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Heavenly Hybrid

[whitespace] El Stew
Seamless Grooves: The members of El Stew combine old school hip-hop, electro and drum 'n' bass

El Stew cooks up its own brand of innovative music

By Amanda Nowinski

A weird hybrid of disparate talents makes for an all-star crew of two legendary hip-hop scratchers, two rock musicians and one eclectic producer. Indeed, El Stew is appropriately named; this heterogeneous mixture is an unlikely pot of chunky beats, robotic distortion and punk rock attitude--but the final product is proof that the convergence of opposing forces is often what creates the most innovative art.

Composed of DJ Disk of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Brain, the drummer for Primus, local guitar soloist Buckethead, DJ Eddie Def of the Scratch Hamsters and Space Travelers, and producer DJ Extrakd, El Stew travels the spectrum of old school hip-hop, electro and drum 'n' bass--a bassy-heavy path thickened with Buckethead's driving guitar edge. But unlike the guitars used in other recent attempts to combine these sounds, here it flows with the other elements seamlessly, as if rock were a necessary component to scratching and bugging out at a house club. Later this month the group releases its first single on Om Records--a teaser for the May release of the full-length album.

The hip-hop ingredients of El Stew have been cooking for over 10 years ...

Eddie Def: Before Disk was a Pikl and before I was a Scratch Hamster, we were battling as teenagers in the Mission district at the YMCA. We always knew each other and hung around as homies. I knew Disk when we were both taggers, being juveniles writing on walls and shit.

Disk: Eddie Def is the only guy I know that is really out of his mind--and that's how we click. I know I can sit down, drink a 40 with him, get drunk and talk about music--there's an open-mindedness about him. He's naturally gone out of his mind in music.

And then a year ago I went to Eddie's house and saw a stack of tapes and said, "What the hell is this?" He said it was just "production," so he played it for me and I was blown away. And I was like, fuck--let me scratch over this and we'll do something with this. I introduced him to Steve and Brain and Bucket. And said, fuck it--let's make this real."

Do you consider the group a crossover of hip-hop and rock?

Extrakd: We've never talked about that. Ever.

Disk: With Steve's weird guitar and weird production, with mine and Eddie's weird scratching, and with Brain's weird drumming, I knew we could come together.

Extrakd: Buckethead is daintily not a hip-hop guy, but he likes that style a lot. His influences are similar. He's way into comic books and robots and monsters and all this crazy stuff that hip-hop kids are into--we're bringing him into a different arena, getting him to play a little differently.

Eddie Def: We also think differently than the other DJs out there. I've been to shows where people were saying that guitar gods are dead, that the turntable's taken over and that the "guitarist" is out the door.

I liked metal back in the day. I used to like AC/DC and Metallica when I was like 11. It's too cheesy now, just like hip-hop. Mac 10 doing ads for Sprite, guys doing hair gel commercials where they flaunt their clothes and the turntables ... I liked hip-hop when it was rebellious, when people would look at it and say, "Those people are a menace to society." And now it's like, "Look at that hip-hop-looking guy, there's someone a lot like him on the TV."

Hip-hop is too big now, and I don't like anything to be too big. I like to be the first guy to have a particular record, and as soon as everyone else has it, I'll hate it. Being the old school kind of DJs that we are--Frisco pioneer guys that we were--we'd get b-sides before anyone else and it would freak people out. Now you can go to Sam Goody's and just rent that shit out. It sucks.

How do you feel about the term "turntablism"?

Disk: That word is exactly why I don't even call it "scratching" anymore. If you look at my album I call it "scraping." Buckethead gave me that title--"scraping" is what it really is.

Eddie Def: It's trying to sound like "guitarist." I remember in the '80s when I was a kid and my aunt would walk in when I was scratching and say, "What the fuck are you doing to those records?" I'd rather hear that than "I hear the beauty and the patterns of your scratching."

There's another quote--the stupidest shit I've ever heard: "The Jimi Hendrix of the Turntables." That's what some corny journalist said four years ago to describe Disk.

Extrakd: No one should be comparing themselves to Jimi Hendrix. Period.

Eddie Def: I've heard, "Q-Bert is the Miles Davis of Scratching." And one day he's going to break his finger and he's going to be the "Jerry Garcia of Scratching." You know what I mean? It goes on and on.

Disk: You can't do that--those people are legends, leave them alone.

The media is trying too hard to legitimize it as an actual art form.

Disk: These people who are saying all this were probably the ones who were saying scratching sucked years ago.

How do you integrate rock guitar into hip-hop without creating choppiness?

Eddie Def: The sounds just come together. Me and Disk come from '80s hip-hop, when everybody had a guitar in their shit. Run-D.M.C. was down with Aerosmith. The guitar thing is actually old with hip-hop.

But Run-D.M.C. took a lot of shit for that. It was seen as a sellout, an attempt to cut into the white market.

Eddie Def: Yeah, but it was groundbreaking.

Disk: It's like that bullshit they said recently--that Puff Daddy is bringing hip-hop into rock. That was years ago, that's a little too old.

Eddie Def: Puff Daddy? That's not even worth mentioning.

How would you describe your sound? There seems to be no appropriate category.

Disk: We never talk about our shit--we just do it.

Extrakd: The first time we played live together people said, "Thanks for that futuristic shit." To us we were just playing our stuff. It is like a stew--we all put in our little flavors, our own two cents. And that's why it's not any one person's own vision or vibe--we all have our own things. It's the best ingredients of everything.

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From the February 15, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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