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interview // listener


     I stand on the train platform just waiting for my train toward Tokyo to emerge through the tunnel, but my train was late that night. When the train finally came screeching to a stop beneath my feet, I gripped my backpack as I step onto the crowed train and a rush of humidity hits my face. A slur of voices in a different language echo off the train’s white walls, as my headphones convey an Elected Official beat consisting of a sped up sample and the thumping of the bass. A familiar voice comes over the sample and with poetic genius paints a heartfelt picture. The train speeds by in a modern marvel of technology and Japanese functionality.  Funny, that I'm traveling this too crowded train to listen to the emcee named the Listener drop vagabond doctrine about a Train Song, and to interview him after his set. Listener is the rapper from the super crews DeepSpace5 and Labklik, and hails from northwest Arkansas and had grown up in Springfield, Missouri. Listener has completed around 12 albums, including solo, Deepspace5, and Labklik recordings, currently signed to Mush the record label that released his solo album entitled Whispermoon.

     The train comes to a stop and the door slides open at Itabashi, a desolate train station in the middle of Tokyo. I rummaged through my bag, searching for directions to the show Listener was having. Clutching the crumpled paper of directions in my own poor penmanship, I followed them to a small building. When I got to the door and glanced in unsurely, a friendly Listener motions me to come in and I have a seat at the table that he was sitting at. After a few moments of introductions, I was motioned to follow the flow of people down to a small stage which would soon come alive with Listeners energetic set. After the show, Listener and I made our way back upstairs and took a seat at a small table, and thus the questionings began:


How did you end up at Mush?


I finished Whispermoon in March of 2003, and started shopping around the finished product to labels here and there. Since I've been on the road full time I really need a label to handle all the "putting out" of my product while I handle the live aspect. Mush and a few other labels were interested, but Mush had the best offer and track record, so I went with them. Basically I had an album to put out and Mush liked it and we decided to put it out.


What inspired Train Song?


A poem I heard at a poetry reading in Decatur Georgia. That stemmed into my dealings with various homeless people all throughout the US. I play in downtown areas and club areas all over the place and basically park my car in their house and we always have talks about watching my car. I was just thinking about the honesty and tragedy that surrounds them, and how God speaks to people in different ways if we'll listen.


When the song was completed did you feel that it would become such a hit?


I like all my songs, but in different ways. I really liked this song, but I've like most of my songs, so I didn't really know. I've only written a few story raps in my career, and people seem to like them, I'm going to write more.


How did you get into Graphic Design?


In college I got into computer-aided graphic design. I think I've always been interested in Art and being an artist, whether it was painting or drawing or writing prose, poetry or whatever, I've always dipped into a creative side of me to find calm and escape from stress and troubles in life. I especially like text layout and font design. I also do website design; recently I've gotten a bug to weld. I haven't done anything about it because it requires a good bit of equipment and expense, but I think I’d like to do metal design and sculpture, mostly functional pieces though, not necessarily abstract or studio pieces.


How did all the artists from Deep Space 5 get together?


Manchild from Mars ill (before there was mars ill) got us all together. Just MCs and producers with like faith and goals, and we made some music. This was like 96-97 when the Labklik was still doing 1-2 albums a year, and the pride was still together and Sev was coming out on the scene. We made an EP in Orlando Florida at a hotel at this rap convention, and the rest is history. We did an album for Uprok, and added more members and we're still going. Everyone has their own tours and solo stuff and what not, but hopefully soon a label will be interested in putting out another full length. It takes so much to get us all together to record, it’s quite an undertaking, but the raps that come out of those meetings are really pieces that I quite like.


Any plans for new Labklik and Deep Space 5 albums? If so when?


Yes, Labklik and DeepSpace5 at the beginning of the year (2005) or somewhere around then. Look for it in Illect records. The deepspace5 record is by the Beat Rabbi, and will be featuring all of us DS5 MCs on his beats. It's called Deepspacesoul. The Labklik album will feature me and ill and no guest MCs and will be great.


What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment musically?


Being able to make a solo record and tour on it, I hope there are many more, it's almost a parent type of thing to make something and see it grow and go out into the world. Some people pick on it, but I pick it back up and keep touring and pushing, and one day it will grow up to be a classic.


What song do you feel is your favorite on the Whispermoon album?


"You Will Be My Music" is probably that, maybe "Train Song", or “Ways of the Wind”.


What made you decide to do a solo album?


Touring mostly, I have been full time as a rapper for over 2 years now and I needed live material to do and sell and a reason to be out on the road, and it's hard to be full time in a group unless everyone is full time and really going for it. So, the solo stuff is what I'm on the road for doing the miles and paying the dues.


What would the ultimate reward for you be?


To be able to be used by God with what I do, whatever that looks like in peoples lives, or on a grander scale. Also to be able to be artistically viable and true to how I want to make music, to be able to make a living, support my family, and feel like I've given something to the community, whatever artistic community I reach in to. Rap can be sort of limiting and not cross over into too many places, people pigeonhole rappers as mindless thugs, but there are some thinkers and artists out there making a stab at it all.


Who do you feel is your biggest influence and why?


It’s not ever one person or group musically. For me it's a whole movement of artists and musicians. I am really motivated and influenced by artists who are almost anarchists. The people who are bucking the system and doing the art that they feel from inside and creating beautiful original inspiring pieces of music and art. That’s what influences me.


     I glanced at my watch and realized I should have left a while ago, for I needed to catch the last train home. The trains in Japan stop at midnight and I had an hour and a half of a train ride back to my house in Yokosuka. I thanked Listener and said my goodbyes and goodnights as I rush onto the street and make my way to the train station. Hearing the train approach I ran onto the platform. As the door swish closed behind me, I sighed a sigh of relief and settled down in an empty plastic seat for the train ride home. The train suddenly stops and everyone who is left is ushered off the train and I was informed that this was the last station the train would stop for the night. So there I was stranded in the middle of Tokyo until the trains open again at 5 o’clock. So I walk around endlessly without destination, mumbling and singing doctrine commonly heard of vagabonds until the morning awakens the train station.


For more information on Listener check out http://www.forthelistener.com


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