Recently, I sat down and did a chat interview with my homie, Mikal kHill, about geekdom, music, mental health, and his new album Human Disaster. Because of the content, I'm posting it here and on my other blog, Halls of the Nephilim.
kHill: I am a singer, songwriter, rapper, producer, father, husband, and excellent pancake maker from North Carolina, presently living in the mountains near Boone.
Me: Right on, so since my blog, Halls of the Nephilim, is a gaming blog, what's your geek pedigree? I hate the term "geek cred," because I think it's dickish and elitist. I'm just kind of curious what sorts of geeky things you're into.
kHill: Ummmmmm, my biggest geeky thing is probably that I am an avid collector of Nintendo stuff and I am probably safe to call a "Nintendo fanboy." I even have a Virtual Boy and all the games. Haha. Also, I am sad a lot and read a lot of books in High School when the other kids were drinking, so I guess there's that. The joke I always make is that I spend so much time making nerdy music that I don't really get to keep up like I'd like to with the nerdy stuff i like but the joke is that it's not a joke it's true.
Me: I know you've played Magic (because you did that dope Planeswalker EP) and have played D&D? What are your thoughts about those games?
kHill: I've played magic since 3rd edition. I learned to play with my former guitarist, Kevin Morgan, and his brothers. We would play for hours every day and it fostered a love for the game that waxes and wanes (but mostly because I have to keep myself at bay or I’ll spend hundreds of dollars on cards).
D&D is something I truly loved, but I was mostly into the story telling, roleplaying and narrative elements, I truly loathe combat in D&D to be honest. Haha. My D&D group met for several years and have moved to various places (and befallen various tragedies) so I dunno if we'll ever truly get to play a game again.
My old DM apparently brought back one of my characters as an NPC in their game... I like the idea that he's still adventuring somewhere.
Me: It's a nice legacy. I have a few character that my friends have used in their games.
Me: Switching gears a bit, other than producing and such, how many solo projects/groups are you involved with.
kHill: Um, man, that is a suprisingly hard question. Haha. Let me think… Maybe.... 5 or 6?
Me: Obviously, you have your solo stuff and my favorite, ThoughtCriminals.
|Sulfur, me, and kHill at the NOFRIENDS Family Reunion show|
at the World Famous Milestone Club
kHill: The ThoughtCriminals, NOFRIENDS, Super Duper Group, Mikal kHill, The GladYerDeads, Two Weeks Notice.... That might be it? Haha. I guess Malibu Shark Attack, but I'm only involved in the live version.
Me: I love NOFRIENDS, how'd you guys come together? Also, for those unfamiliar, who are NOFRIENDS?
kHill: NOFRIENDS is myself, Sulfur, Tribe One, and Adam WarRock.
Euge (aka Adam) and I talked about doing an acoustic project at some point. That idea evolved into a crew. Silver Age was his and Niles (Tribe One) thing, ThoughtCriminals was me and Sean (Sulfur).
We had such similar idea and became such close friends as a group that it was natural to do that.
Me: I like that origin story. Could use more radioactive spiders and Ultimate Nullifliers, but it's good.
Me: Your music has a reputation for the heavy nature that tends to be the focus.
kHill: It has been said that I can be a bit of a downer.
Me: Of course, that's not what I'm saying, but I've heard people talk.
Me: I guess maybe this should have been my first question, but why do you make the music you do?
kHill: I think I'm the same way in real life that I am in my music, I just tend to be a bit of an... open book. Whatever is affecting me personally, whatever I am thinking about at the time is going to go into the music. That affects even the "nerdier" things I do, like the Slytherin House Mixtape. I just have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve.
Me: Me too, which could be while I enjoy your work as much as I do.
kHill: A big thing for me is I try to make the kind of music I would like to hear, and I try to make music for other folks to relate to. I am open and honest about myself so that folks don't feel alone dealing with whatever nonsense they are dealing with. I am always trying to be for someone else what Elliott Smith was for me. Haha.
Me: That sounds very noble, actually.
kHill: Eh, maybe in some ways it's selfish. It means I get to feel less alone, too. haha
Me: I try not to be this cynical, but even when we do good deeds, there's always a selfish aspect (even if it means we feel good because we've done good). As weird as it sounds, I think it can be both.
Me: Tell me about Human Disaster.
kHill: This is an album I've been working on for several years. I've released several other albums over the time I've been making it, and when The Snuggle is REAL came out it was actually outtakes from THIS album. Haha.
The original concept was to make a record that would start out extremely bleak and then gradually build up to a happy ending. I don't think that's exactly what happened, it's honestly (at times) my angriest work to date. It does deal with, for the most part, coming to terms with myself as an artist and dealing with my depression in a positive way.
Me: I know you talked about it earlier, but I respect the way you deal with depression in your music.
kHill: Thank you. I don't think depression is something to be like... ashamed of, so it doesn't bother me to talk about it candidly.
Me: People should be able to. Growing up a fat guy, I've pretty much always had issues with it (for various reasons that I don't need to go into here), but not one ever seemed to want to talk about it. In my experience people will acknowledge physical things, but don't want to talk about mental or emotional issues.
kHill: Yeah, absolutely. There’s much more of a stigma about things that way. Which is silly.
Me: To be well, we have to take care of all three.
Me: Looking at the preorder track listing for Human Disaster, I see you have several guests on the album. For those of us that aren't on your side of the music business, what's the process of that goes into that?
kHill: When it comes up with guests for the record I just think of my friends and try to imagine who would work best for the track, in terms of voices and stuff. I think of it the same way as adding another instrument to a part. I also tend to try to push people out of their comfort zone while still staying true to what they "are." Usually, I just reach out to someone and say "Hey, I think that you would sound good on this" and then we go from there.
Me: Haha. You know shit gets real when an artist uses quote marks.
Me: That makes a lot of sense though. The new album is being released in a few formats. I've got to ask, why cassette?
kHill: My last album, I decided to do it on cassette because (at the time) I was driving this old Cadillac with a cassette player and I just wanted more tapes to play in my car. Hahah. But once I had the tape, it really reminded me how much I loved the sound of rap on cassette... There's something about it. I can't explain it, but it just sounds good.
|Sulfur, kHill, Me, and Tribe One at|
Super-Fly Comics and Games
Me: My last van had a tape deck, and it was fun listening to Snuggle in it. Sadly, my new one doesn't.
kHill: The irony is that I was not a person with a ton of nostalgia for cassettes but once I had a tape of my own, it made me remember the joy of making cassette mixtapes and stuff.
Me: Props for the geeky references with the pre-orders.
kHill: Hahaha. Yeah, I knew the CDs would be totally not-rare, the tapes would be impossible to get once they were gone. So common and mythic rare seemed like the way to go. The tapes are half gone already and the presale has only been going a few day.
Me: I think the pre-order went live around midnight and by 12:05 I had mine pre-ordered (and the common cd).
kHill: You were one of the first folks who's name I saw in the orders list. And thank you!
Me: You're welcome. It's weird, but I think back to your track "The Moon" and I never hesitate to snatch up whatever you release.
I can't help myself with this one, so I've heard you're probably the anarcho-socialist in nerdcore. Would you care to briefly comment on that?
kHill: Well, it's just my politics lean... a little past left. Haha. I sorta can't believe it, but you are maybe the first person who's ever actually mentioned politics or that line in an interview. I think I'm sort of politically agnostic, I don't believe in anything. Everything looks nice on paper, but power corrupts and ruins everything. That said, my idealist side leans towards socialist.
Me: Makes perfect sense to me. Alright sir, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. In closing anything you'd like to say?
kHill: If anyone wants to peep the new stuff http://howcouldyoudothisto.me is a direct link, and all the other stuff (and links to my social media and stuff) can be found at http://mikalkhill.com
Me: I appreciate you talking to me!
kHill: You're welcome sir. It's been a pleasure.
Seriously folks, kHill is an awesome guy and a great musician. Do yourself a favor and go listen to his music, including The ThoughtCriminals. You won't regret it. While you're at it, check out Sulfur and Tribe One too.