As we apply the final touches to the winter edition of the magazine we thought it would be a good time to publish this summer’s Villains special cover interview for the first time in full, featuring none other than the masked villain himself; DOOM.
This will be the first in a series of features looking back at those who have graced the cover of Bonafide, titled Cover Stories, appropriately.
‘Hmmm, I’m not sure about that shit.’ Cue slightly uncomfortable silence. This wasn’t the start I was hoping for as one of rap, and indeed modern music’s, most intriguing voices gives my opening gambit short shrift (for the record I asked him about the reported beef between his old friend and collaborator MC Serch and the Beastie Boys).
I interviewed DOOM as a precursor to his first UK tour late last year, including the much-anticipated London date with Ghostface Killah, as well as the not so small detail of the DOOMSTARKS collaborative album, Swift & Changeable. A release that still seems no closer to a reality several months on and is perhaps better left in a fragmented cyber space of memory, mystery and the imagination of rap raconteurs.
The only real nugget of insight so far has been the DOOM produced Victory Laps single (although the superior Madvillainz remix saw the first public airing) – steeped in DOOM’s signature lo-fi keyboard loop and dusty drum sound, both he and Ghost spit fire but it feels a little like a warm up, an aperitif – what of the main course? DOOM, evasive for perhaps the only time we speak, hints at the reason: “That’s my brother from another mother. Well, Victory Laps is out, it’s taken a while but it’s coming out. He’s (Ghostface) not easy but he makes it fun, trust me, there’s going to be a lot of story-type shit.”
Despite almost twenty years of recorded output, DOOM’s music seems to inspire and influence more artists in hip-hop and beyond now than it ever has. Why is this? Perhaps the answer is in the question, DOOM, or Daniel Dumille as is written on his British passport, is a man of some experience and over the past decade has gone about cultivating a musical alter-ego like no other.
This isn’t in a controlling ‘I’ve spent a million dollars on this video’ Kanye West-type way, an individual we come to, but rather from making mainly only the right decisions. From his collaborative efforts, which are often as surprising as they are interesting, to knowing when to introduce a new rap guise (possibly only Kool Keith can claim to have more aliases) and holding back enough to perpetuate the enigma, ‘DOOM is not on Twitter’ states the verified account for those who bother looking.
While press appointments aren’t quite the commodity they once were it’s fair to say this interview was still something of a coup, and we’re also seeing more of DOOM live (yes, it’s him). Perhaps DOOM is finally enjoying the fruits of his labour.
I watched the video for 3rd Bass’ The Gasface for the first time recently. That looked like a lot of fun. EPMD, Flavour Flav, Salt N Pepa as well as KMD featured in the video. Was there a strong sense of camaraderie between the over-ground and underground of rap in general at the time?
Between the over-ground and the underground, yeah, at that time there was really no definition like that. Even now, I think the distinction is kind of blurry but there was no such term as ‘underground’ back then. We never used that term. Everyone was just doing their thing. People in the industry might have used it, but in that case everybody was underground.
You come from what’s widely seen as the Golden Era of hip-hop. A lot of MCs, producers and even the fans from that period seem to have given up on current music. What’s your take on that perspective?
I guess the new stuff has been of a different quality from back then, even from the 90s and early 2000. It comes and it goes though, you know what I’m saying? I would say the music is still there that we do; it’s pasturing the timeline, so anybody can go back to that so-called time to get to whatever sound they need to get to.
“Nobody is making that (golden era sound) now but there are people making stuff with a newer style that’s just as popular, so if you’ve got some old-school heads that know about that and get that then that’s good.”
I thought you might say that. What was the last period where you were still a fan of the music?
Well, there are other forms of music that I’m a fan of like r&b, jazz and folk but I’m always gonna’ look at hip-hop differently. I’m not a fan; I’d rather use the word ‘fam’ as in family. I’m just the older uncle looking at the young kids having fun and it looks good. Every time we get a new member of the fam it’s a blessing.
You can’t necessarily choose your family but you have to love them?
Indeed, that’s the hammer on the nail, that’s excellent.
There have been a few notable eras of hip-hop, do you feel that alongside the likes of Dilla and Madlib you were part of the most recent, significant, movement? And one that has gone to influence a lot of the LA beat scene stuff?
Madvillain’s cool, we still a movement, it’s not like it’s a past tense kind of thing; we’re still working together. I don’t really keep up too much with what’s going on but I’m getting a lot of feedback saying ‘these cats sound like you’ but I don’t really hear it.
Your rap style is known for a lot of different attributes, I particularly enjoy the humour in your music; the Danger Doom and KMD albums come to mind. Have there been any particular comedians that have influenced you in this respect?
Oh man definitely, comedy is something that influenced KMD. We were really into the performance, entertaining a crowd. Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and the whole Saturday Night Live crew from back then.
“Benny Hill was retarded, he used to come on and we’d be glued to the set. Before that there was Richard Prior, rest in peace, and Gene Wilder…his shit was wild.”
You’ve been making music for so long now, I guess you’ve still got to have the passion for it but do you find your motives change?
Well, you get older; you have children so of course your motives change.
Back then it was still just for fun…(tails off). But I can’t force myself to do this shit; I have to be in the right mood, everything has to be right. Something that motivates you would be the thing that ignites that initial feeling, like ‘oh I gotta’ write that down’.
Your most recent album was Born Like This, which felt a lot darker than its predecessors, was that intentional?
Not really. (Mm..) Food? was before that, to me it had purple in there and some light blues and what not, it was kind of charcoal. A lot of them to me have the same colours…I kind of try and make this shit light-hearted.
I caught some of it but for me it felt kind of reflective of the period.
It’s interesting how you describe it from your point of view, what colour did you see primarily? In terms of darkness and light
When I heard it (in 2009) this country, and the States, was going through a recession and uncertain times. I understand at least half of the album was made a few years previous, but for me it seemed reflective of the time. There was still the playfulness but it had a darker edge…
Yeah, I can see that. That’s interesting that all the way out here you got that because that’s exactly what it is – a reflection of the time – it’s almost like being a reporter.
You do the investigation, gather information on a topic, double-check everything and you go do some entertainment. It’s a collection of writing, points of views…
I might write something earlier but I do the vocals all together. I think some of those songs were right for that album and I keep some stuff aside for different projects. That’s what I was aiming at with that poem (Charles Bukowski’s Dinosaur We).
Staying with that particular album’s loose theme, Chinaski always seems like a mirror image of Bukowski. How much crossover is there between Daniel and DOOM?
I’d say it’s like a percentage, a bit like the exchange rate between the pound and dollar; it varies a little bit each day. Sometimes it’s 0 and it’s like ‘oh no, the dollar is collapsing!’ but I’d say it’s pretty stable. Something like 1.8% of Daniel goes to DOOM and vice versa, I think.
In recent years some pretty big mainstream stars like Mos Def and even Kanye West have shown an interest in your work, if not actually working with you, does that surprise you?
It’s like they’re my cousins and I’m the older uncle, to me I’ve watched them both grow up in the music, they’re like my naughty cousins who have grown up and are now big time. Now there’s a mutual thing, a special feeling in the music, more so when we meet up.
“I can see how people compare Mos and me because we’re New York rappers, but we all have a certain skill, a niceness, unique to what we do. Kanye, he’s down, I call him Khan. as in The Wrath of Khan (Star Trek II). At the same time, that nigga is nice; I’d like to work with him.”
Beyond that you’ve worked with Thom Yorke and been remixed by Four Tet and Dave Sitek. Do you listen to much modern electronic music?
Well, I listen to jazz, anything that sounds good that I stumble across on YouTube. Often I meet the person and then I find their music.
I might not know them before I meet them but we have a mutual respect of music and things just happen, personalities have to be right. Similar to what I was saying with Mos and Khan. It’s like anyone I’m working with I meet them and I already know them, there’s an understanding.
It’s like a family reunion; you meet someone for the first time and you find out you have some connection in Chicago. Until you meet them you don’t know.
Aside from the record with Ghostface what else are you working on?
I’m also working on a record with Jneiro Jarel, that’s my people; he’s got some funky beats.
We’re scoping together a project, almost album-like weight. We’ll see how it grows, we did some crazy shit so far I can tell you that much. Usually when I write to another producer’s work it brings out other elements, and with this dude, the way his production is, these songs are on a different level.
Finally, I understand you’re living in London at the moment, what do you like about it here?
Good old London town, it’s a romantic city.
I love it; the feeling and the people, the people really bring the texture to a city. People make a city and the people here are really friendly. To me even in its most volatile state it’s a really peaceful place. I can work here incognito.
And you were born here, right?
“I left at two months, but I think cockney is naturally in me and I can just bring it back, it’s pretty sloppy though. You might hear it in another record…
One main difference (between London and New York) is people speaking to each other, strangers speak to each other, nobody’s nervous. There’s no fear, that’s what I’ve seen anyway. The riot thing, I saw it in the news, but I didn’t see it, I was here but I didn’t see it though.
To the party people: stop the stabbings, there’s no need to be stabbing. Back home people be shooting, but people don’t use guns here, they go to the next weapon? A knife? That’s corny.
Keep it peaceful, non-violent, just smack a motherfucker. (That) Shit won’t kill anyone…I’m only playing.
Words: David Kane