|ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS OUTTASITE|
HYBRIDThe term 'rap-metal' has often left a bad taste in my mouth. It brings to mind the antics of white boys wanting to break shit for no reason, college girls flashing their tits and FRED DURST shouting a bunch of nursery rhyme-styled nasty nothings into a microphone. Having been raised on the more mannered alternative music of MTV's long cancelled 120 MINUTES, rap-metal, to me, was like the loud, drunk, noisy, obnoxious neighbor that never moved away. Initially, I was nervous when putting OUTTASITE's SIR MIX-A-LOT-produced CD 'CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR' into my CD player, but after listening to the CD's stand out tracks PASS IT AROUND, NO NEVERMIND, and the funky title track, it was clear that OUTTASITE (rapper MIKE SINGLETON and guitarist JOE DAVILA) have eschewed FRED DURST buffoonery and have taken a lesson from the forefathers of rap and rock fusion- RUN DMC. "I was trying to find that perfect sonic blend of hip hop and rock n roll riffs because I wanted to find that combination that I don't think anyone has really obtained." says SINGLETON. "I didn't want to sound like the rock band with a dj or the rapper with the metal band."
MIKE SINGLETON OF OUTTASITE
TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT THEIR LATEST CD 'CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR'
WORKING WITH SIR MIX-A-LOT
AND PUTTING PEOPLE IN A GOOD MOOD
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke with rapper MIKE SINGLETON over the phone. Here is how it went.
Where does the name OUTTASITE come from?
The OUTTASITE moniker was pretty much a name I started using in 1999. It was a nickname given to me in the early nineties by a friend of mine. I have no idea why he started calling me OUTTASITE, at all. It just stuck and more people started calling me that and I started using it. When I paired up with JOE DAVILA in 2002, we just used the name as the duo also, so the name has multiple uses.
What is different this time as opposed to the first time you and JOE DAVILA worked together?
Focus. I think that 'RIGHT SIDE DOWN' (OUTTASITE's 2002 release) was like an experiment. It was basically me, JOE and ANTHONY RAY (SIR MIX-A-LOT) as producer experimenting with combinations of live bands and electronic music. I think this record is the result of all of that experimentation that had happened before. It was like we found the sound that we were looking for. We're really into sonic greatness - the overall sound of things is a really big deal to us because I'm a producer as well. SIR MIX-A-LOT is the perfect person for me to work with because he's a genius on the mixing board.
When your CD was described as rap rock in all of the press it's been getting, I was a little nervous because of the whole LIMP BIZKIT thing but when I listened to the CD, it reminded me of RUN DMC.
That is exactly what my influence is. I tell people that all of the time. When I do my records, the last thing that I'm thinking of is that late nineties version of rap rock. I'm totally a hip hop kid seduced by guitar melodies. I grew up listening to RUN DMC and THE BEATLES, and to GRANDMASTER FLASH and THE ROLLING STONES so when I was a kid, it was all the same. I really didn't see the difference.
I don't think anyone did back then.
Right. I didn't see the difference in genres. I'm mixed so I didn't really see the difference between white and black. A lot of the divisive lines that people draw in society and in music, I was kind of blind to as a kid and that is kind of how I kind of designed my whole musical style, but thank you for not categorizing me with FRED DURST. With this album there is just as much emphasis on the lyrics as there are the guitar lyrics. Whether I've succeeded or not is up to someone else to decide.
You said that you are mixed. What are you mixed with?
White and black.
You talked earlier about what your early music influences were, but when did the light go off in your head when you decided that you were going to do rap music?
When I was a kid I wanted to do rap music, I wanted to be a rock star and I wanted be graffiti artist. I wanted to do anything that was cool and these things were cool. I think I started writing my first raps when I was twelve and I think I started letting people hear them the next year and they would be like 'You're pretty good, but you're an idiot! What are you doing?' I was this skinny kid living from Seattle and it was a weird that someone like me would want to do this. Betweeen the ages of twelve of thirteen I actually lived in the Bay Area and it was the only time that I ever lived outside of Seattle. This was around 1986 and in that same year, SIR MIX-A-LOT released his first single SQUARE DANCE RAP and that song actually hit in the Bay Area. That song was actually released a year and a half previously when I was living in Seattle and it was just a local thing. Being down in the there and hearing a guy that I lived two buildings away from have success two states away was just the biggest thing to me . It was like you can do something if you are from Seattle, so it became a reality for me. You know how when you become older you embrace reality a little bit more? Well, the more I saw SIR MIX's success and his hard work pay off for him the more of a reality that it became for me. Then, once the Seattle scene blew up with the whole grunge movement, I was like 'I can do this. I think'.
Other than SIR MIX-A-LOT, you don't really think of Seattle as having a hip hop scene maybe because it was sort of eclipsed by the whole grunge movement. What kind of scene are ou surrounded by now, in Seattle?
Wow! The Seattle music scene is extremely diverse. It always has been, it's just a matter of where the light is shining at a particular time if it's shining at all. We have everything. We have metal bands, absurdist rock bands a'la THE PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (PUSA), and back pack rappers for the lack of a better term. I think that's kind of an insulting term, but you know what I mean. You have this quasi-East Coast sort of scene up here and the traditional street rappers. I hate to put people into a hole, but there is really everything going on up here and there are different dj's spinning different types of music on any particular night of the week.
How did your working relationship with SIR MIX-A-LOT begin?
I've actually known people in his family since the late eighties. I was friends with his nephew who is my age and ANTHONY (SIR MIX-A-LOT) is about ten years my senior so we were like the young punks. In the early nineties when you started to see his huge success, I was really watching him and thinking that I've got to get in somehow. It was going to be tough because I really didn't look like anybody else and I didn't have the same musical philosophy as everybody else but in 1994 he was launching a promo tour and he had some sort of issue with two guys in his entourage and there was a bunk on the tour bus that was empty, so I put my bid in and I got it. I ended up being a part of his road crew in 1994 and I've been there ever since. It was luck. I was lucky. I started as a last minute substitute and over the years I proved myself. I was just trying to show my passion for the business and for music and for performing and that sort of thing and I think that he recognized that. It grew further and in 1999 he started a project with the PUSA called SUBSET and I was working with MIX on solo material and doing raps and choruses on other peoples projects. When he started working with THE PRESIDENTS, they were up at his place and I never met those guys other than backstage at a show where you shake hands. So the band was up there at his house and he was mixing one of the songs that we were doing at the time and they heard it and JASON and CHRIS (of PUSA) were like 'Wow! we really dig his voice! How about getting him on a SUBSET song?' So, the song was called WHAT THE HELL and MIX gives me this CD with a blank verse and said that the PRESIDENTS want me on this song and here it goes. It was my audition. If I wrote a verse that they liked, then I was in and if they didn't like it I wasn't in so you could imagine the anxiety written in those four bars. So I nailed it and a few months there were discussions of a tour of the West Coast just to see what the interest was for a project like SUBSET would be , because it was a very strange hybrid combination. MIX came up with the idea of putting me on tour with the project because I was into hip hop and I was also into rock. So that was how I got in with SUBSET. The SUBSET project kind of collapsed under the weight of its own expectations. The people involved were people who had sold about four or five million albums or won a GRAMMY or they were nominated for a GRAMMY, so the project didn't go anywhere. I thought maybe that the expectations were a little too high, but I was the one to really benefit from it because I was the guy in SUBSET that nobody knew. Out of the five guys in SUBSET people would look at me and go 'Who is he?' I got a lot of attention because of it, especially on the local scene and that was when I decided to go forward with this hybrid rock hip hop style and find the right guitar player to work with. You've heard of the classic hip-hop model of DJ and rapper? Well, I kept that model except it's rapper and guitar player. It's kind of the same feel.
How did you come across JOE DAVILA as a guitar player?
He just wreaked of awesomeness! That's all. I was doing a show in Yakima because he's from eastern Washington and I'm from western Washington. We were doing this show in Yakima. It was a MIX-A-LOT show and during his set I did two or three songs of my own. The songs that I chose to do were the songs that had guitar in them. Afterwards, this girl walks up to us after the show and says 'You wanna do rock stuff? You wanna have guitar in your music? You need to have my brother play. He's the best guitar player blah blah blah blah blah blah'. She seemed so passionate about what she was saying that MIX and I looked at each other and figured that we'd go and check the guy out. We did, and he was just awesome. He understood where I was coming from completely. He got it right fromt he jump and we just clicked. Every idea I had, he had something to add to it. It was so perfect.
Explain the process of how tracks get laid down for you.
Not every song on the record has the same creative process. It's about half and half. On a lot of the tracks, I will start at home and I'll come up with the beats and the words and then I'll take it up to MIX-A-LOT's studio and JOE DAVILA will come in and play about twelve different guitar licks. Some of the tracks are simply a result of dropping by MIX's house and going 'Hey, what you been working on lately?' he'll play the beats that he's been working on and I'll pick one. That was how the track PASS IT AROUND started. So the creative process is about half and half. Conceptually, some of it came from MIX and some of it came from me, but the title track CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR came from JOE DAVILLA. I told him that I really wanted to broaden my horizons as far as I could go because I didn't want to be pigeon-holed as just rap metal. I think the title track is more SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE than anything else. I was really trying to have stuff on this album to let people know that it's a hybrid project. It's not just a hybrid of rap and metal but mixture of a lot of different things so I told JOE to give me something funky and slow and what he came up with was awesome.
From this new album, what tracks stand out for you at the moment and why?
The tracks that stand out for me would have to be THE WAKE UP, PASS IT AROUND, and NO NEVERMIND and the reason is because those songs represent that blend that I was looking for. I was trying to find that perfect sonic blend of hip hop and rock n roll riffs because I wanted to find that combination that I don't think anyone has really obtained. I didn't want to sound like the rock band with a dj or the rapper with the metal band. I was really trying to find that perfect blend and whether I've succeeded or not is not up to me. Those songs represent what we were going for.
What was the best bit of advice you ever received in regard to music or life?
That's tough one. To be you. To be yourself. Don't be afraid to take risks. I've always been a risk taker when it comes to making music and I think that sort of stems from the fact that I never really fit in. So I figure, what the hell, I'll just take risks and succeed and fail on my own accord. I'm really not a good follower. That's sick! What's funny is that I was reading this one negative review of my work and this guy was saying 'Who succeeds with this rap rock crap anymore!' If he had listened to the album he would've been able to tell that I'm not following any kind of trend. My music is as far from what is termed rap metal as you can get.
I'll give you a heads up - most critics don't even listen to the music they're given.
Brotha! Who are you telling? I read a review the other day that said OUTTASITE raps about marijauna, booze and women. Sure, you see me with some marijuana on the back cover of the CD but I don't rap about booze and women whatsoever, so I know he didn't listen to it. If they're going to say that I suck, say that I suck because of what I actually rap about. Anyway, I thought it was really funny. But to be honest with, my reviews so far have been seventy five percent positive. The critics have been kind to me for the most part.
Why did that surprise you?
Because what I do is so different from what everybody else is trying to do and because I'm taking a risk in trying to be hybrid and I thought that people would be more critical and critics are paid to be critical. I can remember when critics were tough on NIRVANA before they blew up. I remember reading reviews of NEVERMIND and people saying that it was trash.
Yeah, ROLLING STONE only gave it three stars.
Yeah I remember that, and then six months later, NIRVANA is everywhere and KURT COBAIN is on the cover of ROLLING STONE wearing a t-shirt that says 'CORPORATE MAGAZINES STILL SUCK!'
What would you like someone to come away with after they've heard CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR?
Happiness. Music makes me happy and it puts me in a good mood and as a result, I want to put people in a good mood. That's what I think music is there for and that is what music has always done for me.