Wade Wilby

Friday Mix Tape: Aural Resume

I have been very lucky to share my journey on the road with so many amazing musicians and technicians. From very small bars in high school with my dear friends

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Wyllys + the World Party: BioDiesel

Aaaaaand we’re back here at Wyllys and the World Party. I’ve been touring the country meeting some amazing DJ’s, producers, and bands. The scene seems to be teeming with talent these days and this edition’s band is one of the most skilled duo’s on the road.

In 2006, as the world at large was bidding their love affair with drum and bass adieu, Clay Parnell and Johnny Rabb were just getting started on a breakbeat project that would span across all genres of electronic music. BioDiesel, named after their trusty first tour vehicle, was born out of an idea a promoter had for the Zen Festival. Brian McEnany knew that Clay was a master of D+B bass playing and that Johnny Rabb literally wrote the book on that style of drumming. Initially the idea was to have Johnny Rabb as the only constant member and have a rotating cast of special guests each night. However, once Clay and Johnny played together the chemistry was undeniable so the rotating musician idea was altered to have Clay and Johnny as the constant center and special guests each night.

The first guest was Borhan Lee on keyboards. Then, at the next gig the keyboard player had to leave early and they had to do the encore as a duo. Everyone agreed the encore was the most bangin’ part of the night so that gave them confidence to play as a duo moving forward.

Today, BioDiesel is considered to be true sonic pioneers of the live EDM (Electronic Dance Music) scene and have moved into all genres of dance. I recently went on tour with them throughout California and had some very memorable set change jams with them and got to see the pair rip the roof of venues from Arcata to San Francisco. I caught up with Clay after the tour to pick his brain about the origins and future of BioDiesel.

Wyllys: Can you shed a little light on the technical aspect of what you guys are doing, or how you figured out the live formula for BioDiesel?

Clay Parnell: We started writing loops in ’06 / ’07. This is right before Ableton when everyone was using an MPC for sampling. Johnny started using Ableton through his SPDs and then we realized we could trigger anything using the SPDs. We could have a sample of any length or file type we wanted which is a huge part of our live show. So we flew to Nashville before our first tour and through lots of trial and error and pulling our hair out we eventually got the sample triggering where we needed it to be.

I remember the first few gigs – things not working out and having to rely on a lot of improv, but a couple dates into tour we got it together and wrote our first chunk of full tunes like Mellow Tone and Hippo Break. We were traveling in an ambulance that ran on biodiesel and turned the back of it into a studio. We’d be driving to the next gig and we’d be banging out tunes. Johnny had a drum kit in the back of this thing. It was wild. Until that ambulance exploded it was the coolest thing ever.

READ ON for more of Clay Parnell’s chat with Wyllys about BioDiesel…

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