The Busy Signals

The Developing Arts And Music Foundation
Minneapolis, MN
March 2002

One of the hardest things an artist in any medium can do is to wipe the slate clean of your previous accomplishments, and start all over, doing something you’ve never done before. It might also be the most rewarding, judging from the radically different sounds emanating from The Busy Signals, aka Howard W. Hamilton III, aka HWH3. A quiet, but affable St. Paul native, Hamilton established himself in the mid-nineties as a scorching guitarist, in bands such as Saucer, Hot Date, and Kitty Craft.

Blissfully side-stepping a path littered with pigeonholed references to indie rock history, HWH3 has honed a sound that bears no resemblance to any of his earlier output. Although former band members and friends from those days make appearances all over The Busy Signals’ records, the only fixture in this project is Hamilton himself, cutting up beats left and right, and creating a refreshing new hybrid of lounge kitsch, trip-hop, hip-hop, deft DJ skills and eclectic turntablism. Hamilton has described his creative process as being more akin to making a mix tape, than merely functioning as a DJ, and the proof is in the resultant sound. While comparisons have been made to cult crossover acts such as eels, or Solex, The Busy Signals demonstrate a much broader understanding of what makes beat-oriented work in several different contexts, showing little if any regard for any genre-affiliations.

The debut album, Baby’s First Beats, was released on SugarFree Records in 2000; during this time HWH3 was also lending his DJ abilities to another local hero, Har Mar Superstar, who in turn has contributed his soulful vocal style to subsequent recordings by The Busy Signals. Featuring whimsical tracks such as “Headphoneworld”, and “I’m So Slippery”, and filled with unpredictable sample sequences and lyrical witticisms, this was unlike anything to come out this side of The Beta Band, albeit more infectious. A full-length compilation of remixes, outtakes and singles, Pure Energy, was released the following year. Currently touring in support of a forthcoming album, slyly titled Pretend Hits, The Busy Signals have continued to mine a rich terrain of uncharted musical juxtapositions that deserve to be heard in dance clubs and boom boxes everywhere.

© J.Free / D.A.M.F.; 2002; 2022