by kevin diamond
I met Sammy Bananas for the first time on a hot summer evening when I was a high school student on Nantucket Island. 10 years later, on another hot summer night, we met again, this time at a Mexican restaurant In Park Slope, to discuss joining the ranks of the Fools Gold label (Label of A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs, home to acts like Kid Sister, Kid Cudi, and Jokers of the Scene), his work with pop-funk masterminds Miss Fairchild, and why the 90′s are the new 80′s. We hope you enjoy.
Quiet Color: So, Braids and Fades, that’s coming out soon?
Sammy Bananas: Yeah, in August.
QC: Do you know the date or?
SB: I don’t know exactly when, but
QC: In August?
SB: Yeah, Sometime in August.
QC: What’s the album sound like?
SB: It’s basically like the second part, like part 2 of the first EP I did.
QC: High Top Fades…
SB: Yeah, so like the theme that was developed on High Top Fades and then is carried over to Braids and Fades is just remixes of early 90s pop songs, so with High Top Fades I was making things that were, like I did a remix of that song “Come Baby Come” by K7, and so it’s kind of like a jock jam, I guess? It was like, it kind of came together as just from that era of high tops and the early 90s, and so when I was trying to decide what the next thing to do [was], I just figured I would use that same era, cause it’s when I started listening to pop music. Cause, all that stuff, I really have strong memories of listening to those songs, and just latching on to understanding pop music from that era. You know when I was like 10-14 I guess. And with Braids and Fades, it’s all female artists from that era. So..
QC: So that’s the braids.
SB: yeah, that’s the braids. And I want it to be, like I want to bring a little something else to it, so really it can be like a part two. There’s a remix of En Vogue,” Never Gonna Get It” on there.
QC: Yeah, my second question was gonna be, what is it about early 90s music that – Is it just a nostalgia thing? Or do you think there’s something about pop music from that time that’s missing from today’s pop music?
SB: I don’t know, I mean I think that..
QC: I mean do you think it was something about the Clinton era? Or like pre-9/11 whatever..
SB: Ah, Yeah, I mean, its definitely a different world pre-9/11, as you know.. But – I think just going off the nostalgia part of it for a second, I don’t think, it’s not even so much nostalgia, just where my basis of understanding pop music comes from. I mean, it comes from those years. Like a lot of things that I like about music from any era come from things that I picked up and started hearing in that era, so it kind of made sense for me, taking some music that I’m excited about, and I still listen to a lot, and I DJ a lot. And I mean, part of it is not only taking inspiration from that era, but also wanting to provide a context, and the ability to have people play that music more, because I think it’s just a matter of time, even if it hasn’t started yet that the 90s will become like -
QC: …the new retro…
SB: – the new ’80s or whatever, yeah, and I’m all about that. So..
QC: You just want to be there before the curve
SB: yeah, sure and also just I want to help… push the curve. (laughs) But like making these, I guess it’s really I think about these particular remixes as DJ tools, I imagine them as things for DJs and they’re gonna play them in a dance setting, and I don’t really make them for people to be listening to them on their iPods, although more with this second EP, I took more liberties writing more music around the remixes, and using less of a literal interpretation of the songs, and not just having the song with something around it, but totally re-arranging the songs. Still, the Idea is if you have a DJ who’s playing mostly up-tempo music, he’s not going to be able to fit in these other songs, so I’ll make the music fit in. That really is, at the most basic point, what the goal of this project is for me. It’s sort of a balance of how much of myself can I add to it so that people still associate it with the original song, and at what point will people be like “this is too weird for me to play”.
QC: Are there people that go too far that way? Do you think there are people who appropriate those melodies and make them too much their own? Are you ever worried about that?
SB: I just think at some point it just becomes sampling, and it’s just, to make the obvious comparison, it’s like puff daddy taking some of the music he liked from the 80s and making them into 90s hits, like David Bowie and Diana Ross.
QC: And Sting
SB: Yeah, exactly. So I think that’s just a continuum that exists, but – like, for one of the songs, there really isn’t, the particular song is “Knockin’ Boots” by Candyman, are you familiar with that song?
QC: Sounds familiar, but..
SB: Ok, well, it’s just a pretty generic 90s song, but it has this chorus, this female chorus that’s like “ooh, boy, I love you so, never ever ever gonna let you go”.
QC: Oh, right, I know that song
SB: Exactly, So, I took that, thats pretty much all I took from the song, and I used it to make the hook, and made it sound like a current house standard. So taking elements from, mixing elements that I love from early 90s house music, but really that’s the only recognizable part from the Candyman song, and the way I’m using it, I’m using it as a hook for my song and everything else is new, so its really not a remix In that way. Within the whole EP and what I do, it’s like ok, now this has become my music as opposed to “I’m doing a remix, and I gotta stay true to the original.”
(At this point, Sammy Bananas’ dinner, a burrito with, curiously enough, dried banana chips on top, arrives, and we take a break while he eats.)
QC: So how has being on the Fools Gold roster been for you?
SB: Nothing but positive things to say about it. It feels like actually being part of an actual record label (laughs) which is something I’ve always wanted to be a part of. And I feel totally, totally lucky to have it, and it was kind of just a right place right time kind of thing, I mean, I obviously feel like I “deserve” to be on it or something, but (laughs) I feel like I belong here, I fit in, I see how I fit in but also, like, like Nick [Catchdubs], one of the guys who runs it, I’ve known him for almost five years now. And A-track, I first met when I was doing something in South Africa, this Redbull thing, in 2003 I, there’s this thing called the Red Bull Music Academy, where, there’s this DJ/producer program, they have it in a different place every year and so I went, and you get to hang out with people who are trying to DJ and people who are already established, and A-Track was there at something like that, and everyone just mingles and..
QC: Was this before A-Track was big?
SB: Well, no, I mean, A-Track has been big since he won the turntable championship when he was 15, and that was in 97. But anyways, that’s how I knew those guys. Basically, around a little more than a year ago I was trying to figure out, I had music I knew I wanted to get out, and I just started asking people at different labels and people with money and, I asked those guys, and they were like “Yeah.” And they put out the first thing. And I thought it was just going to be a one off, but they were like, “, we wanna treat you like an artist on the label,” and that’s how I ended up doing that tour with them. In May, with DJ Aoki and A-track. So, now the second album is coming out… It’s really cool, I’m a big fan of what they’re doing.
QC: Do you have a favorite other Fools Gold artist?
SB; Well, if I had.. if I had to (laughs) I don’t think I want to go on the record as favorite, but..
QC: Well, then, just another artist that you like a lot
SB: Yeah, uh, this guy Treasure Fingers, his EP, it’s really a 12 inch with a bunch of remixes, it’s coming out in like a week, two weeks, something like that. And he is this guy who was from Atlanta, and now has worked on the NY scene, he takes a lot of influence from like 80s R N B and Prince and you know that I like that (laughs)
QC: Yeah you’re definitely a big Prince fan
SB: But he makes very catchy, dancy, poppy stuff, but takes a lot from that era. But really. Prince, so I’m a big fan.
QC: you just played your first show with Certified Bananas in a while, right
SB: Yeah, well, first NY show in a while, we’ve been doing this monthly party in Providence, but that’s coming to an end after about a year. That’s really how we got into the remix scene, was doing mix-tapes and releasing them on the internet. Did you, were you aware that it was happening? At the time?
QC: I had one of your mix-tapes, yeah, I don’t know if I knew – maybe peripherally but..
SB: Well, that was how, we started putting out mixes up on the internet, every month, it was I guess beginning of 2005, and that was right when all the MP3 blogs and everything started, so, and that’s how a lot of people found out about it. It was cool, because, now, the whole mix tape thing is huge, but we were definitely one of the first people to start doing that. People were still like – Well, why would I give this away for free, in a way that, well, because you can’t sell it, no one is gonna buy it, so when we started doing that people liked it cause they could get it for free. But Certified Bananas is how I started touring, you know, went across America, got up to Canada, but, now that I’m doing my own thing, that’s kind of why Certified Bananas is kind of a once in a while thing now. You know, I’m at a point where I want to be a DJ and producer full time and then have a secondary job, and Max has an real job, so… but I managed to come up with a name that’s almost as cool as Certified Bananas (laughs).
QC: I was gonna ask, you know, Sammy Bananas, Certified Bananas, you even have Bananas on your burrito – where’d you get the Banana suit? (Note: once in a while, Sammy performs in a banana suit. You may have seen it last summer at McCarren Pool)
SB: I got that, well, the story behind that is, the last time that Max and I played in Brooklyn was at The Rub, and that was in May 07, and Ayers, one of the guys from the Rub, and I were independently crafting these ideas about getting a banana suit. And so he had this idea of getting a banana suit and making me wear it, and I was trying to buy a banana suit to wear, and eventually, he was like, I’m not gonna let you play The Rub if you don’t wear a banana suit, and I was like “I already bought this banana suit!” So that’s how I got the banana suit. And it’s kind of a little bit of a gag thing that I’ve been doing less. I personally feel like I’m in this kind of dip where I’m not doing it, cause I want people to take me seriously or whatever (laughs), but then at some point, I might start doing it again.
QC: Once you get the cred established?
SB: Yeah, Once you get the cred, you know, then it’s like the thing. You know, you think the night is over, and then he comes back out in the banana suit. (Laughs)
QC: Can you move in it?
SB: It’s a little too big for me, too be honest. It’s one of those One size fits all situations.
QC: Do you remember the first song that just made you want to dance?
SB: The first song, when I was 16 or 17, Basement Jaxx, “Red Alert.” That was the song that – I had been getting into Hip Hop, I was trying to figure out what kind of music I was gonna be into for like the next six years or whatever, and you know, a lot of people go through some phase, in their late teens, where they only listen to one kind of music, and eventually, they come back and listen to all kinds of music. So I did that with hip hop. But right before that happened, while that was happening, I was listening to Basement Jaxx a lot. And I can definitely see, the kind of music I make now, how it’s influenced by that. But that song, I heard that song and I was like “What the hell is this, this is crazy!” It took a long time for me to discover that there’s a lot of music like that.
QC: Do you remember the first record you bought?
SB: I definitely remember the first Tape I bought, it was Michael Jackson, Dangerous. That was a big deal, if that wasn’t the first tape I got or had, other than tapes that my parents had, I remember a lot of Paul Simon, Talking Heads. I guess that too, I definitely remember rocking out to Graceland, that album.
QC: Can we talk about Miss Fairchild a bit? What do you see as your role in Miss Fairchild? I’ve always been curious about how it works between the three of you.
SB: I think, when we work on a song, we all bring different things. And in the end, I kind of personally see my role, in addition to helping writing the songs, as the person who takes the song idea and helps to make it into an actual recording. That’s traditionally the broadest definition of a producer, you know, but for the most part, the majority of the time I’m not the guy who’s sitting down writing the song, I don’t think I’ve contributed ever to the words, but I help edit. That’s kind of what I bring. In the end, we all see, one of the things that we try to have that’s special, how the music, how the recording actually sounds, it’s really important
QC: So, I still have a CD you released when I was a Junior in High School as Dj P.Nice
SB: Yeah, it’s funny to think that that stuff is [so] old. A lot of it was just the beginning of ideas that, you know, I’ve started doing different things.
QC: What,s the difference between DJ P. Nice and Sammy Bananas? Is there a thread?
SB: Yeah, I just kind of think of it as different project, that’s how I see it, you know. When I kind of was christened with the Sammy Bananas name which, actually, how that happened – I was, I’m good friends with the DJs in Spankrock, and that was, one of them gave me the name Sammy Bananas. He was like “you should be Sammy Bananas, enough with this P. Nice thing.” And I was like “you’re so right.” So once that happened, it kind of was fun, cause It felt like I could do something completely different. Making more dance-floor music, that kind of thing. I kind of see that P. Nice aesthetic, if not by name, that type of music, that emotion, is definitely still there, I can’t say I’ve been making a lot of music like that, but I can definitely see myself making more music like that. But I’m always gonna want to make stuff like that.
QC: Alright, this is my last question. Do you have a secret weapon track that, you know, if people aren’t feeling your set, you know, I can play this one track and everyone will be dancing?
SB: I think that has to be Don’t Stop ‘Til you Get Enough. I cant think of any other one, I mean, that song, just, no one is going to think – especially, playing in NY, I’m always worried about, “oh, these people are gonna think I’m corn-ball,” you know, something that I sometimes get caught in, cause I like so much corny pop music, and will play it if I have free range of playing only what I want to hear, but even that song, you know, you put that song on, some people are like “oh man” but you can’t think that for very long. I mean, you’re talking about the snarkiest crowd you ever have, maybe they’ll think that for a couple seconds, but everybody else, they’re all gonna start dancing as soon as they hear that song.