Blu Rum’s solo album, Inverted Marsupials, will be in stores soon. He is also currently promoting the first ever album released on a pair of sunglasses – each pair has a download code on them – as a member of the band, True Ingredients. Check trueingredients.com for details and read on for more about the emcee formally known as Killer Platypus.
Provide some background for readers who aren’t familiar with your work.
Well in 1999 with a white label I released “The Previouslee Unreleased Recordings of… Blu Rum 13?. Then I got hooked with up DJ Vadim for a ’01 release “Life On the Other Side.” The first single for that was “It’s Obvious” with Motion Man in the UK. From there had another album on Vads label called Vaguely Familiar. Followed that online with Smell The Urgency and sold a few hard copies while on tour. Then I did a One Self release Children of Possibilityon Ninja Tune in 2005. The follow-up was in 2006, Organically Grown on the One Self label. Somewhere in the mix there’s an album (Duck and Cover on Jarring Effects) with a Swiss electro/hip-hop act called Reverse Engineering. Then there was the 2007 release of the beat-boxed produced Tether.
I was born in New York, raised in DC, lived in Montreal for a while, then Michigan and Florida, recently back in Baltimore. I’m starting a tour for an upcoming feature album with the first stop in Berlin in November. Before I’ll be in the UK promoting the release of the True Ingredients album, Prepare and Assemble (the first on sunglasses) ending up with a show at London’s Cargo with DJ Format Oct. 24. Later in November I’ll be in Reunion with Swiss Electro, then back to Germany. Reunion is a small island in Africa (east of Madagascar). There’s a lot of collaboration between African and French artists because the French influence in Africa.
How would you describe your sound?
Well first I have to talk about this mentor, a teacher, I had who I learned from a distance. He was a university professor of sociology. I was changing my major from general studies to psychology but never ended up continuing in that school. I used to hang out around his lectures and he would always remind us as students that in writing, you always have to interpret your environment given the context of the time of your environment. I find that things are always changing, so I don’t try to stick to a formula in my rhyme. If you’re excited, for example, people tend to speak a little faster, their pitch goes up a little and it comes through with a recording. So in that respect I try to interpret the mood and include that as a factor of my sound. I guess you could call it the ‘now style.’
I have been classified as abstract/instrumental, though, ha.
Earliest musical influences?
I listened a lot to my parents’ early Motown tapes, Stevie Wonder, then got into hip-hop with my first tape “The Hustler’s Convention” by Grandmaster Flash. From there “The Great Adventures of Slick Rick”, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def. One thing that I was very interested in was following MF Doom’s career. One of my favorite raps was featured in 1991 on an album with 3rd Bass called “The Gas Face”. I’ve always been listening to that cat.
Blu Rum 13 – “Cereal”
You mentioned you’re in Canada for a few weeks – what are you doing there?
I’m finishing up an album called Inverted Marsupials (in stores soon). I started conceiving it while on tour in Australia a few years ago. It’s slowly becoming finished and right now I’m working on a new song.
The new album is really about a few different things. First of all, I wanted to showcase a lot of production. I co-produced it with people I really respect- Kid Koala, Bonobo and Luke Vibert of Ninja Tune, Abstract Rude, Ben Mono out of Germany, Fenna Rhodes, Mr. Milk. Grandtheft from Team Canada which is a dj duo. They’re mostly hip- hop and make their own mixes. This was the first time I did collaborations on a solo album with other emcees. There’s an extremely talented emcee/poetess named Maui Kai from Florida, also Primo the Cinematic and Mr. Kik from Water Power. Production by my boy Chop e Chop out of DC, and more. Overall, it’s a very positive mix and is lyrically influenced by roots reggae. I’ve been listening to Toots and the Maytals lately, trying to expand my musical knowledge. It goes more places as far as exchanges goes. I wouldn’t say it’s one vibe. It’s Australian in that way. When I was there I was amazed at the diversity. I’m going to do my tour there this winter, which is their summer, with KRS-One and the Resin Dogs.
What keeps you coming back to Montreal?
Montreal is the closest place to Europe. I like it for many reasons. It’s rare when you’re surrounded by so many people in a metropolitan area – where there is a lot of capital – yet their primary concern isn’t how much money you’re making. Also it’s a city built around a mountain. Actually that’s more of an exaggeration, it’s more like a hill but you can see the city from the top. It’s as warm as New York, as hot in the summer, so for me that’s a bonus. They still respect small businesses so if I want pizza, for example, I can still get it for two dollars on the street from one out of seven different stands. You can also get this Lebanese sandwich called a falafel up here.
Other than that there’s the music scene. Most of the radio for the last 80 yrs has been rock music, and now they play classic pop rock. No R&B or hip-hop but at McGill and Concordia the communications departments are extremely open. Because there’s a lack of diversity in pop everyone goes out to find live music. There’s still a great jazz dance scene. This is a great place to cultivate your art. I first came up here because Kid Koala was in Montreal for college and he was like ‘come with me’ and I was like, fine. They had to kick me out for a year because I couldn’t prove residence though.
How do you know Kid Koala?
He went to a neighboring high school and he was playing ball at the same time I was playing. Haha no actually he was watching. He was an emcee and he heard that I rapped through a friend of mine. They lived in the same hood. That friend and I went to one of those weird camps you go to growing up in the states if you’re an overachiever. He moved to Montreal and asked me to play in his band that band became Bullfrog, and the rest is history.
Why the name-change of MC Platypus to Blu Rum?
The Killer Platypus was a production moniker that I had because of the animation concept that came with the name. Blu Rum is more of group in a sense, because if there is anyone who wants to get down with the vibe, they can. The platypus separated me from Blu Rum. That became the logo from my web designers, kind of an alter ego. I wouldn’t call it (myself) sarcastic but I can be disarmingly honest…
Tell me about the Koobs EP. How did you link up with him? How long have you been working on it?
Yeah it was out in 2007- Tether- I love that project. It was the first time I did a project that was strictly emotional. It was completely heartfelt. If I was to be psychiatrically analyzed when I made it you’d probably say that I was getting a look at my feminine side. (laughs) I don’t know exactly what that means.
I found a producer who wanted to do something organic. It was recorded in a room, instead of a regular studio so there was no sterility. I believe that when you’re recording you also record with the energy from your surroundings and that comes through with the tape, (hard drive). I try to record in rooms as opposed to sterile booths. Koobs wanted to record most of it in a studio called Indigo and in his bedroom in Southampton, which is a very very nice place if anyone wants to go. Probably the only place in the UK with a lot of sunshine. To me, that organic element created a sense of blues in the sense that it’s lamenting. It’s really hard to make that 808 sound with your voice box so a lot of power and expression has to go with it. Surprisingly, the audience who loves it the most are women. We did the stats and 3 out 10 people who bought that album were women over the age of 40.
That’s really interesting. Sounds like you’re busy with touring and producing at the same time. I’m wondering how do you handle having so much going on?
I can’t stop making music. I do a new style every time I get inspired. I also try to include the projects with another. Every time I make new music, I try to make my voice reflect the instrumentation. Recently I’ve started managing myself also as my own booking agent. I don’t know if it’s easer, but I do know every time I was associated with a label they would outsource it to another company so there was always somebody doing what I could do for myself. I recently realized that the game is played as a power game so if a booking agency wants to book an artist they favor, someone who might not have lot of sales; they also want to raise their status. Everyone wants to do that but the problem is they also want to take credit for it. So they want to blow this local band up and they sell 20,000 copies and they put him on tour but in order to do this the major label with the multi-platinum artist says you can’t book any artists that compete (with him/her). Because of that I decided to put myself out there on my own.
True Ingredients – “Space and Time”
What’s the best way fans should buy your music?
Well the website is still up in the works. It just got hacked, everything was compromised, all the templates, new programs, samplers where you get to play beats in real time to me singing acapella- all that got snatched. The new site will be up and running later blurum13.com so in the meantime iTunes, trueingredients.com,
Let’s talk about the future. Can you name an artist you’d like to work with?
I realized lately that Stevie Wonder and I were born on the same day so I was like yo, I have to work with Stevie Wonder. As far as hip-hop I would love to do a song with Mos Def and Q-tip, do a round and try to imitate each other’s voices.
One place you especially want to perform but haven’t yet? Favorites?
My second favorite place is La Sala Rossa in Montreal. I really like the sound, played there with One Self. The first place would be the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver because it’s massive- can fit 900- and they have a rebounding floor so if everyone steps in the front of the room the people in the back start bouncing. The most special place is the Montpelier Jazz Festival by the Mediterranean.
I would love to perform at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Geneva. It’s in the basin of a lake with the Swiss Alps right there, so the sun always comes by with pink hues, magenta waviness. Yeah I’d want to go there just for scenery.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Tell the kids to balance their chakras. That’s my advice. I actually started chakra mediation about a year ago. Probably the best personal time I’ve taken. It’s basically a breathing exercise that connects your energy centers, balancing your Human Electrical Field (HEF), and increasing your senses. In the Chinese sense (QI GONG) there are seven main centers, but the western version has adopted five. It’s about aligning these energies. A tangible way to know that you’re aligning is go to a practitioner of biofeedback, he/ she has a machine that measures subtle human current. It’s all based on the idea that everything in your body vibrates at tangible frequencies, the machine sends a frequency to a body part and it sends data back if the body is healthy then the frequencies are in sync. For chakra meditation I start visualizing nothingness, giggle myself into a state of nothingness (sometimes I’ll use the aid of some sticky Kush) then relax and start the meditation, a lot of visualization. Keeps me calm in the midst of the chaos, because people are the most susceptible to irrationally self- defeating behavior during times of shock and panic.
So eat your vegetables and get in touch with your chi.
For more info on Blu Rum 13 check out myspace.com/blurum13