The Popup Vol 2
2nd May 2020
5PM-UTC [10AM in LA – 1PM in NYC – 1AM in HK]
TokenSmart Lounge [Cryptovoxels]
Tha Black Cat
Second Womb, JBO, Dragon Fli Empire, Galexia and DJ Hiroking & Steph Pockets
This is our 2nd installment of The Popup and we’re excited to implement the upgrades and ways we’ve discovered to make your experience better! We had a number of issues during the previous event and you can read about how we’re going to improve here.
* The interviews are slowly coming in so we’ll update this page accordingly!
1. Who was your first Art teacher and how did you start?
I grew up watching my mum doing ‘canting’ art on ‘Batik’, an ancient art on fabrics that have been practiced for 2,000 years in South East Asia. Most of her ‘Batik’ creations are a school of fishes and flowers. My mum also owns beautiful handwriting, following the path of her father and so I was trained to write beautifully since primary school. Over time, I copied my mum’s handwriting and how she signs her name. I started to play around with typography since primary 6, writing my name in block letters not knowing that it was gonna lead me to graffiti until I got into University with a Diploma in Graphic Design. One of my favorite lecturers suggested that I learn how to study graffiti letters because he noticed my passion for Hip Hop & my love for typography and started to do it in graffiti form since 2006. A few years later, a friend requited me as part of a graffiti crew in 2012 and then another in 2013 before leaving both crews behind and pursuing graffiti solo until today, representing ‘SWK’ a short form for my state called Sarawak. The obsessions I have for zinc and concrete walls made me want to leave my mark every time & anywhere I could. That leads me to be recognized by organizations, and the government, also local and international clients to paint on their walls. Co-founded an art group called 9Lives with a local artist friend in 2014, before leaving the group in 2016 to focus more on my solo career. For the love of where I came from, Kuching city or known as the Cat city, and also my admiration for black cats, I developed a black cat character throughout the years. Not forgetting the graphic design background that leads me here today, designing for clients, myself, and also for the Borneo Hip Hop community.
2. You also dabble in music, what’s your favorite song, and why?
There’s a lot of ongoing lists of my fave songs, mostly because of the beats, the lyrics, and the titles. My Papa is a self-taught sound engineer, composer & keyboardist, therefore, I grew up loving music as it is my first love before art and poetry. However, my current favorite on repeat is ‘Nebuta’ by Awich (a Japanese female rapper). The beat for this song uplifts my mood, while the lyrics give me inspiration & motivation to be productive, kicking ass while I’m still alive. This song works like chants to my ears, as ‘Nebuta’ is a yearly festival celebrated by the Japanese and it is thought that the festival began as a way of waking up sleepy souls with the fall harvest season coming up. So, buckle up for me to get myself aligned on my daily grind!
3. How many pairs of shoes do you own and which is your favorite?
8 pairs of sneakers, 10 or more pairs of high heels and pumps, and 6 pairs of boots. My favorite would be my all-black Air Force 1, for sure! It’s my go-to shoes for me to go painting, to go hang out, to go to events, or even to dinner sometimes.
1. Who and what is Dragon Fli Empire?
Dragon Fli Empire is a hip hop duo from Calgary, Alberta, Canada consisting of Teekay and DJ Cosm. We make classically inspired, soulful, hip hop. We preserve the MC/DJ formula in the footsteps of Gang Starr and Pete Rock & CL Smooth. We’ve been making making music together since 2002.
2. If it wasn’t a Dragon Fly, what animal would represent he crew and why?
We’re kind of like Moles; we don’t run with any heard or flocks and we typically stick to the underground.
3. If you had to package the next album in a cereal box, which would it be?
In Canada we now have Maple Syrup Cheerios, that’s gotta be our joint lol
1. If you weren’t rapping what would you be doing?
Probably working on a 9-5 job.
2. If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be and why?
Travis Scott. Simply because I’ve been a fan and he’s good at what he does.
3. What Emoji are you?
I have a song called Emoji Love and I probably be that Emoji.
1. Tell us about your experience with the Major Labels
Well that is a wonderful question, for those that are curious how to attract major labels then destroy all relations with them.. and some how win them back in the end.
I released 3 demo albums each the average length of a full length long play, one being a double disc concept album. I was making waves locally and decided I would e-mail one of my musical heroes to see if he wanted to work together on my first proper LP. Arjen Anthony Lucassen of the historic Progressive Rock project “Ayreon” loved the demo tracks of “Asfixia” and “Rose of Thorns” I sent to him and he agreed to sing on the album.
This created a spiral effect that was unlike anything I had experienced nor will I experience again.
I get a phone call during my high-school class in 2006 “Hello! Is this Kenneth?” -steps outside of the classroom- “You are bloody brilliant mate this is Damian Wilson”. My head exploded and I became a fanboy. One of the most renowned voices in Heavy Metal / Prog just rung me up to say the music he heard from Arjen was brilliant. He wanted to work with me… with me the 17 year old kid working on an album in his bed-room turned into studio. After numerous calls back and forth he was assigned to the powerful auto-biographical track “Recidivate” which dealt with the problems of addiction and tolerance which I had found myself in due to shattering my shoulder as a student-athlete.
I felt my nervous voice that became weaker as a singer day by day the more press the album received would not do such an epic and tragic song justice. This was a dream match to have Damian Wilson the same individual who guest appeared on Ayreon with my favorite track off of that LP “The Druids Turn To Stone” which also was a ballad was going to take time from being the front-man of ‘Threshold’ who currently was on tour opening up for Ozzy Osbourne in Europe. He laid down the vocals in 3 takes due to traveling back and forth from the tour and to his home studio.
After I had these two megastars I began to get an onslaught of deals offered to me having just turned 17 this was a difficult process as most deals absolutely destroyed my financial gains and creative freedom. One deal allowed me to keep my artistic vision but did not promise money upfront. Atlantic Records subsidiary Roadrunner.
Within 72 hours I did my first 5 page long interview for Ytsejam which was cited by NME in the UK. The album came out and received album of the year honors from Audio Odyssey in the UK, It seemed that every country but the United States loved the album. US sales did not go anywhere and that ended my major label marketability. By the time I had released a single for the second LP I was working on… upon hearing it I was left stranded as it was “more obscure than the debut”.
I was trying to be a pioneer by using White, Pink, Blue noise and odd frequencies in the rhythm, syncopate distorted noise and create something “RAW. CLEAN. POWERFUL. EASY LISTENING. INDUSTRIAL. POP. SHIMMER. SLAM. DAMAGING. HEALING. SING WITH MY VOICE. SING WITH STATIC.” I was out of my head and while I am proud of my second album… officially it doesn’t exist anymore in the original state. I have re-released 3 songs from it remastered and intend to release Galexia – The Maze (Remastered) prior to releasing my 3rd LP… Although it will not feature 4 songs and it will feature songs from that time period that are less of a mumbled drug riddled mess.
Looking back on my Major Label experience they realized I was trying to be like my idols: Trent Reznor, Brian Wilson, Kurt Cobain – I was living far too fast and my pain killer situation from my injury had expanded into just plain “use drugs to create, it is what every other brilliant mind did. They are a tool”. I remember being bitter feeling misunderstood when I was finally dropped from the label and my slot of a European open air Festival with a line-up of bands I listen to in 2020! I was having this bitter feeling while being given options that would benefit my career and health at a 40,000 USD cash only drug rehab center with a recording studio which I was guaranteed unlimited use during my 30 day stay. I finished half a song during that period. If it was me making the decision on an artist that had been vanishing for weeks at a time from communication despite the success or ticket sales; I would be wary and drop he/she as well at the point I was at.
Did I create the problem which lead to having major issues with the major labels? Yes. Did I think it was a problem at the time? No. I figured it was not the bug but it was a feature of an artist to go through pain, addiction, loss or else I felt I was “faking” my emotional resonance in the songs.
To be clear to the readers I have become much wiser since 2008. I have been working on this 3rd LP for over 10 years and luckily after remastering the debut album which was released from the grips of Atlantic to be re-released under my own label it blew up instantly as all over the world people had bootlegs of the album and could not find “Rose of Thorns”, “Recidivate” and “Transparency” singles online or in stores anymore. It became this beautiful build up of word of mouth and discographies online showing the artists participation on an album nobody could find!
To top it off it is mentioned in the History of Progressive Music hardcover book during a time when you had to have owned it to hear it. Online stores either got rid of the listing or pulled an amazon with a never ending “out of stock”.
Within 2 months I was back in the driver seat with offers and this time it was still with full creative control and full monetary control in regard to having the ability to pull tracks out of promotion or include whatever I’d like and they have to package it. For this reason I am releasing what would be a 10 CD version that has 3 discs just of alternate mastering styles that changes the album tonally. I have entire “sides” or “LPs” of instrumental parts including a staggering “Stem” addition which features every instrument, effect track, acappella and will feature a contest for club remixes, using a guitar or synth track on a project of theirs (aslong as I receive credit… they can use it on whatever). So I will be released 6 versions of this album and that to me is one of the funniest but artistically satisfying things I could do.
Now I get to play with noise as sound if I’d like and it can just be featured in the Super Duper 4 Million disc digital deluxe version. Perhaps I can really screw around with people and change a snare sound or add a random piano note in a track for example; and keep doing things like this and releasing alternative versions…. Then after artists create remixes release those and a set of remixes of the remixes.
We are creating an album that never ends.
I will ensure it actually just releases the way it should with those bonus editions being for the super fans. A bit of humor having come full circle is healthy for creativity. I just want whomever is listening by the end of the first full listen to the LP to pause, think about what they just heard and immediately want to give it another full spin. It’s all come full circle with the labels, the listeners and myself, while the start of the circle was the enclosing portion of the circle is the present cosmos with all its wonders. It just took a few black holes and stars obliterating entire systems to get to this point.
2. If you could create a new genre to define your music what would it be called and why?
The Debut album had created a new genre at the time… “Progressive Industrial Metal”. Now that I have assimilated so many elements of modern digital music with more of the early 90’s alternative rock vibes while retaining the artistic / music theory rich Progressive Rock elements it becomes hard to define a genre anymore. I can do it with a few of the newer songs, I can state “Orange Park Youth is Post-Grunge” or “Alt Rock”. Other songs have far too many things going on.
Things in orbit that you wouldn’t expect, sometimes you have a meteor crashing down on happy music planet to a devastating and brutal segment of complex math-metal. It all sounds a bit spacey though thus I often will add the tag “Space Rock” “Art Rock” “Prog Rock” “Experimental” “Avant-Garde” “Alternative Rock” “Post Rock” “Post Grunge” “Industrial” “Electronic” – then I realize I’m just tagging… so I’ve settled with Galexia – It has become its own genre as it explores too many genres to be tied down anymore. I am no longer attempting to ensure every song reaches 7+ minutes and has time signature changes but it still happens.
I am not trying to force a sound and vision anymore I am just letting the sound come out and how the listener soaks it in is the genre I want it to be: whatever it is to them.
3. Have you ever been to a planetarium?
It was actually during a high-school digital video class field trip which I ate pot brownies during a 3 hour planetarium adventure that was an “optional” assignment. It was myself and my closest female friend in high-school as the only two people that chose to go into that 3 hour adventure. We also had been the only two to choose to eat lots of edible hybrids on the bus-ride up.
They had more interactive things for the students to engage with and it was a single Digital Video class (one bus) anyway. So… I laid on the ground with a notebook, my dear friend she laid on my shoulder as we watched the planetarium display. This one was special as it had all these optional slices of information and vision that we asked the staff to set up. We got to watch nebulas, other systems as we perceived them at that time and one we had been told “causes panic in some people” which turns the spherical nature into a blackhole for 15 minutes. This is actually the place I penned the lyrics
“Spatial Contact. Hallucination. Nothing to Fear… Deviation. Physical format. Dissipations near. Separation Clear. Spatial Contact A constellation (Ha Hallucination) procrastination infatuation. Nothing to fear… to fear DEVIATION.”
(This is the end of the track we started this interview discussing “Rose of Thorns” featuring Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon.
1. What inspired you to get into producing beats?
Doing shows with live bands. A lot of parties/shows/events I spin for have live bands, and they made me wanna become a ”musician” , not only playing existing songs that someone created but expressing who I am through producing.
2. If you could jam together with 2 other DJ’s, who would they be and why?
Jazzy Jeff, because he is HipHop legend, and has been keeping it fresh till this day.
Giles Peterson, because he is Acid Jazz legend, cultural leader, I love his fans too.
3. What is the longest you’ve stayed awake?
Not sure coz sometimes I sleep with my eyes open.
1. How many people are in Second Womb and what does the name symbolize?
Second Womb is a duo consisting of DookieBrownFlow (Emcee/Poet…) and Father Earth (Producer/Vocalist…). We met in 2012 at a time when each of us were in the mist of a shift as individuals, ironically enough “Earth” dreamt of the name Second Womb prior to us meeting and when he spoke the name it resonated on multiple levels. Second Womb conceived a rebirth for me in particular, as we formed shortly after the most pivotal moment of my life at the time. My whole world shifted in one twisted night! To be specific the last “Thursday” of my senior year of college. Due to being falsely accused off “assault on an officer” followed by slander of my name as law enforcement broadcasted fabricated news throughout the nation across multiple outlets (https://patch.com/new-jersey/galloway/six-arrested-four-injured-following-major-early-mornib29dbe8d7e) Subsequently I lost my Job and was suspended for a year… Some time after “Earth” and I met. I developed a focus in search of my true self which birthed a newfound lyrical content and purpose. Second Womb symbolizes the synchronicities of the truth we experience as we expand…
(P.s all claims against me were dropped, I also acquired my B.A in psychology in 2014)
2. You’ve traveled quite a bit, but which city would you love to do a show and why?
I should say that the blockchain has had a profound impact on my ability to travel, ever since 2014 I have been a completely independent touring artist thanks to decentralization! I”m truly grateful for this technology and for the people who inhabit it. Mad props to the entire Hip Hop community globally, since a youngin I dreamed of having massive shows in the U.K, I love the style and temperament of the culture, it just seems to be more tapped in with the authenticity of an artist. Im a fan of bar for bar craftsmanship, as shows feel different when the culture gives proper respect to lyricism. True emcees know!
3. If you could time travel, what would you do?
Sheeshhh if I could time travel in time, I would definitely have to go the 90’s and rhyme in the legendary cyphers in “Tha Basement” when “Rap City” was at the top of its peak! It would be marvelous…
Peace to the Wombmates!