Orange 9mm Biography
Bending the house of rock to a place where it kisses the remnants of pop and hip hop's bountiful communion: that's what is heard and seen when up-front vocalist Chaka Malik, guitarist Taylor McLam and drummer Matthew Cross - professionally known as Orange 9mm - use their signature styles to create a multi-genre injected sound that is uniform, yet unpredictable. The end result is Pretend I'm Human (Ng Records) - 10 songs destined to live long and prosper in your CD player.
Pretend I'm Human - written by the New York-based band in its entirety during an eight week holdout in an intimate LA studio, was co-crafted with the blessings and endless talents of producer/mixer Neil Perry (Smashing Pumpkins, Everclear). "I haven't heard anything like this before in my life," says Perry of the LP. "The tunes are part fuck-raw, backed with this live-in-the-moment intensity."
"Spontaneity was the key to this album," confesses an amped up Malik. He and his crew love their native turf, but acknowledge that their artistic trek beyond the Big Apple had its advantages. "Being away from home and creating totally flips your perception," he says. "Everything old has new meaning, new reference, and that's sick." "Sick" doesn't even begin to describe the fire-water that is Pretend I'm Human. McLam's guitar swirl and chugging bass crunch-the core of "Lifeless"-proves that Orange 9MM certainly ain't dead; the organized stream of lyrical confusion that is the voice of "Facelift" demonstrates Malik's versatility-his flow can roll with rock or terrorize with hip hop-while Cross' drumming on the track has the precision of electronics and the soul of a witch doctor.
"Innocence" is Malik's open letter to himself and anyone willing to learn about the spirit world of the subconscious ("dust off my crazy/I attack like a break beat" he screams); said tune illustrates the therapeutic divinity that is good music. Forget about your shrink; cut Orange 9 a check. "Aliens" is signature Orange rhythm and mood fare; the sound that those in the know, those who are fans, will recognize as the body and blood of the band. And the futuristic acoustic bliss of "Touching Skies" adds some next level Crosby Stills and Nash-isms to the devastating, trail-blazing mix.
Orange 9 are coming off a not totally sleep-filled hiatus in which 1998's Ultraman vs. Godzilla EP (Ng Records) was added to the band's list of fresh spinners - 1995's Driver Not Included (East/west) and 1997's Tragic (Atlantic). But time is the greatest of assets: 18 months past finds a bright future for 09mm; their heads are clear and on straight. And they're excited by the limitless possibilities that come with sparked creativity, and stronger inter-band communication.
"After (bassist) Chris Vitale split, we decided to completely change our approach to songwriting," says Cross. "Chaka started playing bass. As his skills developed, we found ourselves exploring the basics and subtleties of rhythm, delving deeper than we ever had. Meanwhile, Taylor was developing sounds on the guitar as well as the bass that were both expressive and explosive. Shit just clicked." Click: Bang.
"We hadn't played live in a long time, and the band fell into a plan of action just after we had thrown all our old maps away," adds Taylor, who is also an accomplished snowboarder/skateboarder. "Finishing this record was like coming out on the other side of one of the most important experiences of our lives."
Along with Pretend I'm Human's spontaneity and the almost inhuman drive and determination that fuels its core, lies the band's sonic influences.
Malik cites an important long player that has re-emerged from his dad's collection. "We all started listening to Miles Davis circa Bitches Brew," he says. "Rediscovering that record totally changed my life, and reminded me of music as wild as punk, as bananas as hardcore hip hop, yet so beautiful it could whisper you to sleep." Pretend I'm Human is all of these things.
"There's an unsettling vibe of apathy in this country right now," says band politician Matthew Cross. "And I think that the art of rock & roll has become stagnant because of this fact. Artists need to look outside of their genres in order to flip the script; to hear and learn things that they would otherwise miss. I've been listening to the new Jay-Z record. I think his music is as vital and as poetic as Shakespeare."
And that's exactly what the best of today's rock & roll music is: a well rooted, well-read sound that is sprinkled with a far-reaching multitude of sonic boom. A sound that is part futuristic spontaneous combustion and a continuum of indigenous traditions. Cross-pollination is nothing new to Malik: as a teen growing up in Queens during the middle 1980's, he was exposed to everything, culture-wise, that is relevant and important to now-time pop culture. From speaking his mind as one of the thousands of kids who sprayed and marked the city's subway system with stylized masterworks, to busting out freestyle moves on his black Hutch trickstar bike, to cutting and scratching rap records on worn turntables, to becoming a familiar face turned figurehead within the city's hardcore punk scene, his eyes have seen the glory.
Those glory days are here again. "Pretend I'm Human is an adrenaline pill that encapsulates a lifetime of being young, gifted and gone," says Malik. "Music should always make you feel like you've got your head in the speaker. With this record, people will go from bobbing their skulls, to stage diving onto their beds, with a couple of melodic tranquilizers infused to save us from catching a stroke of cardiac arrest."
Pretend I'm Human - space riffs, meets hip hop, meets some shit you've never heard before. Top that.
--bio courtesy Ng Records
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