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Pigeon John - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Pigeon John Flies Away

May 2005

MVRemix: The song ĎBí is an incredible live recording. How has your live show evolved? What is your favorite part of your live show?

Pigeon John: I think the live show evolved directly due to the audience. To me, itís just like theater. If it reads well in the script or in rehearsals, it is not alive until you put it in front of an audience and see how they react to it or how they donít react to it. I can quickly realize that I wonít do that thing again. Every night, I see. The crowd is so shapeless. There are different people and different vibes. The whole crowd can stare at me, just looking at me, and I can tell that they arenít into it at all. That can totally throw someone off. My favorite part of my show is when I connect with the crowd. It may be through a song, an interlude, or just me talking to them. Even with The Good Life, Iím so used to competing in the spotlight that I never lost that mind state. Even if I am in L.A. and Iím doing a Pigeon John show, Iím thinking that these people will ĎBooí me if I donít do a good job. Iím at the edge and Iím always thinking. I have to keep it moving or the people get restless. Plus, when people start drinking, they become *ssholes when there is any slow momentum. They can throw bananas.

MVRemix: The song ĎEmilyí is a profound tale of a father abandoning his family. Are you a father? Your father left your family. What advice would you give to someone who is in the similar situation?

Pigeon John: No, Iím not a father. Yeah, my father left my family. Growing up, it was unusual if any of my friends had parents who were still together. if they even wanted advice, the best thing for me, was finding out who I was as soon as possible. If people just go through life and donít care, most likely they will do the same thing when they have a kid. It is so embedded in people that they will become their dad even if they never met him. Whether you live with your father or never met him, you will find yourself acting like him. You have to find out who you are and break the cycle.

MVRemix: What artists would you like to collaborate in the future?

Pigeon John: I would like to work with Beck. I think he is the bomb. Heís right on the pulse. When he did ĎMutationsí, he really put 10 years into his career. He was ahead of everybody. When everyone was trying to be quirky break beat people, this guy came with the country album. He hushed everybody and didnít do it again. He went straight to ĎMidnight Vulturesí. I appreciate that. It is the same with De La Soul. I would love to work with them. Earlier in their career, they were always changing.

MVRemix: The album ĎDe La Soul Is Deadí is incredible.

Pigeon John: That broke my heart when ĎDe La Soul Is Deadí came out. I was a De La Soul fan. I dressed like them. When they killed themselves, I thought ĎWow! I have to cut my hair! I have to wear regular clothes! What are you guys doing?í I thought we were trying to be weird!

MVRemix: What producers would you like to work with?

Pigeon John: I like traditional producers. I would like to work with John Brian. Heís the bomb.

MVRemix: Would you ever put out an album of just singing or just you with an acoustic guitar?

Pigeon John: Maybe later on in my career. I would want to work with a professional producer, who knows how to work with that. A lot of times, and Iím probably guilty of it, people can be artistic without guidance. This is just an opinion, and a very naÔve opinion, when Mos Def tried to do the rock thing on his last record, it didnít all the way come through because it was produced by a hip-hop producer. It was a great idea but the production didnít come through. If it was produced by Rick Rubin, it would have been out of the park. Because the producers were hip-hop on ĎBlack On Both Sidesí and the producers were hip-hop on ĎThe New Dangerí, some people are good at rock tracks and some people arenít. I think the song ĎSex, Drugs, And Moneyí is the best song on the album.

MVRemix: What CDs have you been listening to lately?

Pigeon John: I like the latest Elliot Smith record. Thatís a wild guy. I just recently picked up John Meyers. That song ĎDaughtersí is incredible. Iím so glad he won Song Of The Year. I havenít heard a song like that in my life. It was the way that he did it. Also, coming from a dude who doesnít have children, it was so insightful.

MVRemix: How did you hook up with Basement Records?

Pigeon John: I have known Roc for a while. He was a local head. Around 2000, I started shopping for a Pigeon John deal. I went to big labels and small labels. It was basically the demo songs for ĎPigeon John Is Dating Your Sisterí. A lot of people liked it. It was clean. They were honest. They told me that they didnít have any idea what to do with it. It wasnít clear how to market it. This was at a time when I sat down with A&Rís. They wanted something very clean cut and clear. Hey, Iím a white guy with a guitar and I sing pop music. Iím a Black guy with a jersey who does hip-hop. They didnít want me to mix it.Ē

MVRemix: But look at Wyclef, Lauryn Hill, K-Os, and others. They mix genres.

Pigeon John: Most of those people made it in their career by almost an accident. It just came about. Now, people want to do the next Lauryn Hill. Even Nelly and Ludacris had to start their own label. Now they are big. I slowly realized that I had to sign to an independent label.

MVRemix: Does Basement Records give you creative freedom?

Pigeon John: Yeah. Thatís a plus about being on a smaller label. The freedom is great! Being involved personally, I get to say, ĎYes or noí. There are pros and cons. I donít get the $200,000 advance check. That shuts a lot of people up.

MVRemix: What was the last incident of racism you experienced?

Pigeon John: I would say just driving through America. Itís very quiet and I would say understandably. In the white parts we drive through, like the gas stations, you can sense it. I donít think that it is necessarily their fault. They grew up where there is a Black side of town and a white side of town. I just stayed with my friend in New Orleans, yesterday. He lives in Mississippi. They call that side the Black side of town but also, they call it the integrated side of town. This is 2005 and this is my friend who I am staying with. It is so ingrained in American culture. I try to prove to them that Iím a Black guy and that Iím regular. Iím not trying to do graffiti on your bathroom wall. The last time of racism was just driving through America. There is the silent treatment. No eye contact. Iím sure they feel it as well.

MVRemix: Where were you on September 11th 2001, the terrorist attack? How did you deal with it?

Pigeon John: I was in Seattle at my wifeís fatherís place. I woke up and it was on the news. My wife was my fiancťe at the time. She woke me up and told me that we were being attacked. It was so surreal like it was almost detached. It was a calm, cold, numbing feeling. I couldnít talk about it.

MVRemix: Word association time. Iím going to say the name of an artist or group, and you say the first word that comes to your head. So, if I said ĎPublic Enemyí, you may say Ďrevolutioní. Okay?

MVRemix: Mos Def.

Pigeon John: Leather jacket.

MVRemix: 50 Cent.

Pigeon John: Chest muscles.

MVRemix: Eminem.

Pigeon John: Blonde hair.

MVRemix: Atmosphere.

Pigeon John: White girls.

MVRemix: Jay-Z.

Pigeon John: Excellent.

MVRemix: Del The Funky Homosapian.

Pigeon John: Hippie.

MVRemix: Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest.

Pigeon John: Overweight.

MVRemix: Jamiroqaui.

Pigeon John: Where is he?

MVRemix: Curtis Mayfield.

Pigeon John: Legend.

MVRemix: The Stone Roses.

Pigeon John: O.G.ís!

MVRemix: Massive Attack.

Pigeon John: Clean.

MVRemix: Gil Scott-Heron.

Pigeon John: Powerful.

MVRemix: Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Pigeon John: Thatís that freaking artist! Ah, New York.

MVRemix: George Bush.

Pigeon John: Rome.

MVRemix: What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career?

Pigeon John: The biggest mistake I have made is that on the ĎPigeon John Is Cluelessí record, I didnít tell the L.A. Symphony guys about the distribution deal that I was striking up. The deal that L.A. Symphony had wasnít working out. I pretty much went behind their back and said, ĎYesí to distribution of the ĎCluelessí record with Syntax. I didnít think it was a big deal. When they found out, I knew it was the dumbest thing I ever did. To me, you have to put friends and family first, before music. That was my worst mistake. Even after the apology, they still thought ĎWhy did this guy do that?í

MVRemix: How did you approach The Brainwashed Project differently from L.A. Symphony songs?

Pigeon John: Since The Brainwashed Project was my first group, I never considered myself a solo artist. I love Beastie Boys, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Whodini. They are all trios. They all have 3 guys. I totally enjoyed The Brainwashed Project and Iím confident that it is good. We work very slowly. At the end, it came out and we both liked it 100%. Even if other people donít like it, we like it. With L.A. Symphony, because it was a democracy, we each only owned like 1/8th of every song. We just tried to rock our best. It was kind of a beautiful thing because no one person owned L.A. Symphony. It created its own sound, which not one of us totally loved but the people who heard it loved. It made its own monster. Thatís the cool thing about being in a group. You donít really like it, but the fans do.

MVRemix: Do you enjoy being a solo artist?

Pigeon John: I donít like being a solo artist. I love collaborating and letting people shine. Iím trying to make the goodtime feeling of L.A. Symphony on my stuff. Iím in a good mood lately.

MVRemix: What advice would you give to an artist taking the independent route?

Pigeon John: Learn to do every single thing by yourself, especially nowadays. The meaning of the label is becoming less and less. The quicker you learn how to do everything by yourself, and releasing EPs by yourself, before you start shopping for deals, you do not have to wait on anybody. Labels are looking for momentum.

MVRemix: If you could remake, update, or cover any song, what would it be?

Pigeon John: I would do ĎGirlsí by Beastie Boys. Iím totally surprised that some punk group didnít cover that song. Itís a classic. It is a bona fide hit. Everyone can cover it because you donít even need permission from The Beastie Boys.

MVRemix: What are some misconceptions people have of you?

Pigeon John: A lot of times, people think that humor and silliness overshadow most of the stuff I do. I think that it is okay because you have to get in one persona. Chuck D is a revolutionist. Heís not known for his dancing. For me, itís okay but sometimes, people think, ĎHere comes Pigeon John, heís the funny man!í For me, itís not the humor side of it but the term, you laugh to keep from crying. I think that is all it is. That is the type of humor I represent. It is when you are at the verge of losing everything, you start laughing because you have no idea of what else to do. I think that is a dark, scary, and lonely humor. I love watching comedians. Itís theater. Itís common theater without the fluff. I hear that doing comedy is harder than doing drama. Itís okay for people to think that people think I am the funny guy.

MVRemix: I hear that you have a new deal. Who is the new deal with and what is the new album going to be like?

Pigeon John: I just got signed to Quannum Records. The new record will be great. It will come out in the Fall. This is the ultra-hyper side of Pigeon John. Itís about having fun with Pigeon John. I kind of want to make it like ĎA Day In The Life Of Pigeon Johní. You know how the movie ĎFerris Buellerís Day Offí was in one day? I want to make a record like that. I want that feeling.

MVRemix: You are leaving Basement Records? How did they take this news?

Pigeon John: Iím leaving Basement and going to Quannum. It was a little tough but very gradual. It took a year. I kept everything open. I told Roc what Quannum was offering. I just got off tour with Lyrics Brown, who is on Quannum. The working title is ĎPigeon John And The Casio Kingsí.

MVRemix: What collaborations or remixes should fans look out for?

Pigeon John: Iím working with Count Bass D on a track. Dwight Spitz! Weíre covering a hymn song. It was his idea. The beat is so chunky. He sent it to me with a hymn book. I didnít get it at first but then, I realized, no one has ever done a rap hymn song. That is most likely going to be on the Quannum record. I also did a song with Opio from Souls Of Mischief. Iím trying to do a song with Fat Lip and another one with J-Live. Also, Iím doing stuff with L.A. Symphony.

MVRemix: That song, ĎGranite Earthí, on Opioís LP is mind-blowing. How did that collaboration come into fruition?

Pigeon John: I was originally talking to Hiero Imperium before Basement. When they came around, I was scared. I used to listen to them when I was young. Hieroglyphics! It took me days and days just to relax. I had to just pretend that Opio was just a guy from around the corner and this is his demo where Iím helping him out. I didnít want to flip it or show off. It was the bomb. He approached me. That is the ultimate honor, to be approached by one of your heroes. Yeah, dude, it was great! That track is one of my highlights so far.

MVRemix: You basically produced most of your albums but there are a handful of songs produced by other people. How is the creative process different from the songs you produced by yourself?

Pigeon John: For me, it gives me a lot more freedom. I just pay attention to the words, the melody, and the flow. I let them handle the music and let them be good at that. On the next album, Iím loosening the reigns on producing the music and letting the beat makers craft the bomb beats, even if they are instrumental.

MVRemix: Any final words for the people who are reading this?

Pigeon John: Thanks for listening. Keep eating hot dogs!

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"They were honest. They told me that they didnít have any idea what to do with it. It wasnít clear how to market it. This was at a time when I sat down with A&Rís. They wanted something very clean cut and clear. Hey, Iím a white guy with a guitar and I sing pop music. Iím a Black guy with a jersey who does hip-hop. They didnít want me to mix it."