talk back: chuck (at) deadjournalist.com
|| home | the (almost) daily blog | exclusive interviews | reviews | about | contact |||
2 October 2006 -
Interview: Daniel Merlot/Crash Berlin
For Daniel Merlot of Crash Berlin, the musical landscape has been as varied in its sound as is has been in location. From a breakbeat producer, DJ and remix artist in the US to a VJ for MTV Japan in Tokyo, Merlot has experienced more in the last ten years than most artists do in a career – and that’s just from staying at Perry Farrell’s house.
Based out of Hollywood, Merlot’s current project, the electro-punk band Crash Berlin, has been playing shows across North America and has also played DJ gigs in the US and Europe. The band currently features members James Chaney and Misty Suont as well as numerous guest artists.
Merlot is working on the debut Crash Berlin album and has a collaborative album coming out on Passenger Records with Kool Keith and Aquasky in November.
DeadJournalist.com recently conducted this exclusive interview with Daniel Merlot of Crash Berlin.
How long have you been working on the Crash Berlin project?
Crash Berlin was conceived in 2002 when I came back to the States from living in Tokyo. I was burned out from touring and playing live with my previous project, Chilldren ov Paradise.
Our final show was with Jane’s Addiction for New Year’s here in L.A. Then I broke up that project. I was constantly playing in large dance clubs and festivals nonstop. I wanted to start something fresh - something more edgy.
How did the current line-up come together?
Well, Crash Berlin has always been an evolving cast of characters. Something I really wanted with Crash Berlin was for it to be a free-form creative enterprise. I was really tired of the notion of being confined by a "band”. But the notion of just sitting in a room by yourself making music doesn't excite me either; I wanted to keep it loose.
It’s like a dating, just because we fucked a few times we don’t have to sign marriage papers. So, if I create some tunes with you we can release it - but hey maybe let’s do some shows, also.
I mean I've done stuff with Kool Keith famed MC, Bassnectar who is a wicked breakbeat producer/DJ, Aquasky famed European dance producers, my friend Shey who is a singer in a burlesque troop, Bobby Alt from S.T.U.N., a punk outfit, James Chaney from the dance outfit Cirrus - too many to name in a sitting.
How would you describe Crash Berlin’s sound?
Well currently the sound is more on an electro-industrial-punk tip. Phat beats, ramped up guitars, lots of screaming, but danceable.
Are you working on a new album?
Yeah, I've been working on it all summer. I have another mix of my collaboration with Kool Keith and Aquasky coming out on London’s Passenger Records in November. And some tunes on various compilations worldwide.
The new stuff nobody has heard, but it’s way more edgy than anything I've done previous. I hope to have a slew of new tunes mixed and a video done by the end of the year.
Are there plans for a national/international tour?
Well I'm always DJ’ing around the country. I'm always making the rounds. I’m hitting Vegas, Chicago, New York and Tokyo before the year ends. The beginning of next year I'm unleashing a full live show with new tunes and visuals. Then I’m off to Europe, Japan, etc.
Having been in the breaks/electro scene for more than 10 years, how have you seen the genre change over the past decade?
Electro takes in new forms constantly. It’s hard to even define what that means. But that’s what I like about it. People might ask what the hell is electro? Africa Bambatta? Fischerspooner? Prodigy? MIA? Goldfrapp? It’s all that and more.
As far as breakbeat goes, I guess it was bigbeat ten years ago. It started taking on darker drum and bass-like sounds and deeper bass and became nu skool breaks, which was a fresh kick in the ass for the genre. Peeps like Freq Nasty and Adam Freeland started pushing the envelope for that sound.
But I have to say the fashion sucks for breakbeats! Electro and rock have a much better fashion sense.
I’ve had some good dance floor tunes that landed well in the breakbeat scene but I have pretty much removed Crash Berlin from that scene. It doesn’t inspire me anymore.
As a DJ you’ve performed with acts ranging from Lee “Scratch” Perry to Jane’s Addition to Aphex Twin. For you, what is the biggest difference between performing as a DJ vs. with Crash Berlin?
Well DJ’ing doesn’t have even near the same emotional satisfaction as playing live. Playing live is putting yourself on the line - blood, sweat and tears. DJ’ing is more like "hey everybody here’s some tunes that get my rocks off, so shake that ass!
I mean playing live is far more stressful and a lot more work. When you DJ you can get lit off your ass, show up, and start pushing some buttons, which is a lot more stress free.
Which do you enjoy more, producing or performing?
I love both because when you are producing tunes its like a sculpting a fine piece of detailed art. It’s very cerebral. When you perform its like" hey everybody check it out I'm a freak and this is how the freak feels".
How did you get involved as a host for MTV Japan?
I was always playing live on TV in Japan. I also took on acting stints for Japanese television, so I guess it was a natural evolution to get asked to do MTV.
A video I had made was in rotation and they asked me to come host a video countdown show. It’s funny because the night before we played an all night dance party and didn’t get home till like 8AM.
The MTV crew shows up like 9AM to my house. I had brought like 10 girls back from the party, so I hosted the beginning of the show from bed.
Did your time overseas expand your musical style?
Hell yeah! In Tokyo you can actually hear how music should sound. The sound systems are all custom made and sound massive. They pride themselves on sound.
The underground scene in Tokyo is crazy. It’s very electronic and experimental. I mean the first time I ever jammed there was at an electronic experimental dub party at this club in Tokyo. They had surround sound, mushroom tea and cushions everywhere. I was like this is the shit!
Has remixing songs for other artists allowed Crash Berlin to expand its fan base?
For sure. Especially the bootlegs I do. I knocked out a quick dance bootleg of Franz Ferdinand’s "Take Me Out" a few years ago and it blew up worldwide. It got me major radio play, hit the dance floors worldwide and major traffic on the Internet. It opened me up to the power of bootlegs.
The LA music scene is notoriously cutthroat. What did it take for you to succeed?
Well, I was introduced into the Los Angeles music scene years ago thru Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction). I used to stay at his house all the time. So I guess I got a proper introduction into the scene there.
I mean when I was staying at Perry’s anyone could show up - Flea, Ice-T, etc. - recorded on Perry’s album worked with him on the two Lollapaloozas, his Enit festivals, etc.
I always felt comfortable here. I have California blood!
|talk back: chuck (at) deadjournalist.com||all works are copyright 2006 by deadjournalist.com||deadjournalist.com|
chuck norton dead journalist