Talking to Guillermo Scott Herren (aka Prefuse73) is a lot like listening to his records. He bounces manically from one spot to another, winding words into a not-quite-lucid statement. It’s a wonder he can keep anything straight: Herren is currently involved in three completely different projects. He started folk-influenced band Savath & Savalas in 2000 and recently formed Diamond Watch Wrists with Hella drummer Zach Hill (both acts have records out in May). Over the course of his eight-year career under the Prefuse moniker, he’s been deemed the reigning overlord of glitch-hop, yet his new record, Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian, is a complex odyssey. His choice to record the album analog lends its tracks a tactile quality, revealing more to his aesthetic than choppy vocal samples and erratic beats.
In anticipation of his upcoming appearence at MoMA’s Monday Nights and in celebration of his recent, Flavorpill-exclusive podcast, our sister publication Earplug caught up with Herren to talk pigeonholing, multiple personas, and how to realize your musical deams in trying economic times. Read the full interview after the jump.
Earplug: Congrats on the release of the new album.
Guillermo Scott Herren: I’m surprised at the reviews. I thought it would be more of a project record for me. I thought of it as one long piece, and didn’t think people would take to it very well. I felt like everybody would say it’s a psychedelic Dilla Donuts rip-off. The easy way out would be for people to say, “Damn, it doesn’t bang like all this overproduced stuff right now; it’s all muddy and analog. What is this dude doing?” I had my own vision for where I wanted to go with it, which was not where a lot of people are going right now.
I’m not the king or the godfather of glitch. I didn’t make up any of this shit; it was never my idea. I’m not a genius. I’m not this prolific amazing composer. I’m just a guy with a lot of ideas. They pour out and I take the time to record them.
EP: It’s got to be daunting when people put stuff like that on you.
GSH: Yeah, I used to think I was really good at negotiating and hustling in the sense of working deals out, but now everything is so screwed up. I’m like, “Yo, you wanna put this out and make this easier, so I don’t have to put it out myself? We can work out a deal right now. You give me like five bucks, I’ll give you a high five, and we’ll just be on our way. If anything gets licensed to some shit where we get paid, we’ll just split it 50/50.” Fuck money right now; let’s just do it.
EP: You mentioned that you view the new Prefuse record as a continuous trajectory. Is there one big theme or idea you were trying to get across?
GSH: From the album cover art to the way that it was recorded and treated, I went for a total, over-the-top, cheesy prog sort of theme. When people say, “This is atonal; once something starts, in 30 seconds it ends,” it’s like, the punishment of me giving you a Prefuse four-album set with all these songs on it in their entirety, and not edited and not treated — I would never put anybody through that torture.
EP: How did you decide to record analog?
GSH: There’s an EP coming out showing where I was headed. My boy Roberto Lange, who is also in Savath & Savalas, was just like, “Dude, these tracks are dope, but you’ll be done with these in two years” — because I’m playing everything live, pretty much. It was based on this robot; not a male or female robot. The idea was total throwback, like breakdancing music. The robot has these feelings, but can’t express the love; it begins to, but is breaking down and has to leave Earth. Roberto’s like, “Dude, this shit is sad, man,” and I’m like, “All right, maybe I’m going through a little depression spell right now, and everything I’m making is a little sad sounding.” We were like, “What are the best parts of the pop and prog shit that we like?” Those were the parts that we would sample from, hitting it with all analog and shifting it into a straight piece. The task was thinking that way, and then putting the tapestry of work together.
EP: Do you feel like any one of your projects best represents the “real you”?
GSH: I’m a pretty multifaceted person, based on what I grew up on musically and what I’m comprised of culturally. All those things are different aspects of me. Savath & Savalas is more of a cultural endeavor if you consider the fact that it’s all sung in Castellano and Catalan. Prefuse is me growing up around a lot of hip-hop and that coming first, before any music. Nothing about me or the projects is contrived, based on this notion that I just wanna see what happens if I make a beat, or what happens if I just sing? It’s not like that — it actually took me eight years to put Diamond Watch Wrists out, because I didn’t have the balls the let people hear me sing. And I still don’t. I don’t listen to it and go, “Man, that sounds great.” I’ll listen to it and turn blue with embarrassment, depending on who’s in the room listening.
EP: Since you’ve always got so many projects going on, how do you keep it all straight?
GSH: I can be patient about everything, but I’m just always confused. Everything is confusing. It’s just built up over months of things falling on me, and it’s inevitable that you’ll be the one to blame for whatever goes wrong. It kind of puts you in this place in your head like, “What’s going on? Is this reality?” It’s hard to find a manager who’s down to take me on when I have three bands that are completely active.
EP: In your mind, is everything connected, or is each project sort of in a separate compartment?
GSH: They’re really, really different. If a critic says in a lazily written review, “Oh, I can really hear this project spilling over into this project, Prefuse is turning into Savath & Savalas,” no, it’s not, man. Diamond Watch Wrists couldn’t be any more different than Prefuse.
EP: Do you prefer to work alone or collaborate?
GSH: Everything is so fucked up right now in the industry, and my friends, people who you’d never think, are asking me, “Why can’t I get a deal with this small-ass label? Why can’t I get into the studio for a day?” I’m just like, “Maybe I can just start hitting people up that I think are dope, who I can tell don’t really have the resources. I’ve been on a mission. It’s time to help; this whole shit has got to be community — at least with the people you relate to musically.”
An economic crisis is not gonna make somebody put their paintbrush down. If it’s music and art-based endeavors that you want to do, move the fuck out of your overpriced apartment to something very cheap. You can do it. And if you need to ask somebody, yo, hit me up. Right now, I can be the guy that says “You can do it.” That’s about all I can do if I don’t know you.