By Dennis Romero
Adam Freeland has joined a growing list of DJ émigrés who have turned to live-band projects for inspiration. His new rock act, Freeland, unleashed its full-length, Cope, last month and debuted as a three-piece troupe at the South by Southwest festival in Austin in March.
Freeland, the DJ, is known for his atmospheric if not intelligent break-beat music, often released on his own Marine Parade label. His 1990s mix-CDs Coastal Breaks and Coastal Breaks II paid at least some homage to the loose-caboose, post-electro sound of West Coast “funky breaks.” As digital and ethereal as Freeland's sound can be, however, he always maintained an undercurrent of rock 'n' roll largesse (a long-haired energy found in other break-beat-rooted acts such as The Crystal Method and The Prodigy).
So last year, after moving to Los Angeles from the U.K., the spinner finally realized a lifelong dream and put together a rock band. Tommy Lee and the Pixies' Joey Santiago contribute to the album, while vocalist and guitarist Kurt Baumann and drummer Hayden Scott have joined a sample-trigger-happy Freeland on select road dates.
Rock might be too dated a word, through, for this album. Freeland, the act, retains electronic dance music's bombastic bass, hand-raising moments and high-flying synths. In fact, the ambient track “Mancry” is about as studio-electronic as it gets. It's also the focus of a budding controversy: To the average ear it would appear that the Black Eyed Peas used “Mancry” as a backing sample for its own new song, “Party All The Time” – without clearance or credit. On the eve of Freeland's DJ performance at Vanguard Hollywood Saturday, we asked him about it and other topics.
LA Weekly: Can you comment yet on the Black Eyed Peas controversy?
Adam Freeland: It's not really that controversial. It is what it is. Just listen to our track “Mancry” and listen to their “Party All The Time” and draw you own conclusion. What is there to say?
How has the move to L.A. treated you otherwise?
I really love it here. I have a great group of inspired people around me, and the weather kicks England's arse! I've lived in London, Brighton, New York, Bali, Ibiza, and Sydney and I'd say here there is the best work/lifestyle balance of anywhere I can think of. Quality of life is good, with all that sunshine and nature close by. Yet the culture and music scene is really strong right now. Every night of the week there is a band/artist/DJ I want to see.
I hear from some overseas dance artists who have moved here that they feel more anonymous living in this home of Hollywood -that they don't get noticed (or booked) like they would back home.
That hasn't been my experience. I moved here for a girl not a career move. But to be honest, I spend so much time on the road I'm not in L.A. nearly as much as I'd like. I play here three times a year, which is the same as what I did when I was based in the U.K.
Coastal Breaks — inspired by the West Coast?
Yes and the South Coast of U.K. (Brighton). The idea was that all the best beats seem to come form the coasts. You're a break-beat veteran who has taken up other influences, including four-on-the-floor music and now rock 'n' roll.
Are the breaks over for you?
I LOVE beats. I love the sound of a snare drum. For me 'break-beats' were about mixing up all kinds of music that had strong beats and working them into a seamless dance floor mix. It was a defying genre. And as soon as 'break-beat' became a 'genre' and a formula, I ran from that. It's a limitation, and the exact opposite concept of what I was striving for. But still, if you listen to my music, the mentality is the same. Cracking snare drums and really well-produced beats underpin it all.
Is Marine Parade, your label, still happening in this post-vinyl world?
Firing harder than ever! Evil Nine just put out a new album. Alex Metric is blowing the fark up! He's just got a show on Radio 1 now and has last week alone remixed U2 and Bloc Party. I signed a great L.A.-based act called Panty Raid which is one half Ooah form the Glitch Mob. It's kind of dubstep, glitch-hop, booty-shaking deepness.
What inspired you to start a band?
Ah – that was the plan since I was about 8, long before I aspired to be a DJ.
How did you put together your new Freeland album Cope?
We started to build beats and textures then worked with a lot of great musicians to build upon that, then found a great front man, Kurt Baumann, to tie it all together. We mostly used Logic and Ableton [software] and lots of outboard pedals, amps, and things that fuck things up in a nice, fat, warm analog way.
Did DJing get boring for you?
No – I love DJing. I think rocking a crowd as a DJ has to be the greatest buzz I know. I get bored with the aero-planes and hotel rooms, but I can't grumble: They take me places where I can rock it. The good thing about DJing and having a band is they both keep each other fresh.
L.A. is going through an era of nu electro (LA Riots, Guns N Bombs, Acid Girls). How do you feel about it?
There's some great stuff in that movement, and I like the punk rock attitude that is brought to dance music. But a lot of it is very disposable and is just cloning Justice records. The problem with things that are fashion-based is they are destined to become quickly out of fashion. I hope the smart and talented artists/producers will be able to [replace] the disposable fad-ness of it with quality output that has longevity to it.
What's next for you?
Touring the ass off – doing all the U.K. and European summer festivals with the band; producing some other bands (just did a mix for the Canadian band Metric); and getting on with the next album.
Adam Freeland DJs Saturday with Drop the Lime and Paparazzi at Vanguard Hollywood, 6021 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 21+. Doors at 9:30. Tickets $15 in advance. Info: giantclub.com.