Archive for June, 2010
What’s in a name, what’s in a phrase? Alternative, left-field hip hop…maybe, but when the first chords of ‘The Aviator is Dead’ hit, you might feel like you’re sitting in a caravan in the middle of a volcanic landscape and all you can hear is the wind and the sound of hot lava bubbling under your feet. The man who created the album, Cloudy October, has nothing to do with volcanoes and lives in an ancient building somewhere in Portland, Oregon. He’s somewhat secretive and has had more name changes than Prince or Puff Daddy.
Sometimes, he visits the library and has a dig around his local record shops for a few good sample chops. Cloudy October isn’t in the music game for money or fame cause only art can break your heart, but Kitsch can make you rich…I was intrigued when he first wrote to me saying: “note to self: All my female cousins have become women out of no where. I decided to document this phenomenon in my song Two Rude Dudes. I had this beat for years and it always made me smile and laugh so I decided to rhyme on it…The plot takes place at my grandmother’s house in Atlanta, most the song. I hope you can find time to listen.”
The result of our chat in the bungalow is an interview about names, living for the moment, racism, and also about long-lost Thundercats action figures and library cards…
What’s good – can you introduce yourself?
This might be the hardest one to answer hahah. umm, my name is Cloudy October, sun of Carolina. I am a half-american producer/songwriter living in Portland Oregon currently. I am a participant in the arts, currently music being the main one I put most of myself into. Right now not working a nine-to-five is real good and having an opportunity to be questioned and raise attention towards my work is mighty fantastic. How are you?
Cloudy October – is it a feeling, a certain sound or just a name?
I was given the name Cloudy October because it is a time of the year in most places that people really disregard. It is a time that people are regretting the departure of summer even. I am a person who is always attempting to be in the present moment so even a cloudy day in a gloomy month cannot really equate to a bad day for me. My current title is a reminder, for me and others, to ensure anyone who encounters me, has an extra reason to accept the present moment. Or maybe even look into books that are written about being in the present moment, after our encounter.
Cloudy October – the legend, the secrecy…You’re rumored to have been born in Atlanta, had facial surgery and have gone through several name changes. what’s the best thing about having a new name, does it open certain doors? can you reveal some of your previous names?
Having a new name is great. Depending on the reason I guess haha. I think for many people, weather a name change comes from Marriage, Divorce, or a personal emotional decision, like myself, can be beneficial. I have many female friends, one being my mother, who often keep last names of men who have done horrible things. All so they can have yet another connection to their offspring. I heard that Flying Lotus used to be called the Piano Overlord or some shit. Switching names probably allowed him to break away into some new sound.
For me, being a black man without a eurocentric name gives me all sorts of extra room in my day to inform people about the importance and meaning of a name when my current title raises interest. There is so much history in our names, interesting and painful shit. I have had many rhyme names as well; Kid Hype, Kwondo The Red Eyed One, and Pineapple Jack are a few.
“born in the land of the raped and the used, I guess that makes me nameless too.” The name theme crops up again, can you elaborate on that?
What frame of mind were you in when you wrote the lyrics to that track?
Man when I wrote those lyrics I was in my usual; ‘america is racist as shit’ moods. The more I discover about current systemic racism and the recent history of racism within U.S. policy, the less american I feel. Half american actually. Most African-American names, especially last names, are often directly connected with previous ownership from the transatlantic Slave trade. Vagabondage is about homelessness from a few perspectives, and about racism as well.
To know my first given name is connected with such horrible and ignored events, that mirror the present inequalities between whites and non-whites, makes me feel as if I have never had a home or a name.
Who are some of your favourite musicians?
All of them. just kidding. Stevie Wonder, Prince, LL COol J, KRS-ONE, Busy Bee, THE COld Crush Brothers, The Treacherous Three, Run DMC, Pete Rock, Aesop Rock, Mark the Forty Five King, Marley Marl, Edan, Rakim, Poor Righteous Teachers, Musiq Soulchild, Heavy D, The Funk Brothers, Michael Jackson, Juice Crew, The Alkaholiks, Freestyle Fellowship, Hiero, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Quincy Jones, Rick Rubin, Fiona Apple, Zero 7, All the rappers rhyming under Native Tongues in the mid 90s. Nas. Jay Z. Eminem. I could go on haahha. so many great mutha phuckas.
What do you do when you’re not in the studio, the Action Office II? what can you tell us about your studio, what’s it look like in there?
I have the very typical, 5000-dollar home studio that took me years to slowly acquire all the gear to complete. It’s like an adult vintage dorm of sorts I gather. Being that I live in a very old building, it has its charm. I am surrounded by organs, chord posters and sheets for curtains. There is really never a time when I am not in the studio. I had a huddle with three other Portland artists recently who, like myself, make no money with music but work more on music than we do for other people. That’s that Portland Oregon shit for real. If I ain’t at the Action Office II, I am usually doing a show, hanging with Mr. Jeigh, or hanging out at the Library or at 99 cent Records.
Who did the cover art for the ‘Aviator is Dead’? Is it a concept album?
My brother Nicholas Graham of Sheetfort via Pinball Publishing, built the whole design. He did an excellent job. We are really proud of it. It looks so so good. For a debut, this album makes rappers bleed for days. You should see the blood trails around the city here.
When I hear the term ‘concept album’ I always think of more elaborate efforts, like Edan’s ‘Beauty and the Beat’ or any Rupert Holmes record. I don’t think ‘The Aviator is Dead’ is a concept album. I do feel that it is a small album with a great concept. Aviation in hip hop is somewhat dead because anyone can record music and over saturate the already over saturated market. On the contrary, the Aviators, the Pioneers blueprints are so available using the same tool that also makes music kind of suck, the fucking computer. One can choose to study up and come correct, or regurgitate and ignore the present moment with some nostalgic bullshit.
I was never really into the A-Team. I would like to see some more of it to see what its all about. Now Thundercats…Super into them as a kid. I still remember losing my Mum-Ra and Lion-O action figures after a ‘show and tell’ in the first grade. Come to think of it, this is the first time I have come to the realization that they may have been stolen, thanks Beat Bungalow.
What have you got to tell about Portland, Oregon – what are your favourite places to hang out?
Portland has many of the same negatives any city has. but the positives are kind of one of a kind. FOr a person who is aspiring or already and artist, its a key place to be. Many spots to live at for cheap. A transit system that would be beneficial even in a larger city, so no need for spending money to use and maintain a vehicle. There are many cool spots to chill at and so many live shows its ridiculous. I like to hang out at 360 vinyl, 99 cent Records and the Library for sure.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I just want to say thanks again for this opportunity. Its a first for me. Normally I only do local radio interviews. Also I would like to remind all who like anything regarding myself to download my debut album ‘The Aviator is Dead’ for free.
Please keep in mind that joining the mailing list of an artist you think is dope is almost as good as buying his or her shit. Also, If you want to make sure I eat, I am on itunes and amazon and damn near every site you can think of and will be on Pandora in a few months.
Last but not least I would like to mention that I am about to make what I foresee as being an incredicle second album before the year is through. stay tuned, pretty please.
Mark Mace Smith is a performance poet who lives in the North of England. As you would expect from a poet, he’s lyrical and also pretty witty. In fact he’s so lyrical that he’s performed at many poetry slams across Britain, including at Glastonbury Festival. He also enjoys classical music (sometimes), makes short films from his bedroom window and does percussion. All of this is part of Thud Dub, his own style of ‘dub poetry’. Some Thud Dub paintings are on display in a laundrette in Whalley Range, Manchester. If you’re in the area and need to wash your smelly undies, drop in and have a look…here’s what he thinks about life / music – awfully deep with a touch of Zen.
What was one of the first sounds you can remember hearing? How did it make you feel?
My early years were full of reggae and classical music. My family had four classical music box sets from Readers Digest. Beethoven, Schubert, Bach and Chopin. I know we preferred the Chopin and Beethoven but I’m sure the others got played because we were a family who would not waste anything. My dad also had some seven-inch singles including some reggae that he had cut of his own. I know that these two genres have greatly influenced my taste in music.
However, the first sound I can clearly remember hearing was my first word. “Fitzroy”, he is my brother. I remember this because of the fuss everybody made when I said it. I guess I decided there and then that I’d like to be a performer of some sort. I felt important for, as the last child of six, I rarely felt anything other than ‘in the way‘.
How and where do you enjoy listening to music: at home, on the go, at a gig?
There is a time and place for everything. Even music that I love can annoy me in the wrong place or time. Particularly on adverts or covers. (Nina Simones ‘Aint got no’ or Run DMC’s ‘Walk This Way’ for example). If I listen to a new album, which an audiophile insists is awesome, I will take it in on a long journey. The five hour megabus from Preston to London is a great way to truly absorb new music, or on a long walk around my local park. I don’t listen to the radio for I can’t really suffer dj’s (Guy Garvey is OK) and I detest all adverts. I enjoy live music (and live TV) because you don’t quite know what you are going to get and it is good to see the artistes being forced to (re)create, somewhat adrenalin driven and fear filled.
I have particular morning music: classical, easy reggae. Afternoon music: funk, upbeat reggae and music with intelligent lyrics. In the evening, if I’m having a beer, I like it loud and bass heavy but If I’m writing, which can be at any time of the day, I like nice soft mellow tunes. I’m particularly keen on Ivan Campo at the moment. I often listen to new versions of my own tunes when in the bath. You get a lot from the acoustics, there is a certain purity, and if I ever need to skip a track when I’m having a bath, risking getting my CD player waterlogged, then I know that it just isn’t chilaxing enough.
You use words to make poetry, in what way is music also poetry? How do the two art forms relate / connect with each other for you personally?
Music is not poetry but poetry can be music. But it isn’t. Yagetme? The right combination of words, acapella, can make you dance. A composition of notes can make you think deeply, as poetry should, but the words, or images or emotions, that are created are not specifically designed by the composer to create those images, emotions or words, that you experience.
Poetry is direct. Music is like an enveloping mist. You are in it but you don’t perceive all of it at once. What you get from it is only what you perceive of it. There are many ways to interpret Wordsworth’s Daffodils but you can’t really go beyond the words and word sounds. There are a thousand and more ways to interpret Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro‘. (which I am currently listening to).
It depends on how you feel. Those daffodils will always be fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Figaro’s marriage may inspire you one day or leave you limp the next. Music can be in the background whereas poetry can not. For me, personally, I’d rather create an emotive piece of music than an emotive poem. The latter is restricted to my emotions. The former can be experienced in a multitude of different emotional ways by the audience. And music can also just be there without any demands on the consciousness.
What’s so great about rhythm and percussion?
The heart’s beat is a human beings first perceptible sound. In fact, now I come to think about it… I remember, as a foetus, holding my breath so as to try to synchronise my heartbeat to my mothers heartbeat which was pulsing at a half time to mine. Then I’d kick her belly and try to shock her into doubling up her heart rate so that we both pulsed to my rhythm. It was great fun for a while but then she made me leave.
Why do people talk of ‘the sound of one hand clapping’? Does that mean anything to you?
Zen Buddhist monks send their students away to contemplate the concept of “the sound of one hand clapping”. They send them away partly because it is important that their students learn these things for themselves but mostly because students are bloody annoying. If they return, without the answer, unenlightened, they are admonished in some way, sometimes with a big stick, and sent away to think about it again.
And again and again until they achieve enlightenment. However the enlightenment they may eventually receive is not from an understanding of what the sound of one hand clapping actually sounds like. Their enlightenment comes from the depth of their meditation in pursuit of the answer.
It is when the mind is clear of all pursuits, focused on one thing, centred on a concept that mortal man would believe is beyond earthly knowledge, (the sound of one hand clapping), then the true awakening of The All is experienced. The sound of one hand clapping is the same sound as creations heartbeat. Of existence itself! Possibly.
I recall sitting on a mound, on a hill, at Glastonbury festival in the early nineties, with Lucy (in the sky with diamonds) and Aretha (Green) listening to many drums being played and awaiting the sunrise. There was one huge drum and loads of smaller drums and chanting and whistles and instruments and bongs, pipes, chalices…
That huge drum held the beat, in fact it seemed to hold EVERYTHING together. Every other drummer could play whatever the heaven they wanted but that one huge drum held it all in shape, maintained the form of the rhythm and it did not stop regardless of many a false dawn. Drums are the heartbeat of music, of life.
For my heart is my drum and I will endeavour to do whatever the heaven on Earth I like as long as I do not cause it to stop beating. Perhaps, indeed, our hearts make the sound of one hand clapping. Discuss.
Teaser to Charlie 2NA’s new mixtape: download “Wheels on the World”