Mykki Blanco Has Lots To Say About His "Sort of Rap With Screams"
Also, when people read about me, that stuff about me being a kid actor, that stuff is very real. I have a very, very showbiz personality. Things that are really like, tissue paper feelings, touchy-feely shit that some musicians get hung up about, I don't care about those things. I'm very much an entertainer. And so that like, sensitive soul thing, I don't really have that. It's kind of like been swallowed by my drive and feeling of, "Oh, you didn't like that? Well guess what, I've got a lot more coming!"
I don't get sensitive about these things. I used to, but I realized that attitude is stupid, and that all the people that I really respect, the real entertainment go-getters, they keep pumping out their creative vision and people either accept it or it's time for them to get stoned.
That's a pretty important moment for any artist. When did that happen for you? Was there a singular, revelatory experience that changed everything, or did you just notice one day that you'd stopped giving much of a shit?
That's the thing. In media, people do love to say, "I don't give a fuck, I don't give a fuck," but in society, there's a common need to feel accepted, and to feel validated by people, by society and by your community. Everybody wants that to a certain extent, at some point. And I think what I used to have trouble with was I'd only performed in these artsy bubbles. I'd performed in London and I'd performed in L.A. and I'd performed in Miami and Vancouver and Toronto and Montreal.
And I believe in myself as a performer. Whatever you think about the record or whatever you read, the thing that gets you real fans is the quality of your performance. So I knew the quality of my performance was good, I had room to get better, but I had something going that was working for me, no matter what. I knew that if people saw me, no matter what they thought of the music, they'd go, "I don't know what I just saw, but that was a damn good performance."
So I knew I had that security going, but I was afraid. I wanted to have a certain level of success--I don't want to be niche. My mom always used to say to me, "You think you're so underground, but deep down, you want to be successful. You know you do." I was worried that I'd have to tone down something about myself to kind of fit, or take something out. And not in a way of like, changing anything, but just in a way of toning things down to ensure that I'd be accepted. But what I realized on the tours, as I've removed myself from these cultural centers, is that people come to see me because they want to see the whole entire thing. There's nothing I have to tone down, and in fact even when I'm not toning down there are people who are doing way crazier stuff than I am. Maybe the things I do that I think are shocking really aren't that shocking compared to the rock n roll lineage.
Perhaps the whole entire idea of [my being] hip hop wasn't even my idea. Maybe it was just the press using the term hip hop around me, but in this surface, subversive way that really doesn't describe what I do at all. And perhaps I don't belong at all to the hip hop community. And I'm not trying to make any public declaration that way, but I think that when you see me perform it's not hard to see which lineage of performance I come from. And I think I'm coming into my own in that lineage.
Going forward, I know exactly who the people are that I want to target. I know who my audience is now, and I know who I can get to come over to my side. So for me it's not like, "What am I going to have to compromise on?" It's thinking about what I'm going to have to do to make sure all of those people come with me and see where I'm coming from.
I like to show a different side, but then I like to come back to me. For this project, I went through this very fashion-y period where like, I met David Lachappelle and did Interview and Italian Vogue and high fashion shoots. That's stuff I like doing because it brings attention to me and the other stuff that I do, but after a while it was getting to be a little too much. People were treating me like a dress-up doll, which is why I had to go and do the "Join My Militia" video. I started to get away from what I thought people would perceive as the superficiality of the persona, the stuff that might reach people in a really negative way. I think I'm learning about myself more every time I go on the road, and so when I'm ready to execute another body of material, it's going to make me stronger in my execution, because I'll be more in tune with what goes into the whole Mykki Blanco package.
It does sound like you feel more comfortable identifying as a performer coming from the lineage of punk or rock music. Are you sure that rapping won't take a back seat, or just disappear, on future records?
I have no idea. Probably not, because then that would delete my role as a songwriter, but there are ways in which I hear music, especially electronic music, where I listen to samples and I think, "Why sample when I could make original 'samples' that could be spliced into my own original songs?'" I've been thinking more about my own original songs having more of a "remix" feel. [laughs]