This interview was originally published in Bona Fide Magazine from UK. Great magazine & website which you can check out here www.bonafideuk.com
Chris Manak adopted his recording moniker
towards the late 1980s’, after finding out that
his then girlfriend’s younger brother had a
morbid fear of the ‘Peanut Butter Wolf
Monster’. Joining forces with the more
traditionally named Charizma, the pair were
part of an adventurous West coast
underground scene challenging New York’s rap
hegemony. The duo eventually signed a deal
with the Walt Disney owned Hollywood Basic
label but a difficult relationship ended without
an album even being released. And worse was
to come after Charizma was tragically killed,
aged just 23.
After a brief and understandable departure from
making music, Wolf came back with a newfound
determination to get his and Charizma’s songs
heard. To complement this he also released the
Peanut Butter Breaks instrumental album, record
de rigueur to any self-respecting turntablists
collection. As well as producing for the likes of Kool Keith and gaining notable inclusions in The
Return of The DJ compilation series. In short Wolf
was gaining industry props and decided to do
something with them: start up Stones
Early releases include Rasco’s ‘The Unassisted’,
Lootpack’s ‘Soundpieces: Da Antidote’ LP and
Charizma’s posthumous 12” ‘My World Premier’,
a song with drums so tough they could take out a
small army. Wolf posits the release of Quasimoto’s
‘The Unseen’ as a pivotal moment; “When I put
out the first Quasimoto album I started really
enjoying it…and at that point I felt freer to express
what I liked.” It was through that album Stones
Throw’s inimitable identity began to fully emerge.
A loose collection of musical misfits, brought
together by an encyclopaedic knowledge of Hip
hop and an incessant drive for originality.
You are over here on tour, helping to promote
James Pants, can you tell us a bit about him?
He came to see me DJ in Texas after his prom, he
introduced himself and offered to take me record
shopping the next day. He showed me some good
spots and we kept in touch ever since. That was
about 10 years ago now, I had no idea he was
making music at the time. He then interned with
us but I never really saw him, although I vaguely
remember him coming to a Gary Wilson
The Percee-P LP was released at the start of
this year, with Guilty Simpsons album out at
the end of the month. Are you pleased with
how they have both turned out?
When the artists are pleased then I’m always
pleased. Percee’s took a while to finish; Madlib
was heavily involved with the beats. I think Percee
is one of the only people I’ve worked with to have
a record out before I did. I think his first (record)
was 1988, he’s definitely from the old school. It’s
funny seeing him trade verses with a really young
DMX, Fat Joe and Eminem on Youtube. He’s also
really engaging live. As for Guilty’s album (‘Ode To
The Ghetto’), I think it’ s one of the best Hip hop
albums I’ve heard in recent times.
For you, what has been the defining moment
of Stones Throw’s success?
I’ve always enjoyed doing it, but when I put out the
first Quasimoto album I started really enjoying it.
I began to feel like I was hitting my stride and at
that point I felt freer to express what I liked. Even
going as far back as the Homeliss Derelix stuff,
the ‘In The Mix’ 12” is among my favourite records
we’ve released but a lot of people overlooked it.
How have you personally handled the
balance between creativity and the business
side of running a record label?
My creative input as far as making music is
concerned has really been sucked out. I’m not sure why or how, but it has. But I still have deejaying, live shows, the theme
mixtapes and even some videos, which allows me a creative release.
Vinyl and the overall packaging of records seem to be a strong part
of both your own and Stones Throw’s musical lineage. How are you
dealing with the digital revolution that’s affecting the music industry?
How are we paying the bills? For one thing we are making everything directly
available through the label’s website. Before it (the website) was competing with
retail stores and we wanted to respect that, but now they’re going under so in
order to survive we are selling everything through stonesthrow.com. We’re hoping
to make more per unit that way. When you sell it to the store you have to pay $3
US per unit and that may only go in a small miscellaneous section, like ‘P’ for
Peanut Butter Wolf. If you wanted to have an album at the front of the store then
you’d have to pay thousands of dollars. The good thing for us is that it’s over now
and you can, or will be able to buy everything either digitally or on vinyl and CD
directly from the website.
I’ve read that you’re into, or use to be into, English groups like Joy
Division and Cabaret Voltaire. Do you still check for any
Not really new stuff, but that’s not just English
music either, just general. I mainly check for stuff
from the 60s, 70s and 80s. I’ll probably discover
any good modern music in 20 years time. I
suppose I’m just in my own world musically,
listening to like 300 James Pants singles.
We’ve spoken a bit about James’ and Guilty’s
albums, a lot of people are also getting really
excited about the ‘Madvillainy’ follow up. Can
you tell us much about the new LP?
I haven’t heard anything but I got a text message
from Doom on New Years saying ‘Happy New
Year bro, the albums coming along.’ The ﬁ rst
album came along really casually and after that
we tried to really chase them for a second album
and enforce these rules and deadlines but it didn’t
work. Now I’m more crossing my ﬁ ngers. We have
a very friendly relationship, he (Doom) is one of
the nicest guys you’ll meet. I mean I’m still waiting
to do ‘My vinyl weighs a ton’ part 2 for myself and
if I can’t motivate myself to go into the studio how
can I expect anyone else to do it?
So it’s very much pending? This question could
Well that’s kind of how Quasimoto number 2
(‘The Further Adventures of Lord Quas’) happened.
We gave him deadlines and we kind of gave up
after they kept passing. Then all of a sudden, one
Monday he comes in and says here’s number 2.
Those two remind me a lot each other; they are
both really nice guys and are both out of their
A lot of people over here seem to be getting
down about Hip hop, but I think this is a
pretty good period for underground rap, it’s
just the mainstream has never been worse
– bar the end of the 90s, puffy/jiggy era.
Would you agree with that statement?..
I know when Southern Bounce and even Hyphy
got popular in the mainstream, it became exciting
for me again. I mean I’m sure there’s still good
stuff but I haven’t been seeking it out recently. 3 or
4 years ago I joined a record pool in the US for
mainstream releases because it was starting to
feel like something different, while all the indie Hip
hop stuff was complaining about how good it was
back in the 80s and 90s, whilst not saying anything
new. Edan and Kidtronic are underground guys
that excite me a lot, we’re considering putting out
a Kidtronic record.