Troglodyte Interview

Having worked in the indie movie world for years as a special effects make-up artist, Jeff Sisson flipped the script in 2005 when he formed Troglodyte with a group of KC metal vets. Using the gory Bigfoot exploitation flick Night of the Demon as inspiration, the band summons tales from the bog, crafting its Sasquatch-themed songs in the key of black metal. They make “music for the contemporary caveman,” are tied to a “1990 Florida sound,” and even have an odd connection to Sarah Palin, but despite the gimmick there’s surprisingly little schlock in their game. The Bloodsprayer might have said it best: “These unholy fuckers of mothers get up on stage in ape-faced masks and rock the fuck out about Bigfoot. And you know what? It’s really fucking good.”

The rest of the Trog roster has a cool lineup of veteran musicians. Were you a fan of the guys before you joined up with them, and before you donned the mask for Troglodyte were you involved in any other bands? Did you play guitar in Whoracle?

In 2001 I was laid off from my job here in KC. I was already traveling to L.A. from time to time, taking vacation time to work on low-budget horror films, so I saw this as an opportunity to move out and make a go of it. While living in L.A. I came up with the idea of what became Troglodyte. When I relocated back to the Midwest in late 2004, I reached out to Chris Wilson, who I had met through a mutual friend, to gauge his interest and see if we could make this happen. I make all the masks we wear and assemble our crummy stage attire, also!

Amazingly enough, there is another Jeff Sisson, who lives in Topeka, KS and plays guitar for Whoracle. What are the odds of two Jeff Sissons who are in death metal bands, right?

Do you still wear thermal underwear onstage or have you transitioned into something a little more “breathable”?

Hahahaha… I try to make myself a “little” more comfortable… not much. The whole reason I did that was to quite literally make myself as uncomfortable as possible, to create some kind of urgency while we played. I ended up just sweating a lot.

Messin’ with Sasquatch: Fair game or cruel and mean-spirited?

I think those commercials are amazing. The humans are the ones getting the short end of the stick in those… I love it!

You told Metal Band Art that producing a GG Allin bio-pic would be one of your dream projects and about a week back the band posted a cover of “Die When You Die” on Facebook. Are you going to see the Murder Junkies when they play the Riot Room next month, and what might it take to turn that dream film into a reality?

We used to cover a couple of GG Allin tunes when we played live: “Die When You Die” and “Bite it You Scum.” That recording of “Die” is probably four or five years old. We recorded them and just kind of filed them away. We actually have played with the Murder Junkies a couple years ago. I talked with Merle a few times before coming in to town. Nice enough guy. I shared the songs with him once via email, I think his quote was, “Great production, sounds tight, crummy vocals… GG would hate it. Congratulations!” I think the only thing that would ever get that bio pic made is excessive amounts of money to license the songs and convince my friend, writer/actor, Trent Haaga to play the role of GG.

Question in the form of an answer: “Cracula.”

What is the single greatest exploitation film, written/directed by Jeff Sisson, that no one will ever give me the 2.5 million dollars to produce? Man, you’ve really been diggin’ around on me!

The scene: Battle of the bands. You each only get one song to win the crowd over. Troglodyte vs. the Jimmy Castor Bunch. They tear into a rendition of “Troglodyte” and the crowd eats it up. What do you guys counter with?

Wow, I was just talking about Jimmy Castor this morning! Tough. First, there is no way to win a crowd over following up that song. That said, we’d probably go in to a cover of Fear’s “Honor and Obey” and then hammer-smash the eight people who we didn’t chase off with a performance of the entire Cruising: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack… Did I mention we probably wouldn’t be wearing pants?

[This article first appeared at Mills Record Company.]

The Dead Girls Interview

Cameron Joel Hawk is the guitarist for the Lawrence power-pop four-piece the Dead Girls, the “old school punk rock” group Stiff Middle Fingers, and Many Moods of Dad. He also drums for Hidden Pictures. And up until this year, was regularly tackling music on his Record Geek Heaven blog. But despite being so thoroughly tied to local music, he hasn’t always felt close to the community. In a 2008 interview Dead Girls drummer Eric Melin said, “We’re not really a part of the scene anymore,” to which Hawk followed-up, “We don’t mean that in an elitist sort of way. There are a bunch of bands around town that we love to play with, but we just don’t do a lot of networking.” While an off-the-cuff remark from 2008 doesn’t hold weight, that sort of outsider thread and feeling of being the odd-band-out is one that remains consistent to this day.

Last year you tweeted “No matter how much you love something, it’s always just work for someone else.” While the blog has fallen by the wayside — which I imagine has given a bit of distance between you and thinking about music 24/7 — how do you avoid letting music become “just work”?

Cameron Joel Hawk: It’s been really tough! Honestly, a lot of the reason Record Geek Heaven has fallen to the wayside is because, like you said, it gets tiring thinking about music 24/7. It’s also just a matter of having some free time to unwind, which keeps me from getting too stressed out. I am currently in four bands and work a 40 hr/wk job in Olathe. Between all of that, and making time for a life with my girlfriend (and not driving her crazy with band practice at the house all the time), it can be difficult to keep things moving. That tweet actually had more to do with the planning of last year’s Lawrence Field Day Fest. I felt like I was investing all of my time and energy (and a lot of my own money) into something that people thought was cool, but people always have their own things that they are interested in. There’s not a lot to do about it — with something like that, where you know you can’t pay anyone, you just have to hope people will be excited about it and willing to help because of that. But that’s not always how it works out.

I think I can avoid the feeling of it becoming “just work” because I allow myself a lot of freedom with everything. I love music and I love being in bands, but I am not going to let that be the sole thing that defines me. I have a lot of interests and goals in my life, and being creative in music is just one of those things (albeit, probably the number one thing). Plus, the people I play music with are (for the most part) very old friends who I can be 100% myself with, and we can all just lay everything out on the table as far as what we think about what we are creating, etc. It’s become a no holds barred kind of experience.

That tweet sort of relates to something else here: last summer you went on a bit of a rant on your blog about feeling under-appreciated in Lawrence. “It’s kind of a letdown when you are in a scene that talks the talk (‘Our scene should be a musical community that we can all be a part of’, etc. etc.) but very rarely walks the walk, or at least for The Dead Girls. [...] Plus, what the fuck do I expect? I live in Kansas. It’s not like I’m trying to do this shit in New York or LA, places where I actually could have some kind of opportunity to further a musical career.” Some nine months later, how have you processed these thoughts and do you still feel the same way?

Cameron Joel Hawk: First of all, my desire to live elsewhere comes more from the fact that I was born and raised in KS and have lived in this state my entire life. I have always loved to travel and see different parts of the world and experience different cultures, so it just makes sense overall that I would eventually want to live somewhere else. It has more to do with that than our music scene, which I am completely in love with. I was even in love with it back then. I think you can really only say candid stuff like that about something you really care about and understand, and I never meant any harm against any band or anything. That’s why I didn’t mention any band names, you know? I mean, not every band is going to make music I like (they left that to the Bee Gees, hahaha). But, that doesn’t mean I can’t respect those people for their hard work and be happy for their successes. I mean, it’s kind of a letdown when bands I really like, like Cowboy Indian Bear or Quiet Corral — bands that have members which I am pretty solidly acquainted with — never ask the Dead Girls to play a show. Being in a band, I know that shows are more fun when you can get on a bill with bands you like, and bands that draw well, etc. The Dead Girls have never drawn very well, so maybe that is more the reason we haven’t been asked. But it’s impossible not to think in your brain somewhere “Hey, if they liked our music, they probably would have asked us to play a show by now.” This could be me just over-thinking things, because I tend to do that.

I am starting to get to the point where I feel like I should try to live elsewhere, though. I REALLY would like music to help pay the bills someday, and I am open to the many possible equations that could lead to that. I just want to go somewhere where there are more opportunities of that nature. It is a part of me I have worked diligently my entire life to strengthen and refine, so I ain’t just gonna drop it to work at some dumb corporation for the rest of my life.

Question in the form of an answer: “Many Moods of Dad.”

Cameron Joel Hawk: What is the Best New Band in Lawrence, Alex?

Seriously though, this is a new band I’m really excited about. It is made up of me and two other dudes that used to play with me in the band Podstar back in the day — drummer JP Redmon, and singer/songwriter/guitarist Aaron “Barry” Swenson. I’ve been playing music with these guys in some form for almost 17 years, which is crazy to think about. But it’s also awesome, because I feel like the first MMOD album, The Consequence of Trying, is a really unique statement by all of us. I mean, of course I am going to say this because it’s my band, but it sounds like not a lot of other stuff going on right now, and it’s pretty exciting. We’re opening for Black on Black for their CD release at Replay for Final Friday, next week, April 26th (also with Muscle Worship).

Speaking to you said that Stiff Middle Fingers are heavily influenced by the Descendents and Black Flag. The former are playing Kanrocksas while a version of the latter are playing Lawrence in June (also: Greg Ginn just played KCMO with Good For You). Which band excites you the most right now?

Cameron Joel Hawk: Descendents are one of my all-time top five favorite bands, period. I think what fascinates me the most about them is the fact that they have had a different band lineup on almost all of their albums, but the music remains in the same vein. In order for a band to do that, they need to be extremely focused and REALLY know what they are trying to accomplish as a band. Sure, Bill Stevenson and Milo Aukerman have been there the whole time, but they don’t always write the songs — they have allowed songs from almost every other band member that has been in the band. There is just a really strong core in that group and they survive because of an ethos and their strong personalities, rather than the fact that they can write a few catchy tunes.

With that said, I am more excited about that Black Flag show than anything else this summer. I have seen the Descendents before, and hope to see them at Kanrocksas, but never Black Flag. I realize it’s a little weird with the dual lineups that are touring, but that’s almost more of a testament to how important that band is to people. Enough people want to see them that they can totally get away with doing that, and it’s fantastic. I hope to see both at some point!

Rapid fire finale: Favorite Rooftop Vigilantes song; favorite SXSW moment; favorite Grizzly Bear song played at the Uptown?

Cameron Joel Hawk: “Fists of Gary.” Seeing Free Energy at the Iron Bear and totally missing the fact that it was a gay bar. “Two Weeks.”

[This article first appeared at Mills Record Company.]

Bloodbirds Interview

Mike Tuley’s been around. Madd Scientists, Or Die Trying, Short Bus Kids, Hairy Belafonte, Ad Astra Per Aspera, Ad Astra Arkestra… he’s played in them all. And with Bloodbirds he’s added hyperdistorted psych-tinged post-punk garage rock to his musical resume, assuming guitar and vocal duties in the trio along with Brooke Tuley on drums and Anna St. Louis on bass. Their new album Psychic Surgery should resonate with you if the word “rock” is connected to whatever guitar + rhythm section genre you find yourself digging on. For what it’s worth though, Mike doesn’t want to define the band by genre. He’d rather just let the music do its thing. As Psychic Surgery is one of my favorite albums to be released out of KC this year, I’m alright with that, too.

Did you and Brooke play together before you were married, or were you a couple before you tried creating music together?

Brooke and I have played together in several bands over the years. The longest-running was a Lawrence-based band called, Ad Astra Per Aspera. We were together for about eight years and put out several records, the last two being 45′s put out by Love Garden. We’ve played in a bunch of other groups together, including Ad Astra Arkestra, and Hairy Belefonte and various side-projects over the years. She occasionally releases her own music under the name Aunt Beast. We met through playing shows together in our respective teenage punk bands. I lived at a punk house that had shows in Lawrence, called the Pirate House; she lived at a punk house in KC that had shows called the Rainbow House. For our first date I took her to a park by a sewage treatment plant that we all called “shit park.” Worked out great.

How did you two connect with Anna? Has she played in any other local bands?

We met Anna about 10 years ago through her band at the time, Crap Corps. Ad Astra Per Aspera used to play shows with them at El Torreon, MoMo Gallery, Stray Cat, and various other places around town. Crap Corps were rad, they had a 7″ put out by BBS, a label our friend Justin runs. We became good buds with her and joined forces musically in Hairy Belefonte in 2007. Here’s an HB video from the last show at the Haunted Kitchen in Lawrence for reference. Hairy Belefonte was formed to fuck with people and combat this weird, lame, macho-vibe that was happening at punk shows in KC at the time. We had a good time. We’ve been close with Anna ever since. We started jamming as Bloodbirds when Anna moved back to KC a couple of years ago. She’s also playing bass in Torben. They rule and consist of some of our best buds.

I like how Kill Your TV compared Anna’s bass to Kim Deal in their review [of Psychic Surgery], only “Kim Deal in a human sacrifice blood cult.” Influences are one thing, but do you ever try to purposefully make sure that you don’t sound like bands you enjoy?

We don’t really try to sound like any one band or genre in particular. I know a lot of bands do that — they want a certain sound. That’s fine, that’s really easy for people to latch onto. But I like things to be more eclectic. It’s more interesting to me. That said, every now and then a band or an individual just nails it and makes something that helps define or expand a genre or sub-genre. There’s something to be said for honing in on a sound. We did that more in Hairy Belefonte, where we tried to make all the songs fit together in this trashy, hooky, pop-punk kinda way. But it’s a focus I just don’t normally embrace.

There’s quite a distance between Bloodbirds’ sound and that of Ad Astra Arkestra… was there a driving force behind changing up the direction you took with your music?

Bloodbirds has a looser song-writing structure than any of the previous bands. We jam a lot. I’d say AAArkestra, initially, was an extension of, and a completion of, some ideas that were being tinkered with in Ad Astra Per Aspera at the time of that band’s demise. The song “Slowbird Blues” off the AAArkestra’s Reverse Fishing EP is a reworked version of “Danger Bird Blues” off the AAPA’s first Love Garden 45. I was interested in doing bigger arrangements with multiple percussionists and a choir. So some friends got together and did the AAArkestra for a couple of years. The AAArkestra is still in existence, albeit in a pretty different form than it was in the beginning. I’d imagine we’ll play a few shows this year once everyone’s other bands settle a bit. It’s a really fun group of people.

I read that you’re a stagehand at Johnson County Community College, is that right? I’m wondering if that artistic environment helps motivate you to constantly be creating?

I mostly do audio engineering at JCCC. Front of house, monitors, etc… It’s a good gig. I also record a lot on my own time. I just finished an LP for a local hardcore band Sucked Dry, and I’m in the process of scheduling time to record an LP for the band Dark Ages. I record out of my house, or at our practice space. Occasionally at a studio. It’s fun to work closely with a band and see their creative process and how they think about recording and making music. Definitely gives me ideas and inspiration. I’m also a monitor engineer for the band Gossip, out of Portland. I’m headed up to Seattle next month for a show with them. That’s really fun. Great group of folks and their live shows are rad.

Question in the form of an answer: “Aliens for Breakfast.”

That’s a song by my high school punk band. Released on cassette in 1996. We later went on to add a couple more members and form a hardcore punk band. We put out a record and a tape and toured around the country in a short bus. Great times.

Rapid fire finale: Favorite local venue to watch a live show; favorite local venue to play at; and favorite Middle of the Map Fest moment.

For all-ages shows I really like FOKL and Arts Closet — Kaw Collective and the Studded Bird were also rad. I hear Kaw is going to re-open sometime soon. For bars: I like the Record Bar and Davey’s Uptown in KC, and the Replay in Lawrence. The Bottleneck too. Recently Bloodbirds played down in Little Rock at this placed called the White Water Tavern. That place is the shit. I wish there was a place that size with that vibe in KC. Kirby’s in Wichita was also excellent. Favorite MoTM moment was playing. I’d almost always rather be playing than watching.

[This article first appeared at Mills Records Company.]

Hataraqq Interview

Javan Brewer is Hataraqq, and Hataraqq is Javan Brewer. Javan Brewer doesn’t say much, only briefly elaborating on his electronic productions here. Hataraqq’s audio output is ripe with concise sound clips, only teasing what they might become if they were fully expanded compositions. Throughout his music there are Eddie Murphy, James Brown, and Blackalicious samples, and each of his songs is embedded with something of its own thumbprint — one that I thought was a Billie Holiday sample. I was wrong. And after our brief Q&A I feel like there’s a lot more to learn beyond which old jazz sample flows through his music. As both Javan and Hataraqq, he kind of leaves us guessing.

There’s a sample that runs through many of your songs, including a couple on your Myspace page that appear to date all the way back to 2007 (“The Way it Goes,” “All Day Jammin”). Is it from Billie Holiday’s “Twenty Four Hours a Day“? What drew you to using this vocal sample?

The sample “twenty four hours” is from a Cab Calloway song, “Calloway Boogie“! I use this sample because it calls out the frequency in which I think about groove heavy music. When you hear it you know its Hataraqq music.

Over the past two months or so you’ve added 35 tracks to your Soundcloud page. I went through them all, and the average length is about 1:49. Do you intentionally stay away from expanding on compositions in favor of putting out compact clips?

I use the Soundcloud page to present a preview of my work. With the allowed amount of upload time, I have to pick and choose which splashes to display. So most are chopped down, or edited to fit that window. I get the feel of track across or at least give 16 bars for emcees. Some sound-splashes dry up in a minute or so, but you definitely get wet! Extended versions also available. (LOL)

Coincidentally, 1:49 is the length of my favorite track of yours, “Slow Woks,” which features local vocalist Schelli Tolliver. Who is Schelli and how did you two connect?

Schelli is a songbird I met years ago at the Peanut downtown (HH&HW). From being a fan in the crowd, to networking and building with her, JL, Godson, and fam BrooksofMHS… Schelli started coming through and it’s been cool every since. I was going through some of her vocal clips and simply in the midst of creating sprinkled “Slow Woks” with her spice.

Question in the form of an answer: “Myle High Society.”

MHS, brainchild of Sasha Brooks, a movement of the multi-talented individuals supporting and producing materials of the fresh nature! I happen to grace the stage with my emcees hat on a couple of time in Lawrence, KS and here at home at the Czar Bar.

Rapid fire finale: Favorite local producer; favorite Busta Rhymes song; and which local artist would you most like to collaborate with?

If I didn’t produce myself, I couldn’t fairly answer that question. I need the When Disaster Strikes album! “So Hardcore,” Get Off My Block.” My shit. I listen through the skips! And “Raw” is an all-timer for me. I want to work with all my Peanut alumni, and hopefully every and anybody along the way. I’ve got something for a lot of artist[s] out there, whomever is with the passion for the music.

[This article first appeared at Mills Record Company.]

c-Logik Interview

With about a decade and a half of beat tinkering behind him, Seth Morris recently released a new mainline electro-funk track with “theHunt,” which is how I was introduced to his music. To say that he “dabbles” in music sounds dismissive of both his interest-level and creativity, but under his c-Logik moniker Seth dabbles, in that he doesn’t feel any desperation to unnecessarily hurry projects, or produce and play simply for the sake of doing so. As part of the local Grand Flow crew, he’ll have some new music dropping before long with them, but for now he’s taking it easy.

Where does the name chopLogik come from?

c-Logik: Ah the name. Well I always considered myself a logical thinker. I used to read a lot of philosophy, my favorite probably being Martin Heidegger; which helped carve out the “logik” for me. The “chop” part was kind of ironic. I used to know a kid when I was young whose nickname was Chop. I thought to myself, “Man, I’m glad I don’t have that nickname” (seemed synonymous with a fat guy). But I ended up using “chop” in relation to the way I was cutting samples up. Needless to say, I’m in my late 30′s and fitting the “chunky” title now.

In the first track I heard of yours, “theHunt,” there’s a cautious balance between sounds: I hear robust bass burps, sultry vocal snippets, and a voiceover sample, but it’s mixed nicely where everything is quite fluid in terms of how it all flows together. Do you take any time to plan how your songs are going to develop or does each track take shape as you go?

c-Logik: You know, I rarely take time to orchestrate composition. But it also depends on the production style I’m using. The past few years I have been disciplining my production without sampling. This forces you to somewhat have an idea the road you want to travel when it comes to composition. But I would say overall, the best outcomes are ones which are most organic and free flowing.

On the Dan Matic track you recently co-produced there’s a rolling jazzy piano vibe, you’ve gone smoother with your Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding mixes, and on your YouTube page you’ve shared clips from both underground hip hop staple Busdriver as well as local blues outfit the Stone Cutters Union. All of that’s to say that your musical interests would seem to be a little all over the place. How deep’s your record collection and how much does it inspire the the music you make?

c-Logik: I spent much of my learning years trying to fit into a certain production technique and remain there, and I always quietly held contempt for this unspoken law. I love when groups break out of their boundaries and collaborate with something people may not expect. I think it shows a veracious comfort in yourself as a musician. What really got me into production was my longtime yearning to engineer. I am a firm lover of all genres of music, and can find production appreciation in nearly everything. I grew up to classical and jazz and blues, and have gone through phases of everything else. I found some really rare 60′s Russian jazz footage for that track. The contrast you hear in some of my posted tracks is really my sample based style, and my straight sample-less composition style. Recently, I’ve been trying to get these two techniques somewhat blended to a point of consistency, which I think will be best shown on a new remix I did being released on the upcoming Ink Slinger Infinite EP by Evolve from the Texas hip hop group Evan Ill. I can go from a chill vibe spectrum to golden era boom-bap. My records I collected together with Doctor Okeh, probably a couple thousand at least, currently consist of mostly soul, jazz and classic rock, with sprinkles of wonky children’s records, and library sounds. I’m a sucker for old instructional style recordings, or vintage promotional vinyls.

Question in the form of an answer: “Solid Colors.”

c-Logik: A few things come to mind. A safe way to dress, glad that Ice-T wasn’t that descriptive, earth tones are my favorite, and solid colors are just necessary to balance emotion. I mean I grew up with Atari 2600, and I’m just fine… Nintendo released NES in 1986, ADHD was voted into existence in 1987, just sayin!

You were out west in 1999, around the same time that you started creating music. When did you make your way to Missouri and did that time in Sacramento guide you creatively at all in the years that followed?

c-Logik: I spent a couple years in Sacramento and it was my first time really away from Kansas City. I think it really gave me perspective of hope and desire. I used to hear the term “stuck in the bubble” when speaking about Kansas City, and I really came to digest this after leaving the nest. I think there’s a plateau of success (most) people can achieve here, and sharing in that optimism that seems to exist in the West was a fire starter for me. Being able to think in a national context for a platform helped me push myself.

Who are Mr. Glimm, Dutch Casey, and Grand Flow?

Darius Glimm and Dutch Casey, were alter egos I created when working on some projects in the past. Dutch being the most recent for a Grand Flow record, that in the end [I] decided not to release. Grand Flow was a name we came up with for the project which included Negro Scoe, Doctor Okeh, and Rythmonster, but are turning it into Grand Flow Classics for the new record label we are starting (with Rythmonster). I really enjoy mystery when it comes to entertainers. This also includes performances. I could do three or four shows a year and be OK with that. Some like doing two a week. Personally I think that’s a bit self-destructive. You never want “(sigh) oh that guy again” to fall out of anyone’s mouth. Different names are just a fun way keep people wondering… Moving forward, I’m keeping c-Logik in lock, just short for chopLogik

Rapid fire finale: Favorite local MC? Favorite Kansas City DJ moment? Best and worst things about Dancefestopia?

c-Logik: Ouch, OK…. Brother of Moses; Hip Hop and Hot Wings at the Peanut; shamefully and with great disappointment I was unable to go to Dancefestopia last year. There [were] a lot of acts I wanted to check out.

[This article first appeared at Mills Record Company.]

Gee Watts Interview

“A certain sense of believable honesty combs through Gee’s lyrics,” writes The Smoking Section’s J. Tinsley, in his review of Gee Watts’ new Watts Up mixtape. “As does depth.” Gee Watts has two more things going for him that most rappers never achieve: he has patience, and he actually knows what he wants. A year ago at SXSW he teased working with one of his favorite MCs, but he waited until late last month to drop his “Watts R.I.O.T.” collaboration with Kendrick Lamar. (The KC Star has more on how that came together.) Instead of aimlessly releasing the track though (one guaranteeing him attention), he positioned himself to make the most of the opportunity. On the heels of “R.I.O.T.” he dropped both a download and music video for “Quiet Place,” then another track titled “Premature Hate,” before releasing his fully-fleshed out Watts Up mixtape this past Sunday. And people are listening.

He’s making the most of his moment, but the Kansas City MC is not an empty opportunist: the sounds beneath him on Watts Up range from dense to energetic, allowing him to showcase the numerous aspects of what makes him who he is. And in his music that voice tends to reflect a lot of anger and violence, with themes often projecting a core outlook of general distrust. In this Q&A we talk a little bit about that, but beyond those themes is someone who would seem emotionally removed from that darkness. Listen to the tape’s title track or follow his interaction on Twitter: While his history has certainly helped shape who he is, Gee Watts knows when not to take himself too seriously, too.

You’ve been openly critical of your early material, calling it “bullshit” in an old FlyTimes interview. Talking to Chris at Demencha a few years back you said that you took down six or seven albums because you felt they didn’t reflect your evolving voice. When did you first start to gain confidence in the flow you were projecting?

I’ve always been A1 on stage, but only recording for a year and half at the time. I hadn’t found my voice on the mic. I never rapped out loud, it was always something I wrote down and rapped back in my head. I also knew K.Dot, Kanye, would blow before they did, and I’ve only listened/liked good shit. So I knew when I could listen to my shit and like it (cuz the bars was always there… just delivery) I’d be ready. That time is now.

Do you ever revisit those early songs? What sort of thoughts come to mind when you see an early video like this?

Bars, dummy bars, max bars, like level four. BUT, my voice wasn’t my voice. Now my voice is it’s own. My stage presence wasn’t up to par, but that was my second or third show ever. God has brought me a long way. I’m grateful for being able to open for a nigga I listened to as a youth.

In that same Demencha interview you said “I want to introduce the world to Kansas City.” Who are the voices in KC right now who inspire you?

Ron Ron, Rich The Factor, Greg Enemy, Abnormal (abby niggy normal), and even Tech. I respect anybody who has made a lane for themselves out of the city. Not just music, but life. Aldon Smith, Alec Burks, eybody.

One of the themes that runs throughout Watts Up is one of trust and honesty, something you’ve said in interviews means a lot to you in MCs. How much of the violence projected throughout the mixtape comes from first-hand experience? Do you feel rappers have to be honest about their personal experiences when telling stories through their music?

Yea, on my next project I have a song called “Flat Line” where I said “At 9 I saw my big homie fall at 14, his body laid lifeless as blood covered his jeans, Timbs on his feet, bumble bee tape markin’ the scene. Still to this very day I hear his mama screams. Growin’ up this way imagine the drama it brings…” I don’t glorify because there was no glory in being 9 seeing somebody you looked up to, dyin’. But it happens, so I rap it and in the most honest way.

It’s been a joke on your Twitter, but a few comments across the web have pointed out the Freemason symbolism of your cover. The cover’s design had to be intentional, but what was the statement you were trying to make with it?

I am Gee, what’s in the middle of the FM sign…? Chea, New World Order is here… and it begins in KC… the town. We all comin’ my nig haha… blessings to you.

[This article first appeared at Mills Record Company.]

Kansas City, Missouri

Photos taken around Kansas City, Missouri in the Spring of 2013.