Tunde Adebimpe is the co-lead singer and co-founder of the critically acclaimed TV On The Radio, a group who helped reshape rock music as well as the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York in 2001. In 2008, TV On The Radio's Dear Science, was named Album of the Year by many music magazines. He's collaborated with artists such as Massive Attack, David Bowie, Lee "Scratch" Perry [Tape Op #136], Run The Jewels, Amadou & Mariam, Mike Patton [#53], and Trent Reznor.

With TV On The Radio, you were in a band where the producer, Dave Sitek, was one of the members of the band. How did that effect your approach to recording?

TV On The Radio started pretty shortly after I met Dave. We met because I was living in Brooklyn in an old cheesecake factory that – after having been abandoned for 75 years – was turned into artist lofts. It was 2,600 square feet – bare, raw space, and I was among the first residents there. It didn't have a bathroom and barely had lights. There was plywood on the windows. I and a few other artist friends moved in there; ten of us moved in and made these rooms, and the rent was a $100 a month. It was like a shantytown; it had rotating roommates and one of the people who came in – about two years after I moved there – was Dave. He was a musician and had a recorded a few bands. Dave and I started hanging out because one day I walked past this room, and inside Dave's room was a bunch of acrylic paint tubes, packs and packs of cigarettes, a 4-track that had a bunch of cassette tapes stacked all around it, and a few keyboards, a guitar, and a sampler. The reason I stopped and stared for a bit was because, "Oh, that looks like my room." [laughter] I also had the 4-track Tascam, a bunch of instruments – noisemakers, samplers, and some toy instruments – and I was also surrounded by paints. We started hanging out, making art together, and trading 4-track tapes that we had. That's where our camaraderie started, as far as music making goes. The first thing that we ever put out was a compilation of songs from those 4-tracks called OK Calculator, a weird, silly homage to Radiohead's OK Computer. It was this compilation of the 4-track tapes that we traded before there was even an idea of becoming a "band" or whatever. David is more a musician – more of an instrumentalist – than I am. We went from trading tapes to developing songs, where Dave would take a song that I had written – with whatever rudimentary keyboard on it – and then he would flesh it out. That's how it would go; I would record on a 4-track and leave it to my instrumentalist friends to bring it around into being a song that other people would want to listen to, as opposed to just me. [laughter]

When you were recording on Tascam 4-tracks they were already "vintage." Most people had moved onto [Alesis] ADATs and other developing digital formats.

It's funny, because I started recording on Tascam 4-tracks as a result of being into the whole system of indie recording, where people were tracking in their bedrooms. I came to that in 1994 and 1995, in the punk tradition of, "Anyone can do this. You don't have to know an instrument. You can do whatever." So, I did a bunch of a cappella or beatboxing. I was not a technical person back then at all. I'm barely a technical person now! [laughs] But something that recorded individual tracks on a cassette tape, that was something that worked for my brain.

You were influenced by artists like Sebadoh and early Liz Phair?

Yeah, exactly. Eric's Trip and a lot of K Records artists.

You started as an illustrator and ended-up sonically building montages. I wonder how the visual played into that approach of recording?

I feel it's always been soundtrack-y sci-fi. That's the way that I've always seen it. When we started doing it, we recorded our EP Young Liars in 2002. This is after 9/11, after Y2K, and all of that shit. It was really fucking disturbing; especially that winter and into the next year. Listening to those songs on Young Liars now, it's a vast, dystopian, science fiction soundtrack to me. It's like the process of laying out a frame for an expansive outer space scene in a science fiction movie. You have the first sketch on a...

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