Peanut Butter Wolf : IPaintMyMind Exclusive Interview
Words by Evan La Ruffa
Lead Photo Courtesy of Stonesthrow
As eras of musical history come and go, record labels do the same, with the exception of a few indispensable outfits who make it their job to function outside the realm of pop hysteria. These labels are inherently critiques of the status quo, but they’re also outlets for the rest of us to connect to something that reflects actual cultural trends, not consent manufactured by monopolized media.
Stones Throw is one of those labels. Dedicating themselves to vinyl since back in the day, and supporting important artists like Madlib, Dam Funk, J Rocc, Mayer Hawthorne, and many more, their mark is indelible. Their collaborations with other like-minded groups like the LA-glitch imprint, Brainfeeder, and events like their direct-to-disc record series, are all aspects of a vision formulated by one of the industry’s most capable and calculated label-heads, Peanut Butter Wolf.
Chris Manak aka Peanut Butter Wolf has made a name for himself as DJ and producer, conducting fantastic VJ sets nationwide, all the while orchestrating what seems to be a takeover of good music in general. Between direct interaction with fans, silk screened vinyl releases, and PBW’s not-so-secret-weapon, Madlib, the sky is the limit for this HipHop impresario. Rarely do talent and vision intertwine so aptly, and the label’s success has been predicated on both. Ahead, IPaintMyMind talks to PBW about the romanticism of vinyl, performing abroad, and the ongoing success of Stones Throw Records.
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EL: Wolf, our pleasure… We’re big fans of stonesthrow…(We play My Vinyl Weighs A Ton almost too much….) How’s life these days?
PBW: Professional life is good. Still doing what I set out to do since the early 80’s when “Planet Rock” came out. Still on track.
EL: The last few years have seen some dominance from Stones Throw in the name of Mayer Hawthorne and Dam Funk, just to name a few… How can you speak to the growing diversity of the label and the artists you guys are looking to sign?
PBW: Very glad people continually look to us for what’s next in music. As for diversity, I’ve pretty much always liked music from lots of different genres anyway, but if you do something for 15 years (and travel outside the hometown), it’s only natural you continue to get a new perspective. Quincy Jones looked at music differently after he went to Brazil.
EL: Indeed. I’ve always wondered how do you divide your time as label-head and musician. I’d imagine sometimes you wanna say “fuck the business shit, I wanna go spin some records…”
PBW: The “business shit” piles up sometimes but I never let it get out of control. The record spinning is the hobby I do outside of the 9-5 office job called Stones Throw. I don’t go the movies or play any sports or have any kids or any of that, so I have time for both. I make more money Djing than I do w/ Stones Throw, but Stones Throw is more fulfilling. Djing is that quick buzz, but releasing records and working with the level of talent that I do is meaningful.
EL: You’re a DJ-friendly label, and thus, a vinyl-friendly label… Y’all have some dusty fuckin fingers over there, between yourself, Madlib and Mayer Hawthorne alone… What can you say about vinyl sales and its importance to a growing label like your own, especially amidst the download culture?
PBW: The vinyl thing is very romantic and press worthy, but sometimes it’s over hyped. Stones Throw started was a vinyl only label back in ‘96 and that was partly because I didn’t personally buy CDs and there was no Itunes Store (til 2003). But it was also because the indie stores were the only ones that would support indie music. After a few years, we were able to get our CDs into the chain stores and then the chain stores all went out of business and we got tens of thousands of CDs returned. But, I do love vinyl and will continue to sell records as long as I can do so.
EL: Speaking of dope vinyl releases… That 4xLP MF DOOM metallix box set available on Stonesthrow.com is proper!
PBW: An inside source told me that it was inspired by the P.I.L. album “Metal Box”. Was no secret to me though. “Metal Box” is a classic.
EL: As someone who’s gonna purchase most shit you put out, ever thought of an annual vinyl subscription for dedicated heads??
PBW: We looked into different ideas. We were gonna do that for the Madlib Medicine Show records, but we’re barely handling our current work load as it is. That’s a big commitment!
EL: I hear you man, the Madlib Medicine Show Series is exactly what I was thinking of. We also read recently that you and Anika were selected for All Tomorrows Parties, curated by Portishead later this year… that sounds like a blast…
PBW: Yeah, I’m thankful that Portishead got me on board. Geoff teases me that DJ culture has gotten out of control, so I tease him about “so why are you asking me to DJ at your thing?” He’s one of the coolest music geniuses I know. They’re usually assholes.
EL: I’m always interested in musicians perception of crowds overseas. What’s the difference in your opinion?
PBW: For me, people are more excited the further away from the hometown you go. As a kid in the 80’s, I always wanted to see The Cure and The Smiths and New Order and bands like that. It’s more of an event when a band with an accent from half way around the world comes to your town. In my case back then, it was San Jose, CA.
EL: We were sad not to have been at Coachella this year. How was the event you guys co-hosted with Brainfeeder? The lineup looked insane. Any future projects on deck w B’feeder?
PBW: We talked about doing something with Brainfeeder back in LA or somewhere else, but haven’t decided the exact “who, what, where, or even why” yet. I’m proud of all of Fly Lo’s success. I can now say “I knew him way back when.”
EL: Can ya give us a heads up on whatcha got goin’ on the rest of 2011?
PBW: Continuing the direct to disc series we started a couple months ago and putting out new music. If I think too hard about all that needs to be done between today and Dec 31st, I’ll have a stroke.
EL: And, we always ask… name an artist or a musician that IPMM readers should check out…
PBW: Superstar & Star. Don’t listen to a song or two. Just set 2 hours aside and instead of watching a movie, type that name into youtube and click on as much as you can find.