Interview with Rusty Sheriff
Today I bring you an interview with Rusty Sheriff. He’s a pal of mine that just so happens to make fantastic music. He combines turntablism, samplism, and dirty-breakalism… ok, you probably were thinking I made the second word up, but now you definitely know I made the third one up! But, enough of my nonsense, I’ll let you read the transcript from the interview…
Gav: Good day to you kind sir and thank you for taking the time out to do this interview. Do you want to start by just explaining who you are and what you do?
Rusty Sheriff: Hello and thank you for having me on board. I’m Rusty Sheriff, a full time sonic terrorist, part-time teacher. I make music in my sound room in Portsmouth, UK and trying to play it out live as often as logistically possible!
G: I know all about your “sonic terrorism”, but can you just describe your sound for the benefit of the readers and perhaps where your influences come from?
RS: The sound is really an odd mixture of influences from my record collection. It is breaks heavy, and in that respect I suppose I’m a breaks purist. But in addition it’s mainly instrumental, taking most of my sounds from samples stolen from forgotten charity shop records. My main influences range from DJ Shadow and RJD2 at one end of the spectrum through to Techno Animal, Melvins and Dalek.
G: That’s broad indeed, but where did it all start for the Sheriff? What got you into this game?
RS: The ‘Rusty Sheriff’ alias came from my previous band, which I started in Nottingham (at uni) with a close friend Dusty Bible. Designer Babies (www.designerbabies.net) were an important avant weird project that shaped the experimental side of the Sheriff output. I left uni, and returned to my home town of Portsmouth leaving the band behind to carry on (now in its 3rd incarnation!). So that’s where the name came from, the need to carry on was purely driven from the desire to play my music live. I kept the alias, and switched my tact from avant garde freeform rock to turntablist hip-hop, something I’d been into throughout my time in the ‘Babies. Before that though it took time to write some ‘Rusty’ material.
G: What can you tell me about your production methods and your home setup?
RS: The ‘Saloon’ (hehehe…) is very lofi really, it has a PC, a self built surface with a turntable, scratch mixer, studio mixer, outboard effects – compressors, reverbs, sampler, plenty of children’s toys and some strange contraptions that I’ve built and boxed up, which will eventually work in a track somewhere! I use two programs on the PC to do most of the work; namely Acid 5 and CoolEditPro. These I use to sequence sounds and to edit them. Despite trying allsorts of pro software, these allow me to be the most creative due to the ease of use.
G: Well fair play to you for prioritising creativity over process. How do you transfer the studio experience to a live show experience? How does it differ?
RS: Well it’s tricky to separate the final track from the live experience, and maintain an element of ‘liveness’. I tend to take the original track, break it down (no pun intended!) to the basic individual recorded tracks, and try to work out which sections I can manipulate live. Often this is the scratching because it’s more visual. I then tend to master a ‘live’ version of the song which will then fit into the set somewhere. Sometimes I’ll re-structure the track and maybe play the theremin or ‘scratch’ some sampler noises in too. It’s funny though, because most think I’m just DJing, and playing other peoples tunes! I suppose it’s down to them to take notice though!
G: Ha ha, I’d probably get frustrated and continually grab the mic to say things like “you do realise I’m creating this and not DJing, right?!” – It sounds pretty impressive though. So do you prefer to be out there playing live to being in the studio recording, or do you just view them as two separate parts of one larger thing?
RS: Yeah, for sure! They both make up a larger picture. It would be far too easy to make the tunes indoors, put them on the web, pull the usual hopeful label demo send off, but that doesn’t really satisfy me fully. Doing it live takes a fair bit of balls, because the laptop doesn’t always work and it’s so easy for a stylus to fall off the record! I like the risk, and I really love the reactions, good or bad – I love both!!! I’d like the tracks to be listened to in earphones, or at home, but doing it live is really an extension of it.
G: Ah, a natural showman and performer eh?! Should get you on Pop Idol, see what Simon Cowell thinks! Well, the whole live Rusty Sheriff experience really does sound intriguing to say the least, but going back to your studio work, where are you with that now? What have you done and what are you doing?
RS: Hahaha! Yeah, Simon Cowell would love me! Hahaha! Simon: “So, Rusty let’s hear you sing…” hehehe… Pop Idol aside, I’m working on a couple of slightly different projects at the moment. On one hand I’m trying to remix as many artists as I can, and conversely ‘trying’ to get other producers to remix my material, in order to compile a collection of “Rusty Sheriff and Friends” recordings. As well as that I’m also writing tracks with a mind to the live show. I said earlier that people don’t always get the live show, so I’m trying to get some more vocals on the tracks, pulling in some guest emcees, poets, singers and wordsmiths to record and then reproduce the output live. “Black & White” with Deadfoot is the first from that series.
G: Good stuff, sounds like you are a busy man! So, thinking along the lines of what you do physically and the sounds you produce, what other artists out there do you admire that you see doing perhaps slightly similar stuff?
RS: I’m really into Dalek at the moment, those guys are on Mike Patton’s ‘Ipecac’ label, doing nasty hip-hop with cuts and rhymes – I’d love to try and somehow achieve similar results. They’re kicking out some seriously original shit, yet keeping to the hip-hop blueprint. Also I really enjoy Bonobo at the minute, he stands out from the rest of the Ninja Tune unit, mainly through his song writing, but I love the ‘raw’ production methods which is nice to see. Again; creativity instead of over-production.
G: Yup, those are some seriously creative fellas you’ve mentioned right there. So basically, from the information you’ve told me; you’re an artist and performer that regards expressing creativity as the utmost of importance – well, the world can never have enough of people like that, so I’d say you’re definitely on the right track! What would you truly like to achieve as an artist and performer?
RS: That’s a tricky one! I’m not really sure in honesty. I’d like to attain some sort of artistic satisfaction with my output, mainly through evolving the sound – trying to keep it fresh, and using different sound sources. I’d love to perform on a festival stage, to a ‘larger’ audience, maybe use visuals and emcees. This is really a utopian view of it, as to be honest my feet are VERY stable and on the ground! I recently saw Shadow live, and it gave me some nice ideas about presenting live, electronic music, to the masses! Production wise, I’d like to carry on the learning process that is recording sound – it never really ends! Maybe one day I’ll be happy with something I’ve written!
G: Onward and upwards as they say! What (if any) are your biggest frustrations with the whole scene? Naturally for a lot of lesser known artists the obvious problem is just getting recognition and actually signed, but do you find many other elements slow your process?
RS: Obviously, being able to do this as a day job would be fantastic – a dream come true. But in these days of labels becoming over-saturated with artists looking for a deal or a break, it’s becoming more and more difficult to get signed. I used to work for a heavy metal record label, and I saw how they disregarded demos sent in. That really was a heart breaker, as you could see how much effort those cats had put into their demos. In that respect, there’s no winning, so we’ve all just gotta plug on and hope that maybe one day someone might consider paying us for doing this! Labels aren’t the only stumbling block though, I find peoples perceptions more difficult. I’ve mentioned the problems playing live, in that people expect a DJ to start spinning tunes and then end up with a full on noise set. Hahaha! Fuck em’ I say! Nah, seriously, it’s frustrating, but I’d like to see it as a challenge. If they don’t get it well, hey, that’s their loss. It’s my own fault too, I tend not to play at ‘clubs’, I’d rather play with bands at live venues, so it’s not like I’ve got grounds to complain!!!
G: I tend to agree, their loss. You sound like you’ve got your head screwed on and you just gotta keep on doing what you do. So, you’ve got a couple of projects in the works, what about future live performances? Are they adhoc, or do you have some sort of residency somewhere?
RS: With my approach to live shows they tend to be adhoc. Usually I get a show every month or so in the Portsmouth area, but I’m running out of venues to destroy! Hahaha! In fairness, I find that promoters find it difficult to find artists to pair me up with on any given bill. Safe to say I end up playing at eclectic nights!
G: I see! Well if the organisers of Glastonbury, Coachella, or any other large festivals ask me any time soon for recommendations on who should play at their gigs… I might just mention your name! I’m loving the stuff on your MySpace page, people should def check all that out, plus I’m looking forward to hearing more from these new projects, so keep us all informed! Before we wrap this up are there any shout-outs you want to make or messages to give the readers?
RS: Shout outs eh? Haha! Ok, well I should probably thank a few peeps that have shown their support over the years/months… Firstly my lawyer/part time housemate John for always giving me honest feedback minus the bullshit as well as numerous lifts! My missus for always pretending to enjoy the live sets! Dusty and Kate from the Designer Babies, the FIZIKZ crew; yourself included! aha, weeks and all the guys I miss so! And me mam and dad for never quite understanding what I do, but always being supportive! Thanks to you all!
G: Awww, very touching messages there from the Sheriff. Just leaves me to once again thank you for sparring the time to speak to me – good luck with it all!
RS: Cheers ears!
Don’t forget to check out Rusty Sheriff’s MySpace page, he has four quality tracks on there, plus at the moment, and exclusively, the Rusty Sheriff track 3:15 – E31 can be listened to on the Just Like Music MySpace page, along with tracks from other previously featured artists. The Sheriff also shot me over a different track to share with you all, so enjoy…
Rusty Sheriff – Hourglass
>> download <<
This download is a sample of the music only and must be deleted from your computer within 24 hours of downloading. This download link will expire on 17th July.
Be sure to add Rusty Sheriff to your friends on MySpace, then let him know all about just how much you love him and his music, I know he’ll appreciate it!