Far Out Magazine’s Mike Milenko recently met up with Strange Music founder and artist Tech N9ne in the middle of his European tour, with the UK getting three shows from the King of Darkness himself. Tech has gained a massive cult and wider mainstream following through both his charismatic on-stage persona and unique record label. A veteran hip hop performer, he’s seen everything from 90s East/West coast rivalries to present-day dramas and mixed with legendary rap royalty.
I heard that you were gonna retire in four years, surely there’s no truth to this!?
The way I put it out made people think I was gonna retire but I was saying I wanted to slow down in 4 years; that was when Planet (2018) came out. I wanted to slow down doing music, slow down the touring and help my artists become their own act, create their own lane. The way I said it in the song with King Iso “I won’t quit until the day I go, four years more, me and Kali shoot as high as the sky yo, then it’s bye though.” The last part made people think ‘oh shit, he’s gonna retire’ but I meant bye for a while, just to pull back a little bit. The music is growing so much still, like it’s just now starting again, the fans are even younger so I don’t know how they ever gonna let me stop. I still got beats and rhymes in my head so I’m just gonna keep going.
Your flow is rather unique, people often compare you to the likes of Eminem and Twista for your fast complicated rhyme style.
Yeah man, I used to be a dancer, not a stripper or no shit like that, I’m talking about breakdancing, pop-locking, all around dancing and with rhythm came rhyme. I wanted some drums when I was younger but my mom didn’t have enough money to buy them, so I’d beat on tables and shit. My style is like percussion, I think that’s where it’s from, just really wanting to play the drums and doing it with my tongue, I believe that’s why my lady’s in love with me, because I can play the drums with my tongue, hahaha.
With having such an extensive discography does it ever become difficult choosing which tracks to perform live?
Yeah man, it’s hard. I have to sit down and go through my whole catalogue cuz I have all the CDs that I’ve ever put out, I have ’em stacked so high, I take them out of the cabinet, look at the whole tracklists, I just go through, it’s a hard task cuz there’s so many songs I haven’t done live that people want me to do. But there are certain tracks that I have to always do, like Einstein, I have to do that forever, Stamina, it’s not a song but a 14s. interlude, Riot Maker, Caribou Lou, I have to do those. There are certain songs I have to perform forever and those are just some of the few, but it’s extremely hard to try to come up with a setlist. I just came up with one before I came out to Europe for my Red Rocks show (Oct 19th, Morrison, Co) and it’s fuckin’ crazy. I’m coming out to new shit like I never did before, just trying to bring my new music to the forefront, but I have to have an area where I do Einstein, Straight Out The Gate, shit like that.
You have such a good crossover appeal and have appeared on tracks from other genres, most notably metal- who was your favourite metal artist to collaborate with?
It’s hard because it’s both Corey Taylor and Jonathan Davis, I love Slipknot, I love Korn. To be able to have done songs with both of them and they also did it for free because of the respect level, BUT also Serj Tankian of System of a Down. All three of those motherfuckers are like the pinnacle to me. It’s hard to choose one but Slipknot is truly at the top of that list.
Speaking of collaborations for free, Eminem dropped you a verse, didn’t he?
Yes, Eminem offered me a verse for free, because of the respect level, that’s a blessing. We did Speedom (Worldwide Choppers 2) together. I waited to get that for 10 years, same with Slipknot, I finally got it after a decade of working so hard and put out so many records where I’m elite when it comes to lyricism everybody took notice; T.I, Lil Wayne, Eminem and all the lead lyricists, Chino XL, Slaughterhouse, Raekwon and RZA- he was a really big fan when we did Rock the Bells together, I had no idea, it’s just crazy how lyrics just travel. That’s why I’m here now.
How did working with 2pac come about?
I met Tupac in ’92 at the Jack the Rapper convention in Atlanta, I was like 19 or 20. I got my first record deal in ’93 and that whole summer I kicked it with Pac and Thug Life; everywhere I went, they were there. I’d see them at the after parties, the comedy shows. Fast forward to around ’96, I got in cahoots with QD3; Quincy Jones’ son who was Pac’s producer and I kinda, I kinda got him to make his daddy give me a record deal, me and Pac were talking about doing a song, but he ended up getting killed. QD3 called me a few months later, we were all still sad about Pac’s passing, he asked me: ‘Do you wanna still do that song, Pac had already laid his verses’. I told him to send it to me and I did it; Thugs Get Lonely Too’ QD3 was the link.
Do you listen to any British artists?
I might and not even know it. Are Portishead British? Oh my god, I wish they would do more music, I’ve always wanted to work with Beth Gibbons. I’m a big Portishead fan to this day, I actually have an idea for Beth for my new album; Enter Fear, I wanna try and find her, see if she’ll humour me. It fucked me up when Keith Flint of Prodigy died, I loved his shit. I listen to Tricky too, I’m not too familiar with the UK rappers these days, maybe I do know some but don’t know they’re British, I just listen to music and if the music is good I’m with it.
Are you looking to sign anybody else to the Strange Music Roster?
Yeah, we’re always signing, we just signed Maez301, King Iso and Mackenzie Nicole, they are all newly signed artists. We are always looking man, I want a metal band, I want a female MC, I want a country artist. The way it started was I wanted elite lyricism and I got that, I just wanted Strange Music to be a well rounded record label, I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed to just lyricists. I want RnB, I want fuckin’ country, I want metal and all that shit but I feel that motherfuckers gotta have rhythm at least, off-beat shit makes me feel like my equilibrium is off, it feels weird, I can feel it off the top. So whether it be country, a metal band, MCs, whether they are a flute player that we sign, they gotta have some kind of rhythm and be able to do what they do in the studio, on stage for the people, cause that’s how we do in hip hop.
Have you got any more acting roles lined up?
Argh man, I feel so weird acting, I just did the second season of my Cathartic series, I’m trying, but I didn’t feel right doing it. I do music man, people want me to be in movies and stuff, that’s cool, I’m trying to get better at it but I can’t get my eyes right, it’s hard. That Australian dude from Stranger Things Billy Hargrove, Dacre I think he’s called, I look at how he does his eyes and shit, I can’t get my eyes right! I just study motherfuckers like Denzel Washington, Ben Foster, Benicio del Toro and Al Pacino, these motherfuckers are crazy, man, like Will Smith can cry at the drop of a dime, it’s like goddamn how does he do that? I watch so many movies that I’m trying to learn and pick up things, damn it’s hard, but what I do [lyrically] is hard for other people. I’m writing screenplays now for all my shit, the dialogue and everything, I’m getting in on that but the actors that we hire that are from real agencies, they kill us!
What are your favourite horror films?
John Carpenter’s Halloween 2, that’s my very favourite out of the whole Halloween franchise, I love them all with the exception of Season of the Witch. It don’t have shit to do with Michael Myers for real and I’m a Myers fan. I love anything with Jamie Lee Curtis, even True Lies, but she’s always Laurie Strode to me, man. I also like The Exorcist, I have that as my screensaver. In the rap industry Eminem is Jason, Krazie Bone is Leatherface, Bushwick Bill, rest his soul, is Chucky, I’m Michael Myers, I don’t know who the fuck is Freddy lyrically, he’d have to be a comedian too cuz Freddy made you laugh whenever he killed somebody like ‘Welcome to prime time bitch’.
Do you have a favourite album?
Ooh, Jesus. I always end up choosing Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back, Niggaz4Life by N.W.A and Criminal Minded by B.D.P, pivotal albums.
How do you feel about working with artists from different camps while there is a feud between them?
I fuck with MCs, MCs don’t fuck with each other, that’s the history of Tech N9ne. Whenever I fuck with rappers they end up falling out, puts me in the middle all the time; Machine Gun Kelly and Eminem, I fuck with both of ’em, Joyner Lucas and Logic before they got together recently, ICP and Twiztid, I fuck with both of ’em, they don’t fuck with each other. I’m always in the middle of shit only because I fuck with MCs, I don’t really know the business on why they fall out. That’s all I know, I don’t really know the stories. I don’t know how I feel about it, I just know I’m neutral until motherfuckers start fucking with me.
You used to ghost hunt in abandoned buildings, have you ever had a paranormal experience?
I wish. I wish I had proof that I was praying to something that was listening in another world or a spiritual realm. This is my 48th year of living, I still haven’t seen anything greater than a baby being born. When my mom died I stopped looking cuz that’s what I was praying for, for her to get better, now she’s gone; fuck it.
It’s known that you had a phobia of clowns when you were younger, did taking on the Killer Clown persona help you overcome this fear?
“Yes it did, I became what I feared as a child. I think with fear you have to go through it in order to get over it- that’s why I’m calling my new album Enter Fear because I’m trying to enter the rest of my fears, there’s not many others. I used to fear lightning as if I was gonna get struck down, but there’s no way I can control that so why the fuck would I fear it? I’ve always been afraid to get my drivers licence because I can’t fuckin’ parallel park, I’ve been driving illegally all these years, it’s like stupid, I can’t do that any more. I don’t fear dogs, I don’t fear people, I don’t fear failure because I feel I can make anything happen. I fear not being perfect and it shows on stage with my intricate lyrics, it’s hard to do so my handshakes, like I fear fucking up and that fear can make me fuck up, I’m trying to get over those fears, I haven’t been doing Fragile on the road but I just went over it twice in soundcheck. I’ve had a fear of that song for a long time. I do get anxiety on stage because my fans are Technicians, I created them and if I fuck up they know, they know all the lyrics to every song.