If you've ever stumbled upon Infowars, the aggregate news website run by Texas conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, there is a guaranteed chance you've heard about Bohemian Grove, a campground located in Monte Rio, California that hosts a two-week, three-weekend encampment of some of the most powerful men in the world every July. The strange dalliances practiced by this clandestine society of one percenters is said to be so bizarre they could never be accurately interpreted by mere words. However, the unabashed creep factor of this retreat is perfectly suited for the otherwordly instrumental hip-hop of 3:33, a mysterious collective helping to keep the East Coast rap scene's toes in the avant-garde with a unique offshoot of beatmaking you can call "hiss-hop". Live from the Grove is their third full-length, and exhibits everything that makes these cats such a unique entity in its art form. IRT recently had the opportunity to speak with two of the members of the group (who wish to remain anonymous) over the Internets. Here's what went down.
And oh yeah, do yourself a favor and dive headfirst into the cosmic crunk of the 3:33 catalog if the more abstract aspects of Brainfeeder and the late, great Def Jux are your bag.
IRT: What is the significance of the time 3:33 in the context of the group's name?
Member 1: It's not exactly about the time 3:33 but what that small group of numbers meant for us. We started working on material a few years ago without a group name. As we got deeper into the recording process the numbers felt like that were following us.
Member 2: That time and the number 333 was something that kept popping up in a very synchronized and coincidental way. It just made sense for us to call the group that when that number was a big part of the reason we even started making this music the way that we did. I still haven't come to any conclusions as to what it might mean, but there is definitely something strange going on. If I had to guess I would say that the number is an easily identifiable symbol that is being used to communicate something?
IRT: What initially piqued your interest in Bohemian Grove?
Member 1: Its the veil of mystery that surrounds the grove. The stories, and theories that the grove conjures up. A lot of people are familiar with the conspiracy theories surrounding the Bohemian Grove Club and its further embellishment by guys like Alex Jones. Don't get me wrong, there is a elite group of men that gather there once a year for their little political pow wow, but what attracted us is the air of mystery in those woods and the sense of anxiousness it creates. For that reason we decided to record the album out there.
Member 2: When we were working on our first material someone brought an owl into the basement we were in and decapitated it. Not a real owl but a statue. We took pictures of different areas of the room we were in and incorporated it into our artwork. The owl was a symbol used for the Bohemian Club and has been spotted on the dollar bill and other places in relation to secret society's and things of that nature. Once the connection was made we thought it would be the perfect venue for 3:33 to perform so we did the closest thing possible; we went out there and recorded an album.
IRT: What are your thoughts on the layout of the 2012 presidential election as it stands today?
Member 1: It’s a tough one for sure. I almost feel bad for Obama, because he was put in power after terrible 8 years under Bush’s rule, right at that tipping point. With the rise of the tea party, the collapse of the western world's economies, this upcoming election will be important. But lately I have been questioning how far our individual votes really go.
Member 2: I haven't payed too much attention. I have never exercised my right to vote and I am not convinced that the president is as important as they are made out to be. What business does he have doing commercial cameo's for George Lopez? In addition, I don't think anybody really knows what is going on or how to solve the nation's problems, assuming that they want to. On a whole, I think the American government has deviated drastically from its original purpose and people have been convinced that our form of "capitalism" equals freedom...You need a lot of money to run for president. I don't like politics. You don't know who you can trust...I usually look to Noam Chomsky for some insight. He doesn't seem to have an agenda and is both very informed and intelligent.
IRT: Who were some hip-hop producers that inspired you guys to go in a more beat-oriented direction? Did you guys always start out making beats or did your music evolve from another style?
Member 1: Hip-Hop is always going to be the foundation for our records, and the majority of that influence comes from, Pete Rock, RZA, Prince Paul, Havoc, Godfather Don; mostly NY producers from the mid to early 90’s. In terms of sounds, we try to bridge the gap between earlier NY hip-hop, and incorporate the soundscape of John Cage, Pierre Schaeffer and the their school of Musqiue Concrete, and meld it with Tangerine Dream, David Axelrod & the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Member 2: There are a lot of hip-hop producers that inspire me, i would have to say RZA is probably the most influential. He did the 'Ghost Dog' score which was beat-oriented and showed the ability for hip-hop to be more than just the type of beats to party and rhyme to. Also, a producer named Sift I met in like 2002. Sampling in general is one of my biggest inspirations and artists like DJ Krush and DJ Spooky have done some really good stuff. I started off playing an instrument then messing around with a cheap keyboard and cutting my own tape loops. Eventually I bought some samplers and sequencers. Experimenting with sounds and electronics and developing my own style or styles. 3:33 has evolved out of a lot of different musical influences but is really something inspired by real life experiences and is intended to be a reflection of that. I just try to make the music I wish someone else was making.
IRT: What aspect of John Cage's music theory most informs your method of creation?
Member 1: We almost take the approach of his famous piece 4”33”. We obviously agree with him about the importance of listening in particular to every detail of the track. Which is why the most important part of our tracks involves the sound design and sequencing. Knowing which frequencies work with each other. The balancing act of creating something experimental and something easy to listen to.
Member 2: I would say his experimentation, but even more so, his use of the I-Ching and chance best reflect the process of 3:33.
IRT: What prompted you guys to remix Company Flow's Krazy Kings III? How did the mix come about? How about Cannibal Ox?
Member 2: I really wanted to hear Vordul and Bigg Jus over our music. Those are two of the most innovative emcees that came out around their time. The Cold Vein and Funcrusher Plus are two of my favorite hip-hop albums. Once we had the acapellas, we had to mess around with them. They both have done some really dope solo stuff since then...I would really like to work with both of them.
IRT: Are you cognizant of whether or not El-P has heard the remixes?
Member 1: I know the label emailed him the mixes and got at him via Twitter and such. I'm sure he has his Google alerts on, and has seen the remixes. Whether he bothered to give them a spin I don't know.
Member 2: I assume he has. It would be interesting to know what he thought.
IRT: Do you have any other remix ideas in the pipeline? Have you guys ever thought of doing an entire mixtape?
Member 1: There are a few more remixes planned, the next one is a one for G-Side. We will probably knock out a few more and release them together with the instrumentals on cassette tape next year. We are just floating around titles and concepts for the project. We actually remixed the majority of the Cold Vein, but don’t have any immediate plans to release it.
IRT: The artwork to your records is phenomenal. Given that, are you guys still positive that physical product will win out over the digital medium in the end? Or at least keep its head above water? Why or why not?
Member 1: Thanks, all of our artwork is created by Kevin Vitella, who is too talented. I believe that the physical medium will always exist in one form or another. The reassurance in vinyl and cassette tapes is further proof of its longevity. I eventually think CD's will go the same route and remain popular in the collector market. The digital format scares me though, because it is eliminating so much. Look no further than what the kindle/e-readers are doing to print. Books are slowly joining the ranks of vinyl as the new member of the niche collector market.
Member 2: I think physical product will always be around. I would never pay for a computer file. If I want to pay and have MP3s, I would rather just buy the CD and have both...On the other side digital sales are a good way for artists to make money without paying for the cost of physical products. But, I prefer physical over digital. It is almost as much a part of the music to me as the music itself.
IRT: What is the significance of the owl as your logo?
Member 2: Going back to question 2, the owl was something that just happened to be there during the recording when we took that picture. If it wasn’t down there at that time, I highly doubt it would have been in our artwork. The owl began manifesting itself elsewhere which led to further developments in our forthcoming projects. i think its significance is something we have continued to find out about ourselves after we made it our "logo". Everything involved in 3:33 almost feels as if its being controlled by external forces.
IRT: Have you guys toyed with the idea of adding any kind of MC element to your music or is that a slippery slope on which you wish not to travel?
Member 2: I think the purpose of our music is better conveyed without that. I still would like to do something with Vordul, Bigg Jus and a small handful of other artists. Most of our stuff is made to be instrumental, but I like hearing certain artists on top of it. Parallel Thought presented us with the remix idea from the song they did with MF Doom, and that spawned a series...
Member 1: Out of that came the idea to do these remixes we have been releasing. We aren’t opposed to the idea of a vocalist on our albums, but as it stands now, they work much better as instrumental records.
IRT: What is your favorite conspiracy theory and how invested in its believability are you?
Member 1: There are so many from the classic William Cooper, to the laughable but highly enjoyable, David Icke. I enjoy the NASA conspiracies, not just the moon landing stuff, or the man on mars. Supposedly, NASA was or still could be activating “Project Blue Beam”. Which is a multi-step worldwide project. The first step involves NASA causing planned earthquakes around the world. Destroying key geographical points, bringing about “new world discoveries” Proving all religions wrong and basically breaking apart our belief systems. What they would discover, I don’t know. The next phase is a sort of fireworks display in the sky. NASA is going to project holographic images across the globe to match different religious faiths, and speak directly to us. At the same time that is going on, we are going to see massive lights, beams, lasers, an all out intense visionary & auditory experience. There's a lot more to the project that I won't go into to. I want to believe in it.
Member 2: The Lincoln and Kennedy parallels are interesting. One that I don't hear much about is that people involved with Haliburton blew up the levees when Katrina hit. I don't necessarily believe any conspiracy's that I have heard, I haven't discounted many either though. But anything involving 2Pac's death and the 7 Day Theory might be my favorite if that count's. I think the most "believable" theories involve population control and monetary policy. I also have a few of my own theories that I find very believable that I would rather not share at the moment.
IRT: If you could exhume a president from history to run in the 2012 election, who would it be and why?
Member 1: William Taft, a former Bonesman and member of the Bohemian Grove. Before he entered the White House, he was part of “The Brotherhood of Death” , ran with the numbers 322 and worshiped the goddess Eulogia. It would be interesting to see his reaction to the world about eighty years after his death.
Member 2: JFK. He didn't get his full four years and he probably would have went another four. I wouldn't mind seeing what he would do today.
IRT: What annoys you most about the current state of hip-hop and why?
Member 2: When artists say their album has no samples and call it Hip-hop. The word itself has been given a new meaning i.e. "hip-hop dance classes". Hip-hop is about DJ's, B-Boys, Emcees & Writers, sampling, breaking, rhyming and bombing. There should be a new genre called pop-hop. It is deprived of originality. There are always exceptions but it just lacks the raw energy and creativeness it used to have. Now a lot of older guys are trying to fit in with the younger crowd. There is a big disconnect between generations and everyone wants to make money and play dress-up. To be an artist and make a living off of music is a huge blessing. Anyone who makes art and thinks they deserve money is not a true artist at all. Kool Herc and Coke la Rock didn't put their time and energy into Hip-hop to make money. Now we have no talent over night gimmicks making money while the pioneers have been left with basically nothing. Hip-hop has lost its craftsmanship. A lot of the better artists around now are not reaching their potential because they are compromising with the current state of hip-hop. Most of the people that i have met that have their heart and mind the right place in terms of the culture tend to make pretty bland music. I am also annoyed at people quoting Lil Wayne as the best rapper alive, or even that he is considered in the discussion, especially when people like Rakim, Kool G Rap, Nas, Black Thought, etc. etc. etc. are all still alive and well.
Member 1: The cheap production/engineering that artists are getting away with. The majority of this new music sounds so disorganized and sloppy.
IRT: Who are some of your favorite new acts that people should get up on?
Member 2: I'm not sure about new but as far as Hip-hop goes Roc Marciano for sure, Gene the Southern Child, Curren$y, Loer Velocity, Ekundayo and one of my personal favorites Megalon a.k.a. Tommy Gunn. I also like this artist Htrspltn out of Russia who does illbient experimental type stuff. I've mostly been listening to older stuff recently like Master P's 'Toon Killaz', Kool G Rap '4,5,6' The Roots 'Illadelph Halflife', Scienz of Life 'Forthcoming by Day' album, CNN, Do or Die, etc.
Member 1: Both of Andy Stott’s new records are amazing. I’m enjoying the majority of music from Tri Angle records, particularly Holy Other. King Midas Sound, Black Chow, basically anything The Bug is involved in. I also have been enjoying new records from HTRK, Gang Dance, Raime, 2562, Falty DL, Zomby, Thundercat and anything coming out on Not Not Fun & 100% Silk. The Numero Group have been on point this year with Stone Coal White. Fathers Children & their amazing record store day title Pressed At Boddie. Hip-Hop on the other hand has been pretty boring save for Roc Marciano, Action Bronson, Currency & Danny Brown.