As a young kid growing up in San Jose, Chris Manak sought out an escape from suburbian life in the Silicon Valley. The age of nine was his coming of age. This was the year he discovered sports (Pittsburgh Pirates), video games (Pac man), girls (Anita Balderama), and hip hop ("Rappers Delight"). Alongside partner Sweet Steve, young Chris fashioned primitive mix-tapes (using the pause button) and ran amok at the local roller rink.
He took on the name Peanut Butter Wolf in the late-80s when he realized that, in an odd turn of events, a girlfriend’s youngest brother feared the “peanut butter wolf monster” more than death itself. Wolf and his more conventionally-named counterpart, Charizma, began recording in 1989 when the two were still teenagers. Within three years, the duo signed a contract with Hollywood Basic (Disney) alongside label mates Organized Konfusion and DJ Shadow. Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf were riding high, touring Europe, receiving press in magazines such as Billboard and (a then newspaper format) Urb , hanging with radio legends Sway & King Tech on Wake Up Show and performing live shows with groups like House of Pain, Nas and The Pharcyde. Then, in December of 1993, Charizma tragically lost his life. Stunned, Wolf temporarily gave up on music.
After releasing the song "Just Like A Test" with Charizma for David Paul’s Bomb Hip Hop Compilation early in 1994, Upstairs Records, a label known primarily for house music, approached Wolf to record an instrumental LP. Thus, the Peanut Butter Breaks was born; the record became the Wolf’s calling card, leading to meetings and collaborations with like-minded DJs like Q-bert, Cut Chemist and Rob Swift.
After the release of Peanut Butter Breaks, PB Wolf found himself in demand as a producer. His track for the all-scratching compilation Return of the DJ was labeled “incredible” by The Source magazine. He released a 6 song compilation for South Paw Records in 1995, featuring collaborations with up and coming San Jose MCs. He also produced Kool Keith’s first single as a solo artist "Wanna Be A Star." These releases, amongst others, led to a picture disc EP for British label 2 Kool Records.
In 1996, Peanut Butter Wolf founded Stones Throw Records. Charizma’s posthumous "My World Premiere" was the single to launch the label. A few highlights in the beginning were the songs "Unassisted" by Rasco, Super Duck Breaks LP by DJ Babu, and hip hop 7” series.
Lately, PB Wolf has moved away from producing (save the odd remix or compilation track) to build the Stones Throw label and to travel as a DJ to Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada, and across the US. Through his willingness to experiment and provide Stones Throw’s artists with musical carte blanche, he has overseen the releases of Lootpack’s Soundpieces, Quasimoto’s The Unseen, Breakestra’s Live Mix, Yesterdays New Quintet’s Angles Without Edges, Madlib’s Shades of Blue, and Jaylib’s Champion Sound.
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Peanut Butter Wolf Interview Q’s:
> -How do you see Serato vs. Vinyl?
There’s advantages to each. I’ll hang on to my records
and play them out as well, but of course Serato puts
your 8000 favorite songs in front of you rather than
your 50-100 that you’d bring in a bag. Lately, I’ve
been doing gigs with music videos, so when I do that,
it’s with neither, so you’re probably asking the wrong
> -Do you sometimes find it hard to seperate between
> being ‘the boss’ and
> being an artist in your own right hangin’ with the
It’s not really a big deal. When I’m on tour with
other artists, I’m on tour as an artist as well, so I
don’t deal with them like a label boss. The Tour
Manager is our boss. Sometimes I work out set lists,
but usually I get artists’ imput with this too. I’m a
Libra, so it’s usually diplomatic. Call me the Jimmy
Carter of hip hop. OK, maybe not.
> -Stonesthrow has done collab recently with Japan’s
> Jazzy Sport Records (the
> Georgia Anne Muldrow/Oh No & Cali Agents 12"). You
> wo are among our
> favourite record labels; is there more collabs in
> the works?
I’m not even sure how that one came about to be honest
with you. There’s so much that goes on these days,
it’s hard to keep track of everything. I know they
have some good music though, so I guess that’s why it
> -Do you see parrallels between your two record
> -You busted into our radio station studio in
> Auckland last time you were
> here, and I interviewed you ad hoc! Are you and/or
> your crew makin’ plans to
> head back down our way any time soon? Summer time is
> best for real!
New Zealand. That’s where Slamxhype is from? I’m ready
to come back to NZ whenever, but next time, I wanna do
China during the same trip since I’ll be close
relatively speaking. We’ve been talking about an
Australia/Japan/New Zealand/China tour, but haven’t
had much free time lately with all the damned albums
continually coming out. I’d like to see 2 seperate
Stones Throw tours happen in 2008. An MC based tour
and a DJ based tour. Someone hook it up!
Tell us about Captain Funkaho
Back in the late 90s days of 4-track cassettes I was living in oakland.
This guy use to come around wanting to borrow my machine, but I was afraid
he was going to sell it, so we just recorded some stuff at my spot. I was
into early 80s space jams – jonzun crew, ose – and he was into goats and
guitar solos, so it just happened like that.
We got a 45 out on stones throw that no one ever got paid for. I\’m trying
to figure out who I can sue for that.
> -Who or what is your primary artistic inspiration?
Minor inspirations are always changing – I spent an hour last night in a
book by the illustrator Raymond Pettibon, he\’s always been a favorite – but
"primary" inspiration? Probably just staying busy.
> -You and Wolf are old friends right? Aside from that connection, how did you
> end up bein the Stonesthrow in-house artiste?
We met in High School, doing music, various projects like that. Back then
I realized I really liked doing the demo tape covers more than the music, so
it evolved from there.
Jump forward a few years later and Madlib comes on the scene. Wolf played me
this low-fi record madlib had recorded on a cheap cassette machine just like
the one used for Funkaho. It was the Quasimoto album THE UNSEEN – instant
classic to me. He asked me to do the cover – stuff I scribbled out at a
coffee shop over a couple afternoons, but then had to spend a month figuring
out the computer end. After that I was basically doing stones throw all the
time, but it wasn\’t planned out at all. Egon came on and starting running
the biz around then and stones throw moved into being a real group company,
beyond being wolf\’s one-man deal.
> -Do you have a fave record sleeve that you have done for Stonesthrow?
Right now, YESTERDAYS UNIVERSE. It\’s props to John Jagel\’s cover for
Ornette Coleman\’s ORNETTE from \’61. I met John Jagel in NYC on the day
Dilla died, and he passed away not long after that himself.
The one that bugs me most is DONUTS, probably my favorite album on the
label. It was a crazy time for Dilla, so we ended up with this video still
of him for the cover. Good photo but bad quality. I actually wake up
nights thinking about how we might fix it on the repress.
> -Have you done cover work for anyone else, aside from the crew?
I did a few for Blue Note, the jazz label. David Axelrod is a favorite of
mine, and I got to do his Capitol/Blue Note anthology. He signed it, "fuck
you, go back to nebraska." he\’s a little cranky.
> -Do you exhibit or do any t-shirt print design type of work?