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Long interview I did for a Chicago college newspaper.
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b. dolan
FBI agent


Joined: 17 Nov 2004
Posts: 5700
Long interview I did for a Chicago college newspaper.  Reply with quote  

warning: i meander like a meanderthal in this one.

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B. DOLAN INTERVIEW:

Michelle Gutknecht: So, my first question is how is touring going so far?

B. Dolan: (laughs) Tour is great. There's been a really good reaction city to city, and I've had some really cool nights and performances recently. I'm comfortable and feeling good to be back in the North where they understand sarcasm (laughs) and live in perpetual winter that I'm familiar with. Up here they're bitter enough to like me. (laughs)

MG: This is your first official national tour for the release of your debut album, The Failure… how does that feel?

BD: It's feels good, man. I feel good, and I feel tired, and I guess that's probably how I should feel. I feel pretty empty in a good way.

MG: Do you have enough to get through the rest of the tour?

BD: Yeah... (laughs) I think I've got enough to get me through it. I think we got like six more days, and I've gotten into a good zone where even though I feel like I have nothing left, five minutes before I get on stage, I somehow get on stage and give good shows. It's a new skill I've acquired on this tour.

MG: As your tours are crossing paths tonight, I can't help but ask, how did you and Sage Francis originally cross paths?

BD: I started performing in New York around 2000, when I was living there and going to school there, at the Nuyorican Poets' Cafe.

As I was leaving New York in late 2001, I sent a quick email to a guy named Bob Holman, who was like an elder of the New York scene, and I told him I was leaving New York and going to Providence, and he told me to contact Sage Francis because he was "the only decent poet in rhode island."

So, I had the name Sage Francis in mind, and I think he gave me his email address, and at the time I was leaving New York after September 11th, in a hurry to to apply myself to some social justice work ... This a whole other story.
The quick version is that I came back to RI and emailed Sage ... he punked me off, and I realized I'd have to go to the local spot and show him I wasn't some random asshole... I did, and that's how I got involved with the Providence Slam Team....

And me and Sage were on a slam team or two and very slowly over the years kind of sort of developed a kind of friendship, and when I had the idea for Knowmore.org, I told him the idea, he was into it, and that's when we became business partners.

MG: So, working together on Knowmore.org helped you solidify the friendship?

BD: It did solidify the friendship, I think. I think Sage and myself are both kind of like ornery, grizzly, assholes... we're like North and South Korea.

But, we were kind of just around each other and cool with each other, and the friendship kind of developed from there I guess, the same way coworkers become friends at any place of employment.... You're around each other, you deal with each other, and if a friendship is there it's likely it'll grow, err whatever.

MG: So, it's your first album release and you've been working on it for eight years... The Failure… exciting… and I just want to know a little bit about it, and then just how it finally feels to share it as a piece?

BD: So, The Failure… I can't even exactly remember when or how it was conceived. I think it probably had to do with the fact that the first time I put it together I was still learning a lot about what I was doing.

I had a really important bad experience with the music industry when I was maybe 19 or 20. I was performing in New York, and the people from Def Poetry Jam who were taping their pilots at the time saw me and invited me to perform at the Rush Arts Gallery and tape pilots for Def Poetry Jam, and I had kind of a funny run in with Russell Simmons. And it was just bad, it was really bad. I was kind of naďve, and I had been writing and working on my art since I was like 12, and I though this was the moment… I thought this was gonna be the moment when someone saw my stuff, and someone else was gonna do the rest of the work… like I was gonna be discovered, that myth about artists being discovered… found myself in a room full of coked up industry dirtbags, who were taping my performances and not telling me what they were gonna do with them, and I'm 19 and completely overwhelmed and disgusted. And I realized at that point that I wasn't going to be able to maneuver in this room full of fuckin' snakes, and if I was gonna be able to do anything, I was gonna have to learn to do it all myself.

So, I got a job as a doorman on Park Avenue, and I bought a drum machine and started learning how to make beats, and installed a program on my computer and started to learn how to track vocals.

So, at the point when I was making The Failure, I realized at that time that my skills were like... I wasn't able to make stunning quality stuff, like a real audio engineer or a real producer can make, for that matter. And, somehow I just kind of came around to the idea like well, fuck it, if the world ended tomorrow and I were trapped in a fallout shelter with this stuff… I would put together this kind of ragged, patched together piece of work, and I would do it anyway. And, so the aesthetic kind of came from the practicality of my not being expert with the tools I was working with and so the concept kind of developed to match and sort of excuse the aesthetic in a way. And so that's where the original idea came from, and from there it kind of became a cool idea to me… here's the last man on earth in his fallout shelter… And I just knew that that's probably what I'd be doing if I was in that situation.

I don't know where the urgency to write these things and record these things and to create these things come from… it had ruined parts of my life a few times already, at that point... I had dropped out of school to be an artist and be a writer and a performer, my family had disowned me, relationships had ended, I had just finished being homeless for 6 months and sleeping in subways through the longest winter in history. So I just knew this urgency to do this just overshadowed everything… even if I knew no one would ever hear this… that's where the idea for the Failure came from.

What was the second part of the question? (laughs)

MG: How does it feel to share it?

BD: Aww, yeah, I mean, it feels good to see it realized in a competent way. Eight years later, my skills have developed a lot and, thanks mostly to Sage Francis, I've been kind of exposed to a new group of artists that are competent in ways that I probably could not be.... or maybe I could be but it would take years and years… (laughing) who knows how many decades in the basement it would take me... to be as good as Reanimator… or as good as Alias… And so now it's a different situation, and I'm surrounded by artists who have integrity and skills that I don't... I'm really loving collaborating lately cus I'm surrounded by people who are great to collaborate with, and I can send something away and it comes back better than I could have imagined.

MG: It's a theatre piece, with the idea of the end of the world, but there's personal stories and a poem about Evel Knieval… so do you think of it as like a concept album or kind of a combo or…?

BD: I think of it as a concept that's kind of unified by the idea of The Failure. Even the Evel Knievel piece, in some ways the Evel Knievel piece is a single poem that completely encapsulates the idea of the whole album. It might seem strange in the middle of this story about the end of the world to hear a poem about Evel Knievel.

But, basically, the idea of The Failure… I'm kind of a realist as opposed to an optimist, I think, and I find hope in the non-logical things that human beings do in the face of certain defeat. (laughs) So, that's the idea of The Failure, and if you have that in mind everything kind of falls into place a bit.

So, Evel Knievel makes sense, and his kind of stupid... in a way.... defiance of death. You're a fucking lunatic for throwing yourself at 160 miles an hour over 13 buses and facing certain death on a nightly basis.

And, in the same way, I think of this as an activist. We face all of these incredible crises on every front… the environmental movement is in crises, women's rights, racial equality, civil rights... all in crises, the third world is definately in crises... corporate abuse is at an all time high, and everything is going nuts at once. And if you wanna look at things logically, from a cold facts perspective, we're probably past the point of no return. And yet, I think the only human thing to do is to throw yourself into it and say "well, fuck it, what else am I doing." "Fight the Tide" as Jared [Paul] says... you know. (laughs) Wade into the ocean and start throwing punches at waves, 'cus otherwise we've lost everything.

MG: Still Electric?

"Still Electric" is another piece of that's about, among other things, the beginnings of a relationship. You know at the beginning of a relationship that the end is gonna come; you have a good idea that when you start to fall in love with someone it's gonna end in tears somewhere down the line. Ya know, Bob Dylan has the song "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go." And yet, the only thing you can do to live fully is to throw yourself into it and embrace the failure; just go at it like you don't know its coming.... And then, (laughs) in the broadest sense, death. Death is gonna come and negate everyone's life, and reset everything to zero as if you weren't here. Anything you can build is gonna fall apart, and yet you build it.

So, that's the concept of The Failure, and that little seed is in every one of the tracks on the album, and so it's unified in that way.

MG: So, from what I understand you're perceived to be a poet who kind of tinkers around with hip hop, but aren't necessarily a hip hop artist… so, how do you perceive yourself? Do you look at yourself as a poet, or an artist, or a craftsman, or an activist first, or an informer? How do you think of yourself, and what's most important to you?

BD: I don't really think about myself in those terms at all, ever really... the only time I ever think about labels like that is when I'm plotting to subvert them, I think. (laughs) I label myself a clown.

And, it's all necessary to me…The way things are shaking down and the way I see things... it's not enough for me to just do art; I need to be an activist, and I need to be engaged as an activist. And yet, I know that it's also not enough for me to just be an activist. If I couldn't release the steam through my art, I wouldn't be a good activist.

So, it's all been personal growth to me. I am who I am at this point, and I think people will be challenged to put a label on me because I don't have any intention of narrowing my focus, really.... I'm inspired and excited about a lot of things across a broad range of disciplines and genres, so I'm gonna be fucking around for quite sometime and will probably never establish a stable career, ever. (laughs) I follow my nose... I follow my clown nose.

MG: What drives you to keep producing art? Like, what makes you get up everyday and do this? Like… keeps you going on this path?

BD: I don't know, well I guess I have very strong emotions that lead me to strong reactions to the things I experience and see in the world around me. I'm easily inspired, and I'm easily outraged… I guess sensitive is probably the best word for it.

Yeah, I guess I'm sensitive, like Spidey is sensitive. I shaved my hair off and now I feel everything... (laughs)

And as the interview drew to a close, Dolan looked out from the balcony as DJ Skratch Bastid stepped onto the stage and a warm wave of bass, beats and scratches began to fill the room.

BD: Awwwww, Skratch Bastid!
Post Fri Jan 25, 2008 11:34 pm
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breakreep
homophobic yet curious


Joined: 27 Sep 2004
Posts: 6627
Location: Fifth Jerusalem
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I had no idea you were homeless at one point. Fuck.


The notion of art and activism being vital to each other which you expressed in this interview is the reason I love you so much. Offhand I can't think of any other person with as activist a lifestyle as yours, that has made one of my favorite albums ever. And I will give you such big ups if you ever come to SLC so I can watch you live.
Post Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:40 am
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b. dolan
FBI agent


Joined: 17 Nov 2004
Posts: 5700
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breakreep wrote:
I had no idea you were homeless at one point. Fuck.



a thankfully short period of time that seemed like a long one.i think it was like 6 months.

i had a few friends that helped me couch-hop across the river. there were more than a few nights sleeping in train stations or on subway cars but, i had it relatively easy compared to someone that's homeless and without any connection to anyone..

and thanks! i'm interested in SLC. it creeped me out the day we were there.
Post Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:50 am
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breakreep
homophobic yet curious


Joined: 27 Sep 2004
Posts: 6627
Location: Fifth Jerusalem
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b. dolan wrote:

and thanks! i'm interested in SLC. it creeped me out the day we were there.


I lived next to it for three years before it stopped creeping me out. Now I think it's kind of nice.
Post Sat Jan 26, 2008 1:08 am
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Phil Nothing



Joined: 27 Sep 2007
Posts: 104
Location: a blank planet
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Quote:

And if you wanna look at things logically, from a cold facts perspective, we're probably past the point of no return.


Magnificent.
Post Sat Jan 26, 2008 7:38 am
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Bandini
WIZARD APPRENTICE


Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 4669
Location: jerk city
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great interview. its strange how it's written but reads like it was done over the phone.
Post Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:06 am
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pedavis



Joined: 03 May 2007
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Location: Illinois, US
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good stuff, wordsmith.
Post Sat Jan 26, 2008 6:58 pm
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I am Wisdom



Joined: 06 Aug 2006
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Location: Shelton, WA
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Great interview!
Post Sat Jan 26, 2008 7:35 pm
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albeeyap2



Joined: 10 Jul 2004
Posts: 1258
Location: Inland Empire CA
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you're my new favorite rapper.
Post Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:57 pm
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MYOWNCLICHE



Joined: 25 Jan 2004
Posts: 3886
Location: In side YOUR head
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I feel like I know you so much better now b. dolan, you're kind of cool!
Post Sun Jan 27, 2008 12:25 pm
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FranktheP



Joined: 21 Jul 2004
Posts: 1367
Location: East Coast, Fuck You!
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Very interesting interview,B. A lot of that I did not know.
Post Sun Jan 27, 2008 1:48 pm
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whirred play



Joined: 10 Apr 2005
Posts: 499
Location: Nowhere, Pepperland
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hey, where can i get the cd?
SFR store makes mention that it's available, but no link...
Post Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:05 pm
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Sage Francis
Self Fighteous


Joined: 30 Jun 2002
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whirred play wrote:
hey, where can i get the cd?
SFR store makes mention that it's available, but no link...


could you link me to where it says it's available?
Because we need to change that.
The tour version of The Failure will only be sold at shows right now as we're waiting to promote the official version which comes with a bunch of changes.
Post Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:26 pm
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tom inhaler
me too!


Joined: 30 Jun 2002
Posts: 4398
Location: providence
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fixed!
Post Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:34 pm
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mzehe916



Joined: 04 Aug 2006
Posts: 4543
Location: Switzerland
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Sage Francis wrote:
whirred play wrote:
hey, where can i get the cd?
SFR store makes mention that it's available, but no link...


could you link me to where it says it's available?
Because we need to change that.
The tour version of The Failure will only be sold at shows right now as we're waiting to promote the official version which comes with a bunch of changes.


Would you suggest that we buy the official version if we already have the early release?
Post Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:37 pm
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