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The video was shot by my friend, Andrew Gura. Andrew wanted to spend some time with me in Paris. We ended up playing around town, no budget, just bringing a camera and, let’s put on a clown nose, let’s go to the Eiffel Tower. So we’re in Père Lachaise cemetery, then we’re on my roof, then we’re in Chatelais, the crazy train station. It’s just us playing around town, putting it together and going, this would be fun to put out. What gear and instruments do you play? I never like to say that I play an instrument. I play with instruments. I’m like a child with instruments. Synthesizer is where I feel the most amount of freedom. I’ll program my drums, anything, off a keyboard. This time around I started like that and then I started working with Renaud Letang, the producer on this album. He and I worked to bring my demos up a notch, then we brought in the musicians. A huge horn section. This album is primarily tribal drums and horns. Renaud was among the main reasons I moved to France. I’m a huge fan of his work. Working with Trent was a really cool experience, yet Trent is an artist. Anyone can tell when you listen to Niggy Tardust that you hear Trent’s signature throughout, because even as a producer he can’t help but bring his sound. When you’re working with a producer that is not trying to express their artistic side and is just trying to help you express your artistic side, it’s a completely different process. I worked with Renaud because there are quite a few albums that I’ve loved over the years that he produced or mixed. I’ve always loved the clarity and simplicity of the sound and I can tell that this is the artist’s vision. Tell me about the interplay between music and lyrics. Do you usually write the lyrics first or does the music come first? Have you noticed a pattern? With this album, when I moved to Paris, I had this entire album in demo form. I had written all the music and some of the lyrics. Yeah, it’s the music first a lot of times. But this album was definitely all music first. I wanted to make an album where the music really had a strong breath of its own, that wasn’t so wordy, that didn’t need to be as wordy, where the music carries itself. With lyrics, I pretty much try to get out of the way, and let the music dictate the words. I wasn’t feeling any particular way when I wrote List of Demands, but after I had the guitar and drums, that sound is what dictated the attitude of the lyricism. It didn’t come from a mood I was in. It was the mood the music dictated. I realize you’re often writing the music, but for example with Niggy Tardust, or the first time I ever

heard you – it was DJ Krust, Coded Language…I love drum and bass but the poem, I was like, whoa, play that again. Righteous. Holy shit. So when you do do collaborations, how do you select collaborators? Is there a lot of interplay between you? How do you find that process works? My best collaborations have come from people that are around me and in my life and we share a moment, or I have an immediate introduction. With DJ Krust, I had just written “Coded Language” and flew to London to do promotion for Slam and I was actually supposed to be recording with Roni Size while I was there. Roni introduced me to Krust and was like, you have to hear this beat. The first time he played me a portion of it, I tried reading the poem over it. The first take. That’s it. I can hear that. They fit together like hand and glove. It really worked. Collaborations most of the time happen in relaxed environments. It’s usually just friends, like Janelle Monáe. I collaborated with her on her last album. She collaborated with me on the song that will be the first single off Volcanic Sunlight. We recorded in her house, in her basement. What would you describe as your most powerful influences? First, I’d have to include my parents. My father was a minister. My mother was a teacher. Although I don’t belong to a religion, I have a great deal of respect for the sincerity with which my Dad approached his life. He was not in the ministry to make money or to drive a fancy car. My father died maybe eight years ago and the more I think about his life, I think, wow, every Monday he made it his business to be in hospitals visiting sick people and every Wednesday…he had a schedule of counselling and helping people. He loved humanity. He cared about people. Yes, he really did. Even though I might be mad at institutionalized religion, I can’t be mad at the fact that my father was sincerely invested in connecting with people and helping them through hard situations. There’s no contradiction in that. I really appreciate that in him. My Mom taught kindergarten for 27 years and maintained a true excitement about turning people on to having fun expressing themselves, culture, legacy. My Mom is a sincerely excited student of life. They turned me on to countless activists and artists. A close friend of my father’s was Pete Seeger. He would sing at my father’s church. I’d be like, why is this boring, corny white man singing in my father’s church, singing this song from school, If I Had a Hammer? (Laughter.) Then time passed, and, he

Profile for Burner Magazine

Burner Magazine: The MUSIC Issue  

On March 1, 2011, Burner Magazine is excited to unveil Burner 03: The Music Issue, with editorials and features of Yoko Ono, Saul Williams,...

Burner Magazine: The MUSIC Issue  

On March 1, 2011, Burner Magazine is excited to unveil Burner 03: The Music Issue, with editorials and features of Yoko Ono, Saul Williams,...

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