Sunday, May 1, 2011

Interview with Knowmads MCs Tom Wilson and Tom Pepe

I really enjoyed the Knowmads show on March 12 at the Vera Project. They sold the venue out and it was electric, an excellent night of local hip hop magic.

I read The Production Venue's rise of knowmads by J. M. Galindo (which I mangled by repeately posting and deleting comments, dang) and got inspired to interview Knowmads, so I followed up via their Faceook page, got in touch with their manager, and arranged an interview with Tom Wilson and Tom Pepe.
I was curious if they had new material coming out, how they were able to sell out the Vera so quickly, and how they created their material. I also wanted to know if they'd disclose a little about their personal lives and the hints of ethics and spirituality that shine through the party songs and slice of life joints.
I interviewed Tom Wilson at his place first for a bit. Some of the details of how they handle headlining and how they draw a good crowd without a record label (hint: viral...) are interesting. It's kind of surprising to find he's twenty, but considering they dropped a couple albums while he was in high school apparently he's already been at this for years. Tom W. talks about where the Knowmads are and how they got there, and where they are going through this summer with new material and tours, interesting conversation.
Next Tom Pepe arrives and Tom W. fills him in, then I switch to interviewing Tom P. then both Toms. Tom P. gives a shout out to the political consciousness of the Seattle hip hop bands he listened to like Blue Scholars, Common Market and Maklemore for helping form his approach and talks about where he came from. Social media comes up again and he talks about how the approach has changed from their earlier work to the more recent stuff. Some criticism is addressed and the songs reflect their changing world, and some reflection on weed and drugs, I also draw him out on writing "River Runs Deep" - I really liked it, which I can't help but tell him (fan-boy moment!). He talks about it and mentions a possible video. Benefit shows for good causes: Trackademics, Japan Relief, and Human Trafficking. Tom W. comes back 12 minutes into it. We manage to hit additional topics like some shout outs to producers, how the violin accompaniment at the 3-12 Vera show came about (outstanding effort, the violin added a cool element to the performance), and even a brief discussion of faith; brief and oblique, but for not wanting to say much about faith they end up having something to say on the topic.
I enjoyed getting to interview both Toms and look forward to hearing what they have coming out of the studio as well as the Vera Project Japan Benefit coming up on April 30.
Being generous with the gate from their shows and giving back, giving their songs away to reach a wider audience rather than limit it to the ones who can pay, and sneaking those ethical and moral bits into their raps, credit to the Seattle hip hop scene for helping them form their conscious approach and hints of faith behind it all - nice overall approach, some fairly deep elements even if we didn;t go into them in details, it's sort of the opposite of the whole bling worship that you sometimes see in hip hop.
I hope their West coast tour goes well, and that they get the opportunity to expand the scope of their touring and get some attention from the new releases. Should be a fun ride!

Update: Free Knowmads show May 27 2011 at 12PM. Free with ice cream.
Rudeboy Reggae gives Knowmads a shout out and notices some of the same "super conscious, truthful lyrics" (in Rudeboy's words), and include a couple of embedded songs and a downloadable song, although the downloadable song requires an .exe download, so I can't recommend hat, but the embedded songs are nice - just turn down the download request and they should play fine, Wildflower was a standout song both times I've seen Knowmads, definitely a highlight with that powerful chorus amping up the audience participation and the band feeding on that energy...

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