Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I twist characters like Twist characters

No article has caused me more headaches than this week's CP music lead, a feature on Aesop Rock and his phenomenal new record, None Shall Pass. Why? Not to Stan out or anything, but I've been a huge fan of dude since the age of 13 or so. On top of that, a few recent interviews/Q&As I'd read with him featured unapologetically Chris Farley-esque lines of questioning ("Do you remember that one part, from Labor Days, when you spelled out 'flash flood'? That was awesome."), so I wanted to try for a slightly different direction. (To the best of my abilities, at least...there's only so much one can cover in a 25-minute phone interview).

Here's some extra material from the interview that I wasn't able to use for the piece due to space constraints.


Could you take me into your creative process in terms of production? Do you bounce ideas off people like Blockhead, or do you work on your own to avoid outside influences?

I wish I did that. [laughs] When I do something, I usually send it out to Blockhead, Rob Sonic and El-P. I bounce stuff off of these guys, but probably too much to the point that at some point in the process I hit a wall, and I'm like, "I'm not sending anything to anybody anymore." I send Cage stuff sometimes...I definitely ask the people around me that I trust. But I run into too many walls when everyone says, "This is cool, but I think you should do

You've said in the past that you don't usually go back and listen to your old records, but I noticed shades of your old material on None Shall sampled a bit from Bazooka Tooth's "11:35" on the title track, for example.

Basically, I know that I can get away with sampling my own shit because no one is going to sue me. A lot of times, what I'll do is if I have that's a capella that I can use, I'll do it because there's no chance I can get in trouble for it. I used a Camp Lo sample from
Bazooka Tooth for the "Getaway Car" chorus. I knew it would sound good. If I can find what I need, I'll use it so I don't have it to mask [something else].

You'll be MTV's Artist of the Week starting Sept. 17. How did that come about? Strange experience?

We sort of had this relationship...they would run my videos on MTVu and MTV2, so I guess they deemed me cool enough for MTV1. We had a creative meeting to discuss what I wanted to convey...they asked me what I wanted the theme to be, and I asked them to get as many live exotic animals on the set as possible. They put in calls to the Bronx Zoo, and at the end of the day, we got one monkey. It's basically all these performance's me and Blockhead hosting a a fake public access show, and one of the guests is this woman Judy with a pet spider monkey. She's one of the interviewees, and we just hang out with the monkey for awhile.

None Shall Pass leaked. These days, is something like that less of a disappointment than an inevitability?

It happens with everything.
Bazooka Tooth leaked three months in advance. We try each time to do something different that will prevent it. This year, we put the names people receiving them [onto the audio of the disc]. It held it off a little bit. El-P leaked a month in advance. I leaked five weeks in advance. But the last one was three months. It's kind of expected, and yet it's completely infuriating. [Every album, I tell myself], "It's not going to leak, it'll make it to the final date." It inevitably doesn't. I literally got off a plane from Europe after a week of doing nothing but press...I step off the plane, and Jesse from the label says, "I just got a text. Your record just leaked." I was just running around promoting it, so I was like, "Fuck this." It's frustrating. Somehow, [the inevitability of a leak] doesn't take away from the disappointment. It never gets any less annoying.

What goes through your head when you debut new material live for the first time? Is it daunting?

We've been testing out songs and rehearsing all month. We're going on tour starting Sept. 6. We started by sneaking in, like, one or two new songs, then three new songs, then we finally facelifted the whole set. We haven't even performed it once yet. [
His Sept. 8 show at the Starlight Ballroom will be the non-festival debut of the new material off None Shall Pass.] So we're going to be doing that...a lot of it is new stuff, but also old stuff I haven't done in awhile, definitely. It can be daunting. But we rehearsed this time more than ever. When we did the MTV gig, we did three new songs [for TV spots.] It's national TV, pretty much my biggest promo outlet ever, so it can be a little daunting. But we're ready for it.

To be honest, it feels good to do all the new stuff. I've kind of been doing a lot of the same material, so it's great to be changing it up a little bit. There are nine or 10 new songs on the set...Rob Sonic has some new songs on the set. [I'm looking forward to performing] "39 Thieves" and "None Shall Pass"...but most of them are fun because they're new.

Official Site
Get tickets for Saturday
Purchase None Shall Pass @
Video for "None Shall Pass"

UPDATE (09 Sept 07): Show was dope. In other news: Earlier today, I came across this overwritten review of Why's Elephant Eyelash I did about two years ago for Okayplayer. In the first paragraph, I make a secondhand allusion to the record sounding like an "Aesop Rock/Mountain Goats collaboration." It seemed "wacky and subversive!" at the time, but now it's more bizarre than anything else, as Ace and the Goats' John Darnielle collab on the None Shall Pass track "Coffee." Weird.

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