Sam Griesemer has been honing his unique blend of house and techno for years now, graduating from releases on RunRiot Records, Palms Out Sounds, and Trouble & Bass. Professionally known as Samo Sound Boy, the Los Angeles-based producer and DJ now runs his own label, Body High. Since its inception in 2011, the label has released a diverse array of music from the likes of DJ Funeral, DJ Slink, Jim-E Stack, as well as material from fellow co-founder Jerome LOL. Body High graduated to full-length projects last year with the release of Friend of Mine by DJ Dodger Stadium, Jerome LOL and Samo Sound Boy’s collaborative project. The album centers around a Los Angeles narrative inspired by John Fante’s 1939 novel Ask the Dust.
Begging Please is the second album to arrive on Body High and is inspired, in part, by Marvin Gaye’s 1978 breakup album Here, My Dear, as well as the end of Sam’s own three-year relationship. It’s a personal record filled with warm, soulful melodies and prominent vocal samples that paint a story of heartbreak, expressing a narrative that speaks to life outside the club.
When I hopped on a call with Sam earlier this month, he revealed that he’s already back in the studio with Jerome working on on another DJ Dodger Stadium album. Over the course of our conversation, we discussed the inspiration behind Begging Please, the album’s accompanying trio of music videos, and the influence he draws from hip hop and fashion.
Mass Appeal: What have you been working on lately?
Samo Sound Boy: I have been in the studio a lot actually. I just finished my solo album, and I have been working on the new DJ Dodger Stadium album, which is a group I’m in with Jerome Potter. But yeah, we have been working on that since I finished my own album right around the New Year. I’m also about to start a tour for this album.
After listening to Begging Please, I came away thinking it was really emotional and warm. I also read that it’s modeled after Marvin Gaye’s Here My Dear.
Yeah man, that’s true. That album was a big inspiration for me, just in how it’s a very personal autobiographical album. I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my album, but I definitely listened to that Marvin Gaye album a lot and got inspired by the details on that and how intimate he was able to make it sound. Obviously, I am doing a very different thing as a producer and not a singer, but I thought a lot about how I could make something as intimate for myself with my own sound and what that would mean. It’s cool that the warm sound comes to mind for you, because that was definitely something I was striving for. I used a lot of gear and recorded a lot of my own samples, and a lot of the drum sounds are just little field recordings with me just hitting little pieces of metal, the gate going into my studio, the lock on the door. I would record the click of the lock and sample that. That’s one way from a production standpoint that kind of gets a lot of personal stuff into the sound.
How long did it take you to write the album?
I started last summer as soon as we released the DJ Dodger Stadium album that came out last July. I started making this one right after, working from the end of July to like the end of the year on it. I was touring a lot and stuff in between, but yeah, it was just whenever I was at my house or in the studio making it.
I remember reading the XLR8R article “In the Studio with DJ Dodger Stadium,” and you noted how the environment you recorded the record impacted it a lot. Where did you record Begging Please?
I recorded it all at my studio, which is the Body High studio and headquarters. For this album, I was working by myself obviously, and I did a lot of it really late at night. I don’t know how well you know L.A., but our studio is right off this park called MacArthur Park, and during the day it is one of the busier neighborhoods in all of L.A. There’s a lot of crowding, a lot of people in the streets, a lot of stuff going on. So many parts of L.A. are pretty desolate with no one walking around, but people are constantly down here. At night, it really, really clears out. It’s such a contrast going from such a vibrant neighborhood to just being very, very empty.
I know you mentioned it was “Love Songs” that set the tone for the DJ Dodger Stadium record, was there a track on this one that kind of set the vibe for you?
That’s a cool question. The one that’s the last one on this that is called “You Come for Me,” I did that one first and I wanted to do something I had never really done before, and just really go for it. I wanted to make something that sounds like the end of a movie. Have you ever seen the Prince movie Purple Rain?
No, I haven’t. But, I saw in your FACT mix you said you wanted to make everything sound like the moment before the end credits roll.
Yeah, exactly! That was kind of the idea behind the end of Purple Rain. They play “Purple Rain” as he runs off stage. He thinks it’s a huge disaster and the crowd is going nuts, and he comes back and he plays “I Would Die for You,” and it’s the encore and shit. It’s just a classic end to an ‘80s movie, and that kind of big, over-the-top cinematic energy is something I was interested in and wanted to figure out how to do in my own way.
If you listen to that song, it’s obviously…I always see people write about it, and it’s a melancholy song, and it is relative to a lot of other dance music, but for me that was like the biggest and the brightest sounding thing I’ve ever done relative to my work. It wasn’t subtle at all. It was exciting to me to break out of my mold a little bit, and I did that. I knew that it would be the last song on the album, so I went and filled it in and wrote the rest of it. With that in mind, I wanted to make everything very end credit-esque.
For the trio of music videos released, “You Come for Me” was actually the one in the middle.
Yeah exactly, and that’s interesting because with the videos we had to represent the album with this series. Videos can be a representation, but they can also stand on their own, so we had to rearrange things a bit. That’s why we released it in the middle of the video series, but it’s at the end of the album. I can see how that would be a little bit confusing, but in the end when you take both as a whole, the album and the video series, the point is the same. At least that’s what I hope.
What was the inspiration behind the videos, and more specifically, the locations you chose to feature in them?
The basic idea was that we wanted to do a series that would reflect the emotions and story of the album. We wanted to do something that was as intimate as the album, so we wanted to do something as close to reality as possible. We decided we were going to shoot it on an iPhone, and I was working with my good friend Daniel Pappas who directed the videos, and the girl who is in it is his girlfriend and also a good friend of mine. Her name’s Natalie Love. I wanted to use these really close friends of mine who are really close with each other. We did it on Dan’s iPhone because these days, no one will bat an eye if someone is filming in a restaurant on an phone. No lighting guy, no big-ass camera, no sound guy standing out of the frame, it was just the two of them. I wasn’t even inside the restaurant because that would kind of blow the cover.
Natalie knew the energy and vibe for each song because she listened to the album, but then everything else that is going on in the background is unplanned. That’s just the real world unfolding in the background behind them. I think it’s cool because it’s all real, and there is no script. We hit a cool combination of doing something that is representative of reality, and also able to represent the album’s mood.
You mentioned the story of the album before, but what’s the story of the album to you?
Man, so the story of the album at its core is about falling in love and falling out of love, and how both of those things are really similar in a way. Both feelings are really powerful, and when either of them happen you kind of can’t put a stop it no matter what you do. The music is supposed to represent both sides of that.
Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I feel like the vocal samples on this album are more prominent than your previous work. I was just wondering where you found the samples, and if there was a unifying theme you were going for with them?
Yeah man. I just took all the samples and stuff that I found on 50-cent records. Not the artist, but the bins that have records for 50 cents. Most of it is made in L.A. and San Francisco and shit. I found them all in L.A., and they’re all just throwaway promo records from the early 2000s, back when record companies were still pressing vinyl for promo DJs and radio stations. It’s a lot of R&B and soul records from that era that never went anywhere. You can go in and buy thirty things at a time, go through them all, and wait for the right sample sound to pop up.
Is that something you have done for previous projects?
Yeah man! That’s basically my process with that. Honestly, with production that comes natural and easy to me. I think my ear just works well for finding what I want. I never really struggle with that, and I feel lucky. I spend a lot of time doing it, but the right samples that I want come to me.
I also saw you were a big hip hop fan growing up, not dance music. You had a subscription to The Source and things of that nature. Do you think there is a connection between listening to sample-based hip hip and your ability to pick out samples now?
100 percent! I mean that’s so important to the way I make music. Even now, that I’m not making hip hop beats, it is still that kind of idea. That Kanye thing or that RZA thing, those guys that are just really good diggers. They can comb through stuff and find the right stuff that shapes their particular sound, and find the right samples for their work. I am still a huge hip hop fan. I listen to so much rap, but that was definitely what I loved growing up.
I would like to ask you a few questions about Body High on the label front.
Yeah please do!
I admire your label’s merchandise. Body High and WeDidIt release some of the best merch out, and I’ve noticed you’re a fan of Raf Simons among other designers. How do your fashion choices reflect the music you make and the aesthetic choices that go into Body High?
Fashion is something I don’t know nearly as much about as music, but it has been interesting for me to pay more attention to it over the last couple of years. I think the Raf and him as a designer and creator is really interesting to me. There are no graphics, there is no advertising, and there it really seems that it’s about the work and the art of the designs. He has been doing that for years and years, and he’s also the creative director of Dior, which is obviously another massive thing. It’s cool to see somebody that has moved his way up and worked the industry to also be able to keep his line so focused and removed from the real commerce of the fashion industry.
The thing that got me interested in him right away was learning that he came from a club scene and a techno background. That’s the music that he was interested in and what he was going out to see. He was a club kid when he was younger, and the line kind of grew from that. He’s old now, but I think he still goes out to all type of clubs. I think he’s doing things in a way that we’re doing with Body High and the clubs that we work on. We are trying to expand that and do more interesting stuff, with complex designs, and more involved pieces. More exciting stuff is coming, but in the end, it’s all coming from our scene, which is a club or warehouse environment in L.A. No matter where the clothes go, that’s what it’ll always be rooted in.
What is the new DJ Dodger Stadium album sounding like?
Man, I can’t say that much about it now, but it is far away the most ambitious stuff I have worked on. Yeah, we are just really really going for it. It is a little too early to talk about it, but it’s definitely the most ambitious project I have ever been a part of for sure.
Is that going to be out later this year?
Yeah, hopefully it will be out later this fall.
Samo Sound Boy’s Begging Please is out now via Body High. Stream the album in full below and purchase it here.