Exclusive Interview: Slug (from Atmosphere)

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I’ll admit I was a late bloomer when it came to Atmosphere. But once I gave them a legitimate shot, I became immersed in their music. Ant is an accomplished producer and an intricate part of their success; whereas Slug is probably considered the groups’ Jagger. The fact remains, as an emcee, he is truly one of the best storytellers hip-hop has today. Fun-loving, generous, guarded, mysterious and occasionally malevolent might describe Slug the rapper, but on this week’s Tuesdays with, I sat down with Sean Daley, the person, to discuss, well just about everything.

 

Jason Gloss: You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists over your lengthy career. Doom, Eyedea, Print, Vakill, Brother Ali, Sage Francis, Evidence, Murs, Aesop Rock to KRS-One and Buckshot, so which collabo would you consider your personal favorite?

 

Slug: I’m not sure I’ve ever really had a favorite collaboration with anyone. I prefer making music with friends for the memory that it creates. Songs are cool and fun and shit, but the best part of collaborating is the friendships.

 

Honestly, I don’t even know if I can play the favorite game when thinking about my music. I kinda feel the same way towards all of my songs, like they’re my kids. It’s like I have a thousand kids. Some are smarter than others, some are cleaner or better adjusted or whatever and some are just complete idiots that I keep locked in the basement.

 

Atmosphere has a shitload of releases, which one do you find yourself going back to the most?

 

The only time I ever go back to the catalog is when I need to learn something for the show. Sometimes we’ll decide to pull out some old shit, so I will then go back and peep to see if I even remember the words. Other than that, I leave the past in the past. I find a good laugh in the idea of any rapper rolling around bumping a record they released a few years ago.

Felt 4? I know 3 is a good number and you’ve gone on record saying that it’s probably not going to happen, but 4 years after the release, have your feelings changed?

 

I love making music with Murs. There is no yes or no to this question. It’s all about timing and circumstance.

 

Do you have a particular favorite of the 3 Felt records?

 

I can’t really call it. All three of them are attached to amazing memories of creating them. When we make a Felt, we hang out for a few weeks at a time and write, watch movies, talk shit, whatever. It’s like an escape from the real world to go kick it and read comic books with one of my best friends. The making of Felt 3 was probably the one I will always look back on with the most appreciation because we made it in San Francisco. Prior to the album, I didn’t care for San Fran but by the time we were finished, I kinda fell in love with the Bay Area.

 

You left your heart in San Francisco.

 

 

Is it difficult to balance your professional life and personal one with your touring schedule?

 

As I get older, it has become easier to figure out the equation. But I’m aware that the minute I become over-confident like that, is when it will become difficult again. I’m fortunate to have the situation I have. Let’s see what happens when this new baby arrives.

 

Bad Bad Daddy. When you aren’t on tour, you’re pretty much procreating. Congrats on what, #3?

 

(laughter) Number 3. Third son from the stone.

 

 

Ant is a super talented, super nice and super reserved kind of guy. In all the years you’ve known him (17+), outside of the studio, have you two  exchanged words more 50 times?

 

(more laughter) We’re good friends. Sometimes it feels like the music takes up all of our hang-out time, but once in a while we find do time to drink whiskey and tell shitty jokes.

 

Who tells the shittier jokes?

 

Ha! We are pretty equal when it comes to shitty jokes. If anything, I think he’s a little more calculating with his humor, so I probably seem to tell shittier jokes just due to worse timing.

 

I feel like everyone always gets to know you, where as it seems like Ant sometimes isolates himself. What can you tell us about Ant that most people don’t know?

 

(laughing) Dude is a social scientist. You get to know exactly what he wants you to know about him. I know many people who pretend to operate like that, but he’s really the only one that does. The main side of him that most fans never get to know about him is the philosopher. He’s really tuned in to how humanity fucks with the human condition.

 

Does that make sense? I could listen to dude talk shit about pretty much anything/anybody.

 

Some people might view him being reclusive as being too cool for school, but I don’t know how many people I’ve encountered at shows who come off more pleasant, humble and likeable as Ant.

 

Yeah, right? He’s def not too cool for school. He’s a great dude. Very down to earth.

 

 

The biggest misconception of you is?

 

Upon meeting me people usually say one of two things (often both):

1. “I thought you’d be more of an asshole.”
2. “I had no idea you were so tall.

 

You both have grown as artists over the years, in your heart what album do you feel is Ant’s magnum opus? Yours?

 

I don’t think either of us have made it yet. But I remember really good times making the mohawk record, and the Lemons record.

 

Speaking of the “mohawk” record, You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having, there was a reason you sported that hairdo at the time, right?

 

I had a condition called Alopecia. The kind i had was called Alopecia Areata. It was temporary. Unsure why. Not much solid info on why it happens to some people. My guess is that it was because of a tooth infection. Go see a dentist.

 

Now being a husband and father, what concerns do you have that you didn’t anticipate to affect you in this stage in your career?

 

Concerns about my weight.

 

What’s the worst habit you picked up while touring?

 

Booze.

 

Is the booze the cause of the weight gain?

 

Nah. I was boozing way before the weight. When I quit smoking cigs my metabolism shifted, plus I was getting older, plus I was eating alongside a pregnant wife, plus I was neglecting exercise. Nature kicked in and I bulked up an extra 25 pounds. I don’t really mind being heavier though. I appeared sickly and under-nutritioned most of my life, so it’s nice to actually fill out my frame. I’ve been trying to get some exercise and basic weight training in. Trying to turn the fat into steel, so I can throw a car.

 

Fill in the blank. If I never have to perform ____________ at a show again I’d be a happy man.

 

That’s funny. I’m really good at retiring a song when I’m ready to. So I currently don’t have a fill for that blank. I’m a control freak, yo. Also, it helps that we don’t actually have any hit records in the traditional sense.

 

What have you retired?

 

At one point or another I’ve retired: Scapegoat, Primer, God’s Bathroom Floor, The Woman With The Tattooed Hands, Shrapnel, Fuck You Lucy, Always Coming Back Home To You, Guarantees and You. There’s probably more that I’m not thinking of. Some of those songs are old enough that they have been retired more than once.

 

Which is the one album you felt wasn’t received (either fans or critics) the way you had anticipated?

 

I’ve never been good at guessing how people will receive any of our crap. So I’ve always tried not to think about it. I’m not sure that I’m creatively grounded enough to focus on how anyone will react to it. Aside from myself, Ant is the only dude I really really want to impress with the raps I write. Once a song has been released, and I’ve seen the fan’s reaction to it, I can then figure out how to deliver it in a live setting. But prior to that, I have no idea how anyone will interpret it.

 

Songs like Became, The Waitress and The Woman With The Tattooed Hands are some of the best sensationalized songs you’ve done. How did the idea for Became come about?

 

Became was inspired by a poem that my wife’s uncle told me about. A poem about a guy who decided not to return to civilization. I flipped it to be about how the wild stole a friend. How a friend was running with wolves and he crossed the line to believing that he actually was a wolf, and then crossed the line to where he is a wolf now. Describes a lot of the dudes I grew up with. A lot of people think Became is about Eyedea. It’s not, but I can see why circumstances would make people want to believe it is.

 

How long it take for you to write The Waitress and for the last and final time, tell the folks what The Woman With The Tattooed Hands is about?

 

The Waitress was a short story I wrote in 2005. It wasn’t a song at first. but when we were making the Lemons album in 2007, I decided to try to make it work as a song because it seemed to fit well into the narrative that was taking place throughout that project.

 

The Woman With The Tattooed Hands is a true story. That really happened. I just made it rhyme.

 

The Atmosphere song you’re most proud of is?

 

(laughs) I feel like you really want an answer to this one. My relationships with these songs will evolve. Songs that I love now may have been songs that I didn’t care so much about 2 months ago. I’m mostly proud of when someone tells me about an experience they had that they relate to our music. Many times it’s the sad songs that people grab onto the hardest. So my favorite atmosphere songs are the ones with piano in them. Does that answer meet your requirements yo?

 

(laughs) If you had to ask, then you already know that answer.

 

Rhymesayers is prepping the Step Brothers (Evidence & Alchemist) release Lord Steppington. You’ve worked a lot with Ev in the past, but does this new relationship mean we can expect to see you working with ALC in the future?

 

Unsure. Depends on the life. I like ALC and his beats are dope. Obviously, I would work with him if time permits.

 

You’ve listened to the Lord Steppington album, what is it like?

 

It’s a fun album. Kinda like being on a roller coaster drunk.

 

Three years ago, on October 16, 2010, your close friend and fellow artist Eyedea passed away at the young age of 28. Where were you when you first heard the news?

 

I was in San Bernardino, California.

 

How has his death affected you as an artist and more importantly as a person?

 

He was a friend to many of us. As his friends, we suffered a great loss. I am reminded by him that I don’t know when my time will be up, and I need to make the best out of every moment with my family and friends. As an artist, I am constantly reminded by him that I don’t know how long I will be here to make music, so I stay busy and keep writing about the human condition. He reminds me that we (every fucking body) are all bonded together through our pain and suffering. Regardless of who you are, you know some degree of pain and knowing that pain, is what makes it possible for us to feel compassion for anyone. Mikey reminds me how important compassion is. As a person and as an artist.

 

Does RSE plan on relating any more material from Michael “Eyedea” Larsen estate?

 

His family has full control of his art, as it should be. If they want any additional help, we remain available for guidance or resources.

 

When you aren’t recording or touring whats a typical day at home for Sean Daley?

 

I wake up with my family, drink coffee and check email. If it’s a daycare day for Malcolm, I will either write for 6-8 hours in the basement or I will run regular errands and go to the office to check in with everything. I work everyday, even weekends. I don’t spend much time doing leisurely shit, mostly because I love this job and I’d rather do this than watch TV. By dinner time, I’m back with the family. After they go to bed, I stay up for a few more hours writing.

 

As a husband and father, I am constantly finding myself running to Target three, four, sometimes five times a week for various things like diapers, coffee or toothpaste. Surely you can relate?

 

I live a half mile from a Target. I am there at least 4 times a week too. Sometimes just to grab a coffee.

 

I had a feeling.

 

You have a collection of hats, like one for each city you rock. Is it an addiction like sneakers? How many hats do you own?

 

(laughs) I usually throw them away after a tour due to the amount of sweat I dumped into them. I wouldn’t call it an addiction of my sneaker caliber and honestly, I’ve really slowed down on the sneaker thing. Been giving them away to friends who wear the same size.

 

 

You’ve been very successful over the years, from albums sales to touring to Rhymesayers Entertainment all the way to the Fifth Element store. What is the one thing you have yet to achieve in your career that you’d like to?

 

I would like to invent something. Something that makes a person’s quality of life a little bit better. Not sure. I’d also like to open a small hotel in my city.

 

What is the one thing you’ve splurged on since your success?

 

I’m not really a flashy dude. I don’t buy jewelry or fancy cars. But I have an extensive collection of memories and experiences. Some of them were rather expensive.

 

You just turned 41. The typical response is as long as there is people willing to see me perform I’ll do it. Right now, do you believe that’s the case for you, in say 10 to 15 years from now?

 

I will do this job until I get fired and once I get fired, I will hopefully find another job within this industry. I’ve learned so much from top to bottom. I will do my best to always have a hand in making sure kids have access to music that I think is awesome. Regardless of if it’s my music or someone else’s music.

 

I know they’re all your children, but what’s the one album you wish you had done slightly differently?

 

I can think of things that I would have done different to all of our albums. But Seven’s Travels sticks out as the one that I wish I’d have taken more serious. I didn’t know that people were gonna like it. I recently read a newly written review where someone broke that album down and reviewed each song individually. The writer was finding things in those songs that don’t actually even exist in those songs. The writer was writing about it as if what I intended isn’t as important as what was interpreted. It’s always good to be reminded that once you release something, it no longer belongs to you. People who love/like/hate it, will take it away from you and make it about themselves. Thankfully.

 

 

Let’s reminisce for a second. I’m going to ask you a several tour questions from back in your, shall we say, bachelor years? Without giving up too much, allow us to live vicariously through you.

 

The worst stalker/groupie incident happened in what city?

 

(laughs) If my memory serves me correct, Philadelphia had the tendency to get dramatic. Austin, Texas too. Los Angeles too. But that probably had way more to do with my drinking than the actual geography or women who live there.

 

The city that with the prettiest female fans ratio is?

 

There is really no city that has the most. It’s like when you were in high school and you would talk with homies about how the other school had all the pretty girls. The grass is always greener. But I guess typically, any city with a decent fashion industry would be the choice for most females? New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, Barcelona, London, Berlin and Boise.

 

You almost got arrested in what city?

 

(laughs) I have no idea. How does one keep track of almost being arrested? I don’t even know what “almost arrested” even means, yo.

 

Then the last time you got into some trouble with the law was?

 

Cruising down the street in my six four. I don’t get in trouble with the law. I avoid cops.

 

Besides your own, the city you felt you had the best show in was?

 

Boca Raton!!! (laughs)

 

Naw but really, I’ve played too many shows. There’s no way to keep track of who is the most hyped. Usually the smaller towns are more appreciative when you visit. Probably because the bigger cities see more action, so it’s no big deal for some underground rapper to show up. When you play a show in Fargo, people lose their shit and party like it’s 1999. Wait, is that still a relevant phrase?

 

In an old interview you saidI’m not religious. Religion is a controlled or at least organized way of thinking. I believe in myself and I have faith in my surroundings. I believe in balance and karma. I don’t believe in an unseen hand controlling things. I believe in fate but only in the sense that you manifest your own destiny.”

 

A decade later, do you feel the same way?

 

Sure. I mean, I manifested this interview.

 

(laughs)

 

Prince had to be very influential for you as a Minnesotan. Were you ever into Bob Dylan growing up?

 

Nope. I didn’t really pay attention to him until I was in my late 20’s. This homie of mine named Crescent Moon got me listening to Dylan. Compelling stuff, bro.

 

 

Who is one person you’d love to work with, outside of hip-hop, that most people probably would not expect you to say?

 

Marc Maron.

 

Besides a comedian?

 

Banksy

 

A musician bro, like Fiona Apple. No painters or comedians please.

 

Ok, Fiona Apple.

 

Chris Rock famously said on Bring The Pain; ain’t no black people in Minnesota besides Prince and Kirby Puckett. We already know how you feel about Prince, but let’s talk about the greatest Twins ever — Kirby Puckett.

 

Kirby was the man. I wasn’t even a baseball fan and I knew Kirby was the man. He won that series in ’87 and we got to get out of school early. The whole city got to get out of high school early. We took the 18 downtown and hung out in the shopping center with all the other dumb ass teenagers. I guess we just wanted to flirt with girls and try to get phone numbers. Pre-cell phone, my phone book was a folded up piece of paper that I would have to rewrite every few months to keep it organized. Peace to Kirby. Also, I’m pretty sure Chris Rock is from St. Paul.

 

I have to think if there was a Minnesota Mount Rushmore and it came down to you and Seann William Scott aka Stifler from American Pie, you’d have to get the nod.

 

I don’t want my face on a big rock. I wanna move to Maui.

 

This has become my staple question in all of my interviews, kind of like James Lipton’s favorite word. Name the book, the album and the movie that has had the biggest impact on your life?

 

I’m old and I was exposed to all 3 in my teenage years:
The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back.
Purple Rain.

 

Borrowing a page from the God James Lipton’s book, let me ask: What is your favorite curse word?

 

Fuck.

 

 

Besides the infamous Jimmy Kimmel Show shout-out, I believe you gave us a subliminal shout-out on either Conan or Letterman. We’re about due for another one on your next promo tour, right?

 

I have secretly subtly shouted out your site on every album since 2005. I’ve even directly quoted you on a song.

 

It’s a matter of class” off Millennium Dodo 2 but I’m unaware of the album shout-outs. Inquiring minds want need to know.

 

Easter eggs bro. In plenty of songs, I’ve ironically and non-ironically quoted all kinds of dumb shit from your message board in hopes of being accepted by your community and it never happened. No one invites me to the parties. I give up. Fuck you guys. Bitches.

 

How much of the new Atmosphere album is completed and when can we expect its release?

 

I wish I knew the answer to this one.

 

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

 

What the fuck is Woman With The Tattooed Hands about?

 

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