featured interview

louis logic: 'I think our music deserves better.' The last few years rap got more musical and live-lier. Producers become musicians; samples turned into a trumpet or a guitar. Examples by the dozen: from Atmosphere to Kanye West, over Tanya Morgan to -of course- The Roots. But rap can do better. 'So many rap records are made out of the same short little segments of music or repeated four-chord progressions.', louis logic says. For seven years now, the Brooklyn rapper has been studying music theory and learning instruments. The outcome: his new solo album 'Look On The Blight Side'...

In our interview from 2006 you said: 'Maybe my own adventures will inspire rap artists to demand more of themselves than rapping, making beats and DJ'ing.'

I did say that, didn't I?!

Do you think this album could influence rap artists to do something else?

I'm an idealist. These explorations have led me to such fulfilling places artistically. I've returned with skills that enabled me to produce my own music for the first time in my life. I know it's not easy to commit yourself to something like learning an instrument or studying music theory as an adult. I had to stop making records for 7 years and survive tons of criticism, fan mutiny and a crisis of artistic faith that nearly led me to retire from making rap records altogether. I don't want to sound like a whiner or like I regret it...at all. It was worth it. I hope people hear this record and they agree with me. In the future I see for this music, hip-hop artists will be expected to know music theory and play at least one instrument. That'll be normal.

The last few years there have been quite a few hip-hop artists who transcended the usual 'beats-and-rhymes'-concept: the guitars of Atmosphere, the drums of The Roots, or even J-Zone...

Sure. There has been a great deal of development. There's still so far to go. So many rap records are made out of the same short little segments of music or repeated four-chord progressions. Yes, of course, I've loved plenty of songs like that in my years of listenership, but I'm asking for more. If you loved something or someone you'd want more for them. I think our music deserves better. We are at the forefront of what is possibly lyrically in the music of our time. Don't you think content like that deserves farther reaching arrangements to go with it? I sure as shit do. I set out to make rap songs that have accompaniment music as elaborate and detailed as the lyrics themselves.

Why did you keep on rappin? You could've made a pop album...

(laughs) I'm gonna file this question under 'compliments'. Thank you. I suppose I could have made a pop record. I actually started one and was later asked by Fake Four if I would be interested in making a new louis logic record. After two years of touring all over the world with Ceschi -the only guy out there I think has very successfully ridden the line between being a fully formed singer/songwriter indie pop artist and an outstanding rapper- I slowly fell back in love with my rap career. My desire to make hip-hop came back very naturally, and with a vengeance! I'll always love rapping. If I became successful making indie pop one day, I would still always rap cause I fucking love doing it. I love writing it and I love performing it live.

You've been playing the songs of the album in front of an audience for a few months now. Did a lot of the songs change before recording?

I did play several of these songs out live. You can find Youtube videos of some of the earliest instances of me debuting these new tunes. They are somewhat different from the album versions. In most cases the arrangement was basically there. But some of the early back tracks lacked the fully fleshed-out instrumentation and session playing. I got reactions from the crowds for these songs like nothing I had ever pre-released. It really makes me wonder what will come of this record. I can't wait to find out.


So how did the album come together?

Interestingly enough, it was born out of a whole other album I'd started with an up-and-coming NYC based producer called Hot Sugar. It was after my long-time producer J.J. Brown and I decided to part ways and my band mate Laust Jeppesen from Spork Kills became too physically ill to work on a new record. This Hot Sugar kid, Nick, and I knew each other for years before he was a producer and he actually introduced me to my fianc? when they were in film school together at NYU.

I'll make this long story short by saying he found some success in the more hipster Das Racist-type of rap music and best I can tell, got too cool for me. He bailed out on a record we'd started together without warning or explanation. Months and months of e-mails unanswered, he finally sent some stereotypical L.A.-type manager asshole to tell me and Fake Four to fuck off.

I had no producer and a record label waiting for me to turn in a record. I was scared, hurt and unsure what to do. I'd lost my friend and my backing beats for no reason at all. It was frustrating having the desire to make hip-hop again for the first time in years but not having any means.

So you decided to make your own music...

At first I considered hiring someone. Maybe Budo, who produced for Grieves. Then I thought about how I'd spent the last 7 years studying piano and theory. So most folks who make hip-hop beats didn't know half as much as I did about how music is written. I decided to sit down and try making my own beat for the first time. Two weeks later -yes, it took me that long to make the first one- I had the beat for the song 'Bet The Farm' from the new album.

I couldn't write to it at first because I'd spent so much time with it. I wondered how guys like Aesop Rock and El-P do it. Though I was already a fan of both, the process gave me a new, greater respect for them. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to write to the first one, so I started a second beat, which became the song 'The Joke's On You'. Something about the subject matter I was writing fuelled me to finish writing the verses as I was making the beat.

What triggered you?

It was largely inspired by how much I agreed with the stances writer/director/comedian Bobcat Goldthwait worked into his film 'God Bless America'. It's regarding modern pop culture and its devastating impact on people's sensitivity, class and interest in intellectual pursuits. In short: I'm getting old!


The amount of instruments on the album is big and refreshing...

I've been so worried that what I've done on this record will be lost on people. It means a lot to me that you noticed and that you're getting me to talk about it. I wrote and played all of the instrumentation on the record except the guitar, cello, trumpet, trombone and clarinet. I played all of the piano and key instrument parts, all the drums, which are actual drums, not samples or midi. I found the drum kit I use in the trash with the help of my friend Troy Walsh. The bass is the only midi instrument on the record because I haven't learned to play string instruments... yet!

There's a leading role for a 1960's melodica. Do you collect vintage instruments?

I do! I have actually acquired a pretty ridiculous collection over the course of making this record. Many pieces of which, I saved for use on whatever record I make next. Honestly, I don't know how many vintage key instruments I have anymore. I know I have five different kinds of melodicas!

How big was the part of the guest musicians on the record?

They were a huge part of developing the accompaniment arrangements. In each instance, I'd already written and recorded the entire song and decided -as a rock producer might- that the particular song could use whatever specific instrument I chose. In some cases, like with trumpet player Emil Jensen who'd collaborated on the Spork Kills record with me, Yair Evnine who played cello and Ceschi who played guitar for me, we were friends. I also hired NYC jazz musician/session players Sam Sadigursky and Brian Drye for the clarinet and trombone parts.

Much of what these amazing instrumentalists wrote was their own idea of what would fit where I'd asked them to fill in accompaniment. In some cases I input my own ideas to help come up with the melodic lines together or I had some predetermined idea or sound and style I was looking for. I certainly wouldn't claim having simply written their parts, suffice it to say that I did have a vision for what I wanted. These immensely talented gentlemen were able to take verbal notes or in the case of the trombone and clarinet players, sketched sheet music notations I'd created for them and embellished them into fully formed ideas.

You sing differently than you used to. How did you find your style of singing?

I started experimenting with breathier, gentler singing, leaving out the vibrato and nuances and focusing more on clean tone, feeling, pitch, harmonic arrangements and counter melody. I learned a lot from listening to Elliott Smith records, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and drew some vocal production inspiration from indie rock and experimental electronic artists like Animal Collective.


Having taken a different route with your music, why do you still use the name louis logic?

I wanted to change to my given name Louis Dorley. I told my label Fake Four's founder/owner Ceschi. He pleaded with me not to do it because it would hurt album sales and our ability to get the backing I deserved from the distributor and publicity people. Changing my name would register as making me a new artist in many ways. I still wanted to do it.

It might seem silly, but it was mostly because I was getting really irritated by the recent growth in popularity of a young white rapper from Baltimore, MD called Logic. There was a brief period in time when a number of his young fans were confusing the two of us pretty regularly. Someone even changed the Wikipedia page about me saying I was from Baltimore. Ceschi convinced me not to go through with it. I do have a certain nostalgic love for my rap name, but I have to admit though, I think it's kind of an awful rap name. What can I say? I wasn't remotely as creative when I was a 21 year old kid.

It's spelled without capitals.

I like the way it looks typographically and I also like the humility of it. Though I really try to make grandiose rap records, I really do try to live out my career as a very down to earth guy, approachable, friendly and humble. That's what I try to communicate by lower casing my name.

How did you end up on Fake Four?

It's an epic story really. I'll try to tighten it up. I met Ceschi in 2005 when he came to a show of mine. He introduced himself as a fan of my work and a fellow half Puerto Rican rapper who was also raised by an Italian woman and loved rock music. He complimented me on the addition of singing into my newer songs when I played 'The Line' from the Misery Loves Comedy album. But just like that, he was gone.

A year later, I was on the 'Misery Loves Comedy' tour opening for Murs in Connecticut. Ceschi's brother David came to the show and gave me a copy of 'They Hate Francisco False'. I listened to it on the road as we made our way west toward California. I thought Ceschi had found some brilliant indie rock guy who was able to write and produce indie pop inspired rap music for him. I had no idea what I was really hearing. My tour manager took the Ceschi CD with him when we dropped him in San Francisco and finished the tour without him. Perhaps because of that, I forgot what I'd heard and that Ceschi was making rap records that sounded almost like what I wanted to do, except I wanted to learn to write the music myself. I was beginning to get disillusioned with hip-hop and felt lonelier than ever.

In 2008, this kid Todd Buchler I was friends with gave me one of his extra licenses of Logic Pro. Because I was feeling so lonely and uninspired to make rap records, I started experimenting and trying to write indie pop songs. Almost like he had an intuition, I started getting e-mails from Ceschi maybe every 3 or 4 months over the course of 2009. He just touched base and said hello, seeing what I was working on. I ended up sending him a couple of my first indie pop efforts. He reacted so well to them, telling me he was proud of the direction I was taking. It still didn't dawn on me that Ceschi was behind this Fake Four Inc. label I was beginning to hear a lot about.

After a few years, in 2010, I'd seen Ceschi's name all over the internet and that he was always on tour somewhere. I asked him if he wanted to tour with me to get to know each other. On the first night of the tour, I saw Ceschi play live for the first time. He opened his set by taking a seat and playing a 6-minute long folk song in 6/8 time... at a rap show!! I almost passed out. I didn't know he played guitar. I didn't know he wrote his own song arrangements. I discovered over the course of that two weeks that Ceschi was the fully formed version of what I'd worked to become over the past 7 years. I spent nearly all of 2010 and 2011 taking Ceschi as my opening act on tour. He was so good and hard to follow that he made me good. I always thought I'd become a good live performer. After touring with Ceschi, I became a great live performer.

I had sent him four of the indie pop songs I wrote for a project I've been calling 'Kiss Her Stupid', which is just me as a one-man band. I wrote a fifth song that was an allegory, seemingly about a break-up and doing fine without the ex. But it was actually about Ceschi's missing finger and how he never needed it to be a great guitar player and musician. I showed it to him in a hotel room in Plymouth, England, while we were opening for Akil the MC from Jurassic 5. That same week, he offered me a deal on Fake Four Inc. to put out the 'Kiss Her Stupid' record. In January of 2012, he asked me to take the 5 song louis logic EP I had started working on with Hot Sugar and expand it into an album, but you already know how that ended. And thank the stars it did.

What's next for Logic?

I plan to make a record with Serengeti, in which I will produce all of the beats and handle most of the choruses. Then trade vocal duties for a few, where I do the rapping and he does the chorus. I'm also going to start on new louis logic material now, cause I don't know how long I'll spend making my next record. I'm going to finish the long in-the-making Spork Kills album and refine it a bit into something even more experimental and indie rock-ish, and a little darker. I will also ultimately complete the Kiss Her Stupid indie pop record I've started, for which I was initially offered my deal on Fake Four Inc., and somewhere in there... I'm going to make time to tour the entire world in 2014.

So when in Belgium, will you drink a Lambiek beer?

I don't really make a grand effort to seek out craft brew these days. I still enjoy them once in a while, but it's not an obsession anymore. I've always been a Guinness and Jameson man. I guess some things never change.


POSTED 11|12|2013
conducted by cpf

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