posted: 10-14-04
interview : tadah
Okay, please introduce yourself.
I am Aeon Grey, half of Lost Cause, one fifth of Softfocus; emcee, producer, crate digger.
You mentioned your crew: tell us more.
Lost Cause of course. Then Softfocus, consisting of three other Iowa mystery men: Jayvee, Workerbee, and Paul Moses. And one angry Minnesotan: Mike Jupiter.
So where are you from?
Des Moines Iowa.
From where??? Ha, sorry, had to. But that's not really known as a Rap Mecca. So tell us a little about life there, the scene and all that.
Life is slow, everyone is kind of just in the typical nine to five grind, there really is nothing more but a glimpse of a scene. A few exceptionally decent artists/emcees whatever. But for the most part the base is still under construction. But it is like building a card castle in a wind tunnel: some blowhards always want to knock down what someone else is doing, especially if it is a little different. Hence the Lost Cause. We basically made an album knowing that support from our immediate local area was going to be rough.
In the end we love it though, it is all the fuel for our music, the constant struggle just to even get people to listen is my drive.
There's this writer Bill Bryson who grew up in Des Moines. He started one book "The Lost Continent. Travels in Small Town America" he starts the book with: "I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to." Is life bad there? The book is really good, by the way.
Certainly not bad… Cost of living is low, but the average income is also considerably lower than the rest of the nation. There is little to do for entertainment, and there is basically no music or art scene. Although they are starting to bloom a little; some day maybe if those that are pushing right now continue. It is a media molded society for sure.
We do have a large art festival though where they sell all kinds of pretty paintings like the ones you see your dentist's office.
So what is the most popular style / subgenre in Des Moines?
Rock is easily the most popular genre of music in town. However, it was recently proclaimed hip hop is here in a local publication. So maybe things are looking up in that ignorant 'the paper says hip hop is here, let's party' kind of way. But with Slipknot and other up and coming rock groups it is surely still more a Rock city than anything else.
How much 'outside' rap comes to town?
The occasional big name mainstream radio puppet stops through. A couple bigger underground acts are just now starting to stop through, but even they only draw about 30-40 people. Most prefer to makes stops at the nearby cities which are a little more established: Iowa City, Omaha, Minneapolis.
How does one from there get into this lil' culture we call hip hop?
Well, right now you cannot turn your head enough to avoid the so called 'hip hop' they are selling now. But like anywhere, it was not a complete mystery. I mean we have lights and even in house toilets in Iowa, and have for a while.
It has never been and never will be as prevalent here as it is on either coast, but it still has pretty much always existed as long as it has existed. It is all ratios, the ratio might be slightly less in the Midwest. But the population is not nearly as dense, so relatively there are probably the same number of heads. Just so happens everyone of them raps to keep the four hundred rappers per square mile quota up.
What is it about this culture that influences and inspires you?
Right now, the absolute ignorance and wide spread use to manipulate people. I am still waiting for an ad campaign with Bush or Kerry rapping, I think it would be a hit.
In the beginning: the honesty. People didn't front, and if you did, you got called on it. And not a violence type of thing, but people would challenge your skills, and if you didn't have them, you were lost. Now you step to someone like that and they want to fight about it. Everyone is complacent. I want it to go back to who is the most creative, who is breaking ground, not just who is doing the best impression of your all time favorite. I am inspired by the fact that a lot of style is dead.
How do you or your music then fit into the big picture?
I don't think anyone's music really fits into the big picture. Every addition just kind of makes the picture bigger. Which is why hip hop, music, whatever, loses it's solid identity over time. It just kinds of spread to something so big you cannot see it all without turning your head. It is kind of like facing the mountains in Colorado, than turning to Nebraska and seeing nothing. It will always be growing. And I think our music adds to that, another branch for someone to grab onto, and hopefully find the beauty of what it originally was.
What do we need to know about you?
I am passionate and honest, and probably a jerk 90% of the time because of it.
What would you like to tell us about you, that we probably don't care to know? (smile)
I eat estrogen straight from the source, and like it.
Any other fun facts about you?
I am boring. Angle is way more exciting.
You have a new album out: "Paper Cuts": please introduce us to it.
Hip Hop cliches and lies, this is honesty.
Anything else? Favorite song, favorite beat, favorite line, favorite message everybody gets wrong, favorite guest, producer, etc. etc.
I produced probably 95% of it, so I love that aspect, and the interludes are top notch, the kind of things you could just loop and listen to over and over again. All the production is good, even the guest producer Nygh came through and gave us some really nice tracks to use.
As far as misinterpreted messages, I think almost every song will mean something different to each person. I have gotten a lot of threats about a couple certain tracks that people feel are about them though. But really, if you think it is about you, and you take something in it personal, isn't it about you even if it wasn't meant to be about you?
Tell us what you hope we'll get out of this record.
A desperate feeling that makes you get up and change something for the better.
What would be one of the most urgent matters that needs to be changed?
Obviously American politics are screwy right now. Our priorities are all jumbled and spread thing. My biggest issue though is the children: the education system is falling apart; they are still being raised by the television and media. There is really just no guidance for them, and I hope that it can be corrected before we try to hand it over to a bunch of Grand Theft Auto junkies.
Why this record right now?
Too much crap, might as well add some peanuts.
How did the process of making it compare to the last record you've done?
Time. We spent a lot of time over a short period of time working on this. All night recording sessions and days off work to sit and mix, and remixing, and the lack of ignorant satisfaction that we have had with older releases; we know better now. Yet it was still all done over a short period of time where we used every second we had. Quite different.
State of hip hop: good or bad?
Always both. You can't say 'that is good' if you never have thought 'that is bad'. Too many liars, both lying to everyone, and to themselves.
What was the last album/showcase/experience that had you go: man, I better step up my skills before I step out with something again?
Every time I perform, or watch a performance, I always feel like I am falling behind.
File sharing on the internet: I do it too, or I'll do you if you do it?
I think it is a big part of exposure anymore. I don't download a lot anymore, but I don't mind if others do. Being able to get my music to as many people as possible, and hopefully breaking even for me, is success. And if that requires 2000 people stealing my album, so be it, at least they heard it. It won't be like that still sealed copy of some local Iowa rock band that I found that no one ever experienced even though it has a killer drum break on it.
Speaking of drum breaks: where do you dig?
All the beats are mainly Iowa grown, but to give exact locations would be production suicide on some level wouldn't it? Mostly used book stores and a couple of the local record stores and thrift shops, and my favorite, the all important garage sales.
What do you dig for?
I just dig aimlessly most of the time. Listening randomly to certain labels I enjoy, the Christian family records with the occasional gem. I try not to limit myself by saying, 'I sample Rock' or 'I sample soul'. If I find it, and it sounds good, it will be used.
What's your favorite break?
Maybe the hardest question to answer, but I have this high school jazz band break from Clinton High School. And it is surely my favorite, although the reverb from the gym has made it hard to use in any production, up to this point anyway. Basically, I love them when they sound bad, something about static and noise adds an atmosphere that is hard to replicate through effects and other tools.
What do you really enjoy listening to right now?
Right now, I am listening to Mike Jupiter's songs over and over again. His skill really baffles me, in that 'why the hell is this guy working with me kind of way'. Hopefully his album will drop soon so others can experience it.
You must have a website, right? What is it?
Any shout outs and / or final comments?
Mindy and Mom, I love you, and don't worry about me.
And to Iowa's 'true heads': stand for something and quit backtracking, fools.
"Paper Cuts" is out now and available through
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