Interview With UGLY DUCKLING

UGLY DUCKLING interviewed for // Street Press Australia.

Interview @ 19.30 AEST - 27th June, 2009

How is the Australian hip-hop fanbase treating you while your down here?

Andy: We've only had very good experiences down under. In fact, I've always thought that the people were overly nice to us; it almost seemed to be a mercy-date. Like a pretty girl is going out with a guy who's terminally ill for the make-a-wish foundation. We can't wait to get back down there and perform for the people again because our collective self-esteem could use a boost.

A profile on you guys says U.D. are influenced from the Native Tongue movement, hip-hop on a conscious level seems rare in the spotlight, shining in favour of more materialistic rap. Do you see much of the Native Tongue ideology still practised?

Andy: Honestly, I'm not sure about any ideology and we try not to worry about other people's messages. The reason we loved the native tongue groups is because they made the coolest, funkiest, sample-based music and had creative song-writing style as well. In fact, black sheep, a great N.T. band, was a bit misogynistic but they still on their debut album, created great music and great music from any era will always be our motivation. Great music is hard to kill.

Coming out of Long Beach in 1993, were you guys influenced much by the Snoop Dogg/Warren G etc. breakout in the same period or were you guys already in another headspace with your hip-hop, separating your identity from the over-popular 'Gangsta rap' of Cali?

Andy: At that time, we were surrounded by gangster music and it made having a career in the mid-90's impossible. that's why it took us until the late 90's to officially get a record out (we put one out on our own in 96 but it did nada). That said, it was nice to see people from Long Beach succeed and, truth told, we were cordially friendly with those guys (Dizzy and Warren G were class-mates and Snoop Dogg went to my senior prom) so there was some excitement and inspiration when they made it big. But again, all we try to do is make great music in which we believe and let the chips fall where they may.

I didn't just want to look this up, always better to ask – What does Ugly Duckling mean as a band name? I imagine it being the ultimate sarcasm in that it's something in complete contrast to a macho hardcore hip-hop moniker.

Andy: Better for who? Dizzy made up the name and it symbolises being different (non-gangster, white, funny, loop-driven...take your pick) and it also helped us stand out from some of the groups you mentioned that used Dogg (Snoop, Nate, Pound) because we were another animal. it's not the most creative group name in history but I suppose it gets the point across.

Also, your album title, Audacity – The audacity of what or whom are you referring?

"Audacity" can be defined as "insolent" or "courageous" which seems strange because one definition is negative and the other positive. But the basic question the concept asks is whether or not the most important component of achievement is believing, whether justifiably or in-justifiably, that you belong at the top. It seems that many people in history who made it big were short on talent but long on nerve. in fact, there's a certain man in the most powerful position in the world who has a funny name, little experience and a non-traditional background who charmed the entire world's pants off with uplifting speeches. i hope he does well with that audacity.

Speaking on west coast hip-hop, The Game is running off at Jay-Z and anyone willing to challenge. You guys being a passionate anti-gangsta-glorifying rap act, you ever think to jump in on someone like Game get issues off your chest?

Einstein: We're trying to do a different kind of thing and we don't worry about those guys. In the end, the best music will stay around while the publicity stunts and images fade into obscurity. Plus, they're all really, really scared of me.

Do you ever feel frustrated that the messages you put in your music (like in most conscious raps) can sometimes get slept on by younger fans/media?

Andy: Sometimes, but, honestly, we're just happy to be making music for a living and soaking up every opportunity. Some of our favorite groups in music history never really blew up so getting slept on isn't the worst thing that can happen. Truthfully, we've been very fortunate to get as far as we have
with what we do.

Einstein is making big waves with his skills on this album, digging through crates like the Bomb Squad on Cube's Jackin 4 Beats only on a grander scale, how many records were harmed during the making of 'Einstein Do It'?

Einstein: Somewhere around 120 to 140 if you count all of the samples and scratches; my hands are still sore. it's clearly the best song on the album because it's about me. Seriously, we love to incorporate scratching into our songs in a way that you don't hear as much anymore and it is terribly, time-consuming.

West coast rapper, Bambu put out 'Quit' recently deploring the overuse of Internet street knowledge on records, fake murder talk, gang shit etc. How do you feel technology has played its part in the digital era hip-hop?

It's certainly made it easier to produce music and more people can get their stuff out there. When we first started, in order to make a quality demo you needed to spend, at least, $25 an hour at a studio plus buy tape reels that cost $100 (a ton of money when you're 17). There was no digital editing available to groups like us so you had to really nail it in the moment or live with the mistakes. The positive side was that the risk and expense separated the really determined people from the weekend rappers.

Last question, will we see you guys flaunting your whips and showing off Scarface DVDs on MTV Cribs anytime soon?

Einstein: Al Pacino is sitting next to me right now, right A.P.? (he said "hoo-haw"). later, were going to act out some scenes from Carlito's Way naked. Man, I can't wait to finish typing this answer out so I can go hop in my winged, Bentley/Ferrari hybrid and fly down to the club for champagne and back-rubs from Shirley Temple's great-granddaughter. My t-shirt cost $2500.I'm so totally fulfilled.

See you soon, thanks for the interest in the group.

Interviewed by Rip Nicholson // [email protected]