When you begin to write songs and singing? What artists were your first influences to write and make music?
“A lot of hiphop artists from the mid 80’s to the early 90’s were my major influences. The most obvious might be Public Enemy, but other big influences growing up were Ice T, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Too Short, De La Soul, Rakim, KRS, and many others. Those are artists I imitated when I first started writing and recording myself. I wasn’t even a teenager yet, but I still have a lot of those recordings. You can hear some snippets of these recordings on my Personal Journals album as well as the intro of Human the Death Dance.”
Before life of music, you worked in an ice cream shop, etc…Do you learn from this works to be more social and real in your lyrics? I asked you because, for example, I study in the university but also work some periods of time in supermarkets, and in some aspects I learn more from the Supermarket than the university.
“Hahaa, well…no. I don’t think it helped me learn to be more social or real. I was operating under other people’s rules and guidelines. I liked the job because it gave me a lot of freedom, but I was a servant of the customer. I did just fine with that. Never got any complaints. The only trouble I had was with the manager of the joint and that was only toward the end of my career as an ice cream scooper. She insisted that I remove my headphones while I swept the floor at the end of the night. It enraged me. I still think about the look on her face and the feeling I had. I was listening to my own demo tape while cleaning the floor at the end of the night. ‘NO HEADPHONES!’ Yeahhhh, go fuck yourself. I have plans, lady.”
How you broke into the industry and the pretty unique DIY approach to how you made a name for yourself?
“It was unique, yes. Because it happened while all the rules were changing. It’s only been about 9 years since this happened for me, but when up-and-coming artists ask me how they can do the same thing I have a difficult time answering the question. The music industry changes at such a rapid pace, that if I had to start from the bottom up again I’d probably have to do things differently. I’m still interested in what it takes to break a new artist these days because I run a record label. What’s important to remember is that work ethic accounts for at least 50% of success. If you have all the talent in the world but little work ethic then you will drown in the sea of myspace musicians. This is a non-stop job that does not allow much room for fun or leisure. If you find yourself chilling and having fun a lot, then be happy about that. But don’t get upset when those who are working all the angles non-stop develop a career while you are still opening for the openers of an opening act.”
What do you think about your first record with a label now? Do you think your previous works; Sick of waiting, Sick Again… were training for “Personal Journals”?
“The mixtape releases were not practice for what I knew an official album needed to contain. That being said, I still think that Sick of Waging War holds a candle to Personal Journals. But when it was time to do my first official album, I did my best to cram in everything I ever wanted to say to anybody in my life. Because this was the one that counted. And if I died after making it, this would be the album people could look back on and get a good understanding of who I was as a person. I don’t even know why that was my train of thinking, but it was. In retrospect, I’m not sure it matters if people know me that well. Haha. But what people seem to have connected to is the mortality and humanity of the content. So it all worked out. Heh.”
“I was sick of waiting for things to happen. Sick of waiting for people to come around. Sick of waiting for the industry to pick up on what I had to offer. That’s where it came from. Sick of waiting. Sick of waiting tables. Sick of waging war. I just kept it running. It’s a little trick I learned from EPMD.”
What can you tell me about your record label, Strange famous records? What’s your label philosophy?
“I guess it kind of relies on my taste for now. I like politically minded artists with a poetic twist. But that’s not all we deal with. As long as artists have something unique to offer, and their work is good quality, then we like to stay in touch with those people and hope that something interesting comes together. This doesn’t just apply to rappers, producers and musicians. I’m talking about artists of all sorts. From web designers to landscapers. I don’t care what it is you do. If you’re a good person with a sense for craftsmanship and hard work then we want you in our circle. Musically our styles can range from heavy to funny, serious to absurd, but we do our best to stay away from material that promotes sexism and homophobia (which are both very popular in the music world.) We break new artists, invest in their career development, and show them the ropes of the industry if they are interested in learning. We take risks with certain projects, but overall we intend on maintaining the quality of output that people have come to expect from us. When operating under these guidelines the pickings can be slim, but there are talented people out there and we always keep our eyes open.”
A Healthy Distrust was your first album with Epitaph. How do you feel with them?
“Epitaph raised my profile in the media. They gave me special treatment and I’m happy I decided to work with them after having a couple poor relations with other labels. Epitaph is professional and on top of their shit. I consider myself good friends with the president, Andy. There’s no one better to talk about music with.”
You mention Bukowski in Human The Dance Death, and I love Bukowski stuff, but for some artist in USA he was only a drunken. Why do you think Bukowski’s literature is look down for some persons?
“He broke a lot of traditions. For some reason poetry is viewed as an academic type thing in America, but Bukowski was the original poet rock star as far as I’m concerned. He let it all hang out. He let people know how much of a dirtbag he is, and if people can’t relate to that then I don’t know anything about their understanding of life.”
What’s your favorite literature authors and why?
“Bukowski of course, for the reasons stated above. Hunter S. Thompson is high up on the list, because his style and content interest me as much as they amuse me. Stephen King, because he taps into raw human conditions. George Orwell, because he was so in tune with the direction and flaws of humanity. If I read more books I’d have a longer list.”
How was your collaboration with Wild Oldham?
“We never even met. We spoke to each other through email. He sent me a recording of him playing guitar and singing the chorus. A producer friend of mine named Alias then re-worked those recordings into the beat that is now the backing track of Sea Lion. I never really rapped to a rhythm like that before so it took me a while to adjust. It ended up being one of my favorite songs, so I’m glad limits were pushed by all the parties involved. Sometimes it doesn’t work out quite so well.”
What do you think about Obama? I prefer him than a republican president again, but I think, in general, all the politics are false.
“Well, if you feel that way then there isn’t much I can say that wouldn’t sound foolish to you. It’s easy for us to discount all politicians. But the fact of the matter is, our lives are affected by the people who are elected into high positions. If that process is broken, and that’s what people feel, then they should investigate it and change it as best they can. Otherwise, you’re being policed by the powers you think are false. I like what I’ve seen from Obama. I’m glad that he is someone I get to vote for in the upcoming election. No one is perfect, and no one can please everybody, but Obama is the first politician in my lifetime who inspires me on certain levels. If he becomes President then he has a lot of things to fix and I think we need to constantly remind him that we expect to be represented well.”
You studied journalism. Why do you think the mass media are so corrupted?
“I guess I could give the simple answer. Money corrupts. Advertising corrupts. Advertising money corrupts. Political affiliations corrupt. Goverment should never be allowed to intervene with the media’s content as it is the media’s job to inform the public whether it is to the government’s liking or not. A lot of mainstream media outlets have lost their way for many of the reasons I’ve stated.”
What do you prefer, CD or vinyl, and Why?
“I guess I prefer CDs because I use them most often. Vinyl is special though, and I have a tough time not owning an album I love on vinyl. I like playing records, but CDs are easier to store. By that mentality I should love MP3s, but I don’t really have an attachment to them.”
Do you think Rap was, in the beginning, the punk of the afro Americans?
“Hahaa Afro-Americans. I haven’t heard that term in a long time. But nah. I think punk was the rap of whities.”
You are white. For me, of course, it’s not important the race, the important is the person but, do you have any problems with a racist audience like, for example, Little Richard had in his first steps in music.
“It’s interesting getting race related questions from you as Spain has come under considerable scrutiny lately for being racially insensitive. As you may know, us Americans are very on edge about such matters. Yes, I have been hated on by certain audiences because I am white, but I’ve also been accepted by certain audiences because I am white. As for Little Richard, he had to play up his flamboyant side so that white people wouldn’t get too uncomfortable when a black guy sang to white women. I never had to do that.”
What’s your opinion about mainstream Rap? Artist like 50 Cent…
“Mainstream rap is background music for the status quo. There are some exceptions to that rule, but most of the mainstream rappers are dispensable and recylable. As for 50 Cent, he began in the underground and he forged an empire of his own. I think he did everything he could in order to make the most money possible with the talents he has.”
Why do you think some Rap change the rebellion for the money?
“Because money is the quick and easy answer to a question most people don’t want to be bothered with. Some people just need money. Some people just want money. If they see rap as a way to obtain that money, then you can’t expect them to rebel against anything except for whatever it is that keeps them from getting money. Other people see beyond money, and those artists are easy to pick out I think.”
I read in your blog you have a photo album to tattoos that have a connection to your music. Do you have fear of fanatics or stalkers? Why do you think about the adoration of persons?
“The only time I get uncomfortable is when people try to wedge themselves into some personal aspect of my life. When people who I’m not familiar with act very familiar with me. I don’t like that. There are very few people who I’m comfortable with on that level. It’s like people who want to call me Paul. I mean, right…yes…Paul is the name my parents gave me when I was born. It’s on my license. But I don’t understand the need certain people have to let me know that they know my name is Paul. Haha. It’s such a small thing, but if someone I don’t know calls me Paul it is a clear sign that I don’t want to be around them. Call me crazy.”
Chuck D. did you an interview. How was it? Do you think Public Enemy change everything in popular music?
“We have the audio of that interview available at www.strangefamous.com if anyone wants to check it out. I sound a lot calmer than I felt inside. I mean, hell…it’s motherfucking Chucky D. As far as I’m concerned there is not a more powerful voice in hiphop. Public Enemy changed the game in ways that it practically made whatever came before them seem obsolete. In the late 80’s and early 90’s it just seemed like they had an unstoppable movement behind their music, message, image, visual media and stage show. They were the full package. It still boggles my mind how the various elements of what they did all came together and worked.”
About Rock. Do you like Rock? And if its yes, what’s your favorite rock bands and why?
“Rock and Roll is great when it’s done great. Same with any genre. It’s probably what I listen to most these days. I’d rather not list my favorites. I tried three times and ultimately decided it was a bad idea.”
Tom Waits mention you in interviews. Do you like his music?
“I love Tom Waits. He’s made some of my favorite songs. I’m constantly humbled by his output and the way he goes about his material.”
The last question. What can you tell me about your new album? Do you begin to write it?
“I’ve been writing and recording a new album for a while now. We are about to release a free song called ‘Conspiracy to Riot’ which will be available at www.strangefamousrecords.com by the time this article hits the press. There is a full back story to the song. All the info will be available on my website if people want to check it out. That one song has consumed my past week, and now I’m about to work on the rest of the project. There are only a couple people involved in this album as opposed to having multiple producers like I did with my last couple albums. A fire has been lit. Tick tick tick. Hope you like it.”