The first time I met PSmoov I was on my way to a Mad Rad/Champagne Champagne show. He was alone, looking lost, thin as rail and diminutive; not to mention heading away from the venue he was supposed to be playing in a few minutes. We talked briefly about his work w/Mad Rad, Fresh Espresso, and his his recently released Face Scrunchers Vol. 2. I could barely hear him on out on the street, but I could see his pupils were dilated big as saucers. He was deliriously high on something and just barely making it through my barrage of bullshit (dude, can't believe you sampled Supertramp!). At that show I had been old school, stone cold sober roughly two years myself. Everyone else was hammered, though, and I was not as shocked as all the girls in the crowd were when PSmoov lost his way in the lights and fell off the stage (to Smoov's credit I don't think he missed rapping a single bar). That was the third of three Mad Rad shows I’d ever seen. Each had progressively shown better music and lyricism, each came with more drunken antics.
Shortly thereafter PSmoov's efforts to kick a few nasty habits became very public. He and Rik Rude performed new material that blew people away at Sasquatch in 2012. Bossalona was released a month later in June. I caught the Fresh Espresso album release party at Neumo’s. P Smoov looked different this time, healthy even. He was manning the merch booth, sipping red bulls and playing dice with Radjaw. He looked like someone trying to keep busy doing other things. Wherever he went, Radjaw could be found, guarding him like a big brother. Despite equipment malfunctions that night Fresh Espresso’s performance is the best one I’ve ever seen. Shaprece sang, and Darwin, Radjaw and OCNotes DJ’d, all was right with in Out For Stardom world. He moved away from Seattle, then back. Now he’s painting, producing, and living in Seattle again.
I caught up with PSmoov again in December at his art show at Bon Voyage in Pioneer Square. He was there promoting some art work under his moniker Ten Hundred. This time when we talked his he seemed at least as tall as me, despite being much shorter. This time with clear eyes, we talked briefly about what makes us tick. Despite being late at night the little shop began to fill up with people who had come to see his work. Before I left I got him to agree to let me pry into his personal life via email and share it. I thought that for someone who had such a painful and triumphant year all at once, he’d be a great person to start out 2013 by talking to:
Things are swell.
Between 2010 and 2012 you’ve been behind some pretty interesting releases that helped color the Seattle Hip Hop scene: Mad Rad’s second album The Youth Die Young, two volumes of Face Scrunchers Mixtapes, and Fresh Espresso’s timeless Glamour, and Bossalona. You’ve worked with everyone from Macklemore to Fatal Luciauno, what should people know about our music here; can you share some of your inside perspective on the Seattle music scene?
Seattle music has creative integrity. Sort of a utopia for the artist that just wants to create art in their own way and create for the sake of creating. Our community of musicians and the fans of those musicians seem to be generally more open minded about the variety of styles they are willing to listen to and appreciate. A lot of collaboration seems to occur too with pleasing results. I don't think we have giant neon blinking dollar signs over our heads like other places. So sometimes we get overlooked by outsiders. But if you take the extra time to peer in through the peephole you will find a pretty magical place. Like looking into the future.
Does Seattle music seem especially vibrant in 2012 to you as well or am I just getting out more?
I have spent a good chunk of 2012 in the Midwest. When I returned to the fair Emerald City I was rejuvenated with a feeling of thankfulness that a city like Seattle exists and embraces someone like myself. Seattle vibrant in 2012? Yes. But isn't she always a glimmering beacon in the night?
In early 2011 you were touring a bit after releasing The Youth Die Young, and Rik Rude was working with his Metal Chocolates album. When did work on Bossalona begin and did you know you’d be releasing an album in 2012?
The earliest stuff from Bossalona was done during that time. We performed a couple songs that were on Bossalona at Sasquatch 2010. But we recorded like 6 songs from Bossalona in one week in Michigan when Rik Rude flew out to visit. Its funny it took us 2 years to finish half the album and 6 days to finish the other half. When Rik and I get together we work on stuff. Sometime we do just a little something, sometimes we knock out 2 or 3 songs. It's a very vibey kinda thing, and if the vibes are right, then we work.
With the two of you guys so busy, is it hard to nail down time to work on projects for Fresh Espresso?
Sometimes. But we work well without each other too. I will have beats ready for Rik when we link up. And Rik will have bits of notebook paper and random ideas ready too. Again, vibeyness abounds.
Most of us are familiar with your onstage work on a Korg synth and vocoder, but are there any other tools you’re working with producers should know about?
The Korg MS2000 is the synth you are referring too. I love that synth... at one point i owned 2 of them. I use a lot of virtual instruments (computer based instruments that you controll with a midi controller) by Native Instruments, Arturia, IK Multimedia... Turntable... I dunno, whatever the mood calls for. I make all my beats right in pro tools though. which may be different from other people around here. Other guys use beat making programs like Reason, Ableton Live, FL studio, then they bring em over to pro tools or something else when they wanna record vocals over them... I just start in pro tools right from the jump off. I set pro tools to grid mode, so everything lines up to my tempo and just start chopping shit up and moving things around in there, recording, arranging, programming drums, melodies all that. It makes it easy so that when i wanna record vocals, I'm there, and when i wanna work more on the beat its there too. I dont want to constantly be jumping between programs.
Some beat makers only make beats, but since I make beats, write songs, do vocals, mix, and master, I need a bit more of an all inclusive program that can take me from start to finish.
Back in May you performed at Sasquatch and people came racing back with news of your highly autobiographical new material. Were you battling to get sober while composing Bossalona?
Yeah. A few songs on Bossalona are pretty much all about my struggle with drugs and alcohol. especially "Goodbye My Love". Sasquatch was one of the first times we ever did that song live. It was weird playing that song for a big crowd... but it was one of the biggest hits of the set. For years I had been in a downward spiral... classic VH1 behind the music story. Non stop drugs, booze, girls, partying. I stopped functioning as a human being and became something else. It came to a culmination one night when I was high on Cocaine, Fentenol, and Booze and I tried to kill myself by eating a whole bottle of pills and slitting my wrists. After I survived that ordeal, I called my dad in Michigan and got on the first plane home.
I quit drugs from the moment I stepped on that plane. It took me a couple more weeks to quit drinking. At the time of me writing this I have been clean and sober for 1yr and 1 month.
My dad has taken to calling his house "Ronnie's Rehab" (His name is Ron)
You basically flew in from Michigan for that show and then straight back. Were you still in rehab, or just cooling off with the fam?
I wasn't in "rehab" at that point... just focusing on recovering. Also I got a job out there in Michigan to start paying off the large amount of debts I had accrued when I had been spending all my money on drugs, and to save up to move back to the west coast. So I had to get back to work.
You, Radjaw, and Buff are the Kings of Party Mountain. Is there room up there for someone who doesn’t “party”? How difficult has that adjustment been for you?
My friends are all real supportive of my decision and saw me at my worst. They know its good for me to be clean.
Speaking of your family, this year you participated in the music for marriage equality effort by making a video and talking about your Dad. Is he a Fresh Espresso fan?
My dad is a huge Fresh Espresso fan. Infact he had a lot of input and suggestions for the entire making of Bossalona. He likes the samples I use in Fresh Espresso. Say's "See that's my influence on you son!" Cuase i grab a lot of jazz, soul, and pop from the 70's for fresh espresso. Lol. He also loves to bring up how he used to write music when he was my age and I got it all from him.
When you talk about music with your Dad what comes up? You’ve used samples from unusual sources like Supertramp and Alan Parsons project. Did you grab these from Dad’s record collection?
He was more into disco and pop, jazz, bossanova, m.o.r. stuff... You hear a lot of that influence on me. My dad gave me a few records way back. But most of the records come from the record store. But the lessons both my parents tought me about letting my creative side shine is the biggest way they influences my music.
Bossalona seems like an even mix between old future-pop synth PSmoov, and some intricately juxtaposed acoustic vintage and hip hop work. Is this an evolution of your production skills and taste or am I just making this shit up?
Man the hip hop side is older than the synth pop stuff for me. I feel like bossalona is a bit of a return to my beginnings in the fact that it is more bombastic and triumphant. Thats how all my beats used to be. Then I started working with Buffalo and Radjaw and we went more into the electronic world. Working with Rik demands different energy than working with other people. I just like making energetic music. Sometimes that energy is released with that classic hip hop vibe, sometimes that energy is different. Rik gravitates towards a certain beat, I gravitate toward another. When he and I work together, we have a great common ground that works really well I think.
Are you still producing out of The Robot Room?
Yup... Its in Pioneer Square now. At the basement of the OK Hotel.
I read an interview in October with local Raider Klan wunderkind Key Nyata where he claimed he’d never heard any of Fresh Espresso’s music, then shortly after City Arts Fest this year he was in your studio. How’d that come about?
Yeah, I am recording his whole album now. We performed together for C.A.F and I gave him my number and told him we should vibe out on some music. He is super talented. Im not even gonna say "super talented for a young guy" he's just super talented. I love his stuff. I feel like since he is working with me, the sonics of his mixes are sounding a little cleaner and his voice really shines now. He makes all his own beats too, which I respect.
You’ve worked with Spac3man recently too, correct?
Yup... recording, mixing, mastering his new project. Shit's tight. Space is great. Fun to work with. He has a great vision of what he wants in the studio... he's not one of those dudes I dont gotta coach to much. He knows what he wants from the get go. I'm just along for the ride on those sessions. haha
I saw you at Bon Voyage Vintage for the showing of some of your work as Ten Hundred. Your work is colorful and a neat meeting between abstract and figurative, not to mention you make use of some otherwise tasteless vintage paintings and frames as canvases. How did all this come about?
I have been doing art since I was a wee lad. There has been a resurgence lately. I dont really remember when I came up with the name Ten Hundred for my art... but I remember thinking I wanted a name that sounded big. And one of Rik Rude's famous quotes is "I'm feeling like 1000 dollars in the eighties". Well i was thinking about 1000, and then i kinda changed that to ten hundred... like 8 hundred, 9 hundred, 10 hundred. I have been making and selling a ton of art in 2012-2013. Painting over the old art came out of necessity. Canvases are expensive. Frames are expensive... so if I can get a canvas with a frame from the thrift store for $12.99 I am not going to let the fact that it already has art on it stand in my way. I just paint right over the pre existing art. It's also nice too, cause i really like doing paintings of my characters, but i dont like painting backgrounds that much... so the backgrounds are already done. haha.
At my art show my buddy Luke told me it's kinda like hip hop in a way. Using pre existing material and adding to it and changing it to make it into something totally new and fresh. If your readers want to check out some of my art they can go to tenhundredart.com