Peace, Namir Blade how did you come up with the name??
Well, Thankfully I didn’t have to come up with the name. lol.
It was my given name by my mother. It is East African for “Strong One.” My mother had what you would call, an ectopic pregnancy. I was stuck in her tubes, the doctor offered to do a procedure that would have gotten me outta here, but she was like, “nah” Eventually I came out of the tube and everything was fine.
For the longest time I went under the moniker of Rain, but a few years ago, I decided to go by my real name. I did this so that I can hold myself true to being honest in my music. (and so that the people who made fun of me in middle school, will know what’s good)
How did being from your city/state shape your style/sound?
It’s weird, because I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I didn’t move to Nashville until I was three. When I was 12 I came back to Milwaukee to visit for the first time, I also visited my family in Chicago, which isn’t that far from Milwaukee. Traveling between these three places gave me a wide range of influences. The Midwest gave me pockets, patterns. The south gave me flavor, bounce, and soul.
What’s life been like for you as an artist in quarantine?
It has been really weird, studio sessions are kind of done over email, and phone calls. I haven’t done a livestream performance yet, but I’m planning to do one. I think I like that part though, as a former theater kid, I can work with set design, and really let my creativity shine.
You started making music at the age of six who were some artists you looked up to??
I’d have to say, I looked up to Prince quite a bit. My mom was the biggest Prince fan, and he could play a lot of instruments, and had such a great control over his voice.
I also looked up to Yasunori Mitsuda, and Nobuo Uematsu. Those two individuals have had the strongest influence on me as a musician. Both had a hand in creating the soundtrack to this game called Chrono Trigger, which I was obsessed with as a child. The compositions were simply, otherworldly. It was the perfect combination of Jazz and Classical music. The first songs I ever tried to learn to play on piano were from that game, and the rest is history.
First concert you ever saw?
The first concert I ever saw was Kanye West. He was doing his Saint Pablo tour. It was nothing short of amazing. I have been to a million shows, but I have never seen a high profile artist’s concert before that. The floating stage was like a ship moving steadfast in a sea of people. With every jumping fan, it was like a wave moving around everywhere the lights below the stage moved. 12 outta’ 10.
What’s Aphelion’s Traveling Circus about when did you record it?
Aphelion’s Traveling Circus follows the narrative of a future generation, where all familiarity and the creature comforts of the Earth are strained. I have always been interested in science fiction, One of my favorite authors is Ray Bradbury. I wanted to approach the album like the scene of a Bradbury book, mixed with the musicality and mysticism of Sun Ra.
So the story goes, that Earth was declared uninhabitable thousands of years ago. The remaining humans decided to branch out into the cosmos and start colonies. Once established, the rich and powerful pooled all of their money into a planet called Vertuni, which is Las Vegas, but an entire planet.
On this planet, you find the protagonist wandering aimlessly, until he is approached by a man selling tickets to a traveling circus. I did my best to compartmentalize my life and reimagine it as if it was a circus traveling from place to place, picking up people, dropping them off etc. It’s all a metaphor for our journey through this life, we make friends, fall in love, fall out of love, have hopes and dreams, deal with insecurities, grief, joy, pain—You get the idea.
I just wanted to create something that could stir emotions in people, and provide an unique auditory experience. I spent the last few years recording and writing and conceptualizing this project. I’m glad to see it’s finally coming out.
Your thoughts on the protests around the country?
I’m all for the protests and everything else that comes with that. I feel like at this point in our lives, we’ve truly had enough of being treated unfairly in the grand scheme of things. It worked out because for a while, there was no entertainment to distract us from what was going on in the world around us, due to Covid.
It was like, “You can’t ignore us now, You can’t distract yourself with prime time television or sports. That shit is in your face, It’s in your backyard.” I hope they continue, and there is an effort to make real change, whether it be through these peaceful protests, or people busting a hole through a Bojangles or something. I’m a firm believer in “By any means necessary” I’m with the shits.
What is your recording process like, do you come up with the beat first or what??
My recording process is really sporadic and based on how I feel at the moment, I open up my program. I play a of live instruments on my production, so I usually just play around with some moods or colors on my keys. Depending on the hue, it determines how I approach a track’s vocals.
I can’t read music, so I solely play by feeling, and what I see in my head when I hit certain notes. Other times I have loose vocals, or a pattern or a melody that I will expound on with instruments after recording the initial vocal idea. That is rare for me though.
Favorite thing(s) to do in Nashville before the madness?
I am kind of a Hermit. So even when the world was open for business. I still kept in the house. Whenever I went out, It was usually to go to this place called Great Escape. Great Escape is the heat, they sell: Records, Books, Vhs tapes,Video games, Anime, Toys, like whatever your heart desires. It’s crazy. I am always over there, or at the OG record store, Phonoluxe.
Phonoluxe is special because they are open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So, By Default, they have all the rare shit, and they have the rare VHS tapes too. Lastly, there is Game Galaxy. One of the last real arcades in the city, if not the last. They have it all, Dance Dance Revolution (Personal fav), Tekken, The X Men game, and a multitude of other arcade cabinets.
I also miss the venues where they would play old school hip hop, or funk. I’m a sucker for dancing, I grew up teaching myself how to pop-lock, re-run, electric boogaloo, krump, footwork, all of that. My living room doesn’t cut it sometimes. Those places are the only places I miss.
Last words or shout outs?
Um big ups to Mello, and L’Orange for taking good care of me. Shouts out to my parents, because I became aight’ as an adult and my dad has always pushed me as a musician. Shout out to all of the gang in the TENN (Y’all know who y’all are), and my siblings.
Lastly shout out to everyone in the world at large. I know we are going through some trying times, and a lot of people are frustrated, scared, unsure of where we will be in the future. I will leave you with this, no matter how dark our days have been, we still find a way to keep pushing for the good. Don’t stop fighting that good fight, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, or it doesn’t make sense.
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IMAGE: Namir Blade