“They’ve done it, they’ve made the perfect song.”Posted on June 22, 2008 – 3:27 PM | by OldManFoster
You can’t throw a knife in Sacramento without hitting someone who’s heard of the dance-punk band, !!! (pronounce it Chk, Chk, Chk or Pow, Pow, Pow or any single syllable sound effect you’d like). Hailing from Sacramento, !!! has made a name for itself around the world. As !!! reinvents itself, original, band members John Pugh and Justin van der Volgen have been focusing on their new band, Free Blood. This new venture is being released on the internationally known, Rong Music record label. The elusive Ben Cook is part owner of Rong Music. He is also an internationally known DJ who has been making dance music for almost a decade. He moved here to Sacramento to finish college and to run away from his fame. Recently, Midtown Monthly trapped Cook in a cage and forced him to agree to an interview. You can hear Free Blood’s first single called “Never Hear Surf Music Again” by visiting myspace.com/thisisrongmusic. You can also hear a few others by Free Blood at their myspace page, myspace.com/freeblood. Keep an eye out this fall for their full-length album entitled, Free Blood: The Singles.
How did you get into the dance music scene?
I was attending college in 1993 in Berkeley. I dropped out and decided to work at a record store down the road. That was what, 14 years ago? Man, that was a long time ago. I had jumped around to a couple of different record stores in the Bay Area. Then, I started producing and DJ-ing in around 1996, and have been making my own music since then. I don’t really do much anymore. I’m too busy administering other people’s music. Its a lot more interesting to me than having to be the creative guy all the time. Honestly, there are a lot more creative people than me out there.
You’ve done a lot of your own stuff over the years though, haven’t you?
Yeah, I’ve probably done about 50 different productions and put out two albums. Most of the earlier stuff that I did was put out on European labels because their tastes are a bit more aligned with my own. But stateside, I’ve only done a few things with some friends.
Then you started your record label, Rong Music?
Yeah, we’ve been doing that since 2003. Our record label is based out of New York because my partner, Jason Drummond, lives there. He is the music curator for the MOMA in New York. He gets to pick all of the bands that play during the summer session that they have there outside of the PS1 Museum.
How did you meet him?
He was actually one of my favorite DJs to go see back in the early ’90s, back in the rave days. We just became friends from there.
I heard that, as a child you traveled around the world a lot. That seems to have influenced your music style.
Definitely. I was really lucky when I was a kid my dad was really into traveling, so I’ve been…god, I’ve been everywhere. I think the first time I hopped on a plane I was like six months old.
Is there any particular style of music that you heard that really drew you in and made a lasting impression on you?
Yeah, I guess Indian music. My mom was a hippie and she was really into hanging out at this Ashram so there were a lot of drum circles and this thing called ‘dancing saptas’ where people would dance around a fire all night. So that was a big influence, just drums…rhythm.
Why did you move from San Francisco to Sacramento?
I moved here because of less distractions, cheaper rent, and because I get in less trouble.
What do you think of Sacramento?
I love it because its like going to summer camp year round since the weather is so nice. I have a backyard. I only know about three people here. Which, I don’t want to sound like I don’t like to meet people, but that was definitely appealing to me because I had a hard time walking down the street in San Francisco and not running into people.
What do you think about the dance scene here?
Well, I went to this dollar disco that was pretty fun. There were a lot of really nice people. And a few weekends ago, I went to The Park on a Sunday. Some of my friends were playing there. That’s a great space.
Why did you decide to put out the new album by Free Blood?
Well, it was a combination of things, the first one being that John emailed us and asked us if we were interested in putting it out. We listened to it and right away we loved it and wanted to put it out. I’ve been a fan of !!! for the last four or five years.
Was the first time you met John Pugh through that email?
Yeah, that was the first time. I had met one of his other band-mates before, Justin van der Volgen, but I had not met John before. The !!! guys all seem to be fans of our record label.
What do you think of Free Blood’s first single, Never Hear Surf Music Again?
I think its probably… well, my friend put it best. When I played it for him, he said, “They’ve done it, they’ve made the perfect song.”
What does it sound like?
It’s a really good hybrid of indie dance-rock and dance music.
So its reminiscent of !!! and there dance-punk sort of sound?
It is, but its definitely more studio oriented where there’s a lot of stuff flying around.
What is the release date for these singles?
The first single is out in July and then consecutively a month and a half later each, and then the album is coming out in October or November.
Where can you buy this stuff?
It will be available throughout the whole world at your more interesting record stores.
Do you have any future plans for writing or playing music?
Yeah, I’m in a… I guess you would call it a true rock band that I am helping produce and playing a bit of keyboards on it. We’re called Barfly.
Any new exciting new releases coming up for Rong Music?
Yeah, we’re putting out an album by a guy named Wolfy that we’re pretty excited about. And, we have the original Italian cosmic disco DJ, this guy’s like in his late fifties. We’re putting out some of his music. He’s called Beppe Loda. His album is coming out with a Lindstrom mix.
So how can fans find out where and when to attend upcoming shows and tours for Free Blood?
The best way is to go to our myspace page, which is at myspace.com/thisisrongmusic.