Sole And The Skyrider Band – D.I.Y.
After leaving Anticon Records, Tim Holland a.k.a. Sole teamed up again with the Skyrider Band and produced the long-awaited album „Hello Cruel World.“ The album, due to its new approach and more mainstream oriented sound, gave many people another view at the artist called Sole – not only out of the musical perspective. DEAD Magazine author Kolja Liebau talked with the bearded hobby gardener and found out some interesting background information regarding the new album. Furthermore, Sole talked about the connection to the German label Equinox Records, how to survive such a long time in the rap-biz and why music is one of the best ways to talk about critical topics.
DEAD: First, I have to say that Anticon really affected my view of hip hop. Maybe the questions about this past are tiring but I want to ask about the relation between you and the now fragmented collective. I think Alias described it in an insightful way on the track „During this Course“ with Saroos back in 2006. Both – Anticon and Sole – had transformed over this course of time. It’s now one and a half year ago when you announced your break with the label in an official form through your newsletter. Then I liked to see the feature with Sage Francis on the new Sole & Skyrider album and your works with The Pedestrian. Along with that Alias remix of „Hello Cruel World“ with Yoni Wolf. So what did (or didn’t) change in retrospect?
What is the point of starting a business, if that business doesn’t enable me to do what I love?
Sole: Most importantly the business. I envisioned Anticon being a label where artists would have direct control over the business and reap the financial and promotional benefits of it. As the years progressed the artists had less and less meaningful support from the label and eventually I found myself working a day job and I was like “what is the point of starting a business, if that business doesn’t enable me to do what I love?”. So I pulled my catalogue, thinking it would end my career, and low and behold I was earning a decent middle class living and had no more stress or negative energy in my life. People like Alias, Jel, Why, I love those guys, they are my brothers… but I’d rather be friends with them and do music occasionally then have a “collective”. I think a collective is actually an outdated concept. Including those people on my record was an artistic decision, but also a calculated political gesture to show the world that although a lot has changed, we all still stand united in one form or another.
DEAD: The Sole & The Skyrider Band debut was released on Anticon. After that you worked with Fake Four. How is it that „Hello Cruel World“ will be released on the German label Equinox Records in Europe?
Sole: Fake Four aka Ceschi has a strong relationship with Gunter. He expressed interest in releasing our record in the EU and after we saw how well the Ceschi album did it seemed like a good idea. Particularly because I know Gunter is an old school underground hip hop type cat, I thought he’d be a good person to help us with the musical transition we were making.
DEAD: You have worked with Markus Archer of The Notwist and 88:Komaflash, there was a remix by Bit-Tuner on the „Nuclear Winter Remixes“. Do you follow the German-speaking scene?
Sole: No, I don’t really follow any music that I can’t understand the lyrics to. Those are all people I have become friends with over the years. I would also add Dannie Golden to that list. I like the music all the aforementioned artists make, for sure, and I know that they share a similar worldview, so I roll with them.
DEAD: Your new album sounds to me like you were more involved into production then on the first Sole & Skyrider Band albums. Can you say something about the process of creating „Hello Cruel World“?
Sole: Well honestly I wasn’t involved in the production at all. I think we had more of a “concept” of what we wanted to do this time, and agreed on a vision and saw it through. Basically, Bud and John would make a beat… I would write to it, arrange it record to it… then we’d send it to William, our multi instrumentalist… then we’d form a song from it. Lots of files being sent around. But lots of improvisational elements as well. We try to keep everything kind of impulsive so that it feels alive.
DEAD: There is the track „The Bridges let us down“ that was released on Mansbestfriend and the first Sole & Skyrider album. It sounds to me like it was a production from you translated to the new project?
Sole: Initially that hook came from a song on Mansbestfriend 3 and then I just reused it for SSRB. But it’s certainly a post-anticon theme I jacked from “the dissolution of the situationist international“. “We came to burn the bridges but the bridges let us down”. “All that is solid melts into air” and so on.
DEAD: Ok. Also, I was really wondering about features like Isaiah Toothtaker and Lil B. How did these collabos take place?
Sole: Well I have known Isaiah for almost a decade, he always was at my shows in Tucson, always friendly and I have been friends/following the music of Mestizo for a long time now… On this album I reached out to them to contribute and they were down. We roll in the same circles so that’s not really a stretch at all. I began following Lil B shortly after I left Anticon, and really became influenced by his whole approach to DIY business and music. I hit him up on Twitter and sent him my music. He was down to do a track so we bounced ideas around for songs and beats. One of my favorite things about Lil B is his more reflective, socio political stuff… So that’s what I wanted to bring out of him. Low and behold a year later he’s making songs with Lil Wayne! haha
DEAD: Ha! I hoped that you would lead over from Lil B to the DIY thing. You have translated the declaration of „independent as fuck“ into a more socio-political realism with „kill the middleman“. D.I.Y. (do it yourself) is one of your most repeated messages and now it has its own self titled song. I think you are really representing this kind of living. What does it mean to you?
One lesson I have consistently learned is that anytime I have relied on other people to do work I’m capable of doing, I end up helpless.
Sole: Brian Cox, one of the more popular futurists and quantum physicists was being interviewed on democracy now recently… He was asked about the future and how it would effect labor, with automation, robots, etc. His main point was, “we will always need artists, masons, construction workers, gardeners, etc.. What we won’t need is middlemen, brokers, etc. Technology more than anything is getting rid of middlemen, travel agents, etc.”. In this day and age at least for me. One lesson I have consistently learned is that anytime I have relied on other people to do work I’m capable of doing, I end up helpless. And labels, etc. they take a huge cut of money to basically do nothing. I think in this day and age, if you can maintain a web presence, a mailing list, go direct with a distributor for itunes, etc. that’s all you need. People have grown accustomed to going direct to artists. Of course this is killing off labels and record stores, but so be it. For instance, when I left Anticon, and changed my approach, before we even started the Hello Cruel World campaign, I had gotten more press with the Nuclear Winter videos I was making, then almost the past 8 years combined. It was crazy. But I was reaching out to people myself and doing ME and that’s what people wanna see nowadays. They’ve seen it all before. The internet opens up all kinds of possibilities of communicating with people and new ways of marketing art. It’s kind of a disgusting rabbit hole as well but I’d rather be doing this then working a day job wanting to hang myself in the bathroom stall. Artists should create art. They shouldn’t need to do other things to supplement their income. Technology allows us new ways of doing so. Some people are too lazy to adapt, and they will be irrelevant or broke or both.
DEAD: That answered already my question about the meaning of the internet for responding to actuality and a D.I.Y. philosophy. You had that experience with the „Live from Rome“ LP. I heard that you would have spent more time into that record if you were able to do so. What do you think about doing music as a job and being forced to do so in a financial way?
Sole: I don’t care. I use spam bots. Whatever the fuck I can to get my message out there.
Well Live From Rome is a good example of that. It is also the beginning of the end of my involvement with Anticon. But yeah I wasn’t 100% happy with Live From Rome but I was stranded in Spain, with no one to work with, and a few half inspired beats from my homies back home. That was when those guys realized they wanted to put more energy into solo instrumental albums, and unfortunately I was counting on them for music. But anyway, yeah I just put it out because I needed to tour. I needed money. But it was also a transitional record for me. That was really when I decided I wanted to make “rap” music that worked like “folk music” like I’m doing now… but these sort of influences take time to sink in.
DEAD: Because of that experiences I asked about art as a job that could mean to be forced by financial reasons.
Sole: Well, that’s a reality we live with.
DEAD: On the other hand you got more time for art.
Sole: We can choose to be hobbyists, part time musicians or go all the way. I have tried both over the past 10 years and all working a day job ever does is inspire me to refine my hustle, to work harder so I won’t have to. BUT that is what is cool about the DIY internet age… no one forces my hand anymore. I can move as slowly as I want because my back catalogue sustains me. Anything else I do its because I want to, because I have the time.
DEAD: What is your motivation for doing rap for such a long time?
When I stop being inspired I’ll do something else.
Sole: I think about the people I respect. Public Enemy, Pete Seeger, Woodie Guthrie etc. They dedicated their lives to using music as a tool to advocate for social change. I can’t think of anything else I’d want to do with my time. I know that what I’m doing is all about the long haul. It’s all about being this voice through all these times. And luckily I stay abreast of new movements in music, and I remain inspired. When I stop being inspired I’ll do something else. I imagine that what I’m doing now, will transition into something else… but for now I’m happy with what I’m doing. I could see myself having a talk show, making documentaries, writing books, who knows I may step back in the ring and start helping other artists down the line but I’m not sure what I would do, right now I’m happy to focus on myself.
DEAD: You wrote a book already?
Sole: It’s just a long poem. I wouldn’t say “I wrote a book”. It’s mainly an art book by Ravi Zupa with my words in it.
DEAD: I remember your line “I’m not smart enough to write a book” ha…
Sole: Heheh. Well I’m still not!
DEAD: Your early lyrics had political and philosophical issues, too. But with your „Nuclear Winter“ series you are putting out tracks on current political issues like the video to „Mr Insurgent“, „Bradley Manning Swag“, „The Great Deluge“ or your statement to the killing of Bin Laden („It ain’t over“ written by The Pedestrian) which was released only some days after it happened. Would you agree when I say that Sole is becoming a more and more political musician?
Sole: I think I have refined what I’m doing to fit the times better for sure. And I think I’m making my writing more clear and focused then it used to be. But I’ve been talking about this stuff since Selling Live Water. The Nuclear Winter series is more political for sure it’s overt. The benefit we did for Japan is clearly political but the new Mansbestfriend stuff isn’t. The new SSRB stuff isn’t. Really I’m just finding different outlets for all my different personalities. The Nuclear Winter stuff is cool because it’s opening a lot of younger people into radical philosophy. It’s also building a shit ton of bridges with activist types, it’s opened a lot of doors for me.
DEAD: Does music sometimes feel unimportant through a political view?
I could write books, or essays or whatever… but who gives a fuck? Who would read it? In hip hop I have a unique voice, and I’m happy to use it best I can to intervene.
Sole: Yes definitely. BUT… that’s why I’ve had such a blast with the Nuclear Winter stuff, because I feel like it’s actually a really good format to talk about this stuff… people who wouldn’t normally read an article about the stuff I talk about on these Nuclear Winter tracks are getting casually introduced to these ideas in a format that’s digestible to them. And that makes me feel good because sure I could write books, or essays or whatever… but who gives a fuck? Who would read it? In hip hop I have a unique voice, and I’m happy to use it best I can to intervene. On top of it I’m making albums like Hello Cruel World, actively trying to infiltrate the mainstream. Imagine if was going gold, on MTV and shit, doing the same thing! Imagine all the people I could reach. Imagine all the kids I could dissuade from joining the army! Not to place any kind of self importance or delusions of grandeur, for the most part I laugh at myself and what I’m doing with all of this, the absurdity of it all. I think society is pretty doomed and I don’t think music will really change anything to be honest. I’m just staying busy.
DEAD: Well, that was very insightful. I got one last question that brings us back to the Sole & Skyrider project again. This won’t be the last album of the Sole and The Skyrider Band project. The Prefix Magazine noted „Hello Cruel World“ as a possible turning point. What can we expect?
Sole: We have a new EP dropping this fall. Not sure the title. Either “Challenger” or “Write or die”. We actually are recording new tracks this week. I really can’t tell what the future holds. This album is kind of blowing up I think. I’m shocked at how positive the responses have been. All we wanted out of this record was to get on 2DopeBoyz and get a new booking agent in the states. We got both of those things. Now we’re just about to tour a lot and try to build ourselves up more. I have some ideas for what we will do next, but I don’t wanna tip my hat and have people steal my ideas. We have definitely created a new aesthetic for ourselves, and we will continue to build on that our next EP Challenger.
DEAD: So there will be more musical experiments?
Sole: I didn’t meant to type that. But yeah, we have a new EP dropping in November. It’s going to be a bit darker then the stuff on the album. I just wanna make music that I wanna hear.
DEAD: Anything else you would like to say?
Sole: HTTP://SOLEONE.ORG and thank you!
DEAD: Thank you, too!
Text: Kolja Liebau
Foto(s): Lucia De Giovanni
Tags: Sole Sole & The Skyrider Band