"It's not where you're from, it's where you're at" — Interview: Ted de Oliveira (FRNT BZNZZ)

We've got something special up for you. Today we dive into an enriching conversation with Ted de Oliveira, the multi-instrumentalist / producer behind the FRNT BZNZZ moniker. Oddly enough, this is probably the first interview of this kind for the blog: a radio-style discussion between myself and the artist. It felt really good to pick Ted's brain about his process, the music he's been making lately, and just talk story and get to know him better. Several years ago, Ted had the Honolulu music scene's attention not only with his improvisational acoustic guitar-slash-beatboxing performances, but with his "side project" called Front Business, which served as his exploration into electronic music. While any savvy digital digger will be able to find his first album on Bandcamp, released in 2011, this year's 7" release on the AGS label serves as a re-introduction for the artist, whose musical intent and studio production abilities have undoubtedly evolved over the last 7 years. The man, however, remains the same as ever before: passionate, driven, ceaseless. "I'm on fire", he told me during our interview. Not like "on fire" as in he's crushing the electronic music charts or raking in hoards of money from his work. More like he just can't stop doing what he's doing: making music, learning new skills, collaborating with any and every artist in Honolulu. Collaborative efforts, in fact, seem to make up the bulk of Ted's output. What you'll hear during our interview is plenty of unreleased material that Ted's made in recent months with close friends and casual collaborators. AGS-7009, in other words, just scratches the surface by sharing Ted's solo work with FRNT BZNZZ. There's plenty more to come, stretching beyond one-person productions. Let's dig in — hope you enjoy our chat. Roger Bong: Okay, let's go ahead and introduce yourself. Ted de Oliveira: Hi, my name is Ted de Oliveira a.k.a. Front Business (FRNT BZNZZ). RB: I don't know what you're listening to. I think we're just recording an interview. You were listening to an interview with front business. My name is Roger Bong of Aloha Got Soul. Are you. If we make this, if we make this a thing, are you comfortable with everybody hearing your unreleased music? Ted: You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen. Yeah. I don't care. Cause even if they like try to bootleg it, you're still going to hear my voice and they're like, okay, this defeats the purpose entirely. RB: Drop it at a club. All of a sudden, all of a sudden you come on, Ted: Right? RB: Were you listening to Kleeer when you made this? Ted: I don't know what I was — I wasn't listening to anything. I was listening to my uncle remind me to clean up after my grandfather. Nah man, I like Kashif. Kashif is the bomb. I like all kinds of the old boogie stuff, old funk stuff. It's limitless man, you know, there's all kinds of—the resurgence is so beautiful because there's stuff that I had not known about and you guys turned me onto it and then I research it and I go, okay, he's using the SH-101, he's using a—you know, so you figure out kind of what's the same stuff that they're using, what's the same effects that they're using and you do your best to not necessarily recreate it but just, you know, take a nod here and there. Pay homage. It's like you're picking from a giant forest and you're making your own personal bouquet. I mean that's the easiest way I can explain. You're taking what you like. That's essentially what it's all about. RB: What is Front Business? Ted: Front Business is actually a mullet job that just went way out of hand. Party in the back business in the front... No, it's actually a front organization. You say you're like a crack seed store but really, you're like a game room, so essentially it's kind of about how human beings have like an outer layer and then they have the internal layer, you know, if you want to get all like as esoteric and deep on it. So you have the front area and then you have your soft, chewy center. RB: Wait, is Front Business separate from yourself, Ted to Oliveira? Ted: I mean we're all the same essentially. If you were to look at it from a jazz perspective, all the jazz players don't ever have monikers. They only have their real first and last names. And so if I'm going to do acoustic music or jazz music or something like that, you want to have a real name. So if you're doing, if you notice like in other genres of music, it was like you had to change your name. Look at the early boogie stuff. Everybody had some kind of name or some kind of style or something like that. So it's more about your portrayal, which. What'd you want to put out there? You'll want to put your best foot forward. You want to, you know, I think, uh, who said it best is on Etta James. She's like "Boys playing games, changing their names". you create a persona. RB: And... somebody's calling you? Ted: Yeah. My Dad just called me. RB: So that's why the music stopped. Ted: Yeah. Thanks, dad. I'm doing an interview right now, dude. Okay. RB: How's your dad doing? Ted: He's in LA. He's kicking it. RB: Who is your dad? Ted: Some black dude. No, I'm just kidding. Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro. He's from Mangueira. He's originally born in Niteroi actually, in Brazil. I was born in Rio and he basically came here after he had me. I'm the reason why he came here to raise me. I mean he gave up, you know, a lot of fame, a lot of, you know, he was really popular in Brazil as a percussionist and as one of the founding members of a Samba, Brazilian Bossa Nova or the whole clique in the sixties they were, they were all making in forging new styles. Bossa Nova literally means new style. Samba was another style too, you know, all these different styles. He was mainly responsible for doing the inventing acrobatic tricks with the tambourine. He built a tambourine when he was 10 years old, broke living in, you know, in the hood and Brazil and just made stuff out of nothing making do with what he had at the time and you know, people would bag on it and people would hate on him, but he still just kept doing this thing and over time they had a battle called the Golden Tambourine competition. So he wanted it so many times that they're like, look, you know, what, screw the contest. You are officially the Golden Tambourine. We're done. We're done here. And so now all of his, a lot of the tricks that he made are still part of the area in the Samba school. So, thanks Dad.
Mistura, a Brazilian band led by Ted's parents, Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro (far left) and Sandy Tsukiyama.
RB: Can I ask what your parents think of the music that you're making with Front Business Ted: My parents always just battle me. RB: What do you mean? Ted: They're like, "That ain't music." ...Nah nah nah! I mean, think about it, they like active stuff. They like chords, they like progressions, right. My mom would always comment because I used to be into drum and bass. I used to be into two step, all this garage stuff. She was like, "Oh, you still listening to that monotonous music?". I'm like, "Mom, it's not monotonous. It's mature." She's like, "Naw, Naw, they don't play real instruments. They play with computers. What are you going to do? Go on stage with your computer?" And 20 years later I'm like, everybody, you're going up there like press the space bar and then walking away, get drink at the bar. Who's playing, uh, you? Yeah. I mixed this hour long set at home. So what you doing? RB: What were you doing when in front? Like this electronic producer side came out? Because you were playing acoustic, right? Ted: I was into rock. I was into metal, into a punk. I was into all loud stuff that does not sound like Brazilian music because I mean, you know, you grow up with Pat Metheny or some other really soft, esoteric stuff. You don't want to hear that as a kid. You want to get live, you got all this boundless energy, you know, and so I, I always wanted to play something louder. In my formative years, my mom had a friend in the army and he was like, "Hey kid here, come with me." He took me to this army warehouse and he was like, look, we're going to build you a Frankenstein drum set from the army barracks, whatever we got leftover and so he fixed me up with his drum set at 10 years old and then he's like, just the bomb at all African Cuban Latin jazz rhythm. So he sampled this drum, says killing it. And I'm sitting here like at 10 years old going, man, I could never do that. It was super daunting and really discouraging to see such a professional level at such a young age, you know? And so instead of trying to do the hard work to learn it, I just decided let's just play something that's fun, you know, like rock music, Rolling Stones, The Doors, stuff like that. RB: So what's your creative process now when you're producing a track electronically? Ted: You throw darts at a board and see what sticks... RB: You have a dart board in your studio? Ted: No, I don't play darts, dude. I had an ex girlfriend that played darts and she was awesome at darts and every time we would go out to the bar and stuff, she would just beat me up and darts, you know, bullseye on bullseye, like split the dart in half kine. I was like, okay, I'm never going to do that.
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RB: Let me know when to pull the music back up. Ted: I'll play this one. Yeah, let's really "Duo Trio". And it's unreleased, so this is the only time you guys are ever going to hear this. Because I'm never going to release this stuff. I have a giant vault, a 5 billion songs like Prince. RB: You just compared yourself to Prince. Ted: I'm not a prince. I'm a pauper. RB: How would you describe your music to somebody who's uninformed of — because a lot of people know you in the Honolulu music scene. You've been playing in the scene since the late nineties, like '99. Ted: Thanks for dating me. I really wanted it to feel that old just now. Thank you Roger. I appreciate it. Let's get a timeline here. You play drums, then you'd beat box, then you play ukulele, then you play guitar, then you go, wait a second, what's this? SP-202 sampler? I sampled the Pokemon sound bank, you know, like I was sampling stuff off like Photek's "Form and Function:, you know, sampling early drum and bass records, early underground hip hop records, all the LA stuff like Freestyle Fellowship. Shouts out to Myka 9, AC. Everybody out there, you know. I would sample all the old hip hop stuff and then try to incorporate like my mom's koto or stuff that was laying around the house like a shaker, some bell chimes, a triangle that just laying around. As I started advancing in production stuff. I mean, I remember staring at Cake Walk and going, God I don't want to be here. I want to play live music. This is really boring. And so I guess as technology advanced and now we got DAW's, now we got — I remember using Reason in like '99, the beta. I was like, wow, this is a whole new trip, you know, because now it's like I'm not, I don't have to sample from any outside source. So that was, I think the beginning of synthesis, learning how to use any type of synthesizer and I think I learned on like a subtractor or something like that. So that was when I started getting the bug. That's when I was like, okay. UH had a Pro One, sequential circuits and I would just, I wouldn't even go to school there. They're like, what are you doing? And I'm, oh, I'm just taking the synthesizer out of the back and plugging it in and using my headphones and then recording it onto a tape and then taking a tape back home and, and putting it into an SP-202. This is like '98, '97. RB: You grew up in Manoa valley? Ted: Yeah. Manoa, Makiki, Waiks. All over down here. RB: What was happening in '98 in Honolulu, in music? Ted: G-spot ran it, straight up. G-spot was running the show, man. I'm talking like six months in advance. I remember him bringing it DJ Heather, DJ Shadow. He brought out like all these underground guys, you know, I remember running into Goldie, DJ Magic, like wow, that was like my heroes, you know, I was tripping out. I got to thank, definitely thank G-spot for that early exposure, especially because he had the Underground Sound Show. So that was running every day on Wednesdays, and that was exposing us to the house side of the stuff, you know, Chicago house, Detroit stuff. Even like early mid Minnesota funk stuff like he was, he still has those tapes to this day. You go ask him. RB: KTUH? Ted: KTUH. Also, Kavet the Catalyst. Can't forget Kavet, because he took the time to go and dig for days and always take trips to LA and come back and always have new music to show us. Some of it's mediocre, some of it's super awesome. Everybody would record his show. Everybody would go hang out outside the station. We would all freestyle. We would all practice b-boy moves and do all that urban stuff, you know. So definitely going to thank those two because they were the exposure that we needed. I mean, we're on a rock. What are you going to do? This was pre-internet awesomeness. I remember trying to load the Warp Records page in 2003 on a blue iMac and it was not loading and I'm like, man, I'm trying to download the Prefuse 73 album, I'm like, come on, you know? RB: Let's talk about Hawaii real quick. We're in the middle of an ocean. What should people know about Hawaii? Ted: It's a hub city. There is beauty and there's also decay and there's, there's beauty in that decay. There's a lot of multicultural stuff happening. It'll heal you and for some people the economics will crush you. You got to have 15 jobs to live here or you got to be rich or you know, some people have an agenda that we're turning this into a giant retirement home, you know, I don't know. All I know is that I had to work all my life and you know, there's some people that got it real good out here. Don't get me wrong. But I think part of my whole process and what I'm trying to say with music is like, hey, we have a voice even if we don't got an awesome mansion or whatever. I mean that's, that's all over the place from Kahala down. A lot of people are living really good, but that's not necessarily saying that I am the voice of, you know... I'm just saying let's give props to the people that have been here doing the same thing. Just staying adventurous. Making new sounds, making cross genres, pulling influences from everything. Not getting boxed in and not getting stuck, staying inspired. It doesn't matter what anybody tells you. You stay inspired. That was hip hop. It's like everybody's going to tell you you're whack everybody. So what's the point? You know? You might as well just do your own thing.
Artwork by Dana Paresa.
RB: I feel like that's the beauty of Hawaii is that there's so many cultures that live in close proximity to each other and we're in contact with one another every single day. So we're forced to learn how to exist in harmony together. And the same thing goes for music. I mean you're one of those people who can hop across genres and styles of music and you can play this or produce that or work with this person and and whatnot. And I know you're choosing another song to play for us and I'm just going to keep talking, but. Okay. So that's what people should know about Honolulu or Hawaii. Ted: It's beautiful. Come visit. (Smile.) RB: What should people know about you? Ted: Nothing. No, no, no, I, it's sort of like... is it a should question, really? All I know is I'm inspired. It's beautiful everywhere and that's not just with your eyes, man. As an artist you stay inspired by everything. You stay inspired by somebody asking you for change. Somebody's asking you for a cigarette. A hummingbird, you know, all kinds of deep stuff. Something about me: I'm on fire. I'm always going to make stuff. It doesn't matter. I'm not gonna hate on myself too hard. Right? We got to. You got to stay a bit positive. RB: Is that beauty you're talking about, you're talking about beauty in Hawaii? Or could you be, do you feel like you could be any where in the world and have the same kind of reaction to your surroundings? Ted: It's definitely not where you're from, it's where you're at. Where you're at internally. You see beauty everywhere. It is everywhere. I went to Europe. I was like, man, I want to eat some gelato right now, this is amazing. I was looking at a statue of Dante, I was like, man, that is uncomfortable and scary. Why are we here? RB: What song is this in the background? Ted: Oh, this is my song for a senior prom 1991, Aiea High School. No, it's called "Always Wanted". Eh, they had some really awesome haircuts back then. They're bringing those haircuts back. 1991. High top fades with Sigourney Weaver. She was bald. Dude had like a mullet. The whole back was all... I'll shut up now. RB: Do you want people to associate your music with Hawaii? You can be honest. Ted: It doesn't even matter. Where is your soul from? I dunno. RB: That's a great question. Ted: Where's your spirit from? I dunno. Should we lock ourselves down to this 3-D or what? I'm not going to get super esoteric, but I think there's aa lot of good stuff everywhere. We've just got to stick to our guns about curating the right stuff. I mean, that's what you do. You're a label owner, you pick and choose the best parts and you make something awesome out of it. I made this song because I didn't have a date on Valentine's Day and so I just wanted to make it feel like, you know, like if you're in like seventh grade and you gave a girl a rose and she just shut you down. That early love feeling, like you're shy, you know, like you want to tell her something, and you're just like, you got butterflies in your stomach. Like when you were a kid, when somebody asks, Hey, do you have a girlfriend? You're like, no! Ew! That uncomfortable feeling. RB: Let's talk about the release, Cool It, Pump The Brakes. Ted: Do you know the reason why I named it that? Your chick is in a club and she's getting hit on by some dude who just thinks he's awesome. And usually in Hawaii the term is "Ho brah, cool it, pump ya brakes." And so pump your brakes means "back off me, dude". And so sometimes you know, you may not be feeling so hot. Sometimes you may not be feeling so well and sometimes people are all up in your shit and you just got to tell them "Back up, give me five feet. Cool it, pump the brakes." It was also — I like songs to drive around with. I want to drive around and I want to sing to myself. I want to sing to myself in the shower. I'm just doing it for that. I really just doing it because I want to say them to myself in the shower . You thought it was a deep reason? No, man. I just want to sing. RB: What about the B side? Ted: That was a long night. I can't remember why I made that. Sometimes you just make stuff and it just logically RB: The track title just comes? Ted: Yeah it gets put together. I don't even like that song. You're the one who wanted to put it on it. RB: I like that song. Ted: Exactly. That's why. Because you're the curator. No, I'm just joking. It's a short song and because we were trying to fit it on the record, we're like, wait a second, this is as short as the other one, let's just throw this on there too. RB: What I was getting from it just by looking at the titles and listening to the music, it's kind of got this, a bit of a darkness to it, bit of a grittiness to it, and I'm looking around our physical surroundings and there's a lot of homelessness. Ted: Yeah: my house under the overpass. RB: Right. And so I thought that maybe that was some topic or theme that you're kind of approaching. Ted: If anybody here or out there has ever experienced what it's like to be either addicted to drugs or homeless or in between jobs and they get kicked out or you know, having to like suffer economically. That's what it's about. It's about, you know, it's not all roses in Hawaii, it's not. New Speaker: So, so many people here have used Hawaii as an image. This is not only has the land that's been stolen, the imagery has been stolen, that land has been taken and repackaged and they say, "Hey, come here. Everybody come here." What happens when you get here and then it's not all it's cracked up to be? And then you tuck tail and go back home? Or you get stuck here and economically messed up, and now you're under the bridge. What then? It's not paradise now.
Artwork by Dana Paresa.
Ted: Shouts out to Ais one. He told me I had to pan all these. He was right. I actually did that last night. Thank you! Hey, there's a community, a network. Everybody, help everybody else out. RB: Yeah, instead of building vertically, we all got to build horizontally, make a bridge, be stronger together. Ted: But then again, at the opposite of that is early hip hop. What was that about? That was like, "Your stuff's junk. Check my stuff out." And that competitiveness is what bred originality, these guys are really trying to make something to outdo the other person, to wow them. That's what makes it so catchy and vibrant and fresh. In Hawaii there was that scene before and that's the scene I came from was these people, these MC's, battling. They had mutual respect for each other, but when it really boils down to it, all the camps were pretty secretive. "No, we're working on some stuff in the lab and it's like a secret laboratory and Mega Man's there with Dr Wiley." I'm like, really bro? I'm at my house with an SP-202 that I got from the pawn shop, okay. Like, it's no secret. I don't got like some special magic laboratory dude. I have a PC from my uncle, it's a hand me down from 2001. Okay. RB: It works. Ted: This is "Unko Boiz Anthem". This is made from the Grandpas of Hip Hop Association. Shouts out to Fame. Shouts out to Aija. Shouts out to Mr. Uncle Ray, up in Pupukea. Best mangoes, best tumeric on the island. want some tumeric? You call Uncle Ray. Actually you can't call him. He doesn't have a phone. You just got to go down to Chinatown and find tumeric because that's the way he delivers it to you. He delivers all kinds of food all the time. Um, but yeah, so this is like a collaborative effort. RB: So a lot of this music are collaborations, not necessarily Front Business. This is stuff you've been making with friends, right? Explain that to me. Ted: Community hub center. You want to come over here, do you want to come to my house? You want to let something out? It's therapy time. Music therapy time. My friend Moon brought his daughter over and she's like, I want to become the next Porter Robinson. I'm like, you might have to learn about compression first. EDM stuff. You gotta learn to blow out your bass drum. She took to it super quick. I mean, her dad's a beat maker. Fame brought his son over and he's like 10? 11, 12. And I was like, you got to make a beat today, boy. He was a drummer. So he looked at me, he's like, can I go yet? I was like, yeah bro! We just go! Get it! And he's like I'm like, your son is amazing. He didn't waver time. He took to it so quickly. That's what I'm stoked on, when kids get it and they get it really quick. It's beautiful. I thank the people who, when I was 17, 16, took me in... We got to be those people for the younger generation to show, hey, you know what, you have a chance. You can make something. You don't need any extra stuff. You can just use your creativity. RB: How old are you now? Ted: Uh, like Methuselah. Off the record? RB: No, this should be on the record. Ted: On the record, Front Business is an android. So he doesn't have an age. He's made out of metal, from Costco. That Kirkland Signature metal. No, no, no. I'm 36. Mentally going on 5. RB: Let's bring it back to the release. It's all instrumentals. These first two songs that are out on Aloha Got Soul. I just found out 15 minutes ago, 20 minutes ago that there's vocal part to Cool It. Show us the secret verse... Ted: The secret. "You will attract whatever frequency you give out." That's the secret right there. That's it. You didn't even have to buy that whole book. There it is. No, you gotta turn it up in my left headphone. Dude you got the Michael Jackson sound bank on here?. You got that new program, it's good. Ted: I'm just making stuff up. I have no idea. RB: You have a good voice. Ted: No, I've got a piece of curry stuck in there. There is a piece of curry chicken stuck in. Wait, wait. I'm Vegan. Front Business is vegan. Ted eats meat. There's a conflict going on. No, this release is wonderful, man. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to. Seriously. I appreciate you man. I appreciate you, Lei. Appreciate you, Roger. I wanna say much love to Aloha Got Soul, you got to have soul to be part of this Aloha club. I'm sorry. You can't be like Aloha Got Soullessness, like Shang Tsung. Take your soul. Aloha Got Mortal Kombat. RB: You just led right into the next question. What is Aloha Got Soul to you? What does it mean? Ted: Hawaii has Soul too, guys. Just saying. No, no, no, no. It's like, let's find the places here that have heart that have a narrative, that have a story. Let's share that story with the world. Let's share our love with the world. We have something to offer. We got something beautiful here. What else we got? We got all kinds of stuff. RB: Just play the B side. We'll close with that. Let me ask you that again because I kind of distracted you by asking you to change , but what is Aloha got soul? Ted: I dunno man, it's your company. . No, you guys are wonderful people. You guys are just, you got a lot of love and you stay true to the game, son! RB: What does it mean to you? It's three words. It's got a lot of weight to it... I'm still trying to understand what it means. Ted: Dude, you're still trying to understand? You made it! You made it! What if we just don't tell them? What if it's a symbol that they have to figure out and be super cryptic? Why don't we have to be so expository? We don't have to tell them nothing. I mean, ultimately, you got a soul right? Or do you? Check yourself. Do you have a soul in there? Is it real? And if you do have a soul, does that soul have love inside of it? RB: Alright, we've got caller number nine on the phone right now. Ted: "Hi, did you find my soul? Because I feel really depressed..." "Sir, just breathe? Can you breathe for me? Can you release?" "I can't breathe anymore." "We're really going to need you to breathe and just..." Aloha Got Soul, a platform for us to spread love to all over the world. It's a platform for us to share our soul and share the Aloha of our soul to the rest of the world. Hey! We're here with RogB and the baby. Got any more cornball, esoteric questions? What is your shoe size? Have you ever been to Ice Palace before? Have you ever been on a date? No, I date my computer. Do you remember the series that ran for a year in 1987, BravesStarr? RB: What's next for Front Business? Ted: We're going to keep it in genre. No, we're going to try to get better at sequencing. We're going to try to get better at mixing stuff. We're going to try to just try new things at all times and see what happens. Ninety percent failure, then 10 percent of that we're going to scrape off the top and then you're going to hear five percent of that. Nah. I love disco stuff. I love mellow Lovers Rock. I like ballads. You know, like sleep walker, you know, I like doo-wop, I like three part harmonies and like afrobeat stuff, you know, let's go. Let's get real eclectic. Let's get all of these styles and not necessarily have to make it modern because you know, it's really whatever you want to do a t any point in time. RB: Alright, last words, final remarks, closing statements. Ted: I'm just happy that — I'm excited man. I'm excited to see where this all goes. Ultimately, you know, we're just going to keep putting out quality stuff and if you don't think it's quality, leave some quality commentary in the comment box and I will definitely take your opinions to the drawing board and try to make stuff that you guys like and what I like. If it matches everything here, everyone's a winner, you know? Oh yeah. Here's the final statement: If you're a hero, like some Joseph Campbell stuff and you on a journey and you come back and you find a jewel and you bring it to the townspeople and you're like, "Hey look, check it out guys, I got a jewel." And everybody's like, "That's a stone." You looking at it like, man, but it's a jewel to me, right? So what is that? That's your experience. You can can't really show your experience to anybody else and, and make it look like it's something shiny. That experience, that was your jewel. Who cares what people think, just do your own thing. # Follow Ted de Oliveira: @frntbznzz Buy "Cool It, Pump The Brakes" on Bandcamp or stream it on Spotify, etc

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