2009 is poised to be a good year for Chris Palko, better known as Cage. Four years in the making, this summer will mark the release of Cage’s new album: Depart From Me (DFM). To say mere sweat and tears were poured into this project would be an understatement – those are simple stainless clear liquids. This journey that Cage has gone though has left him stained and battered, and the result is an album that will leave your eardrums spoiled. I sat down with Cage in Brooklyn where we discussed this new album and everything in between. I even listened to several amazing album cuts & learned a few diner tricks: a) if you really don’t want tomatoes on your sandwich, tell them you’ll break out in hives, because otherwise they don’t give a flyingf, and b) you can judge a dining establishment solely based on their coleslaw. If their coleslaw sucks, their food will suck. Needless to say, the Depart From Me Diner, has the best damn coleslaw I’ve had in a long time.
Shabooty: Explain the title of your new record, Depart From Me.
Cage: Depart From Me – I basically looked at Hell’s Winter and it was an awakening for me, and I thought that I could change my life through the record, and Depart From Me is basically just falling flat on your face despite your best efforts.
You said you’re filming a music video in the next couple of weeks and your friend Shia LaBoeuf is directing – for which song?
We’re doing a video for I Never Knew You.
Are there other Weathermen on the album?
There are no guest appearances on the album or the EP.
Did you have writer’s block in the writing process?
Basically, the record was done in two parts, I started working on the record – I started coming up with concepts for the record in 2005. Then, it was probably in ’06 that I started to actually make music towards the record – I already knew what the title was and basically me and Camu [Tao] – Camu was like my collaborator, we were trying to do something completely different . Everything that he did and everything that I did, we just bounced it back and forth to kinda see what we’d come up with – like if there were things that he didn’t feel confident about doing I would kinda push him and vice versa, and just try and be as progressive as we could within the genre. Before he passed away – I did a bunch of songs, but I couldn’t write depressing songs because my friend dying I couldn’t be coming up with ideas like… he was trying to be positive the whole time, so I tried to make songs that were catchy and had some substance to them, but weren’t too heavy. Something that was basically gonna bum him out, and after he died I didn’t know what to write, what to do and I felt he was like my partner who had the other key and we both gotta put the keys in to turn it to open the vault to the jewels at the same time, and the other dude holding the beaker with the formula died, and I’m like fuck, I don’t have the notes, I don’t know and for a few months probably about 2-3 months, I didn’t write anything. I would physically cry, every time I tried to write, I would just weep and half the record I wrote I cried on half the pages, I was a complete mess – and three months after he passed away, my old lady ditched me and I guess I was probably like… I guess it was probably like living with a sociopath at the time I was just completely insane, and so she walked. I packed up all my shit, went out to Connecticut, stayed with Sean Martin who ended up producing the majority of my record and EP, and living on an air mattress for three months until I moved my shit over there. I just recently moved back to Brooklyn. After I finished and mastered the records and the EP – so it was nuts – it was the hardest music or body of work I had to ever assemble, and I’ve never had or gone through so much in such a short period of time, and doing the recording process and coming up with everything – it was the most surreal shit, it was like two weeks after Camu died I was like hanging out on the set of Transformers II for three weeks doing nothing but smoking cigarettes hanging out with Shia [LaBoeuf] – I was grabbing on to anything that I could – filling my head with whatever I could just to make everything just kinda go away, and it still hasn’t gone away.
I def would grab on to anything that would pass the time, but at that point and in that state of mind, I’m flying thru video games in ten minutes, I got every TV on in the house, every computer monitor is open, I am visiting the same five fuckin’ websites, back to video games, back to marijuana, back to cigarettes, back to video games, back to movies, hanging out with girls I don’t give a shit about, I did whatever I could and it still hasn’t gone away, in fact I am completely miserable right now, and I am trying to be excited about the things that are going on in my life. I find myself vicariously living thru other people’s enjoyment and excitement for me. And it sucks, I am angry and I am bitter about that – I am not able to just get all of this shit behind me. But, I am also learning that I am just programmed to be miserable since I was a kid, so it’s interesting… I had a conversation with a 22 year old girl a couple days ago she was just like , “Well, you’re a little older than me, so you’ve got some experience with dealing with depression and shit,” and I was like, “Yeah, I am in my fucking thirties and nothing has fucking changed.” You’re gonna feel the exactly same way you do in your fucking twenties as you do in your fucking thirties if you’re depressed in your twenties, so i think it’s just a matter of learning to cope and I’m pretty good with coping with shit, but it’s not something I like to do. So, I just throw myself into the work and hope everything pans out.
Is there a song you’re most proud of on the album?
I dunno if I’m proud of anything, but I think I made a record I just kinda wanted it out of me. It’s interesting – the record is called Depart From ME – my best friend dies, my girlfriend takes a hike – living on a fuckin’ air mattress – trying to finish my record, trying to rid myself of all of this bullshit. Finally in the end – the record itself, I wanted to depart from me – I wanted it out, I wanted to hurry up and get on with it already because it was driving me nuts. And, I sabotaged my relationships so I could write about it, apparently – I’ve done that my whole life, so I am trying to figure out how to make art without having to actually see the destruction to write about it, when I know what the destruction already is in my mind. I guess I am proud of the record , the whole body of work, there’s nothing that stands out to me that I like more or less – sometimes I hate this song or sometimes I like this one.
How is this album different than your last record, Hell’s Winter?
DFM is a lot more progressive than Hell’s Winter – there’s barely any samples on this record and on Hell’s Winter there were a lot more samples – there’s no guest appearances, the songs are a lot catchier, the songs are also a lot darker, the songs are a lot angrier, and the subject matter is a lot more real. In Hell’s Winter was still hanging on — I wanted to get 100% nude in front of everyone and I was still standing in my underwear with Hells Winter. There was still this bit of of the old me that I didn’t like that was still hanging around when I made that record. I didn’t feel like that i was 100% truthful about myself and how I felt about life and this time around I just didn’t give a fuck – I cared less now than I cared my entire life – I am ready to just put it all out there and I can care less – people are gonna judge you no matter what you do, you know, people are gonna judge the way I wipe my ass if they saw it – so I could care less.
Who is Katie in the song Katie Sux. is that a shout out to your friend Katie Cupcake?
Nah not at all – it just so happens that Katie is a really popular name and I know ten Katie’s and at that time I knew a bunch of girls named Katie that were like wtf. There are a lot of Katie’s I know, in reality the title is called Depart From Me. That’s the title track of the album. I just had a bunch of [codenames]. I Never Knew You, was the single and that song was called Cereal. And initially it was called Cereal Kill[h]er – like you’re sitting there eating your cereal and ya look at your cereal and you’re like cereal kill her – not serial killer but cereal kill her, and then it just became cereal because I had to quickly write titles to identify things instead of track 1, 2, 3,4 so Katie Sux was just to identify it. The song’s called Depart From Me, so it’s not really anyone in particular.
Has artist Alex Pardee finished the album art?
The album art is almost finished. It looks pretty crazy. I mean we have the cover we have the ep cover and we are moving along on the digipack/book. It’s prolly like a 12-13 page booklet of artwork no lyrics inside – lyrics will be available online. For this, first thing we just wanted clean panels for kids to look through and not have to fucking have text all over the place ruining the artwork.
Three or four years ago could you have seen yourself collaborating with F. Sean Martin as extensively as you did on this album?
Nah, no way, I mean we talked then about doing stuff together and we wanted to do stuff together, I just had no idea it would click the way that it did. I think it was just like when every thing fell apart that’s when it all came together. It happens that way sometimes ya know. Most of the time it doesn’t, most of the time is spent either picking pieces up or it falling apart – for me anyway, my life is very up and down, like that. Down, down, down, up, down, down, down, up, but the ups are usually surreal… ya know like: movie or ya know, fuckin’… this video, or institutionalized or fuckin’ burn your moms house down or, I shouldn’t say burn my mom’s house down, but it’s def a strange time to say the least.
Is it hard having the long duration of time between albums?
Yeah, because I was broke, I mean I had money for rent and shit, but i depleted my advance because I had taken too long and then I had taken my advance for the record, I wasn’t thinking about eight months to a year that I was gonna not do a fucking thing but sit in my house, and lose my fucking mind to the point that my fucking chick leaves, ya know, you’re crazy, bye. I pretty much – I sucked the life out of a lotta things – I sucked the flavor out of a lotta things and then at the same time I was drastically trying to get skinny, because I hated the way I looked – I was tired of being like this fat – ya know slovenly disheveled fuckin’ fat headed fuck. That’s just how I felt… ya just get older and just kinda what’s important to you shifts drastically sometimes. Def – health after Camu passed way, heath was something that was important to me even though I fuckin’ smoke cigarettes like a fucking chimney – that doesn’t really make sense – smoke cigs like a chimney.
I would say that I felt detached from everything that I was doing and what I was supposed to be doing – was there looming over my head – I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but I was so detached from it, and I had this idea in my head that I figured out a way to make it work more than it could ever work, but then I couldn’t tell if I was just fantasizing or if it was actually a good idea – so I started to just say fuck it and start to run with fantasies instead of logical moves. I would get half way thru these ideas that were based on fantasy and well fuck it we’re here now. It might be standing right underneath our feet or it might be ten miles due west, I dunno so let’s just dig here and see what happens, so we dug and found something. It was enough to where Sean was able to… from working with Camu and working with El-P, he was able to take a little something from both of them as a producer and fuse that with his own knowledge of playing music and the direction I wanted to go and every song that we had we worked on together. We made some alright stuff. It was all really quick too. It was ya know, we’d be sitting around – I couldn’t write for months and then suddenly I was writing songs with big hooks in 30 minutes. I remember years ago writing songs in 30 mins cause I didn’t care, but I was writing songs in 30mins cause that’s just how it came out, almost like, as a writer ya just sit around and wait for that constant stream where it just comes out and it’s effortless and you don’t think about it -you’re sitting around waiting for that bolt of lightning to just hit ya in the head and then when it does – it just -it’s like the first time ya fall in love – that’s what it feels like and then when it leaves, it feels like the love of your life just ripped your heart out – and left you out in the cold. And I would go in and out of that – it’s fucking weird shit. A weird record, a really weird record.
Would you say most rappers rush follow up releases?
I dunno, I don’t really have an opinion on anybody else’s stuff I don’t even care. I just kinda look at music at this point, it’s just a dying industry and its like everybody is making a last ditch effort to pull something out of their ass and I just don’t really care – I don’t really listen to rap at all, I listen to a bunch of indie stuff. There’s a lot of indie stuff that is far more impressive and original than anything I hear on the radio – the radio across the board to listen to, for any kind of musical enjoyment is just a fucking waste of time.
Are you a perfectionist?
I struggle between – I can’t decide whether I am a perfectionist or if i just have really bad OCD. So, probably the ocd thing. I mean I’m not like lining up things like I’m not rearranging things on the table to make me feel comfortable, but I’ll def redo things for no fucking reason, or look in the same place five times for something that’s apparently not there the first time I looked – it’s kinda like second guessing yourself and sometimes I second guess myself sometimes – I don’t like fuckin carrots sometimes and sometimes I do.
Is there a Camu Tao tribute song?
Yeah, the intro to the record touches a lot of Camu – but you’ll find bits and pieces throughout the entire record. You’ll find something here and there I didn’t wanna go overboard, and I didn’t wanna make a tribute song like remember my friend ya know. I didn’t wanna do that cause that’s kinda cheesy – [editor: we’ll always love big poppa] yeah, I didn’t wanna do something like that. and he wouldn’t have wanted something like that, so I made a song that his name is in the chorus and it’s not what you’d think at all, but it def is a song that is partially about him.
With the personal trials and tribulations of recent – have you come out of it a stronger man?
I dunno if I’ve come out of it stronger, probably just tired probably just really fucking tired… just kinda sick of everything. I am sick of Myspace, I am sick of Facebook, I am sick of Youtube, I am sick of fucking everything – I am just sick of all of the choices that you have. Everything is just really tired and I’m tired and so my record, it’s a dreamy record at times… sometimes it’s really angry and sometimes it’s up and down it’s all over the place. The record deals with obsession, depression, loss, life, death, insecurities, love, despair, a lot of romantic tragedies on the record and it’s def the first record where I have kinda taken it [farther], if I touched on depression in the past, I touch on it far more now… all of that.
What has helped you get through it all?
Time. Probably just time, a lot of pacing, a lot of American Spirits (yellow pack), just damaging my body pacing, and that’s about it. There was nothing that helped me cope in a positive light or a positive way. kinda been just walking around like a zombie on heroin minus the heroin, then actually being alive, so… oddly enough. my personal relationships which are all bleeding on the rocks except a few close friends. I got really paranoid and cut off like 80% of the people I associate with, so now I just talk to like five or six people and that’s it. I had plenty of friends – when I was going thru this shit, I had an iPhone full of 250 contacts and [only] five people I could talk to, out of 250 people. Needless to say, I ditched about 240 contacts out of my phone, and it’s pretty a pretty big change on a Friday night and you want to go out and 3 of your 5 closets friends don’t live in the [same] state.
You have a cameo in Transformers 2?
I wouldn’t even call it a cameo – I would call it a couple of scenes – maybe you’ll see me walk by, or looking in, or looking nosy. I have a scene where I am being nosy.
What feedback have you rec’d from El-P on the album?
El produced three cuts on the album and one song on the EP and everybody is into it – at least that’s what everyone tells me – to be honest with you – for all I know everyone could just be lying to me cause I honestly don’t know. Sometimes I like the record and sometimes I think it sucks but what else is new, I mean everything I’ve made – the majority of the songs I’ve made -pre-getting off of angel dust, I hate, because ya know people take it the wrong way like they think, oh ya hate all of your old music – it’s like no, I hate it because those takes are horrible. I hate it because I was on drugs, I went in the studio and I was like one take I got this and ya know, then of course years later, I hear it and it’s like oh my god, I can’t believe I didn’t redo that, oh my god, that sounds terrible, that hook sucks – so, I was just being critical, not that I just have this affinity of shitting on everything that I did prior to getting off hardcore drugs.
Is the album officially done?
Has a release date been set?
June 29th, 2009.
How many tracks?
The album is 14 tracks.
When do you expect to tour in support of the album?
Probably the summer, July-ish.
How is the weathermen album coming along?
We have a few songs towards it. I know it’s kinda hard between El doing his new record and Aes[op Rock] doing his new record, and me getting ready to release mine.
You’ve found you have a new crop of young fans? Is this an exciting thing seeing the young faces out in the crowd?
I think it’s exciting to see anyone in the crowd – anyone in the crowd is good to see esp. when you’re insecure and think none of it is deserving. I am happy that someone gives a shit.
What if it was the opposite and there was like an 80 year old dude in the crowd?
If there was an 80 year old man in the crowd –it depends on how many there were, if there were a number of them, then I would think I was on to something and I would have to reevaluate my music and see what is in it that is bringing em out, and maybe this is a market I need to be paying attention to.
You’re a huge Opie&Anthony fan, eh? Not Howard Stern?
I mean, I used to listen to a lot of O&A – I’ve listened to to O&A for years, I mean I listen to Stern, too. I just kinda felt like Stern was your parents show cause he’s like as old as if not older than my parents, and O and A seemed more kinda like for my generation. They’re funnier. I mean I like Stern, too, but I just think Anthony and Jim [Norton] combined – I think Jim Norton is way funnier than Artie Lange, and I think by far Anthony is by far funnier than Jim and Stern, and I think that he’s funnier than all of them combined. Anthony for me is the shit. I mean I don’t give a shit about Artie Lange – it all just boils down to this: if I’m in the car with Aes[op Rock] and Stern is on, I’ll listen to it, and if its on television, I’ll watch it, but I’m not gonna pay an extra fee on my XM account since they merged. I’m not gonna pay five dollars a month extra for Stern and the playboy channel on my radio – to listen to women say that they’re in their underwear.
Are there any F.U. tracks to your ex?
Nope, I didn’t get bitter, I mean I am sure that there are things on there… they’re a lot of things on the record that could be misconstrued and misinterpreted.
How has the reception been when performing tracks from DFM at live shows?
People just stand there with their mouth open and just look at me and they clap when it’s over. I can’t tell if they like it or they’re just being kind. I guess we’ll find out when the record comes out.
How long do you think it will be for the next album after DFM?
The Revenge of Chris Palko – I’d like to say a year. I’m no longer gonna… I have the creative juices right now, so I’m not gonna let them go.
Ever read my blog?
Yeah actually, when Head Automatica was on Leno – I found it on your thing. I was like oh dope cause I couldn’t find it anywhere ’cause I haven’t had cable in…I haven’t watched cable television in like 8 or 9 months. And that would be something I’d say to people – if you live alone and not with your parents, (you might not be able to disconnect your parent’s cable but), I would say get rid of cable television – I think a lot, rather than with a picture pacifier in my mouth sitting there throughout the day. Like the internet, I don’t use as much either – ya go to the same five or six websites every time ya go online. I don’t do the gossip page thing like a lotta people, I don’t care about that. I go to a couple news sites, I look for a couple videos to laugh at, and download music, for the most part.
Have you heard the new Head Automatica album?
Yeah, I’ve heard about nine songs. It’s different, there’s a lotta catchy shit and then there some stuff that’s really hard to describe, it’s real electronic. Some of the songs I heard are up non youtube during the live shows – I can’t remember the name, but that song “my mouth my mouth…” I really like that one and I heard a bunch of GJ (glassJaw) stuff too, which is pretty fucking exciting.
Are you friends with everyone in Head Automatica?
Yeah, I’m tight with Daryl [Palumbo] and Josh. Me and Jessie are cool, me and Craig are cool, and the drummer is always coming and going.
The free EP will be coming out through Adult Swim/Cartoon Network – that’s gonna come out, where you can download it off Cartoon Network[‘s website]. That’ll probably be May-ish. The record is June 29th, and Pitchfork is gonna release a song with the press release.
Shabooty – 2009