Gamma Krush and I interviewed SoulStice this past weekend for Dope FM on 93.3 CFMU on the campus of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. We discussed his music, some relevant issues of the day, and spun tracks from his extensive discography.
I typed up the interview so that you can read it here or you can go and download it for free to listen to anytime you want. I hope you enjoy. Without further ado, here is part 1 of the SoulStice interview. Enjoy!
CHASE: “Alright everybody this is Chase March, here with Gamma Krush on the 1’s and 2’s, and we’re lucky enough to be on the phone lines with SoulStice. How ya doing?”
SOULSTICE: “What’s happening man? I’m feeling good.”
CHASE: “It’s good to have you on the program.”
SOULSTICE: “It’s good to be here.”
CHASE: “Yeah, I’ve just been introduced to your music but you’ve been making music since the early 2000’s.”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah, I put out my first album in 2003.”
CHASE: “And that album was North by Northwest. But then I saw your discography, you released two years later, North by Northwest: Solid Ground, so what’s the story there?”
SOULSTICE: “Well, basically, North by Northwest was an album I put together while I was finishing grad school to get my masters in electrical engineering. And I was doing that and putting an album together at the same time. And I was really still kind of coming into my own as an artist. The first joint had a bunch of songs on it, and you know, they were kind of all over the place. It was a really good album, I got a lot of really good feedback, but in ’05, I actually had the chance to re-release it with a distribution deal through Sony and Universal in Japan. And rather than just take the album as it was, I wanted to clean it up ‘cause I’d done a lot of maturing as an artist in those two years. And also as a label and a music producer, I knew a little bit more about how to put an album together at that point. So, I just wanted to go back and clean it up a little bit. Update it.”
CHASE: “Nice, that’s not something a lot of people get a chance to do.”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah, you know, when you release an album, just selling it out of your trunk and you only press a thousand, once those are gone you got a chance to control any further releases out of it. So, it’s kind of nice to be an indy artist, in that way, you get a lot of freedom.”
CHASE: “Definitely. So are you still signed right now for this latest release Beyond Borders?”
SOULSTICE: “Well, I’ve never been signed per se, ya know. I do distribution deals and usually those are just one-off. So I’ve always been a free agent. I have my own label, Wandering Soul. I produce all my own music. The way I do it, is basically, produce the album and then I have a product. I take that product and then see if I can partner with a larger company on distribution. And sometimes I’ve done that I sometimes I haven’t. In ’05 I did that with Sony. And for the Wade Waters release, Dark Water, in ’06, we actually partnered with EMI. And that’s basically for the US market.
For the foreign markets, I pretty much always do a partnership. ‘Cause in reality, I know about putting records together but I don’t really know anything about selling records in Japan. I don’t speak Japanese and I don’t know how to write their characters, ya know what I mean? So, it’s advantageous for me to partner with Universal Music over in Japan or anywhere from that to a small indy label. So they can take my music and really make it marketable in Japan. So I’m always looking to make a deal in terms of a win-win situation like that.”
CHASE: “ Yeah, that sounds like a good plan and it seems to be working for you because you’ve managed to release music every couple of years on average here for the past several years. I’d like to drop one of your tracks right now off of your previous album Dead Letter Perfect. I want to drop ‘Book of Days’ and talk about some of the lyrics after we play it.”
SOULSTICE: “No doubt.”
CHASE: “All right so this is ‘Book of Days’ by SoulStice off his Dead Letter Perfect album. Gamma Krush is gonna spin that and Chase March and SoulStice will be back. More of the interview in a second, stay tuned.”
CHASE: “Alright. We’re back that was ‘Book of Days’ off of Dead Letter Perfect by SoulStice. SoulStice, how ya doing?”
SOULSTICE: “Yo, I’m doing good man.”
CHASE: “I like one of the lines in there. It says, ‘Too wise to let another man write for me.’ and I just wanted to talk about how you feel about ghostwriting.”
SOULSTICE: “Ha, ha. Actually, we can talk about that, but actually the lyric says ‘fight for me.’”
CHASE: “Oh, ‘fight for me.’ Oh, wow.”
SOULSTICE: “Yeah, so the lyric is actually saying ‘I’m too proud to let another man fight for me.’ And that’s just in terms of fighting my own battles. Ya know, I am too proud in some cases and too much of a perfectionist to ask for help sometimes. So that’s kind of what I was getting at with that line.
But you raise another good point in terms of ghostwriting. I don’t know. You know, the music business is a business. For me, personally, I’m in the kind of situation where, as we’ve been through before, I have a Masters degree in engineering, I have a career that puts food on my table, and I make music because I enjoy doing it. I try to do it in a way that makes good business sense where I can still make money and break even on the album, or make money on my tours, or whatever. Sometimes I’m more successful at that than others.
But in terms of the larger artists that are doing this moreso for their primary source of income, it makes. I mean, you think about a, Snoop Dogg for example. Snoop is busy touring and filming a TV show and doing the clothing line and all that, so for him for every hour he’s sitting down writing lyrics, his enterprise in losing money. Y know what I mean?
So that’s kind of the way the business works. You’d be surprised at the artist that are coming up, now that I’m doing writing for myself and other artists. A&R’s put out a call, Snoop, or Musiq Soulchild, or whatever artist are looking for songs and they collect ideas. And even the artists that write for themselves, they take those ideas and build from them but they are still soliciting ideas from the writing community.
So a lot of artist are doing it. It’s pretty much almost all the major label artists are doing that. And I’m happy to write for some of those artists and contribute. I think that’s dope. I mean I used to be a little bit more of a snob as far as ghostwriting but it is what it is. It’s how the business works.
Now, in terms of my own music, of course, ya know, I write every single word. And every single idea, comes from myself. Some songs, I collaborate with other artists but for me I don’t think fans are coming to an indy artist like me to just hear random thoughts and ideas put together. I guess that’s the benefit of being a fan of an indy artist, you get to know them personally. That’s what I offer above and beyond what’s happening with a major label artist. You’re hearing me. My thoughts and ideas.”
CHASE: “Good answer. Ya, cause I guess I’m probably a little but of a snob that way. And one of the reasons I like hip-hop is that most people do tend to write their own stuff. At least that’s the impression you get.”
SOULSTICE: “That’s the impression.”
CHASE: “Yeah, that’s definitely the impression and maybe it’s not necessarily the reality so that’s kind of cool.”
SOULSTICE: “Well how do you feel about this? A lot of the time when artists solicit ideas, it’ll be like someone will come at them with a beat, and a song idea, and a hook, and then the then the artists will write their own verses in. As a fan of an artists would you still feel slighted in that case?”
CHASE: “I don’t think so because that’s more of a teamwork between the MC and producer. And that kind of goes back to the golden age when you had a DJ in every crew, like Primo and Guru in Gangstarr. Even Marco Polo and Torae that are doing it now. Like, that’s nice.”
GAMMA KRUSH: “And also the token producer, that’s what Marco Polo is, he’s a producer. For example. Ultra Magnetic MCs and NWA, you had MC’s, a couple producers, and a DJ. Or they could be am MC / Producer, DJ/ Producer, I don’t know if you really had an MC / DJ, it was very rare. It was different in those type of times then.”
CHASE: “Yeah but I think more of what you’re saying there is that it’s about collaboration. And I think two heads are ultimately better than one.”
SOULSTICE: “And in reality, with these major label releases, if there’s any money being spent on it, trust, there are more than two heads. There are four, or five, or six heads.”
SOULSTICE: “And sometimes on one song, You just open up a Kanye West album or whoever’s album and look at the liner notes and see how many names are listed on every one of those songs. There’s a lot of people contributing.”
CHASE: “Yeah, I actually have noticed that. But in recent times, liner notes, we don’t really get them. We get a lot of music sent to us here electronically at the station. And sometimes you don’t bother looking at the jpegs ‘cause you just get so much music. So it’s kind of crazy.”
SOULSTICE: “That’s the problem man. I feel that nobody’s really listening to the music now. I used to put out releases, and now I’m sounding like some old times but we’re really just talking about 2003, 2005 ya know. I’d really be looking online and waiting for the reviews of my album to come out and people used to take a lot of pride, even in just the critiquing of music. And they would actually listen and get real deep, down, inside of it like you were in an English class studying Thoreau or something, ya know what I mean? And sometimes, they would see things in the music that I wouldn’t even see. It would be great. I really looked forward to the process of putting an album out there are seeing what people said about it.
And the volume of music has increased exponentially since then to the point that now, that the reviewers are so overwhelmed. You can tell they spent 15 to 20 minutes listening to an hour-long album and writing some surface level review.
For instance, in Beyond Borders there’s a song on their called ‘Strange Kind of Love’ and in that song, the first verse is about an inter-racial relationship. Me and my wife basically, black and white. And then drawing a parallel in the second verse with homophobia and same sex marriage and all that. And it’s actually kind of a deep song. And I read one of the reviews and it said, ‘Strange Kind of Love’ is a song about an ex-girlfriend. And, ya know, it just made me really disappointed.
On one side of it, I emphasize with the writer and I’m sure that they have such a volume of music they’re trying to get through but it made me lament the state of affairs. In hip-hop, there’s too much music coming out. And in hip-hop journalism and on the critique side the quality of all that has gone down based just on the volume.”
CHASE: “And it’s a shame too because that is an amazing song and I wanted to drop that and actually quote two lyrics out of it and talk about the concept behind that whole song, cause that song really hit me. I’m like a lyrical dude and I liked what you were doing with that.”
SOULSTICE: “Thank you, man. I appreciate that.
CHASE: “So we’re going to drop that. We’re going to come back and touch on a few of the lyrics. And I hope that people out there are listening to the lyrics these days and not just the beats because you can tell from your stuff that you’ve got a lot to say, that you’re an educated man, and just the way you deliver it, everything is nice about this album. I want to talk a lot about it, got a lot of stuff to say, but let’s here some more music right now. This is ‘Strange Kind of Love’ of the album Beyond Borders. We’ll be back.”
Well that’s the end of Part 1 of the interview. Please go and download the podcast for free and consider subscribing to it as well since we always bring you the best in underground hip-hop mix sets, and dope interviews.
Come back tomorrow to read Part 2 right here.
Thanks for listening (or reading.)