We speak to the eclectic and iconic musician ahead of his new UK tour this winter about his new sounds and moving between genres
Born and raised on a steady diet of Baltimore's infamous electro-clash parties, Naeem Juwan, aka Spank Rock, was always going to find that any music he made reflected the manic environment of his formative years. After becoming a huge underground presence, and working with the likes of Diplo and XXXchange, he released his debut LP, YoYoYoYoYo in 2006 to huge critical acclaim. His return, five years later, saw album number two, Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar, dropped with guest appearances from Santigold and Neon Neon - a symbol of his growth as an artist and he'll be coming to the UK for a short tour in December. Here Dazed Digital caught up with Juwan to find out more.
DD: How is this album different to the last?
Spank Rock: When I was making it I didn’t really feel that there was much of a change. I was trying to push myself to pay more attention to song structure and to try singing a little bit without being too annoying…
DD: Did you have a plan before you started making the record?
Spank Rock: I didn’t have a strong idea of the direction I wanted to go in, I mainly wanted to challenge myself to become a better songwriter. I think there were some very good moments on the first record but it was a bit faithful and light-hearted – I wanted a stronger album this time round, one that was more direct.
DD: Do you feel you have grown as a songwriter?
Spank Rock: I feel that I have a lot more to learn. I’m definitely not at the level of any of my favourite artists yet.
DD: You’re known for mixing disparate genres of music into your own sound. How did that happen?
Spank Rock: I didn’t think it was anything new – when I started I was just trying to imitate the scene and culture that was around me. When I was making YoYoYoYoYo I was hanging out at a lot of electro-clash parties and there was a big mix of music: pop, dirty south, rock, disco and house. I was excited about those sounds and it was what I wanted to rap over – because of the scene that I was hanging around in. The beginning of Hip Hop was based around the same scene – Disco, Punk Rock and Punk – which were happening about the time that rappers started rapping. So the breaks that they would use would be from all over the place – whatever was dope. So I thought it was part of a tradition.
DD: Story about the album title?
Spank Rock: There is definitely an aspect of me being disappointed with certain parts of the music industry. Some of the things that are brought to the forefront in blogs or pop culture just seem to imitate what’s gone on before, it’s a safe way to be successful – to put two cool things that happened in the past together. I think it’s pretty weak. But with the technology that we have now it just seems very few artists are taking risks. Whenever we have these dry moments it’s just about waiting for kid to come and completely blow the scene apart.
DD: How do you write your lyrics?
Spank Rock: When I write, it’s hard for me to stay on topic. So, for instane there’s a song on my new album called ‘Nasty’ where there’s a dance beat so I wanted to have a progressive dance mentality behind it and bring up some things that were frustrating me – so I talked shit on Christianity and God. I wanted to get these certain emotions out, which may not be clear for everyone. My aim was to say these things, and stir emotions, without being preachy. I still want it to be a party. When you look back at the music of James Brown, or some Michael Jackson songs, there were some very socially conscious lyrics there that people may not have even picked up on because everyone was so busy dancing.
Spank Rock will be touring the UK in December 2011