By Vish KhannaWho would you say have been the most vital collaborators for your music? Definitely Fippad. Guelph is so incestuous in some waysÖ Jim Guthrie; I practiced at [his house] the Roc Sak. Barracuda, Livestock, and the Maccabee crew. A big collaborator and business partner was Orphan, (a guy named Kingston Maguire), whoís from Florida and Washington State. We started my label Plague Language together. He just happened to be in Guelph randomly and I bummed a menthol cigarette from him and we were hooked since then. He lived at my house and he didnít believe I could rap but we collaborated on some beats and rhymes. We no longer work together but heís now in a group called Blue Sky Black Death, who work with Wu-Tang members and Guru and people like that. He goes by his name Kingston and he has partner and they produce music together.
What about MadadaM? You seem to work with him a lot these days. MaddaM filled Orphanís shoes; Orphan used to make about one-third of my beats. I didnít produce too much, just a little bit here and there. I use MadadaM as my primary producer now but I also have some long-time collaborators and I always work with new people too.
In pretty much everything you do as an MC, youíre utterly unique ó from the lyrics to the flow to the beats and production. How would you describe your approach to writing songs and what influences it? What motivates you to do this shit? To me, Iím normal but I know that Iím strange and stuff. Iím influenced by psychedelics, different religions, astrology, Egyptology, and lots of different schools of thought. To me, Iím where Marshall McLuhan and Andy Warhol left off. Iím not just a musician, Iím a memetician. I deal in memes and the idea of viruses. Thatís the whole thing with Plague Language. Iím like William Burroughs; I think I kind of pick up where a lot of people left off and thatís why some people donít catch on necessarily because itís so post-modern or whatever the fuck, but then a lot of people do catch on. Itís not supposed to be tricky. I use a lot of humour and trying to streamline stuff so itís still very abstract but very poppy and easily absorbed into your brain. More structure, hooks, and different voices so like Iím getting into character for the song but it comes out really naturally.
What about your flow and phrasing? When did you get into speed raps? Iím an Aquarius and so a big thing with me is lightning and electricity ó like an instant flash or brain charge. I was more into fast and dense rapping early on just to show what I had because Iíd been holding so much in. That was Neophyte Phenotype, which was long and had a lot of stuff. I did a cassette before that one that was extraordinarily fast and dense. I still recycle a lot of lyrics from those times and you can expect to hear them in the years to come. A lot of the ideas were really good but I want them to be felt in a better way. Ever since I was a child, I was kind of psychedelic. I was really into strange things and "the other,Ē or intangible. Not dark or gothic stuff but kind of odd stuff.
Like what; can you give me an example? Well, the reason I have the number 23 in my name is because I got it from The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson, which I read 23 years after the publishing date wearing a shirt with a 23 on it at the time I read the passage about 23.
Jesus Christ. So, that was a pretty big deal. Now, Iím probably one of the foremost theorists on the number 23. People might not know that 23 relates to W, which is the same glyph as the sign of Aquarius and that 23 is always associated with that sign and the meanings are the same. Michael Jordan is an Aquarius and William Burroughs, who invented the 23 enigma, heís an Aquarius and itís just a strange thing.
So, you believe inÖ what is this beyond coincidence? Synchronicityís a big deal for me. I have a song where I say, "Down in the basement thereís a rap honeycomb.Ē About three months later, I moved into a new house and we went downstairs to set up the rap equipment and there was one honeycomb down on the floor. So, to me an element of the supernatural is always at hand and Iím a strong believer in it. Words have the power to create worlds or alter the world we live in literally. There was so much coming out at the beginning but I think Iíve learned to control it. Iím trying to make sense of the media climate we live in with all of these ideas and thoughts being jammed at us every day. I reassemble them they way I want to and kind of share that back.
How did you get into recording and production exactly and how do you do this stuff? Iíd have ten boomboxes playing different things ó this was way before the Flaming Lips ó and my early experience gave me an ear for recording and sounds. It helped me record songs with a lo-fi approach. Now I get beats from people who send me MP3s and they may be a fan who can share in my album with me. They could come from any place. I like to have a finished composition, then I record vocals and we mix it without changing the beat much. Thereís not a lot of post-production after the vocals are done and itís a pretty simple approach.
So, you mostly use your computer? Thereís some computer production with room for instrumentation. I use ACID and Frooty Loops and, I some times use studios but I like to record at home where Iím comfortable and in the moment. Iím notorious for using broken headphones and airplane headphones.
One of the things that I think people find admirable and frustrating about you is that youíre incredibly prolific but itís damn hard to get your records. I know youíve toured all over the world but where exactly? Iíve toured everywhere in Europe except the English-speaking countries. England, you better smarten up! I played Athens, Greece in 2004 and was one of the first North American hip-hop artists invited there. I was filling in for Mr. Lif actually. Iím like a freelance dude and I do lots of one-offs. Iíve played in different states and Halifax and Calgary.
So people know you in underground hip-hop circles but why do you think youíre still kind of unknown in some ways, and not doing music full-time? Iím just really slow to make things happen. I work hard and Iíve had a lot of breaks and some misfortunes. Iíve capitalised on some opportunities but not all of them. Iím a determined guy going in a musical direction and things are going good right now. In the past two years, Iíve recorded over 200 songs. I had a couple of years before then where I was kind of depressed and things werenít going so well. I only did a bit of music but then, halfway through 2006 it got really good again musically. I made a lot of music to help me with that depression and joked that I came out of retirement, which kind of helped with the fans. A lot of people tell me not to do so many songs and take more time but I just have a lot of different stuff to express in moments in time.
And youíre still invited to play all over the worldÖ Oh, Iím fucking famous. I was born famous but Iím not rich. Although itís frustrating, I think that could be a blessing artistically. Iíve had such a gradual build to being a professional musician, that when and if it does occur, Iíll be ready for it.
Finally, can you talk about your future plans in the next while and what youíre hoping to accomplish over the next year? 2008 is the Year of the Rat so I gotta get that cheese. I think itís gonna be the year that I thought 2007 would be. Iím going to be an octopus punching you with music this year. I hope to have the Weird Apples full-length out properly. The Bourgeois Cybourgs (Noah and Barracuda) debut, a PL compilation, Crunk23 Part II, which features Moka Only and Kingpin Skinny Pimp, formerly of Three 6 Mafia, and my big solo record. I think itís the biggest album made in history by anyone ever. Itís called Rock Paper Scissors ó the sacred trinity of life ó and the theme is childhood nostalgia. Thereís a multitude of guest artists but I think itís going to describe who I am better than anything Iíve ever done and Iím real happy with how itís coming along. Iím hoping to release it in the fall. Basically, when the recordís done, Iím gonna add a lot of family and friends in choruses and interludes. Itíll have a Whereís Waldo? feel to it. I hope people understand how good it is. Itíll be very diverse, which is a blessing and a curse. Iím selling myself, itís the cult of personality and Warholianism. Iím obsessed with it but in a healthy way. Itís creating a mythology and having fun with it.