Randy Barracuda is one of the pioneers of skweee as well as one half of electro outfit Imatran Voima, BLAH BLAH BLAH, you know all that. What’s more important for our purposes here is that he is one hell of a raconteur who gives great interview. If you’re not goosed by what you read below then like Rick James, you are dead.
Skweeelicious: Let’s start with the beginnings of skweee. Clearly there were multiple lines of influence. What styles do you think were the direct precursors to this music?
Randy B: Wild styles.
S: Which artists do you think were the most important in terms of providing the inspiration for skweee?
R: Personally the biggest influences were maybe Zapp, Arabian Prince, Kraftwerk, west coast funk, Steve Poindexter, Italo disco, Justin Timberlake and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Also Eddy Grant and 60’s experimental electronic music.
S: How would you define “proto-skweee”?
I think skweee and proto-skweee are the b-side of pop music.
S: How did you get involved in the music and the movement? Were you looking to chart a new direction?
R: Well, I guess back in the days the movement for me meant sitting alone in a basement. 2005, Imatran Voima was on a break and I thought I can do whatever I want. The studio was very dark, walls covered in fungus and had no bathroom so I had to piss in a bottle. Nobody took the bottles out and in the end the room was full of bottles of molded urine. The place stank like a shelter for homeless and I think it gave my production some extra finesse.
Once Benny Bofors, a good friend of mine came for a visit. We smoked some hash and I played him the original version of Ape Shit. After 10 seconds of awkward silence he asked: “You call that music?”
S: Many styles of music are very diverse when they start because there are no established conventions. So it is with skweee. Do you think skweee will remain quite diverse or will there be a natural convergence of the sound?
R: I don’t know. I just know that skweee is extremely hard to make.
S: There is quite a bit of electronic music today that features slower tempos and skittery beats. Do you think skweee could become part of a larger movement?
R: I don’t know. I just hope that by peeling the onion of skweee we can one day find it’s true essence.
S: When and why did you move from Finland to Holland?
R: First I went there to finish my thesis (The Concept of Substance and the Question of Individuality in Spinoza’s Metaphysics). While finishing it I met a female mercenary and fell in love. We’re gonna get married in 2010.
S: Have you turned the Dutch on to skweee? Can you get gigs there?
R: Some weirdoes love it. Mostly Dutch people are into Anouk and DJ Tiesto.
S: Are you able to continue your role in running Harmönia with Mesak remotely?
S: Speaking of Harmönia, what’s coming up from the label?
R: In March we’re releasing the new Rigas Den Andre 12″ and Yöt 7″.
In May we’re happy to celebrate our tenth release.
S: What gear are you using in your studio setup?
R: Bontempi Memoplay, Roland TB 303, Roland TR 808, Roland JX3P, Jupiter-8, Access Virus b, Roland TR 505, Roland SH 101, Akai MPC 1000, EMU SP 1200, Nord Lead, ARP Odyssey, Korg MonoPoly, Roland Juno 106, Sequential Circuits Pro One, Simmons electronic drums, Stylophone, delays and fx by Boss and Digitech. Some plugins. Next week I’m gonna buy myself some new lush analogue gear.
S: How about live?
R: MPC 1000, 808, 303, Virus, Nord Lead, 101 and whatever I feel like.
S: What’s next for you in 2009 and beyond?
R: I’m turning 30 in June so I think I’m going to “celebrate” it with my friends. I’m gonna travel to Transylvania with my woman to see Dracula’s castle and make contact with the children of the night. (I always wanted to see the Carpathian forests in midsummer moonlight.)
I’m also going to release my first solo-lp on Flogsta Danshall the eleventh of September 2009. It hasn’t got a name yet, and I don’t think it will ever have one.
The project is highly secret but I can tell You that it deals with esoteric and numerological issues. Music-wise I hope it will be the missing link between Alan Parsons Project and crunk.
S: Finally, where do you think skweee will go from here?
R: I have no idea and to be honest, it’s not really my concern.
As is written on Herbert Marcuse’s tombstone: “Weitermachen”
Our first post of 2009, which genre founder Pavan has boldly predicted will be The Year of the Skweee, is fittingly an interview with the man who coined the name “skweee”. Sweden’s Kool DJ Dust a.k.a. Daniel Savio was the first skweee DJ and its second producer. Like many of the style’s pioneers he had already carved a musical niche for himself when in 2006 he was captured by the vision of Pavan to chart a new direction and sound.
Skweeelicious: Let’s begin with your pre-skweee days. What sorts of music were you producing and DJing?
Daniel Savio: I have been DJing since the mid-nineties and buying records since my early childhood. It all goes back to my love for hip hop music and culture. Graffiti was my main thing but I also had some attempts to rap and dance (crazy fake breaking). So hip hop I would say is my main influence and when I started DJing it was all about hip hop. But early on I was curious about the old school breaks/originals/samples so from that I got into funk, soul, disco, rock and of course the early electro stuff like Kraftwerk and Arthur Baker, Paul Hardcastle, etc, etc.
On the production tip I bought an ASR10 on my 18th birthday and started sampling loops and stuff. I’ve always been heavy into crate digging. I had a Fostex 4-track and recorded some raps. Later on me and my friend Mighty Thor (Drumcode etc) who was very much into house and techno started to DJ together at a local joint. I discovered that much of his house stuff was based on old rhythms and grooves from the disco stuff I had, and he opened my eyes to “contemporary dance music” which I understood in a deeper meaning was an extension of hip hop music. So with the understanding that house and techno was in fact hip hop, me and Mighty Thor started making music together. We did a white label 12 inch in ’99 and later went on to form the trio Hundarna Fran Soder releasing two albums (one of which received a Grammy in 2004) and some EP’s and 12’s until 2006.
S: I’ve heard a couple of your pre-skweee productions and it seems the seeds of skweee were there. It was kind of neo-soul, downtempo, hip-hopish.
D: Thank you! Skweee comes natural for me, ha ha. Most of the stuff I have produced outside Hundarna Fran Soder has been sample-based beats stuff.
S: Is it true you coined the term skweee? How did it come about?
D: Yes, I came up with the name and to some extent also the definition. Pavan, who always had a somewhat quirky style that was hard to pin down, started the whole thing when he did the first Flogsta 45. He didn´t have a name for it or a definition. I feel that he himself didn’t realize how unique his style really was and I felt that he had something really big going for himself. We had a dialogue about it and started to debate whether it was a new style and what to call it.
I had just gotten a new synthesizer, the Roland Alpha Juno1 and fell in love with it. My idea was to make a couple of tracks using nothing but the Juno for drums and everything. I came up with the name, (I originally spelled it squee) while trying to squeeze the juice out of my Juno till the last drop. That was my first 7 inch for Flogsta Danshall and the first tracks I did using the skweee formula – “Bubble Bump” and “Yu Love Bibimbab” at 106 bpm.
Pavan wanted to call it “prim” (primitive), but Randy Barracuda recognized that my name was stronger. So there was skweee. After that me and Pavan went to Helsinki to play at a party and hang out with Randy and Mesak and a bunch of other funky Finns.
S: There is a DJ Dust mix kicking around the internet called Skweee Mix 1. Obviously it’s from the early days of skweee when there were only a few producers and really only a handful of tracks. When was it done and what is the story on that?
D: I don’t remember exactly when I recorded it but it was for a Swedish magazine. They didn’t understand anything and sort of dissed the whole thing which is why I don’t mention those non-believers.
S: Is there a story behind your anthem “We Call It Skweee”?
D: I had been making skweee for a while and everything was sort of on and popping and bubbling, like it still feels, and Harmönia was compiling their second 12 inch release. So I decided to make a track dedicated to this “brand new funky sound… we call skweee”. And since I baptized the funk I thought it would be up to me to hold the sermon too.
S: Skweee is still a relatively small scene but in a couple of years it went from zero to several showcases at international festivals. How has it been for you being part of the evolution of a new style of music?
D: It’s been great but unfortunately I hadn’t had a chance to enjoy some of it cause I didn’t have any way of performing live until quite recently. And also I feel I have been a bit slept on for some reason. In 2009 there wont be any time for sleeping though, it will be all about skweeeing and since my album will be out, hopefully I wont be forgotten.
S: Tell us about the Daniel Savio LP. How many tracks will it be? What format? All skweee or a mix of styles?
D: Oh, yes! Its called “Dirty Bomb” and its a 10 song all skweee album (the world’s first) on vinyl. So its a dream come true for me. It will be out in early 2009, February/March. I have been working on it for a couple of years.
S: Have you DJ’d skweee to audiences unfamiliar with the music? What has been the reaction?
D: Every single weekend. Reactions differ, generally people who are into electronic stuff really like it, but what makes me most happy is when people who are into R&B and commercial rap go crazy on the dancefloor to some fresh skweee. Because that gives me confidence that skweee will blow up for real, since most people who are into “MTV-music” are really ignorant most of the time and don’t have much knowledge about deep electronic music or real hip hop. So when they appreciate it that really makes me happy.
S: Skweee seems to have many sub-styles from funky dancefloor to crazy dissonant noise. You’ve produced several skweee sub-styles yourself – from middle-eastern flavors to funky vocals to “emo skweee”.
D: I think it’s all good. Now there is a bunch of real skweee stuff out so it makes it easier to make mixes and play records which is great. And the sub-styles make it diverse and more interesting.
S: There’s a lot of skweee-like music being made under various names – downtempo tracks with funky irregular rhythms. Do you think skweee is part of a larger movement that will perhaps come together?
D: Hopefully yes.
S: Pavan has predicted that skweee will blow up in 2009. What do you think?
D: Couldn’t agree with him more, Pavan is a man of few words and he doesn’t talk shit.
S: Let’s talk about gear a bit. On the production side what are you using in the studio and live?
D: My home studio consists of: Roland Alpha Juno1, ASR10, Korg Poly 800, MPC1000, Yamaha CS1. And cracked Cubase on a crappy PC. When I play live I use the MPC1000 and Juno1 and when I get the feeling also a microphone.
S: How about DJ-wise – tables, CDJ’s or software?
D: I play mainly vinyl but sometimes I use CD’s if it aint out on vinyl.
S: Finally, what are your plans for 2009 and beyond?
D: I will try to DJ and perform live as much as I possibly can. I really cant wait for “Dirty Bomb” to drop, I am super pleased with it and I hope the skweee heads will like it too. I have already started to record my second album and it will be ready mid 2009, the plan is to have one out every year. Also be on the lookout for me and Pavan’s Vakttornet project, we will record some more stuff and also do some live stuff. So 2009 will be hectic, Skweee-alistic and funky fresh!
Many fans got their first introduction to skweee on Museum of Future Sound, Flogsta Danshall’s seminal compilation, and the first ever skweee release on compact disc. In one of the great “you had me at hello” moments in electronic music, MoFS kicks off with Mesak’s “Popkumm”, a delicious and irresistible slice of jiggery funk that instantly hooked many in the uninitiated masses on the wonders of skweee. Based in Turku, Finland, Mesak is ubiquitous in the skweee scene along with partner Randy Barracuda, running the Harmönia record label, producing tracks, performing live across Europe, DJing and radio broadcasting.
Skweeelicious: You have been making electronic music for many years as one half of Mr. Velcro Fastener and a solo artist. Now you are part of a new movement called skweee. Tell us how you became involved and how Harmönia came to be started.
Mesak: I think it happened as naturally as the evolution of skweee itself. I mean there were echoes of skweee already coming from Sweden when I was a bit fed up with the electro beat, and started experimenting with more downtempo Mesak material. At the same time Randy Barracuda of Imatran Voima had similar progress in his music. Later on we brought Pavan and Daniel Savio from Stockholm to play in Finland a couple of times. Me and Randy thought “shit, we have this great music too and it needs to be released!” That’s when we established Harmönia.
S: Why is seven inch vinyl the format of choice for skweee recordings?
M: 7″ is a great format. It’s like some people like to buy individual songs as mp3’s rather than complete albums, (or so it is said in the media, I’m not sure if it’s true). Harmönia has released more 12″s than 7″ to be exact. 7″ IS a cool format and we’d love to put out more of them. They’re just a bit more difficult to get to the record shops, but on the other hand mail orders make more sense due to expensive prices for posting 12″s.
S: Music styles usually have been given names after the music was created — often by writers or radio DJs. Often artists object to classification of their music and so reject these labels. With skweee the artists themselves have put a label on their music. Why is this?
M: Yes, there has always been some sort of “skweee” music. We just found it difficult to book gigs and sell records since the music sounded a bit wackier than hiphop, electro, dancehall, 8-bit, whatever, and it was always a lot of trouble describing the shit. Giving it a name made it a lot easier – or that’s what i thought. Ever since I have had to explain what it means and what it sounds like and is it a joke or not.
S: Skweee is very diverse but would you say there are some characteristics that define the music?
M: Yes, i think there is or was.
S: What do you think will be the next phase of development for skweee? How will it grow?
M: The skweee is about to shatter in dozens of subgenres by all the artists performing their own music so strong that it slowly blends into being just top music and great artists. As there is more worldwide attention more people get into it and start producing or organizing parties. I think no one really knows what is going to happen. It’s also bit worrying if it gets popular.
S: For now the scene is still small and the original creators of the music such as Pavan and yourself are providing much of the images and words associated with skweee as well as the music itself. If skweee grows a lot and gets big will it be hard for you to maintain the quality control you have now?
M: Absolutely, but in a way it’ll be exciting to see how it goes. But if it gets dirty (like Nelly Furtado singing on Punt Kick) that’d be kind of heavy. Pavan has created a monster, I think he’s lost “control over skweee” a long time ago.
S: Tell us about Back to the School, the new Mesak 3 track digital release that has just come out on Harmönia.
M: It’s part of a secret plan of Harmönia. But I can tell you that it’s exactly what the title says. Though I am not quite there yet, as old skool as I want. But maybe some day.
S: Tell us about the next Harmonia 12″. What is it and when will it be released?
M: Mesak and Randy Barracuda 7″s (first two Harmönias) are to be re-released due to huge demand. BUT it will be just 100 copies, numbered small pressing. So they will be even more rare than the originals, if possible. But the main thing is a 4 track 12″ release that will be out in November, heavy production also by Randy and Mesak with a remix by Eero Johannes, (this 12″ WILL be properly announced in
every possible way ;) ).
S: You also do circuit bending and synth customization. How did you get involved in this? What projects have you done? Do you use any of these instruments in your skweee productions?
M: I do handcrafts to balance my audio-overdosed head. But it includes some electronics which leads easily to audio hacking… There’s one massive project I did, a midibox SID (c64 synth) DIY project (documented at www.mesak.net/sid) that is heard almost in all my skweee production. It’s amazing. I’m really a big time amateur in circuit bending (which is part of the fun) and there’s lot’s of things one could do with even a little bit more knowledge… Still it’s best to mix the “toysounds” with real instruments. I’m not very fond of puristic 8-bit music, for example, even though I love the 8-bit sounds.
S: Will you continue to release non-skweee records under the Mesak name?
M: Of course. I’ve always made electronic music in many styles, this is something I like to do now, but there’s many other projects going on at the same time. Electro for example is selling like shit and there’s not many good records coming out.
What can we say about Pavan? He produced the first skweee record, “Punt Kick”. He founded the first skweee record label, Flogsta Danshall. He’s The Man with The Plan. The skweee visionary who has taken the Skandanavian synthetic funk from his Stockholm studio to the stages of international music festivals across Europe, and perhaps soon, across the globe.
Skweeelicious: Let’s start with the history. How did skweee begin?
Pavan: I had to start a label to release my music, It didn’t really qualify anywhere else. I knew Beem, and Daniel Savio started copying me on my request. It was not really skweee yet, but when I got Randy’s demo with “Rick James Is Dead” everything fell into place. The sound was defined, but the name came much later.
S: On the early skweee recordings did you describe the type of sound you were after to the other producers?
P: I asked a lot of producers that I knew for contributions and tried to explain what I was looking for, but the few demos I got didn’t really fit. Only Daniel Savio delivered. But when Harmönia started then suddenly 1000 Finns were making it.
S: We’re about two years into the skweee epic. How do you feel with where skweee is today?
P: Good. It is still going somewhere.
S: Atop the Flogsta Danshall myspace it says simply “2009”. Are you expecting next year to be a break-out year for this music?
P: If there’s gonna be a break-out year then it should be 2009.
S: Skweee is very diverse music. Some of it is noisy and dissonant, some sweet and melancholy, some dirty and funky. For people tuning into a new style they’re unfamiliar with, it can be hard to get a handle on just what is skweee. Do you think skweee will settle down into a more easily recognizable form?
P: Yes in 2010. It will be named Mainstream Skweee.
S: Downtempo is at its height since the trip-hop days. Of course hiphop and dub have never gone away but now dubstep has blown up, there is leftfield instrumental hiphop, the psyphe stuff and of course others. Do you see skweee as part of a larger movement?
P: It’s surely related, but made with totally different intention and background. A lot of music is influenced by Hiphop/R´n´b and club music. But Skweee also contains crappy funk and old school sounds, etc.
S: You released early skweee recordings under the Pavan name but you are now using Limonious. Any reason for the switch?
P: Not really. Pavan doesn’t make that much music anymore, but he gets all the live gigs and runs the label. Limonious works hard in the studio.
S: Let’s talk a bit about gear. Can you describe your studio setup?
P: Hardware based, mostly old gear and some machines built by my brother, like the Minod Vorga. Recently I got myself a UDS Russian drumsynth from ´84. And of course the Juno 106. Everything is recorded live into a computer.
S: How about your live setup?
P: Some synths, Juno or Minod, MPC 2000XL and a mixer.
S: What’s coming up from Flogsta Danshall?
P: FD-10 Mangrove and FD-11 Limonious (Oct), Daniel Savio LP (Nov)
S: Finally, there are a couple of mystery artists on Flogsta — Uday Napoleon and Vakttornet. Can you reveal their true identities?
P: No. If I do I will get bad luck.
If there is a ‘voice of skweee’ it likely belongs to Oxnard, California based rapper Pubs Panseno. Pubs P has been rhyming over skweee beats almost since the birth of the genre. He’s collaborated with many of the scene’s standard bearers including Rigas den Andre, Mesak, Randy Barracuda, Boys of Caligula, PJVM, Slow Hand Motem, Mrs. Qeada, Joxaren, Kool DJ Dust, and Claws Costeau. Pubs also produces his own skweee as the enigmatic Polish madman Luy B.
Pubs P in his own words:
“Been trying to be a “rapper” for about 10 years. Before that, as a kid, I made funny rap songs for fun through the years.
My last name is Grundstrom, I am Swedish, though I never really cared about it.
In November 2006 my brother showed me this Swedish cat’s myspace, Rigas den Andre. I was just like damn! this shit is all so funky!
Then I looked at some of his top friends like Flogsta Danshall and Harmonia. All of the music was so new and so consistently dope. I immediately hit up Rigas to ask if I could rap over his beat Ooh which later was released as his Dead Like You track. He said ‘sure’ so I did. I made songs to probably 5 or 6 Rigas beats.
Then I was listening to Mesak at my friend Dopamine Rush’s studio and we wanted to record to his Popkumm track. We asked Mesak and he said ‘do it’ so we did.
As more and more months went by, I worked with more and more skweee producers. They are all the coolest people. And it just keeps movin forward…”
One of the most unique and unusual talents in the skweee scene belongs to the Swedish producer with the strange handle – Mrs. Qeada. Besides landing spots on Harmönia’s International Skweee and the new Museum of Future Sound 2 on Flogsta Danshall, Mrs. Qeada has released a quite stunning EP, the dreamlike Supercomputer.
Skweeelicious: How did you become a skweee producer?
Mrs. Qeada: My friend and mentor Daniel Savio invited me to his apartment in Stockholm one day and he showed me some stuff on his laptop.
I’d never heard or even been interested in any kind of electronic music before but when he introduced me to skweee I was just awestruck. The sound was just so appealing. So after that event I went and got a computer, a sequencing program and started to produce some shit. That shit later became my debut release — “The Supercomputer EP”.
S: Have you produced music in other styles? Under other aliases?
Q: I’m a member of a music collective called “The Bethlehem Beard Corporation”. We make dumb blues type of music. My brother Beard writes all the lyrics and sings and I write the music and play the guitar and some other instruments. Check out the debut album that’s due sometime this summer, it’s being released on Flora & Fauna.
S: Who would you list as your major musical influences?
Q: I’ve listened to folk and blues music throughout my whole life but when it comes to major electronic music influences I tend to enjoy the sounds of Hundarna Från Söder, Boards of Canada and all of the other skweee producers. Bocce is also a new band I just found through my friend Slow Hand. They rock. Hard. I don’t really have one major influence so I basically listen to all the shit I like.
S: Skweee is very diverse. Some is aimed at the dancefloor, some is quite experimental, and tempos vary over a fairly wide range. What are the elements that you think make skweee skweee?
Q: Skweee for me is in a sense what blues in the early 20th century was or what Hip-Hop was in its early stages. Basically music that captures pure emotion. The diversity is also a necessity for the music; it’s a sign of progress and open-mindedness which most of the other electronic music genres that there are today lack. But the basic elements are still very clear: rough and slightly under produced music that makes you feel something. That’s at least what I think.
S: What upcoming Mrs. Qeada releases are planned?
Q: My friends at Peekaboo (Samoo and King Sling) and I have planned two releases on iTunes and on CD. The two releases are two skweee EP’s both with different concepts: “The Unicorn ” about the magical wonders of unicorns, which also features my brother singing, and “The Mellow Skweee EP” which is a mellow more hip-hop oriented skweee. I think the two EP’s are set to be released at the 17th of September.
S: Do you skweee live? What’s your show like and what is your setup?
Q: Yes I do skweee live from time to time. My setup used to revolve around an Electribe-Mx synth/machinedrum and the wonderful skweee classic Juno-1. I borrowed both of these from Samoo but they’re no longer in my possession… Anyway, when I played live I would improvise everything since I didn’t have any saving space on the MX so I did everything in real-time. So now I don’t really know how the shows were like, I hope they weren’t too bad though.
S: Finally, can you explain your unusual artist name?
Q: It was the worst name I could think of, ain’t nothin’ more to it.
“We should have our own skweee awards” said a poster on Nation of Skweee.
“Every skweee record is an award!” said another.
Indeed. And two lovely new skweee awards — both on limited edition seven inch vinyl, are newly available. The new Markis Sage single is the debut skweee release and ninth overall on Mesak’s Huge Bass label.
Markis Sage is an anagram of Rigas & Mesak as is the photo above. Mesak says, “the tracks were produced on both sides of the Gulf of Botnia, Helsinki and Stockholm, with hints from Swedish slager music and Finnish tango. Swing is set to 50-75%, and just like in the end of season sale — everything must go!”
You can order direct from Huge Bass.
If you are anywhere in the skweee universe you probably know that there was a jubilant skweee showcase at the Sonar International Music Festival in Barcelona, Spain this past weekend. Participants from Flogsta Danshall battled those from Harmönia in sound klash, and from all reports the results were pure sickness.
To celebrate skweee at Sonar, the first Flogsta Danshall – Harmönia split single has been released. The Harmönia side features “Must ‘amamba” from Boyz of Caligula, (which I believe is a collaboration between Mesak and Randy Barracuda) and is a squelchy skweeechy masterpiece.
I haven’t had a chance to hear the Flogsta side “Tower of Murdur”, but the return of Vakttornet is exciting indeed.
The split also comes with a written prose poem which will surely add to the lore of skweee. It appears to address the music’s beginnings:
Sometimes things burst out of the collective consciousness. A fragment
of an idea comes to life and fixes a tiny hole in the gigantic spider
web of being.
In September 2004 I was constantly hanging out in a dark, stinky
basement next to an old Thai Massage parlour. To be honest, I was
mostly thinking of sex and new shoes, but one evening I started
thinking of music.
Immediately weird events started taking place.
I phoned a friend of mine in Sweden, and guess what?
He had been thinking of music as well!
And not only him, but also lots of other people. Even people I didn’t
know before I started thinking about music.
It seems that sometimes You just have to stop what you’re doing and
think again. That’s how people invent shit, I guess. There’s mostly
dirt in our hearts, but if you let it wallow freely, it will start
So, think about it.
A bit of history is about to go down. Saturday June 28, 2008 will be the date of the first ever Canadian skweee show when PJVM meets Slow Hand Motëm live in Sound Klash @ The Rocky Saugeen in Hamilton, Ontario.
Meanwhile enjoy two tracks by Slow Hand Motëm, the Canadian proto-skweee artist.