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Erick The Architect explains his infatuation with Kubrick & horror, why he's somewhat hesitant to say 'fuck Trump' and the role of the musician in opening up a dialogue about mental health issues.
"As artists we have to talk about our personal relationships with sadness and depression and mental problems"
Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erick The Architect have been heralded as some of the most innovative artists in the noise that is modern hip hop.
The trio burst into the consciousness of hip hop fans in 2010 with tracks like ‘Thug Waffle’, ‘SCOSA’ and ‘Face Off (L.S Darko)’.
This year they released their much-anticipated album ‘3001 A Laced Odyssey’, as well as visuals for ‘Smoke Break/Fly Away‘ and ‘This Is It’.
We were able to catch up up with Erick The Architect over the phone while he driving to pick up his friend in New Jersey.
We spoke about the group’s near obsessive relationship with film, the dystopian future America could face and why an open dialogue is key for solving mental health issues.
There are lots of references to film throughout your music, especially horror. What is it about film that it feature so prominently in your music?
I grew up watching Leprechaun and Gremlins.
My dad was into horror movies when I was a kid, and I was always supposed to be going to sleep and I’d stay up with my dad watching Night of the Living Dead, or Return of the Living Dead, these classic zombie movies. He’d always say ‘This is the real shit’.
Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead, anything with ‘Dead’ in the title.
Those films are really laced with relevant political motives from that time, especially Night of the Living Dead with the treatment of Duane Jones’ character.
Yeah for sure. A lot of hidden messages.
And even in the production of the new album, especially the track ‘Ascension’ in my opinion, it sounds like a horror film. Do you keep that in mind when you’re producing too?
Yeah, a lot of this project is based off 2001: A Space Odyssey, or previously A Clockwork Orange.
I usually try to use musical references related to movies or film because all really good movies have really good music, and I was interested in knowing if say, a movie came out in the ‘80s, what synthesisers, drum machines, equipment did they use to make those sounds.
That always inspired my production, because I always wondered how do you achieve that sound, that feeling of eeriness, or wonder, or thrill, or drama, really suspenseful feelings.
"I’m not a violent person in real life, so I need an outlet to experience life in another way, even if it’s comical or fake."
And other than growing up with it, why do you think that horror as a genre is so appealing to you? What is it about the genre that speaks to you?
I just like everything about a horror movie. They’re funny, they’re quirky, they’re clever. With the gore and the violence it’s because I’m not a violent person in real life, so I need an outlet to experience life in another way, even if it’s comical or fake.
I need to have that balance of reality and fantasy, it’s what keeps us humble and alive. Horror movies do that in a weird way.
Do you think that’s why people respond to horror movies so well, they get that taste of violence without having to go through it?
Yeah, you know what, I think in the back of everyone’s minds we always wonder if this could really happen, and I think that’s the biggest thing.
There’s so much about life we don’t understand, and half the time that’s why people do drugs because they have a question as to why we’re here.
I think with zombie movies or sci-fi there’s a question at the back of your mind like ‘Damn, could this really happen?’.
Ok tough one, but what’s your favourite horror movie ever?
Why you have to ask me these fucked up questions man… Damn bro, there’s so many. Friday the 13th, I’ll do Friday the 13th.
I don’t think I could answer that either…
Damn, nah, you know what? Nightmare on Elm Street, the first one. That’s the first movie that I legitimately lost sleep over, because I thought he was coming for me. The music…
The extended arms…
Yeah dude, damn…
"I can say fuck Donald Trump, and I will say fuck Donald Trump, but at the same time how do I really know this is the right thing for America?"
As you said the new album is a reference to Stanley Kubrick, so what was the idea behind that?
Well, I re-watched Space Odyssey a bunch of times while I was working on the album. I was always really interested in Kubrick’s movies because of the way he shot them, but they all have these hidden messages and agendas, and mean more than what we see.
The cinematography is so good that it kind of distracts you from the little messages.
In 2001 you see people using iPhone looking things, and electronic doors that slide open, these are things they saw as futuristic in 1968, that was the future, that’s what they imagined reality to be, now that’s kind of crazy.
And to piggyback off that, when we made the album we tried to do the same kind of thing, where a story begins with an essential idea, then it grows to become a rising point like a movie. And to me I thought what better movie to use.
I watched the movie first with the sound on, then I watched it with the sound off, then I just played piano for a long time and just saved what I played, and that created the beginning of the album.
That’s really cool. The album artwork is also really interesting, who designed that?
It was a Marvel comic artist named David Nakayama. He basically takes nostalgic hip hop covers and turns them into Marvel comic covers, like actual issues.
"...that’s the end of the world, everybody will either be indulging or ignoring what’s going on."
It has a real dystopian feel to it, do you feel that’s a depiction of where society is going?
Well look at it this way. A TV show like South Park, on the outside people thought it was a show about people cursing and farting, but it ends with a message that tells you how the writer of the show feels, and the other stuff in between is just to make you laugh and keep you interested in what the message is.
Our cover is very much the same. It’s comic book but in reality that’s the end of the world, everybody will either be indulging or ignoring what’s going on. There’s a Rasta guy smoking and chilling on there, there are cops depicted as pigs.
I’m not saying it’s reality, but I know some people feel that’s what has happened to the world already. So why not depict it that way?
If Trump gets into office maybe…
For Sure. When it comes to politics I can’t help but to think we’re all making the wrong decision by participating in it. Just because we don’t really know what’s best for us.
I can say fuck Donald Trump, and I will say fuck Donald Trump, but at the same time how do I really know this is the right thing for America? Until I feel like I know for sure I’m always going to be reluctant about what decisions they make.
From your music it seems you guys are advocates for open dialogue about mental illness. Unfortunately in Ireland that isn’t the case. People seem to bottle things up. Do you feel musicians are key to an open dialogue about mental illness.
That’s a great question. Absolutely. I think that every artist is a little off anyway, that’s why we’re artists right? Some people don’t aspire or want these things, to put themselves through the mental, emotional and physical change to even try to create something.
As artists we have to talk about our personal relationships with sadness and depression and mental problems because if you ignore it then it will be something that will never be fully accepted.
Some people are sick in different ways and the more that we pretend that it doesn’t exist, the more out of control it’s gonna become.
Do you think there’s any other ways to open that dialogue up? At the moment in Ireland that’s one of the main aims of mental health organisations.
I think that the best way to do something like that, unfortunately, is the way that we’re doing it. In order for me to speak on behalf of something is to talk about myself. People should be more open about the mistakes and the accomplishments that they make and people need to listen to them retroactively.
You know, I read an article about people who have performance anxiety and it made me feel so good because I didn’t even know that people acted like that. Like you’re supposed to take a shit before you go on stage, I thought that was regular, I didn’t think that was any form of anxiety. And once you look at that you say “oh I’m not a weirdo because this person is a weirdo. This person that I look up to is going through the same thing as me”. Once people feel like that, they somebody they can relate to then is room for change.
I think that’s so important because you see these heroes on stage and there’s this idea that all of these performers are so perfect and there’s no mental health issues, and it’s cool to see artists doing what you guys are doing.
For sure, I’m glad you even looked that deep. Some people only look at the shiny stuff on the outside and don’t really get the message. Beyond the music there is reality, unless you’re like a complete psychopath, some of it has got to be real.