What do you get when you put together one-part musical heavy hitters and one-part dance floor phenomena? You get the single “Robot Remains,” an explosive collaboration between The Bangerz and America’s Best Dance Crew alumni The Jabbawockeez that was released last month.
While The Bangerz consist of Nick Ngo, G-Wrex, Squareweezy, Cutso, Goldenchyld, and Replay, I caught up with members Cutso and Squareweezy at their homebase in San Jose, California to talk about their collaboration process, how they would explain a DJ Crew to people who think DJ’s just spin records and why they dropped the “Finger” in their old name “Fingerbangaz,” after the jump.
Ro: How did The Bangerz form?
Cutso: It was actually at my 17th birthday party. I just invited a bunch of DJ friends from high school. I told them “Hey I’m having a birthday party, bring some records and let’s showcase.” The 6 guys that brought records ended up being The Fingerbangerz/Bangerz. October 24, 1998 was the inception of The Fingerbangerz. Our birthday is coming up in a few weeks.
Question from Ernie: Some people may not know what a DJ crew is. They might assume they play at parties with an MC (Master of Ceremonies) who raps over the beat or not have a clue at all. How would you explain to people what you do, for those not in the know?
Cutso: The way the Bangerz started as a DJ crew was that we came up in Mobile DJ scene in SJ. It was a huge scene where people would go and dj parties and dances. Before we formed The Fingerbangerz crew, we all were part of different DJ collectives. When we came together to form The Fingerbangerz, our definition was it was like a battalion. Battalion of DJs. We were in team competitions, for the sake of battling. Later on, we played our part in the battle scene and moved on to DJing parties. It also became sorta like promotion company. In a literal sense: we’re a crew of DJs that play together. Even when we play individually, we rep our crew. Above production, DJing our 1st love.
Squareweezy: It’s like a band,you’re gonna have your solo artist, you’re gonna have a guy that plays bass guitar. We’re basically a band. We’re all like-minded, we like collaborating with each other.
Cutso: Basically a band *laughs*
Squareweezy: We’re like a posse, a squadron, and a gang.
Cutso: We’re the DJ equivalent of street gang. *laughs again*
Squareweezy: We were a battle crew. We were a foot battalion. Mercenary soldiers.
Cutso: Over the years the definition might change, it goes back to us being a DJ crew that is playing for the same cause.
Squareweezy: We’re more like family now.
Cutso: We’re a tight brotherhood. That’s how we lasted so long. Most DJ crews don’t make it past 5-6 years.
Ro: What is your creative process like? In terms of creating music?
Cutso: Since there’s so many of us and it’s hard to get us in one space, for instance, Squareweezy will start a track on his own and then pass it along to every else in the crew. We do it through email or swapping it out through jump drives. It mostly starts with one person and it gets passed around. If someone has input on a track, they’ll go ahead and do that [put input] and then pass it onto the next person. It’s almost like a game of hot potato.
Squareweezy: We’re kinda like how old Motown used to work. Where the 6 of us will listen to a track and decide on what’s going to happen, if it’s good enough to move forward or so on and so forth. Everyone has they’re own thumbs up or thumbs down, where do we stop on a track.
Squareweezy: Six people bring a lot of different flavors. The end product is magic, per se.
Cutso: Collective magic.
Ro: How did you link up with The Jabbawockeez? Who approached who?
Squareweezy: How that all came about was that we actually performed with them when they [the Jabbawockeez members] were in their separate crews before they became the Jabbawockeez. We pretty much had a relationship with them already because we just grew up in the same area. One of the Jabbawockeez members is a close friend of ours and he taught some of the guys in our crew a thing of two about DJing. He gave our album to the rest of the Jabbawockeez and they just started making routines to it. We’re just blown away. We just naturally came together from growing up and being on the grind.
Ro: What was your reaction when you heard people requesting “Robot Remains?”
Cutso: It was funny because we came out with a mixtape called “Robot Remains”, which had all the remixes we did for the Jabbawockeez and everybody was like, ‘Ok, I downloaded the mixtape but the song “Robot Remains” is not on there. How do we get it?’ We got 100+ emails, tweets and messages everyday asking for the song itself. It showed us how many people were listening to the music. It really got us excited. Not only because it was played on national TV, not just once but 3-4 times on huge networks — NBC, MTV, etc. — we got a huge response from it. We wrapped it up in a package and put it out. Since then it’s been doing good on iTunes. We actually debuted #7 on the electronic charts on iTunes. Now the challenge is getting it to all the markets since iTunes isn’t available in all countries.
Squareweezy: We can’t wait to show people more.
Cutso: Yeah, it’s getting us prepared for the album.
Squareweezy: We’re not rappers or singers. This is something new coming from producers that produce for a dance group. A couple other tracks they dance to has been getting really good responses. We’re really amped about this album.
Ro: Have you seen MÜS.I.C., the MGM Las Vegas/Jabbawockeez show yet? If so, what was your reaction when you heard your tracks being played?
Cutso: We got to catch it in June. It was mind blowing. We’ve been making these tracks for them for the last year and a half. It sorta has been accumulating to this huge show. This is just a culmination of all the work we’ve done with them from two years ago until now. For us, personally as The Bangerz, it was really mind blowing because we finally got to see all our music come alive. We’ve seen a lot of the things they’ve done with the music we’ve given them but there were certain routines they were saving for big show. To see that all come together was kinda emotional because we’ve been working so hard. To see it unravel before us was a new feeling. This is such new movement for the world. They’re the first dance crew w/production outfit. It’s like ‘We stuck our flag in the ground. People are finding out about us.’ Now we actually get to see the whole movement come alive.
Squareweezy: … You can visually see the music and I think that’s what people can really grasp onto. If you can hear the music and visually see it happening then they have a great thing going. It was amazing to hear and see. It was a great show.
Cutso: Just to add to that: being able to get this new experience of music, beyond a music video. It’s a live creation…it comes alive before you. It’s a big trip to us.
Squareweezy: Artists usually work w/singer or a vocalist. With us, we’re working with dancers. They are our voice. We’re basically working with sight and sound.
Cutso: We’re an extension of each other.
Ro: Who and What are major influences (music, family, etc.) for each member/the entire team?
Cutso: That question is always fun to answer because there’s so many of us in the crew and we all come from the same background of the DJ scene in the Bay Area.
We used to be Battle DJs. That’s how we started. As far as producing music, we come from different backgrounds. We have our own influences as individuals. That translates what we put into a bangerz product. You can hear influences from DJ Shadow, Depeche Mode, Metallica, The Neptunes, The Beastie Boyz, etc. We all come very vast musical backgrounds. We could be here all day trying to breakdown artists for every individual member of the group. The members of the group identify with their main influence. It definitely shines in the music they make individually. It usually ends up being a Bangerz product. There are so many influences that make up the bangerz sound. They bring to the table.)
Ro: Is there one album/record you can listen to over and over again for 24 hours, which is it and why?
Cutso: My number one favorite album of all time is Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boyz. There’s so much going on. Sampling was a big part of the album. Sampling was a huge part of Hip Hop around that time. That album itself was a huge influence to some of us in the crew.
Squareweezy: I’m narrowing it down to two. I can probably listen to De La Soul’s Stakes is High for 24 hours straight. It takes you through different moods. It would be perfect for any time of the day. Certain songs I can see listening to in the morning. I can see some songs I can listen to mid-day when I have my lunch. It’s a great sandwich song. ‘Dog Eat Dog’ is a super cutty album cut from ‘Stakes is High.’ I have so many I can name but that’s the first one that comes to mind.
Cutso: We’re real big Hip Hop heads. We’re into all kinds of music but Hip Hop is our first love. We make Hip Hop. Those two albums are part of the Bangerz sound. Squareweezy and I grew up together listening to the same music.
Squareweezy: Mostly those albums and Wu-Tangs ‘Enter the 36 Chambers’.
Cutso: That would be stating the obvious. Particularly if we were to wind it down to albums that were really influential, not just for the music itself but for the creative process going into it.
Squareweezy: For myself, I’m sure it’s the same for the rest of the guys, we listen to music based on moods and how we feel that day. I grew up as a heavy metal listener. You can hear it in some tracks having an aggressive sound.
Cutso: Squareweezy is definitely the most aggressive member of the group, production wise. It’s really evident in his production because of his heavy metal background.
Question from Jeff: Why did you drop the “finger” part of their name?
Cutso: It was a professional decision. We hooked up with Herman from Forum Agency. He was getting us gigs and certain companies didn’t want to associate themselves with us because of the name. We realized that our fan base is a younger crowd. You don’t want a 12 year old kid begging his mom to take him to the store to get him a Fingerbangerz CD.
Squareweezy: It was definitely a tough decision. We’ve been together for 10 years. We’ve known each other for more than 15 years. Our friends know us as Fingerbangerz. In the end, that’s how Robot Remains came about. We’ve gone through changes in our lives, yet still the robot remains!
Cutso: Good reference to Robot Remains.
Squareweezy: The name changed but ain’t a damn thing changed.
Ro: Where do you see the crew a year or 10 years from now?
Cutso: 1 year from now, I’d like to see us on the road, promoting the album on a Tour/World Tour. From the response with our association with the JBKWs and the music we’ve been putting out, people want to see us. Hopefully when the album drops, everything will fall into place. We’re all working on our own projects. We do a lot of live performances and will have some in the next few months. 10 years from now?
Squareweezy: I would like to see where people this 10 years from now. I wanna see the people we influence show us where they can take it.
Cutso: The people we inspire, we definitely would like to see what they do with that inspiration and do with it in 10 years.
Cutso: Hopefully we’re still all making music and living comfortably from it. Right now we’ve been together for so long but really this is only the beginning of the next level of the Bangerz. Definitely will want to see if we have excelled in 10 years from now. Who knows? Maybe score a movie or a film.
Squareweezy: Anything to push the art forward and get people to look back at us and say “hey, those guys were an influence on us.”
Cutso: Everything we do everyday is for the advancement of the art. So we would like to see where the art has gone.
Cutso: Hopefully the kids of the crew will be doing gigs. A few of us have children.
Ro: Goldenchyld has a daughter, right?
Cutso: Yeah he does. There’s actually 4 children: 3 boys and 1 girl.
Squareweezy: That’s enough to start their own crew.