Hermitofthewoods – Don’t eat the lotus
Mit seinem dritten Album “Land Of The Lotus Eaters” [Link: DEAD Review] betrat der kanadische Spoken Word und Hip-Hop Künstler Hermitofthewoods in zweierlei Hinsicht absolutes Neuland. Zum einen ist “Land Of The Lotus Eaters” das erste Album, welches er nicht vollständig selbst produzierte und sich stattdessen auf die Kreativität verbündeter Künstler verlies. Zum anderen fand die lange Periode der Self-Releases ein Ende, denn so wurde Hermit in den engen Kreis der Endemik-Familie aufgenommen. Ein passender Anlass um sich nun auch uns und unseren Lesern vorzustellen.
DEAD: Could you please give our readers an introduction about the man called Hermitofthewoods?
Hermitofthewoods: I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia, a port city on the east coast of Canada. I have a son named Jack who is almost 9 years old and I teach music-related courses in the Cultural Studies department at Mount Saint Vincent University. Sometimes, though, I’m known as Hermitofthewoods – musician, writer, provocateur… Halifax hip hop historian, slam poet, maker of fine beats and raps. I’ve been making music since I was a kid, and as Hermit since 2003. I’ve just released my third album, “Land of the Lotus Eaters”, through Endemik Music.
DEAD: Can you explain the title of your new Album – “Land Of The Lotus Eaters”?
Hermitofthewoods: It’s from a verse in Homer’s Odyssey (Bk IX 63-104) about a land where everyone did nothing but consume this heavily-narcotic lotus fruit. It lulled them into blissful contentment and made them forget about the world outside. As long as there was lotus fruit to be eaten, nothing mattered, and everyone was happy. But it was a trap. The lotus eaters were slaves to the fruit and never wished to leave. In their state, they couldn’t see the reality of their situation.
Pop culture is the opiate of the masses
I think that’s where Western Civilization is these days. Pop culture is the opiate of the masses. The reality of the world we live in is obscured by a never-ending cycle of manufactured product, whether it’s pop stars or politics. There’s a line from Theodor Adorno that’s repeated a few times on the album, “The jazz machine will pound away forever.” He said that in reference to the stubborn persistence of a system that reaches a point of efficiency and then simply repeats itself ad nauseum. Satisfied.
Of course, a system that simply repeats what has been satisfactory in the past can overlook changing circumstances and may not be well suited for the future. Here we are, standing on the shoulders of the twentieth century – which saw incredible technological, scientific, and intellectual progress – and we are arguing about whether or not gay people should have the same rights as everyone else, over whose concept of God is worth killing for, and about which celebrity looks uglier without makeup.
The power of the people has never been greater, technology has tipped the scales, and someone is going to be humiliated on tonight’s TV singing competition so that no one notices. This is the land of the lotus eaters.
DEAD: “Land Of The Lotus Eaters” is your first Album which wasn’t completely produced by yourself. What do you think was the main difference caused by this kind of approach compared to your first two Albums?
I wanted to respect the nature of collaboration and work with what came back to me
Hermitofthewoods: I think the main difference was in how I went about writing songs. In my own productions, I can rearrange the beat to suit my needs as a lyricist. I would start with a basic framework, write whatever I was going to write, and put it all together. With this album, I tried to let the way the music was structured guide the lyrics. Having never collaborated on this scale before, I wanted to take advantage of the experience. I’m sure I could have asked that the music be restructured to fit some idea I had, but I wanted to respect the nature of collaboration and work with what came back to me. That led to even more communal work as Mike Feuerstack (Snailhouse), Tim Crabtree (Paper Beat Scissors), Kyle Cunjak (Olympic Symphonium), Brendan Rutherford (Movements), and EMC (Three Sheet) were brought in to add their own touches to the album. With the exception of Brendan, who learned how to drum in Morse code for this record, the only instruction given was to do what they felt should be done. It was inspiring and hugely rewarding to have such great people join in the making of it all.
I’ve always done the artwork and layout for my albums, as well. Not having a hand in this one felt strange, but the ideas that came back from our man Migwel in France were outstanding, and nothing I would have ever thought of. I love it.
DEAD: How did the collaboration with Scott Da Ros proceed. Did he sent you some beats or ideas, or have you two been together from the first note trough to the last?
Hermitofthewoods: The album started with me recording some demos at home. I was trying to put some beats together by playing instruments instead of sampling.
Once I had a dozen or so recorded, I wasn’t sure what to do with them. It was around then that I was talking to Scott and we both expressed an interest in working together (after I appeared on bleubird’s Mega All Stars Posse Cut and a track he produced for EMC and I as Higher State called Gated Communities. Also, his work on One Kind of Dead End and the Triune Gods album is extraordinary and I’m a big fan.). I had a bunch of rough songs and he had some time, so I sent them to him.
I listened to the songs for about two months before writing a word
One by one they came back to me over the following months. I’d numbered the songs randomly, without working titles, so I was never sure which song he had sent me until a familiar bit would come through. It was beautiful. He sculpted the music I’d made into something new, added his own parts, and turned out some incredible sounds. Musical sketches were passed back and forth, getting refined, and growing into songs. We talked a lot about what we thought each song should feel and sound like. Truth be told, it was hard to write some of them because I liked the music so much on its own. I listened to the songs for about two months before writing a word, trying to come up with a lyrical idea that could tie all of these sounds together. Once I had that, I wrote it all out and travelled to Montreal to record the album with Scott in his studio. He was a producer in the traditional sense, as opposed to hip hop’s version of beatmaker as producer, by bringing the whole project together and overseeing the creation of this thing as a tangible and coherent album.
DEAD: “Land Of The Lotus Eaters” in its entirety sounds quite dark. Can you tell us something about the concept behind the album?
What would happen if we logged off the internet and turned off the TVs?
Hermitofthewoods: When I was trying to come up with an idea for the record I started thinking of the story of the lotus eaters. I studied history in school, and I teach cultural studies. All of these things came together and I wondered what the world we live in would look like if we stopped eating the lotus fruit. What would happen if we logged off the internet and turned off the TVs? What would we do if we all had to look at each other and confront some pretty basic truths about our shared humanity? I think things would get dark. A wealthy minority has always had the means to inflict a lot of hardship on anyone starting to question the legitimacy of the system.
So, I was thinking of all of that – Spanish Civil War scenarios for 21st century North America – and I came up with a story that played out in the context of it all. It’s all very loosely defined. I didn’t want the lyrics to be expository and tell a dry, linear narrative. I wanted to come up with songs that captured the zeitgeist of this imagined scenario. For all the darkness, though, there is a hopeful streak that runs throughout the album. Humanity triumphs over ideology, and all that.
DEAD: What can we expect next from Hermitofthewoods?
Hermitofthewoods: In the fall I’m going to be performing with the Halifax Music Co-Op (thehmc.ca). It’s a community orchestra with around 80 members. A composer/arranger named Marc Blouin has been working with a few songs from Land of the Lotus Eaters, and a few from Love’s Dark Season, and over the next few months we will be sorting out parts and getting them ready for rehearsals. It’s all part of a program called Inventions that pairs the orchestra with non-classical musicians. This year myself and a great songwriter named Gianna Lauren have the privilege. It should be amazing. The performance will be recorded, as well, and that will be released in the winter.
Aside from that, I think my next album may turn the tables a bit. Hip hop will always inform what I do, but I like to throw a folk song into the mix sometimes, like “Give Us Time” or “How To Defuse A Bomb“. They have hip hop elements, but they’re the kinds of songs I started out writing 20 years ago as a kid with a guitar. I think I want my next album to explore that territory. Writing songs with just a guitar and some paper, but giving them the same kind of studio production I’d put into a hip hop record. I’d love to see what Scott Da Ros could do with something like that, as well.
DEAD: Any last words or anything left you want to tell our readers?
Hermitofthewoods: Lots of love to my boy Shooty Boo, the IMF crew, Scott Da Ros, my amazing parents, my brother Greg, Kat, Young Thrillionaires, and the Mayor of Dartmouth. Keep rap weird. Support independent artists. Get outside more. Don’t eat the lotus.
DEAD: Thank you very much for your time!http://hermitofthewoods.bandcamp.com/
Text: Markus Matt
Foto(s): Kyle Cunjak
Tags: Endemik Music Hermitofthewoods