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Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Robert Squire, am: 20.05.2004 ]

Mit seinem fabelhaften Album "Antagonist Survival Kit" brachte sich Robert Squire aka Sixtoo zum ersten Mal in mein Bewusstsein und sollte dies auch nicht so schnell wieder verlassen. Musikalisch und ästhetisch sehr nahe am Anticon-Umfeld bringt Squire verschiedenste Elemente in seinen Sound ein, der schon lange traditionelle Hip Hop Pfade verlassen und einen ganz eigenen, vielschichtigen und ungemein spannenden Ausdruck gefunden hat. Für mich ist Sixtoo eine der spannendsten Alternative Hip Hop Outfits in letzter Zeit, wobei Sixtoo mit seinem neuen Album diese etwas hilflose Umschreibung schon wieder zunichte macht. Ich sprach mit Robert über die Jugend, Selbstreflexivität und den ganz normalen Wahnsinn.


Musicscan: Please tell me a bit about how and where you grew up and how this influenced your music.

Sixtoo: I lived in the metropolitan outskirts of Toronto until I was 17, at which time I moved to Halifax. The first music I remember being into was Punk Rock/Hardcore, and by the time my early mid-teens rolled around I was spending quite a bit of time in Toronto¹s reggae and hip hop clubs listening to college radio jocks on CKLN and CHRY and getting radio tapes from NY. Moving to Halifax from Toronto there really removed me from an active dancehall scene, so I guess it's right around that time that I had really got into making my own hip hop stuff mostly crappy battle raps, misogynistic party tunes and cypress hill influenced drug raps. I was really bad.

Musicscan: What first attracted you to music and hip hop in particular when you were a kid?

Sixtoo: At first, I think I was mostly interested in the politics of the music. I was really into a lot of the first wave pro-black hip hop stuff (KMD, X-Clan, Lakim Shabazz, Two Kings in a Cipher) as well as NY radio hip hop stuff. The beats came second. Most of it was independent back then, and that was interesting to me as well, since I had mostly been listening to DIY stuff all along. Also, I think that in some ways, just growing up in the late 80's/early 90's had something to do with it. I mean, skateboarding and hip hop and graffiti and all that shit surrounding it, it all sort of blew up at that time, and a lot of people that were involved in one aspect of underground culture in North America sort of got exposed to others by default it's different than now, where underground culture becomes appropriated and co-opted so quickly that it can't even grow.

Musicscan: Who had the brilliant idea to put our a collection of your work ranging from 1996 to 2001?

Sixtoo: It was Vertical Form's idea to do that record, unfortunately, in hindsight, it wasn't such a brilliant idea. Not that they did a bad job in any way, it's just that the compilation didn't do sell well with distributors and based on that, a lot of the distributors were kind of sceptical about picking up my new LP making it a harder push in for the UK. The compilation should have been released after the Ninja LP. In any instance, I think it's a good retrospective for the people that hadn't been familiar with the older stuff, and I'm glad it was released, even if it means a little extra work to get the new stuff heard and felt.

Musicscan: Did you still feel comfortable with some of the tracks even though they portray a very different Sixtoo than what people might expect after "Antagonist Survival Kit"?

Sixtoo: Yeah, I mean, In all honesty, I'm a pretty harsh critic of my own material, so I think most of those songs are pretty terrible now. Those songs are a big part of my history and show what I was doing before I came into this phase. I spent many years trying to figure out my own thing before it turned into this, and so if people are interested, at least they can pick up one project, with all the best stuff, instead of 5 or 6 CDs, which they may find has a lot of questionable material. There are, however, some gems in there as well, I'm glad that it can be used as a summary for all the old material plus it looks really pretty and has a good liner note that explains everything.

Musicscan: Please tell me a little about your songwriting process. How do you create your songs? Do you already have lyrics in your head and you then try to find the perfect beats or vice versa?

Sixtoo: I mostly just write a lot, and I make a lot of beats. Sometimes, I write to beats, sometimes not. My process changes frequently. Right now I'm mostly just playing instruments, writing chords down, hooking up drums. My writing has gotten very personal, and so for now, I'm keeping it to myself and just working on instrumental music, primarily. I will, however, continue to do vocal material, it just might take some time to come out.

Musicscan: Did you approach your new album any differently than you did your previous ones?

Sixtoo: Yeah, for this record I basically stripped away the notion that I could only sample records, and built a lot of the source material out of stuff played by myself and friends. Lots of live play, live processing, very little use of computer. I'm playing drums quite a bit right now as well as bass and piano. I am still very much into records and the sampler will always be my instrument, I'm just now starting to feel comfortable as an engineer as well, and think I can make samples sound how I really like them to sound.

Musicscan: Is there a thematic continuity throughout the album, a red thread that connects all the tracks?

Sixtoo: There is very much Sixtoo in every track. The signature hard drums, lots of minor key progressions. I think space is important in music, you will find a lot of breathing room in there as well. Everything has its space. All the tracks are pretty stripped down and sparse, but with lots of depth as well.

Musicscan: What inspires you? Where do you draw your creative energy from?

Sixtoo: Mostly music but also film, visual art, books, friends. I draw my creative energy mostly from the places I live, the people I get to experience. Conversations. I mean everything has energy, it's just what we choose to absorb that makes us individuals.

Musicscan: What are you up to when you are not involved with music? What are some other passions in your life?

Sixtoo: I skateboard. I do design work and paint, sometimes to freight graffiti. Ride the train with my walkman on. Eat lots of candy, look at cute girls. Go check a movie.

Musicscan: Do you care what people write about you?

Sixtoo: I would like to say No, but I would be lying. I want people to write very honest critiques of the music, good or bad. I think very few writers know about music, and that there is a conflict of interest in that. If there were some decent music journalists besides the ones in Germany and Japan, I would be much more interested in what people write about me.

Musicscan: Do you read any reviews about your own records?

Sixtoo: Very rarely. I always end up pissed off.

Musicscan: If yes, do you think it somehow influences the way you approach your music?

Sixtoo: My music exists very much outside of any writers influence. I am a much harder critic and fan of my material than most of the people writing about it. I know what it is. It is me. I make music for myself first and foremost. The marketing and sales of it, really, has nothing to do with me as a person or artist. That is the job for labels and distributors, and is a conflict of interest for artists. I¹m sure at some point I will not be able to deal with my music being a brand, and will eventually just give it away. Until I can figure out how to make music and pay my bills as well, I will have to sell it.

Musicscan: Where do you picture yourself in about 15-20 years?

Sixtoo: I could picture myself doing big crazy symphonic things with visuals and some fighting robots. Maybe doing scores. Maybe making movies.

Musicscan: Do you think you will still be involved with music?

Sixtoo: As long as I am alive, I will continue to make music. Music is as much a part of me as the water and air is. I only really know how to make music.

Musicscan: How would you describe yourself as a person and in how far does that reflect in your music?

Sixtoo: I think most people would probably call me complicated or neurotic. I think different people have different methods, and that there is probably something to learn in most people. My music probably represents the more manic side of me, I tend to be creative in the wee hours when I can't sleep for whatever reason. I also think that I put my heart into my music, and that people can feel that.

Musicscan: Do you listen to your own records?

Sixtoo: I listen very closely when I make them, then I might not listen for years.

Musicscan: Would you do some things differently in retrospect?

Sixtoo: Yes. I think most people would do some things differently. Mine are minor. I would have made every growth period under a different pseudonym as to not confuse people or projects. I would have started playing piano much younger, because I think it could have helped my music grow quicker. I would not have gone to college, because paying a student loan for 10 years is just stupid, it keeps you so far in debt that you have very little choices with your art... you either have to sell your work, or work a shitty job to get by. I also would have practiced everything more. You can never practice too much.

Musicscan: Does the feeling of some songs change for you over time?

Sixtoo: Songs usually remind me of people or times. Those memories tend to get distorted a bit over time, but generally the feeling remains the same.

Musicscan: Would you say your music also has a directly political dimension to it?

Sixtoo: My music is much more concerned with the politics of arts and culture than the fashion of it. Yes.

Musicscan: Do you think it is vital or necessary for art to branch out into the realm of the political and the concrete?

Sixtoo: No, I think many people create good art that is devoid of anything except aesthetics, and that there is a place for it alongside political art and music, however, many of my favorite artists and musicians (in some small way) have held up mirrors to society without being so critical as to not entertain or draw emotion. I think that is important, and that there is something admirable in that.

Musicscan: 3 current favorite records, books and movies?

Sixtoo: Records: Black Ox Orkestar - Ver Tanzt; DJ Signify - Sleep No More; Miles Davis - Get Up With It.
Books: Prince Ombra by Roderick McLeigh; The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde; Tape Op Anthology by Larry Crane
Movies: Songs From The Second Floor; Kill Bill 2; Il Postino.

Musicscan: What can we expect from Sixtoo in the near future?

Sixtoo: New LP out now, New 12" in the fall... lots of touring.

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