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Arts and Entertainment

LAist Interview: Aesop Rock

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Photo by Chrissy Piper via Aesop Rock's MySpace profile

Aesop Rock - the tall man of the NY weathermen rap cliq - consistently breathes fresh air into everything he touches. He's the only man that could have a music video with zombies, and yet still is that proverbial, (or fabled) fresh prince of fresh air. His artistry on the mic, coupled with his abilities working the production tip, makes my heart float. I wish I was like Aes-Rizzle, and the only thing getting in between me and GTA4 was a flourishing rap career & touring. Instead, I beat it last week. At least this Aesop Rock cd has replayability. Lucky for you, Aesop is currently touring the states, and lucky for me, he found time on the road to play one-sided twenty-questions.

LAist: You're my top 3 favorite "tall" celebs - Kobe Bryant, yourself, and of course, Howard Stern. How tall are you exactly?
Aesop Rock: Hey, thanks man. I'm 6'4". Big props to Stern. He's from Long Island. I watch and listen to a lot of Stern these days.

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Howard Stern or Opie and Anthony?
Stern.

Are you boys with "Dog the Bounty Hunter"? - I heard your song Food Clothes Medicine on Dog's show.
They licensed it. I was a fan 'til he turned out to be a racist piece of shit. I mean I guess it wasn't that surprising in the end, but I have to admit the show intrigued me prior to that ridiculous taped call. I ended up feeling a bit embarrassed that my song was on his show. Fuck you Dog, fuck you. But that theme song that Ozzy whipped up is pretty insane... "I'm the dog, the big bad do-o-og..."

I hear you love your Nintendo DS - would you be ever want to pick Shigeru Miyamoto's brain?
My DS is ok. I like it, but I don't love it yet. If I sat with Miyamoto I think I would be speechless. His list of accomplishments is so long and awesome. I'd just be like "um...thanks?" What do you say to the guy who created Zelda? I really wouldn't know where to start in picking his brain, but I'd definitely buy that dude a burger. Nintendo is a crazy company. They don't always hit the mark, but they are easily the most original of the game system companies, and continue to take risks, which is pretty admirable in such a high stakes field with pretty fierce competition. They go against the grain for better or for worse, so I will always give them props.

Have you done shows in Japan yet?
Yeah, I've been to Japan a few times, Tokyo and Osaka a few times and we did Fuji rock once. It's pretty intense. I feel so far from anything I am comfortable with out there. It's interesting, but I don't hold up well in those types of environments. The culture shock is really abrupt and intense. Can be fun, but I'd rather go to japan town, then walk home when I'm done.

You've been conducting some interviews yourself --who are some folks you've been dying to interview?
I dunno really, it's all pretty new to me. I'm kinda just moving it along slowly. I enjoy it, but in some ways I'm not cut out for it. I tend to freeze up around people I admire. I've been trying to interview Chris Ware for a while, but hes a tuff guy to track down and he seems to be pretty intensely introverted. I tend to stick to people I kinda know a bit, cuz I know they'll give me great answers, plus hitting people up out of the blue is just not my steez. Ware agreed to answer 5 questions for me once, but I couldn't even think of 5 questions for him. Plus, I'm not out to bother anyone really, so yeah I'm gonna keep it all in the family, if the extended family. I've met a lot of interesting people over the years and I should know enough to keep me busy for awhile. I just interviewed Ben Colen, staff photographer for the girl and chocolate skateboard teams. He's my oldest friend, and it was really cool for me to hit up this dude I've known forever and have a reason to ask him a bunch of shit. I felt proud to know him.

Apparently NBC is booting Jay Leno for the younger Conan O'Brien in that coveted Tonight Show slot --I imagine this is a good thing for you? (Conan's show is probably more 'hip to the game,' so they're more likely to have a newer breed of music on there than Leno).
I guess. That's another weird world, late night tv. I went on [Jimmy] Kimmel with El-P, but they never aired the song we did. I got invited to do Kimmel myself, but the date was around the writer's strike and it all fell through. I think I'd be too nervous to do Conan, to the point where it wouldn't even be fun. I might say no if it ever came up, then deal with the wrath of my label and publicist and manager telling me I'm an ass. The whole 'you get one shot to impress the nation' part of it kinda irks me. Leno is a joke.

Does each person's individual success in the weathermen, mean less seeing of each other?
I think growing up in general means less seeing each other. I dont think anyone's success has at all affected their ability to chill. If anything has it's just that people learn to love their privacy a bit. We all travel a lot so being home is nice for everyone. But it's still a close knit crew, and I believe in all of them. These are people that are o.c.d. about their love of music making, so if anyone slips out for a second it's pretty understandable. It's a group of people who love their cocoons, and also love to come out of them and share with each other. Really really talented, good-hearted folk that I am constantly impressed by and honored to be associated with.

How does it make you feel when the #1 song in the country is (IMO a dumb) song like "I Kissed a Girl"? Have you for a long time grown the stomach to not be disgusted by lame commercial music?
Occasionally I'll throw a brief tantrum, but for the most part I'm pretty used to it. The good thing about pop music is the same as the bad thing - it's pretty disposable. If a particularly irritating song gets a lot of run, chances are it'll be done in a short amount of time and you'll never have to hear from the group again. I mean it's pop you know? Popular. People love it, a lot of people love it. It's not what I do, but some of it is ok. A lot of it is flimsy.

What is your favorite Æsop's fable?
I kinda like "The Eagle and the Arrow." They're all pretty neat really, just quick reads that kinda make sense in some off kilter yet crystal clear way. It's pretty impressive stuff.

Is that where the name Aesop Rock partly came from?
Not exactly, but I definitely didn't mind the association at the time when I adopted the name. It came about in some completely unrelated manner. Years later in my college [Boston University], they opened up a bagel store called Aesop's Bagels. That was annoying.

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Is it difficult performing in front of family?
Yes. well, my 2 brothers have seen me many many times now, so that's all good usually provided I don't think about them being in the crowd when I'm on stage. My mother and father is a different story. For many years they never saw me perform. Pretty much within the last 2 years or so they've seen me play twice. It's pretty nerve racking cuz it's impossible to not think about the fact that they are out there in the crowd. They are cool with it and definitely proud, but I don't think they really understand it at all, and I definitely think they think I've made some pretty batty choices.

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Aesop Rock Live [Photo by Shabooty/LAist]

When are the WeatherMen shoes dropping?
July 31st. Aesop Rock WM Adidas in collaboration with Upper Playground. I did a song for this cool internet commercial that u.p. hooked up. It should go up online in a couple days. Little rap jammy. 500 pairs.

Do you read El-P' blog, Bastard's Delight?
Yep. El's a close friend. I try to stay in touch with what most of my closer friends are doing. He's a witty and intelligent guy, and usually has some funny shit to say.

Are you on Cage's upcoming new album, "Depart From Me"? Production as well?
At this point he's got 2 beats of mine somewhere in there, and I think the ones he picked were great choices for what he does. I think he's just stockpiling a billion songs and plans to carve out an EP and LP out of that. The stuff we've worked on is really dope. Really weird, but really pretty awesome. He's a one of a kind rap artist. Perhaps the most underrated guy I know. I mean, he definitely gets his props, but he's got talent way beyond what he is given credit for. As for vocals, I have not been asked yet, but I'd do anything he needed me to do for the album, whether its rimes, beats, button pressing, joint rolling, whatever.

Who are you voting for in November?
I'll probably vote for Obama, but I really kinda don't give a fuck. That world is so obnoxious. The debates are difficult to watch cuz the level of immaturity displayed by everyone involved is straight up embarrassing. It's a bunch of name calling and bullshit. Then you hear everyone getting wrapped up, making insane claims about the validity of one candidate over another, when in reality it's all the same shit. I hate to sound naive, but there's really close to no part of me that thinks it matters. I got psyched to vote once. it didn't go my way.

You say your favorite cereal changes by the hour, which is your fav. right now?
If I were at the store right now....I'd prob go for some honey bunches of oats. Its pretty much my goto these days, mostly.

Is Aesoprock.com cyber-squatted?
One time I paid a guy a bunch of money to make me an awesome website. He ended up being a douchebag, and I never got back on track with it. SO... my friend Karen over at the giant peach keeps it linked to my merch at her store.I'll get it back if/when I hire another guy to fuck me over.

Will you and your wife collaborate more, musically -in the future?
Yeah definitely. She plays on a lot of my stuff, and I'm doing all the drum programming on her new project with Carson Binks (who played bass in Parchman Farm with her). I wrote some lyrics for it too, I think we both know we'd be stupid to not take advantage of each other. She's an extremely talented guitar player and song writer.

You're doing three shows in LA (Sept. 13-15th) at the Troubadour. Have you performed at that venue before? How will this upcoming tour be different from last year's tour?
LA is the shit. Such a good town to rock in, and they've really supported me incredibly since day one. I have indeed played the Troubadour before on a few occasions, and its an awesome venue. Last few times we passed through LA its been El Rey or Henry Fonda, and I think we were just looking for something slightly more intimate. The tour should be fun. we're hatching out the set now. Some old some new. I think people will be pleased with some of the song selections. last years US tour was right when NSO [None Shall Pass] dropped, and Rob [Sonic] had Sabotage Gigante out at that time too, so we really went for the all out big US run where we show up and growl for a while, then do that 39 more times. This one is shorter, and we really just wanna have fun with it. Sometimes those long runs can be grueling, and you forget your supposed to be enjoying yourself cuz there is so much to worry about and deal with. I think everyone is excited cuz there just less pressure this time. The record is out, it did well for me, we're coming to say hi again before going to make new records.

An object at rest tends to remain at rest
And an object in motion tends to remain in motion
With the same speed... slow down
With the same speed... slow down
With the same speed... slow down
And in the same direction
Down... down... down...

Thanks Æsop!
-Shabooty/LAist

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Poster by Mel Kadel