Heralds of Change: Finding a Place

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Mike Slott and Hudson Mohawke of Heralds of Change hail from Dublin, Ireland, and Glasgow, Scotland, respectively, but geography is an irrelevant ingredient in the pair’s surrealist hip-hop stew. Since linking in Scotland in 2005 (Slott lived there at the time but returned to Ireland soon after), Slott and Mohawke–whose hometowns aren’t exactly hip-hop hotbeds–have built their beats together over the ‘net. And while the Heralds’ left-of-leftfield tracks are often instrumental, the verses on the four EPs they’ve released through Dublin’s All City label are delivered by undiscovered U.S. rappers like Unknown and Trek Life.

“It’s fucked up, but the only way I really know is the digital way,” says the 21-year-old Mohawke (a.k.a. Ross Birchard, a DMC finalist at age 15) during our Instant Messager interview. “I’ve never really been a big collaborator with people locally. It’s only in the last six months that people in Glasgow actually know what I do.”

But with internet-music overload leading even open-minded listeners to segregate their tastes along genre lines, how have two previously unknown lads plying a sound with no name been able to gain such traction? Dutch label Rush Hour helped. With last year’s Beat Dimensions Vol. 1 compilation, the label revealed an international community of inventive instrumental hip-hop producers with a love for disjointed Dilla beats and beautifully broken-down sounds. Heralds of Change did not appear on the disc, but Mohawke’s solo contribution, “Trace,” was one of its most praised tracks.

“A lot of us have been locked up for years making shit with no real idea what it is [or] where it belongs,” Mohawke says of the producer community spotlighted on the comp. “[Beat Dimensions] made it official. Because it’s now quantified as a ‘scene,’ people are less wary of booking the shit, so it allowed us to spend the latter half of 2007 traveling ’round, giving people the full-on assault in the club.”

Fresh off their latest and most revelatory EP release, Secrets–“Bop Gunn,” featuring occasional HOC stage frontman Oliver-Day Soul, is a funkadelic freak-out worthy of OutKast–Slott and Mohawke are currently wrapping up their debut LP, due out in February. The as-yet-untitled collection will split equally between instrumentals and collaborations with Steve Spacek, Oddisee, and Jneiro Jarel, among others.

“We’re continuing what we’ve been doing with the 12-inches,” Slott says, “to make the music that we would like to hear and collaborate with people we would ideally like to have on our records.”