inside his home studio on November 23, 2014.
| gig magazine issue #8 |
interview & photographs by Justin Thor Simenson
This article was originally published in December 2014. The first single from ‘Malala’ is Different — Feat. Equipto, Miles Bonny and Raashan Ahmad and can be heard below.
On a tip from a friend I reached out to Andy ‘Wake Self’ Martinez. He was just coming off a busy tour that had him across the states and in Europe. He had a few local shows but they didn't work with my schedule. Then he mentioned he was working on some stuff in his home recording studio and I knew that is was the way I wanted to cover him.
When I got there his friend PH8 was working on producing some beats for a song that Wake Self had previously written. Wake Self was passing some time recording some freestyle so I settled in and photographing that. After a few sessions we sat down and talked about his music. “Tell me about the new album you are working on.” I asked him. “The next album is more social justice oriented. I think it is going to be real empowering. I've had a lot of inspiration from the 16 year old girl who was shot by the Taliban, survived, and then won the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala.” He sits back for a second then continues “I think there are a lot people who aren't pushing themselves and willing to take their beliefs and affect society. I don’t think that anyone takes themselves as serious or what they are doing as serious or there are too many distractions. Kinda like the way it used to be when there were Gandhi’s, Marley’s, Harriet Tubman’s, Malcolm X’s, people like that. We are still capable of that. But I think she is a good example of one of those light bearing humans.” That takes a moment to settle into my mind. Her story is pretty powerful indeed. If you are not familiar with her story, I highly recommend you read up on it.
His home studio is in a large room with one corner setup for vocals and another with computers for mixing and producing. I bring the interview around to his setup. “How does recording at home affect your creative process?” I asked. “It is a lot more comfortable. I like the freedom it provides. I have recorded in a lot of studios, big expensive studios, but for me I like to record by myself. Just me. I’ll go back and forth on the programs, hitting play then rushing over to the mic to do my verse. That is just how I like to do it. I have a lot of different techniques that I use when I record too. I might just record half a line, leave a space, then go back and fill things in later. I kinda get to go nuts and I don’t have to explain to anybody. Sometimes it might seem like some chaotic stuff but I’m also a perfectionist. Sometimes I’ll get it in one take, but if it takes thirty I don’t want anybody to get frustrated.”
I haven’t heard of a musician work like this so I asked about his writing process. “With everything going on in the world, how do you focus on a topic for a song?” He replied “I have a lot of ideas for songs. I feel strong about a lot of things so I put it down that I should do a song about it. Sometimes a song is like a research project. I’ll be writing it and then I have to go read a book to finish it. Sometimes my knowledge on a topic is done but the song isn't and I have to go grab inspiration, learn new terms, and expand myself then go back.”
“I think a lot of rappers need to read more books.”
In his last album the songs ‘Anti Bully’ and ‘New Mexico’ are about life with a positive spin, but he also keeps it real and raw. “How do you find that balance?” I asked him. He nods and says “It is just the mindset I am in all the time. Everything I do is true to who I am. It is not to portray something I am not. That is why the music that makes the most impact on me is the stuff where you can tell that they are coming 100% from their own being. When they are illustrating where they are at and where they have been. I think I try to find that line between happiness and gratitude no matter what side of the emotional spectrum I am hit with. I try to stay in the middle on that little platform of gratitude.”
“Do you have a message you want to put out with your music.” I ask. “There are a lot of messages really, but I guess it all pertains to the elevation and cultivation of human consciousness. Trying to push that forward and make people open their eyes a little bit.”
His personality and this music really embodies his mindset. He is very down to earth and great to talk to. I could have talked with him for days about countless things besides music. His music is a breath of fresh air and I am proud that it resonates out of New Mexico.