Crabskull :: A foot in the doors of perception

slomo by shaun morin
slomo by shaun morin

By Taylor Burgess

Despite having the web presence of a single song on SoundCloud, people have taken to talking about Chrys Fournier and his dual musical pursuits. This year should be just as interesting, when he drops a diverse trio of cassettes in the fall.

Under the moniker Crabskull, Fournier saw his cassette Jovian Black Opera released in 2012 on local label Dub Ditch Picnic. It’s a collection of sinister hip-hop instrumentals, haunted by reverb and synths. Chris Jacques, founder of Dub Ditch Picnic, recalls getting the raw cassettes; “He gave me what would be Jovian Black Opera – hardly listened to half of the first side and was in. That stuff still kills me. When I was making the tapes – I listened to some test tapes at two in the AM in my space in an old empty warehouse type place.  It creeped the hell out of me and I had to pack up and go home.  Brilliant.”

2012 also saw the wide release by Scab Smoker, a stoner metal outfit for which Fournier drums. The self-produced album also received a larger distribution through DDP, nodding heads locally and getting nods on smaller blogs nationally. They’ve been written up for alternating between doom and thrash with sheer style, brute force, and stark minimalism.

I headed down to his West Broadway apartment to talk to him about many meandering things, including his growing range in musical styles.

As Fournier explains, “It comes from just being open. When I was discovering music, I was interested in heavy metal really early on. And I was playing music in metal bands at the same time I was getting exposed to hip-hop. So already, right there, I was open to this varied element of music.”

We discussed his personal history in his living room, where his MPC4000 sat on his coffee table, and an ambient-prog record played on one of two DJ turntables. A few visceral op-art paintings hung on the wall, which I was surprised to find out that he had painted. In response, he casually commented that he likes to play with patterns. He describes his relationship with music just as casually.

“It is an adventure, the exploration of sound. It’s a passion that grabbed me without knowing, really. I was fortunate, my dad was a musician. And not a strict musician.”

His dad and uncles would jam out Rolling Stones and CCR tunes in the basement, after his dad bought a guitar, amp, and drum kit from a garage sale. Seeing their enjoyment allowed him to get into music with “no stress, and no expectations.” His parents had him in their early 20s, and were always supportive of him playing music. “I had a drum kit since a young age, which is pretty amazing. Not many parents would let their kids just bang around on a drum kit.”

But soon, metal drumming gave way to beat-making, and along with collecting records, he began digging for samples.

“When I started digging for records, I was just digging for classic rock, and then it moved into more psychedelic and funky things. Then through funk you discover soul, and the deeper it goes. Doo-wop and blues. You realize, ‘Whoa, don’t close the doors on that,’ because there’s so much good stuff in there, I’m telling you.”

And as his collection largely grew, so grew what he could and would sample from. He says that when it comes to making music out of samples, collecting music and listening to music makes up about 50 per cent of his music-making process.

“Some people might not say that, but for me, it’s really about listening to music, you know? Sampling is coming to hear hypnotic music… Really, hearing Pink Floyd, and at the same time getting into DJ Premier. And just fusing the two together was just like, ‘Yeah…’ Stoner loops, and loop digging. It all came together in a way that I didn’t even expect.”

The two upcoming Crabskull tapes definitely aren’t departures from Crabskull’s killer haze. Phlegm Bomb Trick$ is still dark hip-hop, but it’s amped-up, a cut above his last cassette, heading closer to trap music and maybe even clubby witch house. And like he’s ventured previously, his Keep the Evil Away will be a dub and reggae mixtape of deep old grooves, though this one will feature 45s played at 33 RPM, with Crabskull original synths and effects thrown in.

Fournier explains the difference. “If I connect with the whole song, it will make its way onto a mixtape. Whereas when I’m digging for Crabskull [songs], there really is no limit to what records I’ll listen to, or pull sounds from. Really, it just comes down to that feeling, you know? Once I hear something and I get that feeling, that’s all it takes – it doesn’t matter what it is.” He goes on to say some sounds from Phlegm Bomb Trick$ were sourced from pioneer electronic music, and music concrète. “It was synthesizer music, at a time when it was totally experimental,” he says with utmost respect for some of the composers of the genre, like Daphne Oram, Ruth White, and former Winnipegger Ann Southam.

Snailpoison’s Live at the Hatnhimen Caves will be a new endeavour and his first foray into techno.

“It’s super slow and lo-fi. And it’s pretty dubby.” Fournier says, noting that he’s more of a fan of Detroit and German acid house than Chicago’s techno. “It’s a new avenue that I’m exploring, so I’m curious about the feedback on it.”

Still, Fournier has Jacques’ support as he puts all three tapes out on DDP this year.

Jacques explains, “Chrys gave me three tapes this summer and – guess what? – we’re doing three releases. Slowed dub 7″s, techno, and crazy MPC trap beats.  Because it’s so varied and weird, it works for my wandering ear. ”

But as Fournier’s ambitions grow, he says that it isn’t his growing stacks of records that will keep him going.

“I could lose all these records, and it wouldn’t really matter. Because you have this fire inside there, and you’re just fortunate. There’s so much music out there. We’re going to be discovering music for the rest of our lives. The more I realize how close-minded I’ve been to certain genres, I just realize you’re just closing off paths of an adventure.”

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