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FaltyDL interviews Blockhead

by on at 12:28pm

Recently we asked one of our favourite producers of recent years, FaltyDL, who he’d like to interview most. The answer – revered instrumental hip-hop artist Blockhead, aka Tony Simon – was ostensibly a surprise choice, but when you scratch the surface the similarities are abundant. Both are now alumni of venerable UK label Ninja Tune, and both have a grounding in making instrumental beats, although while Blockhead made his name as a hip-hop craftsman of considerable repute, FaltyDL (real name Drew Lustman) has veered into a sounds that touch on everything from house and garage to jungle.

Blockhead has released nine studio albums and a slew of singles over the past decade, mostly with Ninja Tune, and is perhaps best known for his production work for acts signed to the Definitive Jux imprint such as Aesop Rock. The FaltyDL discography contains two albums (2009′s Love Is A Liability and last tear’s You Stand Uncertain, both released on planet Mu), as well as killer 12″s for All City, Ninja Tune and Swamp 81 among others.

Late last year Drew popped by Tony’s Manhattan apartment for a wide-ranging chat (the initial transcription was in excess of 10,000 words and it was with some reluctance that we trimmed it). Beginning with a discussion about Simon’s production history, they sit down and listen to music from Earl Sweatshirt, DJ Rashad and Eugene McDaniels among others, and discuss touring, inevitable backlashes, the state of the record industry from a producer’s point of view and much more besides.

DL (Drew Lustman, aka FaltyDL) – I’m sitting in Blockhead’s apartment in Lower Manhattan. He records under the name Blockhead and has been releasing LPs for the better part of the last decade for Ninja Tune. And also you’ve produced for a bunch of rappers, most notably Aesop Rock – who else have you done tracks for?

BH – I did stuff with Cage, SA Smash – a lot of Def Jux artists. I’ve done remixes for people like Del, and Mike Ladd.

DL – Were those also Def Jux?

BH – The Del was, Mike Ladd was Ninja Tune. A lot of people over the years.

DL – How does the New York, the Def Jux connection come about – was that through doing Aesop stuff?

BH – Yeah, it was through Aesop. I did the majority of Labor Days when that came out and because of that I got work with them eventually. But I was never a social butterfly producer, I didn’t really try hard enough to work with a lot of people, so whatever happened, just kinda happened naturally.

DL – Do you think that’s changed, because I feel like I hustle.

BH – I wish I’d hustled more man…

DL – But you haven’t had to.

BH – Well I haven’t had to, but I do have regrets about not hustling more – there are more artists that I would have liked to work with and probably could have but didn’t. Now I find myself hustling more to work with new artists. I want to work with new people as opposed to my generation. I still like working with people my age, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a whole new crowd coming in…

DL – In hip-hop?

BH – Yeah, in hip-hop. In other areas it’s different because I don’t really seek that out as much, and instrumental stuff is instrumental stuff, that’s separate from the hip-hop. I don’t seek out singers.

DL – But when you say wanting to seek out a younger group, you mean rappers?

BH – Yeah/

DL - Not younger producers? Like collabs and stuff?

BH – I’m kinda weird about collabs. I’ve done collabs before, and they’re OK. I worked with DJ Signify, we put out a 7” together, and it was cool – he and I are old friends so it’s different, but I find that too many cooks in the kitchen…

DL – Spoil the broth?

BH – Yeah, and everybody has their own way of making music, and my way is, nine times out of ten, much simpler, and it’s not as anxious as most people when they make music. I just have a method and I do it, and execute it, and I’m almost like a robot with it, I’m very focused and I knock it out.

DL – And that’s pretty much stayed your process throughout the years?

BH – Since the beginning, yeah. I mean, what I’ve done has changed a little bit, as far as equipment I’ve used, but for the most part, I sit down, work, finish it, and I’m done. And then I do something else and don’t really question it. I don’t sit around and listen to it over and over again and be like “I don’t know if I like it or not”. I’m not that guy! And that’s not what most producers are like.

DL – It’s interesting, because the year that I was living on St Marks in the East Village was the most productive year for me musically, and I had this amazing schedule where I was getting up at 9am, which is pretty early…

BH – For work?

DL – No, I wasn’t working, I was just doing this the whole time. I was getting up early, I was going to bed late – I was basically burning the candle at both ends. I’d get up, and the first hour was coffee and emails, and the second hour was  sampling, getting a bunch of samples together for the afternoon, then having lunch, coming back and having all my tools there, and making a track by the time the afternoon was over, every day.

BH – A whole track every day?

DL – Pretty much, I mean, four or five tracks a week.

BH – But it’s the only way to do it. When you set yourself up for a job – a regiment – it does make it a lot more satisfying, and you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Because often I think as musicians we, y’know, our life is pretty easy.

DL – It’s the little things!

BH –I would literally work on a beat for two hours and be like, “woo (laughter) I’ve had a rough day, I’m gonna go play video games for five hours!”

DL – It justifies that. (laughs)

BH – I mean, I haven’t made a cent, no money.

DL – I know, it’s so funny, how do you go about explaining how you make a living off doing it when things aren’t that immediate?

BH – Well, you make it when you’re touring.

DL – Yeah. You’ve been touring more recently?

BH – I have been. I have to make more money, because the sales don’t make money any more. And I’ve picked up a newer, younger audience, I’ve noticed. There’s been a weird renaissance for beats. People that grew up listening to me (which is really weird to think about) are now, far more popular than I am, but they’re doing basically the same thing with their own twist to it. Pretty Lights is a group that is humongous. I mean, I’ve opened for him.

DL – Who?

BH – Pretty Lights? I didn’t know who Pretty Lights was. I don’t really have my ear to the street, and I opened for him, and this dude was playing a 2000—3000 person room, sold out, craziness. And I was like “Holy crap, this guy is doing like a 50 date tour!” And he said “Hey man, you’re a big influence on me” and I was like “Whoa! Really?” I mean that’s crazy. And with stuff like that, there is a beat culture coming back, and because of that I am getting more gigs because of it. It’ll be me, and a younger artist.

DL – So after your last album came out you started touring?

BH – Yeah. It’s funny, I was kind being a dick about touring for a while, cos I don’t really enjoy it much. I’m just tired, and too old for it to be a constant party. (laughs)

DL – Too far away from your couch.

BH – Yeah, and all the benefits that go with being on tour and being a musician aren’t there when you’re old. I don’t want to drink every night, and I have a girl! Basically I was being picky, turning down shows, and I reached this point where I was thinking “I don’t know if I can make money as a musician any more”. So I told my manager, get me on the road, and within weeks, I had dates planned, and tours, and it’s been pretty steady since.

DL – In the States mostly right?

BH – I haven’t been out of the States since 2004.

DL – Wow.

BH – It’s funny, because my label is based in the UK. I’ve gotten offers, but they always fall through, or the money’s weird.

DL – It’s amazing, I’m the exact opposite. I’m in the UK and Europe a lot, and I play in the States maybe once every six weeks. I go out, three times a year, and do these three week tours, with about 6-10 gigs each time. On my days off I’m trying to stay with friends in different cities and stuff, to keep my costs low. I have a hard time touring in Canada though…

BH – I haven’t been there in a while either, and that’s a place I used to go all the time. I once went to Montreal four times in one year.

DL – Ninja Tune were there too, right?

BH – Yeah, but if they were there they’ve moved. They’re in California now. I was going there all the time, to Toronto and Vancouver and Montreal, and it always went well, and then all of a sudden, I just stopped going. And now I’m in Denver and Portland every two months! (laughs)

DL – Denver and Portland! Do you play to hippy burner crowds there?

BH – Sometimes. Yeah.

DL – How does that go down?

BH – It goes down…interestingly. It’s not my scene, so it’s hard to wrap my head around what’s going on. I prefer the crowds that are knowledgeable about music. When I do a show in San Francisco, or L.A., there’s definitely a feel of people who know music, because, a lot of my set is referential – beyond my music, it’s referential to other music as well. It’s referential to 80s music, its referential to hip-hop, and that makes a big difference. Most of the burn out crowd are just there to have fun, and that’s fine, I have no beef with that, it’s just more satisfying for me when people are freaking out over it, as opposed to just dancing with hula hoops.

DL – Absolutely. And you find yourself on some pretty interesting lineups as well, with a dubstep focus. How bizarre is that for you?

BH – For me, it makes no sense. There’s always an anxiety about it for me.

DL – And aren’t you headlining most of those shows?

BH – If I’m not headlining, I’m second. It’s me and some dude I’ve never heard of usually. But a lot of these are ravey, party kind of things, so there’s no headliner, it’s just kind of who goes when, and I’ll go on at like 1, and then, it’ll go til 4. And I don’t know if I’m headlining, but, I’m playing. Those shows, they’re fine, but it’s playing for people who don’t really care.

DL – It’s intense, because I get put on a lot of those lineups as well too, and I don’t know if you know so much about dubstep, but it’s changed so much in the last five or six years, or what people would call dubstep has changed so much, the real dubstep that started seven or eight years ago…

BH – The “whomp” thing?

DL – Yeah, the whomp thing.

BH – The whomp thing is really what I’m talking about. It’s so over my head. Cos I’ve heard dubstep where I think, “those drums are dope”. Really ill drums, where it’s basically double time rap drums. It’s like heavy, southern drums…

DL – Yeah! Sure.

BH – When it’s good it can be melodic, so I’ve heard good dubstep. But the majority of the people I perform with are into the whompy stuff that I just don’t get it at all. I’m too old! (laughs)

DL – It’s hard when you have to go out after, thinking “how do I follow that?”

BH – Yeah, it’s a weird speed to follow.

DL – I mean, it’s usually around 140, or a half-step 70 bpm feel as well.

BH – I’m right between there, and I’ll be playing some disco beats at times, and the crowd are like “Whaaat?”

DL – But that’s so much more intuitive to dancing in my mind. A 4/4 beat, mid-tempo 120…

BH – But if you watch people dancing to dubstep, they’re really struggling! It’s not natural.

DL – The heavy whomp stuff just becomes like moshing, almost, in a sense.

BH – So do you find when you get those bookings, you’re a bit put off?

DL – Well, what I care about these days is the audience having a good time and some sort of continuous night of dancing. Whether I’m headlining or not I often say, why don’t you put me on at 1 and not 3, and put this heavy guy on later. Cos they’re gonna want that. My ego doesn’t dictate that I have to go on last. I’d rather be in the hotel asleep by 3 anyway! That’s why I feel like I’m much older than I am!

BH – You’ve lived life?

DL – I’ve lived life a lot earlier, it’s true. Anyway, I wanna play you a song. Have you heard anything about the Chicago footwork and juke music?

BH – Juke music sounds familiar…

DL – I’m no aficionado when it comes to describing the lineage of this kind of music, but it’s coming out of Chicago, and it’s …

BH – What is it related to…?

DL – Well, Miami booty. I’m gonna play this guy DJ Rashad, the track is “It’s Not Right”, it came out on Planet Mu, which is the label I’m on. It’s all about 150-160 BPM. Also, the bass, is all 808 drums. (Plays track)

BH – Yeah, I figured. But you can swing with them!

DL – These kids are all 18, 19 years old, and there are thousands of tracks on YouTube, and Planet Mu is just going on an assault and releasing it. It’s hard to find it sometimes.

BH – Yeah, the beats are all over the place!

DL – A lot of it’s made on an MPC.

BH – It’s crazy man, I mean chopping up samples, it reminds me of a beat juggling DJ…

DL – Some of the signifiers of these kinds of tracks are the 808 drum sounds, the MPC compression on it, and, the chopped up, repetitive vocals. It’s actually pretty popular in the UK as well, and guys like Thom Yorke are into it.

BH – Really?

DL – It’s pretty interesting. And these kids are getting an opportunity to travel and tour Europe, and they’re really young. It’s amazing.

BH – That’s what’s crazy about what’s going on with music right now. You’ve got computer programs that are easy to use, and kids are just running with it, they’re more adapted to using computers than we were, or than I was. When laptops came out I was like “What?” (laughs) These kids have had them since they were four, they know the ins and outs. So, they make this stuff and, it’s cool man, it’s weird!

DL – And you can make a name for yourself with just a YouTube channel, or a Tumblr or whatever, just because the internet is so fast.

BH – The biggest thing I’ve seen is people who give away free albums, and they can make a name off that.

DL – What comes to mind is Tyler the Creator and those guys, Odd Future.

BH – Yeah, totally. That group, Pretty Lights did that. I mean, that’s what smart people are doing. This rapper Danny Brown who I like a lot, from Detroit, recently put out a free album, and he had a pretty decent buzz. He’s on Fools Gold records, and I was shocked that he put it out for free.

DL – Was he already on Fools Gold when he gave it away?

BH – No, that was his first album on Fools Gold. He had an album out last year that got a lot of notice, then he put out this album on Fools Gold for free. It’s cool – it will get downloaded by way more people that way.

DL – Absolutely.

BH – Granted, there are still some people who are like “I don’t wanna illegally download” and y’know, thank God for people like that, but, they’ll download the free download!

DL –I’m finally starting to come to terms with all that, and I ought to be grateful that so many people get to hear my music, but also that’s helping me get gigs, and those are the people who are coming to my gigs.

BH – It’s a hard pitch to sell to yourself though, especially when you’ve lived in an era when things did get bought. I remember selling records and making money off the sales. And now, there’s now way I’m gonna do that.

DL – Did you think that was gonna be the way?

BH – Well, in 2004, downloading was happening, but I wasn’t really thinking about it. I knew it would get easier to do, but I think maybe I was just wide eyed about it, I thought well, we make music, you can’t just give all music away for free, and now, it’s expected of you to give it away for free.

DL – That’s where I draw the line. If a fan expects you to give it away for free, then that’s a little insulting.

BH – What’s happened to me a couple of times which has been awesome, is I’ve been doing shows and I’ll be working the merch booth, and a fan will come and straight up give me 20 bucks, and be like “Hey, I illegally download all your albums, so, here’s some money”.

DL – Whoa!

BH – I was like, “thanks!” It’s happened four or five times, and that’s the coolest thing that anyone could do.

DL –. That’s never happened to me, that’s cool. Your merch game is big right now?

BH – Well, that’s another thing about the burner shows, is that you don’t do merch at burner shows, because they’re basically raves, whereas shows at venues, you set up the merch table, and I work it. I’m there the whole show, cos I don’t really like being backstage anyway, it’s boring, and I’ll just kick it and talk to fans, and sign stuff, and sell CDs, why not? (laughs) I’m a social guy, hopefully I can get some free drinks!

DL – You mentioned briefly Odd Future. Is there a song we can listen to now that isn’t totally overtalked about?

BH – Well my favourite Earl song is the song “Stapleton”. And it’s actually a funny lead in to something that I kinda want to ask you about. (Plays track)

DL – It’s amazing.

BH – But you hear this beat, this is something I just got put onto, this thing called, I think jokingly, cloud rap. It’s basically this super atmospheric, slow, rap. And this is not it.I, but it reminds me of it. It’s very floaty. Lil B does it, and A$AP Rocky.

DL – I saw that too recently, that sounds very familiar. Aesop Rock, is there any connection?

BH – No, but you know the funny thing about the A$AP Rocky and Aesop Rock thing is that it didn’t even dawn on me. I wrote a blog post about him, because he’s so weird, and I can’t really put my finger on what’s going on in his music, but I kinda like it, I kinda like, think it’s stupid as well, and someone said “this sounds like Aesop” and I was like “Oh wow!” cos it’s pronounced “Aesop Rocky”, but it’s a dude from Harlem, it’s totally different. But there’s a couple of groups coming out right now that are doing that, and it’s extremely listenable, and I feel like they’re sampling new age music. They’’re taking new age sounds, and very simple “Ohhhhh”, and these really slow, but crisp drums, and it does make a mood that is really intriguing. And the rapping isn’t that great, but it’s not so bad that I don’t wanna listen to it. It’s really interesting.

DL – Is it crude rapping? Is it similar to that Earl track?

BH – Yeah, let me find one for you. “Purple Swag” is one of the songs. (Plays song)

DL – Wow.

BH – You see what I mean? It’s really floaty, atmospheric music.

DL – Are you open to progression in hip-hop?

BH – I’m open to it – my thing is, there was a lull in rap for a while, that’s kind of ended in the last couple of years. People just weren’t trying to be different, but now, there seems to be a lot more trailblazing going on. And, stuff like this, it’s just kind of weird. Back in the 90s there was a kind of a weirdness in rap; you weren’t just manufactured, people had personalities, and I think that’s coming back to an extent with some rappers, which I like, and, and as long as that personality and weirdness is there, I’m into it. And the more genuine it is, when something has no pretentiousness at all in it, I definitely am drawn to it. That’s why Odd Future was so great when it started, because, it was just so raw, and just like, kids being kids.

DL – But is that just the sort of shoestring budget of the production, as with the videos and stuff too?

BH – I don’t know. That’s the thing, a lot of these videos are made really well. Like this video, is actually kind of awesome, and he shows Harlem in a cool light, and it’s, very New York feeling, without sounding New York at all. And obviously the Earl video is pretty great. If you apply yourself then you can make something look good, you can make it sound good – budget isn’t an issue now. I could mix an album in my headphones, and it sounds OK. It sounds better than a basement producer, and it’s just creativity. Not striving to be like the guy who’s popular, but instead trying to take that and run with it.

DL – And you feel that these young kids right now are doing that?

BH – Yeah. There’s even older guys doing it – Danny Brown is 30, and he’s a weird, a weird dude, from Detroit. (laughs)

DL – Is 30 old?

BH – In rap years it’s pretty old. It’s hard for me to say, cos I’m older than that! (laughs)

DL – Do you feel a responsibility at all to pay attention to how things are changing?

BH – I pay attention to things that might interest me. There’s whole genres of music that just fly over my head because I don’t care. A lot of instrumental stuff that is kind of an offshoot of instrumental hip-hop, that I’m sure it’s good, but it’s not the kind of stuff that I listen to…

DL – …Which always surprised me, because, I mean I’ve mentioned other Ninja Tune artists in the instrumental hip-hop game, and you were like “ah, I didn’t know they were on my label” (laughs)

BH – It’s just not my thing. I like lyrics, whether it’s singing, whether it’s rapping, I like having something that catches you. There’s tons of great producers out there, and it’s something I appreciate, but don’t really want to listen to in my own time.

DL – Right, interesting. And yet you make it.

BH – It’s kind of ironic that I make that kind of music, but I also feel undiluted by not knowing about it. I’m really not influenced by any other music being made within my genre because I don’t listen to it! I don’t know if I do that on purpose just as a way to like, safeguard myself.

DL – Do you feel freedom in that? People are always asking me what do you think of this track or this person and if I don’t know it I feel more of a freedom and I don’t have to comment on whether or not I’m influenced by it.

BH – Yeah, the freedom is nice. You also find when people do that to you they’re just kind of baiting you. I get that all the time. People want you to diss things. It might be different for you, but people are just constantly throwing things at me like “What do think of this guy?” and I’m just like “I haven’t heard it”. And I’ve heard it. I just have no opinion on it. I’m completely indifferent. I don’t care. It is what it is. I’m not dissing them, but I’m not like praising them. They just exist, in the same world as I do! Baiters. That’s the internet though, that’s internet stuff.

DL –You had a video made recently too is that right? And it’s animated, is that correct?

BH – Yep.

DL – Other than that, I only really know the “Insomniac Olympics” one, and that’s the only big video you’ve had done.

BH – That was the one they did when the album came out. I’ve had other ones done. I had a whole, album long video done to my first album.

DL – Really? No shit…

BH They had a contest through Ninja Tune to make an video for the entire Music By Cavelight album, and then the three winners were given away as a free DVD with Downtown Science. One of those has been my visuals for my live show for the last five years. It’s made to the music, but it’s more like a film. “The Art of Walking “ is a song I did that has a video that a fan made that Ninja Tune liked, so they pushed it, but uh, the “Music Scene” video definitely was the pinnacle. It was hand drawn, and took six months to make, it’s nuts.

DL – Can we watch part of it? Over a million views, wow – how do you feel about that?

BH – It is, by far, the most of anything seen by me ever. All the comments are like – “great, if you’re high!”

DL – One of the comments says, “Is this what drugs see when drugs take drugs?” (laughs). 42 thumbs up! (Plays music)

DL – Is there a big sample in there?

BH – Well actually, the dude who I sampled commented on this…

DL – What did he say?

BH – “I’m so happy my music is being brought to new ears!”

DL – (Laughs) Oh wow!

BH – I was so psyched when I saw this video though. I’d forgotten that they’d even been doing it…And six months later they said “here’s that video we made”. It’s such an achievement in animation that it got put on all different types of blogs,and the song is more powerful because of it

DL – For sure. I just I watched an interview with Eugene McDaniels who recently passed away, who wrote that album Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse, which was sampled by A Tribe Called Quest and the Beastie Boys . It’s one of those classic albums that’s been sampled by so many hip-hop songs; there’s “Jagger the Dagger”…

BH – Oh yeah, Gravedigger sampled that…

DL – But his opinion has always been “I love that these kids are using my music”.

BH – Yeah, this is one of the more famous samples of all time.

DL – And this whole album is gorgeous. It’s like this, and his whole idea was that it was just amazing that people were using it.

BH – Did he write, the original of “Compare To What”?

DL – Yeah he did, and was it a…was it a number one here?

(Audio from video) – Hip hop, sampled my music, and turned it into fantastic hits for themselves, and a great source of pride for myself.

BH – I mean that is the best thing ever. There’s no one else that says these things.

DL – I know, it’s incredible. Sadly he just passed away a few months ago. You should definitely get this album, it’s incredible. I picked it up in a record store, and the cover is him – actually I’m not sure if it’s him – with what appears to be a dagger in his hand. It looks terrifying.

BH – That’s how I used to buy records to sample, by judging the cover.

DL – Yeah, there’s two samurai, and him just screaming in the middle. It was some shit my white suburban experience had never ever experienced. I need to check this out! And it opened my eyes when I got it home. Anyway, I think we’ve checked enough videos – let’s chat briefly about yourself.  You grew up in New York, right?

BH – Yeah. In the west village. Shall we get background on how we know each other, cos it’s kind of weird!

DL – Yeah, we should. Your nephew Tom and I were friends. He is one of my best friends now. I met you shortly after I moved to New York, about five years ago. And I had listened to some of your music and he turned me on to more of it, and I thought wow, this is amazing. It was back when I started trying to make music, and I was trying to make instrumental hip-hop, and I was listening to you, and DJ Shadow and stuff like that, and then I sort of changed and went in different directions, but I always checked your stuff. And then I met you, and, and you were Tom’s uncle! So we’ve been hanging out for a couple of years…

BH – And don’t forget the MySpace interactions we had! (laughs)

DL – Oh yeah!  I would ask very silly questions, mostly about Tom probably, and try and make some kind of connection (laughs). I would ask things like, “Where’s a good place to get burritos”?

BH – I thought you were crazy. I would be like “Tom, who’s your crazy friend?”

DL – Oh dear. Every once in a while I go through old emails I sent to musicians when I was younger, and it’s the most embarrassing shit ever

BH – You were surprisingly normal when I met you.

DL – That’s good. I’m only sweating a little bit now! No it’s funny now, I’ve got a few, emails, people send me tunes, and ask me a lot of weird shit and I’m like, ah OK, this is karma. And also, now to go even more full circle, I’ve had an EP out on Ninja Tune.

BH – Exactly, we’re label mates. That’s assuming they’re gonna put out my next album!

DL – We may overlap at one point. But, growing up in New York, where were you going to see music when you were younger?

BH – I was never a huge live performance guy, I would go to rap shows. That’s the thing, The first show I ever saw was a pretty legendary show. It was a Boogie Down Productions show at S.O.B’s. I think I was 16, and I got in, somehow, and it later became a live album.

DL – Really?

BH – Yeah. It was BDP live. It was three different shows they recorded but some of it was from the S.O.B. show. And that was pretty cool, cos I was so young, but after a while, I just kind of hit a wall with rap shows., I thought to myself, I’d rather listen to a well recorded song where I can actually hear what you’re saying. I would go in, wherever they would let me in, back when I was under 21. I was always a headphones kind of guy anyway. I had a Walkman.

DL – You are the backpacking hip-hopper. (laughs)

BH –Before that even existed I was doing that.

DL – Well yeah, before that became cool.

BH – And then uncool!

DL –Did you got to Fat Beats and stuff?

BH – Yeah, a little bit. I went to Fat Beats, and Footwork was another one. I always kinda hated Fat Beats, going in there, I liked that it existed, but I thought the people that worked there were assholes, and there was just a dickish vibe in there all the time. And weirdly toward the music I was making too ….I was making kind of…I wouldn’t say avant-garde hip-hop, but I wasn’t making typical hip-hip, I was making stuff with Aesop, and it was very Return of the Boom Bap in there, which I liked, too, but they were snobby about it, and that always kind of rubbed me the wrong way. But I did buy records from there.

DL – Right. So you had an appreciation for vinyl?

BH – Oh yeah, I mean, all these records over here, these are like my super-rare indie rap vinyls. That’s all I have left. Everything else downstairs is the stuff I’ve sampled. And I had crates and crates.

DL – But it feels like letting go of a child.

BH – I also have all my cassettes too, I have a box of cassettes.

DL – Do you have a tape player?

BH – No. I do have one downstairs, but it’s not plugged in. What’s the point.

DL – A friend of mine put out a cassette not long ago, do you know Machinedrum?

BH – Yeah, I’ve done shows with him before.

DL – Travis moved to Berlin actually, and an EP he put out a year or so ago, there was a 12”, a t-shirt, and a cassette.

BH – Someone gave me a cassette the other day actually.

DL - Really? On the street?

BH – No, I was playing basketball and he’s a rapper guy, and he said “here, take my music” and he gave it to me, I was like wow, this is a cassette.

DL – Did you check it?

BH – Well, I know his stuff well enough to know that I don’t really care.(laughs) But I like that the thought was there. It’s an interesting thought. And bootlegging it’s gonna be a lot harder.

DL – Do you go to Other Music?

BH – I haven’t been in a long time. I don’t really buy a lot of new music, and if I do I just get it off iTunes. A lot of the stuff I’ve been getting recently is all free download stuff. I lot of the rap stuff I listen to they’re just like “take it”. And I’m not exactly paying for Watch The Throne, y’know?

DL – Right. I haven’t checked that yet.

BH – It’s OK. It’s fine. It’s not worth getting upset or happy about. There’s some good songs and some bad songs.

DL – It’s a 7?

BH – It’s a hard 6.5/7. It’s not their best work, not their worst work, but, it’s fine. But people are fuckin’ losing their mind over it, both negatively and positively.

DL – Yeah, but it’s an interesting thing too, what do you think about fame, versus people’s feeling of ownership over you and your music? What’s the best way to put that?

BH – As an underground artist, which we both are, like, on a larger scale, we’re genre artists, and, I think people like being on to something that other people aren’t onto yet.

DL – Right.

BH – And a big part of that is that they want you as their own personal artist. So when, too many people get on it, that’s when the backlash happens. And it will be irregardless of your music getting worse or better a lot of the time. There are artists out there who have not made worse music over the years, but they’ve had a backlash because their fans were like “oh. They like it”. I call it The Fugees Syndrome. If you think about that album, the hit album they had, The Score, and that album is a solid album, it’s a really well made album. When it came out it was really awesome. And then all of a sudden people were saying, “it’s the worst album”. And I was saying, It’s not the worst album. It’s fine. You’re just backlashing against it because you loved the once and now all these dickheads like it, and it became like fratguy music! (laughs) And I think that’s a huge thing with fame, and people wanting you as your own artist. It’s weird and delusional, but I understand because I was once a fan like that and I felt betrayed by artists too.

DL – I think it’s too young, and too new. How are we gonna know what we’re going to be doing in 10 years. If you’re still making music in 10 years, what’s it gonna sound like?

BH – And it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Either you don’t change, you stay the same as you’ve been, and people are like “Well he just doesn’t change. It’s the same thing as the last album”. Or you change and they’re like “I wish he’d just stayed the same”.

DL – Alienate some fans and gain some others.

BH – I’ve had so many people come up to me – I mean it’s a bit weird, it’s rude, in a way, I mean it’s honest but it’s rude, and they’re like “Well, why can’t you make another album like your first one”, and I’m like “Well I made that album in 2000 (laughs) – I was different”.

DL – Because 11 years of life happened!

BH – I was in my mid 20s, I was like 23 when I made that! And, they just don’t get it. I understand, they’re not artists, they don’t make music, and don’t realise you’re gonna change from album to album. But I’ve had reviews where it’s like “It’s the same thing he’s been doing forever” and they’re right, they’re more right than the people who are mad at me for changing, but, you can’t win. There’s nothing you can do. You gotta take it on the chin.

DL – Absolutely. And I imagine that happens in all different forms in the art world as well.

BH – Oh yeah, painters get that all the time. Like when they try a new style out.

DL – I think that’s probably a good thing to end on.

Eugene McDaniels

Leave a reply

  1. Wavatar Ant Relisher says:

    This interview is great! Loving blockhead’s music and his personality!

  2. Wavatar Q says:

    Unfortunately it makes feeling like “The Terminal” film with Tom Hanks does. When there is n1 musician, who is like kind of music “god” for you, like Blockhead music is for me personally. But reality seem to be that such people have modest albums sales and play in ordinary parties for, in some cases, probably, people who are not aware and cannot appreciate what they listen too. That makes me sad.

  3. Wavatar Kevin Hein says:

    Great, inspiring interview. Wish I could hang out with Drew and Tony.

  4. Wavatar Admac says:

    @kc: Ditto!

  5. Wavatar tom says:

    great interview, so many more interesting questions from falty than your average music journo.

  6. Wavatar kc says:

    it took me all day to read this thoroughly in between work and doing shit not on my computer, but this was one of my favorite interviews i’ve seen in recent days. a real nerdy conversation. big ups to whoever transcribed it and i really appreciated this interview.

    thanks to you both!
    -kc