In Pound For The Sound, Phoenix New Times gets technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature style.
Mouse Powell is not your average rapper. He's a talented artist with a style all of his own, providing a healthy dose of weirdness and community inclusion to keep things interesting.
Powell was born in Phoenix. He started playing electric guitar around the age of 11, teaching himself ways to play and write songs while learning punk rock covers. However, the punk phase didn't last, and as a teenager he developed a keen interest in rapping.
In high school, Mouse grew in popularity by performing at weekend house parties. That's where he started developing his signature show style and really began making his performances audience participation-based events.
Flash-forward years later, and his shows are still all about audience inclusion.
Powell knows how to bring it all together. He has collaborated with several local artists. On both his previous and upcoming album releases, he collaborated with members of Katastro, Captain Squeegee, and Sara Robinson Band. He even performs live with Captain Squeegee when the stars align.
Recently, Mouse Powell has been touring the Southwest in support of Fayuca with Black Bottom Lighters. However, his run finishes on Sunday, September 17, with a mega-show in Denver supporting Katastro. Amidst the Mouse's busy tour schedule, New Times was able to catch up with Powell to to talk about his gear, his newest track, and how he likes to get the crowd to say, "YEEEEAH!"
New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Mouse Powell: I would say that the real secrets to my sound are the musicians who I collaborate with. We bring a lot of different people in the room while we are in the creative process. Most aren't necessarily from a hip-hop background, which is something I really dig. It lets the music be the music without having to fall into a specific formula.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
I recently bought a vintage Fender Rhodes, and I am super-excited about it. Rhodes have the most lush and kinda haunting sound. They're amazing!
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
The primary guitar I play when I come up with concepts is a nylon string I bought when I was 14 years old at a garage sale for $20. It's survived 10 years, a burglary, and a pit bull puppy.
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You recently released a video for “El Caminos.” Awesome track. I love all the different drum tones and spacey sounds all over the track. What did you use to get all of those different sounds recorded on the track?
That song was produced by The Ref, who did the production on my last album These Are The Good Times and also my upcoming album. He is super-talented at finding unique sounds to include in his production. I think my favorite parts of that song are the punchy kick drum and the vocal one-shots. I think those vocal samples might actually be from the Muppets.
I was at your show recently, and you really got the crowd into it. I particularly loved the way you got the crowd to participate in the Lil Jon “Yeeeeah!” What makes you so enthusiastic about audience participation and using that phrase specifically at your show?
I like the idea of my show being more of an our show. I use the Lil Jon sample as a call-and-response because it's recognizable and it's fun to say. Also, I appreciate that it's a sound that doesn't have a message attached to it. I'm not making people shout my beliefs, we are just shouting “YEAH!” back and forth.
You have a big show coming up at Levitt Pavillion in Denver, with Arizona favorites Katastro. Any words you wish to share with your fans about the show?
I'm so excited about this show! It's at this super-baller outside venue in Denver called Levitt Pavillion. Katastro is one of my favorite bands to play with and Denver is like a second home to me. Entry is free! You just have to RSVP.