„Everything in HipHop is somehow recreated“ // The Four Owls Interview

four owls at flex vienna

Die Four Owls sind seit ihrem Österreich-Debüt am Krunk-Festival 2013 regelmäßige, gern gesehene Gäste geworden und fänden das Flex inzwischen wohl auch ohne Navi. Nachdem im vergangenen Jahr mit „Natural Order“ Album Nummer zwei erschienen war, wurde dieses bereits zum zweiten Mal in der Hauptstadt zum Besten gegeben – erneut restlos ausverkauft! Während die Crowd gerade mit HipHop-Classics auf Betriebstemperatur gebracht wird, sitzen die High-Focus-Aushängeschilder ganz entspannt im bereits leicht vernebelten Backstagebereich. Die Stimmung ist gut, auch wenn man den Eulen anmerkt, dass sie schon eine ganze Weile auf Tour sind. Obwohl der Auftritt bereits kurz bevorsteht und alles andere als ruhige Interview-Atmosphäre herrscht, nehmen sich BVAFliptrix, Leaf Dog und Verb T Zeit. Ein Gespräch über die Verantwortung als Musiker, das verflixte zweite Album, realen HipHop und die Attribute eines guten MCs.

Interview: Emil Delivuk
Foto: Niko Havranek

The Message: You are touring (almost) all of Europe at the moment, what has changed in your live shows and performance?
BVA
: Being on tour is never business as usual, every crowd is different and challenging.
Verb T:  We just know the songs better and get more familiar with the material. It’s just more effortless so rather than thinking about the songs, it’s more about what we are doing on stage physically and how we make the crowd move.

Many artists say that the second album is the hardest, what was different compared to “Nature’s Greatest Mystery”?
Fliptrix
: I agree with you so much about that. The first one was just natural. We wrote the lyrics in two weeks and we didn’t even realize that we made something special. For “Natural Order” we made a lot more songs and took more time over it. In the end we were all happy with the result.

Was it hard to get back together as the Owls after those two years working on solo projects?
BVA
: Finding back into the mood was easy, but we had to force ourselves to spend time in the studio together to work on it.
Leaf Dog: This one, we actually wrote together more than the first one.
Fliptrix: With this one we were all sitting together and planned to dedicate certain days to doing it. It’s not easy because we all have our own life going on. But you make better music that way, which you can hear when you listen to the songs.

You chose the Owl, known for wisdom, to represent your crew. What makes animals especially attractive as symbols?
BVA
: Animals are the only ones that live in peace with the planet. They don’t need all the bullshit we need. I’ve never seen a squirrel collecting a million nuts.
Verb T: Also our behavior towards animals should be questioned. We just let species become extinct because we say that we need this or that land for something.

„Musicians are the politicians of our era and that’s even more scary.“

Looking at the refugee crisis, what can be done to  make people think twice?
Leaf Dog
:  If I was stuck in a war, I would want to leave. It’s not on us to say: ”You cannot come to somewhere safe.” They want us to hate each other. But politics is deep. I always try not to involve myself to much into it and rather spread good vibes.
BVA: I think many problems could be fixed between five or six countries, but they choose not to.

What part can music play in overcoming stereotypical thinking and giving new perspectives?
Leaf Dog
: You can change the world or you can break it. Musicians are the politicians of our era and that’s even more scary (laughs).
Verb T: I think you have to remember that people have you literally inside their heads. What you are saying as a musician is going to affect people. That doesn’t mean that you have to talk strictly positive, but that you should be real. If more people would express how they actually feel rather than how they think that they should feel the world would be a better place. To be unsure what’s real and what is not makes people paranoid.

Does that put you under pressure when you write?
Leaf Dog
: There is a social responsibility I only just realized. At the beginning you don’t think that anyone is going to listen to you rap. I honestly didn’t think that we would be doing that for our living.  Now it’s different! For example I don’t like to promote heavy drug-use so much anymore. Some people think I’m all about that which is bullshit.

Listening to your tracks one gets the feeling that you reflect about your lives and society around you, a lot. How do you deal with possible accuses of being hypocritical?
Verb T
: I think sometime it is not hypocrite even if it seems like it because we all change, learn and become a completely different person over time. The best thing is to always keep an open mind because there are infinite possibilities of improvement – for all of us. A lot of the time you change for the better I think.

Leaf Dog, you just talked about promoting drug abuse in your music …
Leaf Dog
: That sounds so bad! (laughs)

In Control you also address the stigmatization of addicts in our society. What’s your opinion on the legalization of certain drugs from this point of view?
Verb T
:  I think people are doing drugs either way. I have family members who have seen people going from point A way down the line. It’s an actual sickness and people are often too quick to dismiss someone, which is not helpful in regaining access to society. The most important thing is that you have someone there to help when people get out of hand with addiction.
Fliptrix: I think legalization can be a positive thing as long as people are also getting educated into the substances. Criminalizing people for substances they take and putting them in jail is not a good way to handle it. It ruins lives because most of them can’t get a job and at the same time don’t get the treatment they need. But the prison system is a business, so that might be an important reason for the attitude of the state.
Leaf Dog: I could also imagine that if certain drugs were legal, it would not be cool anymore for many kids, but I’m not sure about that.

You deal with the societal inequality in your music a lot. BVA, on “All My Life” you rap “Money’s a bitch it turns kids into fucking dicks”. How did growing up in a strongly class-segregated society influence you?
BVA
:  That bar comes from seeing rich people being unhappy as well. At the same time it turns many people into dickheads!
Leaf Dog: In my opinion we should forget about class, race, nation and all that bullshit. All of that is just another way to divide us. We rapped about it on the last album because we were just poor. It was not so much a political intention.

Do you think we could overcome class thinking without overcoming the inequality?
BVA
: Yeah, everyone can change the way they think, there is certain things that wouldn’t have to change – we wouldn’t have to be completely equal.
Leaf Dog: It’s always going to be that way. People are always going to be rich and others are going to be poor. I just believe it’s about not letting that affect you and change your thinking because of your status.

That sounds like a pessimistic attitude towards the world’s inequality …
Fliptrix
: I think anything can happen, it’s about our mindset.
Leaf Dog: Realistically nothing is going to change. Maybe I am the pessimist but always someone is going to be richer than someone else. What could change is the way we see it – it matters!
BVA: It’s about finding joy in the life you are living and making the most of it. But I agree that your status is affecting that.

Back to music: On your shows you always promote “real hip hop”, what is fake hip hop?
Leaf Dog
: Fake hip hop would be making hip hop-music, because you think it’s going to make money. So technically any style and genre of HipHop could be real, as long as it is real to you. A lot of people say:”Oh this is working, so I’m going to do it!” You are keeping it wrong! Keeping it real is being original. Even though everything in HipHop is somehow recreated, you can pick from the best and do it in your own way. If we would do a trap album, that would be us making fake music.
Verb T: But at the same time, if you are a trap person, then making a trap album would be real (laughs)

Verb, you took place in some Don’t Flop battles in the past. What defines a good MC on the stage and in a battle?
Verb T
: Performance. If you go on stage and you can really perform that’s an attribute you have to have as an MC. The best MC’s in the battle scene are great performers. They know how to connect with the crowd and get a reaction. What I took to the stage from the whole battle experience is the atmosphere in a pit, where you can’t hide anything and always have to be on your top level!

High Focus is one of biggest players in European hip hop, what makes your label so special?
Fliptrix
: Especially the selection of artists and how it’s built-up. The output is all from the heart, original and it is just a very diverse collective of creative individuals doing what they love. The fact that there are many big label-shows might also make it special! (all agree)

Im Juni sind The Four Owls noch für weitere fünf Konzerte in Österreich: in Dornbirn, Innsbruck, Linz, Graz und St. Pölten.

Ein Review zum Konzert gibt es hier.
Das Interview vom Krunk-Festival 2013 hier.

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