On April 11, I had a chance to interview members of wonderful music collective A-Side Worldwide. The interview took place in Dresden, where they came to rock the show. There were five people, five personalities answering my questions and, believe me, they were very live. Therefore I’ve chosen to present you rather a transcript of our conversation than a classic interview. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed doing it.
We definitely know you, but could you introduce yourself to our readers who might not have heard of you?
Everybody: Yeah. Jackson Perry, IX Lives, 14KT, Haircut, Now On, A-Side, Athletic Mic League, Lab Techs. [Note: Buff1 comes later during the interview.]
Could you tell us something about the music you make? Because I don’t think people in the Czech Republic really know your music.
Jackson: We make hip-hop music. We came from the town called Ann Arbor in Michigan, not too far outside of Detroit. Buff1, 14KT and Haircut were all in a group together called Athletic Mic League, they were friends and started at high school. Me and IX Lives were in a group called Funktelligence, a 7-piece live hip-hop band. We all went to the same high school; I have known him since we were in elementary school. We used to do shows in the same city and then eventually we collaborated and we came kind of through. That’s how Now On formed, through collaborations we’ve done together. We just always put a lot of kind and love and effort into music, it’s just fun hip-hop music, and we have fun doing it.
IX Lives: Yes.
How has the tour been so far? How have you enjoyed it?
IX Lives: So far so good.
Jackson: It’s a second night.
It’s a second night? Oh, it wasn’t a good question then, haha. Let’s move on.
Jackson: Basel was the first show.
I’ve read that you don’t really care about sales of your albums. But what’s been the feedback to it so far?
Jackson: Wait, you said we don’t care about sales of our albums?
Well, I mean, I’ve read that you would put your album out for free.
Jackson: Yeah. And we had.
Like, you don’t make money from selling albums, you make money from touring.
Jackson: That’s true.
So I don’t wanna ask questions about sales. But what’s been the feedback?
Jackson: To the Now On album? It’s been… I think the feedback‘s been good.
IX Lives: I would say good.
Haircut: People, who listen, love it.
Jackson: We love it. It’s our favorite shit.
IX Lives: I dance to it!
Jackson: But I think that we didn’t do a very good job on marketing the album.
I wanna ask a question about that as well. I’ve read something about „The New [marketing] Model“, but I don’t know what it really is.
Jackson: Just watch us.
IX Lives: Watch us!
During the shows?
Jackson: All the time. It’s just The New Model, man. (Laughs.)
How do you measure the success of your albums? What’s important for you?
(Short pause, guys thinking out the answer.)
IX Lives: Things like this, being on tour, being able to touch people, talk to cool people like you…
Jackson: To find somebody in Prague who knows about our music and somebody in Germany who knows about our music.
There are definitely more people out there who know about you.
Jackson: Yeah. And that’s what‘s important. To us, we just wanna make up something that we like, that we can feel good about, we like to listen to and we like to perform.
Haircut: Also touch as many other people as we can.
Jackson: We can go to a show, we can do a show in Germany and people really like our music. That’s what’s important. There are other measures of success as well, of course we wanna make money, but that’s just to support us while making music that we love.
You moved to LA approximately four years ago. What do you think about young groups from LA that are based more on their style than on their music? They seem to be everywhere now.
IX Lives: It’s cool. There are a lot of groups in LA that are really dope. Like Pac Div, they’re really dope. It’s just different.
Could you tell us about some group we might not know?
(After naming a lot of groups we already know…)
14KT: Do you guys know Blue Collars? I mean Blue Scholars.
Jackson: There are groups that are doing their style thing, it’s cool. I’m into style.
Let’s switch to the mainstream. What do you think of Eminem’s return? Have you seen his video?
Jackson: Yeah I saw the video. For me, personally, I got love for Eminem.
You were on stage with him?
Jackson: They were. (Pointing at his colleagues.) He’s part of the scene in Detroit.
IX Lives: We’ve talked about this earlier actually, Buff was saying that it seems like Eminem has the passion back after Proof passed away. It seems like he’s back.
Now I’ve got a few questions for Haircut. You’re also known as Mayer Hawthorne and…
Haircut: I don’t know what you’re talking about. Nah, I’m just kidding.
(Laughing.) What’s your role in Now On and how do you mix up being a solo act and a part of a group.
Haircut: I think, actually, it’s more similar than it’s made out to be. Because in Now On I do a lot of singing, especially on the new album. Now On is kind of like a transition between hip-hop and Mayer Hawthorne. I’ve always been… Everything that we’ve ever done has been very soulful. Soul is the root of everything that we’ve done pretty much. So it’s not hard to balance.
I know you’ve just released a video for your hit single “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” and you’re preparing on releasing of another vinyl single.
Haircut: Yeah, it’s in the press right now.
How did the idea of releasing this heart-shaped vinyl come up?
Haircut: It was my idea, I was just joking around. That was my first single and those hearts are very expensive to make, so I didn’t think they would really do it. I said: “Hey, what if we did my single on a red heart-shaped record, haha?” And they were like: “Okay!”
Can we expect something special from your second record as well?
Haircut: No, it’s a 12 inch with a pictured cover. No more shapes.
Can you tell us something about your album that’s going to be released on Stones Throw?
Haircut: It’s nearly complete, it should be out in late August. I’m playing a lot of instruments on there myself, I arrange and produce nearly everything on it myself, and it’s mostly recorded in my bedroom.
The recording process must be very complicated…
Haircut: That’s one of the reasons it takes so long to do it. I even master it, so it’s a long process. It’s a lot more difficult [than the ordinary way].
I’ve also heard that you have played in some of the most famous clubs in Hollywood. Could you compare it to playing in other clubs around the world?
Haircut: Everywhere it’s different and unique. Some places where we perform are very similar to LA and some places are totally different. I don’t think we had any bad shows.
Jackson: I think the crowds out here, if they don’t know you, they’re more likely to act like they do, to have fun and dance a little bit, they like to loosen up. In Basel, nobody knew who we were. The club was packed and it took a while, but as we played a little bit more, people loosen up and started dancing, really loving it. In LA, when people hear Mayer Hawthorne or Now On, they know it out there, so they get live, but if they don’t know you, they’re like…
Why do you think it’s like that?
Haircut: Because everybody wants to be cool. It’s not cool to get live [to unknown acts].
Now I’ve got a few questions for Lab Techs. I’ve interviewed DJ Evil Dee of Beatminerz and asked him how they work together with his brother [which is the second member of Beatminerz]. There are a lot of members of Lab Techs, so how do you guys work together?
14KT: Lab Techs forms me, Haircut, and two of us aren’t here – my man Vaughan T and Forekast. We try to be in our own rooms and then we just come together. Sometimes we produce together, but mostly we just come together to discuss ideas and get back in our rooms.
So there are tracks produced by all the members together? Where everybody puts his input into them?
Haircut: Everybody puts input into it, but generally it would be one producer producing track and then he would present it to the rest of the group and everybody would give feedback. But we have done tracks where everybody produced it together. There’s no formula. The formula is not having a formula.
What if, for example, a local German artist or an artist from Prague asked you to produce a track for him?
14KT: I think it’s cool as long as we are feeling the music.
But you might not know what he’s talking about…
Haircut: That’s true. We’re open to working with everybody who’s creative. Creativity is the main thing.
IX Lives: Trust me, music is more about what you hear than about what you say. It’s more about how it sounds than the actual words. A lot of times when we perform, nobody knows what we’re saying. It’s about the emotions.
KT, I also know that you have a radio show…
14KT: It’s a podcast I got called “Karat Gold Radio”.
What do you generally think about the future of the radio?
14KT: More people are getting involved. There are some stations that stay the same, there’s a lot of mainstream music aired, but I think it’s getting a lot better now that everybody is able to have his own show [as me] so they can play whatever they want.
I don’t know how it’s in the US, but I think people in the Czech Republic listen to the radio less and less…
14KT: That’s why we have podcasts, you can download it and listen to it anytime.
Jackson: It’s [listening to classic radio] fallen off.
Haircut: We don’t listen to the radio that much. But some people still do, there’s a lot of people who still listen to the radio.
Jackson: It’s more and more people not listening to the radio like more and more people are not buying CDs and more and more people are not reading newspapers.
14KT: “Karat Gold Radio” that I do is actually a podcast, it’s not a radio show. I just put it together like I would wanna hear it. I put there a music that I wanna listen to, my music and I make it like it’s a radio show. But it’s a podcast, you can go online and listen to it or download it.
There are still a few questions left for Buff1…
Buff1: Alright! Finally!
We’ve already done an interview with you like a month ago.
Buff1: I know, thank you for that!
Thank you! So I just wanna know what’s new since then. You’ve talked about an album with DJ Rhettmattic.
Buff1: Yeah. That’s just about in the mix, in the mastering stage. It’s completely recorded. It should be out very soon, hopefully in the summertime.
Then there’s your new video coming out…
Buff1: Yeah, this guy right here, Jackson Perry, directed it. It’s his first video and my third video, “Real Appeal”. That should be done this week.
So you [Jackson] can tell us something about the video as well..
Jackson: Yeah! Do you want the truth or the cover story? (Laughs.) I wanted to do the video because we worked with a lot of directors who call themselves and who I don’t think are directors, who I think are wack. So I was just like: “I’m gonna be a non director and show them how to direct a video.”
How are you satisfied with the outcome?
Jackson: I don’t know yet. We still have to see.
Buff1: I’ll be the judge!
Jackson: We’ll see how it turns out, I have no clue. I think we got a lot of good shots and it all came together very well as planned. But it’s all about editing.
What’s the storyline?
Jackson: It’s basically Buff inside the minds of female subjects, imagining what’s in there. It’s very abstract, if you’ll watch it, you probably won’t get it, but that’s what it’s about.
Buff, are you still living in Detroit or in Michigan?
Buff1: I don’t live anywhere really. I’ve been in Los Angeles for the last three months, but when we get back from Europe, I’m going to Michigan.
Because I want to ask you guys a few questions about the current economic situation in Michigan. Basically, what we think in Europe is that pretty much everybody in Michigan works in the automotive industry…
Haircut: In all of our families, somebody in our family works in the automotive industry. That’s mostly true.
Jackson: That’s why my whole family came to Detroit [to work in the automotive industry]. It’s one of the worst places in the country right now. But at the same time it’s like… I don’t know. We try not to pay attention to it. At least I try not to pay attention to it. I just think that the only way to change it is to not focus on that, to focus on something better. But it’s matter of fact it’s been bad in Michigan.
Haircut: It’s very real and it’s very bad. And it’s gonna take a long time to get out of that stuff. Because we are so… for the longest time, for so many years, we only focused on the automotive industry and didn’t develop any other industries. So it will take a very long time to get out of it. We’ll get out of it eventually.
IX Lives: Me and Buff were watching TV in Basel and there was a commercial for Michigan, to bring business to Michigan. I’ve seen it in Cali once in a while as well. We saw like two different ones really close to each other. That’s good.
Jackson: There’s something else trying to emerge. There are other industries, something better and bigger. It is time for real evolution. It’s like at the beginning of the industrial revolution when all these new technologies were introduced to the world.
I like to ask this question when I interview more people together. Could you ask a question each other? Because you know yourself the best, so you know what to ask for.
Everybody: I don’t think we can do that because there would be a lot of stuff nobody would understand. We’re speaking in codes. We’ve known each other for so long. (Everybody talking at the same time.)
IX Lives: Oh! KT will be on TV in America tonight.
14KT: There’s a channel called Black Entertainment Television (BET). I will be on it because I was a part of a beat battle. I was the finalist from Detroit and I got flown out to New York City to compete in the finals. They filmed the whole weekend.
It’s quite a success to be on TV…
14KT: Yeah! For me, it’s a big deal. (Everybody shouting: “It’s big!”)
Speaking of TV, are your videos in rotation on any TV?
Jackson: No, all of our videos are just on internet right now. That’s one of the reasons that A-Side Worldwide has been established, to figure this stuff out. For the longest time, we had other people figuring this type of shit out for us and that didn’t happen. So we kind of formed this collective to figure things out ourselves. “Real Appeal” will be the first video that we will really gonna try to get on TV and see what happens. But they don’t show videos anymore on TV either in the States. MTV doesn’t play videos, VH1 barely plays videos, BET doesn’t play videos. The only channel you can watch it on is MTV2 and cable channels that not everybody has.
It’s called Music Television and it doesn’t play videos?
Haircut: Ever since “Real World”, the reality show, they don’t show any videos. It’s very wack.
Buff1: I was just happy to be able to watch videos here. We love them, we grew up on that. I love videos, I was watching MTV for hours.
Haircut: But if you go to America now and turn on MTV, you won’t see single video. They don’t show videos. It’s reality television, reality channel. We have music television that has nothing to do with music.
OK guys, thank you very much! It’s all I wanted to ask you.
Jackson: I just wanna people to check for A-Side, we’ve got a lot of music. For days and days coming, for years and years. Keep looking for all this music that’s coming from us. It’s the same ten people and there are like twenty different projects [we’re working on]. We might have different names, but it’s all the same team. That’s it.