featured interview

Jeff Spec No trick, just kicks Vancouver's Jeff Spec is kicking it with his latest 'Sneakerboxxx' release, particularly in his new video 'On My Feet'. The footage kicks ass, and funnily shows the sneaker addiction that got a hold of the City Planner.

The new video's hilarious, did you write the whole scenario before filming, or did you come up with ideas on the spot?

I had this idea for a minute, and I sat on it for a while. Actually, I was talking to a different director about doing a video for a different song when the concept came to me. Then, I was talking with Ben Hamilton, who did the 'On My Feet' video, and ran the idea by him, just in passing. He loved the idea because of the challenge and the different opportunities to try out some new things, so we just jumped right into scripting and filming. I'd say the majority of everything we shot was pre-planned, but of course some things happen spontaneously as well.

The sneaker shop in the video, is that where you buy your sneakers on the regular?

That's a store called Dipt in Vancouver. Definitely one of the spots I get sneakers at. The owner, Martini, is one of the people who was originally instrumental in helping me get my music out to our local community here, back when he was a co-owner of a store called FWUH; Fuck What U Heard.

Where else do you buy your sneakers? Off the internet?

I've actually never bought anything off of the internet. I'm pretty into seeing something in my hand before I hand over the loot. We have a pretty good sneaker selection here in Vancouver though. Some great spots are Complex, Livestock, Goodfoot, although the Vancouver location recently closed, and Underworld.

How long have you been datin' sneakers?

I guess I've always appreciated good sneakers, but I'd really say it's only been about 7 or 8 years since I've been keeping any kind of collection.

What do you look for in a sneaker?

I like classics, and I'm not into super crazy colour ways. I love a good clean combo of 2 or 3 colours that isn't too over the top.

What was the last pair of sneakers you bought?

Chad Muska Skytop from Supra - all black with white soles...

.and the first pair of sneakers you bought?

That's tough to recall... are we talking about when I really started being able to cop what I wanted, or just the oldest pair I remember?

Try both.

When I was younger, I always had wack sneakers because it's all my moms could afford, so I'd have whatever was on sale, like $30 or $40 maximum. But when I first started buying what I wanted, and having my own money, I got into Air Forces.

Which pair(s) of sneakers are you most proud of to have in your collection?

I love the Father's Day Jordan I's that you see as the main love interest in the 'On My Feet' video - I think I've actually worn them once.

Are there any other sneaker collectors within the City Planners crew?

Definitely. I'd say that Moka and Sweet G actually inspired me to step my sneaker game up. Both of them have quite a few more pairs than I do - I don't keep a huge collection, and I'm not afraid to wear the average pair out. Sichuan also has himself a nice little collection. I'd say Sweet G is the Nikehead, Sichuan leans between Nikes and Alifes, and Moka has a pretty ridiculous selection of Chucks these days, with a lot of other eclectic things in the mix too.

Hah! Some of our favourite sneaker hip-hop songs is The Grouch's 'Clean Nikes', 'Converse' by Busy Bee, of course 'Sleeping In My Nikes' by Scarface and the inevitable Run DMC with 'My Adidas'. Which song inspired you for 'On My Feet'?

Jay-Z's 'Girls, Girls, Girls'. The general lay-out of the song is the closest, in my opinion. But all of these are great songs. I think it's easy to see that sneakers have been a huge part of hip hop culture all along.

SNEAKERBOXXX

You worked with live musicians on this album. Did you start from the beats on or vice versa?

It went a few different ways ... In some cases we'd take a beat that I did with a sample, then just cut the sample out, and start on recreating the sound or maybe just the feel of the original track, over my programmed drums. On some other tracks, Jim and Max just brought tracks they already had, and maybe I'd program some drums to them, just to get that knock in there. It's definitely a different, more holistic approach to work with musicians, especially these dudes, who are pretty scientific and very skilled players. I'll always have love for sampling, and can't see myself leaving it behind, but the live music approach is one that I'm just getting started with, and that I can see in my future more and more.

So do you see less boombox in the future or are you goin the make full live instrumentation albums?

One element I don't see leaving behind is sampling the drums. I'd use a live drummer, but most likely in combination with sampling. My vision going forward is to combine sampling with live playing as much as possible, but you know, I'll still get busy on the MPC any day of the week.

Performin with a band is perhaps more adventurous instead of having a DJ behind you.

Actually we often use the combo of a DJ and a band, or one or the other. For my upcoming tour I'll be rocking with just a DJ. I think switching it up keeps things interesting, because some days you might see me with a 6-piece band, and others I may have one or two players rocking over the instrumentals. I like the spontaneity of doing things differently every time. It feels like it's a new show and you can keep it interesting that way.

When we checked the internet for your release, we encountered lots of articles/posts on your latest release/video - even on sneaker sites - do you feel the buzz around this album already?

Yeah, I feel like the buzz on this one is just getting started, and I have a lot of plans for the upcoming months...

Do you check the net a lot searchin for articles on your album?

I definitely stay on monitoring the buzz too, as my own label I'm the one that's responsible for that. I love the way media is going right now, because you have a lot of genuine people who have gotten into blogging, and that's like the new outlet for independent musicians, so it gives us a lot of room to expand our listener base in areas that may have been tougher to reach in the past. As much as I love feedback, and the feedback has been very good for 'Sneakerboxxx', I try not to sweat what people's opinions are too much, because it's easy to get caught up and try to impress everyone, which of course is probably impossible.

How much do you depend on word of mouth?

Word of mouth is great, and I'd say it's the biggest thing going, if you consider independent media and online promo to be word of mouth ... word of keyboard maybe?

Maybe a tip for independent starting artists: how do you organise your promoting, where do you start?

I do almost all of my own promo, or at least at the ground level, and then you know, it gets taken away by the people who believe in the music, and that's where the help comes in. But I don't have an office full of interns, it's basically me and a small team of people who've chosen to be involved. If I'm giving advice to artists, I don't think anyone's fully cracked the success code for the modern music industry. We're in a time of change and growth, which means that we can all determine our own level of commitment, and that right there determines our level of success. If I can give some basic pointers as to what I'm doing right now, it's key to flood YouTube, reach out on a personal level to as many bloggers as you can, and just keep it on the humble. I log into my email and see press releases from new artists with taglines like 'Hot New Artist Taking the Industry by Storm' and that shit is just corny. Nobody reads that, it goes directly to the trash. Also, I have to say to avoid the ALL CAPS EVERYTHING, because who likes that? Just be real and explain who you are, and let the people know that you're just trying to make it doing what you love, and they'll relate.

On '80's Baby' you rap on how you'd like to go back to that era. These days there's a real 80's revival going on, The A-Team movie, Transformers, synth pop music is heavy, what do you think of this trend, do you feel at ease with it?

I was hoping that '80's Baby' conveyed a bit of a different picture - it's more about what it's like to be from the 80s, and how it shaped me as a person. I'm not so sure I'd go back, because I love 2010. It's funny to see the resurgence of 80's culture so heavy right now, it seems like the cycle is getting shorter by a little bit. By that I mean that trends always come back around, but it seems to be sooner now. Every decade has its pro's and con's. Maybe one thing about the 80's that I think was a bit toxic is the impatience. Fast food, and just the whole attitude towards everything. That's when they started taking the nutrients out of food so it could be microwaved, and quality of life took a backseat to making everything easy and fast. We're still seeing the effects of that. Reagan was a pretty questionable part of the 80s too. I think the New World Order has been making crazy leaps and bounds since then, and we're seeing more and more of a division between the elite and the common person.

How much of the 80's do you recycle in your music you think?

While a lot of music is based on recycling and inspiration, I hope to create a true but updated form of hip-hop music... I definitely pay homage to that era when it comes to the rhymes and the feeling of the beats. I'd say the 90s is when rhyming was at its most advanced stage, and that over the past 7 or 8 years is when rappers have really devolved and become a form of marketed ignorance. That's a different subject right there though. When I think about the 80s, I think about the buzz of excitement that surrounded hip hop, as far as the music and culture, and that's definitely inspiring.

Imagine that your album would be a double CD like Outkast's 'Speakerboxxx' and the second CD would be a 'Love Below'-kind-of-record...with soul, funk, a bit of R&B.which artists would be on it if you had free choice?

You know, I think I indirectly touched on that, as you've heard, 'Sneakerboxxx' has quite a few soul joints with vocalists like NaRai, Omar Khan, Dan Klenner, and of course Moka Only on there... I love working with people I know because you get that natural blend on the song. There are a couple more Vancouver cats I'm looking forward to working with, first and foremost Ebrahim, who I think everyone needs to check out. My man Sonreal is a great MC and also can sing a mean hook so that collab is in order too. If I could reach out a little further, I've always thought that a collab with Raphael Saadiq, D'Angelo, or Erykah Badu would be pretty crazy!

Would you try makin r&b, soul, funk music, yourself?

Definitely not as a vocalist. But I'd say my music now incorporates a ton of all that right there, and that is my main influence. I see myself stepping up my chops on the keys and maybe guitar in the not-so-distant future too.

What else can we expect from Jeff Spec in that not-so-distant-future?

We have a bunch of videos in the works, so I'll be nice and visible online from now on ... The next record is slated for release around next June, and in the meantime I'm releasing some exclusives and B-sides to go along with the singles from Sneakerboxxx.

Shout-outs?

I always have to say City Planners ... we're still all trying to get it together for a full family album, so keep your fingers crossed for us on that. I have to let everyone know to go and check out NaRai, who helped a ton on my record, and has her single 'In The Light' available on iTunes now ... and big shout to the bloggers and online and print magazines that have been and are showing me love right now. I understand that nobody owes me any of that, and it's always much appreciated. BIG shout to Platform 8470 for showing me love and support for a bunch of years now, you all kept it the realest of the realest!!

Thanks!

 

POSTED 09|01|2010
conducted by cpf

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