The Sentinels – The Lying City EP (1999)

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RR: Are you able to briefly describe what this Sentinels album was? To what capacity did it exist in? CD-R, Dubbed cassettes? And was there a title for it, or was it just self titled?

Ginzuintriplicate: Sentinels was a 3-man unit, Jesse Dangerously as MaxField Stanton, myself as Ginzu3, and Dartmouth MC Jeff Blagdon as Naked J/Savage Poetic, that formed in 1998 to record the EP. 

I’ll just jump into the story from 1997 because how Jesse and me first came together needs a whole other prequel trilogy to tell, but at that time were working on our first 4-track recording project together as a duo called Resurrection Brothers. He was from south end Halifax I was from suburban east Dartmouth, we had to ride an hour on the bus to get to each other’s places for maybe an hour or two of sample digging and recording, but we didn’t care. There was a crazy indie hip hop scene in Halifax at that time and all we wanted was to get into it. 

We’d occasionally bring demo tracks to DJ Critical on The Treatment (at Dal college radio station CKDU) trying to get airplay, but word was slow to get around and album progress was maybe even slower, and I think that’s why we came up with an idea to do this one-off EP in the interim, recruiting Jeff who was a high school friend of mine from Dartmouth with a rep for cipher rapping.  Jeff was already kind of in with DJ Loonie Tunes and his crowd, so that helped tie things together too. 

So we decided to record the Sentinels project as a one-off EP as product to gain leverage for getting live shows, getting out names out. There was no intention to follow up this EP, Jesse and I planned to resume the Resurrection Brothers project afterwards. I’m pretty sure Jesse and I were performing at live shows before the Sentinels but given our age at the time it must have been all-ages venues, and I know we used the Sentinels EP as a springboard to get out and showcase a broader range of material we had. 

The EP was 6 songs plus a beat and sample interlude tracks, called The Lying City EP. We were all 18 during the recording process, and the first run of CDs were released shortly before my 19th birthday. The original CD run and subsequent tape run were both professionally manufactured at a local facility in Dartmouth that a lot of hip hop folks used.  It was sold on consignment at I think Revolution Records and Sam The Record Man on Barrington. Both times it was a small run of product, I think just like 30 units. The CD run and the cassette runs had completely different covers and liner inserts; The CD used an image from the manga Gunnm (Battle Angel Alita) and the cassette re-issue had a hand drawn cityscape image with a handstyle tag logo, all of which was taken off the flier from our first show at the Khyber. 

Anyone who’s discussed this EP with me post-1999 knows I don’t have a lot positive to say about it, but at the time it had a fairly ok (in that the handful of folks who heard it mostly didn’t outright hate us) local reception and it got us on stages in Halifax. There were occasions where we’d combine a show with the Sentinels, Resurrection Brothers (just Jesse and I), and Jesse’s live band Yeshe 13 so that and our penchant for sometimes rhyming under different names from song to song I think contributed to some confusion about exactly who/what the Sentinels was.

Jesse Dangerously: The one and only Sentinels release was called “The Lying City EP.” It was released first as an edition of 50 professionally replicated cassette tapes, manufactured by the legendary MacMichael family at Put It On CD in Dartmouth, then shortly thereafter as 20 or 25 CD-Rs.  The cassettes had paper labels printed by the manufacturer, and black & white photocopied covers, hand-drawn by Troy “Grymm Fett / ginzu333 / ginzuintriplicate” Manning.  The CD-Rs were copied at Put It On CD but i think we did the cover as stolen colour photocopies.

RR: For those that haven’t heard it, myself included. Would you be able to describe the sound that you were going for? What were the major influencers at the time? Wu-Tang? Hiero? Black Moon?

Ginzuintriplicate: It’s hard to really answer that since our focus was specifically not to sound like anything out there at the time. All the names you dropped above and many more were influences on us personally no doubt, but not necessarily a direct influence on the sound we were making. I think we were on a sort of GraveDiggaz Prince Paul vibe of getting artists together for a wacky one-shot project. At that time Jeff in particular was a huge Redman head, I think that shows a bit in his rhymes (his performances are the best on the record IMO). I think it was always in the forefront that we needed to differentiate ourselves from other local performers, and this was a weird record in a scene that already had some out-there artists. 

So sonically speaking the EP is not a what I’d call groovy record, it opens with a pretty high strung anthem, veers right into a truly awful tongue-in-cheek booty rap parody, then stays on a pretty dark and apocalyptic course the rest of the trip…a bit all over that map.  A lot of grimy samples and lo-octave tones that are probably more of a Sebutones influence on us than we’d liked to have admitted at the time. There’s s a track called 666710 that’s chopped samples of level music from the Sega Genesis game Strider, which might give you an idea of how bugged out this was.  

Jesse Dangerously: Those were all DEFINITELY in our immediate DNA at the time. More Gravediggaz and ODB than wu in general, but also wu in general. Also Kool Keith, Latyrx, the artists who were coming together as Anticon, and the local Halifax scene. Ginzu and I were especially influenced by the “mixtape style” of the Buck 65 Language Arts & Vertex albums, and The Sebutones’ 50/50 Where it Counts, and Sixtoo’s Psyche Intangible.  Also The Goods, Tachichi, and Knowself… and Coolio. And Ice Cube. We loved rap!!

It’s also worth mentioning that even though our turntable skills are notably nascent, we were aesthetically influenced by a lot of rhe DJ and turntablist stuff coming out at that time. Invizibl Skratch Piklz, Return of the DJ, Kid Koala, DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist, plus locals who could represent. It impacted us!

I know the third member, Savage Poetic AKA Naked J, was really into The Roots, too. I think also Black Star? He had really good taste, I remember not appreciating some of his taste until later.

RR: Can we expect this tape to surface once again? Perhaps a Bandcamp upload, or even a physical re-release?

Ginzuintriplicate: The EP will never see an official re-release (from our camp) for a few reasons, not the biggest of which is that the masters are long gone. But we don’t want to re-release it for the same reason a lot of artists bury their earliest projects; it’s a product of a younger, more naive era where we hadn’t fully developed our cadence or our voice, let alone had a clear focus on what we were trying to say. At that time and place it worked as a means to help us get our names out there, get on stages and evolve forwards into the artists we would later become. But at the end of the day it’s a pretty amateur garage recording, not strong enough to stand as its own document and didn’t have a widespread enough release to warrant a re-issue now. 

Jesse Dangerously: I would say not as such – Ginzu has pretty much exercised veto on it, refusing to stand behind his teenage bars. i know i would need to make some changes to look myself in the eye if i didn’t edit some of what i said… and some drums i jacked!  haha

RR: What ever happened to Sentinels? Clearly Backburner became a thing as a larger collective, but The Sentinels as a duo; why not put out more work?

Ginzuintriplicate: Mostly just life and evolution (and as of the last decade geography), people’s paths go in different directions. Jeff is a super close friend of mine, basically family, we’ve always been/always will be tight, but in terms of music he just hasn’t walked that path in a long time. I have in my own archives an unreleased freestyle jam we did together in 1999, and he appeared on my long-lost solo demo tape Diaspora that same year too, but we didn’t really do much after that. Would he get back on the mic again? Never say never.  

In the ’00’s and ’10’s Jesse and I collaborated on several tracks here and there and, despite us never name-dropping it, I think anyone who listens to those are listening an evolved Sentinels in spirit. As we got older and more experienced we gained a natural cadence for articulating a particular brand of cynicism that sort of fell flat on the EP. Obviously Jesse and me have kept a musical relationship considering I’m on his last and forthcoming records.  We have sometimes batted around the idea of a 3-man re-union joint, at one point there was even a beat done, but life and all that just gets in the way. 

Jesse Dangerously: Jeff “Savage Poetic” Blagdon was too busy with other stuff to commit, so Troy and i didn’t use the name without him. We were working on a second album, “Samarobryn,” when we got distracted making beats for Knowself, and i was drumming in a band. There’s still some really cool stuff on four track tapes from those sessions…

RR: Do you have any stories that take place within the recording of the project? Or shortly after during the limited promotional run?

Ginzuintriplicate: The record was split produced by Jesse and me, he did most of the digging/sampling and I did most of the beat arranging, except for 666710 which was completely done by me and the closing track on the EP which is a solo Jesse joint. It was recorded mostly in a shed/garage at his folks’ place near Quinpool road in Halifax. We hung a mic by a chord from the rafter of the garage, on group cuts all three of us stood around the one mic and did the backing vocals live with whoever was rhyming.

Our first show was at the Khyber with Loonie Tunez (the original, is another guy using a similar name now?) as the stage DJ and forever-dope DJ Moves turned out to spin records around the live set. People assumed the name “Ginzu” was taken from the Ginsu knife commercials, but it’s an irreverent reference to a character in the arcade game Captain Commando (1 quarter = Ginzu x 3), which itself is probably referencing the knife commercials so, yeah. I still have trouble deciphering my thought processes back then.

Jesse Dangerously: I remember playing our first show ever at the Khyber Club in 1998. Looney  Tunez from Dartmouth was our DJ, but we just played the album through off the 4-track with the vocal channels muted.

 

Below are three songs as Ginzu has described “are taken from old liveaudio broadcast so that sound quality is in mono and super diminished.” This is the first time that these songs have been heard since the release of the project back in 1999. As per request of the artist, the ability to download has been disabled. But below you can listen, and form an idea of what this record sounded like at the time. 

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