Astronautalis reflects on his recent tour, freestyling, and Minneapolis

Categories: Interview

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Photo by Meredith Westin
Astronautalis is one of the newest darlings on the Twin Cities hip hop scene. After his show at the Triple Rock on Monday night, the rapper took a few moments to answer some questions about touring, composing a show, and what exactly it is about Minneapolis that's got him all smiles.

How has the reception been so far on tour?

It's been kind of... It's been really surprising. The cities that we don't normally do so well in, you know, the cities that I was kind of dreading the shows, have been really good--and the cities that we normally do really well in have been really great. Everything has really stepped up a big notch, and that's been such an overwhelming affirmation for me. Like, "Holy shit, it's worked!" That's a really nice feeling, for me to know that it's worked.

What's been the biggest surprise so far on tour?

I guess how people respond to the songs, whereas with previous shows where we would get a lot of people out and people are very polite and would watch, but not in every city would people get really involved and sing along and lose their shit. This tour, people have been losing their shit and singing along and doing all the oohs and aahs and clapping. That sort of involvement has been kind of shocking, and it's made me kind of sort of change the way I've interacted with the audience. I've had to become a kind of lion tamer at this point as opposed to someone that people are just kind of watching.

How do you put a show together?

I have a vague idea of how I want to put the shows together in terms of structure. I kind of think of the show as like a big mixtape, where you have to start out with a high note, then keep a nice pace, and then drop it down and relax, then you bring it back up and relax, then you bring it back up and relax, then come to a big finish and a finale. So it's got to be nice, smooth ups and downs, never too many slow songs in a row, and you've got to compose it all together. It's got to be a nice collection of diversions, I guess.

Tell me about the freestyling piece, where you picked topics from the crowd. Do you do that on every show?

Yeah, pretty much. I got my start in rap music through freestyling and battling, that was sort of my claim to fame, and how I got my foot in the door in a lot of places. It's just part of the program at this point, it just has to happen, like Willie Nelson playing "Whiskey River" or something. It's something that happens every night, at least in America, not always in Europe... It's a compulsion at this point.

You are really passionate about your love for Minneapolis. How much of that is part of your being welcomed into and involved in the Minneapolis music scene and how much of it is just Minneapolis is general?

Part of the thing that compelled me to move to Minneapolis before I got the whole welcome was coming here and listening to how people received shows. I would come to work on music with Stef [P.O.S.] or something like that and he would be like, "I've got to go play this show," and I would just come and hang out and watch how people respond to him--people that have seen him hundreds of times, people that have grown up with him. It's one thing when you're playing somewhere and you're a rarity, but when people see you over and over and over again and they still get so fucking pumped and they're so excited to see you--people that have seen you for years and helped you make the music--are excited to hear your play it... that is something that is completely unique. It doesn't exist anywhere else in America, and I know--I've seen it all. I played in all the other big cities--all of them--and there's no scene like that anywhere. I've been seeing it for a while, every time I would come here and I would watch how people would respond to me to a great deal, but also to other people.

Compounded on that is watching how people work together, where they're not just complacent and resting on the idea of "I've got this thing going on," where people start other projects, like the Doomtree guys are doing all these other things, and the Gayngs guys are all in these other things, and they just always seem to want to work more. I would go to Seattle and I would hang out with my friends and we'd sit at the bar and we'd talk about football, and then I'd come to Minneapolis, and we'd go back to someone's house and we'd make music. I don't want to be talking about football for a living, I want to be making motherfucking music for a living! And I like the music that's happening here, but more than anything I like the enthusiasm and I like the ambition and I like the passion that's happening, and it's so intoxicating. And then I got here and it was transferred on to me and that was just the most incredible feeling. Yeah, I'll preach from the pulpit all day on this.

So when are you getting back to Minneapolis and, like, sleeping? Or just taking a nap, maybe?

I don't know, to be honest. This tour ends first week in November, but if everything goes according to plan, hopefully I'll pick up on tour right after that doing support for somebody. I mean, my goal would be to tour all the way to December, when it becomes pretty much impossible to tour, and then I'm going to take off, and then it looks like I'm going to Europe second week of January. I'll be gone there for two months. Once the album comes out, I just want to be on the road. I was here all summer and it was great, but I gotta get back on the road. I'm sure all be back probably in November, I don't know when exactly. And whether I get to take a nap or not remains to be seen.


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