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Mcenroe - conducted by Brett Daniel Taylor  


Mcenroe

May 2003

The following are transcripts from an interview with Mcenroe. The interview took place on May 22nd, 2003. The interview was conducted by Brett Daniel Taylor aka BDT and me.

MC/Producer/Label Owner/Distributor...the multi-talented, multi-tasking mcenroe merges left and right brain activities into one cohesive whole. Starting in 1994, mcenroe has brought his DIY ethics to the public, giving the people something to cheer for and flap their wings to. His Peanuts and Corn labelmates (John Smith, Pip Skid, Gruf the Druid, DJ Hunnicut, Yy, The Gallivanting Spoof, and recent edition Birdapres) offer us some of the most eclectic and unique visions in hip hop today. In an era of me first and the gimme gimme's, mcenroe's beats, rhymes, and philosophies bring a much needed breath of fresh air into the hip hop game. Ladies and gentleman, please give a round of applause for Mcenroe...


MVRemix: What are your thoughts on the interview process? Do you look at it as a platform to further your views or merely use it in terms of publicity?

Mcenroe: Kind of a little bit of both. But I mean I'm not a hard political activist where you know I'm bound to give my opinion, but more the music is where I do that. So I don't really see doing interviews as a platform, per se, cause I don't think I have anything that strong to say you know what I mean, I enjoy it, it's fun. I don't view it as much of anything. It's publicity I guess and a chance to try and relate to the listener a little bit.

MVRemix: I would like to hear your thoughts on the marketing of an image? How is Mcenroe different from real life?

Mcenroe: Well that's my thing...is how Mcenroe is real life, you know what I mean. I'm saying in my new record "I'm so boring," my real life is boring! You wouldn't believe it and that's sort of what Mcenroe is all about, you know, the difference in that situation is that as Mcenroe I've opened myself up quite a bit, and it really is weird to have someone call me Mcenroe, but I don't consider it an alter ego, you know, as Mcenroe I give everything I got. As Rod Bailey, and a lot of my stories are Rod Bailey, they're really synonymous to me and I've never really set out to make Mcenroe someone other than Rod Bailey. I mean a lot of people don't view it like that, but that's what I do.

MVRemix: What does the album title "Disenfranchised" mean to you?

Mcenroe: Sort of a bunch of different things, one of the themes of the album is the franchise and the loss of small business and sort of how we're all becoming part of a mega name branded image, you know, all those sort of things and how a lot of people are getting sick of it and myself included. So, it's sort of like a real meaning as far as just sort of losing faith in a lot of things...including where hip hop has gone as a business and where business has gone and the nature of business itself, those sort of things, so it sort of has several meanings in that sense and I kind of liked how it worked. It's just one of those words that means a couple of things at the same time that I like.

MVRemix: When you were starting out in terms of getting a label started, was there anyone you looked towards as a model?

Mcenroe: Not so much, a lot of my musical heroes in hip hop were on major labels, you know, when we started in '94 making our own recordings we didn't really have a lot of independent hip hop role models per se, everyone was on a major label like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy and everybody right? So we just sort of wanted to get started, but most of our role models on the business end were punk rock bands in the area, like Red Fisher and Propagandhi and all those type of bands out of Winnipeg that had a scene for that and part of the scene was make a record. And at that time it was just like punk rock bands would...play shows, try and get a name and make recordings and put it out on tape and sell it themselves and that was really a more foreground type of inspiration for us and what we wanted to do...and we really followed that ethic. When we got started it was like ok we're going to find a way to record and we tried a studio and we ended up renting a bunch of stuff and doing it ourselves...and we wanted to definitely put a tape out and sell some and go from there and just see where it went and at that time we did want to sign to a major label but obviously that was a long ways away, and not really a realistic goal anyway.

MVRemix: And there were a bunch of you kind of on the same thought process at that time?

Mcenroe: Well, I mean at that situation in hip hop there was my group Farm Fresh (Mcenroe, Pipi Skid, DJ Hunnicut)...that was the first tape we did and that was my group, so the three of us were in that group and that was our mindset at the time. And it was like "Let's get some recordings going" and then we started working with other groups in Winnipeg and going along the same lines and getting some momentum as far as people wanting to find Peanuts and Corn tapes around town.

MVRemix: Did you find people pretty open to your music?

Mcenroe: Yeah...you know in Winnipeg at that time there was really no one doing that, like I think 1 or 2 people had put out tapes before, but a lot of people were playing shows and their approach was that they were going to get signed and they didn't want anyone to hear their tape, they had a tape, and they spent a lot of money making it, but they didn't want to sell it. They didn't want to put it out, they wanted to shop it and that was sort of what a lot of groups were doing or they just weren't organized to do much of anything and we were sort of like "We're not shopping it, we just want to make a record and have people buy it for five bucks," or whatever it was and from there a lot of people got into that and it wasn't long until a lot of people were then putting out tapes.

MVRemix: Did you put in your own money to start it?

Mcenroe: Yep...mostly show money. At that time it wasn't a big investment to make a hundred tapes at a time. So, I had a couple of shows and a few hundred bucks, you know, I think it cost five hundred bucks to make the first record or three hundred and something and then made a bunch of tapes, sell them, take that money, make more tapes...never really made any money but I don't think we lost too much either.

MVRemix: Were your family and friends pretty supportive?

Mcenroe: Yep, pretty well. I mean at that time I was going to school and I didn't live with my family so they just sort of heard about what I was doing, you know, early on in high school I started messing around with music and they were really supportive but it was always like "Go to school!" and I never really pushed it in their face like I'm going to be a rapper. It was never really something they had to concern themselves with...so I always had to juggle both.

MVRemix: What are some of the myths out there in terms of running your own label?

Mcenroe: I think labels are a good thing to gain momentum. I think a lot of groups come out and just want to put out a CD without a label which is difficult...it's difficult to get picked up, it's difficult to get a distributor, a label...you know, maybe your first couple of records don't get picked up but once you have a few records and they sound pretty good it's a lot easier as a label with a catalogue to get picked up. Our thing about a label was always to have a body of work and then it'll just keep growing...try to keep everything in print and it will be hard to ignore us forever. I think that philosophy can work for anyone who is dedicated enough. But, it's a lot of patience.

MVRemix: ...and at some point someone will take notice...

Mcenroe: Well, that's how it's been...slowly but surely we get more known. It's never been a quantum leap where all of a sudden we blow up, but at the same time every record sells more than the last one, you know, we get more respect, more press, people are more open to what we want to do. So it's just a steady progression that we've enjoyed for the last nine years basically.

MVRemix: Are you getting some press in the U.S.A.?

Mcenroe: You know it's happening...magazines are reviewing our stuff...URB is reviewing a few things now and have me on some top ten lists and will be part of there "Next 100"...and ELEMENTAL is gonna do some stuff, you know, it's just a little bit at a time.

MVRemix: One thing I like to hear from my artists is some kind of social awareness or insight in general and one thing I liked about your album was its content and I was wondering what may have fostered this awareness? Something from your past maybe...a book...a person...

Mcenroe: I guess my biggest influence in that respect would be Pip Skid, 'cause he has an extreme view of the world but at the same time he gets you open to a new side of things, new options as far as the way things are and they're not necessarily correct, but it definitely gets you thinking a little more critically. I can remember I guess early on when...you know when you grow up and go to McDonalds and then one time on 20/20 you see a thing that says "You know that fast food may not be good for you!" And you're like what? How is that possible! So it's kind of that sort of thing. But, Pip Skid has been the biggest influence in terms of taking those ideas and putting them into music, I mean if you listened to the earlier stuff I did it was mostly just rap and wordplay and funny stories and stuff like that so definitely his influence opened me up socially and politically and so I guess I'd have to give him the bulk of the credit for getting me thinking in a new way. No question.

MVRemix: Your song called "Sleepwalking" from the album is an interesting one...where people give up on their dreams and settle down into a mundane existence and it seemed like you were maybe on a road destined for that sort of life...

Mcenroe: Well, yeah I have an engineering degree...I was working as an engineer and the engineering business is where you go to work and you get paid very well and then at 4:30pm you go home and you don't think about work until the next morning and it can be challenging and it can be rewarding. I'm not saying it's a bad thing at all...it doesn't play with your emotions, it's just a job and you can enjoy the job but that's what it is and music on the other hand is the ultimate up and down...I mean I've had so many ups and downs with this that it's hard to believe and at several points it's gotten to the point where it's like you're ready to say fuck it! I'm going to go and live an easy life and make some money and I'm going to have a nice car and I'm going to have a nice big TV and everything's going to be fine, and that's tempting at times, because it's like stress is a difficult thing. It can be difficult and it certainly is something you want to avoid but at the same time it's easy to just try and get rid of it at all costs and have no challenge to life. It's a challenge for now anyways.

MVRemix: Do you think there will come a time when you might start sleepwalking through hip hop?

Mcenroe: Well, not through hip hop. I think the music business can chew you up and spit you out and it's quite possible that I'll just be spent and I won't have anything...and the creative energy will be consumed by the business end. It's certainly possible but it's something I'm trying to avoid and you know it's a new era of where people are more aware of both sides of the business like they never have been. So at all times I'm conscious of what could be creeping up and I'm trying to fight, where in the past maybe I was less aware of the danger.

MVRemix: I'm kind of amazed sometimes with guys like Jadakiss or Ras Kass and their troubles with their labels, since there's been such a history of people getting screwed over and I'm always surprised by people signing on the dotted line so quickly...

Mcenroe: And it's unreal...I mean the only time I've ever been close to signing anything, I hired a lawyer and went through everything and found a whole bunch of things I didn't like about the contract and tried to negotiate to get those things taken out and basically didn't get signed. So it's like this terrible danger and I've talked to other artists who did sign the same contract and they were like "Well, I just didn't want to not get signed." And it's like you have no rights and you don't own anything...you don't even own your music but at least you got signed!?!

MVRemix: I guess it's like the carrot on the stick kind of thing...

Mcenroe: Exactly...it's like "Well it's just one record...maybe it'll do well and on the next record I'll have more power."

MVRemix: Or you get buried...on the album you mentioned a near death experience...what was the context of that situation?

Mcenroe: I was at a party with some friends and a gang broke in and beat the hell out of everyone, myself included, and I got it pretty bad in the head and I was in the hospital for awhile...I mean it was conceivable I could have died but it was not real close.

MVRemix: What makes you feel alive?

Mcenroe: I mean lots of things. Certainly in music there's a certain point where you get to a point with a track and you feel really, really, really good about it and you feel really euphoric. Playing live can be very euphoric for me. I really enjoy being out on the road and just driving. Sometimes we drive long periods to tour and I just get out in the middle of the night in the dead of summer or the dead of winter and just look at the sky and it's just such a powerful time.

MVRemix: I could really relate to the song "Wandering Eye" as I went through a similar musical journey. With the cliffhanger left to me at the end of the song I would like to know if there's anything out there getting you excited music wise?

Mcenroe: Yeah...well not to that degree, you know, there's still some music I really like...I'm a big MF Doom fan, I like People Under The Stairs, Buck 65, and of course I love all the music my friends make, but that's a bias...

MVRemix: Anything outside of hip hop?

Mcenroe: New stuff...I mean I like Radiohead but I've just been turned onto them in the last year so I can't say I'm like dying for their new album or anything. I like a lot of older stuff. Love the Beatles. Love Led Zeppelin. Love all the punk rock that I grew up on in the 80's. New stuff not so much. I'm more going back to getting really good reggae compilations from the 60's and 70's, stuff like that. I'm more into revisiting older stuff and enjoying music immensely, don't get me wrong. But as far as being a fan of hip hop...it's like "What's coming out this year that you're excited about?" And that used to be like a list for me...and now I can't think of anything off the top of my head that I can't wait for it to come out you know? I mean I am looking forward to a new Gangstarr album, but other than that...where as 6, 7 years ago there'd be a new De La and a new Tribe and all these artists...but there is hip hop that I like a lot. Recently ...the Mr.Lif album I really liked, I liked the new Roots.

MVRemix: Have you heard any Little Brother yet?

Mcenroe: I haven't! I heard it's good and I think I would like it.

MVRemix: Where did the name Mcenroe come from?

Mcenroe: It's not real deep I mean I sort of had a line in my head for awhile thinking "I was the Mcenroe of rap" and then just picked the name Mcenroe and ran with it.

MVRemix: From John Mcenroe...the tennis player?

Mcenroe: Yeah...there's not really a big story there.

MVRemix: What are you working on now?

Mcenroe: Right now I'm working on finishing an EP on a guy named Yy...he's from Winnipeg and we recorded an EP last fall and I'm just finishing it up and I'm also working right now on a record with my man Birdapres, we're gonna both be rapping and we're both excited about that. Also got beats for a new John Smith album, a new Pip Skid album and a new Fermented Reptile album. Also an instrumental album and an electro album.

MVRemix: Do you find you mold your beats according to the rapper?

Mcenroe: Somewhat...depends on the project, like say with the Hip Hop Wieners there was a real conscious decision to make hotter beats but generally I make beats and see who likes them and then based on what they write I'll finish the beat, and usually an album will take on a life of its own and sound a little bit unique. There's not a lot of consciousness going into it when I'm starting things.

MVRemix: I just read, due to your neighbours being noise sensitive, you make a lot of your beats with your headphones on...

Mcenroe: Pretty well I do everything with headphones...yeah.

MVRemix: Does that change things at all for you?

Mcenroe: Well, if you mix in headphones a lot it sounds good in headphones, but it might not sound good out loud. So I do sort of trial and error and mix in headphones and listen...and then out loud in a car and then go back and make adjustments. Kind of a pain but it's sort of what I always had to do.

MVRemix: The last thing I was wondering if you feel you're on the right path now?

Mcenroe: For sure. I'm having a good time. I'm finding the business end is very consuming and I need a little more time for music. And I need to push the business a little more so I can hire someone and get myself some more time to produce. But definitely on the right path. Enjoying life immensely. I'm very happy with my songs and records. But yeah I think we're doing the right thing. The thing is I love making records and if this is as far as I ever go with music I'll be pretty darn happy.





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