INTERVIEW WITH APSCIApsci, which stands for Applied Science, is merging the worlds of Hip-Hop, Electronica and World Beat with a combination of their own ingenuity and Quannum Records. The brainchild of Dana Diaz-Tutann and Raphael LaMotta, the opening line of the bio on their website (www.apsci.net) says it best “It’s a modern love story. Boy meets girl. They fall in love and buy laptops. They travel the world, sleep on floors and make a groundbreaking record.”
No joke, that’s what they did. LaMotta gives more details on the birth of this beat manipulating band. “Diana and I met in New York seven years ago. We just had some mutual friends in common. I had heard some of her recordings; we didn’t hit it off at first. We had so many friends in common and were constantly in the same place at the same time. While she was here, we ended up in the studio together and… found that we worked together very easily. (Then it was) seven months of being pen pals and emailing. I finally packed up and went to Australia and we’ve been writing songs from then on.”
At first it was LaMotta and Diaz-Tutann producing the beats and singing and rhyming. After awhile they decided to add a dj and live drummer to their set up. Dj Big Whiz and Guy Licata then came on board. “As time went by it just seemed much more effective programming our own tracks and we decided to do it shorthand. Through that process we’ve met some really good musicians, Big Wiz and Guy Licata, they just really took to the music as well. Guy found us online and just called me up and said ‘When are we playing?’ I think what he brings to the table is really phenomenal,…he’ll study whatever I come up with and add his own things to it.”
Getting signed to Quannum Records; one of the most respected indie-hip hop labels in the business, was also a combination of tight musicianship and luck. “We were going to Australia where Diana’s from. She…got some work to help out with the Blackalicious tour, but she didn’t really talk about the music at all, she just stuck to business end and made sure things were going smoothly with the shows. When I came in and met everyone they were like ‘So what’s up with your group?’ I was … able to say ‘Check out my video.’ they were like ‘You’re going to give us a cd right?’. Four months later I got a call from Blackalicious saying ‘I love this record I’d like to put it out.’’, explains LaMotta.
Making the beats pop:
Drummer Guy Licata; professor at the Collective in New York City and downtown electronic drummer extraordinaire came to Apsci with an open approach. Licata had to go through some trial and error before finding the fit that would groove underneath all the computer production. “I really didn’t even know where to start or what exactly they were looking for. Obviously, RA’s production can be quite left of center, especially in the hip hop world. At first, I tried to reproduce all of those little bells and whistles that you hear on the tracks, the blips and bleeps. That’s something I really take pride in, being able to reproduce those kinds of things. When it came time to rehearse, they were definitely impressed with most of what I was able to cover, but overall the feel was too claustrophobic, I was really trying to nail EVERYTHING, lol. After that I went over a video of them playing in Sydney with another drummer, Rory. I saw his approach, and though different to mine, it worked.”
When Licata jumped on board he was well-immersed in the drum and bass and underground hip hop worlds which easily prepped him for immersion into the world of Apsci. “When I got involved with APSCI I was listening to a ton of electronic music. Mostly Jungle/Drum n Bass, Nu Skool and Funky Breaks, UK Garage, IDM, a healthy amount of Hip Hop. I had really abandoned the idea of being in “a band” and making as a drummer in the traditional sense. I had just started my own Drum N Bass record label, and was completely immersed in the NYC nightlife/club scene. So it was quite a good fit when everything started coming together.”
Live, the band has been mostly well-received. “Sometimes people don’t react the way you’d like, or sometimes they don’t react at all. We’ve been on the road for a bit now on the east coast and some places we expected to be great were miserable and vice versa. What we’re constantly reminding ourselves is that this is something new. APSCI has never really been about falling into cookie cutter hip hop or electronic templates. We’re signed to Quannum Projects, which is one of the biggest and most respected indie Hip Hop labels around. In most cases that should make you a shoe in for a new moderately built in audience, but we sound nothing like the rest of the catalogue. Most people would guess we’d be on Warp or something like that, but it’s too hip hop for them. We’ve created something new, and it’s growing and evolving. To me, that’s what it’s always been about.”
Apsci is busy breaking down musical barriers with the genre/beat blend on their Quannum debut entitled “Thanks for Asking”. Some in the business have criticized that they aren’t doing anything new but the innovation is obvious from Dana and Ra’s lyrical take on the state of the music industry as well as making music across date lines. Currently on tour with Blackalicious, they’ll be able to introduce themselves to a primarily hip hop crowd and gain some head-nods that way. Kick ass musicianship and a strong label will get you everywhere in this business as will constantly looking to innovate. Apsci has that concept on lock.