June 3, 2010

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Recycled Percussion comes home
Band makes a stop in Manchester, next up — China)
By Michael Witthaus music@hippopress.com

For a band that’s played as many shows as Recycled Percussion, living in Las Vegas makes complete sense, says the group’s turntablist Todd “DJ Pharaoh” Griffin.

“It is the entertainment capital of the world, and it’s a good place for us to be at this point, completing all our obligations,” Griffin said recently during a break in touring.

After selling out Manchester’s Palace Theatre an unprecedented three times at year’s end, the New Hampshire band resumed the road regimen that had helped to season them for their third-place America’s Got Talent finish.

“We just did a 10-day run in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and last weekend we were in Dover, Delaware and Allenstown,” Griffin said. Other recent gigs include the NBA playoffs in Utah, a NASCAR race and a Boy Scout Jamboree in Pennsylvania.

They’ll travel to China later this year. In a victory for free expression and the universal language of music, someone in that country saw the junk rockers on YouTube and invited them to play on state-run television.

Recycled Percussion is best known for front man Justin Spencer and Ryan Vezina’s drumming antics, as the pair beat on plastic tubs and other assorted refuse. But it’s Griffin’s work mixing high-energy tracks like “Ballroom Blitz” and “Sledgehammer,” coupled with Jimmy Magoon’s guitar shredding, that provides the backbone for the group’s inventive sound.

On stage, Griffin uses two turntables and a microphone, in a world where many DJs work only with laptops and CD players. “A lot of those programs take away from the art form … especially with mixing and scratching,” he said. “It makes it much easier for someone breaking into the DJ market to sound like he’s been doing it for 15 years, but if you were to put that person on turntables, it would be a totally different story.”

Show conditions occasionally force a need for modern technology. “You’re playing at a lot of places where the stage is being set up for you,” Griffin said. “You get there [and it’s] like a wrestling ring. As soon as a guy jumps around the needle bounces all over the place.”

Even when that happens, Griffin keeps it old-school. “We do use a controller of sorts on stage made by Numark, but it’s an exact replica of a turntable,” he said. “It even has a 12-inch record on the controller. It does a real good job mimicking what a real turntable does.”

His rig has an 80-gigabyte hard drive loaded with music, and Griffin’s not completely averse to leveraging the technology.

“What’s good about those programs is that I also produce music,” he says, which allows him to build new mixes on the fly and unleash them at shows. “People will go, hey where did you get that remix of that song, and you’re the only one that has it. So that can make you a commodity when you’re using those technical programs and making and producing your own music.”

But Griffin won’t be giving up his records anytime soon.

“I’m a vinyl purist at heart,” he said. “I have a huge collection of vinyl that I’ve been gathering over the past 25 or 26 years.”

Recycled Percussion fans interested in the pure DJ side of Griffin should monitor the group’s Facebook page, as he plans a pair of DJ Pharoah solo outings when the band returns to Manchester for shows on June 4 and 5.

“Those will be all vinyl,” he promised.

He’s equally coy about specifics for Recycled Percussion’s weekend performances.

“I really don’t want to give too much away, but there will be surprises,” he said. “When we come home and do the Palace, it’s one of our favorite gigs to play. We love coming there, especially now that we’re not there permanently.”


Recycled Percussion
Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
When: Friday and Saturday, June 4 and 5, at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $29 reserved seat, available at www.palacetheatre.org.