Slaine speaks music moves, acting, and getting sober [Interview]
Vancouver, BC – Originally published November 26, 2014 – Sometimes an artists forces you to have certain expectations when listening to their music, but Slaine has a way of throwing you completely off, giving his audience something totally different and unexpected. His most recent album, King of Everything Else, tells the story of a man who’s got to the top but still remains thirty for more.
HipHopCanada’s Holly Brown Bear talked to Slaine about his collaborative process, music, his recent moves in film, and how this album inspired him to get sober. Check it out below.
“I remember when I was 24 years old and saying to the producer I was working with, ‘You know, I gotta make it by the time I’m 25 or I’ve gotta do something else.’ And he said to me, ‘well look, is this who you are? If it’s who you are there’s no time limit.’” – Slaine
Interview conducted by Holly Brown Bear for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: I’d just like to say thanks for taking the time to talk to us at HipHopCanada, I was really excited to learn I’d be speaking with you.
Slaine: Well thanks for taking the time to cover me.
HipHopCanada: So you’re in Europe right now?
Slaine: Ya, in Copenhagen, pretty much at the end of the tour. Four shows in four more days and then we’re back to the states.
HipHopCanada: Wow that’s crazy! How are you enjoying everything out there?
Slaine: It’s great; you know it’s almost been ten years I’ve been coming up to Europe touring now. First time I came out was with Edo G and Special Teamz and there’s been a lot going on with my career in that time. You know it’s cool to see than and now and things have just gotten so much bigger, like no one knew who I was when I first came out here, it’s been crazy.
HipHopCanada: You’re touring out there with La Coka Nostra, right?
HipHopCanada: And you mentioned they aren’t your only collaborative group, you’re also a part of Special Teamz.
Slaine: Yup, Special Teamz was the first group I did, I just really like the collaborative process, to me that’s the best part of making music. I like working with other people and my career kind of came in the age of freedom. You know there’s good and there’s bad about where the music industry was and where it has been most of my career, like it kind of crashed at the beginning of my career but I think as an artist you were able to do whatever you want and collaborate and not feel like you’re owned by a company. I think it was good because I like to work with a lot of people and throw a lot of different looks out there. Building friendships, relationships with people working together it brings out a lot of different colors in you and different types of music. That’s what really keeps it interesting.
HipHopCanada: Ya, I think having someone else to work with and bounce ideas off of is where you really get your best flow so I can see where you’re coming from with that. So when you come to Canada that’s going to be your solo tour?
Slaine: Well, it’s not really a full tour it’s 9 days or so but it’s a little run so I’m excited for that.
HipHopCanada: I noticed unfortunately you’re not coming to Vancouver but a lot of Eastern and Central Canada dates. What area’s will you be stopping for our East Coast and Central audience?
Slaine: A bunch of smaller places in Ontario, but also Toronto and Ottawa, Montreal, St. Johns, Newfoundland. Well, I’ll be trying to put together a West Coast run, same idea 9-10 dates probably early 2015.
HipHopCanada: That’s awesome, I know the fans will love that. Especially Newfoundland. I’m actually from the East Coast and I remember a lot of times getting skipped over from a lot of different artists.
Slaine: Ya well it’s kind of a hike up there, but I was actually up there last year with Madchild last year, and it’s really cool, it’s like it’s own culture out there, it’s great.
HipHopCanada: It is it’s own part of Canada, that’s for sure. So since you mention touring with Madchild, I was listening to your album King of Everything Else and I heard you did a collaboration with him and Tech N9ne, my favorite song actually, “Bobby Be Real” and I know you’ve done collaborations with Madchild in the past. How do you like working with him?
Slaine: I have a blast working with Madchild, he’s just a real creative and positive guy, a lot of positive energy and he’s just a pleasure to work with and we have some stuff we’re working on and wanna put out an album eventually. It’s just our schedules are always crazy and we’re always going in different directions. But I actually talked to him this morning. He forgot I was in Europe and ended up calling me at like 5am. I ended up waking up right before that, so we ended up talking and we’re gonna start working on our album early next year.
HipHopCanada: That’ll be sick, I know it. So I ended up watching the trailer for the movie you have upcoming called By the Gun and it looks amazing. Is there anything you can tell us about it? What’s the story, who’s your character?
Slaine: It’s like a modern age mafia story, a bit of a different take. It’s about a guy who grew up idolizing the mob from his neighborhood and from all of the glorification of it and all the old movies so he’s kind of like a wannabe who becomes a part of it. Eventually he’s trying to get made and he does and then madness ensues after that as he realizes a lot of different things and it’s kind of the journey of that guy. My character, I play one of his best friends, I’m kind of like a lone wolf assassin dude, Irish dude, mafia doesn’t like me but I’m one of his best friends and that’s another kind of conflict he comes into, is choosing between the me and his mob ties. But it’s cool because this is one of the first movies I have a lead in so it was a challenge and it was a good one.
HipHopCanada: And when does it release?
Slaine: It comes out December 5th in the States, I’m not sure about Canada though. Like you know, it’s an indie film and I learned a lot about the business from this movie. I’ve been involved in it from the beginning from getting investors on board. I don’t think it has distribution in Canada unfortunately, I just found out because I told them I’d be in Canada when it releases I could do some promotion for it but they said it won’t be coming out there.
HipHopCanada: That is unfortunate. Well you never know, maybe we’ll get lucky. How was it working with the crew? I know Leighton Meester was in the film.
Slaine: Oh she’s a total sweetheart, she’s very talented for sure, it was cool working with her, cool working with everybody. Like I said I enjoy the collaborative process and film even more than with music it’s a real team effort, everyone from PA’s to Assistant Director to the Director and one person not doing their job will effect everything. It’s a real intricate process. It’s cool though, those people become your family for the duration of the shoot and I’ve had nothing but good experiences since I started acting and it’s something I really love to do.
HipHopCanada: Ya, it seems like in film it’s always a lot more about the bigger picture. I actually went to Vancouver Film for writing in film and television and when it starts off you almost feel like it’s your baby but over time you need to realize it’s a group project.
Slaine: It’s so much work, you know as an actor you can only really do what you do and there’s a whole other post-production process and they’re really the ones who make you look good or bad and I’ve been really fortunate to be in a lot of good pieces. I’m still in the infancy in my career as an actor. You know the way a performance is edited can alter your work drastically, like I’m used to having complete control of my work, it’s definitely a different feeling to give up control and not even see it and then see yourself 18 months later your just so separated from it by then.
HipHopCanada: It’s great that you do so much artistically, musically as well as in film. I read you went to the Visual Arts school in New York and got kicked out for having an altercation with one of the staff there. Is there any truth to that?
Slaine: Ha, actually ya, ya there is. It was a friend of mine who had an ongoing thing with one of the doorman there and one night this baby pit bull ran up to us and we started playing with it not realizing it was his. He ended up running up on my friend and we ended up beating him down and it was just a really messy situation after that and I had to leave school. After that I just concentrated on music because around that time I started rhyming in cyphers and getting on stage, doing open mics so after I left school I just started with music.
HipHopCanada: So you were going to school you were going for film, specifically?
Slaine: Ya actually, for screenwriting.
HipHopCanada: Wow, in New York of all places that must have been really exciting!
Slaine: Ya, I don’t think I quite appreciated it enough then. I was always a story teller and I always wanted to do something creative. I kinda had some trouble when I was a teen but I cleaned up my act and a year after high school I wanted to get in to collage but I was young and I fucked up, but it is what it is.
HipHopCanada: I feel that for sure. I actually was 19 when I went to Vancouver film for writing in film and television and it’s hard to really appreciate it for what it is at that age. Hindsight is always 20/20. But it seems like you definitely made it beyond that, even if it was rather unconventional.
Slaine: I caught a couple of breaks with it too, and I was really dedicated to being an artist. I was who I am, it was what I was going to do. There was no plan B. If you stick with it and you work really hard at what you do you catch breaks. You know I didn’t catch many breaks with music it ended up being in film.
HipHopCanada: Especially with a film like you have coming out it should open a lot of doors. Overall it doesn’t sound like you really caught a lot of breaks, it sounds like you just worked really hard knowing that there was no plan B for you. You know people say that I want to be a musician or an artist, but how bad do they really want it? It sounds like that’s a big part of your success.
Slaine: I remember when I was 24 years old and saying to the producer I was working with “You know, I gotta make it by the time I’m 25 or I’ve gotta do something else.” And he said to me “well look, is this who you are? If it’s who you are there’s no time limit.” and that really resonated with me, and that was the point where I didn’t give myself limits and I was just going to do it for myself and ride it to wherever it takes me. That was probably 12 years ago now and it wasn’t long after that good things started happening. You know I think when you really commit and decide 100% that’s what you’re going to do you’ll start getting breaks it’s just a matter of if you’re willing to work on it and take all of your time to work on it. It doesn’t always happen when it’s convenient for you.
HipHopCanada: I feel like when you’re younger the media puts out this idea that you have to make it when you’re young because, when else are you gonna make it? Being 24 myself that’s a good word of wisdom is just to keep working hard and that time isn’t a factor if it’s something you love.
Slaine: It’s the truth. At 24 you’re just a baby, you got plenty of time really, just keep doing what you’re doing.
HipHopCanada: I was listening to your most recent album King of Everything Else, it was very raw, and very real. I noticed that you talk a lot about your family, recent divorce and drug addiction. Obviously these have been really big influences in your life. I was just wondering how these experiences have influenced you artistically.
Slaine: You know that’s one reason why I like acting because I get to be someone else and I’m usually these indestructible tough characters. In music I have to be me and deal with my own insecurities and my own failures and that’s how I use my music, even since I’ve been young writing rhymes, it was always my coping mechanism… that and drinking and doing drugs. This album I had come a long way, I went from a warehouse with no electricity or hot water in 2006 to touring the world, doing movies, working with my idols and finding a lot of dreams and making money but still never being equipped with the responsibility to handle any of that. So I was still taking a lot of my old attitudes and old way of living into my new life, which is what “the king of everything else” was about. I was this train-wreck going into this land of opportunity and still bringing all of my vices with me. When I record stuff and make albums I can listen to it and tell where I am from that, it’s like an out of body experience, seeing my life through someone else’s eyes and this album was a big part of myself getting sober. It’s like watching a movie of your own life and this album was a big change for me.
HipHopCanada: Ya, that’s the thing about music is that you’re always wearing your heart on your sleeve. It’s great that you could use that to get to know yourself so much better and evaluate your life from that. Congratulations from moving forward from that.
Slaine: I was hell on wheels for a while, I’d not sleep for four or five days at a time. It wasn’t pretty. Most of that album I made when I was like that. Most of the recording I was black out wasted.
HipHopCanada: The life of a rap star! How long have you been sober now?
Slaine: Nine months clean and sober, December 3. Two weeks away. It’s been different, but I feel great, I’ve never felt so good on stage. I’ve done almost 100 shows like this now, I’ve recorded, I’ve created and that was my greatest fear. As if somehow drugs and alcohol somehow gave me these magical powers to get on stage, like it was a never ending well of inspiration. And in someways it is, I work a little slower, I’m a little more critical of my work, I can’t be in the studio 20-24 hours it’s humanly impossible but the things that I was giving up for that just wasn’t worth it.
HipHopCanada: So what do you think is next for you? Artistically, musically, in film?
Slaine: Well a million things. I gotta couple movies that I shot coming out, By the Gun, another one I shot in Canada the horror movie, Girl House, another one called Dead Draw. I’m really just trying to figure out my next move. I wanna try some different looks on film, different roles that people wouldn’t expect from my. I’m writing a screenplay. You know, I watched By the Gun go from a screenplay into production and I think that’s a big part of that. I’ve done everything in music from a do it yourself perspective and I want to do the same in film, write myself the characters I like, write comedy, I can see myself directing in the future but basically just gonna take it one step at a time, one project at a time. Progress, not perfection.
HipHopCanada: Well it sounds like film was your first love so it should be exciting for you to get back to that. I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us; and congratulations on getting sober. I look forward to seeing you perform in the New Year. Enjoy your last few days in Europe!
Slaine: Ya it was really nice talking to you. You’re in Vancouver, right? I’ll see you there!
Interview conducted by Holly Brown Bear for HipHopCanada
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