Heavy Gun has never been opposed to crossing boundaries or experimenting outside of the proverbial box. Case in point: the live presentation of The Gateway 2 in 2011 when they asked Indian City Weather to open the evening’s festivities. At first glance, it was a curious pairing- an indie rock band to open for a hip hop party? But spend more than five minutes listening to Indian City Weather (side note: the band is named after the Midwest’s tendency to have drastically varied temperatures from one day to the next) and you’ll hear elements of hardcore punk, delicate songwriting, and lots of hip hop flavor.
It was through that experience of opening for The Gateway 2 that Indian City Weather’s rapper, Niqolas Askren (a.k.a. Sirius Black), connected with Grey Granite and ultimately ended up at The Gateway 3 Lock-In this year. Below, he speaks with me about his independent project, in addition to a revitalized focus on Indian City Weather and an artist collective that he’s expected to debut soon.
MOJO: When did you get to the lock-in?
SB: Around 6 o’clock.
MOJO: How did you get involved this year?
SB: I met Grey through Indian City Weather. We opened up for them at The Gateway 2 show last year. I just got to finally sit down and talk to him about a week ago while working together on my mixtape and then he asked me to swing by The Gateway 3.
MOJO: Have you been in to record yet?
SB: Yea, I recorded earlier today- the song with Freddie Bunz and Oreo on the hook; I laid down the first verse.
MOJO: You’re getting ready to release your debut solo project, a mixtape called Smoke In The Trees. How did you start your independent work, separate from Indian City Weather?
SB: I just wanted to record a hip hop mixtape to get the band more exposure in the city because some people consider it hip hop and some people don’t. So, that was my main focus, and then it just spread from there.
MOJO: Do you like one project better than the other?
SB: Indian City Weather is my main priority, but it’s cool to get on beats now. That’s where I started when I was younger, and then I met the guys [in Indian City Weather] and we started doing live music. So it’s nice to revisit it.
MOJO: What else do you have going on right now, besides contributing to The Gateway?
SB: Just finishing the Smoke in the Trees mixtape. I have one more session and then I’m done. I’m also working with a bunch of local artists to form a collective called Ghost Town Gang. We’re working on a mixtape right now. We’ve got 10 tracks done featuring Joey Gaylor (a.k.a. Grizz) who’s in hardcore band Opponents, a rapper named Peteyboy, as well as this cat named Winston Orion from Houston and also this kid named Nick Nice- he’s crazy. I’ve been trying to just add on as I go. And also my mentor Conway- he kind of shifted me into the position I’m at as an emcee. I kinda shaped my style off his. And you’ll hear him on the record, too.
MOJO: Why does the word “mixtape” often have a negative connotation to it?
SB: A lot of the mainstream artists who make mixtapes don’t usually put their best material on those mixtapes- they save it for albums. That’s just my opinion, at least. That’s what I’ve noticed.
MOJO: But that’s not the case for your mixtape?
SB: It doesn’t really play out like a mixtape; it plays out like an actual album. This being my first musical release ever as a solo artist- I don’t think I’ve ever put this much of myself into anything. It’s helped me out with my writing because it just comes a lot easier. I think it was kind of like boot camp for me and it’s definitely helped me out, especially with the new Indian City Weather Stuff.
MOJO: Indian City Weather has been working on new material?
SB: We finished a new song the other day. I’ve been heavy into this mixtape stuff for a while now and hadn’t seen any of the guys in like, two months. So, we got together the other day and they had something written out that was the best thing they’ve ever done. I was super proud. I’m excited. It kind of got me rejuvenated for Indian City Weather.
MOJO: Were you guys just on a hiatus?
SB: Kind of. Tyler [Bayne, drummer] went to chef school and everybody just kind of did their own thing for a while. Joe [Cohen, guitar] went back to school. Finch [bass] was working. But everybody’s kind of back on solid ground for the time being so we’re trying to get in the studio.
MOJO: Are you experimenting with a new sound?
SB: This is different because Jonah [Crouch, lead guitar & primary songwriter] and I have kind of taken the reigns for the record. Jonah has taken his writing into this weird funk/R&B/soul style.
MOJO: Where did that come from?
SB: I have no idea! I don’t know, but I like it a lot! It’s easier to groove with. It kind of lost the indie rock element and brought in some type of groove. It’s progression.
MOJO: Locally speaking, who would you like to collaborate with?
SB: Well, Grey was one of the people I wanted to collaborate with but I got to do that on my mixtape. I was going to say Oreo [Jones] or Freddie [Bunz] but they both are on the song I recorded on today *laughs* so I knocked those two out as well. That’s what’s up!
I really want to work with… I want to do an EP with Freddie Bunz. I think that would be awesome. I like A.C.E. O.N.E. too; he’s cold-blooded.
MOJO: What is your biggest struggle with the local music scene?
SB: Having to see so many good bands and artists just give it up when I know for a fact that they would have kept pushing and they could have got somewhere. That happens all that time. I look at bands like Pessoa and I don’t want those guys to ever quit. They need to continue forever. Eventually somebody is going to hear that and be like, “Wow.” People just give up too easily.
MOJO: I was sad when I heard about Slothpop calling it quits.
SB: That’s actually what made me say that because I just heard about that today. I was like, “Come on. You had it in the bag!”
Check out a track from Smoke In The Trees below and follow Sirius Black on Twitter @siriusxblvck.
Also be sure to catch Sirius Black’s contributions to Gateway 3 when it drops next week on HeavyGunBlog.com.