lørdag den 16. februar 2013

Interview with Sims (of Doomtree)

After touring Europe with his Doomtree crew, instead of going home, Sims jumped on Brother Ali's ongoing tour to play some extra shows. I met him at the Copenhagen venue a couple of hours before show-start for a little chat about Wu-Tang, David Lynch, Ray Bradbury, Peter Gabriel, André 3000 and 'Top 40' radio, among other things. 

- Photos by Jacob Jorp Hansen -

Basics first: who are you, what kind of music do you make and who or what made you want to be a rap-artist?

My name is Andrew Sims, I rap under the name Sims because I couldn’t find any cool rap name for myself! I’m 29 and I’ve been making music since I was 14, professionally since 24. Wu-Tang made me want to rap, simple. I didn’t do much else than skate and listen to Wu-Tang when I was a kid. I’ve released three solo albums and a handful of projects with my crew Doomtree. We’ve been making music together since we were 19-20 years old. We started off slow, playing small gigs with each other here and there, but today we’ve released 33 albums all in all, so I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

There might be a couple thousand people who will read this interview, who might not know who you are. Why should they go and check you out? There’re so many artists around today – what makes you stand out of the crowd? 

Well, why would you check anyone out in the first place? I believe I make my own music; something that’s completely me and not something someone else has already done. I try to give the most honest representation of who I am, and at the same time, it fucking bangs! If you see one of my shows, I guarantee you’re going to sweat and dance and act all crazy!

Your latest album is called Bad Time Zoo. How did you approach this project? 

I don’t think too much about “going into” something new. I usually have a pretty loose and non-regimented approach to my new projects. I record like 20-25 songs, and then I begin to think about what kind of album I want to end up with. I’ll probably take 6-7 of these songs and steer the rest of album in their direction. I have a really free-formed writing process. I usually let whatever's natural happen, and that always tend to end up as the best result.

What exactly is the “bad time zoo”?

The album was originally entitled The Veldt. "Bad time zoo" is actually a line that randomly occurs in one of the songs, and early on in the process of making this album; some of my close friends listened to the material, came back and said that they wanted a “bad time zoo” tattoo. They thought that line sounded so great. That made me say “okay, then that’s gonna be the album title”.
David Lynch once said in an interview, that when filming Twin Peaks, if one of the actors got a line wrong but continued acting and improvised, then that would be the correct line, because that’s what the character would have said in that situation, - that was what felt natural to say. In the same way, “Bad Time Zoo” just felt natural.

When you buy the album, you get a poster with cut-and-fold paper animals (above). What is the idea behind that?

If you flip the two sides of the album so it stands, you actually have your own little zoo. With a lot of music, you just want to sit and listen to it, without being distracted from anything else. But sitting and listening for an hour without doing anything at all can be difficult, - your hands need to do something, so I decided to include these animals so you can sit and fold them while listening to the album. Also, it’s a reference to Ray Bradbury’s short story The Veldt, which inspired me a lot.
     It’s a story about the future taking over. There’s this family where the mom and dad are very busy and work a lot, so they buy this nursery for their children in the form of four walls of screens, where you can set up any environment that you’d like. The kids’ favorite environment is called “the veldt”, which is the belt-line in Africa where the big wild life lives. Long story short; the kids die because the animals come to life and kill the children. So it’s about technology being the end of the human connection and interaction that we have with each other. That’s a very interesting concept and a great take on a current problem that I think we’re facing, that I deal with on the album.

I’d like to know some details about a few songs. Explain to me what the track ”Radio Opaque” is about.

The actual phrase “radiopaque” is a medical term for something that makes radiation visible inside the human body; it makes it glow. The song itself is about shitty, commercial rap-music, so the idea is that this shitty music is the radiation, and it glows inside the music industry because it’s so bad. So this song is saying “fuck major labels” and “fuck ‘Top 40’ radio”. It’s all just a bunch of terrible bullshit!

What were your thoughts behind “Sink or Syncopate”?

This song is telling an “a day in the life of…” -story from the perspective of three individuals I know, and how I’m interacting with them. These people are all very different, but what I want to show is; that despite differences, we’re all pretty much alike when it comes to our paths in life; no one really knows where they’re going or what they want to do with their life. We’re all a little bit lost, and that’s OK! As an artist, I draw more inspiration from conversations with people than I do from anything else. I’m deeply inspired by people’s intricacies.

“When It Rolls In” - What is that song about?

It’s a metaphor for a storm rolling in and flooding you, which, again, is a metaphor for getting the shit kicked out of you! It’s about when you fall with your face to the concrete, break your nose and teeth and still get back up and smile, with your broken teeth. It’s not about “if” life is going to kick your ass, it’s about “when” and how you’re going to react to it. Life can break you down in numerous ways, and you have to accept that it’s going to happen and that it’s okay. It’s about embracing the joy as much as the pain. When you give up on the fact that you’re always going to be happy, you'll be a lot happier when you’re in pain. Believe it or not, but it was actually inspired by a Peter Gabriel song called “The Flood”!

Other than conversations with people and Peter Gabriel, what inspires you?

Throughout Bad Time Zoo, there are references to Discourse On Method by René Descartes, Tolstoy, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Herbert Marcus’ One-Dimensional Man, Ray Bradbury’s The Veldt, as mentioned, and Che Guevara.

Going back to the bull-shitty ‘Top 40’ radio: Why do you think the majority prefers the commercial music?

Because it’s easy. People like what’s easy and accessible; they don’t have to think about it, they don’t have to invest themselves in it. But it’s actually okay to me. Sometimes entertainment is there to just do what it does: entertain. In that way the 'Top 40' radio is okay; it entertains, it’s a shut-off switch for many people. Sometimes people need to just forget about their shitty job, their shitty boss, their shitty boyfriend and all the other shitty things in their life, and just drink and dance. As a person I understand that. As an artist I fucking hate it, and I think it’s important to know that there's a difference between entertainment and art; entertainment isn’t always art.
My biggest problem though is, that I can’t really have an argument like this, ‘cause when you think about it, rap is easy. If you think about it, classical music composers and opera singers would shit all over my music; my music is easy. We always think that we’re the smart ones doing a difference in music, but compared to so many other things, our music is just stupid, so I can’t be judgemental. I could talk shit about 'Top 40' radio all day long, but I can’t talk shit about its listeners, ‘cause my listeners could get the same shit talked about them.
And for the record, I don’t hate commercial rap, I hate 'Top 40' rap. There are incredible commercial rappers. Jay-Z is one of the best rappers of all time, and to me, André 3000 is the best rapper who ever lived. The way he evolved and mutated from album to album over the years is one of the most beautiful and inspiring things I’ve ever seen. His got an abnormally huge package of brilliance! He changed the format by being true to himself and doing what was natural to him. That is something to aspire to.

Do you ever consider dumping it down just a little to get extra fans and more radio air time? 

Oh yeah, totally! But honestly, I wouldn’t know what to talk about. If I was to make it to 'Top 40' radio, it would have to be as someone else, you know. The artist that I am and the things I talk about, and the way I talk about them, is simply not 'Top 40' material.
I am going to dump it down on my next album. I’m not going to make dumber songs, but I’m going to make them easier to understand, ‘cause really, what I want with my music is to have a conversation. I want to talk to people, and you can’t talk to people if they don’t understand you. With my next album, I want to speak to people the way that people actually speak; in a common language. If you feel like you have something of importance to share with people, of course you’re going to want the whole world to hear you. 

My goal is to reach the 'Top 40' with my music, my voice and my message. 

And that, as they say, was that. 
Don't forget to check out my review of Bad Time Zoo HERE, and most importantly: buy the album HERE.

- Jeppe Barslund

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