maxwell barna delivers an epic, engrossing and entertaining interview with Thes One of hip hop icons People Under The Stairs …
Although it’s sometimes difficult to cope with, a fact of life is that artists come and artists go. Some artists live on forever and change the lives of every person who witnesses their masterpieces, while others decay and fade into the ashes of time. And some artists are flat-out terrified of the future — they reinvent themselves continuously in order to help survive against (read: “succumb to”) the clock.
But then there are others — artists who look at the clock and laugh at it. They reflect deeply on their pasts in order to help them live on into tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. They take the tricks, tips, methods and knowledge they’ve acquired, and use it to help better prepare them for the future. Los Angeles hip hop legends People Under The Stairs are perhaps the perfect example of this kind of mentality. For nearly 15 years, Double K and Thes One have been writing hip hop history. With countless shows, a world tour, eight full-length LPs and a few EPs under their belts, PUTS have managed to do what many consider to be impossible — they’ve done it right, and they’ve done it their way. They have been, and always will be, completely DIY and completely in control.
PUTS vocalist/MC Chris Portugal (AKA Thes One) was kind enough to sit down with me and lay everything on the table. He shared the dirt on everything from how they’ve managed to gain steady speed over the years without selling out, to the secret behind making hip hop history one record at a time, to the kind of cojones needed to pull off a sold-out tour in China.
So sit back, crack open a cold one and enjoy this, because it’s a long one.
PB: Well we always love when you guys come out. We saw you guys at The Governors Ball here in New York City in June, and you guys really, really killed it. People went crazy out here. How did you enjoy your time out here? Why is it important that you come back to New York and show some love?
TO: Well, New York is the birthplace of hip-hop. I’ll never forget the first show we ever did in New York; I was so fucking nervous and I know Double K was too. It was CMJ in like, 1999. We were playing this small club, and of course it was our first show in New York so we didn’t know what to expect. And we walked into this club and it was just filled with famous hip hop dudes. All these old school hip hop dudes were there — it was crazy. No matter where we go, no matter what we do, we represent L.A., but New York means a lot to us.
PB: That’s one of the things I like most about People Under The Stairs. People get a little crazy over where they’re from rather than where they are, but even at the Governors Ball, both you and Double K paid so much respect to the city you were at. Like, people come out sometimes and are just like, “Oh, L.A. rules,” or “L.A.’s the shit,” but you guys were all about saying, “Yeah, we’re from L.A., but we love this city, and we want to let you know that we’re appreciative for everything that you’ve given us and for everything we get to give you.” That’s some real from-the-heart stuff that we don’t typically get. Seeing it from the crowd and listening to you guys on stage, it seemed like you both really loved being up there.
TO: Yeah! I mean, the first time I ever went to New York was FOR a hip hop show. I had never been here before, but it’s funny. Double K had been here as a kid because he has family from New York, But I didn’t. But, I knew every borough. I even knew what trains to take to get places because I’d been listening to hip hop my whole life. [laugh] I knew what train to take to get to Harlem from the Lower East Side just from listening to hip hop my whole life. New York is definitely a huge influence on my life. I mean, I listen to so much hip hop I’m worried I’m going to start picking up a New York accent. [laughs] (Note: Thes One took a crack at a New York accent, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying because I was laughing so hard.)
PB: You guys announced that you’d be putting out Highlighter at Governors Ball. You recorded it in a brand new format called HD-AAC. Uh, what the hell is that, and why did you guys choose to record it in that instead of a standard format?
TO: [laughs] I’ll be honest with you, the difference is not that big. I think like with any type of progress, the more important thing is being part of a progressive idea; being part of something that’s moving forward and doing your best to not just accept what the status quo is. Right before we were getting ready to release the record, I was getting ready to go out to New York again for the Audio Engineering Society Convention and I got a white paper about this new audio codec. And I said, “You know what man, there’s an opportunity here to be the first people to ever do this.” It’s like being the first person to ever release something on Blu Ray or VHS or Betamax — or CD, you know?
The fundamental difference is that the whole music industry is still anchored to CDs as a format. So everything, every piece of music, is converted to CD resolution. And then they make the MP3 out of it, and then they make this, that or whatever. If you take the CD out of the mix and you’re able to just make a digital version of it without thinking about CDs, that’s basically what HD-AAC is. HD-AAC is a codec that is backwards compatible, it’s forwards compatible, it can play in any device, but as technology gets better, [the music recorded on it] is going to sound better, because it’s never been compressed down to CD resolution. Basically, iPods and everything will play it, and it will sound better than an MP3, but as technology gets better and the codec is more widely used, and as the players become better, that’s when our album’s going to sound better because it’s at a much higher resolution than even players are accepting at this point. It’s playing on them, but it’s not even playing the full format right now.
It’s extremely complicated and just as an addendum to that, I actually met with the Fraunhofer Institute, the people who developed the codec, and they were super excited about it. Some people are excited about it, but I think we’ve only seen the very beginning of this. I’m really excited to say that we were the first group to every try and do this.
PB: Well absolutely. It’s like being the first people to step on the moon — there are always these technological advancements that take place beforehand that you can be really proud of. Plus, the record itself is really good. What are there, like 20 tracks on it?
TO: Yeah, you know, it’s a typical People Under The Stairs record, just with crazy long, like too much music.
PB: Yeah, but that’s how it should be! One thing I’ve always admired about People Under The Stairs is that regardless of how big you’re getting and how much you’re blowing up, you’ve always managed to maintain your artistic independence and freedom from major labels. You guys always have the freedom to do whatever you want on a record because you’re the ones in charge of making it. Why did you always choose that path, and how did you manage to remain free despite flying as high above the radar as you have?
TO: A lot of it goes back to the era that we came out of. When Double K and I formed People Under The Stairs in ’95-’96, when we really sat down and met each other and were making beats together and writing rhymes, the music industry was just coming out of that golden era of hip hop, in New York especially, and going into that cycle of bad boys and complete and utter excess, you know what I mean? And we were both particularly turned off by that. It just seemed ridiculous, and it also didn’t speak to us. We were lower middle-class kids from L.A. who didn’t … I don’t know, the whole idea was just kind of nauseating, thinking like, “Alright, we’re doing this just so we can get rich.” We loved music way more than we loved the idea of being rich.
One thing that we did early on, which I think definitely defined what came to be, was we were recording stuff, and a lot of groups were going to studios and working with engineers or whatever, but we were making everything in the bedroom. The responsibility — I loved recording, I loved the recording arts and the science of everything — so the responsibility fell on Double K and I to kind of be in charge of how we make it. And not only were we producing our own music, but we were engineering it too. So as time went on, every time there was a record being made, we were the only people in the studio. There wasn’t an even engineer=, which is a big difference, because 99 percent of groups, even if they’re self-produced, still have other people in the studio with them. So for us, always being in the studio and being the only people in there, there was a lot of creative comfort. I think when it’s just you and your best homie in the whole world in there making music together and you feel free to experiment and try different things with the music, that’s just kind of what we got used to.
And then we started touring. I won’t say we never got big enough to be big; we’re the most popular unpopular group of all time. Our whole career has been a combination of people dismissing us and then us doing crazier things. We get very minimal coverage, and it’s funny because as we’ve gotten older, now the coverage we get is like, “Damn, these dudes are still around?” But on the flipside of that, I don’t think our fans truly understand everything that we’ve done because we’ve never really promoted everything. Like when we went to Africa, when we went to Brazil, when we did a sold out tour in China, we didn’t really make a big press deal out of it, even though there are very few groups who can say they did a world tour that included Africa, China, and Brazil. When we were on the Simpsons, we didn’t make a big deal out of it. It’s been one of those things where we do these big shows like Governors Ball, go on the Simpsons, or whatever, but then we go back to the bedroom to make some music.
PB: But see, I think that’s good though. I think it means that you guys have your priorities in order, and that’s what’s important in this industry. People sell out before they get big, but you guys got big and never sold out. You basically reinvented that typical age-old formula about how hip hop has to work. I think that’s what people like me have always found to be the most respectable thing about you. I say this with caution, but fuck the music. I judge musicians like I judge political candidates — if I can’t get behind the way you act as a person, how the hell am I supposed to get behind your music, your message?
TO: That’s an interesting idea. I never thought of it like that. A lot of rappers, a lot of musicians, it’s very political. People might as well be politicians, and I say that as being someone involved in it and seeing how people are in front of the audience and seeing how people are behind the audience. Double K and I, we witnessed that stuff really, really early on. Even around L.A., we would see dudes who were talking one way on their records and then we’d see them in their hoods or whatever, and it’d be a totally different thing. And we decided very early on that the best thing we could do was just be ourselves. When we rap, when we make music, we’re the same people we are if you see us outside a show; we’re the same people we are when we’re sitting down at Thanksgiving with our families. We don’t have to remember to be Thes One and Double K when we’re out on the road. We just are who we are and our fans and people around the world, if they know our music, they actually know us. And that’s really dope. It’s dope to know that when people come up to me and say things like, “Yo, how’s your kid man?” I can just say, “Really good man! Thanks for listening.” By listening to the music, they know I have a kid because I rap about that, you know?
PB: You always have your ducks in a row. It seems like every direction you take for People Under The Stairs is always exactly what you guys need to go forward with what you want. How have you managed to juggle being the duo’s vocalist/MC, one of the engineers, one of the producers, and being the group’s business manager? How does that work, and how have you been able to maintain some semblance of professionalism for a group that, to the public, always seems so laid back? You guys always seem so relaxed and carefree while you perform, but at the same time there’s a lot of business involved with what you guys do and how you guys have succeeded. How do you do it?
TO: Aw man, I don’t sleep a lot [laughs]. I fell into this position and I’m actually grateful to be in it. Of course there’ve been times where I’ve felt like it’s too much. But I think underlying the whole thing, I always felt if we’re going to be “independent” for what that means, if we’re really going to be this group, then we need to be handling our own business and we need to be managing ourselves. It’s very rare that a group is self-managed. Most groups have managers, and most people I know who are in groups who have had managers have been through three or four managers at this point. Managers, from what I’ve seen, are the main reason why groups either break up or screw up. Managers’ jobs are generally not in the best interest of the group, they’re in the best interest of the management. By me being the manager, my interest is in the best interest of the group, of course.
So I don’t sleep a lot. Handling all the logistics, buying the flights, renting the cars, getting the hotels, driving, making sure there’s merchandise, staying in touch with the clubs, doing all that stuff; that’s all just touring. And then, of course, there’s planning the studio sessions, doing the release schedule … I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past; I’ll be the first to admit. I wasn’t trained for this; no one taught me how to do this, so I’ve made mistakes. But I think that I’ve learned from my mistakes over the years and this is our 13 year now. I’ve gotten a lot better at this.
But we’ve also made decisions that have been in the interest of our fans, I think, and that’s what has kept us going. We’ve always wondered what we could do for them, even if it wasn’t necessarily what was best for us. And I’m not trying to play the Martyr role here, because obviously what’s good for the fans is what’s good for us. A lot of times, and I think this is one thing a lot of people don’t understand, we do shows where we’re headlining and making good money, sure. But a lot of times we also play shows where we’re opening for other people and not getting paid big — we get paid nothing. But we do it so that we can bring this show to a new audience and a new people, because we know that if we get on stage, we can still prove ourselves. We can still get on stage in front of 1,000 people who have never heard of us before and rock ‘em. We can walk out of there with like, 500 new fans. So a lot of the business strategy revolves around the fact that we’re going to do the stuff that pays the bills, like headlining shows in bigger cities, but like last night, we also have to play Oxford, Ohio. We have to open for Girl Talk. It doesn’t change who we are, it’s just a way we can bring more people into this movement, who normally would never get to hear us, and let them see what we’re trying to do.
And there’s a lot of risk involved. I look back at some of the stuff we’ve done and some of the decisions I’ve made on our business end and just feel like, “Damn, that was a crazy gamble.” I look at things like, when Double K and I went to China, we didn’t have work permits. We always have work permits wherever we go but you can’t get work permits to go do a hip hop tour in China. And what’s worse is that If you get caught going into a country to perform without work permits, that’s your ass. So when we went to China we had these fake letters about this wedding we were supposed to go to and [disc jockey] at for some dude we went to college with. We had so much documentation about how we were going to China to visit our homeboy, [how] it was his wedding, and how we had records because we were DJ’ing. Moments when I’ve just been so nervous, going through immigration in China, carrying all these records and stuff, and just lying to these people. But then the feeling of getting through it, saying, “Dude, we did it,” and then playing sold out shows in like, bomb shelters in China. [laughs] I look back and I’m just like, “Yo, that was crazy risky.”
PB: Especially in China, man. They don’t mess around.
TO: No, I mean, they’ll disappear you. [laughs] That’s what happens, man.
PB: I’ve been collecting records for as long I can remember. My all-time favorite song of yours is called “The Dig.” I love how this song really tries to encapsulate and pay homage to the thrill of the hunt — for that perfect record, that perfect sample, that perfect beat. It’s something that I’ve always loved to just sit down and listen to. Having said that, how crucial do you think wax has been to the hip hop game? Do you think hip hop has suffered as a result of new artists straying away from the old technique of digging, sampling and crackin’ out the ol’ MPC machine? What do you have to say about contemporary hip hop, and where do you see it going in the future?
TO: Oh man, that’s a good question. Well, there are two ways to look at it. If you were to look at it in a very pragmatic way, we dig in the crates because that’s what we came up on. That was a blueprint that was set for us that we fell into. We were like, “Okay, if we’re going to make hip hop, this is what it’s supposed to sound like.” You get these drum machines, these samplers, you go out, you find these old records, and you make the music. To state it very simply, as far as I’m concerned, that’s how you make hip hop. That’s never going to change for us.
In the bigger picture, the grander scheme of things, it’s a real head-scratcher. I can’t understand why people, especially New York producers, have moved away from sampling and using old records. On one hand I know there was a point in time where people were getting sued and that was an issue. But that was only because people were on major labels. Okay, so you stopped sampling because you were on Warner Brothers or whatever and they didn’t want to let you put it out. But you’ve been dropped now and major labels don’t matter and they don’t exist anymore. So theoretically, you could go back to sampling. I’d love it. Do that. I love that. I haven’t had enough of it. It never gets old to me. But for some reason, most of the people that I grew up looking up to and respecting — and this is no swipe at them, this is actual fact — if you look at what people are putting out now, people have stopped sampling records. Why have they done that? I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s an attempt to appeal to a younger generation, but it’s not working. If anything, we’re [People Under The Stairs] still sampling records and we’re going out with Mac Miller, and we’re going out with Girl Talk. So yes, guys, it still works. Keep sampling records.
And on that note, in this bigger picture, from a philosophical standpoint, it’s a way for hip hop to ground itself. It’s a way to be a part of a bigger culture in America, of a bigger musical culture. And for me, when I was growing up and hip hop was [about] sampling records, it exposed me to a lot of music that I wouldn’t normally have been exposed to. My parents listened to rock and Latin music, [but] I got into Roy Ayers because of hip hop. You know what I mean? I was listening to jazz because of hip hop. And I think it’s a shame that, by and large, it’s not carrying on the tradition of exposing a younger generation to music like it did to us. It broadened my musical perspective because I wanted to hear what they were sampling. And in that sense, that was hip hop’s job — to keep people looking, remembering what the hip hop past is. I know a lot about James Brown because of hip hop. And because of hip hop, I know what James Brown’s message was. It was real important to have a hip hop song sampling something saying like, [“I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing”] because the music was the message, the sample was part of what the message was in hip hop.
PB: Now it’s even easier. For you to learn about James Brown’s music and who he was, you had to work a lot harder back in the day. You guys didn’t have Google. Now, if I’m listening to someone’s mix tape and I hear a great sample that’s got some really good lyrics, all I do is Google them and I’ve got the full song a minute later. And then I really get to learn about the artists, because no one just samples random tracks without them having any meaning. But now that people are filling their songs with all these pre-made samples and pre-cut beats that don’t even really sound right, it seems that a lot of the message that used to be crucial to hip hop music is being lost. Do you agree?
TO: I’ll take it a step further, man. I’ve sat and Shazam’ed someone’s rap song and the original sample came up — ain’t that a bitch. And let me just restate the fact that I’m not shitting on new hip hop. I never want to be the dude who’s saying to the youngest generation, “It was better back in the day,” because it wasn’t better back in the day. The most important time is right now. The second that rappers start thinking the most important time was ’92 or ’94, anything they did in the past, is the second they become an old school act. We [People Under The Stairs] definitely aren’t an old school act. We make old school-styled music, but we are making music right now. You know what I’m saying? I’m out on the road right now, and the most important night is tonight, and then the most important night will be tomorrow night. We are living in the present and thinking about the future, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t use the tools of the past. I think what happened was artists felt like they were getting irrelevant or whatever, and then they just threw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of asking, “How can we take sample-based music and adapt it to the newest generation,” they were just like, “Yo, they don’t like this,” and they just tossed it out. And now everyone’s trying to make like, Southern music, or whatever, using [Korg] Tritons or premade music, and it’s just like, this isn’t you, that’s not us. I mean, there’s room for that in hip hop. I’m not hating on non sample-based hip hop because that’s very much a part of hip hop. But not everybody needs to be making that — there’s room for all types of hip hop.
And it matters, too. The type of music that we’re making is just as important as the commercial hip hop you hear on XM Radio or other broadcast formats. That balance needs to exist in hip hop. It can’t be all commercial hip hop or all underground [hip hop]. If there’s no commercial stuff, if there’s no Drake, then there’s no need for People Under The Stairs. We can’t provide people with an alternative if there’s nothing to provide an alternative to.
PB: You talked about major record labels before and about how artists shouldn’t worry about them because they are dying out and no longer matter. You guys are a living testament to how far a group with a “do it yourself” attitude can go. Taking all that into context, tell me a little bit about Piecelock 70.
TO: Alright, well let me preface this by saying everyone, chill out. You’re going to get your vinyl, relax. Piecelock is one person, just me right now. So if I’m on tour I can’t be shipping y’all CD’s out, so just chill out — it’s comin’! [laughs]
Piecelock started in 2004 as a touring entity. Basically, when People Under The Stairs travels, we do everything. So we needed a corporate account for our expenses. We’d be renting cars so much and staying in hotels so often, so I started Piecelock as kind of like a shell company so People Under the Stairs could check into hotels on a Piecelock credit card, rent cars on a Piece lock credit card, this, that and whatever. And then it grew and grew as we toured more, and then I was talking to DJ Day one night while we were building his studio in Palm Springs. He makes beats and is dope, but he’d never been signed to any kind of label. I was telling him about bad experiences working with labels and everything, and I told him that I’d like to [put out music] in a way that’s independent. But if it’s just one group then no one has a reason to care. You have no pull if you’re just one group. And he said, “Yeah, I know. Like, I’ve never been signed, but I can’t just come out of nowhere — no one is going to care.” Being on a label means that you’re affiliated with other artists and everything. So I thought, “Well, what if we combine that?” We affiliate ourselves with each other, and we’re a group of artists that’s like a label, but we’re not really a label. We’re just helping each other put stuff out. And we have pull, because instead of one artist going to the plant and manufacturing a product, now it’s 10 artists working together on one account at the plant. So that’s how the idea came about, that it’d be a co-op.
And we use a farming model. So it’s like, you have six farmers, and they’re all growing different crops. And every time of the year, one farmer’s crop is going to be ready and for sale, while the rest of them are growing their own. If everyone’s releasing records at different times of the year, the others have the space, time and luxury to sit and work on their record and not feel pressured that nothing’s happening at Piecelock. While People Under The Stairs are releasing their record through Piecelock, DJ Day’s finishing up his record. And then we have Alan Simpson finishing his book up. So when we’re done promoting our record and everyone has bought it and everyone knows about Piecelock, then it’s time to release the book.
PB: That’s another thing I wanted to talk about. It’s not every day that record labels go out and release books as well. Especially books that aren’t really related to music. Can you speak a little bit more about Alan Simpson? From what I understand he’s just some guy from New Zealand. How’d you get connected with him and what made you decide to include him in Piecelock?
TO: Well, just so we’re clear, Piecelock is not a record label. It’s just a group of artists, together, and it’ll never be limited to just music. I think it’s really important, especially nowadays, that we look at everything as a lifestyle thing. That’s exactly what all these corporations who are trying to get involved in this are trying to do. That is the “lifestyle marketing.” They’re trying to take music, and fashion, and literature and all this other stuff and bombard us by re-manufacturing it and selling it back to us, but then also want a hand in it and brand it.
So the thing about the book is, basically, well, for one, we all read a lot. Double K and I, we think everyone should be reading frickin’ books.
Plus, books and records go hand in hand — when you find books, you find records usually, and vice versa. So I think it makes sense. And Alan’s basically a dude that I met online talking about music. And he had these crazy stories about being a clerk in a porn store in Australia. And the stories were just mind-blowing. And so we started talking and I just said, “You know, dude, if you put these together and you write a book, I’ll help put it out.” And at this point, Piecelock was still just kind of an idea. But I told him how we had this idea about this co-op that I was trying to put together, and if we did it right, we could figure out a way to do this if you just write it. And sure enough, two years later, he worked on it, we went back and forth, and he finished it. And the book is amazing. It’s like, 300 pages, and it’s one of the most entertaining books you’ll ever read. If you’re a person who has sense, you have to read this book. The book’s coming out after our record comes out, so hopefully in early next year it’ll be out.
And then we got DJ Day’s record, which is going to be a hip hop producer record, with some MC’s and a lot of instrumental stuff, which is going to be dope. We’re going to keep it moving. And while all that stuff is happening, People Under the Stairs is going to be working on our next record. So from this point forward, there’s never going to be a down moment where something’s not happening at Piecelock.
The thing is, and the bigger picture with Piecelock, is that I personally know a lot of extremely talented people who, because of the way the industry has shifted, are in a position where their music, or their art, or their book, or whatever, might never see the light of day. And the only way that it could see the light of day is by selling it to a corporate holding and giving up all the rights to what they do. The fundamental, most important thing about Piecelock, is that the artist maintains full and complete ownership of their art, of the intellectual property. So when people ask me if I started a record label, I always say no, because record labels own the physical distribution rights to the product — they own that product. But at Piecelock, the artists own their products. I never want to be in a position where I don’t own my masters, you know what I mean?
It’s funny, watching the Occupy movement come together because, in a sense, the idea of the Occupy movement is very similar to what we started with Piecelock in that, if it was just one person saying “F the industry, I’m doing this alone,” it’s cool, but it’s just a drop in the puddle. But if we have a group of people, 10 artists, 20 artists, putting stuff out, people have to deal with us. People take notice, and it’s really been amazing seeing how it unfolds where people are like, not only can fans get behind an individual group, but they can actually get behind the whole of Piecelock and say, “Yo, I’m supporting what you guys are doing, because I know that the money is going straight to the artists, and I know that you guys are putting out good stuff, and I can trust what Piecelock is doing.” Piecelock is a shot across the bow of the corporate music industry. And what they’re attempting to do with Occupy, it’s another shot across the bow. It’s not going to change anything, but at least people are taking notice, and it’s creating a dialogue in America where people are talking about the options and alternatives. So I think it’s dope that people might look at Piecelock and say, “Well, I never really thought about doing something like this.” This is an alternative to signing your life away to a corporation.
PB: Despite the dynamic change in the industry, People Under The Stairs’ consistency always remains the same. And I think that’s something your fans, old and new, have always come to respect about you. It’s something that always resonates through your music. So how do you remain so consistent in what you put out and how you guys operate?
TO: Well, we set this up so that Double K and Thes One are Mike and Chris. It’s interchangeable. So the fact that we are who we are when we step on stage and when we’re not on stage, makes it real easy for us to always kind of be us in the studio. The music is basically just a running dialogue with our fans. The only thing that’s changing is we’re getting a little bit older. And the only criticism I’ve ever heard from our fans is like, “Yo, I heard the new record and y’all are rapping about having a kid,” and this, that, or whatever. But I’m just like, “Dude, I can appreciate that, [but] you’re 19. You need to go back and listen to the music we were making when we were 19.” We’re not going to keep making the same songs. Like, on The Next Step [pt. 2] I’m rapping about buying beer with a fake I.D. Well guess what, I’m over 21 now. So I’m not going to make a song about trying to find someone to buy me a beer because I can buy my own damn beer now!
When people look at the entirety of our catalogue, when all is said and done, and People Under The Stairs is dead and in the ground, I think what I would mostly hope is for people to look at the catalogue as a whole, and not just certain albums, and say, “Here’s the story of the journey of two dudes, going from this, to this and this,” because we documented it all in our music. And I think the reason that it resonates with people and continues to do so is because no matter what age you are, no matter when you come into our group, there’s already something there for you. And for our oldest fans who have been there since the beginning, every new album is like a new chapter — It’s like a serial novel. It’s something that they’ve followed and followed and followed.
Now, we’re trying to figure out a way to get old gracefully in this industry. There are only two groups that I can think of off the top of my head who I can look at and say, “Now they did it right.” They got older, and they’re still doing it right. And those are [Hieroglyphics], like Souls of Mischief, and De La Soul, because they didn’t turn around and try to completely flip it up and act like they were young. They accepted the fact that they were old and kept doing dope shit. I look at those dudes and I want to be like that. I want to keep going, I want to keep doing this and I want to keep making music. I want to make music that appeals to people who are of my age group, but also doesn’t alienate people who are like, 16 and 17. I think if we keep going with what People Under the Stairs already is, we’ll be good.
PB: Alright! Time for the final question. It’s one that I’ve been looking forward to asking you ever since I found out I’d be the one doing this interview. It’s something that I ask everyone, and you simply can’t refuse to answer it. For somebody who wrote an entire song devoted to the topic, I expect it’ll be easy, and I expect it to be well thought out — so don’t fuck this up. Here we go:
If you were stuck on an island for the rest of your life, and only had one beer to drink forever — one beer, forever, that’s it — what would it be?
TO: [Long, contemplative pause] Well, I need to walk you through the thought process here; I’m not just going to spit it out! So if it was only one beer to drink for the rest of your life, you’ve got to make a very wise choice. You see, some beers, they’re great to drink one bottle of. Take like, a Firestone Anniversary Ale. These are going to be beers that are like, ok, so you guys put it in an oak cask, for 10 years. And it tastes like bourbon. But do I want to drink that every day for the rest of my life? Hell no.
And then, on the other hand, there are certain beers you want to drink because you’re standing outside Barbecuing, like [Cerveza Pacífico Clara, AKA] Pacífico. Do I want to drink that for the rest of my life? I don’t think so. It’ll get old.
So, the perfect beer for the rest of someone’s life, I think, is going to be a combination of drinkability and something not too hoppy; something that has enough flavor and body so that it tastes like a real beer, and is a real beer, but not something that’s going to get old, or get you fat — so no porters, no stouts. Because if I’m drinking Black Butte Porter all day long, on an island, in a year from then I’m going to weight like, 300 pounds. So, it’s got to be something that’s not going to get you crazy fat, and not make your breath stink from too many hops — so no IPA’s either.
I would say that the perfect beer, the perfectly balanced beer for the rest of someone’s life, is Full Sail [Brewing] Session [Lager], in the little, stubby, 11-ounce bottle. You think you’re drinking 12 ounces but you’re only drinking 11, so you can drink it all day long without getting faded. That’s the beer right there. And the best thing about that is it’s in a small bottle, so it saves space. You could stack up a lifetime supply of it on one corner of the island and not take up other important space. You know, it’s got everything you need for the island. It’s a good look. I hope Full Sail contacts me after this and is like, “Yo man, we heard that shit you said about Session. Ummm, here’s a lifetime supply of Session beer.” [laughs]