Joined: 30 Jun 2002
|EXTENSIVE interview with Miami New Times 2/1/04
* What went into the decision to do a "Fuck Clear Channel" tour -- to
give the tour a sense of purpose beyond just playing shows for people?
"I don't name things in order to give them a sense of purpose. The purpose is already there, and it goes beyond having sex with Clear Channel. It took about 5 seconds for me to think of the name of this tour when it came time to do so. I'm taking a serious jab at the conglomerate that most artists in my position would be kissing up to, but that's because most artists in my position didn't claw their way there. Over the past 5 years I have explored this industry inside and out and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that companies like Clear Channel (Clear Channel specifically) lessen the quality of the common person's life. It is a fast food culture.
* I used to work for a company that was bought by Clear Channel, and I
have firsthand knowledge of how these kinds of conglomerates can
negatively affect the average, everyday person's life and working
environment. How has the dominance of Clear Channel in the music
industry personally affected you and your career, and do you see any
kind of change for the better or the worse in the future?
"I've been lucky enough to successfully operate outside the realm of Clear Channel. I make my own decisions for my own reasons and I don't have to worry about getting the rug pulled out from under my feat just because I conflicting with the interest of my boss. I am my own boss. There's a good independent scene in Rhode Island still. And since I am a self-made artist, I handle almost all facets of business, allowing me to interact with all people involved in what I do. Not without coincidence, this has kept me in business with REAL people who have GENUINE interest in music and art. If I smell something fishy along the lines of poor ethics and/or bad business, I will no longer operate with that person or company. The morality of big business is almost non-existent. That's just the reality we've grown up in and we are so familliar with the blatant disregard to the common person's well being that the general public accepts it. There's no outrage. I feel a duty to raise the awareness level to a degree that the general public can START recognizing these things and then they have to make the decision of whether they should accept conditions as they are or reject them. Every local scene will suffer because of companies like Clear Channel, and the homogenization of American culture is now spreading to Europe. At least over there the people seem to have a sense of traditon and culture, while ours seems to be dictated by pop media."
* What can fans expect to experience material-wise at these shows? Is
it a mix of your solo and Non Prophets stuff? Is it just you up there or
"Half of my show consists of a live set with a new band of mine called The Gimme Fund, and the second half is the Non-Prophets material. We're doing some songs that date as far back as 1996 and bringing people into the future with currently unreleased material. It's going to be a blast. A little bit of a head trip as well. Joe Beats is part of both sets. Before our show is Grand Buffet who I expect to out perform us every night. I had them on my Personal Journeys Tour a couple years ago and I asked them to come back because they are two of the most enjoyable people and performers I have ever had the pleasure to be around. Newcomer, Mac Lethal, will be opening up the whole show. His set is reminiscent of my more minimalistic days. I told him he could only have a chair and cd player on stage with him. It's going to be an intense show all around, I recommend that people show up early so as not to miss any act."
* How do you devise a set list, and how much of it is spontaneous and improvised?
"The improvisation just happens. You can't even really plan for it, which is the NATURE of improv. It feels contrived to have one segment of the show be dedicated to freestyle or improv, but lots of people do it that way. I tried for a little while, but I am comfortable enough with my skill and performance that I just stay open to every moment and opportunity that is presented to me, and I deal with it all on a whim. It shouldn't be any other way. That being said, we have a fairly solid setlist of songs we decided we should play and the order they should go in."
* Can you put into words the feeling of being up on stage and performing for people? When you're up there, are you conscious of
yourself as a "performer" or "entertainer," that there is an audience
there to see you, or is it almost a situation where you're there for
yourself, where the most important things is you get to express yourself and "purge?"
"My whole demeanor and persona seems to transform when it is show time. I am not a talkative person, but when I know people are there to listen to what I have to say a whole new part of myself opens up. It is the only thing I truly enjoy about shows these days, the instance when I recognize an unfamilliar part of my personality bagarting its way to the front of my mouth to get some fresh air. I am certainly not there for myself, and I scoff at any entertainer/performer/artist who claims that's their reason for putting on a show. I do things in private for myself. I write for myself. I don't sit in front 1000 people and write."
* How did you feel about the article in the current issue of Spin that
profiles you and Slug and Buck 65 and aligns you in this sort of
"underground emo-rap" scene? I imagine that on one hand the exposure is
nice, but are you afraid that these kinds of pieces can pigeonhole you
as a certain kind of artist, or maybe even misrepresent what you are
really all about?
"I felt like that was Spin's way of trying to do an article on Slug without having to say his name over and over, so that's why they threw in a bunch of other rappers. I have too much history and a diverse enough catalogue that being 'pigeonholed' really isn't a concern of mine. The one thing I will never be able to escape in mainstream culture's eyes is my skin color, and that's the sad truth of what kind of cage I am left to operate inside of. As if my color dictates what the fuck and can talk about and in what way. The thing I should be most shameful about is that I am a male, but I am unapologetic and all-accepting of my incidentals in life. The core of who I am as an emotional and intellectual being will transcend such things. How long do I have on this Earth?"
* Has it been important to distinguish yourself as an individual artist,
or do you see any benefit in forming "alliances" with other artists or
record labels? The latter seems like the way a lot of hip-hop artists
get ahead, from the mainstream to the underground (from Murder Inc. to
Solesides/Quannum). What are the pros and cons of doing that, in your
"There's a philosophy that people are stronger in large numbers, but I believe in quality over quantity. I have loose affiliations and that's as far as I will go, because I often feel restrictions whenever I have a group of people to consider in my approach. I'm a rouge artist, because that's the only way I can be productive. I see a lot of artists who benefit from their associations, and I probably benefitted from my associations with random crews, but I don't ever want to answer to anybody when I decide to do something like name my tour Fuck Clear Channel. 'Dude, who the fuck are you to black list us from the major venues in this country??? DO YOU REALIZE WE WILL NEVER GET RADIO PLAY NOW? You fucked up, son. Now go apologize or we'll tear up your membership card.' Haha. I don't know, I can do without shit like that possibly happening."
* As much as I'm sure you want to widen your fanbase and get the music
you've worked so hard to make in the ears of as many people as possible,
are you wary of becoming more and more famous and having more demands on
your time and more eyes prying into your life?
"I don't like people prying into my life whatsoever, so if I sense that happening I will retreat back into the shell. But there's not much for people to find about my history outside of what I have already volunteered through my music. I do cherish my privacy though, so I will never allow myself to get famous to the point where I am recognized in the porn shop."
* Even though you've written from a really personal place, more so that
most hip-hop artists dare to do, there's an enigmatic quality about you
-- almost a mystique that perhaps intrigues people to check out your
material and consider your work in a different way than they do about
most hip-hoppers. Are you afraid of possibly losing that vibe the bigger
you get? Do you have a sense about how other
people perceive you as an artist, maybe from reading press or message
boards or talking to fans?
"I think people are intrigued by the inconsistencies. The contradictions. They don't know what is true anymore. But that reflects the complexities of any human, and I guess that's why they relate to it. The people I am intrigued by are the ones who try to seem cut and dry."
* Is it true that you've "never had writer's block?" If not, how do you
work through the difficult points where you're having trouble expressing
yourself, and on the flipside, when you have an endless flow of ideas
and lyrics, how do you go about self-editing yourself so you know the
cream of the crop is what people eventually hear?
"Well, when I have something to write, I write it. If I have something to express, I express it. I think writer's block comes about when a person tries to force something that isn't ready to come out. As for the latter part of your question, I am a filtering machine when it comes to my music. I let it ALL fall onto the page and then I chop through it with a bolo until the path is clear. I record it until it sounds the way I want it to. And then I mix it to the best of my ability and then I listen to it 100 times and if I remain interested in the product then it is good to go. I am a better editor than I am a writer. I look at all the ideas and discard the ones that don't have any unique quality to them. I often hear people rapping about shit that I threw away ten years ago. Some people are so egocentric that they think anything that spills out of their pen is unique and special to them. I am egocentric enough to think that I can get beyond that."
* What kind of structure or discipline do you have as far as writing
words and creating music? Are you one of these people that sets a
certain amount of time aside per day, or goes to a certain place, in
order to write? Or is it a 24/7 endeavor?
"I write at all times for all reasons. I get most of my writing done these days is on airplanes. I am restricted to my seat and I stare at the page for 6 hours straight. I love to it like that. No distractions, except for the bratty kids."
* Are there lines that you just won't cross lyrically? Even if you
believe in something, have you ever just said to yourself, "No, I can't
say that?" And on the same tip, have you been presented with
opportunities for financial or career gains that maybe were tempting but
you just couldn't do according to your own personal ethics?
"Of course. I draw many lines. These lines allow me to push myself. I can't tell people what to believe. I am an opinionated person, and if all I did was spout opinions then I would feel cheap. It is not enough to express an opinion. You have to incorporate that opinion in a more universal context. Apply it in a way that people can view your opinion and enjoy the work even if they don't agree. That is a very tricky thing to do. Sometimes I succeed at it, sometimes I need to plainly state my case, the rest of the time I am misinterpreted. As long as I evoke thought and discussion I am happy. I would never do anything that goes against my ethics. The closest I have come is working for the X-Games. But I was living in destitute conditions at the time, and eating seemed more ethical than starving."
* Some people might be surprised that you've signed to Epitaph, but you
seem pretty punk rock in nature, from the way you've conducted your
career to even the lyrical nods to Minor Threat, GG Allin, and Ani
DiFranco on the Non Prophets album. Care to comment on that?
"I was surprised that the people at Epitaph were open minded enough to see how certain segments of hiphop worked along side and within the punk rock ethos. I was honored when they offered to make me the first hiphop act on their roster. I didn't really think about what that would mean to my fanbase or hatebase, all I knew is that I liked the people at Epitaph a lot and I think they will put a big push behind my music."
* After all the self-releasing and self-promoting of your work, and all
the grunt work you have done for the past many years, how does it feel
to be on a fairly high-profile record label? Is it important for
artists to understand and be involved with the business side of things,
or does it sap your energy for the creative side of things?
"It feels good. It doesn't feel a whole hell of a lot different at the moment, but I am sure I will see a difference once my album is ready to hit. I still do everything on my own. Talk to me about this in a year and I will have a better answer. Right now I am just excited at the prospect of getting proper promotion and publicity for an album that will actually get good distribution to stores. It is very important for an artist to do a bulk of the grunt work because that keeps their head out of the clouds. A huge part of my day is still dedicated to manual labor and mundane activities related to the business of music. I will do this until I burn out."
* Mainstream rap is a pretty easy target these days, and you don't pull
many punches in attacking a lot of rappers. But some critics have said
that underground hip-hop has its own problems -- that it's just as
swamped with cliches and often comes across as the lament of artists
that haven't enjoyed financial success. And you see a lot of previously
bulletproof "underground" artists like Black-Eyed Peas or the Roots
making a lot of concessions to the mainstream artistically and
attitudinally the past couple of years. What's your take on all of this?
"Those critics are absolutely correct. There isn't much that distinguishes the talent level of indie artists to that of mainstream rappers, except indie artists say what the fuck they want in order to tear down the fantasy while mainstream rappers say what is necessary in order to keep the fantasy alive. Generall, both suck to me. Neither has a fresh approach to anything going on in our lives. I am so sick of the way media reviews indie artists. It's always the same thing, 'Finally a break from the bling bling! MC Obvious shows that rap can be about more than bitchez and crystal!' What the hell? It's just laziness on every side of the coin. And Black Eyed Peas were never bulletproof. They put out one good single and jumped at every opportunity to fulfill their Mousketeer image. The Roots eventually fell victim to their own hype, but at least they made a significant mark on the progressive development of hiphop."
* How has your vocal style changed over the years? Are you happy listening back to your own work and seeing where you are as an artist right now?
"My vocal style has gone through more changes than Michael Jackson's face. (Buh bum bump *crash*) In the early years I emulated Run DMC, Ice T, Beastie Boys, LL, Rakim, Too Short, NWA, KRS, Chuck D, De La Soul, Kool Moe Dee and so many more. Then I went to extremes, doing the Chip Fu tongue twisting shit and the grimey Onyx shit. But all the while I was finding my own voice, especially writing-wise. It's been a very long time since I have consciously emulated ANY rapper. I am more inspired by singers. I like singing even though I can't really sing, so that's been incorporated. Also, my vocal chords have taken quite a beating over the past decade so I am working around an inability to do certain rhythms at certain volumes. I don't know if this means anythign to anyone. Basically, I am slowing down and trying to say more with less words."
* What's the plan as far as the first Epitaph album -- where are you
with it, what kinds of risks are you taking with it, and when do you
expect it to be out?
"I have been writing diligently for over a year and collecting random beats from people (Sixtoo, Alias, Controller 7, Joe Beats, Ant.) I have recorded a couple songs but they are just rough tracks. All the songs will be written and recorded when I finish this FCC Tour. I am waiting on good enough beats. I want a big catalogue to choose from. I want to record more songs than I need and then decide what works best, I have never done that. My big albums often take about two years to complete, but there's no need for me to do that on this one. I have the resources now, where as before I was scrounging for the necessities. For updates on the tour, mail out product orders and upcoming projects please check out www.non-prophets.com/forum
Sun Feb 01, 2004 1:13 pm
Joined: 11 Dec 2003
singing, word... check the work of ri producer, artist, singer/songwriter moon... tiger face and multiple other projects... two songs that he has written and sung in the past two years are fucking phenomenal.... what about nick drake... the new setup for tour works absolutely well for this... much luck
Sun Feb 01, 2004 2:18 pm
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