Interview: Sims (Doomtree), Part One

It’s been five years since we’ve seen a solo album from fellow Doomtree member, Sims. But on February 15th the wait will be over. The thousands of people who pre-ordered the new album, Bad Time Zoo will receive their copies and other bonus items on February 11th. You can buy it direct from Doomtree here. I was able to sit down with my friend and fellow Minnesotan, Sims in January to discuss the new album, Doomtree and  a possible solo acoustic album?

There is a daily buzz on twitter about pre-sales for Bad Time Zoo, just how important is the pre-sale business?

It’s like this, we are a business entity that operates on a very small budget and independently. All that said, the more that we can maximize the first weeks sales off a record the better it looks nationally and the more we compete nationally. On top of that it helps get some of the investment that we had put into the project from the beginning. To pay it back a little sooner to hopefully free up more capital to start-up the next project.

So the next thing we have on deck is the Mike Mictlan album and the P.O.S. album. Each project sort of funds the next project so the faster we can sort of get our money back off these records the easier it is. It’s important . It also really helps us compete with the other really big labels out there and gives us some leveraging opportunities down the road. So when we do get offers from people we can say we need you or we don’t need you.

Would you ever put out an album that wasn’t with Doomtree? Or do a collaboration with another artists and put it on another label?

At this point I don’t think I would put a solo album out with another label. Doomtree is something that we, my friends and I started and we are working on building. It’s something that I’m interested in building into something bigger than it is currently. If I collaborated with someone else my first choice would be with Doomtree. However, I’m pretty open to whatever.

What would you like to see Doomtree become?

I’d like to see us become a bigger label than we are currently. I’d like us to become a name that people trust internationally to make good product. Maybe branch out into some other aspects of media or business. I think the goal for Doomtree is that for everyone in Doomtree to be successful and hopefully make a career out of this. So I think the next steps for Doomtree is to expand the label and become something larger than it is currently.

Would you ever move outside of Minneapolis?

Minneapolis is like my favorite city and I love it here. If i had to move I would move out of the country. I don’t know that I would move anywhere else in the states at this point. If Doomtree’s gotta relocate to Paris or man, Doomtree’s gotta relocate to London, yeah sure!

You used to pay Stef (P.O.S.) $30 for a beat?

Totally that was our arrangement. I’d pay him $30 so I could record it. That is how that went when we were like 19-20. We were boys, but at the same time we were trying to pay off whatever kind of stuff we did. It was still difficult at that time for whatever reason, I was still trying to hustle him and get a few work sessions in. I’d be like, “Oh man, while I’m here mind if I record another real quick?”  He’d be like, “Ohh man yeah, go right ahead.”

Were you two friends before you met up with him and started doing hip-hop? Or did you just know of him from around school?

I was younger than all of them so I didn’t really know them in high school. I’d seen him (Stef) around at shows and we’d get to talking about beats. He’d be like “I got tons of beats.” And that’s pretty much how we became friends. I didn’t hang out with any of the dudes from Doomtree in high school.

Were you at all intimidated by approaching him at first to do projects?

No. I don’t think so. But you know Stef, he’s super approachable. We were all on the same level. I listen back to those recordings and think, ‘Damn, we were terrible.’

Do you remember your first rhymes?

No, no thank god. I wrote my first rhyme when I was like 14, so it was probably 14 years ago. It’s real good that I don’t remember them.

Not a lot of people really understand or know what goes into making a hip-hop album. How did you and Lazerbeak approach making these tracks?

Usually what happens with Beak and I, he’ll make a beat and I’ll come over to his house, or he’ll send them to me and I’ll just listen. We’ll pick through the ones that I want to play around with. Usually what I do is I’ll put down a bunch of ideas that I’m focused on. I’ll come to the beat with a song in mind, like something I’ve written down. Most of the time I’ll  find the song within it. Either way I’ll demo all that stuff. Beak and I will hook up, I’ll send it to him and he and I will listen to it a few times.

Once we have 6 or 7 demos we’ll link up and go through the songs individually. We’ll decide what parts are needed, what can be added, what parts are good, what parts have changed. We’ll sort of restructure the song, restructure the beat and we’ll demo it again. Once we’re in the studio we’ll do some post production to it. Often times I’ll come up with two choruses for a song and I’ll have him pick the one he likes better. Or he’ll be like, “That second verse is really weak. You need to change that one.” So I’ll go and change it. We’re good like that.

Is there a friendly competition among the emcees?

I think it’s like that for everybody. Anytime you hear a song that you really like it gets you motivated to really get in there and make your own. Not really something similar, but something that makes you feel just as good. We’re like that always. Everyone is always feeding off the next person, getting inspired by the next person and wanting to impress the other people.

The big thing that really drives me as an emcee, aside from the natural drive that I have to create this music, who I really want to impress with this music is the other six people who are apart of this music. If I have approval from the other six people in Doomtree then I feel really good about the song. That’s really what keeps me moving is those people. They are some of the most genius, brilliant artists I know. I really take their criticism, advice and praise to heart. I think we all do. I think that we’re all very much big admirers of each other’s work. I think that is why Doomtree keeps moving, everyone keeps making such really good stuff.

And nobody wants to stop.

Yeah. Because you’re always playing catch up. Because the next guy or girl just did something better than you could have ever done. So then you’re like, “AHA!” and you wanna make something better than that. It’s a friendly competition that keeps this thing rolling. We like that pride and that motivation we give each other to keep it moving.

You’re all solely doing Doomtree correct?

Yeah, we’re all just doing this. I mean we’re all broke, but we’re doing art for a living. I haven’t had a job other than this one for about 4-5 years. We’re blessed to all be able to do this for a living, it’s a huge opportunity. We all want this to be the only job we ever want to do.

If someone wanted to use one of your songs in a commercial would you consider that ‘selling out’?

It’s not selling out to me. But it depends on the project. If a car company wanted to  use it, I’d be totally down with that. The thing about music is it’s hard to balance your ideals about what it is to be an artist with your ideals. A person needs to pay their bills and eat. The situation has never come across my desk. And when I say ‘desk’ I mean dining room table. It would depend on what the product was. I could not in good conscious do that to something I don’t in good conscious support.

Have you written anything other than a rap song?

I used to be in bands when I was a kid so I’ve written other songs. I’ve played around with the idea and have some things that are sitting around that aren’t rap songs. I really like music in general, not just rap. I wanna make a bunch of different songs that I’ll maybe release later. But I rally like rap. [laughs]

So we might get a solo acoustic album from Sims?

[laughs] Not just yet. But who knows.

(Part Two)

Thoughts?

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