WR811: Kitz Willman

Episode 811 July 19, 2023 00:41:34
WR811: Kitz Willman
Witchpolice Radio
WR811: Kitz Willman

Jul 19 2023 | 00:41:34

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Hosted By

Sam Thompson

Show Notes

I caught up with experimental prairie rap impresario Kitz Willman to talk about the new Grim Errands album!

We got into making (somewhat) more accessible hip-hop, influences from Alice Coltrane to Thrush Hermit to John Prine, including lyrics in a rap album, and much more!

Need more Kitz Willman? Check out episode #574 (March 2021).

This episode brought to you by our pals at Devine Shirt Company and by Hot Goth Summer Fest II, happening Aug. 11 at Blue Note Park!

Huge thanks to everyone who supports the podcast on Patreon! You can help out for as little as a couple bucks a month if you like the show and want to throw some change in the guitar case!

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Episode Transcript

WITCHPOLICE RADIO: All right, welcome to Witchpolice Radio. I'm here with someone who is a returning guest on the show. It's been a couple of years since you were last on here, and the timing works out great because you have a new record out that I've got a lot of questions about and I'm sure you want to talk about. But I think the best way to start this off is if you want to introduce yourself and just give a bit of background about who you are as an artist and what it is you do. KITZ WILLMAN: Okay, well, thanks for having me again. I'm really excited to be back on Witchpolice Radio. I'm Kitz Wilman, originally from Treaty Six in Saskatoon, spent most of the last decade in Ontario, but I've been in Winnipeg now since 2020, and I'm a producer, multi-instrumentalist, primarily drums and saxophone. I started playing in hardcore bands, but for the last five, six years, I've been doing a solo project which ventures into the world of primarily rap. So the thing we're going to talk about today is a real hip-hop forward release, but there's a few different things that I do, some very experimental sounds. The last one that we talked about, Royal Visit to Uranium City, is much more in that experimental realm. But that's that's me in a nutshell, I think. WR: Well, it's good that you mentioned that stuff because that's kind of where I wanted to start, actually. Your new record, Grim Errands, is very different than the last one that we talked about because, like you said, Royal Visit to Uranium City had a lot more kind of almost stream of consciousness style, avant garde, experimental, whatever you want to call it, sounds. And this has some of that for sure. But it's definitely, I think, on the whole more of a hip-hop record rather than something that's maybe a little more abstract, if that makes sense. Do you agree with that? KW: Yeah, totally. And that was really the intention. If you keep swimming in the same pool, you figure it all out. And there's good things to figure out about that. This diving board has a bit more spring and the screws are loose on that ladder over there. But I do like to give a bit of a different look every time. And so this one was a very concentrated effort to make my version of prairie rap music and the tradition of Clothes Horse Records, Side Road Records, Peanuts and Corn, these kind of labels that we know and love out here in the prairies. So part of that was a couple of the songs have some hooks to them, but not a lot of that. A bit more of taking more time to write the lyrics being intentional with that. And so I think the greatest difference between last album to this one is just making sure I have thought about every word and there's not so much left up for interpretation. Not that my lyrics aren't also a bit abstract as well. It's always going to be a bit more opaque than even your Kendrick Lamar's or Jay Z's of the yeah, sure. WR: Yeah. And this is much longer, too. I mean, this is pretty densely packed. There's a lot of content on this record. How long was this in the works? How long were you working on this project? KW: Quite a while. And the release of it was something that I really wanted to do differently. And I tried to do you know how restaurants have a soft opening? WR: Sure. KW: I wanted to do a soft release for this. So the songs would go back to maybe the earliest ones being in fall of 2020, but definitely winter of 2021 was when I really kicked off putting these things together. And so there was a few different things I did. One was putting out this CD-R in May of 2021. You were one of the people that got them. It had six songs that went on to be part of Grim Erin's, some of them not changed very much, but so I really was trying to not be so precious with this release and not worry about the big drop date. Sure. Even as you're calling it a new record. It's funny because this other podcast, I'm not going to say it, but they messaged me and they were like, hey. So because the streaming release says 2022, they view it as old and they only want to cover new music. And they're like, there's this other album I just put up on streaming, which we talked about in the last one, where I do these Ukrainian folk songs, and they're like, is that one going to go up on Bandcamp? Because we really want to put Bandcamp links on our articles. And it's really fun for me to have that kind of interaction with the little bit of music media that there is in Canada that's paying attention to me. So you've known about this stuff? I went through the date so if May 7, 2021 was when I first put it out, like first showed some of it to people, I love the big wait until July 5, 2023, when it finally comes out on the CD, but it's been available at my shows in April and stuff like that. So it's been enjoyable to take a bit more of what we'd maybe consider like a pop approach to the music and having it be more palatable, even though, like you said, it's still dense. But then taking this other approach where rather than experimenting with the sounds so much, I'm experimenting with the business side of what I'm doing as an artist. And it's really been super enjoyable to have this sort of existing alongside me while I'm still creating new things, playing shows, and not necessarily trying to mimic what someone with a lot of eyes on them is able to do. WR: Yeah, I kind of like how you've subverted that because I think a lot of people... we're in an era where you can really dictate how you want to release things and when you want to release them, and a lot of people are still kind of set in this rigid way of releasing music. It has to come out on this date in every format. You're obviously playing with that because you don't need to do that. There's no reason to in 2023 based on the way people actually consume music, for the most part. KW: Totally. And one of the most fruitful things I found with this release is the CD-Rs would have been the first way they appeared. And then so if that was May 7, 2021, a year later in 2022, I uploaded the whole album to the internal music catalog thing of TikTok. Okay, so to me, that was kind of like it's on the internet, it's available out there somewhere. If you search in metadata online, that might be the official release date, you know? And it's interesting to look at music historians from a time when we would have thought all of those things were so easily discernible. And it really isn't. Like, there's this guy, Dart Adams, he's a big hip-hop historian and he's always looking at these discrepancies and when things were actually released, you know, maybe the deluxe edition came out. And that's what Wikipedia thinks is the legit one. So putting stuff internally on TikTok has been a really cool way to be able to share the music. But also, again, five years ago, there's no TikTok rollout on anyone's minds because it just doesn't exist. WR: Of course. Yeah, well, and you're making it hard for all of us who are nerds about the release dates and wanting to historically keep track of all this stuff. But no, that is a thing for sure, because I follow a lot of websites that list sort of on this day in whatever year, such and such. KW: Yeah, exactly. WR: And half the time it's wrong. Like, half the time I can go look at the record on my shelf and it has a different date on it. And because I think there's so many it's on Wikipedia, it's on Discogs, it's on this and that, it's hard to kind of get a concise date on something. And it's even harder now because, like you said, the TikTok release, the streaming release, the Bandcamp release, the physical release, it's all different. KW: Yeah. And it's mashed together. And so just being aware of that reality gave the opportunity to even play in this field. Because prior to this release, I was trying to do it more in a pattern that is familiar. We'll say pushing for the Tuesday instead of the Fridays, which seems to be what the major label is like. But I'm sure you can relate with going to CD Plus or HMV or wherever else here in Winnipeg on Tuesdays for the thing and then never finding. WR: It was because that was the US release date. And then getting disappointed every time. KW: Exactly. Yeah. WR: One thing I like about this record, too is that you've included the lyrics, which is not something you see often for a hip-hop record. I wish it happened more, but first of all, it's a lot of words based on the length of track list. And some of the songs, again, are very dense lyrically as well. What was the reason behind that? I mean, obviously that adds to the cost of printing it and all of that crap that you have to consider when you're putting out, especially a physical copy of an album. Why was it important to you to include the lyrics for these songs? KW So I'll give the logistical aspect first, just talking about the printing and considering what more that would cost. And you'd be surprised at how low the amount is for adding more pages to the booklet you're going to do. And I just kind of thought, if I'm not going to have lyrics in it, what am I going to have in the booklet? Like, I didn't want just a one sheet in there. You know what I mean? I wanted you to have something you could fold through. And then the other aspect is exactly what you were talking about with rap not doing this. And I totally understand certain people's perspectives and withholding their lyrics and kind of maintaining what mystique or mystery they can, sure. But for me, I kind of think like, I'm proud of these lyrics and I really think they stand on their own. If someone's just going to open the booklet and read them, I still think that is going to be a worthwhile experience for them compared to maybe previous bands I've had where the lyrics is the last thing we worry about and it's not so much of a focus, but with this, it was. I want to put these out there in the same way as I do put the lyrics on bandcamp anyways. So if you're going to get the CD, I want you to be able to have that experience of opening it up, looking through these things and ideally listening along. Like, I can remember being super into local bands and you'd see them for the first time in local meaning maybe they're from Winnipeg, maybe they're from in our local scene here, right? And I would sit with those booklets and I would obsessively learn the lyrics to be able to get the mic thrown to me at the next show or whatever. And there's this one band, the Ghost Pride Murder, they're called. From Calgary, I believe. And I obsessively learned the lyrics, right? And sometimes it's funny because you look back and it's like the cadences weren't really conducive for you to learn it at all. Sometimes, especially in heavy music, they just kind of get the lyrics out. But so the singer in this band had a twin brother and this is their last tour. And the twin brother is doing vocals instead of the normal guy. And so I'm at the front singing these words and he doesn't know the words. I'm filling in the lyrics. He's forgetting because I've so obsessively looked at them. So having some of those experiences, it's like I've actually precluded myself from even having that happen because I haven't given the people the tools to maybe what they need to obsessively learn my lyrics and come to the show and sing them. WR: Now they can. KW: Yeah, totally. WR: I'm hoping well, it's interesting, too, the way you have it laid out, because lyrics are, first of all, when there's a lot of words, you got to figure out a way to fit them all in the book. And, I mean, obviously the lines are divided by, like, a slash at the end of each line. But it is kind of just these dense paragraphs of text and kind of like you're saying, it doesn't really give an indication unless you're listening along what the rhythm is or what the meter is of what you're saying. It's just words. So I think that someone has to be really sort of hyper focused as a listener in order to follow along, because it's not like the kind of thing where someone can put it on the background and go off and do something else. If they want to actually use the lyric book for what it's for, they need to sort of be fully engaged, which is almost a rarity these days for people in music, unfortunately. KW: Yeah. And that's another part of the logistics of printing. It is kind of being like, okay, it doesn't get to be that much to add more pages. So, okay, let's do the eight page booklet. And that's what it is. But then I started to think because when I was designing it and stuff, I would grab CDs off my shelf and be like, well, what does it look like? How small is the font? Or stuff like that. And realizing that when they had too big of a booklet, they annoyingly get caught on the little tabs. WR: Yeah, it's too thick to fit in the thing. KW: Yeah, exactly. So not wanting to space them out in the way that I might if they were just poems or like, the way that they look on the bandcamp page. So that's an interesting line to kind of toe, because with this next release, I'm working on the physical for the Saskatoon one with the Ukrainian folk songs. I want them to maintain their stylization a bit more just because they have the opportunity to. I don't need to cram as much in so figuring out these different ways of utilizing this new medium that I've honestly never really worked in that much. I only had one band in 2012 that put out a CD that actually was in a jewel case, where you could have everything, and we did have the lyrics in it. So that's another element of thinking of it as a medium where I can present this visual art. And I had Posy Leg did some photography that was in it and trying to give a more full experience because visual art is a huge inspiration to me just as much as music is. WR: No, that makes sense. And I think that's also interesting. Like you're talking about the photography in this. Nowhere on the actual cover does it say the name of the artist or the name of the album. It looks really cool. It's got this 'taken 20 seconds after bomb thrown' written at the top. And it's interesting kind of because like we said earlier, this is maybe more accessible musically, a lot of the songs to people, but it's still somewhat obscure if you find on the shelf, there's not really an indication of, first of all, what kind of music it is, who the artist is, what the album is even called. I mean, you look at the back, you can see Grim Errands and stuff and the song titles. But you know what I mean, right. It's got this kind of mystery to it despite also being more accessible. Is that something you did intentionally? KW: Not exactly in that sense, I think now I could say I'd like to be able to say, yes, I totally thought that, but it was more so. The thing of, okay, I'm working with this physical. The physical is something I'm expecting people to hold and yeah, just turn to the side and it says the title and stuff. And there is a bit of maybe a dualism with the front to the back where I wanted to have this nature presentation. But that caption is from this photo of these two dead anarchists in Chicago. So I actually took that off a different photo and put it on this one. So kind of when I can talk about it, there's some influences there and it's just like Honeysuckle Trees. That's what the photo is. But the back is just totally copied off my favorite Alice Coltrane album, Journey In. Having to someone who is familiar with the stuff that I'm drawing influence from the back might make them think it's a jazz record. WR: Totally. It looks like it. KW: Yeah, it definitely does. Yeah. So I like having that element where I said in the last interview, jazz is always a part of it and it doesn't show up so much on this album. Aside from there's a couple of jazzier songs and I did put some sacks in there, but having those other ways, again, with the physical medium to point to, I don't really take too much actual musical influence from Alice Coltrane but I have a song a couple of projects ago called Alice Coltrane. I like to point to these people again and again because whether or not the music is discernibly influenced, I still want to make sure people know this is someone who has a big impact on me. WR: Lyrically, is it more -- I don't want to say more serious, because it's not that your other ones weren't serious -- but it feels like on some of these songs you're dealing with it's possibly because it's more straightforward. Whereas the previous record was more abstract. But has this given you an opportunity to sort of touch on more topics that you wanted to sort of be more elaborate on? KW: Yeah, definitely. And that was part of, like I said with the last one, it being a bit more expressive, I would say, and some of it was improvised. And so it kind of becomes this thing where maybe not all the components I'd like to have in are there, like, Bad Gardening Advice did a really good overview of Grim Errands, and they did this section where they listed all the musicians I named, they listed all the vehicles I name and things like that. Where that is a real fundamental aspect of wanting to put these things like an I Spy book where I want to say Joel Plaskett and Thrush Hermit because I really like Thrush Hermit. And so if someone out there just happens to hear that part, it might give them that little extra thing to say, oh, well, this person is familiar with this. And the thrush hermit records, while maybe poppy, sometimes they're not polished affairs. And so you can sometimes point to these other things that are not necessarily subject matter per se, but they are iconography is really the way I'm thinking of it. And at the same time, yeah, I have a whole song that's about driving. Driving is a big part of my experience. I used to do a job where I drove around. My dad is a truck driver. So car culture is really something that's embedded kind of throughout the album in a way in which maybe in Royal Visit, I think I talk about cars. I mentioned an auto shop in the one song. Yes, but it is more by chance that that happened on that record, whereas this one, those things are happening with total intention. And I also, for the first time, had songs that were on the record at a certain point in time, and then they were taken out for maybe not necessarily fitting it. And you said maybe not necessarily more serious, but if you looked at those songs, they were a lot less serious, and that was what made them not fit as much. WR: Well, I was just thinking maybe serious isn't the word. It suggests that the previous songs on the other album weren't just, I guess, focused. Maybe is maybe a better way. Focused on topical. KW: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. But yeah, the serious thing also does resonate where I do think yeah, I just think Left Lane Larry is silly, but at the same time doing, like, a cover of a John Prine song in the time where he was one of the big artists that died during, he's someone he's someone that I've listened to a lot while doing that driving job. Like, I got into John Prine because every year I'd pick a new singer songwriter to get into and a lot of those people show up, whether it's Lucinda Williams or Blaze Foley or yeah, John Prine. And so I think John Prine is a really good example of an influence where you would never say he's an unserious artist. No, but he makes you laugh a lot and he points to the absurdity of life and he always seemed to have a chuckle ready to come out of him as much as, yeah, he's singing a song that might bring you to your knees. WR: Well, and that's an interesting reference as well, in the sense that you wouldn't necessarily think someone like John Prine is going to influence a hip-hop record. But it's, again, one of those sort of touch points where people who maybe are fans of John Prine can hear even the slight reference in there. And it's like, oh, we have something in common. I need to listen to this deeper, or I need to give this more of my time to find know what is the connection between this artist that I like and this artist I'm hearing for the first time or whatever, right? KW: Yeah, totally. And playing with covers like that is really fun in hip hop because it gives you something to like it takes away the control of the lyrics, which is the thing you mostly have control of. And it's like, how can I craft a vibe for this song? And it doesn't sound anything like the Saddle in the Rain version that he does. There's a live one on YouTube that I particularly love that's like really rocking. But it's something I've done before in the past. Like me and Kay the Aquanaut, he did a Gordon Lightfoot cover on our last project. I covered a Blaze Foley song before. So putting these things in there to specifically point to country and folk and even the blues, these genres, where it is really accepted that you inhabit other people's songs for a certain point in time, and it gets talked. About a lot more and more within rap where it would make no sense to cover most other rap songs because it's such a personal, first person perspective genre. So figuring out places where you can do that. And there is other John Prine songs where him saying like, I got fired for being scared of bees. That might be a lot different. If I'm saying that know, maybe I relate with I think in Saddle in the Rain he's talking about addiction and drinking and driving. That's how I interpret it at least. So trying to put my own interpretation within my own experience of that music. And there's going to be people who hear that song and probably never hear John Prine in their whole life and. WR: Maybe don't even realize you're covering it because they haven't bothered to look at the information on the record. KW: Yeah, if you're only listening on streaming, then you might not go that far to figure that out. WR: Yeah, well, I like what you're saying there, too, especially for prairie rap because I think a lot of those mean, you know, obviously John Prine is not from, you know, folk and country and singer songwriter stuff. It's always been such a huge part of the culture in this part of Canada. And I think that most people, whether they're in punk bands or their country artists or their rappers or whatever they are, they have had some element of that sort of embedded in their psyche growing up because they've heard it so much. It's been around, right? Like that kind of music. Even someone like Gordon Lightfoot, again, not necessarily from here, but everyone's grandparents have that record, you know what I mean? So it makes sense that those are the records that are being covered or referred to or sampled from by people in the prairies because that's kind of the organic music that people have created and loved and grown up with. Which makes more sense than someone going to sampling something from New York because of course you can or covering something, but. It's not sort of your own. So it's nice to see that kind of stuff because it does connect sort of different styles of music just based on the continuum of being a prairie person, I guess. KW: Yeah, well, and that goes back to some of those artists I was talking about like the forefathers to this scene or whatever where those were the records on the shelves. WR: Yeah. KW: Sure, that's just the case. And of, you know, we've got stores that are bringing in shipments from elsewhere in the world and it is becoming a bit more diverse but it still kind of is the same reality. I don't really go to the normal record stores but I'll always go to Value Village and anything that's Ukrainian or anything that's from the prairies, I'll almost always pick up. But the catch with a lot of that stuff is at least for my production style is I find it's very hard to actually sample the music. Like when you have an acoustic guitar playing chords that is harder to manipulate than a drum break where the sounds are more straight up. So trying to find some of those pieces where they can fit. I don't really like the sample snitch but there is like the one song ends with a little Ian Tyson part where I'm like I really like this, this is cool, but it's not enough to make a full beat. But let me use these little parts to put a little transition in and also give a nod to that person that maybe at the live show I can shout them out a bit more or something like that. And again, another artist that in the last little while has passed away and that happened after that was done for me. So it is thinking of that kind of zeitgeist and we're throwing these names out there. But Ian Tyson is a really good example of someone who is from this place and has that kind of he's situated himself. And another influence of mine, Corb Lund. I've seen them together to see how that generational connection can work in a genre like country. And I feel like know, whether it's working with Kay the Aquanaut or playing a show with Chaps or something like that, trying to do those same things in a genre that maybe doesn't get as much of the spotlight but still is just as meaningful to me. Like to be able to put out music with someone like the Gumshoe Strut, that's really cool to me. And I see the same thing in Ian Tyson playing with a Corb Lund or Corb Lund playing with Culter Wall and it's interesting how these generations kind of mix and mingle where it's weird to me to see someone who's younger than me opening for Corb Lund. But it makes sense. Also, he's earned that spot. WR: I think that happens in every genre, too. I mean, if you look at punk bands in Winnipeg, the number of local punk bands that have grown up idolizing Propagandhi and then have had members of that band producing records for them or they've opened for them at a show or whatever. There's definitely that kind of generational thing where it's some 20-year-old kid heard propaganda for the first time two years ago and then suddenly they're opening for them at the Park Theater or something. And it's just this cool experience of everyone shares the same cultural things despite generation gaps and stuff. KW: Or they open from them and that's where they hear it, totally. WR: Yeah. KW: Which is some purist somewhere is so offended by that, but that's the beauty of music and losing kind of the touring circuits that we used to have. You're more likely to have that experience with a band from the same city as you where before it might have know someone from Florida or someone from North Dakota or someone from Newfoundland, but there's maybe a bit more of a local experience to be had these days than a kind of international or national one. WR: Yeah, it's awesome to see that too. As someone who obsesses over local music, I like seeing that. Yeah. If someone is new to your music or hearing you for the first time on the show, what's the best way for them to find out what you're up to as far as potential future live shows and just hearing your music in general? KW: Well, whatever social media is your favorite, I'm probably on it. I'm not on Threads, but Instagram, Twitter I am on TikTok. TikTok has been incredible. It's funny, I listened to some of our last interview and I was saying to you, TikTok, it's pretty interesting and you weren't on it yet, but I see you on it now. WR: You're very active on there. KW: Yeah, I could talk about TikTok all day, but Bandcamp is the best place to keep up with my particular music. And also Bandcamp has show listings as well, so if people want to get the whole kit and caboodle there or Instagram will have I just announced a show in Saskatoon for August twelfth with a poster in my story, wherever you're most comfortable. And then the streaming sites as well. Apple music Spotify Deezer, I think that's only in France is Deezer. I'm not sure. WR: I don't know. There's a million of them. I don't use any of them, so I don't even know, but there's lots of them. So as far as the physical copies with the lyric book and everything, I assume the best place to buy those is either Bandcamp or at shows. KW: Yeah, Bandcamp or shows. Yeah, you're exactly right. And I just got a new order of shirts as well, so you can pick those up on Bandcamp or again, they'll be at the merch table while supplies last.

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