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An Interview With Astronautalis

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Sometimes dubbed an ‘indie-rapper’ and known for his elaborate freestyles, Astronautalis and his music has been rising in popularity for years. Relentless touring, talent and recording has been the driving force behind his success, so we asked him a few questions about his roots, skills and future.

HUNOW: Hey Astronautalis, thanks for taking the time to speak to us.

You spend a huge amount of time making your music and playing it live at shows. Do you ever find that you spend more time being Astronautalis than Andy Bothwell?

A: ALWAYS!  It has been something I am trying to fix, actually.  I have devoted all of the last decade to ‘Astronautalis’…and it has paid off.  Now, I am trying to figure out how to be ‘Andy’ again, for the sake of my own sanity and well being.

HUNOW: Despite your increasing success, you’re still quite unknown to many around the world. Is getting your music and name out there something you embrace, or do you prefer being part of a more intimate underground scene?

A: I make art for an audience.  So, of course I want that audience to be as large as possible, without diluting the art.  I think most people who would tell you otherwise, are lying to you, or themselves.

HUNOW: I watched an interview you did in which you said you practiced freestyling for a couple of years until you felt ready to battle people. Did you have a routine for that? How did you go about practicing in everyday life?

A: There was no real routines, you just freestyle…ALL. THE. TIME.  Rap about everything around you, make up things to rap about, tell stories in rhyme, battle imaginary rappers, if you can run your mouth like I can, then you will never run out of things to freestyle about.  That was a loooong time ago.

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HUNOW: You’ve got a reputation for having many lyrics that clearly take inspiration from a lot of different texts, historical figures and generally a diverse range of intellectual subjects. Do you think it’s important for more rap and lyrics in general to have some kind of intellectual properties? Is this something you find integral to enhancing the use of music within society?

A: ’intellectual’ is a bit of a presumptuous word.  Who is to say what is ‘intellectual’ or not?  I think it is more important for artists to continue to put THEMSELVES into their work, being ‘smart’ for smart’s sake is totally masturbatory, and pretty much the most pointless thing out there.  I love Mystikal, and I don’t think his music would be better if he started rapping about old dead scientists, and with that being said, I have no business rapping, “shake ya ass! Watch ya self!”  If it ain’t you, don’t do it.  In time, people see through bullshit, you want the most impact, be honest.

 

HUNOW: Without making you engage in throwing any virtual stones, do you think that mainstream rap artists and the lyrics that they, and many other artists use, are detrimental to society? Do you think there’s any place or purpose for lyrics consistently revolving around guns, sex and generally being a ‘G’?

A: Nope.  Not at all.  I grew up on that rap music, I still listen to that rap music, far more than I ever listen to ‘indie’ rap music.  It has a place in entertainment, just like action movies have a place in entertainment.  I would never want Hollywood to stop making action movies, and I would never want Trick Daddy to stop rapping about AKs.

HUNOW: In addition to the well-written lyrics you produce, there’s definitely a high quality to the production of the tracks that back and surround your lines. How much of a role do you have making these other sounds and how did that element first come into play with your rapping?

A: It changes from album to album…there are albums where I am writing all of the music, and albums where I am barely writing any.  In the end though, when I get into the studio, and live musicians get added, editing begins, and mixing is in full swing, it is my ship, and I am the captain.  I work with brilliant musicians, who are able to take my ideas, and shape them into real things…I am lucky to have them all.

HUNOW: You toured with WHY? not too long ago, how did that come about? Are there any interesting stories that have been forged from two interesting artists like them and yourself coming together?

A: I have known Yoni and the WHY? gang since WHY? was just a solo act.  I have always been a fan, and we have always been friends, it was just a matter of time.  FUN FACT: Yoni LOVES to jog…something that I will never understand.

Four FistsHUNOW: Creatively, collaborations seem to bring together ideas and sounds to make new ones. You’ve finally started the collaboration Four Fists with P.O.S from Doomtree. Aside from the recently released ‘MMMMMHMMMMM’ is there a particular new sound that you two are going for?

A: Yup…but where is the fun in giving the secret away?

HUNOW: Does Four Fists mean that there won’t be a new full-length Astronautalis solo album for a while?

A: [I'm] Working on my solo album, but it still has work to do.  If everything goes according to plan, you will hear it next year.

HUNOW: There’s (probably literally) millions and millions of rap, hip hop and general underground artists out there. Following you featuring Grayskul on your Facebook page, which five lesser-known artists would you say everyone should be paying attention to right now?

A:

1. Lizzo

2. A.D.D+

3. Rickolus

4. Rich Homie Quan

5. Death Jam

HUNOW: So there’s been a lot of buzz from anyone here in the United Kingdom that have actually heard any of your stuff. Do you know when you’re likely to come on over and tour, and if not, is that something you would like to push for with your booking agent?

A: Well, I have to get a UK booking agent in order to push them.  That is basically all that is keeping me from getting over there.  I went once (with Tegan & Sara) and I am DYING to get back.  Find me a UK booking agent, and if they get me a good tour, I promise not to push them too hard.

HUNOW: Last but not least, for the readers of HOLDUPNOW, what advice would you say is paramount to getting those lyrics out from their notebooks and into fully-fledged tracks ready for the public’s ears?

A: I think what most people underestimate is the amount of work it takes.  Don’t wait around for someone else to help you, you have to just fucking do it.  It may not be perfect, you may not be able to afford the London Philharmonic to make the song perfect, but work with what you have to make it work.  The “big break” in music is a myth, I have a great circle of people around me, because I worked my ass for 10 years and found them and earned their respect.  I make a small living off of music, because I grinded it out.  My songs are the way they are, because all I do is work on, and think about music.  So, I suppose my advice is stop reading this, a get the hell to work!

You can find out more about Astronautalis and his music by visiting his:

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I am the founder and editor of @holdupmedia. I love to play the guitar, take photographs, make films and write. Creativity and networking are big parts of my life. Feel free to get in touch or follow me @JackEaton93

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