The newest addition to the Mush Records roster is an unassuming 20-something who first caught people's ears as part of Deepspace5. Somewhere between the abrasive experimentation of Sole and Sage Francis and more straightforward, J-Live narratives, Listener's debut full-length is as driving as it is provocative.
You've been releasing records for years as a part of Deepspace5 and Labklik. Does Whispermoon feel like the start of a solo career for you?
I have been in groups for about eight years now, and before that I did a couple solo projects. I do music for a living now, so I wanted to focus on a project that I could tour with and put all my focus towards. So, Whispermoon is definitely that start I was looking at for my solo career. With Labklik we lived very far away from each other and the music we made was for artistic outlet purposes. Deepspace5 is almost the same way. A lot of the guys in DS5 have full time jobs that support them and their family, and the road can be hard sometimes.
How did you wind up working with Mush? How do you feel what you do fits with other Mush artists are doing?
I worked on Whispermoon for about a year, then started sending the record out to different labels. I contacted Robert at Mush, who'd heard of me on the Deepspace5 record. We talked for a while about working together and he offered to put it out. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. As far as the other artists on Mush, I know that regardless of the styles of music that other artists put out on the label, we are all artists. That's the common bond, everyone's trying to put out good hiphop.
How was the recent trip to Europe?
The Europe tour was really eye opening. It amazed me how small these countries were and how little some of the groups would travel. Being a relatively new solo artist, I was curious as to how people would accept me and my music. For the most part it seemed like the European crowds really dug good, artistic music, and didn't have a lot of media hype to get them into what I was doing. In Finland, I played this music festival with several thousand people there, and after the set they chanted for me to do an encore. That was my first encore.
How do you handle criticism that your music is too "out there," or that it's inaccessible to more straight-and-narrow/ mainstream hip hop fans?
Everyone has their own opinion on how music should be done. Personally, I think it's good for rap music as a whole to be diversified and have different type of listeners and fans. It just grows the genre. Some people might not like my style, that's totally fine with me. I don't do mainstream raps, I do mystream raps.