Exclusive: Sole Discusses Leaving Anticon Records
Two weeks ago, West Coast Sound brought you the inside scoop on a major development in the world of indie rap. Only days after El-P announced that he is stepping down from his label duties at Def Jux, his onetime contra costa rival Sole announced that he too was leaving the label that he founded -- Anticon Records, which is now based in Downtown Los Angeles.
Sole, ready for life as an independent
When the news broke, we spoke to Anticon label manager Shaun Koplow about his feelings on the matter. (Read an earlier feature about Koplow, and Anticon's evolution, here). We'd attempted to reach Sole for comment as well, but he was out of the country. Well, Sole, a.k.a. Tim Holland, has broken his silence and as it turns out, he had a lot of nice things to say along with, of course, a handful of salt to toss into the eyes of the industry.
Read our interview with Sole after the jump, and after watching his latest video, for the song "Battlefields" off of Sole & The Skyrider Band's recent Fake Four Records Inc. release, Plastique.
West Coast Sound: First things first, are you looking forward to the next chapter? Is this a positive time for you?
Tim Holland: This is a very positive time. I'm coming out of some dark times and throwing myself into the abyss. As they say, "The soul glows when it is challenged." I'm really happy with the new beats I've been making and with the new music we're doing with Sole & Skyrider. We've been working with a new label called Fake Four Inc., and that's going great. I'm psyched to be at the helm of a serious business venture again. These days, I'm living in Denver and I intend to stay -- being in a place of high culture and natural beauty brings me great joy and inspiration.
WCS: Will you miss being a part of Anticon, after over a decade work put in?
Holland: Well, I've been missing Anticon for awhile now. I particularly miss the camaraderie and sense of adventure we felt in those early years. I don't want to be 20 again, sleeping 11 folks to a two-bedroom apartment, but as trying as those times were, we were surviving on the pre-realization of a dream, and it was beautiful. In an alternate universe, I'm still signed to 1998 Anticon. Some of my best friends are still on Anticon and we will always be tight regardless of who owns the music. The only line in the sand I'm drawing is about how my music will be exploited, and why.
WCS: Your parting statement seems to imply that Anticon's days of standing "as an image of defiance against the music industry" are over. Is that due to how the label has evolved, or how the business has changed?
Holland: It has to do with Anticon's posture and current motivations -- it's now driven more toward aesthetic expression and not an ideological or political one. In the beginning, Anticon created a market where there was none and few people can say they have done that. Along the way, I felt all of this so-called progress wasn't the best thing for the brand, and the more I'd voice that opinion, the more I felt I wasn't in line with where the label was headed. But out of loyalty or fear or nostalgia, I stuck around. I took this tack until I realized I'd spent more years as an insurgent shareholder than as a team player.
WCS: You don't think some of the label's changes are just reactions to external ones -- I.E. independents having a bigger slice of the pie?
Holland: I do not believe that indie labels are getting a bigger piece of the pie. It's not GE-subsidized major labels that are going out of business; it's long-established indie labels like Touch And Go and Def Jux. Sure, if you go to a dive bar in Denver, or peruse Tiny Mix Tapes, you'll see mostly indie stuff, but go out into the world and people are still listening to garbage. Plus, a lot of indie acts make music that's so polished, formulaic and mindless that it very well should be on a major. Instead, hip consumers can still support them bands and we can call it "indie."
We saw Tower Records go down, but we've seen just as many independent record stores vanish in college towns. Most artists and labels I know that are doing well are making good money by way of their personal webstores. It's a great way to maximize profits personally, but this itself is contributing to the decline of mom-and-pop record stores and distributors. The Internet is like the plow -- it's gonna put a lot of people out of business, but the farmers are still gonna produce food; there's just less labor involved in getting the music out. Other than a few good blogs and music sites, there are few reputable outlets for indie artists until they reach the point where they can do sold-out 90-day tours. The tail is wagging the dog. The proverbial pie has crushed glass in it.
When I see this vacuum screaming to be filled by forward-thinking writers, labels, artists and new forms of music institutions, I think positively about where this aspect of our culture might be headed. It's hard not to be optimistic -- can things actually get worse?
WCS: What are your immediate plans for the future?
Holland: Well, right now my plate is pretty full. I'm going on tour with [Fake Four acts] Ceschi and Dark Time Sunshine for Plastique in March, and after that I'm going to Japan for a week, then hopefully we'll be back in Europe this summer. Between then, I'm working on new Sole & Skyrider stuff and a poetry-slash-art book-slash-album with my longtime collaborator Ravi Zupa. I was supposed to start a talk show in February [on Denver Open Media], and I want to start that up soon, but I want to do it right.
WCS: Any thoughts about putting out others through your Black Canyon imprint? El-P's a free agent. Maybe it's time for a collaborative record...
Holland: [Laughs] The El-P shit was weird timing. I had to make a statement because the distributors had already been notified about Anticon and I, stars were crossed and the gods were laughing. I doubt El-P would ever work with me since I kinda jump-started my career by dissing him. We don't have a relationship today, but I do enjoy his work.
As far as putting out other artists, part of me thinks that if people can't figure out how to make a career for themselves today -- by building locally, by working hard and utilizing the Internet -- then I'm not interested in doing their work for them. My goal for the next few years is to go full-on with my own music, but as the dust settles, I can see myself becoming involved on the business side and helping people, though in what capacity remains to be seen. In a perfect world, everyone owns their own music, 100 percent.