Preservation discusses five albums that influenced his new LP & more in BV Q&A
Veteran New York hip hop DJ/producer Preservation -- a longtime collaborator of Mos Def and his former tour DJ, one half of Dr. Yen Lo with Ka, and more -- recently released his great new album Eastern Medicine, Western Illness, which he made in Hong Kong and only sourced music from Chinese recordings on vinyl, and then sent his beats to a handful of impressive guest rappers in the States, including Ka, Roc Marciano, Navy Blue, Mach-Hommy, Your Old Droog, Billy Woods, Quelle Chris, and more. He also made a point to feature some local artists, including rapper Young Queenz, opera singer Michelle Siu, and guzheng player Chin King.
We caught up with Pres over email to discuss some of the music that influenced this new album, and to ask him a few questions about the record. Read on for his list and our chat.
Also, watch his recently released video for the album's Mach-Hommy collaboration "I-78" that the two of them shot in Chinatown in December. "I never could have imagined that this music would be released in these times, but I’m grateful to be in a position to provide some form of medicine. Walk with me," says Pres.
FIVE ALBUMS THAT INFLUENCED EASTERN MEDICINE, WESTERN ILLNESS
Dr Yen Lo - Days With Dr Yen Lo
Ka and I released this while I had already started living in Hong Kong and it was definitely a big influence on the sound of Eastern Medicine, Western Illness. If you listen specifically to "Day 81," which has a Chinese sample that I found at Paul Au's record shop in Hong Kong on my first trip in 1996 you can hear the continuation through to this project.
Mach Hommy - H.B.O.
I knew this record was special when Ka passed it on with pretty much a disclaimer to not give to anyone else unless they really deserved it. To me it shifted the tide.
Method Man - Tical
This album is so wild to me. In my opinion some of the more experimental and dirty beats from RZA's catalog and paired with Meth made for a unique combination. I think I was listening to it a lot in Hong Kong because it really sounded like the city. That intro sets it off.
Earl Sweatshirt - I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside
This was the album I was feeling the bridge between the past and the present sound.
Nils Frahm - Spaces
My man Gary Leong at White Noise Records in Hong Kong put me on to Nils Frahm's music. He also introduced me to Hong Kong native Young Queenz who starts my record. The album spaces was a welcomed contrast from the busyness of the city and helped slow down the pace.
Q&A WITH PRESERVATION
BV: You said you made this while living in Hong Kong and challenged yourself to only source music from Chinese recordings on vinyl. How did this process affect you creatively?
Preservation: A lot of the local records I was discovering in Hong Kong did not have much variation in styles of music, so it made it a challenge to find the right loops and pieces that would work with my style and the MC's I was envisioning for the record. I had to listen to a lot of music before I found that one gem that popped out amongst the rest so creatively it made me have to dig deeper.
Any gems that you stumbled upon in the process that American audiences should know about?
A Cantonese cover of "Hang On To Your Love" by Sade.
There's a great cast of guest rappers on this album, some you've worked with for years but some new faces too. What drew to you to these collaborators, and how did they respond to the album's unique production process?
It was my intention to put what I consider the illest MCs from the West on the sounds of the East. Ka and I exchange a lot of new music and he was really instrumental to helping me build the roster on the album.
You sent the beats over to the guests in the US, they recorded their parts, and sent them back to you. How did this process compare to when you're right there in the studio with the artists?
I always prefer to be in the room creating with the artists. The difference would be that it's less of a step by step process.
It's easy for long-running musicians to keep revisiting the same type of music they made when they were starting out but it seems like you're always looking for something new. What inspires you to keep pushing forward?
It has to do with me not getting stuck in a certain time period, I keep listening to new music. I've been listening to all types of music for my entire life. I try to bring certain elements of the past into new, fresh ideas for the present. This is my namesake - to preserve. For this album, I was also inspired by the concept of bringing together the East and West, in culture and sound. There is also the inspiration, which comes from the torch being passed. The young artists coming up looking to the sound of yesterday and transforming it into their own.