You’re new players in the rap game – could you just introduce yourself first?
Frank Meyer: We are Messiaz (www.messiaz.com), a hip hop production team out of Los Angeles. We produce, make beats, and are a live band. Bruce and I come from a rock background and toured and released albums in rock bands before hooking up to produce others. We both grew up on hip hop and were secretly making beats on the side. Finally we hooked up and started making beats together and blending them with live jams from our rock band Sweet Justice (www.sweetjusticetheband.com). We started pimpin’ out our beats and producing others while recording our own debut album and bunch of mixtapes.
Bruce Duff: I was also DJing around town, bought a sampler, and was concocting my own remixes and mashups and DJ mixtapes, combining electronica with metal, punk, hip hop, lounge, just pure anarchy. From that I started putting together hip hop beats. When I found out Frank was doing the same–he told me what he was up to while we were at a Kool Keith show–I knew we had to start combining our efforts.
You recently released the mixtape “Hip Hop Terrorists Volume 1″. What can the vendee expect from that piece?
FM: It’s a mix of excerpts from our upcoming debut album, exclusives, freestyles, mash-ups/blends, and remixes. It has exclusives from Hell-Razah of Wu tang’s Sunz of Man, 4th Disciple of Killarmy, Necro, K-Rino, Insane Poetry, Freddie Foxxx, Lord G of Militia, and others. It also has new shit from Devin the Dude, Trae of Guerilla Maab, Killah Priest, Timbo King, and mash-ups of Lox, Nas, Xzibit, Game, and MOP over rock beats. There’s also a bunch of jazz and funk instrumentals we played live in the studio. It’s crazy….
The Messiaz debut album is coming soon, just tell us everything we need to know about this.
FM: The album features most of the artists above plus others like Dope-E of the Terrorists, Relentlezz Dre out of Maryland, Neila out of L.A., and others. It showcases our beats, our vocals, and our sound, with different MCs on every track. We don’t rap ourselves, just make the beats, play the instruments and often sing the hooks. Our sound is hardcore underground hip hop with dashes of alternative rock. Some might classify us in the vein of Gorillaz or Handsome Boy Modeling School, but it’s heavier and moodier. To me it’s Jimi Hendrix meets Kool G Rap. Bowie meets NWA. Geto Boys meets Miles Davis.
BD: I also think the disc is pretty cinematic, a lot of it really evokes a strong visual. There’s a spaghetti western rap, there’s some very pointed political and anti-war stuff, there’s a jam that takes you all over Los Angeles via a commute down the 405. There’s even a chase that crosses the time barrier in outer space!!
Next to big names like Freddie Foxx, Freestyle, K-Rino or Necro you’ll also feature some less known artists like Neila, Eddie Spaghetti, Lord G or Relentlezz Dre. Could you present these to the ones who might not know?
FM: The MCs that we ride with on a regular basis are the local L.A. cats like Lord G of Militia, Neila, and Cyco of Insane Poetry. They are our friends and we work with them all the time. We have a Messiaz live show in the works and they will be fronting the band. Neila is a newcomer, she’s kind of in the vein of Lauryn Hill in that she raps, sings, scats and writes great songs. You’ll remember Lord G from Militia’s hit “Burn,” which was HUGE out here in the West Coast in ’98 or so. He was a ghost writer with Death Row and had a bonus track on the Above The Rim soundtrack. He’s a pro I met a few years back Relentlezz Dre has been down with us for a long time. Eddie Spagehtti is actually a big rock star from the country hard rock band the Supersuckers. We like to mix rap vets with newcomers and with rock stars. It’s an eclectic mix but it seems to work. We try to just work with great talents and bring out something in them they wouldn’t otherwise do. As for the bigger rappers on the album, some are friends of mine and some are people I went after because I’m a fan. Hell-Razah I knew from his early Sunz of Man days. I met Necro through the porn world because I used to write for AVN magazine. He produced and directed a really great, funny porno movie called “Sexy Sluts” that I raved about. Foxxx has always been one of my favorite rappers. I tracked him down through a website and basically begged him to get on the album. He was cool as hell and said if he felt what we were doing, he’d consider it. He’s on the album and we’re talking about doing some rock remixes of some of his albums with him down the line. I wanna make the rock version of “Industry Shakedown” BAD!!!!
How do you make up all the contacts with the artists from all points of the compass?
FM: The Internet and having a big mouth.
BD: Actually I heard Neila on the local college station driving in my car. I knew the DJ and called her up: “Who was that incredible girl on your show??” Monique Powell of Save Ferris has been a long time friend, she sings some awesome stuff on the record. Poyote Cody DJs at a club I DJ at, we had him cut and scratch all over our album, he’ll be with us live, too.
Do you have to pay them money to get exclusives or do the artists contribute them for free?
FM: We’ve been really lucky and all the artists we’ve worked with for the album or mixtapes didn’t charge us because they were either friends of mine or we traded them beats for rhymes. Or in some cases, we did rock tracks and rock remixes in exchange for their vocals. So everyone walked away with something.
You’re also producing on your own – which equipment do you work with?
BD: We have a pretty simple set up, Pro Tools interfaced with a little bit of outboard analog. We have a coupla condenser mics and one outboard mic pre, a Roland SP-808 sampler that wants to be an MPC but didn’t quite make it. The PT is just a Digi 001, but the G4 running it is powerful, and we have a ludicrously large library of plug-ins, gadgets, gizmos, and interfaces. We record the live band in Echo Park at our fave studio, Ton, and then take the tracks back via firewire to Toneduff Studios in Hollywood, home of the Messiaz.
Most of the featured artists are big personalities in hardcore-rap – how do you comment the actual state of this particular branch?
FM: Hardcore rap seems to be back on the map thanks to the mixtapes and the rise of street cats like Game and D-Block (Lox). The hardcore shit is back in style, but of course the bigger artists still got to have those pop tracks. I have nothing against pop hooks at all, but some of this MTV/radio shit these days is garbage. But I’m happy that hardcore rap is back and vets like MOP, Foxx and Boot Camp Clique are getting their props again.
What has an artists got to deliver to gain your attention?
FM: You gotta have clever lyrics, an appealing voice, and charisma. It’s also good if you can write good hooks and choruses, but if you can’t, we can do it for you. But most of all, it’s about their voice: the cadence, the tone, the authority. Do they sell you the song? Do you believe them? It don’t matter if they are telling you to blow your head off or they love you deeply, you have to believe it.
BD: It also seems like everyone that’s written for us has come up with something unique and very original. I think hip hop is screaming for new lyrical ideas and I love that our crew has them in abundance.
You’re also a member of the band Sweet Justice…
FM: I used to play in a fairly big punk band called The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs. We toured the world and released a bunch of albums. When we broke up in 2002, I formed Sweet Justice with Bruce, who I had known for years. Sweet Justice is more of a Hendrix-’70s soul rock band, so when we started making live tracks for hip hop, it just seemed natural to have us play the tracks ourselves. Basically, Sweet Justice is just Messiaz with a drummer, Mr. Chris Markwood.
BD: On the rock side of things, Sweet Justice has also worked as a backing band for artists like Thor the Rock Warrior and Cheetah Chrome, who was the guitarist with the Dead Boys, one of the founders of American punk rock.
For which reason did you choose to shift from a rock musician to a active part in the rap music industry?
FM: I didn’t want to keep touring for barely any money anymore. I was sick of it. I started playing in rock bands when I was 13 and was touring by the time I was 18. So when the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs stopped touring in 2002 I wanted to try something new. I have always been a huge hip hop fan. I remember listening to Run DMC and Beastie Boys in junior high and was really into PE, Geto Boys and N.W.A. when they were first on the scene. I saw Ice Cube in concert on the Death Certificate tour, saw Ice-T on the OG tour, saw Public Enemy on the Apocalypse tour. I was there! But I would also go see metal and punk shows, and go see Bob Dylan and blues festivals. So when I had a moment in my career where I thought, “What do I next?” Making beats and producing was the answer.
BD: From the DJ remix thing and producing other rock artists and singers it just seemed like the next step. Once we dove in, I became fascinated with how different the whole production procedure is. It has made making music seem really fresh and new to me again.
Is it easier to gain attention or money when you put out rap instead of rock-records?
FM: As producers you don’t really expect to be out in the limelight. We’ve got it better than most producers because we can do Messiaz live shows and get our ego trip off being the rock star guitarist for a minute before we got back behind the boards in the shadows.
BD: For me, neither attention or money was ever the motivation. I’m a lifelong musician, musicmaker. I started real young, before I was even interested in distractions like partying, girls, etc. So it’s in my blood. Can’t stop. However, if ya wanna send me some money and put me on the cover…
How does this musical background influence your current work?
FM: Music is music. It’s all about writing good songs. So I just listen and absorb everything I can and filter it through. Now I filter it through hip hop. Before it was rock. But it’s the same process. You get an idea, you run with it, you try to make it the best it can be and follow your vision, and then you finish it and move on to the next one.
BD: I don’t know anyone who just listens to one type of music. If you went through Frank or my collections, you’d find music of all stripes. Modern classical, ’50s electronic, ’70s funk, punk rock, grindcore, Mingus, Chemical Bros., AC/DC, Otis Redding, on and on and on. It all winds its way into the mix, even if we’re aware of it or not.
What’s your opinion about rock/rap-combos in general? Are there any that you like?
FM: Most of it sucks. That’s one of the reasons we started Messiaz, to do it the right way. Listen to us doing “Article One” with Hell-Razah. THAT is the way rock and rap should sound together. I liked the Judgment Night soundtrack from back in the day, and first Jazzamatazz album, some of The Roots, and some of Esham rock-laced stuff. The Coup and MOP have been using rock bands lately, and they sound great. But most rock-rap sucks.
BD: I like some live hip hop bands, don’t know how ‘rock’ they are. Crown City Rockers, the Coup, the Roots, the Beasties all have live bands and make it work, but more from a funk band tip. If it gets too rock, the beat looses that on-the-one thing, and then ya gotta ask, is this hip hop at all? And if it’s metal hip hop, whatever they call that, from Korn to Limp Bisquick to Leakin’ Park, it never sticks in my head. The kids like it, or used to. I sorta liked this band Hed PE that did that stuff, but they didn’t catch on.
Let’s take a look in the future – what will happen after the album dropped?
BD: Retire in Spain, Bitchez and cocaine.
FM: We are shopping the album now as we drop mixtapes to wet everyone’s appetite. Hopefully it’ll be out by the end of the year. We are rehearsing a live show now, too. The idea is to promote the album by doing some live shows ala The Roots. On the West Coast and in general, it’ll be Sweet Justice as the live band with a DJ and keyboardist, plus Lord G, Cyco and Neila on the mics. Then when we go to the east we’ll try to add Razah, Foxx, Freestyle, and Necro. When we go to Texas we’ll add K-Rino, Dope-E, our boy Black Mike from 20-2-Life and others. Hopefully we’ll make it out to Europe next year too and get some of those cats to ride with us.
Where can people buy your music or even catch up on Messiaz?
FM: You can buy “Hip Hop Terrorists Mixtape Vol. 1″ at www.messiaz.com. “Volume 2″ in on the way soon. You can also listen to samples of the album there too, which will be out soon.
Time for some shoutouts, thank you’s or even fuck you’s…
FM: Shout out to Big Rich, who does our website, and our drummer Chris Markwood. Also, to all the rappers and rockers who have gotten down with us.
BD: Reg Thorpe, my mentor and spiritual guide, and the LA Derbydolls, who are about to destroy your mind. And Zappa, for both of us!
Any artist who’s looking for beats or production can get in touch with the Messiaz through the following email-address: email@example.com