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Sage Francis
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Sage Francis Interview in promotion of the Rifflandia festival in Victoria, BC (2011)

Q: Youíre an artist who obviously knows how to appeal to a crowd. What
is it that you bring, or try to do, with your live performances to
keep them entertaining?

A: I know this goes against a lot of artists' ethos, but I like to
play songs that the crowd is hungry to see live. When the crowd goes
crazy, my energy level skyrockets and a lot of interesting things
happen as a result of that. I tend to mix newer material with older
material and shuffle it up a bit. To keep things fresh and interesting
to *me*, I always leave room for improv moments and crowd interaction.
It's a fairly simple formula, yet, it's one I see a lot of performers
screw up. My main objective is to make people feel like they've been
on an emotional roller coaster and, if all goes well, they might even
feel a bit whiplashed the next morning.

Q: How important is a connection with the crowd when youíre performing?

A: It's the most important. There's no other reason to be on a stage
in front of people unless you're making a connection in one way or
another. Sometimes those connections go bad and turn for the worse
(i.e. my opening set for Wu Tang in 2004) but I'll be damned if that
wasn't one of the funnest performances of my life.

Q: What do you try to express through your music, and has that message
or emotion or whatever it is, changed over the past 11 years?

A: I first started performing in front of crowds when I was 12 or so.
From 12 until I was 19 all I wanted to express was that I was the best
rapper. I wanted to impress people with verbal gymnastics and
punchlines and...just prove myself as an emcee. But as the years went
on, that meant less and less to me. It got to the point where I just
wanted to express everything that exists beyond the superficial. I
kept tapping into what I considered to be very pure moments of my
humanity, and once I got a taste of that there was no turning back.
It's become an exploration of vulnerability for me. I leave my love,
anger, curiosity, humor, passion, hate, politics & everything else out
on the table for people to dissect. Not everyone should have access to
those things because they've shown me that they really don't know what
to do with it. One thing you should never do with it is try to discuss
it with me as soon as I step off of the stage because I'm in beast
mode. There's no conversing with a guy who has just spilled his guts
to complete strangers for an hour and a half.

Q: Whatís your take on festival-style events? How do you find the vibe?

A: It's not my favorite environment for performing. I never know who
the audience will be and sometimes it feels like I'm part of a musical
buffet. I don't think you can step into my set for two songs and then
be like, "OK, I experienced Sage Francis. Now let's get a quick taste
of Cold War Kids before we get too full!" On the other hand, festivals
are a great way of finding a new audience because maybe all the Cold
War Kids fans would have never given my style of hiphop a chance had
they not sampled it at the buffet table.

Q: Victoria covers a lot of different musical genres, but hip hop
traditionally hasnít received as much love. There are festivals here
for pretty much every other type, but not hip hop. With the number of
hip hop shows at Rifflandia, yourself included, it seems this festival
might be trying to fill that void. How do you feel about being one of
the acts brought in to help generate hip hop interest?

A: It feels deceiving. I mean...that's awesome!

Q: You many not know too much about our little city in particular, but
from your experience, what would you say are the things a place might
need to keep in mind or consider when trying to foster or cater to
what might be a fledgling hip hop community?

A: Creative artists need a supportive community, and a community needs
creative/reliable/original artists to support. Too often I see places
that have one without the other. And more often than that, I've seen
communities dissipate due to the lack of reliability and creativity in
the scene they helped build. Fans, venues, radio stations, websites,
artists, labels, promoters...they all need to work with one another if
they want a burgeoning and supportive scene. There's not too much of
that going on anymore but in the late 90's and early 00's I saw some
amazing things happen due to the use of united fronts.
Post Wed Sep 28, 2011 1:17 am
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