Sweatshop Union talks Infinite, Kyprios & more at album release [Interview]
Vancouver, BC – Sweatshop Union has been known for making a statement with their music, tackling social issues and spreading Canadian love. They recently celebrated the release of their sixth studio album with Def 3, Ray Black and friends at Fortune Sound Club. HipHopCanada’s Shaheena Azmatullah caught up with Conscience and newest member, Ray Black, back stage to chat about their latest release Infinite, the evolution of the group and what’s next for the posse. Peep the interview after the jump.
Sweatshop Union: Q&A
Written by Shaheena Azmatullah for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: Tell me about Infinite, what about the project makes it exciting?
Conscience: Infinite is a combination of about a year’s worth of work; we did the first half roughly like a year ago and it was Leisure Gang. The second half, we took some time off because a lot of people had to go do other things so we came back and finished the rest of the record. That’s the way it was made.
HipHopCanada: What kind of issues do you tackle?
Conscience: Well for me, the name says it all. It’s more based on personal experiences of life instead of social commentary on the world in general. How you can personally make your life better versus the broad topics. We still obviously talk about broader topics but it’s more of a personal record.
HipHopCanada: Explain the title and artwork.
Conscience: The artwork was done by our friend Matt Andre from Victoria. We did the record first and we really wanted a cover that represented it well so we looked through his artwork and that was the one that jumped out at us. I love it, it’s my favorite album cover.
HipHopCanada: How have you guys evolved on this project?
Conscience: Over the last year, over recording, I can hear the evolution just in the album when I listen to it. From Bill Murray to this record I think we just took a step further in trying to be more powerful with our music. More deliberate with what we’re saying and just having more fun. As much as it sounds like a serious record, it’s a very fun record at the same time.
HipHopCanada: With Kyprios being gone, how has the group dynamics changed?
Conscience: We’re still good friends so it’s not like we feel like anything is really gone. As far as making records and touring goes, it’s very similar to what we’ve done in the past but just one less person. But we’ve got Ray Black who recently joined the group so we are still back at our numbers. I don’t feel like him leaving really did much as far as changing our focus.
Ray Black: It was pretty natural. It was a natural thing that happened, it wasn’t like a crazy decision and one person wasn’t down. It was kind of like everyone was on the same page about it. It was natural so it didn’t feel like something, there wasn’t any bad lapse or anything.
Conscience: We’re all still really good friends, he’ll be here tonight. There’s no bad blood there at all.
HipHopCanada: Would you guys consider adding new members to join?
Conscience: Just Ray (laughs). No, it’s all about friendship. This group isn’t trying to do anything necessarily, even deliberately. We’re just a group of friends that make music. When Ray joined the group it was because we’re all good friends with him and he’s like-minded, and down with what we’re doing. And he’s dope, that helps.
HipHopCanada: Having so many members in one group, how does it all work in terms of picking what song goes on the album?
Conscience: Well, you have a certain budget, so you know how many songs you’re able to record. When someone writes a song, we pass it along to people who we think would be good for the song. I don’t mean write the whole song, they start the song and we add our own verses to it and then other people jump on. It’s all very organic there’s no real planned out anything. It happens as it happens.
HipHopCanada: Any bickering here and there?
Conscience: Honestly no, not really. We’ve gotten to a point where we can be really honest with each other and if we don’t really like what someone’s doing then we can say that now and we know that it’s not coming from a place that’s of ego or pettiness, tryna be better than the next guy. Like if someone tells me something, I know it’s because they know that I’m better than that and they want me to be better than that. I love the fact that I work with a group of people who can catch me like that because a lot of people who don’t have that. They are surrounded by ‘yes’ man where we can be real with each other and accept that honest criticism.
Ray Black: Everyone has their own ideas but we compromise in a way. Sometimes we may not see their vision at first but then after a while we talk about it and then that person is on board or vice-versa. After discussing it and everyone knows that they have the best interest in that song, we take that into consideration and it just works out in the end and everyone is happy with it.
HipHopCanada: Going back with the idea that this album is a lot more fun, did that naturally happen?
Conscience: We were just in a happier place when we made this record. We were feeling free at the time and having a great time doing shows and something dawns on you where you’re like; all your friends are jealous of you because you’re out doing all these shows all the time. You might be unhappy being away from home and the girlfriend but in the end it’s like, wait a minute, these are probably the best days of my life and I need to start having fun. I think that’s what this album is about, us having fun. What we’re doing is awesome we love doing what we do, lets project that to our fans. A lot of what we’ve done in the past is complaining about what we don’t have enough, no money for our rent or this or that, but like in the end who gives a shit about any of that. We’ve got each other we’ve got ourselves, we’re all Infinite so why does anything matter, fuck it.
HipHopCanada: Why do you think Sweatshop Union is still relevant after so many years?
Conscience: We’re still ourselves. We haven’t really bent from being ourselves. Everybody evolves but our core values and the way we are is all still the same. As much as the music and the back-beat might have changed, some things might be a little more electronic now than they were like four albums ago, it’s just where we want to take it. The vibe of it and feeling of it is still what we started with. It’s still that same friendship. This group is based on a friendship. We’re all brothers, so it’s sweet.
HipHopCanada: Do you guys take the mainstream music trends into consideration when creating your own music?
Conscience: No, we play a lot of festivals and in these festivals there is a lot of electronic music. I didn’t really give it the time of day until we saw how people were reacting to this music, and how I was reacting to this music. I thought it was so powerful and the way it sounds and the way it feels is so powerful. I wanted what we were saying and what we were doing to have that power behind it, more powerful music. I wouldn’t even say it’s super electronic. We may be using a lot of synthesizers but we aren’t like making dub-step music or anything like that. We’re just utilizing different beat creating techniques, not just using samples all the time, being a little more creative and creating our own songs from scratch. It’s a lot of fun.
HipHopCanada: So has this project changed your perspective on artists who were underground for so long and then changed their music into a mainstream vibe?
Conscience: I don’t know if you can decide to go mainstream with your music anymore. The way that it works is that it’s so scattered that something catches on or it doesn’t. Look at Macklemore, he’s not doing something super mainstream but it caught on and became mainstream. People are going crazy for it; he’s been doing underground stuff for years. I like [mainstream music] too. I have love for all of it; I cant hate on it. Everything has got it’s own place and it’s own time and I don’t hate on really anything as long as it’s done well. The only thing that really gets me personally is that because of the internet there’s so many bad rappers out there. There’s so many that use that underground idea and are like you can’t like that mainstream shit but like you’re just hating. It’s just hate. I don’t hate them either but there’s no need to hate on that shit, there’s room for everyone.
HipHopCanada: What’s next for Sweatshop Union?
Conscience: This record, we’ll see what happens. You never know what happens with a record right? We’re going to tour it the best we can and as far as we can and keep making music as we go and another sweatshop record in the works for sure you know. This is our sixth, we’ve got to do more. Sevens a magic number but hopefully we’ll make more than that.
HipHopCanada: Have you guys started working on your seventh album yet?
Conscience: No, but I want to call it Seven. I think we will, I’m pretty sure. I don’t know for sure. We’ll probably start working on it in a bit.
Photography by Jamie Sands