Dan The Automator, E.Z. Mike Simpson of The Dust Brothers, and Prince Paul’s Unreleased Album
When Prince Paul blessed Kool Keith’s Doctor Octagon project with his “Blue Flowers” remix in 1996, he and producer Dan The Automator became fast friends. That friendship quickly blossomed into an opportunity for collaboration. “I’ve always been a big Stetsasonic and De La Soul fan and we just became friends when Paul did the remix,” Automator told MTV in a 1997 interview. “We said, ‘We should do a record together some day.’ And then the more we talked it seemed like we had the same outlook, which Mike [Simpson] seemed to have too.”
The trio of producers decided to unite their superpowers to make a collaborative album with a high-profile guest list titled The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. “I think Dan kind of orchestrated the whole thing and got us all together,” E.Z. Mike Simpson said in Wax Poetics. “The three of us locked ourselves in a room for a week with three turntables and three samplers.”
“We sat in a room together for like two days straight with three separate machines,” Paul told Crave while explaining the recording process. “We were just all programming stuff and passing it off and adding stuff.”
For sample sources, the producers agreed to use a random selection of vinyl. “We each brought a stack of records as big as we could hold,” Simpson said. “It had to be a random stack, we couldn’t select, like, ten great records; we just had to select a random stack from the pile.”
“We sat in a room together for like two days straight with three separate machines. We were just all programming stuff and passing it off and adding stuff.”- Prince Paul
Originally slated for release in September of 1997, the album had it’s fair share of record label suitors, with rumors of Dreamworks being involved because of Simpson’s affiliation with the company. “A lot of people want to put this thing out,” Automator said at the time, “and right now we’re just concentrating on getting tracks together.”
Much like Automator and Paul’s Handsome Boy Modeling School projects, an emphasis was placed on using interesting combinations of top-notch musicians. “With The Good, The Bad And The Ugly we’re using more established [artists], trying to bring out the best of these people,” Dan The Automator said in a 1999 interview with CMJ. “They trust the idea that we can combine them with someone else and they won’t get tripped out on the combinations.” In his interview with MTV, Automator said the group had 24 tracks recorded with a lineup that included Beck, De La Soul, Folk Implosion, and RZA. An interview with the Providence Phoenix also mentioned Björk.
If you’ve heard Odelay, So… How’s Your Girl?, or 3 Feet High and Rising, your head is probably exploding with thoughts of how good this album might be. While it sounds like a collaboration for the ages, the hard truth is it may never see the light of day. The three producer’s busy schedules took over and made it difficult to complete the process of releasing the album.
“We each brought a stack of records as big as we could hold. It had to be a random stack, we couldn’t select, like, ten great records.”- E.Z. Mike Simpson
“I started doing Fight Club or something, and those guys were already signed as the Handsome Boy Modeling School, so they had to make the Handsome Boy record,” Simpson said. “A couple of those tracks I did ended up on an Eels record, and those guys are credited. And the rest of the tracks, we still have them.”
Paul confirms this in his interview with Crave. “I still have a lot of the music that we have, and it’s great,” he said. “Like I wish I could take it and just release it because it’s really, really good…I think one song that we recorded fully was a song that had a De La rhyme on it, which oh, man I wish I could release that song.”
Despite stoking the flames of curiosity by talking about how good the project is, Paul didn’t pull punches when asked if the album would ever see the light of day. “I haven’t talked to Dan in man whew, like 2005? And Mike, I haven’t talked to Mike since probably near that project, so it was a long time ago,” he said. “There is a good 99.9% chance that it won’t happen.”