Friday, September 23, 2016

Chasing Victims Through Sound Systems: An Interview with SCVTTERBRVIN aka Infinity Gauntlet

"If hip-hop is dead then I'm taggin' on the tombstone"

    Infinity Gauntlet, now better known as Scatter Brain the Acid Atheist, has been down with Masters of the Universe since his early youth and first started contributing beats to various MOTU projects in the early 2000s. He's grown to become one of the most prolific members of the crew, having dropped dozens of instrumental projects, several rap albums and collaborations as well as having a deep list of production credits. Through his Red Lotus Klan crew/imprint he's dropped a bunch of material from his crew as well as a series of reissues of Masters of the Universe classics on cassette. He broke down his earliest experiences with rap, his production style, his transition to rapping and battling and more in this in depth interview.

Can you talk about your earliest experiences with hip-hop and some of your early influences?

     I was always listening to hip-hop since I was super young but I didn't really know how shit was made, you know what I mean? I was a little kid, in elementary. I was listening to hip-hop from 2nd, 3rd grade 'til now, but around junior high is when I was kicking it with the Universe more, being with my brother (Odessa Kane) and him taking me to the studio and shit. I remember seeing Shamen 12 working on 12 Kommandments and Orko working on Doomsday Prophet. In Third Rail's garage they had a studio set up and they'd be in there, recording and smoking weed and shit. I was kinda around as a kid and I was like, "This shit is cool!" That was what really pulled me in. I was listening to, like, KRS-One, but being around them is what made me think, "I could do this myself." Being way young and seeing that, I thought it was the coolest shit. I wanted to get in the mix.

You were telling me the earliest beats you did were on the Playstation. Can you talk about your first experiences with production?

       It was MTV Music Generator. One of the homies in my area had it and he showed my brother that shit and my brother was telling me, "Yo, there's this one thing on the Playstation where you can make beats!" He had already showed me how to make a beat. He was going to college and brought me into a studio when I was really young. I remember Joosik Energetik was up in there too. I learned how to make a beat up in there, in the 90s. Around 2000 is when I got the Music Generator and that's when I really got to work with music a lot. I was in high school but I had home studies so I had a gang of time by myself with the Playstation. All my friends were at school and I was just making beats, trying to get better. It had sounds on it and shit. The interface kinda looked like Fruity Loops. I was making beats on that for a bit without samples. I didn't know why other people's beats sounded like that, you know? Like, "Why do their drums sound like this and mine sound like this?" I stumbled onto the sampling - there was a sampling feature in the game - and once I learned that it was like, "Okay, this is how I want it to sound." Once I started sampling I was like, "Oh, this is it! This is how they do it." Then I was digging in the creates, buying shit, searching for sounds. I was making beats on that for a few years. The beat on the first NMS album, the solo track for Bigg Jus that I produced, I made that on the Playstation.

Your beats go in a lot of directions but a lot of them have a really cinematic quality, like you're sampling from movies. Did that have anything to do with using the Playstation or did you come into that style a different way?

     That was just from watching movies and TV and shit. I noticed - once I started making beats - the soundtrack playing, so I'd go to, like, used CD stores and grab all these soundtracks because on the Playstation you could only sample from CDs. I started knowing composers and getting into that mix. Because people were already all jazzed out. Certain genres were really getting ran through. I think even now, soundtracks are still low key. When I was digging, I'd lean towards soundtracks. I still do. Plus a lot of the time no one knows where the samples are coming from. I remember chillin' with Psychopop in like '01 and we were in the store and I bought this soundtrack and he was like, "What the fuck? What are you buyin' that for?" And I popped it in and it was some crazy, hard-ass shit and he was like, "Oh, shit! Okay, I see what you're doing!" You can hear on Audio Renaissance, my first one, it had a lot of heavy strings, more moody shit. Back in the day, Shamen 12 was like, "You sound like you be cryin' when you make beats." [laughs] I'd be trying to get him on my beats back then but it didn't line up. He had his own sound he was trying to do but he was giving me props on some little homie type shit. We didn't end up doing tracks, me and him, until later. I've probably known him most, out of the Universe, other than my brother. Him and my brother are best friends so they'd be kicking it, taking me on little missions, sneaking into raves and shit [laughs].

Can you talk about how Kilowattz came together? Did you start that crew?

     Yeah, I heard I started it. I can't remember exactly [laughs] but I heard homies saying I started it. How it went down, me and the homies were chillin', smokin' out, throwing ideas in the air, and we were talking about starting a clothing line. Me and Psychopop were brainstorming with the other homies, Bleedin, 21 Grams, we were all chillin'. I had this windbreaker and I put speaker wires in it and shit, or took the string out and put RCAs in it. So we were gonna make some shit. Somehow the name Kilowattz popped up, tying music equipment into the clothing. We never made one shirt but we made the crew. The first one was Kilowattz Vol. 1. It was us four: me, Psychopop, 21 Grams and Sounds Like Murder. They were part of another crew at the time called Creatures and I was part of Masters of the Universe, but we linked up and became Kilowattz. Then Tenshun got down, Sumach got down. We all shared the same aesthetic. We were living the same, digging the same records, trying to make crazy shit. We were hella different, but we were the same. We were different but had a similar style.

So did that sort of evolve into Red Lotus Klan or do you consider that something different?

     It's definitely different. See, I was part of Masters but I was mainly doing instrumental shit. I dropped some beats here and there but compared to the amount of music I was making - I needed another outlet. I was a producer, chilling with other rappers. Some of them produced too but Kilowattz were younger, closer to my age. Like me and Orko versus me and Tenshun, we were closer in age so we were chilling. I was like the kid of Masters, the little homie, but with Kilowattz we were peers. We actually have a Kilowattz remix project we did. Psychopop got a Nas remix. Tenshun got an Organized Konfusion remix. I got a Jeru remix. We just never put it out. But I've been thinking of tying together the files and putting it out. Everyone's doing their own thing, it's just more low key.

    When it started being more Red Lotus Klan, I felt like it was more what I was trying to aim for in terms of putting both the crews together, all my homies from Kilowattz, all my homies from Masters of the Universe, and make it one thing. I wanted to have my own thing. I'm part of Masters but I'm the youngest cat from the crew. There was supposed to be a next generation but I was the only one.

Well, you seem really driven too. I think you and Orko would be the most prolific of the crew. Was it sort of an outlet just to get more of that stuff out?

     Yeah, kind of. The stuff I was doing was a bit different. I didn't feel like it was Kilowattz or Masters of the Universe. It was something different. You have these friends, hanging out with ten, fifteen people, and it was a different aesthetic then what was going on with the other crew. I'm not in a position to put anybody down with Masters of the Universe so I needed my own thing, a new flag. It's still Masters of the Universe too, I look at it as an extension. It's its own thing, but I look at it like a bridge. If I didn't come up under Masters, maybe I wouldn't even be doing music. I heard stuff from New York but these are people I know. These guys are just as great, just as talented. Some cats stuck with it, some drifted off.

Is the 12 Kommandments reissue on RLK still happening?

     Yeah! I was actually about to post that pretty soon. I got all the tapes and stuff. After that, we're gonna put out West Kraven Universe Horror Nites. Then after that, I'm thinking about putting out Hall of Fame, Fortune and Death. I already talked to everybody and they gave me the green light but I don't wanna throw them all out at once. A lot of the homies are sleeping on their own shit. They don't realize how dope it is. They've moved on with their lives. They were young when they recorded, but I have to remind them, "Hey, there's people who want that shit! It's cool that it's rare but let's throw it out there one last time." It's cool when it's a relic but I needed to help make that shit available for everybody, especially with their blessing. I be telling people about shit but they can't find it. I was talking to Orko too about pressing up Back 2 the Future and Microcrucifiction, remix and remaster them and put them out too.

More recently, you started rapping as well as producing. What sparked that decision to start releasing your raps?

    Around 2006, I was doing a lot of Civil War shit. I had an album with Autopsy. I had an album with my brother. I had all this music and I felt like cats weren't pushing it. I was like, "Yo, we gotta get out! We gotta do shows." I was feeling real hungry. I was producing shit but they weren't really pushing. I was going hard, trying to make the dopest shit in the world. Not that they weren't either but as a producer there's only so much I can do. So I had a show at Low End Theory. Gaslamp Killer hit me up to do it. So I hit the homies up, like, "We should do a Civil War set!" They wanted me to do an Infinity Gauntlet instrumental set. This is when Low End Theory was super crazy poppin'. It still is, but back then it was more so. We got into a creative differences type argument and I just kinda quit the crew, like, "Y'all can have it!" I was just kinda frustrated. Around then is when I started formulating some new shit. That's why there was only one Civil War CD. Then you didn't hear stuff from my brother 'til like 2012. And Autopsy had Savage Planet but it didn't come out 'til later. But there was a period when I wasn't even making music. I was just running around, getting high, like, "I did all that music for nothing?" I was tired of the ego shit. Then one night, I just wrote a rhyme to one of my homies beats. He was trying to give these beats to Civil War [laughs] but I popped it in and I wrote some rhymes and I was like, "Man, this shit might be alright." I was like, "Man, these fools think they're so dope? I can do this too. I'm gonna work hard for this too. I'm gonna get focused and get my skills up and push it." It was kinda like a challenge for me. It's like a martial art. If you practice, you're gonna get somewhere with it. I was doing a lot of mescaline at the time and that influenced it too.

Well, I was gonna say, when I heard Chasing Victims Through Sound Systems - I was listening to your stuff for years prior to that - but it was a time where I felt like everything was sounding a little too polished and a little too soft and that album was so refreshing. At first, I didn't even know it was you. I didn't know it was Infinity Gauntlet. I listened to that every day for like a year.

      Good lookin' out, man. Actually, that was the first album I released but I had recorded another album. But my friend's hard drive crashed and we never really finished it. Then me and Psychopop started kicking it again more. I could tell some of the homies weren't completely sold on me being a rapper. So I didn't really want people to know it was me, at first. I didn't want people to know that Infinity Gauntlet and Scatter Brain were the same person but it kinda unfolded that way. In like '07 I threw my first track on the internet. It might've been "Dr. Giggles" or something, which didn't come out until years later on Grand Theft Audio 2. A couple people thought that was my brother. They were like, "You're Scatter Brain? You're killin' it." And he's like, "Huh? Who's Scatter Brain?" I was trying to be real low key about it. Only one homie knew I was rapping. He was hype. He was like my first supporter. Chillin' with the homie Sounds Like Murder from Kilowattz, we were kickin' it a lot, recording. It was cool to just chill, not be around like thirty other rappers, and get sharp with it.

So was it after Chasing Victims that you started getting into the battling?

   I was already getting into the battle scene before that a bit. But after Chasing Victims I was living in L.A., in Hollywood. I was living there when we were mixing that album. But being in L.A. a lot, when you're a rapper and you're in the ciphers on the some "can't nobody fuck with you" shit, people will test you [laughs]. I love L.A., man. I had a track or two on the internet, trying to be low key, but it kinda just kept drawing me in. I'd be freestyling in the circle and somebody would take a line to heart and wanna battle you. I think I had Grand Theft Audio 1 out and I wanted to promo my shit more other than rocking shows. So I was looking at the whole battle thing, like, "Lemme hop in this shit." This cat Immaculate reached out to me to do a battle in Portland. That one was cool. Then I got invited to the Red Bull thing where I battled that dude Dizaster. That was in, like, 2011 but the footage didn't come out 'til 2013 or some weird shit. I don't have too many battles in that little format. I was just trying to promote my name to a different audience. I dunno if it helped me or not. 

Well, there's one in particular I wanted to ask you about. There's another guy called Scatterbrain, I think in L.A. Can you talk about why he has the L in front of his name? [laughs]

   [laughs] You know what's funny, we battled, his name is L. Scatterbrain... 

Oh, his name was L. Scatterbrain already? I thought that was 'cause he lost?

   Yeah, that's what I thought! Then he tried to tell me... 'cause I thought it was hilarious. Me and Sumach battled one day. That's my homie and shit. We'll always be cool. But we always have weird little friction where he thinks I'm talking shit about him or I think he's talking shit about me then we talk about it we're cool as shit. So there was a period where we didn't talk for a year or two and the first time we chilled again we went to L.A., to Low End Theory to a Danny Brown show before he was really bubblin' like that. There was hardly anybody at that show. But on the way up, me and Sumach battled. It was crazy. I was like, "This fool's dissing me in a freestyle right now?" So I kinda started coming back at him. We started going back and forth like six times. It was me, Psychopop, Sounds Like Murder and this girl he brought with him, in this sketchy-ass van. So me and Sumach battled [laughs]. We're at the Danny Brown show, the shows warpping up, I'm outside, and I hear this dude say, "Where's Scatter Brain at?" And I'm drunk as fuck and hella high and I'm like, "Is this fool cool with me or does he not like me?" He says it again and I'm not saying anything at the moment because I'm in another city and I only have like one song on Myspace or whatever, so he can't be talking about me. Then Sumach pops up, "Yo, this is Scatter Brain right here! Who the fuck are you?" Sumach was talking mad shit because we're all drunk as hell [laughs]. So he's like, "You're Scatter Brain?" and I'm like "Yeah." And he's like, "Nah, I'm Scatter Brain." It was like this weird moment in time, like I was in Bizarro world [laughs]. So me and that dude are talking shit, back and forth. I'm drunk and I had already battled Sumach. Then he's like, "Let's battle for the name." So it was really testing my stripes. So being on some strategy shit, peeping out the scenario, the way he was calling me out, I thought, "Shit, he might be ill." I finally get him to start rapping and he was coming weak and I was like, "Yesss, [laughs] he sucks." I started coming in, doing me. I started getting real arrogant, in full rapper mode, which I'm hardly ever in, but I was in that moment. So everyone was like, "You got 'im." So I'm like, "You gotta change your name!" This is when I had just started, the 2008 me. Then I saw him on Myspace and he had it changed to L. Scatter, so I thought that was funny. But years later he told me he was already L. Scatterbrain. But he literally took the L on that one.

    The funny thing is I ran in to him later, a month or so after I battled him. I was doing a show with Skrapez in L.A. and Tenshun comes up - it's like midnight - and he's like, "That L. Scatterbrain dude is here again!" And I'm like, "Sick, I'm gonna call him out again." So I called him out again, like, "Yo, we can battle again, man! Let's really end it!" But he left. There was no music playing. All you could hear was my voice, but he leaves. So we rocked some more Chasing Victims, then after, his homie comes up like, "Yo, that shit was hard Scatter Brain!" [laughs] He even called me Scatter Brain. If that's my homie and he gets disrespected, you're getting no love from me. Cadillac Ron wanted me to rematch him on that Grind Time battle shit. But I was like, "Man, that fool sucks. I don't wanna battle him again." Then I hear he started lying, saying we never battled. He was saying he was down with Project Blowed. Well, you weren't on none of the albums. I've never heard of you [laughs]. I'm up on L.A. hip-hop. That's some of my favourite shit! It sucks for me though 'cause if anyone thinks I'm that guy, that sucks, man.

Do you think you'll ever do a Scatter Brain/Infinity Gauntlet project where you handle all the production? Because you tend to produce for other people and then rap over other people's beats.

    Yeah, man. I think that's what it's getting to. 'Cause I'm in New York now and I'm not around all my people who make beats. People still send me beats but I don't have anyone to work with in person. So the logical thing is for me to produce my own shit and make it really epic. I want time to really focus and do something really major. That's probably gonna be the new shit I'm gonna be working on. I honestly don't like rapping on my own beats. That's why it hasn't already happened. I like just being in the producer role and seeing other people get inspired by my beats in a different way. But then sometimes I get the homies beats and I wish I could change, like, one little thing, but I can't, I'm in the rapper role. Now I don't really hang out with heads too much. The only guys I really hang out with here are Boxguts, Pruven, sometimes I go to Jak Trippers crib.

So my last question - I know you have the MOTU reissues you're doing, you worked on a project with Vast Aire and Pruven recently, and I know you produced an album for Boxguts - what projects do you have lined up right now that people might expect to hear next?

     The next shit I'm really trying to push is my album with the homie Obnoxious. He's outta San Diego. We have an album called Chem Trails that we've been working on for a while. We have a bunch of different producers and it's raw as fuck. I usually do all my songs by myself so this is my first album rapping with somebody else. We're different, but we're into the same shit. I also have been thinking about putting out the album I was telling you about before Chasing Victims, just for certain heads who are really into my shit. I'm not 100% sure if I'm gonna put that out. I wanna work with more artists too. Like the Project Blowed cats, some of those fools show love, like Born Allah. I wanna work with those type of heads, man...

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