Tech N9ne: "The Beats Tell Me What To Do"
Kansas City's Aaron Dontez Yates has dipped his hands into both the worlds of hip-hop and rock 'n' roll, sold more than one million albums, founded a record label, and been featured in a ton of video games and films--including the upcoming sequel to the huge underground cult hit Devil's Carnival. Recently, he recorded tracks with musicians like Serj Tankian, Wiz Khalifa and even one with the three remaining members of The Doors.
You might be surprised you haven't heard of him--but it could just be that the name you know him by is the one derived from the TEC-9 handgun, given to him by a friend who said it represented his fast Chopper-style rhyming method.
But that's not the only style Tech N9ne is known for. He's influenced by everything from old school hip hop (Slick Rick, N.W.A., Biggie Smalls) to classic rock (Pink Floyd, Elton John, AC/DC) to heavy metal (Metallica, Slipknot, System of a Down). He is able to balance indie and mainstream music, and his lyrics are etched with distinctive imagery that spans the horrific, the sexually provocative, and the beautiful.
Up On The Sun talked with Tech N9ne about working with the Doors, his favorite horror films (including his upcoming project), and writing about Earth, Wind and Fire.
Tech N9ne is playing at The Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Wednesday, September 18.
Since 1999 he has been putting out his brand of eclectic sound and selling out venues. This past July, Tech N9ne released his 13th studio-album, Something Else. It's uniquely broken up into three portions: Earth, Water and Fire, and features guest appearances from B.o.B, Big K.R.I.T., Cee Lo Green, The Doors, Game, Kendrick Lamar, Serj Tankian, T-Pain, Trae tha Truth and Wiz Khalifa, among others including several artists from Tech N9ne's Strange Music label.
The album's narrative focuses on a meteorite that crashes down in a Kansas City suburb, and begins to spread a burgundy mist in the surrounding area. The mist causes things to become chaotic at first, but later leads to a clear decrease in crime and an increase in test performance among all schoolchildren. The first section, "Fire," discusses Tech's demons; "Water," has lighter themes and is seen as the party section, located between two extremely deep song sets; and the last, and arguably best section is "Earth." It focuses on peace and deep emotion, and closes out with "Strange 2013," where Tech worked with the three remaining musicians from The Doors.
How's your tour going so far?
Wonderful. I'm laying in my bunk on my tour bus in Victoria, Canada... we just crossed some river on a ferry on the tour bus.
I'm betting the weather is better there than out here in Arizona.
Is it hot? I'll be there soon. I thought I was going to play at an amphitheatre, but then I heard they moved it to the Marquee. Do you know?
Last I heard it was moved to the Marquee, yes.
That's so weird, because, um, the police had said that we were no longer welcome back at the Marquee because they said they had to arrest a bunch of people last time we were there. I had no idea for what, though--I was heart-broken! Marquee is a like a home for me! So maybe they changed their minds.
First off, I'm a fellow music fan from Kansas City--I actually went to Shawnee Mission South high school.
Oh yeah; that's wonderful. I just did a video in Shawnee Mission Park. It's a song I recorded called "Party The Pain Away." It was a beautiful setting.
Is that connected to Special Effects, the new album?
No, it's connected to Something Else, the last album actually. I have no direction yet, just a title. Special Effects is something I have to achieve to be better than Something Else, and that's going to be a hard task.
I know that's something you aim for with every album; setting the bar much higher than the last. Do you have a method to the madness for doing that?
It's really simple, actually. My producer, Seven, and my producer, Young Fyre--you know, I just know they have to be bigger than the last and way more different. The beats tell me what to do. If the beats sound like someone would sound wonderful on it, I send it their way.
You know, I sent one to Madonna for Something Else. [Laughs] Nobody responded, but I sent it! It was a song called "Drowning" that Liz Suwandi ended up doing. It's wonderful.
I feel like Something Else has some intense beats. Nas was supposed to be on the track "Burn the World," but he felt it was too personal and requested a different track to work with you on. What was it that Nas wasn't feeling?
Oh yeah, he just said it was something that was too personal. That song was based around a four-year-old that got raped in Kansas City who was the daughter of a friend of mine. I understood that.
I got it, that he didn't want to do something so... personal to me. He wanted to do something harder. So I'll get him on the next one.