April 8th, 2008 | Interviews

Dan Monick

Lab Waste is Thavius Beck and Subtitle grinding the ungrindable grind. Their most recent release is a picture disc EP so beautiful it practically glows. They speak now from (among other places) the customer service phone at Amoeba.

Lab Waste “Mega Attitude”


You’re both Amoeba alumni—what kind of privileges does that grant you?
Giovanni Marks: This. I get to come in Sundays, intern and help the customers for free, and in exchange I get to use the phones.
Are you going to put out all your vinyl at once like No Age?
Thavius Beck: Yes and no.
G: We just dropped a 7” picture disc—that’s the first strike in a maelstrom of Lab Waste hits. We got a few things up—a full-length later this year, and remixes abound, and Thavius does production for everybody, and I’m dancing a lot in Venice and at Hollywood and Highland.
Given unlimited resources, how much could you get done in thirty days?
G: I’d buy another Range Rover—besides the Briefcase Rockers Range Rover. And then I’d pay everybody back. And then I’d buy crackers because I wouldn’t have much money left. Then I’d help the people.
Were you really trapped in Montreal because you lost your passport?
G: It was one of those things where I could have left as a deported/exported kind of thing. Plus it was real hard to make money all the time. Haji from Wolf Parade had to give me money to get my passport back.
What’s the best recent response you’ve gotten at a show?
T: A makeshift tour in France. Eleven shows and by show number two, the response we got from there—with nobody knowing what to expect—people loved it. We were doing multiple encores every night, appearing on radio and TV and stuff—really mindblowing!
G: And we can’t get a show in L.A.—I can’t stress that enough!
T: Put that it in big bold print.
G: We were real low-profile for a while for no reason—we’re both accessible dudes. I moved to Montreal after nothing was going on here for a year. People are so used to seeing you, they don’t take you seriously. So you go to another country and come back and put out records you would have put out anyway. For a quick second with our solo material—hey, Nobody walked by me just now!—when that avant-garde scene was at its apex, we were doing a lot of solo work where we’d see each other in other countries and kick it. Like in Amsterdam, my tour manager was interviewing Thavius, so we came over and hung out. But once the whole thing died down and Busdriver became Busdrive, Atmosphere became Atmosphere, Aesop Rock was Aesop Rock—it wasn’t a movement. People were more individual, and everybody who wasn’t in that infrastructure kind of went to the wayside. And all these labels started putting out bad music and stopped investing in good music because they’re scared, and they weren’t listening to music to begin with. And that leaves Thavius and I out there. L.A. is now Ed Banger Land, and we’re already on-the-fringe dudes, and now we’re even more on the fringe. We had to start over. Put the same ideas to a new crowd because the old crowd up and left and the others never knew anyway.
T: The thing we learned in France—there are people there who are doing publications and online stuff and labels vouching for us, and if we had that in L.A. it’d be completely different.
G: It’s like jazz shit—for a lot of black musicians, you couldn’t walk in the front door out here but out there you own a castle. We’ve almost been doing it too long—all the dudes that are big now have been rapping for 730 days and that’s who everyone is rallying behind. It’s just really strange. We’re both almost thirty and we’ve been in the city forever. You’d think we never did anything. We never haven’t done anything—even with that controversy last year, when I quit rapping for a couple weeks for reasons I won’t go into. After that bullshit—I still put out a record three months before and two months after, and Thavius has been putting out records and kept stepping his game up—what literally do we have to do? People tell me every day that records don’t sell—I’m in a record store looking at records selling! Why in our hometown do people look at us like we’re being insane? We’re basically nomads in our own fucking town.
You’ve seen all the attention the bands at the Smell are getting—is anything similar happening around you?
G: No! You got clubs—certain clubs going down where they may start as one thing and end as another, and other clubs that are literally only for pictures, and none of it really adds to the community of L.A. and what the scene is about. In Williamsburg, you always know what’s going on—Rhode Island, France, Switzerland, anything! Even in Paris! Out here there’s no such thing.
T: I always tell people the difference with L.A. and every other place is there’s a lot of talent, a lot of competition and a lot of backbiting—there’s no camaraderie among the different scenes or clubs. Everybody wants to come up because it’s L.A. On top of that there’s that weird hippie trendy gentrification plague going on—people in the city with a lot of money and tight leather jackets who’ll spend $20 to go to a spot and $15 on a drink and wanna look cute and don’t even really care. That pushes artists like us even further. Promoters know they’re not gonna make money unless they get a DJ that plays the trendy hits and people can get their pictures on a blog. And the reality is that that shit is bullshit! To me it’s hard to really establish a real community when no one tries to make some shit that’s substantial that lasts. No one in L.A. is trying to create dance culture—a community, a scene.
G: What Franki Chan is saying—and he’s been blackballed by all these people but still makes money—is basically two things that make sense. Number one—however the scene came to L.A. nobody knows, but they’re here with it. And number two—it may not last three months, but if you wanna get on the trend, it probably happened. Our single was like 2005—that was us rapping over dance shit then, and that was some freak shit to motherfuckers at the time.
T: Back then no one would fuck with us. We were pioneers in a way with this shit. Well, we’ve been here and we’ve done really creative shit but we’re not acknowledged at all.
Gino, you’ve said before how you think everyone in music now has an earlier counterpart—who fits with Lab Waste?
G: Suicide. If you were still doing albums, we probably woulda flipped a Suicide cover.
T: Even something like Ultramagnetic MCs. No one gave a fuck, and then Kool Keith sold a billion records. And now kids are like ‘Ultramagnetic!’ and they were like three when they made a record. Or Organized Konfusion. Did Eminem really bump that in the day? Maybe. His homies? People who buy his records? I guarantee they didn’t!
G: It’s not like rock where Redd Kross comes out whenever—they can be in their forties or fifties clowning and killing it and everybody will be there, from that day to this day. No Age can come in thirteen years and motherfuckers will trip from the Smell up. We can’t even get fools from three years ago to trip. Motherfuckers who were there—editors who put us on magazine covers, we can’t even get them to run reviews of the albums we paid to put out! We could say, ‘Fuck it, at least we’re dope!’ but we’ve done that for eleven years. We bring all kinds of shit—we’re historians on music shit, we play instruments, we do everything! We’re not just pop-locking with a DJ looking for a pound of weed and a check—we’re musicians! But people look at the former and not the latter.
So what’s the plan?
G: We got a new record this year on Briefcase Rockers—I’m putting out. If people aren’t tripping, we’ll do other shit. We’ll go on the road.
T: I think on some level we’re respected by a lot of artists, but those fuckers aren’t buying records because they get them for free. But they’re not singing our praises because they got their own shit to worry about. They’re artists doing similar shit, and they’re not tripping on us because that takes resources away from them.
That’s pretty grim.
T: A rock and a hard place is where we’re at. But you can cry about it or just do it.
G: That’s what we do. Whether Jesus or Satan trips this year, we’ll do new Lab Waste records. Even though we’ve got our share of haters, we have enough supporters to justify it, and we’ll do it as long as we make sense. It just baffles the fuck out of us—how does it happen? Everybody’s waiting for the shoe to drop, but they don’t know who’s wearing it. Who’s the first to do the crazy handrail? Who’s first to jump off the waterfall? All the dudes are there but they’re scared, and when the first one jumps, everybody jumps—they’ll do flips off the motherfucker! But the point between the jump and everyone standing there could be a million years. It’s not a sad story—it’s a funny story. We’re definitely underground dudes in the scene, which is dope. But after a hundred years working up—it has to stop eventually. We’re not trying to be people’s trading cards. I don’t wanna be like Simply Saucer, or the secret Dooley O record or whatever that is! We’re not making material to be Sun Ra about shit, where we’re dead and people buy our shit. Time is really going—I don’t look to ten years! I don’t look to two years! People say we’re like the gangsta rap of the future? We’re broke today! We know it’s quality—we know we’re doing something right. But we get tired of being fronted on. We wanna fight all these dudes—or vent in an article!