Subtitle (Part 3)

Place: Le Point Ephémère, Paris, France
Date: April 22nd, 2006

Hip-Hop Core: Science and technology have always been an important part of your music. I guess in some way, it stems from your education… But it has become even more prevalent with LabWaste. Could you tell us a little bit about your obsession with technology?

Subtitle: I was a nerd when I was little. All I did was go to school and read books, and even when I started ditching school all the time and skateboarding, I still read all the time. I had a very early fascination for comic books, fantasy, science-fiction and whatever… So science and its derivatives were always topics of conversation in my work cause it was always something that I was around. My dad worked in a weapons manufacturing plant and my mom was a chemist at the time. I was always around scientific-based work or world, so it was natural that I talk about that stuff when it was time to rap… Even though, if it wasn't for Hieroglyphics and hearing that song 'Burnt' (note : one of the b-side tracks to Del's 'Mistadobalina' single) back in the days (with them being all linguistic), I probably wouldn't be rapping about that stuff because I wouldn't have thought it was ok.

Up until that point, I had only heard some of the East Coast stuff and I was really into A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and the Native Tongues stuff or 3rd Bass. Because they had dope beats and they were rapping about cool stuff in a cool way. But when I heard their West Coast counterparts, I was like : "Ok, it's time to rap". Del rapped about comics and riding the bus and all other sort of stuff that I did… So 'Burnt' and also 'Remain Anonymous' by Ras Kass, they really made an impact on me. When I first heard 'Hot Potato' by Freestyle Fellowship, I didn't really care for it. It was a cool song, real jazzy, but it took me to hear 'Six Tray', 'Bomb Zombies' and all the crazier songs on "Inner City Griots" for me to really appreciate their shit.

So, going back to your question, once I graduated school and went to university, I started studying more stuff and I had an access to libraries and read term papers. So I read some little words that I learned and all this terminology stayed in my head. So it was only right that I rapped about it. And no one else rapped about it so that kinda put me apart from other people, so it was cool. You know, Kool Keith rapped about it but half of his stuff was articulated because he was reading a book while he's doing it, and the other half was nonsensical 'cause it's Kool Keith!

HHC: What did you study exactly at the university?

S: I studied a bit of everything : computer science (like computer programming and website design), then arts and graphic design, a little bit of photography, then it ended up being record engineering and sound design. I was supposed to graduate (I had one more year to go) but I couldn't handle it so I just dropped out, 'cause I didn't feel like paying for one more year. Because one more year turns to seven more years. And I knew that just because I graduated with a degree doesn't necessarily mean I have a good job doing that same thing. I have lots of friends who went to more prestigious schools than me who are working at the coffee shop… and they paid like a 125,000 $ for their degree. I didn't want to be that person. I thought there was a chance for me to do other things so I just took that opportunity and did other stuff.

HHC: How was it growing up in a family that was really involved in music?

S: My family's really crazy, because by the time I got to the point where I was into doing music, everybody was really supportive of it, but then they weren't really into going out and get me stuff. I wanted violin lessons and they gave me money to get a violin but then the teacher didn't come that day so they waited a week and they took their money back… I also had a clarinet and played that for a while as a little kid, but then I lost interest for it because it was hard and no one was really pushing me to play. So even latter, when I started writing raps, they've always been morally supportive but not so much as like materially supportive… The only thing that my mother really bought me for recording was like a binder to keep my raps in. So I knew that I had a good amount of my family's blessing to do it but it came to the point where my dad thought I was insane… He was like : "you're gonna dump university, just to go rap!" They didn't know anybody that made money from rap so they thought that was stupid.

So from my early age, I've always been around music and I've always had the chance to be exposed to music, but when it came to me doing it, it just turned out to be me having to do it. Once people saw that I have an aptitude for it and that I have the drive to want to do it, then everybody was real supportive. But it took twenty something years to have that…

HHC: Most of your career has consisted of obscure CD-R's and cassettes. When did you decide to become more professional about music and to get in contact with labels?

S: I actually really started with the Weekend Science Experiment cassette tape. That was the first professionnal recorded thing that we ever had, where we got a masters and stuff. It was just a matter of time before I came down to real CD's, because I didn't have much money at the time… and when I did have it, I was stupid and didn't invest in CD's… It's turned to a point where I had quit rapping for a while. I was into making these crazy beats and stuff.

I ended up meeting with Sonny K from GSL and I wanted to work for the label… I didn't even want to be on the label. But he was into what I was doing… So it took him a little while to get everything set up but when he asked me to do something, I just ran with that. Because I've always been a fan of how their artwork is, their graphic design or their bands… So when it came time to do the CD thing, I had talked to a lot of labels and they were like: "You're doing these 4-track albums. Go to a studio, give us a studio record and we'll put it out". But I was like: "Going to a studio costs a lot of money. You want me to come and give you a record? No." On the other hand, GSL told me that they liked my 4-track stuff and that if I could do a studio album that sounded like the 4-track stuff, they'll put it out. And right when they said that, miraculously, a host of equipment just popped in front of me : a digital 16-track recorder, a MPC, all the stuff that people just gave me to record with… And then, I was able to work.

So the changeover happened around 2002, I guess. At the time, I wasn't gonna be rapping anymore, I had already decided but some people like GSL told me that I really should rap, that they wanted to hear some more… But once the switch was made over, it was only a matter of time before the right material was made to be able to release it on a larger scale than just a hundred CD-R's or something.

HHC: Now that you've taken that step forward, will progressive and avant-garde sounds always be a part of your music?

S: Yeah. But, at the worst or best (depending on who you talk to), I'm gonna get bored of making crazy noise records 'cause I made 45 of them and I'll want to experiment making a pop record. Like I'm doing with my Alpha Pup record ; even though that has always conceptual themes behind and everything, it will still be a fairly normal record. Even "Young Dangerous Heart" compared to "Lost Love Stays Lost" is a normal record. I'm not gonna not make avant-garde stuff but it will just be that more people are gonna have to be into it.

And I'm always gonna want to work with different people. Like when I started working with the dudes in Detroit, like Wajeed from Bling 47 and Ta'Raach, we all ended up doing normal stuff, but normal to us is not normal to anyone else, you know. So I don't think I'll ever have a problem making boring material. I hope.

HHC: Since you've opened up a little bit in terms of sound this last year, did your production techniques change in the process? By the way, how do you work on a track?

S: I still don't have any method. But it's just that the method that I don't have is more refined now. I have all my equipment at my house so everything's dumped into Pro Tools and I use it like a giant sampler. I also have my laptop when I'm on the road… I throw in everything I can sample, I don't care if it's a cassette tape or an MP3. I've been buying vinyl for 20 years and I'll be buying vinyl for 20 more but I know sound is sound and sometimes you can't pay 500 bucks for 3 bars of music. My method will never change. If anything, I've learned to play a little bit more instruments. Not like I'm Jay Dee or Pete Rock, but I've learned to play all DJ equipment. I play bass lines and some of my keys and I understand notations or chord progressions…

So all my new stuff, even though it'll still be minimal and crazy, it's still gonna make sense if you listen to it. If you take yourself out of the distortion factor and out of the idea that this shit is peaking out of control, you'll hear it is a musical song with bridges and everything. If anything, my music's got more musical while it's got more minimal. Because I'm learning what should and shouldn't be there. I think a lot of my older music was dance. First, because of the equipment : it was just hard to separate stuff on 4 tracks. And reason number 2, because I didn't know, I didn't care about reverb. Now I know how to use reverb. And now, when I record in mono, it's gonna be because I want to go for a sound that rock groups go for. Otherwise, I'll record in stereo. So now, if my music sounds bad, it's made on purpose. Back in the day, I just didn't know any better. Those are the differences I think…

HHC: Could you tell us a few words about your days with the Westcoast Workforce and the Library Crew?

S: Library was first. That started when we were in high school. That was Lexicon (which is Oak and Nick Fury), Number Crunchers (myself and DJ Memorex), Premonition, Dramatic, Recon and this dude C-Trouble, whom I think he's doing porn or something right now. There was also lots of friends walking in and out of the group… But it all started when we were in Oxnard and every Friday we'd all go to Santa Barbara to freestyle on Mums The Word's show. He had this show at this radio station at the UCSB (the Santa Barbara college) that everybody went to, like the Project Blowed, KanKick, CDP and all those dudes… We would all roll out there, we were all real young and we all ended up meeting up. We kicked it a little bit and got along so we did songs and ended up calling ourself a crew. I had the name in my head 'cause I worked at the library at my high school at the time so I said : "Let's just call it the Library crew". We made a cassette "Bibliotechnicians Vol. 1" in 1997.

There was also a group in the Library called Rector Set, that was me and Scribble, but we never recorded any song because Scribble was a dick head at the time. Matter of fact, when we did "Bibliotechnicians", we had left him, we didn't even tell him we were going to record the project… which is some dick-head-shit. I just called him when I got home to play him some songs over the phone and he just hung up on my face of course. Library went on about 3 years. We did some shows and were going to work on more material but then everybody started moving further away… I moved out to L.A., Lexicon moved out to L.A., Premonition and Dramatic would come to hang out but you wouldn't hear from the other dudes. Memorex moved out to L.A. and we would hang out a bit but he was doing other stuff, he wasn't deejaying as much.

And I was more involved with the Project Blowed dudes at the time and that's what turned me on to the Workforce guys. Oak, myself, Xololanxinxo and 2Mex did a song called 'Happy Weed' around '97. It was a random-ass song but we thought we should work together. I originally invited Radioinactive and Anti-MC to join the Library, but they were like : "No, we should make up a new group". I thought it was a better idea. So the Workforce came about. And then, we added Omid, Joe Dub, LifeRexall, Megabusive and 13 other people I can't even think of now (laughs). We recorded a few songs but it was just real hard for everybody to hang out together because there was a lot of ego problems. We had a lot of people that were really into drinking and acting a fool, or people that were just too good to record in the same room as other people… I'm not naming names, it's not necessary 'cause I'm friends with all these guys these days today. We were just young! So the Workforce broke out because a couple of members I won't name approached me to ask me about kicking out a couple other members and making the Workforce more streamline and coincidentally there were members that I asked to join… So I was so mad that the same night I went on La2thebay and wrote this long-ass message like "Fuck Workforce, I'm out!" I left and those dudes hated me for that one. I didn't talk to anybody for a couple of years, that's when I was down with the Shapeshifters, just rolling and doing work with them. And then when their crew got to a critical mass, that's when I kinda put down shit and went on my own.

HHC: Now if you agree, we're gonna play a little game. I'm gonna tell you the names of some of your projects and you will tell me what pops up in your mind immediately when you think about them. "Delete the Elite"?

S: Right after Rob One died (Rest In Peace), I went out to Frisco to hang out with Joe Dub and this young lady. We were walking down the street and there was a TV set that had a sticker that said "Delete The Elite" on it. I thought that was a really good title for my album. Later on, when I could dissect that meaning, it fit because we were surrounded with a lot of peoples who were leaders in the cultures, from the Blowedians down to the L.A. people to New York. There was all this underground thing that was going on, this rap revolution or movement… Delete the elite, get rid of all the people who were just so good, let's give some other shit. That's what that was about.

HHC: "Appropriately complex" with Anonymous a.k.a. Anti-MC?

S: There was this Hennessy add where this dude was going to his girl's house and he's knocking the door and she opens the door and he has like two glasses and a bottle of Hennessy, and it said "Appropriately Complex". At the time, when I was writing, I figured all my stuff was really complex and crazy. So the title was perfect for the album and AntiMC produced half and I produced half…

HHC: "Lost Love Stays Lost"?

S: I have a very long story about this, and it's longer than any of the answers I've given in this interview which is also very long (laughs). But anyway, I'll give you guys a good version of the story. There was this young lady… Fuck it, she's not gonna read this! Although fate will have it that she probably will read it…

This actress Shannyn Sossamon from the States, she was in a few movies ; the most prevalent one that you could see is "The Rules of Attraction", and everybody should go watch it, it's on DVD. We both worked at Aron's Records at the same time and, from the moment I saw her, I was amazed but I couldn't help but feel she looked familiar. She told me I knew her ex-boyfriend and she knew that I DJ-ed or something like that… She was the coolest girl I had ever seen. She looked beautiful (and she always looks beautiful) and she was this super-sick girl, she would fucking go and hang out in a gutter. One time, I remember she got in trouble becaused she was drunk and she threw a bottle at a car passing by and it broke the whole back window… But she was like "ok, I'll pay for it!". She's addicted to vinyls and listens to every kind of music and deejays… Who wouldn't like this woman?! And on top of all that, our birthdays are a day apart, to the year : October 2nd and 3rd (which is the reason why I talked about this date on "tell her to come overrrrr")…

At the time, I was living in this infamous 10-feet-by-8-feet rehearsal space and I was getting my teeth pulled out every three days… It was a messy situation but I was doing it all for records. I only wanted to make music. This room was small enough to be a closet and there were these big roaches walking in the room and crawling up my head while I was asleep. It was horrible. And she was only girl that would come and go hang out there with me. She'd bring a big expensive bottle of wine and I had this really flamboyant weed and we'd smoke and I just played all these crazy-ass songs. Then, she was gonna stay in my studio space because I was moving out of there and I started working at Amoeba making more money… What ended up happening was that, right after "Rules of Attraction" came out, around 2002, she ended up getting pregnant and she kept the baby. Me being a maniac living in a 10-by-8 room, I couldn't understand that so, while she was still down to hang out as ever, I knew she was going to do some other shit because she got pregnant by a dude she wasn't gonna see. It was not even intentional, it just happened, but she wanted to keep the baby. By me being mad at that, she was mad at me and we didn't talk for a year. And directly after that phone call, I lost my line and I went fucking insane! I tried to call her back and apologize because I was all being a dick-kind on the phone… but she didn't answer the phone. That shit drove me insane.

"Lost Love Stays Lost" is strictly about that: there are lost loves who stay lost, see you later… But I met her again, later on, at this crazy ass show… and she ended up naming her son Audio Science… We're friends now, we kick it and stuff. It's cool, we're both older. But "Lost Love Stays Lost" is about that. And if you look at your GSL "I'm always recovering from tomorrow" EP vinyl in the light, you'll see that there's like a crazy engraved dedication to her on the vinyl, like "For SS from ST, courtesy of GSL", because if it wasn't for Sonny Kay from GSL and Thavius and her, I probably wouldn't have made this record or walk around alive today. But lost love may be returned again, ladies and gentlemen. And if it stays lost, then find some more love, because if you live in France, there's girls everywhere! (laughs)

HHC: Apart from your last album, what would you be your very own favorite piece of work?

S: For solo stuff, it'd be "Lost Love Stays Lost", because there was a lot of emotion that went into that record and it was like a journal. And then, of course, LabWaste. I've been dreaming of collaborating with Thav for 9 years and we finally did that record…

Interview by Cobalt
Introduction by Billyjack
Photos by Kreme
December 2006

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