Interview: Sims (feat. Cecil Otter) (Minneapolis)

In the middle of August, Katia and I made it to Minneapolis for a weekend of basking in the last bit of a Minnesota summer. On a patio in Uptown, we sat down with Sims for a chat, who quickly brought over Cecil Otter to join in and chat about his upcoming Good Time Zoo Tour (dates below), the next creative project (it floats) from Doomtree, Throne watching and much more! Catch the wordsmiths as they crisscross the nation starting September 17th in Salt Lake City.

How’s the reception been for Bad Time Zoo? Are you working on any new videos for that coming up?

[Sims] It’s been great. It was really good at the beginning and it still seems to be picking up pace. There’s a video for LMG (“Love My Girl”) coming out in a couple of weeks in early September. And we have an EP called Wildlife coming out on August 30th. We printed off some physicals for people who we thought would like them. So if you pre-order tickets you get a signed poster and a signed copy of the Wildlife EP. We’re not going to be giving out physicals to anyone else. The rest will be digital/online.

[Katia] So Bad Time Zoo was with animal stuff, would you ever do your next album prehistoric? Dinosaurs?

[Sims] Go back in time? You have to keep going forward. What’s after animals?

[John] Robotic animals.

[Sims] See all of this is good fodder for me to start on the next record. Robot Animals Part One is coming out hopefully next fall. But we’ll see. We just finished the Doomtree album called No Kings. That’s going to be coming out November 22nd, and it’s pretty awesome if I do say so myself. Super proud of it. And after that we have releases from pretty much all other four rappers in Doomtree probably before I get mine out. So all that stuff is in the works for 2012, which is the last year that the Earth exists so I better get something out before the fall! Hopefully nano-technology takes a big leap in the six months because otherwise we’re fucked!

[Cecil Otter] Our next group project is going to be building a really big boat.

[Sims] An ark, yeah. A fire-proof and brimstone-proof ark.

[Katia] Then what’re you going to store on the ark?

[Sims] One of everything.

[Cecil] The name of the ark will be Lil’ of Everything.

[John] So where did No Kings come from?

[Sims] We actually have a lot of that symbolism throughout our past projects. Even on the cover of Bad Time Zoo there’s a No Kings logo on it. It goes back to Mike Mictlan, who had a song, “Kings are gonna die.” It’s sort of a general philosophy that we have that to me means acknowledging your own sovereignty. You accept no oppression and no authoritarian rule over yourself. And you make up the rules for you. And you treat everyone with the same amount of respect. You don’t try to rule over anybody else. And you accept no rules over yourself. You can apply it to a musical sense. We never tried to work with a major label or anything like that. We sort of don’t take losses, we do this on our own. We appreciate people who have done it on their own in their past and those in the future who will do it on their own.

We’re all level to begin with. We’re all equals to begin with. That’s the mentality that we carry. I’m always interested in this because, and this is going to sound egotistical but whatever. When we’re done with interviews, people are always like, ‘You guys are real level headed and down to earth.’ And it’s just the way that we carry ourselves because that’s how we actually think. It’s who we actually are. We don’t get caught up in all that other unimportant sort of narcissism. Let everything else be what it is and we’ll just be us and people we want to be, which is open down-to-earth people.

That’s what No Kings means to me, I don’t know what it means to Cecil or anyone else.

[Cecil] I pretty much felt that way forever. And since I’ve been 17, I’ve been tagging this crossed out crown from everything I’ve ever done. And Mike and Sims got it last year, hand-drawn and sent on a text. I’ve just never liked the idea of kings, kingdoms and being better than the other. More talents. So like, ‘You have more talent so…’ of the oppressor and the oppressed. I’d rather not be a part of either of those and walk above it. I don’t want to oppressed or be oppressed, I just want to look forward and keep going and not have people drag you back. Then you have to think about all that shit and you end up back at square one. Then you’re still you just looking forward. It just seems like a sideshow that I don’t want to be a part of.

[Katia] What if Kanye asked you guys to join the Throne?

[Cecil] I would do it because I wouldn’t join it as a king. I’d be like, ‘I’d fucking hang out.’ I don’t mind being creative and making music. It’s not a part to be like, ‘Now I did that, that’s a stepping stone.’ I’d feel, ‘Okay, cool.’

[Sims] I’d love to make music with those guys. “Watch the Throne” is some rhetoric. It’s just a title for a thing. Those dudes have been on top, Jay especially has been on top for almost fifteen years as the number one rapper. That’s deserved. He can say whatever he wants at this point because he’s paid his dues. He survived the number one spot. When you look at someone like 50 Cent who was at the number one spot and kind of is not at the spot anymore, then someone like Jay-Z who’s longevity and ability to keep it fresh and keep moving is pretty impressive.

[Cecil] And bringing so many other people into it with him. Like, “I see so much talent here. That’s talent wasted. You gotta be here.” It’s not like, “I see dollar signs.” He definitely knows how to pick ’em. Like, “I see that intensity and tenacity. Please come join us, I wanna to share this with you.”

[Sims] Totally. And it seems like he’s not trying to get over on people, which is cool. He’s just interested in pushing the art. And that’s what I think is interesting about Kanye is that he actually cares about music in general so much that he comes off as a dickhead. He just does dumb things, like Taylor Swift. I feel like that was because he cared so hard about music that he believed it so much, “Beyoncé had the better video. She won that award.” He believed it so much that he had to get up there and say that. Now whatever it is about him that makes him think that anyone cares what he has to say is something beyond it, but he cares so much that he feels like he needs to. There’s a redeeming quality in that, despite that complete disregard for someone else’s feelings.

[John] You’re right on that because he brought on Justin Vernon for his last album, that was completely out of left field and ran with it.

[Sims] Yep, totally. Bon Iver’s got talent to spare. And 808s and Heartbreak was co-written by Kid Cudi, which is the same kind of thing. When someone gets inspired, they get inspired. And if it’s someone else that’s inspiring you, you bring them on board to work with you.

[Cecil] And it just proves that he knows good music too. Knowing Justin and all these other people, he said we were just talking about music. Then he was like, “‘I need you on my new album’, and all of a sudden I’m getting flown out to Hawaii, playing basketball and sitting in the studio for hours.” That changed my whole perception because I didn’t listen to Kanye, but that is just fucking cool. He sees people with great potential and just wants to work with them to make the greatest album possible.

[Sims] You know what’s cool. I don’t know if Kanye or Jay run their twitter or their blogs, but Kanye posted a P.O.S. about two years ago or a year ago, and about a month ago Jay-Z tweeted about Wugazi and put that up on his blog too. If it’s not them directly, someone is paying attention to music and they obviously still care about music even on a microscopic level like Doomtree. Compared to Kanye West and Jay-Z, Doomtree is a grain of sand, nonexistent thing that they’re paying enough attention that they find out about Bon Iver and P.O.S. and Wugazi.

[John] Which is shocking that they can do that given their level and how busy they are.

[Sims] So maybe what it is is they understand how busy they are, and maybe they don’t find that music themselves but they’re still interested in finding music so much so that they keep someone on to discover new music for them and bring it to them. You know what I mean? That’s cool in and of itself that that job exists. They find it so important that they have to hire out that job, even if it works like that. I don’t know. Maybe they do have time to check the internet.

[John] When you’re ever on tour, what do you say to people who come up and say, ‘I’m really inspired by what you’re doing, do you have any advice?’

[Sims] I guess what I tell people are a few things. A) Don’t ever expect to make money off music or be a career musician. Even if you get the opportunity to not work for a few years and just make music, don’t expect that to last and don’t be attached to the money that comes or does not come from making music. Remember why you want to make music and what the best parts about it are for you. My other advice is to meet people at shows, be as cool and approachable as you can possibly be. Offer to open for as many people as you possibly can for free for as long as it takes until you notice that you’re bringing more people than the guy who’s coming after you. Then try to book your own show once you build up with the promoters. You have to meet the promoters and be cool with them. And then try to book your own show. It’s the way Doomtree did it.

We played over a hundred shows in Minneapolis in one year and we didn’t take checks for any of them. Maybe we got $50, maybe we got $100 and we would save all that money and invest it into used equipment and print CDs from there. Build it really slow.

[John] So how did you start as an artist?

[Sims] Well I was in bands when I was in junior high, and great terrible bands.

[Cecil] Little bands like Soundgarden, umm…Black Crowes. Black Crowes…that was a good band!

[Sims] [laughs] Yeah, then I started rapping when I was 14 or so and never took it seriously. I just liked to freestyle and hang out with friends. Started writing songs about 15. Started a rap crew that lasted when I was 16 to 17. Then a different rap crew from 17 to about 19, then that kind of dissolved as people moved away and it was just me still. Started hanging out with P.O.S. and Cecil Otter. They’d be kicking me beats, and calling me up and telling me to come over to the studio to record. Coordinated some songs, then they asked me to play a show with them. Maybe a week or so later they asked if I wanted to be in Doomtree.

[Cecil] I actually remember, it’s a funny story that just popped into my head. We’d go to parties with Charlie, a friend of ours. We all went to Hopkins but I was a few years ahead of Sims. Every once in a while we’d hang out with my friend Charlie at some house party where someone’s parents are out of town. I’m like, “Dude, I have my own place. We can go there and drink!” And he’d be like, “Nooo, but it’s going to be a cool party!” Out in Hopkins, I remember sitting at this table and Sims wasn’t there. Someone’s like, “Ohhh, you’re in the Doomtree thing too, right?” This was years back, before you even became to Stef’s place and I knew who you were. Someone’s talking about freestyle or something like that. “Will you freestyle? Cause we want to freestyle.” Some girl came up and she’s like, “Andrew Sims can rap waaay better than all you guys. I’m just saying, I’ve seen that motherfucker flow!” [laughs] She walking out with a beer and jumps in the pool. I’m like, “What the fuck was that?” ‘I’m just saying’!’ She just hated me for rapping, saying, “It should be Andrew rapping.” And I was like, “Who the fuck is Andrew?” [laughs] She showed up to the party on a motorcycle and came through the door.

[Sims] I haven’t had that many male friends slash friends, but I’ve always had a squad of girls who believed in me. They keep me going.

[Cecil] It’s like, “Oh, he’s way hotter than you and he totally rapped with the word ‘orange.'” [laughs]

[Sims] 90% of the Bad Time Zoo buyers are female. Props to y’all keeping me in business! Sorry about the wedding…

[Katia] Are you excited to seeing your name on the marquee, and not have it be that you’re getting married?

[Sims] Yeah, I’m excited. I am excited to go out and see what it’s like to headline a tour and hopefully not feel much pressure. I’ve seen a few people go out on their first headlining tours. I’ve been support on the first headlining tours of P.O.S. and Dessa. It was a lot of pressure for them ’cause if no one shows up it’s kind of on them. But not on me ’cause I’m opening! I’ve got nothin’ to do with that! That’s you baby! Hopefully I just keep it cool and don’t feel any pressure. It should be fun. I’ve got Cecil Otter coming with. Lazerbeak, Paper Tiger. I’m more excited to hit the road with those guys because it’s a good squad.

[John] Relatedly, so if you were touring and had Groundhog’s Day the movie happen to you, which town or city would you want to be in?

[Cecil] I would say Portland, Maine personally.

[Sims] I’d say, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago…and Denver.

[John] Would you save children in every single town and learn how to play piano?

[Sims] [laughs] Absolutely not! I would never save a child! That’s a ridiculous question, “Would you save a child?”

I would support a child, but it would have to be overseas strictly for the head shots that I would get for them on a weekly basis. I’m just interested in collecting child’s head shots, not actually saving a child.

[Cecil] Que sera, sera bro!

[John] So how’d you get involved with Red Rocks and Snowboard on the Rocks?

[Sims] We’ve been amateur geologists for about six weeks or so. And we really love red rocks above any other color of rock that we’ve ever found.

[Cecil] Because you don’t have to squeeze blood from the rock, ’cause the shit’s already red. Job done! [laughs]

[Sims] The progression was natural to play at the largest formation of red rocks that we can find that has a venue built into it. What happened was Snowboard Magazine founders hit us up and asked if we would play there.

[Cecil] That dude Andrew from PBR brought it up to Brian McDunnah outside of the patio at Leaning Tower. He said you should bring it up to crew, you could play Red Rocks. I was like, “Yes!” And I kept sending it to Paper Tiger, not throwing him under the bus but if you’d like to hang out…but I was sending him messages, Brian was sending him messages, Andrew from PBR who was setting up the show was setting up messages…John, sorry bro. It’s a snowboard festival.

[Sims] So it’s the release of their new video for the year. Last year they had The Cool Kids and somebody else play. This year, it’s their second year doing it and they have RJD2 and us playing it.

[Cecil] That amphitheater is ridiculously awesome. It’s just in the middle of the mountains.

[Sims] We stopped there one time in the middle of the day while on tour, walked around Red Rocks for a while. Then swam in a creek, which turned out to be the town water reserve. And met a wonderful majestic dog called Pepperberg Jenkins and had a great afternoon with him.

[Cecil] [laughs] It was perfect! We’re like laying down, we found our spot in the rocks. We were loving it. We’re cracking up and this gorgeous dog just comes out, sits down next to us. We’re like, “What’s his name?! What’s his name?! … It’s PEPPERBERG JENKINS! PERFECT!” We hung out, it didn’t bark or anything. We just played with him. The cop rolls up because we had walked down these rocks to get there. He’s like, “You guys can’t be in there!” ‘What??’ “It’s the town’s drinking water!” And then sure enough we get in the car to drive and we see all the water leads into the town! Then as we were leaving like every person was taking a drink of water in slow motion! [laughs]

[Katia] When you’re on tour, is there someone to take the dad role?

[Sims] Paper Tiger. Beak will help with all that. We’re all pretty self-sufficient.

[Cecil] It’s pretty much a bunch of dad’s all running around. [laughs] Like, does this work? Yeah, that works.

[Sims] At this point, we all know the drill about how to tour. The biggest challenge is the schedule to make it to the next show on time. We’re doing 25 shows but we’re covering the entire coastal loop of the country. There’s going to be a few really long drives back to back to back, ten-hour drive days kind of thing. It’ll get a little exhausting but other than that it’ll be cool. You get back to the hotel around 3 in the morning and then you have to leave around 8 to get to the show around doors time. Those days when you string them together are never fun. The show is always fun, but the whole day itself is exhausting. It gets grueling but the only dad part about it would be who’s going to wake everybody up.

[Katia] Who do you guys like to share beds with when you’re on tour?

[Sims] Nobody likes to share a bed with me because I’m a cuddlier.

[Cecil] And nobody like to share a bed with John (Paper Tiger). So I try to make it work that way where me and Beak gets the bed where we’re back to back. But yeah, Sims likes to cuddle. So you’ll be like…

[Sims] Wrong bed dude! [laughs]

[Katia] If you could have one member of Wu-Tang over for dinner, who’d it be?

[Sims] RZA. A cubed steak so I can tell him it was perpendicular to the square. [laughs]

Oh man, my favorite story…it never happened but…Paper Tiger and Cecil used to host breakfast at this one restaurant called The Egg & I. One morning Aesop Rock was in there and Cecil was going to make him a root beer float and bring it over to him and say, “So I heard y’all want a float.” That would’ve been the best fucking moment ever! I guarantee he would’ve remember that moment to this day.

[Cecil] Yours is much better than mine. I’d have Ol’ Dirty Bastard and cook a crawfish étouffée with no joke behind it. There’s no punchline! I’d love to know what he would think about my étouffée…

Sorry guys, I need a moment. Turn the computer off! [laughs]

Tour Dates (with Lazerbeak & Cecil Otter):

9/16 – Denver, CO – Red Rocks Amphiteater “Snowboard on the Rocks” Film Festival (Full Doomtree Collective)
9/17 – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court (early show) / Urban Lounge (late show)
9/19 – Seattle, WA – Crocodile
9/20 – Portland, OR – Branx
9/21 – Reno, NV – Tonic
9/22 – San Francisco, CA – Brick and Mortar
9/23 – San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
9/24 – Los Angeles, CA – The Central
9/26 – Phoenix, AZ – Chasers
9/27 – Albuquerque, NM – Moonlight Lounge
9/29 – Austin, TX – Beauty Bar
9/30 – Dallas, TX – Club Dada
10/1 – Columbia, MO – Mojo’s
10/2 – St. Louis, MO – Cicero’s
10/4 – Washington, DC – DC9
10/5 – Philadelphia, PA – North Star Bar
10/6 – Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory
10/7 – Boston, MA – O’Brien’s
10/8 – Pittsburgh, PA – Smiling Moose
10/9 – Pontiac, MI – Pike Room at Crofoot
10/10 – Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge (upstairs)
10/15 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Cafe (TBC)

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