WS50: THE VIDEO ALBUM
Stardate 2004: The landscape of independent music is littered with the remains of small, start-up labels once eagerly engaged in the struggle to be heard or perhaps, if blessed, sell records and make some money. It's a brutal, fickle, and temporary business, and even if one manages to survive long enough to become bloated and passe or bought up by a major (which amounts to the same thing), there really is no glory in longevity. But once in a while a label comes around that defies the rules of the game....and that label is WordSound. Since it's humble beginnings in a Brooklyn bunker in 1994, WordSound has always been the exception, remaining far below the radar despite releasing 50 albums of uncompromising originality, diversity, and power. In 2004, WordSound celebrates a decade as a mighty unseen force in music with the release of WS50: The Video Album, featuring "The Greatest Thing You Never Heard," a WordSound Dubumentary.
The film, like the label, is difficult to pin down. It's as much a personal journey seen through the eyes of Skiz Fernando as it is a musical tribute to different styles and similar attitudes. Skiz is the Eye behind WordSound, churning out records by his alter-ego Spectre, The Ill Saint; writing books (The New Beats: Exploring The Music, Culture & Attitudes of Hip-Hop, Anchor/Doubleday) and articles about music for Rolling Stone, Vibe and The Source; and making guerilla films armed with only a vision, sheer will, and cojones. Eschewing the typical Behind-The-Music format of a linear history illustrated by talking heads and stock footage, the dubumentary bounces around space and time like a cosmic fly on the wall. The camera lingers--through studio sessions, shows, interviews, and random acts of bugging--affording intimacy, and giving full run to the eccentric personalities, or sub-leberties, behind this eclectic outfit. Artists you haven't heard of like Mentol Nomad, Scotty Hard, Mr. Dead, Leon Lamont, MC Paul Barman, DJ KLOS, Spectre, Sensational, and Prince Charming, represent different facets of the WordSound multiverse, where talent and a reverance of the artform runs deep. Along with cameos from Bill Laswell, Prince Paul, RZA, Wu Tang Clan, EPMD, DJ Premier, Jungle Brothers, Sly & Robbie, Scientist, Lee Perry, and the Last Poets, all of whom have contributed to the festivities in one way or another, the Greatest Thing You Never Heard proves itself a true adventure into uncharted realms.
Like the "found sound" in a WordSound composition, much of the film's footage was culled from Skiz's personal archives. Over the years he has utilized many formats--from Super 8 to High-8 to digital video--with the hopes of one day completing a project such as this one. After combing through the vaults, he selected more than 40 hours of worthy material, and spent the next 8 months whittling it down to a lean 74 minutes. Unlike his debut feature, Crooked, which was editeded professionally on AVID, Skiz cut this film himself on Final Cut Express, favoring understatement to the razzle dazzle of effects. To this end he also keeps narration sparse, and at times, mystical, and scores the film with masterpieces from the formidable WordSound catalog. In all, this unique melding of word, sound, and vision, the "dubumentary," offers an alternative look into a singular entity, where business is far from usual. "If you ever saw the Monkees' movie Head, that's kind of what I was going for," says Skiz, "Episodes of randomness, which are complete in themselves, but linked by an invisible strand."
As with the label and the music, The Greatest Thing You Never Heard was a labor of love, a homage to the spirit of independence and creativity. Most amazingly it cost no money, making it possibly the only film ever released to have this distinction. Movies, after all, are big business, and nary a movie is made these days that is not calculated to bring in healthy returns. But money was certainly not the motivation or even a factor in this case." After 10 years in a pretty unique line of work, Skiz sums it up like this, "I think the time was right to put a face on this mysterious organization. In think people need to know that it's doable, whatever you want to do, and that we are just a bunch of people who focussed our energy on something we love, music. Once the love is there, all things are possible."
In addition to the dubumentary, the DVD also includes an exclusive interview with legendary bassist/producer Bill Laswell, who financed the initial releases on WordSound as well as a long-time collaborator; three music videos, including Spectre's "Pillars Of Smoke, Prince Paul's "Booty Clap," and the Metabolics' "M Virus;" and the trailer for the film Crooked, also written, produced and directed by Skiz Fernando and available on DVD. WS50: The Video Album is available at most fine stores or directly from www.wordsound.com.