Astronautalis - conducted by Todd E. Jones  


Passed Out In The Dark Theater Of The Ocean

August 2006

MVRemix: Ben Cooper (from Radical Face / Electric President) produced 'The Mighty Ocean & Nine Dark Theaters'. How did you hook up with him? What was he like to work with?

Astronautalis: I met Ben on my 3rd day at the job at the Pablo 9 Movie Theaters, the same theater from the album title, when I was 16 years old. We have been friends ever since. Musically, I wouldn't be half the artist I am today without the guidance he gave me and the things he taught me. Everything is about process before product with him. There is no bad idea. We try everything and if it doesn't work, we delete it and start over. He saw my strengths and taught me how to use them. At the same time, he pointed out many of my weaknesses and how to overcome them. I owe him damn near everything.

MVRemix: Will you work with Ben Cooper of Radical Face / Electric President again?

Astronautalis: We have done two whole albums together. I imagine that we will always bump into each other on future creative endeavors. He lives less than a half a mile from my house. I can't help but bump into him. But I doubt we will ever work on a full length record again. We have already gotten so much out of our working relationship. Neither of us would ever want to develop a creepy co-dependency like Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

MVRemix: Will you go back to creating straight hip-hop?

Astronautalis: I am making a couple little EPs in the future that will be pretty standard rap songs, featuring production by Maker, Shalem B, and some others. But those tracks are more of a test or an experiment for me, not a full-fledged project. So, I guess my answer is that it is doubtful.

MVRemix: How are the fans responding to the album, 'The Mighty Ocean & Nine Dark Theaters'?

Astronautalis: Better than I thought they would, Great, in fact. I lost a lot of sleep thinking I was making a terrible mistake. But, that is just half the fun of the creative process and that whole artistic credibility thing, I guess. All in all, the response has been great, which is a bit surprising and very exciting.

MVRemix: Gary Numan? What was it that inspired the song, 'A Love Song For Gary Numan'?

Astronautalis: It was a dare.

MVRemix: The cover for 'The Mighty Ocean and Nine Dark Theaters' LP is very original and has a timeless quality. I love it. Was this cover your idea? Tell us about making the cover?

Astronautalis: I had the idea for the album cover for as long as I had the idea for the songs. I set up the photo and got a friend of mine to push the shutter for me. Then, I spent the next month tweaking 8 layers of the same image in Photoshop until the image in my brain matched the image on my screen. Sometimes, you get lucky and things like that work out.

MVRemix: The layout for the CD/album is also very cool. I love how every song is represented by a Polaroid picture and the lyrics are on the back of each one. What inspired this idea? Was there a process for choosing each photo? Were these older photos or were the photos taken specifically for this album?

Astronautalis: I like albums that give you something to mull over while you listen, some supplemental material to make your purchase worthwhile. With all the heavy-handed nostalgia floating around on this record, Polaroid's seemed like a natural choice. Some photos, I took specifically for songs. Some, I pulled out of my archives. I knew what I wanted for each photo, pretty much but, as in all things, there are always a few happy accidents. Doing all the design work myself was quite a headache, but I am very happy with the way it all turned out.

MVRemix: What is the meaning behind your name, Astronautalis?

Astronautalis: Urbandictionary.com defines Astronautalis as 'The best deep underground rapper. Known for his deep rhymes and different beats. He takes Eminem's title for best white rapper.' Look out, Eminem. Urbandictionary.com says I am coming for you!

MVRemix: When creating a track, do you have a set theme or idea first, or do you start with the music?

Astronautalis: The chicken or the egg?

MVRemix: What was the recording process like for the new album? How was it different from other times?

Astronautalis: I could do whatever I wanted to do on this record. As I said before, there were no limitations on gear, time, and money. This was quite a big jump for Radical Face and me. The last album was recorded in 3 weeks with one mic, in my bathroom. It was quite a nice way to make a record.

MVRemix: Musically, what else have you been working on?

Astronautalis: I just finished a split 12" with a great rapper from Houston named, Babel Fish. This is coming out on a German record label. Beyond that, I have been doing a lot of guest work for other artists. I did beats for Sole, vocals for a couple other rappers, and I have a series of EPs entitled 'DANG!' where I make 7 songs in 7 days, under a specific set of rules and guidelines. One of which will be that aforementioned 'Rap EP'.

MVRemix: What are some of your favorite drum machines / samplers?

Astronautalis: 808's still make my dick hard.

MVRemix: On the song, 'Power, Money And Influence' from Guru's 'Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures' album, Talib Kweli remarks that Pro-Tools made producers lazy. Do you agree?

Astronautalis: Someone should ask Mr. Kweli what made him so damn lazy. He has been making the same song for almost 10 years now and wouldn't have anything to show for it if it weren't for his producers! What a presumptuous thing for him to say! I personally hate Pro-Tools. It is over-priced, overrated, and counterintuitive. You can do the same thing on cheaper and better-designed platforms. However, the revolution that came from digital recording, lead by companies like Digi-Design, has changed music forever. Pro-tools didn't make producers lazy. Those kinds of people would have been lazy no matter what luxuries technology afforded them. Digital recording took the power out of the studio system and made quality bedroom recording available to the masses. It is very easy now to write, record, mix, master, and distribute a record, right from your own home. You don't need a label. You don't need a studio. You don't need a lot of money to make a great record that sounds like a great record. Without digital recording, most of the great indie music made in the last 10 years couldn't have happened. We would all love to have miles of 2" tape to run through, but it just isn't realistic. If you think that the fine people at Warner Brothers records have Mr. Kweli recording on something other than Pro-tools, you are sadly mistaken, but that don't stop him from blowing smoke up our ass now, does it?

MVRemix: Around what time in your career did you start financially surviving from music?

Astronautalis: I have been surviving for about a year now. I still haven't started paying myself, just paying my bills. I don't make enough money to stay at home and light cigars with dollar bills. I make enough to keep my records and clothes at my parent's house, and live on tour. It is still better than a regular job. That is for damn sure.

MVRemix: Do you think that success and credibility are mutually exclusive?

Astronautalis: I sure hope not.

MVRemix: What song / album are you most proud of?

Astronautalis: My next song, my next album.

MVRemix: Who are some artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?

Astronautalis: Smog, Midlake, Against Me, Devin The Dude, Joanna Newsom, and Young Jeezy.

MVRemix: Who are some producers you would like to collaborate with in the future?

Astronautalis: Nigel Godrich, Dr. Dre, Dave Fridmann, Phil Elvrum, Organized Noise, Diamond D, and Showbiz.

>>> continued...


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    "Someone should ask Mr. Kweli what made him so damn lazy. He has been making the same song for almost 10 years now and wouldn't have anything to show for it if it weren't for his producers!"