Who The Fuck Is Lyle Horowitz? RE-UP
Taken from an interview done for The Reference Council
Whilst e-crate digging through the Hip Hop Is Read website I came upon an article for, what was at that point in time, a new release from Lyle Horowitz called 'Let The Spirit Out'. A high-definition, digitally rendered, displaced skull will always catch my attention. I was intrigued because the album cover reminded me of work by Josh Vanover, and the album was labelled Hip-Hop. (I later learned the graphic was done by Rob Sheridan as part of a project for How To Destroy Angels) It's safe to say that Cypress Hill introduced skulls to Hip-Hop back in the early nineties, and until very recently not many Hip-Hop acts have championed the imagery, certainly not with anywhere near the same aplomb. I was delighted to find no less than twelve albums available to stream and download online via his Bandcamp page. I set about listening to all of them, attempting to form opinions on his sound and what he's all about. This proved rather more difficult than I had envisioned. There isn't a lot of personal information about the man online, and though his music gives some hints as to his background, personality and interests I felt the need to ask the man himself, 'Who The Fuck Is Lyle Horowitz?'
TRC: Can you link me to some of your film work?
I haven’t done film work in a long time; it’s been strictly music and design for a couple years now.
TRC: Can imagine it’d be tough trying to juggle everything?
LH: I just feel you need a lot of money to make a good film, or at least more money than I have since everything we were doing film wise was self-funded. Film is an insanely technical process. Not that music isn't, but it doesn't have as many moving parts.
TRC: Do you approach the two differently or with a similar mind-set?
LH: The period between the conception of the idea and you completing editing on a film is very lengthy, could be years. But I made an album, nothing says hello like goodbye, in one night and put it out the next day. Two totally different mind-sets. I guess writing raps is comparable to writing a film and making beats is sort of like video editing now that I think about it. Logic even has a similar layout to final cut pro.
TRC: I think it's difficult to comprehend for someone who isn't aware of the process and hearing that it can be done in one night or over several months, even years is fascinating.
LH: But I just don’t really approach them in the same way. A lot of the film stuff I did had a specific intent behind it. I don’t listen to Big Sean or Mike Posner but I shot their show because I was looking for clients for video work. I did video mashups of songs because I wanted artists to commission me to make them videos. I made short films because I wanted to get them in festivals.
TRC: That's inevitable; business is something you can't avoid.
LH: I don’t approach music trying to attract customers though. It’s just something I do for catharsis.
TRC: I understand, is that what keeps you from having mainstream commercial success though and is that enough? By that I mean radio plays, music videos etc., unlike touring and releasing music?
LH: It’s enough for me. I mean, it’s not like I make a conscious effort to make something inaccessible, I just don’t use what’s accessible as a gauge for the type of stuff I want to make. Some of my music is perfectly acceptable for radio, but that’s not the intent. I’m very concept based. That’s how I think about things, as full bodies of work and not a collection of songs. Try to make something that’s more than the sum of its parts.
TRC: I think that's natural for an artist if you aren't relying on making money from everything that you put out, good or bad.
LH: A lot of my music is rushed. I cringe when I listen to it. I think sometimes I have a great concept and I don’t take enough time to flesh it out and give it that detail.
TRC: I write a personal blog to stop me from self-medicating and going homicidal, I write for the Reference Council to explore creativity and examine the world, both work for me.
LH: One thing leads to another thing. It’s sort of a journey, and not every destination is going to be good.
TRC: Without one the other can't be as fruitful
LH: I think I’m in love with about 20% of the music I've made.
TRC: Would you dismiss the other 80% though?
LH: No, I needed the other 80%. It’s important for the 20%.
TRC: I want to ask how you define hip hop, but I realise there are so many facets to it that I'm not sure what I'm really expecting as an answer
LH: I don’t know if I buy into the whole hip hop is a culture thing. Hip hop is a product as well as a style of music, but I don’t know if the traditional four elements even exist anymore.
TRC: I think for a very few it is, but I'm under the impression that music is less and less diverse, more of the good stuff is conceptual and personal and not necessarily available on a shelf anymore.
LH: I think the landscape and soundscape of hip hop has changed so much over the past 30 years that’s its evolving too fast to define. I’d argue that hip hop is probably more diverse than it’s ever been.
TRC: The love of what hip hop was has evolved due to the global interaction now; we aren't all from the Bronx or Compton.
LH: I really hate regionalism and that’s kind of over with now. When I was in high school I got dissed for listening to southern rap. Two years later Lil’ Wayne is the biggest rapper in the world. Like him or not, he’s the reason there’s no more regionalism in rap.
TRC: That's a good argument, please explain further.
LH: Hot 97 had to start playing southern rap on New York radio, which killed them. Wayne called them out on Shooter, something like “To the radio stations, I’m tired of being patient, stop being rapper racist. But this is southern, face it, and if we’re too simple, then yall don’t get the basics.”
When you become a big enough star to make a New York radio station that’s never acknowledged the south and its rich hip hop history all the sudden have to start playing records they used to ignore, I think that’s pretty cool. I like that regionalism is dead, it was bound to because of the internet anyways.
TRC: I think that says a lot, otherwise stations were going to get left behind and like you say the internet makes everything available now, a DJ isn't going to be enough.
LH: Now we get to hear the intersection of a lot of different sounds. Killer Mike can do an entire record with El-P and its critically lauded, that’s really cool.
TRC: Does the music pay your bills?
LH: Not even close. Some months I’m lucky if it pays a bill.
TRC: And is that commission work more than your own personal projects? How does releasing albums for free download fit in with the grand scheme, assuming there is one?
LH: I probably make more of my own music than music for other people. I've become a little more selective with who I work with. There have been a few releases I’ve charged for, but there’s no grand scheme.
TRC: I wanted to ask who you think is doing what you are in 2014, I mean I've looked for comparisons (I know I know) and really unless I search all of the net, the only readily available name is Jon Wayne, and I hope that's not insulting, I mean from the perspective that music comes before rap, have I got it wrong?
LH: I listened to Jon Wayne’s album, I liked it. Don’t know if what we’re doing is the same thing. But I’m not insulted by that. I discovered this artist named Zeroh from that record and I really like what he’s doing. When you say music comes before rap, do you mean production comes before rapping? Because I've been on the fence with that lately.
TRC: Yes exactly, where historically the lyrics meant more than the beat, now music is at the forefront as it's being done entirely by producers who also rap, if that's fair?
LH: It took me a long time to put out a rap album, Blahze Misfits, but I think I’m happier with that record than I am any of my instrumental projects. I like rapping because I’m obsessed with the English language. The ability to deliver a message of convey a feeling over a beat is starting to become just as, if not more important than the production.
I didn't do one beat on As Fate Would Have It, but George and I spent a lot of time together selecting them all. Production is important, whether you’re doing it yourself or stringing it together with work other people have done. That’s one thing I wish I could do, hear what my music sounds like to other people. Right now I feel very focused on design.
TRC: I kept expecting to hear Action Bronson on As Fate Would Have It. Any chance of that happening?
LH: No chance, Blahze Misfits is very self-contained in that sense.
TRC: Which I respect, I'm saying that's as good an album as many released of late.
LH: I think it’s better than most rap albums that came out last year, and I say that as someone who despises the majority of their own output. The next album is already shaping up to be something amazing and entirely different than as fate. It’s called Colonel Custard’s Lonely Dick Pic Band. We are making something really weird. It’s aggressive. It’s darkly comedic. It’s melodic. It’s cynical. I think we’ve already knocked out 9 or 10 records for it since we wrapped as fate, but we’re nowhere near done. Going to keep making songs for a little while.
TRC: Do you do all the cover art? Does it sync with the albums content or is that not important?
LH: Some of the art I do myself, other times I’ll find images online that connect with me and use those. They are supposed to sync with the content/concept.
TRC: You mention conveying a feeling through production, which brings me to how intentional is your use of the 808, snare and reverb on the likes of Walking Distance? Sometimes they are pleasantly uncomfortable.
LH: Every time you hear something from me that sounds unmixed or lo-fi to the point where it sounds cacophonous, it’s an intentional choice and not a mistake. I love the beat Caged Heart on Redmancy but everybody hates it because they say that the sample sounds disjointed. Well yeah because I manipulated to the point where it conveys the feeling of in this case longing to the listener and if they are in tune with it they can feel it too. A lot of music from that period really connects with me. I feel like my lo-fi music is some of the more emotional stuff I've done. I’m kind of circling back to that in a different way right now with my production.
TRC: I think when asking who is Lyle Horowitz, for many the music should answer that, is that true enough? Do you think it matters as much the physical being or the spiritual embodiment through music?
LH: I don’t think it really matters who I am. Who I am informs everything I do music included. It’s just that a human being has so many facets how would I be able to describe who I am and do myself justice?
TRC: Can I ask one more thing before I gotta go? Are you tapping into memories when you use dialogue from The Twilight Zone for example? How do those mini series' come about and what do you get from them?
LH: Here’s the deal with the twilight zone. It’s like my holy bible. The messages in those episodes are just as good as any messages in the Bible or Torah or Quran. It’s had a huge impact on me as a person and a storyteller. The original Who Are We project as just a concept I had but it was the first project I put out that got any sort of attention. So I got shoehorned as the Twilight Zone guy. Like that was my lane. So I figured I’d make a series out of it since there were so many different episodes I could make songs for. I think I’m done with that now, but the Twilight Zone is rally special and means a lot to me.
TRC: I love the I've Been Obsessing record because it speaks to me at least on society's failings and what's actually real for the individual
LH: That record is so amazing, hang on let me tell you about that record. That record is the final instalment in a trilogy I did all revolving around outer space. Low-key, it’s the American horror story: Asylum Trilogy without being as overt as the Who Are We series. If you saw that season of AHS there’s a charterer named Kit Walker that gets abducted by aliens and ends up in an asylum for a murder he didn’t commit. That was my inspiration to do those three records.
The Cosmic was a record about space, followed by The Man Who Fell To Earth which is really just a record about being in love. But with the I've Been Obsessing Over Aliens record, every lyric and interlude was there to move the story goal forward and provide context to what I was trying to do with the entire trilogy.
TRC: I found the album to be gripping and easy to relate to, not In that I've been abducted, but in its familiar either through life as a whole and the journey or having been told the story elsewhere.
LH: It got basically ignored by everyone. It’s too weird.
TRC: It could be your Paul's Boutique.
LH: I actually think that’s Colonel Custard’s Lonely Dick Pic Band. But I’ve Been Obsessing About Aliens is something I did for myself really.
TRC: I think that comes through when listening to it.
LH: There’s a lot of horror in diagnosis. I wanted to explore that.
Thanks again to Lyle for his time and I look forward to discussing future projects.