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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

February 10, 2011 at 7:44 AM

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Q&A: THEESatisfaction interviews Shabazz Palaces UPDATED

Posted by Andrew Matson

Image via Ishmael Butler and Dumb Eyes

Seattle acts Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction are kindred spirits, though generations apart. THEESatisfaction's Catherine Harris-White and Stasia Irons, both in their 20s, grew up listening to Digable Planets — the Grammy-winning jazz-rap group led by Ishmael Butler, who now goes by the name Palaceer Lazaro as the auteur behind Shabazz Palaces.

In recent months, the two acts have been performing each other's songs on stage and recording together in studios. Shabazz Palaces will release an album on the local label Sub Pop this year featuring THEESatisfaction, and the groups will perform their haunted hip-hop and jazz-rap fusion Thursday night 02/17/11 at Neumos on Capitol Hill.

They are making groundbreaking music right now, and when Sub Pop puts it out alongside local transcendental folk pop band Fleet Foxes, hopefully the wider world — which either regards Seattle as an indie rock town or Grungeville, USA — will see Seattle as a more musically diverse place.

In the spirit of collaboration, The Seattle Times asked the two groups to interview each other. Part two is below, THEESatisfaction interviewing Palaceer Lazaro. Part one, the Palaceer interviewing THEESatisfaction, is here.

UPDATE: The band THEESatisfaction and record label Sub Pop are in talks regarding a possible future album. This post originally incorrectly implied that a record deal had already been finalized.

THEESatisfaction: Tell us about the night of January 8th, 2010 [when Shabazz Palaces played its first, stunning Seattle concert].

Palaceer Lazaro: Hmmmm well, the stars aligned. Me and [Shabazz Palaces back-up vocalist/percussionist] Tendai got shot out of a cannon made of our ideas, dreams and work, and landed on a cloud of starry fun. When I saw y'all to the left of me during "Capital 5," my mind flashed forward with visions eerily similar to the actuality of now. Us, music, jets and french toast. My daughter Dee was there as I came off stage. She said, "Good job, Dad," and I was straight. That night the fellas at Tacos Gringos gave me a free one and I dreamt I was a dolphin swimming with thousands of other dolphins but I knew I was different. Suede from Camp Lo killed 'em with the blazer and striped tie.

THEE: How do your kids feel about your music?

PL: They never speak on it but occasionally things indicate a positive feel, i.e. overhearing iPod bumpings, Facebook song postings, or they'll text me a line from a song of mine.

THEE: What do you feel about the music out right now?

PL: Pop music is narrow and shallow but I love some of it. I feel there is a lot of great underground music. And on the net, gems are found on the regular. I feel music out now is fascinating.

THEE: Do you know SOTA?

PL: I do.

THEE: Would you like to know SOTA?

PL: I just told you I know them.

THEE: Describe your first experience with the Last Poets?

PL: Jalil is my favorite rapper of all time. I was with my pops in Philly driving in the Duster when WPFW played "E Pluribus Unum" and my little mind was blown. Jalil remains the pinnacle of wordsmanship. The last poet.

THEE: What was one of the first live musical performances you saw?

PL: My mom Barbara Jean singing "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire.

THEE: What is one of your favorite black sitcoms? Why?

PL: "Good Times." Well, Thelma. Oh, and the line from the theme song: "watching the asphalt roll."

THEE: Who styles you?

PL: The Haberdasherati of Bespoke Playboys. Not so much "stylists" but style sensors. Methods and outlooks handed down through generations to the worthy, curious and the stitch-sensitive with talent for taste, understanding of understatement, predisposition for pimpishness, with glossaries for getting G'd up. And yes, it is a secret society.

THEE: Who are some of your favorite authors?

PL: Octavia Butler, Hari Kunzru, Nas, Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Theodore Roszak.

THEE: What are some of your favorite films?

PL: "City of God," "Totally Awesome" (Tracy Morgan scenes), any film I'm watching with my kids.

THEE: Does the weather in Seattle effect your sound? If so how?

PL: Yes, I keep my sound wet and moist, especially vocals. Oh, and super green and hot all summer.

THEE: How long have you been making beats?

PL: Since 1985.

THEE: Who is one of your favorite producers?

PL: Vitamin D.

THEE: How did you find our music?

PL: [Erik] Blood spoke of it as a "must hear."

THEE: What is your favorite THEESatisfaction song? And why?

PL: This changes often, but forever "We're Marching Forward" reigns supreme.

THEE: Is there any song you wished you could've been on?

PL: I woulda bounced on all'em.

THEE: What is one of your favorite bars from Cat?

PL: Too many to call, but: "To attract those like-minded with me to wig out colossally."

THEE: What is one of your favorite bars from Stas?

PL: Way too many, but: "...takes one to know one / I can turn anything into a poem / we pluck wall flowers."

THEE: What do you enjoy most about Cat?

PL: Her glance.

THEE: What do you enjoy most about Stas?

PL: Her shorts.

THEE: Who do you like best out of the two us?

PL: You.

THEE: Come on, who do you like best out of the two of us?

PL: The other one.

THEE: What is one of your fondest memories of us?

PL: Too many, but when we all wordlessly agreed it was high time to walk out of the motion picture "Inception," I knew I was in love.

THEE: We love performing with you. Can you describe what it felt like the first time we were on stage together September 17th 2010 for the Stranger Genius Awards?

PL: I cannot.

THEE: What is it like working with Sub Pop?

PL: It's like winning the music business partnership record label lottery sweepstakes grand prize golden ticket. Like Megan Jasper would and will definitely say again, "It's [expleeeeeeeeetive] cool".

THEE: Describe your experience when you collaborated with Khalil Joseph for Shabazz Palaces' first visual project.

PL: Awesome to witness a young master at work.

THEE: Why don't you have a Facebook account? How do you live without it?

PL: I'm an analog cat. The act of clicking to accept a friend swings against my wiring. I do visit the book sometimes with my cousin T, and it's a fun place. I live without it by inchworming down Rainier Ave.

THEE: What made you choose to watch the Superbowl without us, knowing that we've watched all the other games together?

PL: Well, see, there's this girl and...nubian...soft eyed...nice round...intelligent...

THEE: What is one of your favorite spots in Seattle?

PL: To eat: Araya's, Tacos Gringos, Paseo. To shop: Half Price Books. To chill: the lake. To think: can't tell you that.

THEE: What is it like working with Tendai? Describe your relationship with him.

PL: Natural, sports oriented, ghetto fab.

THEE: In Stasia's will she leaves you her beats, and Catherine. How do you feel about that?

PL: Great! Blessed! I love Stas' stuff. I'm going to get all up in them.

THEE: What is it like being a father and a working musician?

PL: It's like being a hit man and invisible. Easy and doesn't feel like work at all.

THEE: Do you want to have any more children?

PL: this a proposal?

THEE: You've played shows all over the world. What was one of your most memorable shows?

PL: Sao Paulo opening for James Brown. Barbara Jean was there. She met James Brown and was geeked. On the plane back to the States, we sat near Mr. Brown. I told him I loved his music and that he was a huge influence on me and my music and my life. To which he said, "Well...stay in school."

THEE: What is your favorite intersection in Seattle and why? (i.e. Pike & Broadway, 23rd & Union, 3rd & Pine...)

PL: 23rd and Cherry. I'm a Bulldog, Central hood bread and buttered.

THEE: What artist/s did you enjoy touring with?

PL: Groove Garden.

THEE: Champagne Champagne or Mad Rad?

PL: Both. The Dragon [Pearl Dragon of Champagne Champagne] is my dude. Buff [Buffalo Madonna of Mad Rad], too. All them cats are on deck.

THEE: Michael Evans or J.J. Evans?

PL: I gotta go J.J. Mike was, um, a, um, talented brother, though.

THEE: You seem to be very romantic. Describe how you would entertain two women at once?

PL: Do I? Well, I would watch them closely to see what they liked. Then, I would give it to them.

THEE: Shabazz Palaces was listed by Rhapsody as one of the top 10 most anticipated albums for 2011 along with Wiz Khalifa, J. Cole, Rick Ross, & Kanye/Jay-Z. What does this mean to you?

PL: This means something to me.

THEE: Kobe Bryant sent Michael Vick a personally autographed jersey right before a do or die game. On that jersey, Bryant wrote the words "Be Epic." What do you feel about the idea of being epic, and why do you think some artists strive to "be epic"?

PL: I think he shoulda signed it, "do your thing black, Kobe"

THEE: How did you feel when you were sampled [on the E-40 song "Yay Area"]? Were you contacted beforehand or did you just find out?

PL: I was contacted. I felt good. I love E. Fonzarelli. I'm on deck in the Yay for ever now.

THEE: Who are your top five white rappers dead or alive? Isn't it funny that no white rappers have died yet? daaaaaaaaaaaaaamn

PL: Prime minister Pete Nice, MC Serch, Paul Wall the Peoples Champ. That's about it. Fun fact: I thought Vanilla Ice's name was Villain Ice for like three years.

THEE: Where were you when Michael Jackson died? Tell us about your reaction to his death.

PL: On my couch in the crib. I thought that the ridiculous accusations of child molestation broke Mike's heart, literally, and I hold the greedy devils that did that responsible for the problems that led to his death.

THEE: You are a man of the past, present & future. Tell us what you've seen, you see and will see.

PL: I am just a poet who watched the whole parade.

THEE: Jay-Z or Jay Electronica?

PL: Elect.

THEE: Mos Def or Mosely Wotta?

PL: Dante.

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