By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
IT MAY SEEM curious to name a musical genre after the place where many a beloved Buick goes to sputter out. But when Manhattan-based DJ/producer duo Ming and FS settled on the name "junkyard," they weren't suggesting that their music belongs there--rather, they were implying that it envelops an alloy of influences from hip hop to 2step. A phone call to the multifaceted Ming (Aaron Albano, age 25) and FS (Fred Sargolini, 26) at their studio-cum-loft, Madhattan Studios, found the thick-accented goofballs in loopy moods. In roughly 30 minutes' time, they showed off their ability to be as charmingly sarcastic as they are modest--but that's not to say they don't want to impress the girls.
"I just got back from the gym," Sargolini (the more laid-back of the pair) offers when I ask him what he's done with his day.
"I was just at the gym," Albano ripostes Sargolini. "How did I miss you?"
"I don't know. I don't think you were really there."
"Fred was actually at a ballet class," Albano jokes.
It's pretty evident even over the phone that the two artists complement each other both personally and musically. (The forthright Albano says they interact like Italian brothers, and the sly Sargolini later jokes that they have been holding hands during the interview.) The duo met nearly five years ago at a house party and played together in a rock band before moving on to electronica. Today Sargolini, who started DJing at the age of ten, spends a lot of time tooling around his pit of equipment, while Albano, who played in punk and hardcore bands at fifteen, spends a lot of his time on the phone "talking bullshit all day" to interviewers like me.
Ming and FS have spent a lot of time explaining to bewildered critics what their music is not. It exhibits the emotionally unstable basslines of drum 'n' bass, along with intermittent scratching, full beats, and smooth vocals.
But this production team makes sure you know they have not been creating drum 'n' bass, or hip hop, or breakbeat, or house. What they have done is take one defining characteristic from several of electronica's subgenres and make a saucy stir-fry that tempts listeners: Eat at Ming's!
To complement their giant musical appetites, Sargolini and Albano have packrats' eyes. "Some people look at a pile of garbage and see a pile of garbage. We see it as art," Albano explains matter-of-factly. The latest from Ming and FS, 2001's The Human Condition (Om Records) is a more focused, song-based followup to their debut LP, 1999's Hell's Kitchen. This time around, they experiment with naughty vocals ("Freak") and beatboxing skills ("Captain Omri's Mumble Box"). They even bring in some friends of Naked Music and Macy Gray (Ada Deyer and Todd Simon, respectively).
Although junkyard's audience has widened since their first album, they still defend The Human Condition's indie status. "We're not trying to sell records in a 7-Eleven," comments Albano. "We're experimental and grassroots. We don't have tits and ass to sell on MTV." Sargolini snaps back, "Speak for yourself, buddy."
They may spend much of their time joking, but Ming and FS have also devoted a lot of thought to the question of how to keep their music fresh. With the creation of an original genre like junkyard comes the risk of being stuck within its boundaries. "If Tricky, for example, put out a record that was from A to Z like we did, [critics] would say, 'Oh, it's breakbeat-hip-hop-junkyard-wash-your-car music.' But it's just Tricky's new album," Albano says, a bit peeved. "I think that's the danger of where we're coming from. We want to get rid of that eventually, so people see us as just artists, as Ming and FS.
"Who knows," he adds slyly, "we could put out a rock album next."