By: Giovannah Chiu
The prolific career of producer El-P is one full of trails blazed specifically in the genre of alternative hip-hop, and with his new album, I'll Sleep When You're Dead, Trent Reznor, Cat Power, The Mars Volta, and Aesop Rock lend their sound to El-P's vision. We caught up with him at the Middle East in Cambridge at a smashing concert put on by Boston-based Leedz Edutainment on May 1st, 2007.
1. What are you feeling in terms of music, art and design these days?
"I am pretty wrapped up in my own music right now. I have been running around the world with it. I am into the new NIN album though. In terms of art, I just discovered this artist while I was on tour in Germany. His name is Max Beckman. He isn't a new artist, he was actually big in the 1940's. He was influenced by WWII and his art is all about simplifying oneself. The art is very dark and surreal and consists of multi-characters. "
2.How would you describe your personal style?
"I am more of a jeans and t-shirt type of guy. I have a subtle style. I am pretty low key with fashion."
3. What are your favorite clothing brands and why?
"It's not that I am not fashion conscious. I actually go way back with E-wok and the guys from Scifen, he did the back of my album in 1997. As much as I like the stuff I am just not into it that much."
4. You come from a musical background with your father beign a jazz musician, do you feel that his had any influence in your decision to pursue a music career?
"Yeah definitely... for the first 7 years when my dad was around he would play the piano at home and had lots of parties where I played the drums with him. I had the good fortune to be involved with instruments from a young age that way. As opposed to just listening to music, I was a part of it."
5. Your music has been described as "alternative hip-hop". Did you intend to produce hip-hop as an alternative to standard hip-hop? And if so, why?
"I never really felt like I wanted to be part of the general anything. Music, style, writing...it's art and shouldn't be repetitious. I am just weird... I have my own perspective on everything. Being in school, a graffitti writer, a musician, it didn't matter what I was I always had my own view on things. It so ingrained, like the old school hip-hop mentality....If I trust myself to go there then I am happy. I just never conformed."
6. Since the release of FunCrusher, when you were part of Company Flow, your music has made waves in the underground hip-hop scene. This particular album was deemed revolutionary due to its creative lyrics and complex composition. What would you say is the general message you are inclined to put forth when you are writing lyrics?
"I don't have a general message. My lyrics are a translation of the human experience and the fucked up complications of life. It's about the grime [and the] tumultuous records people listen to that never have stock lyrics. My lyrics are also about searching. I am always searching for something. With my lyrics I try to make sense out of chaos."
7. What influences the rhythmic, and what seems at times hypnotizing sounds sounds of your tracks on "I'll Sleep When You're Dead"?
"It is a hodge podge of influences. I am 32 years old and have been influenced by so many different things I don't even know where one thing comes from sometimes. I hear so much more when I listen to music, I have the bars, the syncopation, and I play with all the parts."
8. Tell me a little about Definitive Jux, and what you envision for the future of the label?
"We want to help build a culture of music to give answers and a platform to the most creative and the most creative to make records. The kind of records that will stick around for decades, not disposable music."
9. Ok, so leave us with something... a quote, some words of wisdom or a big F-you of sorts.
"The more you think you know, the more I think you are an asshole!"