Rollo & Grady Interview // AmpLive

Rollo & Grady Interview // AmpLive

DJ/Producer AmpLive is best known for his work with MC Zumbi in their group Zion I, which debuted in 1997. The Oakland native has received critical acclaim for his mix of Zumbi’s lyrics, live instrumentation and his own futuristic production style. His work has been used in several TV shows and movies.

In 2007, Amp earned his indie cred by releasing “Rainydayz Remixes” an 8-track collection featuring remixes of Radiohead’s seventh album, “In Rainbows.” The album contained vocal work from Too $hort, MC Zumbi, Chali2na, Codany Holiday and Del The Funky Homosapien. Rainydayz created an online buzz and received considerable press. It also caught the eye of Radiohead’s publisher Warner/Chappell, which sent him a cease-and-desist letter. All parties reached an agreement, after which Amp was allowed to release “Rainydayz Remixes.” There hadn’t been this much drama regarding a producer remixing an album since Danger Mouse released the “Grey Album,” a mash-up of Jay-Z’s “The Black Album” and The Beatles’ “White Album.”

Last month I spoke with Amp about his new album, “The Take Over,” and the Radiohead ordeal.

Rollo & Grady Interview // AmpLive
R&G: You recently released the new Zion I record “The Take Over.”

AmpLive: Yeah. This is our fourth solo, official Zion project. It’s getting a very good response. We got Devin the Dude on the album and Brother Ali. It’s eclectic, hard hitting, straightforward, pretty interesting material. It’s definitely one of our best albums.

R&G: Did you use live instrumentation on the record?

AmpLive: Yes, definitely. I use a lot of instruments on every album, and it’s progressed since “Mind Over Matter.” This album is mostly live, but you won’t be able to tell when your listening to it.

R&G: From a producer’s standpoint, what was your vision?

AmpLive: When we came out with the “Heroes In the City of Dope” album, it had a really good response sonically and I wanted to stay with that. So I tried to keep things pretty straightforward and have everything sound good going into my MPC and my computer before I started making beats and the songs. I mostly use Logic, and then I replicate a lot of stuff live.

R&G: It’s been a little over a year since you received the cease-and-desist letter from Warner/Chappell for your “Rainydayz Remixes.” How did that affect your life?

AmpLive: It hasn’t, really, because the weird thing about it is there was a split response. To a lot of the indie rock people, I’m a brand new dude, so they were like, “Oh, this is like a DJ who did something crazy.” But I’ve been working with remixes of large groups like Linkin Park, and I’ve worked with labels, so when I got the letter it just told me that it got out there a lot further than I thought. It was on a different level. As I read it, I wasn’t scared, or whatever. It was just like, “Oh, okay.” Then the album was so good. People were liking it. I had hoped to reach out to the group [Radiohead] to see if they had heard it, to see if they would like to put it out officially. Turns out once it reached the band they liked it.

R&G: You probably have the resources to get to their people, but if you hadn’t I don’t think it would have been a good idea for you to just call up their label or management to ask their permission to release it.

Nah man, I didn’t have any resources to reach them directly. For Radiohead, that’s like some Rolling Stones type shit. For other groups, I definitely would go through management. I definitely agree with you in regards to asking them first. When you’re coming from left field, it’s definitely hard to get to some of those guys. Even if the guys like you, there’s so much red tape to go through.

Did you have any idea how fast “Rainydayz Remixes” would reach the powers-that-be

AmpLive: No, I didn’t. For some reason, I also underestimated the fans that I had through Zion and people in the industry. A lot of people said they got it, and a lot of the people I talked to were in high places. So now I know. It was sort of a wakeup call for me because I have always been in the trenches of Zion, so I was sort of in the background. In the past couple years I’ve been stepping out. This is cool.

R&G: The good thing is that you made a splash. If it sucked, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But you left off several songs on the Rainydayz album. I would love to hear your remixes of “House of Cards” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place.” Where are those?

I actually did remixes for them, but we had a deadline. After they restarted it, and were like, “Okay, let’s do it,” it had to be quick. So I didn’t include those songs. I didn’t think they were good enough. I actually had a remix for “Karma Police” off the “OK Computer” album. I was going to add that one, too, but sometimes it’s good to just keep things short and sweet. I think that’s what really helped that album. It was just a few big songs that I liked, and that was it. There was no filler. I’m glad that happened.

R&G: Why did you chose to remix Radiohead?

I’ve always been a fan of theirs, and they’ve always had stuff that was interesting, and it just hit. Tom is an ill cat. Some of their songs are influenced by hip-hop, especially in the later stuff. It’s always been appealing to me. I’ve always liked groups who have different elements involved in their music. Especially if you listen to the ‘90s, that’s when hip-hop really jumped off and infiltrated everything. I think a lot of stuff in the ‘90s really started to have hip-hop elements in it, and it made it really appealing for this generation.

Catch Zion I at SXSW on March 19th @ The Marq (More Info)

Zion I – The Take Over (iTunes)
Zion I and The Grouch – Heroes In the City of Dope (iTunes)
Zion I – Mind Over Matter (iTunes)
Download the Rainydayz Remixes (Click Here)