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Interview with Astronautalis

His shows are known to be theatrical performances for combining drama and music. First recognized for his inventive freestyles, this battle-fed MC won fame at the Scribble Jam Festival and has often been compared to Buck 65. Following his recent European tour with long-time friend Bleubird, and the release of his outstanding album This is our science on Fake Four, which helped him raise to a level of fame that is pretty much unequaled on the indie scene, we thought it might be time to have a little chat with hyperactive Floridian Astronautalis. He kindly agreed.

Trip-Hop.net : Thank you so much Andy for taking time to talk, I know you spend your life touring and writing music and that you're always running out of time.. "Keep your acres, my home is where my hat is hung", it seems close to what you've been experiencing for a few years, isn't it?

Yeah, it is as much a resignation as it is a battle cry. To live a life like this, you have to accept that you may never get to be a real person, you may never get to own a home or have stability... but if that is what it takes to live the life i do... so be it!

Trip-Hop.net : You come from Jacksonville, FL, which is also the city of Radical Face and Rickolus: is there an "indie pop elective course" in Jacksonville's highschool?

Hahaha... All three of us learned more about music at the Pablo 9 Cinema, then any school we went to. We all worked there through high school, and it is safe to say that Pablo 9 might have had the crappiest projectors, the worst ushers, but the best lobby music ever.

Trip-Hop.net : You studied theatre and originally worked as an artistic director, but it looks like your real place is ON stage, not behind... No regrets?

No regrets, but i still long to direct. I miss theater, it is my biggest love, but theater is not like music. You can't sit in your crappy apartment and make a whole play on your laptop. You can write a play, but you can't mount a production. It takes time, and money, and still requires the old world ladder climbing that music no longer requires. With that being said, i have grown to love being on stage.

Trip-Hop.net : Can you tell us about your musical roots? You are an amazing storyteller and freestyler, you never stopped practising for years, continuously touring and writing songs. Did you start as a kid? Did your family support your artistic career choice?

My father lived an astounding life as train engineer, a green beret, and just a general trouble maker, he is one of the best story tellers i have ever met. My mother is a photographer and made her living as graphic designer, and taught me so much artists aesthetic that i still live today. They, along with my two brothers have amazing taste in music, art, and film... Our house always had music playing. Music from all genres, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, The Clash, The Smiths, Sam & Dave, Teddy Pendergrass, Blur, De La Soul, Gangstarr, and on and on... I was very lucky to come from such an amazing and supportive family. I wouldn't be anywhere if it wasn't for them.

Trip-Hop.net : This 4th album, This is Our Science, has been way more successful than the others, propelling you to unusual places for indie artists. Well, " 5 people - 500 people same show ": how true is this? How do you deal with success, is this any kind of a personal achievement?

It is true, everything has stepped up since this album came out, but my career is still built on word of mouth. So it is funny, i can play for 47 people one night and and one state over play for 400. I still only draw 100 people in some cities in my home state of Florida, but drew 300 people in Budapest? The attention has increased, but it hasn't come in one big universal push, pitchfork hasn't even reviewed my album, let alone made everyone believe i was cool you know? it is still shaped town to town, by folks trading my music and putting it on mixes for girls they like, so, while things have stepped up, it hasn't drastically changed my life or rocked my world...which is actually pretty nice. i get to reach a lot of people with my work, but i still get to go to the grocery store.

Trip-Hop.net : Did that make you rich, or do you still share rooms with your tour mates? Speaking of Europe, and compared to your last tour, do you feel like your fan base grew bigger since This is Our Science?

We don't share rooms, we share room. Five dudes, one crappy hotel room. I am very very far from being rich, i live in a grimy little house in Minneapolis with two roommates, a dog, and a baby... but i pay my bills on time, and get to buy myself a new pair of blue jeans from time to time. So, i am happy. The fan base has increased across the board... which makes touring a little easier financially, and a lot of fun.

Trip-Hop.net : Brit pop, indie rock, folk, many influences can be found in your albums, but you basically remain a rapper: do you think you could still release a fully rapped album, produced by an only beatmaker, like returning to your roots? Do you plan working again with Radical Face? Who would you like to work with the most?

I have put out one rap mixtape called DANCEHALLHORNSOUND, and intend to make another mixtape or two... I still love rap... I don't think i will ever let that go. I worked with Ben (Ben Cooper aka Radical Face) on the latest record, and our paths always cross again and again. If i could work with anyone right now, i would love to work with James Blake, Mike Eagle, The Dream, and Little Dragon...all on one song i think?

Trip-Hop.net : Though you played with a full backing band last year in America, you performed a solo act with your laptop on this last European tour. Any chance that we can see the band in Europe one day? Solo or with a band, what is your favorite stage performance?

I will bring the band to Europe as soon as i can afford it... It is just a huge expense to bring a full band across the atlantic ocean, and i am not quite able to afford that expense. I love the freedom and looseness that playing with the laptop allows, but nothing is as much fun for me as playing with the band.

Trip-Hop.net : This album has been a collaborative work, fuelled by your experiences of life on the road. Could this be the beginning of an explanation for why it's more enthusiastic, more "pop sounding"? "This is Our Science": does it have something to do with this non-traditional life of yours as an artist?

I was already more interested in making a pop sound before i got everyone together on this record. I love pop music, and i think there is something amazing about catchy choruses and songs you want to sing along to... especially if you can still make the music interesting and try to make the lyrics rewarding and challenging. As for the rest of your question, the title is about living a nontraditional life, drawing a parallel between the process of scientific discovery and the process of artistic and/or self discovery..

Trip-Hop.net : One of the differences between this album and the previous ones is that the lyrics are more personal: you talk about yourself and we learn more about your personal life. What made you finally start sharing more of your personal experiences ? Is it a form of you growing up and getting more confident?

I share myself on stage and online everyday, but wasn't doing that in my music ever...I felt it was time for me to knock down that wall and bring them both together. It changed the way i wrote, the language i used, and pushed me in exciting ways...which is what i hope every album does. I doubt i will ever grow up, but i hope i never stop growing !

Trip-Hop.net : Talking about it, what is your favorite song on This Is Our Science?

Measure The Globe means a lot to me... for a lot of reasons, both artistic and personal.

Trip-Hop.net : Do you start thinking of how a song will be received by the audience before releasing it or before performing it?

Depends on the album, that was very far from my thought with the album Pomegranate (3rd album, 2008, Eyeball Records) while i was thinking about live performance with This is Our Science. I wanted to make songs that would be super exciting live... exciting for me and the audience.

Trip-Hop.net : The way people do music today has evolved a lot: an artist is now able to produce and record a full album at home, internet makes it possible for two artists to work together even if they live on two different continents, music can be esasily promoted and shared online. Do you think your musical career reflects this?

That is the backbone of every aspect of my career. my fan base was built on the word of mouth and file sharing. My music was made on laptops, in bedrooms, many times with people who are thousands of miles away. I have a very small team of people who help me promote my records one email and Facebook post at a time. It is slow, it is a lot of work, but it works... and that is marvelous.

Trip-Hop.net : This is our Science has been released on Ceschi's label, Fake Four Inc, which is an expanding and very interesting indie label. You have also worked on your long time friend's last release: Bleubird's Cannonball and just toured with him in Europe.. How would you describe the Fake Four family experience? How did the tour go?

Fake Four has been amazing, they are a small label, but they understand the changing face of the music business and they are really supportive of their weird artists and their desires to make awesome and strange music. They are the first label to really ask me how i wanted to work and took my advice on how i think my music should be pushed. As for working with and touring with Bleubird... It is ALWAYS an amazing and hilarious time. One of the best moments of the tour was when we found ourselves packed into our rental car with a really nice Polish show promoter, driving as fast as possible, going the wrong way down a one way street in Wroclaw. I still laugh my ass off thinking about that really nice Polish kid saying, "Turn left! Now, GO FAST!!!!!"

Trip-Hop.net : Would you trade your life for a prime minister job?

Never.

Trip-Hop.net : Looks like you are constantly working on both writing songs and making beats so, what's in the pipeline for 2012? What about this Four Fists album with P.O.S? Bleubird said he would come again to Europe soon, what about you?

Coming back to europe with Bird in June. Working on Four Fists, working on a few other cool side projects with friends, as well as making a few mixtapes and always touring touring touring. Probably getting a few more dumb tattoos...

Trip-Hop.net : For any reason, you have to move to a foreign country, outside America, for the rest of your life. Where do you go?

I love central and southern Europe...the Czech Republic or Slovakia are heavy favorites.

Trip-Hop.net : But you can just take three books and three albums with you...

Books: "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin. "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare" Riverside Edition. A collection Life Magazine Photographs
Music: "Music For Egon Schiele" by Rachel's. "Red Apple Falls" by Smog. "Drankenstein Live" by Bird Peterson

Trip-Hop.net : ..But you win 66 millions dollars on the following day and can consequently buy tons of books and albums.. What would you do if you suddenly became rich ?

Je donne la quasi-totalité à mon père pour éviter de tout dépenser en livres, whisky et dents en or... et avec le reste je fais construire une maison de rêve à la campagne pour que mes amis puisse venir passer du temps au milieu de nulle part et faire de la musique à toute heure du jour et de la nuit. Et j'achète sans doute une voiture au look bien débile.

Trip-Hop.net : Final words: Whiskey or coffee, which one couldn't you live without?

Coffee. I would never be able to get out bed to drink whiskey if it wasn't for coffee.

Propos recueillis par : Mag.
 

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