Category Archives: interviews

Getting In-Depth with Nolan the Ninja

I got the chance to talk with Nolan the Ninja  on the radio show Monday night. We  talked about the forthcoming album “YEN”, the n-word, the writing process, the Detroit hip-hop scene. and of course, played some great music.

I started off the episode with a tribute mix featuring tracks by Redman and Method Man to help everyone get ready for their concert Saturday night in London, Ontario, Canada.

There are some great local opening acts on the bill too including Dreamsters Union (featuring Mad Hattr, Ngajuana, and more), Del Reze, and Branded Moore and Exit Only ft DJ Hullewud. It’s sure to be a great show.

Redman – Let’s Get Dirty (Rob the Viking beat)
Redman and Method Man – How High II (Souls of Mischief beat)
Redman and Method Man – How High (Ambition and Uncle Fester beat)
Redman and Method Man – Tear Da Roof Off
Redman and Method Man ft Saukrates – A-yo
Redman ft K-Solo – It’s Like That
Redman and Method Man – Da Rockwilder
Wu-Tang Clan – Method Man
Redman and Method Man – Four Minutes to Lock Down
Redman – Blow Ya Mind
Nolan the Ninja – Exodus
Journalist 103 ft Nolan the Ninja and Willie The Kid – SAM (Starving Artist Music)
Nolan the Ninja – Calisthenics
Saukrates ft Marvel, Kardinal Offishall, and Choclair – Hate Runs Deep 2017
Branded Moore – 123
DJ Scrap Dirty ft Rapper Big Pooh – Time Travelling
Rowlan -Born Huslter
Defective Specimen – Mixtape Mistakes 1
Mad Hattr – Don’t Fence Me In
Torae – And Ya Don’t Stop
Windchill -Positive Love
LMNO and DJ Babu – Make a Difference
Alpha Faktion -The Shining
Cymmarshal Law – Should Of Neva Left
Ice Cube – Man’s Best Friend

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If you liked this show make sure to check the previous installment of the podcast

All Women’s Voices Day 2015

All Women's Voices Day 2015All Women’s Voices Day is an annual event for 94.9 CHRW.

For 24 hours, all of the programming on our station is done by women. We do this to recognize The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

This year’s broadcast starts off with two hours of hip-hop radio hosted by female talent. There are documentaries, panel discussions, and a lot more to look forward to.

I contributed a half hour show for the cause as well. It’s a throwback interview that my daughter did with Eternia about five years ago.

Eternia looks back at the interview and recounts her experience as a rapper and a women in an industry that is dominated by men. She also spins some of her latest material.

It is a great special and runs at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow. I hope you will tune in at some point on Sunday for All Women’s Voice Day on 94.9 CHRW.

Access: DJ Z of DJ Booth

DJ Z has a really interesting history, from being a campus radio DJ, to working in commercial radio, to helping build DJ Booth into one of the premiere music spaces on the Internet.

We caught up with him for one of our special Access segments on 91.5 WPRK in Winterpark, Florida. And through the wonders of modern technology, DJ Z is able to join us from Chicago, and I can jump on the program from my home in London, Ontario.

Press play to be educated an entertained. Anyone who writes a blog, does a radio show, or is trying to promote music can learn from his experiences. This is real talk!

Access: Pharoahe Monch TODAY

Pharoahe Monche will be our special guest for this week’s live and interactive radio show.

This program is a partnership between Our ShowKevin Nottingham, The Word is Bond, DOPEfm, and Silent Cacophony.

Conshus runs the segment live on the radio in Florida on 91.5 WPRK and I join him via the magic of Google Hangouts. You can listen to the show online or watch the visual stream right here on this very page. We have a lot of fun tag-teaming these interviews for you.

One of the coolest things about how we run the program is the bonus content we deliver via the live video feed. When we play a song over the airwaves, we continue our discussion behind the scenes. And you are privy to it all. We basically hang-out and discuss hip-hop, artistry, song-writing, and anything else that comes up.

I hope to see you all there this weekend when Pharoahe Monch joins us.

We get started at 5:30 EST TODAY (Saturday March 1st)

 

Live Interview with Dessa

Dessa will be our special guest for this week’s live and interactive radio show.

This program is a partnership between Our ShowKevin Nottingham, The Word is Bond, DOPEfm, and Silent Cacophony.

Conshus runs the segment live on the radio in Florida on 91.5 WPRK and I join him via the magic of Google Hangouts. You can listen to the show online or watch the visual stream right here on this very page. We have a lot of fun tag-teaming these interviews for you.

One of the coolest things about how we run the program is the bonus content we deliver via the live video feed. When we play a song over the airwaves, we continue our discussion behind the scenes. And you are privy to it all. We basically hang-out and discuss hip-hop, artistry, song-writing, and anything else that comes up.

I hope to see you all there this weekend when Dessa joins us.

We get started at 5:30 EST TODAY (Saturday February 1st)

Access: Has-Lo (Live Radio Interview)

Has-Lo will be our special guest for this week’s live and interactive radio show.

This program is a partnership between Our Show, Kevin Nottingham, The Word is Bond, and Silent Cacophony.

Conshus runs the segment live on the radio in Florida on 91.5 WPRK and I join him via the magic of Google Hangouts. You can listen to the show online or watch the visual stream right here on this very page. We have a lot of fun tag-teaming these interviews for you.

One of the coolest things about how we run the program is the bonus content we deliver via the live video feed. When we play a song over the airwaves, we continue our discussion behind the scenes. And you are privy to it all. We basically hang-out and discuss hip-hop, artistry, song-writing, and anything else that comes up.

I hope to see you all there this weekend when Has-Lo joins us.

We get started at 5:30 EST TODAY (Saturday January 18th)

Don’t miss it!

3rd Annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular

women in hip-hop 2013

DOPEfm’s 3rd Annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular runs tonight on 93.3 CFMU on your radio dial with live streaming from the radio station’s website.

You can also listen to us on Cogeco Cable Channel 288, on Shaw Cable 93.9 fm, through your phone by dialing 704-702-7627 and inputting station ID 10042, and with the Tune In App by searching “DOPEfm.”

Tune in tonight starting at 12:00 midnight and keep the dial locked straight through to 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

We have some really exciting programming planned for the evening as we celebrate International Women’s Day by dedicated all seven hours of our overnight radio show to the Women in Hip-Hop.

HOUR 1 – A mixset featuring nothing but female emcees.
HOUR 2 – Part 1 of an extensive Know Your History episode focusing on the important moments in hip-hop history that had women in the forefront (1912 – 2000)
HOUR 3 – A roundtable discussion with Dominque Larue, Miss.She.Ill, K from Class of 93, and Ash Knuckles.
HOUR 4 – Part 2 of Know Your History covering the important moments in female hip-hop from 2000 – 2013.
HOUR 5 – A mixset and interview with female deejay L’oqenz.
HOUR 6 – An interview with Steph Clark of Beatbinjaz and a music mix by Chase March.
HOUR 7 – An interview with graduate student Marquitta Smith and a music mix by Daddy J.

Enjoy the show!

Celebrating International Women’s Day – Women in Hip-Hop 3

Beautiful poster done by one of my students

DOPEfm celebrates International Women’s Day every year by dedicating the entire overnight program to the Women in Hip-Hop. This year marks the third annual special presentation.

For this year’s show I have produced two hours of Know Your History detailing the important moments in female-fronted hip-hop from 1912 all the way up to 2013.

We have a female deejay, L’oqenz, providing us with a dope hour of music and we talk to her about her craft.

I spin an hours worth of music where every single track is by a female emcee.

We also have a roundtable discussion with some very talented artists including Miss.She.Ill, K from Class of 93, Dominique Larue, and Ash Knuckles.

I also talk to a graduate student about the issues surrounding women in hip-hop culture.

We get everything started at 12:00 midnight and run straight through to 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

There are some great voices in hip-hop music and culture. We need to recognize and celebrate them every day, but especially once a year on International Women’s Day.

If you missed the last two years of our special programming, don’t worry. You can download them for free anytime you like.

Women in Hip-Hop I (2011)
Women in Hip-Hop II (2012)

Please tune in live this Saturday night to hear our third annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular.

Celebrating International Women’s Day on DOPEfm and Silent Cacophony.

An Interview with Shanaya Fastje

Today, we continue our discussion with Shanaya Fastje, author of Bully in the Mirror: Making Hate Stop When You Don’t Think You Can.”

We’ve already had quite the discussion so far. If you want to go back and read Part 1 of the transcript, you can do that now. You can also stream the entire interview with the player at the bottom of this post, or you can download the podcast to listen to whenever you’d like.

Without further ado, let’s continue the interview.

Chase: “I think part of the problem is the television programs that kids are consuming these days. When I was a kid, Family Channel was pretty tame. They showed Disney cartoons and family oriented films.

Nowadays, they are showing teenage sitcoms all the time. I’ve watched some of them recently and it’s quite horrible the way the characters treat each other. They name call, they backstab, there’s disrespect, they put each other down, there’s conniving and mischief, and all this other stuff. I just wonder, if that is the role model they are seeing and that is the kind of programming they are consuming, it’s got to have some kind of effect on them.”

Shanaya: “Kids revolve around pop culture and whatever they are looking at, they are going to transpose into their own lives. I work out of Los Angeles, California. I’m working with my production company to produce a few series and films right now. I am trying to change that part of the industry.

It’s very true. Kids are learning to become more negative and more mischievous by watching all these TV shows. It should change and it’s able to change. But it’s getting larger and larger and every minute we wait, it’s going to get more difficult. It’s very important to act now. That is what I am currently working on every day.

It didn’t necessarily used to be this way. Everybody knows about bullying. It has a lot to do with, ‘Okay, this is in the media now, let’s put this into a TV show.’ And they kind of use this type of character because it’s funny, but it is not funny. It’s hurtful.”

Chase: You have some advice in your book about how we can help change things. On page 119, you talk about an anti-bullying pledge. We actually have one of those in our school board up here. The kids all took it at the start of the year.

But if you don’t have one at your school, you give some advice about how you can go about writing one and how you can format it. You also talk about setting up anti-bulling teams.”

Shanaya: “I also have an exercise in the book about talking to yourself in a mirror and setting goals for yourself. When you look in a mirror and set a goal for yourself, you subconsciously soak up what you are saying to the mirror and what you are saying to yourself, you are basically going to do it without thinking about it.

Anti-bullying teams are great because, like I said, when one person does something, another person will follow in their footsteps. Eventually when a few kids get together, it can be a team. They can then work together on finding new ways to stop bullying in their school. We can start with one school at a time because it does take time. It’s one person at a time, one step at a time, one school at a time.

When it works in a handful of schools, it will slowly disseminate to other schools. It is basically all about starting. Someone needs to begin. Someone needs to start the change. I want to be a part of that.

I’m starting that change. And then there has to be a middle where you work on that change and continue to change. At the end, when there has been success and there are fewer bullies in one school than there were a month previously, that’s a positive change.

People sometimes want to rush into things, but you can’t really rush. It’s a cautious, one step at a time ordeal.

Chase: “Wow, you are an inspiration. You are doing so many things, you’ve written quite a few books, you have film and television series in the works, and you even have speaking engagements. So hopefully you are inspiring and educating the youth. That is really cool to see.”

Shanaya: “Thank you so much. Pretty much every single day I get phone calls, text messages, and emails from kids saying they need my help. They tell me that they are suffering from bullying. They want advice or they want to tell me their stories. Some are suicidal. It’s definitely a job all on its own. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with it but I really love doing it. It does not bother me that I get all these phone calls.

I want kids to come to me because I want them to feel that they are not alone. I want them to know that I am here and that somebody is there. I’ve gotten calls from kids that I’d visited their schools two years previous and they’ve kept my card every since.

There is on particular story. I think it was about a year and a half ago. I went to a elementary / middle school to give a presentation. The counselor came up to me and said that there was a boy that was being bullied very severely. She wanted to see if I could speak with him for a few minutes, give him some inspirational words, and just help him a bit.

I met him after my presentation. We sat in the auditorium and I ended up spending over an hour with this young boy. He was only nine years old and he’d already tried committing suicide twice. He had been to a rehabilitation centre about four times. He was bullied because he as a very, very good student. He’s an “A” student. He has bright, bright red hair and would get made fun of for that. He was a little bit overweight and he felt so in pain. He was only nine years old but felt so much pain that he felt he had to commit suicide.

I spent over an hour with him, talking to him, helping him work through his problems, helping him to realize I was there to help him. At the end of the session I had with him. I gave him my business card with my email and phone number on it. I told him that if he needed any more help, he could get a hold of me. It didn’t matter what day or what time it was, I’d be there. He said, “Okay.”

I thought of him for days after that. I decided to sign a book and to design a composition book for him. A few years ago, I used to make jewelry and make composition books for charity. I wrote him a letter and went back to the school the next week and asked the counselor if I could see him again. We talked in the hall and I gave him the package.

At the end of class, the counselor came up to me and she gave me a letter that he had written for me. She said that he had been such a happier kid since I’d spoken to him. He was focusing more in school in his classes. He was smiling, he was laughing again, and he was trying to make friends again.

I went home and opened the letter and read it. He basically wanted to thank me for helping him. He said he didn’t think about killing himself anymore because I helped him. I kept that letter.

I read every single letter that is sent to me. I have thousands and thousands and his letter is very, very special to me.

Chase: “I think the power of talk is a very important and powerful thing. Kids sometimes don’t have anyone they can talk to for whatever reason. Maybe they don’t have someone they can confide in or they don’t know how to bring up the topic. I just want my students to know that, as a teacher, and I’m sure most teachers are like this too, you can come to teachers with your problems, and we will be here to listen.

It’s also encouraging to know that there are people like you for them to talk to as well. Talking through a problem is sometimes one of the best ways to get around it and to solve it.”

Shanaya: “I believe that victims and kids can be so scared to talk because they don’t know who to trust. Some teachers and parents don’t know what to do. I just hope that kids realize that they are not alone. If you see that anybody is having trouble or if you see someone is sad, or depressed, or a little bit mad, it’s important to get down to their level. Get eye level with them.

I’ve given workshops to parents and teachers about how to address little kids and middle schoolers. It is intimidating for them to see an adult towering over them. They are scared, they are being bullied, they don’t know who to trust. But when somebody gets down to their eye level, they feel more of a connection and they feel safer.

That’s also why I have been able to have such success with kids. I am a kid. I know what kids go through. I’ve had friends on the verge of suicide and I’ve helped them. So, I’ve had experience with kids. I think kids feel a connection with me because they know I understand them. I think a lot of people are able to understand them.

For kids to feel safe, they need to have a connection with someone.

Chase: “I like how you talk about teachers in your book as well. Some people your age wouldn’t have anything good to say about teachers. They are quick to put down their teachers and complain. But you have some respect and praise and admiration for teachers in this book and it was quite refreshing to see.”

Shanaya: “I think that teachers are fantastic! They are great! Teachers are doing their job!

I have a lot of respect for teachers and human teaching and human development. I believe that everybody has something to learn from anyone they come across. Whether it’s from a mistake, to not act a certain way, or to learn something positive, to learn a new thing. I think teachers are very important in doing that. They are teaching kids every single day and it’s constant.

I want to let kids know that teachers aren’t there to hurt anybody, they aren’t there to make you feel small, they are there to help you. Hopefully kids will realize that.

Same with parents. Parents just sometimes don’t know what to do. It’s not necessarily that parents don’t care, sometimes they just don’t know what to do. It’s all about education..

So once kids realize that it’s not that they don’t care, it’s just that they don’t know what to do. Once they realize that and start to speak up, we have a better chance of solving the problem.”

Chase; “We are speaking with Shanaya Fastje, author of ‘Bully in the Mirror: Making Hate Stop When You Don’t Think You Can.’ Can you tell people how they can find out more about you and how they can get your books?”

Shanaya: “I have a website – shanyafastje.com. You can go to Barnes & Noble or Amazon to get the book. You can contact me directly from my website. There is a contact form where I receive emails directly and I am able to respond. I love hearing from people. My book is available all around the world.”

Chase: “Thank you so much for talking with me today. You are an amazing person and very inspiring with all of the things you are doing from the writing to the production aspect to the speaking engagements. It’s nice to see that you are not just sitting on your couch watching TV. You are actively out there creating things. It is so easy, in this day and age, with the computer technology we have to get out an do something creative.”

Shanaya: “It’s very simple. Kids just need to find something that they are passionate about. Everybody loves to do something and everybody is good at something. Kids just need to find what thy love doing. Also, on top of everything else I am doing, I’m working on music. I put out two singles on iTunes and I’m going to film a new video. I’m working on an album and I have my own label. I’m working on music, film, television, and writing. They are all passions of mine and I’m honored to be given the opportunity to work on all of them.

Chase: “Well, I wish you nothing but success and good luck in all your endeavors.”

Shanaya: “Thank you, that is exactly what I hope as well.”

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

Bully in the Mirror (Straight Talk about a Major Problem)

Chase: “All right everybody, this is Chase March. I have a special guest on the program right now, author of “Bully in the Mirror: Making Hate Stop When You Don’t Think You Can,” Shanaya Fastje.

You can read the transcript of the interview, stream in with the player below, or download it to listen to later.

So, Shanaya, I read your book cover to cover. I know there are some people out there who think bullying is completely natural and that it is just part of childhood.”

Shanaya: “There is nothing natural about it. Most people say, ‘Bullying is natural, it happens all the time, everybody goes through it.’ But it is not in any way, shape, or for, normal. It becomes not normal when kids feel mental pain with or without physical pain. Parents have to see what they believed was normal is no longer normal.

It’s about a lack of education on the subject. People need to educate themselves about the realities of bullying and living in this society as a kid or a teenager. It causes pain, and anything that causes pain is not normal.”

Chase: “This book is incredible and based on the conversation we’ve had up to this point, I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn that you are a teenager.”

Shanaya: “I get that often. I’m only thirteen. I just graduated high school last year. People don’t really comprehend that I’m actually thirteen, but I’ve definitely gotten used to it.”

Chase: “It’s pretty impressive and inspirational what you have already been able to do. And ‘Bully in the Mirror’ isn’t even your first book.”

Shanaya: “This is my fourth book. I’m currently working on my fifth book which is going to be my first fiction. It’s a mystery / suspense novel. I am currently negotiating piloting out my fifth book for film. I’m also negotiating my fourth book for film because I just opened up my own production company. I have a license and I’m working on producing different projects. I would love to produce any of my books into some kind of film, television, or series.”

Chase: “Wow, that is incredible. Just to make a personal connection here, on page 85 of your book you mention reading another book, ‘Psycho-cybernetics.’ I remember reading that book at your age too.”

Shanaya: “How interesting.”

Chase: “The title of that book alone would scare most people off, but it was a good read. And so is your book, “Bully in the Mirror.”

I started a Facebook page this year because I wanted to open up the lines of communication between school and home. I thought it would be a good tool to stay in touch with students and parents, but just recently, I was cyber-bullied on it.”

Shanaya: “Bullying itself has become a social epidemic. It used to be that kids would fight physically and there’d be some name calling. Now, it’s gotten to the point that cyber-bullying is now in existence. Kids are now bullying each other using social media – Facebook, Twitter, email, and texting.

It’s okay for kids to go on Facebook and Twitter, but sometimes it becomes an obsession. It becomes an addiction. This addiction goes a step further and these kids sometimes think they are superior because they can always disguise themselves using anonymous names. It becomes very dangerous.

It is now getting to a point where kids are, more and more, committing suicide because they are being cyber-bullied. Sometimes it can be by their own friends. Next to physical bullying, cyber-bullying is one of the more dangerous forms of bullying.”

Chase: “When I got cyber-bullied last week, I was able to shake it off for the most part. But I look at what some of the kids are doing online, I see that this is a regular way that kids are talking to each other on these platforms. They are on Facebook putting down people. If I was a kid living in this day and age, and I had to go through that on a daily basis, I don’t know how I’d handle it.”

Shanaya: “Verbal harassment over the Internet can cause the same exact damage as any other form of bullying. It can even lead to suicide. Any form of bullying can lead to suicide and any form of bullying can lead to depression. And it goes a step further. Kids don’t’ keep it in the boundaries. They always go a step further and this step further is what’s dangerous.

Kids do have a hard time handling it. I’ve been bullied but I don’t like comparing my bullying stories to other kids because it hasn’t necessarily been severe. I’ve learned to grow self-confidence and self-esteem from a very young age. I’ve been cyber-bullied and it’s very ridiculous the way kids now talk to each other. It’s like there are no morals, respect, or dignity. I want to help bring some of those morals back into kids’ lives.”

Chase: “I wanted to use it as a teachable moment as well. I want kids to know that it is not okay to talk like this online, and that you should watch carefully what you say, and don’t press send if you think it is going to hurt, belittle, or demean somebody. But when I brought this to my principal, his first response was to shut it down, to close the Facebook page. So I had to shut down the site. Part of the problem, he said, is that this is the culture of Facebook. This is what they do and this is how kids are talking on Facebook and that is not something we are going to change.”

Shanaya: “It’s become like a lifestyle. But bullies are not born bullies. It’s a learned behaviour. Since bullies have learned to act ugly to others, they can also learn to change. The world is constantly changing and I believe there is always room for change. There is always room for better. And it starts with one person.

When somebody sees one person doing something good. Let’s say someone is being cyber-bullied on Facebook. If one person comments, ‘That’s not right’ or “Stop’ or “I’m going to report you,’ then another person is going to step in, and then another. It’s a chain reaction. It’s the same with physical and verbal bullying as well. People can’t give up too easily because quitting means stopping the chain reaction and we can’t really end that. It’s important for the sake of this generation of kids and their safety.”

Chase; “We have this program in our school called “Be an Upstander.” It basically means that you shouldn’t stand by and watch something happen when you can do something about it. Don’t be a bystander, be an upstander and do something about it.”

Shanaya: “Of course, one of the main keys to reduce bullying is the bystander. Some people might be afraid to tell an adult or they might feel threatened by the bully. But it is the bystanders’ job to go and get help and to tell.

Victims have true power but they sometimes mistake it that they don’t have any power and the bully has all the power over them. In reality, the bully is pretending to use the victim’s power as their own to trick the victim into thinking that they are powerless. Bullies are actually weak-minded. Since they are so weak, they can learn to build the strength of their own mind just like victims can.

Everybody needs to work hand-in-hand in the situation. It’s not just the victims that need to work on their self-esteem and self-confidence. I think parents have to have a bog part in making this happen. Parents need to talk to their children and help them get through whatever issue is going on, no matter what time they get home from work. The parents are the role models and if the kids see that their parents are willing to help, they will know that they’ll feel that they are not really alone because that’s what victims often feel. They feel alone and that’s why they are so scared to go an tell if they are being bullied or hurt.”

Chase: “You have some good advice in this book. On page 84, you write about how we can sometimes be a little too hard on ourselves and then you write, ‘If you can think it, you have the power to think it differently. Every negative thought can become a positive one. If you think it, you can do it.” Very wise words there.

Shanaya: “Thank you. I believe that every problem has a solution. I like looking at things not as problems but as problems that need solutions. Instead of focusing on the negative, I like to focus on the positive and how I can fix this. Nothing is going to change and nothing is going to get fixed if you keep dwelling on a problem and keep dwelling on negativity. There is always a way to switch it around.

People just need to take a moment, take a breather, and to think the right way. Once people learn to think in a more positive way, then we’ll learn how to act in a more positive way.”

We’ll continue this interview tomorrow. If you can’t wait that long, listen to the entire interview right now with the player below, or download it to listen to at your leisure.

See you tomorrow. Thanks for tuning in!

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

DOPEfm – Hip-Hop Radio at Its Finest

DOPEfm is an overnight hip-hop radio show that can be heard on 93.3 fm each and every Saturday night.

If you don’t live in the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada area and can’t tune in the signal, you can stream us live on the station website.

If you can’t stay up to listen to us live, you can catch the past four episodes any time you like.

First click on “programming” at the top of the page, find “Dope FM” in the grey area on Saturday, and click on it.

Your screen should now look like this one. You’ll see a description of our show and a list of past episodes. If you click on one of them, you will hear a stream of our programming.

This system is completely automated and we can’t control the starting time of it at all. So if you start listening and you hear the metal show before us, or some commercials, just be patient and hip-hop will start shortly.

So listen live tonight and enjoy the show! Or check it out tomorrow through the archive.

You can also check our podcast page, my artist interview page, and dopefm.ca to hear more.

Thanks for tuning in.

Tall Black Guy Interview Part 2

Let’s continue the interview I did with music producer, Tall Black Guy. If you missed Part 1 of the transcript, you can go back and read it, you can stream the interview with the player below, or download the MP3 of it to listen to whenever you like. You could also keep reading. Whatever method you choose, thanks for joining us.

Chase: “We are lucky enough to have Tall Black Guy on our phone lines right now. Thanks for spinning some nice tunes for us for the past hour!”

Tall Black Guy: “Thank you for reaching out to me to do the mix for your podcast. I really appreciate it.”

Chase: “The Word is Bond is like a hip-hop magazine online and they’ve been doing their thing for a while. They actually reached out to me a couple years ago and I just started doing some guest posts and doing some writing for them. I had been doing the radio for a while on DOPEfm. So we launched The Word is Bond podcast and we are a dozen or so shows in now.

We’d originally planned to have you on the first episode after we redesigned the site, had a few scheduling difficulties, but we finally got you on the show. The cool thing about The Word is Bond is that we keep a partnership with DOPEfm so I get to do things for both platforms. I’m on the Internet and I’m on the radio for both of those different things.”

Tall Black Guy: “That’s cool”

Chase: “You have quite an extensive body of work. People can go to your bandcamp page and see a lot of the things that you are able to do. One of those things is, I think the best way to describe it is, a sample flip. That’s where you take a song that it pretty well known and use the same sample and flip it so that it is different, but it still sounds familiar. How do you go about doing that?”

Tall Black Guy: “I used to do a lot of beat battles. I can’t even remember the last time I did one, maybe 2008. I did beat battles for a little bit of time. I won a few of them, and I got a sense of what the crowd actually liked. If you use a familiar sample and flip it differently, that would really get the reaction of the crowd.

Even before beat battles, I was taking different samples that I liked, and I never wanted to loop anything. I always wanted to chop it. As a child, I would chop up something that was very, very popular and just try to put my own little twist on it. That’s basically where it came from, me doing beat battles and kind of gauging what the crowd wants. Using something familiar to try and persuade them to like my beats.”

Chase: “That’s cool. You have vinyl releases now, don’t you?”

Tall Black Guy: “Yeah. I have a few of them. I’d say over the last year or so, just like little small 7-inch, Dance Forever that’s off of First World Records. That’s the A-side, and the B-side is Return of the Here and Now, Water No Enemy, that’s on the Bastard Jazz label. There was another tune called Lost and Gone.

There is so much music getting released at one time, a lot of times people will miss everything if you put a whole project out there. So, I try to keep it kind of limited. I think 7-inches are the way to go. As far as releasing those smaller things, and then maybe drop something big and then go back to those smaller releases.”

Chase: “The way we consume music has changed these days. With the Internet, some times you just need one song and people will gravitate towards it and grab onto it instead of having a whole album. You can do a lot with a short EP or a single. It’s real nice to see, the real hip-hop purists are still putting out some vinyl and it’s not just all digital.”

Tall Black Guy: “Yeah, definitely. I like both. I like vinyl and I like digital too. When I sample, I sample from CDs some times, some times I sample from vinyl. It all depends on how I want the particular track to sound. But I haven’t sampled from vinyl in a while ‘cause I actually don’t have a vinyl collection. It’s been about three years since I sampled from vinyl, but I used to.”

Chase: “Do you ever have a song in your head? Like an idea for a horn, or a bassline, or something like that, and you can kind of hear it before you sit down and start to work?”

Tall Black Guy: “Some times I can hear something in my head. A lot of times when I try to come up with a track, I’ll start off with some kind of sample just to give me an idea or push the idea forward. From there, I can start hearing different things.

I might find a sample and chop the sample, but then I might replay the chop on the piano. I know a lot of my music, and I know what different things sound in key, so a lot of times I can go to a different sample source and grab a guitar sample from Kenny Garret or something like that and then put it in key with this James Brown sample, and then go grab something from Bob James and so on and so forth. That’s how I hear things. Once I start the track, I can hear different samples that might be in key with that, and then I play over it.”

Chase: “That’s awesome. It’s like a building process. You start with one thing and then you know you want to add this. It’s like playing with Lego some times. You’re playing with sounds and putting it together, and one thing leads to another.”

Tall Black Guy: “Yeah, exactly.”

Chase: “I think a lot of times, we get stuck on the emcees and we don’t really talk enough to the producers and what they actually do and how important they are.

You have quite the body of work and you’ve worked with quite a lot of artists, but if there was someone out there who liked Tall Black Guy beats and wondered, ‘Can he produce for me?’ Do you sell your stuff if anyone wanted to reach out?”

Tall Black Guy: “All the time. Selling my music is my income. I’m not strictly living off it per se, but I do sell my music. I have criteria though. You gotta have a positive message, you can’t curse, no profanity, you can’t say God’s name in vein, you gotta be real straight edge, if my mother can’t listen to it, we might have to do something different, just because music is a very,. very powerful thing. I don’t want to be one of those guys where I contributed to somebody doing something bad to themselves when they’ve listened to my music.

I try to keep it straightforward, not to say that I didn’t do that before, but as of the last few years, I’ve tried to keep it straight edge. And what’s crazy is that artist actually want to do that.”

Chase: “That’s amazing. I’m an elementary school teacher and I can play rap songs that are totally clean to students and they’ll go, ‘Oh, it just swore!’ and I’ll say, ‘No, it didn’t.’ I think part of the reason they think that is that there is this assumption from the general population that rap just has to swear. And then there are artists, such as yourself, that say you don’t have to.

You can actually have a good song without any swear words. It’s not a prerequisite to hip that you have to swear. I wish more people knew that.”

Tall Black Guy: “They probably do, but I guess, it’s whatever sells. I know, for me personally, I really see it as distasteful. I chose for myself not to do that.”

Chase: “Do you listen to rap that swears though?”

Tall Black Guy: “I really don’t even listen to hip-hop anymore. I listen to more R&B, jazz, and other people’s beats. That’s what I do now. I’ve listening to R&B pretty much my whole life, but my collection now is almost all R&B and jazz and world music. I don’t even like hip-hop anymore, personally, because nobody is really saying anything intelligent. I don’t enjoy hip-hop like that anymore.”

Chase: “That’s a shame. These days you have to go deeper and deeper to find the good stuff and it’s totally in the underground. But even being a music producer, you don’t want to be pigeon-holed into one genre anyway. You want to listen to different types of music, like that’s actually part of doing your homework, I’d assume.”

Tall Black Guy: “Yep. For me personally, I never wanted to be in a box. I want to be able to make all different kinds of music because, that’s music. If I gotta study to do my interpretation of a Brazilian track, or world music, or my interpretation of a jazz track, I gotta study that.”

Chase: “We covered a lot of topics today and got a great music mix from you. So, if people wanted to get in touch with you or find out more about your music, how can they go about doing that?”

Tall Black Guy: “You can visit Tall Black Guy Productions.com. I’m on Soundcloud, Reverbnation, pretty much if you just Google ‘Tall Black Guy’ or Tall Black Guy Productions, it will basically redirect you to any of those online outlets. I also have things on iTunes, and Rhapsody. As far as physical products, you can grab those from Crosstalk International or something like Juno or Turntablelab. The easiest way would be just to Google ‘Tall Black Guy’ and go grab some music.”

Chase: “Just an interesting story, I was telling my students I was interviewing Tall Black Guy and they said, ‘That’s racist!’ They didn’t realize that was your name, they thought I was just calling you a tall black guy. So are you exceptionally tall?”

Tall Black Guy: “I’m 6’5” and like 270.”

Chase: “The name definitely fits then. Well, it has been a pleasure having you on the program, on the radio show, and in the podcast. So, thanks for blessing us with some music and finding the time to sit down and talk with us. It was really cool to hear how you do your beats and how you started.”

Tall Black Guy: “Thank you for having me on your show. I really appreciate it.”

That concludes the interview. Please download the podcast for free or stream it with the player below. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the weekly episodes focusing on the best in hip-hop.

Thanks for tuning in. I’ll see you here on the blog again tomorrow, on your radio Saturday night, and on the podcast again on Monday.

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Tall Black Guy Interview and Mixset

A few months back I had the chance to interview music producer, Tall Black Guy. We talked about music production, sampling, swearing in hip-hop, and much, much more.

You can read the transcript of the interview, listen to it with the player at the bottom of the post, or you can download the show for free to listen to whenever you like.

We talk for about fifteen minutes, then Tall Black Guy spins some great tracks for an hour, and we finish off the show with another fifteen-minute interview.

So without further ado, here is the transcript of the radio show / podcast.

Chase: “All right everybody, this is Chase March and we have a special guest on our phone lines. We have Tall Black Guy. There’s a website I frequent called Bama Love Soul. They call you ‘Everyone’s Favourite Producer.’”

Tall Black Guy: “I guess. I don’t really see it like that. I just try to make music that I believe in, which is, always trying to be positive with the message.”

Chase: “That’s cool. They put out a mixtape of some of your earlier work and they called it Tall Black Guy – The Lost Tapes and it was actually mixed by DJ Radhu. It’s a nice project. There’s a track of their from the 80s Babies ‘Technology.’ I really like that track.

There is a hilarious line in there, ‘the sun rises in the east and it sets in the west. That ‘s useless information ‘cause I got a GPS.’ That’s hilarious!

Tall Black Guy: “Dee Jackson, he’s like my best friend. I’ve known him for like 15 or 16 years. He’s the one that writes the lyrics. I was the one, that more or less, came up with the beat. But how we came about it was, he had this crazy idea about technology and he gave me the idea for the beat.

Basically, he told me what the idea was and I built the beat around that. I didn’t know he was gonna come with that effect as far as having the song just describing all different types of technology. That’s one of my favourite songs.”

Chase: “There’s another lyric in there I like. He says, ‘When I take a walk, man, I don’t need a walkman.’ I think the same thing. I am a trail runner and I love going for runs but I never put headphones on. And it always amazes me why people need that. When you are out and about, I don’t think you always need to have music with you. That might sound weird being that I’m a DJ, but I don’t bring music with me everywhere anymore.”

Tall Black Guy: “I don’t really either. More or less, if I am at work and I think about it, I might bring an iPod or something.”

Chase: “Yeah, I think there is something to be said about being disconnected. Even when I go out, I don’t always want to have my cell phone or be connected all the time.”

Tall Black Guy: “Understandable. Sometimes you need a break from it.”

Chase: “I think so, but technology is a great thing. There you are, across the pond, and we’re able to still do an interview. It’s pretty amazing.”

Tall Black Guy: “That’s the great thing about Skype. Skype invented something that is really cool because you can talk to your friends and see their face at the same time, and it’s free.”

Chase: “Yeah, ya gotta like that. I’m using a really old, out-dated computer. I don’t have a webcam, so we aren’t seeing each other, but this is radio so we don’t need it.”

Tall Black Guy: “Exactly.”

Chase: “We are big fans of your work over at The Word is Bond and at DOPEfm, playing your stuff all the time. You are actually going to be throwing down a mixset for us in a few minutes.”

Tall Black Guy: “Yeah, just trying to throw some more good music out there, ya know? That’s the main thing. My goal is to always try to be consistent.”

Chase: “Can you tell us how you got started in hip-hop and music production?”

Tall Black Guy: “Basically, I grew up around music because of my parents. I guess that is every producer or every musician’s story. I didn’t even start making music till I was like 20. I used to beatbox when I was a kid and then one day, when I was like 20, I was like, ‘I just want to make music.’

At the time, this was around 2000, 2001, somewhere around there. I didn’t have enough money to buy an MPC or anything like that, so I invested in, at the time, it used to be called Sonic Foundry: Acid 2.0. I spent like $60 on that program. I tried it out for a little bit and then kind of gave up after a month. I could never figure out how to sequence the drums. That was always my problem, so I quit for like a month.

I went back into it, and from there, it was just a lot of practise. When I first started, I was putting in anywhere from like 14 to 18 hours in a day. I just kept practising, practising, ya know? Trying to figure out different samples and studying some of my favourite hip-hop producers.

I just kept practising, practising, practising. Staying up, basically 24 hours, a couple times a week. All on top of going to work. That’s pretty much what it is, just practice.

I was sampling for a long time, up until about three years ago. I sampled up until about 2009 and then I wanted to start playing. So, I taught myself how to play keyboard. Sampling is cool but I think sampling can only take you so far if you are actually trying to make some big moves, as far as like, getting into music licensing, movies, and things like that.

I always wanted to have that kind of balance where if I wanted to sample, I could sample, if I wanted to play, I could play. And from there, same thing, it’s just practice.”

Chase: “That’s a good message. In this day and age, just because it is so easy to release things, a lot of people think, ‘Hey, look, I just made a beat. Let throw it up for the whole world to see.’ But there is something to be said about paying your dues and actually working to perfect your craft.

It’s also cool to see that you also started on technology too because there are a lot of purists that say, ‘You should only be using gear. You should only be using MPCs. Forget everything else.” But there’s a lot more ways and avenues to the music, like you said.”

Tall Black Guy: “I could never afford an MPC, so that was my only other option at the time, to invest in something to make my music. I tried all the other different software at the time and I really could understand any of them. Acid seemed to be the best one I could gravitate towards to. I pretty much mastered that program. That’s all I use now. Sony Acid: Pro Effects, along with a MIDI controller. That’s basically it.”

Chase: “I got into production in the late 1990s and I got some really old gear. I had an Akai Sampling Keyboard and I had an Atari computer running Cubase. That’s what I was using. I mean, you could use anything as long as you can figure out how to make it work and get it singing, you know what I mean?”

Tall Black Guy: “I never knock anybody. If they know how to make a beat on the table, as long as it sounds good, that’s all that really matters.”

Chase: “For sure. Well, I think we should stop talking and get some music going, right about now. You are going to lay down some tunes for us for about an hour, and then we’ll come back and talk to you some more. I’m looking forward to what you are spinning”

Tall Black Guy: “Thank you.”

You can download the entire podcast or stream it with the player below. Don’t forget to subscribe to The Word is Bond Podcast as we deliver you the best in hip-hop, artist interviews, guest DJ mixsets, hip-hop history spotlights, and much, much more.

Come back tomorrow to read the conclusion of this transcript.

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Read Part 2


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Twilight (Interview and Book Give-Away)

Chase: “All right everybody, this is Chase March and I have Talia Soghomonian on the line right now. She’s the author of Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart & Taylor Lautner – In their own words.

Download the podcast of this interview, stream it with the player below, or keep reading. You’ll definitely want to stay tuned because you can win one of three free copies of this ebook.

This book is coming out just prior to the release of the final installment of the Twilight movie franchise. How did you go about compiling it?

Talia: “I’d already met the actors a bunch of times. I’d been on the set, I’d reviewed the films, and I’d interviewed them during junkets. So I was pretty familiar with the material. I used some of my old material and did further research in case I’d missed something. I did a lot of fact-checking, of course. It was actually pretty east to do. If you’re familiar with the subject, then it’s not that hard. There is so much about Twilight, that you could literally write volumes and volumes about it.”

Chase: “Were you a fan of the books before the movies?”

Talia: “I didn’t know of the books before the movies. The first time I’d heard of Twilight was the screening of the first Twilight movie. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it kind of looked like an art-house movie and then there was this vampire story. I thought it was cool and pretty well made. That got me into the whole series. When I interviewed the actors a few weeks later, I was surprised to see so many fans who knew about the books and the series. I was kind of in the dark,”

Chase: “Yeah, it’s really captured the attention of millions and millions, which is crazy when you think about it. When I was a kid, I don’t remember a book ever having this much of an impact.”

Talia: “I don’t either. When I was like ten-years-old, I think The Outsiders was really popular.”

Chase: “You get forced to read that in school now.”

Talia; “Forced?”

Chase: “A lot of teachers are still using that book in novel studies. I find that it’s not as accessible for kids these days. I think there is a lot of great young adult literature coming out.”

Talia: “Absolutely. JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer have really encouraged that. I think the young adults use much more imagination and they go into fantasy and there is a real story behind it. I think kids want imagination, escapism, and something they don’t have in everyday life or in any other book.”

Chase: “I’m a teacher so I really like to see that kids are reading. The interesting thing is that many of them only discovered the books after the movies. They like to read them after watching the films because they can picture their favourite actors in their head while they’re reading.”

Talia: “Absolutely, and often books are different so they can be pleasantly surprised. They get the best of both worlds. They get two different interpretations of the same story. In my book I mention that Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling and all these authors have encouraged kids to read 500 + page books. 12 year olds are reading books like this. That’s a feat in itself. It gets them to use their imagination and maybe it will inspire them to become writers.”

Chase: “That would be amazing. It’s something to see all of the cultural book phenomenons that keep coming out. We had Harry Potter and then we had Twilight and now we have The Hunger Games. I wonder if this trend is going to continue. Are we going to see a new superstar title every few years?”

Talia: “I hope so. I hope that people are steering away from vampires though because Stephenie Meyer did that so well. Everybody wants to be the next Stephenie Meyer but the people who succeed will have original ideas. I hope that this trend does continue.”

Chase: “We’re talking with the author of Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart & Taylor Lautner – In their own words. This book is interesting because you’ve compiled over 30 different cast interviews from the very start of the first movie coming out to the present. There are five years of interviews in this book with pictures and you can also get an enhanced version of the book complete with audio clips.”

Talia: “That’s pretty awesome because you can actually hear them talking. It’s one of the great things about ebooks. It allows you so much more.”

Chase: “I’m a big fan of audio books, I don’t have an ebook reader, but it’s interesting to see how they can cross different platforms and be multi-media works.”

Talia: “I think kids are much more technologically advanced than we were as kids. They kind of expect things to be multi-media. I hope that, with the advent of ebooks, that audio will also encourage them to want to read the book more, any book. I find it amusing that you can listen to the book as you are reading it.”

Chase: “How much of the book is available in audio? Is it the entire thing or just portions of it?”

Talia: “Just portions of interviews.”

Chase: “You have quite the history of writing credits, specifically with magazines such as In Style, Elle Girl, Rolling Stone, Marie Claire, and NME. Can you tell us about your background as a writer?”

Talia: “I started out in the late 90s as a rock journalist. I interviewed just about every rock star except Mick Jaggar, Bruce Springstine, and David Bowie, which is a bummer. I did a lot of rock journalism.

I worked for a time at The New York Times; Paris Bureau, but I didn’t do entertainment stuff, it was much more serious. This story really changed my life. I was hired on September 11th and it was exciting to work in the foreign offices. It was a great opportunity too.

After that, I worked for nine years at a French newspaper, which exists in many countries, including Canada. I wrote about music and film there.”

Chase: “Where are you based out of now?”

Talia: “Right now I’m in Paris and I fly back and forth between Paris and L.A. I was recently in Atlanta doing a set visit at The Walking Dead. That was fun.”

Chase: “Oh wow, You are getting quite into film and television. Are you writing about The Walking Dead series as well?”

Talia: “No. They are very secretive about it, so not yet.”

Chase: “The interesting thing about that phenomenon too, is that is also started as a book, more specifically a comic book.”

Talia: “I think they’ve changed a little bit and they’ve added characters that don’t exist in the book. A lot of the actors were telling me that they bought the entire series of the comic book and it’s still continuing. They are finding it interesting how the writers are interpreting the story for the television series.”

Chase: “I think it is amazing how books are becoming so huge culturally. They are becoming films and television series. When I was a kid, it seemed the classic stories were the only ones that became movies and I didn’t find them all that exciting or engaging. Now, you don’t have to force kids to watch any of this stuff. They’re seeking it out and reading it themselves.”

Talia: “I think they are making better choices now as to what stories to adapt on film. They are much more marketing savy today. They know which books are better left as books. They know what kids like. A lot of the writers are young and they have more street cred.”

Chase: “That’s a good point. Some books are fine just being books. Orson Scott Card is one of my favourite writers. He writes science fiction for the most part, but he is absolutely brilliant. He has a lot of great audio books and at the end of the story, he does a little talk about the book. There’s one moment I really remember in those. He is talking about everyone asking him when the Ender’s Game movie is going to get made and they are pressuring him about it. His answer was, ‘It’s already a book.’ Why does it need to be a movie? It’s already a book. I love that answer.”

Talia: “I read The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury and I could never imagine how they could adapt that as a movie. I’m sure they’ve tried but it’s so complex and so much better to read it. I read it when I was ten years old.”

Chase: “So, what’s your favourite book? If you had to choose, I know I have a favourite book of all time, do you have one?”

Talia: “What’s your favourite?”

Chase: “My favourite book is Heartbeat by Sharon Creech. It’s probably not that well-known. It’s a verse novel so when you flip through the pages, you’d think it was a collection of poems, but it actually tells a cohesive story of this twelve year old girl who loves to run just for running sake. Everyone is pressuring her to join the team at school. It’s a really nice book. It’s beautiful, poetic, and sounds amazing.”

Talia: “Okay, I’ll have to get that. My favourite book isn’t a novel. It’s a non-fiction book called On Writing by Stephen King.”

Chase: “I love that book.”

Talia: “It’s the best book on writing. I think when you read too many of writing advice books, you just become crazy and you don’t want to be a writer anymore. His advice is so simple, and yet, so efficient. I also love that he listens to Iron Maiden when he’s writing.”

Chase: “Yeah, I really like that book but I’ve been torn a little bit lately. I’ve been reading writing advice blogs like The Story Fix blog by Larry Brooks. And I read his book Story Engineering. He is really an advocate for planning everything out before writing. Whereas, Stephen King just writes and lets the story steer itself, and that’s the way I write as well. I think Stephen King has something there about story being a found object and he’s uncovering it as he’s going.”

Talia: “Absolutely. I think it should flow like a fountain. You can always go back and rewrite but I think the first draft should just be whatever goes through your head. Stream of consciousness.”

Chase: “I even try to do that with my interviews. I’ve seen so many interviews where it’s basically ten questions and those same questions get asked over and over again to new person interviewed. It’s boring. With my interviews, I try to make it more of a conversation. It’s more exciting for the audience as well.”

Talia: “I think the audience wants to hear a conversation or read one if it’s in print. They don’t want to read or hear something that they’ve read or heard in fifty other places.”

Chase: “Your new book, has a lot of different interviews in it, are they conversational as well?”

Talia: “Some of them are. I didn’t do all of them. The publisher compiled some interviews from their sources. The interesting thing about the interviews is you see how the actors have grown. You see a progression from the first film when they were quite young, and see how they’ve grown and matured since then. It’s quite interesting.”

Chase: “Especially since some of them were relatively unknown and have now become huge superstars. It’s the end of an era though because the last Twilight movie is coming out really soon. A lot of people are going to be excited, but also mournful of the end of the movie franchise. But it’s something they will always have with the books and the DVDs, and your book to see some of the behind-the-scenes stuff with the three main actors in the film.”

Talia: “Fans shouldn’t be sad. They can always go back and watch the movies.”

Chase: “So your book, the interview compilation is 300 pages long, has over 100 photos, and more than 30 cast interviews is available right now. How can people go about purchasing that?”

Talia: “They can get it from Amazon.”

Chase: “We have free copies of the ebook to give away right here now. How should we go about doing that?”

Talia: “We should ask a good question that only die-hard fans will know.”

Chase: “Thanks Talia. I hope people will enjoy the book.”

Talia: “Thanks for having me”

People who can answer this question are asked to contact me with the answer. You will have to Saturday at 10:00 p.m. EST to do so.

Enter the ebook giveaway contest

What is the name of Bella and Edward’s child and where is it derived from?

Send the answer of this trivia question to me by

  1. email – chasemarch (at) gmail (dot) com – replaces the “at” with “@” and “dot” with “.” and leave no spaces
  2. send me a message on Facebook
  3. send me a direct message on Twitter
We have three copies to give away.

I will take every correct answer and randomly choose three people. If you are a winner, I will email you a download link so you can get the book on Sunday or anytime after that.

Good luck!


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Ta-Ku Interview and Mixset

Chase: “All right everybody, this is Chase March. We have a very special guest today on the program, all the way from Perth, Australia. Welcome to DOPEfm and The Word is Bond Podcast, Ta-ku.”

Ta-Ku: “Thanks for having me.”

Chase: “It’s definitely nice to get in touch with you. I am sure a lot of people have heard of you, but if not, can you give us a little description of who you are and where you are coming from?”

Ta-Ku: “My name is Ta-Ku, from Perth, Australia, born and raised. I’ve been making beats for about seven years now. I first started in hip-hop production and with the whole beat scene up and running now, I’ve kind of branched out to some electronic stuff as well.

I’ve been featured on a few compilations, releases around the world. I’ve worked with many artists, but just concentrating on my instrumental work now and representing a few labels at the moment, HW&W out in LA, Project Mooncircle out in Germany, Soulection out in San Diego, and Paperchain out in Perth. So, yeah, it’s a good year.”

Chase: “That’s amazing, so you’re doing production for four different labels right now?”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, the labels have been pretty amazing because each is a little different with what kind of music they want from me. It gives me a chance to experiment and be creative.”

Chase: “What made you get in to music production?”

Ta-Ku: “To tell you the truth, I first started deejaying. Well, I say deejyaing, but I guess I was trying to deejay. Mainly collecting records made me listen to more samples. And listening to people like Dilla, Pete Rock, and Premo made me want to have a go at trying to sample a record. It really just sort of evolved from that. Trying to be a DJ, I guess, is how it started.”

Chase: “It’s actually really cool to see more people becoming DJs and getting started with production. It seems like it is now more of an arena than it was in the past. Everyone wanted to be a rapper back when I was coming up and trying to make a name for myself, but now it seems like there are a lot of DJs and producers out there.”

Ta-Ku: “Everyone thinks being a DJ is easy because when you see a DJ, it doesn’t look like they are really doing too much. I was more into the turntalblism, that stuff is really hard. I think beat-making is a lot easier than being a turntablist.”

Chase: “Yeah, I think so too. I used to actually make beats a long time ago, on an Akai X7000. I know some people don’t like to give away their secrets, but would you mind telling us what gear you use?”

Ta-Ku: “It’s pretty minimal. I’m still using software like Fruity Loops and Cool Edit Pro to cut samples but when it gets to synths, I use a lot of soft synths and VSTs. I got a micro Korg that I use quite extensively. That’s pretty much what my set-up is, and it works for me. It’s simple but it’s effective.”

Chase: “That’s cool. I don’t think you necessarily have to have a particular piece of gear, as long as you can make it work. That’s the musicianship, being able to make whatever you have sing.”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, definitely. There are guys out there with great technical abilities who know how to use amazing equipment, and that is just as effective as someone who cuts a record up and chucks it into a sequencer. No matter what you use, whether it is simple or whether it is quite technical, it’s what you really do with what you have, the end product, that really makes it shine.”

Chase: “I definitely agree with that. So you are going to spin for us now, give us some of your dope beats.”

Ta-Ku: “No doubt.”

Chase: “Excellent. So, you get on the wheels there and on your production tip. Everyone listen to this. Ta-ku is going to spin some tunes for the next 45 minutes and we will definitely be back to talk some more with him right after this.”

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

Chase: “All right, you just heard an exclusive mixset from Ta-Ku, excellent producer / beatsmith all the way from Perth, Australia and we are lucky enough to have him on the phone lines.

I know a lot of the music from Australia doesn’t seem to make it’s way to North America, to USA or Canada for some reason.”

Ta-Ku: “The hip-hop music that is made here is really good. It’s different, that’s for sure. I guess because it is different cultures that it doesn’t really translate to the North American hip-hop scene there.

I guess, without offending anyone, I think the Australian hip-hop is slightly behind what people in America or Canada are doing but by no means am I saying it’s less quality. I think, just in regards to the kind of style that Australians are putting out in hip-hop music, it’s just a little bit different to what people are doing in the States.

In saying that, though, there are some really good artists in Australia, both emcees and beatmakers who are really world standard at the moment. And you see them popping up, for instance people like M-Phazes. He’s one of my biggest inspirations. He’s a beatmaker from Melbourne, Australia. He’s world class on the production, so people like that, always peak through.”

Chase: “Yeah, M-Phazes is definitely amazing. You’ve put out quite a few projects and when you do a search for Ta-Ku online, your output is crazy. You have so many releases you can’t even keep track of them all.”

Ta-Ku: “I was actually looking through my Soundcloud the other day and I think I have 103 songs uploaded there and I’ve got about 20-odd releases on my Bandcamp. And I was just thinking that’s too much.”

Chase: “It’s not too much. It’s awesome. I was just listening to you 50 Days for Dilla and you have another project that I looked at for September and it looked like you had a track for every single day of September, you have tracks for 50 Days for Dilla, so is beatmaking something you do every day and you just sometimes tie that in as a theme?”

Ta-Ku: “That’s the thing. Beatmakign for me has always been a hobby even whwen I picked it up. Since I work a 9 to 5, I find it really hard to find time to make beats. And if I don’t set myself a goal or a project to do, my interest in actually making beats weans a little or my creativity dulls down a bit.

September was just an exercise in beatmaking to see how many beats I could make, every day. I only did it for sixteen days in September so I didn’t actually get to complete it because I had some things in my personal life some up.

The 50 Days for Dilla was really an exercise to see if I could set myself a goal to make a Dilla-inspired beat for every day for 50 days. I made it but it wasn’t easy. It was pretty hard. I really had to put work into it every day and night.

But it’s just nice to set yourself a goal and try to keep yourself motivated, especially if you have other commitments in life. You never want to let your creativity die. Being creative is also relaxing and makes life a little bit easier.

50 Days for Dilla was a really fun project. It wasn’t easy, but it was fun.”

Chase: “Yeah, he definitely was a huge talent and it is a shame that the hip-hop world has lost him.”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, and J Dilla’s memory lives on in so many different genres and in so many different musicians around the world. My 50 Days was just as small aspect of how he actually lives on in other people’s music today.”

Chase: “You’ve had a chance to work with quite a few different musicians. Do you have any favourites or any stories, you’d like to share?”

Ta-Ku: “I worked with a few MCs. I’m actually still working with a few MCs because I like to concentrate on doing instrumentals. I guess the biggest story for me was working with Sci High the Prince, who was actually working on G.O.O.D. Music, which is Kanye West’s label.

When I got word that he actually picked a beat of mine for his mixtape, I was pretty geeked and I was really happy they were going to use it. He got in touch with me and sent me a video which showed him in the studio working on the song we did together. That was pretty buzzy for me. It was good to see that group of people tied into Good Music and mainstream hip-hop, to hear my music come out the speakers in the studio, and to know that earlier that day, Sci High said that Kayne was actually in listening to the whole mixtape, made me spin out a lot. It’s amazing what the Internet can do for your music, where it can go, and who can hear it. That’s probably the biggest story I’ve had with collaborations.

Chase: “Speaking of the Internet’s influences there, you should let us know how we can get in touch with you or find out more about Ta-Ku and your amazing beats and the projects that you have going.”

Ta-Ku: “My main spots are Facebook, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp.

Chase: “So what is the main project you are focusing on right now.”

Ta-Ku: “50 Days for Dilla is actually coming out on wax and it is now available on HW&W. I’m very excited to release that on vinyl. Apart from that, I’m just working on my first instrumental LP. I’m just chipping away slowly.”

Chase: “It’s really cool to see people still releasing vinyl. That’s where hip-hop started and to see that culture still come alive. And you like you said before, you started as a DJ and I know you use sample-based production, so you are still big into using vinyl, right?”

Ta-Ku: “As a musician, to have your music on vinyl is the ultimate dream, even audio wise, the quality on vinyl is probably the best you’ll ever get. The sounds are in the grooves on the record. I actually think now the resurgence of people wanting vinyl is coming up a little bit more. It’s always going to have a special place in people’s hearts.”

Chase: “I think it has some staying power, a lot more than some of the other music formats we have.”

Ta-Ku: “Defintely. I mean, CDs are gone. In my opinion, CDs are dead. But with vinyl, it’s just taking that next step where you have the whole sleeve, the whole artwork, 2 LP. It’s more tangable than a CD. It’s something you can open up and hold and collect. And it actually looks cool too.”

Chase: “You online presence is labelled Ta-Ku Got Beats so if there are some MCs out there that want some of your beats, can they buy some from you?”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, definitely. I’ve got a catalogue and normally when MCs hit me up, I send them a catalogue. For those who are serious about collaborating, all they have to do is let me know what beat they want. I’m flexible and always willing to help out starting artists or people who are established. Whatever your budget is, I’m sure we can work something out.”

Chase: “That’s very cool. One of my pet-peeves is all these young up-start artists making mixtapes where that are rapping over someone else’s beats, when there are a lot of producers out there, like yourself, so they could find beats fairly easily enough and do some original stuff.”

Ta-Ku: “That’s my same pet-peeve. I actually had a 13-year-old from New Zealand hit me up. He wrote me a huge email saying this is what he wants to do and his vision. He even said, ‘I’m not sure if you are even going to respond. I was hoping you could hit me up with a beat. I’m only in school now. I have a limited amount of money, but I can work weekends at my dad’s grocery store to help you out.’

I read the whole email and at the end of it, I emailed him back and said, ‘You know what, ‘cause you actually took the effort to get in touch with a beatmaker instead of just jacking someone’s beat, I’ll give you one for free.’ He was pretty geeked about that.

But, you’re right, Chase, Just get off your ass, hop online, and email someone. You don’t have to jack for beats.”

Chase: “That’s such a great story. I’m a teacher so just to hear that a kid reached out to you and that you helped him out is very inspiring. I think hip-hop is such a great art and we should be able to expose the kids to it and have them creating.”

Ta-Ku: “Hip-hop is universal. No matter how old you are, or how young you are, it speaks to everyone. And you could tell it spoke to this kid because of the way he talked about it.

The culture now, the producer is becoming what the deejay was, back in the days. The DJ used to stand behind the MC a lot of the times, but when turntablism got big, they kind of stepped out in front of the MC.

And I think with this beatmaking scene, it’s stressing the importance that whilst you can be a very dope MC, the fact that he saw at 13 that production is very important, and to have a working relationship with a producer is important for an MC. It was pretty impressive to me, seeing he was so young, I was more than happy to help the kid out.

The beat scene is getting pretty big and people are starting to listen to more instrumental hip-hop now too, which is great.”

Chase: “And not just beat tapes for MCs to freestyle over either. It’s an entire genre unto itself now.”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, Dorian Concept, who I went to Red Bull with often said that he used to make beats for MCs but then he got sick of working with them so he made instrumental music and to make sure that no one could rap over them, he made them so busy that no one would even attempt it. ‘Cause he’s a crazy pianist so he would just make this really intricate and amazing beats that MCs would have no room to be on.

I guess what I am trying to say is that producers are becoming more artists themselves now rather than just a co-producer to a track.”

Chase: “Which is awesome to see. A lot of people I talk to don’t even think that rap is really an art but there is a lot of musicianship to it. I always feel like I have to emphasize that and say, ‘You know what, we’re musicians too!’”

Ta-Ku: “Yeah, you’re right. When you look at the difference between rock music and hip-hop music, people always say there is more intricacy and more technical ability when you make rock music. And whilst is some cases, it may be true, people like Slo-Mo who connect hip-hop into the more indy-folk-rock world, they are starting to see that it’s not just drums, bass, and a sample. It’s actually more.

To sample a record is just as technical as knowing how to play guitar. Not everyone can do it.”

Chase: “Very true! Producers can totally chop up and make a sample completely unrecognizable and do all sorts of creative things with it. It absolutely blows my mind what they can do with it. I wish more people could see the talent behind it.”

Ta-Ku: “That’s what’s really inspiring, when people like Premo or Dilla can take five to ten seconds of a five minute song and recreate an entirely new song that sounds entirely different, which flips up the original composition entirely. I think that’s what really amazes me.”

Chase: “It has been a pleasure talking to. Thanks so much for coming on the radio and on the podcast.”

Ta-Ku: “Thanks so much for having me. Big respect to DOPEfm and The Word is Bond. Much love and all my support goes to them.”

That concludes the transcript of this interview. You can listen to the entire interview and hear the exclusive mixset Ta-Ku laid down for us with the player above. You can also download this podcast for free to play it over and over again whenever you like.

Thanks for tuning in!

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An Interview with the Author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Conducting Music

Chase: “All right everybody, this is Chase March. I am talking to the author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Conducting Music, Michael Miller. How’s it going, Michael?”

Michael: “I’m doing fine, Chase. Good to be with you.”

Chase: “You’ve written a good book. It’s something that a lot of music teachers could use, especially novice music teachers. I’m a musician and it’s simple enough to conduct a common beat time, 4/4 time, but I wanted to get your book to see a little bit more of what conductors have to do. You’ve divided the book up into five sections; behind the scenes, basic skills, interpretation and expression, different types of conducting, and finally you have some interviews with famous conductors.”

Michael: “Yeah, the interviews were the fun part of the book for me. I got to talk to conductors who conduct different types of things, whether that’s Broadway musicals, Hollywood soundtracks, choirs, or orchestras. The conducting job really changes a lot depending on who you’re conducting.”

Chase: “For sure, but it all starts from the same, basic principles. Your first part of the job is, ‘What makes a great conductor?’ Could you answer that question for us? I know it’s in the book, but briefly for everyone listening right now. What does a great conductor have to do?”

Michael: “You’ve got a couple different levels you have to operate on and those levels actually change depending on the type of performers you are conducting. At the most basic, the conductor has to set the tempo and keep the ensemble on the beat. The most basic stuff is the beat patterns. But beyond that, the conductor helps the musicians. So, if you are conducting an ensemble of younger players, let’s say a high school ensemble, they will need a lot more help than if you are conducting a professional symphonic orchestra.

The younger players will need help knowing when to come in, knowing their cures, tough rhythms, and that sort of thing. Wo, while you are keeping the beat, you’ve got to help these players do what they need to do. If you’re dealing with more experienced players, you probably need to do less of that because they know how to do it already.

In most types of music, the conductor can really help shape the performance, the end sound of the piece. This is done primarily in rehearsal. Your prep them to do that so when you get to the performance, they’re doing it. This is why when you listen to orchestra performances of a single piece of music, take New World Symphony or Beethoven’s 9th or whatever. You can listen to three different recordings from three different orchestras and they will sound different. They’ll have different energy levels, and dynamic levels, and tempos. All of that is set by the conductor. The conductor really does shape the overall sound and performance of the piece.”

Chase: “In the book, you talk about how we need a band in front of us to practise our craft. But you also suggest that we can do that by conducting as we are listening to a piece of music. You suggest on page 31, ‘Instead of listening to a single recording five times, listen to five recordings one time each. This approach also helps you get a feel for the various interpretations possible.’

Michael: “Definitely. Different conductors approach things different ways. You can get radically different or subtly different interpretations. These days there are a lot of orchestral and choir performances on YouTube, so you can see some classic conductors doing there thing and get a sense of how they are approaching it differently from others.”

Chase: “That’s another neat thing about your book, too, because there are certain points throughout the book that you direct us to your website to find out more.”

Michael: “Conducting is something you can talk about, and of course, I do, but a lot of it you have to see. Obviously, we have diagrams of the different beat patterns, but I also created a series of videos showing how you conduct the various beat patterns.”

Chase: “I just got a music job. I’m an elementary teacher so I’ve always done choirs, but for the first time this year, I am going to be doing Grade 7/8 band. That’s the first time the kids get their instruments. It’s brand new. So reading your book has been homework for me, to help me figure out what I am going to be doing this year because this it is a new experience.”

Michael: “So much of what a conductor does is not the conducting. The conducting during the performance is maybe 20% of the job. The majority of the job is prepping for that, primarily in rehearsals, especially in youth and student ensembles. You’ll have issues well beyond playing a piece of music.

If you are dealing with 7th and 8th Grade band, you’ve got intonation issues to deal with. A big part of the job is getting the clarinet section to sound like one section as opposed to ten folks all playing different notes. I’m not putting down the musicians at all. At that age, they are learning. And one of the things they are learning is how to play together as a group. That’s job number one for the conductor.

All of the conductors I interviewed in the book said, ‘No matter what level you are at, you’re a teacher.’ Even when you are dealing with professionals, you are teaching them the way you want it performed. When you are dealing with younger performers you are even teaching them the instrument and how it should be played. And that is one of the most rewarding things about being a conductor, as you are teaching when they ‘get it.’ That moment when it all comes together for the first time is one of the most rewarding things a conductor can do.”

Chase: “The Manny Laureano interview was pretty eye-opening for me. On page pg 136 of your book, he says,

‘assign homework every week. . . I told the kids, ‘You need to practice. You need to practice. You need to practice.’
Well, the problem was, and I didn’t see it until the end, that the piece is just so gigantic. You tell them to practise but they need
to know where, what, what do I do?”

Michael: “You really have to give them explicit directions, especially with younger musicians, but even if you are conducting a community choir, you have kind of the same issues. You’ll have people who don’t go home and practise three hours a day because they just don’t have the time for that. To me, that’s one of the fun parts of the book, and one of the most useful, is being able to interview guys like Manny.

A little background on Manny. He is the principle trumpet player here in the Minneapolis Orchestra, but he also is the conductor and leader of the Minneapolis Youth Symphony, so he gets to see conducting both from being a player and being a conductor. He’s played under some of the most famous conductors in the world, but on the next day, he goes and conducts the Youth Symphony. He gets to see it from both sides, so he knows what works and what doesn’t.”

Chase: “That’s very cool. I learned a lot from this book. I played the French Horn starting in middle school. I played it all the way through high school, and then in the army’s marching band. One thing I found interesting though is how not only you, but some of the conductors you interviewed, mention how you should mark up your own piece of music so you can remember certain things. I’ve never done that.”

Michael: “It really helps. Even if it’s just a matter of saying, here is something difficult, look up, here’s a key change, here’s a tempo change. Just as you would expect musicians to mark up their music for difficult passages, the conductor should do the same. Depending on the pieces you are conducting, there is a lot of homework involved in being a conductor. Some of the conductors say, if there are prepping a major piece for a professional choir or orchestra, they will do months of preparation in advance before they ever step in front of the orchestra. They learn the history of the piece, when it was written, and what the performance standards were then, to really get inside the mind of the composer so when they do step in front of the ensemble, they’ve got it all down, right from day one.”

Chase: “They do that, as you say in the book, using coloured pencils to mark different sections. For example, red for cueing, green for dynamics, and things like that. And if you use the same colour all the time, your brain gets used to it and it’s a lot easier for you to recognize, over time, what you have to do with each piece.”

Michael: “I think that’s a great tip because a conductor is doing so much. At the most basic level you are setting the tone and keeping the beat, like a human metronome. But beyond that, think about it. You’re dealing with dynamics, rhythm, solo passages, groups passages, tempo changes. You’re dealing with all these things. And in front of an orchestra, you are dealing with a hundred different people with a hundred instruments in front of you. You’ve got the most complex job of the whole group, trying to corral all this stuff, so the easier you can make it on yourself, the colour-coded marking up section being an example. the easier the whole ordeal will be.”

Chase: “That’s amazing. I didn’t realize there was so much prep work. I thought a lot of it might have been sight reading and learning a piece though multiple run-throughs. But a lot of it is the homework you do beforehand so you can be comfortable with a piece to know how it sounds and know when people need to come in.”

Michael: “Yeah, because they are relying on you. You’re the boss. You’re the leader. Especially with student ensembles and younger players. They’re really relying on you. You’ve got to know your stuff. You can’t rely on them. I guess if you are working with a professional symphony, any fool could stand up there and wave there arms because the musicians know what they are doing so well that they could probably play blind. But any other type of ensemble, they depend on you. You’re the leader.

In terms of the prep work, that does differ on the type of work you are doing. In one of the chapters toward the end of the book, I interviewed a couple of guys who conduct movie orchestras for movie soundtracks. One of the things that fascinated me there was how little prep work they have. They are on such a tight schedule. Making a movie is such a condensed thing, especially at the end. The music always comes at the end, after the movie has been cut.

You might have the composer compose the music one day, have it sent to an orchestrator the next day, then have it sent to a copyist the next day, and the fourth day you are in front of the orchestra recording. A lot of the guys I interviewed said they were lucky if they go the music the night before to look at. So, in a lot of these cases, the Hollywood conductors are sight reading along with the musicians to try and get it down on tape for what we see in the movie theatres.”

Chase: “I couldn’t believe that when I read it. There is so much time given to writing of the screenplay and casting it, so why do they just make the music come in the last thirty seconds as quickly as they can. That seems really strange to me. Music is such an integral piece of the whole thing.”

Michael: “It does come down to the very end. They’ve filmed the movie, they’ve edited it, they’ve cut it, everyone has been there and then they add the music. It literally is the last thing that goes on, and they’ve got a firm release date of when it goes on. That’s the way it works. A lot of times, you’re recording music which has only been copied the night before. If that.”

Chase: “That’s crazy. I can also appreciate the Tim Davies interview because he mentions the French Horns, in particular, a couple times there. I think that’s an instrument that is often over-looked. When I was at the interview for the job I just got, I asked them if they had a French Horn and they said, ‘No.’ It seems like, ‘We don’t need a French Horn.’ That’s crazy to me. It’s such a lovely instrument.”

Michael: “Well, as you know, it’s a difficult instrument to play, or to play well anyway. If you have a good French Horn player, it’s a wonderful sound. With a bunch of seventh graders, it can be horrible sometimes. It’s an instrument that is difficult to master, but when it’s mastered, it’s a great instrument.”

Chase: “I definitely agree.”

That concludes the first half of the interview I did with Michael Miller, author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Conducting Music. Please come back tomorrow to read the rest of the transcript. You can also download the entire show to listen to whenever you like, or stream it with the player below. Thanks for tuning in. See you tomorrow.

Read Part 2

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A Music Man’s Encore (An Interview with author Rick Niece)

Today, we continue the interview I did with author Rick D. Niece. His latest book The Band Plays On: Going Home for a Music Man’s Encore is now available at bookstores everywhere.

If you missed Part 1, you can go back and read the transcript from the very beginning.

Chase: “Your father sounds like an amazing man. I know that he was in the military, he was an educator, he painted houses in the summer, he conducted the church choir, and he even started a bowling alley because you didn’t have one in your small town.”

Rick: “My dad never liked any idle time. He decided that the town needed a bowling alley. It was called The Duck Inn. He ran that for about five or six years. It was a good experience too. We didn’t have automatic pin-setters. We teenagers would jump down in the pits and set the pins and get up out of the way after the person had bowled. My dad continues to be such an amazing role model for me.

Part of the theme too, Chase, and you probably picked this up, is the theme of echoes. The introduction talks about a specific Memorial Day when the band marched to our hometown cemetery. We always ended every concert with John Philip Sousa’s ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’ But then, there was a point near the end of the ceremony when I would leave the ranks of the band and go over to the single hill in the cemetery. My dad would play ‘Taps’ in front of the veterans who were under a canopy tent. At the time. there were still World War I Veterans alive, Over the hill, I would play the echo.

I can remember, as a little kid, how nervous I was. I would just pace little boy circles as my dad was playing. My dad always played perfectly and the title of that chapter is called ‘Echoes can Make No Mistakes.’ That idea that I’m his echo and I can’t make any mistakes.
I think that my whole life, I have been my father’s echo, not that I can’t make mistakes, but I like being his echo because what I echo, then, are also remnants of his echo. Part of the theme of the book is generational as well and how the echoes are so important and that we need to listen to them and sponge them up. We, in time, become the echoes for the generation prior.”
Chase: “That’s really touching, but at the same time, did you ever feel that you were trapped in the shadow of this great man and it would be hard for you to live up?”
Rick: “This is something that I don’t think I’ve told many other people before, so you get a scoop on it. Two things to answer your question. Number 1, I fought going in to education because I knew I could never be as good a teacher as my dad. It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year in college that I decided that I wanted to teach. The thing I haven’t told many people is that I started college as a music major.
I went to Ohio State University, tried out for the marching band there, I was an alternate and really ended up being in the Grey Band. They had a Scarlet band with people who were primarily music majors and really tough to compete with. So I wasn’t as great as I thought I was and ended up in the Grey Band. I realized then, I had the passion for music that you have, but I didn’t think I had that passion to teach it, so I ended up being an English major and teaching English.
My dad was so revered and so respected, that there was a shadow. This is in no way to sound negative. It was not negative. But I decided I could be a good teacher and really learn from my dad. If there was one lesson that I learned from my dad about teaching, and it’s the simplest lesson. You’ve been an educator for nine years, you’ll know exactly what I’m saying because I think some people forget this lesson, is that students always come first.
Students are the purpose for schools and education. Chase, I’m amazed at how many people, including teachers, forget that.”
Chase: “I understand that, but I also understand that there is a bit of a battle going on against teachers. Right now in Ontario, the government is trying to take away some of our gains.
I totally agree with you, but at the same time, teachers overall, especially elementary school teachers are kind of looked down upon, like we are not important. I think we really need to give our teachers more. We need to give them the tools to do the job and make sure that we can put them first, so in turn, we can put students first. I know that sounds complicated but it’s not.”
Rick: “I’m the president of a university. Faculty members have a great job but I think we forget that it’s not a hierarchy. It isn’t vertical with the kindergarten teacher at the bottom and a full-tenured professor is at the top. It’s not vertical. We all play our parts on a student’s education on a horizontal plane. Every one of those teachers is important, but if you don’t have the resources and build at the second or third grade, it becomes difficult as students progress.
I’m also amazed that teaching is such hard work. You’re tired at the end of the day, and then you go home and prepare for the next day, you prepare lessons, and you grade papers. I’m not complaining about it, not at all. I just don’t think people realize how difficult it is to be a teacher.
Part of what I want in this series of books, is to try to get people to understand how important our education is, that it follows us, and that teachers do amazing work.

When I was a kid, being raised in a small town in Ohio, I had four support systems that were watching out for me all the time. I had my family. I had my school. I had my church. And I had my small town community, that in a sense was like a second set of parents. Unfortunately, there are some kids today who don’t have any of those, and it becomes all the more important for us as educators to try and provide all those things for students.

And I’m guessing that’s what wears you out as well as the students come in with such a variety of needs, and sometimes the only place they get that need is in your classroom.
Chase: “That’s what’s nice about this series of books because it focuses on small town life. It’s cliche to say, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ but I think we do need strong communities of like-minded individuals and whether it’s a small town, a school, an extra-curricular activity, or whether it’s Boy Scouts or Girl Guides, the youth really need things like that. We need to create a culture where they can feel safe in our own classrooms and in our bigger circles of what we do extra-curricular as well.”
Rick: “I absolutely agree. You’ve probably got some elementary school kids that have experienced things that we never did until we reached high school or maybe even now. In terms of family situations or home situations or need situations. It’s a different time.
One of the things I tried to do is capture that, not only for people like me who lived through it but also for people who didn’t know a time like that existed.”
Chase: “Some of the stories in here people might not be able to relate to, but we can think back of how that might have been. I would have no idea what a bowling alley would be like without automatic pin-setters and having to stand back there with pins flying up, getting hit on the shins, and doing that kind of a part-time job.
You also have a nice scene about the movie theatre. . .
Today, a small box of movie popcorn costs more than it used to cost to take a date to The Roxy and buy the whole refreshment works.
Rick: “Yeah, and there’s one part about the variety store we had downtown. I was about five years old and hadn’t realized that I’d stolen this candy bar but somehow I had it and hadn’t paid for it. Those were five cent candy bars that were much bigger than the bars that cost at least a dollar now. I don’t mean to sound like an old fogey, but that was a time of innocence.
In book one, Side-Yard Superhero, I wrote about my paper route. I was speaking to a college class last February and my wife was with me and I said, ‘I was a paperboy.’ And, she seldom interrupts me but she did and said that I needed to explain to them what a paperboy was. I hadn’t thought about that, that most of them wouldn’t have the concept of someone riding a bicycle and delivering papers to houses.
Chase: “Yeah, that’s really changed. We still had paperboys when I was a kid but now older people deliver the papers because you get them really early in the morning instead of after school.”
Rick: “And I think there are a lot of kids who wouldn’t want to deliver papers. But that was one of my life’s best lessons because if you had a paper route, you had people who depended on you getting than paper to them, you had responsibility, you had fiscal responsibility because you had to collect so much money because you had to pay the paper for the newspapers for that week. Plus it really taught me how to deal with people, some who were difficult. It taught me how to treat customers and how to treat people and that has followed me into being a university president.
I have a strong belief in servant leadership and being a servant leader, which means you’re not embarrassed to be seen carrying a chair or anything like that. In our workroom here at the university we have coffee, hot chocolate and tea. Anybody can come in and get a cup of coffee for free. Students come in and it breaks down that pretense of the president’s office and students.
The kids see me making a cup of coffee for them. That’s a good thing. The idea of being a servant leader is not beneath anybody.
Chase: “I agree with that as well. I find myself agreeing with you a lot today.”
Rick: “Even though the book wasn’t quite what you though it would be, at least you agree with the author.”
Chase: “I love the concept  of it but I was expecting more than a small town story, which I think would appeal to a lot of people. You are going home for a specific purpose but as you are doing that you are remembering your childhood and sharing these stories, while at the same time, celebrating the town of DeGraff and honouring your dad. It really is a sweet story that I think a lot of people will enjoy. You don’t need to be an educator or a musician, like we both are, to appreciate that.”
Rick: “My website is RickNieceBooks.com. The books are available at any bookstores or online retailers. They are books that grandparents wouldn’t be embarrassed to give to grandchildren or vice versa. The content is something they can share and enjoy.”
Chase: “There’s a mini-photo album in the back of the book entitled ‘Captured Memories’ and they can see pictures of the high school band from back in the day, they can see you as a Cub Scout beside your dad in his Bandmaster’s uniform-“
Rick: “And I’m kind of in my dad’s shadow there to go back to what you had said earlier. It’s interesting.”
Chase: “It certainly is. We call also see the Alumni Band uniforms. You all had t-shirts that read ‘Lewie’s Alumni Band’ and on the back it had the year you graduated.”
Rick: “I still have my shirt. That’s a very valuable thing for me.”
Chase: “The book is called The Band Plays On: Going Home for a Music Man’s Encore and we’ve been talking to the author Rick D. Niece. It’s been very nice talking to you.”
Rick: “I tell you what, Chase, I’ve done a lot of interviews. I don’t know if I’ve had one that I’ve enjoyed more than this, on two levels. Number one, I really appreciate your honesty. That means a lot to me as a writer. Number two, how I know you’re continuing to have your passion for music, your passion for teaching and education. You are instilling that in your students every day. And to know what a difference you are making with your class. Some day there are going to be students talking about you saying, ‘Remember him? And remember what a difference he made in our lives?”
Chase: “Thanks a lot. That’s really nice to say.”
Rick: “It’s been such a joy talking to you. And good luck with your writing.”
Chase: “Thanks, send my love to your dad.”
Rick: “I will relay what you said about him and what a delightful time I had talking with you.”

* there are a few parts of this interview that I have not transcribed (due to some time constraints) so if you listen to the interview with the player below, you will hear bonus content. You can also download the podcast for free. I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview, my very first one with an author. * 

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

DOPEfm’s Women in Hip-Hop Roundtable Concludes

Chase: “All right, DOPEfm, we are celebrating International Women’s Day. This is Chase March on the microphone, Gamma Krush is hiding in the shadows, and Daddy J is on the boards.

We are lucky enough to have some lovely ladies in our studio today. We have Our Sis Sam representing the behind the scenes hip-hop promotion. And representing the microphone, we’ve got Lady A.S.G., Kool Krys, and we’ve got Nilla. Really nice to have you on the program.

We’ve covered a lot of topics so far. If you missed any of it, you can download the entire roundtable discussion or stream it with the player below, or go back to the beginning and read the transcript from the very start.
International Women’s Day is March 8th every year and this is our special tribute to recognize the achievements of women within hip-hop music and culture. Let’s talk about Judith Butler. She’s a feminist theorist and author and she looks at how we talk, act, and dress. She has a theory called performativity, basically it means that we agree to certain gender roles and everything we do is performing.
So for me. what it means to be a man is agreed upon most of us who carry out this fiction of manhood, which sets up an artificial binary between the genders. Hip-hop reinforces this binary with its over the top imagery. It’s a vicious cycle that we probably need to break, or at least call attention to so that men can stop painting the feminine as something undesirable and thus break the artificial binary between the genders. That’s the gist of an article I wrote entitled ‘Redefining What It Means to be a Man in Hip-Hop.’ I wanted to see your take on that now that we have some females representing hip-hop here.”
Kool Krys: “I’m also a scholar, who studied sociology in university. I definitely believe in a stereotype threat, which means when you are fixed into a category, you feel a certain pressure to act the way that you think people perceive you. So maybe there is something to be said about how that translates to being a women in hip-hop, even if you don’t like to be called a femcee, you still might take on a role where you want to emphasize your sexual appeal or stereotypical feminine approaches, whether it’s becoming a feminist on the mic or hyper-sexual. There are so many different ways we can go. That stereotype threat does loom over female performers in general.”
Nilla: “Most definitely, but regardless of my music or my expression, every day I dress different. I dress according to how I feel. So today I was feeling like wearing my hat, hoodie, and kicks. And tomorrow I might put some heels on, slick my hair back, and wear a long, nice jacket. I think women have more of an ability to challenge those perceptions, but more so, express yourself on a daily. Some days I do want to wear a skirt and some days I don’t.”
Kool Krys: “I recently did a song called ‘Show Stopper’ and I really wanted to encompass all the different forms women take on, whether it is the powerful office women, a dancer, a rapper, or a videographer. I collected a beautiful group of women, all from different backgrounds, sizes, and ages. I’ve never seen so many outfit changes in one day, but we really encompassed the beauty. At the end of the shoot, it was so amazing to see all these different girls grinding in so many different ways but coming together. It was one of the best things I ever experienced.”
Chase: “That’s awesome. I’m a teacher and a DJ and a rappers and sometimes when I tell the kids that, they’re like, ‘Woah, you don’t dress like a rapper.’ I think it’s important for teachers to model a professional level of dress so I regularly wear a tie to work.”
Nilla: “I can speak to that, ‘You don’t look like a rapper.’ I get that a lot because I show up looking like me and people don’t think I do that. For example, my given name is Galyn Esmé and people can’t remember that or say it properly so people call me G and they say, ‘Yo, what up G? You rap? What are you a rapper?’ and when I say I am, they’re like, ‘What?’”
Lady A.S.G: “Bust a freestyle.”
Nilla: “Yeah, ‘Kick a free. Kick a free, and it goes on from there. I think it’s important to challenge people’s perceptions on that. I remember rocking open mics and going in sweater vests and knee-high socks and getting up there and they think I’m going to be singing Kumbayah and I drop 16 bars on them and they don’t know what to do. I like that though. That’s like my ace in my pocket and I use it to my advantage. I can’t speak for any of the other ladies here. I just think no matter what your job is, whether you are a powerful business suit-wearer, to challenge people’s perceptions. In today’s day you can be something different by day and something different by night, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t both of those things.”
Kool Krys: “That’s my life. I have to wear two different outfits all the time.”
Our Sis Sam: “Most women have to wear multiple hats no matter what.”
Chase: “I have about 17 different hats and I’m not talking about the physical hats because I have about 300 of those. I love hats.”
Nilla: “Me too.”
Lady A.S.G: “For me it’s shoes.”
Nilla: “See, Lady A.S.G. doesn’t consider herself very girly and yet she has this affinity for shoes.”
Lady A.S.G: “I just can’t afford them.”
Nilla: “Stereotypically they’d say that’s a women thing but men really flip it too. They have whole rooms dedicated to shows in boxes in pristine condition.”
Lady A.S.G: “I have to say one thing about women and shopping. I think it’s embedded in our DNA because our role as women through the ages was to nurture and gather so we gather all these things and we want to show it off. It’s a role that we cannot break but we must embrace and use it to work for us.”
Chase: “Has anyone seen the hip-hop documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes?”
Lady A.S.G: “Yes.”
Chase: “I really love that film. It’s by Byron Hurt and there’s an amazing quote from Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. He say, “The greatest insult that a man can imagine for another man is to assume that he’s less than a man and to assign him the very derogatory terms that one usually associates with women. The insult is double. It’s both an assault on women but its also a reinforcement of a negative and malicious form of masculine identity.’ We hear these male voices all the time and that’s why we put together this female roundtable. I don’t know how we can fix the problem of masculine identity that paints the feminine as negative. So I want to talk about positives and what we can do here as DJs on DOPEfm and what you do as party promoters and MCs.”
Kool Krys: “Who’s been to Rock the Bells? One of the best things I ever heard on stage there, because there aren’t a lot of female MCs that get invited to perform there, there have been some but they can do much better there. Krs-One was talking about how his wife developed this mantra of L.A.D.Y which is ‘Love and develop yourself’ and he was really advocating for women to see themselves as performers and follow their dreams. I found that very empowering being that he is an educator and very respected amongst scholars and music lovers. I think men do have an influence in having such a positive message.”
Chase: “Speaking of Rock the Bells, we have Money Stax on later and she played Rock the Bells in Dallas with her group, Viscous Cycle. So there are some female artists opening for big name artists and at major venues, but they are very few and far between.
Murs was speaking about this very topic and he addressed why there weren’t more women at Rock The Bells. He said, ‘You can expect a woman to feel comfortable being in an art that is so degrading. It’s so misogynistic. It’s an awful music if you’re a woman and you have any sort of self-respect. You have to have a lot of self-respect, you have to be borderline obsessed with yourself to be an MC because it’s me. me. me. But if every song you ever heard growing up is ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit.’ it’s hard for that woman to grow up and want to take the stage and have the confidence. Everyone says they seem a little less confident, of course they do because you beat them over the head with how worthless they are and then say ‘Here’s a mic, you can try and do what we do.’”
Kool Krys: “Who headlined Rock the Bells last year?”
Chase March: “Lauryn Hill.”
Nilla: “And then she gave a tragic performance and everyone remembered it as a tragic performance instead of evaluating what had brought her to that level. In terms of changing it up a little bit, I work with young girls and young boys to empower them. Big up to Queen Cee, in Hamilton, doing her Be-You-tiful Girls Club and putting together When Sisters Get Together and totally pushing that idea of solidarity and oneness and unified fronts to gain a better understanding of self and identity and strength and confidence and self-esteem.
I’m also an artist educator so when I go into schools and communities I try to, in a non-cheesy way but in a relatable way, because they will spot that from a mile away, just to take note of who you are and to feel good about yourself. If I sit here and I pay attention to the degradation of women in hip-hop, I’m not going to be focusing on what my strengths are or what my gift to hip-hop is or to myself. If I take on all these negative attributes of hip-hop then I’m not going to switch anything, I’m not going to change the game. But if I walk in like I’m not paying attention to these factors and I’m just doing me in a positive way and I’m trying to give back and educate the community in a positive way, then I feel good. My humanitarianism is satisfied. I’m ensuring the future of women, the future of the youth and these communities have at least heard somebody tell them there’s a different way. That’s how I’m trying to affect change, through my lyrics and my teaching.”
Our Sis Sam: “Even for myself, running Steel Gold, a monthly hip-hop show here in Hamilton at the Casbah. I run a Facebook page as well and one of my rules is that any negative or derogatory content or postings or comments will be deleted. If you post a track that has negative derogatory content it will not be kept on the page. And even in the environment I try to hone in the Steel Gold scene. it’s conscious, it’s love, it’s peace, it’s the roots of hip-hop and everything that was ever good in hip-hop when it started and in embracing the elements of hip-hop. Both Nilla and I have participated in Be-You-tiful Girls Club with Queen cee and When Sisters Get Together and I tagged her when that whole Chris Brown and Rihanna thing had come up and we saw all those girls posted how Chris Brown could beat them anytime he wanted. This is why the work we do is so important.
It’s so essential that we keep doing this. Being the change that we want to see in the world and starting with addressing and putting a spotlight on things. When you see brothers using the words ‘bitch’ or ‘hoe’ and correcting them and asking them if they can use better terms or words to describe the type of person they are trying to describe. Or questioning youths and fully grown adults with the way they are thinking and conducting themselves, or creating positive actions and vibrations through ourselves. That’s where it’s all gonna start. It’s gonna start with us and when we create that vibration, hopefully it carries through in our societies and immediate ciphers
Chase: “Yeah, language is very powerful and I don’t think we actually dwell on that, or contemplate it, or reflect on it enough. I remember a long time ago when Queen Latifah came out with ‘U.N.I.T.Y.’ The first time I saw that on Much Music and the chorus didn’t blank out the word bitch, ‘Who you calling a bitch?’ I thought it was awesome and it would wake a lot of people up. But even now, I still hear that word so many times a day, but only through the music I listen to. With the company I keep, nobody is saying it, but I keep hearing it over my speakers and headphones. And you think, this is the message kids are getting, every day they are hearing this.”
Our Sis Sam: “I think one of the worst things that happened was when media accepted the term ‘bitch’ and would no longer ban it from TV shows and radios and it was accepted. And now they say it all the time. It’s just like, really?”
Chase: “I didn’t know they did that. I thought when they did that with the Queen Latifah song, I thought it was an exception to prove the point that she was saying.”
Nilla: “It was at that time because it was years later that they decriminalized the word.”
Our Sis Sam: “I think that was in the late 90s.”
Kool Krys: “It comes down to education. You can’t shield children from what’s out there. You just have to teach them what self-respect is, and if they respect themselves, it’s much easier for them to respect the women in their lives. So I’m not just saying that it has to be men that respect women, it has to be women that respect women.”
Lady A.S.G: “We have to respect ourselves first and foremost because if we show no respect for ourselves, how do we show respect for others?”
Nilla: “I take that into huge consideration with my artistry and what I’m putting out there because I believe in what Lauryn Hill says, ‘What you through out comes back to you, Star. Karma, karma. karma come back to you hard.’ I have a line too, ‘I want boys to become men and girls to feel strength from within and I want them both to recognize we’re in the same game to win.’
It goes back to gender issues, like you said before. ‘You throw like a girl.’ Well that girl threw pretty far. It is just about education like Krys is saying. We need to practise what we preach and be true to ourselves like Lady A.S.G is saying right here. That’s the change. That’s the root. You gotta be the change you want to see.
If this is what we all believe in and we are being true to ourselves, that’s going to come out in all aspects of our art and our business and how we conduct ourselves in our homes, on the stage, and in the street, on the streets, ya know?”
Chase: “You know what’s hilarious? We keep talking about education and I’m a teacher. I’m an elementary school teacher and here’s a funny story. I’m supply teaching right now so I’m in different classrooms every day and I will say ‘Girls and Boys’ instead of ‘Boys and Girls’ and sometimes saying that in a Grade 1 classroom, the boys will stand up and say, ‘No, it’s boys and girls.’ They’ve never heard someone put ladies first before. And I’ll say, ‘We can put girls first sometimes, why does it always have to be boys first?”
Nilla; “Chivalry ain’t dead.”
Kool Krys: “That’s interesting.”
Chase: “Some classes I do that for don’t get it and they’ll argue with me about it. There is so much to be conscious of with what words we use.”
Lady A.S.G: “That’s the thing with the English language, one word can have so many meanings.”
Our Sis Sam: “I think in any language, right? That’s why when people ask me what my ethnic group is. I’ve lived in five different countries, so I always say, ‘I’m a child of the world’ or what’s your religion, ‘I am’ and I don’t finish it. Don’t use any labels to define you, just be.
And if everybody comes to that one state of being and acceptance of whatever it is that you are claiming or not claiming or whatever you are, you’re not going run into those dilemmas. It’s acceptance of self, and through that, acceptance of one another regardless of what it is.
Chase: “Hear that silence. That’s because that’s the closing thought right there. That’s brilliant. This has been amazing. It’s been so awesome having you in the studio today for DOPEfm’s International Women’s Day Roundtable Discussion. So let’s just go through the panel right now with any last thoughts.
Kool Krys: “How ya doing ladies? I just have one last thought. The power in your head exceeds all limits. That’s one of my lines, so keep doing your thing girls, whether it’s rapping or just being yourself.”
Lady A.S.G: “My closing thought, is to give a big shout out and warm hug to all you lovely ladies out there, Keep doing your thing and believe in yourself because I believe in you.”
Nilla: “In closing, I’d like to say to all the men and all the women, stay true to yourself. Much respect to everyone who is on a higher level of understanding and compassion and pressing forward, willing to change the game. Stay courageous and stay brave. Peace!”
Chase: ‘That’s amazing. Thanks a lot everyone for being part of this. Daddy J has been behind the boards, running the show all night long. Gamma Krush is in the studio here, he’s going to be spinning for you in a second. This is Chase March on the microphone.
This is historic. This has been DOPEfm’s coverage for International Women’s Day. It’s an annual event where we spend all seven hours of our programming to the Women in Hip-Hop. Thanks for tuning in, we’re only getting started here and thanks to all the panelists. This has been amazing.” 

Maestro Fresh Wes (Red Carpet Interview)

The red carpet was hectic at the 2011 Stylus DJ Awards this year. We had some technical difficultlies but managed to talk to a dozen artists, including the legend, Wes Williams, better known as Maestro Fresh Wes. Here is a transcript of the interview.

Chase: “Talk to Hamilton, Maestro.”

Maestro: “Steel City!”

Chase: “This is Chase March and Daddy J from DOPEfm. We’re really honoured to talk to you because we wouldn’t even have a scene without you man. You put Canadian hip-hop on the map.”

Maestro: “I’m continuing to do my thing, supporting the DJs, and I’m about release a brand new single.”

Chase: “It’s so cool to see that you are still doing your thing. I got the mixtape celebrating your twenty years in the game. It was called 20 / 20 – twenty years with twenty classic joints on it.”

One of your biggest hits was ‘Stick to Your Vision.’

Chase: “We just talked to the producer of that track, 2 Rude.”

Maestro: “Yeah, 2 Rude is here. Just seen him.”

Chase: “You’ve been doing a lot of things. You just wrote a book recently as well.”

Maestro: “The book is called, ‘Stick to Your Vision.’ It’s from Random House Publishing and it just went into paperback. I’m really excited about that. I’m working on a brand new album too. Things are happening. My foundation is hip-hop, and the foundation of hip-hop is deejaying. Rakim said, back in the days, that he was gonna nominate his DJ for president.”

Chase: “That’s why is really nice to see these Stylus DJ Awards. It’s nice to see them honouring someone who truly deserves it, like yourself. But, it’s also nice to have this focus on the DJs and the producers because they often don’t get a lot of shine. The guy on the microphone gets most of the shine.

As far as hip-hop legends go, sometimes they lose their appeal to a younger generation but I don’t think that has happened with you. You have a whole bunch of new fans just from the work that you’ve done with Classified.”

Maestro: “There are always peaks and valleys, no matter what. And now that I’m working on a brand new album, it’s like I’m reintroducing to a lot of fans.”

Chase: “I think in some ways, it will be a reintroduction. But I’ve got students in my class who are big fans of Classified and they love ‘Hard to Be Hip-Hop.’ That song is amazing, and the video is really cool too. I love what you guys do in that.”

Maestro: “Thank you. I hope you like the new single too.”

Chase: “I’ll definitely be checking for that. I always check for you. Maestro Fresh Wes, a legend in Canadian hip-hop. Thanks, man. Peace!”

Grafh (Red Carpet Interview)

Chase: “Yo, Grafh! DOPEfm radio. We got Chase March and Daddy J here. How’s it going, man?”

Grafh: “Just enjoying the festivities.”

Chase: “So what does this award show mean to you?”

Grafh: “I think it’s pretty dope. Anything highlighting the DJ is always a big deal. DJs paved the platform for artists like me to get busy and say what I got to say to the world. It’s beautiful.”

Chase: “For sure. Hip-hop started with the DJ.”

Grafh: “People forget that sometimes.”

Chase: “A lot of people forget. That is where it all started. It’s really great to see this celebration of, not just the artists, but everything that goes with the music.”

Grafh: “It’s a beautiful thing. I came all the way from New York just to be a part of it.”

Chase: “There are producers here, MCs, even some hockey players. We have some New York Rangers in the house. People are showing love. It’s definitely the place to be tonight.”

Grafh: “I’m hyped.”

Chase: “So what are you working on right now?”

Grafh: “I created a whole album right here in Toronto. It’s pretty dope. It’s called “The Rule.” It’s all Canadian produced.”

Chase: “Very cool.”

Grafh: “Check out the new website – grafhonline.com

Chase: “All right! Will do. Thanks a lot.”