Aesop Rock Interview 2004

After 5 months constant touring and twelve hours crammed inside a van, the last thing anyone needs is some joker in a silly woollen hat badgering you about things that right now you could not actually care less about.
Elplate1 squeezes blood out of the stone that is, a very weary Ace Rizzle…

Aesop RockE: How many times have you been to the UK now?

A: Oh, a bunch cos there’s a lot of those festivals and stuff out here, so we’ve been here maybe four or five times now.

E: Is it a place you look forward to coming to?

A: Yeah, I like it here a lot, definitely… we get a lot of love on these shores, its one of my top 5 or 3 places to come to.

E: So what kind of behaviour can we expect on a Def Jux tour at the moment, are we on some T.V. out the window type shit?

A: Actually right now, I’ve been on tour basically since October 15th – pretty much non- stop- I’ve had like two weeks off. I did forty cities in the U.S. with Lif, then we went to Australia for 3 weeks, then we went on tour with The Roots for a week and now we’re over here, its been non-stop, so after these 7 shows I’m basically winding down…

E: The Roots shows must have been interesting?

A: Yeah they were fun, The Roots played our beats and shit – it was me and Lif, Vast Aire, Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth, Mad Skillz and The Roots – so there was a whole bunch of us, everyone had a good time.

E: Safe, so obviously you’re over here promoting the new album. For those who haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, could you tell us a bit about, and how it may fit in to what people have previously heard from you…

A: I think its what you may expect to be the next natural step y’know? I think every record is just a step forward from the last, and this is just that. It doesn’t sound exactly the same, but you can see where it’s coming from judging by Labor Days and Float. And I don’t wanna make the same album six times in a row y’know? A lot of people have a successful album and get into a formula and do it every time and that’s just not very interesting. So I try and do something a little different every time, but at the same time I’m me, so its going to sound like me. But I think this ones got a little bit of a different feel to the record, and in the little time I’ve had off since I put it out I’ve made some new stuff and the new stuff already sounds a little different to the last stuff – so I guess its all just a natural journey.

“…I don’t wanna make the same album six times in a row y’know?….”

E: I remember hearing prior to Bazooka Tooth’s release that you were shifting toward handling the production yourself. I was shocked as the “Aesop Rock sound” for me, was always Aesop Rock and Blockhead – and in my opinion, he was one of the hottest producers around…

A: He did three beats on the album. He’s like my best-friend in the world. Usually I do half the album and he does half the album production-wise, but I just felt like I wanted to do a bit more this time round. Not anything against him, he was starting to get outside production work, he’s just putting a record out on Ninja Tune so he’s got his own shit going on. I’ll always work with him basically.

E: Is he someone you’ve known for a long time then?

A: Yeah I’ve known him for about ten years now, and I really believe that as long as I’m rapping he will be producing for me. But it came round to this record, and I was like I think I want to make a bunch of the beats myself for this one, like 2 thirds or 3 quarters or whatever – And he was like yeah do it! Cos you’ve got your own sound. Meanwhile, he’s doing his own thing and I’m supporting him. He’s just released his solo record, which I think is amazing. We’re just boys, its not like anyone takes offence to anything. I got new shit from him for the next one, C Rayz is working with him on his next project, he’s around and always will be.

AesopE: Is the production side of things something you want to really explore now? Would you ever consider making a whole album for someone else?

A: I never did, but I think I may be interested. I produced a Murs tack for the new Def Jux compilation and I’m probably giving a beat to Walz. I dunno, I’ve always just produced for myself, so if I didn’t like a beat or didn’t think I was going to use it I would just throw it away – but I’m officially saving my shit now! I’ve been producing for nearly eight years now, but it always took a back seat because people always knew me for rhymes. But I guess in my old age I’m getting to be a control freak, I want to be the pilot of everything. I never knew how hard it was though, I did like 11 of 15 songs for this album and almost killed myself. I’m real anal retentive about how I want it to sound. Some people liked it, some people hated it but I don’t really care – I think it came out alright.

E: Since its conception, Def Jux has come on so, so far… does it feel a lot bigger now from the inside?

A: Well our office is about the size of this room (gesturing to the very small backstage area) People hear the buzz, see the artists and hear how many quality albums come out of a label. Then you come to the label itself, and your like, wow this is a humble-ass label! We got a small office, a small studio. But everyone that works for it and is signed to it is really down for the cause, and we are all good friends before music. I think its just a group of people with a decent vision. I wouldn’t even really want to do shows by myself anymore, I wanna bring Lif or I wanna bring Walz or whatever… I don’t have any interest with going on tour with someone I don’t know at this moment in time. We’re just trying to keep it fun.

E: Does everyone chip in with the business side of things?

A: No, there’s a handful of people that work in the office and they deal with the paperwork and business shit. Its owned by El-P and this other cat, so he has a say in any major business decisions that are gonna go down. As far as who’s getting signed its El, but he’ll come up to me and Walz and be like – check this out, do think this kid is dope? And I’ll be checking the shit that I’m making with him. Instead of it being a case of him saying – take this song of your album! I want his opinion and input, and it’s the same deal with everyone.

E: Has everyone seen the Avril Lavigne video, where she’s rockin the Def Jux cap?

A: NO! is that shit new?

“…in my old age I’m getting to be a control freak, I want to be the pilot of everything….”

E: I think its her last tune, she’s up on a car with it on!

A: You see that! We’re really hitting the kids man!

E: Do you think of yourselves as a movement?

A: Its more of a feel that these are the kids I kick it with anyway? These are the kids that I’m at home playing video games with and watching T.V. with and then we make albums. Y’know I’ll be making a beat and Camu will stop by and be like – hey, let me do something to that beat. So when your inside it, it doesn’t really feel like a movement, but we know that we’re doing something right and have a lot of drive for it, but at the same time we try not to stress about it, or take it to seriously. If you start thinking of it like that, recognising that it’s a movement it might start falling apart. We just want to see how far we can take it on our own terms.

E: Are you committed to Def Jux for life?

A: I couldn’t really see myself doing anything else.

AesopE: I wanted to talk a bit about your writing process. Are there any routines or rituals that you find yourself going through when your penning new shit?

A: I’ll light a few candles y’know…hehehe. No, it changes everyday. Sometimes I’ll write a whole thing without even hearing the music, or sometimes I’ll work on a beat first and it’ll take me two weeks to write fuckin eight bars. It just depends on like what I’m feeling at the time. Whenever I’m on the road, I have complete writers block, I can never go back to hotel and write it just never works.

E: Is there anybody your particularly feeling at the moment?

A: I’m just so flooded hearing all the new Def Jux stuff which is all pretty fuckin dope. But I like the Mountaineers, they’re pretty fuckin good. They’re like a kinda folk/rock group or whatever. Just all types of shit, I’m becoming less music snobby the older I get. When you’re a little sixteen year old wipper-snapper you’re just like I’m just gonna rap or die! When you get older you realise there’s dope music everywhere, it could be anything. Y’know El and Camu are working on a Rock record right now, their doing this whole crazy load of shit so anything can go.

E: How is it sounding?

A: Yeah real good, I just played bass on a couple of songs and its sounding pretty fun.

E: What is it? Metal?

A: Nah…(sighs) I don’t even know what its like, its not Metal. I can’t really explain it. I mean Camu can sing! He’s somewhere between like Al Green and Axl Rose. But every song is different – there’s some pretty crazy shit going on – so its going to shock people but we were like whatever.

E: I read something last time you were down for last years Dedbeat festival saying that you were trying to kick all your vices, how did that go? Are you still T-total?

A: Yeah, I’ve never drank alcohol in my life. I quit smoking for a whole month while I was on tour in the U.S. but I’m back (sighs). I smoke weed, but a lot less than I used to.

“…we know that we’re doing something right and have a lot of drive for it, but at the same time we try not to stress….”

E: Someone said to me that listening to the new album they thought perhaps you’d been experimenting with substances, I take it that’s not the case?

A: Hehehehe… There been periods of my life where that’s been the case. But its been a long time since I did acid or Mushrooms or any of that shit. I think I’m too paranoid these days. If I did acid I’d probably shoot everyone and then shoot myself in like a blaze of glory. If anything I smoke weed while I’m working on music, other than that anything that looks like it’ll calm me down.

E: The themes of this album seem more politically aware, is that something that you have consciously moved toward?

A: Not necessarily as a whole theme. But 911 happened just after Labor Days came out, and you can’t really shut that shit out. I’m not really politically aware, but when the buildings in your front yard start falling down you don’t really have a choice but to be a little aware. I don’t write songs about oh the government and George Bush, I write with a perspective of how that shit may effect someone’s daily life outside a direct political commentary.

E: Are you aware of a large level of paranoia living in New York?

A: Yeah, I mean we’re on like orange terrorism alert at all times. So yeah its like fucking Apocalypse Now! Its a really hectic city anyway, so to have that going on as well its like a lot to swallow. For me, I don’t really even give a fuck who the President is usually, but this is like officially fucking up my day.

E: You mentioned you didn’t vote in the last election, do you think you might this time round?

A: I might. You never know man! G.W. ain’t exactly up high on my list of people I wanna meet right now! I never have before, but maybe this time. I just have never been particularly politically driven which is probably a bad thing. You know, its like as long as I can come home and eat my food and do what I would normally do then I really don’t care who is running the country, which I guess is horrible ignorance. But like I said it is actually effecting me now so maybe I will.

Crowd shotE: Rounding up now, is there anything exciting we should be looking out for now – is the Orphanage shit ever coming out?

A: Probably not. We did like eight songs across like two days. But we’re all doing our doing different shit now. Slug’s like always on tour, and Blueprint’s been with him, Illogic’s got two children now, it’s a hectic time for everybody. There all good people, I still talk to Slug, Blueprint’s ma boy. I don’t talk to them as much as I used to talk to them, but its nobodies fault. Honestly the songs weren’t that good. They were so rushed, I mean they were fun and maybe they’ll sneak out on those unreleased music kinda CD’s people put together… But not as an album or anything. We kept talking about it and before we realised it, we were six-months down the line and we were still talking and nothing had happened.

E: Finally, any hopes dreams or ambitions outside of rap right now?

A: Yeah, I wanna get a house on a lake somewhere. I want to keep working on music, but I don’t think I wanna be dancing around on stage until I’m like 40! I’m considering moving outside New York for the first time ever purely to save money, cos its so fucking expensive there y’know? I really love living there. It spits you out, chews you up and you love it. But at the same time its impossible to save any money there. But I’m like 27 so I’m thinking maybe I should be thinking about buying a house or doing like anything with the money I have, instead of just buying more games systems. So I don’t wanna have to move, but I might – but not to far – like Philly or somewhere maybe…

E: Any final words or shouts?

A: Not really man…I’m just trying to get to my bed.