Earlier this year we featured Sidizen King‘s “One Day“, a track we have returned to several times since then. With the year coming to a close we thought now was a good time to catch up with him for a Q&A.
Cougar Microbes: What time did you wake up today? Was it out of choice or necessity?
Sidizen King: 2:45 AM, out of necessity to get to Logan airport in Boston on time to catch my flight back to LAX. 5:30 AM is the usual though!
CM: Describe your sound to the uninitiated?
SK: “Electronic Hip-Hop” is the most concise description I’ve come across so far. I think so many of us have diverse listening habits because certain genres inspire/enhance different emotions better than others. SIDIZEN KING is an experiment in bridging the energy of dance music, the emotional depth of indie rock, with the lyrical and rhythmic freedom of Hip-Hop.
CM: What have been the highlights of your year (musically) so far.
-Finishing my first EP independently and with a non-existent budget.
– Seeing the response the music has gotten! With how saturated music is, exposure is incredibly difficult to secure especially for independent artists, so to see how much love the project has gotten both from fans and critics in its first year has been crazy inspiring.
– Getting a shoutout from The Chainsmokers and Lindsey Stirling on Twitter. It’s still so bizarre to me that music I recorded in a closet earned the endorsement of two of the biggest names in electronic music.
CM: How do you kill time on the road when on the road? hobbies/games?
SK: When it’s my turn to drive, I’ll find a random instrumental playlist and freestyle to whatever comes up, no skipping. Most of the songs aren’t Hip-Hop so it really stretches me to find new flow patterns and cadences. Admittedly, I’m not the dopest freestyler so much of what comes out of my mouth is absolute garbage, but every 10 minutes or so I’ll come up with a line that’s good enough to jot down in the notepad for future use. It’s especially fun when someone is willing to play along with me. When I’m not driving I like to read or throw on a podcast, Malcolm Gladwell‘s “Revisionist History” is in heavy rotation right now.
CM: What have been your favourite venues to play? Any Venues you hated?
I really enjoyed playing at The Winson House in Venice, California. The crowd was big enough to get the live energy going but intimate enough to look most people in the eyes. It was the first time they invited a Hip-Hop act play there (they generally showcase acoustic acts) so seeing the crowd’s reaction evolve throughout the set was awesome. At first, the ones unfamiliar with my music, weren’t sure what to do with themselves but mid-way through the set we had everyone vibing…hands in the air, swaying, it was lit!
CM: you able to write on the road or do you do this in your off time?
I prefer to compartmentalize things, it makes me feel like I’m devoting all my energy to whatever phase of the process I’m in. I think as I tour more extensively that will, of necessity, change but for now I really like blocking off time to focus entirely on writing.
CM: Is there a song you are simply sick of playing live?
SK: Yes and no. When I’m not playing shows I feel like it’s time to retire “Life is Good” because it was my first track and doesn’t really fit cleanly into the electro-rap sound I’ve gravitated toward but for whatever reason the song just really comes alive, live. It’s really fun to play and having the whole crowd chant “Life is Good” during the chorus never gets old.
CM: What is the songwriting process like for you? Do your songs go through many revisions and demos before recordings? What came first, the lyrics or the melody?
SK: My most common process is to play the instrumental and record myself as I improvise words and melodies. This draft of the song usually sounds like scatting/gibberish with real words interspersed throughout. I do this until I’ve found some vocal frameworks (flows and melodies) that compliment the instrumentation; it generally takes me 3-5 takes.
I then go back and listen for the most compelling parts of each take and splice together a “super-take” that becomes the primitive version of the song. From the super-take I identify the mood/theme that I subconsciously gravitated toward and that becomes the topic of the track. I usually get a completed hook and a few lines directly from the “super-take.” After that, I listen to the super-take over and over, filling in all the unintelligible parts with real words until the song is done. This part feels like working on a puzzle.
After I’ve finished, I’ll wait a day to listen for any parts that bother me, make small changes, and add harmonies as needed. I generally will send the song to a few trusted friends for feedback. If there is any consensus that a certain part should be changed, I revisit it and decide whether to leave it or change it. The last part of the process is finding the right voice to sing the hook (I rarely sing my own hooks) and work with the primary producer to introduce any production changes I feel complement the vocals.
CM: If you could record any cover in the world what would it be?
SK: “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” by Ms. Lauryn Hill.
CM: What are your views on auto tune?
SK: I honestly could never see myself using auto tune. We can’t escape being influenced by the fads of our time but I think as an artist it’s important to avoid incorporating anything that doesn’t come from a genuine place. Using auto tune right now would feel disingenuous for me. There are some artists who use it masterfully and from whom it feels like a genuine extension of self, but for the most part, it feels like less of an artistic decision and more of a “prisoner of the moment” type thing.
CM: Any other artists/bands from your local scene we really should know about?
SK: Yes! You need to check out The Federal Empire and The Atomics ASAP! I have no doubt that they’ll both be household names in short order. Both bands are good friends of mine so I’ve been privy to some of what’s coming up and they’re both insanely talented.
CM: What is the most flattering thing you’ve read about yourselves?
SK: I find that taking praise with a grain of salt helps to lessen the sting of criticism so I’ve kind of trained myself to not take either too seriously. It helps me to stay true to my own vision rather than try to live up to expectations or veer off course to accommodate popular opinion. That being said, it feels really good whenever someone acknowledges (for better or worse) that my sound represents something new and different. Most artists I’ve met struggle to define their sound or feel that they’re pioneering new ground, so to hear that from others is always flattering.
CM: What was the first record/tape/cd you ever bought?
SK: The first CD I ever bought with my own money was “Speakerboxx/The Love Below” by Outkast.
CM: What was the last song that got stuck in your head?
SK: “XO” by Nightly
CM: What was the last show you paid and queued up for?
CM: If you had to bring on artist back from the dead in exchange for sending a living artist down, which artists would it be and why??
SK: Ooh, this one might get me in trouble someday but I have to keep it real: I’d trade Lil Yachty for Tupac with no hesitation! (1) Yachty recently said something wild like “Drake is better than Tupac/Biggie” (blasphemy), so I appreciate the irony, (2) There’s no rapper I’d put ahead of Pac, (3) I wouldn’t say Yachty‘s style is irreplaceable or timeless.