So extremely proud to bring you this collection of material from one of our closest fam, Prison Garde aka Robert Squire. We gotta be straight: Squire’s presence out west has been a large factor in sub⎹division’s genesis & grooming. Dude is a bonafide trailblazer in numerous arenas, from pioneering entire movements of dance music with parties like Turbo Crunk, to his vigorous fusing of top-shelf design work throughout his musical canon. If you don’t know his lineage, hit the Google (in short: Sixtoo/Anticon >> Megasoid >> Prison Garde, with TONS of other odds & ends).
As Prison Garde, Squire has brought a gritty, tough sensibility to Vancouver’s dancefloors. His tunes have been receiving proper rinsage from a who’s who of North American club wreckers: Low Limit, Jacques Greene, Lunice, Monolithium among many others. Much of Prison Garde’s tunes are 808-driven, but his beats are far from traditional trap-rap clones. Phasing through multiple tempos, Prison Garde is capable of taking a d-flo from low-slung funk groove all the way to a dirty, sexed-up disco grind, all with original material. And now it’s all here, for FREE, including his slammin’ 808 edit of The Weeknd’s “What You Need”.
On top of that, Squire is about the straightest shooter you could ask for. Ask him a question, you will get an ANSWER. In an age of faceless comment squabbles & social media anonymity, his head-on approach with his opinions & perspectives – and willingness to voice them – is a refreshing breath of fresh air (revisit his amazing 2010 recap for proof). We managed to get in with Prison Garde on the eve of Bass Coast – he plays Friday night alongside Salva, Monolithium & Calamalka at the Slay Bay stage. Gonna be a heater.
Your history as a performer, producer and all-around tastemaker is well documented – from early recordings with Buck 65 & Anticon on Canada’s East Coast as Sixtoo, to running boutique labels such as Bully Records, to pioneering Canada’s bass/post-everything beat music scene as Megasoid. Wanna brief us on what Prison Garde has been up to & where he’s going?
Prison Garde. Yeah man, I just don’t know what happened there. My partner in Megasoid (my dear friend Hadji Bakara) returned to the U.S. to teach college, and I moved to Vancouver right around the same time… I didn’t really have any gear after moving because my place got broken into in Montreal, which was kinda the catalyst for me being here in the first place. I was kinda fed up, and kinda went a bit berserk there for a minute. I went though a bit of an identity crisis and came out of it on the other end as a gainfully-employed grown-ass-man.
Long story short, I was like ‘fuck music’ and just opened up an art gallery / creative agency. Through the agency I produced the RBMA tour, and then just kinda found myself re-inspired after hanging with my homies for a month, and then just started writing a lot of tunes again.
The West Coast music scenes are really different from what I was familiar with when I moved here, and it took me a little bit of time to really figure out what I wanted to be doing out here musically. I was DJing alot, everything from big money shows with dudes like Joker, FlyLo, Gaslamp etc, and then also doing smaller, tighter nights with dudes like sub⎹div and Lighta! (who I am grateful for) all while trying to figure out whether I was actually gonna stay out here, which I have committed myself to.
I suppose part of that contributed to the broadening of my musical palette in some ways, but closed it in others. I started listening to a lot more club-tempo music, and had this realization that a lot of the music I was working on previously just felt stale. I went back to just writing a lot of 808 music of various tempos, and started borrowing gear off the homies when it was available, but yeah, somehow in the last year I just wound up with this surplus of tunes that have mostly been parts of my live PA sets. I just put together this collection of 14 joints, and have another grip that I will be putting out sometime soonish. I think for the slower tempo stuff, a lot of boogie and funk influences have appeared, and for the faster stuff, a bit of everything from footwork to techno and old school house have kinda seeped in. I am kinda all over the map right now.
I feel like all of it is tied together by how minimal it is, but people have told me I am tripping out thinking that this stuff is minimal music.
Each of your monikers has had a really distinct sound from the last – how do you account for your own sonic evolution?
I dunno man. Maybe I get bored quick or something? Three years ago I was into very different music than the stuff I am into now. Three years before that it was almost completely removed from my current influences. I can say honestly that most of my evolution in music just comes from the inspiration of having an amazing peer group full of incredibly talented people to push/inspire me to write. I only trade music with dudes who’s taste I trust. I talk music with dudes who know what is up and try to make music that is conversational with the music I listen to.
I am fortunate to be surrounded by dudes like Ango, Jacques Greene, Lunice, Calamalka, Dials, Kevin Eames, Monolithium, Nautiluss, XI, Machinedrum, The Surefire team, Max Ulis, The Frite Night kids, Huggs, Distal, Salva, Low Limit, Niña, Rhek. My Gastown fam keeps me up on rap just by proximity to their yelling. I feel most comfortable playing alongside these same people… as friends and legitimate tastemakers who know how to play live, that aren’t scared to push new sounds unapologetically. I am also lucky to be engaged by music of all tempos. I think I probably listen to a lot wider range of music than most people doing the whole producer/DJ thing, and it definitely comes across in my sets and output as an artist.
You work incredibly fast when it comes to writing – are you at a point where you know what you want to sound like or are you still experimenting?
I usually know what kinda sounds I am dialling up before I touch anything, yeah. I am fast at getting what I want out of either hardware or software, and both have their place in my music.
One of my best friends (Kevin Eames) and I just put all our gear together in my studio… and the workflow is just awesome with him. We have already written a ton of tunes together, I am sure will only be a short while before we have a full-length ready. The only piece of the puzzle that we are missing is a real 909/808 or Miami clone or something like that. I am pretty confident with my drum sound even out of Ableton, but we wanna cop one soon.
I have been using the 707 and Juno106 a lot recently, and the next batch of tunes will be very different than the stuff on the Système Hermès LP.
Nouveau Palais sees you collab with two close pals, Lunice & Ango – when is the debut EP dropping & will that ever manifest as the amazing live performance that we all envision it to be?
Dude, Lunice is blowing the fuck up man! He is gonna be bigger than jesus by the time the Nouveau Palais stuff drops! haha… Nah, but seriously, dude is kinda on fire. Diplo has taken him under the wing which is a good place for him. I have known Wes for years, and I think it is cool that he is giving the co-sign to someone like Lunice, it was unexpected and amazing. I feel like Greene, Lunice, Ango and Seb Diamond are my true brothers musically. LuckyMe were fucking smart to put all these dudes out.
But yeah… as far as Nouveau Palais stuff goes, I assume that it will be Ango and Myself touring the NP stuff, which will be amazing, as Ango is truly like my little brother. I am trying to poach him from Montreal so we can work full time on both creative stuff and music. He is great at the video thing and would be an amazing addition to the Vancouver scene. His record for LuckyMe should be out around the same time, and is really amazing also. I will have another collection of Prison Garde tunes ready by then also… but they are better than the stuff I just put out… so I am gonna shop those around a bit and see if anyone wants to fuck with them.
Nouveau Palais pre-master’s will be sent in on Monday, as soon as I jack Salva’s laptop at Basscoast.
Not sure about the release date, fall, presumably. Anyone wanna book Nouveau Palais/Ango/Prison Garde, holler at Surefire.
What has you excited at the moment musically? Who are people sleeping on?
I can’t say it enough. Machinedrum is the best North American producer and has been for a great long while. His new record Room(s) is bonkers. Salva’s new stuff is amazing. XI’s new stuff. Max Ulis’ new stuff. The Jacque Greene full length is gonna be amazing. Hell, just about anyone I mentioned above is worth checking for. Outside of acts, the one thing I am super excited for is the Yours Truly monthly party/clubnight we are starting next month. Residents will be Kevin Eames, AJK, Zeeaa, St. Genius (on visuals) and myself. It will be full of radical new deep club sounds, presented properly. Great Venue. Great Sound.
You played Bass Coast last year – what are your impressions of the festival & organizers?
I hate camping dude. I am a city kid though and though. Fuck bugs, Fuck wolves and definitely Fuck skunks. Bass Coast is the only place in the world I will go camp. Haha. Really, it is one of the best festivals I have ever played. Good people, great site, good sound. I love it. People should go.
What can we expect from your Bass Coast performance?
New shit. 70-160. Prison Garde Hi Grade Audio Sex. PG x Eames stuff, Nouveau Palais heaters, exclusives from the homies. Hot shit.