A.Gee spoke to Slug ahead of his London show at Electric Ballroom next week.
You’re currently touring your latest album Mi Vida Local, was there anything specific you set out to achieve with this project?
I don’t have any goals when I make a project, I make music because I like to, I make music because it’s fun, it’s one of my favourite things to do, I love to write songs. I love to make Anthony, my musical partner laugh. I love to make him say ‘Wooooooooh’ and then I love to tour, so the two things go hand in hand together, you know. But as far as having a strategy or structured idea of what i was trying to accomplish with this project I wouldn’t say that I had anything. Now in hindsight I can look at how that music did take some sort of form or shape, but a lot of that happens unbeknownst to me until after the fact, I realise it.
This particular project, I feel is somewhat closure on a series of projects I’ve made that deal with mortality. I feel like this project might be closure on the last 3. Southsiders, Fishing Blues and this one, all dabble in mortality. I look back at the history of mine and Ant’s albums and a lot of them are made in three’s. We know that, we’re aware of that. We don’t try to do that, we don’t try not to do that. So i’m thinking this is a similar sort of thing here.
With Southsiders we started to talk about death, and not being afraid of it, and then Fishing Blues was talking about death almost in the sense of retirement, like a long nap. Death can be that thing were you finally lie down, exhale. It was taken with a little bit of tongue in cheekness, or almost like a ‘OK bring it’. Then with this one I feel like it deals with the fear and the not wanting to die. I don’t know if any listeners will ever hear the shit I’m telling you now, but i know that i hear it, but again, i never know these things until the album is done and put out, and that’s when I can finally hear it and go ‘ohhhh shit, that’s what I’m talking about’. When I’m in the middle of it I’m standing too close to it to see it
We’re looking forward to having you in the UK this month, at Electric Ballroom in Camden. Is there anything you look forward to or any strange traditions you guys have when you’re on this side of the pond?
We go record shopping. I mean, we do it on this side too, but it’s a little different, when we get over there we get to see how much money you guys charge for like US pressings of Neil Young records, and it’s like man, i can buy those things a dime a dozen over here. I should bring a box of them over and sell them to the record stores, but my favourite thing to do is find strange pressings, or i guess what you would say private pressings of records, stuff that would never even make it over to the US unless you ordered it on Discogs.
Do you notice any differences between US & UK/European crowds?
It’s hard to say, back in the day I used to see a larger difference, now that we’ve been around for as long as we have it doesn’t feel as different, now that we’ve become what you might call a legacy group in underground rap, it feels like a lot of people are there for a vibe. I know back in the day, like say 2003 when I would tour US, it was very aggressive. Kids wanted to push each other and mosh and stage dive and all that shit, but then you would go over to Europe and people would actually listen, and they’d pay attention. Now when we play the US people listen and pay attention too, nobody wants to push anymore.. And that’s good, cause I’m too old for that shit. So now i feel they’re on the same page.
As well especially cause i talk a lot dude, I can’t help it, I love the sound of my voice. So in between songs I talk way too much, which one would think that’s gonna work against you when you get to Paris, because people, for starters, they don’t give a fuck about whats on an American’s mind, and next up, you’re talking too fucking fast hah, but no, they do pay attention. I appreciate that, it’s always validating to have strangers go, hey, what ya thinking
What does your creative process look like as a producer/rapper duo, and how do you make sure you’re on the same wavelength on the message you’re trying to portray?
We have very strong communication, we’re very open with each other. We’ve known each other for so long we can talk about anything. So communication is key when collaborating with someone and you’re both trying to go in the same direction. Also, Coffee is a huge part of our relationship and communication, we both drink a tonne of coffee and you know it’s a pick me up, and we both get on that stimulant together and we start talking and that’s how we work through a lot of the questions or a lot of the things we got to work through in order to collaborate.
The way people consume music has changed over the years, with streaming services enabling people to cherry pick tunes as they please, is putting the full album out as a video an attempt to encourage the listener to digest the album as a whole, or an attempt to get ahead of bootleggers, or something else?
I don’t even know if bootleggers are a thing anymore, I can’t remember the last time I was worried about bootleggers, but the reason we do the full streams is so that people can go to one place and hear the whole thing if they want to. Obviously the choice to go and cherry pick is still there on other services and I don’t have a problem with that. I never want to govern the way people consume art, I feel like that’s just a problem waiting to happen. You got to let people enjoy it the way they want to enjoy it. With that said though, making a whole video for that is always kind of a challenge, because you want to come up with an idea that hasn’t been done and something that’s interesting enough to hold somebodies attention for 45 minutes and so that challenge is the reason to do it.
We did one for Fishing Blues which was a 360 video of us fishing, and I can’t imagine watching that for an hour, but if you just have it playing on your laptop while you working on something else, I get that.
Does the current climate in record sales worry you as A an artist and B a label owner
I’m not worried. Listen man, 100 years ago before they invented this evil music industry, you’d be lucky to get a bowl of soup and a pillow to put your head on if you could sing a song. Then someone came along and realised they could exploit teenagers, and the musicians, pretty much everybody to make a bunch of money, and we became used to it. So used to it that now we’re worried that it’s breaking, nah man, here’s the thing, when we started the label we didn’t start it to make a bunch of money. We started it because we didn’t have any other options to release our own music, nobody wanted to hear our demos, no record label in New York or LA was looking for a rapper in Minneapolis. So we started our own label out of necessity, not because we wanted to make money, but because we wanted to make music.
So no matter what happens in the industry, we get to continue to make music with this label, even if this label were to go out of business, I’ve already got my foot in the door so it did it’s job, I can make music, my friends get to make music, so no i’m not worried. Do i want the label to go away? No of course not, cause its a vehicle to not just release music but to let people know ‘hey, I like this’. This is a way for me to signal to my audience ‘hey, this is cool, I like this artist i’m putting it out on this label’. But again, fuck the music industry, it’s evil.
When capitalism and art collide, nobody should like that. You should only embrace it if it’s enabling you to access music easier, so for instance if you lived in a small town that didn’t have any independent record stores, but it did have a chain store that sold CD’s back in the day, yes, that was good, because it allowed you access to this art, but you should never fight for this industry to stay alive. Fuck that.
As a founder of an independent record label are you surprisingly good at any of the business side of things?
Absolutely not. I know what hat I’m supposed to wear and i try to just wear my hat. Now here’s the thing that I am, I’m an artist who also is a suit, just because of my ownership that makes me a suit (I don’t wear suits). So you have a guy in the office (me) who knows how to talk to art, so when they have to express their ideas and convey themselves, a lot of the time they find me to be one of the easier ones to talk to, because i have the same concerns as them. So with that said there’s a strength there having me as this diplomat or this accessible person to talk to for other artists. Almost like an interpreter, cause then I can turn to the suits and say oh this is what they’re talking about.
When you first started did you have any idea that the label would be as successful as it is today?
I did not, but I also didn’t put a ceiling on it. I just didn’t think about it, i never thought ‘what’s possible?’. It was never about trying to imagine the possibilities as it was about trying to imagine my goal. Visualize and then achieve that goal. So it’s all baby steps, i also think a part of our success is that’s how we approached it. We never set the sights so high that we had to fail in a major way. We’ve obviously had tonnes of failures, but all of our failures we can own them and use them to make the next baby step. None of the failures have driven us out of business.
Big up man, thanks for your time we look forward to seeing you in London.
Yeah sounds good! Thank you
Atmosphere are performing at Electric Ballroom on 23/04 – Get tickets here.