After a four-year hiatus from touring, Sage Francis is returning to the road which includes a June 6 stop at the High Noon Saloon in Madison. He’s touring behind a new album, Copper Gone, which will be released on his own Strange Famous Records label on June 3.
Friday, June 6, 2014
High Noon Saloon
10 PM, $17/20
Before hitting the road, Sage was kind enough to fill us in on what it’s like recording an album and running a label, why Bozo the Clown would be a better hip-hop ambassador than himself, and what surprises we can expect during his performances on the Copper Gone Tour.
You were the first hip-hop artist to sign with Epitaph. Any plans to bring a punk band onto Strange Famous Records?
“We signed a punk band called Prayers for Atheists back in 2008. I wouldn’t be opposed to signing more punk bands, but I really don’t have much interest in signing more groups or artists right now. Or maybe ever. I’m happy to have developed the infrastructure required to release my own albums and the albums of others who are close to me. I don’t have the time or energy to break new artists, and I often regret taking on other people’s projects when I know they are taking time away from what I need to do for my own projects. So, yeah, maybe that’s not the best way to run a label. But unless other people can take on the duties of running a label while signing a bunch of new acts and make it a successful venture for all parties involved, I’d rather just stick with what we have and put total focus back on my own art.”
Being on both the sides of the table (label and artist), what would your advice be to independent labels and artists trying to make a living in a world where Spotify and similar services exist?
“If people want to make a living off of their music, they have to embrace the idea that everything is moving toward streaming. So…figure out how to make as much money from that as possible by cutting out unnecessary middle men, and always look for way in which your fans can support you directly. It’s not easy to explain, but artists have a better chance of making money by doing shows if they can manage to build a support system that allows them to tour and not lose their ass in the process.”
A friend playing Personal Journals for me in 2003 ignited a new love for hip-hop for me personally. Has it ever been goal of yours to a hip-hop ambassador in some regards? I can see something like your recent Daytrotter session generating not only new fans of Sage Francis but new hip-hop fans as well.
“No, not really. Not in any regard. I’ve actually seen, met with, and worked with people who consider themselves ‘hip-hop ambassadors.’ Bozo the Clown would be a better ambassador. In fact, they already have a whole franchise system in place. They can have that. That’s for them if it makes them feel like they’re doing a valuable service of some sort. If someone tells me that I was their gateway into a hip-hop, which they often do, I’m afraid to see what else they’ve decided is OK in their book as far as hip-hop is concerned. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised, but other times I’m like, ‘Oh…you lump me in with these clowns now? Give me my music back. That’s not for you. Here’s your refund on the free download.’ That’s a me problem though. Not a them problem. But this is why I’ll never care to be considered an ambassador of anything. Because if it gives me some special, magical, ambassador power, then I’ll just use it to eliminate all of the shit I don’t like. And then people will be like, ‘What happened to 95 percent of my playlist? Who deleted all of my shitty files?! I’ll have your head for this!’ Nah, fuck all that.”
What does a day look like for someone who is recording an album and running a record label?
“It doesn’t look pretty. That’s why I don’t let anyone come over or look at me. It can’t be viewed. Because if it’s going to be viewed, then I’m going to have to place some energy toward making things look a bit nicer and there’s just no time for that. It’s binging, purging, dirtying, organizing, disorganizing, pacing, swearing at random times for apparently no reason. Staring at a computer screen, typing frantically, hating what you love, shitting blood, and convincing yourself it’s all worth it in the end. And I still believe that it is. Oh, and cleaning the litter box twice daily.”
It’s been four years since you last toured. Are there any surprises in your set that you can hint at for the fans attending your show here in Madison on June 6?
“What I’m most excited about is that I’ll have a whole new stage show with new songs mixed into the older material. It won’t just be me on stage with a flag draped around me as a cape, though that will probably always be what I return to. I’ll have a team of people with me who will help execute a bigger, more badass show.”
Are there new artists you are excited about right now that everyone should go listen to immediately after reading this interview?
“I’m not up on any brand new stuff. All I’ve been listening to since last year is my own album and the other SFR albums. But I definitely recommend checking out Working Man by Prolyphic & Buddy Peace, Definition Sickness by No Bird Sing, anything by B. Dolan, and Sick to D(eat)h and Copper Gone by Fatty McFrancis.”