All writing samples by Kyle Eustice for various publications.
Interview with Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse
Originally Published in Thrasher Skateboarding Magazine
Interview with Morrissey
Originally Published in Thrasher Skateboarding Magazine
Interview with Chuck D [Public Enemy]
Originally Published in Ghettoblaster Magazine
There’s no doubt that Public Enemy is one of the most influential hip-hop groups the world has ever seen. Mastermind Chuck D began his ascent into rap history in the mid-1980’s when he put out his first mix tape, Public Enemy # 1. Since then, Public Enemy has unleashed some of the most politically conscious content that the hip-hop community has ever heard. The first four albums that Public Enemy recorded transcended rap music. Fear of a Black Planet ushered in the ‘90s with the song “Fight the Power,” a rallying cry for rebellion while 1991’s Apocalypse 91 . . . the Enemy Strikes Back, was its most resolute political record. After 25 years in the business, 2012 finds Flavor Flav, Chuck and Terminator X embarking on a new mission with two new releases, Most of my Heroes Still Don’t Appear on No Stamp and Evil Empire of Everything. After extensive conversations with Chuck D, it’s clear he is much more than just an emcee; add author, producer, college lecturer and entrepreneur to the list. We spoke via Skype after a show Public Enemy did in Holland. This interview proved to be an eye-opening conversation that will hopefully inspire more people to take action. Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Chuck D…
state this country is in economically and politically, did those things
give you a lot of material for the new records, Most of my Heroes Still
Don’t Appear on No Stamp and Evil Empire Of Everything?
Chuck D: What country? I’m in the Netherlands [laughs]. Yes, I have a lot of material especially now that the cheapest price to pay is attention. So that’ s what we try to make very prevalent in these two albums. Right now, anybody can pay attention and it’s necessary because there are weapons of mass distraction. They are a lot of things that people believe without reason. We’re telling people really check your beliefs check your insides and try to design your insides. You have situations out there that are trying to turn human beings into consumers of everything. So you got to prepare for all these things coming at you as a human being. To me, the world is full of human beings not necessarily people who pledge allegiance to nationalities before they say hey I'm a human being. That’s why I’m a culturist. And culture brings human beings together and governments like to split people up. There’s a lot of stuff to see. It’s been 5 years since I made a P.E. record; it’s been like night and day between how the world operated 5 years ago and how it is today.
What are some of those differences that you’ve noticed?
Be on top of machines instead of machines being on top of you. Social networking has 8 times the power than it did 5 or 6 years ago. So you have people following machines and opinions from everywhere. Facebook and Twitter are a phenomenon that have people express themselves, but also they are searching for information in some of the same places from anywhere without checking it. That’s a big difference. Cell phone technology is a lot different than 5 years ago; this Skype interview is a lot different. These things are great tools. They’re not things to build your life on top of. You have to build them within your life. Even government and laws are looked up differently than before because you have people that are united through social networks more than they are united in their own town or state. You have somebody who might say ‘I have peers or friends that are from all over the place, but I don’t really get my neighbor next door [laughs].’
I was talking
to Brother Ali earlier and he mentioned the work you both did together
on the new Public Enemy track, “Get Up, Stand Up.” How did you guys
Brother Ali is a giant. He’s an icon and more importantly, he’s a human being who really cares. I first met him and Slug from the group Atmosphere in Minneapolis where I was actually doing a town hall symposium. He and Slug were there and we met up for the first time. As a matter of fact, his DJ knew my wife. They were friends from way back. They saw each other for the first time in a long time. They were really tight.
Ali is very clear. He reminds me of an old blues dude because he’s total feeling. His whole rhyme style is from the inside. And then he puts his mind of top of Loit, which makes it even twice as lethal and powerful. That’s a rare combination. Usually somebody’s going to give you all feel, but they don’t have a lot of substance. He gives you great style and great substance as an emcee and we need more of that, but they only come around once in awhile like Speech of Arrested Development, someone who’s really committed to the craft. He’s a hip-hop god.
What do you think is the reason for Public Enemy’s longevity?
Traveling the world is the thing that’s given Public Enemy the longevity of 25 years. If we hadn’t traveled the world early on, I don’t know if we would be here. After 83 countries and 84 world tours over 25 years, you know the rest of the world is bigger than the country. The country of the United States is a very small place that they try to say it’s bigger than it is. It’s the same problem as the U.K. sometimes has. It’s just one other place on the map and hip-hop has been in each one of those places that we’ve traveled. Yeah, that’s where we’re from, but we use the whole entire world and the world wants us to be all equal. That’s given us the energy to say what's right and what's greedy and wrong.
rock artists to hip-hop artists to indie rock artists, people are all
saying that major labels are to blame for a lot of what is wrong with
the music industry. What’s your take on majors?
I’m getting ready to start a civil war against, not just major labels, but their dominance over radio conglomerates, television corporations such as Viacom and major media. Their job is to smash out independent growth so I have to pick my side very clearly because there is so much great art out there and people are doing so much that it’s ridiculous for people to fall for the same hokey doke. I think what’s coming from major labels right now is terrible because it doesn’t represent the people whatsoever. It’s nothing I got against the artists like Kanye or Rick Ross or Jay-Z, I just hate the system they’re in. I hate the major record labels. I hate the radio and Clear Channel. I think it’s time for me to set the side and set the difference. I think Viacom has been viciously one sided. You can quote me on all that. I hate the major record labels.
But don’t these artists more or less have a choice on whether or not to participate?
There will always be somebody who will want to ride that system. And I have to be honest and not knock people for wanting to be signed to a major record label and get riches, but I have to choose my side. And it’s more of an industry attitude. It’s not bitterness at all. You have to pick your side and shoot your missiles from where you are. It’s like David against Goliath. I’m down for that. It’s a civil war for civilized music.
In the new single, “I Shall Not Be Moved,” you say, “the new curse word is black.” Can you elaborate on that a little?
Well, yeah, people have been throwing the ‘N’ word around and giving it all a bunch of bullshit excuses like it’s ok. Who says that? Just because it’s a word to be used or whatever, you can’t eliminate a word, but for a person to have the audacity to say ‘it’s alright and I turned it around,’ is giving themselves too much power. The word is so powerful. It’s like a Nazi swastika. We as a people have to say anytime that word is used it just eradicates any kind of forward movement our people in the past have tried to fight against. If you use it out of context, I just think it destroys what I stand for. So, once again, I have to choose a side. I say the new curse word is ‘black’ because people are afraid to use the word ‘black.’ And they use ‘N’ words like it’s great and ok. We’re not in a post-racial United States. It’s a great idea to think that we should be, but there are so many things that are glaringly racist in America. For example, the borderlines between the United States and Mexico are just so one-sided and so cruel to people. I don’t believe in putting borders on the Earth. Why? I mean how can someone say, ‘you know what, I own that mountain.’ It’s just audacious.
I don’t believe in borders either.
Look at Canada. They have so much land. They have a wealth of oil and a wealth of water and they could seriously use 50-100 million more people, but they are very biased on their borderline. It’s the worst border in the world.
I didn’t know that. I would think that the worst border would be Mexico and the United States.
Yeah, for Mexicans [laughs].
Brother Ali and I were talking about how to be more involved in your own community. How can we do that?
It’s a responsibility of a grown person to be able to say look, I'm going to be measured by who I am, what I believe in and what I’m taking care of. Bottom line. What I got is what has replaced all that. Who cares what you got!? What are you taking care of? And you know, change starts in your own head then maybe you can change your own house, then maybe change your block, then you can maybe change your town, but if you can’t even change your own house or you can’t even change your own thoughts in your head, I mean, what are you talking about? I think a lot of people have to have to be encouraged to find their inner strength and think differently and move forward.
Do you think Americans have just gotten lazy?
They’ve gotten lazy because you have control in the power that be that are positioned to make people lazy and put them in a lazy condition. Don’t worry about anything, we’ll feed you. Oh you don’t have no job, don’t worry about that, we’ll just take care of that and if we don’t take care of that, we’ll check you later. It’s a really apathetic ball of confusion going on right now.
In your opinion, what would be Public Enemy’s most powerful song?
It’s simple. ‘Fight the Power.’ It says it all. Through all our years we have a lot of songs that people love all the way up to this new one, I shall not be Moved, Don’t believe the hype and things like that but fight the power really says it all for a lot of people in a lot of different situations.
How long did it take for this new record to come together? What can we expect from the upcoming release, Evil Empire of Everything?
First of all, the thought of all this came at last year of this time the actual completion of the record was around March and April. It was planned for 2 records to come out. The actual record comes out October 1 but presale is September 11 through our new Spit Digital.com distribution aggregation system where we encourage artists to sign up because we give them label tools and we want to see a million artists and a million labels out there in control of themselves. We’re going to start this one million-artist label march towards the majors. We completed those records and we wanted to be able to make a statement that now with digital distribution you can release records differently than how the majors have you release them. Our goals are not to come up with great figures or sales, our whole thing is coming out with a possibility of what could be as opposed to what was impossible.
The thoughts of Evil Empire of Everything really talked to some of the things that affect us, some guest stars, unlikely guest stars like Ziggy Marley, Tom Morello, Henry Rollins, a new group called Enemy Son, which is the sons of Public Enemy. We have a cut on there called Ice Breaker which talks about the border discrepancy between the United States and Mexico. Peace and respect are really the threads that we’re trying to fight for. That’s the meaning behind Evil Empire of Everything because everything is coming at the human being from all angles, pulling at them so the cover is actually a baby being pulled from all these hands.
Uh-oh, sounds controversial.
What’s controversial today when you’re saying the right thing?
Almost nothing’s shocking anymore.
There’s so much mess. When you look at what TMZ does or these sites that try to cover drama all the time, it’s like they take the lowest, easy way out to pad their business and that’s a problem with me.
Over the years, you’ve sparked so much passion in people to stand up for what they believe in. How can I find my voice?
I think you should continue to write, cover a lot of artists and I think you should add your opinions. I think to be a solid writer, you have to be beyond a blog and beyond what all of these idiots are saying on blogs. Everybody’s got an opinion. It’s really funny because you don’t even have to know anything to put your opinion out there. Twenty years ago, these people would never have been heard because they didn’t work hard enough to form their opinions based on facts or information. So now a person could be half-cooked and put their words out there and be helped out by the fact that the font and text are done by the computer, but if you asked them to write or spell, they wouldn’t know what to do. The computer will fix a lot of things for you and it’s allowed a lot of ignorant people to air their opinions based on zero. So you need to be beyond that. When you write an essay or interview somebody, give your opinion at the beginning and the end of it. I think a mind revolution is something we’ve been fighting for for 25 years.
Understand this, a movement means that things are in motion, people are in motion, minds are moving and when you don’t have that motion going forward the powers that be push everything backwards anyway so there’s been a lot of silence and apathy from thinkers and people who are able to think and move forward, but because they might have not had the opportunity or might have been apprehensive and said ‘oh I don’t want to push my opinion out there because I don’t want to sound like I’m big headed,’ people that have the matter to understand this have been replaced by people that don’t care who just want to overtake the situation and put their opinion out there based on nothing.
It must be
hard, as a parent yourself; to see all of these things young kids are
being exposed to. A lot of it is just so ethically and morally wrong.
It’s hard to stomach what’s popular in mainstream culture.
Weapons of mass distraction. We are in a misinformation age right now and that’s something that’s even more harmful these days. Realize there’s a lot of things that’s everywhere, but who says it’s right or wrong? We said ‘don’t believe the hype’ a long time ago so you really have to challenge information. That’s what that song was all about. You really have to challenge the information coming at you. We encourage a lot of artists out there to be their own label and there are a lot of philosophies we put out there for people. We want them to feel happy about their independence as an artist just don’t be putting things in your mind like ‘I’m going to get a Lambo or a Phantom as soon as I make a recording.’ If you’re looking for a record deal, don’t just do anything or bend over backwards for it.
Interview with Santigold
Originally Published in Thrasher
Santi White, otherwise known as
Santigold, seems like one of those artists that are completely
untouchable (think Madonna or Paul McCartney). So when I was told I
landed an interview with her, I kind of freaked out. As a female in the
music industry, I have mad respect for how she carries herself. She’s
strong, capable, fearless and, of course, talented. Her 2008 self-titled
debut garnered significant critical acclaim and her stylistic reach won
over an onslaught of admirers. After a 4-year hiatus, the
Philadelphia-native is back with Master of my Make Believe, another
almost genre-less masterpiece. She took a minute to talk to me from her
New York City apartment about farts, Martin and the oversexualization of
the female pop star. –Kyle Eustice
How did you end up an A&R for Epic Records?
Since high school, I’ve wanted to own a company so I could work on the business side of music. Senior year, I got an internship in Philadelphia at Ruff House Records and then I went to college in Connecticut at Wesleyan and in the summer of freshman year, I interned at Sony/Epic. Two summers later, I ended up taking a full time job at Epic after my junior year. I graduated early. They let me work 3 days a week for the first semester until I could finish and then I took a full-time job. At that time, I was an executive assistant, but this guy I worked with was awesome and asked me what I wanted to do. So he let me be the A&R assistant and he let me sign this girl Reese with a demo deal. I ended up getting disillusioned throughout the whole process. I was there in that capacity for a year and a half, then I realized everything that I tried to get them to sign, they’d be like ‘this doesn’t sound like Puffy [laughs].’ I was like ‘wow this isn’t a creative job at all.’ I started to get disillusioned with the whole business side and politics of it. It was business and money. That wasn’t me. For me, it was the creative part. I realized that I liked writing songs.
Did that experience give you an advantage once you went to the other side?
Well, it was a great experience because I learned a lot about the machine behind the industry. I learned once you make an art, what has to happen to it to make it profitable enough to make a living at it and what the label’s objective is versus the artist’s objective. That way you know how to work together. When someone tells you what you have to do, if you don’t know yourself then you’re going to do whatever he or she says. Knowing that side of the business gave me power and freedom. Although, that was in the late 90’s and everything has changed. More than anything now, that’s just life experience I can draw from.
talking to Chuck Treece today and it dawned on me that he was in your
first band and produced your first record. I had no idea.
Ahhhh!! Chuck I will credit for making me start singing myself. It was right after I wrote the Reese record and I was like ‘Chuck, you know I think I want to start my own band.’ He’s like ‘yeah, what kind?’ I said ‘punk new wave. I want you to be in it.’ And I was like ‘I don’t want to do any shows. I just want to make a record. I don’t want to sing in front of other people.’ I was intent on never performing. He’s like ‘we have to do a show Santi.’ I was like ‘no!’ And he said, ‘Santi you cant even do this type of music without performing a show. Punk anything is live.’ So he pushed me to do it and I did it. It was so much fun.
So I hear you’re the type of person who thinks farts are funny.
Oh honey. You have no idea. I have a scatological sense of humor. I’m so lucky. My husband loves it, too. We have a ball about fart jokes. It never gets old. It’s kind of a gross sense of humor. It’s kind of inherited, isn’t it? I have never told this story before publicly [laughs], but when I was little, I had someone come up to me who was like ‘come here, come here. Open your hand.’ I was like ‘what it is?’ and I put out my hand and he put a booger in it! I couldn’t stop laughing. That’s my sense of humor.
Were you surprised with the success of your debut album? It did phenomenally well.
I was surprised. Because I came up in music through a major label and saw how it was with pop music, I thought I was kind of making music that turned my back on pop music. I thought ‘I’m just making music I like and I don’t care. Maybe they will like it in Europe [laughs].’ You know what I mean? I really had no expectations. I didn’t think it would catch on here at all, but it did. Especially what surprised me was that I got so many compliments from other artists, ones that I really respected. It was a real honor to get acknowledged by artists I held up real high. That was really a wonderful surprise.
You’ve kind of created this whole thing on your own. Is that what the title Master of my Own Make Believe means?
It’s realizing you are the ruler of your reality. Anything that we can envision for ourselves, we can make happen. Any role we can see ourselves in, we can manage. I think that is a really important notion, especially when our world is kind of mess. That’s why you get things like Occupy Wall Street and all of these uprisings. I think people feel their power has been compromised or taken away and we feel like we can’t make a difference, but that’s not the truth. Not just from a political aspect. I wrote that record on a very personal level, too. Being a woman in the industry, I really had to learn how to be a strong, confident leader and really trust myself. I think that’s a really, really important place to be as a creative person. As a business person, you have to trust yourself. So that’s where it came from. It was partly a pep talk title to myself and an inspirational talk to the world.
What do you think of the blatant sexualization of the “pop star?”
I find it very boring to be honest. I grew up in the era of hip-hop and riot grrls. In the late 90’s, we all had baggy clothes and Doc boots. We thought if you wore really tight jeans and tried to be sexy, we would diss that so much. We were like, ‘what a fucking slut [laughs].’ I was watching Martin the other night, you know Martin, right?
Hell yes, I know Martin.
I got home from tour the other night and it was like 4 or 5 in the morning. I turned on the T.V. and Martin was on. In the episode, Martin was trying to get his own radio show so he had to kiss up to the owner’s wife. She was supposed to be this super hot chick, but would wear super tight latex clothing and show mad cleavage. So Gina showed up with this outfit at Martin’s get-together and he’s so embarrassed. He’s like ‘Gina, cover yourself up! Only guys that are insecure like girls like that’. I was like ‘wow, even Martin back in the day had more sense than everything we have right now.’ What happened to that? Women have totally lost their way. Self-image is at the lowest of all right now. That’s what I don’t like about T.V. It’s all about these terrible reality shows where you can see these monster faces where everybody has injections and plastic surgery and that’s normal. Fake asses, fake boobs, fake everything and then they’re fighting over a man because that’s their only sense of self-worth. We have Billionaire’s Wives, Basketball Wives, New Jersey Housewives, I mean, what are little girls supposed to look up to? It’s unbelievable. Then there are magazines of course, which are all photo-shopped. I hope nobody’s really believing in that because that’s horrible, but I know everybody is. I’ve always had a hard time because I’ve always been kind of a tomboy growing up and I liked doing stuff that the boys did, which is why I think I have done a lot of things that girls normally wouldn’t do. I used to hang out with the rappers and producers and then when I’d tell my girlfriends, ‘let’s start a group,’ they would always flake. They didn’t want to do the hard stuff like get up in the morning to go snowboarding or whatever so I was like, ‘fuck, I guess I’ll just go with the guys.’
Why do you think it’s that way?
I think the problem is that girls are brought up to be accommodating, apologetic and compromising and yielding. In the studio, those qualities won’t get you anywhere. In the studio, I’ve had to take on traditionally male roles by being unaccommodating, unapologetic and confident. Like ‘this is how it’s going to go and if you don’t like it you can leave.’ These things that women are taught won’t get you very far in the world. Unfortunately, women are taught that the only thing they have is their sex appeal and it’s fucking old, I mean how old is that notion?
I was talking to Chuck D of Public Enemy the other day and I asked him how I could make a difference in the world.
Change starts within each person. That’s what my song “Disparate Youth” is about. Dare to be the one that thinks bigger and wants to make a difference and you will make a difference.
I know you
toured with Bad Brains a few years back. I have a confession. I
accidentally called H.R. “Human Resources” during our interview.
He probably didn’t even notice [laughs]. He’s crazy. I went on tour with him in 2001 and I was actually with him on 9-11. He is really a brilliant, brilliant person, but now he’s just so out there that it’s, well, interesting.