Though few self-respecting artists would admit to making music for the sole purpose of pleasing their fans, it’s certainly a rare musician who makes an album that he doesn’t expect will connect with his audience. From Neil Young dropping an electronic album in the middle of a series of folk and rock records or Lou Reed terrorizing his listeners with an album of guitar feedback, artists have made albums that seem designed to shake less resilient listeners off their bandwagons. A similar path has now been taken by Guillermo Scott Herren, also known as Prefuse 73, for his new full-length album Preparations (reviewed in ALARM #29 – read it here!). In addition to his usual dose of experimental glitch-hop, Herren crafted an album of avant-garde classical music to go alongside. He wasn’t just following his creative intuition—
he was making an album that could alienate his normally open-minded listeners. Some might even call it daring.
“Daring?” Herren asks incredulously. “No. Maybe dumb. Suicidal. It’s like jumping off a cliff. You don’t know what to expect. I think Warp [Records] are smart in the way that they’re marketing the record,” he continues, discussing his label’s decision to add the orchestral compositions as a fifteen-track bonus album, entitled Interregnums, that comes with the physical purchase of Preparations. “The beat-heads and the cats who are into Prefuse as Prefuse is can get this shit however they want, but if you really want the other disc, you can buy that too. Because I’m sure that there are lots of people who have absolutely no interest whatsoever in the other disc, and that’s fine.”
Pieced together over the span of a year and completed during time off from tours and various projects, Prefuse 73’s unusual double album breaks new creative ground for the man who almost singlehandedly reinvented instrumental hip hop. Herren took the genre by storm in 2003 with One Word Extinguisher, his sophomore full-length for Warp; the album’s stuttering samples and crackling electronics were unlike much else heard over hip-hop beats.
The last two Prefuse albums—Surrounded by Silence (2005) and Security Screenings (2006)—brought a variety of guest musicians and MCs that resulted in disjointed releases. Now four years since his breakthrough, he is returning to the insular, deeply personal heart of his craft.
“This is the sixth record, so I just wanted to do something other than ‘Prefuse is on his MPC again,’” he says, mentioning the beat-making equipment he has used to craft his idiosyncratic sound. “I left the sounds alone instead of editing, chopping, and sampling so much. I was more into arrangement and form and the construction instead of editing and splicing and deconstruction. It was sort of the opposite way around. I implemented more live playing on the beats instead of sampling. That’s why it gets really dense with live playing and live sounds. I just wanted to take that direction, because I never have before. I’ve always put a restriction on my level of live playing. But this time I went crazy and did it all.”
Doing it all included playing cello, piano, flutes, clarinets, and percussion for Interregnums, the orchestral material that laid the foundation for much of Preparations.
“Making the beat part—the actual beat side—was very natural, and it was exactly what I wanted as I was making it,” he says of Preparations. “The hard part came with side two. That was more of a challenge, like, ‘How am I going to do this without it being incredibly corny or over-the-top stupid?’ I didn’t want to hire other people to do it either. That was the hard part, doing things that I’m inexperienced in doing. That’s what made it fun and interesting for me.”