Exclusive Interview with Dessa Darling of DOOMTREE

Dessa Darling of DOOMTREE talks No Kings, Stage Fright, and That Being Famous is Worth at Least Five-hundred Bucks

Wes: Listening to the new album, No Kings, I hear reference to the ten-year mark. Is that the decided mark for the collective being together?

Dessa: Well, yes, but DOOMTREE came out of a lot of really long friendships, so marking when the collective starts is always a 12-24 month discrepancy between us. The core of DOOMTREE started about ten years ago, and it grew to it’s current roster as it is now from there.

Wes: When you all set out so long ago, did DOOMTREE as a collective have any specific goals in mind, or was it more of a haze and the idea of seeing how far you can push this envelope?

POS: I think that is more true to it. I know some of us came in to it like we just wanted to make music. Like, when I was 14 I wanted a van because I knew I was going to want to be out touring. I don’t even think that right now there is a goal. It’s more, “ Can we do this? Can we keep doing this?”

Dessa: To some extent you have some friends with dreams about living as artists. It starts just becoming a vehicle for that. DOOMTREE was a business and an entity that we built to help us reach those personal ambitions. There aren’t exactly a lot of major label reps coming to shows in Minneapolis, so you start to do that for yourself in this market instead of waiting to be discovered. I think the dudes started DOOMTREE as a way of getting stuff done and building the support that we needed to make music well and distribute it effectively. 

Wes: What’s the feeling that you got making this album? When I listen to some of it, I get the impression that there is a bit of swagger and even a slight chip on your shoulders. The Grand Experiment, Bolt Cutters, No Way, I get the impression it is a bit more assertive, aggressive. Is there some of that in this intentionally or does it just come out?

Dessa: I think that is part of it. I also think that kind of message can be expanded to talk about finding your own way in to not just the independent rap game, but as a way in your personal relationships, how you make a living, and how you decide to spend your money and your time. It’s about charting your own course and making up your own mind and resisting some of the hierarchical that want you to conform to a pre-written game plan. I think No Kings is about living your life independently. I guess that relates to rapping to, but we’ve got some pretty non-traditional lifestyles amongst us and it takes you a while to embrace that brand of independent thinking. This album was about that mode of thought and mode of conducting yourself. 

(unfortunately we lost POS on the line, but Dessa posted up and took it from here)

Wes: After scraping for fans and venues and sales for so long, DOOMTREE is pretty well established as a group and independent artists. Do you feel a bit freer or less anxious knowing this foundation of fans will support and rep the group, coming out to your shows?

Dessa: I think it would be really tough to land in a totally secure place in the music business. It’s naturally turbulent. The industry changes, the taste changes, so if you have a desire to be a part of it, you have to develop a stomach for the turbulence. Ultimately, you need to find some satisfaction in just making music you believe in. It’s the only factor you can control, the music you make, but you can’t ever control how that music is received. For me it took a while to get used to the idea that you’re not secure now and you might never be secure. Just don’t spend all the money you make, because you might not make any more, and then you’ve got to learn to extract all the satisfaction that you can from the music you make. 

Wes: With so many individuals coming together with such different sounds, how does the collaborative process for an album like No Kings come together?

No Kings, released Nov. 22, 2011

Dessa: It is a pretty organic process that emerges through the record making journey for us. On this record, Cecil Otter, Lazerbeak, Paper Tiger, and POS collaborated on the production with Cecil Otter really taking a leadership role. They made the beats together, and for a week the emcees went together to a cabin in the woods and sequestered ourselves with the beats and played them on repeat on the house speakers for hours until we had a concept that we could all get in to. Everyone pieced together their verses or would work collaboratively on a chorus until the song was done. It’s not a matter of each member of the band having to sign off on whether we all like each track. If you’re dissatisfied then you voice that satisfaction and you make little tweaks. 

This album was a bit more cohesive because each member was able to decide their own level of involvement in the album. We were really worried about making the best songs we could instead of making sure everybody has the same amount of verses on every song, which can very easily homogenize and dilute a good record. We didn’t worry about equal representation. We just worried about making the best songs that we could.

Wes: Has it is always been this easy to make an album, with this organic process in the past, or was this album a little easier to make than others in the past?

Dessa: I have to say that this one was easier. Writing collaboratively has been a real grind for DOOMTREE in the past. It’s just hard. It’s like trying to ride a bike with four other people; I’m sure it can be done, but it’s really tough to get this thing pointed in the right direction and moving steadily. For this record we tried to find different methods of working together to reexamine the processes we were using to collaborate. Locking ourselves in a cabin was a totally different way of working things out. In the past, you’d make a beat, or a lyrics, and email it to somebody else. Maybe they’d write a chorus or maybe they’d forget all about it. Months would go by of this piece meal, halting progress. Where, with this record, we had a very definite deadline. We started it and released it within nine months. We knew that what didn’t happen at that cabin, didn’t get done. There was no internet access and no reliable phone coverage. You didn’t have any distractions. You were really forced to stay at the grindstone. If I weren’t sequestered in that cabin, I might be tempted to say, “I’m not getting anything done today. I’m gonna go work on something else.” Because I couldn’t do anything else, we got the bulk of the writing done for the record.

Wes: I’m sitting here imaging a Shining moment. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Dessa: Booze helps. (laughs) We’d wake up and make breakfast, and then we’d turn on beats and loop them for hours, bang out our verses, have lunch, bang out some more verses, and by the time night fell, we’d usually set up a mic in a closet and we’d demo everything we’d written that day to make sure we’d captured it. We can decide who’s verse should come first. Then we’d wake up and do the same thing again. 

Wes: Are these albums still started in a closet? I’m a fan of yours on Facebook, and I see references to closets and mics, is that still where things start or is the work getting done in the studio.

Dessa: We do most of our recording with Joe Mabbott at the Hideaway Studio. He works on a lot of the great music that comes out of Minnesota. I don’t like recording my lyrics in studio, so I record all of my lyrics in my closet. 

Wes: With everything made, written, created for No Kings, are there any lyrics, or beats that went the way of the Dodo? I know you guys have never done it, but is there anything lying around for a B-sides type of release?

Dessa: It was Darwinian in the sense that a particular lyric or particular beat wasn’t best adapted for this project. There are a couple beats that didn’t make the record that I wanna try to rap on. There were a couple of Paper Tiger beats that I thought were awesome. They maybe didn’t fit the aesthetic that was gelling for No Kings, but it wasn’t a decision of quality as much as it was about consistency. 

Wes: For you as an artist, is a track ever done? Are you ever really satisfied with a song or is it a matter of having to just walk away and stop tweaking? If you tweak forever then you’ll never release anything.

Dessa: Yeah, I think it can be tough to call a track “done” sometimes, because I tend to tweak and re-tweak the tiniest detail. Other times I think “this track is pretty damn close to what I hoped it would do,” but not I need to go and think up a new world to fill because I don’t want to achieve the same objective twice. The mountain summit does sometimes jump away from you every time you’re getting close, you never quite reach it, but other times you are proud of that one, sit there for five minutes, and then try to write the next one.

Wes: Is there still the nerves when you release an album like this, either as a solo or collaborative project?

Dessa: I can’t speak for the rest of the group, but I still get stage fright. I still get weird and anxious before I got to record. I can be headed to my closet to record and think of a million reason to put it off. Man, I should really…dust. I can invent reasons not to do it, because the idea of a song, an album, or a performance, is perfect right up until the moment I try to execute it. No execution can match the perfection of an idea. I am human. I am limited and flawed. I only have so much range in my voice, only so much breath, I only have so much energy. The idea in my head, I never hit a flat note in my head. I’m never off beat in my head.

Wes: Is DOOMTREE a working model for supporting fellow artists through collaboration? You kind of bucked the trend by being a bunch of individual artists that came together, unlike the bands that start together and then break off to explore a solo career.

Dessa: Yeah, when I joined DOOMTREE, a lot of business friends of mine would tell me how unsustainable this was, but it kept unsustaining itself. I think we’ve got a lot of years ahead of us. A lot of that comes from flexibility. We’re willing to change what being in DOOMTREE means. Maybe it doesn’t mean we need to put out an album every two years. Maybe we just put one out when we have a good album. Maybe we don’t have to have cameos on all of each others stuff. Maybe it just means each of us helps support the work of the others. When I put out my record, Lazerbeak was enormously involved. When SIMS put out his record, I wrote the press releases, and Paper Tiger did the one-sheets. I think being in DOOMTREE is about believing in each other’s work and sharing resources and skills, and that’s really all it has to be. We’re preparing for a new Lazerbeak record, and he and I are going to go drink beers tonight and put all his press materials together. 

Wes: Getting to the meat of it, what can fans expect from a full crew stage show when they come out to see you on tour starting in January?

Dessa: I think there are moments where each of us in a DOOMTREE set gets to express our styles. You’ll see Cecil Otter take the stage, and you’ll see him do something like Rebel Yellow, and it is unmistakably Cecil Otter. Generally, the set for this tour will be really collaborative. It’s not like anything else in my life to be up on stage with DOOMTREE. It’s athletic, it’s unflagging, and we’ll do more than two hours of music in all likelihood, and by the end of it all of us have sweat through our T-shirts and you can see the tenderness between us. We look like friends. There will be moments of absolute abandon. One of us will take a stray elbow because we are jumping so hard. Mike Mictlan will be getting passed over head by hand. It’s a great dynamic range and you can tell that we are people that are doing this that love the hell out of each other. 

Wes: Looking back on where you started and where you are now, can you put your finger on any moment where you kinda stepped back and went, “wow, this is real”?

Dessa: There was one moment with SIMS on tour. We were traveling in a van with all of our gear, it was all of us or at least most of us, and SIMS got a call from VISA, because he owed them money. He gets out of the van to handle the call. He was pacing around, talking and talking and talking. We’re all waiting so we can get back in the van so we can go. He gets back in the van and says he told these people that as soon as he gets back from tour I got you, but there is no amount of conversation that we can have that will allow me to pay you before I get back from this tour. So, the VISA people are asking, ok, what kind of tour is it, when do you get back, when can we expect to get paid? SIMS says it’s a musical tour and the guy on the other end says, “Wait, is this SIMS from DOOMTREE?” And I remember SIMS’ VISA bill was cut in half by the end of the conversation. The guy asked, “Are you on tour with Dessa? Are you on tour with Stef?” and we all said hi on the phone and I just remember that SIMS’ 50% discount on his credit card seemed like the height of fame to me. Like, this is just as good as it gets. It was just the first time where it really seemed to matter in someone’s life. I was so excited for SIMS that he didn’t have to pay a big bill, and I was so excited by the idea that someone in a far away call center knew who we were, and even that he cared if we were going to put out another record. It’s not really a celebrity moment, but that one really sticks out in my head.

Wes: So I have to ask, what is on the horizon from the members of DOOMTREE that we can look forward to in the coming year?

Dessa: Yes. I just listened to Stef’s (POS) new album…it is brave and bold and amazing. You are going to be able to hear, I think, a preview of that, some of the songs, at the LA show. Cecil Otter is working on a project, a solo disc, and that is called Porcelain Revolver. Lazerbeak is also going to have a new record coming out in the third week of January called Lava Bangers, so that will actually be on the merch table by the LA show, too.

Thanks to Dessa for taking the time to talk with us. For more information on No Kings, tour dates, DOOMTREE, Dessa, or anyone else in the collective, just visit doomtree.net for all the info worth having.

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Grieves and Budo: Interview From Warped Tour 2011

Grieves and Budo sit down with DisarrayMagazine.com to discuss Warped Tour, the pressure of releasing their first album under the Rhymesayer family umbrella, and fuckin’ mix tapes.

DM: “Together/Apart,” the new album, released right before jumping onto the Warped Tour, right?

Grieves: Like three days before. Yeah, it’s been crazy.

DM: Everything on the album seems pretty personal. Do you rap to tell other people’s stories, your stories, or a little of both?

 Grieves: Everything I talk about is personally related to my life, you know, like what I’ve experienced. I can’t really make shit up, but I touch on subjects that I’m familiar with. A lot of the stuff manifests itself in the record.

 DM: The division of responsibilities? Is it just beats (Budo) and lyrics (Grieves)? We saw you on the guitar today, but I’ve seen you play a trumpet in the past, too.

 Budo: Yeah, I usually play the trumpet, too. I bought a new skateboard in El Paso and two hours later it went on an excursion across a K Mart parking lot and I fucking fell on my face, busted my lip open, so I can’t play the trumpet right now.

 Grieves: I make some of the music, too. I made a couple of the beats on “Together/Apart.” Same on “88 Keys [and counting],” and on “Irreversible” I did most of them.

 Budo: Even on the beats that I make, or the ones we make together, it is a collaborative process. It is very much a process of writing songs together and there is no prescribed formula by which we go about. It’s not like I sit down and make a beat and send it to him and he writes a rap. It’s very much, especially on this last record, it was a very multi-faceted approach. We didn’t limit ourselves to one particular method of making music. So, some of the songs were ones that we would go in to the studio, sit down, and literally craft together from silence to a full song. Then, some of them were skeletons of beats that I sent over to him and he would write a little bit to ‘em, send ‘em back, and then we would go in to the studio and add parts together. Some of them, like “On The Rocks,” in particular, and some others like “Sunny Side of Hell,” and other tracks, that’s all him. It’s very much, whatever works. We kind of, I think, function very well by not limiting ourselves to one particular way of doing it, because that gets stale, I think.

 DM: So with that, are there songs you’ve been banking to get on an album eventually, or is it just start fresh with a clean slate on this record?

Grieves: Yeah, “Heartbreak Hotel” was made before “Irreversible.” Yeah, I just couldn’t ever do it. I couldn’t sing it. I had it produced. I had it written, but I just couldn’t execute it. So I waited until I could, because I love the song so much, and I waited until I could execute that song the way I wanted it, which was more recently after learning how to sing a little more.

 Budo: Same with “Greedy Bitch” on “88 Keys.” That had been around for a little while. That was probably the same session that “Heartbreak Hotel” came from, right?

 Grieves: Nah, I think that was one of the first songs I wrote after I got off the Atmosphere tour. Yeah, it as the first song I wrote when I got off that tour. That’s in that same batch when I wrote “Bloody Poetry.” So, yeah, there’s another older song as well.

 DM: So these weren’t songs sitting around getting dusty, but it was something you shelved and then this time around you thought, “Let’s see if we can get these done right.”

Grieves and Budo

Grieves: Yeah, we recreated these songs. Well, Heartbreak stayed the same, but “Bloody Poetry” was originally over a different beat. The beat ended up getting used by a different rapper so I canned the song. Then Budo took the a cappella off of it and made a completely different beat, a completely different feel, and then we fell in love with the song again. It is way better than it originally was, I love that song now.

 DM: So what brought you from Colorado to Seattle?

 Grieves: The need of change, man. I had to get the fuck out of there. I love that place, but I didn’t see myself going anywhere. I don’t mean career-wise, I mean life-wise. I needed to leave, I was too familiar with everything and everyone, and not in a good way. So I just had to get out.

 DM: So how long before you moved down to California after that?

 Grieves: In 2008 I moved down to San Diego. Then in ‘09-’10 I moved to New York, and now I’m back in Seattle.

 DM: Does that city resonate with you, Seattle or New York, San Diego, or is that no matter what city you’re in you’ll still be you?

 Grieves: Those rainy days might have something to do with it [the music].

 Budo: What’s interesting, this record, if you really want to identify a region that it came from, it was a New York record. We were both in New York, I was there for about two years and he was there for a year and a half, and that was the period of time that the album took shape. He moved back to Seattle about a year ago, now.

 DM: Now with getting on Rhymesayers, is that seal of approval for you? A gold star, if you will?

 Grieves: Oh, hell yeah. I don’t know, it’s a hell of an accomplishment, I’ll tell you that much. No one is doing it like those guys are. So, the fact that they want to put their logo on your record is a big fuckin’ deal to me, at least. I live it that world, I looked up to those guys, and I still do. Those guys on the label, those are my fuckin’ idols, man.

 DM: So with signing with them was there a little added pressure with “Together/Apart” being you Rhymesayers debut album?

 Grieves: Yeah, this is our debut album on Rhymesayer, we wanna do good. I don’t know, at the same time there wasn’t that much pressure because they wouldn’t have picked us up if what we were doing didn’t make any sense. So, it’s not like they are like, “look, you need to change your sound, and change everything about you, and make this record or you’re fucked.” Pretty much it was like, “keep doing what you’re doing. We really like it. We’re just gonna make it bigger.”

 Budo: They took a very hands off approach. They gave us a lot of space to make this record and that was really valuable in terms of the creative process because I don’t think we felt like it was this iron fist breathing down waiting for the moment of perfection. Ya know, and when we turned the record in it was definitely received well. They’ve been so warm to us from accepting the record to just treating us like family. It has been incredible; they’re family. So there is a lack of pressure.

 Grieves: Yeah, we got direction on some stuff, there were just some songs that didn’t make the cut…and we made a lot of songs.

 DM: So is there a “Together/Apart B-Sides” in the future for the fans?

 Grieves: Maybe, but we would never call it a B-Side, because I feel like that is a shitty way to get more money out of fans.

 Budo: Yeah, but I think there are certain songs that are part of the process in getting to write a song, and there is no reason to release those.

 Grieves: There is the ‘clearing the pipes’ song. You know, you haven’t made a song in a while. Sometimes that song is phenomenal because everything just explodes.

 Budo: Then the times where it suck. It’s terrible, and I think to release that would be doing your fans a disservice. It would really be underselling your brand. You only have so many chances to get people’s attention, and if you waste those chances on mediocrity then you’re fucked.

 Grieves: There is no point in selling…crap. Just because we can and we just put our names on it.

 Budo: There are people that do that. There is a definite desire for a constant stream of stuff. People want free mix tapes and free downloads every month and there is a certain section of the industry for which that is how you stay relevant with this constant stream. That is cool. That is definitely a lane that works for some people, but what we’re trying to do is to make albums and music that have a lasting impact on us and on our fans. The way you do that is by taking your time and being patient with the process.

 Grieves: And you can look at it two ways, or just anyway you want, but it’s like you can make less and have really good songs accessible, or put every song you make out there and clog the market. People will know who you are, because your songs are everywhere but maybe only four of them are good. I would rather have less music out and have all of them be really good songs instead of having a shitload of songs and people are sayin’, “he’s got a lot of shit out, but I like four or five of them.” I wouldn’t want to be that guy. I take pride in going to the studio and letting a song age. You sit with a song for a month or so, you hear it and want to change some things about, or rewrite verses or something like that. I’m all about letting a song age and grow up to become what it is before I show it to the public. We do do on the fly songs, and it’s fun for a certain purpose, but I wouldn’t want to build my career off of that because I’m all about making good music. I want you to hear my songs and say, “damn, that dude sat down and made a legitimate record,” instead of “out of the eighty songs he released this year, I like this one.”

Budo

 Budo: Because that’s the music we grew up on. It was put together, crafted. Albums, man. Albums. I love albums. I love albums that stand out as grand works of art. That’s the fuckin’ coolest thing about music to me is these big works. Not to say that we have approached that scale of grand works, but I think this album is something that has a life of it’s own. It’s this world of a lot of emotions and a lot of different textures and sounds and things that you can’t put together in a week.

 Grieves: And that’s our shit. That our trademark. Because in a world of mix tapes and stuff like that, fuck a mix tape. If I hear one more dude rapping over “Black and Yellow” on a fuckin’ mix tape with him superimposed with a city in the background I’m gonna fuckin’ slap myself. It drives me crazy. I just don’t get it. I never got the mix tape thing. I understand the concept I don’t get why it is popular. “You don’t have a mix tape? Why don’t you have a mix tape out?” Suck my fuckin’ dick. I have three fully crafted albums out of my own music.

DM: So, do you guys, and I hate to use a qualitative term like this, “best” album so far?

 Grieves: Yeah, this is our most well-rounded and crafted album.

 DM: Glad you said, because this is an incredible album.

 Budo: Thank you. I think it is the pride we feel in this album surpasses everything we’ve felt before.

 DM: Do you guys feel at home here on the Warped Tour? I know you guys have a great bus, sharing it and touring with friends like MC Lars and Weerd Science and all them, but out there on stage or with other bands, do you feel comfortable or at home here?

 Grieves: Ya know what, at the end of the day when we are all out here on our buses, grabbing shit from underneath the bays and we’re running in to each other at the catering line, we’re all doing the same thing. We’re all artists out here and we’re all trying to make a living, and we’re trying to expose our art to people. I don’t feel any different from the guys in Winds of Plague who I got to meet on this tour. They are some of the heaviest, hardcore, most metal-ass dudes, and they are the shit. They are are cool-ass dudes. I mean, I am working on a song with one of those guys. I feel like there is a lot of like minded people on the tour and people will probably get confused because of what it looks like on stage versus what you are when you are sitting on this bus, ya know. Your music is a certain projection and then you as a person is a little different, especially when you’ve got a whole band of different people up there. It’s great. I’m lovin’ the people I’m meetin’ out here.

 DM: You guys are running the whole length of the tour. What is coming up after the tour for you?

 Grieves: Full national.

 DM: Headlining?

 Grieves: Yep.

 DM: Any ideas of who might be running on that with you.

 Grieves: No.

 Budo: Yes, but we can’t say.

 DM: OK, I had to ask or my editor would kill me. With all the girls you write about, have you ever gotten the angry call or the vicious text after performing or releasing a song on an album?

 Grieves: Fuck ‘em. Fuckin’ dumbass broad showed up to my record release party and was like, “you put on a really good show. I had to leave during some of the songs.” I was like, “fuckin’ stay away then.” Shouldn’t have been here anyways, asshole.

 DM: So, I just did a piece on Atmosphere, Rhymesayers founders, and they are around 40 now, still touring and releasing incredible albums. Are you still gonna be out there at 40 jumping around and rapping?

 Grieves: If my fans let me. If my fans follow me all the way to the end I’ll fuckin’ take it there.

 DM: So the goal here isn’t to kick back in ten years, own your own label, and just put down the mic?

 Budo: Well, Sean [Slug of Atmosphere], they’re not on the road like they were on the road, but they’re still on the fuckin’ road, ya know. I think they are a great example of a band that is able to find a balance to transition in to being middle-aged dudes with families, wives, kids, dogs, homes, and all that stuff, but they’re still touring enough that they are in front of their fans a couple times a year. That’s a cool balance.

 Grieves: And what Sean does supports Rhymesayers. All his hard work, all his effort, all that touring that he does is for Rhymesayers. He is opening that up. I’m sure he knows he can’t do it forever.

 Budo: He probably doesn’t want to do it forever.

 Grieves: Rhymesayers is another one of his kids, ya know? He is working his ass off for it right now, and he has been for the last 12 years. He’s been grinding his ass off. So, that’s why being a part of Rhymesayers is an honor, because I feel like he let me in the family. That is this thing he has been building for so long, and he let us be a part of that.

 DM: That is the thing for me, as a fan, is that they call it a “family.”

 Grieves: It is. You know everybody there. Everyone is super close.

 Budo: Yeah. You [Grieves] were sayin’ this the other day. Rhymesayers has built itself on this model of providing access where they are treating fans like family, and that is something you don’t find anywhere else in the music industry. It’s a lot, that’s a big fuckin’ family, ya know?

Grieves w/ POS and Dessa

 Grieves: Well, that’s why they’re still standing. A lot of people are fallin’ right now and Rhymesayers is only getting bigger. With all that said, with this record, that is why we wanted to hit it fuckin’ hard. Because I don’t want to slow roll. With everything that is happening with Rhymesayers, I wanted to smack that fucker right out of the park. I did it the best that I could and I only wanna do it better on the next one. That’s a sense of pressure on the next one. Not in a bad way. I grew up listening to these guys. They gave me an opportunity, so I’m not gonna sluff it off. It’s not like I made it because I’m on Rhymesayers. I’ve got so much more to do, and every swing I take is gonna be a fuckin’ hit; it has to be.

 DM: With the crazy music industry, do you think people are ready in the Top 40 for a Grieves track? You guys charted Top 100, but is that a goal you set?

 Grieves: It’s not a goal.

 Budo: It happens “because.” I repeat what you’ve said time and time again [Grieves], but it is because it is comfort music. It is music that comforts us and provides comfort for other people. That means a lot of different things in a lot of different types of songs, but if the byproduct of that is that it gains widespread success, which I firmly believe it has the potential to do, that’s awesome.

 Grieves: And why the hell not? Not to be gloating or anything. Forget me, let’s put it in the hands of Atmosphere. To see Atmosphere chart in the Top 40, puts faith in me that people are still buying good music. It doesn’t have to be so cosmetic like everything is in the Top 40 and you don’t have to have these fuckin’ major bosses behind you twisting and turning the machine to force other people to like you. The fact that there is that many people to make an independent act like Atmosphere be on the Top 40, or us, or Brother Ali, or anyone on that label, that’s fuckin’ amazing. That puts faith in me that not all of this has gone to shit. It’s a different age, a different time, charting on the Billboard now is a lot different than what it was. You chart with a lot lower numbers than what you used to because people have your record already. Most of the time even before it comes out, people got your fuckin’ record. So, it’s different, but if you can gain that exposure and if other people  can see you doing that for yourself and they actually start listening to you, I think that is important.

 Budo: The number one record for the last two weeks in the country has been Bon Iver’s newest record, which is on an independent label with major distribution, but that’s a left field, odd ball record to be in that spot.

 DM: Yeah, like with Mumford & Sons sticking around the charts, right behind Gaga.

 Grieves: And that is awesome. That has got to keep happening and maybe that will shift a little bit or even out. You get enough of that and it’s like the cool kid table at lunch, and you just start slidin’ them down the bench a little bit.

 DM: Now one last question, since we’ve touched on it. “Indie” vs. “mainstream.” Is that just a moot point now in todays’ digital music landscape?

 Grieves: Independent and mainstream is not what the music is. I feel like a lot of “independent rap fans” think there is a particular sound.

 DM: That’s how I feel, too. I have heard that phrase “independent sound” and it not a sound, just business.

 Budo: Yeah, like what the fuck does that mean?

 Grieves: Go on YouTube. It is nothing but people arguing about how L’il Wayne and Soulja Boy are fuckin’ assholes and white rappers versus black rappers, and it’s fuckin’ insane, man.

 Budo: It’s those cosmetic categorizations that really have nothing to do with the music.

 Grieves: Underground versus “overground” or whatever the fuck it is.

 Budo: People think that way. I understand that you need to understand things relationally. I mean, the world is fuckin’ huge. There is 8 million kinds of cereal, 300 kinds of bottled water, 70 kinds of sunscreen, and you need to be able to compartmentalize shit to be able to function, or if you start considering all the options your brain is gonna explode. So, you need those boxes, but there is a point where the boxes are useful so you can part through the static, but there is also a point where those boxes start to become like walls towards actually forming your own opinion about something. I think the reason people state that indie music is better than mainstream or that white rappers are better than black rappers, or whatever the fuck they’re saying, is because they need definition, or they’re not thinking, whether or not they want to.

 Grieves: That shit is kinda frustrating. You see people argue over it and it’s like A: I don’t want the negativity surrounding what I do anyway. I don’t like to draw a line in any sand on anything. We had a video on MTV, and I see people go, “this is bullshit. We liked him until he had a video on MTV.” Well, here’s the thing, brother, MTV played my video and you don’t like me anymore? Would you like that song if it wasn’t on MTV? It’s like, if you like that music, why can’t somebody else like it, too? And why is it a bad thing that MTV is playing the music that you like? You hate MTV for playing the shit that you hate, but you would like them if you played the music you like, but when they play the music that you like, you hate that guy now.

 Budo: That’s frustrating, because people have been doing that since the dawn of time and that’s just the way it is.

 Grieves: I used to look at the underground thing like this: People, even with our record, it sounds really good, we spent fuckin’ $20,000 in the studio on this record and it sounds like it, and people are like, “sounds like he is giving up his underground roots.” You know what that shit is? My “underground roots” are when I didn’t have any fucking money and I was recording in my goddamned closet on a $20 microphone. That’s what you like!?

 DM: (laughs) You like low production quality? Well, I guess that’s why you have a 100 mix tapes laying around.

 Thanks so much to Grieves and Budo for giving us such a candid conversation on their tour bus. Check out the new album, people. Seriously, I am going to say it since I haven’t read it anywhere else: this might be the biggest Grammy snub if these two don’t get a nomination. Last year that title belonged to Dessa and her album, but these two have put out an album deserving of a Rhymesayers logo of approval. It was a great interview, and if you want to hear the music they are talking about on “Together/Apart” then check out Rhymesayers.com, or go to iTunes, or youtube, or your local record store to buy it all legit-like. Either way, you’re going to want to follow @grievesmusic on Twitter and like him on Facebook along with the Rhymesayers label for all tour info and links to all the cool shit they put out by all those incredible artists. Catch Grieves and Budo on your local Warped Tour stop all summer as they will be ready and willing to rock your damned face right off your head and you’ll thank them for it at their merch tent, too. They will sign anything, ladies.

Originally published at DisarrayMagazine.com

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Skid Row doesn’t need the bulletproof glass; the President does, so get over it!

During the trip by the President through the midwest on a domestic bus tour, there was a little rumbling I heard over the air waves. Well, to be frank it was the rumbling not unlike the bus retrofitted with enough bulletproof glass to repel an RPG attack and enough electronics to commandeer NORAD on-the-fly from a rural road in Illinois. Yes, as the President was on the road for three days touring the midwest shaking hands and buying pies, the GOP and conservative pundits were questioning whether the people should be paying for such a lavish campaign tour. Being that this isn’t a 2012 campaign tour is one thing, but the outrage over the relatively menial cost of the three day trip is what stuck in my craw. They complained on the air on FOX News and other radio stations and channels that the $1.1 million dollar tour bus was too black and too much money. Really? It wasn’t a Black Panther rally and it wasn’t that lavish. You are scoffing at the price of protecting the President? You are balking at what it costs the people to pay, maintain, and protect a President? Well, then read on, as you will be boiling in anger at the numbers that are going to pile up in this article: What does the President really cost us?

My first qualm was with the idea that people had issue with the cost of a tour bus safe enough to protect the President. Do you think they just make those? That is one-off; think Jesse James motorcycle, but with less infidelity. It is a PRESIDENTIAL bus. This isn’t taking your kids to school or dropping Grandma off at the pharmacy. The President of the United States of America needs to be safe from ambush and attack. Do you have any idea what rocket-proof glass costs by the square foot!? All Presidential vehicles are fitted with the thickest, safest glass and sheets of plate steel that can repel everything from small arms fire to RPG’s. A tour bus, straight off the showroom floor, is gonna cost Skid Row at least $500,000, and that doesn’t even include installing the stripper pole. Fuck the pole, the President, realistically, needs the capability to launch nuclear weapons on moments notice from that fucking bus; I hope that button’s not next to the microwave or there is a White House intern that could nuke Moscow for the same trouble he puts into heating a Hot Pocket.

So is $1.1 million of my tax dollars outlandish for a tour bus? Hell no. The President rides around in a fucking bulletproof limo (not a town car, a limo), but I’m supposed to drop a double-take because he upgraded to Billboard Top 40 status? Not a chance. According to some estimates, the cost of operating Air Force One, the Presidential air fortress 747, runs up to almost $300 million dollars a year, flight or no flight. Just to let an airplane sit primed in a hanger 24/7, is costing Americans 13,422 times as much as the federal guideline for a family of four at or below the poverty line of just over $22,000. That’s just the one plane. Not to mention the limo or marine one (helicopter).

Want some more numbers for what the President is entitled to by Congressional decree? Camp David is well-maintained at the cost of $7.9 million dollars per annum. The current President is also entitled to a salary of $400,000 a year. The White House also costs approximately $35,000 a DAY to maintain and run; just the actual building, that is. All told, if you include everything from the Vice Presidential Downtown office, the cleaning crew, the helicopter, Air Force One, employee costs, phone lines, tours daily, and even fucking stamps, the White House and those directly connected to the fucking building in some manner cost us, per year, about $1.5 billion dollars. That is to keep the roof up, the calls answered, and the coffee hot as all get out 24/7, 365. $1.5 billion, and you guys are clamoring to come up with the best joke about the big black bus taking everyone to school in Socialist America? C’mon, I know you guys can do better than that.

Then I got curious. I know that Presidents like George W and Obama make $400,00 base salary, but what else do they get? Well, first off they get $50,000 expense accounts, so I am betting the girls have iPads. They also get a $100,000 tax-free travel expense account. Oddly enough, the President also gets a $19,000 “entertainment” expense account. Entertainment? Almost 20 grand!? What kind of entertainment does that include? Ice cream sundaes for the girls, pedicures for Michelle, and movie nights where George Lucas comes to the White House and does live director’s commentary on a Star Wars flick in the White House Theater like a monkey? You can throw bananas at him, he’s getting paid for this. For that kind of money I know Kennedy had some fun, but what the hell would you do with a near $20,000 dollar entertainment fund? It’s not like it is his personal money he’s spending and is taking a coupon for a free game tokens at Dave & Busters. No, this is a fund of tax payer money set aside simply for entertainment. It is there specifically to make him giggle. I don’t know about you, but at $400,000 dollars a year and hundreds of hours of live, tax-payer funded war footage to watch, he can spend his own Goddamned money to get his jollies off. SHit, the White House HAS a bowling alley, too!

So we’ve got the President, but when the next one comes in, at least we don’t have to think about the cost of the former simply breathing…or do we? Yes, there is the Presidential pensions to contend with. There are four living, former Presidents and each of them gets an annual salary of just shy of $200,000 dollars a year. $200,000 smackaroons goes a long way, even in our tough economic times, and so I got curious, once again. Of the living former Presidents the count goes like this: Jimmy Carter, 6.8 million. George H. Bush, 4.4 million. Bill Clinton, 3.6 million. George W. Bush, 3.6 million. This is what they cost the American tax payer in and out of office in their lives. That is just salary. Of those Presidents; Carter, George H., and Clinton, all have claim to lifetime Secret Service protection. What does this cost us on top of their salary? Given a minimum three-man team earning about $75,000 dollars a year it breaks down as 4.5 million, 4.05 million, and 2.25 million, respectively, to DATE. If they stay alive longer, than it is gonna keep costing you more. After Clinton, all former Presidents are allotted a maximum ten year secret service detail…thank God for government rollbacks.

So what are we saying here? Am I saying that Presidents cost us more per annum than the poverty level income of tens of thousands of Americans? Yes. I am also saying that the cost of protecting the President on a nuclear capable tour bus is little more than a blip of the radar of what they cost us in and out of office in the long run. The White House is a billion dollar house that the founding fathers built, taking office of President is on par with a Megabucks “win for life” scratch-it, and that the expense of protecting the President is a mere pittance of what it costs to employ the 112th Douchebag Congress, all 535 members earning average of $174,000 of YOUR tax paying dollars. Don’t even get me started on that league of assholes. At the cost of over $93 million dollars per annum, these uncompromising assholes have not a leg to stand on to complain about anything but the temperature of their caviar. Do we have a claim to be upset while some go hungry? Indeed, but to criticize the expenditure of a Presidential tour bus codenamed “behemoth” in order to protect the sitting President, I am sure the pundits can find a larger number somewhere other than $1.1 million to gripe about. I found 11 in this article alone.

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Bachmann Wins in Ames and Yet Still Draws the Short Straw

or: Ron Paul sees his shadow, six more weeks of political futility 

What is that rustling in the distance? Wait, no, it’s not a rustle. It sounds more like a bubbling. Yes, I can hear it now. A riling and rolling boil. It pops and hisses like so much scrumptious white noise. It is musical almost. That can only be the sound of deep-fried butter logs which means it’s summer time in Iowa! It is time once again for the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines and a rootin’ tootin’ good time buyin’ up votes in a completely innocuous and non-binding straw poll in the beautifully portly town of rotund Ames, Iowa. There is nothing the people of Iowa love more than to slap on a button, shake a hand, and promise to vote for a candidate in an entirely meaningless exercise in showmanship related to nothing more than a gob-stopping festival of stump speeches, cheap tricks, all washed down with domestic beer and mediocre barbecue. The straw poll in Iowa brought us a winner, as all superfluous polls do, and her name is Michelle Bachmann. Now before we go crowning her queen and sacrificing goats on an altar before a marble statue of her likeness, just remember that this win has no bearing on anything except her popularity in a right-wing, evangelical state, in which anyone with her kind of crazy eyes can win. Oh, and did I mention she grew up there? Maybe that played a role, but we’ll see.

and apparently the courage to sit down, too

Yes, the Ames straw poll has come and gone and now we are left with the results. What can we take from our little stint in Iowa this weekend? Well, besides the need for a really good cardiologist, I think we can see that this GOP race has a few clear front-runners for the nomination. Real quick, hats off to the withdrawal of “candidate” Tim Pawlenty. Not a shocker. The man looks like he should be selling vacuum cleaners door to door in Post-war, suburban America. We owe China a lot of money, and we need a president that looks like he won’t get rolled between classes in the boys’ room and cough it up like a pansy. OK, now that we have bid ado to that, back to Michelle. What a massive win for her campaign. This is the kind of win you can only hope to get in a scenario you darest not dream in a million sleeps. I must say that this gives her great traction in future stops in Iowa and on through to the caucus and eventually the primaries…oh, who am I kidding, it’s fucking Iowa.

No one gives a shit about the straw poll. Rick Perry got over 700 write-in votes and he wasn’t even really present. People are already talking that Romney can crush her for the nomination and that Rick Perry can crush even him. If all indicators are pointing in the right direction, then this is the last thing Michelle Bachmann is gonna win. Seriously, there isn’t even a scratch-it ticket in her future. The straw poll is just a giant popularity contest/barbecue where voters promise to vote for the candidate in the poll if they will pay the $30 entrance fee to get in on the party. That’s it. It is a popularity contest highlighted by celebrity appearances, air-conditioned tents, and other flashy bullshit to just show the patrons a good time. It has no bearing on anything except that Iowans can be bought for $30, and if that is by the pound then by the looks of some of those guys corn-holing butter logs by the pair, these people are the cheapest Americans you can buy per pound. Not like Nebraska folk, they’ve got Omaha steaks, motherfucker.

So Michelle paid off some good, honest, hard-working, God-fearing, Americans that are tired of Washington getting it’s hands in their lives and pocketbooks, who just want to stick by the constitution as the founding fathers would want, and to raise their children with good values and stop passing all this debt on to them, and end this terrible, job-killing Obamacare which is ruining the economy…Wait, what happened? I blacked out there for a second. Did I cover all the talking points? Oh good, I thought I was having a stroke. No wonder she’s got the crazy eyes, if I had to repeat that same bullshit in every speech, every day, for the last 48 days since entering the race I’d probably start to look like I was trying to keep my tongue from leaping out of my head to kill itself.

This was the Iowa straw poll, and it means everything in that it means everything if we change the meaning of everything to nothing. I mean, the only person who could draw 28% of the non-official popularity vote would have to be destined for the White House in 2012 or would have to…I don’t know, ummmmm, be from Iowa? Well, in a crafty political move Michelle Bachmann happens to be from Waterloo, Iowa. Trust me, she won’t let you forget that she’s from Waterloo. She won’t even let the people of Waterloo fucking forget that she’s from Waterloo. Well, her and John Wayne…Gacy. Oops, thought I forgot about that didn’t ya, Bachmann!? Yes, in a shocking turn of events, a right-wing Lutheran wife of a man who can pray the gay out of homosexual deviants with five kids and a hard-on for the constitution in it’s founding fathers form (still not clear if that is founding fathers pre or post abolition) was able to clutch victory from the gaping maw of defeat and take this win back to Waterloo to rub in the face of the small town diner waitress who teased her in high school…that is what she did it for, right?

All this hullaballoo aside, this is simply a moral victory in a battle that featured candidates that didn’t really differ morally. Ron Paul is crazy, he doesn’t count. Ron Paul is like the Bob Dole of the Ross Perot of the Rumpelstiltskin of the GOP race; he is loud, funny, weird, and will do nothing but mess things up and steal votes from a legitimate candidate, no matter the fact that he is just awesome. Pawlenty? About as offensive as a silent fart in an elevator. Romney? Barely tried. Herman Cain? I think he served pizza and only handed out three-fold napkins. Santorum? Alright, ya know what, I’m just getting annoyed that this guy is still around with a name like that. So who was she really facing? Perry was a write-in. He is bypassing the whole thing deciding to worry about getting the votes for the GOP nomination. Another Texan, a major job-creator, and shoulders square enough to measure a contracting job by? I hear the GOP saying “yes, please.”

Bachmann is this year’s Palin, even though Palin still seems to be this year’s Palin. Her damned bus tour got rolling just in time to arrive in Des Moines to see the historic Ferris Wheel which in 1778 road through town for…ah, fuck it, she’s stupid, we get it, I’m tired of making jokes. If Palin jumps in then Bachmann looks like some kind of Wal-Mart knock-off of the Palin-brand K-Mart crazy. Bachmann is just not up to the task of taking on Perry with his billion-dollar buddies on one front, and Palin and her Alaska reality show of a family on the other side. Shit, Perry is like a 20+ term sitting official and Palin’s daughter is more famous than Bachmann is, so it really is no contest. Perry has the clout, experience, and the chiseled jaw line to take the nomination, which is the real prize, unlike the straw poll which is like getting voted most-likely to “go places” in your high school yearbook. Romney can’t win with Romneycare and his being…ya, know…a mormon. Perry is gonna run away with this thing, but that’s just the nomination, the general election is an article for another time.

Bachmann shoots down the argument that she doesn’t have the experience to be President by talking about having been alive fifty-five years. If that is a qualifier then that makes me exactly half as qualified as you to run this country, which even I know isn’t the case. She also explains that raising five children and 23 foster kids is qualification enough and being married for 30+ years is icing on the cake. Being married? Raising children? These are qualifiers for being president? I know people with five kids, but that’s because they are stupid and made the same mistake five times. What’s your excuse? She also totes her tax law education and her years as a tax attorney. She worked for the IRS. I doubt she’ll ever get that specific since leaving it at “tax law” doesn’t bring about the same bristle and zeal as being associated with the only government office that even the fucking DMV looks down on. Her experience is in question and she sites that she and her husband have been running a business successfully for years. What business is that? A mental health facility. Well, technically it’s Bachmann & Associates Christian Counseling Practice…where the Bachmanns deny that any conversion therapy for homosexual behavior goes on…even though it does, according to a former patient and some hidden camera footage. Hell, video evidence is never admissible in court, so you can’t believe that…oh, wait…

So, what has Iowa left us with? Indigestion for one and political nausea for the other. It was all an absolute waste of time and money and has no bearing on the election whatsoever, except that Pawlenty bowed out sooner than he would have and later than he should have. Bachmann gets a win in her own backyard and no one is fucking surprised at that. It was tents, cheap thrills, and even a petting zoo for the kids. Wait, why was there a petting zoo? Are Iowan adults swayed by a petting zoo? Are ponies conservative? I know it’s a big agricultural state, but these people don’t actually think the presence of farm animals is any indicator of a good leader, right? I mean, the ponies aren’t in attendance to show support. They are locked in a corral and get fed sugar cubes and then loaded up and shipped off to the next embarrassing chapter of their spectacle of a life. Seriously, if anything you should be offended that she’s locking up these stupid-looking animals. A pony? It is an evolutionary dead end. In nature that would be weeded out after generation of horses raping them. Well, at least the ponies are getting work, and that’s Bachmann coming through on her promise to create new jobs.

This is all like a soap box derby race. A bunch of hastily assembled and ill-conceived mobile platforms rolling downhill on nothing but momentum driven by people hoping it carries them through to the finish line. Well, it doesn’t. Historically the winner of the straw pole doesn’t make it to the White House. Last time around good ol’ Huckabee was your winner of the straw poll…how did that turn out again? Huckabee was at the straw poll this year, but this time on his guitar getting paid for a couple shows. He’s the only one that came out of top of this thing.

The straw poll feels a lot like Groundhog’s Day. Not that I feel like I am repeating the same horrendously annoying day of my life over and over again for no clearly defined reason (how was there not a gypsy or something that cursed him or some grave he disturbed or something!? Why did Bill Murray keep reliving that day!? Explain it to me!) until I get it right, but that it’s an archaic ritual synonymous with folklore and steeped in tradition whose outcome has no bearing on anything that will happen in the next six weeks. When I picture Iowans as groundhogs, I don’t seem to loathe their fat faces quite as much. Just like that we’ll all forget about the city of Ames, until the next straw poll when they shove their deep-fried mayonnaise cones into my political machine and muss up all the perfectly rusty gears to the tune of three-cents per Hawkeye pound. Fuckin’ Iowans.

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Warped Tour: “Punk Rock” or “Punk-life?”

I suppose there is a lot that can, and has, been said about the Warped Tour in it’s 17 years. I’ve been one of it’s detractors in the past. This is my third consecutive year covering the Warped Tour and I don’t shy away from admitting that I have been one of those strong voices questioning it’s current validity as a “punk rock” tour. I was so vocal and adamant last year that my editor had to post up my editorial with a big, red disclaimer, fearing the burning of bridges from the venom with which I spoke. This year I have decided to do this for her and post this editorial on my own site, effectively putting myself at arms length so I can express to you my views without getting anyone in trouble but myself. With that said:

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED HERE ARE ONLY THE RAVINGS OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT REFLECT THE OPINIONS OR IDEAS OF ANYONE BUT HIS DAMNED SELF. I TAKE FULL CREDIT FOR THIS IF YOU LIKE IT, AND IF YOU DO NOT, THEN I CONTEND THAT MY SITE WAS HACKED WITH THE EXPRESS PURPOSE OF UNDERMINING MY AUTHORITY ON THE FOLLOWING SUBJECT. 

The Warped Tour has had a long a winding road to where it is today. Major corporate sponsorship and the influx of even political entities, including Libertarians last year, has soured the truly punk roots from whence it came. This year I decided to take a very different approach in covering the event and did the interviews that probably brought you here. I wanted to examine the existence of hip-hop and rap on the tour and possibly discover why this seemingly antithetic form of expression and art has been allowed to operate through all these years.

On message boards on the Warped Tour site you can find strong opposition to it’s place on the tour. Listeners and concert-goers seem almost unified in their distaste for such “shit” to be taking set time on any of the seven stages that should rightfully go to truly punk rock acts. I, for one, feel that the punk rock moniker attached to the Warped Tour is no longer defined as a genre, but as an ideal that permeates every act no matter if it is the electro-pop, screamo, or even hip-hop. Punk rock is an idea, a way of life, and when thinking in these terms, hip-hop belongs on the Warped Tour as much as August Burns Red.

The Dangerous Summer

Warped Tour is a machine designed and run by large corporations who are in it to make money. I highly doubt that the people who choose the line-up are fans of all the artists on it. Do you think that booking 3OH!3 or Gym Class Heroes is anything but savvy marketing to sell tickets? Deep in the list, between acts that sell the majority of the tickets, are gems of self-expression that will blow your mind if you give them a chance. There are those acts that do it because they love it. I am not discounting the desire and love of the music of the headlining acts, far from it, but I am saying that you will find bands grinding it out on fan at a time. You will discover artists that have nothing but love for their fan base and think in terms of albums and crafting music “from silence to a full song,” as Budo would say.

Hip-hop, in this fashion, has always been a part of the Warped Tour. A lot of people like boxes. You need to compartmentalize all the options in the world or else you’ll go crazy. Music is no different. If you really just let it all go without comparisons and genres then your mind would not be able to cope with the unending amount of choices one has. There are more songs out there than any human being can listen to in their lifetime if they had music running 24/7 from birth to death. So people look at genres and decide that things are different, belong or don’t belong, and want to trivialize art like music in to boiled down generalizations that truly hurt the expression that can be found with any one act.

Grieves

There is indie vs. mainstream, underground vs. overground, black rappers vs. white rappers, East vs. West vs. South vs. Midwest, and on and on. People, and the industry, like to break these acts up in to whatever categories seem appropriate for comparison. This hurts the music. Grieves said it best when he told me: “Would you like that song if it wasn’t on MTV? It’s like, if you like that music, why can’t somebody else like it, too? And why is it a bad thing that MTV is playing the music that you like? You hate MTV for playing the shit that you hate, but you would like them if they played the music you like, but when they play the music that you like, you hate that guy now.” It seems that there is an ever-present war between categories where no one can win, almost always the artist, and people are feeding in to that.

MC Lars

If you are one of these people who enforces the lines that divide then I guess this one is for you. You are a hardcore metal fan and think rap is shit and all rappers are the same then take this under advisement: MC Lars wants to have a kids hip-hop TV show like Yo Gabba Gabba to share the power and positivity that can come from hip-hop. A little shocked? Yeah, I was, too. You don’t think that is indie, it’s not hip-hop? Well, what the fuck is indie? You might think it is a sound and an idea of “fuck the machine” and “I don’t give a shit.” Well, indie is simply a business model. There is no sound, contrary to popular belief. Indie is a way of doing business outside of the major labels and doing your thing on your own. It is unadulterated self-expression without anyone tugging on your marionette strings. Producing and hosting a children’s rap TV show might be as indie and outside the box as you can get, and that is punk, too.

Weerd Science
Budo

I asked Grieves and Budo about whether or not they felt comfortable on the tour. Grieves boiled it down like this: “We’re all artists out here and we’re all trying to make a living, and we’re trying to expose our art to people. I don’t feel any different from the guys in Winds of Plague who I got to meet on this tour. They are some of the heaviest, hardcore, most metal-ass dudes, and they are the shit. They are are cool-ass dudes.” These are all artists out here. Yes, it might come in different forms and different sounds, but at the end of the day it is all about exposing people to the art each of these groups make. MC Lars feels a bit more out of place, but he told me, “Punk rock is about being yourself, and that makes us [rappers] some of the most punk acts on here because we are doing what we want and following our hearts. Yeah, I feel out of place, and I feel like when I am in line at the catering line in the morning I don’t have any tattoos, and here that is rare, but it is cool because we are all doing what we love and we’re having fun and getting good reactions.” I’m a writer and this inspires me to do it independently after hearing words like this. It is art and everyone here is on a hustle, so what is so different about one act to another when you boil it all down to simple self-expression?

The Acacia Strain

MC Lars is completely independent with his own label, Horris Records. Grieves only recently joined Rhymesayers Entertainment, and I would call Rhymesayers a major-independent label. MC Lars just released a free mix tape that you can download at mclars.bandcamp.com. Lars has no problem if you steal his music, he gives it away, but he just asks that you share it. This has somehow been good for his business and he is growing. Free music, “steal my music?” Wow, talk about working outside the box. Grieves is not one to pull punches about his sound, his passion, and how fed up with bullshit that he is. Sure, they are lyricists and they rap, but music is music and you can’t question their diehard love they have for what they do any more than you can question the heart of The Acacia Strain or The Dangerous Summer.

So what is the Warped Tour? It is obviously not just punk rock music, but it never was just that. Katy Perry and Eminem have done the tour and I don’t see any of them repping the punk rock music flag. Warped Tour is now, and probably always has been, a collaboration of the mainstream and the independent side of things, and independent hip-hop must be represented if not just from an idealistic standpoint. It is an amalgam of musical genres and acts, adhering to a myriad of business models, out to express themselves and reach the widest audience possible; the story as old as time. This is a corporate machine using non-corporate components for profit, but this isn’t exploitation as much as it is a symbiotic Faustian deal. They always have said that you can do more damage inside the machine than outside, and this is a parade of acts doing just that to be able to continue to say “fuck you,” but with a larger fan base. I would liken this to two wholly different industries consensually sodomizing one another. Each is getting their rocks off to their own benefit, but they aren’t looking each other in the face while they do it. If you want to fight the machine, it can help to be one of the cogs for a bit, but as long as you avoid the molds on the assembly line, then the punk ideals will always live on no matter how many Kia stickers you slap on it for a summer.

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POS, Dessa, and Grieves Bring Lyricism to the Troubador in LA

Never put this on my blog from way back. One of the coolest moments for me as a journalist, getting to meet and interview POS…
P.O.S., Dessa, and Grieves put on a veritable hip-hop clinic that showed the mainstream that the real spectacle is not under the big top, but in the sideshows during their LA stop on the “Every Never is Now” Tour.
**originally published on Disarraymagazine.com**

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