditto) - have abandoned their post-hop avant-indie 8-track troupe, despite magazine covers, critical acclaim and genre-crossing underground accolades, all in an attempt to become better friends.
"Yeah, living, arting, businessing, rehearsing, touring all with the same group of people definitely took a toll on us," says Doseone (born Adam Drucker). "We take it all a little too personally. The thought of cutting another record opens up questions about life and death for us."
Not that heart-on-sleeve emotions are surprising from a group currently branded with the dubious "emo-rap" tag (though their music is more redolent of post-rock-influenced indie weirdos like Flying Saucer Attack, Tortoise and Boards of Canada); their asymmetrical lyrics shelter a wealth of emotion…somewhere underneath a vivid-yet-often-perplexing jabberwocky of cryptic imagery.
"I like listening to 'You're So Vain' and knowing that it's about James Taylor; being like, 'OK, they must have had a relationship and he must have burned her in some way," says why? (born Yoni Wolf), who helped write Ten's music to his and Drucker's finished poems, creating cLOUDDEAD's distinct disjunct. "I feel like some of our stuff might be more personal. You might not be able to catch every single meaning, but I don't think you have to."
For example, closer "Our Name" contains a mere 46 words ("What if you caught the butterflies and your friend always stuck the pin through/ Then you're, like, drowning in the bathtub"), but touches on a neighbor getting sonned by a crack dealer, Dose's self-consciousness, a burnout over his mom and the omnipresent in-band fighting. "That track is completely impenetrable in the nature of what it's really about," says Drucker. "However, when you hear that it's the last cLOUDDEAD record, it'll definitely give you some kind of Cliff's Note." So does this layering of puzzling elements in word and sound make lyricists Drucker and Wolf some sort of Jackson Pollocky word-splatters?
"I wouldn't say [that] - maybe a Jasper Johns or like a Rauschenberg or something," says Wolf, who dropped out of art school with nosdam to pursue Anticon. "We'll take just little bits of things and sort of put them together…Using the things that are around us, what other people would think of as trash, images we see that no one would think of as art, and somehow they become that when put under the right spotlight."
For example, Wolf was in dire need of a soft high-hat sound his tiny cymbals couldn't provide, so he reached for the trash laying around the studio: a wayward piece of Styrofoam. "I started hitting it [and it was] too dull. I took my shirt off and I rubbed it on my skin. Perfect. I got a hairy chest and static was all over the place. It was a bad scene, but it worked out."
"Basically for me, it's just whatever I can get my hands on," says producer odd nosdam (born Dave Madson), who put together much of 'Ten' with 1950s Wilcox-Gay Recordio home-recording discs found at swap meets and skipping records from thrift stores, adding to the clatter-hop of broken guitars, old Casios and Terminator X-worthy food-processor solos. "I'm very big into just the idea of reusing stuff, whether it's clothes or sampling art. Records that really have no artistic merit seem to be the ones that I go for the most…the whole post-Peter Frampton record boom."
Like Alan Lomax bent on Negativeland, cLOUDDEAD uses field recordings to disturbing effect, like the crack dealer's fit layered atop a ditty by Drucker's eight-year-old sister. One that missed the final cut was a clandestine recording of Wolf and Madson's kitchen spat, secretly captured by Drucker and Anticon cohort/ roommate Jel.
"I tell you what, man," Drucker says. "I know how to keep a band together now. I know how to communicate and I also know how not to lose friends. And we didn't lose each other…plus we have the platinum hit, Ten, on our hands!"