A head to head conversation with Gonjasufi
Sumach Valentine aka Gonjasufi is an universal traveller. He trips through the universe chanting his eclectic mélange of hip-hop, psycheledia, punk and dark humms. Having realeased 4 EP’s and five albums for Warp Records, home ofAphex Twin, Autechre, Squarepusher, Flying Lotus, Brian Eno & Boards of Canada, he is their only American shaman. Sometimes a yoga teacher, always a raw performer, a record producer and guest feature on smashing albums and releases from the likes of: Jay-Z, Flying Lotus, The Gaslamp Killer, The Bug, Schlachtofbronx, Pererra Elsewhere, Kutmah, Dag Savage, etc he is also the owner of the A.I.R label.
After his show in Bucharest, in club Control, I managed to hit the same noisy frequency and went for a conversation.
You’ve worked with Daddy G, Perrera Elsewhere, Schlachtofbronx, The Bug, The Gaslamp Killer and Flying Lotus, to name a few. How did these relationships evolve?
I would say it’s electromagnetic. It has to do with the frequencys. We are and were on the same wavelength. At the time with Flying Lotus and Willi (William Fergusson aka The Gaslamp Killer) we shared the same frequency. We met up and had the same intentions with our music, the same reasons. Now, when I am making music with new people such as Sasha (Perrera aka Perrera Elsewhere), Walter Gross, Santiro Romeri, Daddy G, Ras G it’s the same shit: it’s electromagnetic. It’s the frequency we’re all now logged together. The intention on the music is the same, what we want out of it, we’re not doing this to seek fame or to seek money. The artists on my latest album, The Mandela Effect, people like King Britt and Moor Mother are all about the message, no compromise. I do not work with anyone compromised anymore. We have to come from the same space. Really, it is just electromagnetic, like magnets and we attract to each other and work together. That’s how it is.
I remember way back in 2012 when I first listened to your music, you were asking for demos and samples on Facebook, do you still do that when you start working on a new record? Do you reach out to the universe like that?
I’m open man. There’s always a search. I also respond when people reach out to me. I take the time. When it pulls anything out of me there is a song that comes out of that. I will do it. I reached out to a lot of people and when people don’t respond I feel rejected, I don’t want people to feel that way when they work with me, reach out. I know some people have reached out and I haven’t returned with music, or I recorded it and never sent it, but I am reachable. I write on social media and I am the one answering emails, responding to the calls. I’m open to collaborate but it’s just got to be right. It has to make sense. I have to be inspired. For example, I collaborated with Schlachtofbronx and those guys are cool. They first sent me something that was kind of happy, so I told them I am not in that space right now. That’s not how I feel. You have to give me the darkest shit you fucking ever made man. I need that shit. So they got it and offered it right.
“The answer is NO to all the above, 50% off, everything must go. Maybe even you!”
I know that for A Sufi and a Killer you’ve toured with a band. Now you’ve moved from that position of live drumming, amplified bass and guitars to a performance similar with a live set, a more stripped down touring crew. You are now a full time producer, working and touring with the Skrapez. How do you feel about that transition from a full band to something closer to a one-man show with guests?
Well, I’ve always been a producer man. The band was new for me: purely experimental. It was a learning experience. And this is the band now. Skrapez. I just throw my computers of the stage, I’m like trying to lead a movement that says “Fuck you computers!”. No more space board heroes, we have to rock! I mean that! That’s for Djs. We can all Dj, I can Dj, I am the hardest Dj there is, but that is too easy, it’s a gimmick! Showing up with a computer, sounds prerecorded, press play, then speaking some words to the mic, engaging the people…Yeah man I can do that, that’s easy! I can do that shit while I’m sleeping. That is not pushing the culture forward. Create another industry! Do not conform. Let the industry conform to us man! What happens when this band goes around and you cannot bring your computers on the plane? What’s going to happen to all this Djs around? They’re going to have to rethink their game plan. We’re cool, we fucking rock, and that’s how we’re going to do it, we’ll fucking ROCK! If they can’t show up, we’ll fill the slot! So I’m just throwing some anti-computer shit and I may sound bitter because I am a little bitter about this. I am not trying to diminish what other people are doing, their movement or who they work for, I just know what we are working towards and its bigger than the fucking house music. It’s for the future generations. Like you’ve seen last night, it was SICK! That means everything to us.
You’ve been with WARP Records for such a long time and I can feel from your records they are giving you the freedom to do whatever you feel like on an album. You’ve collaborated in the past with other label or just with them? How do you feel about record labels?
Just with Warp and I love them because they put me in a space to work and see the world. But with a label there is always a compromise. You have to trust the people in a label, we are a team. At this stage in my career do I need a label? I don’t! Do I want to go to WARP? Yes I love them and they will go all the fucking way with me. If they wouldn’t, we’d keep moving. It’s hard to run a label, running one is one of the hardest jobs that you can have. Artists who have their hand out and everyone have a sense of entitlement. That can get in the way. When I had A Sufi and a Killer out with all the reviews and the rates I had that, a sense of entitlement. I was saying: Yo, you guys have to give me this, this and this… I was right, but you know in life you have to be patient. I’ve grown now and I’ve learned to trust them more. My latest album The Mandela Effect was sort me trusting them, so was The Caliph’s Teaparty. I look forward in dropping more records with them and being in the position of having to trust them again. As far as getting paid, I don’t rely on them. Their charging me for my own fucking records. They want me to sell merch and they charge me…That shit is whack! For a label they should be, you’re on tour? Get some records and SMASH! Don’t charge me for my records! So, regarding the money? You can’t depend on a label to give you the money. You can depend on them to put your music out but you got to get out there and earn that shit on the fucking road. And sell your own merchandise! That’s the key to making money, to longevity and not depending on the label to pay you. I don’t look to WARP to get paid anymore man! They better pay me what they owe me but I don’t depend on them. It’s beautiful to be on a label but you have to have a 9 to 5 job to shovel the shit on the side so you don’t depend on them. I love Warp and I’ve expanded our relationship over time, I think they understand me more and we will work out this.
Judging by the raw energy of your show in Bucharest maybe you should consider in releasing a live album next.
Good idea man. I’ll take that one to Skrapez! It’s been hard, the road has been hard. When I first came out everyone was like “It sucks live!” And it did, for the first year or two I did suck live! I did, I fucking did, I didn’t allow that to stop me. My main goal now is showing and smashing it, next one making it better than this one and so on. So the people get connect and feel like they’re being part of the evolution of me as a performing artist. I’m a studio artist, I create my personal intimate thing with the microphone and it’s been the last couple of years of working as a live act. It means everything to me that the people are responding to us live. That’s where the word is at, the freedom, the money, where the message gets across the most and that what we will forge: ROCK STAGES! I want to rock festivals too: I’m trying to rock Glastonbury. I am trying to get these festivals again, so I can redeem myself.
Can you get personal and tell us about your family? How do they support the Gonjasufi, the musician?
Yes. For example Rochelle, my wife, she’s now at home watching the six kids, making sure they get to baseball practice, to tennis, to ballet and she’s really the backbone of me. My strength and everything comes from her being by my side. Rochelle holding me, trusting me to go out there and do my music, to perform. At the end of the day all I want to do is be with my kids and come out here and rock stages. Every time I play live I am bringing the energy of my family to the stage. My six kids are my fuel, I need that much energy. What you saw, that’s how much love and passion and compassion I have for my family and for this music and for the brothers that I’m on stage with. We are all fucking family man! That’s how I get out there, I get there because I pray, we all pray to absorb the suffering of everyone, the crowd, to get rid of some shit from home and maybe give the people some answers. And, of course, to be present enough to take on anything they got, that’s what we’re doing, we show up and we pour as much energy into everybody as we can. Some people leave, some feel inspired, others feel free and express themselves. From the core to them all!
I hope you’ve enjoyed Romania.
Yeah man. I loved it, beautiful people, and great weather just like in the States. We went out and partied ‘till like 8 in the morning. We went to the park, the central one, we listened to a bunch of house and techno. It was fun! I can’t wait to come back here! Peace brother! Jah bless!
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