Geng talks to the UPA about his intricate work and the hustle of being an artist in today’s world.
NYC. There is an ancient noisy dissonant sound here that can be heard in all original NYC music, but is hard to replicate. Why are people drawn to NYC, why do we stay with the high ass rent and in what ways does it inspire your work?
People come here mostly off of the rich history, as in the stories of actual legends now viewed via Youtube clip or Tumblr share. What young person interested in any form of art wouldn’t want to fight tooth and nail to share the space that once was where Haring and Basquiat and Blondie and CBGB and Paradise Garage, flyly dressed gangs, and Hip Hop all existed? Imagine if you were to be noticed, or actually catch fame here. There’s also the idea of access, or excess, that I think some may see as an ideal entry or resetting point. Some get it, some get lost in it and just end by jacking up the price of rent in a neighborhood. I think equal parts stay or move to LA or “back home.”
The frequency channels of this place are based on high levels of stress and non-stop motion: non-silence. Plant yourself in an environment that completely opposes any standard notion of comfort and watch how quickly your thoughts deviate from those of “safety” or “controlled.” Now try living in that for years, or imagine being born and growing up in the chaos: horns, sirens, the hum of a crowd, penetrating bass from a car system, neighbors above, below, and next door, trains screeching and rattling on the tracks, etc. Everyone’s rushing and running to or from something. It’s 360 and you realize that you have to move similarly along with it in order to not get smacked into the rocks or swallowed by it. You need to start thinking beyond, to see passed it. It’s a ceaseless assault on the senses which can reflect a war against one’s self, from a Buddhist informed angle by which one learns to receive and peacefully accept the chaos and relentless noise instead of denying the fact that it exists.
I was one of those who were born and raised in it – 80’s and 90’s, pre-Internet and obviously pre-9/11, it – and that’s precisely why I make music most would consider “heavy” or “loud” or “scary,” hahaha.
Tell us about your daily hustle running the label, and making ends meet.
If you’re an artist, in the business of running a label, or working a day job with int’l clients, you’re going to be spending hours out the day in front of a computer. Multitask, my friend. Releasing media as a creative platform, especially in the physical realm, means a shit ton of administrative stuff and communicating with various people from the artist(s), press, distribution, pressing plants, plus creating To-Do lists, and learning every dark corner of the postal system. The other thing you need aside from time, knowledge, and patience, is money – and space if you’re talking about vinyl and/or garments. Lastly, what you should realize is that running a label that produces vinyl nowadays is like taking a cross-country ride with only a bike that is too small for you: said format is by no means the quickest, nor safest, nor easiest way to an end as it really isn’t for anyone but hardcore collectors with the access (i.e. the aforementioned space and money plus equipment). It’s a great way to pile up debt and consumer waste hahaha.
Bottom line: you’ll need a solid day job, therapist or spiritual advisor, and possibly a side hustle to make ends meet – or a wealthy, generous family who are willing to invest in your dreams. This isn’t something you do unless you love doing the work and helping others, especially if you’re primarily flying solo in your endeavors. You will probably never pay your rent with it, so really the game is trying not to run oneself too deep into the hole. I’ve been fortunate to have my real job of 12+ years to rely upon for things like paying bills and funding PTP’s activities. I’m not one of those people who thinks art is the end all, be all. My mission is to have that balance of fulfilling work that pays the bills, and art as my escape – not my art one in the same with my day job. Call me scared, but I don’t want to risk wringing the fun and whimsy out of making art. It loses that essence of revolt or therapy, and turns into routine task if you assign money to it. Truth is, art for the consumer market works in waves and no wave runs high for a lifetime – shit, most folks have to go forgotten over decades or posthumous before they get that “legend” price tag for their work. I’ve got a beautiful life of good health, prosperity, and ill art to maintain and grow – I’m fine to work with others, meaning sometimes having to take an order, to accomplish that greater mission. Hey, you’re either doing that or getting your art money from a check issued by a corporation which earns from dumbing down and hurting our people with their sugary drinks and alcohol.
The night life has changed drastically since the 90’s, it seems more divided in regards to styles, classist systems, what can be done to improve NYC sound system culture overall?
Honestly, I don’t think there’s a realistic “end all” solution as the shit has been mixing in with the drinking water for decades now, but I’ll say the motion of putting on for your scene/community which seems to be the healthiest is by continuing to be conscious of who you are booking, creating balanced lineups, selecting spaces run by good folks who actually care about peoples’ respective wellbeing, making sure those spaces are somehow supporting the community in which they take up space, etc. etc. etc. I’ve made mistakes and been not-so-woke here and there, but by constantly listening and holding oneself accountable, that moment of realization hits and that’s how I grew and got better at being an event producer or curator.
We already have great early bills, but I’d love to see more dry supportive shows – a way for everyone to eat without reliance on alcohol sales.
Saw you cooking online, and i know a few producers who cook as well, including Falty DL (former sushi chef) and Spectre from Wordsound. I think the correlation between music and cooking are clear, but maybe you have some other views.
Both are examples of real-life alchemy and act as a canvas for storytelling. Music and food are unspoken languages which possess the ability to transcend communication barriers such as those which stem from verbal language differences. You’re channeling frequencies and these can be challenging, yet sublimely rewarding, daily meditations. Also, both have been made into consumable media, food probably being the most ancient form of this.
Do the knowledge on our science in relation to the Earth and natural food sources vs. what the industry literally invents and packages up to make seemingly ingestible, especially in the US. The first thing you’ll hopefully notice is the tricknology at large, then from there you can begin to fortify yourself with more of what will not only taste wonderful, but will have you feeling better in the end – instead of this processed insanity. I mean that most literally, as in the shit they’re selling off as “food” has been proven to make people go crazy, reduced brain function to promote subservient behavior within the host, and plenty other things people have been told to not worry about because they’re still alive and don’t yet have cancer or heart failure. Kids way too young to have done drugs recreationally or smoked a bogey are obese and have some form of diabetes. Then look at where and in which communities it is that these stats run high. You gonna tell me this isn’t poisoning the well, beyond the flouride?
Your Puerto Rico project looks like it took off! Tell us more about how that came about.
We had a growing archive of unreleased music and reality tells us that there’s never a shortage of people who need some extra help. I just want to remain and expand on how I can be useful in the space which I occupy – and I wish no different with PTP. I found out about Derek Cruz’s relief effort for Puerto Rico through a friend on Facebook and found whole thing to be sincere, utterly selfless, and helpful in informing the public of what was really going on. I wanted to do my part but donate a little more than what I could by myself. Enter the Shine compilation which took much of the PTP creative surplus and made it available to the public for the first time for pay-what-you-wish. All of that money goes to this amazing relief effort.
This was the last bit of fundraising PTP managed to do in 2017 – part of the $3,000+ that was raised and donated to various organizations through shows, sales, and special releases. Positioning PTP to function partly as a charitable mechanism was really what breathed new life into the operation – otherwise, I would’ve ended it a while ago, trust me. Much love to everyone who has donated and shown love.
Lastly, please tell us about any future releases and projects you’ve got in the stove.
On the solo side, I’ve got a new project called King Vision Ultra which dials into my most “raised in the 80’s/90’s NYC” sensibilities. It’s a rugged instrumental hip hop + pause tape narrative on the cycle of mental illness and these (failed) systems of rehabilitation, among other things. The first album is done, entitled Pain Of Mind, and dropping via Ascetic House in February. I’m working on a few more KVU related projects to fall before and after the album. On the flip, I’m working on a Geng release or 3, some remixes as well as some beautiful collabs. In the 20 years that I’ve been writing music, I’ve never been this productive, it’s very refreshing.
On the PTP side, I’ve got most the 2018 year lined up already: some harsh noise, audio books, 20+ minute noise rock, black metal, hip hop, jazz… all literal god music. Zines, a book drive, and more East Side Powervioence garments too. Sleep not.