Hailing from the Philippines, PK Shellboy is the lead vocalist of multinational experimental cloud rap group, Fax Gang. Looking to crush the underground scene with his poetic verses, soak us in ethereal production provided by the gang, and to show everybody how futuristic music can sound. I initially discovered Fax Gang in April of this year, while browsing the highest rated EPs of 2020 on the rateyourmusic charts. Their EP, FxG3000, was holding a top four spot at the time. Although, due to the recent rym update, they have taken quite the fall. Nevertheless, accumulating over 1,500 ratings is still a great achievement, helping them develop a small cult following.
I was drawn by the cyberesque cover art which made me believe the music was bound to sound like the art. Ever since my first listen, I couldn’t stop listening to what I just experienced. It felt like I was floating to another dimension where everything is heavily distorted, colorful, and beautiful. A pixelated world full of pure sensation. An unreal feeling I can constantly revisit because FxG3000 never gets tiring to listen to. I’m left with wanting more that I have to run it back on constant repeat. With over 500 scrobbles on my lastfm profile in just nine months, it showed me that FxG3k is a timeless piece of work from the distant future. With a spot on my top 50 projects of 2020, I’m glad that I was able to secure the opportunity of interviewing the human, bitcrushed, vocaloid, PK Shellboy.
The recent rise and popularity of hexd and surge music can be traced back to the YouTube channel and label, dismiss yourself. With popular uploads ranging from SpaceGhostPurpp, Reptilian Club Boyz, Panchiko, and Yabujin, it was the perfect platform to showcase a brand new digital masterpiece. A new take on music utilizing influences from cloud rap, sampling, tread, glitch and nightcore.
Under 18-minutes with just 5-tracks, a spiritual journey is bound to occur. The feeling of drowning in hypnotic bitcrushed madness with no way out.
“we were broken, feeling hopeless
now we’re focused, trying, coping
stay in motion, laying, floating,
river flowing to the ocean”
Jona: Alright, thank you for letting me interview you. Huge fan of your music. Fax Gang’s debut album, Aethernet, releases this new year and I can’t wait for it. So, with all that said, how are you doing today?
PK Shellboy: This is the second time I’ve had an interview where I’ve just woken up after having a drink last night. Maybe this’ll be a tradition, HAHAHAHA
It was meant to be. Hope you’re staying hydrated. FxG3000 has received a fair amount of praise online like on rym and even getting mentioned in a Complex article. How does it feel knowing that the work of Fax Gang is resonating so well with others?
It was not at all an expected thing for me, so every day I’m thankful that it’s connecting with so many people. It still amazes me every time I wake up that this many people listen to our music and love it.
The music y’all put out is so catchy. I never get tired of it. The group contains multiple producers and yourself as the vocalist, all residing from different countries. How did all of you connect and meet? What sparked the interest to create music together? And how does the group manage the different time zones when creating music together?
Blacklight and GLACIERbaby I met through some Discord servers. No joke, NAIOKI and maknaeslayer I first met cause I added them through the RYM compatibility list. A friend and I initially had an idea to start a semi-joke cloud rap group when we were hanging out one day, and we realized we had some producers in my personal Discord server that might be interested. When we asked about who would be game, the current roster minus GLACIERbaby were who responded, then Blacklight added GLACIERbaby a couple months later. If you’ve heard about the way that Madvillainy was produced, with Madlib sending beats to DOOM and DOOM sending back vocals alternately, that’s basically how we operate. We just send stuff back and forth on our own time, and work more closely together whenever we just happen to be online at the same time.
Homegrown rateyourmusic artists. There’s a few other rym artists I’ve interviewed too. There’s a nice little supportive artist community on there. You love to see it. Glad GLACIERbaby was added. He gave us that ethereal “Jeopardy” beat. In my opinion, FxG3000 was the most interesting and exciting release of 2020. Genre bending at its finest but also catchy and sweet. What inspired the sound for the EP? It sounds completely different compared to the rest of the cloud rap + hexd/surge/bitcrushed scene.
Blacklight was the one who suggested the bitcrushed sound, cause initially we were basically ripping on Bladee and Drain Gang back in late 2019. The trance influence people hear isn’t even very intentional. Blacklight’s production has a lot of influence coming from various emo subgenres, he’s a huge emohead. maknaeslayer’s beat on Soaked was very tread-inspired for sure, while GLACIERbaby’s beat for Jeopardy was actually an old archived beat of hers. We found it in her back catalog and just thought it’d work great as a closer. Our trick for not sounding quite like the hex/surge scene or even anything else in cloud rap is to not take much influence from anything else adjacent from ourselves. We obviously still take a lot of influence from Drain Gang and company, but we don’t try to “chase a sound”. I personally think actively trying to fit into a sub-genre isn’t very fun at all, and often you get stuck in a place where you’re sounding too much like other contemporaries. We make the music we want to make with the influences we want to use.
I do hear a bit of trance as well. The Japanese vocal chopped samples has to be my favorite addition to the production. Love how FxG3k opens with a sample and ends with one as well. I find the work put out by Fax Gang to be the most consistent and sounds more concise compared to the rest of the underground scene. If you could give a new genre name to your music, what would it be? I think the stuff y’all are making is in a lane of its own. A separate entity that doesn’t drown in your influences.
I don’t really care for actively genre-tagging, I think that stuff should come out naturally and slowly as a sound evolves. I think the new phenomenon of people trying to assign names to “microgenres” and such is a product of the internet making people want to put things in boxes a lot more.
That’s very true. Remaining genre-less is liberating. You don’t need to be confined to any rules because there are no rules. Sticking a label to something just hinders its expression. I find your writing to be a highlight and it doesn’t get talked about enough.. You’re honestly saying deeply relatable things that truly resonate with me. On “Jeopardy”,
“We don’t know the answers
Better take our chances
Nothing’s really set in life
Never any standards”
I think this is something to breathe in and out everyday. What’s your writing process like?
I’ve mentioned in another interview that my writing process is actually very influenced by Shakespeare. I’m obsessed with finding the right syllabic patterns, meter, and rhyme schemes. Sometimes, I just string together words that come to my mind most naturally that fit the technicalities I’m searching for. However, both in that case and when I write more free form, I’m digging deep into myself. I like to use my lyric writing as a mirror to examine myself in, and on Fax Gang stuff in particular I try to be as honest and unfiltered with myself as possible. One Car Seat Headrest lyric in particular comes to mind: “I co-write my songs with myself / He feels the feelings, I write the words”. That really resonates with me.
Will Toledo is one of our generation’s greatest writers. I have noticed your writing to be very poetic, especially when reading the lyrics bar for bar. Is there anybody else you’re highly influenced by? Not just reflected in your music, but in life as well or even mentally?
Lil Ugly Mane is probably the reason I make music the way I do. His range and unrelenting “I do what I want when I want” ethos are very important to me, as well as his incredible honesty. Jeff Rosenstock is probably my biggest attitude peg (aside from Jvcki Wai), cause he just never gives a fuck and consistently says what’s on his mind. I aspire to have the same drive to do things my own way as Jeff Rosenstock. I don’t have to mention the Drain Gang influence cause that’s just obvious.
Hmm. Surprised no Kanye West. Some similar characteristics. Despite having a small catalogue of released material, what’s your favorite song you’ve released so far? Mine has to be “Jeopardy” (rip Alex Trebek) or “Breathe2 (In/Out)”. Honorable mention to Highlight. I had “Welcome to my life, you’re the highlight” as my instagram bio for a bit, haha.
Kanye is the artist that really got me into music, but I’ve sort of grown out of my worship of him, haha. Still very important to me. Of the songs we’ve released, Breathe2 (In/Out) is definitely my favorite track. I’m super proud of the hook on that thing, I think it’s still one of the best things I’ve ever written. However, if we’re to include stuff off the upcoming album, everyone needs to keep an ear out for Implosion, I think that has both my best melody work and lyrical writing I’ve ever done. I’m immensely proud of that song. Honorable mention to Shotgun, cause I had never written a narrative track like that before and I’m super proud of how it came out.
Breathe2 is a perfect song. I’d be extremely proud of that masterpiece too. From the writing to production 10/10. I’ve noticed that Fax Gang has performed in a few online music shows / festivals. So there has to be new artists you’ve stumbled upon in these events. Are there any particular new artists or groups that you think more people should be aware about? Can we expect PK Shellboy and the rest of Fax Gang to collaborate with other artists?
I have to rep the entirety of the Crash Blossoms crew: AOL, Saturnultra, Rural Internet (zombAe, doin’ fine, and Charlotte Crosby), and ilysm. These people are doing some of the most boundary-pushing work in underground hip-hop adjacent and beyond music I have heard. Saturnultra just came out with a birthday album on the 15th, and a collab album between Rural Internet and AOL came out the same day as well. These guys are mixing their influences and making incredibly varied and eclectic music the likes of which I don’t see almost anywhere else. Real zoomer savant music. I don’t really have a say in what the rest of the producers do on their own solo stuff, but expect me to work with the people I mentioned above on my solo project (and perhaps some other secret projects) very very frequently. I have to shout out my label mates over at No Agreements too of course, particularly Material Girl, NEUPINK, Naaki Soul, and our head honcho City Light Mosaic. I’m super excited to be a part of their roster, cause the energies bouncing around there are just so infectious and make me want to create as best I can.
I’ll surely be checking out everybody you listed. It’s about time to conclude the interview, I’d like to say thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to be a part of this. I highly appreciate it. I think you’ll be surprised with the year end list placement of FxG3000. For the final question. What do you hope to accomplish with Fax Gang + No Agreements in 2021? I typically ask my interviewees to shout out people at the end but you’re ahead of me, haha.
I want Aethernet to start the year with a bang and really blow out the door for bitcrushed music. To be completely frank, I’ve been getting fairly bored with the state of the “hexd/surge” scene (with a few exceptions), and I hope this release really shows people that there’s so much more that can be done with the bitcrushed sound. It hasn’t reached the end of its creative rope at all. You can also expect some things to do with FxG3000 happening next year, perhaps a physical issue… as well as some other secret projects we’re making happen. 2021 is definitely gonna be a big year for us as a group, and also a big year for No Agreements as a label. Hope you look forward to what we’re doing! Thank you so much for having me, and thank you for the feature!
ANYTHING TO GAIN / NOTHING TO LOSE
FOLLOW AND SUPPORT FAX GANG
Hello hello, jona here. Thank you for reading this piece. It’s my first article I’ve ever written and I’m proud it got to be about one of my new favorite groups. I have a lot more interviews in the back catalog so be sure to follow me on Instagram to stay updated! Be sure to pre-order Fax Gang – Aethernet on bandcamp. https://noagreements.bandcamp.com/album/aethernet Physicals available as well! Their music means so much me and I wish to make others feel thing way. I hope some new fans come out of this.