Blockhead bumps it up

Local connections summon East Coast underground beat maker to KTAOS


Blockhead isn't only a derogatory term for a moron. The new-fashioned phrase is now the stage name for a prominent underground beat maker.

The fourth installment of "Momentum," a ritual, sub-terrestrial music party at the KTAOS Solar Center (9 State Road 150 north of El Prado), on Saturday (Feb. 24) will feature East Coast cultivated mixer Blockhead as well as Stones and Bones' New York DJs Madaro and Beardo. Music starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

"We decided to set it up for February's monthly installment," Beardo said. "We reached out to one of the best underground producers out there, Blockhead."

Manhattanite Tony Simon, son of Sidney Simon, recognized New York sculptor, began creating beats in 1994. He had no doubts he could create a living as an artist.

"I never questioned if it would work or not because I grew up seeing the life of an artist be successful in my dad," Simon said. "It was a very realistic means of financial stability."

A resident of downtown Greenwich Village, Blockhead witnessed the culture at the birthplace of hip-hop. After beginning as a rapper, he then realized creating sound was his chosen path. He found influences and inspiration from the city, not from artists.

"I don't know if there was any specific artist. It was really more growing up in New York and being immersed in hip-hop culture in the early '90s hip-hop scene," Blockhead said. "In New York, it was very vibrant and creative, and it fostered a certain type of mindset I still have, more the era than a specific person."

Blockhead has seen the technological and cultural evolution of the scene. He's gone from floppy discs to Ableton and midi controllers. He's seen the unwritten rules and codes of the hip-hop he grew up with drop and begin the shift to the focus of style and commercial success.

"The stuff I grew up on, there was like a code that we followed and kind of rules to it, and it seems that has been lifted. It's a free for all," he said, recognizing this has both hurt and pushed the movement.

Later, he met alternative hip-hop poet Aesop Rock, reputable for his conscious lyrics, vivid imagery and experimental sound. Blockhead has since produced several of the groundbreaking, underground artist's songs.

"I met this rapper Aesop Rock, and he and I worked together. Then he got popular and kind of opened the door for me," Blockhead said.

Blockhead has also worked with other hip-hop and indie artists, such as Illogic, Murs and MarQ Spekt. He released his 2014 album, "Bells and Whistles," under the label Ninja Tune. His latest 2017 release, "Funeral Balloons," was discharged by Backwooz Entertainment. A majority of his work is available on vinyl as well.

His style falls somewhere between downtempo, trip-hop and instrumental hip-hop. In creating his mixes, he is heavily reliable on samples. He searches for samples that incorporate elements of traditional hip-hop, but also yield exploratory results. "I look for stuff that hasn't been touched on yet," he said. "I look for instruments that aren't typical."

Blockhead himself is not an instrumentalist, yet still manages to create small pieces of a measure to mix within his music from various instruments.

His music typically begins with a traditional drum and bass beat. Various styles are looped in, such as chiming piano in an Asian style, jazzy trumpet and Spanish-style guitar. Other tracks use melancholy violin, a waltzy keyboard ripple and a single snare beat every quarter measure. Trans-like bass lines and sampled, existential and mysterious scripts in cartoon-like and whispered voices are plugged within.

An element of irony characterizes each song. The latest album "Funeral Balloons" seems to follow various morbid moods with tracks in a sequence titled, "The Chuckles," "Bad Case of the Sundays," "Gobsmacked," "Festival Paramedics," "Escape from New York" and the album-titled-track to leave you feeling incredibly mortal.

Blockhead has achieved an instrumental multiplicity. His songs will reach your psyche and manifest there with clever and mood-altering pieces.

Blockhead has an impressive collection of music spanning more than seven of his own albums and singles as well as various features on collaborative albums. His library of songs exceeds more than 200, and he will be mixing and remixing them at random for Taoseños. He will also be including a visual display by artist Ian Stewart.

DJ Madaro will also contribute his collection of drum and bass, early-dub step and halftime influenced by the European nomadic sound system. Beardo will drop plugs of urban, gritty, underground hip-hop and trip-hop. The two are continuing their mission to bring the community together through prolific music and dance.

"Momentum" will also feature art. Sponsored by Taos Art Supply, artwork will be exhibited, and artists Wonder Harvest, Mandy Moonbird and Anthony Carson will collaborate on a painting live.

Feel the moods through music and art at "Momentum" this Saturday.