An Interview with West Peaks

Photo by Barrel Maker for his "Rappers In The Town" series
Diving into Intelligent Sound's SoundCloud page can be quite overwhelming at first. The collective's founder Peter Anthony posts new singles, albums, and compilations on a monthly basis and reposts the music of friends, collaborators, and those he enjoys on a daily basis. His job of curating interesting and exciting electronic, hip-hop, and downbeat music is nothing short of remarkable, which is why any release that Intelligent Sounds cosigns should be given a listen.

"Nardis" is arguably the label's finest output so far this year. Kansas City producer Wesley Peak performs as West Peaks and dropped the album back in August. Despite having two other full length releases under his belt, "Nardis" is Peak's most cohesive and enchanting work yet. The album is a beat lover's dream; filled to the brim with jazz samples, unique textures, and pronounced drums. It's also nocturnal as a bat. Read our interview with Peak below.

How is "Nardis" different from your other album from this year -- "Water"?

Hmmm…well to begin with, I think "Nardis" is a much more complete work. "Water" became an album because Peter Anthony wanted to release music as rewards during a fundraiser campaign. We raised enough money to send a pallet of water to Flint. I really wanted to help, so I just started sifting through all the tracks I had sitting around. It is essentially a collection of orphan tracks. I ended up liking it so much, I decided to release it as a work of its own. "Nardis," however, I feel is a comprehensive complete work and I wanted it to be. It is about representing old and forgotten music in a more accessible way.  

What made you choose the image of Sid Catlett to be the album cover?

[Laughs] You noticed. I love that photo. One of the main reasons is that I wanted the album cover to have a slightly Blue Note feel and I did not simply want rip off a Blue Note album cover. Sid represents not only a bygone era of music but also a bygone era of jazz. I used a lot of jazz in the making of the album and I wanted the cover to represent that. I also wanted to take the concept that I had for the album and recontextualize it in visual form. That is why I chose to pixel sort the image. It represents old and forgotten artists, while recontextualizing their art in a new form.  

What were you listening to while you were making the album?

I was listening to all the samples you hear mostly. The album was recorded periodically over the course of three years, so it is a little difficult to say. I was listening to a lot of Numero Group stuff, Eno, Tangerine Dream, King Crimson, Paul Horn, Herbie Hancock, a lot of Italian library and soundtrack stuff like Piero Umiliani, Ennio Morricone, Percee P, Dilla, Madlib, and I had a pretty big Kraftwerk phase. I listened to this really interesting podcast during a large portion of creating the project. It was called “A History of Electronic Music.” It was very eye opening and I would definitely recommend it. Really great.  

You offer an extensive list of gear used to create the album. Was any of this gear new to you for this album?

Not really, with the exception of the Make Noise Shared System and the Akai MPC 60. They combined some very interesting principles in modular synthesis with the Shared System. I have used some other modulars before as well and it is still by far my favorite. One thing I appreciate about it now is how easy it is to achieve complex processes and how something as conventional as using an envelope the way you want to, is harder on it than other synths. It really is a marvel. The 60 was very cumbersome at first. I have had a 2000 for years, but it is an entirely different beast. The 15 seconds of sample time can be extremely frustrating and at times crippling. I also never thought I would never miss stereo sampling as much as I did when I started using it. I learned to work around it and it ended up being a lot of fun to use.

What is your relationship with Intelligent Sound like?

Well, it’s great! Pete is the man. I really appreciate all the work he has done. He has essentially created a beat scene for this town by getting all of these artists together. He has also managed to help all of the artists feel as though they are a part of something. I can’t truly describe how grateful I am for that. I really believe Intelligent Sound is the best thing happening musically in Kansas City right now. That is not to say there aren’t other wonderful things happening, I just really love what Intelligent Sound is doing. I just really hope it can get bigger. It deserves to.

Does your recording process differ when you are creating tracks for rappers?

Oh yes, very much so. When I am doing my own thing, it's like a stream of consciousness most of the time. Writing beats to rap over is so much different because I’m thinking of the MC the whole time. I really have to tone it down a lot and that is a struggle. Working with others is trying. You will send ten beats to someone and they will pick one. It can be very frustrating. That is part of the reason I made my first IS release, "EPS." I got really tired of trying to work with rappers and getting no finished products, so I just downloaded some acapellas and took it from there. It has been a real pleasure working with MCs at times though. Barrel Maker is a great guy. I’m excited to be working with him. I do love the challenge as well. It is often a great exercise in minimalism, which is not my normal way of thinking.

What are your upcoming plans for working with Barrel Maker and in general?

The plans as of this moment are just to release a string of singles and for now I'm cool with the that. He has a great work ethic and i feel he is a Kansas City MC that really and truly has something to say. I just enjoy working with the dude and I'm excited for it. We should have another single on the way soon. I hope an album will eventually emerge. We'll see.

Listen to "Nardis" here.

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