Northern Transmissions catches up with the “forefather of indie-hop” Sage Francis. His new album Copper Gone comes out June 3rd via Strange Famous records.
Northern Transmissions: You have been on a bit of a sabbatical, what’s been going on since your last record?
Sage Francis: Well, here are the basics: After the 2010 world tour I decided to step away from doing major tours. I wanted to see about developing a home life of some sorts. And I succeeded. However, it was a lousy home life. It was a pretty good 24-hour work station though, I guess. I ran Strange Famous Records. I helped people develop their albums, released the Sick to D(eat)h mix-tape, and recorded the entire Copper Gone album within these walls. Really, things got kind of bad and now that they’re kind of getting good again. I’m not trying to focus on the bullshit. I’ll miss my cats and the solitude, but I’m just incredibly excited about experiencing new things, releasing an album on my own record label, and sharing time with people who matter to me.
NT: Some people thought you had retired from making music, were you a little surprised at that?
SF: I’m surprised they thought I retired from music considering how I clearly stated otherwise. Ha ha. And I’ve released songs every year on various projects. But I know where the confusion stems from. When you say that you’re done touring I guess people equate that with quitting music. Because how the hell can a musician live and make money if he’s not touring?
NT: Can we expect to hear personal songs on Copper Gone?
SF: Well, yeah, I suppose all of my music is personal. I just try to make sure it’s not done in a way where people are left completely in the dark, the way a inside joke does. I’d like to think that everyone can find their own brand of humour in it.
NT: You worked with Buck 65 on the new album. How involved did he get in the project? Have you worked with him before?
SF: I’ve been working with Buck 65 on and off since 1999. In fact, he produced a few songs on my last mix-tape and my last album. I released his “Situation” album on Strange Famous Records back in 2008. However, his involvement with Copper Gone didn’t happen until the very end of the recording process. He was trying to help me figure out music for a song called “Thank You” and the music he sent me ended up inspiring a song that I wrote and recorded the same night I received it. That song is called “Make Em Purr.” I thought the album was pretty much finished until that song came about. At that point, it was clear I did have a few things I needed to share for this whole album to make sense.
NT: You started writing when you were eight years old, what inspired you? Do you remember some of the first things you wrote?
SF: I have no idea why I took to writing so early on. I do remember liking the idea of telling my own story and controlling the words. With hip-hop it was a bit different though. I was mostly interested in figuring out all the ways that rhymes can work. That’s something I never get tired of. And, yeah, I can remember the first raps I wrote. They were wonderfully awful. “My name is Ace and I rock the place and if you come any closer I’ll rearrange your face.”
NT: Do you feel that you get more writing done in isolation?
SF: No, not really. I find that I write a lot of stuff while sitting around busy areas. A lot of writing gets done on airplanes and when I travel. I suppose I’m still isolated in those cases, but I don’t need to be totally alone or in silence.
NT: Are you excited or nervous to be hitting the road again?
SF: I’m fucking excited about it. I’m never thrilled about all the extraneous stuff that comes with playing shows, but I really do enjoy putting on a show and engaging an audience.
NT: Where do you see civilization in the next ten years, do you have hope for the future?
SF: I have no idea. I look forward to helping shape it in one form or another. Keeping my hopes high and expectations low.
NT: Which five albums still inspire you?
SF: Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions” album turns 22 years old today! That album will always be a source of inspiration. Not many albums really inspire me to do anything though. I guess it’s mainly the albums that I studied and fell in love with as a kid. Depending on the day and mood, the other four albums would probably be Paul’s Boutique, Buhloone Mindstate, Paid in Full, Illmatic.