EXCLUSIVE: Atmosphere's "Bitter" Video
Minneapolis mavericks Atmosphere return this May with a new album, Southsiders, and are leading the charge with their new video "Bitter." We spoke to Slug about paving the road for a national underground hip-hop network for 20 years.
Dan Monick Slug and Ant of Atmosphere, Southsiders
Being Minneapolis has had more days below zero this winter since the 70s, how was it filming the "Bitter" video in the middle of that cold?
Well, to be fair, that was the one day where it warmed up and got a little above zero. Prior to that, the whole week was freezing and we were kind of dreading going outside. I filmed another video earlier that week called "Flicker," and we filmed two more videos that week. "Flicker" was brutal, we were filming outdoors at night and that kicked our ass. When "Bitter" came about, it was ten degrees warmer and we filmed it during the day and I lost a couple digits and an ear due to the "Flicker" shoot, so "Bitter" was not as brutal as it might have been had I not been prepped for it. It was fun to get a bunch of people outside to throw snowballs and have the people in my neighborhood stare at me as I'm dragged up and down the street by the sled. It was cold, but I'm glad we did it. [Director] Adam Dunn took some of the fun ideas I had, and it turned out exactly how it was supposed to turn out. It was fun. I think that song's going to probably be misinterpreted by people anyway, so I wanted the video to catch more of what I meant with that song. There's probably one or two people in town here that think the song's directed at them, and I needed the video to help show people that the song's about myself. When I'm standing in the middle with snowballs thrown at me by both teams, that's me putting me in the middle of the song.
The vocals on "Bitter" sound like they're channeling a more melodic flow than we're used to hearing in your verses. How many transformations did it go through to wind up with that sound?
Truthfully, I wrote one verse and a hook. I sent it to Ant, and I was pandering to him because he's big on that melody shit. He's always been, he pushed me to it. When I heard that beat, I thought here's one where I can swing fun melodic things and see how he responds. In retrospect, I feel like I didn't know if I was going in the right direction and needing him to say "fuck yeah, go for it!" and I'll flush it out, or "No" and I'll leave it alone. Me myself, I'm not the biggest on hooks like that. I'm not the biggest on fun shit. I don't make fun music. You can probably go through our catalog and find like one fun song per record, and chances are it was Ant or Siddiq that pushed us to put that song on the record. I didn't know that at the time, but now I can see it. He responded so strongly, it gave me the balls to finish it. I'm glad he did because, truthfully, that hook might possibly be one of the riskier things I've done in a while in the sense of putting something out there that people might absolutely fucking hate. There's a lot of hard 'Rs' and I'm rhyming "bitter" with "river" and "winter." I felt if I got the balls to show this to people, I won't have to worry about anything else I show people.
How did the name Southsiders come about?
I feel that a lot of the music was really influenced by the surroundings. Usually, when I'm making a record I'm also kinda touring and doing other shit. With this one, I wasn't even doing much traveling inside of the city. I kind of stopped going out to parties. I don't just go out to see music because it's the thing to do anymore. It takes a lot to get me to leave my house. I really like my house and really like my family. This time, instead of being surrounded by strangers, I'm surrounded by friends. A lot of times, even with Lemons, a lot of those records, whether or not I realized it, I was being influenced by a lot of strangers. This one was a lot more about being influenced by being around my brother and his family, my other brother, my own family, my actual friends. Anthony doesn't live here any more, but when he comes here, it's almost like we might see each other more now than when did when he lived here, and that kind of had an impact on me. Hanging around some of the other dudes I hang around, they're all Southsider dudes, and I so I named the record that. Some of these songs are inspired about being around the "Southside," but even then they aren't about being around a building, but just people. I wanted to shout-out Siddiq, I wanted to shout out Dillon and people who are all about the Southside. Mostly because of the people I was around to see me write dumb shit. It was like a punchline. "What are you going to call it?" "Southsiders." "That's great man!"
But, after I decided to call it that, I grew attached to the title for a number of reasons. It's one of those things where after we decided to call it Southsiders, the songs took a new relation to the album. We said some shit on a Dynospectrum song that said "everywhere you go, there's a southside" and there's some truth to that statement. You may not call any part of your city "the southside," but there's a southside to all this shit. Hell, death, there's a bottom, a downside. Something that started from the bottom, and now it's the fucking bottom. And that makes sense because I'm fucking 41, why would I not be thinking about how shit ends? I've always yelled "Southside," but the songs aren't about South Minneapolis so much that it's about me thinking about things that I think about.