Joelle Phuong Minh Le, a half-Vietnamese, Belgium-born producer who goes by Greetings From Tuskan, is about to catapult herself to a North American audience with Bike for Three, a cross-continental collaboration between Tuskan and Canadian indie rapper Buck 65 (aka Richard Terfry). Bike for Three''s debut album, More Heart Than Brains, is slated for release on Anticon in May 2009. It''s a marriage of Tuskan''s spastic soundscapes, downtempo and old-school futuristic hip-hop production leanings and Buck 65''s open, thoughtful, stream-of-consciousness rhymes. Tuskan describes it as “an atypical album from a pretty typical girl.”
Bike for Three is more of a pen-pal letter than a common collaboration. In fact, Buck 65 and Tuskan have never met and have no plans to do so. The album pairs Buck''s raspy rhymes with Tuskan''s electronic—and somewhat arcane—production. For Buck''s music to make its way across the globe, for it to enthrall a female Belgian beatmaker, for a project of this sort to even take shape is evidence of its natural process.
Tuskan often found herself making videos to her favorite music; wanting to express something when hearing certain tracks she loved. From there, it came naturally to start trying her hand at her own original music. And that was the start of Greetings From Tuskan.
How did you meet Buck 65?
I was a fan of his writing a long time ago. I followed his career and just reached out one day. He liked my music and we just began a correspondence from there.
Talk about the process of making this album; how did something like this get off the ground?
Sometimes it would be this sketch where I''d send him tracks to check out the mood so he could start writing to them. Or I would send him an unfinished track, he would do his thing, and then send back the vocals for me to finish the track. We did everything very spontaneously. We did not really talk too much about where we would go with the music. It just happened.
What instruments do you incorporate into these songs?
There are music boxes, xylophones and some flute, but also pots, glasses, chairs and pans. Some things are played exactly as you hear them on the record; others are cut-ups from longer recordings. I like to record long parts of me playing random instruments. These little sessions are useful to use as raw material later.
Who are some producers you like?
I''ve got a lot of love for people like Dilla and Madlib, but also composers like Gabriel Faure, Bela Bartok and Kaija Saariaho.
What equipment would we find in your studio?
Everything revolves around the computer. Basically nothing stays untreated. As I mentioned earlier, a lot comes from this collection of little recordings I have. Synth-wise it is a combination of digital and analog. I really love the [Native Instruments] Pro-53 VSTi. That one sounds warm and round. Quite a lot on the album was done with that.
You formally studied music theory in Belgium. Talk about your musical background and how it affects on your production.
The fact that I have a music theory background makes me approach music from a different angle. It''s hard when working with electronic music because sometimes you have to detach yourself from the technical process. Too often, the technical stuff gets in front of the theory sometimes.