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Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Thursday 26th April, 2012 8:58AM

Atmosphere released their seventh studio album, The Family Sign late last year and are celebrating that with tour dates in New Zealand. We caught up with the eloquently named Slug to discuss their latest album, how their back catalogue is a reflection of their personalities at the time, and why the music industry should "fucking die".

(Comes into the interview late) Yo Iím so sorry about that I love you Iíll buy you a coffee.

That's sweet, do you have a massive line of interviews today?

Yeah and itís really weird because itís night time here and I never get to do these at night, which means my brain is already fried before I get to the interview shit because Iíve been using my brain and my mouth all fucking day already. So here we are, and Iíve got to pretend to have something intelligent to say, so here we go.

Good luck, you can always make something up. Let's start by discussing the writing and recording process for the latest album.

OK yeah, well, do you guys call it soccer or football?

- soccer Ė

- so here we have this creature that we call the ĎSoccer Mumí, which Iím sure you guys have. I wanted to make a record that would make Soccer Mumís think I was hot. So I was trying to figure out what would make a 38-42 year old mum get sloppy drunk and make out with me...nah Iím not good at making stuff up -

Like most of the records that we put out this record was just another mutation of where I am in my life Ė at least from my angle because I write the raps. The raps were mostly influenced by where my life was at, but thatís how all of our records are. You can kind of follow my life by looking at my records and what year they came out. Someday when Iím dead maybe somebody will study what I went through and heíll be able to look at the records and pinpoint what person I was at that point in my life.

Because thatís the opportunity Iíve been given - Iíve been blessed in a sense that Iím allowed to be myself on these records, for better and for worse. There are records where I sound like a little jaded prick piece of shit asshole, and thatís because in my world and in my life I was a little jaded prick asshole piece of shit and it hasnít been all great and it hasnít been all bad. Itís been a healthy mix of everything, just like everyones life should be.

Reflecting on the finished album, what do you think this one says about where youíre at?

Lyrically itís about where Iím at. Musically itís where Anthonyís at because Antís music also suggests a mood that fits along with what his life is like at the time. An album like Headshot: SE7EN, if you approach it from a musical standpoint that record is all over the place Ė itís confusing Ė and I think thatís reflective of what Anthony was going through at the time. And then the Mohawk record - the one with the Mohawk on it - is very aggressive and reflective at the same time and thatís a good reflection of where both of us were at at our time of the our lives. The music totally speaks for Anthony in the way the lyrics speak for me.

Do you go into the writing process knowing what you want to get down or is a more organic process than that?

Nah it just builds as it goes. Thereís times where I start to write a song and by the time Iím done with it Iíll know what itís really about, which is what I was telling myself in a way. Sometimes the songs shed light on my life for me. There have been times where Iíve learned about myself because of a song Iíve been working on.

Did that happen at any point in the latest album?

Definitely. There was a lot of that in this particular record. This record was the one that solidified a lot of shit in my world. This is the record that made me say, Ďyeah Iím not hanging out with those people ever againí and ĎI donít give a fuck about proving who I amí and you know, as you get old and grumpy you start to give a fuck less about what people think of you and I think this record really helps me deal with that and reach a place where I donít give a shit what my scene thinks of me, I donít care what my contemporaries think of me. I give a fuck what my family and my friends think of me and beyond that let the chips fall where they may. I extend that respect to the audience. Iím not going to pander to anybody to get you to like my music. If you donít like my music Iím OK with that. Thereís a whole lot of music you could go spend your time on, you donít have to spend your time with mine.

You have a unique rapping style. How did you develop that?

I mean I think my influences all came from the music I listened to when I was 17. So 90% of my influence is based on rap music that came out between the years of 1987 and 1989, so the likes of Biz Markie. That's why Iím one part conscious rap and one part, I donno, I make songs for the ladies sometimes, and then one part joke, I like to crack jokes I like to be sarcastic I like it when people laugh a lot. Thatís where all of my shit extends from is Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane.

You guys have been a group for a long time now, how have you noticed hip hop change and develop over the past two decades?

I feel like itís managed to be what itís supposed to be. It hasnít lost touch with what itís job is. Hip hopís job as a culture is to bring different people together and unify them for a few different reasons. Unify them through a party, unify them through information, unify them through an idea, unify them through an identity. It gives kids an identity who donít necessary have an identity who could fall into the cracks.

Hip hop has been there to give a bunch of us who donít have identities identities and I think it still does that. It did that when I was a kid and I think in the nineties Wu Tang did that for people. Granted thereís always been some hip hop to hate on which is just as important. Through the years thereís been plenty of hip hop that the underground has gone Ďfuck that artist, heís a sell-outí. Thatís important, there has to be sell-outs, there has to be all these different facets to give these kids that identity, that underdog identity, and to let them know that they can overcome.

This is struggle music, it was born from struggle, and it deals with struggle. Whether it does that by reminding you of the struggle, whether it deals with it by fantasizing the struggle, whether it deals with it by actually breaking down and giving you logical options of how to deal with the struggle or it goes 'letís just dance tonight and for one night forget about the fucking struggle'. I think hip hop still definitely does that. Look at the Odd Futures and the ASAP Rocky's and these people that are doing it now, and this is just as important. Theyíre speaking to kids and unifying kids in the same way NWA did it when I was a kid. It would be really easy for me to act my age and say ĎI donít understand what kids listen to these daysí but that doesnít make any sense because thatís what they were saying when I was a kid and I canít go for that, I canít fall for that. I have to believe it and react to it accordingly and I think itís important to embrace the fact that hip hop is still pissing off adults and thatís part of itís job.

What are your thoughts on how the technological revolution has change the nature of music?

Truthfully weíre a people of adaption because everything we do is done out of necessity. We started a label because the industry didnít give a fuck about us anyway so we said 'fuck it' and did it out of necessity. Speaking for myself, I donít give a shit, fuck the industry. I own a record label and Iím saying that. The truth is that there is no such thing as the industry. The industry was invented out of imagination. The imagination of someone who was like Ďhey, letís figure out a way to make money off of these people who are making musicí. If you go back 150 years youíd be lucky to get a bowl of soup and a pillow to lay your head on tonight if you knew how to play the guitar. Fast forward and now youíve got all these guitar players who have this self-entitlement who think theyíre supposed to be making millions of dollars because they can play a fucking guitar. Fuck you guys and youíve fucking guitar. This is music and itís to communicate. This industry is bullshit so let it die. The sooner it dies the sooner it can get back to the source of communication that itís supposed to be.

But itís not just technology because you canít just have the technology, you still have to have the audience. The industry pretends like the audience is disappearing because people arenít buying records anymore. Thatís not true itís actually fucking growing. There used to be people who would get in car and turn on the radio and not really care what was playing; theyíd just get in the fucking car and turn on the radio to give them something to listen to to get to work and come home. Now in these cars thereís satellite radio and people dictate what type of music they surround their day with. Theyíre picking it themselves in a way thatís never been done before. Whatís really happening is that the concept of Ďthis is what youíre supposed to likeí is going away and thatís what pissing off everyone. Iím all for it, fuck it, let it go away because that shit never fed me anyway. What feeds me is what I put into it, period. I might not sell a million records but Iím gonna sell a bunch of t-shirts or Iím going to sell a book or Iím going to show up and youíre going to give me a bowl of soup and a pillow to put my head on. Whatever we gotta do is what we gonna do.

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