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BOOTLEG CONTRABAND

RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW BOOTLEG CONTRABAND WHAT HAPPENED?

Hiya Cason Trager and Lou Sceelo of BOOTLEG CONTRABAND thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.

What made you decide that music is a thing for you?

Trager: When I was a kid, my brother had a bass, and I wasn’t allowed to touch it. One day, he caught me messing around on it and decided to teach me how to play “Longview” by Green Day. My hands were small so it was hard to play, but I got it. After that I only knew the one song, but I was allowed to handle the bass. So I’d put on their CDs in the boombox, jump around on the bed, and pretend to be a rockstar. Instantly, I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.

Sceelo: Music has been a constant companion throughout my life. From my earliest memories of my parents singing at family gatherings to my present-day interests, music has been a guiding force. Personally, I believe music found me, especially back in the ’70s when Blondie first captivated me. Since then, I’ve felt forever changed by its power.

Introduce us to you all and your musical history.

Trager: For me, it all began with Metal and classic Rock at the age of 3. By 7, I had picked up the bass and delved deeply into punk, reggae, funk, and especially dub. I was captivated by the atmosphere and textures in dub music. Then, in 8th grade, I witnessed my brother mixing two vinyl records together—Jazzanova and LTJ Bukem. I was fascinated by his ability to blend half-time hip hop with drum and bass, which sparked my obsession with drum and bass music, techno, and all sorts of deep electronic sounds throughout high school. I also developed a strong interest in Kraftwerk. During this time, I began playing in an electronic jazz fusion group called The Coop, which continued for a decade after high school.

Sceelo: Both of us were raised in households where music was omnipresent, and we discovered its magic early in life. Cason and I have embarked on various musical endeavors, from playing in garage bands to playing in front of thousands. Our sound encompasses a little bit of this, a dash of that, and a whole lot of other influences. The list is endless.

Whats the live music scene like in Chicago right now?

Trager: It can be overwhelming, and at times, it might seem cliquey; however, amidst the various scenes, there appears to be a connection and recognition of talented artists. Some of our favorites include Charlie Otto, Justice Hill, Zombie Mañana, Sjod, Machine Elvis, Mungion, Bifunkal, Drama, and R34L.

Sceelo: The live music scene in Chicago is vibrant and eclectic, with venues ranging from intimate cafes to larger concert halls. The talent here is incredibly diverse, representing a wide range of genres and styles. I often find myself wishing for more time to fully experience and enjoy everything the city’s music scene has to offer. It truly is global.

Ive seen a lot of people struggling for support recently online. Whats your view on the industry?

Sceelo: As for the industry itself, it’s undoubtedly a challenging landscape to navigate. The rise of streaming platforms and social media has opened up new avenues for artists to connect with their audience, but it’s also created a saturated market where standing out can be a daunting task. Support, both from fans and within the industry, is crucial for artists to thrive and continue creating meaningful music.

Trager: I agree. Something has to change. Streaming services are disadvantaging artists, making it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. With artists now primarily relying on vinyl sales for physical copies, turning a profit from album releases has become incredibly challenging.

What are your thoughts on the new Co-op arena?

Trager: We’d love to play there!

Sceelo: Absolutely! As a die-hard Smiths/Morrissey fan, just getting to play in Madchester would be a dream come true, let alone in a brand new arena.

Where do you feel you currently sit within the music industry?

Trager: We’re carving our path, one record at a time. Our distinctive sound seems to truly leave a strong impression on people when they hear it.

Sceelo: In terms of where we sit within the music industry, like Cason said, we’re still carving out our niche and finding our place. We’re passionate about our music and committed to honing our craft, but we’re also realistic about the challenges that lie ahead. Our passion is to create, and that’s really it.

Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.

Two truths and a lie about us:

  1. We once played a surprise gig at a local retirement home.
  2. One of us is a classically trained clarinetist.
  3. One of us opened for a famous band on their world tour.

Do you ever worry about people taking things the wrong way or cancel culture? Discuss….

Sceelo: When considering concerns about cancel culture and potential misinterpretations, it’s certainly on our radar. While we deeply value freedom of expression and artistic integrity, we also recognize the importance of being respectful and considerate in our words and actions. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that there are individuals out there poised to seize upon any misstep. These so-called “Cancel Vultures” are always on the lookout, and their thirst is real.

Trager: We’re passionate about the art of sampling. When done correctly, it’s more of a tribute than a rip-off. Unfortunately, there are plenty of both good and bad examples of sampling in the industry. Our goal is to honor the original works and not exploit the process.

Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories? If not why not? 

Trager: JFK was an inside job. That’s probably about it for me. Maybe 911 too?

Sceelo: I sign up for nothing. Please don’t fill my inbox with rubbish. 

What was your best experience on stage? 

Trager: Selling out the Portage Theater on New Year’s with The Coop, drawing crowds of 1300 people for multiple years, hits a sweet spot for me.

Sceelo: One of my best experiences was at our album release party for our debut, ‘I/O,’ at Kildare Studios in Avondale, Chicago. It coincided with a special birthday for me, and the venue was filled with people I love. Having a few guests join us on stage made the night even more memorable. We hope to replicate that soon.

Tell us something about you / each member that you think people would be surprised about. 

Sceelo: Something surprising about us? Well, one of us is a skilled amateur chef, and the other a competitive rock climber.

What are the next steps you plan to take as a band to reach the next level?

Sceelo: As for the next steps we plan to take as a band, we’re focused on expanding our reach and growing our fanbase. We’re constantly working on new music and refining our sound, and we’re excited to see where this journey takes us. We’re in it for the long haul.

Trager: Exactly! We’re aiming to elevate our live shows by hosting larger events with enhanced production, leveraging our incredible network of artists.

I hear you have a new music, what can you tell us about it.

Trager: We draw inspiration from a wide range of influences. This record is heavily influenced by older electronic music, industrial, techno, and breakbeat. Thematically, it explores the concept of people destroying the planet while the wealthy elite abandon it for Mars, leaving Earth to die.

Sceelo: Our new music reflects our growth and evolution as artists. Titled ‘Mars Colony,’ the album’s concept originated from the ongoing conflicts in our world and the looming threat we pose to Mother Nature. The record is out now on Section Eight Music, our label that houses of other emerging artists. You can stream it now at your favorite streaming service.

What was the recording process like?

Trager: We handle all our recordings in-house, utilizing our studios. We made extensive use of the Moog Grandmother synth, alongside the Sequential Pro 3 and Arturia PolyBrute. Typically, tracks begin with a synth idea, or I’ll establish various drum patterns to establish a groove before jamming along. Sometimes, it all starts with a concept; it really varies from case to case.

Sceelo: The recording process was both exhilarating and challenging. We dedicated countless hours to the studio, experimenting with various sounds and arrangements until achieving the perfect balance. It was a collaborative effort that pushed us beyond our comfort zones and enabled us to explore new creative realms. Cason, in particular, demonstrated remarkable creativity; he often brought in nearly complete ideas that seamlessly integrated with our vision, making the process smoother.

What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?

Trager: In addition to handling all recordings in-house, we also take care of the mixing and mastering of our music. We’ve invested significant time into these mixes, giving them space to evolve as we refine our skills. Striking a balance between perfectionism and progress can be challenging when you’re accountable for every aspect of the process.

Sceelo: The biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes was probably learning to trust our instincts and embrace the creative flow. It’s not always easy, but we believe that’s where the magic happens. 

Would you change anything now its finished?

Sceelo: I’m proud of the finished product and wouldn’t change a thing.

Trager: I would not. No.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

Trager: Keep your head up. Promoting positivity and inclusivity is crucial, and encouraging others to express their creativity is one of our biggest motivations. In a world that can be cruel, it’s up to us to shine brightly.

Sceelo: We feel incredibly blessed to be able to share our passion with the world. Thank you for joining us on this incredible journey, and keep your eyes and ears open for new material. We’ve got lots up our sleeve. Cheers! 

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