"Some of us like it too much, like 'I love it. I'm addicted. I'm a junky.'
I'm beyond junky. I'm a music idiot."
Am 23.06.2011 kehrte Atmosphere, bestehend aus Sean Daley und Anthony Davis, nach Jahren wieder zurück nach Österreich. Austragungsort war die, dafür eigentlich viel zu kleine, KAPU. Schön war es trotzdem und einige zogen sich, aufgrund der Hitze, fast komplett aus. Leider nicht Slug.
What is it? A pipe?
Slug: That's just a pipe, nothing spectacular, doesn't do any magic, you like some?
No, thank you. So you stopped smoking and..
Slug: I stopped smoking cigarettes, yes.
And you started smok..
Slug: No. I've always smoked, god. When I'm at a transition of still craving cigarettes, I don't wanna smoke joints.
I saw your video, everybody's saying that's your son in it.
Slug: No. it's not my son, it's an actor. Four years old.
Slug: All the other kids in the school were actors, all ten, he was four and was still so good. He was so tiny. Standing next to the other children you could see.
Are the people from Minneapolis all your friends, fans..
Slug: When we were younger, most of the people in the scene were fans, like years ago... 15 years.. and we got big, so you can imagine in the scene they were like „they got too big". It's very healthy for a scene to do that, now they see us as the guys on top of the hill, so you wanna push us off the hill, so you can be that guy. It's not so much that we're friends with anybody anymore. Also I got older and I stopped going to the bar scene. I stopped drinking out, so I don't really know.
Because of your kids?
Just because... yo, I'm almost 40. I don't need to be hanging out at the bar with a bunch of 22 year olds. Just bad things are gonna happen... poor discissions about... you know.. so.. so.. uhm.. I just you know.. now I garden. You know? (laughs) I'm trying to be a normal person. I got kids, I wanna get a dog..
You wanna get a dog?
Slug: You know, I travel so much, that wouldn't be.. but now that I got married and had another baby, maybe I can make them watch the dog..
Is it your baby's fist on the..
What do you think about the people that blame you for gotten too big, too melodic.. too much singing and..
Slug: I think it's important for people to react. So if they react and say „oh, we like what you're doing" - that's good. If they react and go „ah, it's not for me" - maybe it's not that validating for me, you know? But it's still good. Because as listeners, we listen to music and we're forced to reconcile over this. Sometimes we don't like it, but it's still putting us in a position of actively thinking about it, dealing with it, deciding what you don't like about it. And I think that is what your job as a artist is to do, you know, bring people in and make them feel like they're part of something, or push people away. It still makes them feel like they're part of something. Especially with the type of audience that I have in the U.S., it's a very polarized audience, like „you like us" or „nah, I don't like these guys". They're aren't too many people in the U.S. that are like „oh, ok..". It's like either you like us or you don't, and I think that's a pretty good position for me, because I'm still having an affect on people who aren't even fans. They even sometimes use me as a poster boy for a certain type of hip hop...
Like Emo Rap?
Slug: Exactly! And that also forces a hip hop kid to decide were he stands. And if he stands against that's just as important, cause art especially for youth is all about identity. And the youth they build their identity out of music, books, films - the things that they take in and the things that they hate, so if you can play any role in that... maybe it's just me trying to convince myself that it's ok...
...but I feel like it makes sense to me. I think about myself when I was 17, you know, I used to love LL Cool J and then one day when I was like about 19 - I was like „FUCK LL Cool J!".
So you understand them..
Slug: Exactly, you know what I'm sayin'? I understand how important it was, because if I would have never said „FUCK LL COOL J!" I would have never became the rapper I was, know what I mean? And so it's like for the movement, for the art, you know, and just for procreation, making babies... I think it's important to have that type of reflect, you know? In some of my friends,... I look a lot at my friends, Aesop Rock, a friend of mine, has a similar thing - either people really like him or they don't. That's so important.
Do you think it's like „I like Atmosphere.." and then there are a lot of people that like it.. and they find related artists and start..
Slug: I mean I think we all do that. It's like some people be like „I love Gang Starr", „I like Freddie Fox", „I like him too!" and they do a song and then... Same like in films with Leonardo DiCaprio, it's just a passing around of an audience. At the end of the day it's all the audience, a growing mass of people. You gotta remember, we don't all use music the same way. Some of us like it too much like „I love it. I'm addicted. I'm a junky." Some of us only play at when we're at our car driving to work and home and they don't even play music when they get home, they watch TV. (rem: says TV like he's talking about the devil)..
You are a music junky..
Slug: I think I spent way too much money on music. I don't think anyone should spend as much as I spent over the years on vinyl, on cd's, cassettes... I have a record store. I put so much life in it. I'm beyond junky. I'm a music idiot.
It's a job too..
Slug: It's a job too, but who's to say that's not just because of my addiction. I was addicted to heroin and if I could get a job doing heorin, I'd probably would do heroin, so... it's an addiction. Cause when I don't have it, I don't operate well as a person. My day is wrong. My necks starts to hurt, you know? It's just one of those things. But you have to remember - not everybody is like me. Not anybody uses music like you do. Everybody has his own relationship to it, but what's important is everybody understands it. It's like a language that even if I don't know what language they're speaking, I still can understand their songs. I feel like people forget that, because we draw these lines about ourselves, different types of music, different journals. We forget that that it's a language that some people know how to take in and articulate and understand and some people just only know how to listen. So it's ok for there to be like different levels of what you're into, what you're not into. I have friends, close friends of mine, who would never listen to one of my records.
Because they don't wanna hear you?
Slug (plays angry): Or there are people who like some different kind of music. Some of them don't like that, some of them don't like emo rap... but it doesn't matter, because we all understand it. We all understand music. I might not like what they like, or they if... god forgive me... of them made music, I might not like the music they made. I mean I have some friends who make music, you know, it's just... I don't know if any of that had anything to do with the question.. (laughs)
No, it's perfect! Just talk.. I started wondering.. Do you make beats too?
Slug: I used to a long time ago and I realised, if I stopped trying to make beats...
Slug: ...and stopped trying to scratch, I could focus more on what it is that I... you know? Entirely find which hat to wear. When we started out everything happened. I used to like graffiti, I used to break dance..
You break danced?
Slug: Yeah, yeah... but in time you find the hat that fits. In my case... you know... I was lazy and rapping is the easiest of the...
Maybe it was because you were best at rapping and not so good at scratching and producing..
Slug: It's not even ok for me to say that I was the best at rapping or rapping was the thing I came for, cause than I feel like I'm being over confident and arrogant or...
No, no. It's just you know, imagine you have a certain talent..
Slug: So you saying that I was not good at...
Ja, right.. I was..
Slug: (plays like he's offended): Thanks, yeah, thanks..
Slug: No, I sucked at it. You're right.
What's your favorite time for recording?
Slug: Early afternoon, like noon. I like to write when I'm drinking coffee. It used to be coffee & cigarettes, but than I quit smoking cigarettes so... just a few months ago... now it's like I'm trying to relearn how to do it without the cigarette. I'm figuring it out.
You've been trying to stop smoking a lot of times, right?
Slug: This is my fifth quit that I'm on right now. And this is the one I've made it the longest. It's been 80 days without cigarettes. This time I'm quitting with the use of a pill. I've been on that pill...
Do you think you've invented a new genre?
Slug: No, I think we're part of a genre that already existed. I don't know what the name of the genre even is. But I'm a descendant of KRS One, Big Daddy Kane, MC Search... certain type of rappers that didn't put style over substance or substance over style. They tried to find a traditional aspect. You rhyme on the stairs and topics generally were things that you actually knew about it, tell a story about, even if the story is fictional or fantasy.
Are you tired of questions about certain song meanings?
Slug: Yeah, when journalists do that, I lie. I think it's important for people to make it theirs, cause that's what I do. When I hear a song of a band that I like, I don't know the fuck what they're singing about, you know, I make about what I want it to be, I get my own picture.
Does it change? So you wrote a song and now you hear it like.. fourteen years later and then you say „It could be about this and that too..".
Slug: Yeah, usually... many times that I write a song, if it's coming from the experience that I recently been through. I haven't even fully understood the experience. So how can the song... you know... a lotta times... maybe, let's say I had a song that was about a friend (rem: there's a song called „a song about a friend") and then five years later me and that friend don't even know each other, maybe that friend died (rem. sounds very sad). Now when I hear the song it pulls in new parts to it, that might not have been there when I wrote it. But who knows why, you know? And so yeah, I do think even for me the song interpretations change, never drastically, but sometimes they can evolve.
And that you write something and later you suddenly understand hey "I was feeling this, while I was saying that.."
Slug: Well, I've got a few songs that when I wrote, I wrote them because of how much time I enjoyed to spend in bars.
Slug: And then years later I listened to it and now that song is about how I wish somebody would haven gotten me out of that FUCKING bar. See what I mean... and so they do change... they still be rooted in the same thing, but they'll evolve in little things that you'll see. Especially because I think we sometimes try to write messages to ourselves.
Slug: But we don't know about we're doing that, but years later we're like „Woh, did you hear that? I should have fucking got a dog a long time ago!"
Slug: Know what I mean like? There's nothing wrong with that. Think I should get a dog while I'm over here.
Yeah, you could buy an austrian dog. I don't know what dogs we have, but..
Ok, last question. When I heard „The Family Sign" the first time, I got the impression that you deal a lot with death on it. Generally your songs often..
Slug: I don't know if I do. You know, I know there are certain songs that I've done, but I don't know if it's „a lot". We did more songs than anybody probably should have made. We over exaggerated the internet on purpose, there are songs that never were on an album, instead there are tons of them everywhere. And so I'm sure a lot of them do deal with that. The year that we made that record there's a few people that died. So it was probably just a prevelant concept. Death. I tried not to do too much that was directly related to it. I'm sure it does show up, it was part of the time. Just like I had a new baby and I'm sure that shows up too.
Is it a son?
Slug: Yes... and I injured my knee really bad and I had that surgery and I'm still healing from that and I'm sure in three years I could listen to „The Family Sign" and hear something go „oh shit, I don't even know, yeah that part he wrote that, like when... after I hurt myself. There's probably gonna be shit on the record that I don't catch. I mean.. th.. th..the best part it is though, I don't listen to the fucking records. Once..
Yeah, I.. I.. I wanted to ask you about this..
Slug: I make it, I don't hear it. But we will start working live and make it their own new identity from that. Sometimes we'll have a live version and someone will gonna be like „yeah it doesn't sound like on the record" and I'll be „yeah it does!" and then I'll listen to the record...
Slug: ...and then „oh shit! It's sounds nothing like that, you're totally right!". But you know, as we're working through on live is when I start to hear things like „oh I said that - fuck!".
How often do you listen to your tracks afterwards?
Slug: After we make it I'd probably listen to it, gotta listen, cause then I help mix the record. Once I turn it in to the record label then the only thing I have left to listen for is which songs I wanna do live so, by the time the records comes out to people, I've stopped listening to it. I've started trying to think what's next. This last we had a lot of piano on it, so I know already, I'm like don't want no fucking piano on the next record. You know, I wanna do more synth, more drum guitar work, faster beats..
Slug: I don't know, the singing I don't really decide to do. It's kinda like when I have to figure out the chorus, cause I don't sing verses, sometimes I sing in the choruses. It'll just be where I feel comfortable doing it. Like I have never been trained in singing. I don't really know how to sing, but there are certain things I feel comfortable doing, that to me go „oh that's kinda funny... that's cute... or that sounds good with that..." and whatever and then we keep it. Sometimes it's not so good like when Ant will say „I like that, I like that, keep it!". And then there's a song we did on the lemon record called „You". I don't ever perform it live cause...
Yeah, I don't like it either..
Slug: You don't? Good! That fucking song is stupid. But Ant thought it was so fucking funny.
It doesn't sound like you..
Slug (at the same time): Sounds like muppets.
I was actually a bit confused..
Slug: It wasn't a while we made a song and Ant would laugh... he just found the sound of it...
Slug (humming and singing): „Dum dum dum.. you love the people.."
I liked the video though..
Slug: Did you see the video with the finger skateboard? I like that, because the kid was like twelve years old. He was murdering it, he came in, dude, we started watching him following down the wall and stuff and we're just like „this little fucking dude, he's like.." (Slug makes sounds like „sht, sht, sht)... it's the same the song.
Some songs are related, aren't they? Like „The Waitress", „Yesterday" and.. I don't know what's the third one..
It's always ending with a sudden turn.
Slug: Oh yeah, that's just lazy writing. I keep using the same trick over and over... (laughs)
Oh, ok! (laughs)
Slug: No, it's... I don't... you know, yeah „The Waitress", „Hair", „Scalp". Have you heard "Scalp"? You know the story of „Hair" where the guy and...
Slug: „Scalp" is the story from the guy in the truck that hits them. And I think that's just because I write to much sh-shit. I consciously do that, because I might think „what am I gonna write about it" and I be like „ooh I could to this, I could do..".
So you don't just listen to a beat and then be like..
Slug: Yeah, I definitely need a beat. Sometimes I just be like this is a story, but I don't know which kind of a story it is. Like I said, it's kind of a lazy thing. I think writers that do that, myself included, it's cause we couldn't think of nothing else, so I take another story and add I different chapter to it or... but the other thing to is to take a story and then go „shock" last line... Did you hear the „Millie" thing we did? "Millie Fell of the Fire Escape"? You know „Millie Pulled A Pistol on Santa"?
Slug: We wrote a part two to that. Cause at the end De La, he says „Millie pulled a pistol, it was over, over, over.." And in ours we go „over, over, over... she dropped the gun instead end started running down..". Then I took Millie outta the shopping mall, run down the alley and the cops are coming and she climbed up in a factory and she was was crawling up the fire escape and she fell and she died at the end of mine, so nobody can write another one.
Do they know about it?
Slug: You know what, I don't know. I've met them a couple of times, but I don't know how to ask „by the way you ever heard of this song?" Hopefully if they ever find out about it, they won't shoot me, cause we used the same beat, we took the beat and rechopped it, we went to... it was on a release called „Leak at will", it's a free one that is on the internet, you can still get it. It's a EP, it's like seven songs. It picks up where „Strictly Leakage" (rem. 2nd free EP) left out, when it's like on „Road to the Riches" Ant sampled an old break from like a park party in the 80ies and at the end of it it's said „C'mon..". This dialogue and it goes into it... We had too much time that we spend doing this so...
For the audience it may be like riddles..
Slug: It's just continous kinda at like the end of a show „to be continued".
It shows that you don't give up or so.. (laughing)
Slug (laughs): Ya... and in the same sense that's the same idea with the tighten songs together, it's the same idea even with the abrupt ending songs. As a listener it's like, for instance the songs that I do where the last line changes, those are the types of songs, that were just one long verse. And if you listen to me rap for three minutes, how do you end? You can't put a chorus there. So here's a way for me to get out of the song. Cause I don't think the song should be four minutes, it's gotta end at three, so..
Maybe you shouldn't end it at all.. maybe you should..
Slug: Just let it be forever...
Do you sometimes read interpretations of your lyrics?
Slug: I read everything on the internet about us.
Slug: Yeah, I read everything on the internet about everything, like I'm addicted to the internet, addicted to reading interviews with people, I read everything about me, know what I mean? After today I'll read everything about you. I read everything on the internet...
And do you sometimes laugh about it?
I think you should go now..
Slug: I have to take a break from the internet.
Slug: Six months. I'm just afraid of how much influence it might be having, I wonder what things will be like... I have a lot of influences already, so if I took that influence away, the quick attention span influence, the „boom boom boom boom"...
What do you do instead?
Slug: Read books!
Slug: I do that already, but I just read more books. Cause it's just reading. At the end of the day you taken information about current events maybe, about new music, but what's the difference? Get rid of that! Maybe I take in some information about events that happened a long time ago.
Slug: What d'you think? You think we've got enough crap?
Ya.. you can go play now.
Photo made by Wolf Auer
Interview by Rita Pohler