Ohio creativity, post-Internet

Dayton native Keith Rankin and Giant Claw at Blind Bob’s

By Leo DeLuca

Photo: Album artwork for “Free Willy Style” by Keith Rankin

Keith Rankin is multi-talented. The Dayton native plays in both the sound collage project Giant Claw and the electronic duo Cream Juice, runs experimental label Orange Milk Records, creates visual art and composes music for cartoons and film.

Rankin’s design work has garnered substantial attention in recent days, gracing the covers of many Orange Milk titles and making its way onto high-profile sites such as VICE, Pitchfork and more.

Orange Milk has also been quite prolific, issuing a dizzying number of releases since its 2010 foundation.

“Orange Milk was started by Seth Graham and me,” Rankin said. “Seth used to be in a band called Romance of Young Tigers and lived in Dayton for a while. We mainly put out tapes and some LPs; the label started out with more synthesizer-based experimental electronic releases, but we have been branching far out in the last two years or so.”

Paradoxically, though the world of Orange Milk is esoteric, the label’s artists have managed to gain widespread attention, while simultaneously remaining true to the niche waters in which they swim. Notably, Orange Milk recently released a Footwork tape from Chicago producer EQ Why.

Garnering attention from NPR, The Guardian, and others, Footwork is a Chicago-born style of dance and music that has been catching on in trans-Atlantic fashion. The recent, untimely death of Footwork pioneer DJ Rashad has also brought ever more awareness to the distinct movement.

Orange Milk is not resigned to releasing one style of music, however. More than anything, the label seems bent on facilitating the music of singular artists. One of those artists happens to be Rankin’s own Giant Claw project.

In anticipation of Giant Claw’s performance on July 10 at Blind Bob’s, Dayton City Paper had the opportunity to catch up with Rankin regarding his recent work.

How did growing up in Dayton shape your approach to art and music?

Well, absorbing art on the Internet shaped most of my youth, but I think Dayton allowed space for my mind to wander. There’s enough going on in the city to foster curiosity, but not enough going on to become a distraction. I love Ohio because there is so much in-between time. Going out and doing something in NYC is like a five-hour journey, where in Dayton you can go meet friends, get food, go to the store, whatever, and it only takes an hour or two if you want. Your mind isn’t always focused on where you’re trying to get to, it can settle down and go inward a bit more, which I think is great for creativity. – Keith Rankin


In your genre, where sampling is pervasive, what are your personal thoughts on intellectual property, sampling and copyright law?

Intellectual property rights, by definition, try to place ownership on intangible assets. It’s capitalism’s way of monetizing art, or turning art into an industry, which some people obviously rely on to make a living. It’s interesting, because our current technology has made sound recordings widely and freely available on the Internet, to the point where it’s almost like a natural resource, especially to younger kids. And when a commodity becomes so naturally ubiquitous, its ties to capitalism break down. I mean, people can try to make a profit off natural resources, like bottling water, but as long as the resource is so readily available, it really can’t be constrained effectively by our economic system.
I find that prospect kind of exciting; because our collective views on art and music have to shift if they start becoming valued less for their market potential and more for whatever personal benefit they bring. I guess to answer your question, what I personally feel about copyright law and all of that? I don’t know, I view art existing outside monetary concerns, so in my gut I really just don’t get fired up thinking about that part going away, but I also don’t think music shouldn’t exist in our economic structure, and while it’s in that system I intend to work with it to my benefit. I don’t think one aspect is tainting the other for me, personally. Oh, and anyone who is pissed about sampling in music can go fuck off.  -KR


Do you want to expand on how you feel Internet culture has been forming our cultural heritage? How does this contrast to what’s happened in the past? What do you think the future will look like?

On one level, it’s really simple; for a lot of young Americans their cultural richness is being informed almost entirely by the Internet, which makes total sense. The Internet is just an accessible collection of global cultural information, so when you are plugged into that from a young age, your sense of heritage is being shaped by what’s in front of you: this immense, condensed, localized pool of information. The only real boundaries to your exposure are what you search for. So, in that sense, if you only search for what you know, your immediate real-life surroundings will still shape your sense of heritage, but if you allow yourself to explore … that’s a crazy idea. Imagine the kind of cultural mutants the Internet era is producing: kids innocently picking from different cultural pockets while sitting in a basement in some shitty town in Utah or wherever. I feel like if I was born in Ohio pre-Internet I would be a totally, totally different person. -KR


Giant Claw will perform on Thursday, July 10 at Blind Bob’s, 450 E. Fifth St. Also on the bill are Brat Curse, Ryan Power and Cloud Becomes Your Hand. Doors at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for 21 and up. For more information, please visit orangemilkrecords.com or giantclaw.bandcamp.com.


Reach DCP freelance writer Leo DeLuca at LeoDeLuca@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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