The It List 1997: Music |


The It List 1997: Music

The Dust Brothers, Beck, and The Chemical Brothers are some of the artists we're digging

Mix Masters
The Dust Brothers

Ages: Both 32 Why them?: There’s gold dust in them thar hills — the suburban Silverlake, Calif., hills, that is, where the Dust Brothers, Mike Simpson (right) and John King, maintain their modest home studio. But these DJs-turned-producers were the record makers du jour even before they had their first No. 1 single with Hanson’s irresistible ”MMMBop.” (They’d come close with Tone Loc’s ”Wild Thing,” a No. 2 hit in 1989.) Ask any kid with a Mac and a beat box: Their productions of the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique and Beck’s Odelay are the seminal achievements in deconstructivist white hip-hop. ”All the records we do have great backbeats and are fairly bass-heavy,” says Simpson. ”That’s what rap music’s all about, the beat and the low end, and we just stuck that onto rock music…and it seemed to work.” Which is not to forget the crazy-quilt stuff they typically throw onto the high end via computer samples and tape loops. Says King: ”In the Tone Loc era, we looked for superfunky ’70s grooves. With the Beastie Boys, we combined that with weirdstuff like David Bromberg, Alice Cooper, and jazz. Now, with Beck, we started looking for the silliest, most seemingly worthless records we could find and culling from those.” Their secret: leaving room for real performances amid the post-kitsch cut-and-paste. What inspires them: They don’t call their indie label Nickel Bag for nothing. But their main muse is their thousands-strong LP collection — not so much a source of samples anymore (since that’s gotten expensive and complicated) as inspiration. Oh, and deadlines have become very motivational. ”We’re a little overbooked right now,” says King (see below). What’s next: Despite Simpson’s DreamWorks A&R day job, the duo just finished three hotly anticipated tracks for the new Rolling Stones album (due in September), to be followed by soundtrack tunes with Korn and Beck, a Jamiroquai remix, commercials, a soundtrack for the quirky comedy Orgazmo, a score for MTV Films’ Dead Man on Campus, a disc for Nickel Bag act 10 [cents], and not least — but probably last — that Dust Brothers album they keep putting off.

Techno Punk
Alec Empire

Age: 25 Why him?: Stitching together old punk, rap, and soul, the German musician-producer leads the truly alternative-music scene known as digital hardcore. What inspires him: ”Most music now is background music — it makes you feel so aggressive.” Creative crutches: ”Darkness and a lot of women around.” What’s next: A solo album plus a tour teaming his band, Atari Teenage Riot, with Wu-Tang Clan and Rage Against the Machine.

Pop Artist
Mike Mills

Age: 31 Why him?: Mills (pictured here in his doggie costume) turned a passion for skateboard graphics into a CD booklet, poster, and T-shirt-design biz, while directing Jon Spencer videos. What inspires him: ”Eurotrash sports company logos and ‘Dog Fancy’ magazine.” Creative crutches: ”Coffee, pee breaks, Post-its.” What’s next: Videos for his production company, the Directors Bureau.


Age: 26 Why him?: Who woulda thunk that Beck (ne Beck Hansen) could go so quickly from Most Likely to Be on a ’90s One-Hit-Wonder Compilation (see ”Loser”) to, now, Most Likely to Be Remembered as the Nirvana of the Late ’90s (thanks to 1996’s brilliant Odelay)? It wasn’t just that the pied piper of L.A.’s trendy Silverlake brought sampling to the fore in ironic alt-rock circles; other smarty-pants preceded him there. It was that he did it with such an ingenuous sense of wonder, embracing Leadbelly’s blues and Sasson jeans jingles with equal fervor — precisely the kind of delightfully egalitarian mess we might expect out of the 21st century. What inspires him: Seemingly anything, from dusty folk records to hokey TV themes. Dust Brother Mike Simpson, one of his coproducers, easily fingers Beck as the most creative artist he’s ever worked with (yes, that means even more than Mick Jagger and Hanson). But ”while all this stuff just seems to flow out of him so effortlessly and seemingly at random, he does have a very strong vision, so it’s an odd balance of focus and completely unbridled enthusiasm.” What’s next: Working with the Dust Brothers again on a song for the upcoming film A Life Less Ordinary, from Trainspotting director Danny Boyle.