I haven't gotten my copy yet of the new Atmosphere album, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold.
The new album sounds like the noise of spreading frosting with a knife and chewing on a rubber band.
Well, that sounds awful.
And there you have it. I can't imagine you being surprised.
So what do you write with—pen and notebook, a laptop, what?
About three years ago, when I was making You Can't Imagine [How Much Fun We're Having], was the first time I was integrating my laptop into my writing. As stupid as this might sound, I listened to the record again recently and realized all the stuff I wrote on the laptop sounded more concise—there was more focus to the songs. So I got rid of the notebook. It's affected my writing; it's more formal, and I kind of like the results. There's only two dudes that I've ever discussed that with. I wonder why that shit doesn't get talked about—Aesop Rock don't talk about how he writes. One of [the dudes] is P.O.S.; the other dude is Blueprint. I tease him because he writes on his Sidekick. This dude really tours a lot, so sitting in his van, the Sidekick is really convenient; it's like having a notebook in your pocket. It's practical.
Would you be on any social-networking websites if you weren't using them to actively promote your music?
Absolutely not. In fact, I'm kind of scared of the whole idea. Once in a while some dude will say something outrageous enough that I'll click on [his profile], and there'll be 15 different photo albums with 100 photos each. And he's not even rapping! It's where we're going to, where people are commodifying themselves without even having something to commodify.
You co-own Rhymesayers Entertainment. What is the hardest part about running a record label?
You're asking me? That shit's easy for me. I just rap. I don't do shit. If you were to ask [RSE's other owners] how much time I spend in the office, they'd laugh at you. I figured out early on that marketing was not my strong suit. For the good of our movement, my energy is better spent on creative shit rather than on phones or laptops staring at Excel spreadsheets. If I'm spending time doing that, it's not as good for Rhymesayers as if I just keep the music flowing. When I stop rapping, I have strengths to offer, but right now it would be mismanagement of time if I went at it like that. Everybody in the office is in full agreeance with me—all I do when I'm there is crack stupid jokes.
Why should we care about the new Atmosphere album? What makes it better than, say, Vampire Weekend?
I highly doubt it's better than the new Vampire Weekend. My goal is to continue not to disappoint the people who have offered us support in the past. I don't care if you like me better than Gnarls Barkley or Vampire Weekend; I'm trying to ensure that I make that family stay together for as long as I can. I'm 36 this year; I'm over the whole concept of blowing up and being a buzz band. Things are moving good and I'd like to focus on how to maintain that. It's not what the distribution company wants to hear, but that's how I entered my relationship with them. Personally, I don't care about making a record everybody gives five stars, or all the bloggers say is great, or isn't great. All I care about is the core audience is challenged, as well as not disappointing them.
Atmosphere is you rapping and Ant producing. What is Ant's favorite story about Slug?
I'd think that when I got alopecia and all my hair fell out, Ant was proud of the fact that I was like, "So what? It's like having a hernia, still gotta move." I think he thought my vanity was going to get the best of me and I was going to go hide in my house for a few months. That's kind of a corny answer, but it's the only one I could think of off the top of [speaking very deliberately] my dome piece.
You're playing with a live band now, right?
Half and half. I don't have a drummer or bass player anymore. Ant will be spinning drum tracks and I've got a vocalist, a keyboardist, and a guitar player. We muted some of the samples to give them some chances to play. I saw Mike Patton do it with Peeping Tom, and it was pretty fresh, but I didn't want to do it exactly how he did it.
What is the difference between Slug and Sean Daley?
Nowadays there's no more difference. In the past, Slug was more confident and Sean was more reclusive. Slug was the one who showed up at [Minneapolis bar] the CC Club and flirted with you, and Sean would wake up and say, "I can't believe you like me." But Slug toned down and Sean grew up and I see what happened: I used Sean as common sense to keep Slug in the pocket because he's too fucking long. He's the same dude; I've got to quit manipulating them to get where I'm going. They're both gonna run for mayor eventually.
Atmosphere play Tues May 13, Showbox Sodo, 8 pm, $20, all ages. With Abstract Rude and DJ Rare Groove.