AMOEBLOG: I know you have your new solo album, Wanderlust, which is just out and available at Amoeba, but can you tell me how long you have been in the hip-hop game and can you break down your overall hip-hop history for those who don't know about you?
CELSIUS: I have been freestyling since '89. Around that time, and before we had real production, we used to make tape splice beats and rap over them on a Karaoke machine. I would hand out some of those tapes. Made my first real tape/Psychokinetics song in 1995 ("Losta Glue" Strength in Numbers). Since then, two tapes, three vinyl releases, various compilations, two Psychokinetics CDs, and now my first solo CD. I grew up in Alameda and have lived all over the Bay since. East Lake in Oakland is my home now.
AMOEBLOG: How much, in your eyes, has hip-hop changed? And how exactly has it changed-- especially from your perspective as a Bay Area artist?
CELSIUS: I guess the biggest thing I notice is that it's become a business, and more of a pop sensation now -- a money maker rather than a pervasive voice of the streets. The heart and soul that was so evident when I fell in love with the music is now very much subversive. Also, now, with the advent of the internet and home studios, it's changed because everyone is an eff'in rapper! It used to be an accomplishment to have a CD. Now everyone does and they all think they're dope. I guess it's just way more saturated now. Also, dudes can never have done a live show and have tons of fans because of the internet. I think that in a lot of ways, the quality has gone down, even though there is still greatness out there. You just have to look harder these days.
AMOEBLOG: On that same note, how much has the indie/underground hip-hop scene from a global perspective advanced in the last dozen or so years since the days when the Mystic Journeymen type of hip-hoppers started trekking round the globe punk style? (I notice you are going to Europe coming up, which prompted this question.)
CELSIUS: The internet has been amazing for us because it has truly shrunken the globe. You can get your music out to so many more people and if you have the hustle and organization, you can get shows in places you never dreamed possible. I constantly trip on the fact that I am making songs over the internet with dudes I have never met, and coming up with ill tracks! I trip out how people in other countries are bumping my music and writing me about it, even though I have never been there. That said, we have advanced in that we can reach way more people and actually get known without a big budget. It's a beautiful thing to not need a big label budget to get yer music out there. Sunspot and PSC had to work much harder then we do now. They did a lot of the legwork in person, and I think they are better for it. Gotta respect those guys! They did that there!
AMOEBLOG: How many releases have you put out over the years and how much -- in terms of selling music at retail or shows or elsewhere -- has it changed in the past few years?
CELSIUS: Our first release was the single "Land of the Lost" on the compilation Rules of the Game on Tripek Records. Since that, we have done 3 [records], 2 tapes, 2 Pk cds, and now my solo album Wanderlust under the Psychokinetics Label. Nowadays it's really hard to sell a lot of CDs (not that I ever have). People are just gonna burn them, so they don't try as hard to get your album. Plus, again with the saturation, I think people don't trust the quality when there are 1 million other ones to choose from. I try mainly to sell my CDs at shows, license my music to movies and other media, and use digital distribution to make money these days. That and the shows themselves. You gotta hustle hard to make a livin'. It's not easy but I don't do it for the money. I do it because I love it. I do it for the expression of it and so I can see the world.
AMOEBLOG: How supportive has Amoeba Music been of your music over the years?
CELSIUS: Amoeba has always been really cool with us. They have consistantly supported us by buying our cds to sell, and at one point featuring us and having us in store to do a performance. Amoeba Rocks! Very fortunate to have them on our team in the Bay. I don't shop anywhere else.
AMOEBLOG: Can you imagine for a moment if there were no Internet -- how difficult would it be for you as an independent artist to do all you do? Just pretend there was no email, no MySpace, no YouTube, no Facebook, no Google, no SOHH, etc, etc. Just how different would your life as an artist be?
CELSIUS: Man, you know what? I think about that sometimes. What if MySpace crashed? What if we lost our email list? How would we let people know about us? It is such a damn phenomenon! I mean, I know people who literally have blown up from MySpace alone. They would have no career if it wasn't for that website. It's crazy. Shoots, I guess that if we didn't have any internet, it would be back to the old school ways of calling up my whole phone book and inviting them to shows, and going out on the street to bomb it with posters and flyers. In a way, we have all gotten lazy bcuz we don't take it to the streets as much. That's bad, bcuz honestly, there is so much crap that we are inundated with on the net and radio that the quality slips through the cracks. Without the internet, only the true hustlers would still be out there getting a name for themselves. I think it would be good and would weed out the game a bit. Then again, it would prevent me from doing a lot that I have done.
AMOEBLOG: You mentioned that you are working on a couple of videos right now. Which songs are they for? And more importantly, what will you do with the finished videos? Will you send them to TV stations? Post them onine? Or include them on DVDs or enhanced CDs?
CELSIUS: Yes, storyboards are being made. They will be low budget, but they will put a face with the music. Thinking of doing videos for "Wanderlust," "Portraits," "TRG," and maybe "Manners." Wanna mix the funny with the more thought provoking content. I will definitely push them on YouTube and other sites. If I think I can get some play, I will hit up tv stations too. I will also include them on the next cd or perhaps make a dvd of live shows and a tour, just for fun and for the people who really want it. Also, to document this, because damn ... I am living my dream and I wanna remember this vividly when I am old and gray. I'ma make a time capsule or something and bury it deep in the earth so I can echo on.
AMOEBLOG: You just released a new CD, Wanderlust. What is the message that you
hope people will get from it?
CELSIUS: Actually, it is released limitedly right now. I am still shopping it and hoping for support from a strong indie or good distributor. A message? Nothing specific as an over-all theme. It spans a lot of topics. Really just wanted to make a CD that was uniquely me. Uniquely Celsius/Jacob Battersby. I look at music as an opportunity for the world to meet me. I am just sharing some stories and things that are on my mind. Maybe people will relate. Maybe I will inspire. My main message is, Hi, this is me. This is how my life is. These are my experiences and observations-- I have had in this crazy life. This is my window for you to peep through. Life is so intricate and dynamic. Everyone has a story to tell. I just try and articulate one of the many perspectives and hopefully it makes you think and laugh and look at life differently for a moment.
AMOEBLOG: What two songs on the album are closest to your heart, content/lyrically, and why?
CELSIUS: "Wanderlust" is definitely one of them. I thought it was dope to have a title track, and I love it because it weaves so well together. The beat by Headnodic is perfect for what I am trying to convey, and I feel its lyrics accurately describe where I am at with my life and philosophy at this point. It also sets a mood for the album and my over-all perspective. So much to see and do. The world is so big. So much going on. I can't sit still. I can't sit in a cubicle and waste away. There is too much to breathe in. Too much to taste and feel. Can't waste this chance. If I had to choose 2 only, I would say "Portraits" would be my next choice. I made a conscious effort to tell more stories on this album and I like how this came out. It tells the 3 true stories of characters I grew up with in the Bay. It's some wild, melodic beat by Mophono, and I throw some patterns that hug that quite well, I think. It's a powerful song, and I am proud of the way I reflected and told stories of others rather than my own. Not the stories you would expect to hear from some kid who grew up in Alameda.
AMOEBLOG: What is the most recent Psychokinetics album "Seven League Boots" about and who is
CELSIUS: It's a dope album with many different types of tracks and topics. From party tracks to songs about drug dealers to love songs to melancholy diatribes to straight up hip-hop lyrical bangers, it has it all. Great beats by Denizen, Ill Media, Vapor Child, Dirt Nasty, Slurface, and guest emcee spots from Zion, Rashaan Ahmad, and Kirby Dominant, to name a few. Yes, it is available on-line on iTunes, etc ... plus maybe still in Amoeba. Not sure. May have to drop some more by.
AMOEBLOG: What do you think of the state of hip-hop today in general national terms?
CELSIUS: Big business controls it. There is a lot of great music that is not being heard, and over-all, it is a really tough time to be in the game. Not easy to make a living, but damn it is fun and I am traveling and doing what I want to do. It is still alive and well and thriving, despite what you may see and hear. Dudes like Common, Mos Def, Kanye, Outkast, and Lupe Fiasco give me hope that a new breed is here and we will take over the wackness that exists and reclaim hip-hop for the cultural leader it can be. I don't see it as a vehicle to perpetuate greed, envy, materialism and misogeny amongst people, but that seems to be the way it is shown to the world right now. Commercial radio sucks for the most part. I mean, hip hop has the ear of the world, now we just gotta say something meaningful. Overall, I feel positive about it. The stuff I am listening to keeps me going. I am still learning from it just like I did when I was a kid. Nowadays you just gotta listen closer, but Hip hop is still well and thriving in my opinion. Commercial isn't even a factor. It was and always will be owned by the people. They can't take that.
AMOEBLOG: And what about in terms of Bay Area hip-hop in this post-hyphy era?
CELSIUS: Man, I am not sure about that. It doesn't feel as cool here, that's why I am traveling more. It used to feel more familial here-- now that time has seemed to have passed. Not as many solid events happening I don't think. Most promoters have lost their shirts and gotta do DJ sets instead. Again, good stuff out there, but no one really taking the lead. Hyphy movement ... ehh ... not sure. Think it's great that they got some shine on the Bay, just too bad that when the eye is on us that we are telling people to be dumb and crash their cars. We got a lot more to say and a lot more talent here than that. Hopefully that will get some shine at some point, cuz to me, that other stuff is BOO CHIT MAYNE! I mean, I am all for having fun, but come on man... say somethin' already.
AMOEBLOG: What are the best sites for people to find out more about you?
CELSIUS: My MySpace or Psychonetics' label website or the group MySpace.