Atmosphere's Slug on Humor, Telling Stories, and "Keeping It Real"
Sean Daley, A.K.A. Slug of Atmosphere, is an outspoken dude. Just listen to The Family Sign, released earlier this year by Slug's label Rhymesayers for proof.
Over live guitar, keyboards and beats courtesy of Ant, his long time partner, Slug rattles of tales of abusive boyfriends, his personal life, and taking rappers he inspired out on tour.
The record received warm critical reception, with many reviews pointing out the personal nature of the lyrics, but according to Slug, many reviewers missed his point.
"We tell these stories to illustrate a bigger point," he says.
"Not to illustrate what actually happened to us today. For fuck sakes, you know what I mean? I would just talk to you if I wanted to tell you what happened to me today."
Up on the Sun: A lot of reviews seemed to note that there was a lack of humor on this album, something your previous albums had a lot of. Did it feel that way to you?
Slug: I was there, so I know how many jokes are on the record, I know how much [of the material is] tongue and cheek. All kinds of shit is hidden on the inside of that record.
It's unfortunate that other people don't, but at the same time, 'ah who cares?' I don't really get too hung up on whether you like it or not, or whether there's enough knowledge being dropped, or whether there's enough jokes, or whatever... I really can't spend time thinking about that, because I don't want to get hung up making music for the wrong reasons.
I didn't feel like the record lacked humor. I mean, you reference Les Nessman (from WKRP in Cincinnati) in "Millennium Dodo."
The problem is, most journalists are too young to know who Les Nessman is. I mean, how old are you?
You're still pretty young. You probably know it from syndication.
I have the DVDs. I love that show.
Ah, well then you're just a special kind of weirdo, then.
Thank you. I think your records have always had a lot of pop culture elements. I think you tend to make music for 'special kinds of weirdos.'
You you became a father during the making of this album. That seems to have come up some with the record, on "Bad Bad Daddy" and "She's Enough."
I became a father for a second time. I mean, well, we got pregnant before we started making the record. And we had the kid midway through making the record. I'm sure that's how those things came about, but it wasn't a conscious effort. It was natural, because of what I'm dealing with in my real life, it finds its way into the record. But that's kind of standard for us, par for the course. That's where all our records come from.
You referenced Bad bad Daddy, the initial reviews - that first week, I noticed that a lot of people were taking the "Bad Bad Daddy" song literal, as if was about a bad parent, a guy who's got a bunch of kids and is a shitty dad, and he takes them to the bar. Really, the song is about all the indie rappers that have come out of my balls and taking them to the bars, was taking them on tour, and trying to be the parental elder statesman role, with all these rappers, who are basically little Mini-Mes.
It was kind of a shit talking song, a tongue in cheek boasting and bragging song, that I wanted to use a metaphor for because I don't know if I'm allowed to make 'boast and brag' raps anymore, you I always try to shield the shit inside of certain story or something. I feel bad, it was almost like, people were looking into trying to figure out 'why the fuck would he make this song?' and they missed the whole joke.
You've always created characters, like Lucy Ford, to personify ideas.
I wonder sometimes if I should still. People still don't want to get that. They want it to be literal. I think the 'keep it real mentality' that we've worked so hard [to create] has become a cliché. Its' beyond cliché. It's almost like its coming back to real again. We don't want to allow our rappers to be griots, to be storytellers. It doesn't' make any sense to me. You really think that rappers kill people? You really think that Slick Rick got gang-raped in prison? These are just fucking songs man, everyone is just writing songs. Any other genre of music, and they will allow for these singers to be storytellers. In rap, it's like, they want to put those words on the artists, as if the artist is actually living that out.
I've got all these songs about being wasted in bars and chasing after girls and this and that, if I really lived like that I would have died from whiskey poisoning, or I would have herpes. We tell these stories to illustrate a bigger point. Not to illustrate what actually happened to us today. For fuck sakes, you know what I mean? I would just talk to you if I wanted to tell you what happened to me today.
But some songs are more personal, right? "She's Enough" sounds very specific to your life.
I don't even know how to write without putting some sort of metaphor in it. Just imagine "She's Enough" to be an allegory for metaphor for music, and for why I'm not interested in writing books or trying to get my fucking acting career going. I know I need to have few different interpretations before I even get into it for it. I have to know where I stand with the fucking song, because I'm going there is some 19 year old liberal-arts-student that's going to fucking grill me about it. I have to be ready and prepared. "She's Enough" is an ode to my wife, but not everyone has a wife, not everyone is in loves...So if you can relate to it because you love your car, I don't care. I have to watch for that. I'm so busy watching for that, I wasn't allowed to "watch the throne." Fuck. I'm late."
Atmosphere is scheduled to perform Saturday, August 27, at Mesa Amphitheatre in Mesa.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.