Published Nov 12, 2010Edmonton man-about-town Roland Pemberton is one of the hardest working artists we've ever come across. From his early career in music journalism to his genre-destroying turn in Cadence Weapon, the young Albertan continues to surprise us with his output and the sheer amount of it. On the phone from a studio in Montreal, Pemberton recently told Exclaim! about the overwhelming amount of material heading our way as he prepares to execute his five-year plan.
To start it off, Pemberton will release a brand new mixtape called Tron Legacy: The Mixtape. Before you get excited about Daft Punk appearances, however, you should read on. "My idea was to do a parody of your typical rap mixtape," he explains. "What I've been noticing with a lot of mixtapes is that rappers are talking about movies they had nothing to do with. T.I. has this mixtape where he's Photoshopped himself into the cover of Inception and there are all these skits, but really he had nothing to do with the movie."
Tron Legacy: The Mixtape is a similar idea, as Pemberton explains: "In the first song, I talk about my involvement with the movie, all the work that went into the soundtrack, me hanging out with Daft Punk and my work with Jeff Bridges as well. Generally it's just a bunch of things that never happened."
Musically, the mixtape replaces Cadence Weapon's characteristically challenging ideas with straightforward rhymes and beats. "I wanted to do something similar to The Drought series by Lil Wayne, just rapping over beats that I really like," he says. "It's a back to basics kind of thing. I'm rapping over Gucci Mane beats and I rapped over an Arcade Fire song."
While the Tron mixtape showcases Pemberton's abilities on a simplified level, he explains that he will be back to his experimental roots when he drops his third album, Roquentin, next year. "It's probably the opposite of what my album is like... It's not a very good indication of where my music is going at all," he says of the mixtape. "Roquentin was completely done with a full band. There are no samples in it. It features a lot of singing and screaming and chanting. I've never been one to make particularly traditional music but this is even further away from what I would normally do."
The album draws on a number of diverse influences, but takes very little from hip-hop. "I would say Lou Reed, Brian Eno, the Talking Heads, Grace Jones and Harry Nilsson," Pemberton says, discussing reference points for the new record. "It's very '70s influenced. It's like psychedelic pop with some rapping thrown in. It sounds like things that exist, but at the same time, it sounds like nothing that has ever come out."
Amidst the dearth of new material, Pemberton has also been getting involved with Alberta's arts scene. He was recently named poet laureate for Edmonton, a position he describes as "a chronicler of things that happen to Edmonton in poem." One of his projects is a series of flags on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton that create a long-form message urging residents to spend more time downtown. "The idea was to use it as this meta-poetic device that tricks people into hanging out in downtown Edmonton. They're reading a poem about downtown while they're downtown that basically says 'Hey, you should hang out downtown!'"
In addition to that, he was also commissioned to write and perform songs with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra for Calgary's High Performance Rodeo. The theme was Alberta's early settlers, and Pemberton came up with a club anthem about the Hudson's Bay Company and a song about the Northwest Territories he compares to the Velvet Underground's "The Gift."
With so much on his plate, it's amazing that Pemberton has as much energy as he does, but it doesn't stop there. In addition to the aforementioned plans, he's already working on an electronic album called Sports Car, which he describes as "amorphous shapes and clever ideas," and an album themed on tragic sports stories called Ball Don't Lie. "I have album ideas completely structured before I start them," he boasts. "I have my whole career arc in mind all the time."
Tron Legacy: The Mixtape is set to drop "any day now" on Cadence Weapon's official site, while Roquentin is expected in the spring of 2011 via Upper Class Recordings.