Part two of my interview with Sims of Doomtree. Doomtree is the Minneapolis, MN hip-hop collective that has given all other independent hip-hop artists a run for their money. Since their debut release in 2008 the collective has been putting out the most organic beats and rhymes to date. In part two of the interview we get more in-depth with Sims’ new album, Bad Time Zoo. (Part One)
Your last solo album was 5 years ago. A lot of people are wondering about the amount of time it took to release your second album.
I think it was a few things. One, we released the Doomtree album and 3 EP’s. I released an EP in that time beyond that I was kinda bored with hip-hop and rapping for a while. I was evaluating some things about my life. Making music was always going to be a thing, if I was going to go for it was another thing. I had to do some me time and take some time away from making all the time. About two years ago I decided that yeah, this is it.
How long have you and Lazerbeak been talking about doing an album?
We’ve been working on and off for about 2 1/2 years. Initially we weren’t going to do the album together. When he gave me the first batch of beats I think I used like 8 of them. We said let’s finish this album off together. I’m really g
lad we did. He’s pretty amazing and very talented. I’m glad I got him while I can before he becomes a multimillion dollar producer and can’t afford his music.
How do you feel with the amount of anticipation that is going on with this album?
I’m happy. I try not to be too attached to the outcome of things. It’s one thing to really try the best to detach yourself from what you want to outcome to look like and what it really is going to be. I always want it to be better every-time. So far, so good with the album. People are really responding very well. I don’t want to be the next Ke$sha or Kanye West off this thing, but it’s really good. We only hope people like it and that we can make another one.
Bad Time Zoo opens with “Future Shock” and is backed with these tribal beats and chorus. Was this to sort of set the mood for the album?
When we wrote the song, we didn’t intentionally say this is going to be the opening track. We created a lot of different songs for this album and we wound up picking about 1/2 of the songs we created. We tried to pick the 15 songs that fit best together and would be a strong representation of our product at the time. So of those 15 “Future Shock” was the obvious choice to go first.
This is what we knew with that song because the beat is really different than the beats on the rest of the album. The beat is especially beautiful on that piece and it’s just a really nice introduction. The lyrics really lay out the setting of what I’m trying to talk about in the album. It lays out the narrative, sets up the environment. You know this place, the here and the now.
The album is very critical on society. Let’s talk about “One Dimensional Man”. Was there a moment or image that inspired this track?
That song is sort of on the lethargy of liberalism. There really is not a lot of action to follow up strong feelings that occur. I don’t think that I’m one to talk, however I don’t feel like any us are. It’s sort of like you are doing these things and people commonly get their feelings involved. Someone as an American you are somehow responsible for the fact we invaded Iraq or XYZ. Liberals come and they feel a responsibility to it so as a means of kind of washing their hands of that responsibility they live more responsible. However, they are still buying into the same system that is in fact responsible for all things they are trying to absolve themselves of. So you’re still using blatant commercialism as your voice of defect.
It’s really a play on a poem by Herbert Marcuse, “One Dimensional Man” in a capitalist system there is no counter culture. You can’t buy yourself out of a capitalist culture because you’re still supporting, you’re still spending money. I’m not an anarchist, I’m not a communist, I’m not a socialist I just thought it was an interesting commentary. I just started thinking about it, writing it down and all the words rhymed. I don’t feel like any of it is coming from an angry approach, it’s interesting to note. All the judgementalism that occurs among liberals about who is more down for the cause or anything like that. When I get a funny look at the co-op because I dress differently than other people. It’s an itneresting thing to point out.
Were you worried about coming off too critical with this album?
I wasn’t really worried about it much. I just wanted to put my best effort down on recording. What
ever I was thinking and feeling I wanted it to be an honest representation of me. Whatever people want to to think, say or feel about it is totally up to them. And they totally have a license to say, think or do whatever they want about it. I feel like I have to take some risks as a songwriter, as an individual, as a thinker and as a person. If you’re thinking about something you want to say you should say it. People who want to say something about it might be right, or might be wrong. You never know. You might feel right but that doesn’t necessarily make you right. I might feel right about these songs now, and in ten years I might feel entirely differently. I’m leaving it up to the moment. I’m just here right now. I take in a lot about the environment.
In “Girl” we have this hip swerving/dance track. It’s quite different from the rest of the album.
It’s fun and it’s this light moment on an other wise heavy record. I didn’t try to make it a heavy record but it still wound up being pretty heavy. So that song is there to help lighten the mood up a bit. This record is who I am and where I am. So all the happiness, moments of joy, moments of anxiety, of sadness of triumphs all of those things occurred.
There are some pretty personal lyrics on the album. In the secret song especially.
That song in particular, the hidden song I didn’t sit down and intend to write about that. When I’m in creativity process I try to write everyday for a few months. I come up with a bunch of stuff and most of it doesn’t ever see the light of day. This was one of those things where I started going and that started happening. It turned out to be a pretty intense song and an intense moment. I thought it would be unfair to not record it. It felt like a song that should be on the album. Maybe not a song that you want to hear every single time you hear the album. Which is why it’s the hidden track.
It’s not a cop out from anything, it’s just if I were the listener I wouldn’t want to hear that track every single time. I’d know where to find it. It’s a real event in my life there is no falsification about it. The thing I do like about the song, is I’m not offering up my opinion. It’s from my perspective here is what is happened. I’m not pitying anybody. I don’t pity her, I don’t pity myself. I’m not mad at anyone or anything. I think that’s why that song is a success. I didn’t necessarily intend to write a song about that experience. It’s just sort of happened during a writing exercise that I was working on one morning. I’m glad that it happened. It was pretty exciting for me.
Are you worried about how people might interpret the song?
Part of me wishes that they believe that it’s real. The other part wishes that they think it’s fake and that it’s just an exercise in song-writing. Or me personifying a character that is going through this. That would be even better, if that didn’t actually happen to me. That would be some genius stuff! I basically cleared it with her, because it’s her life, it’s her story. Once she said it was cool I really didn’t think about it again and I try not to. There is another song called “Osmosis” which is about my dad. I believe it’s more personal about the dialogue than this. Hopefully it just finds people in the right space and the right time. I don’t intentionally put this on there like this is a pluck at your heart strings song. I don’t have an intention with how they are interpreted. I think it’s a good song, it’s a good song that I put out.
Are you going to do something with the tracks that didn’t make the album?
Two of them went on the Burn It Down EP. One of them I released earlier this year, two of them come free with the pre-order. Two of them are going to go UK exclusive when the album comes out in the UK. The rest of them I’m going to try and leak them a little bit. There’s a few that I’m going to hang onto because I think that they are really good. I think that I don’t know what I’m going to do next. Either I’ll start working on another album in 6-8 months or I’ll put together an EP. My goal is to have another album come out around this time next year as well.
Would you do another album with Lazerbeak?