WAXED OUT: Interviewing Futro’s Neill Von Tally
WAXED OUT delivers new music to keep your record collection fresh & stacked to the ceiling. Words and photos by @Evan_Gabriel
At an dramatic rate, music is becoming tailored toward the internet. Strong SEO and easy to remember URLs are being trusted over backpack demos. So where’s the tangibility?
From Been Trill’s deep web focus to Flosstradamus’ new vaporizer/USB mixtape , or even Childish Gambino’s 75-page screenplay promoting 2013’s “Because the Internet,” music releases are involving more mediums.
Meet Portland Oregon’s Futro Records, an independent label whose biggest idiosyncrasy is perhaps their style of releasing music on USB drives, dubbed in-house as ‘KITs.’ Think of the new-wave 8-track, except fans not only get the MP3s, but also the Futro Zine, exclusive software, music videos and more.
I met with artist Neill Von Tally, whose real name is Anthony Villella, at a Futro studio session.
When did you begin seeing music as a serious creative pursuit? “When I was 19 and working in an ER in Ghana’s Volta region and I met this dude who rapped. We started freestyling in Ewe, the local dialect, and we ended up recording a track that made it on the radio. And I was like, holy shit, this is alright. He just handed the guys at the radio a CD and they were like, ‘Oh, we like this. We’ll play it.’ It doesn’t just happen like that in the States, you know?”
Following his job in Ghana,Von Tally moved back to the U.S. and enrolled in a Boston nursing school. Yet after breaking his hand his ability at school became limited.
What happened with school? “It just kind of clicked at one point that music was what I wanted to do, and I left. A bunch of opportunities were presented to me when I moved back to Portland,” Von Tally said.
Futro, a portmanteau of future and retro, originated as a radio show called the Kick-it Club with the help of local rapper, Neo G Yo–better known in the Futro camp as ‘The Godfather.’ After five years streaming on PRA radio, Geo was ready to materialize the growing network of talent that had formed around the show.
“That was right when I moved back to Portland and started doing beats again,” Von Tally remembered. “So it was Neo, his brother Chris, myself and Har-1. Neo G Yo and whoever is most involved at the time do the main decision making.”
The Futro label officially launched in 2011. With 18 artists currently signed, this self-deemed “multimedia integrative collective” continues to evolve, with unique acts like Dual Mode, made up of two MCs (Neo G Yo and Ripley Snell), DJ/producer Har-1, and Keyon, a nationally acclaimed dancer.Last June, Futro released 100 of their Futro KIT 2.0s, their second 2-GB USB drive with a custom designed insert, two MAC editing programs developed by Alex Boyce–Videothing and Audiothing–as well as music videos by Yum Yum and Serious Business, plus the immediate download of the 20-track compilation album and unlimited access with the Bandcamp listening app for $30.
Harking back to the philosophy of crate diggers Peanut Butter Wolf and Madlib, Von Tally keeps his Vinyl searches in the 50-cent bins, a method that has worked in his favor. His track “Da ba da,” which samples one such LP, was selected for one of Yak Film’s Eurobattle 2013 breakdancing videos, which features b-boy Bruce Almighty breaking in Italy.
“Today, people just rip shit off Youtube. But the 50-cent bins push you to discover new material,” Von Tally noted.
What’s your favorite genre to sample? “I really like cinematic records. Cinematic music is already so full. Henry Mancini is a great composer, anytime I see a record is his I’ll go for it. It’s harder and harder to get away with sampling these days, so that’s why I’m releasing everything for free.”
Can you tell me about your most recent solo EP, “Themes from Recurring Dreams of Floating in Outer Space?”
“I have these recurring dreams where I’m floating through space. All the songs on that EP are inspired by those dreams. I always had music in my dreams and didn’t know where it was coming from but when I started making music I could access it a little bit more.”
How did your project with Ripley Snell, “Fall Denim,” come about?
“He [Snell] is one of the first people who got me into rapping. We were hanging out last winter and were starting to form songs before we said ‘fuck it, let’s do twenty tracks.’ Now we have an 11-track album,” Von Tally said.
Neo G Yo, who started in the group Serious Business, keeps his hands in most of the projects, with two features on Futro-friend Grape God’s “444” album and one 1 on the “Fall Denim” album.
What’s coming up for Futro?
“We do FAWM–February album writing month. It’s this big national event where every week online you can submit a song to people who are also writing an album, so you write a 14-track album in the month of February. I did a beat tape last February. It really ramps shit up.”
Futro’s multimedia KIT releases are representative of a larger, unique trend for artist collectives on the national scene. Such a direction raises the bar for rappers and producers releasing music on sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp. Where’s the tangibility in online music aquitision? Perhaps it’s the KITs.