Pigeon John Uncut!
By Marisa Demarco
How are you doing?
Goody woody how are you?
Why's your name Pigeon John and not Canary Mike or something?
Canary Mike is a little too out there. Pigeon John is right in the middle, nice and cozy.
Your real name is Michael Scott?
No! My real name is John. Michael Scott is my hero.
You don't know who MIchael Scott is?
He's the head guy on "The Office," the TV show. He's the boss.
Why is Michael Scott your hero?
Because he reminds me of myself. Just a weird boss guy who's trying to be cool and friendly with everyone, but he can't fit in because he's freaking weird. He cries when he's alone.
Do you cry when you're alone?
Sure. Don't you? Doesn't everyone?
OK. So I'm totally distracted. You're real name is John ...
Universally, everyone says you're one of the freshest voices in hip-hop right now. What do you think sets you apart from other emcees?
Woo! Man, I don't know. Last night, it was a weird show, I was on stage thinking, "What makes me different?" While I was rapping, I was having a conversation with myself, looking at myself with a little smirk like, "Dude, what are you doing?" So I was a little distracted. (Laughs)
Nah, I really wouldn't know, maybe because I'm too close to it. It's kind of up to other people to say what makes me different from another emcee. I know a lot of emcees that are doing great things that are totally different. I'm definitely not claiming to be the only one doing anything.
A lot of the humor on your Pigeon John ... and the Summertime Pool Party seems to come out of everyday kind of stuff. Is that what inspires you? Does stuff happen to you and you just sit down and write it down?
The stuff that happens. Without a doubt. When I go on tour and see different scenes, I'll be in Albuquerque or San Diego or New York, and the people that come out really influence me. I'm in love with different scenes.
Sometimes I'm surprised by them—like the elf people. You know, the ones that wear the little pants that go down tight at the ankles? I call them elf people.
Why do you call them elf people?
I don't know, they look like nice little elves. They walk in with the pokey hair and they come in and they look like little Santa's helpers. And I love 'em.
You're inspired by elf people.
I'm inspired by the elf people. I walk in and I'm like, "Dang, fool, that looks freaking hard." That's all I need. I go home and hear the next beat or something, and I start writing.
So "The Elf People," a title track on your next CD?
Who knows? By the time it comes out, that will be the old style. You know, you gotta stay new.
Where do you live?
I live in Northridge, California.
But you're originally from ...
And how long you been doing this?
My first solo record I put out in 2001, so it's been five long years.
Before that did you just perform at open mic nights or ..
Before that I was part of LA Symphony. We did open mic churches, clubs, did that whole thing. Around 2003 is when I said, "I want to just do Pigeon John." Before that I dropped Pigeon John Is Clueless, just for the people who might already be into me. It opened more doors.
Pigeon John ... and the Summertime Pool Party—fun, humorous, light-hearted. Would you say that?
Yeah, it's a light-hearted package, I would say. But there's definitely songs that are of a darker tone on the album. But I just don't want to tell people that.
We're going to keep it a secret or what?
Yeah. I'm a big fan of Wes Anderson. You know who that is?
Wow! Wooooooow! I can't believe you just said that to me. I'm disappointed.
I'm sorry, Pigeon.
He did the Rushmore and Bottle Rocket, and I love his stuff.
The last one was Life Aquatic, a new comedy by Wes Anderson. From the package, it looks like an underwater adventure. You go in there, and you realize that, whoa, there's certain parts that out of the blue almost make you want to cry or make you laugh. Or there's an extremely violent scene that hits you over the head because you weren't expecting it.
That's the way I love doing music. People are way smarter than myself, so I don't want to tell them everything, because there will be no surprise. They get it, I don't have to tell them. I don't mind it being packaged in a happy beach-boy type of feel.
You're on the road right now?
I'm in San Francisco about to perform at the Independent with Cut Chemist and Lyrics Born.
Have you been on tour for long?
Before I started this tour, I was home for a week and a half. I took a break and then went back on the road for two months and I will get home in the middle of December.
Do you like being on the road?
I like being on the road. Sometimes it gets a little tiring. It's always fun when you're going out. It's not fun leaving friends and family, but when you're on the road it becomes fun. I get to see the world and country. Can't complain.
OK. Tell me about your worst touring experience.
I was out on the road with Red Cloud and DJ Wise, and we were doing a Native American reservation up in Montana. It was cold, it was freezing. The shows were dismal. We were staying at this casino in the middle of ... not nowhere, but not city. We were staying up there three four days, chilling. We'd do a show and have four days off. It was very slow. We were going crazy.
We got in the car to go get paid for the show that we did. We were happy we got paid. We were like, "Yeah, fool. We're about to leave," and started playing around in the car. In the middle of Montana there's two-way roads. One side is one direction and the other side is the other. And there's a big slope on either side. You know those roads where you go too far and it goes "rrrrrrrrrrrrr?" There's none of that.
We're making faces to each other like, "Yeah, boy, we got the dough." Red Cloud's driving and I'm in the passenger seat. Wise is in the back. I'm making a funny face at Red Cloud and he starts making a funny face at me. You know when your friend's not looking at the road and, you're like, "Hey, don't play around! Keep your eye on the road, man!"
Before you know it, we're on the grass. We freaking went up this hill and flew into the air. I said to myself, "This is going to really hurt." And the car smashed into the ground.
Oh my gosh.
Red Cloud cut his eyebrow. Wise got a little hurt. I didn't get totally hurt. No broken bones, but it was just a frightful, frightful thing. That was the worst tour experience, definitely.
It is scary. We got close to death. We had to go back to that casino afterward, and we all felt weird. I'd be in the freaking shower chilling and start freaking crying! Out of the blue! I'd be like, "What is wrong with me?" I think because everyone got so close to death, it freaks you out for a couple days. We were acting weird. Wow, that's a weird story. Now I feel weird.
Dang. I'm sorry. Right. What else? We're going to change topics so you can feel better. What are you listening to?
Right now I'm listening to the new Sean Lennon album. It's the bomb. And the Beck album. I buy all of Beck's stuff. I'm a huge fan. The videos are freaking nuts.
Favorite musician of all time? It's impossible, but just try.
I'll say Brian Wilson. Yes. He's from Hawthorn, California, and that's the town I started from musically. He made happy music that sounds kind of scary. He did that the best with the Beach Boys with the song "God Only Knows."
I know we were talking about the elf people. Who listens to Pigeon John?
Elf people. A lot of elf people. Saw some last night. Awesome people. Powerful people.
Does it matter to you who buys your records?
No. Not at all. Sometimes kids do. Even yesterday, my friend, she says "Will you sign this CD?" and I said "Yeah, who's it for?" and she says, "Oh it's my little sister. She's a child. She really likes your songs."
That makes me feel weird, like I do children's rap. That doesn't make me feel cool. I get that a lot, like moms coming up, "Oh my kid loves you!" I say, "How old is he?" "He's 3! He sings your raps!" I'm like, "Can he talk?"
So maybe next a children's album. Pigeon John Will Buy You a Cookie.
(Laughs) Right, who knows?
Soriba Fofana • drummer, traditional West African at South Broadway Library
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