I interviewed El-P last month in D.C. Here’s the interview transcribed.
Shabooty: Explain Flyentology.
El-P: Flyentology was a song I wrote after I took a plane where the engine exploded and we had to make an emergency landing…and I was praying while we were… -but I’ve never prayed and I started to realize that my spirituality existed on planes – the song is sort of supposed to be the atheist prayer -you know when the chips are down your smart ass cant save you anymore, and all of a sudden you get really spiritual really quickly.
S: Have you been flying or busing on tour?
EL-P: We’ve been mainly busing in North America, but we’ve done a lot of flying as well.
S: How do you deal with the flying?
El-P: Well you know, I’ve learned to sedate myself in different ways…I’ve always had a problem with flying, but now I just get [pause] drunk!
S: I got family in BK, but from Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
El-P: I’m 32 years old, I don’t live in the hood. [either]
S: What you know about Washington D.C.? [Location of the show tonight]
El-P: Last time I was in D.C. was in like ’99 or ’98 and we opened up for organized confusion and um it was a fucking crazy show man… and that was literally the last time I played D.C., so it’s been several years cause we -for some reason we always go to B-More [interviewer: Sonar (club in b-more)] Yeah exactly, so you know you go to D.C. and B-more comes here, you go to B-more and D.C. comes there -so I mean I am amped man, I am amped to be back – I never played this club before so…
S: In the song, Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love), where you reference the prison number -Is there any significance behind that #?
El-P: No – I just chose a number -It just sounded catchy.
S: What % of Definitive Jux releases are El-P produced material?
El-P: Well I mean if you looked at all of it I would say probably under 50%. You know -a lot of it in the beginning I had my hands on just cause it was projects I was lining up right from the jump –the Cannibal Ox record, and my record…and uh you know but uh you know you got a lot of other producers on the label so…
S: If you started Def Jux from scratch all over again, you and one other artist –could you make that choice of who?
S: We know the Overly Dramatic Truth was about an ex- does El have a type when it comes to women?
El-P: Nah [interviewer: Depends on the specific person?] -yeah.
S: We also know Cage is a Stanley Kubrick fan —any movie directors inspire El-P?
El-P: I’m a big fan of Terry Gilliam -I’m a big Terry Gilliam Fan (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 12 Monkeys, Brazil)…
S: Are you taking offers for your label Def Jux?
El-P: How crazy is the offer? [interviewer: you're willing to listen?] Yeah, fuck it – but but you know what? We’ve had those offers, and they’ve never been crazy enough -never been crazy enough. but I mean you know if someone said I’ll give you 50 million dollars -PEACE DEF JUX Fuck You…HEY DEF JUX, SUCK IT! [laughter].
S: What’s up with those CupCake chicks? [Interviewer's note: they're a cooler version of suicide girls].
El-P: That’s a Cage question.
S: What part of BK did you grow up in?
El-P: Downtown Brooklyn -Fulton Mall Area
S: What about Redhook? (Infamous now for its big Fairway grocery store).
El-P: Well I lived in Redhook, BK for like a decade.
S: What got the bigger fan reaction? The picture with Puff Daddy or working with Trent Reznor on ISWYD?
El-P: The Trent thing because it’s actually a song- that raised a lot of eye-brows.
S: I am shocked you’re actually not wearing your orange jump suit [as seen in the Smithereens (Stop Cryin') video] right now (note: interview less than 2 hours from EL’s show time):
El-P: Yeah, you know it shrank. [Interviewer: oh really?] It just, you know, I had one, and I was wearing it and I was washing it and wearing it and washing it and then it would like, and then slowly but surely it just started to get smaller and smaller and then I realized that I had a wedgie on stage [Yak Ballz speaking in background: maybe your dick was getting bigger and bigger] [interviewer: lol, or your balls] It was getting harder and harder to conceal my package and um it just got ridiculous -but I think I might break it out again at some point, I have a spare at home I just didn’t bring it with me, so… [Interviewer: I got you, cause I was gonna ask -I hope you're not getting any (Howard Stern show reference), Bat Wings or Swamp Ass in that thing] No no no…dunno what that means but… [Yak Ballz: ...bat wings --but it just sounds stupid].
S: What else is good with Brooklyn? (childhood spots you visit, nightlife).
El-P: Nightlife? I mean I dunno if I am really a captain of nightlife -I go to certain bars that my friends hang -and hangout with my friends. They’re places…they’re more like spots to eat you know -in Brooklyn and spots to shop like Fulton mall -you know you could always go to Harlem Cake Man(sp)? on Fulton, getting the illest red velvet cake -BK is just kinda like a refuge to me to a degree from the nightlife – I just usually spend most of my time getting you know drunk or fucked up outside of BK you know lower eastside or some shit cause it’s close. [interviewer: you don't fuck with juniors (cheesecakes)?] I mean yeah Juniors is the shit, still.
S: Was MURS’ signing to Warner Bros a loss?
El-P: Nah man nah me and Murs have been best friends for years and like him even doing a record on [Def] Jux was always like -”I’ll do one record” and I was like cool do one record, and it’s turned into “Alright, I’ll do another record,” but you know he’s always been a free agent and then he hooked up w/ this record company out there that gave him a really good deal then he got upstreamed to Warner but like that’s my boy…it’s never…Def Jux isn’t a gang..we’re all friends and shit..it’s not like -you know.
S: Can you explain the CARDBOARD CITY – WEATHERMEN movement?
El-P: That’s just a collective of a bunch of us –I mean it’s a collective, it’s a movement, it’s a collective of musicians that we’re all just friends and we all know each other and some know each other in different ways …[interviewer: ...yeah like Alex Pardee, Shia LaBoufe...] yeah and fuckin’ you know obviously, Daryl Palumbo is a huge part of it, Cage and Yak Ballz and you know – Weathermen is a part of it, anyone who is weathermen. It’s basically just a bunch of friends from different aspects of art and different aspects music that like each other. That’s basically what it is, I mean we all kinda have a friendship and a similar goal in music you know but all have different types of styles and you know it’s just kinda a family thing really you know -within that family is the weathermen family that’s more like our hardcore rap crew you know what I mean and so it’s just a bigger version of the collective. [Interviewer: I gotta ask you do you like my shades (Chanel -representing cardboard city -cc-)] Yeah they’re all right.
S: Were you ever “catching the beat” like Kanye?
El-P: Well I was known as a lyricist first, and the production part came later -know what I mean, and I think that for the last five years that overshadowed me as a lyricist because I wasn’t putting anything out. My love for this shit is doing both- that’s really where I feel the best.
S: With the success of ISWYD, have you reached Maslow’s Self-Actualization?
El-P: Nah …nah. [interviewer: still a ways to go with goals, and life?] Much further.
S: What’s up with your business partner -the one that was Lucy Lui’s ex-roommate?
El-P: Amechi –[interviewer: yeah!] he’s been my manager since 95, he managed Company Flow, and then Company Flow split, he managed me, and then when I was getting ready to leave Rawkus, I stepped to him and said, “Yo, I’m about to do this record label, you know let’s do this” and you know we’ve been just been partners on the label ever since he’s been my manager and he’s a brilliant brilliant man who’s had his hands behind the scenes in the independent record business for years and years [interviewer: would you be here without him?] nah. [interviewer: okay, he helped you stand everything up?] yeah.
S: In the spirit of Howard Stern I have to ask, are you a millionaire?
El-P: Nah [interviewer: not with all of your assets, if you sold everything off?] Nah… *laughs*
S: Last song for tonight’s show?
El-P: Um, you know It depends -we kind of vibe it out. Cause a lot of times we do an encore we have about two or three different songs we choose from depending what the vibe is. Sometimes we do one, sometimes we do two, sometimes we do three -depending on how much they want to hear it and um it will be either Stepfather Factor, Tuned Mass Damper, depending tonight, or we switch it up [interviewer: keep it fresh] yup.
S: Those are all of my questions. Thanks Mr EL.
El-P: My pleasure.
To watch the video of this interview, go here.