Myself is an artist who is originally from New Orleans who works with music as a painter works with color. He utilizes pallets of sound to swirl and fuse genres in a way that defies categorization. I recently had a chance to meet up with him at a Santa Monica Barnes and Nobles where we discussed his new release, "Punk Floyd," technology, and rebellion. I hope you enjoy!
PG- First, thanks so much for making it out to interview on this rainy Sunday. I listened to your new release "Punk Floyd" over the weekend and was amazed with the sound. You seem to have mastered genre fusion, so of course I'm curious to know what your early musical influences were?
MYSELF- Well, I'm originally from New Orleans so I grew up with a lot of different musical influences and backgrounds. Everything from Funk, like the Meters to people like Ivan Neville, (who actually played on the record) all the way over to Blues, Jazz and Hip Hop. So, throughout my transformation as an artist, coming from that Blues, Funk, & Rock background I started to get more into Punk like Bad Brains, Fishbone, Dead Kennedy's, etc. and old school Hip Hop like Public Enemy, KRS 1, Beastie Boys, Run Dmc and the Def Jam era. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to work with Norwood Fisher from Fishbone, who played bass and produced the album. For me, it all depends on the mood that I'm in and the type of energy I want to extract and put out there. So those elements you hear on the record represent the type of music I listen to on a regular basis. Everything from Linkin Park to Fela Kuti, there's a wide array of music that I listen to and appreciate. I wanted to make a record that was reflective of my personal tastes and a record that combined the digital electronic nuances of today's modern times coupled with a psychedelic classic rock feel, hence the naming of the album "Punk Floyd" We set out for a specific sound and tremendously surpassed our expectations. I truly believe we as a collective nailed it by following our inventive instincts.
PG- The video for "Do The Zombie Walk" is a phenomenal piece of artwork all by itself, with all the abandoned structures. Can you tell the readers where it was shot and who directed it?
MYSELF- We shot "Do The Zombie Walk," which is the first single off the album in Tokyo, Japan. An Australian videographer and film director, by the name of Michael Condon had heard some of my previous material and thought it would be good for us to link together and do a video. So the last four or five months I had been in Japan and other parts of ASIA touring and prepping for the release because we physically released the record in Japan first, before the rest of the territories, which will happen in January. So I got together with Michael and he put a storyboard treatment together and we went out and shot it in high-def. What I really love about the video is that it's a mini movie unfolding. It brings back the whole aesthetic of video making, which I feel with advanced technology is not always being pushed and realized to it's fullest potential. I wanted to bring back the classic videos like "Thriller" that have a storyboard treatment and have the make-up artists on the set. Do The Zombie Walk was shot at an un-disclosed former US Naval site that was occupied 30 minutes outside of Tokyo after the war. Shooting at this location gave the video a very surreal effect and it was very intense having to avoid the cops to shoot inside the prohibited area. When people watch they will see a natural sense of urgency that the video director Michael Condon (Alchemist Productions) was able to embrace. So we did that and I think we managed to really nail the video and it was fun shooting those two days. Also, while I was in Tokyo we shot another video for "Needless to Say," which was pretty damn cool and has Japanese subtitles in it. I really liked mixing the video with a musical element. The vibe of 'Needless 2 Say' was taken from the classic Woody Allen film "What's Up With Tiger Lily?" The video is a bit Noir, drama, documentary and a slice of Tokyo pop culture all in one.
PG- On one of the songs on your new album, "I'm With Stupid, So Act Retarded" you made some criticisms about the Internet and also profiling at the airport. I though it was admirable that you used your medium to speak out about that and was wondering if you had any insights about living in the post internet boom, post 9/11 U.S.A.?
MYSELF- So the lyric goes "every since the internet/we as a people chose to disconnect/Mother Earth is like Aretha in dire need of some mad respect/this isn't as good as it's going to get/can I board the plane I am no terrorist/with a name like Omari I get constantly checked/one false move and you become a threat." I felt a need to express MYSELF about how innocent people are constantly being racially profiled due to how they look, their name, their clothing or attire. This has actually happened to me and other famous African American entertainers, and also people from other cultures/parts of the world. Politics and music combines a way to reach people subliminally, so I am a student of music and social activism so throughout the album there is various mini vignettes and untold stories that people can reflect on, relate to and receive some type of positive upliftment from. I try to embrace the Internet with open arms. I want to be able to take advantage of the technology, but I don't want to be immersed with it to the point where it takes away and detracts from my creative process. You can spend ten hours a day on Face Book and not ten hours writing a song. So I really wanted to make that point throughout the album to bring back more of a human, soulful connection where people are doing these types of interviews as opposed to emailing it through the Internet. I'm a really big advocate of looking people in the eye, sharing face time and building healthy long-term relationships and I wanted to put that out there. This also bridges the gap with the older generation who can be almost computer illiterate as opposed to the younger generation who can be so immersed in the Internet that some of them wouldn't know how to use the table of contents in a book. I wanted to show that interest in the cultural paradigm shift of where we have moved as a people to where we are now, and where we may be potentially going.
PG- Right on. Can you tell the readers about what sounds very much like the creation of a masterpiece?
MYSELF- I thank you for the compliment. Even before we started the interview you mentioned Iggy and the Stooges in terms of the underlying sound of "Punk Floyd." They are one of my major influences. During the recording process, one of the guys who engineered, a guy by the name of Jimmy Sloan made the comment, "You remind me of Iggy Pop meets H.R. from Bad Brains." I was like, wow, ok, I'll take that. It makes some sense to me he would get that. Me growing up with old school punk, listening to The Clash, Iggy, The Buzzcocks and music like that which was so inspirational to me. The inspiring quality came not just from the music. It really helped to shape my whole personality in the sense of making me more aware of things going on in the world from a political standpoint and a social dynamic as well. I was definitely tapping into that energy of the early Bowie and Iggy Pop and really wanted to showcase and embrace with open arms.... giving it a modern contemporary feel but with a bad ass serious edgy mood! I feel like I couldn't have picked a better producer than "Norwood" from Fishbone. They have such a massive history and legacy of 25 years being in music industry, mixing it up with Ska, Punk, Reggae, and all those elements. It was just a natural fit. When we got to the production side of it, the songs were already written, so I just laid everything out to Norwood and we started charting the songs. Then, little by little all of the pieces started to magically fall into place with the help of our co-producer Greg Bell getting Rocky George from Suicidal Tendencies to come and play on the record, and Don Letts from the UK to make a cameo appearance and having Fishbone's original drummer 'Fish' re-unite with his brother 'Norwood' and having Leon Mobley (of Ben Harper) and Ivan Neville, come through and give the record an innate funky vibe adding a magical in the moment impromptu spontaneous combustion. When things like that happen, there's no coincidences. It's synchronicity, a vibe, and something that's meant to be. Just getting all of these people involved with the project lets me know that people are looking for something a little bit different, off the beaten path and I think that timing is very important for a record like this to see the light of day, so with that being said a lot of the improvisation went into the creative process.
PG- The artwork on "Punk Floyd" is striking. Is there a story behind that?
MYSELF- Marc Pellerin designed the album cover. We set out wanting to create a memorable cover that was not only iconic in nature but an album cover that captures the listener's visual imagination. We wanted something bold, mysterious, un-explainable which reflects the album tone. The album imagery represents an outer-worldly being and creates a sense of mystery, not knowing if the image is human, extraterrestrial or some kind of channeling spirit that influences the body to move even when the body's not trying to.
PG- I noticed that Madonna and Yoko Ono have endorsed the "Punk Floyd." Do you have any interesting stories for the readers about how either of them came to hear the record?
MYSELF- Yeah. This goes back to synchronicity. I recently signed with a new management firm called Rock Management U.S.A. and through networking throughout the industry my material found it's way to the director of the agency, a guy by the name of Bruce Replogle, who has been in the music industry for a long time. It just so happens that he used to manage and do publicity for Yoko Ono, John Lennon, and a bunch of people in the UK from back in the day. Him and I started dialoging and he said, "The first person I want to get this in the hands of is Yoko Ono." So he sent her the CD, she listened to it, got back to him remarking that she really liked the energy and the rebellious aspect of it. The buzz got out and found it's way to Madonna and many other music industry taste makers and from there the snowball effect was in motion. As a result of that we started to see what seemed like six degrees of separation realizing people like Sylvia Massy, Gordon Raphael and David Kahne (who produced The Strokes and also worked with Fishbone) were all connected in an interesting way.
PG- To touch on rebellion and music: do you feel that music can inspire righteous protest movements to say oppressive systems of government or Puritan values?
MYSELF- Absolutely. Music is definitely a weapon of choice and it's a powerful tool and a mechanism. John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Bob Marley, Bono from U2 have all found the delicate balance of music and the media. When it's done right, and when it's genuine and sincere it can really heal people, uplift their spirits and inspire people to challenge to status quo to look at the world from a different perspective. On my last record, "Protest in Disguise" I delved a lot into the whole aspect of protest. At the time that record came out Hurricane Katrina had just hit New Orleans, which is my hometown. I had a lot of real personal life experiences to elaborate on: going through the hurricane, my family being displaced, and how the government really just dropped the ball on that whole situation. My voice has always been from a personal perspective ' I write about what I feel, see, and experience. I always enjoy sharing my musical ideas and approach with my fans and people throughout the world. Have you ever been to New Orleans?
PG- The last time I went back was about a year after Katrina and it was spooky. There were people just wandering around that no one had touched base with and they had stories they wanted to tell. One person in particular told me about how prisoners were chained to a bridge and just left to drown…
MYSELF- Then the experiences of innocent people being raped and taken advantage of. All of these experiences fueled that project. Over the last couple years, building that base lead me to "Punk Floyd." As I grow as an artist and choose what colors to paint with I realize that I don't want to duplicate myself on the last record, I want to paint with some different colors. With this record I went with more of a Psychedelic palette: rawness, intensity, attitude & rebellion, but digestible
PG- Music seems to be a kind of sacred ground where we can engage in open and honest critique about the dominant culture and because it is a recorded medium the discourse is always open. Do you have any thoughts about that?
MYSELF- I think it's very important to capture whatever it is you're trying to capture when it's in the essence. When you're feeling something passionately and you're feeling lead to speak your mind it's important to do it right there when it's actually taking place. With advanced technology we become almost complacent, wanting things to be perfect. We live in an imperfect world. When you listen to "Punk Floyd." I wanted to push the envelope and encourage people to retreat back to the dance floor and fall in love again with rock & roll.
PG- Can you tell the readers about your stage name? Does it have any significance in particular?
MYSELF- The name 'MYSELF' originated from me having a deep desire to pull within as a creative artist. I felt lots of people act and pretend like people they are usually not so with a name like 'Myself' it keeps the focus on your inner self and obviously the wordplay that's equated with it just clicked and resonated so actually the name chose me as opposed to me choosing it
PG- Do you have any thoughts about the similarities between Hip-Hop and Punk Rock?
MYSELF- The genres are like distant cousins/kinfolk. I think big corporations and the media have deliberately kept them separate. Imagine the world today if hip hop and punk collided? That would be pretty powerful, right? I think some of the companies and labels want to give music a certain specific genre and set artistic boundaries & barriers. "Myself" is about changing people's perception and exploring musical un-charted territory. We artists have to break down these stereotypes and stigmas.
PG- Can you tell the Punk Globe readers about your favorite on stage performance?
MYSELF- Too many to name and not enough space. That's the reason you have to come out check me out performing live. Lets just say I know a thing or two how to shake like an earthquake and roll with the best of them. I am from New Orleans where live music is not only in our genes, but also on any neighborhood street corner.
PG- Do you have any humorous tour stories you'd like to share?
MYSELF- One time I was on our tour bus, sleeping and somebody played a practical joke on me. They actually put dog poo-poo under my pillow. Apparently I just smiled in my sleep and it didn't even resonate with me what was going on. They just cracked up and laughed about it for days and days. I was surprised I didn't wake up cause usually I wake up easily if somebody is messing with my sleep. Now I make sure I lock my door when I'm on tour and trying to sleep.
PG- What would you give by way of advice for young, aspiring musicians?
MYSELF- Write, write, and write more. Get off the frickin' Internet. Just write. It's very important to hone your craft. That's why we have people like Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer, Bruce Springsteen, and all these great writers. They developed their craft. From a writer's perspective, writing seems to be a dying art right now.
PG- Your lyrics are so vivid and expressive. Did you ever go to any writer's workshops?
MYSELF- I appreciate that. I take a lot of time with my lyrics. Even if it seems that something has been done already, the way each person goes about a subject is going to be different. I feel like I'm still finding my voice. I don't think writing is something you're ever going to say, "I've got it all under my belt." You have to be a student of it, be humble, and be open. I listen to a lot of music, it's always on in my house or in my head, so ideas are always flowing. I've never heard a song becoming a hit without great chorus and jaw dropping lyrics.
PG- What's up with tour dates?
MYSELF- November I embark on a promo tour of South America (Argentina, Brazil) until the end of the year. In January 2011 we will be launching The Rock and Roll Circus coming to a city near you! Worldwide tour special guest Myself featuring The Me Me Me All-Stars, which is a super group comprised of Norwood & Fish of Fishbone, Rocky George of Suicidal Tendencies, Greg Bell of Trulio Disgracious, Ivan Neville, Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, Leon Mobley of Ben Harper and Don Mckenzie of Vernon Reid & Living Colour. Now if that isn't an amazing rock tour I don't know what is. The Rock & Roll tour concept started back in the 60's and 70's when bands like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and groups like Led Zeppelin decided to jam together and partner up on stage to give the ultimate live concert show experience. One of my goals is to get people to appreciate once again the live in your face, stage diving, ass shaking, mosh pit frenzy feel good vibe that's been missing for quite some time now.
PG- How about a YouTube channel?
PG- Thanks so much for coming out. Do you have any parting words for Punk Globe readers?
MYSELF- I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my record 'Punk Floyd' Be sure to pre-order a copy of it & receive a FREE DOWNLOAD at other MYSELF fan merchandise 'Punk Floyd' release date worldwide 1/11/11. The earth will never be the same and why should it?