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When and why did you start making music?
I started quite young, because it’s quite a tradition in Switzerland to take recorder lessons at an early age, which makes sense, because it would be rather embarassing doing that when you are an adult. Luckily, I moved on, took some piano lessons for quite some years and finally got propellerhead’s reason and started making beats in 2002.
I can’t really say why I started producing. I just felt like doing it and it made me happy and sometimes pretty proud of myself. I also felt pretty gloomy in my early twenties, so i decided to use all those negative emotions for making dark, destructive beats. I often made three or more beats a day. Think I’ve done some thousand beats since 2002. Unfortunately, I am no longer the beatmaking-machine I used to be. Anyways, I stopped sampling quite some years ago and I just think that it’s way more difficult and challenging to compose and play everything yourself.
Why do you rap in English and Swiss German?
I don’t really rap in English. Honestly, I’ve only written five songs in English so far. Maybe six. One was inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece The Road, a second one was for a girl I thought I had fallen in love with on my first Canada trip. The other’s are a part written for Ira Lee’s Album Die and some stories about being frustrated and about commiting suicide. I don’t know, Swiss German is probably a nice language, but after some months in Berkeley, Seattle and on Oahu, after my two trips to Canada i just started writing some lyrics in English and it sounded quite nice to me. I also got the feeling that my voice sounds way better when I talk or rap in English. It’s pretty sad that I am not a native speaker, mainly because I really think that my style of mixing singing and rapping and my lyrics are pretty dope and unique. Talking about serious depression and sheep, about people who keep on digging holes because they are afraid of ufo’s or about suicide and absolute loneliness aren’t topics that many mcs deal with, at least not in the way I am doing it.
(keeps on thinking)
I just love one text i wrote after i had stayed some days in saskatoon and then moved on to New York. I always feel like a super dope mc when i am rapping it. My ex-girlfriend mostly hated it. (laughing) When i am feeling downhearted i just have to rap some lines in doubletime and i am back in business, feeling all young and fresh, ready to save the planet, ride on whales and dance the bougaloo. Maybe i should mention that it’s a text about a guy who is planning to kill himself and cuts his right arm just to get sure that he still exists.
Can you speak a bit about your past releases?
Well, I’ve made some beats for some artists like Demune, Selfhelp, The Mole, Epic, James P Honey, Audio 88, Athena, Notthesame, Aes, Terms None, Wormhole, Ancient Mith, Geneva B, Extra Kool and Time, Materpfahl and some of them have been used for some albums. Think I made beats for more than 30 releases which is important for my self-esteem but not really more. I also released five Swiss German albums that I mostly produced myself.
It all started to get a bit more professional with my producer album Mattr and Friends – Consequence of Thoughts that was released on Kareem’s German label Ramadan recordings in 2004 and we got pretty positive feedbacks worldwide. The sound quality wasn’t really convincing but some of the songs or beats are still breathtaking. Still some of the best work I’ve ever done. Thanks again to Kareem and the Motionrecordings family who made that happen. I am still waiting for demune to finish our album. He picked some lovely beats as well, a long long time ago. Damn. Don’t know what he is up to these days. Staying in contact with all those guys is quite challenging. Anyways, I think demune is the master of the golden alienraps, but unfortunately, he is just incredibly slow or maybe too busy earning his living or maybe he is just way too professional to release an album that isn’t perfect, plus he is rapping too fast and needs to write way too many words for one single song. Other mcs would use one of his texts for an entire album.
I surely could have released more stuff, but I’ve most probably just picked the wrong mcs. (laughing) I don’t want to complain too much, because it just gives me a good feeling that i got the opportunity to work with all those skilled mcs and that I met most of them in real life. Hopefully, there will be some more releases soon.
You we’re the principle producer behind Selfhelp’s amazing 2009 album Old Friends can you describe the experience of bringing this project to fruition?
It all started with lonely nights typing nonsense on msn and practising my English writing skills. We had pretty weird discussions about Alf, 2012, cats, dwarves and Thesis Sahib. Well, we just started writing one day and went on for several months. I had been a fan of Bending Mouth for a such a long time, so I was really glad that i got in contact with Derek and that he liked my beats… Well, I occasionally sent him some beats and he did some raps. To be more precise, i sent him plenty of beats and he did some raps, i guess, mainly when he was drunk. I really can’t remember how many beats I’ve sent… It doesn’t really matter. I also spent one week in Regina in 2007 and mostly stayed at his place, watched him drinking, made some beats and did some whistling. Best thing was waking up with his cat “turtle” on my chest staring at me. I will never forget that.
Derek and me did some good talking as well and although we didn’t do much those days (not a single song), it was a good time. I am just impressed that he doesn’t need to release albums and to stand on stage in order to feel important. He knows that he is a gifted artist, a great mc, but he just seems to be absolutely content with being a good husband and a good father. I truly appreciate that.
We spoke about the drastic differences between the Canada you expected to see, and you’re real Canadian experience. As you travelled across the country from east to west in 2007 and, and spent a month in Montreal. What are your impressions of Canadian people, culture and community?
I really don’t know. People are people. It doesn’t matter where you go. Some are phoney bastards, some are just nice. It’s always related to how you are and to how you are treating others, i guess. Especially my first trip to Canada was mindblowing. Meeting so many nice people, spending a week in Vancouver at Geneva B’s place, seeing Coco Rosie and Busdriver performing live, eating sushi with Busdriver, then taking the Greyhound, spending a weird time in Banff drinking heavily, then two weeks at Ira Lee’s place in Edmonton with a really strange guy that started drumming in the entrance hall at 3 am, while i tried to sleep in the next room, where jesus kept on staring at me, then moving on to Saskatoon, meeting Chaps again (at his birthday), spending some days at Soso’s and having barbeque with Neila and Nolto and so many others and finally a week in Regina at Selfhelp’s place: it was just hugely inspiring and i still have some good stories to tell and some nice pictures to look at. Especially one girl told me some weird stories I will never forget. I would like to, but i can’t. (laughing) At the same time, I realized that Canada is not all about mountains, bears, indie rap, snow and icehockey, but is dealing with some serious issues like poverty, crime, racism etc. Canada is most probably really not just a North American version of Switzerland. Switzerland stays the only paradise on earth, a paradise with a lot of desperate people who try to kill themselves.
My second stay in Canada was in Montreal in 2009. A strange month worth telling many lovely stories about it, but i can’t do that without hurting people’s feelings. (laughing) All I can say is, that I made about 90 beats in one month, that I read some Bukowski and Irvine Welsh, that I drank a lot of green tea and some vodka and beer, watched three seasons of my favourite tv show Rescue Me, missed my girlfriend incredibly, did some pushups to keep fit and to kill some time, tried to stop smoking and just hated Montreal’s French. Besides that, it was just great meeting Ira again and being able to actually talk about our project instead of writing hundreds of emails. He often came to me in the morning, told me what kind of beats he need and i just made them and gave them to him some hours later. That was nice.
Do you consider yourself a musician or ‘just a rapper’?
I stopped considering myself a rapper a long time ago. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be a better rapper than many others that still consider themselves being rappers. (laughing) I just don’t practise enough. I prefer making music, well, I often just make beats or sleep and dream about making beats or daydream about sleeping and dreaming about beatboxing with neon plastic sheep. I just love playing sad melodies on my piano and getting all moody, playing some heavy drums on my korg padcontrol and rapping the saddest vocals that have ever been written since the mothership landed on this planet 500 years ago.
Your live shows are almost opera – tic. In a sense of abandoning traditional formats for a much more individualized mannerism and style. How did you develop this unique live style?
I once woke up and a dwarf was dancing on my chest. I wanted to shoot him down, but he told me that he would give me three wishes if I let him go. I eventually wished to get that unique live style and i got it. Yeah. Wait, that’s another story. To be honest, I am just a big fan of big performances, i really love watching Kinski in all his movies. He is my hero. I always wanted to change roles, to become someone completely different on stage (or maybe just to be myself… I am not sure about that), to unsettle my audience, to talk about death and suicide and depression and to make my audience feel as uncomfortable as possible. I just didn’t want to be the only unhappy person on earth, i guess. (laughing) It’s all about losing control. Getting rid of your fears, it’s all about feeling real emotions on stage, about getting so unbelievably sad that you start crying while you are performing. That would be nice. A serious nervous breakdown on stage. I haven’t seen that yet. I can only think of Jaques Brel. There should be more performers like him. Well, let me think about it…maybe not.
How important is music to your life?
Music isn’t that important anymore. I still love making beats and thinking about what soft- or hardware I could buy (that’s my number one leisure time activity these days), but being a secondary teacher currently takes pretty much all of my energy. Hopefully, it will change again.
When I listen to music I mainly listen to my own music. I’ve made so many beats in all kind of styles that i can enjoy myself for weeks or months or even years.
It’s true, I sometimes really feel nostalgic, and I really miss the good old times, when I felt enthusiastic whenever Anticon released a new album; I miss those hiphopinfinity days, when i got nervous waiting for my vinyls to arrive. I am not a big fan of rap anymore. Often, it just all sounds the same to me. I would love to get that feeling once again when i first listened to Soso’s songs, or Sole’s Bottle of Humans or the Themselves debut album or Buck 65’s “Ice” or “Cries a Girl” or Busdriver’s “Imaginary Places” or Sage Francis’ album Personal Journals or some Ira Lee songs (grip)… There is just way too much music and I am often just not in the mood for picking the good one.
Is it important to learn English as an international artist? Why?
Communication is pretty important these days, isn’t it? Language is the key. And Aceyalones Book of Human Language is still one of the best albums I’ve ever listened to.
What type of music do you like listening to? Who are your favorite artists?
As i said, i don’t do it often, but, actually I like listening to all kind of music. Some of my favourite artists are Nirvana, Vanilla Ice, Ace of Base, Milli Vanilli and Boney M. Frank Farian is the king. Well, I also like some classical music, mainly because i was constantly surrounded by Mozart, Brahms, Albinoni and Bach when I was young. They were pretty close friends, back in the days. I sometimes like Why?, Son lux, Cat Power, Sole, Soso, Sage Francis, Themselves, Bonny Prince Billy, Sigur Ros, Bending Mouth, Radiohead, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens, Ira Lee, Buck 65, Arcade Fire, Xndl, Band of Horses, Busdriver, Deep Puddle Dynamics, Sixtoo, Alias, Jimmy Scott and many others. Let me think about it… Well, actually I only like Jaques Brel, Milli Vanilli and my own beats.
Is it important for rappers to have jobs besides rap?
It would be lovely if there was no need to work. Unfortunately, times changed plus there are way too many mcs that just suck. It just isn’t enough to rap on point. It’s all about finding your own style and having a great voice, about being unique and being a good performer; it’s about writing great lyrics; it’s about picking the right producers and the right beats at the right time; it’s about recording quality and recording techniques, about the proper hard- and software and finally about doing shows. Many shows. And getting the marketing done properly and professionally. And you have to meet the right people. That’s probably most important these days. Hm, it’s quite a long list. That’s maybe why so many rappers have jobs besides rap and why it is important for them. You have to know what you want, right?
What are your future releases?
After having worked with Ira Lee for more than three years I am just a bit tired of collaborations. I am tired of life. Ira Lee kills you. It’s not smoking cigarettes, it’s him. (laughing) It seems that an instrumental album could be a good way avoiding all the messages, mails and bad feelings. I am also thinking about releasing another Swiss German album for all my fans (approximately 5 to 10 persons including my family and myself), maybe with some tracks in English. I really don’t know. If there was another great and unique mc that appreciates my work i would also be down to work with him or her… just get in contact with me. I’ll soon be back.
Can you tell me more about the ‘Little Eskimo Jesus’ LP?
It’s a great album with great beats, great lyrics, great vocals and great cover art. Some songs are perfect, others are just very good. I am just happy that we finally did it. It all started with the idea of making the saddest rap album of all times. Unfortunately, we got happier and happier and if we had went on making new songs we probably would have made some decent christian pop. I really hope that people take some notice of this release. The whole album is pretty important to me. There’s neither an average, nor a filler track on the album and it works as a whole. 12 tracks. Some beats, whistling and singing by me, some raps by Ira Lee and some deep emotions by the two of us. That’s it.
Where can we get you’re music?
Do you have any shout outs?
I say thanks to all people who have worked with me and to all others who tried to understand what i am all about. Thanks to ugsmag, Ira Lee, Khyro, Moshe, Manu and Mich (Mism), Berne’s arts council, Eva, my family, Daniel, Thomas, Substrakt, Jan, Ruth, Martina, Goran, Quiet, Xndl, Kareem, Simi and quite some others for their help and support.