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Friday, October 24, 2014

Artist Profile/Interview: Dafydd McKaharay (Nattymari, Curt Crackrach, Ron Hardly etc.)

Rapping with Daff: 
A rambling 
conversation with the 
underground internet 
music scene's most prolific 
and opinionated artist.

It's a little difficult to be objective about Dafydd McKaharay. Not only is he one of the most  consistently creative artists working in the  post-witch house/chillwave milieu, he is a friend.

I ran into McKahrary on Facebook, and immediately recognized one of my kind - i.e. a world class music freak. Here was a individual who was highly opinionated, at times argumentative or even abrasive --" I can come off as an asshole, but  I'm a benevolent asshole", prone to polemics and provocative statements,  yet so deep in his knowledge of underground dance music history as to be worthy of being my guru, and I'm a music guru!  McKaharay soon became my go-to guy when I had a question about the history of disco, which has been an ongoing research of mine. Growing up in Long Island, and DJ-ing brought him into close proximity to hip-hop, house and disco.

THEN I discovered his  largely unheralded, undeniably important music, and an un-bossed, un-bought artist who doesn't compromise or make concessions to popular taste;  a compulsive creator whose prodigious output is a treasure trove of free music, covering the spectrum of development in DIY, from witch house to vaporwave and everything in between.

ACH: You make music under a variety of names.  What separates these projects for you? There seems to be some loose grouping by structure. Ron Hardly is house-y stuff, Frank Ducks more EDM like - or Nattymari the more far-out stuff, Sir Walter Bangs, juke... 
Dafydd: Yes. Nattymari is sort of the umbrella. I normally save it for more challenging and personal compositions now. Frank Ducks was decidedly a take on vaporwave...Frank Dux is Van Damme’s character in BLOODSPORT.  Ron Hardly obviously toys with house. Curt Crackrach is sort of experiments in library sounds. It's all sort of how I feel about where a track is going. I normally don't sit and say "I'm going to make a Frank Ducks track."
ACH: How many releases do you have? It's a staggering amount of material ....
Dafydd:  I have probably 300+ videos on my Youtube Maybe 30% of that made it to an official release. I have maybe 10 or so tapes, CDs, DVDs and vinyl releases over the past 5 years -- physical releases.  And maybe 30 or so releases on my  Bandcamp and a few other net labels.
ACH: Physical releases  seem to be a big deal to artists -- and I can imagine how I would feel holding a 12" record of MY music.
Dafydd: Releasing  Ron Hardly [Dark Acid - Clan Destine Records--sold out]on wax was a big deal for me, because the track got decent reception. There is a Curt Crackrach LP [Lonely Holiday], and a Nattymari DVD as well, both on Clan Destine. I like the archival aspect of it, but the music is what is important. Some of my best stuff is buried in that Youtube, or on a random Soundcloud.
ACH: What do you call the uhh... scene or context or whatever today... is this post witch house or DIY internet music, or what? Genre-wise- what would your stuff be? Thoed Mynds (collaboration with PartyTrash) sounded a lot like chillwave. So did some of Trifles...
Dafydd: I think me and Party are from the post witch I guess. Witch House was tied to chill wave though.  I was doing a mix blog before witch kids noticed me,  and my mixes were loaded with chillwave.
ACH: What was the name of that blog?
Dafydd: A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS. I dubbed and effected it all.  I was screwing chillwave and stuff.  And then started playing with pitches and time stretching. That's what attracted the witch kids.  And a few people--Witch Boy won't mind me saying, were influenced by that.
ACH: This was when?
Dafydd: This was like 2008-2010.
ACH: What do you mean by chillwave… like who?
Dafydd: Like Toro y Moi, Memory Tapes, Kohwi.
ACH: You were an early blogger... what other blogs did you write for?
Dafydd: I had a my own blog, Nattymari, and I wrote for Mishka for a year or two,  did reviews, did a few articles on what was going on as sort of an inside man. I left for a variety of reasons... mostly cos I felt it fairly disingenuous to be both critiquing my peers and playing along with them. I feel you have to choose which route you want to take.
ACH: Mishka was an early adopter of the witch style...
Dafydd: Mikhail at Mishka was really early on the witch house press circuit mainly because he was a huge fan of Mater Suspiria Vision and of Giallo, and John Carpenter and that sort of stuff; it appealed to him. And he's also very big on industrial.
ACH: So you were there for the beginning of witch house?
Dafydd: I don't know how attached I ever felt to witch house, but so many people I love respect and still work with came from that era. Nikhil Singh and Carmen Incarnadine; Witch Boy and Coco Carbomb. I would be a lesser person having not met them. And both push similar boundaries and defy categorization.

ACH: What's the first occasion you heard or saw the term ‘witch house’ - do you remember that?

Dafydd: Probably the WE FUCKING LOVE MUSIC blog that Juan Carlos wrote for. We shared blog links. And I liked that site. And he got into it early and posted some of the music, and I liked a little of it. Then I heard Gummybear and his remix of Jack and Cellski. It sounded like some things I was doing, which intrigued me. Then I heard a mix of Panda Bears “Slow Motion” that he did, and it sounded like one I did. And we had words, and decided to do a battle style mix; "WITCH MADE KNICCA", which was sort of mocking the scene from within. Which is still going on….
ACH: You've gotten some attention over the years -- had your brush with fame. Murdered in Memphis  with Kreayshawn got picked up by Fader...
Dafydd: A few times I've gotten a lot of attention, but it goes away. With the Kreayshawn tape [Murder in Memphis] I was in The Source and Fader and had like 2 million Google hits...
ACH: How did that come together?
Dafydd: I just liked her style on her first mixtape, so I asked her and V Nasty, and they said "sure".  Then she signed to Sony, so she only wound up doing like 4 of the songs, and Sortahuman finished it for me.
ACH: This was one of the first witch house / rap hybrid things...
Dafydd: And the first or one of the first physical "based" releases, before Space Ghost Purp and Lil Ugly Mane.
ACH: What does 'based' mean?
Dafydd: Based? Based is a state of mind… “IDGAF”. That's based.
ACH: Like Lil B.
Dafydd: He coined the term. But if you do it for you, and just don't care, that’s based. It's like music as a vlog.
ACH: That sounds like Crown Hutch. How did you hook up with him? [McKahrary produced many of the tracks for Crown's magnum opus I'm The Person]
Dafydd: I met Crown through Based World. He liked an article I wrote on Lil B. Then I heard his raps, and I was like 'WE HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER'. There's times he reminds me of early Beasties, and Melle Mel even.
ACH: I think he’s way under-rated. I actually think he is the best rapper. Period. His rap is like real alt-lit.   

Dfaydd: I agree. He is rap. So is Lil B. Sortahuman are rap. Blam Lord. These people know and love rap. It isn't some game.
ACH: What is the difference between drag and screw? Party Trash corrected me on this once, and I realized I really don’t know.
Dafydd: Me and Party, our bond is Screw. We're screwheads for life. A lot of witch house people used slowing as a technique, but didn’t know shit about DJ Screw. So DJ Screw’s slowed southern hip-hop was “screwed”. DJ Screw was the only person who could “screw” something. So a lot of us use other terms. Drag was invented before witch house, and the witch people co-opted it. 

ACH: Talk about Aural Sects... how did you  meet Danny ("Bunny" Kaye-Traynor) and Joe (Royster)?

Dafydd:Well me and Dan and Joe met around the Witchbook days. I have been a part of Aural Sects since it's inception. I have nothing to do with running the label but I'd like to think I am the outsider spirit of the label. They've been on my side for a long time. 

ACH: Influences?
Dafydd: Hip Hop, Dub and minimal electronics. Sheffield-type. Early Human League. Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA, early TG, cold British electronics like “United” by TG. Early Fad Gadget.
ACH: Didn’t they used to call you Netnanny? What’s the story on that?
Dafydd:  Madden said one time that I try to be everyone in the scene s mom...and he had a point. When I'm hating the world and "the scene" and my place in it, I always remember that these kids celebrated my 40th birthday by making a tribute LP to me, and a surprise party. And they pulled it off. No one had ever done anything for me like that…
So I released a bunch of really personal electronic compositions as Netnanny 2.0. For the videos and titles I paid tribute to early hacker culture...which I continued to do until I got bored. So I renamed the project RELEASE EARLY RELEASE OFTEN which is the mantra of Open Source software and sounds like me, too. I like to preserve most of my work in its early stage; flawed and raw. I know many who will spend months perfecting one song. I'd rather make 300 imperfect ones. I love it.
ACH: What was Witchbook ?
Dafydd: Witchbook was just a Facebook group started by this metal troll guy. It was pretty popular at first among the 2nd wave of people getting into witch house, until they realized what a fool this guy was. A bunch of people still enjoyed it as a trolling playground—a sort of Reddit inside Facebook. And that sort of panic, that chaotic style of net-play can lead to some really neat art. A lot of the seapunk and vaporwave was a direct action against witch house, which had turned into the boring neo-goth thing it is now. Just bad dark synth and 808 music. At first it had elements of hip hop, noise, chillwave/indie... drone. Now it's just boring bad goth. No wonder Fred Durst likes it.

ACH: You're a dad, and  you affect a pretty "normal" style. So are you Normcore?

Dafydd: (Laughing)  I wear sneakers and sweatshirts and band t shirts. I wouldn't say 'Normcore'. 

ACH: Thanks for sharing. 

Dafydd: My pleasure. 

The following are recent releases by McKaharay. All have sonic gems scattered throughout, and all are free. You'll find an amazing variety of beats and rhythms. The Nattymari release may be my favorite, but  Thoed Myndez, a collaboration with Party Trash,  is a real killer --instrumental hip-hop or "trap", if you will.  Frank Ducks is a take on vaporwave, and  Ron Hardly is up-front house,  and Curt Crackrach makes use of music library tapes.  Frank Ducks, Thoed Myndez and Ron Hardly are Aural Sects releases. Nattymari album is self-released. Curt Crackrach is a release by Ailianthus Records. McKaharay makes very trippy videos which can be found on his Youtube channel. And check out his Bandcamp and Soundcloud for much much more...

1 comment:

  1. let's just omit everything that really happened and only speak of what feeds the baby, and not all the lies and betrayls that got your goat feet to the top. Too bad no where to go now, eh Daffyd? I'm going to buy all the publishing rights to your music Daffyd once you sign, and then I'm going to lock them in a vault for all eternity until your son joins the military because he ain't got no where else to go because you only ever thought about yourself, stealing track after track glitching it out in some freeware wav editing program rather than investing in a drum machine or a midi controller so you could write your own beats.