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CLOUDDEAD

Three years ago, cLOUDDEAD quietly revolutionised the world of underground hip-hop with a series of EPs and their seminal self-titled album by taking their beats and samples far beyond the realm of the genre. After some time spent on their own projects, Doseone, Odd Nosdam and why? reconvene on their second album, Ten. With their new EP, Dead Dogs Two, just out, and ahead of the release of the album in March, cLOUDDEAD talk to themilkfactory about growing up, finding inspiration, their new album and Boards Of Canada.

How did you come to work together? What were you doing before?
why?: We all met in Cincinnati. Doseone and I met in college and started a band together and later started to record under the moniker, Greenthink. Nosdam (who I have known since grade school) started coming around and contributing beats to the Greenthink stuff. We kinda just took it from there.

How would you define the cLOUDDEAD sound to someone who is not very familiar with your work?
Odd Nosdam: Well, I guess it’s not hip-hop. I don't know. cLOUDDEAD is melodically delivered poetry over beats with sampled and hand played sounds questionably sequenced into a song that is carefully mixed to insure that the sound that is often referred to as "The cLOUDDEAD Sound" is indeed present.

As well as cLOUDDEAD, you all have other projects. How do you manage to keep these various commitments going, and does it affects the band?
Doseone: Yes it affects all of the bands, but my role in cLOUDDEAD is like the one I have in all these projects... writing words and ringing intense... at its worst being spread thin wears you out physically... but more than one engine to plug into is definitely how I prefer things.

How do you split the work between the three of you?
Doseone:
Intuitively, and then of course Nosdam does the drums. Musically, why? is most confident, David is a human taste factory, and I am uhhh... It's very much a give and take along with a bit of selective hearing... a certain part of a song which you can't quite come up with yourself, so then you pass it off like a flaming microphone.

There is a very active underground hip-hop scene on the West Coast at the moment, with loads of new artists coming up all the time. Do you have much contact with the scene in general, and these new artists in particular?
Odd Nosdam:
Not anymore contact than with the SF noise scene.

You've got a new album coming up, Ten. How did you work on the album? How was it conceived?
why?
Dose and I wrote all the lyrics during the late spring and summer of 2001. We recorded over the course of the next two years (off and on) by passing songs back and forth between our studios.

The album seems to have a much rougher, perhaps more experimental, sound. What has inspired you during its conception?
Odd Nosdam:
Time. Definitely our relationships with each other coupled with our individual experiences since moving to Oakland three years ago... and I think we've really matured musically since 1999. We actually used a compressor and sequencer on Ten... Vocals are smartly recorded and mixed... Just knowing more about how to get what you want is really a confidence boost.

The music also has a very melodic edge, which is still quite unusual on the hip-hop scene. How do you select the samples and beats you use on a specific track?
why?:
For all of the stuff that I produced (about half of the record) I only used one sample (an organ off of some organ record). The rest is all live instruments and some drum machine/keyboard drum stuff. As far as the stuff that Nosdam did, he is a master beat and sample finder. I really have no fucking idea where most of his stuff comes from and I don't think he would tell you if you asked him.

You tackle a lot of different subjects in your music, from politic to society or your own experiences. Do you set up to write about specific topics when you start working on a song, or is it a much more organic process?
Doseone:
We definitely lean toward the organic side of composition... Most of our poems occur to us in a natural fashion, and some of them actually are based on natural occurrence. However with word choice and editing we are pretty retentive... Fine-tooth combed as it were. And with Ten especially, we had our images and they had their order. We simply fleshed out the wording.

How did the remix of Dead Dogs Two by Boards Of Canada happen?
why:
We met Boards of Canada when we were over in Scotland touring a couple of years ago, and we were flattered as hell to learn that they were into our stuff. The rest was just a conversation in an Edinburgh pub at 4am.

What did you think of the result?
Odd Nosdam:
The result is fucking awesome. So much ear candy. Is it their best work yet?

There were loads of comparisons between your sonic landscapes and theirs when your first album was released. Did you think that it was a fair comparison at the time?
Odd Nosdam:
Well, none of us heard BOC until after we finished the first record in 2000. Doseone played Music Has The Right To Children for us when he came back to Cincinnati to record The Sound of a Handshake in winter 2000. For the first record, musically, I was inspired by these bands: Hood, Flying Saucer Attack, Stars of the Lid, and Windy & Carl. I was just trying to put beats over SOTL loops. I was listening to FSA constantly till I eventually started to rip it off, but BOC have been a huge inspiration for us since we did start listening to them and especially for myself after meeting them at our 2002 show in Edinburgh.

Are you planning to tour following the release of the album, and can we expect dates in Europe?
why?:
No... sorry.

What are your views on the mainstream hip hop scene?
Doseone:
From where I sit I can't really see much but my front room, the cat, the end table… Growth comes in spurts... so there should be a new batch of do gooder's coming along any minute now... otherwise I haven't heard anything to drop your jaw and dance about it.

On a regular basis, we hear in the UK that British hip-hop is finally taking off, and then nothing. Have you had the chance to hear some British hip-hop, and if yes, what did you think?
Doseone:
Yes, I've heard a bit, The Streets... not my bag really. He's kinda young on the mic... what else... some more underground stuff but nothing that really brings it all together... i.e. a British personal perspective and unique personality... can't forget that bona fide rap swagger... but it's inevitable.

What do you like listening to when you're at home or touring?
why?:
Silver Jews, Fog, Daniel Johnston, Modest Mouse, Bob Dylan, Elliot Smith, My Bloody Valentine, Carly Simon (You're So Vain), Outkast, Pavement, Guided by Voices, Velvet Underground, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada...

Email interview January 2004
Thank you to cLOUDDEAD and Laura

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Clouddead

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