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Interview with Peanut Butter Wolf

[ Conducted in December 2002 ]

If you're a hiphop collector you would have seen his records going for increasingly high prices. If you know your record labels you know Stones Throw, the one he started. If you watched the Beastie Boys Anthology DVD, you would know his cool mix of Shadrach. Even if you don't fit into any of the above categories, you would have at least heard of his name before, having one of the most unique handles around. Let's see what Peanut Butter Wolf has to say.

I read once that you used to write rhymes back in the mid 80's and that you were inspired by the Beastie Boys at the time. It must have been an odd feeling to end up making a remix for them to use on their DVD Anthology release.

Peanut Butter Wolf

I wrote rhymes starting in '86, but was never confident enough in my voice. It was just for fun. I was working with a rapper from Long Beach in '87 and a label in LA asked for a 6 song demo. We only had 5 songs and we were at deadline, so I recorded my own rap as the 6th song. Next day, the label said that was the best one, not knowing it was me. The lesson learned: find a new rapper.
As for the Beastie boys, I first bought the "Cookie Puss" 12" in about '84 or '85. Then I bought "The Party's Getting Rough" single and "Drum Machine" by MCA and Burzootie. At that time, I was the only Beastie Boys fan I knew of in the Bay Area and probably on the whole west coast. I would anxiously await their next singles and brag to everyone at my school about this group. I never would have predicted their future success. When "She's On It" came out, I bought that as well, but thought it wasn't as good as their earlier stuff. Then I went to the Run DMC show specifically to see the Beastie Boys in '86. This was before "Licensed To Ill". I threw my demo and my school picture at them with a note telling them I wanted to be their DJ. They didn't really have a DJ yet, so I thought it would be a match made in heaven. I was the best scratch DJ in my city and knew all their music. Never happened (of course), but I did buy a Beastie Boys T-Shirt from that show that said "Get Off My Dick" on the back and got sent home from school for wearing it.

Were you asked specifically to create a Shadrach remix for the DVD, or did someone hear your existing remix? How did it all come about?

I was specifically asked to create a remix for the DVD project. I'm not sure if it was by the Beastie Boys themselves or Tick who was their A&R, but a friend of mine who worked at a record store told me Mike D had come in and bought a couple of my records, so I'm guessing it was a combination.
As for that song, it was chosen by them, but the timing was perfect because I had just found an Australian version of Sly and the Family's "Loose Booty" which they used for their original version a few days earlier when I was touring Australia. I thought, great, it's meant to be to do this song. I tried to replay a Schooly D bassline for the chorus since I remembered them being Schooly D fans. My version sounded great for the clubs, but I forgot that everyone would hear it on a TV set with a small speaker with no bass. It almost embarrassed me to hear it on the TV, but I was still glad to do it and even more glad when the bootlegged vinyl version came out this year.

Are there any other Beastie Boys tracks you have remixed that haven't been released yet?

I helped out on a DJ Design remix of "Negotiation Limmerick File", but that never came out.

Was this the same DJ Design mix that was available as a download through a while ago? (The money going to support the Kosovo Relief efforts). There were some bootlegs of that pressed up (60 I think), it's a pity that didn't get wider release as it was a really funky mix.

Same one. We did that at my home studio a few years ago using not much more than an SP1200, one ADAT (8 tracks), and an analog delay petal effect.

What are your thoughts on the recent increase in 12" bootlegs making their way around the stores. Quite a number of the Beastie Boys and DJ Shadow back catalogue have been reproduced and are trying to make out as if they are the real thing.

I've been seeing "Cookie Puss" around and I think people need to hear that song. It bridged the gap between electro, rock, new wave, and hip hop. Sounds like a take on "Pack Jam" by Jonzun Crew. One of my fav. Beastie songs, yet not too many new kids know it. Same with DJ Shadow. The lesson was promo only when it came out because there were too many samples for Hollywood Basics to clear. I think it was great for Funkenklein (the label president) to take a chance and release it anyway. I try to run my label the same way.

With your Lunar Props EP limited to 1500 copies and changing hands for amazing money on ebay, does collectability play an important role in your releases? Would you prefer an underground following or mass-market recognition?

I just want people who are serious about hip hop to like my stuff. I'm frustrated that not more people know about us even after 10 years of releasing records, but there are a lot of people in the early '90s who are washed up now, so it works both ways. When I was first buying it religiously in the '80's. I was always discovering things before they broke big whether it be LL Cool J with "I Need a Beat" or Schooly D with "Gucci Time". I took pride in my ability to discover artists before everyone else did. I still take pride in doing that today with the artists on my label, Stones Throw. I put out Planet Asia 4 years ago, then he got snatched up by Interscope and I thought, "yeah I knew about him first." Most people still don't realize that Madlib is probably the most important artist of our time. I got introduced to Pharrell of the Neptunes backstage at an awards show and gave him the Quasimoto and Yesterdays New Quintet CDs and asked if he was up on either of them and he said he had never heard of either. At first I was mad, but then I realized, I just have more work to do. I should be mad at myself for not promoting my artists enough.

As a Label owner, do you consciously watch other labels to see where they succeed (Mo'Wax and Ninja Tune becoming cult status labels) and where they fail (Grand Royal closing its doors last year).

I probably don't spend enough time studying other labels, which is why we maybe haven't progressed past that "slept-on" status. I'm always thinking everyone will discover us on their own since that's what I've always done. What I didn't think about was the behind the scenes politics. For example, I notice a lot of corny artists getting magazine coverage and wonder why they're getting any plug when the press is supposed to be more legitimate than the radio or TV. Then I realize magazines won't even really cover your artists unless you're spending money on ads with them. It's an unspoken rule, but it makes perfect sense because on the flipside, if you're a label spending money with the mag and the mag DOESN'T cover your artists, you're gonna stop advertising with them. There are exceptions, like Straight No Chaser in the UK putting Madlib on their cover without us even taking out one ad. Props to them.

I think the first time I heard a Peanut Butter Wolf track was on the Bomb compilation "Return of the DJ - Vol.1" which had an amazing lineup of (now) superstar DJs including Mix Master Mike, Q-Bert, Cut Chemist, Z-Trip, Shortkut and more. Who do you consider to be the top DJs on the scene at the moment?

As well as the ones you mention above, my favorite DJs are the ones who aren't afraid to integrate different types of music in their sets and do them in a way that they still flow. They include many people I've played with over the past few years from DJ Muro (the King of Digging) from Japan to Giles Peterson from the UK to J Rocc from Los Angeles to Rich Medina from Philly. Cut Chemist always amazes me in terms of his rehearsed sets, but I never really get to see him play other than in a performance oriented half hour setting. I also like Egon because he hardly ever fucks up. His mixes are virtually perfect and he plays songs nobody knows, yet still gets the party going.

What's in store in 2003 for Peanut Butter Wolf and Stones Throw Records?

Far too much stuff to mention. I ask everyone who likes our stuff to just check up with us on the web from time to time:

Stones Throw Records
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