The Genius of Tech N9ne and His Dark Carnival

A seemingly tired Tech N9ne called before his show in Fargo, North Dakota to bestow his artistic insight unto Sensible Reason. Despite the strenuous predisposition to the interview, an incredibly impressive stack of consecutive performance dates, he was still able to dive deep for answers to the ideology behind his mask, artistic approach, and latest update on his new album release, Storm, set to release its presale copies on December 9th.

He is currently touring with his Strange Music Label comrades Krizz KalikoJL, and Starrz. He has been sharing the stage with them instead of the typical supporting act, support act, and headliner approach. The result was a very diverse show with interest tying in throughout the performance instead of a build up and climax scenario. The dark carnival sustained its energy throughout each performance.

The stress seemed high when it came to the confrontation of the self-automated cannibalism of the music industry in terms of streaming versus selling records. As an independent label it is crucial to find sales, but the show goes on and Tech rises above the adversity. It is survival of the fittest, and keeping up with Tech’s rhymes is definitely a challenge few can conquer in the current musical climate.

“We’re going to keep getting stronger and stronger and our words are going to reach more and more people.”

To Tech, music is life. I’ll let him explain the rest.

In your interviews and on stage your energy is very different, what do you do to get in that mental place and is it the same place that you go to when you record?

As soon as I put that mask on I start feeling the energy. I start to feel more like a beast. Everything begins to feel different for me. It’s the same way I felt when I put on the face paint, even on the last tour.

Photo of Tech N9ne at the Canopy Club in Champaign Illinois. Photo courtesy of Robert K. Recordings.

Photo of Tech N9ne at the Canopy Club in Champaign Illinois. Photo courtesy of Robert K. Recordings.

Now that I have this mask made the people that Corey Taylor [of Slipknot] and his wife set me up with.

I feel super invincible now, or more like a super hero.

We gather up for a prayer backstage; me, Chris, security, and whoever is backstage and then we go out on stage and we kill it.

Since you mentioned Corey Taylor of Slipknot, how did you meet him and how does the mask fit when you perform?

I’ve been a maggot [Slipknot superfan] since 1999, and me and him did a song together in on the last L.P. [name] called Wither. So we got acquainted around that time. I was feeling him out for the idea of that song. Ever since then we’ve been tight, it feels like actual family.

He set me up with the people out in L.A. that do their masks to get it made and it’s a perfect fit.

And the concept for the mask?

I did exactly what I do with my face paint. It’s hard to describe man, the feeling, I feel empowered. It fits perfectly because of the mold.

I saw the pictures of that on Instagram it looked pretty crazy, almost alien.

Definitely.

Some may know that you used to have a fear of clowns, I’ve got to say that I’m pretty impressed with how you’ve conquered that fear. My brother forced me to watch the movie IT when I was younger and that experience definitely left some residual anxiety that I carry to this day. How did you overcome that fear and utilize it in your artistic approach?

I noticed when I was younger that when I went to the Ringling Brother Circus or a cirque de sole that clowns were always mysterious. And I eventually wanted to be mysterious when I started rapping because chicks used to call me pretty boy in school and they were more concerned with my looks than what I was talking about. So I messed my hair up on purpose and I started rapping and they started listening. They weren’t looking anymore because I messed my hair up. That helped me become mysterious. I didn’t want people to know what I was thinking unless it’s through my music.

I took the mystique from the clown and I became it. You couldn’t tell if that clown’s smile was real or not. It’s painted on. Just like you can’t tell what I’m about until I start rapping.

You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you lived with your grandmother and she had a lot of books and records that you would go through. What were you reading early on and did it inspire you in your work?

I got into Edgar Allen Poe, I was infatuated with serial killer novels, because I wanted to know my opposition. I was an angel so I wanted to know where evil came so I would know how to take it out.

I read books on racism a lot because that’s my pet peeve. I never liked people that judge people by their religion, skin tone, or their culture, period.

Photo Courtesy of Robert K. Recordings.

Photo Courtesy of Robert K. Recordings.

So it’s kind of like excelsior, take the negative and make it into a positive?

Exactly.

So talk about the ideology behind the new album Storm.

My first L.P. was called The Calm Before the Storm. So I knew if I named this one The Storm it’d be some of my best work yet. I’m actually still working on it today. I’m still writing for it.

And that’s why the release date got pushed back I take it?

Yeah I haven’t had time to make the perfect storm just yet. It’s still coming together.

So you don’t think your critically acclaimed album Special Effects is going to be the best of your work?

Well let’s see, I think that every album I’ve written has been getting better and better. So it is hard to say. I know Special Effects isn’t my pinnacle because as I listen to this album I think ‘Wow, this is already better and it isn’t even finished yet.’

I don’t know where I’m going to go after this one. I’ve got some ideas, but only time will tell. I don’t feel I’ve reached my pinnacle yet. I think I’ve got a lot more to say, do, and show off with.

With the new album coming out how do you feel it is going to fit in with the current state of hip-hop? And where do you think the state of hip-hop is headed today?

It’s like shooting dice. You never know where it’s going to roll or what numbers are going to hit. I could make the best music I’ve ever made and who’s to say? We’re in a musical climate that is worse than ever before

We put our all into it like it’s going to be a global sensation and you never know if it will be man. The way music is listened to now is make it almost impossible to see real returns. So we’re going to roll the dice.

Photo Courtesy of Robert K. Recordings.

Photo Courtesy of Robert K. Recordings.

So being on an independent label do you think you are more or less pressured than what you would be on say a major label?

It’s always more pressure when it is on your own label because you’re spending your money and not someone else’s.

Let’s change it up here, with the election going on how do you see music fitting into the motion for change?

Music always keeps moving with everybody. You can always find political music. We [rappers] are out here you know, there’s people like Immortal Technique and Killer Mike. We’re going to keep getting stronger and stronger and our words are going to reach more and more people.

It will probably keep getting more vocal as things keep getting worse.

Do you think that music is the strongest art form that modern society has to offer today?

The only thing that impacts as many people is sports. Without music what would you do? Some people say, ‘I don’t really listen to music,’ and I respond ‘how do you live?’

Your heart has a rhythm. So how do you live without a beat? You don’t. So if people say they don’t listen to music, they’re lying. They got something to listen to. Music is everywhere, instrumental, a capella, bluegrass, country, rap, it’s everywhere.

Thank you for your time Tech N9ne

Make sure to catch Tech N9ne sometime on the remainder of the tour. For Tour info click here. 

Sean Hersch

Hello my name is Sean Hersch. I grew up all around the United States and finally settled down in central Illinois for the latter half of my early education. I went to college at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and received a bachelor's degree in Journalsim as well as a minor in History and Philosophy. After living in Carbondale for four and a half years I plan to travel to the West Coast in search of a new career path. I love photography as much as I love to write and those are the talents I plan to develop into professionalism over the next year.

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