March sees Xiamen-based Beatween bring in Stones Throw affiliate and cosmic funk producer Ringgo Ancheta aka MNDSGN (say it 'mind design') for a big Shanghai billing at Elevator. His sublime 2016 album Body Wash is full of warm, ‘80s jazz- and R'n'B-inspired grooves, a few of which you can listen to below.
We chat to the LA-based producer about the state of the nation, the 'FruityLoops wave' and the truth behind his eye-catching back story.
Thanks for chatting to us Ringgo. Where are you speaking to us from?
I just moved in to a new spot here in Los Angeles, you actually just caught me kind of organising all my things.
Is it a nice place?
Yeah it’s pretty cool, it’s me and my brother and I have a pretty sick view of downtown from where I’m at so I’m pretty excited.
What’s the weather like in LA at the moment?
It’s pretty nice man, I can just walk outside in a t-shirt, it’s chill, very appropriate for this mood. It’s kind of perfect out here.
I read on one of your bios that your parents are from the Phillipines and were granted political asylum in the US after leaving the Aum Supreme truth cult. But then you said in another interview that this was basically made up by someone from Stones Throw. How much truth is there in it?
It’s heavily dramaticised. I grew up in New Jersey but my parents are indeed from the Phillipines. So that part is true. I was born in San Diego and did most of my growing up on the east coast in South Jersey, and I guess culturally it’s somewhat of a jungle out there to try and find inspiration. But yeah, all that stuff about the terrorist cult, we can just leave all that out [laughs].
When I read that bio I was planning on asking you about the current president’s stance on immigration, which I guess isn’t so relevant now. But I’m sure you still have an opinion on it all.
Oh yeah definitely. Obviously we’re in a transitional period where it’s actually a double-edged sword, because [of] how misguided and corrupt our government is there’s a very beautiful counter-reaction to it. So yeah, it’s all fucked up what the administration is doing right now, but I think some beautiful things are happening and are going to continue.
What music did you grow up listening to?
I left San Diego when I was about five, and I have faint memories of being surrounded by lots of classic rock that my dad would listen to, like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin. But when we moved, if I try to recall those memories of my childhood in New Jersey, there was a lot of hip-hop and RnB influence, mainly from my elder siblings. I was always surrounded by black music for the most part.
Funny you mention The Beatles, because I was wondering if that was an influence behind your name?
Oh yeah, completely. My dad was such a fan but I guess he wasn’t trying to pick George, Paul or John, kind of regular. I guess Ringgo stuck out.
How did you get introduced to sampling and beat making?
Probably through my older brother, he started making beats when I was in middle school. He was just showing me how to manipulate sounds and take pieces of other music and make my new thing with it. So I’d say he was a major influence in me understanding what was going on with the production of hip-hop music and how it was being done. And through that inspiration from him I ventured out and started visiting the local record store in South Jersey, which wasn’t that tight but it was still an introduction to sampling.
What kit were you using at first?
Oh man, if you’re talking about the very beginning it was very stripped down. I was just using literally a computer mic and just holding it up to the speaker, playing something that I wanted to sample and recording it with Windows sound recorder. It was as primative as that. But after that I got into using FruityLoops and Reason and a lot of these other more common software applications that were being used back in the day, and still are.
FruityLoops is still around isn’t it.
Definitely. But I was definitely part of that initial wave where around FL 2 or 3, mad people were downloading the demo off the website, and I feel like I was kind of part of that initial wave of beat makers using the demo.
Do you ever still use it?
Nah. I would like to but Ableton has kind of got me hooked right now. But I do like all the stuff that I hear coming out of FL, some of my friends still use it and I think their shit sounds amazing. Who knows, maybe I might go back.
You said that early ‘80s funk and jazz fusion were big influences for Body Wash. What was it about that kind of music that appealed to you?
That question has been asked to me a lot, but now I reflect on it in this moment, I feel like a lot of it might have corresponded with me just being in LA. That sound in that time coming from LA was very potent. So maybe me having lived for five or six years had a subconscious influence on how that music resonates with me. I always did have a thing for it, even just for the sake of dancing to it. But there was something very full circle in the time that I was making the record, I felt like it was so important to try and incorporate [that music] into what I was doing. As far as the musicality and the instrumentation in those days, I feel it really speaks to what I’m aspiring to do now, it really harmonises with everything.
I’m sure the process for making a song is different every time, but if you could give a typical process for the songs on Body Wash, what was that?
For that record in particular, a lot of those tracks started with just looping up some ‘80s drum break, that a lot of those '80s tracks would start out with, just the dry drums. So I would just be real inspired by that loop, and try to play some of my own instrumentation on top. So it would be a fusion of original music but borrowing the drum sounds from back in the day, because the way it sounds sampling off those records is so timeless as opposed to trying to recreate it with software. It has its own grit to it. It was all tracked using Ableton and using random synths that people were letting me borrow at the time, like the Yamaha DX5 and random shit.
And you prefer to do this on your own in your room?
Yeah, absolutely. I feel its so much more direct. I actually recently tried renting a studio space to try to separate the home life and making music, and it didn’t really work out for me. I was like 'oh man', I really love keeping those two in the same space because it is to a certain extent kind of seamless how they bleed into each other, making music and life itself.
Is it literally in your bedroom then, your studio?
Yeah, exactly. The room I have now is a little smaller than the one I moved in from, but I kind of dig it that way man, just stripping away what I don’t need and only having the bare essentials. I’m literally sleeping on this sofa couch that turns into a bed and the room’s just full of instruments.
What’s coming out of Akashik records lately that you’re excited about?
We’re kind of back in that incubator stage where we’re just keeping our ear to the street. I’ve been working with Joyce Wrice a lot more lately, trying to keep each other inspired to potentially do a record together. She’s got a single coming out on tape soon. I’m just excited for her as an artist in general. We also have some remixes of that, one of which is by a guy called Jamma Dee. It’s all kind of within the same realm, just soul music pretty much.
What do you like to do outside of producing?
I mean if I’m not in the house and I decide I need to get out the house because I’m going crazy, why I love living in LA is the diverse geography. I can just go outside and take a hike. I feel like I already sit inside enough as it is so if I’m not doing that I gotta be exercising or some shit. I just joined this climbing gym, so I’ve been doing that lately. I’m just trying to keep the body fit, or at least attempt to. If I’m not doing that I’m just trying to spend some time with friends mostly. Cooking is another thing, spending time in the kitchen with a friend and just taking our time with all the ingredients is kind of like another form of music for me.
We had your friend Knxwledge out here last year as part of a big Stones Throw tour they were doing. Have you spoken to him about that show at all?
No I haven’t. Was it alright?
It was kind of crazy. It was him, Earl Sweatshirt, Peanut Butter Wolf and Egyptian Lover all playing this pretty small underground club called The Shelter.
Hell yeah. I actually played with those guys out in Japan for that tour. I was just out there for vacation, but I remember them leaving Tokyo and heading [to Shanghai] and seeing some crazy videos from it, it was pretty tight.
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