When Mike Ladd was recently confronted by an interpretation of one of his pieces, he said, "That wasn’t my intention, but it fits. I like how people read into my songs and make their own connection. For me half the fun of creating something is to watch others build on it. That’s why creation never dies." By definition, art is open to interpretation and few artists understand that as well as Mike Ladd. Keeping with this then, as both a musician and a producer, the New Yorker who previously taught English at Boston University and Long Island University, doesn’t allow the form of his art to be restricted to a single genre. While his project album, "The Infesticons" on BigDada (Ninja Tune) in 2000, featured a rough hip hop underground sound, its successor, "The Majesticons" (BigDada 2003), offered a polished contrast program straight from the world of bling bling – a third part to this series is yet to come. And while his debut album, "Easy Listening for Armageddon" (Scratchie/Mercury, 1997) voiced stepped down, tripped out production and poetic blues, its follow up, "Welcome to the Afterfuture" (Likemadd/Ozone 2000), fused Bollywood beats, beautiful instrumentals, spaced-out punk and a collaboration with legendary NYC indie hip hop group, Company Flow. So what’s next?
Mike Ladd’s new album, "Nostalgialator", already preceded by the single "Housewives At Play" featuring the exclusive B-side track "Perversions", is due for release on !K7 late summer ’04. "Nostalgialator" is also part of a series and this album too has an underlying concept, which he explains with a quiet smile to himself: "First there was ‘Easy Listening For Armageddon’, then Armageddon came and now we’re living in the ‘Afterfuture’, the period of time after Armageddon. In this age, in which the entire future is irrelevant, we need gadgets and machines to help us cope. The Nostalgialator is perfect for this – it was manufactured by a corporation in order to make our lives bearable. Let’s assume you’re watching TV and the news comes on and you think, ‘My God, I can’t deal with all that stress. What I really miss is the good old days’, then you just sit in the Nostalgialator and press the button. Immediately, the machine dresses you in all your favorite clothes from the 70s, plays your favorite music and sends you back mentally to your version of the perfect life. Of course, it can also screw up, because the machine can also take you back to the reality of the past. You’ve just got to be careful which button you press." Get it?
Apart from, "How Electricity Really Works" and "Dire Straits Play Nuremberg", which Mike recorded in Italy with an old friend in 2002, the recording was done in the Bob James Studio in Brooklyn/New York in this past fall and winter, where he collaborated with engineer/producer Scotty Hard. Over the last 15 years, Scotty’s become an institution on the New York hip hop and alternative music scene. Working with a wide spectrum of artists, from the Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers, to Vernon Reid, the Stereo MCs, Einstuerzende Neubauten, Lisa Stansfield and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Scotty also co-produced with Mike Ladd the CD version of the live performance piece "In What Language" (Pi Recordings), lyrical monologues written by Mike about people of color negotiating the hyper-globalized setting of a 21st Century international airport. Scotty is currently co-producing (with Prince Paul) the new Chris Rock comedy album.
"The record works like a mix tape" says Mike with a view to the various musical genres "Nostalgialator" brings together. While the already released "Housewives At Play" has a pop sound fit for the dance floor, "Wild Out Day" delivers Ladd’s version of punk. While "How Electricity Really Works" is reminiscent of Mike’s early poetry performances in the Nuyorican Poets Caf√© in the East Village on Manhattan Island, "Sail Away Ladies" is strongly influenced by the blues. Otherwise, the disc contains the usual dose of Ladd’s humor and social criticism. When George "W" recently announced that we’re now exploring Mars, Mike Ladd was one of the few who thought it was a good idea. On "Off To Mars", he pronounces: "‚Ä¶well I guess it’s time to launch, can’t say I’m sad to see you walk – it’s been quite a time, more than a millenium with your kind – I suppose we should close with congratulations for your achievements – all the war and pestilence now you found new residence, gonna stay here with the rest – no please just leave, we’ll clean up the mess". There’s no doubt Mike Ladd’s humor is far from being flat or cheap. But he challenges his listeners, and this is exactly what distinguishes good art: it encourages reflection.