Lyrics Born Can’t Sit Still: LP33 Interview

originally posted @blog/LP33

Lyrics Born is an artist that’s hard to nail down.  His music has moved across the musical landscape traversing hip hop’s classic boom bap style, residing in pop, then moving to 80′s funk and electro.  Also as I found out, the same goes for getting him on the phone.  Not by any fault on his own, the man is on full assault mode for his recent Decon Records release As You Were, and the accompanying tour that kicked off this past December; Lyrics Born is not slowing down.  Add to that the iffy reception the mountains of Colorado can bring, we were at this for the better part of 3 days.

We linked up with him though and I got to talk with LB about his influences, life, and just what makes Lyrics Born so elusive.

“To be honest with you, I had ADD before they even had a word for it.”

BJ: Where you at right now?
Right now in Vail, Colorado.

BJ: You a skier or anything, or is it just another tour stop and you keep it moving?
Ya know, we’re playing tonight in Vail, but hopefully I’ll be able to do some night skiing, that’ll be fun.

BJ: On the tour, is there a spot in particular that you’re looking forward to hitting?  Any place that holds any crazy memories for you?
I’m really looking forward to hitting the midwest again.

BJ: What about those spots really get to you?
I just haven’t been to the midwest in over a year, so I’m really looking forward to that part.

BJ: What cities do you think give you the best reception, the crowd’s really into it, and pushes you?
So far or just in general?

BJ: In general.
I don’t know man, I don’t really get a bad response to be honest with you.  I just feel like, some nights are better than others.  We generally get a good turnout and a good response.  I think I’m appreciative of that, but I’m definitely looking forward to some of these places I haven’t been to in a while.

BJ: You have any interesting/crazy road experiences? Whether at the venue or not, but just while you’ve been on tour through the years?
Oh man, bro I’ve been doing this for fifteen years there’s been so many, I don’t even remember them anymore.

BJ: *Laughs*
You know what I mean, its kinda like . . . there’s so many.
BJ: Yeah I wouldn’t doubt that after that many years, it just adds up.

BJ: You’ve been on the grind for fifteen years, from Quannum up until now, has any of that kinda changed the music for you, both musically as well as the business side of it?
Hopefully, I’ve never been one to sit still, or make the same album over and over again.  To be honest with you, I had ADD before they even had a word for it.  Its just easier for me to keep changing than it is to stay in the same lane.

BJ: Do you think that comes from the influences you had growing up through music, or you personally like to do different things?
I think that’s just the way I’m wired; I just get bored easy, ya know.  I’m always looking for new inspiration, new stimulation. After a time things can just get stale.

BJ: What’s kinda kept you writing and creating?
I don’t know.   I just have a lot of curiosity and i have a lot of drive.  I just feel like I’m always chasing something.  I can’t really explain it other than that, i just feel like I’m always chasing something.  If I have a great show then I want to have another great show; if I have a bad show then I want to have a great show, ya know.

BJ:  . . . Always looking for that motivation and that push, and its there its always there for you.
If someone says something bad about me, then I want to prove them wrong. If someone says something great about me then I want to prove them wrong, *laughs*. Its just the way I’m wired, I can’t really see myself doing anything else 10 years from now.

BJ: Speaking to your background, your Japanese heritage, were there any obstacles for you; getting into music, particularly in hip hop, any to go beyond or get past?
I think that there’s no precedent for what I’m doing and its not like you can point to a long line of Asian Americans in the entertainment industry, that’s what I mean to say.  So a lot of times people, they maybe sometimes assume you can or can’t do what you do.  Just because they may not have seen anything like you do it before.  Early on I just chose to use that as motivation.

“I was really listening to a lot of Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Grace Jones . . . a lot of dance music.”

BJ: Definitely should.
Its been like that ever since.  Like I said; I don’t know how to do anything else.

BJ: Its worked out quite well for you thus far.  15 years in most people get barely out 2 or 3.
I could complain, but I don’t ya know what I mean?  Its like you said overall its gone exceedingly well.  It doesn’t mean in general, that the state of the business could be elevated, but that’s why I’m so proud when I see people like Justin Nguyen, or Sung Kang, or Far East Movement or Russell Peters, or Aziz Ansari; all these people making it.  Regardless of whether we do the same thing, its just nice to see these strides being made.

BJ: Where does it fit into the music with you, is there some bit of inspiration for your from your Japanese heritage?  Or something you’ve heard or seen or the stories you had.  Do you bring any of that with you?
I think that for everybody, your experience is the prism you look through for everything.  Your experiences are the lense through which you view everything.  I think in some ways its overt and in other ways its a culmination of all my other experiences.  Ya know its a difficult question for me to answer.

BJ: You were one of those guys, at least for me, using live instrumentation in your sets.  Now tons of artists are doing it.  What was the change for you, what made you decide to go from the staples, an MC & a DJ, to live instruments?
I’ve been working with the band since ’04 I guess, but I would still work with DJ’s periodically.  In so doing, both have strengths and weaknesses.  I think one of the cool things about this tour is that I finally get to combine both, the live band and the DJ.  Its just been cool, its a different sound and a different experience for the listeners.  I’m able to songs that I don’t normally do in either set.  It’s been really the best of both worlds as far as I’m concerned. It’s been a lot of fun.

BJ: What’s that process like in rehearsals?  you’ve done it for a while now but what’s that process like?  You’re there with the DJ in the sound booth doing your set versus live instruments.
Everybody that I work with is extraordinarily talented.  You have to very competent and capable people around you to really get it done.  I work with all of the singers, and DJs, and musicians; all of them are very talented.  So a lot of the things some people may or may not get hung up on, we don’t.  Its more about  . .  . flow.

The best part about developing a set is the flow.  It really has to flow well.  What that involves is great transitions, great stops, tightness ya know.  That’s what we focus on a lot, once the song gets going,Cool.  But how do you get from one song to the next, does the set have progression, momentum or is there a slump.  Its like writing a book or watching a movie; its got an arch, a beginning, middle, and end.

BJ:  Yeah a sensical development of the music and time as you move through the set.  What was the process of making the new album As You Were?
This album was more about  . . . I really wanted to discuss more of the personal things I’d been going through, and do it musically.  Paying homage to an era that has been really influential to me. That 80’s electro funk era.

BJ: haha thats right in line with my next question. . . Were there any places, album, artists, that you were really pulling from?
On this album I was really listening to a lot of Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Grace Jones, The Gap Band, Tina Marie, David Bowie, Rick James, Africa Bambaataa, a lot of dance music, old and new. That’s really what it was.

BJ: Last few questions right before I close this out.  Were there any guilty pleasures, anything people would be surprised you love or geek out about?
As far as . . .

BJ: Whether it be musically or someone just walks into your room and there’s like a star wars character on your shelf, anything like that?
Right Now . . . furniture.  I really geek out on furniture right now.

BJ: Is there a new place; did you get a new spot now, and looking for new shit to put in?
Just mid-century, anything from the 50s through the 80s furniture wise. I’m on Craigslist in every single city trying light shit up; or Ebay constantly.  My wife just started to panic a little bit.

BJ: To close it out, what’s an average day like for Lyrics Born?  Outside of the booth, outside of the shows, what do you do to relax to get out of that frame for a moment?
Ya know what? I don’t man to be honest with you. I’m always in it.  The only time I’m not is when I’m with my family.  If I’m not in the studio, or not on the road, or not on the phone, my focus is pushing the stroller bro.