F2007 saw the release of their sophomore effort Gran'Dads Nerve Tonic on Definitive Jux Records, which they aligned with a promotional limited edition beer created by Brooklyn brewery Six Points Craft Ales. Their third album, A Miraculous Kind of Machine, is due out later this year. Read on to find out more when they spoke to Alex Humphrey.
First things first how did you guys meet and what is the story behind the formation of Junk Science?
Baje: The first memory I have of meeting Snafu was on a basketball court at our high school. He was on the sidelines and he had a walkman and he played me a tape of beats that he made and he was scratching over the beats, scratching sound effects from Street Fighter 2, you know... like ‘round one...fight!’ We still play that game together, it’s really a classic. Before we got the name Junk Science we had a whole host of other potential names that were pretty wack, like The New Mutants, and Team Brokemic.
Snafu: I liked Infinity Gauntlet or Immortals Of Change as wack rap names. Immortals Of Change was a weird board game I had. Was that how we met? I thought we met at a Cosplay convention in New Mexico. I showed up dressed as the blue guy from Contra and Baje showed up dressed as the red guy. We’ve been friends ever since.
Baje: People might have to look up the word Cosplay to understand how we really met.
Growing up how did both of you get into hip-hop?
Baje: I was always around hip hop. My older brother Andrew used to DJ parties back in the 80s, and when he moved out I inherited his records. Rappers Delight, The Fat Boys, that kind of stuff. I mean, I was a kid in Brooklyn in the 80s and 90s so hip hop was just what we listened to. My brother Vito used to buy tapes, he used to hustle me I guess... We would split the cost of the tape and then he would make me a copy of it. We had some great tapes though. 3 Feet High and Rising, License To Ill, Paid In Full. When it came to music, all I really knew was hip hop, and some heavy metal I guess. To this day I feel like a weirdo white guy for not knowing much about rock music.
Snafu: Exactly. Growing up in NYC in the times we did, it was just what you were saturated with. It wasn’t so much that I was just listening to what everyone listened to, just to do it, in fact the opposite was true. I was weird with music as a kid. I didn’t want to listen to anything that anyone was listening to strictly on the basis that other people were listening to it. I wanted it to be mine. So I grew up listening to a lot of left-field rap like the Goats or Madkap or Y’all So Stupid. Stuff like that. I mean I grew up on Native Tongues and Juice Crew too, but I definitely veered off to the left a lot. And since hip-hop was all I knew I listened to weird rap a lot. It was as if it was the only genre out there back then.
Who are your musical heroes and why?
Baje: Outkast has never made anything but great records. And each record pushes the boundaries of the genre. And they did it together, as a group. Rap groups seem to be a thing of the past, everyone’s a solo emcee these days. The truth is, a lot of people NEED to have their creative impulses checked by another person, to keep them away from the weaker parts of their artistic personalities.
Snafu: Biz Markie was a big hero of mine. He embodies a lot of what hip-hop is and should be about. He was fun, entertaining, a bit of an outcast, semi-retarded; a complete weirdo. De La Soul are also big heroes of mine. They, like Outkast (and even Biz Markie) have never been afraid to speak their mind and make exactly the music they want to make. De La is basically the only group from the era I grew up listening to that is still making anything relevant.
How would you describe your sound and what sets you apart from everyone else out there?
Baje: We spent a lot of time figuring out what Junk Science music can / should sound like. I don’t know how to describe it, or what sets us apart from anyone else, except to say that when we’re making songs together, we know what we want.
Snafu: I would describe it as sex music for retarded, gigantic ninjas.
Baje: Yeah. One day I was reading some nice messages from kids on myspace and I said to my girl, “Look at what these weirdos are writing to us...” and she was like, “Baby, those weirdos are your fans.” Which I thought was funny.
Your 2003 debut album Feeding Einstein was made while you where living together. Did that make the creative process easier or harder?
Baje: We actually made Gran’Dad’s Nerve Tonic and A Miraculous Kind Of Machine while living together as well. As far as easy / hard, it’s a little bit of both. It’s easy in the sense that Snafu would be like, “come upstairs and check out this beat I’m working on. Tell me if the high hats are too loud” or whatever. Hard in the sense that living with anybody is hard. Having a partner in music is like being in a committed relationship. You have to be careful to never take the other person for granted. That can be hard at times when you spend so much time around one another.
Snafu: Same story, ‘cept I was upstairs, and he was downstairs.
You won a fully funded video for Roads through Scion’s NextUp Song Contest. How important are music videos in the rap game do you think?
Baje: Making videos gives us a chance to work in a totally different medium, which is great. It’s an interesting time now... people are spending less than ever on their videos, especially with the whole music industry in this perpetual state of collapse. But at the same time, it’s kind of bringing things back to basics, back to ideas. A good idea in the right hands can get you a great video, even with a small budget. We just did a video for Fire Drill with our old friend Andrew Gura and it came out fresh for no money at all. Hell, we didn’t even have an idea... Our boy Tone Tank just made a video for his song The King Of Surf Guitar Rap and he shot the whole thing in his basement with props that he made out of papier-mâché. And that shit is crazy!
Snafu: I hope we as rap humans can make interesting rap videos again. Lets do it!
What is your favourite video, besides your own of course?
Baje: Some of my favorite videos are: What’s Up Fatlip by Fatlip, Wanderlust by Bjork, and Deep Space 9mm by El-P. Our boy Paul who directed the surf guitar rap video just did a whole bunch of art for the awesome / really fucked up Kids video by MGMT. That one is definitely worth checking out, plus Joanna Newsom is really hot in that video.
Snafu: I kinda always loved the Foo Fighters’ video for Everlong. Brilliant. There was a dope Tool video back in the day involving stop motion meat flowing through tubes. I think it was called Sober. Freaky stuff. I also always loved the video for Biz Markie’s The Vapors - it was just so down home simple and personal. Like, this is the crew. This is the fam. Here’s a funny little story with my friends playing the parts.
I was impressed to discover you released a limited edition beer in conjunction with your second album Gran’Dad’s Nerve Tonic. How did that happen and do you have any plans to move into the brewery business?
Snafu: Shout out to Brooklyn’s finest beer makers SIXPOINT CRAFT ALES!
Baje: We had the record done, with the title and everything and we stepped to them with the idea. They were into it and we just made it happen. The brewmaster there, Shane Welch, is a certified artistic genius, to be able to make a recipe that tasted the way the album sounded. And yes, we do indeed have plans to release more music-related beers in the future.
A Miraculous Kind of Machine your latest album is all about your love / hate relationship with the radio, can you explain that further?
Baje: The album will be out soon! Maybe not that soon, but soon! It’s not exactly about the radio... it’s more about communication in general, and our love / hate relationship with it. All music, but especially rap music, being the wordiest of all music, is about communication. The album is in part about experimenting with different types. From my side of things, lyrically some songs are very straightforward. Some are more abstract. I’m interested in seeing how people react to them. Sometimes you can get on the mic and say a million words and people just stare at you like you’re speaking Chinese. Then sometimes you just sing la la la, la la la la, and the way you do it, the tone of it, can be so moving. It’s all part of one big experiment.
Snafu: The radio is a brilliant invention. The first great tool for communication. Terribly misued.
Baje One you where quoted as saying, “The radio is a big lie as far as expressing what’s actually happening in music”. If the radio isn’t representing music then what do you think is?
Baje: The only thing that’s as kaleidoscopic as what’s happening in music is the internet, which is of course why everyone goes online to get music. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the radio, I listen to the radio every day. To me, and to Snafu, we see the radio as one of humankind’s greatest achievements. But like every other industry, it’s controlled by greedy bastards who don’t even see the true potential of the thing they control.
Snafu: Supposedly the Japanese are working on an alternative to the Internet. I have no clue what that means, but I hope it involves some type of biotechnology.
Baje: Probe says he only surfs the intranet.
And finally you guys share the same birthday, what presents did you get each other last time you celebrated?
Baje: Snafu happens to be really good at giving presents... one of my favourites is a flask that’s shaped like a cell phone. It even has its own little leather case that straps to your belt. He got it engraved for me, but the guy fucked up my name. It says “Baja One. Rap Time!!!” It comes in handy on tour.
Snafu: Baje never wants to go to Medieval Times for our birthday.
Thank you for your time.