OAK FAMILY ALBUM: JAMES S. CORRIGAN

-1James wears the Cheap Monday ‘Tobias’ jean jacket in washed black, the Cheap Monday ‘Ben’ sweater in black, the OAK tube tee in quartz, and the Won Hundred ‘Dean’ straight leg jeans (available in store only).

Words by Conor Riley.
Photographs by Justin Fulton.

Last week, friend of OAK, visual merchandiser, and music producer James S. Corrigan paid us a visit at 55 Nassau. While we shot him in the OAK Photo Studio in some of our new arrivals, we talked about the state of hip hop in a post-Internet world, which artists are due for a comeback, and his dream collaborators. We were also lucky enough to be given an exclusive mix by James – Pump Up The Whoop Vol. 2 –  which you can listen to below.

OAK: What’s the best record store discovery you’ve ever made?
JAMES S. CORRIGAN: That’s a really tough call. It depends on If we’re talking about accidentally discovering music I’ve never heard, or finding that record I’ve been looking for. I could never name one, so here are a few records belonging to each one of those categories

Records that I had never heard but had to purchase because they blew my mind:

Structures Percussions by Charles Bellonzi and Robert Viger
(I know next to nothing about this record and there is no available information on it. I know that its French. I know Charles Bellonzi was a jazz drummer and Robert Viger was an electronic music composer/performer. It was released in 1972. I read once years ago, but now can’t find anything supporting this, that it was commissioned by the French government as an educational record on strange time signatures and electro/acoustic music. It has such a warm sound. The rhythms repeat over and over again with slight variations that make you rethink the pulse of the composition with every measure. It’s HUGE!)


We’re Weightless by the Skinny Boys
(This was released on Warlock records as some ridiculous answer to The Fat Boys but the fact is… it’s SO HEAVY!!!!!!)

Records that I looked for and finally found are many… but this one was a big one this past year:

The Ann Steel Album by Roberto Cacciapaglia
(This was Italian composer Roberto Cacciapaglia’s, who did mostly avant garde/Kraut rock influenced music, attempt to make a dancey pop record. The vocalist is a woman by the name Ann Steel who was an American modeling in Italy. Her voice is really fucked up and lovely and forced, all at the same time. The music is like a really poly rhythmic, clunky, angular, futuristic ABBA, but with even catchier melodies! One of my favorite records of all time!)

OAK: Musically speaking, who would you most like to work with, and why?
JSC: I would love to have worked with Arthur Russell. He worked on every kind of music I have ever attempted to create, perform, or play. More importantly, to me anyway, is the common language in all his music. There is a constant thread running though his romantic, adult contemporary jams, his disco records, and his lush orchestrated Kitchen commissioned pieces. His way of hearing music was really unprejudiced. There is no such thing as genre or even a specific audience in Arthur Russell’s music. That’s the kind of person I want to work with. Him and:
Steve Reich
Arnold Dreyblatt
MF Doom
Royal Trux
Moondog
and blah blah blah

OAK: Who, in your opinion, is due for a comeback? What would you want it to sound like?
JSC: I would love to hear Big Daddy Kane work with really contemporary producers. I don’t want to hear him over Pete Rock or DJ Premier, not because they aren’t EVERYTHING, but because those are expected formats for a Big Daddy Kane. What if Big Daddy Kane was working with Mike WiLL Made It, Harry Fraud, Bangladesh, or anyone trying to do something new. I’d like to see what would happen if you took the genius of Big Daddy Kane and challenged him with the new 16 and 32nd note high hat rhythms that are being presented today. If Big Daddy Kane came out with a new record that avoided nostalgia or “classic” hip-hop all together I would be elated. Same concept goes for Das Efx!

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OAK: Describe your personal style. How is it reflected in your work?
JSC: I guess my personal style is rooted in pretty traditional men’s fashion (i.e. preppy/sporty) but I attempt to take it out to lunch. I like using too many patterns at once, mixing dark with one very bright element, introducing slight moments of other traditions into an outfit that doesn’t fully belong, like a hippie/afro centric necklace or Timberland boots with the tongues open or a really trashy outfit with penny loafers.  [I like] mixing garments that are too small with garments that are too big. I can say that I am really digging young David Hockney’s style right now and Das Efx’s style circa Hold It Down era (wow, they’ve come up twice now!). I don’t think that my personal style is reflected in my music as much as my music is reflected in my dress.

OAK: How does music influence other creative decisions in your life and work?
JSC: Music effects every aspect of my life. It has since I was six or seven. It can be actually educational or informative like a BDP record in the 6th grade, or it can change the way you look at things in a more aesthetic or formal way, like Albert Ayler did for me when I was 18. Imaginative, and inventive music can change the way you look at everything. All art can, but I think music is the most exciting because it’s so elusive. It’s the most mysterious to me and successfully accomplishes what all other mediums attempt to. Saying the most with the least. I try to keep the things I learn in music present in all my thoughts and decisions.

OAK: What was your favorite part about growing up in Boston? Where was the best place to see a show growing up?
JSC: Growing up in Boston, for me, was a diverse experience. [Boston has] A lot of different kinds of neighborhoods and cultures. Boston is a politically liberal city (on paper), but kind of conservative culturally. However, there were some great record shops (Big up Biscuit Head records, Nuggets, and Twisted Village) and venues (most of which don’t exist anymore). The classic Boston venue was (and I guess still is) The Middle East. There is a long tradition of rap performances there, however I think the best show I ever saw there was Jonathan Richman. He told lot’s of stories about Natick, MA, most of which were really romantic and charming.

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OAK: For our readers, what do you mean when you refer to hip hop’s “golden age”? What influences from this era do you see/hear in today’s hip hop?
JSC: Well, there are different opinions on what is considered to be the golden age of “Hip Hop” but some think of it as the early to mid nineties, which is when I was in 5th, 6th, and 7th grade. I was buying all of those records when they were coming out and falling in love. It’s interesting because I think that era spawned the whole “backpacker” movement of the late nineties early 2000’s. The thing about that whole moment (the backpacker era) is that it was pretty much decidedly uncool and unsexy. It was of course a reaction to a kind of pop sensibility or attitude that had never been in hip hop before but it was also a kind of conservatism. It said, “hip hop is supposed to sound and look like this and you can’t take it from us.” “Us” being the black community but more than that, all people who identified with the music’s ethos and perspective. It was grumpy and again, uncool, un-progressive. It’s fascinating to now see that era come back into vogue. Rap music is old enough (and I guess I am old enough!) for that music to have a new young audience to whom it sounds brand new, subversive, and exciting after a decade of rap music that was very produced and non-sample based. That being said, it’s interesting to see how different people are using it. In the case of Joey Badass and the whole Pro Era camp, it’s really nostalgic, and really literal to me. In the case of the A$AP kids I feel like it’s a spirit more than literally trying to recreate a sound. Both crews are very talented. The funny thing about it all is that the “golden age” was so great because it was new and contemporary. It didn’t sound like RUN-DMC, Busy Bee, or Sugar Hill, it sounded of its time. That’s the way all music works, it keeps moving forward. I think young artists today are inspired by the inventiveness and freedom of that “golden” era. I think rap music today is at its most diverse, creative, and strongest.

OAK: What are the pros and cons of the Internet when it comes to music?
JSC: The pros: so much information! The cons: too much information!

Pump Up The Whoop Vol. 2 by Jjams on Mixcloud

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