On paper, Vex Ruffin’s music is simple: an untrained punk musician who uses a few basic instruments in uncomplicated ways, he calls the style "minimalist." Although it may not seem like it upon first listen, Vex’s music is rooted in sampling and hip hop beat-making culture. The SP 303 sampler provides the drums and other sounds, a purchase inspired by Madlib.
Vex is the first and only artist signed to Stones Throw Records on the strength of an unsolicited demo sent through the mail. Peanut Butter Wolf recalls, “It was kind of a fluke that I listened. I just liked the drawing on the cover so I decided to check it out. I called the phone number on the CD and Vex thought I was his friend playing a practical joke.”
Below, Ruffin explains his background and rise to music and the soon to be released Conveyor:
“I was born in Los Angeles and lived in the valley for a few years before moving to the Philippines when I was 10. After 5 years I moved back to California, this time to Chino Hills - I've been there ever since.
Without any musicians or artists in my family I didn't have a musical foundation - it was something I had to create on my own. Like most people in their twenties I was lost. I didn't know what I wanted to do until 2004 when I purchased the cheapest instrument I could find: a Boss 303 sampler. With no formal training and just a DIY mentality, I got to work.
I started off making hip-hop because that's what I grew up around. Even when I started adding punk rock, post punk, new wave, and weirdo pop to my music, everything was still made with a hip hop mentality. To me there is something good in every genre and I believe that one of my strengths is being able to pick and absorb sounds and save them subconsciously. The skills I lacked as a formal musician I made up with my ears and taste.
Each song I create is made differently each time. Sometimes I come up with the hook first and save it on my phone. Other times I'll make a beat and will play around with vocals until it feels right. Recording is very therapeutic for me and I think that's why there's so much repetitiveness in my lyrics - it's my meditation. I think there are two Vex Ruffins in each song: there's one asking for help and one that's helping the other one.
I recorded 'Conveyor' in my apartment with my SP404 and a laptop. The album still has the Vex Ruffin sound but includes more sounds pulsing in out, similar to dub. I also pulled influences from what I was listening to at the time: Death Comet Crew, house, psych rock, breaks, jazz, noise and electro.
'Conveyor' is about being stuck in a continuous loop and it's about what's inside of us that tries to break us free. While recording 'Conveyor' I was working the graveyard shift and not getting enough sleep. Looking back, my life was in flux. I was having an internal struggle, going back and forth in my mind. In order to cope I made 'Conveyor'.”