At the sweaty, smoky dust bowl they call the Fairplex in Pomona, I hid out in the Epicenter artist tent, getting spoiled with laser tag games, free lip gloss and massages. It’s not that I hate music or anything, it’s that other than a curiosity about Street Sweeper Social Club and a burning desire to see Wolfmother and Alice In Chains, I had a tepid interest in the other groups and a strong distaste for the oafs who kept hitting on me. Plus I was getting a sunburn, which kept worsening despite the hazy clouds.
One highlight of my day, OK my week, was hanging out with one of the coolest, funniest and most talented cats in underground hip hop, Aesop Rock.
I swear, if I could only sell one of the networks on a rap sketch show, it’s be a massive hit. I’d add Aesop to my Murs and Me show and that shit would be an instant classic. Guaranteed.
As we sat in the ice cold air conditioning, avoiding the sweaty masses outside, here’s a bit of how we passed the time.
ALI ON THE AIR: Soooo. First things first. Are they remaking Beverly Hills Cop? Or Police Academy?
AESOP ROCK: They are remaking Beverly Hills Cop but I wish they were remaking Police Academy again. Why stop a good thing? It’s pretty much the Harry Potter of the police movie world.
AOTA: I saw the first two Police Academy movies and I wasn’t sure what other scrapes they could get into. To be honest, I’m not sure my heart could handle it.
AESOP: Understood. Tackleberry with his guns all the time…
AOTA: Do you ever sample the noises that Michael Winslow makes?
AESOP: I saw that guy recently on TV and he’s still doing that shit. He’s still doing the robot noise. I found myself wishing I could do it. At first I was like ‘he’s still doing the same thing?’ And then I was like ‘That’s awesome man!’.
AOTA: You have a video on your page about building robots.
AESOP: It has a sad ending. There were three…my friend Cage was with us and…at the end there were supposed to be these theremin style synthesizers that had a robot face and the eyes were light sensitive. It required soldering. It was something we thought we could get stoned and do in a half hour. Six hours later with the soldering iron…we’re like shit. Now it’s a pile of robot guts sitting in the corner of the room that my wife keeps asking if she can throw out. ‘No! One day I’ll fix it!’
AOTA: You probably could’ve recorded an entire album in the time it took to NOT build those robots. But hey, it’s the journey, I guess. You’ve known Cage a while?
AESOP: I met Cage in New York. But I was a fan of his. I didn’t really get to know him until he signed to the label (Def Jux) in 2003or four. He’s been doing underground rap in New York for a long time. He had records out in the nineties. He would go on college shows and for a while I looked up to him. I still do but now I know him. A lot of these guys are a couple years older than me, and they were guys who, when I was trying to make a little noise, it was directly plotting what they had been doing. Cage is one of those guys. And now we’re friends.
AOTA: And you popped up in his video. And you collaborate with him. You started out studying painting. You don’t see collaboration in the art world like that. Except maybe Banksy, but he ain’t exactly asking permission.
AESOP: The current generation of street artists who turn into gallery artists do collaborate, but it’s mostly in music. It’s a gift and a curse. You don’t want to see every song have a ‘featuring so and so’ cause it’s like…well what did YOU do? But, yeah, it’s cool I have a group of go-to people. I have a small network of people if and when I need them. At the same time, I try and keep the collaborations to only a couple per album, because that gets to be too much and looks like you can’t complete it yourself. But it’s so cool that dudes I used to tape off the radio, I can now call them and say, ‘Hey do this thing with me’. I definitely never take that for granted.
AOTA: I should say thank you…and also I hate you, for contributing to the whole nike/ipod song sync up thing. At first I thought it was so cool to have a sensor in your shoe to match up to your i pod and your music. But then, what a nightmare. Now I’m held accountable. My ipod knows how slow or lazy I am. Thanks a lot, Aesop.
AESOP: Oh, hell. I’m not getting on a treadmill. Luckily my wife runs so I was like ‘Oh this will be great. She can be my lab rat and test it out.’ I’d make ten minutes of music for them…they said ‘We need it in forty days’. Now, I’d been working on my own album for two years. It was about an hour plus of music. And they want this in forty days? So I’d say ‘Hey honey, here’s seven minutes of music. Go run to it!’ It worked! She’d have some notes about where the levels of intensity should go and I’d rework it and send her out again.
AOTA: Why do I see you like Burt Young, the coach in Rocky, driving along side her in the car, making her run in the street?
AESOP: Yeah. The best is when I turned it into Nike before it was fully mixed. They had a room full of people running on treadmills to it. And the runners had notes for me! Part of me wanted to say “Fuck you! You don’t understand what I’m doing with my music.” But it was to serve a purpose. It’s for people who run. Gotta meet in the middle as what’s best for a runner and what’s best for a stubborn little musician guy.
AOTA: For some of the milestone points, they had people like Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods with pre-recorded congratulations messages. They didn’t have you do that. I want to hear what you would have said at the ten mile mark.
AESOP: I would’ve said “Fuck you! You’re never gonna make it, you pussy!” HA! Cause every time I’ve joined a gym and they give you a free training session I’m like, ‘Cool, let me cash in on this.’ And last time, the trainer…I just hate having people telling me what to do. They’re there to push you, but they’re just yelling at you. My last trainer experience, ugh. He googled me. Half way through I knew I was never coming back. I had to write a letter saying ‘Hey it’s been cool and you worked me hard, but I feel like crap. So I’m not coming it tomorrow…but you’re awesome!’. And then I’d keep seeing him at the gym. So now I don’t go.
AOTA: Felt 3? You’re not allowed to talk about it? Is it like Fight Club?
AESOP: No, I can now! I’m producing it. I can’t say who the dedication is. It’s definitely a woman. And its definitely an actress.
AOTA: Paris Hilton.
AESOP: I said an actress. And one that kinda hasn’t been in the spotlight for a while.
AOTA: Paris Hilton.
AESOP: I can tell you it’s NOT Paris Hilton.
AOTA: But I’m close? See? I’m getting answers out of you. So, Dewana’s Bridal. A film short. You’re doing the score?
AESOP: Yeah, I’m psyched! Ace Norton, a director who did the video for Coffee off my last record (None Shall Pass), he did a horror movie style video. We hit it off really well. Now when I go home, there will be a cut of the movie. It’s officially scoring something.
AOTA: Yeah and you don’t have to make people run.
AESOP: No! I get to sit there in the dark and eat Junior Mints.
AOTA: That’s the opposite of running. So you’re performing later at this here Epicenter festival. Which is the name for an underground explosion. What do you think is the next big underground explosion?
AESOP: Uuhhhh, I don’t think it’s here today. Musically?
AOTA: Whatever. Music. Junior Mints. Cake.
AESOP: I do love Ace of Cakes. Did you see that cake in the gifting suite we were in? The woman was like, ‘Look at this cake. It’s make by a rock n roll bakery.’ And it’s totally just a bullshit version of an Ace of Cakes cake. B rate Ace Of Cakes. I love those Ace guys and the people over there should be fucking ashamed to be in the same category as creative cake makers.
AOTA: You need to use REAL guitar strings when you make a guitar shaped cake. None of this licorice whip string bullshit. I want to be able to play a b flat!
AESOP: Agreed! I want engines and small motors! Hmmm. Where’s the underground explosion? When I took Black Moth Super Rainbow on tour with me last time I thought they were really good…I would sample them if they were obsure and from another decade. I thought they were doing some cool shit. And the other thing I like about them…I feel like I fumble through everything I’ve ever done. I look around here at this KROQ festival and I’m like, this is ridiculous. What the fuck am I doing here? And Tom is a ball of talent who is nervous who doesn’t know how to say hi to the world, which is how I feel sometimes. Most music people are hermits and them they pull you out of your shell and they’re like go do KROQ! So here I am. I’m not saying I’m the next underground explosion but it’ be nice if I could still make some kind of explosion.
I so wish it would’ve been one of him exploding out of that bullshit cake. Alas, that was not to be. The KROQ kids had to settle for a cakeless Aesop Rock set which is still enough to rock Marie Antoinette’s ass off any day.