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Freeze-Tag’s Techno-Magik

As I shook off the fatigue of a long day’s work off and settled down for a listen to Ohio born Techo-Alchemist Freeze-Tag, a familiar beep took to me to my Facebook page. There, was my friend Jill (who lives in Texas) posting scenes from the epic filibuster to a controversial anti-abortion bill, featuring the defiant Senator Wendy Davis. At that time, the senator was the lone objector to the passing of this highly restrictive bill, and had been fighting it for hours. A sea of Orange-clad men and women were jammed into the assembly, showing unequivocal people power. Like that, the energy of this civic rebellion was downloaded into the palm of my hands. I felt the immediate emotions of the protesters, the tensions of the moment, and the endless possibilities for change.

Later, I tried to settle in to Marcus Alan Ward’s (aka Freeze-Tag) ‘Eskimo’, the  follow-up EP to his debut Wildflwr_hny’. Still buzzing from the events from earlier, I now found a layered Psychedelic, electro-soul soundtrack, to my now ‘plugged-in’ emotions. This soundtrack was buzzing with futuristic beats over multi-colored, emotional landscapes, it’s pallet changing intermittently  to match the lyrical moods. Though immediate, lazy comparisons could be made to the Soulful Ziggy Stardust-isms of Frank Ocean or 1-O.A.K.’s D’Angelo meets The Smiths experimentations. I also heard a lot of Brian Wilson’s ‘Pet Sounds’ and Radiohead’s ‘OK computer’.

I now relished the chance to pick the brain of this Techno- Magician.

Rudie One: Awesome to interview you brotha’. Hey first off, I am an Island boy of Barbados. You are wearing a T-shirt in one photo with Barbados on it. Just a happenstance or is there some significance of that island to you?

Freeze-Tag:  Hey, thank you man. I actually got that shirt from a thrift store that I was at around the time of the shoot. It’s actually the first photo I took for the Freeze-Tag project. No major significance of the island to me though, but I’m sure it’s a beautiful place. Crazy coincidence though!

Rudie One: Why the name Freeze-Tag? There is a futuristic connotation with that name and the way its presented and yet it feels like now?

Freeze-Tag: The name Freeze-Tag.. I don’t know, I heard it around the time I was first working on the song “Eskimo” and I just automatically knew that was it. I was toying with a lot of other names at that point, but once I heard it, and I cant remember where or how i saw or heard it, it just clicked. It’s perfectly fitting for the music somehow I think. It was an ambiguous enough title to not have any connotation of genre or anything, which was exactly what I wanted.

Rudie One: There is a heavy influence of Marvin Gaye in many new, Soul singers — a welcome influence I might add. You have that. It’s especially noticeable in the song ‘Fall in Love’.  But there’s also tons of Brian Wilson, Radiohead, and even Gary Numan. You also manage to emote warmth in the machines of Electronica. I am dying to hear who your musical influences are?

Freeze-Tag: Yes, Margin Gaye is, of course, the man. I’m very influenced by him. I’m huge on Brian Wilson, as well. I’m greatly influenced by visual artists (Magritte, Basquiat, Matisse, Rousseau, Warhol and others) but musically, I’ve been influenced by a wide spectrum….I’m huge on Marvin Gaye, Bjork, The Mars Volta, Circa Survive, Thelonious Monk, Sade, Ahmad Jamal, Miles Davis (specifically his work with Gil and Bill Evans) just to name a few. But there’s lots and lots.

Rudie One: Hardcore is a pretty specific culture: guitar, drums, bass, stripped-down aggressive rock’n roll, Punk’s more aggro kin. I heard you were in a hardcore band as a kid. What got you in to that scene and what made you opt into Electronic music which some would say is the antithesis of hardcore?

Freeze-Tag: Well, I started playing guitar when I was about 12. It was the first instrument I really learned how to play.  At the time when I was teaching myself, I was looking for good guitar-based music that I could practice to and kind of learn along to, and Hardcore, Screamo, and metal music was pretty vibrant to me as far as the guitar goes. I was also attracted to the aggressive nature of most of it, and how it kind of existed on the outskirts of popular music at first. I was very lucky to have parents that allowed me to be open minded and be into anything I wanted to. People definitely looked at me weird, being the only black kid in school that was into that shit at the time, but I was determined not to listen to rap. My journey into electronic music was just a natural progression, as I discovered all kinds of music towards the end of high school and in college. I was attracted to how much I could do with a laptop, multi-tracking, arrangement, and new sounds. I couldn’t be in a band anymore because I’m a control freak. I never really felt like I fit into any specific “scene” though, and I think electronic music is such a broad genre that I can do anything.

Rudie One: The title track sounds otherworldly, but incredibly personal. What inspired that song?

Freeze-Tag: Eskimo? This was actually the first song I ever made for Freeze-Tag, about a year and a half before it’s release. I was producing beats for rappers at the time, and then I made this track. It stood out from the rest to me, and inspired me to go full steam with a solo project that I had been wanting to do for a while. I felt it was such a good instrumental that I didn’t want to diminish it with rap, lots of lyrics over it. So I just played the instrumental for people that would come by the studio I had for a few months, and everyone seemed to be really into it, from hardcore, hip hop dudes to dudes who were into electronic, to rock, to everything else. I was playing it out loud one day and my neighbor actually came over to ask me what is was. So I put some light vocals over it, “Oooooh Eskimo, Eskimo” and that was it, Freeze-Tag had begun.

Rudie One: I am a huge geek so bare with me here. Maybe part of this question was created in the context of the weeks political happenings, voter rights under siege, striking down of DOMA, affirmative action questioned and the recent experimentation of so many artists from Timberlake to Timbaland to Kid Cudi to Kanye West. Listening to your EP, I felt like I was hearing the soundtrack to the new run of Grant Morrison’s ground-breaking comic ‘The Invisibles.” “‘The Invisibles” is a story of Techno-Magik superheroes who fight the encroaching cloud of conformity (it was also said to be a huge influence on the Wachowski brothers’ ‘The Matrix’). You are an incredibly talented cat. You could be laying back, writing vapid R&B cuts in your sleep. What drives you to run against the tide, challenging the very real cloud of musical conformity?

Freeze-Tag: Thanks for the compliment! I don’t know, I guess it’s just my natural state of being. I’ve always kind of questioned everything. I’m just an avid critical thinker, and I encourage others to do the same.

Make sure you pick up Freeze-Tag’s ‘Eskimo’ and plug in. The bill in Texas was stymied, but the saga continues. Every Revolution needs a soundtrack. Add this one to your collection.


About P.Downes

A Los Angeles-based Bajan, rude boy from Boston, P. Downes (Writer/Film & Independent Music Editor) is a card-carrying music and comic book geek with dreams of making movies. He's a published comic book writer, most notably "Killer Ape and Other City Stories," a collaboration with Greg Moutafis about a black, punk band who comes of age on the night of the LA Riots. Rumor has it that he types his articles in Spider-man Underoos for good luck.

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