Luke and Obi Wan. Bilbo and Gandalf. Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee. Robin and Batman. The one thing these names all have in common is they are all renowned student and sensei duos. Learning from each other‘s talents, the master refining the students’ skills, these partners have paved their way into history with tales of their achievements and journeys that keep our ever-inquisitive minds always wanting more. They feed off each other for absolute success. But not one of those formidable teams can come close to that of Al Ross and YAKZ. Both now living in the ‘golden state’, Alexander Mercer aka ‘Al Ross’, and David Mitori aka ‘YAKZ’ have been crowd favorites in the riddim scene since they both started. They stay in friendly competition, and have a true admiration for each other and their craft. Al Ross has released such bangers as, “Pac Fam”, “Keep It G”, “IWF”, “Scorpion”, “Fight Music (remix)”, “Blood Goblinz”, and his “Yasuo (Unforgiven remix). His charisma on stage is one to be admired – you can tell he truly loves the music just as much as anyone in the crowd. YAKZ boasts a grimy back catalog with massive releases such as, “The Real Skywalker (VIP)”, “Pain”, “The Watcher” with Codd Dubz, “The Offering”, “Insecure VIP” and “Dark World”. By themselves they chop and drop with miraculous skill, but together they become an unstoppable riddim force of nature. With collaborations such as, “The Final Countdown”, “Eye of the Tiger VIP”, “8 Bar Mucktion” with Conspect, “Civil War 2016 Remix”, “Wizards Cometh” and their latest “Love Dump”, they are entrancing heavy bass music crowds everywhere with their skill.
I was able to witness both solo and b2b sets from Al Ross and YAKZ this past weekend and talk to them a little about their careers thus far.
(Photo by Zack Bruzgo, Panda Media)
How did you two get into producing, how long have you been doing it and how did you come across bass music?
Al: I got into producing I’d say about 5 years ago it was through my little brother and my older brother who used to be the dubstep producer Druley. It was something I sought after djing for its been 10 years now and after that I kind of sought having music that no one else had and to be able to sort of put a creative twist on my sets that I know no one else can provide.
YAKZ: I got into producing about the same time like 4 or 5 years ago and its actually through my sisters friends, they go by the name of the Sub Shockers. And they taught me how to produce on a thing called “ACID Pro” and then pretty much from there I switched over to Reason. And then that’s been the reason ever since!
What drew you to producing more underground, riddim-type dubstep?
YAKZ: I first originally started listening to all the main stream stuff and the one day my friend, Michael Manicus, came over and then he started showing me a guy names Blankface’s tunes and then Akira. And then ever since I heard them you know its been like the underground dubstep. I don’t like the term “riddim” because it specifies us in one single genre when we don’t make that. You know we all make dubstep, that’s pretty much how I feel about it.
Al: What drew me into producing the style that we’re into right now… not to be the devil’s advocate, but although I don’t like the term “riddim”, I do see ourselves in a different sub-genre of it. And its kinda, to divert from the question for a sec, its kind of like rock and roll and punk rock, and I feel like we are doing more of the punk rock twist to it. While I still don’t like the term, just like David does, I feel like we are in our own sub-genre and what drew me to that was a man named Subfiltronik. And that was some of the first style I heard, after that was a man named Bommer, and it was some of his very early style stuff, before really that term “riddim” was coined. And from there it just went to the Monsters and then into the Savages, and that really solidified the riddim style for me I would say.
How do you feel about riddim recently gaining more popularity?
YAKZ: I love it! I love seeing all my homies make it! I mean there’s nothing to really say – it’s really cool seeing all our homies play really big shows. Blankface and M A Z E are playing Countdown NYE in LA – I fucking love that shit!
Al: I agree, its really amazing to see the growth, especially in whatever group you’re in. Seeing the rise in that way, everyone starts from the bottom of some sort and to come up in that way, it’s really great to see progression. In terms of it hitting mainstream media, I’m a little salty of course just like anybody who starts in the underground. My goal mainly is to just keep a sort of realness in this from now on. I know that’s been a goal for me and YAKZ is to always just stay real to ourselves. Like we don’t really fit a profile of any kind of dj. So you know not to take down the EDM scene at all or any way, we’re trying to be the exact opposite of that and push realness in it. I’m actually very happy riddim is coming up because me and him have a great message to bring.
(Al Ross) Your snapchats are pretty famous because of how funny they are – where do you get the ideas for them?
They’re honestly like not very thought out because I used to want to be an actor when I was little, but I have really bad dyslexia like David does. This is something me and him share in common. And everything I say and pretty much do for the most part it all just happens. And I just do it. So like the first video that came out I think it’s at like 35… 40 thousand… something like that, I wasn’t even drunk. I don’t get on any sort of anything before I do those videos I kind of just do them and its kind of just like that. If it takes another take then it takes another take and another, but I never really film more than one or two takes. I always just go like off the top of the head, anything that comes out it comes out.
(Photo by Zack Bruzgo, Panda Media)
(Al Ross) Your back catalog is super impressive – how have you stayed so consistent with your releases? And what are some of your favorites of your old tracks we should check out?
Um tying back to what I had said before, it’s all just off the top of my head. I used to touch on some things, I used to kind of like…
Bommer: I KNOW THE ANSWER!
Al: So back to the question, it kind of just all comes off the top of my head, again with the music. I listen to some of my old tunes. I used to kind of have this reliant, a reliance on weed. Well… I don’t trash on it! I recently quit smoking weed, and I like to drink and stuff like that but when I sit down and write something its more or less just anything. I don’t try to critique the mix down, I do all that at the very very end. And it’s to the best of my capabilities. I don’t try to compare it to other people too, because that’s where the downfall really is. If I had to recommend any really really really old tracks of mine, there’s “8 Bar Munction”. It’s a remix of a grime tune that me and David did along with our friend Conspect, who now makes drum and bass and stuff like that. I don’t know if its on my SoundCloud anymore but if you were to check it out, the “8 Bar Munction (remix)”. So yea that’s definitely one.
(Al Ross) If you could pick any song to remix what would it be and why?
If I could pick any song to remix… what? Like right now?! You know what’s crazy is I’ve always wanted to remix a Slipknot song. And that’s another thing me and David share in common is we come from very heavy metal background. And there’s a lot of poeticness in that, though its very abrasive and aggressive – like the music we do, the riddim style. And I haven’t found the right song yet, or the right stems to it either even, but I’ve always wanted to remix a Slipknot song. And I have a few in mind, but I couldn’t name it off the top of my head. That and I’d say like Motörhead and Guns N Roses would be cool. But a lot of the problem with that is I feel like music like that is almost untouchable. So… yea!
(YAKZ) So you’re part of the ‘Mile High Club’ – could you tell me a little about who they are and how you got involved with them?
Okay, I’m gonna give you this right now. I actually dropped the ‘Mile High Club’, but I’m we’re still friends. No hard feelings between them and me. So how I met them, is I was originally born in Aurora, Colorado, so I’m from Denver. And when I went out there for the first time I went out there, I went out there to play with a kid named Sektah, Jared, he’s a pretty cool kid! And I went out there originally to see the Bloodthinnerz, and he let me play back-to-back with him and a guy named AOWL. And his real name is Kaleb; he’s one of the nicest dudes you’ll ever meet! And then I have another friend out there named Swayd. And then we got to talking and I told them I was originally from Denver. And then they let me let me join their crew, the ‘Mile High Club’. And it consists of AOWL, Swayd, Stratta, Fabe, and I know I’m missing a bunch.
Al: Shout out to Fabe.
YAKZ: Yea, shout out to everyone at ‘Mile High Club’
Al: I love you guys!
YAKZ: And uh, Marvin, Ind33p! You know back in the day he used to send me videos of him listening to my music. And I love that guy to the death of me. And then they’re just you know just a really good group of producers coming up and everyone should check them out!
Al: Absolutely… absolutely! I love the ‘Mile High Club’!
(YAKZ) What song are you most excited to release of your upcoming stuff and why?
Al: *laughs maniacally to himself*
YAKZ: My favorite song right now that I’ve made has to be a tune called “Emergency” – which is actually forthcoming on P0gman’s label called “I.AM.Audio”.
Al: I fucking love that song!
YAKZ: So I got a good EP coming out in the start of 2017, it’s for I.AM.Audio. And then I’m just working on a bunch of new stuff. That’s pretty much the only song that I am excited to release.
Al: I fucking love that song, that’s one of my favorites by him.
(YAKZ) What’s the process for you when you go about preparing for your next set? What types of tracks do you specifically try to integrate?
There’s actually no real process for me going into my next sets. I kind of just go up there and just have fun. I actually have really bad stage anxiety, and I try not to. But every time I have Al Ross next to me he kind of pushes me to be better on stage. I like honestly just try to play out my homies tunes, only my homies tunes, like pretty much just Savage Society, Bloodthinnerz, Blankface, M A Z E, Tokez, Deemed, any of them. Benzmixer, all of them! I just try to incorporate only my homies, that’s about it.
What is your favorite track that you’ve collaborated on and why?
Al: Go ahead, you first.
YAKZ: It’s gotta be “Eye of the Tiger”, because when me and Alex actually first met, I had this idea and I was just like ‘Hey man, we should make this funny ass tune!’. And it was “Eye of the Tiger”—I was like bum bum buuuhhh. And that’s my favorite tune that we’ve collabed on.
Al: I almost agree, but my favorite tune that me and him have collabed on… a lot of the times we sit down to write music, its either one way or the other. Either he will take most of it, like he will take full control in terms of having my sounds or vice versa. Because what happens with that I feel like is we’re able to almost interpret it in the idea’s fullness. Like “Eye of the Tiger” was written by me but it was all David’s idea and it was all David’s sounds. I felt even at that time that my sound design was not anywhere near David’s yet. So I knew right then and there that I had to go with David’s sounds. So I’m gonna make it a double and make it “Final Countdown” and “Eye of the Tiger”, because “Final Countdown” was when I finally felt comfortable to finally add some of my own sounds. And so that … “Final Countdown” is our sounds battling – they’re going back and forth like dyah didi duh didi duh didi byahhh byahhhh byahhh – they’re fighting each other more or less in a loving sense, because I love this guy! But like my favorite was “Final Countdown” because that was when I felt that I spent a long time after “Eye of the Tiger” to just kind of hone in on my sound design, because I had to live up to this guy (points to YAKZ). So there was a lit I needed to work on and when I finally got down to it I was very proud with the outcome. So “Final Countdown” for me would be my favorite that we’ve made.
When you guys go back-to-back how to you prepare for that?
YAKZ: When me and Alex go back-to-back there is honestly no preparing for it. We kind of just go up there and just fucking have sex up there.
Al: We don’t preplan. Nothing. Like its basically if I could speak for both of us, we pick our favorite tunes and we show each other new music. Like last night, David had showed me at least 3 new tunes that I didn’t even know he had made. And I was just kind of like not in a ‘hey fuck you’ way, but it’s like we’re friendly competition. Because I can say for a fact that I look up to this guy and I know that we both seek enlightenment in each other, which is we’ve always worked so well as a group. So when it comes down to it, when we dj and prep for a set, all we’re doing is putting our favorite songs on a USB and just seeing what happens. We know our doubles.
YAKZ: I’d say we have to beat each other to play those tunes because most of the tunes we have are like the same.
YAKZ: There’s really no preparation, we really just go up there and have fun just like we talked about.
What type of other music do you guys listen to? Can you give me some examples?
YAKZ: Honestly, I only to death metal because I worship Satan. And my favorite band is Slipknot… I know everyone is gonna be like uuuhhhh. But I also like Thy Art Is Murder, Suicide Silence, when it was actually Mitch Lucker singing, White Chapel, Carnifex, Black Sabbath and shit like that. That’s not death metal but its like a form of them.
Al: Again, I ironically will be the devil’s advocate, I am a child of Christ, and I am Catholic, I go to churches. And that doesn’t drive me away from David, it actually is a huge thing of our compatibility is seeking the light in darkness and finding the light at the end of the tunnel and vice versa. For me the music I listen to… I mean man, its such an L.A. thing to say, but I listen to everything. But I really do!
YAKZ: He really does!
Al: My father went to Julliard and was raised as a classical pianist, and my mother was one of the lead reasons like Guns N Roses are where they are, she was Izzy’s long-time girlfriend from before he ended up marrying his old high school sweetheart. And my music ranges from death metal, which is what we (David and I) share together, I was a bit more on the post-hardcore side as to where he was more on the darker, black metal. But we always came on the middle ground of Slipknot, and stuff like that. But you know if I had to name I’d say 3 that I listen to right now, like almost every day, Mac DeMarco, Nujabes, who is the producer of all the ‘Samurai Champloo’ music. Its an anime I cherish very much. So Nujabes, Mac DeMarco, and off the top of my head is this man named CMNND (pronounced Command), he’s got an album coming out a little bit later in the year. And I’ve been listening to that music non-stop, it is like something you’ve never heard. So CMNND, Mac DeMarco and Nujabes – rest in peace Nujabes.
(Photo by Zack Bruzgo, Panda Media)
If you could describe your b2b set what would you say?
YAKZ: Madness! Just having fun on stage and madness. Just two friends playing side-by-side.
Al: We’re completing each other! Because when me and David are together we solidify the things that I feel we both almost lack. Like I lack a lot of clarity at times because like a dog I just do and you know that can backfire and be really hard on me. And when I have someone around like David it sort of centers me in a way. So djing with him, I used to make house, I also used to make bass-line house, I’ve done many back-to-backs. I was in a group with my little brother, we toured with Mt. Eden for a little bit. My favorite person to dj with in the entire world, and probably forever will be David Mitori. Because he completes me. And there is no more fun I’ve had, no better fun, in any sense than djing with this man.
YAKZ: Before we end this I just want to give a shout out to AnswerD, he is a brilliant producer and you should all check him out! And pretty much everyone in the COOKERZ crew, my boy MADCORE is killing it right now!
YAKZ: Our friend Sphynxx, Christian, make sure you check him out!
Al: I’m pulling this right now and running this track back, Sphynxx is an absolute one you need to check out. Sphynxx is one of the defining reasons I have… well when I met Sphynxx, he helped me solidify my first round of dubstep. And had I not met him. I wouldn’t have been able to have tracks to present to David. So I owe a lot to this man! And Sphynxx is one for the future!