Friday, 6 April 2012


Back in 1995, Wu-Tang founding member GZA became responsible for arguably the Clan's finest solo album - Liquid Swords - and rather than leaving it at that, he's been writing, collaborating and touring ever since. Bite My Wire caught up with him while he was in the UK promoting the forthcoming (RZA produced!) Liquid Swords II - The Return of the Shadowboxer.

You've been speaking to scientists to seek inspiration for the new album. What are you hoping to learn this time?
I'm not looking to learn anything specific. At MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and anywhere else I try to expand my knowledge to inspire me as a person, which impacts my writing. Back in December I met specifically with geneticists, quantum physicists and marine biologists as well as my homeboy, author Junot Diaz.

There's often been an apocalyptic vibe to your music, and 2012 has long been considered to be bringing the end of the world with it. Is this a theme in the new album?
The apocalypse is not a theme of my new album. I can't discuss what it's about yet. However, it's going to be amazing. Like me on or follow me on Twitter @TheRealGZA for the most timely and accurate updates.
You were the first of the Wu to sign a solo deal. How did it feel, did it freak you out? 
Short of my family or myself being in danger, nothing really "freaks me out", it's just not in my DNA. It felt great to know that all my hard work was going to be heard on a large scale.

There was a massive shift in how hip-hop sounded, looked and worked when the Wu went global. Do you feel comfortable knowing you're still ahead of the game, or does the responsibility you have with each release freak you out? 
I've never considered myself to be "ahead of the game". I simply do my best at every outing. If that puts me in a certain strata, I'm grateful, but I don't feel like I'm in some kind of race.

Nowadays everybody has every piece of music ever recorded available to them, a few mouse clicks away. Does it affect how you make and promote your music? And how you get paid?
Creatively, I think the democratization of the music industry is a good thing. However I, like all artists - of course - suffered economically with the advent of digitization. It doesn't change how I make music but it does influence how I market it.

Technology seems to have pushed out a lot of the dirt in hip-hop. Do you still aim for a rawness?
I'm not sure that technology and rawness are mutually exclusive. But I aim for excellence, sometimes that's raw, sometimes that's polished. Depends on the song.

There's some pretty crazy 'evolution' happening in hip-hop just now. Is there any new stuff there you're digging?
When I'm in writing mode, which I am now, I don't listen to much current stuff.

Whole-album tours seem to be happening more and more now. Was it fun for you to tour Liquid Swords, playing it in its entirety?
It was - and still is - humbling and amazing to be able to perform an album that was released 16 years ago.

Your words are complex. Do you every write lyrics with just single meanings? Should we be looking for message and meaning underneath the surface of all your jams?
My lyrics can have single meanings but that doesn't make them any less complex. I don't like to tell my audience how to listen to my music. Everyone brings their own experience to any given situation so if they choose to seek deeper meaning, so be it. If not, there are many levels at which to enjoy any piece of art, be it a book, painting, film, sculpture or anything else.

Do you think chess skills can help a person live their life? Like how to weigh up a situation, look at options, examine the risk... Would it be wise to think like that?
Chess has become a part of my life in the same way that people say martial arts is a part of their lives. It's like a philosophy, life guide, mental discipline, all rolled into one. That being said, integrating the game's philosophies and strategies into your life is only as useful as the skill and mental discipline of the player.

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