Friday, January 15, 2010

GZA Talks Indie Rock Collaborations With The L.A. Times

How did you end up collaborating with The Black Lips and King Khan?

Originally, it came about through my manager Heathcliff [Berru]. The bands were fans of Wu-Tang and I and we decided to perform together. It worked out well; they’re good musicians and we have a mutual admiration and love. The thing is, they were already connecting with me in some way first. I’d never heard their music before, but I was feeling it and when I saw both of those groups perform live, I knew I could work with them. The vibe was there.

Much of current hip-hop -- particularly the more mainstream iteration -- is characterized by glossy shiny-sounding production. Did some of your desire to work with the Black Lips and King Khan stem from the similarity of their lo-fi aesthetic to the beats you came up rhyming on?

That’s my problem with the stuff today -- it doesn’t sound raw and uncut. When the Black Lips sent a track over to me, I thought it sounded like a Beastie Boys track, the way the singer was singing and flowing on it. He was right in the pocket. You don’t get hip-hop that sounds that gritty anymore, you get some Auto-tune, ping-pong computer-made and Casio stuff.

And the collaboration with Devendra Banhart?

GZA: I met Devendra at Coachella. I watched him and Gang Gang Dance perform and thought they both put on really great performances. I was like ‘who is this guy,’ because he was rocking, and it turned out that he was a big fan. When I met him, he told me what an honor it was and how much he loved “Liquid Swords” and Wu-Tang. So it was a beautiful connection.

A lot of rappers have tried to chase whatever trend was hot, whether it’s Auto-tune or getting the hottest R&B hookman on a track, but you’ve carved out a different path.

I think it’s about being original and creative. You’ve got to be comfortable with yourself. There’s no set way to do anything. Sometimes you have to go outside the box, sometimes you can do things the standard way. Like you don’t have to have a beat to write a song, sometimes you can write lyrics without the music. A lot of artists think that to be current, you have to follow what’s out there and do something that’s so unlike what you normally do. It can work but it doesn’t if you chase it.

What’s the current status of your next album with the indie-rock collaborations? Also, what’s going on with the Wu-Tang? Are there plans to do another album?

I’ve got some songs done for my own album, but I’m still writing and recording. There’s been talks about doing another Wu-Tang album and going out on the road to promote it. We’ve just all got to get together and do it. (source)

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