Interview with Aesop Rock & Rob Sonic | By Tyler Gibson
You guys, on your own, have completely different styles and vibes but somehow you can come together like you were born to do it. At what point 4+ years ago did you guys think you should get together to collab and how has that chemistry changed, if at all, now that you’re on your 2nd full length?
RS: We started touring together about ten years or so ago, and when you are doing that much music / spending that much time together, seems like it’s the next logical step (to form a group or make an album together) for the simple fact that you have to understand each other’s approach to music, and appreciate it, which is like 90% of that whole thing kind of. I don’t think the chemistry has changed much, we are friends, so unless we stop liking each other or steal each other’s bikes or something that will probably remain intact.
AR: I think we didn’t have all that different styles to begin with. I mean, we don’t sound the same, but we come from the same place with similar influences and mindsets. Once we started touring together we just spent so much time together. By the time the first Mallon album came out we had toured together for like 6 years, so we were already in the pocket – just needed to press record.
Are you guys ever worried about stepping on each other’s toes during the songwriting process for Mallon albums or is there a mutual understanding of each others creative process and just go in and do work?
RS: Nah, we usually have a pretty open line of communication, I mean, obviously if one of us has an idea that is terrible, the other has to say, “that’s terrible,” but for the most part we respect each other’s vision and trust each other’s call.
AR: Yea I mean, if someone hates your idea it stings for a minute and then you be a big boy and move on. But really, by in large we see eye-to-eye on a lot of the creative stuff. You kinda gotta go into it knowing this ain’t a solo project, so all the control freak-ness gets left behind very early in the process.
What do you guys get out of HMM that you don’t get out of your respected solo endeavors?
RS: We get to have fun, hang out with someone while we make music, and (in my opinion) it keeps me sharp cause it’s a different style to keep up with.
AR: Yea I mean, the style of rhymes we’re doing here is essentially target practice. This is the stuff we came up writing – just kinda shit-talk-life-rap, some concepts but nothing overly weighty. Mostly just rap your ass off and pass the mic.
Bestiary, at least to me, feels more focused, with an agenda, than Are You Gonna Eat That? did. Can you talk about some of the pre-production that went into developing this album and some of the things you guys had in mind that you wanted to execute? Any happy accidents or major failures that didn’t turn up on the album?
RS: The pre-production is always the same – we will make rough drafts of beats and run it by each other to see if it’s something that we both want to rock over; the songs develop around that, then we kick around ideas we’ve individually been thinking of or stuff we come up when we are together and when it comes out of the oven we hope it tastes good.
The only real dud we have ever done, was a song called “The Mall,” which will never see the light of day because it’s gone forever. I feel like I lost my innocence that day, like I don’t know, it was life altering bad.
AR: “The Mall” was going to be a somewhat fun and funny song in the vein of “Breakdance Beach” or “Grubstake.” Once we wrote it and recorded it, it was pretty much just a commercial for the mall. But a terrible commercial, for a mall you don’t ever want to be at.
As far as the beats on these projects, it’s really all about who has what laying around at the time we decide to do the project. If one of us has a scrap that shows some sign of promise, we’ll sketch out the song and try to expand on the music. Whoever has a direction for the song first just kinda lays something down and we see if we can build on it.
The dynamic continues to work and the albums fucking great. As of today, it has dropped online a week early for streaming. How’s the response been?
RS: Thank you, a fucking lot! So far so good, no one has called for our heads yet, so win.
AR: Thank you. it’s a bit early to call it. The initial wave seems positive, but they could turn on us at any moment.
As a designer, I always want to know how musicians feel about visual representation and how important it is to their output. Is it a thing you guys have your hands in or are you trusting of your artists and just let them do what they do? Also, can you talk a little bit about the Bestiary covers and your animated snippets with Bosko Jackson?
RS: I know we have some real basic ideas that we kick to Coro and he kind of does the rest. Dude is amazing so it’s going to be dope. Bosko is someone I was recently introduced to; I have certain things I look for in an artist, and he had all those things going on in his work. I happened to see some of these animated clips (of is own illustrations) he was messing around with and thought it would work well for the Bestiary bumps.
AR: Coro is a close friend and has done the artwork for both Mallon albums thus far. He’s great because he’s a concept artist by day, so you can give him a few ideas and he’ll come back with like 8 thumbnail sketches to choose from. Bosko had worked with Rob recently on his solo record’s artwork, so it was nice to invite him in for those pieces.
Rob, are you a little pissed about not being included in the “Hip Hop Vocabulary Flow Chart,” while your counterpart shines above the rest, including being able to boast having a wider vocabulary than the entirety of Wu Tang Clan? Where would you fall in between DMX and Aes?
RS: I AM SO MAD! (no, I don’t care) I’m glad Aes is recognized for his control of the English language. I actually ask him what stuff means sometimes so it’s dope… it was weird someone took the time to do that chart, but dope.
Where does Scatman John fall? I’m tied with him.
I want to thank the both of you for taking time to answer my dumb questions. Got anything further to add that we didn’t touch upon?
RS: Thank you, your questions weren’t dumb. I’d like to add fries and a drink. Shop for Bestiary at number 1 retailers.
AR: Thank you for the interest. We hope people like our rap songs.