Wallpaper's Eric Frederic is (probably) done with Auto-Tune forever
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In the last decade, vocalists who found themselves struck with lyrical inspiration but who weren't blessed with the ability to hit pitch-perfect notes have increasingly turned to Auto-Tune—an audio processor that can make any out-of-key schlub sound like a pop star. Among the processor's many fans—until now, at least—was Wallpaper, Bay Area musician Eric Frederic’s foray into wild party music. Originally grasping on to the vocal production in 2005—before it became ubiquitous on pop radio—Frederic wrote what would become Doodoo Face, Wallpaper’s debut record. The music combines the all-out funkiness of George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic with brazen, hyphy Bay Area rap; assuming the stage persona of "Ricky Reed," Frederic's lyrics reflect the isolation of today’s youth culture, satirizing modern life through unabashed love of partying, connecting through the Internet, and generally not giving a fuck. Prior to his performance tonight at DC9, Frederic spoke with The A.V. Club about the difference between himself and Ricky Reed, how he isn’t famous enough yet to claim Auto-Tune as his own, and what exactly a doodoo face is.
The A.V. Club: What’s with the name Doodoo Face? Is it part of an inside joke?
Eric Frederic: I kinda wish. It’s been around for a long time, but nobody has put a name on it. It’s just the face that one makes when a piece of music is so funky that your face crinkles up like you smelled a piece of shit on the ground. If you watch old DVDs of James Brown or Parliament Funkadelic or Archie Bell and see the band kick into the main groove, they kick into doodoo face.
AVC: Are you trying to do the same thing with your music?
EF: I hope that our music inspires listeners to make a doodoo face without knowing what it is.
AVC: Where does Ricky Reed come from? Was he conceived a long time ago?
EF: In early 2008, he came to me in a dream. It sounds a little homoerotic. [Laughs.] There were a lot of issues I wanted to deal with, and I wanted Wallpaper to be a political project, but I didn’t want to come at those issues like Rage Against The Machine or Dixie Chicks. [Laughs.] I wanted to attack them in a satirical manner. I found creating a character whose idiosyncrasies and traits could develop into a real, thorough person would allow me to articulate the real social commentary I wanted to make instead of, “This is a song is about gas prices. This is a song about the economy. This is a song about my generation’s drinking problem.”
AVC: How much of Eric Frederic is in Ricky Reed and vice versa?
EF: We got the same nose. [Laughs.] No. I mean, a lot of what he talks about is an exaggerated, blown-out-of-proportion version of what I deal with on a daily basis. [It’s the] same with a lot of other people that consider themselves good-willed, morally outstanding people that wrestle with the age and culture we live in. On tour we’ll have a lot of money, but it’s hard to not eat at McDonald’s. It’s hard to not have my hand on my cell at all times—I don’t have a manager. After a long day, it’s hard to not plop down in front of the TV and watch garbage. These are all things I’m not proud of and I want to stop, but it’s a struggle. Ricky Reed is the guy who jumps in headfirst.
AVC: Ricky is unashamed of these things?
EF: Yeah. He’s the guy that embraces the nastiness of consumer culture. He’s gonna get wasted every night of the week because the Internet has made it so he doesn’t have to interact with people. He’s a part of this and doesn’t mind it, whereas I mind it. [Laughs.]
AVC: How did you feel when Auto-Tune became the standard for pop/hip-hop?
EF: First of all, I thought it was funny because when I was using it, I thought, “The whole music industry will do this. They can’t sing.” It’s one of most ingenious inventions. If someone creates an invention that allows people to shoot 100 perfect threes in basketball, it’ll sell. [Laughs.] When I heard other people were doing it... I knew I wouldn’t be famous enough in time to claim it. Now it’s so widespread its grating on my ears.
AVC: Are you going to keep going with Auto-Tune in the future despite its rise in popularity and the backlash against it?
EF: No way.
AVC: You’re done with it forever?
EF: Yeah. I made a commitment with this record—the way it’s written, the sound of it—to keep that going for the time being. People that can’t sing use it, and I can sing, so maybe I'll stop. [Laughs.]
AVC: What will the next record sound like since Auto-Tune will be gone?
EF: I would always love to incorporate more and more live instruments. You have to always be pushing forward stylistically. All the greats of the '70s, '80s, and '90s were always doing the next thing, not something retro. We live in a time where retro records and throwbacks are all anyone knows how to do. I can’t tell you what the next thing is gonna sound like, but I’m gonna lob the ball way, way down the street and see what we get.
AVC: How much Bay Area influence do you take in? Would you consider yourself an Oakland artist?
EF: I think that it’s tough [to say]. Maybe not specifically. There’s this quality in Bay Area hip-hop that’s really about letting your guard down and getting silly and getting loose. What Digital Underground did in the early '90s was they basically claimed themselves the descendents of Parliament Funkadelic by calling their record Sons Of The P. We relate to all of Bay Area hip-hop because the sounds and attitude are about letting loose and not being too cool to let your guard down. I see us in lineage to Parliament Funkadelic and Bay Area rap.
AVC: So there’s a lack of pretension Bay Area rap?
EF: Exactly. That’s what’s so special about it.
AVC: What are the live shows like? Is it just you, or is it a full band onstage?
EF: The setup is myself…excuse me, Ricky and Arjun Singh, the drummer. That’s sort of the live set up. We play the tracks and he plays drums. It’s impressive how loud and big it sounds for just two guys. For very special occasions we will bring out a band. That’s still in its beta stage.
AVC: Do you have any new remixes coming up?
EF: I just finished one for Boy Crisis that went up. They are a good group. I have a few bubbling but I can’t speak on them quite yet because they’re sort of still in the infant stage, and we’re clearing the rights for them. Once we get stuff squared away, there’s a lot of interesting and different stuff coming out in a month or two.