Chronic Future
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Chronic Future


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"Future Tense"

Revisit the history of the Valley's music scene, and in those annals you'll find an anomaly: In 1996, four youngsters, barely in their teens, self-released (with a little help from the 'rents) an eponymous debut, Chronic Future, which propelled them onto local radio and eventually to national prominence in the hip-hop rock game. The young musicians -- MC Mike Busse, vocalist and guitarist Ben Collins, Ben's brother Barry on drums, and bassist Brandon Lee -- seemed destined for mainstream success, riding the first wave of the now spent hybrid movement that spawned more horrific bands than any genre since glam-metal.
Fast forward to 2003: Chronic Future hasn't played a live show since July 19, 2001, yet they're holed up at the Hollywood Sound Recorders studio in Los Angeles, recording songs for their upcoming record on Interscope, tentatively titled A Chronic Future. Now in their early 20s, the band members, who have since added guitarist and electronic whiz-kid Ryan Breen, are in the midst of a storybook comeback, more than the locals who were tortured by their omnipresent 1996 hit "Scottsdale" could have ever expected.

Back in 1997, after multitudinous negotiations that were documented in a New Times cover story, Chronic Future became the first act signed to Beyond Music, originally a spin-off label helmed by Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy Records. Tommy Boy released a couple Chronic Future tracks on its X-Games compilations. The boys, especially MC Busse, were explosive live; what they lacked in songwriting maturity was compensated for by their bombastic enthusiasm onstage. They shared the label with acts like veteran college-rockers Violent Femmes and SoCal punks Face to Face, making for a seemingly prosperous situation. Silverman, however, dropped out of the endeavor and the label began to flounder shortly after Chronic Future released their second album, 4 Elements, in 2000.

"It seemed like a really good idea at first," Busse says of the band's deal with Beyond. But it was soon obvious that the band was on a sinking ship. "Allen Kovac was the owner. He really went kind of nutso," Busse says. Getting out of a record contract is no easy task, yet because of the band's friendship with Face to Face, Chronic Future was able to retain Rich Egan of Hard 8 Management and owner of Santa Monica rock label Vagrant Records as its manager; Egan is a well-known power player in the recording industry, and had previously been successful in releasing Face to Face from its contract with Beyond.

"Rich pulled all the strings, but it was another year and a half process of getting off," Busse says. "At first he was hesitant to take us on, because he didn't want to deal with those fucked-up people again, but he didn't want us to fuckin' die over there."

The band was technically not released from its contract with Beyond until the label went bankrupt earlier this year; however, under California law, if a label isn't paying a band at least $9,000 a year, the band can release an album on another label. Yet they can be sued for damages by the label they're under contract with. Beyond's demise seemed imminent, but no one could predict the time of death. Egan began shopping the band to various major labels, primarily Warner Bros. and Interscope, with the goal of beginning production as soon as Beyond was no longer existent.

The band signed with Interscope last year on the strength of demos the boys had recorded in Breen's home studio. The demos were recorded specifically for Jimmy Iovine, head of Interscope, quite a feat in itself. "He was the one that was pretty much signing us to the label," Ben Collins explains. "That to us meant the best stability, because of the fact it wasn't an A&R guy."

Chronic Future's sound has evolved substantially since 4 Elements; rather than drawing from the nu-metal stylings of bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Linkin Park, Chronic Future incorporates hip-hop with an indie-rock aesthetic complemented by Breen's electronic skills -- he mangles and reanimates beats in the vein of experimental acts like Squarepusher, giving the band an edge not evident amongst its peers.

"The kind of music that we play could be so easily misinterpreted and watered down and totally manipulated if it was with the wrong kind of places like the whole Korn camp," Collins says. "Even our label doesn't want to do that to us -- they have Limp Bizkit. They understand that what we're doing is different from that nu-metal sound. That's why we're excited to have Rich [Egan]; he's expressed that to people. People respect what Rich has to say, and people have definitely been more open to us because it's Rich showing it to them. He cares so much and has stuck with us through so much bullshit."

During the last two years, while not playing a single show (with the exception of Breen and Busse's side project, Back Ted N Ted), the band holed up and focused on songwriting rather than stage presence. "In the beginning, w - Phoenix New Times


Modern Art E.P. - January '09
Lines In My Face
Lines In My Face E.P.



There's still hope for everyone unimpressed with the predictable, mainstream rock options; for everyone who feels no connection to rock's buzzwords, fashionistas and micro-genres. Most importantly, there's still hope for everyone who just needs that big musical kick that only a great band can deliver. It's coming, and it's called Chronic Future. These four young Southwesterners (guitarist/vocalist Ben Collins, vocalist Mike Busse, bassist/vocalist Brandon Lee and drummer Barry Collins) have boldly defined themselves and the new modern age of rock with their Modern Art Records debut, "Modern Art".

"There are so many different directions that music is going in" states Ben Collins. "We want to include everyone, and make the music we love. We want to unify the scene"

The theme of "unity" permeates Chronic Future's music and history. From their diverse influences, to their democratic approach to songwriting and performing, this group has laid out a definitive roadmap to the next great collective sound and vision of rock. This "unifying" attitude does not come by accident. Despite an average age hovering just above 26, the Arizona rock combo have a wealth of artistic experience and uncommon commitment to their own enlightened ideals.

"Music that's focused only on the negative is a little boring for us, we understand and write about darker issues, but we never want to leave it at that" says Collins when discussing Chronic Future's unique concept. "This band has always been about offering alternatives."

One of these alternatives is a three-pronged lead vocal attack that's surprisingly emotive, dynamic and consistent. Chronic Future's towering choruses and tight natural performances stand in stark contrast to the often static industry standard. Co-lead MC/ Vocalist Busse explains the group's strength-through-unity approach: "Ben and Brandon usually come to me with songs or choruses that are well-defined musically. Then I just do my thing and try to tell good stories. I don't have to consciously build on their concepts. I just say what's on my mind and we always complement each other."

The trust and teamwork Busse mentions has been building for years and the payoff is huge. Modern Art delivers a lyrical blast that's as honest as it is profound. And the group's instrumental prowess complements this lyrical vision perfectly. The quintet pound out melodic pop-punk, electronic and hip-hop elements that beat in perfect sympathy within their grand rock arrangements. Colorful breakdowns and stark vignettes also lend an artistic accent to Chronic Future's radio-worthy dialect. The finishing touch is something beyond description, even beyond comparison in contemporary music. It's that "unifying" connection to emotional truths that must be heard to be understood. One listen to any cut from Modern Art will be enough to convince any listener of the band's collective genius, but the music is more than a fortunate blend of talents. To get where they have, these guys worked long and hardĀŠand they worked smart.

Growing up under the glare of a regional rock spotlight while attending an alternative arts high school in Arizona, the talented Busse, Lee and Collins brothers developed their art in a unique environment. With a membership that's been together since the age of 13, these guys have spent the time needed to unearth a unique collective identity. Collins and Lee began writing music together while both were still in junior high. Collins did most of the singing, but things took off when good friend Busse was brought in. The band encouraged Busse to develop his burgeoning linguistic talent and a truly unique, musical amalgam was created.

The group's early independent releases and kinetic live shows are now the stuff of legend in the Valley of the Sun. After building a substantial underground following, the high school-aged members of Chronic Future cracked local rock radio playlists. Naturally, record-industry heads were turning, and soon the desert was crawling with label reps anxious to add Chronic Future to their respective rosters. Realizing that time and talent were on their side, the band decided to keep a low profile, develop their songwriting and wait for the right situation. Eventually Interscope Records came along with the right deal, and the commitment to a career-defining release was made by all parties.

Modern Art was produced, engineered and mixed by Ryan Breen (Miniature Tigers, The Medic Droid), who also provides all the sonic manipulation and programming.

In keeping with its creators' tradition of uncommon success, Modern Art is the most creative, diverse and hit-laden debut in years. The music is symphonic, with a singular chord backbone and crushing choruses large enough to fill the Grand Canyon. Classic influences like the Beatles, the Clash and XTC should be acknowledged, but there's nothing studious or backwards-looking about Modern Art. The disc twists pop, rock and punk in ways that