Sunday Best

Nik Furious: Sunday Best: Wakanda

Friday, September 13th, 2013

I often forget the process of building a beat once it's complete. Even though most of my songs and remixes take hours to create, once a song is finished my memories of the process float off into the aether.

But that's not the case with Wakanda. I remember the arduous cutting that it took to make the sample of D'Angelo's solo piano demo of Africa line up with my digital drums and synth bass.

It was the winter of 2004-2005. I was living in Brooklyn and sitting around my room sweating in my underwear because all of the building's pipes ran through my apartment. The heat was annoying but it was a good problem to have because it gets fucking cold in NYC!

The version of Africa used in this remix wasn't officially released at the time. It'd leaked and made its way onto Limewire, the popular pirating software of the day.

Though I was working on tons of beats at the time, Wakanda stands out because it required a degree of precision that I'd never used before. D'Angelo's performance here is loose and raw, not set to a perfect rhythm. That fluidity made it impossible to neatly line up some digital drums and quickly turn out the beat.

Basically, while creating Wakanda I taught myself how to make micro-edits to audio and alter the speed of a song without destroying the music or making it sound choppy. Once you figure out how to do this sort of thing, it's just a matter of practice. But until that time, it seems like some kind of unimaginable magic (especially in the pre-YouTube days where tutorials rarely found their way online).

My name for this remix has a pretty simple story behind it. In Marvel Comics, Wakanda is the fictional African nation ruled by the Black Panther. It's one of my favorite pieces of Marvel lore and a worthy moniker for this beat, which I think carries a lot of emotion and elegance.

Nik Furious: Sunday Best: Ugly

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Ugly comes from a time in my life when nearly every day yielded a new beat.

It was late 2004. I was living in Brooklyn and trying to find work in the corporate comic book industry. I interviewed at DC Comics and tried to wriggle my way into Marvel. But there were no real prospects.

Frustrated by the experience, I distracted myself by sampling pop songs and adding my own digital drums to them. Some of these compositions ended up becoming favorites of mine for years to come (see Diamond, Nothing, Showdown, and the final track off of Sunday Best, Wakanda).

But others ended up languishing in my files and going unused and unreleased for nearly a decade. Ugly is one of those unused and unloved beats.

The beginning is a sample Craig Safan's score from Good Guys Wear Black, a late 70s martial arts film starring Chuck Norris.

The main sample comes from the extended version of "She Blinded Me With Science" by Thomas Dolby. The only reason I knew about the synth riff on the extended version is because I heard it at the beginning of Mobb Deep's Got It Twisted, which was a minor hit in the second half of 2004.

Overall, this remix is really simple -- a couple layers of Dobly's synth riff and a few variations of digital drums by yours truly. That's it. Some days I love listening to the simplicity of it. Other days, it sounds incomplete and underdeveloped to me.

But most importantly it puts a smile on my face because it gives me a reason to look back on a miserable time in my life with a tiny twinge of nostalgia. As lonely and disappointed as I was back then, I was musically experimental and cranking out new beats like a machine.

Nik Furious: Sunday Best: The Wrecker

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

The Wrecker is a remix solely constructed from a tiny breakbeat that I discovered at the end of "Gumbo" by The Ventures.

First off, it was a dream come true for me to finally sample The Ventures. I love their instrumental music and it's been a huge influence on me over the years.

Gumbo is from the album Swamp Rock, which is an underwhelming 1969 offering that features an odd collection of country rock instrumentals.

I was surprised to find this hot breakbeat on the track, slapped on the end for no discernible reason. Mel Taylor's insanely funky drums in The Wrecker are unlike anything heard during the rest of the Gumbo, save for the last 20 seconds.

Building this remix was pretty straight forward. I was relatively limited because the song begins to fade out after about 5 seconds of the breakbeat. So I salvaged as much as I could and made a few loops from it.

I also sampled the horn blast which precedes the drumbeat. Then I layered it on top of my loops to create a little melodic diversity and rhythmic impact.

This remix is named after The Wrecker, a Marvel Comics supervillain who leads the Wrecking Crew, a group of construction-based baddies. He has an enchanted crowbar, which has gotta be one of the best weapons in superhero comics.

In fact, I nominated "Enchanted Crowbar" to be the name of a band I played with briefly in 2007. And it was almost happened! Just think... if we'd been called Enchanted Crowbar then I probably never would've left the band and I'd be here sharing the latest Enchanted Crowbar song with you instead...

Nik Furious: Sunday Best: Sunday Best

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

The title track of the mixtape! Sunday Best is a mellow instrumental remix of the underground funk classic, Chance With You by Brother To Brother.

I was turned onto Chance With You by WEFUNK Radio, a weekly mix-show from Montreal. The DJs of WEFUNK produce incredible blends of soul, funk, hip hop, and jazz. Even better, they've been archiving their shows since 2001 and there are some real gems in there. I can't recommend WEFUNK enough.

I originally released Sunday Best as a YouTube video a little over two years ago. It was a spontaneous creation, something I made early one Sunday morning when I couldn't sleep.

The track was accompanied by an original digital painting that was my visual interpretation of the song.

As for the beat itself, I chopped up my favorite parts of Chance With You and looped them together into a version that I currently enjoy even more than the original. I hope you do too!

Nik Furious: Sunday Best: Station

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

Station is the kind of song I make for myself because I just don't have enough like it in my music library.

As a teen, I'd go home from school and head straight to the basement to record songs with my 4-track. That's where I fell in love with the sound of percussion and bass stripped of any guitar, piano, or other more melodic instruments on top.

Named after the highly evolved and inventive monster from Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, Station is the perfect example of this passion.

First, I constructed a digital drumbeat that excited me with its possibilities. It's not exactly what you hear here, but close. Then I made a super-long loop out of the beat and recorded myself jamming a bassline over it. I started chopping it up, slicing out my favorite moments and building new patterns.

But when it came time to add other instruments, I bristled at the thought. Here I had a tight, funky beat led by the raw melody of the bass and carried by the complexity of the drums. I didn't want any other sounds.

Granted, I recognize that the final product may seem a bit incomplete to most. That's why I've put this 100% original song on a mixtape and not one of my albums.

As for the name, it's very fitting because I often feel like a scientist or a sonic engineer when I'm making music. Station from Bogus Journey is a fantastic example of what it feels like to be an underground musician working on a lo-fi setup at home -- a misunderstood, grotesque inventor assembling disparate and unlikely parts together to conjure up a new unexpected creation.