Tonight groups Rhythm & Stealth and The Ruff Pack will take the stage at Nublu for an incredible double bill. Though both groups are very different in sound and approach to music making, they feature members that have used jazz as a touchstone to their improvisation throughout their careers. In days where the radio is saturated by the over-processed, Rhythm & Stealth and The Ruff Pack have figured out how to mess with traditionally hyper-produced genres in the live setting.
The Ruff Pack features the classic trio structure: Daru Jones on drums, Matthias ‘Matt Pedals’ Löscher on guitar, and Stephan Kondert on bass. The trio veers from regular as it begins peeling apart post-Dilla era hip hop forms, taking glitchy beats and loops simultaneously to new levels of improvisatory playing and tightness thanks to some serious musicianship – largely unmatched in the live-hip hop set up.
Though still trio form, the concept of live, improvised electronica can still be a little foreign to even the best-versed of New York’s underground audiences. Rhythm & Stealth’s Lex Sadler (key bass, electronics) gives us a little explanation as to just what he’s doing to match the energy of Sydney Driver (drums) and Raja Kassis (guitar).
How would you describe what you’ve done with EDM music? Is it something new and why is it important to the developement of the style? How does it both mirror and differ from live hip hop?
There’s definitely a hip hop element in what we do; in the beats, the loops, the samples and the general DIY approach. It’s all connected, everything down to the technology and sounds. We’ve come from playing improvisational hip hop, and are now applying that approach to live electronica. It’s petrifying when you’re up there doing it, because there’s just so much that could go wrong with the technology, but when you nail it and create a vibe that a crowd can dance to then it’s so rewarding. I love watching people dance to what we do, and it allows us to respond and create better music.
I think it’s important to EDM to have a live element. I think there’s a lot of music lovers who dismiss EDM because they’re only exposed to the commercial side of things. It’s easy to forget that pioneers in the UK electronic scene like Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, Roni Size and Goldie among others were doing this almost two decades ago. Squarepusher would turn up with two DAT players and a mixer, and slap the shit out of his bass. Roni would rock with a whole live band: an upright bass player, drummer, keyboard players, vocalists and some ancient looking computers. There was a huge jazz and hip hop influence to their music, and they were hugely influential to me. So although we’re doing something new, with new technology, in same ways I feel like I’m bringing it back to what I remember seeing in the 90s.
In some ways I think that we’re more a live music act than an EDM act. I don’t even really go to see EDM shows, and I’m not up on the latest EDM artists. What I love is to see electronic sounds and instruments integrated into a live show. Nine Inch Nails have done this for years, and have the world’s best players like Pino Palladino in their lineup. I hope his presence opens their music to new fans. Likewise, I hope our blend of live and electronic music can attract some fans who may have previously not been interested in the genre. At the end of the day we want electronica to be as organic and entertaining as any other live show.
What is your set up like? How exactly are you improvising with electronica in new ways, and why is this important to EDM music?
I have a library of loops I’ve created which we jam on. Recently I’ve added the Ableton Push to my setup — this is exciting because it basically lets me create everything on the fly. It means I can turn up at the gig with no pre-prepared material and create everything from scratch. I think this is a unique approach that I haven’t seen many others doing.
When it comes to Metropolis, I have great players on the bandstand with me — Raja Kassis on guitar and Sydney Driver on drums. I’ve been fortunate to tour with the same rhythm section for Blitz The Ambassador; they’re just amazing at what they do. They get the music, and want to be part of something new. When it comes to playing electronic music, it’s important that the musicians can lock into a sound or feel, and these guys just do it perfectly. I’ve also been fortunate to have many great keyboard players rock with us including Yuki Hirano and Paul Wilson. Both have a really unique approach to playing, and add a lot of flavor to the sound.
How long has your weekly session “Metrolpolis” been going on? Would you say that it has helped shape Rhythm & Stealth or your current approach to live electronica?
We started Metropolis back in April. NuBlu was kind enough to offer a Monday night slot where we could just experiment — NuBlu has always been supportive of innovative music so its a great environment to hone our skills. It’s been an educational experience for me personally, almost a ‘proof-of-concept’ to see if this live electronic thing could really work. I like problem solving and Metropolis has given me many problems to figure out, each with pretty exciting results. There’s some cross over with Rhythm & Stealth, we play some of the repertoire at Metropolis, and also some of the jams we have created are going to make it onto the new record.
The (unofficial) RedBull video… the story with this is I thought it a cool visual that by complete coincidence fit perfectly with my song. It all happened by accident… RedBull loved it.
Date: Tuesday, October 8th
Tix: $10More information: https://www.
Words by Kaley Puckett