With each passing year the boundaries of hip-hop become more loosely defined. Artists have been experimenting more with the medium by incorporating different concepts that transcend the “beats, rhymes and life” aesthetic that has been the backbone of most hip-hop music for so long. The collectively owned Anticon Records has exemplified this genre-transcendent quality since its beginnings in 1998 when co-founders Sole (Tim Holland) and Dose One (Adam Drucker), after fruitlessly distributing their demos, decided to form a collective record label of their own. I had the opportunity to catch up with Adam “Dose One” Drucker (of Themselves, Subtle, and Clouddead) here in Vancouver (the city he now calls home) to discuss his beats, rhymes, life, and side projects.
Discorder: Where were you living before you came to Vancouver and why did you choose Vancouver as your new place of residence?
Adam: Oakland [California]. I lived there with everybody from Anticon, pretty much. But my girlfriend of over two years is here. She was in Guelph so she moved out here and so I moved out here to be with her.
What’s up with the hands and arms in the artwork for the Subtle record?
I just totally got stuck on it, I realized I’ve always been a body mutilator in low-key nervous child ways.
Yea, things like that. I realized that there’s something about taking the whole arm off, thoughts about wilted suicide at a ripe age. Because it is about winning when you’re quitting. Quitters win: quitters get rest, quitters get to fall asleep on the job. I just realized that there was something about giving the whole arm. I’d like to see myself give the whole arm in this. Instead of slitting your wrist you just keep going, you give the whole arm and finish life with one arm, strong. And you’ve actually spent that much of yourself on something, it seemed very relevant to me.
Subtle has remixed a track for Beck and now there are rumours about the possibility of being included on a tour with him.
It’s up to him, if he wants to put us on. He really likes us; it’s apparently one of his favourite remixes. We’d love to tour with him but y’know, he’s on a massive label and if they want to pick us I don’t know how that goes. But the remix was a blast.
Is that remix out now?
That’s coming out on his release first in early spring. Then we’re [Subtle] gonna put out this Plus CD with all our other mixes that are on vinyl that we are just putting out. Mike Patton did this all a cappella thing. We did an instrumental of “I Heart L.A.” with Hrvatski playing guitar. “Swan Meat” is sort of the end of “A New White,” the last song on the record that’s not on the record—we’re putting it out as the last single. There’s a remake of that that’s 10 minutes long with Andrew Broder from Fog doing all the vocals and he re-wrote all my writing kind of in his own way.
That’s “the long vein” remix that Patton is working on. Are you in contact with Mike Patton at all, are you guys going to try and get some more stuff happening?
Yeah. The reason I met him is that he’s doing this thing called Peeping Tom and he has all these producers making sort of his adapted rap. So it’s got Jel and Odd Nosdam doing beats on it and other people also. I did some vocals that Jeff [Jel] and Nosdam are doing and I did this Fresh Prince cameo verse and a couple other verses. We’re gonna work together, we’re very similar. A lot of what he’s doing is very inspiring, just as a person, because he was thrust out to the world and he was successful and then he made the most of it for himself and now I see where he is. So I think it’s really interesting to meet someone like him.
Subtle’s latest album “A New White” is out on Lex Records. Why didn’t Anticon handle it?
Subtle is almost four years old now. When we started doing Subtle, Anticon didn’t have the space for it and it didn’t have the space for Anticon.
Would you say that Lex is bigger than Anticon?
No and yes. I don’t think that it’s really relative. But the funding is healthy and there’re opportunities to open up different avenues that I think add to Anticon. I’ve enjoyed very much stacking their expenses so that they are interested in pushing the record. It’s good faith and it’s good music, which is the bottom line for me.
Has Lex been able to back you with more money for recording?
A little bit more, but not so much. Anticon could do the same but then I would feel like I was asking a lot because it’s my collective. It’s heavy. It involves me asking for a massive amount of money from a stockpile that my best friends and favourite artists all draw from.
So Anticon is totally a collective, if you are taking money from Anticon to put into recording you’re reducing the amount available for someone else?
Right. And I think it should be an even and healthy distribution. Something felt healthier and more even about putting Subtle where there’s room to develop. It’s not an overwhelming amount of money that I’m privy to at all, but I’m really into the jump in size. If you’re not going to hand me a tree that money grows on, I’d really like a little Chia Pet that I can grow. At first I thought it was just my luck, like, “I can never win at anything.” There’re all these elements to my personality that are still that. But then I realized it just the pace that I’m comfortable with. It’s working on a lot of art all the time and then my progress with success and the world is at this buffer distance.
What about setting up an Anticon studio?
That’d be cool if we did that but it’s better off that people invest personally in their home studios and then one day when you have a little bit more of a home that you own you stick a room on it and put your home studio equipment in there. Having a home studio is a very elaborate exhibition of “I make music sometimes” unless you’re scheduling time in it.
Are you ever apprehensive about lyrics? Do you ever write something and go “shit, that’s a little much.”
Everybody has their own way of letting in weak unfortified thoughts. Thoughts that don’t have a form, that can’t stand alone. You can’t hit it all, when you first write it down, so you have all these lines that are in the stages of weak and in the throes of being great. The earlier stuff was a lot like that; I smell it on all the other writers out there. That’s why I like or dislike any music: it’s the lyrics. What really makes me love a band is good lyrics and what really quickly makes me hate a band is non-existent mumble.
You wouldn’t say you’re concerned with alienating listeners then?
I don’t know. You kinda alienate yourself when you listen to fuckin’ music that’s like [sings] “in the summer when love is shining.” If you see someone rockin’ to that in their convertible, it’s like nowadays you can honestly judge someone when they’re eating at McDonald’s. You look like you’re full of shit, you probably feel like you’re full of shit. But I also don’t want to judge all these people. It’s relative, it think, all that stuff.
I’ve heard you refer to your music as masturbatory. Is that still relevant now?
I don’t know. There’s a truth to that, but that’s like saying it’s self-indulgent. All things are. We make music selfishly, the pace of our music is dictated only by our own concerns, palates and aesthetics, and by what we know we’ve done before. That’s a very selfish way to make music; that’s why it’s not under everybody’s Christmas tree. It remains built in this peculiar way, it goes places that maybe you don’t want to go. It’s highly fashioned in that sense, and so it’s totally masturbatory.
Clouddead, and Themselves to a certain extent, seemed to have an affinity for odd items. Lots of blenders and ambient sound–the subtitle for “You Devil You” is “Bang on Shit till it Sounds good.” How important has experimenting with sound been for those two projects and other projects in general?
Well, I’m finishing a solo record, like a Slow Death II, of all my own production and stuff … It’s still very much “Bang on shit till it sounds good.” It hasn’t changed too much. We don’t have great equipment and we have big ideas … A lot of times our best ideas come out of humour and jerking off together in the same room. Especially “You Devil You.” When we did that song we were fuckin’ going nuts, it sounded like shit and then Jeff [Jel] starts playing the sink to piss me off because I was trying to record something. And then all these things start sounding good and he moves a mic and we record all this great shit. It’s always like that … It’s a lot more human, it’s a lot more errored. D
Subtle’s latest record A New White is out now (www.lexrecords.com). For all other things Dose One, visit www.anticon.com.