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      MIXED BY Nguzunguzu

      July 8, 2014 8:10 AM

      Asma Maroof and Daniel Piñeda find inspiration everywhere. Producing as Nguzunguzu (pronounced nn-goo-zoo, nn-goo-zoo) the LA-based have searched almost every club scene on Earth for their far-sighted style of bass music. You’ll find elements of R&B, ghetto house, cumbia, kuduro, jungle and many other regional rhythms in their celebrated tracks and DJ sets.

      THUMP is very excited to present an exclusive new mix from the pioneering duo ahead of their set at Splendour In The Grass on the RBMA stage. It features some original productions and material from their closest musical allies. Below is an interview with Nguzunguzu that originally appeared in THUMP UK with editor Lauren Martin. Lauren caught up with the Asma and Daniel to talk about the future of grime, why they love DJ Mustard, and if their sound can - or should - become purely digital.

      Lauren Martin: I saw your recent DJ sets at Field Day festival, and at Just Jam with J-Cush and Ruff Sqwad, and I always find it interesting to see how music that feels very of "the club" is presented in different settings. As DJs, how do you feel these experiences relate to your sound?
      Asma: Huh, that’s a good question. It's definitely not what we're used to, but I also feel as if it’s intended to be, in a way. Tiesto was the first DJ that introduced this "DJ as spectacle" phenomenon, but we're more about being in the corner, and focusing on everyone in there vibing out. We've never felt very comfortable about being in bright light or on camera, but it's cute if people want to watch what were doing. Field Day was amazing, though. It was light at 6pm, but people were really feeling the vibe.
      When it comes to that club setting too, I envision your sound as suiting the club as a radical, political, sexual space, so it's always strange to hear Nuguzunguzu placed elsewhere. With Just Jam too, you played the same bill as Ruff Sqwad, and I feel your sound really takes centre stage with grime alongside it, too.  What is it about that grime sound that has a relationship with your own work, and what would you like grime to do going forward to keep it vital?
      Asma: Grime is a big inspiration for us, because we've been listening to instrumentals for a very long time now. I was raised in the US and I didn’t go to London till I was around 23 years old, but the first time I ever heard Wiley... not only did I think it sounded fucking amazing, I thought it also sounded like Timbaland and Dark Child. I really saw the connection between US R&B and grime instrumentals. To this day, old Brandy still sounds like grime to me. Maybe the two were happening simultaneously, perhaps?
      Well Dizzee Rascal’s Boy In Da Corner was released the summer of 2003, but Ruff Sqwad and Roll Deep Crew et al. were definitely pushing grime before then, too. It definitely was happening in tandem.
      Asma: Totally. For us, I think you can hear it in our track 'Enemy' for Kelela. That grime and R&B crossover feeling just sounds so good with a girl singing over it - although, I'm not sure if that's more of the future, or of the past?
      A lot of older grime tracks do have those pitched up vocal samples - so much so that you can't pick out a gender - so having that living, breathing voice to it with tracks like 'Enemy' strikes me as a blossoming of that feeling. In a production sense though, what do you make of current grime? 
      Daniel: I feel that grime is its most interesting when a track is arranged in such a way that an MC might not necessarily jump right into it. What I like about grime is that it doesn't think and sound so literal. In terms of comparing it to rap, I think a lot of US rap has sick beats, but have to be in a certain format: regular patterns that grime doesn't really care about. One cool thing about grime MC’s is that they’re open to rapping on the new shit that people like us make, whereas rappers can come with quite a sterile mindset. They'll be like, "Where's my 16? Where's the drop?" It can be pretty strict in terms of sequence. With grime, MC's just go for it. People like D Double E can be on the mic for days.
      One of the things that I find interesting about your sound is that it's made me see that "music to dance to" is not a given in the club. I find it quite inspiring that it's less about making a room go off on cue, but more about the possibility of it piquing someone's interest enough to move to it in ways that they may not have done before. 
      Daniel: That’s pretty cool. Context is everything when it comes to DJing. You can be at a party and if people want to dance, they’re going to dance to 90% of what you put on, regardless of what it is. Then, in another situation, you can only make people dance if you play the songs they know. It's very delicate.
      Asma: I know some producers feel that there are certain formulas to making people dance, but I still don’t get understand that mindset. As a producer, you’ll set out to make a club track you can play out, but by the end it’s a whole other beast, and gone totally off topic. When you’re DJing, you’re experimenting with the crowd and how they’ll react. It’s definitely exciting to put on a track where you don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s how I stay engaged, anyway.
      Is it like a fear of knowing the track could sink in the moment?
      Asma: Oh hell yeah, especially when we play demos. That’s scary, but it's also not the end of the world. If people leave the dancefloor, I’ve learned to accept that.
      Daniel: I'm more about moments where you take a break and see a different kind of situation arise, other than the constant, four on the floor feeling. The fear of playing a demo is real, though. You want everyone to lose their shit, but if they don’t care and it sounds shitty, it changes how you feel about that work-in-progress. 
      Do you use the club as a testing ground for new tracks, and does the reaction inform the process of going back to them?
      Asma: Of for sure, I've learned so much about structure from that.
      Daniel: 'Skycell' for example was fun to mix in the demo stages, but when the bass dropped in the club it sounded so distant. As if it was dead. Bass is harder to mix. In the studio it can sound amazing, but need to hear it in the club to make sure it hits right. There are no guarantees.
      Is the club that "optimum setting", as it were?
      Asma: Not necessarily. We're DJs that play in the club, but we don’t just make music for the club. We don’t listen to club music, to be honest. We listen to a lot of music in the car. I find driving around LA very inspiring.
      What are you listening right now that you fell inspired by, or even just enjoying and seep into your head?
      Asma: When I'm on my own I listen to a lot of R&B: Teyana Taylor, Tink, Jasmine Sullivan, Kelela. It's what I naturally gravitate to. I’m a dork, though. I listened to Tink – 'Men' on repeat like 25 times yesterday. I feel as if I study what I enjoy. I get obsessed. 
      Daniel: I've been listening to a lot of DJ Rush, DJ Tragic and Dutch E Germ lately, too.
      Asma: We make club music, but don’t expect us to be club rats.
      Aside from Kelela, do you have any new projects with vocalists in the works?
      Daniel: We have people in mind, but it’s too soon to say. We are hoping to continue down that road of producing club tracks for vocalists, though. Were trying to touch base with different rappers and vocalists, but nothings been recorded yet. It's more of a wish list right now.
      What about US rap and R&B production are you feeling right now?
      Asma: I love the stripped down quality, especially with people like DJ Mustard. It's not too much information. He gives it to you so proper. He can do so much with just a little synth line and a clap. 
      Daniel: I like a lot of the melodies being produced by guys like Sonny Digital, Metro Bloomin, Young Chop - even 40, still. I do think that a lot of current rap production is really standard and boring, cranking out purely functional beats that aren't forward-looking. 
      I know what you mean. I love DJ Mustard's beat for YG - 'Left, Right': the little fiddle in it, almost. It's functional, but clever.
      Daniel: I really like it because it doesn’t strike me as all that functional. It hits a mood, but it makes me want to wile out. 
      Asma: Exactly, I love that shit. Like, that 'Show Me' beat? Where he slows down that Ralphi Rosario sample? I love it when people experiment with sounds that aren’t very comfortable: a flat note, a really heady buzz, a distorted kick. That’s what were interested by in 2014. It’s about hearing the unexpected, not following the guideline of tropes or genres - surpassing that, even. Becoming timeless, or indescribable.
      "Timeless" is such a fertile word. Right now, for me, I have this weird fantasy of music as sounding as digital and non-sample based as possible. 
      Asma: Well, I got to hear Kelela’s new demos recently, and that’s what I’m thinking of in terms of "timeless". You don’t get the same warmth in strictly digital tracks as you do with hardware, or with a voice. When I hear her sing, I feel she's jazz, do-wop, but also like Lauryn and Janet and - it's a heavy weight to carry on one set of shoulders, but that's when you know you really have something, y'know? 
      I don't necessarily mean digital as inviting, or warm, or the "ideal sound", but the idea of having a purely digital sound is fascinating in of itself. It's not strictly applicable, but it reminds me of Fatima Al Qadiri's WARN U EP as Ayshay. I remember her telling me that there are no samples in that record at all, and I found that amazing.
      Daniel: Even with all the tools at our disposal now, it's a very difficult thing to undertake in a technical sense. If you use Logic synth sounds or VST, or manipulating presets, whatever you're controlling is still essentially a sample. Even your drums are samples. You could make tracks entirely from scratch using sine waves, but it is a real endeavour. 
      Is that something that you think can do, should do, or is even worth doing? 
      Daniel: I'd be into it. It's not what I'm doing right now, and it's very time consuming, but it's a very interesting concept. However, I don't think that the future lies solely in digital sounds. Bok Bok is really into being very analogue, and his shit sounds like the future. Even with us, people are surprised to see how much hardware we have in our studio. It's possibly a bit theoretical, but I don’t know what people mean when they say "digital". Do they mean technique, or an idea of what digital could be? 
      Asma: Not only that, the blending of digital and analogue can mess with these concepts. Digital sound can mimic analogue quality. It's a mimicry, but people can be tricked.
      Do you find that people overlap the two when they talk to you about your music? 
      Daniel: Well.... for better or worse it's been difficult, because we’ve never figured out a routine or mindset to work within. Every track is a new struggle. People ask us how we work, and we never have an answer for them. I can show them, but I can get frustrated because I don’t even have a plan. I bounce from computer, to MPC, to hardware like crazy.
      What do you think your sound right now is working towards right now?
      Daniel: I do feel that things are moving in a more rich and melodic direction. I want it to feel more dynamic in that respect. I’ve always been attracted to things that feel raw and have that tactile nature, versus the contrived and the clean. Knowing what our tendencies are, though, I try to work against these tendencies to keep things interesting, but whenever we try to do something totally new, we still end us sounding very much ourselves. I have no idea if that's a good or bad thing yet.
      Asma: For me, the endeavour is part of it. If you try to make music to sound like someone else, all you have is the end product.
      See Nguzunguzu perform at this year's Splendour In The Grass on the RBMA Stage.
      Nguzunguzu's Skycell EP is out now on Fade To Mind.
      You can follow Nguzunguzu on Twitter here: @nguzunguzu and Lauren Martin here: @codeinedrums
      Listen to Nguzunguzu's THUMP mix here
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