San Francisco avant garde guitarist The Genie, who plays tonight at 111 Minna as part of a must-see, multi-artist show featuring the Lions of Kush from St. Croix, has long been connected to Amoeba Music in some form or fashion. Like many local independent artists, he has had all of his independent releases for sale at Amoeba Music. Beyond that, The Genie, who pioneered the 'scratch guitar" and who over the years has collaborated with numerous artists including Talvin Singh, who invited him to Europe earlier this year to perform, has also performed onstage at the San Francisco Amoeba Music. That was on July 16, 2004, for an instore performance to promote the release of The Genie's debut CD Rebel Music. Also that same year the artist appeared on the Amoeba Music Compilation Vol. V with the track "Before The World Goes." In the time since then, The Genie has never strayed too far from Amoeba, it seems. Two years ago he was featured here on the Amoeblog and he is frequently spotted both inside Amoeba SF (usually digging for hard to find music) as well as right outside the Haight Street store, where he is known to have inspired impromptu performances. Check out the videos above and below, filmed recently outside the SF Amoeba when the artist pulled up in his ride right outside the store, popped some quarters in the parking meter, and proceeded to have an engaging sidewalk show ("Amoeba out-store," I guess you could call it, as opposed to an "in-store"), much to the delight of the small crowd that stopped, gathered and applauded loudly. I hadn't seen or talked with The Genie in a couple of years, so I was anxious to catch up with the always innovative artist to ask him about his music and also about tonight's show at 111 Minna.
Amoeblog: What has been going on with you since you appeared on that Amoeba compilation and did that in-store at Amoeba SF five years ago?
The Genie: In the past five years since I was on the Amoeba compilation I've been working non-stop on honing my scratch 'guitar showcase', developing new concepts and evolving old ones. I'm a full-time performer, which means that I'm constantly playing and practicing for a variety of audiences. About a year ago I was contacted for sponsorship by Line6, the manufacturing company that makes the loop pedal I use. That's been a huge personal milestone, to have the actual manufacturers recognize me as a unique contributor to the world of live performance innovation. I put out a couple small releases in
2006, a live in Hawaii CD and a collaborative project called Aquadry. Otherwise, I've been polishing my style and meditating on new musical ideas as they come. I consistently meet artists, producers, and performers who I collaborate and often record with. I've worked on countless projects and experiments with tons of artists throughout the underground landscape.
Amoeblog: How, in your opinion, has the SF music scene changed over this decade?
The Genie: In this decade the SF music scene has really crescendoed and peaked, especially in electronic music, particularly dubstep. It's encouraging that local dubstep groups like Babylon System are touring the U.K. and getting tons of love out there from the hardcore dubstep community and local dubstep labels are making a lot of noise with their releases. Just the fact that artists such as Amon Tobin are moving here shows you what kind of impact this small city is having on music in the rest of the world. The scene here is so enormous, which is good in that it creates a hyperactive underworld of creative energy; it can be bad too if it gets so huge that it plays itself out. But overall, San Francisco is really killing it right now and I'm happy to be a native of this city and [that I] get to really represent as far as stretching the
parameters of performance and art.
Amoeblog: I know you are constantly working on your craft and creating new styles. So what is your latest artistic development?
The Genie: One of the most intriguing evolutions of scratch guitar, which I began working on about a year and half ago, has been a style I call 'gemixing,' which is my take on remixing, in which, rather than just sampling myself beat-boxing for the loop percussion, I sample my initial drum layer off of an Ipod which I velcro to my guitar. This gives me a big sonic advantage which allows me to create very interesting hybrids that I can manipulate in a tactile and percussive manner. I'm also able to drop lyrics on top of these electronic pastiches by bringing in the loops over them in a dj-esque fashion. I'm essentially doing something similar to what people do with Ableton Live, minus the laptop. The fact that my set up is
essentially all hardware sets me apart from the vast majority of electronic music artists that I tend to see interfacing through a lap-top for their shows. Basically in the past five years I've been a bit of a mad-scientist, obsessing over conceptual details that encompass the various individual components of my shows. After years of full-time performing and working on my set-up, it really shows in people's reactions
to seeing how it all comes together organically and spontaneously.
Amoeblog: Of all the artists you have collaborated with, who are some of your favorites and why?
The Genie: The most memorable recent live collaboration was earlier this year when I performed with Talvin Singh in Madrid. That was quite an experience, being able to do a live improvised jam at a big show with a legend and creative genius like him. He saw a video of me doing an old performance online and hit me up to see if I wanted to play with him in Spain, which completely caught me by surprise and was quite encouraging. Right now I'm really digging these Oakland-based producers called Bossasaurus. Their style is kind of reminiscent of early DJ Shadow but even more acutely woven. Their artistic ability and musical taste is amazing and I have no doubt they're going to blow up. We recently linked up and are getting ready to work on something we can release. I'm also really linked up with the local turntablist
community headed by local scratch icons such as Qbert, Teeko and Quest, and am working with underground turntable wizard DJ H.O.P., who is a scratch innovator that has been quite slept on. I've also been collaborating with a variety of DJ/producers in the local underground dubstep community such as Skulltrane, Taso, El Diablo, and Eyevan. As far as underground hip hop, I've been collaborating with P.E.A.C.E. from Freestyle Fellowship and local hip hop producers such as my friends Unity and Kool
Amoeblog: Can you talk a bit about the St.Croix I-Grade artists Lions of Kush and what people can expect from them and the other performers at tonight's show at 111 Minna?
The Genie: Some of the best reggae coming out today is out of St. Croix, which a lot of people are hearing about now because of how enormous Midnite has become in recent years. Lions of Kush include Abja, Volcano, and Ras Attitude and [they] are extremely respected vocalists in the roots and culture community. I first heard of Ras Attitude a couple years ago from the really dope collaborations he did with Audio Pharmacy and I've been impressed ever since with all of these vocalists' work. This is going to be their first show of their northern Cali tour and they'll be performing with the Red-Eye Band. There will also be local roots/hip hop emcees doing their thing, such as Soul Rebel and F.M.2.0. It's definitely going to be fierce.
Tonight's artist-heavy show includes St.Croix I-Grade artists Lions of Kush featuring: Abja, Volcano, and Ras Attitude w/ the Red-I Band, Retrograde Revolution (reggae, soul, progressive), DJ Relic (Secure Dem Sound), The Genie (scratch guitar, gemixes), Soul Rebel (reggae, soul, jazz), F.M.2.0 (underground hip hop), DJ Spliff Skankin (Massive Sound International), DJ Haiku (dubstep, roots, dancehall reggae), Live-painting by Chris Kelly (Phylum), Jaivi (Phylum), and Kerm (NSubordinate). 111 Minna (2nd @ Mission). 21+, 9pm-2am, $15/$12 before 10pm. More info here.