san fransisco rapper satellite high has just released a dark and excellent new track called PUSH/PULL, and was kind enough to agree to do an MFOA interview. lyrically PUSH/PULL is a brooding introspective journey, sonically the song is a heavily experimental meditation on what rap can be...recorded with analog instruments and avoiding samples and synthesizers (the lack of sampled vocals that are present in many rap hooks adds to the sense of isolation in the tune), the verse part grinds forward with a distorted low end over high ptiched woody percussion, while the chorus blooms with an ominous psychedelic style guitar figure. as with the best rap songs, the track creates the perfect atmosphere for the lyrics.
while you are listening to that, check out the interview below:
MFOA - what is your recording setup like? why do you value recording alone at home as opposed to in a "real" studio?
SH - my recording setup is pretty elaborate at this point, the core of it is my mac and logic, that's where everything ends up most of the time (unless i'm recording to 4-track cassette, which happens sometimes too). From there, it's an MPC-2500 and a battery of old synths and 'analog' instruments like upright bass, hand percussion, guitars, various noise-makers, etc. about the only thing i'm not tracking live these days are drums -- i'm a drummer, and eventually i do want to start getting into tracking my own breaks, but recording in an apartment can put the damper on those sorts of goals.
i value recording at home, and working mostly as a solo act, mostly because of personality dynamics, i guess. i have very clear ideas and visions of how i want stuff to sound, but i'm also not the type of person who enjoys arguing about that stuff, or struggling to make my voice heard, so working this way allows me to have complete control out of what goes in to the process and what comes out. and of course, the financial aspect of it is huge -- i'm a pretty prolific songwriter and if i were limited by the financial constraints of 'professional studio time' i don't think i'd be able to record half of the ideas that i have
MFOA - some people may have (very) inaccurately labeled your tunes "nerdcore", possibly due to your heavy internet presence, appearances on somethingawful.com (ironically one of which was making fun of "nerdcore") and large amount of twitter followers. while that label is obviously incorrect, another that you have been given, "internet rapper", seems to apply a little bit more, for better or worse. how do you feel about interacting with/gaining fans/releasing music online? do you feel the internet/self releasing has given you more power to reach fans on your own terms?
SH - the 'internet rapper' thing is weird. obviously everybody's an 'internet musician' at this point, if you want to achieve an audience to some degree, but it also feels kind of dismissive when people imply that what you do is somehow disconnected from the real world. i play shows, i go on tour, i make physical product, i do all the things that rock bands do and that people have been doing for decades. the internet is just another place to connect with people but i don't think it defines my output in any legitimate way.
however, yeah, i recognize that the internet (and twitter/tumblr especially) have been somewhat instrumental in building a fan base and that can't be ignored. i know a lot of people who seem to think that there's a specific way to 'game' social media and catch a small following; i'll frequently have people ask me "how to get followers" or whatever, and that's silly. the small amount of notoriety or whatever i have comes almost entirely from just being a human being with people. i'm lucky in that i am naturally an internet loudmouth, i would be part of this whole conversation whether or not i had music to promote, and i think that's the "secret".
i do definitely feel a lot more agency from self-releasing on the internet for sure; i grew up self-releasing music in the pre-web days and sometimes it amazes me to realize that there are more people have probably listened to a single satellite high song than people who encountered any of my other musical projects combined. so yeah, the power for outreach can't be denied. mostly, though i just feel that i'm a much more effective promoter there than in person, so it's an avenue i've pursued pretty consciously.
MFOA - on a similar note, you recently opened up for a live performance by the folks behind the very popular welcome to night vale podcast, which also has a large twitter following. how was the show? do you like the idea of a live show mixing genres and mediums like this one did? did that situation make for an inviting, welcoming performance/audience for you?
SH - the night vale show was great! it's obviously a pretty new audience for me, and i don't really come from a world that intersects with 'fandom' frequently, but the fans are really positive and energetic and they've really sort of adopted me as part of that world and i'm very very thankful for it. the show itself was also really weird and fun; playing in a brightly-lit bookstore to a seated audience is not the typical 'hip hop experience' but it was also a great chance to play for people who were really excited to see the whole affair. probably one of the most receptive audiences i've encountered and a far cry from the arms-crossed "prove yourself" audiences that tend to dominate indie hip hop shows around here.
MFOA - you grew up in florida, playing in hardcore/punk bands in and around the scene that gave rise to such acts as against me and hot water music (aside: please correct me if i'm wrong about these bands). many musicians from this scene have gone into an alt-country phase or other different directions as the years have worn by. what led you from hardcore and punk to hip hop? have you always loved hip hop, and kept it on the back burner, or did you discover it later in life? what are a few records that helped bridge the gap (not that it is necessarily a huge gap) between punk and hip hop, and influenced you to make this music? how does your background in punk/hardcore inform the tunes you make currently?
SH - [side note - you are right about those bands, i went to high school with HWM and against me's drummer and i were very good friends and bandmates in high school]
hip hop has definitely always been my first love, really. the first albums i ever bought were these weird compilation rap tapes, one of 'em i got specifically because it contained 'the superbowl shuffle' but it also had tracks by doug e. fresh and the symbolic three and a bunch of pretty legit old-school tracks. i got into punk and hardcore based more on ideology than music, really, and i think i probably would have started rapping much earlier if i had the confidence to do so. i was a very self-critical kid and the punk/hardcore scene back then was very inwardly-focused in a way that really connected with me. rap sorta felt like this 'other world' that i didn't have an entry point into.
i got into writing rhymes and shit when i was wicked young but i dont think i ever rapped in public until i was in college and starting freestyling with other dudes at parties and shit. i got pretty into the whole freestyle/battle scene in florida in the early 2000's for a bit, but kinda soured on the hypermasculinity and faded out and went back to rockish music. it wasn't really until i moved to california in 2006 or so that i decided to 'get serious' about hip hop. think a lot of it was just not knowing people at the time and not having anybody i'd have to explain my gear-shift to, and the realization that i enjoy making music a lot more than 'being in a band.' i'm kind of naturally controlling with music (as mentioned above) but i’m also not a 'leader', so band environments lead to a lot of unwilling compromise and eventual resentment.
as far as how that background influences my music, it's tricky. for the first couple years (and releases) i was making a concerted effort to channel that hardcore spirit in a way that i think may have been a little forced. i definitely tended to write about issues from a very heavy-handed lecture-focused punk rock mindset and i find those tracks a little difficult to listen to now. i think i also came at rap with a pretty typical snotty punk attitude of "TEAR IT DOWN AND START AGAIN" until i discovered the 'right way' to break the rules without pissing all over an art form. nowadays, i think the biggest visible part of that punk/DIY/hardcore mentality is evident in the way i work, and my commitment to doing things as independently as possible. and dumb lyrical references to samiam records and shit.
downlaod a bunch of satellite high albums for name-your-price right here.