Circuit Sweet Interview, Circuit Sweet Introducing, Feature, Reviews

We Believe in Little L Records- High Elders Album Release/Interview Special

December 15, 2014


When a new duo previews their material and has strong resemblance to that of Aesop Rock and Flying Lotus, you’ve discovered an act that deserves your attention. Let us introduce you to the talented High Elders, an international duo comprising of renowned Gentle Jones known for his hip-hop attributes, from Delaware, USA and Auxiliary Phoenix, a young experimental hip-hop produce from Carlow, Ireland. This debut album “Forest Of Pencils” is an astonishing release, a real promising effort showcasing the best of the pair’s capabilites. With everything from speaker shaking hip-hop to rapping over progressive rock beats. ‘Forest Of Pencils’ releaed just a few days ago and so late in the year, the album is already a strong contender for release of the year. The cover art comes from Lou Beach; who has also created album artwork for Blink 182 and Weather Report.

The album is streaming in full below and out now on the fantastic label Little L Records– a name we regularly boast about.

We have been extremely lucky to sit down with both Auxiliary Phoenix and Gentle Jones to find out more about their workmanship, their tracks and their new record on LLR.

Firstly thank you for spending time with us. Before we get to the details of your recently released album ‘Forest of Pencils’ we want to get to know more on you- Introduce yourselves- How long have you been creating/performing live?

Auxiliary Phoenix: I started making music back in 2005, when I was 12! I started off with scratching and making Beastie Boys remixes, eventually moving on to making original beats. I strayed away from that for a while when I joined a few bands and mostly worked on playing instruments for a few years. In late 2011 I started making hip hop music again, and that’s when the Phoenix was born!
Gentle Jones: My grandfather played fiddle, guitar, piano, and banjo. He and his brothers played at square dances in West Virginia where they lived and my granddad also called the dances. So I grew up singing with the family and in church, too. Also, I’d play my grandma’s piano when I was really little. In High School I got into a garage band that never played a gig but we had hella fun! Since then I’ve release ten albums, fronted a punk band, a ska band, and done tons of gigs on all sorts of stages. I’ve been really lucky.

What was it that first got you into writing your own compositions and direct your creativity?

Auxiliary Phoenix: I think the first stuff I did was mostly mash ups and remixes, and that was driven massively by the online communities and fan sites I was a member of at the time. Remix subcultures can only take you so far though, so inevitably I started trying to figure out how to make the kind of stuff I was mashing up and remixing.
Gentle Jones: I always wrote songs, as far back as I can remember. I have a shoebox full of shitty 4 track tapes from years ago that no one will ever hear!

What’s the story behind the collaboration and formation of High Elders and where did the name come from?

Auxiliary Phoenix: I’ve been a GJ fan for a while now. Actually, since before I made music. So when I started making tracks as Auxiliary Phoenix, I knew the emcee I wanted to get in touch with.
Gentle Jones: My man Jimmy Quail gave me the name, he said, “A great name for a group would be ‘The Elders’” but actually I googled it and there was an old group who put out records under that name so I changed it to High Elders and it stuck. I like it because it sounds elite but also High Elders could mean the same thing as Drunk Uncles. Haha

What is it from life that triggers your creativity to project your unique style?

Auxiliary Phoenix: In regards to the beats, I feel like one of the biggest triggers for me to do my own thing is that I can’t find anyone meshing the sounds and styles I love in the way I want. That doesn’t mean I’m able to do it, because I don’t think I have it defined well enough in my head, but almost every track I create, there is a blend, balance, mixture that I’m shooting for, and I guess that must be the mix that makes my style what it is.
Gentle Jones: Same here, I am trying to make music that goes where I hope it would go, but no one else is going. I think at the heart of it we are mainly amusing ourselves and our close friends.

When High Elders was set in stone, what was it that you were hoping to achieve with styles and with a release

Auxiliary Phoenix: To be honest I mainly just wanted to pump out hella tracks with GJ! Haha. But I think we really started to develop a sound and workflow after a few songs, so this release to me is basically like a mission statement, saying “Look, we’re here, doing this thing, we can do a bunch of styles, check it out, it’s different”.
Gentle Jones: AuxFnx is a damn genius so working with him is so inspiring! Every place we’ve gone is someplace new that I would not have gone on my own. We’ve built our own Universe and its wonderful to be there.

How does being in two different countries work? Have you both met each other in person yet?

Auxiliary Phoenix: Yeah we’ve met! Years ago, when I was tiny. Before I made music. Gentle was over in Ireland doing a gig and visiting my dad, who he knew online from and Musika, a music forum. I remember getting a copy of his record Adult Language off him then, and him showing me how to ollie on a fingerboard. Turns out the ‘sticky fingers’ method is cheating though! Haha. I think either Gentle can bust 5 foot high ollies on kids skateboard or my tiny brain may have exagerated things.
Gentle Jones: We both have internet connections so working together from across the ocean is easy. I think we talk every day! The world is so small now thanks to technology, its liberating.

‘Forest Of Pencils’ was released December 9th on Little L Records, casting back to when you were creating the album, enlighten us on your writing process and how you utilize your workmanship, what roles within material making did you take?

Auxiliary Phoenix: My writing process when it comes to the beats is fairly standard at this point: come up with 8 bars of music on an instrument and then build and build and build! Once Gentle gets the beats and records his magic, I finish off the track with scratching and a final mix.
Gentle Jones: I drink and smoke and cast spells on the beats. It comes naturally to me. Then I send my recordings to Aux and we nitpick each other to death until we are satisfied! Actually it’s a pleasure working together we have a blast this album came together just as smooth as you could like.

From the writing process, the recording process followed -Tell us a little about your recording for the album and how you’ve managed to get to the point of a flawless debut.

Auxiliary Phoenix: Flawless? Thank you! With a project like this, we have to record to show each what we’ve been writing and working on. So the writing process actually occurred at the same time as the recording. The tracks City Vs. The Soil or 21 Grams were probably the hardest to record for me, as with City I needed to record the live drum kit. On 21 Grams, which is a co production with Jimmy Quail, the framework for the track we were using was not recorded to a metronome/click track or anything, so I had to play out all the parts without any help from the quantization fairies.
Gentle Jones: I record at home in my underpants. I am frankly amazed at the quality of work we’ve managed to achieve with no budget and no outside assistance. I am entirely proud of this album, its for sure my finest outing to date.

High Elders defy boundaries when it comes to categorizing the act within a genre, with a hip hop base fused with elements of punk and jazz- how would you personally describe your own sound?

Auxiliary Phoenix: I feel like experimental hip hop is a safe term, because then we can continue to do whatever the hell we like as long as it’s at least a bit hip hop haha. An aim for me at the moment is to bring across the essence of things like jazz fusion and progressive rock in the context of hip hop music. Maybe that’s not what the final product sounds like, but that’s what I was trying to do, and I suppose that makes it sound how it does.
Gentle Jones: I try not to explain our sound, I only hope to cajole folks into listening.

As mentioned the release was put out on our favourite label Little L Records- how did this come about and why was this charming label the right home for your efforts?

Auxiliary Phoenix: I’ve released 2 Auxiliary Phoenix Eps (Skribbl & Balii) and a mixtape (Assorted Gs with grime producer Shriekin’) on LLR over the past while, so I know I can trust Callum with a release like this. Little L are really setting themselves apart at the moment, and we’re really happy to be putting out the new record through them, the cassettes are looking really great.

What do you love about having your music on a physical format such as cassette?

Auxiliary Phoenix: I think I like cassettes because I can see that when they came out they were originally the new idea for a mini-LP, a vinyl record compressed into a rectangle of plastic. The whole format is similar: it’s an analog format with sides A & B. Cassettes are nice and cheap as well, which means you can own a physical representation of the album with artwork et al and support the artist, without the need to spend too much or even listen to the thing. I’ve bought cassettes from artists and sometimes I haven’t even given the tape a listen, I just want to support the artist, while I listen to the record on my computer or iPod.
Gentle Jones: I think for the most part music has moved away from physical objects as mp3 files and streaming are so easy to deliver online, but once you make an object it becomes an artifact, its history. We’ve made history. And hopefully with this album we can make some mark on the rest of the world as well.

We love Forest of Pencils, it’s such a strong release. What does the final finished release mean to you and what do you feel it captures?

Auxiliary Phoenix: It means 16 months of work and waiting! Haha. To me it is really satisfying to have all the songs mastered. Once I get to that point, the songs really gel together as a cohesive collection in my mind, and listening to the tracks back to back in that format after all the work gone into each song does this weird number on me. It’s like getting all those months of work, and putting brackets around them, and then it all feels like this one moment in time. The album becomes this one moment in time, that is a collection of separate times, so it feels like a point outside of time? Maybe I’m getting too metaphysical…
Gentle Jones: Thank you for the kind word. This album means to world to me, it’s a chance to stretch my creative legs and then go make some new friends. This is what we love to do, to make music and share it.

Are you currently supporting the release with any live shows? (If not do you have any planned)

Auxiliary Phoenix: I’m always looking for gigs, promoters holla at ya boy.
But if we are able to get together any time soon we’d love to do some gigs throughout Europe. We will definitely be screaming that news from the rooftops if happens.
Gentle Jones: I am doing a show right after Christmas in Delaware and early next year going to Minnesota to do a string of gigs. We’ve had some interest through show promoters from Dublin to Germany so maybe we will take them up on their offers and run around Europe a bit in 2015. It could be a grand adventure.

Will you play Circuit Sweet’s front room if you tour the UK?

Auxiliary Phoenix: You bring the people and we’ll bring the noise!
Gentle Jones: I’d love to see that happen.

We wish the best from the release but for now enlighten us to what can we look forward to from you in the future?

Auxiliary Phoenix: Thank you! We’re already starting to get together some ideas for our follow up. We’re hoping to release a “booster pack” EP in early 2015, with some remixes of tracks from the record plus some other tunes we’ve done together that weren’t on Forest of Pencils!
Gentle Jones: This is something you do for a billion years or not at all.

And Finally any last words?
Auxiliary Phoenix: Raxacoricofallapatorius
Gentle Jones: I want to thank everyone whose giving the album a listen, it really makes it worth to effort when someone lets us know they enjoyed the project.

It Truly was a pleasure- thank you both so much and get to our front room now!

By now, you will be in love with this act, and so you should. Be sure to pick up a limited edition cassette release of ‘Forest Of Pencils’ out now on Little L Records-

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1 Comment

  • Reply High Elders – Forest of Pencils press round-up 2 [post-release] | December 16, 2014 at 10:56 am

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