Thursday, December 11, 2003
Tim vonHolten talks to Tech N9ne in the east Kansas City-home of his manager, Travis O'Guin.
Tell me about the move.
Well we've got a bigger office space, for one, it's off of 'sunset and Vine, the CNN building. I think i've done everything I can possibly do in Kansas City. People love me here, I've gotta go expand. It's real simple, I just gotta go expand. They've been waitin' on me out there for the longest, Quincy Jones has been tryin' to get me out there since '97. Every time I'm out there I do big things. When I was out there in '97 I was with Quincy (Jones), when I was out there in '98I was on the "Gang Related" soundtrack with Tupac. Big. '99, did a song with Eminem and RZA, so on and so forth. So it's a bigger move, man, we have to expand.
You worked with RZA. Is it true that Wu Tang ain't nothin' to fuck with?
(laughs) Yeah, it's true, Wu Tang ain't nothin' to fuck with FOR REAL for real.
Are you planning on keeping your KC ties?
Yes , totally. It's all I know man. I would much rather stay here, put it like that.
You've talked about building a Kansas City Empire. What are your plans now?
Still buildin' it. I mean, you can see it happening. Back then it was me. Now it's me and Skatterman and Snug Brim. And after that's comin' Big Krizz Kaliko, after that's BG, after that's Vertigo, y'know, we're buildin' it, it's still the same, we're just expandin'. Bigger office space, y'know it's showin' that it's growin'. If we weren't, we wouldn't have the CNN building.
Do you ever worry that you'll get so big that you'll lose touch with the local scene? I mean, are we going to see you showing up at the Pool Room for and emcee battle?
(laughs) Well, it's like this. Tech N9ne is worldwide, man, it's the biggest thing ever to me and if it happens to blow as big as I expect, I won't be able to go anywhere. That's what I'm prepared to do, because my goal is to get my music to the world. I want the world to know what I feel, what I think, laugh with me, cry with me, kick it with me, through my music. So for what I want to do, it's a household name to the 20th power. I can't walk through the mall right now, here. If it turns out the way we plan it ... I'm an everyday person, I like to party a lot, so you never know where I might pop up, but if I pop up, there might be 20 motherfuckers with me. (laughs) Because what I'm talking about is superstar-DOM. That's what I'm on. And when all those people are into your life, like Tupac, everybody knows about Tupac because he let 'em in. I let 'em in. I let 'em into my crazy world. And when you've got people all over the world knowin' you, it's gonna be so big that you can't walk anywhere by yourself.
What's going to set you apart in L.A.?
I don't know if you know this, but since '97, I've been on and off stayin' in LA. I stayed there the summer of '97, the summer of '98, spent a lot of time there in '99 when I did the video with eminem and RZA. I pretty much know it, it's like my second home. It's nothin' new to me. I've been to the clubs, I've roamed sunset (laughs). It's like Mardi Gras on Fridays and Saturdays. It's nothin' new to me. It's just a bigger ocean and a lot more people to get to know Tech N9ne. And wherever I go, I'm set apart. I'm a black dude with red hair. So it's like, "Who the fuck is that?" And then when they hear my music, it's totally different. "What the hell is that?"
Do you now own the rights to all your music?
Yeah, we do.
And Anghellic is re-released?
As "Reparation," like "Repay me for what you fucked up, JCOR." Yeah that was harsh,
because that was my life, recorded. They fucked it up. I write my life. It's not fabricated. It's not something I can just think up, like "That's cool, I can can do this in 5 minutes." It takes time to do my shit. But them fucking that up, it hurt me really bad.
And that was Interscope?
That was JCOR / Interscope / Universal. But it wasn't Interscope or Universal that fucked it up. It was JCOR. They didn't have enough to do what we had to do, and they didn't let us know. But Travis (O'Guin), being a shrewd businessman, he found out quick, and we rode up there with a couple of big motherfuckers. "Give us our CD back. We need this. This is my music." It was two weeks after 9/11, we still flew out there. The office was right down the street from it, you could still see the smoke, that's how serious it was, to get my music back, to get my life back. When you're goin' to get your life, nothin' can stop you.
Why would you go into the belly of the beast, considering your FTI stance.
I'm going into the machine. I'm going into the machine to fuck up the machine even more. Because I'm totally the other way, I'm totally to the left. The industry is so fake, it makes my stomach turn. I'm going into the belly of the beast to infect it with my shit, and it's going to be a beautiful infection. People love this virus, my virus is music. So I'm going to go infect the belly of the beast.
So there are no major label plans at all anymore?
They're callin'. They gotta pay me BIG. Tech N9ne, we're a self-contained unit: We do all our own tours, we have all our own merchandise, we do all our own recording, we produce our own groups, we have an in-house producer. They have to pay me a lot of money for me to bow down. A whole bunch.
And if they pay you enough it's not bowing down.
No. It's not really bowing down, it's taking what's owed to me. We are a label's dream. They don't have to do anything. All they have to do is give us their hooks, give us their hookup, give us the manpower they have.
The one thing that all the big independents that I talk to tell me is that, despite their self-sufficiency in all these areas, the one boundary they can't break into is radio. Somewhere, between the 70s and now, payola went from becoming the most serious scandal in radio to the standard. How do you get around this.
We've been lucky so far. It was hard at first, 'cause it's a money game. It's a popularity contest. If you're not the most popular, if you don't have the most money, you're not gonna get it. If you're not throwin' around 500,000 here, 500,000 there, you're not gonna have radio play like that. Luckily, we've got a little money. "Imma Tell" has been added to a lot of stations lately. I can't believe it. They're callin' me for shows. We're startin' to get into that circle of money. And it's fucked up, 'cause it's not about talent. It hasn't been for years.
It seems like enough people realize how much radio sucks.
You can't find enough people to do that because the radio dictates what's dope, and a lot of that shit ain't dope. It's constant bombardment. I'll even like it after awhile, they're playin' it 24 hours a day, you're gonna start singin' it. It's infectious. Radio, they determine what's good to a lot of people. And that's why radio is so big, and that's why the hits are so big. If they constantly bombard you with Tech N9ne, the household name is gonna be Tech N9ne. It starts in the club, then the radio.
So the radio is the one area where you're being forced to play that game.
Exactly. You're forced to play that game if you want the world to know who the fuck you are.
And then you can stop playing the game?
Well, you'll forever play that game if you want your shit played on the radio. I'm sure Timbaland still plays that game. You still gotta grease a palm. It's all about that. Everybody's gotta get paid. It's a fucked up statement, but it's all about money. And when you get into this industry and you figure it out that it's all about money, it takes all fun out of creativity. So you've got to be true to yourself and do what you feel. That's the plus about me, because I don't conform to anything. I do what I feel when I hear this beat. I do what I feel. If it comes out to where you can dance to it, people will dance to it. I just do it, this is my life, here, you take it. Do what you want to do with it. "Oh, they said that's a radio hit." Okay, that's cool. The good thing about me is that my shit is not forced, so I don't feel bad when they tell me that "Here Comes Tecca Nina" is gonna be the next single. I love it equally with "Imma Tell." I love it equally with "I'm a Playa.." It's me. That's the good thing about me. It's just me. They happen to like "Imma Tell." They didn't like "Slacker." They said it's "a skater song." Really, they wanted to say, "It's white people bullshit." So I guess "Imma Tell" is "black people shit" in their eyes. That's the shit that fucks me up about the industry. Music just can't be music. Black people will love this. White people are gonna love this. Mexican people are gonna love this. Chinese motherfuckers gonna love this 'cause he's goin' "toinga toinga toinga toinga-toing. It's like, anything to make a dollar, they do.
It's amazing that they make any money at all because they don't seem to pay attention to what people are listening what music.
Radio cats are not idiots. They know that constant bombardment is gonna get someone to buy an album 20 times over. And if you pay the right money, you'll get it. It's a popularity contest. If I become the most popular, you'll see me more on television. I tend to be the most popular. I'm tryin' to be. That's why they want me out in L.A. I don't wanna go.
Is the Internet still helping you?
Big. Big. Out of the water. Over in Austrailia and New Zealand we had people with FTI shirts. They bought it on our site. We've got people over in Great Britain tryin' to get with us because of the web. A lot of people found out about Tech N9ne when we first came out with "Absolute Power," you know we put it on there for free, free downloads for people to download for free to see if they liked it. And if they liked it they could go buy it, and if they went to go buy it there's 7 extra songs, a bonus DVD, 70 minutes. Beautiful.
You guys have a lot of video. What are your plans for that?
We're gonna do another DVD release, like in February I think. I think we're gonna call it "The Tech N9ne Experience."
You've been heavy into "Beef." Have you been working on a full-length of your own?
Not yet. I'm Vice President of Strange Music so we've got other artists. So I actually took the song list that Skatterman and Snug Brim do and put 'em all together, put 'em all in order how the album should go, and did the same for Kutt Calhoun, and now I'm gonna start construction on Big Krizz Kalico's album, our next artist. I have to be there for the creativity part of the album. They'll bring me to hear the beats with 'em. I'm like the muse. I'm the motherfucker with the ideas.
It's nice that it's not some suit picking the tunes.
I choose all the singles for all my people.
Are you going to keep it grass roots like that no matter how big you get.
I got to. 'Cause the way I'm talkin' about doin' it up, we'll tour together. Strange music will tour together just like Rockafella, just like Jay-Z and Memphis Bleak and Benny Segal and Young Gunz and all them they tour together because it's a family. We, bein' a family, we'll probably record on the road. I'll be there. I gotta be there.
Quincy Jones told you that you had to choose between a successful career and a successful relationship. How's that going?
I was like bullshit. I can do it. It's hard. My wife loves me but she don't like me. I'm still in the trenches every day. I'm still buildin' my name, and it's growin' rapidly, but not fast enough to where I can relax at home with my kids and my wife. I'm always on the road, 3 months at a time, 6 months at a time.
Is the family making the move to Hollywood?
Yeah yeah yeah, but I'll still be out. She says even when I'm home I'm gone. And it's true. I'm out there in the trenches tryin' to make this work, I've got to make this work for the kids. They're the biggest Tech N9ne fans I know. Fuck me. My little girl watching the fabulous life of all the artists of '03 last night. They were showing the fabulous life of Beyonce, and Puffy, and how they spend money, and my little girl's like, "Daddy, I can't wait." She's 9. I got that kind of pressure, I can't let them down. They wanna do so many things 'cause they've seen a lot. They've met a lot of people. I do shows, they'll go there with me, they'll meet Snoop, y'know, so they know what it's like to have shit. So I've gotta do it for them. They're the biggest fans I know. They're rootin' for me. My daddy's Tech N9ne. I gotta do it for them. If it wasn't for them I wouldn't even be thinking of moving to L.A. to expand. If I didn't have them I'd probably be pretty reckless. They keep me in line. I gotta do it for them. In L.A., if I want to be the big star that I dreamed to be all these years, that I been tryin' to be all this time, I gotta go there and augment the situation, I think that's the word. Augment.
You don't want them growing up to be Nicole Ritchies and Paris Hiltons though, do you?
They're not bratty, but they'll be rich kids. Probably not that stuck up and shit. They know what hard times are. They went through hard shit with me, so they know what that life is like, and they know what the middle life is like, and now they're lookin at ... and I been able to do it so far. My wife hasn't worked in 5 years. There's so much I've gotta do. Because my bottom line is that I want everybody to know who the fuck I am. Because I feel like my thought process is pretty funny, it's pretty entertaining to listen to. My stories are pretty... A lot of people can relate to dealin' with a psycho bitch. I want the world to know me, and to get more people to know me I've got to go where a lot of people are, whether I like it or not. 'Cause this is my comfort zone, Kansas City, Missouri. I love it. They call me the Kansas City King. That's me. Everybody knows who I am. I love it. (sings Cheers theme - really) So I'm about to go make some other motherfuckers know who the fuck I am. I'm gonna get on the mic and do what I do, be how I be, see how it turns out. I won't stop until it's a done deal, I won't stop until everybody knows who the fuck I am. If I go to Bangkhok, they gotta know who I am, they gotta know me. They already know me in Germany. They already know me in Auckland, New Zealand, they already know me in Sydney, Austrailia and Adelaide. They let me know it was world wide when they wanted me over there.
Does your FTI stance carry over into other aspects of your life? The products you buy, etc.?
I'm just "Fuck the Industry" on my end because the industry fucked me for so long. It's the natural thing to do, if somebody gets you in a corner you're gonna lash out. It's totally personal. They played with my life, so I said fuck them. I'm the poster child for "Fuck the Industry." FTI. Yes, I said, "Fuck you." Now you see me over here sellin' hundred thousands of copies. That's why I'm on all the Billboard lists and countdowns and everything. They're like, "Who the fuck is Tech N9ne?" That's why Universal is callin' right now, that's why Def Jam's called like 4 times. That's why Epic's still fuckin' with us. It's like, "Fly back up here, we can talk again." Why? 'Cause I'm makin' noise over here, sayin' fuck you, they wanna know who the fuck I am. It's effective. And it's my attitude. It's not just somethin' to make people look at me, or like I'm just tryin' to be different, it's my attitude. They fucked me for so long. Perspective fucked me in '93, Quest and Warner fucked me in '97, JCOR fucked me in '99. So we said fuck the industry, we're gonna do our own label, Strange Music, S & M, the snake and the bat, let's do beautiful music. And it worked. And it's growing.
< />And the fact that you can talk this way in print, and they still call you.
Because it's all about money. They know that shit makes money. You can talk any kind of way and they'll still suck your dick, as long as you're the most popular. And that's what I'll never become. I'll always be me. No matter if I'm a multi-millionaire, I'll still be me, I'll still be tellin' you stories. My stories change as my life change. So I'm anxious to see where I'll be 4 years from now, how it's gonna change me at all, 'cause I'm totally comfortable with myself and my mind state right now. Totally. And my heart, the way my heart is. Big heart. The thing that's killin' me now is all the people that I used to love ... they turn against me. People that I grew up with feel like they wanna be a part of what I'm doin'. They exxed their own selves out, back in the past, by bein' two-faced back-stabbers and shit like that, and now that they see that I'm growin I'm gettin' death threats from people I grew up with and shit like that. It's the only thing that changes me a little bit... I don't wanna be around too many people. And people do that to you, they say how stars be like, "I don't wanna go there." Oh, he's stuck up, he can't hang out. No, you got motherfuckers that are jealous, you can't invite X to the picnic. If I step out and I'm doin' songs with Eminem every day, they see me on television every day, and they see me on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and Cribs, you step into a club there's gonna be somebody that's gonna be, "We're gonna wait outside for him." Next thing you know I'm shootin' somebody and I'm goin' to jail. Sometimes you gotta seclude yourself. And I'm a people person. I'm anxious to see where I'm gonna be in 4 years. 'Cause I said in 4 years, when I'm 36, I wanna be able to just sit back and put out artists like we're doin' right now. I just wanna give them my life as it is right now, and as it changes, within 4 years, just see if I can just sit back and be the Vice President and just the Vice President and still oversee all the projects, because I'm not tryin' to be doin' this when I'm 40. I've been doin' this since '85. I wrote my first rhyme in '85, and you can hear it in my music. I'm mad a lot lately. I'm tired of hearin' the same old bullshit on the radio, I'm tired of these people turnin' on me. My music is gettin' more like, "fuck you," and the world loves rebellious motherfuckers. But it's not put on. It's actually my life. That's what my friends love about me. Tech gives you him. How they can tell is beyond me, but they say there's one thing... Dead Pres has a song called Hip Hop, and he say, "Liar, liar, pants on fire, wolf cryer, agent with a wire, I'm gonna know it when I play it." They can hear it, they can tell when it's not authentic. They can tell that my shit is authentic, and I'm gonna try to keep it authentic. I'm gonna do everything in my power to be me, and it don't take that much 'cause me is all I can be and if me is not enough for the world I'm in trouble 'cause that's all I can give.
You've got new tattoos. ("Liberate" along the length of his right forearm, "Me" along his left.)
At first I wasn't gonna get one. I'd only had one tattoo before then, 'cause it's gotta mean a lot for me to put it on my body for the rest of my life. So at the time of this "Beef" soundtrack I knew that my past friends would really be truly tryin' to kill me because of the shit that I say in the song (Beef), and I just felt like it's time for me to be freed from all the bullshit, man, just liberate me, take me away from here. When I say here I mean away from evil. And me tryin' to get away from evil is ironic because they call me a devil worshiper. I'm really tryin' to be free from a lot of the darkness. 'Cause it follows me. Also I'm with a lot of angels that dig me.
Tell me about demons.
Demons down here. Let me tell you what demons mean to me. To me, someone that deliberately tries to bring you down, somebody that practices deception, somebody tries to make you think somethin' else when it's not the real. And I got a lot of people tryin' to do that to me. Got a lot of people that turn on me after all the love I showed 'em, and after I take my love away they show me their true colors, which is the demonic side of 'em. Tryin' to take money from me, puttin' out bootleg CDs after I'm not with you anymore, makin' money off me and not givin' me any. Demons. People that try to hurt you deliberately, for no reason, try to bring you down, try to hurt everybody around you, because they're jealous. Only demons are jealous, and don't want to see a motherfucker get ahead. And that's fucked up about the Black community, 'cause that's one thing we have that plagues us, is jealousy in our community, because a lot of us don't want to see us get ahead and do well for our families. And a lot of us... when I say us I mean African Americans... if I'm not gonna be gettin' it, he's not gonna be gettin' it either. Look at rap. Jah Rule, 50 cent, Tupac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Naz. Y'know, these people fight. You heard 50 cent gettin' shot 9 times, and Tupac gettin' shot to death, and Biggie bein' shot to death over rap beefs. You don't hear about Enrique Iglesias and Marc Anthony talkin' shit about each other over tracks, and you don't hear about Metallica fuckin' with Ozzy. It's something that plagues our community. Jealousy. And I have a lot of demons pretending to be angels around me so they can get a little bit of what I got. But what is in the dark always shall come to light, and it always comes to light, and people are the biggest upset, and people'll let you down all the time 'cause I don't expect a lot, I just expect a lot of good times, kickin' it. Let's have a good time before we die, but these demons are a motherfucker. I got cats wantin' to kill me over this music, now, since I been back from this tour, and now I can't go places I used to go, my bodyguards gotta go with me. I just got back from this tour November 2nd. They had a screening of Tupac's movie (Tupac Resurrection) a week after my birthday. 103 had a screening. I got there kinda late. So me and my bodyguards and a couple of my group members went. It was so crowded that we had to sit toward the front, 3 rows from the front row. So the entrance is behind us. 20 minutes into the movie, it's gettin' good, and BOOM, I feel somethin' hit my head, harder than ever. I get up, and it's my past business partner, Diamond, y'know Boss Hoss, jealous, and mad at me for what I said in the song, the truth. By the time I got up, my bodyguards already had him, and pushed him out of the theatre. You got old people runnin' out, kids screamin, made me look so horrible. All we did is hold him down until the police came. We did it right. There was like 7 people, we coulda stomped him out, damn near killed him, but that ain't us. He's a demon. He's sick that 'm not there anymore; he's sick that I'm not over there gettin' him money anymore; he's sick that I'm doin' it and they're not, and they miss me over there. So I told him in the song everything he did, and he tried to steal on me from the back in a movie theatre. While he's on the ground, squirmin', tryin' to get up, I'm like, "I didn't think you'd do this to me, homie." He's like, "I'm gonna kill you, don't even worry." I've never been involved in nothin' like that in my life. And it's all over this music. Jealousy. People take you away from your normal way of kickin' it. I've never changed, not once. People always say, "You think you big now." No I don't, I'm still the same, I'm still tryin' to get there. It's people that change because they start feelin' inferior around you.