Read up on what the man behind the extremely dope 'The Windmills Of My Soul' LP had to say about his back catalogue, touring, producing and loads more.
For those that aren't familiar with you, could you begin by telling us what you do?
I'm a part time web-designer, full time producer, rapper, and plug label whip cracker.
Where are you from and how healthy would you rate your local hiphop scene. Any particular people we need to check for?
I was born and raised in the bay area and I live in San Francisco. I think the hiphop scene isn't too bad here. There are certain record stores such as Groove Merchant and Open Mind that help keep the DJs happy and event promoters such as Fresco, Universal Grammar, and Jon The Corner, that keep exposing musicians to the bay area scene. I can see that people are becoming more open to hearing different types of hiphop and music… not just your standard underground stuff. Artist wise, ya gotta check for DJ King Most who is bringing some heat on the production tip.
How long have you been involved in hiphop and what were the first records or artists which switched you onto it?
I've been into hiphop as long as I can remember. My first casette tape was LL cool J 'Radio' and my first record was NWA's 'Dopeman'. I started as a DJ in 1992…inspired by people like DJ Qbert. I think getting into DJ'ing allowed me to familiarize myself with all the other hiphop/music out there and not just what was pumped on the radio. It also helped me get a sense of production skill. For rhyming, it's artists like Souls Of Mischief, Nas and Organized Konfusion that got me inspired.
Are you or have you ever been involved in other aspects of hiphop such as graffiti or breaking?
Yeah. I use to write graffiti. That's how I got my name…Kero. I was down with a crew called Ink Emblems, but I didn't bomb as much as my other friends like Puzl (TMC) and Reach. I didnt wanna get caught. I had been in trouble with the law already so I was already on thin ice. I tried dancing…but I couldnt bend and spin like all the Philipino and Mexican kids in the area. They were too good… so it was just more fun watching.
Prior to your current album, what material have you released that we should be digging up?
My first 12" is 'Check The Blueprints'. It is now out of print, but I know there are some shops with some copies left. That record also had a Japan only remix 12". The remix 12" had only 900 pressings. Then I released a 12" for my friend Niamaj called 'The Vibe' which I did beats for. He's a Brooklyn emcee, with good voice and delivery. I also have a 12" record called 'Keep It Alive' which has a jazz remix by DJ King Most. Lastly, I have a Japan only DJ Mitsu remix of 'My Story'... with artwork from Die of Jazzy Sport.
How long did it take you to create 'Windmills Of The Soul' considering you handled most of the production yourself?
It definitely wasn't an overnight event. Probably about 3 to 4 solid years of writing, producing and mixing down the tracks. I'm very particular with my production and when I tweak something, I gotta tweak something else… and it's a never ending story. The original idea for the album started without the use of live instruments. Then I slowly transformed certain songs by bringing in session players and changing up the sounds here and there. The last year, I had a distributor/label giving me deadlines so I just locked myself in my home studio, perfecting and tightening things up.
What general description would you give its rapping and beat content so people know a little of what to expect?
A lot of people say that my album is very jazzy hiphop. Rapping wise, you can expect positive and honest content. If you are looking for bitches, hoes, and 24 inch rims… then you might be in for a lil' surprise.
What are some of the topics you're exploring with the lyrics and how much time goes into penning a set of verses for a track?
Some of the topics I address are about how certain things in this day and age call for 'giving thanks' for the things we do have and our circumstances. I also mention things like the daily temptations that we face all the way to the addiction for vinyl and beat digging. There's also a song about male perspective on relationships. I spend just as much time on my lyrics as with the production. I try to make sure that everything I say won't make me disappointed 5 years down the line, at least to the best of my ability. Expect metaphors, story telling, and mental painting… it's rap poetry. The time it takes to pen a song? 'Check The Blueprints' started in 1996 and I finished it in 2002. Haha… That's def' the longest I've spent.
Do you tend to make the beat or the words first or is it different every time?
It's different. With 'Keep It Alive' I heard the beat and then I wrote the lyrics. For 'Check The Blueprints', I wrote the lyrics and then I made a beat that ended up being used for that song. I never intended the 'Check The Blueprints' beat to actually go with the lyrics… it just happened that way.
What were you using to make the beats? It sounds like live instruments were used a lot of the time?
Yeah. I used ASR 10, Mini Moog, various synths, Rhodes, Gibson bass, and an old acoustic guitar my friend had. And rice in a Tupperware bowl that I used as a shaker.
Do you favor your rapping or producing over one or the other and what do you find comes easiest?
It changes from time to time. When I was making my album, I liked the rhymes because of how true they were to me… and how much time I spent writing some of them. I also feel like the rhymes have little thoughts and metaphors that might be missed at first… but after listening a few times it might come as something new. However, I think production comes the easiest to me. And depending on the mood… I can really love producing.
Will we hear a lot more of you providing beats for different emcees in the future and who'd you like those vocalists to be?
Yeah. I will be working on some collab's for sure. I have been talking to Black Thought of The Roots to do a collab' and some other people. I can't disclose the information yet. I would like to work with a lot of my friends as well. I feel like there is much undiscovered talent around here.
Outside of hiphop, what artists and genre's of music do you get the most enjoyment from, and how does that effect your material?
These days I've been listening to a lot of electronic, Brazilian, and soul music. Artists such as Butti 49, Alice Russel, The Killers, Freedom Express, Boris Gardner Happening, Tom and Joyce… the list goes on. Here and there I will listen to some hiphop. Outsider music plays a huge part because it is what inspires me. In order to be a dope producer, I think you need to know the past and be well versed in different types of music.
On 'Check The Blueprint' you say that innovation's pointless unless you understand the foundation. Can you elaborate on that?
Well, to put it simply. I like to remind myself that I can't know where I'm going if I don't know where I'm from. I know that the dopest artists and producers usually know where they came from musically.
Do you get the opportunity to tour and do shows much and what goes down at a typical Kero One performance?
I have been so busy lately that I haven't been able to leave for a long time, but soon I will be leaving for a Japan, Korea tour, and a European tour this summer. I also plan to hit the States soon… but the States only has a few pockets and states that are really receptive to non commercial music… so it will take more time. At a Kero One performance, they can witness me pouring out my damn soul on stage… maybe even a few jokes. I also plan to tour with a live band and even play some of the instruments myself while I'm rapping. Though, I still have to practice my hand/rapping coordination.
When are UK heads gonna get an opportunity to see you live on stage, and have you heard any of our own hiphop releases?
They should see Kero One in the summer. I'm super excited to go out there. In fact, I've never even been to the UK so it will be a double whammy. Yeah, there are definitely some good UK hiphop releases. I wanna try some good British beer. As for release, I like a lot of the UK electronic releases as well. Y'all UK cats have all the good breaks and library records.
What contemporary artists are you feeling in hiphop at the moment and what's the dopest release you've picked up lately?
Good question. Hiphop wise, I like artists such as Mf Doom, Niamaj, Aloe Black, Ohmega Watts, and Common. I hate to say it but probably my favorite hiphop release last year was Common's 'Be' or Kanye West's 'Late Reg'.
Do you wanna drop any shout out's or messages to round this up on?
Big shouts to Rapnews.co.uk first and foremost. Ofcourse shouts to my crew DJ King Nost, Niamaj, E.brown, and Dj Prism. Be sure to pick up 'The Windmills Of The Soul' or download it so when I come on tour, you can sing it with me. Peace and respects to all supporters of Kero One and plug label!