LISTEN: ‘The Best Work We’ve Done’ – Strange Music CEO Travis O’Guin On Tech N9ne’s ‘Something Else’

Jun 20 2013

Travis O'Guin and Tech N9ne

Over 20 years of blood, sweat and rhymes have led up to what could be the most defining moment of Tech N9ne’s career: Something Else.

Alongside Tech N9ne for every step of the way was none other than Strange Music CEO Travis O’Guin. The man notorious for applying common sense to an uncommon line of work has solidified Strange Music as the quintessential independent record label and has no plans of stopping anytime soon.

Who better to talk to for a sneak peek at what to expect on what will be Tech’s biggest and most important album? In the first part of this revealing two-part interview, Travis tells you why Something Else is Strange Music’s best album to date and definitely lives up to the title.

Besides having a great product with great music and giving the fans something great to listen to, what’s something you’d like to really see happen as a result of the release and reception of Something Else?

What I want to see is a continued growth in the fan base and a continued spread of the music. What’s most important to me is to get the music to everybody that we possibly can, because honestly I think that this is the absolute best work that Tech has done this far. I think it’s the best work that we’ve done production-wise, I think it’s the best work that we’ve done from an art aspect, I think it’s the best work we’ve done from a feature aspect, I think everything we’ve done with this album is exceptional and I’m not just saying that because it’s the newest. Because what I did when we finally finished this thing last week and got all the pieces put together, I went in and evaluated it by listening to it mutliple times. I then took the time to take it out of the player and go back to the past albums: I went back to All 6’s and 7’s, honestly I went all the way back to Anghellic, and then I did Absolute Power, and then I listened to a few of the Collabo pieces and then I also went in and listened to Everready and then I listened to Killer.

I went back and said “Okay, are we progressing? Is the music getting better? How does it compare with past work?” and trying to put it on a level playing field so I can do an honest A, B comparison. It blows it away, and that’s saying a lot because All 6’s and 7’s was a great album. I think Anghellic was a great album, however sonically it’s nowhere near what we do today – musically, sonically, the sounds, the production, the level of production, the transitions between songs, the content, especially the features. We try not to do too many features but the ones we do fit in perfectly and it’s just the best work that has been done this far and everybody else that’s had an opportunity to actually hear the music also agrees. It’s a very, very positive thing and so what I expect is for the music to touch more people. I expect more people to get turned on to Tech N9ne, to Strange Music and I expect the fanbase to grow immensely off the album release. These songs are too big not to be heard by the masses.

Is he still pulling new tricks out of his sleeve? Every time you think he’s run out of ways to blow your wig he finds another way.

I think that what you’re going to hear on this is some stuff that he hasn’t really done before. So there’s some music on here that is different. The title Something Else is meaningful because there’s a lot of music on this particular album that Tech hasn’t done before. He’s letting you inside even further into some things on a song like “I Am Not A Saint”. I can’t even believe he recorded the song because it’s going to fuck him up personally, but he went ahead and recorded it and said some stuff that I think is super-revealing that I’m shocked that he did.

Travis Quote

In addition to that he did some stuff with the opening track, if you go back and listen to the opening track “Industry Is Punks”, that was such an aggressive song, right? He starts off this album with that same kind of aggression except this time he’s got (featured artist) on the hook and by the time you get to the third verse, you listen to verse one and two and both the hooks, you’re like “Okay this is really fucking dope” then when you get into verse three you hear these heavy guitar riffs – it’s some other shit man. It’s really really fucking cool – it’s aggressive and it’s angry. There’s definitely some more rock influence in pieces of this album. There’s definitely stuff that’s just straight hip hop, straight rap music, right? Better than what most rap music is out there, no offense to anyone, but there’s also some rock influences because you know that’s a big part of Tech and there’s a ton of innovative shit. The one song that he did that I can’t really talk about…there’s several features on here that I can’t quite reveal yet, we won’t be able to reveal them until later on this month, or the beginning of next month. Some publications like Rolling Stone and a couple of other people are going to be doing some really really big stories on some of the stuff we’ve managed to put together on this particular album.

Obviously you’ve known him for quite some time, what is it about him as a person that leads to him being able to continue to grow as an artist? How would you connect his character and his ability to keep growing artistically?

I think that he’s continually trying to progress. You have rappers, you have singers, and then you have artists – you have true, full-on artists and musicians. I think the category that Tech is in is he’s a true artist. He’s not just a rapper looking for the next cookie-cutter song that’s going to go radio and it’s going to be simplicity, simple sing-along shit. That’s not what Tech does. He’s looking for a way to tell his stories in a way that are infectious, in a way that are relatable, in a way that it’s innovative.

The music has to be cutting edge, innovative, the wordplay has to be there and then the actual tracks, the music has to be there. What other rappers are out there, I mean there’s very few that are bringing in the quintets, bringing in strings and violins and all of these different things into the music or doing production that has a variety of different live instrument sounds that isn’t just “Okay here’s a track, here’s a rapper, put the together, here’s song, go.” Fuck that! It’s much more of an involved process and if you look at it, I pushed the album three fucking times.

I think that Tech is going to continue to grow. I think he’s a student of this. I think that he’ll continue to come up with new ideas. He’ll continue to come up with different ways to convey messages which is the biggest part of his music and I think that he’ll find a way to connect with people, not just for this album but for many albums to come. He did a masterful job of doing it on this particular album. It’s his best work yet, period. It’s the best fucking thing we’ve ever done. And that’s saying a lot because we’ve done a lot of really great shit, I’m just exceptionally excited about this particular album.

Speaking of pushing it back, I know we talked awhile ago and you said it was really important for him to have the time to achieve a certain level. Was it important for you to give him that time?

Yeah, it was really important because the thing is, part of our curse is that we love the fans so much and we go out there and we try to get in front of them as much as possible, right? But when you’re doing that for 200 dates a year, 200-plus shows a year, you’re taking 240, 250 out of a 365-day year and there’s not a lot of time to get the creative side out. So, that’s why it took two years to get this record done. We recorded the first song well over a year and a half ago. This record, we took more time with it than ever before. We actually broke it up into different segments in between tours and that type of stuff. Tech isn’t the type of artist that can be exceptionally productive on the road as far as recording or even writing. The thing that does happen on the road are the life experiences that give him the thought process and the data and all the input to put together better songs. Life’s experiences are a big part of what Tech’s music is so what he’s experiencing out on the tour is definitely important fuel for what it is he’s going to come back and put down.

Tech N9ne Live

Like I said it’s our biggest curse, being on tour and not having the time necessary to do all the recording that we want to do is why this particular project took so long and we try to balance that but if the demand is there and people want to see Tech, I’ll take a bath if I don’t do that. If we don’t tour as much as people would like or if we don’t go to Denver, Minneapolis, or Seattle for a whole fucking year, people will wig out on me. They’ll be online like “What the fuck!? When are you going to come here? When are you going to come here? When are you going to come here?” I mean it’s overwhelming. I’ll get thousands of e-mails like “When the fuck is Tech going to be back in so and so?” So we try to balance it man. We try to service the people: we try to get Tech out there to connect with the fans on a one-on-one, staged-audience type of situation. We do the VIPs unlike anybody else in hip hop, anybody else in music really and we continue to try and have that one on one relationship with the fan. That creates a very, very difficult environment in order to get an album done. It gives him plenty of shit to talk about but we don’t record when we’re out on the road. We have two songs on this album that we recorded on the road and it was just a couple of verses out of this entire fucking masterpiece of an album. We got two verses done while on the road, everything else was done when he was here, back home in Kansas City or when we went out to Los Angeles and did some recording out there.

Are there going to be different songs available on different bonus versions of the album?

You know what man, I’m going to try and create a level playing field for everybody because oftentimes when we have to do those different versions it’s because retailers are forcing us into those different versions. This retailer wants this as an exclusive, this retailer wants this as an exclusive, this retailer, they all want their own little exclusive to try to drive traffic to their stores.

What I’ve done this time is done a standard version of the album. I then did a deluxe version of the album which includes this really kick ass laminate pass that’s basically shrink-wrapped to the front of the album. Inside of there there’s also an extra disc, which is a DVD, and it’s the making of the album which is a really, really fucking cool piece. It’s a really dope DVD that goes through the making of the entire album. In addition to that the bonus version has three additional songs that the standard version doesn’t.

So again, you have a standard version, a bonus “All Access” version is what we’re calling it, and the standard version just has the tracks along with the standard packaging and it’s a great album. The bonus again has the laminate on the front of the packaging, a different cover, a DVD which is the making of and you also have three additional tracks of music on there. Then when you go into iTunes your’e going to have, it looks like a choice of either one of those and there may be an iTunes version with a couple of bonus tracks. iTunes will definitely have an “instagrat” track that will be available on July 2nd or July 3rd, I can’t remember the exact date, but there will be an “instagrat” available on iTunes where they’ll get one of the songs off the record in it’s entirety for pre-ordering and there may be a bonus song or two on the iTunes edition as well, however we’re still working those details out.

Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Travis O’Guin!


Tech N9ne - Something Else

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