A Kemical Reaction!
Rapper Kemical gets a lot off his chest about the industry and where he's headed.
When you discuss the rapper Kemical, (you’ve heard him on your soundcloud or pandora playlist) those that know him personally might consider the man behind the mask as “elusive”. Well, recently I was able to hold old Kemical down in place just long enough to have him answer a few questions. What he reveals to our readers is a man who is methodical in his planning and execution which is why the final product whether it’s his music or his upcoming comic are delivered so well constructed, it’s hard to ignore.
How’d you come up with the name Kemical? What’s the story behind that?
Believe it or not, it started as my alter-ego when I used to do independent wrestling what feels like a lifetime ago. I’ve adopted the alias then and stuck with it through the music because chemicals are everywhere; in the air, you breathe, in the food you eat, in the water, you drink. Chemicals are in your blood, in your brain, etc. In some ways, chemicals are to blame for mental instabilities, and it’s chemicals that people ingest in order to “fix” their problems such as prescription drugs and alcohol.
What genre of hip hop would you place yourself in, Backpack? Nerd Core? Do you even agree with the sub-genre within a genre labeling?
I try not to put myself into a particular box or genre for several reasons. For starters, one of my first songs was titled, “Odd Man Out” because I truly feel like I don’t fit into any particular genre from my appearance to my sound. I mix a lot of different elements to the point where I don’t claim one particular thing. Some songs are nerd core, some are heavier rap-metal types, and others have deep meanings that you have to dig beneath the surface to follow. I figure if I’m not on a label that tells me what to release, then I’m going to do whatever I feel is right for the song and the message I choose to deliver. I try not to hold limitations on my creativity that a “genre” may create.
I understand you’re pretty vocal about the music industry, what bothers you the most about it right now?
Today’s music industry is being overthrown by independent creators which I think is wonderful. The problem that I feel with that is that ANYONE can do this now with a bit of money and the motivation. Home studios are popping up everywhere and now everyone can have their voice heard. The problem with this is that the market has become so over-saturated that it’s difficult to get your face seen and your music heard amongst the masses of indie talent.
Social media is its own demon in that it gives people another (free, mostly) outlet to promote their music, but then it becomes this massive “Me! Me! Me!” spam which in my opinion creates a narcissistic ego out of the artist in many cases.
My final grievance I’ll touch on is janky promoters. They use many scams and schemes to put on shows such as A) Making the artist pay a huge amount to open for some headliner in order for the promoter to afford the artist in the first place, B) Booking 15 or more acts for the same show, etc. I’ve done shows for years now and right when you think you’ve seen everything there’s always someone out there to one-up the b.s.
How do we fix it?
As far as “fixing” it goes, I think the majority of these problems eventually fix themselves simply by becoming obsolete. When you think of how music has changed, not just in the recording process but in the promotional process, many of the problems then are simply not problems anymore. Everything changes, and will continue to change. I think the ones that want to be con artists will find some new hustle, and those who have the drive to be successful will continue to grind. So basically some things change some things don’t.
On the subject of janky promoters, I’ve seen that very thing! I know of a venue that charges talent to open for big performers, usually $50-75 dollars to perform two songs, only to be told halfway through the middle of the show that the “big name talent” had to cancel. Having said that, and experienced those type of negatives in the industry, do you see yourself starting to also engage in an advisory role to inexperienced talent?
At this stage of my career and my life, in general, I am in no way prepared to be an advocate for not getting screwed over. I don’t have the time to try and save an aspiring artists career, although I do think it could be fun to discuss pointers and things that I’ve learned. I look at it like this: if you come to me with a question, I’ll answer it if I can to the best of my knowledge/opinion based on my personal experience or education. But I’m certainly not going out of my way to help others right now. Could make an interesting podcast or something though.
Can you remember your earliest exposure to music? Was it rap?
I owe a lot of my weird taste in music to my brother. He was older and while I was obsessed with gaming, he always wanted new music. So if I was around him I’d often hear music that was way out of my age range, and I tended to follow him that way. So we went from late 80’s early 90’s rap and R&B with everything from Boyz II Men, Coolio, De La Soul, and yes even Vanilla Ice. My mom loved the Oldies so I love that to this day. Late in the 90’s my brother switched from that genre to metal so I went from NWA to Marilyn Manson and then delved into the Juggalo community for a long time with ICP and Twiztid and eventually Strange Music with Tech N9ne and company. I like the weirdos, the ones with the gimmicks that make them stand out. I guess that comes from being a wrestling fan.
Which artist influences you the most?
As far as the artist that inspires me the most it’s really hard to say. With the aforementioned artists that I grew up with, I think a lot of them have had an impact on my direction in music. The majority of my favorite artists, such as but not limited to Tech N9ne, have always had the mentality of “Do the music that YOU like, that YOU enjoy, and people will follow.” So anybody who has a message in their music, and promotes their uniqueness or willingness to bust out of genre boxes always inspires me.
Any artist out there in the mainstream or at least relatively known that you’d like to collab with?
My dream collaboration is the lead singer of my favorite band of all time, Powerman 5000. I’d love to work with Spider One. That band is the main reason I have borderline hearing loss. I am very fortunate to have worked with Prozak, a Saginaw, Michigan resident who is on Tech N9ne’s label Strange Music. He’s a big inspiration of mine as well and it was a blast working with him on a show and a feature on the song “Side Effects”.
Indie rap beef’s, something to worry about or good for the competitive nature of the talent?
I’ve honestly never been a fan of rap beef. Poking jabs here and there is one thing but I feel if you put that much energy into calling out someone’s name you might as well be their publicist. In many ways “all publicity is good publicity” as the saying goes. If I spend energy to write about you, spend money to rap about you, and then waste time promoting this hatred towards you, what have I really gained in the deal? I personally always thought it to be a waste of time but it has helped people’s careers at the same time. That’s just not a path I want to walk. </.font>
Of your music catalog, do you have a favorite? What’s the meaning behind that particular song?
I always find myself saying, “This is the dopest song I’ve ever done!” every time I step out of the booth and 90% of the time I truly feel that way. I don’t know if I have an all-time favorite but one that stands out to me was a feature I did for YounginDaGreat on a mixtape. The song was called, “6 Minutes of Murder” that had three emcees and no chorus. Just bar for bar and each rapper had about two minutes to rap. My whole verse was dedicated to why I go by the name of Kemical, and has some of the craziest punchlines I’ve put out. I tend to go a lot harder on features for other people because I feel I have to crush them on their own track.
A lot of my songs have hidden meanings, I love to write allegory type songs. For example, the most recent music video I did was for “Blast Off”. I feel the need to explain that the video came together in one day, it wasn’t pre-planned so it’s far from perfect. My fiancé has been dabbling with special effects makeup and one day she turned me into an alien so we just ran with it. But the meaning of the song can be interpreted two different ways: by not wanting to live on this planet anymore I’m saying I’m sick of humanity in many ways and want to find a new planet to start over. The other meaning is a bit darker. This song was inspired heavily by “Space Oddity” by David Bowie.
So what’s next, when can we expect Kemical to drop new music? A mix tape, a collaboration, and new feature?
It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the studio to record. The label I had helped create had fallen apart for many reasons I don’t care to get into anymore, so I took the reins on tackling my first comic book which requires all of my free time and funding. So for the past couple years music has taken a back-burner while I watch my new baby girl grow. She was born October of 2015, and so the addition to the family has also deterred me from music for a while. With the comic book nearing completion for this October, I plan to get back in the studio to work on my third album titled, “The Burial”. This is the final entry to my trilogy I began back in 2011 with “Deathbed”, and followed in 2013 with “Life Support”. I don’t have a projected release date, but the writing has already begun and the only thing I know for sure is that the overall feel and sound of this album will be unlike anything I’ve done to date. As with every album, I’ve grown in many ways and have learned many things. I take my experiences with me to the vocal booth.
You mentioned your label, it’s becoming all too common that rappers fall out of favor with labels even in the mainstream, have you considered starting a new label? Is running a record label a job really suited to a rapper?
I think the problem is that we strayed away from the original idea. It got too out of hand too fast. Too many moving parts in the same machine that was uncoordinated. It is very unlikely I’ll participate in something like that ever again. I’ll still work with many of those guys but the idea of a record label leaves a sour taste in my mouth now. I took on a lot of responsibility not just as an artist but as the main graphic designer and web marketer for a lot of people at the same time that I’m trying to promote myself and it became increasingly overwhelming. The business side kind of killed the creativity side.
Wrestling, Music and Comics, those are three very distinct careers that you have to give 110% to, your not currently wrestling but, you have the comics with Rapid-Fire entertainment and you’re music career, how do you keep yourself centered and give each career the time it requires?
The short answer here is I don’t. This is kind of one of my flaws. The name “Rapid Fire” has multiple meanings to us as a brand but one of the things I liked about it was our “rapid fire” process of developing ideas and stories and characters and all of that translates the same with a pen to the pad. I look at rap as another form of storytelling, just a different medium than a comic book for instance. But I have so many ideas swirling around in my head that some days I’ll be like, “Man I have to write about this song topic,” but my brain will go, “Oh man this character would be so cool if he did this…” Some of the hardest things for me has been finding that center of focus on one project. This is why you rarely hear me promote about music right now, I’m simply putting everything in this first issue of my first print release. Being the writer and creator of this story and not the artist means I’m footing majority of the bill throughout the whole process let alone making sure that my artist (Mark Marvida) can follow what I’m describing and create that on paper. It’s an exhausting process. I feel like a runner about to have an asthma attack at the finish line. You’re going to get beat up doing whatever passion or hobby you love, everyone knows it’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving that counts.
Where can we find more of your music?
You can find my songs on all digital media outlets, such as iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, YouTube, Reverbnation etc. My website is currently down during the downtime before my return to music, but when it’s back up the link is Kemical13.com.