October 31, 2011

Let’s Get Thizzical!

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Confined to the dull weekday routine of attending class and spending long, isolated hours in the library, your mind will surely wander. Reflecting upon whatever blurry chaos comprised your weekend nights or browsing your recently tagged photos on Facebook (oh, the dual emotions of terror and excitement that prelude any tagged-photo notification!), you may recall through the haze memories of dubstep dance-offs and house-music hullabaloos. If you’ve ever stopped by Sigma Pi late night or if you’ve become as much a fixture at Pixel as the arcade games that line its walls, then you probably have the electronic duo Thizzical Therapy to thank for providing the raucous soundtrack to your epic evening.

Made up of West Coast-imports Mike Sones ’13 and Sam Hendrickson ’13, Thizzical Therapy has been elevating our party playlists away from Miley Cyrus toward the divine for over a year now. Still covered in mud from their intramural soccer game, Mike and Sam sat down with me to talk about the electronic music movement taking hold of Cornell, and why the closing of Dinos and Johnny O’s may have been the best thing to ever happen to them.

The Sun: To start things off, what’s with the name?

Mike Sones: It is a play on words – obviously physical therapy, but also “thizz” is a slang term that originated in the Bay Area of California.

Sam Hendrickson: We are both hip-hop fans, we don’t only listen to electronic music. For those who might not know, back in the nineties, the hip-hop movement that came out of the Bay Area was called the “Hyphy Movement”. It is a really energetic, esoteric type of rap that you don’t hear anywhere else, and it set a lot of trends in the hip-hop scene. “Thizz” was one of the slang terms that came out of that movement. We both find a lot to like about that movement – it’s rap music but it focuses a lot on partying, which we think is similar to the culture and feel associated with electronic music today. We thought naming ourselves after that would foster the same feelings about partying and people having a good time, so we combined it with the electronic music we both enjoy.

Sun: How did you guys get your start making music?

S.H.: I’ll start by talking about music more in general. My parents never raised me playing an instrument, and it is something I’m upset about now. Sophomore year of high school, I had a very good friend who played the guitar and a friend who played the bass, and they wanted to start a band. They wanted me to play the drums, so I just picked it up and started from there. That led to my interest in other instruments.  I would mess around with the guitar from time to time and played around a little bit with the bass and keyboard.

An important side-story to my interest in music was the summer of my senior year in high school.  For the last month we got school off to do a senior project. A lot of kids did internships or worked for some kind of agency, but I had a really good friend and neither of us got anything together. So we decided to make a reggae C.D. for our project and that was it. That helped me get better at all of the instruments, because I had to learn how to play them well enough to make this music.

Sun: Did you get a good grade?

S.H.: [Laughs] Yeah, I actually did very well.  I’m surprised it got approved in the first place because it was a less impressive idea than what everyone else had, but I think our execution of it was pretty good.  It was a really fun time — it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever done musically, but it was a great experience and more importantly, led me to get more into music.

So when I came here I wanted to stay involved in music but I didn’t own a drum set or bring a guitar with me. When I pledged Sigma Pi I met Mike. I had known about electronic music before but Mike was really a fan of it and introduced me to a lot of artists. I downloaded a program during pledging that was a D.J.-program and we bought our first turntable at Salvation Army for $25 [laughs].  From there it kind of took off and we’ve been doing it ever since.

Sun: Mike, you were the one initially interested in electronic music — who would you say are your favorite artists, or which artists most influence your sound?

M.S.: I would say mostly the big time performers influenced me at first, like Deadmau5 and Tiesto. I would consistently go to a lot of the big electronic music festivals in high school and at the beginning of college – I went to Ultra [Music Festival] and Electric Zoo my freshman year, and all of those guys were the headliners. But, the more and more music you listen to the more music you discover, so now the people that influence me may not be as well known, like Data Life and Kid Robot.

Sun: Sigma Pi went through a big Bassnectar phase last year.

M.S.: Yeah, we played “Basshead” at like every single event last year [laughs]. Our gigs consist more of house music though, more upbeat stuff. People here especially aren’t as big of fans as dubstep I feel like as they are of house —

S.H.: And dubstep is fine in its own right, but house – the nature of it is more danceable. It’s better party music, and that’s why we deejay house; it is what people want to hear when they go to Pixel and are dancing.

Sun: Thizzical Therapy jumped on the Pixel bandwagon right before it became a popular thing — how did you guys arrange that gig and get started there?

M.S.: I was up in here over the summer taking a class and I really wanted to continue deejaying, so I set up a gig at Level B at the beginning of the summer. The night of that gig, the manager told me he had to cancel it because they were actually closing for a month starting that very night. I was really bummed out, thinking that Level B was the only bar here that has this “club” feel to it now that Johnny O’s and Dinos were closed. When I said that, a few people mentioned this club Pixel, which I hadn’t even heard of, I didn’t even know where it was —

S.H.: Just to jump in, I had known of it and where it was, but obviously Pixel had the chance to step in now that Dinos and Johnny O’s were closed and people were looking for other alternatives.

M.S.: After hearing about Pixel, I went in to set something up. Luckily, the manager was behind the bar and I explained to him that I had been deejaying for about a year, mixers and various fraternity events. I was lucky because it was the summer and there weren’t that many people around, so even if I did a bad job it wouldn’t have given the bar a bad reputation. After the first gig, the manager asked me to perform a second time, which was the night before O-Week. Sam was there helping me out on the mixer and there was a much bigger crowd, so that was a good time and we’ve just been asked back consistently since then.

With all of the D.J.s at Cornell wanting to deejay now at Pixel, it has become a lot more competitive to get gigs. So we have had to settle for only one gig every few weeks, but we are just happy we get the chance.

Sun: It seems like pretty much everyone at Cornell is a D.J. these days — how do you think you guys set yourself apart from the others?

M.S.: I know that I love every song we play — when we put together our sets we make sure that every single song is going to get people dancing and excited to listen to the music. We have different styles.  We both obviously like electronic music, but there are different subgenres within that – dubstep, progressive house, trance, electro, all sorts of stuff. Sam tends to play more house and I play more electro and I think the combination of the two really compliment one another and that sets us apart. We don’t focus on only one style, we switch it up and the crowd adjusts to the music they hear.

S.H.: More literally, what sets us apart is that we have two people. We both have similar tastes but will also tend to find different styles of songs. It gives it a variety, and also exposes both of us to more music than we might have found before. It helps us broadens the horizons of our sets.

Sun: What can we expect from Thizzical Therapy in the future?

M.S.: We have some gigs lined up – we are deejaying at Pixel on Halloween night, Monday, October 31st. We are deejaying with Jackson Kalb that night. We also are deejaying a few of our fraternity’s events, including our open party next month, as well as AGR’s open party the following night. We have also discussed buying different programs in order to begin producing, which would really set us apart from the typical college D.J.

Sun: From mashups to making original mixes, the natural progression of any good D.J. Looking forward to hearing you guys soon.

Original Author: Sarah Angell