Interview: Tech N9ne
Mon, 30 Nov 2009 08:48:31
Tech N9ne is not afraid to be different.
In fact, he's built a career out of being rap's lone gunman. He doesn't adhere to industry notions of what an artist "should be" or "should do." Functioning completely outside the system, Tech continues recording music and releasing it via his own Strange Music, and he's got a legion of fans who turn up at sold out shows everywhere to see him preach the gospel of Strange. That gospel becomes even fierier with each and every subsequent release. Tech's latest album, K.O.D., is a rap masterpiece. Tech dives deeper into darkness than he ever has, but he emerges with something "strangely" beautiful….
Tech N9ne sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino to discuss K.O.D. and so much more in this exclusive interview. Join Tech in the dark….
K.O.D. is another monster of a record. Did it take a lot out of you?
Thank you, it was hard to do….
Where has K.O.D. taken you as an artist?
Well, it took me to a totally dark place of course! The inspiration behind it was my mom being sick. When I first set out to do it, I thought it was going to be fun. When I was talking about K.O.D. prior to writing it, I told people it was going to be a beautiful thing for me to do because it was going to allow me to use my imagination. I'm usually rapping about my life and things that are going on around me. I went into K.O.D. thinking, "Yeah, it's going to be good since I get to use my imagination and play with people's heads." When I got it into it though, it started turning into my real life. It was my mom being sick that gave me "Show Me a God," "Low" and all of those kinds of songs. It was the messed up situations around me that gave me "The Martini" and "Shadow on the Road." The record just turned into my real life, and I had no idea that I had that much dark stuff to talk about. Even if I dug into my past on songs like "It Was an Accident," I had no idea that I had that much negative energy. It was crazy, man! It actually let me know that the negative energy really will put you in a hole. I thought I could do it because I'm "Mr. Darkness" and "Mr. Crazy." I thought it would be a cinch for me, but I was running from certain songs because I knew they would put me deeper down the hole. It's crazy.
Do you feel like you got to know yourself better by digging deeper than ever before?
I got to a place that I didn't want to know that I had inside of me. I didn't want to know that part of me. What I found is that I know that part of me well. I downplayed it for so long. Every album had a dark section—even Killer. I always knew I had it, but I had no idea that I could do a totally dark album and have it be successful. I thought that my fans weren't going to like it. They're craving it though and I've heard some say, "Oh my God, it's the best album he's ever done." Before K.O.D. came out, I didn't think they were going to like it. I figured that they wanted me to be more "spooky" about it—messing with their heads. I figured wrong though. I thought that they wanted fiction, but I ain't good at giving fiction, I guess. They ended up loving K.O.D.! They love when I have problems, and that's crazy because I don't want to have any problems [Laughs]. They say, "Now that this album is successful, keep doing it!" Nah…I told them this is going to be the only one of it's kind because, for real, I am trying to get out of that hole. Stuff keeps happening from day-to-day with my mom. Even the slightest thing puts me back in that space. I think, "Wow, can't I just go all the way out of this?" I had no idea that my fans were going to appreciate it like they do.
You've always been real, and K.O.D. is as real as it gets. The fans need it from you.
Who else are they going to get it from other than Tech N9ne?
[Laughs] I don't know. I haven't listened to everything on the planet. I just live in my world and I do what my heart, my brain and my soul tell me to do. I wish I didn't have to write a song like "Show Me a God" where I'm asking God, "Please show me something supernatural so I know there's something extra out here besides us." I have things that I look up at like the sun and say like, "Wow, that's something incredible." When my child was born, I was like, "Wow, that's incredible." I need some proof of another life. A lot of people talk about aliens and stuff. I've never seen it. I've never seen a ghost. I've never felt anything funny in a room. You know what I'm sizzling? I've actually looked for it [Laughs]. I go to these places that they say are haunted, sit in a dark corner and wait for it. It never comes. I'm in the dark and everything waiting though! There's this old venue in Cinncinatti and downstairs they have this extremely large swimming pool area. It's dark as hell. They say that a little girl died in there and you can hear her and feel her. I went down there and sat by myself like, "Please let me see this." Granted, if I see it, it might scare the hell out of me [Laughs]. But, it would let me know that there's an after world or a spiritual realm. Actually, if I found that out to be true, I would know and figure that some of the things they wrote in the Bible could possibly be. It would turn into me believing totally. That was written to keep law and order, so intellectual people always try to find some kind of explanation. Maybe that's a problem…or maybe that's a good thing. I'm one of those people who wants to find what actually happened and how we got here. So "Show Me a God" was really me saying, "Please, man, show me something so I can know that something good is going to come when I'm praying to you about my mother." I'm really serious about my mother. She's young, man. That's why K.O.D. is like it is. The first level is "Anger." The second level is "Madness" and then "The Hole." Those are all of the levels that I was on. When you hear "Madness," it's more imagination like "In the Trunk" and "Pinocchio." "In the Trunk" is about the ideas that I have in my head when I come in contact with people that are ignorant to me. They'll say things like, "Nah, man I don't listen to that Tech N9ne shit cuz…that's that devil worshipping shit." It's stuff I've actually heard over those years from people. My thoughts are I should throw this motherfucker in the trunk and just bang my music for a week or two [Laughs]. It's my imagination—what I would really want to do. So it's actually based off of real situations.
What's going on in "Pinocchio?"
When I wrote "Pinocchio," I first got this image of a guy in a mirror and his face looked like one of the characters in Where the Wild Things Are for some reason. He had a big mouth with a lot of teeth. He's got on a suit and he's greasing his hair back. He's fixing his eyebrows and he's got a big grin on his face getting ready to see this woman that he really adores. But, this guy actually eats women! He's trying to get through this one date without eating this girl because he really likes her. He ends up doing it at the end because he cannot stop eating women. That's a pretty crazy story. I didn't really write that song about me, but as I thought about it, he started to sound exactly like me. I can't keep women off of my tongue [Laughs]. Not eating women like a cannibal, but really eating women—cunnilingus [Laughs]. I was like, "Wow, that sounds like my life," and I didn't mean to do it. It's just me writing what I know and what I feel. I sat down and thought it would be my imagination but it turned into me as I listened to it after I did it. It was supposed to be in "Madness" where the imagination was. That section also has a song called "It Was an Accident." That was taken from a past story about when I used to do ecstasy. I've got all of these dark stories within me, and I'm not making them up. That fucked with me a little bit. Why would a person have that much within him? How could I do such weird things in my life and actually talk about them? One thing about…my fans told me that it makes wonderful, beautiful music. They actually love this album, and it threw me for a loop.
In some ways, it's a deeper record than Killer with a bigger payoff.
No doubt, man. When I did Killer, it only took me 28 days, and that's 30-something tracks! K.O.D. is way less than that, and it was the hardest album for me to do. There were actually songs that I was running from, Rick! I was running from "Low." That's why I only wrote two verses, because I knew "Low" was going to take me all the way down the hole. I was already distraught about my mom, and I knew I was going to end up talking about it again somehow. I was running from "The Martini" because the last verse is about my best friend that got shot and killed. It was a crime of passion, and his girl got killed right next to him. The guy who killed them killed himself in front of that little girl. I just didn't want to go there and tell that story about my homeboy who helped me create this darkness back in the day. He was the one who helped me enhance the darkness back in the early '90s. I was actually running from songs on this album. I couldn't even go to a strip club and want to be there. My dudes would be like, "Man, what is wrong with you?" Everything around me—my personal life with people that love me—started crumbling. There was so much negative energy. I wanted people to leave me alone. I had no idea that when you get into that kind of writing, it'll put you there. I understand what they said about Heath Ledger not being able to come out of his role as the Joker. They say Will Ferrell stays in character even off set. I thought I could turn it off and on. I guess not.
The title track, "K.O.D.," is some of the hardest stuff you've put on tape.
Yeah, man! That was the third song that I was running from. I was running from that because my guy Krizz Kaliko—you know he's hella cautious—told me something about it. You know me; I'm not a cautious writer at all. I'm just going to do what I feel. Krizz was like, "Tech, man, you've got to be careful. You know your fans will do whatever you say." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "You've got to be careful." He was making fun of me saying I'm a cult leader like Jim Jones [Laughs]. I'm not going to make anyone drink some goddamn electric Koolaid. I would never want to do anything like that. I was like, "Wow, I've got to be careful for a change" if I'm giving instructions on how to live.
This album caps off quite the trilogy. You can go on and do something else now because you got this out of you.
Totally, man! That's where I'm going. I'm always going to have the darkness. It's always going to be bad times no matter how big or good my career is. I'm skyrocketing now. They finally put me on MTV Jams, and MTV2 added me. I've never had that. Things are happening. People from overseas are calling me. I'm going to play a bunch of shows overseas in places I've never been. With all of that happening, I'm sure there will always be personal problems. I know the darkness will never leave me, but I'm trying to muscle out of that hole and smile some. You know what I'm saying [Laughs]? I'm not talking about on album covers; I'm not going to get corny on ya'll. I'm not saying smiling is corny either, I think it's a wonderful thing to smile and laugh. Jack Nicholson said it in the first Batman, "Laughter is indeed the best medicine." I truly believe that. At the same time, I'm really trying to find some light. I try to find it in women, and I always end up making it into a dark place. That's why I said, "Everything I touch turns to mold; everything I fuck, straight explodes." People think it sounds good in "Blackened the Sun." They don't know that's how I truly feel about myself. It's a dream I have. Everything I touch—I fuck it up. When I want to love it , I end up destroying it. It's real and it's me.
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…