Thanks to Little League Records we have the exclusive stream of their debut album ‘Forest Of Pencils’ and we’re rather excited by it. You can stream the album below and also have a read of an interview we did with the band ahead of the release.
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AH: You’re both artists within your own right, so how did High Elders come together? Had you both been fans of each other’s work previously? Gentle Jones: I met James (Auxilary Phoenix) over ten years ago. My website has been hosted at his father Cormac’s house for ages. When I first met James he was really good at breakdancing, and then he got into turntablism and he just became so amazing! He plays bass, guitar, drums and keys and is a wonderful musician. Its such a pleasure working with James because he is so inventive, just so full of delightful musical ideas.
Auxiliary Phoenix: Gentle was actually one of the first rappers I ever really listened to lots. Back in 2001 when he put his album ‘Adult Language’ I would have only been 8 or 9 years old, and he was visiting and played a gig in Carlow. I was tiny though, so the main thing I remember is him grabbing my skateboard and popping a huge ollie in my kitchen! But when I started producing as Auxiliary Phoenix in 2011 I knew I had to hit Gentle up to do some tracks. I did some mixing and scratching for his last 2 solo records, and produced a few tracks. So then when we were working on more music together, we figured we should just do a whole record, with just the two of us.
AH: ‘Forest Of Pencils’ comprises lots of different styles within your work. Was there ever an aim for how the collaboration would sound, or did you just go with the flow?
Gentle Jones: We’ve worked on several songs before, over the years, so we pretty much had an idea where we wanted to go. Most of the time I would just listen to the beats and have visions. Then the songs really write themselves.
Auxiliary Phoenix: I think the main approach was to make some conceptual hip hop music, hopefully some thought provoking stuff. I love the idea of MC + producer duos, because it really allows the album to feel cohesive off the bat.
AH: How is material written? Does one member bring ideas and then it’s developed from there or are you able to meet up and jam together?Gentle Jones: James would send me musical ideas and I would come up with whatever came to mind. In one instance there was another rapper who made a diss track against me, so I had to destroy him. That’s how the song ‘Ethernet’ came about. We worked on the project for about 18 months so I really got to stretch my legs, lyrically. I would just have a drink and a smoke and cast spells on the tracks.
Auxiliary Phoenix: Yeah, I’m always working on beats. I feel like Gentle’s ear is what ties together the beats on the record. I think I had about 20 beats prepared for this record at the start, and that kept growing as the album grew. But I would send him the tunes and get back vocals after a while, then produce the tune a bit more around the vocals I got back, and lay down the scratching. The direction of the vocals really determines the flow of the song.
AH: How do you think High Elders will fit into the hip-hop community? Do you think your diversity will help you crossover into other scenes such as punk?
Gentle Jones: Growing up I listened to alot of hardcore, punk, and oi, as well as jazz and skinhead reggae. Soul records as well. I have a pretty powerful record collection. I think we have alot of influences and inspirations musically and it comes through on the album. Honestly, I feel the best music transcends genre. Any one with ears can recognize a great song.
Auxiliary Phoenix: I don’t know if it will fit into the hip hop community. But hip hop is getting weirder, and that can only be a good thing. I think there’s space for music like ours in hip hop. But like Gentle says, we come at this from a different kind of angle. I have actually gotten away from listening to a lot of beats and hip hop stuff and for the past few years I have been mainly exploring progressive rock and jazz fusion music, and making a conscious effort to flex those muscles in my beats when I can.
AH: Why did you choose Little League Records to release the album?
Gentle Jones: Callum from LLR is a gentleman and a scholar. He’s got such great taste and enthusiam so it’s a perfect fit.
Auxiliary Phoenix: I’ve worked with LLR before! My Supernormal Prophets (math rock) material comes out through LLR, and I’ve released 2 Auxiliary Phoenix EPs (Balii and Skribbl) through them. LLR have a great community surrounding them and I am able to communicate with Callum from the label so clearly, he really cares for the artists on the label.
AH: Is it too early to ask about a UK tour?
Gentle Jones: We would love to do a UK tour! Just tell us when and where. We accept Paypal.
Auxiliary Phoenix: That would be great. We’d love to do some gigs soon. There’s this pesky ocean in the way though…
AH: Can you see more material being released as High Elders?
Gentle Jones: This is something you do for a billion years or not at all.
Auxiliary Phoenix: 100%. We’re only getting started.“
High Elders links: Facebook