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Sage Francis
Self Fighteous

Joined: 30 Jun 2002
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There are some misquotes, but overall it's cool. Somehow Mark Isham's name gets turned into "Migration."

In the words of Sage Francis himself, “A lot of s**t has happened since A Healthy Distrust.” The poetic, lyricist, battle MC, political dissident and one-time ice cream server has amassed a collection of thought-provoking songs and molded them into his latest album, Human the Death Dance, out this month on Epitaph Records.

With a collection of compilation albums, the Sick of Waiting series, and two releases under his belt, 2002’s Personal Journals and 2004’s A Healthy Distrust, Sage has been steadily building his rhyme repertoire. Whereas A Healthy Distrust was more aggressive and provocative, focusing more outwardly toward society, 2007’s Human the Death Dance is a reflective album for Sage Francis, and a chance for listeners to discover their own personal freedom.

Sage Francis spoke for the first time in his career to discuss the upcoming release, what listeners can expect to find on the album and the underpinnings of the songs for Human the Death Dance. What’s the meaning behind the title of your new album, Human the Death Dance?

Sage Francis: There are a few elements working. It started as a poem by Buddy Wakefield called “Human the Death Dance.” But it wasn’t a poem he’d written yet. I basically stole it from him. And I put it on my album. The image it provokes works for what I wanted to get across in the album; the human death dance of life. There is a saying that when you’re taken away by death, you’re supposed to do a dance that represents your life. And also getting to have Buddy Wakefield on the album was a motive to represent that idea. How would you say Human the Death Dance differs from your last album, A Healthy Distrust?

Sage Francis: A Healthy Distrust sonically was more abrasive. I was more aggressive with that album. With Human the Death Dance, I was more laid back and I tried to pull more stories. There are a few breakup songs on the album about relationships, as opposed to A Healthy Distrust, which was more political. Since A Healthy Distrust, a lot of stupid stuff has happened and it came out in my music. What do you mean?

Sage Francis: Just I wanted to move on. I wanted to get some things out of my system. I addressed failed relationships and I tried to explain that sometimes it is a good thing to end relationships; not just with the girlfriend, but with people in your life, and to really explore your freedom. A lot of the songs might seem depressing, but I think in a way it’s the scary celebration of freedom. You don’t know where you’re going, but you’re just moving along; Every now and then you’re going to have to hop some trains. You make a number of commentaries of Hip-Hop, society, politics, sex and suicide, to name a few themes on the album. Do you feel like you’re preaching at times or are there any specific things you do when you’re writing to prevent yourself from sounding like you’re preaching?

Sage Francis: I’m kind of confused when people say I preach. My earlier music, stuff not available anymore, had a level of preaching to it that turned me off. And that’s something that bothers me when people preach in their music. I think I very clearly express what’s in my life, the things that are bothering me. I try to raise a lot of questions and offer alternative thoughts. I don’t think I tell people what to do. You switch a number of times in the album from looking inward at yourself to outward at others. How do you balance the two?

Sage Francis: I did some switching between introspection and extrospection. A lot of life is lived in your head. There are only a couple of tracks on the album that I address things that aren’t personal to me. “Hoofprints in the Sand” is clearly an attack on the current government. I didn’t want to do too much of that on this album. I did it so much on A Healthy Distrust that I didn’t want to do it on this album. I have a problem with balance. I should just make an album with one tone. At least you could hear the one song and say, “I like it.” Listening to one song could misrepresent the whole album. If you take the album in as a whole, it ties together. People now seem to hear one song but not the whole album. A full album is supposed to be rewarding, like a movie. If you watch one scene from a movie, you can’t grasp the entire idea. In the song “High Step” you start out replaying your history in football. Were you a football player growing up, or is speak to something higher in athletics?

Sage Francis: The story is true. It’s all literal. There is a higher metaphor working there. I played football from seventh grade all the way to college. But I was into all different sports. I was really athletic. Once I got to college I decided to put sports on the side and focus on academics. But I ended up spending time on music and poetry. It’s been a long time since I focused on sports and that really felt good to me. This song is kind of like showing that I hold stuff in me a long time and wait to let it out. This album is about reflection and learning from those experiences. Everyone is led to believe there is a higher power working over them; God this, God that. You submit to higher powers and you submit to the machine. That’s how the government and the military work. It’s a huge microcosm. That’s what I experienced. At one point I was doing martial arts, which I did from fourth grade to college. At the time, that’s where my spirituality came from. Only when I broke away did a lot of falsities that I bought into faded away. And that’s something I was trying to get across. You talk about government conspiracy, demographic breakdowns and death on the song “Hoofprints in the Sand.” How did the all of the concepts for that song come together into one, cohesive train of thought?

Sage Francis: Again, I didn’t want to have too much political commentary on this album. This was the last song I decided to put on the album. I had all those lyrics hanging around. And though I pulled the lyrics from different points, I didn’t want all those lyrics to become different songs. A designer for Strange Famous Records had actually come up with the music video for the music, which was produced by Reanimator. And it was a bunch of words that dealt with social problems. I was watching it and thought, “This music fits with the words I have.” And I showed it to her and asked to apply the lyrics to the song. I really wanted to do something with Reanimator on the album. In the song, I talk about medical experiments and population control. But I wouldn’t say there is one once of preaching. I throw out concepts. I look at things a lot of people might not pick up on. And I think it’s good to spark discussion. That’s what Public Enemy did for me; N.W.A., Too $hort, KRS-One. All these people were throwing out ideas too. Who did the production on the album and how did you decide what kind of music you wanted?

Sage Francis: There are various producers on the album. Alias did three of the beats. Migration did a couple of tracks – he’s mainly a movie producer [see Crash and Million Dollar Baby]. Migration and I are actually working on an upcoming movie together, Pride and Glory, where I do the vocals and he does the production score. It’s been two years in the making, but I guess that’s how Hollywood works.

In terms of selecting the music for the album, I have a large catalog of beats. Various producers send me music. And if I like it, I keep it on file. When I’m writing lyrics I look into the music I have and the sounds that capture the mood I’m trying to get at in my lyrics. A lot of the time, I sit on the beats I get and wait for lyrics to come out. Some of the music is five years old. I’m kind of a pack rat with lyrics and music. I had lyrics from A Healthy Distrust that found a home on this record. One song in particular, “Keep Moving,” was originally made for the Personal Journals album and I never got a chance to use it until now. I just had Alias rework the beat and now it sounds completely different. How did you decide to title your songs and what do the names mean?

Sage Francis: Some of the titles are literal. “Keep Moving” was the least innovative song title. “Underground for Dummies” was a concept I’ve held for awhile. I wanted to break down my rise in the Hip-Hop world point by point. It’s like a play of those “books for dummies.” Though, a publication recently misprinted the song title and it read “Underground is for Dummies,” which completely changes the meaning. I don’t think underground is for dummies. If there is one thing you want listeners to take away from your album, what would that be?

Sage Francis: I want people to really look at personal freedom and the value in personal freedom; having no anchors. The song “Call Me Francois” really touches on that idea. I want people to get away from their commitments to everyone. Or don’t. Get married, have kids, join the war.
Post Wed May 16, 2007 11:43 am
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Joined: 01 Jul 2002
Posts: 5766
Location: Queens, NYC
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Well that was unusually revealing.
Post Wed May 16, 2007 1:10 pm
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blocks of text^2

Joined: 12 May 2006
Posts: 6880
Location: Northern New Jersey
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I liked the interview. Do you think you could offer to proof read this guy's interviews before publishing next time? The inaccuracies and grammar errors are abundant.
Post Wed May 16, 2007 2:05 pm
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Joined: 25 Aug 2002
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Reggie wrote:
Well that was unusually revealing.

i'm sayin.

good interview.
Post Wed May 16, 2007 2:33 pm
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Joined: 30 Jun 2002
Posts: 1574
Location: southern californ-eye-a
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i like the whole thing on "preaching" and how you don't like to be preachy.

on that note, wish people on here were less preachy.
Post Wed May 16, 2007 3:03 pm
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