WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Welcome to Witchpolice Radio. I am here with a guest who was on the show for the first time, I guess it was last year. It's been probably about a year since we last talked. And you're one of those people that has a very strong Winnipeg connection, but you're not currently in Winnipeg. But that doesn't matter because Manitoba is sort of the theme of the show. And as long as someone has some kind of roots in or links to or whatever to this province, it makes for a good guess, I think. So I think the best way to start this off is if you want to just introduce yourself and give a bit of background about what it is that you do. Because, aside from that episode last year, a lot of Manitoba listeners might not be too familiar with you yet.
DOG DAD POSSE: No, that's fair. I am Sam Decter. Sam Mdwara Decter. Sammy D, the dog dad, the face and voice of the Dog Dad Posse, and the president and owner, founder, or whatever, of West Hawk Tape Company.
WR: And I think the West Hawk Tape stuff is kind of what I wanted to get started with, because I think you were probably doing something similar at the time we talked last, but you kind of wrapped that up. That seems to be more of a going concern right now. And you're putting out tapes of your own stuff, of other people's stuff. You seem to have, like, a subscription-based sort of club people can join. What can you tell me about the tape label?
DDP: We're trying. I think we're in beta testing phase with things like the Etsy shop and, , haven't even started a Bandcamp for West Hawk Tape releases yet. Very much setting down some groundwork, getting projects rolling… stuff that I want to do with my band, , collaborators I want to bring into it. West Hawk Tape is named after a body of water that lies on the border between Manitoba and Ontario.
DDP: So part of what I'm doing since I left Ontario a minute ago is just keeping my hand in the game in Toronto, staying in touch with the people there I want to collaborate with. And Winnipeg. too... I got two albums of Winnipeg beats that are in post-production right now. Like, I can't get away from that place musically.
WR: No, you can't. If you leave, no matter how long you leave for, Winnipeg will still draw you in.
DDP: They never let you go. I got too much family there to ever say that I'm turning my back on the ‘Peg. Come on.
WR: So where are you now then? Are you in BC now or something?
DDP: Yeah, I'm on Vancouver Island. I spend most of my time in Campbell River here, which is chill this time of year. It's getting really beautiful.
WR: Believe it. Yeah.
DDP: Yeah, we've only been here six months. That's like, starting to get started. Settled in. For the tape label, it's a complete mess. I'm not going to show it to you, but, yeah, these are the digs. It's a lot more spacious here than our place was in Toronto. I was probably, like, sitting on a couch between the TV and the coffee table. Now I can stretch and stuff.
WR: Well, the one thing I thought was cool about the tapes too, is that you're doing this super DIY. These are just like, tapes where you've dubbed some over top of something else, and you've got a sticker with pen written on it. I mean, a lot of people are doing DIY tapes, but some people are going and getting them pressed and stuff. This is like very old school, punk rock, like, do it yourself kind of tape making, which I think is pretty cool.
DDP: That's where it starts. Ten years ago, you could have found me with a whole bag of tapes just for taking the work. And like, a boom box at work. A boom box over here. Like three broken ones in my closet. And I thought I was almost going to hang it all up and get rid of my CD collection and my tape collection. And then we sort of turn this corner and it's like, no, I got the high speed dubbers. I'm making tapes faster and more than I ever had before. And that's my childhood was having something musical other than playing an instrument that you can get your hands on it. You make it yourself, you customize it. We always have that favorite mixtape that someone just put so much love and attention in before they send it to you. And then you might remember that forever. You'll be like, listening to your favorite Beatles mixtape and Here Comes the Sun ends. And then you're like, no, I know what the next song is. Because this is a curated experience that I've had in my life.
WR: That tactile thing exists with CDs and records, too, but tapes, because of the ability for anyone to sort of hand up them and customize them that way, especially back then, they do have that special significance I think.
DDP: I call it like a fetish object.
DDP: You know, they design chocolate bars, so you want to touch them. They got this crinkliness going on. They design the beverages to be as satisfying as possible. I don't know. That Mouth-Boat tape you sent me, was that bright yellow, just plain yellow color? Yeah, but that's one of those colors that were hardwired. So, like, what is that? It stands out. You can't stop, looking at it. Yeah, it had been a while, but you got the cassette in your hand and you're, like, holding something like tactile and real. There's a delicate mechanism in there somewhere. The same way you can't rub your CDs all over or leave your vinyl lying around. There's some delicate aspects to it, but it's this I don't know, a physical thing that in your brain means an hour of beautiful music.
WR: Yeah, I like that. What is the idea behind the project of having people sort of subscribe and then get tapes on a regular basis? I don't want to say outdated, because it hasn't happened in forever, but it's an older idea that you're kind of recycling. It reminds me of the tape clubs or whatever. You know, Columbia House and shit.
DDP: Everyone remembers the Columbia House. There's a lot of subscription businesses on the Etsy and the online crafting place. If someone goes for your brand, if they dig your brand, then they'll just sign on for you to send them dog treats or makeup or whatever it is that you're packaging from them. And the plan has always been, like, if you have cool music and you get in touch with me and we like, we're on the same page, I'm here to enable that. That's how I see my job as a label. And we're going to have all kinds of things out eventually. We'll have to make compilations just so we can keep track of them. And that's like, the sampler. It's a good way to get to know the future catalogue. But certainly, like, the community of artists that are going to be involved in West Hawk. And the sampler, the compilation, these are all the kind of releases that I vibe with and that we're aiming for. Yeah, sometimes, especially, man, I've been digging through beats, digging through so many beats since the last time I talked to you. Sometimes you just got to go dig through, like a DJ producer, they put out ten albums. You got to go dig through all that, make that hotline, and say, I want to put out these ten beats. I want to put out this mix of your stuff and save people that create digging time, which isn't for everybody, but really, it's about curating things for the customer, for the listener.
WR: Well, and obviously, like you said at the beginning, you have these connections all across the country now, because you've lived in these different cities that have very strong music communities in general, and then hip hop in particular, too. I mean, Winnipeg in Toronto, and Vancouver as well. There's very strong roots in all three of those cities for hip hop music. So is that kind of one of the goals as well, to make what you're putting on the label, have that larger reach and that more diversity across the country?
DDP: That's kind of the next step for me because I lived out west here before when I first started recording raps and stuff, I lived in Sault St. Marie for a little while. Like, this is all, you know, you have these connections and those people are still there. And not just staying in touch with people, but making a community that's based on these connections and all of a sudden reaches Vancouver, Hamilton, Sault St. Marie, South Africa, Botswana… I want to light it up like a pinball machine. I want to have things going on and people excited, all my people, all over the place.
WR: Yeah, I like that attitude too, for sure. As an artist, with Dog Dad Posse, I know we've just come out of a pandemic, which changed everything in terms of the way people are able to play shows or even get their music out there into the world.
WR: But is it hard to move a lot with a music project where you've obviously established yourself, to a certain degree, within the music scene in one city, and then now you've moved again? Do you have to start from scratch there? Do you like starting from scratch in a new place and introducing people to what you do?
DDP: It's kind of something I enjoyed about having lived lots of places. Is that kind of challenge when you started from scratch or when nobody knows you? Kind of reminds me the, showboating or the attention getting that brings me into performing arts, or like, , work down, shout out to the rip tide I work a at pub downtown here in Campbell River. And I worked there, what, four, five, six weeks. And then I went to Toronto to do a show and do some studio stuff. And I came back and everyone's like, Oh, I heard you're a musician. I'd like to introduce you to the rest of me. And that can be fun.
WR: Yeah, I guess you can have that secret identity if you're moving into a new place and people are just meeting you for the first time. And then suddenly there's this, in your case, too. This whole body of work and another artist you're working with and stuff that's just below the surface, that if they get to know you, that side of you, they're going to be like, oh, this isn't just like, it's not just the thing you're doing for fun. You've actually spent all this time and effort and working on this project.
DDP: Well, it's a lot harder to keep a secret identity here than it is in Toronto, I'll tell you that much.
WR: I imagine. yes.
DDP: Coming from Winnipeg to Toronto. There's the sense of anonymity that I don't think I've had anywhere else. Yeah, I believe that in the sea of people. If you step out the door in Campbell River, you're noticed because you're the only person walking down the street in Campbell River, right.
WR: So have you played any shows since you moved?
DDP: Not here. There was that gig in Toronto last month. I love performing. And that's the most direct way to get your infectious energy. If the song is good, the album should be like the best version of the song. But if the song is good, you should be able to put a little extra sauce on it live and just be giving people the excitement and the energy just directly out of yourself.
DDP: And get them hooked on that.
WR: Well, it’s like a bonus… it's like giving a bonus amount of something, right on top of what they would hear on the tape.
DDP: It's just a lot of fun. And that's like the outreach and the connection stuff. And I'm grounded here. I have a full time job, but this is the first time I've had a good freedom to sort of bounce when I need to be somewhere else for a show cool. Or for a recording session or what have you.
WR: Has this experience, with doing the label and working with all these different people. And like you said, hearing music from some of these places. You're hearing it is in Africa and it's in different provinces across Canada, in the States, wherever else. Has it affected your writing as Dog Dad Posse? Like, have you been kind of incorporating some of these things that you've heard or experienced from these other artists into somehow, whether it's consciously or not, into what you do?
DDP: Yeah, that's always part of the process. And even me calling a project where I'm the only rapper, Dog Dad Posse is not really going to be followed through on until there's guest versus or like a collaborator who's on a most of an album. And we're getting into that phase now. Like, there's two albums in postproduction, so one of them would be with Dren, a shout out to all the Winnipeg producers, Dren and Gumshoe and Bazooka Joe and Yy…I did, features that are getting mixed down now. Birds Across Water is bringing me some more beats through the winter and, I’m talking to Rusty Robot about spending some time at his studio. Yeah, it's work, but it's fun work. And even just that like getting, let's say, the Dren beats, for example. So this is a bunch of beats that I grabbed. Then he showed me some other stuff, but it's just beats that he already had out there. And I sent them to CE Savage and DG Woks. Shout out to Nigeria.
DDP: These African rappers who were connected like their album right now, Hustler's Chapter. You can look it up on Spotify under DG Woks, W-O-K-S. But that album is released through Ocean Fresh Productions and they're based out here in BC. So I had to come to BC to make the connection with the Nigerian guys to put them on the album with the Winnipeg beats. And it's just too wild to not be fun.
WR: Yeah, well, and we're in an era where that's possible now too, right? I mean, it's so much easier for that to even happen. Whereas 20 years ago, that would have been I mean, it could have happened, but it would have been a lot more kind of papers to shuffle around and then things to get right, to make it a possibility.
DDP: I think that's something that I carried through from quarantine collaborating too. Because even if you're in the same city, we're not getting in a studio together. And rappers are used to just going to their buddies and spend a couple of hours and get recorded. That's all really, the setup that you need. All of that was like a reminder of how far flung the collaboration can be or how many people can get involved. So there's those guys, that's one DDP album, okay? They're the main features throughout. They're doing hooks. They got a couple of verses on most of the songs. There might be a couple of other guys on that album, but I don't know. The Gumshoe Strut has been selling me beats for a couple of years. So some of these were written while quarantine is still going on now. We've got some Toronto people doing guests on there. Shelley Hamilton, IDA Sophia, Strawberry Short Temper. All of these guys did about half of their verses recorded last time I was in town. And we're going to wrap that up later this month. And that's where it really feels like a posse and like I have backup. There's people sharing that load of having to write a million bars to fill up a beautiful six minute beat. And like you're saying about influence, there's influence. You get obsessed with something new. Like the South African DJ and producer that I'll show you a track of his later on is like something I'm really soaking up and want to be focusing on my writing going forwards. I tell people, this guy King Lxcx is the Jazzy Jeff to my Fresh Prince. That's just a dream in my heart. That's just how I want it to work. But yeah, very inspiring music and takes me in a distinctly African direction as well as just like an old school hip hop direction, which is exciting for me, which is always a good vibe to get when you're rapping, for sure.
WR: And I guess it's different too, because like you said, you're so used to doing these six minute songs where it's just you without doing the entirety of the lyrics. Has this kind of experience of working with other people now? Has that changed the way you write lyric wise? Because you know that you're probably going to have someone else contributing or a shorter time frame in which to...
DDP: Well that's my favorite version. When I feel like I'm a guest star on my own track.
DDP: Whether I created the situation or put all these people in the same room, writing one verse for a beat is entirely different than sitting down and saying like, I'm doing the whole thing. Whether there's a hook or a chorus or whatever, it's an entirely different approach. And I've always been trying to get to that jazz mixture. You have two voices on a track, there's a back and forth there's, at least I'm doing my thing. And then you get that pass off and somebody else comes in. It's the same key signature, it's the same tempo, but their voice makes all the difference. Never mind the words they're saying. You're getting an entirely different instrument adding to the sound. Now that's like an influence in terms of like, the setting. I keep telling people I want to run this hip hop label like a jazz label in the 50s or 60s. You just keep moving songwriters and vocalists around, put them in different combinations, see who works well together, see who has the same vibe or should be packaged together.
WR: Yeah, well, some of those even records from that era that you would think would never work turn out to be awesome too. People that are from just totally different styles and some genius decided to stick them together in a studio and it worked out amazingly. And you get this early, unique kind of stuff.
DDP: I'm not saying I'm like the first person to approach it up that way, but I think it creates a space where, yeah, magical things can happen that wouldn't happen. , people get influenced and people just get ideas from being around different types of creativity and different approaches, for sure.
WR: Yeah. I know you mentioned off the top that the West Hawk stuff isn't currently on Bandcamp. What's the best way to find it? Basically, at this point? Just get in touch with you and you send the tapes through the mail?
DDP: That's one way. I can always set it up that way. But West Hawk Tapes is a shop on Etsy.com.
DDP: So that is the most solid manifestation of that. Dog Dad Posse still has a band camp. Some of my collaborators have stuff on now that I'll send you in different directions to find.
WR: So people are finding different ways to do this, obviously, like you would, etc. Like putting out a calendar or people putting out there's all kinds of stuff. I mean, you mentioned the Mouth-Boat tape earlier. The guy who has that label, he's based out of Gimli and he is doing all kinds of cool stuff. He's reissuing this summer on vinyl, a folk album from the 70s, from Gimli that was like it's about fishing in Gimli. And it's this kind of iconic local record that has been out of print for years. And he contacted the guy who's very old at this point in his life and got all the rights and everything, and he's putting out this record from 40 years ago and he's reissuing it on like a deluxe edition on vinyl. Yeah. People are finding cool ways to put up music. It's awesome.
DDP: Yeah. It's interesting how when we are going up, everything seemed to be moving so fast with the technology changing. Like, some things that are out on tape, like, don't exist in the virtual world or at least aren't very possible online. And so if there's no physical copy, it's gone. But people want that gimme album. They want that to last. They want people to remember it and know that people care about it and that it meant something to them. So they make it. They enshrine it even more by having this rerelease. So they keep it out there even if it's been decades. I think that's beautiful.
WR: Yeah, it's super cool. I love seeing that kind of thing too, because there's always going to be someone out there. And I think the both of us probably fit into that category of people who will want the physical thing, no matter how weird or how limited edition or whatever it is, they'll want to have that so they can listen to it in that format that it's meant to be in and just hold on to it. And there's going to be probably many more things being reissued over the years just because of that. Because someone will have in their basement this tape from 15, 20,30 years ago that has stood the test of time and they've always listened to. And then someone with a label will realize the importance and the value of it and we'll put it back out there again.
DDP: Well, it's also a time of diversity… it's not like we're getting rid of all our DVDs so that we can build our Bluray collection. All of these things exist. New technology isn't coming in, like, the next step of evolution anymore. It's not like, here I am. You can throw away your 8-tracks. That's over. I'm here. It's like something new. Kind of has to prove that it's going to last or it's going to make sense to people and live alongside vinyl and cassettes and maybe even CDs and stuff.
WR: I hope a CD renaissance happens. I'm waiting for it. But I don't know, it's just not the same as tapes and records in terms of, I think just like the tactile part of it because CDs get scratched so easily. But it would be nice to see because I have so many CDs that I can't get rid of. So not that I want to, but I can't physically bring myself to get rid of.
DDP: That's a very special Sam Thompson problem to have.
WR: I think it might be, yeah.
WR: I know you mentioned the Etsy site. You have band camp for Dog Dad Posse. If someone wants to find out more, what's the best place to find you online? Would it just be to go to your social media?
DDP: Yeah. Instagram. There's a Dog Dad Posse Facebook page. But on Instagram, you can find Dog Dad Posse. You can find West Hawk Tapes. You can from there, see all of the Bandcamps of all of these artists that I'm working with.
DDP: She shout out to TBay and Percy Pippas, Lincoln Woods, and Ugggy. I have a track called Moving On that's off of their EP that has all three of those guys. It's going to be one of the tracks I send you for the show.
WR: Awesome. And then I guess are you actively looking for artists to work with? Are you with the tape label especially?
DDP: Yeah, it's a push and pull. But go through a large recruitment and then you or I have to budget and see which of those projects can get off the ground, how long that's going to take. And at the moment, I'm happy with the people that I'm working with. I ain't trying to manage anybody or be anybody's agent. I'm certainly not trying to sign anybody exclusively and take a piece of their royalties or fees from their shows, like labels have been known to do. But that makes it simple for me to offer. If you have made the album or if you are making the album. And distribution is something that you need. Promotion is something that you need help with. These are services that even just keeping up my Insta. I'm doing more PR work than a lot of labels can afford to do out there right now, for sure.
WR: Well, because you have the ability to just do it whenever you have time. Right.
DDP: Well, I mean, they do too. We all can spend as much time as you want. I think a lot of things get lost in bureaucracy, whereas I can be like nimble. , and get into different situations. There's not like a bunch of people to train or make a calendar for, or just dragging around that weight of having a bunch of staff is a big budget to carry around. And I'm more building to that point rather than trying to rent an office to do this thing or really saddle myself with overhead because that's not my concept, , of what I'm going for, for sure.
WR: Do you have a timeline for when the next Dog Dad Posse tape is coming?
DDP: Well, we got this exclusive single dropping right here on Witchpolice Radio, which should hold people for a little while. I was thinking, like, maybe by Halloween, I have another single out… but that Winnipeg session I'm talking about is going to be the end of January. So if timing works out well, there could be an album release of some kind in Winnipeg in the new year. What I'm aiming for.
WR: Well, I hope it happens. I hope it happens to be nice to actually see you do this stuff live. Especially with such a great supporting cast of locals who are contributing to your project, too, right?