a name like the Ancient Astronauts one could easily gather that this
DJ duo has strong interest in the classic genres of the past and an
ever-evolving forward thinking flair for the future sounds of
Hailing from Cologne, Germany, the Astronauts Kabanjak and Dogu
travel the galaxy looking to mash-up genres ranging from hip hop, deep
funk, breaks, and dub reggae. And having only been introduced to
the world just after the turn of the century, the Astronauts have wasted
no time in spreading themselves very thin around the globe. In
under a decade they recorded and remixed for
the likes of Zion I, Lady Bug Mecca, Tippa Irie and the legendary Pharcyde.
Somewhere between all the collaborations and DJ gigs,
they've also manage to run their own indie record label, Switchstance Recordings,
which is currently home to five groups.
many years of steady grinding, inside and outside of the studio, the
duo is looking back on 2009 as their most productive to date. They signed to the Thievery Corporation’s
label ESL and by June had a debut album, We Are to Answer, done
and in stores. Being signed to the U.S. based label, it only seemed appropriate
that ESL would fly them across the pond and line up a couple of opening spots
for Thievery’s current tour. During one of the stops official
afterparties, I managed to catch up with the duo and discuss the tour, the
album, and a little bit about the future of the Astronauts.
How was your latest visit to the States? This wasn't your first time, was it?
Kabanjak: Our last trip to the States was wonderful. We saw a lot of different
cities and places in the States for the very first time. Dogu was in
San Francisco, Miami and Washington DC before to represent our music,
but this was our first real U.S. tour.
How was it sharing the stage with
the likes of Thievery Corporation?
K: It is a big honor for us to be part
of the Thievery family now and to go on tour with the whole live band
was incredible. We were big fans of Thievery already before we even
started our label Switchstance Recordings years ago, so to open up for
them on six shows in Texas, Florida and Georgia was dope. There is such
a big crew of musicians and singers that make up the whole live thing,
it was pure positive energy; everyone welcomed us into the band and
accepted us so easily. Good vibes all around.
For someone who is green to your
music how would you best describe it in words? What are some of your
greatest influences as well?
Dogu: Our music is a sort of organic breaks and beats with strong influences
from 90's Hip Hop, raw funk, psychedelic stuff, reggae and dub; a lot
of live instruments like guitar, bass and keys played by Kabanjak
himself. Our greatest influences come from bands like A Tribe Called
Quest, Clutchy Hopkins, Bonobo, Thievery, Cinematic Orchestra, Tom Waits,
The Meters, Black Uhuru, Pete Rock, Gangstarr, Poets Of Rhythm, Souls
Of Mischief, Curtis Mayfield, Massive Attack, Blockhead and many others.
Getting into a little studio talk now, what is your setup of choice
when it comes to sitting down for an Ancient Astronauts session?
Instruments, software, etc.
D: We use Cubase, Reason, Wavelab and Ableton Live. We really dig the
latest version of Live, because it makes a lot of the production much
easier. When it comes to the beats, the Astronauts use their beloved
MPC; it's a state of the art production tool and it's fun to play
around with. There's also a bunch of live instruments in our music;
we're not really into sample CDs. We also use lots of percussion,
guitars, bass, old school echoes and amplifiers to make our sound unique.
It's always a total space jam.
As well as recording artists, the Astronauts also run their own record
label. Tell me a little bit about the horror and ecstasy of releasing
your own music? Do you recommend it for the faint of heart?
K: To do your own label and release your own music is a hard game nowadays.
On the one side you have all the freedom to put out the music as you
really feel and like it, but on the other side you really have to think
about marketing and promotion and giving your label and name a certain
profile that makes it easier for people to recognize it as something
special. To make a living out of music is very hard so you have to find
a smart way to sell your music.
We were always involved in the publishing
of our music, which is a very important part of making money these days.
Licenses for films, games and television have become more and more
important because to rely on sales alone is nearly impossible these
days. If you stay true to your music and cultural background, you will find your way to survive and grow.
What is next for the Astronauts?
K: Our next trip to the States will be for Art Basel in Miami Beach and then we head over to Washington D.C.
again for one show and some days off hanging out in the studio and doing
some recording for our next album. Our next U.S. tour is planned for March
What is the outlook like for your next AA release?
D: We are already working on our second album for ESL Music as the
follow up to We Are To Answer and Kabanjak is also about to finish
his solo album within the next months. There will also be an Ancient
Astronauts remix EP out on ESL Music in early 2010 with remixes by TM
Juke, Protassov, Pathaan and much more.
Alongside all this we are always
doing remixes for interesting artists and labels. We just finished a
remix for our friend DJ Brace from Canada that features the Brown Bag
Allstars on vocals. Six Degrees Records from San Francisco just released
a remix album for Vieux Farka Toure that features a remix by us and
we will soon start on remixes for legendary reggae singer Junior Reid
from Black Uhuru.