I’ve read that you wish to become a well-known musician not because of your basketball career, but because of your music, which is a very humble and grounded mindset to have. I’m just wondering though, has there been any overlap between your music career and your basketball one?
Music was always in my blood. When I played basketball, music was always my sanctuary. I never thought about making music as another career but it happened organically.
Did you ever think the nickname “The Spin Doctor” would extend outside the basketball court?
It’s very ironic but never thought it would.
What was your first exposure to music? Could you tell me more about the “music rooms” in your homes?
My parents were music enthusiasts. They would play classical music, disco and other genres always at the house and my dad would always play his guitar. When I turned 14, I wanted to get my own equipment so I saved up my money and bought two turntables and a mixer at first, then turned a storage area into my own club. All my friends would come and hang out for a nominal fee where I would play the music and with the money made I would upgrade the lights and sound. As the years went by and I started playing in the NBA, I would always turn one of the rooms in my house into a music room and invite friends — only difference was that it was free of charge.
Your music seems to have a very wide spread of influences. What was your favorite era of music and what influenced your sound the most?
I grew up on disco, early hip hop and early house but always had a wide range of musical taste from ethnic, tribal, rock to classical.
What has been your favorite moment in your music career so far? How does that compare to your favorite basketball moment?
Nothing compares to the adrenaline of sports. Music is a hobby, sports is my love. The highlight of my musical career is when I released my first track and thought it was so surreal.
What’s next for you?
I am enjoying the moment. Not looking ahead just yet.
How do you feel about how the way the NBA Finals ended this year?
I have my special ties with the Miami Heat as I was the number 1 pick in that franchise’s history. So it’s very satisfying for me personally to have seen the transformation of the franchise from its inception to champions.
Thanks for taking the time to chat. Best of luck with everything, Rony!
Below, you can see my interview with Emerald Ruins. There’s no denying his talent (listen to “Find Out” and “Stay” below) and considering how young he is, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll have a long and productive career ahead of him.
You’re 15, correct? When did you start producing and how did you learn?
Yes, I’m 15 years old — think I started producing at around age 13. I don’t really remember what inspired me at the time to want to start making music but it must’ve been something dope, I was a big Ja Rule fan at the time, as was everyone else, so no doubt some heavy influence comes from them. I downloaded the FL Studio demo and shit was a headache, and since I was using the family computer which was in the living room, I couldn’t really be on it too much to play around on it cause someone always needed to use it. So it wasn’t until like 14 that I knew about mixing and mastering and effects and all that producing bullshit that keeps a song from sounding good to sounding amazing. Now, I’ve learned my way around the program and making music is funner because of it.
Where do you find your samples?
I find my samples everywhere man. YouTube, vinyls, forums, cassettes, CD’s, 8-tracks, commercials, toys, outside, anywhere — I hear a dog barking and look up dogs barking on YouTube and add that in my music, I play a video game and hear some spacey ambient shit and look up the soundtrack and sample that. Samples are everywhere mayne.
Is it hard balancing your music with school or are you able to keep both of those worlds fairly separate?
It’s not really hard balancing the two: if you took music away from me I’d probably still be getting the same grades I get, which are mostly C’s.
What’s it like working with Lil B, perhaps one of the most prolific artists currently out?
Working with the Based God man, it’s pretty dope cause now I have that under my “belt,” nahmean? Like if I want to work with someone I can say, “I’ve worked with Lil B,” and that’ll like, increase the chance of them wanting to work with me. Pretty cool.
Are you two working on anything else in the future?
Lil B has told me to keep sending him beats. He gave me his other contact info so he still wants to work with me, which is cool. So yeah, we’re working on some stuff.
Do you think you’ll be able to take a similar route as Clams Casino did after working with Lil B?
I sure hope so, Clams Casino is probably my favorite “new” producer at the moment, hearing rappers over his dreamy-spacey ass shit is like, fresh, you know? Like it’s something different and I really like that, I hope to take the same route Clams did and end up working with some really buzzing up-and-coming artists. Only time will tell I guess.
You’re young — from your perspective, what’s right and what’s wrong in the music industry today?
The music industry, well to be honest, me being as young as I am, I don’t really see much wrong with it other than Pitbull, that cat needs to chill it ain’t funny anymore DALEEEEEEEEE MR 305 WORLDWIDE enough of that shit. Oh and there really isn’t much variety in mainstream radio music, it’s mostly all generic house, but I dig most of it. Overall I think the music industry is fine, I read and hear from many industry artists that the industry is evil and fake and all that but until I experience that myself, it looks like an okay thing to me.
Where do you hope to be in about a year’s time? Are you hoping to turn this into a career someday?
In a year, I hope to have a pretty good following, artists everywhere wanting to work with me, and just you know, being bigger than I am now. That was my goal last year, and now I’m doing interviews like this, working with Lil B, getting my music posted on the Weeknd’s tumblr (which doesn’t exist anymore, sadly), more rappers asking for beats than last year, and basically am bigger than I was last year… so I’ve accomplished last years goal, now to double that this year, we’ll see how it goes, haha.
Anything you want to add?
Not much, thanks for the interview, and to artists: send me a message or tweet or anything if you make good music and want to work with me! Would like to thank everyone who been supporting me and listening to my music, who been sharing my music, giving feedback whether it be positive or negative all feedback is appreciated, thanks to my fam they dope and supportive, everyone who’s been apart of my music all of that, thank you and keep looking out for me and my music! Thanks.
You guys have come a long way since releasing 2010’s Undeclared. What’s been the biggest change for you guys in terms of your music career?
Definitely the release of The Drive In. That was our breaking point and took us to a new level. The buzz we got off of that, an average artist would get from two to three well-marketed mixtapes.
When we released The Drive In and followed it up with the Pledge To Rage tour we got a sense of the appreciation for the project and really connected with our audience. It’s been a lot more personal ever since.
How did you balance school and music when The Dean’s List really started picking up?
It was definitely late nights and a lot of work. Some of us were still working one or two full time jobs as well. We really had to prioritize things and there were late nights with homework and what not, but it came to the point where we started to make a living off The Dean’s List and that became a priority.
We didn’t feel that the courses we were taking were really teaching us the modern music industry and were learning more on our own so we figured we should go more in that direction.
How hard do you think it is to stand out as an artist nowadays, when anyone can pick up a mic or a computer and start making their own music?
It is definitely really tough. People try hard to emulate an artist they look up and that often leads to copying them. A lot of people lack original material and just become a mimic of their favorite artist. We think you have to listen to a lot of different music and make YOUR music. It’s important to stay true to what you want to do and not be phony or fake.
What are you guys listening to right now?
Right now we are definitely listening to a lot of Florence & The Machine, Kanye & Jay-Z, John Mayer, Jimi Hendrix, classical music, Bob Dylan, The Beatles… and we listen to this type of music because there is more that goes into it and that is what we are looking to develop with our sounds. It’s more evolved than a rapper rapping over a beat.
What’s your favorite Dean’s List song so far?
Mik: I would have to say “La Vie.” I worked really hard on the mix for that, a lot of these techno tracks we can do a lot of production but it’s the mix that really brings it together.
Sonny: My favorite song to date is “The Dream” because it’s the most honest, and a very self-motivating song to me.
Mendoza: I would say “Burn It All” or “Dear Professor,” they have great stories behind them and were big songs for us. They are always great to perform and people recognize the song as soon as it drops.
If your new album Generation X were a person, who would it be?
It would be a hybrid between Will Smith, Steve Jobs and JFK.
Why did you choose to name the album Generation X?
The album Generation X really stemmed from the fact that we had the generation before us and we are a product of them and those that came before them. The melting pot that leads to us.
You guys just recently released “Youth”. How did you guys decide on using that song as the lead single?
It really fits what we are trying to accomplish. A big thing we discuss and stand for is the youth of our generation. Not giving a fuck is a theme of Generation X and this song represents a few sides of that mentality.
Will there be any samples on the new record? “Dear Professor” found a lot of love when it was released.
There will be songs in there that sound like there might be samples but they are actually not. We manipulated things to make them more us. There will be no samples on the album!
I’ve heard that a Dean’s List clothing line is now in the works. Can you provide any details about that and what we can expect to see?
We’re working with a lot of different artists. One of the main ones we’re working with is called Bandulu as well as Mendoza’s grandfather, who is an artist in a New Mexico. We are going to put a stylish twist on our merchandise and not make it just a “band store,” but something that stands alone and makes a statement. The clothes will be something our fans can feel a part of and represents them.
What are your next plans for your music?
There will be a lot of music videos off of Generation X. It’s all about Gen X now! We plan to do a video for every song.
Thanks for taking the time to talk. Any last words?
Can you first state your name and role in the band?
I’m Nicholas. I play guitar and sing and do just about everything you hear on the recordings.
When and how did Kent State begin?
Kent State began as a side project to my 80’s punk/hardcore band Deep Sleep. My love for Guided By Voices and a friend giving me his dusty four track recorder inspired me to start messing with home recording. After about a month or so I came up with the Spahn Ranch EP and I’ve been writing and recording daily and have released 5 more EP’s. In October, I moved to Los Angeles looking for warm weather and a change of scenery. I’ve teamed up with some friends I’ve met along the way through Deep Sleep and will hopefully be playing live soon.
What is the music scene like in LA and how does that affect you?
I’ve just arrived and have been to a few shows but don’t really know too much about the scene. I’ve already seen some rad stuff that I never would have seen on the East Coast. We are having a blast out here.
What is the meaning behind the name Kent State?
I hope to conjure up dark imagery with the name, lyrics, and mood of the songs in Kent State. The name is referring to the Kent State massacre which occurred May 4th, 1970 at Kent State University.
You have done some split albums with Doleful Lions, Airlooms, and At The Heart of The World. What is your take on split albums and how does it affect the style of the music you produce?
I wanted to release my own stuff and thought I’d start out by doing tapes. I asked some friends who also were doing home recordings to do splits with Kent State. The whole thing snowballed into a three tape set. If you put the Kent State recordings together, you could also consider it our nine song full length. We have them all up separately or together as Past Lives on our bandcamp for free.
How does being more independent affect the production of your music? Would you choose to sign to a record label if you had the opportunity?
I’ve been writing, recording and touring with independent punk and hardcore bands for years. I prefer the D.I.Y approach as I like to have as much creative control with the art and music as possible. After a few months of releasing stuff for free online I decided to make the jump to physical releases, which is what brought about the split tapes with Airlooms, Doleful Lions and At The Heart of The World. There were a few labels who got in touch but they weren’t interested in keeping the music free online so I decided to do the tapes myself.
Will we be seeing some new material coming soon?
I am always working on new stuff and putting free stuff for download on my blog/Bandcamp on all of the time. Hopefully some vinyl by the end of summer.
Listener is something that will be forever unique and a refreshing take on the power of music in society. The enchanting words of Dan Smith can be soul crushing through both the depth of the lyrics and the passion in his voice. Whether it’s through the soft melody of “Wooden Heart” or the heavy guitar and presence of a trumpet in “These Hands Weren’t Meant For Us”, Listener crafts their music beautifully. Be sure to check out their website, along with my favorite song by them “You have never lived because you have never died”.
First, could you state your name(s) and your band name?
Listener: Dan Smith & Chris Nelson… the band is called Listener.
Is there any meaning behind your band name?
Listener: It’s a word that we all can share in, I guess. (more…)
What are your names and what are your roles in the band?
Wil Wagner – Vocals/Guitar, Tom Lawson – Guitar/Vocals, Lee Hartney – Guitar, Michael Fitzgerald – Bass, Chris Cowburn – Drums, Vocals
What is the origin of your band’s name?
We were originally called Wil Wagner and The Smith Street Band, as a take off of Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, but changed the name to just the Smith Street Band as the band became more and more of a collaborative effort. (more…)
As the modern day music scene develops, it’s becoming more and more common for people to self produce all of their music. As we take a look inside the mind of Baby Giraffe, we see how beautifully crafted melodies can lie behind a bedroom door just as often as they do inside of a professional studio. From an independent and unsigned artist, we can also see large differences in their perspective of the music scene.
What is your name and band name?
Baby Giraffe: My name’s Michael and I’ve been recording under the moniker Baby Giraffe since the mid 2000’s.
Can you explain the reasoning to why you chose the name “Baby Giraffe” and what it means to you?
Baby Giraffe: It was a name that was associated with me when sme old roommates of mine were playing a game of “what animal do you look like.” I’m fairly tall, gangly, docile and my hair used to naturally tuft a bit at the top so I figured it was appropriate.
What is the music scene like in Ontario, Canada?
Baby Giraffe: Being from the largest city in Canada, we have quite an amazing scene. A lot of acts have broke through from here in the last decade in one incarnation or another. It’s important to note that there’s at least a handful of good, accessible venues if you’re not already an established act to build from. Places like the Rancho Relaxo, the Garrison, the Silver Dollar, etc., are all venues you can find some great young artists at. No pay-to-play bullshit, although the city does have some of those promoters as well. (more…)
Check out my full interview with Phil below.
Hey Phil, what’s up? How’s it going?
Phil The Thrill: Good, good, good.
I’ve just been reading about Steve Jobs. Man, that’s terrible.
Phil The Thrill: Crazy, crazy. I mean, they knew it was gonna happen eventually, but it was just all of a sudden it seems like.
Yeah… ah, the man’s a genius. So I hear you’re 22 years old and from Newport News, Virginia, is that correct?
Phil The Thrill: Yessir.
Actually, where have I heard of that place from? Is that…Michael Vick’s hometown?
Phil The Thrill: Yeah, yeah. Michael Vick, Allen Iverson.
Oh, okay. How’s the music scene there?
Phil The Thrill: It’s… pretty scattered. This area is known as Hampton Roads, the 757. I’m not sure how familiar you are with this part of Virginia but Missy‘s from here, Timbaland‘s from here, Pharrell‘s from here,The Clipse are from here. So yeah, we have a pretty crazy rich tradition as far as music goes. It just seems like they’ll move away and you know, it’s hard to really get them back to reach out to artists that are coming up now. But as far as tradition goes, we’re definitely on the map when it comes to music, period. And then 45 minutes up the road is where Trey Songz and Chris Brown are from.
Man, that’s nice.
Phil The Thrill: Yeah, man, it’s crazy.
So where did your rapper name, Phil The Thrill, originate?
Phil The Thrill: It’s actually been a name that’s stuck with me. It’s actually been my nickname since I was around twelve years old. I was an athlete playing basketball and football and you know, when little nicknames happen to you when you’re a kid… they’d just be like “Oh, Phil The Thrill!” It sticks and through high school, when everyone would have AIM screennames, I was like lemme use my nickname. It stuck with me then and when I went on to play college basketball, it stuck with me there. So it became my Twitter name and once it sticks, I’m not going to try to change that just because I’m doing music. It’s my nickname and what people know me as. (more…)