Prefuse 73 - Biography
Guillermo Scott Herren is the sort of musician that revels in cultivating a fractured, restless artistic identity. Always juggling several projects at any given time, Herren has made a career out of synthesizing a broad array of influences into several distinct and unique styles. He also has a keen understanding of focusing those styles sharply, distilling each project into its perfectly idealized version. Best known for creating complex beats and warm, organic melodies as Prefuse 73, Herren has also explored Spanish folk music and jazz-influenced post-rock as Savath y Savalas, abstract electronica as Ahmad Szabo, and crisp IDM as Delarosa & Asora, as well as pursuing countless collaborative projects. A man of many creative identities, Herren’s sincere approach and high quality control unite his numerous projects.
Herren was born in Miami, Florida in 1976 but soon moved to Atlanta, Georgia. He started out DJing at MJQ — an underground nightclub in midtown Atlanta — and began producing music under the name Delarosa. An early Delarosa track appeared on a local Clockwise Records compilation, which led to the release of 1997’s Sleep Method Suite (1997 Clockwise Records) on the same label. Featuring dubwise downtempo grooves, ambient electronica, and abstract beats, Sleep Method Suite signaled the beginning of Herren’s IDM-inflected work as Delarosa & Asora. Over the next several years, the producer would release two EPs and 2001’s rhythmically complex full-length album Agony Part 1 (2001 Schematic) for the Miami-based Schematic label. The tracks on Agony Part 1 fold together Herren’s ambient and hip-hop influences with post-techno beats and Boards of Canada-inspired melodies for a truly hypnotic electronic sound.
It was Herren’s next project that would gain him global acclaim and crossover record sales. After a debut EP, the first Prefuse 73 full-length came out in 2001 to enthusiastic critical praise. Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives (2001 Warp) is a vibrant set of tracks both warmly soulful and slickly produced. It’s arguably the first album that synthesizes Herren’s most prominent influences: the melodic depth and polyrhythmic complexity of avant-jazz and Miles Davis-era fusion funk, the textures of ambient music, and the production techniques and booming beats of electro, hip-hop, and techno. All sounds are intertwined to create a swirling, complexly layered sound that defines Herren’s output. Prefuse 73 quickly became the producer’s highest priority project with the backing of Warp Records. The Delarosa & Asora albums had gained him the attention of various Chicago post-rock and electronica outlets such as Hefty and Thrill Jockey, but it’s Warp and Prefuse 73 that gave Herren the indie crossover success that he still enjoys today.
The shifting, layered beats and choppy, clipped editing techniques used on Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives instantly became the signature Prefuse 73 sound. Guest rappers and singers like Aesop Rock, MF Doom, and Sam Prekop are treated like textural elements on the album. The voices merge with the beats to create a truly strange and oddly compelling take on traditional hip-hop. This trademarked sound was fully realized on 2003’s One Word Extinguisher (2003 Warp). Arguably the finest moment for the Prefuse 73 project, this album endures as a beacon of experimental beats and sample-based abstract hip-hop. It’s a true standard-bearer with tracks like “Detchibe,” “One Word Extinguisher,” and “Choking You” merging post-Dilla off-kilter bump with glitchy IDM techno melodies and warm, classic hip-hop grooves. The album is totally absorbing from start to end, a definite peerless masterpiece in the world of beat-centric electronic music. Astonishingly, Herren released a companion album called Extinguished: Outtakes (2003 Warp) that same year. Supposedly bonus beats and demo sketches for the proper record, this release stands on its own as another crucial Prefuse 73 document and shows the extensive stretch of Herren’s creativity.
Concurrent to these albums, Herren was crafting slow motion ambient jazz and post-rock for the Hefty label as Savath y Savalas. 2000’s Folk Songs For Trains, Trees And Honey (2003 Hefty) draws inspiration from ECM-style jazz and Brian Eno’s Ambient series. The songs also feature the lilting post-rockisms of Chicago’s Tortoise. It’s a more overtly organic sound than the Prefuse 73 output and many tracks feature guitar. Herren would change the direction of this project to incorporate elements of Spanish folk music, but this debut remains a solid album of ambient post-rock.
After a few more EPs with Hefty, Warp picked up the following Savath y Savalas album, 2004’s Apropa’t (2004 Warp). Herren relocated to Barcelona where he and singer Eva Puyuelo Muns began collaborating on songs. The music was heavily influenced by Catalan folk music (Herren’s father was Catalan) as well as bossa and samba. Apropa’t melds the electronic ambience of the debut Savath album with these new Spanish and Latin influences to create unique songs. Muns’ voice is a sugary, lilting joy and Herren keeps the structures interesting by adding electronic textures and edits. Herren continued his exploration into Latin heritage on 2007’s Golden Pollen (2007 Anti-) and 2009’s La Llama (2009 Stones Throw).
With the success of the first two Prefuse 73 records, Herren pushed hard to be seen as a viable hip-hop producer on 2005’s sprawling Surrounded By Silence (2005 Warp). The results are mixed as he tries to weld all of his influences together, sometimes creating a fractured, overly ambitious mess. With guests as diverse as Ghostface Killah and GZA from the Wu-Tang, Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino, and Beans and Broadcast’s Trish Keenan, it’s easy to see how the album might lose its focus. When things gel, like on “Pastel Assassins” and “Sabbatical With Options,” it’s prime Prefuse 73.
After another record of bonus beats and a few EPs, 2007’s Preparations and Interregnums (2007 Warp) — two albums packaged together with the second disc containing a set of ambient versions of the first — set the Prefuse 73 project back on track. It wasn’t until 2009 that Herren really got the focus right again. The stunning Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian (2009 Warp) brings the Prefuse 73 sound to new heights. Herren sharpens the heavily edited and layered beats into short, funky grooves and grafts on some of the deepest psychedelic atmosphere he’s ever created, making this album one of Herren’s best efforts since One Word Extinguisher.
Aside from his main projects, Herren continues to be a tireless collaborator. Lately, his two main outlets are Diamond Watch Wrists — a project with Hella’s drummer Zack Hill — and Risil, a rotating group of musicians who create music for Herren to sculpt into abstract psychedelic collages. Both groups illuminate Herren’s vast interests outside the realm of beat music. Additionally, he runs the small label Eastern Developments. The label releases music of all kinds and features several of Herren’s smaller endeavors, including the Ahamd Szabo project.
A producer of immense talent and visionary scope, Guillermo Scott Herren maintains the kind of schizophrenic identity crisis that would send other artists into unfocused oblivion. The fact that each of his many projects is the perfect realization of what it set out to do is commendable enough. Add to this the fact that Prefuse 73 has reinvented its genre, and you’ve got a serious career of achievement for one man.