This past summer at the Toronto edition of Riot Fest I had a chance to sit down with the Iranian-American act Nostalghia, a collaborative group that combines avant-garde ambient music with classical and gothic undertones along with bit of a heavy metal aesthetic.
I spoke with the trio after a relaxed early-afternoon set to talk about how they arrived at their unique sound, and how they feel about being presented to the metal and punk audiences.
Shot and edited by Chris Tung
Find out more about Nostalghia at www.nostalghiamusic.com.
In late September Toronto was witness to a rare evening of classic hip-hop that also served as a celebration of DJ culture. Dubbed “The Lost Art of Hip-Hop”, the show brought together two titans of the genre as Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa hit the stage at the Phoenix Concert Theatre to spin back-to-back sets that took the party into the wee hours.
Flash’s performance guided the crowd through a history of hip-hop and sampling, as he nimbly dissected, deconstructed, and rebuilt familiar tracks while showing the origins of others that you only thought you knew.
But before Flash began his lesson, Afrika Bambaataa fired up a packed house with a mostly classic Motown and R&B-flavoured set. But no matter what genre he might spin, Bambaataa’s style is about maintaining a non-stop party mix and continuously turning up the energy. There were no less than three breakdance battles happening simultaneously throughout his 90-minute set, culminating in a mass battle with the best of the evening in front of the stage.
Bambaataa remained near motionless throughout his set, as if the amount of artistic expression he was generating was enough of a statement. Face-to-face he’s just as stoic, speaking softly but with a conviction that well-serves his passionate opinions. In a darkened corner of the Phoenix I sat down with the man they call “Bam” to talk about the state of DJing and technology, plus how not having diverse taste in music causes “apartheid” in hip-hop culture.
Find out about more upcoming special hip-hop events here.
Like many teenagers in the 90s my first exposure to the band Prong was their album Cleansing, their third effort for a major label. At the time the band was consistently defined as “industrial metal” in every article I read, which always seemed odd. Prong had a bit of a penchant for electronic backing tracks at the time, but it was a subtle addition, definitely not reminiscent of the synth-heavy beat-dominant industrial groups of the moment (or even today for that matter).
Perhaps what lead to that tag was founding member Tommy Victor’s use of what many would come to call the “cyber-riff”. A sharp repetitive style of riffing that influenced many bands who would go on to become far bigger headliners than Prong themselves. Currently the band is rocking a power-trio line-up that retains that trademark sound on their latest release Ruining Lives.
But the tone is far more in-tune with the band’s hardcore origins than their 90s commercial peak. I caught up with Victor on a Toronto tour-stop supporting thrash-metallers Overkill to talk about the industrial labelling, the anatomy of the cyber-riff, and how their cross-appeal can make it hard for Prong to find their place in modern music.
Prong’s upcoming covers album “Songs From The Black Hole” will be released on March 31st, and they’ll be hitting the road for a European tour in April.
Photo by Karsten Staiger
The last time I caught up with vocalist Corey Glover of Living Colour the band were in the midst of a tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of their debut album Vivid. This time it’s on the eve of a new tour debuting songs from their upcoming album Shade. However, it seems that much attention still remains on their debut. So much so that a headline for a story on the upcoming album in USA Today proclaimed that they were “Still Vivid”.
The Vivid celebration put the band back on that precarious edge that straddles the commercial and artistic worlds. As well, video game soundtracks and an appearance at Wrestlemania have given Living Colour roads back into the mainstream musical consciousness. Before their 2000 reunion it would have been easy to perceive Living Colour’s longevity as tied to their commercial success, which seems completely at odds with the diversity of their sound and the eclectic projects each member pursues outside of the band. Each subsequent album has been angrier and darker, which is probably why none of them were able to match the debut’s sales.
Living Colour is an artistic contradiction in the current world of rock n’ roll, and it was with that contradiction at the forefront of my mind that I spoke with Corey about constructing the shape and the sound of Shade, the lingering effect of the Vivid anniversary, and what it takes to make a genuine album that’s also successful.