interview: afropunk fest 2013 vet mykki blanco talks ‘gay dog food’ #soundcheck
By Sound Check
October 27, 2014
At this point, Mykki Blanco needs little introduction. The rapper and performance artist has emerged as a major force in the underground, merging queercore, riot grrrl, industrial, and hip-hop. Mykki’s latest record is titled Gay Dog Food, and drops October 28th. It features guest spots by Cities Aviv, Cakes Da Killa, and the immortal Kathleen Hanna. I recently talked to Mykki about the new record, and what it’s like to work with your idols.
By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor
Where are you right now?
I’m in this city shooting a movie for my friend Cody Critcheloe, from this band Ssion. So I’ve been in this motel. The set is in this motel. So we’ve been staying in these 3 rooms. So we sleep in the set at night, and then in the morning we wake up and someone comes mid-day and prepares everything again. So I’ve been in this motel for 2 days shooting this short movie. Tomorrow at 6 in the morning I fly back to Los Angeles.
That sounds brutal.
Yeah. It’s been fun though. It’s going to be a cool movie. It’s a short film from that fashion brand Hood By Air. So we’re using a lot of my songs off of this new record Gay Dog Food for the video. So it’s this weird demented dog theme to the video.
When’s it coming out?
I don’t know when it’s coming out. The trailer’s going to show at the Museum of Modern Art on the 30th. I’m going to do a 30 minute set, and then on that same night I have my own Halloween party at Glasslands.
So you’re doing one of the last shows at Glasslands?
Yeah. I’ve got my show at Glasslands and the Hood By Air party at the MOMA that night as well.
Have you heard what’s going down there?
Yeah. It’s messed up! That whole block is being bought up right. First it was 285 Kent, and now Glasslands.
Yeah. Death By Audio’s gone too. Vice Media’s coming in and taking over the whole thing.
It sucks, but I’m not surprised. The corporatization of New York City is just really happening right now. People have been saying that for the last 30 years, but it’s actually actually happening right now. New York’s about to be like Hong Kong or Shanghai. It’s going to be so expensive, and it’s going to be fucking weird. In the next 20 years it’s going to get weird in New York City.
Oh, for sure. Tell me more about the new record. You’ve been working on this and recording it all over the place…
Yeah. Gay Dog Food began because I was having all this fucking anxiety. I had toured for so long. I was in the studio here and there, but definitely not at all like I fucking needed to be. I was having a really great time. To be honest, the last two years as far as travel have been fucking awesome. I’ve been all over the world and I feel so blessed by it. I feel super blessed by it. I’ve had crazy experiences, and I wouldn’t change that for the world, but I needed to get my ass in the studio. So I took this window of time when I got back into the States for a month. Gay Dog Food had been brewing for a while, but I felt like I had to get this out. Once an idea comes to fruition you can keep getting better. So I started working with Gobby who’s one of my best friends and the executive producer on this record. He produced 5 of the tracks. He’s an electronic musician based out of New York and Boston, and we just got to work. I had called him on the phone and played him like some Ministry and a lot of different industrial influences, because that’s the sound from when I used to do my little Garage Band productions. I knew that I wanted to continue to make music in that vein, but I’ve learned that I’m more of a songwriter / performer, and not a producer. So I began to seek out people who were really good at making like hard shit. It wasn’t that I wanted to make a super punk record, but I wanted Gay Dog Food to have a certain cohesive sound.
Did you grow up listening to Ministry? Who were the industrial bands that inspired you?
My favorite bands were Skinny Puppy, Thrill Kill Kult, definitely some Nine Inch Nails [laughs], Prodigy, Primal Scream, and then Kathleen Hanna’s Julie Ruin record. I’d consider that pretty hard. [we share a protracted “yeah…”] And Iggy and the Stooges, I used to listen to that shit. That would really get me off. I wanted to make Gay Dog Food more reflective of my actual live show. I can make dance music, but I wanted to make music that reflected the high energy of my live shows.
So what’s behind the name? Why Dog Food?
If I was ever to have an alias from Mykki Blanco, it was Gay Dog. If I needed to play like a different kind of set or if it was a performance art kind of thing, Gay Dog was always the alias I would use. And when I started to put together this collection of songs I was like “I should call this Gay Dog” and then I thought I should call it Gay Dog Food because it’s like the meat of my tracks.
How did you end up collaborating with Kathleen Hannah on this?
The whole thing was so serendipitous. I don’t want to be one of these people that makes some big cheesy deal “oh I made a song with my idol” but Kathleen’s record—more than Bikini Kill or Le Tigre—for me as an artist, her record Julie Ruin is one of the most influential records of my entire life. Honestly, I see so much of how that record influenced me—and I don’t want to sound cheesy—on a record like Gay Dog Food.
I feel like Julie Ruin doesn’t get enough respect. Everyone’s all about Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, I never hear anyone talking about her solo record.
[sings] You make me want to! You make me want to crochet! There’s so many different vibes, but all this great stuff. So that inspired me. And there are some tracks where I’m singing a little bit. And I’m not gonna lie, I’m kind of embarrassed, but this is what I wanted to go for. And I’m not afraid of trial and error.
Well, isn’t that the spirit of punk rock? I mean you’ve said you’re a punk not a rapper. In what ways do you identify as punk?
Well, those are my people. Whether they’re from the Bay, Oakland, Detroit, New York, wherever. When you start to make your way in the world, besides all the shit you do to survive, when it comes down to it, those are the people I hang out with. Right now, I just moved out to LA, and I’m living with punks in this big house. I’m getting my own place next month, but who sheltered me from the storm? The punks. This is the world I identify with. It’s not some marketing thing. People want to put all these “gay rap” labels on me and all this shit, but I’ve got to let people know that that’s not cool. If you call Gay Dog Food “gay rap” then you don’t have any fucking clue what shit’s called. I think of Gay Dog Food as more grungy. The original name was Gay Dog Food Femme Slick, and that was going to be this sludgier vibe. I was feeling like some of the Mykki Blanco stuff was kind of corny. As an artist, you should evaluate your work, and not repeat things that you find to be corny.
Totally. If you’re not evolving, you’re eventually just going to run dry.
I always want to work more towards having tracks with unexpected shit going on, but it’s still a good song. I like making weird music, but I want to get to that perfect formula of making weird music that bumps, you know?
Do you feel like the new songs are getting the same kind of response live versus the more dancey stuff you’ve been doing?
Certain of them. “For The Homey’s,” “Cyber Dog” “Fulani” and “Moshin In The Front” for sure. All of those songs have been getting a big response. “Baby’s Got Big Plans” is a really good performance song. When I said I wanted to make music that corresponds more to my live show, like “Baby’s Got Big Plans” is like a full on fucking thing. Even though for me it’s definitely an experiment with the whole vocal thing, I’m glad I got it out of my system, cause that’s one that I really enjoy doing live.
Where do you want to go next? You’ve got a full length coming out in 2015 right?
So far I’ve started on 3 tracks in LA. So from now for the next couple of months I’m just in the studio. I’m going to come out with a more hip-hop oriented mixtape in the spring. And then my record will come out some time early fall. I think early fall is a good time to come out with music.
Is there anything else people should know?
Yeah, on Gay Dog Food, one of the last tracks, “Gay Dog Interlude” was created by a noise musician, this woman in Baltimore named Zoe Burke. She created the last interlude. She created the actual electronic machine that made the sounds.
Really? That’s fucking dope!
So yeah! Shout outs to fucking Zoe. I put out an APB for someone who could do that kind of thing, and she made that for me and let me put it on the release. And Gay Dog Food wouldn’t be anything without Gobby as producer, helping me hone in on the sound.
1. Runny Mascara
2. New Feelings
3. For The Homey’s
4. Baby’s Got Big Plans
5. Self Destruction
6. Fulani feat Ian Isiah
7. A Minute With Cakes feat Cakes Da Killa
8. Moshin In the Front-feat Cities Aviv
9. Something Special feat James K
10. A Moment With Kathleen feat Kathleen Hanna
11. Solange In the Elevator – feat Katie Got Bandz
12. Cyber Dog
13. Lukas feat No Bra
14. GDF Interlude
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