interview: femi the drifish wades into new music frontier
By Sound Check
February 28, 2012
Femi The DriFish started doing spoken word in the mid-90’s but recently switched over to his more alternative sound where his poetic skills still resound. He has shared the stage with KRS-ONE three times, traveled with Raheem Devaughn during the Slaminomics tour in the early 2000s, and opened for Saul Williams. Femi started to explore and evolve his own artistic imprint with Clown Without a Circus, moving beyond the spoken word world but still retaining much of its flow. Not only but he and his partner Native Son as part of 5th L works with the Violence Prevention Program at the University of Maryland hospital to help teens create a healthy outlet for their emotions and experiences. Very worldly, Here, we managed to have a chit chat with Femi the DriFish.
Interview by Olivia Haynes
When did you get started?
I got started being expressive as a wee little boy in London, England where I drew and scribbled on everything. As I got older, I used my drawings to vent, purge and create anti-heroes (I’m a huge comic book, superhero fanatic) but would always had short quotes next to my art work that reflected what I was feeling at the moment, I’m not sure if that was therapeutic or just encouraged/ enhanced whatever was troubling me at that time.
How long have you been performing poetry?
Whether its poetry, spoken-word, or rhymes, I’ve been seriously hitting stages since 1996 and made it my sole monetary earning tool since 2000.
What made you change over to rock?
I wouldn’t say I changed over to rock all of a sudden and I’m not completely rock right now. I’m a hybrid entertainer, grew up listening to rock while living in England, but in Nigeria in the late 80’s pop music was what was popping, and then coming here to the States I’ve been a heavy hip hop head, so I guess I fall into what they’ve dubbed as “alternative”.
Ever since I started putting out albums as a solo artist or as a member of THE 5th L (poetry duo I’m in outside of my solo band activity), rock music has always been present and represented in our music just as much as hip hop. They both capture the type of energy I exude in my writing, in my mega volume voice and definitely in my animated high energy performance style.
What do you see for yourself as a musician and performer?
I see my music and performance walking ahead of me to places I’ve never been and back to the places I have been as a poet/spoken word artist. I see my band gracing larger stages, touring nationally or even internationally with rock and hip hop acts to combine those audiences that seem to have made a split decades ago. I see another album in the making fully recorded with my band, The Out of Water eXperience; my last album was a mix of live instrumentation and tracks.
Where did the name “Dri Fish” come from?
Femi The DriFish is a title that came from a nick name I acquired when I moved here to the United States from Nigeria. I was so used to Nigeria’s heat that the DMV’s summer’s heat didn’t seem to bother me none at all. I’d play outside all day with my cousins in VA and somehow I’d be the only one bone dry while everyone else would be drenched in their sweat from hours of hard playing all day under the sun. One of my cousins dubbed me The DriFish as a joke and I owned it right away then used it as a tag name for all my drawings before I ever thought I’d be on stage as a lead lyricist for a great band.
When folks ask me now I just say, “I be the man who can be dropped in the middle of the ocean and not get wet (I’m rubber made), for I am unlike no other, standout like a fish out of water, so I am the dri fish.”
What’s the logic behind the album “The Clown With No Circus”?
The Clown With No Circus is an album that embodies everything I am currently as an artist in look, music, feel, lyrics and atmosphere, it’s also another title I’ve given myself (I have many). Looking at a circus as an industry or a work place, an enterprise and in most cases you can see that only clowns are the ones who can go rouge and can exist without the circus and still earn a living. You never hear about the bearded lady at birthday parties or the high wire act guy by himself just doing his thing on the street corner, or even the lion tamer putting his head into the lion’s mouth as part of your company’s dinner function do you? Clowns can be sad and still paint on a smile to give a show in order to entertain others who might be unhappy. Clowns are always in disguise so you have to dig in deep to figure out who they are if ever at all you’re able to. Some folks have a clown phobia and need to overcome that and some clowns are intentionally frightening so approach with caution.
What’s next for you as a performer?
We’ve done a lot of show over the last year and a half, in Baltimore, DC, VA, NYC & parts of PA and now it’s time to do more, go further and to move our music further before we reach those destinations. As a poet over the last 11 years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to so many cities in America, just because someone thought what I had to say was important to be heard where they were, and what I’m doing now is no different if not we offer more with the live music.
What is your ultimate goal for your musical and artistic pursuits?
Touring is definitely in the cards, getting our music videos to go viral is what we want to see, making more music to match my lyrics is a definite, and selling plenty of albums is what has to happen to achieve our goals. Beyond that, I’m a poet and a writer, I’ve written graphic novels that I need to put drawings to, I act a fool publicly that I’m sure can be used productively in films or tv shows, and as a band (The Out of Water eXperience) we are ingrained to our label (www.Stinkifacemusic.com), so we aim to push more talented artists out of Baltimore City to show the world that great art/music can only come multi-dimensional minds that never settle for the norm.
What is the response you get for your acts and costumes?
At The Clown With No Circus album release party last year, I wanted it to be a carnival circus freak show party and that’s how we promoted it. To my surprise many folks in attendance came dressed up in costume and not anything pretty either, they embraced the carnival freak show look and I appreciated that while they had a great time. I do the costume thing occasionally, it’s not at every function we promote random Halloween but when we do, it’s always crazy to see the bizarre fans/supporters I have (warped minds think alike).
* THE 5th L & The Violence Prevention Program is inviting any of you with youth groups of any kind to take part of our P.H.A.T Program which takes place at the University Of Maryland Hospital, for more detail please click on this link; or email thedrifish@5thL.com
* Banner photo by EYENI Photography
Get The Latest
Signup for the AFROPUNK newsletter