„I love animals“ // Aesop Rock Interview

Aesop_Rock_2_by_Ben_Colen
Aesop Rock by Ben Colen

Einzigartigkeit kann man Aesop Rock nicht absprechen: Seit zwanzig Jahren herrscht bei der Crowd Rätselraten, wenn der New Yorker ans Mic steppt und kryptische Zeile an kryptische Zeile packt. Mit seinem Wortschatz schlägt er nicht nur seine Kollegen um Längen, sondern auch William Shakespeare. Vor wenigen Wochen veröffentlichte Aesop Rock sein neues Album „The Impossible Kid“ – ein Album mit dem Beweis, dass sein Pool an Vokabeln noch lange nicht ausgeschöpft ist. Im Interview mit The Message spricht der Rhymesayers-Rapper über seine Verbindung zu Tony Hawk, Schnitzel und „Game of Thrones“.

The Message: I’m a kid of the nineties and I first came into touch with your music because of “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4”, which featured your track “Labor”.  What is your relationship with the “Tony Hawk” games?
Aesop Rock:
I loved these games.  I grew up skating and the skate video game history was always a little bleak. There was “California Games”, and then there was “Skate or Die 1” and “2”.  “2” was actually pretty fun at the time. In hindsight, it was pretty ridiculous.  Arcades had 720 which was amazing to see at the time but realistically pretty bad.  There were a couple others out there too, but ultimately nothing that really spoke to skateboarders.  The “Tony Hawk” series was gigantic for me. I couldn’t believe it when it came out.  Having music in a couple of them was fantastic. But I would’ve played them regardless, constantly.  I pretty much did every achievement in most of those games – up until maybe the one with the skateboard controller.  I was also mad nice at the park editor. I had talked to Neversoft at one point about putting some of my homemade parks in the game.  I also went to E3 with those guys one year, it was awesome.  They even took my photo to make me a playable character but it never quite came together.  To be honest I can’t remember much of the individual boards or which version of the game they were from.  Eventually the “Skate“ games came out and it felt a little more realistic, while the Hawk series was getting more and more arcade-y.  But they were huge.

In “Blood Sandwich”, you are telling two stories about your brothers. What childhood story are your brothers always telling about you?
We have a bunch that always get recycled at family gatherings.  There’s a great home video of my older brother smashing my face with a boogie board – and I let out the most insane, blood-curdling scream ever, and then he yells “YOU DESERVED IT!”.  That’s more of a moment than a story but god it’s funny. Also one time – my younger brother and I had pet hamsters.  It was Christmas Eve, he and I were sharing a room because we had relatives over.  We didn’t bother moving both cages, I just put my hamster in with his hamster’s cage.  So middle of the night the hamsters start beefing and they are essentially fighting to the death.  I wake up and reach in to grab mine, and it bites the shit out of me: I’m bleeding everywhere and crying.  I run out of my room to the bathroom, and happen to have to cross through the living room where the tree was.  My dad happened to be in there putting out presents, santa clause style.  He sees me and he’s yelling “get out of here! Get out of here now!” and i’m crying and clenching my bloody hand just trying to get to the bathroom.  He didn’t want me to see him set the gifts up, but didn’t know I had been mauled.  It was a mess.  Good times.

“The Tony Hawk series was gigantic for me”

I read that you like Schnitzel very much, which is a typical Austrian food. What is the story behind it?
When I first moved to San Francisco, there was a restaurant called  “Schnitzelhaus” right near me – so oddly I had a lot of schnitzel in those days.

Aesop_Rock_5_by_Ben_Colen
(c) Ben Colen

You are into “Game of Thrones”.  Why and what are your expectations for season 6?
Oh man.  I’m open to anything that could possibly happen.  I guess I have my theories, and I admittedly read up on all the speculated theories out there.  I don’t wanna say anything that could spoil it for anyone – but it’s maybe the first show ever where you could put all these wild speculations out there and you just might be right.  OR it could be something none of us are thinking.  What a show, thought. I kinda can’t even believe how good it is.

What are your thoughts on the “Deadwood” movie and on the new season of “Twin Peaks”? Is there any television series you would recommend us right now?
I used to watch the original “Twin Peaks” when it first aired, and I loved it – but honestly haven’t re-watched it since.  I haven’t followed the new one at all.  “Deadwood” is probably, besides “Thrones”, my favorite ever – or at least top 5.  I would absolutely love to see a movie.  More than that I’d love to just have more seasons.  Happy to hear that Ian McShane was cast in “Game of Thrones” this season.

Is there any television series you would recommend us right now?
I just watched that show “Fortitude” on Amazon. It was very good.  Modern day murder mysteries aren’t really my thing, but It kinda felt a little Twin Peaks-y, and it was just fun all around.

You have tattooed “Must Not Sleep, Must Warn Others” on your arms. Recently, you have tweeted: “Presidential race review: These politicians is crazy!” How would you warn the people about these politicians?
I mean there’s not much I can do.  It’s also one of those things where watching the debates and such it seems like these people are more insane than any batch we’ve ever had. BUT maybe it’s always like that.  We only see these things every four years, and in every one I can remember I always walk away thinking “who are these weirdos”.  It’s hard to really tell if one is crazier than another.  That said – this time around is a real gem – holy shit.   But yeah, there’s not much I can warn people about.  Everyone sees it, nobody has a real solution. I think many of us are just waiting for the whole system to implode and reset.

“Many of us are just waiting for the whole system to implode and reset”

What is your relationship to the former Def Jux artists at the moment? What happened to the “Two of Every Animal” project with Cage?
I have love for everyone, but generally tend to keep to myself.  The “Two of Every Animal” project was a conversation we had about doing something that ultimately didn’t materialize. It wasn’t really for any reason. Maybe the idea just got publicized way before we even knew if anything would happen with it.

Jeremy Fish made the artwork of your last project; Alex Pardee drew the artwork of  “The Impossible Kid”. What is your connection to both of them and why have you chosen Alex Pardee for drawing the artwork?
Both are good friends and great artists.  Jeremy did my solo record in 2007  and has since done some shirts and poster for me.  He also did the cover of me and Homeboy Sandman’s project last year.  Alex is another guy I’ve done some stuff with, posters, shirts, etc.  but had never really gone too deep on a whole project with. I knew Alex could knock this one out of the park.  I really wanted him to take some of my ideas and exaggerate it all into a whole world. And that’s exactly what he did.  A guy like Alex isn’t just gonna draw a cover, he is able to elevate the entire project.  It’s really something special, and I’m lucky to work with him.  I’ve worked with a lot of awesome visual artists over the years.

Aesop_Rock_4_by_Ben_Colen
(c) Ben Colen

Can you tell us something about the circumstances of your first releases “Music for Earthworms” and  “Appleseed”?
Those were just homemade CDs from my early 20s.  We would record when we could and I compiled some of what we were doing for the “Earthworms” CD, and would sell it around NY at shows and such, just hand-to-hand, or maybe sell a couple to a store here or there.  Very low-budget, we burned them ourselves.  Dub-L did most of “Earthworms”.  I don’t see him that often but we may run into each other every handful of years.  Apple Seed was after that – I had gotten my own digital 8 track at that time, and was recording at my house, making my little beats, etc.  Basically the same idea, although we ended up getting help getting the CDs duped that time.  I want to say there was only ever 150 Earthworms CDs, and maybe 2000 Apple Seeds originally.   Both were CDRs too, not even real CDs.  Green bottoms, no art.  I still sometimes make new “Apple Seeds” for tour.

“My entire life has been a reaction to feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere”

“Paranoia” is the first word on the track “Vertigo” with Homeboy Sandman. What makes you feel paranoid nowadays?
I’d say mostly just human interaction in general.  I think my go-to emotion is feeling overwhelmed with the world.  I tend to write from that point of view a lot.  I kind of feel like everything is just more complicated than it needs to be.

Many people are using “Genius” as a tool for understanding your lyrics. What is your opinion on “Genius”?
It seems cool and I’m glad people are into it, but to be honest I’ve never really spent any time on it, so I have no idea what is being said about my work.

How would you describe the background of the “Lice” project with Homeboy Sandman?
Sandman is a friend and rapper I like.  We spoke on tour about trying to bang some songs out, and started passing beats back and forth.  I think the general idea was to just have fun and make some fly shit with no pressure.  It had been so long since I’d rapped on beats that weren’t my own. I was happy to just pick some and stick to the rapping.  I liked the idea of having something free to put out there, and ultimately just had a good time with the whole thing.

How would you describe your connection to the society – if you think how you expressed your feelings about it in songs like “Castles”, “Leisureforce”, “Gopher Guts” or “I Went out Today”?  Has anything changed in the last years?
I dunno.  I just feel overwhelmed.  My entire life has been a reaction to feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere.  I find my way forward as best I can. But I guess the difficulties of navigating this stuff kinda seep into what I write.  But maybe we’re all confused and I’m just a big baby about it.  In fact that’s probably the case.

“Sometimes I think he thinks I’m nuts”

What was the role of Blockhead for your progress as a producer?
He’s a close friend – and when he got his first sampler we both sort of sat there figuring it out together.  I ultimately concentrated more on the rhymes in those days, so my beat-making wasn’t as much of an everyday thing. Maybe he also just had more of a knack for it off the bat. He has great ear for melodies and piecing together samples from many sources.  On my recent records where I’ve been producing them myself, he still serves as a giant help in that he hears almost every song in every stage.  He tends to be the kinda producer that works a beat to completion fairly confidently, whereas I will tinker around for a very long time.  Sometimes I think he thinks I’m nuts: because I’ll send him 20 versions of something and be like “i altered the hi-hat, is this wack?” But we just came into music together so he’s always kinda served as a co-pilot in one way or another.

How important was your time in a cabin in the deep woods for the sound of “The Impossible Kid”? How was the influence of this environment on your lyrics?
It was a nice getaway. It was in the woods – but “deep” in the woods is pushing it.  I just kinda exaggerated that narrative in the storytelling of the whole project.  But it was fairly secluded for me in comparison to how I’d been living for a long time.  Honestly it was great, just quiet and enabled me to work everyday. Sometimes boring but pretty beautiful.  I think I just sat and reflected on things a lot there, and that may be why there is a bunch of material that with that type of tone on the record.  Ultimately I moved back to a city environment to finish writing and recording everything, but the woods definitely made for a nice starting point.

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