Telegram to hip-hop this shit has gone too far... Perhaps we should not have encouraged them to use cordless microphones for they have walked too far from the source and are emitting a lesser frequency... We will be confiscating weed supplies and replacing them with magic mushrooms in hopes of helping niggas see beyond their realities.

-"Telegram" : Saul Williams Photo by Wild Lupin

Do you improvise a lot on stage, especially musically?


The music on this album is rather ambitious and I'm curious how you plan to translate that on the road. First off, you'll have a live band right?

Yeah for sure.

Do you know who your band will be?

Saul Williams by Wild Lupin
Yeah I've already put the band together. On bass and electronic triggering and PC and stuff is Thavius Beck, you know he had an album that came out on Mush Decomposition that actually had Cedric [Cedric Bixler Zavala of Mars Volta] on a track. And he produced a track on my album called "Act III Scene II" with Zack so he'll be there to trigger sounds and play bass. On drums is this guy Chris Alvares, and I met him and his partner in Arizona while I was on tour. And his partner is a girl named Heidi Gad and she plays electric violin and guitar. So she will be on electric guitar and electric violin, and then me. And I'll be on guitar and probably that's it, I may be on some electronic shit, I don't know.

And will the material be all from this album or will you be spanning other stuff as well?

I don't know. We just did our first show a couple days ago.

Oh you did? I didn't know your tour had started yet.

Well it hasn't but on the release date we did an in-store at Amoeba records here in L.A., and that was our first time playing out together.

And how did it feel?

It felt good.

Speaking of Amoeba, what are you listening to now?

Yesterday I bought the Animal Collective, I forget the name of that album, I bought the new album by The Faint, I bought the new album by Jean Grae, and K-Os.

Are you reading anything right now?

I'm reading a book called The Indigo Children.

What's that about?

It's about the new kids of this age. They call them Indigo Children, the kids that are being born now.

Thinking about books I had a question. Now I'm not very familiar with MTV Books so this could be completely off base, if so, feel free to correct me. But while it is clearly a means to reach a larger audience, I--as many people are--am far from impressed with what MTV is doing to pop culture. Was there ever any conflict of interest there?

There hasn't been, no. They’ve been actually really supportive. They've been the most understanding and supportive of my poetry. They've gotten it more than other people have, other publishing houses. Or other publishing houses get it but their ability to push it is not the same.

Well that's nice to hear. Surprising but nice.

Yeah it is very surprising, right? But yeah, it's been cool.

Now when that came about, did they approach you or did you approach them?

They approached me before Slam came out. Right when Slam won a lot of awards at Cannes and Sundance there was a lot of me in the press and so it was at that time that I signed my deal with Rick Rubin and that I hooked up with MTV Books.

There was one other question I wanted to ask you in closing. It's sort of a general question about hip-hop, and again I'm making a couple of assumptions on your view, so if I'm mistaken please let me know. But it seems that in studying your lyrics and reading up on you, it seems that you are not really necessarily angry at hip-hop, or calling for a full-bore change as some more conscious artist are calling for, but it seems that you are looking for a balance...

Oh, you got it exactly. That's it. That's exactly it. Some artists are doing the job of balancing themselves out. Like recently I listened to the new song by Mase, and I was like, "Wow, I'm a Mase fan now. I want to hear his whole album now." I think that a lot of artists are realizing the responsibility in being alive in this age, and yeah, that's all I'm really into, is just the balance. It's not that the people who are out there shouldn't be there, it's just that they should be balanced out with some other stuff.

Do you have any idea of how we can achieve this balance in hip-hop?

I think its happening. Things go in cycles. It's not something we have to really achieve; people just have to feel confident in being themselves. It's gonna go in cycles. The next two years are gonna be the years in hip-hop of like Mos (Def) and Common, that are just gonna run shit.

Do you find that there is some form of responsibility for artists alive, today in 2004?

Definitely, we all have a responsibility. We have a responsibility as human beings. Everybody has a responsibility just to be aware of their impact. As Americans we have a responsibility to realize the responsibility that comes with power. To realize the responsibility that comes with privilege, and to not just rest in our comfort zone when it comes at the cost of other people's discomfort. But to find ways that we can be comfortable without imposing our wills and domination on other societies. And as artists it's the same thing. It's like art magnifies the individual spirit so that a million people can sing along with the song and say, "Oh, I relate to that." And so we have to make sure that all people have the essence of themselves to relate to and not the lower part of themselves to relate to.

Check out Saul's ROCKTOBER 2004 :: VOTING ON THE MIND political response.

The Kayceman
JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 10/9/04]

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