We've been curious about Wugazi since the project dropped its first mash-up on SoundCloud a couple of weeks ago. At first, "Sleep Rules Everything Around Me" didn't offer with much information about the artists behind the song—though it was clear that 1) they love Fugazi and Wu-Tang Clan; and 2) that they've got an ear for a good hook.
Pretty soon, the Minneapolis hip-hop collective and label Doomtree claimed credit, and it turns out Wugazi's co-creators are skilled musicians with a long history in the Twin Cities scene. Kyle Smith (aka Cecil Otter) is a founding member of Doomtree, while Andrew Lund (aka Swiss Andy) has done time in The Millionth Word, The Swiss Army, and Cecil's back-up band. Arts Desk got a hold of the duo shortly after "Sleep Rules Everything Around Me" made the rounds, and they answered a few questions about Wugazi via e-mail.
Lund first got the idea for the project a few years ago after listening to Danger Mouse's influential mash-up collection The Grey Album. "I loved that the music was a production, not just a mash-up, and wanted to try it with the two things that were on repeat in my headphones throughout the '90s," he says. "But, I sucked at ProTools at the time, so the idea kinda crashed and burned."
Last Memorial Day, Lund told Smith the idea and asked if he'd be interested in doing a fun side-project. "He brought it up to me on a pontoon boat in the middle of a lake," Smith says. "I had no choice but to say yes. I mean...could you imagine that slow pontoon ride back to the dock if I had said 'No?'
The duo began with "Sleep Rules Everything Around Me" and a couple other tunes, and it took a little more than a year to wrap things up. "The process was extremely time-consuming, trying to find tempos and melodies that were similar, but when they hit we knew it right away," Lund says. "We also didn't want to do your typical mash-up. We wanted to reproduce tracks for acapellas [sic] using Fugazi as sampling fodder."
The final product, 13 Chambers, comes out Wednesday under the Doomtree banner. It's hardly the first time anyone at the label has dropped a little Fugazi into their hip-hop: For 2009's Never Better, Doomtree founder P.O.S. sampled "Five Corporations" and name-dropped the band on "Savion Glover." But with Wugazi, Lund and Smith dug deep into the catalogs of the iconic post-punk act and Wu-Tang (including side-projects like Gravediggaz) for 13 fresh spins.
With the album dropping Wednesday, the duo are looking to the future—but it doesn't necessary include more Wugazi. Smith is prepping to get back in the studio for his next solo album and there's a new Doomtree record in the works, not to mention a new project he and Lund are working on called The Bleachers. Lund's says he's got some other projects coming up, and is looking for other production and remix work, too. As far as another Wugazi album is concerned, Lund says they're "definitely not trying to do another record like this anytime soon."