Video Credit: Mark Redmond
“Don’t settle for less – even a genius asks questions
Be grateful for blessings
Don’t ever change, keep your essence
The power is in the people and politics we address”
-Tupac, Me Against The World.
Being a Pac fan, there is an element in Name UL’s music that reflects the legend’s thinking — considering that asking questions is exactly what 18-year-old Emanuel Psathas encourages his peers to do on his new EP, Summit. He explains music is one of the strongest forms of communications he knows, espescially coming from a well-known family in music. Google Psathas, see what comes up. Name says, “Ninety per cent of what me and my dad talk about since I was 10 maybe, is music…It’s never like how was your weekend? It’s like oh I got Good Kid m.a.a.d City on vinyl, lets listen to that.” When it comes to lyrical talent, Name’s strengths come from a unique ability to read between peoples’ lines and then create his own world between them; his knack for doing this is how he managed to fail the creative writing section of his English exam and still get an A. “They said I was too abstract…I can have normal conversations,” he assures me. Nevertheless, his point of view makes for good rap music; the opening track of Summit titled ‘Generation Why’ opens with a sample playing a Fox news interview with Jesse Ventura, the former Governor of Minnesota, arguing the notion that 9/11 was an inside job and a lie. That interview can be found HERE.
“I ask questions, and what perturbs me is that you don’t get answers, nobody wants to talk about this event that changed the history of our country, why aren’t we allowed to discuss it? Why aren’t we allowed to ask questions? The moment you do, you get a reaction like he gave me… How dare you question your government?”
HH: What was your aim when you set out to make Summit?
NU: I had started with a sixteen track album and I’d started making it just after Home Brew released their album and I was hard out loving that. I wanted to make something that was really chill — it was about making something that was the same..I hadn’t finished it yet, [but I’d] cleared rights and everything, then I listened to it and my old DJ, Denny Fackney was saying to me, ‘Why don’t you try doing something that is more intellectual, making a statement?’ My dad had always said that. I hadn’t really thought about it before [my old stuff] was just about being cheeky and young.. then I found the way the feedback was, “Oh it’s that 16/17 year old rapper” instead of “Oh that’s Name UL“. So I thought maybe I should make something with a statement. I saw this interview with Kendrick, because I was sceptical — I didn’t want to put anything out if it was weird, I wanted to be safe.. But then I saw Kendrick and he was like, ‘the first time I actually got anywhere and got any respect from people and started getting die hard fans was when I did something where I had no idea if people will like it – it was 100% from within me.’ And that’s how I made Summit, it’s all from within me, it’s like an articulation of my mind.
HH: And now it’s three songs, which is also, I think quite interesting when a lot of people aim for five or there abouts?
N: It is, because I thought about having many more songs but in the end it was more about having something that was concentrated into three songs rather than diluted into five. [Earlier Name explains he wrote the lyrics in a short story format.] It was just way tighter when we had three songs that were all cohesive and relative to each other.. When I say we I think about every single person that was involved, like Lui The Zu who’s credited as YSL — me and him produced two of the tracks and I did the last one Eclipse with the Shocking and Stunning.”
“I went real deep inside my own mind. I think of it as we — as real spiritual because it was. All the stuff that came out of me was like we, as a collective. I was speaking from all these different aspects from within my mind together as a thing that came out, it was real crazy.”
As left field as this all sounds I ask him to elaborate, “I really don’t want to step into the realm of talking for people, because I don’t want to talk for people. That’s just an arrogant thing to do. [Therefore] because I can’t talk for people, I just talk for myself but I talk about myself as a member of a group of people, so when I say aspects of my mind I think about the aspect of me that is completely focussed on my music and then I think about the person who’s real into going out and having a good time kind of thing — I don’t think of that as the same person — I think about that as two separate people [when it comes to] the socially and politically aware kind of person that I am. Then I also think about the person who’s completely under their control and a slave to the media as well, I think about all these type of people, instantly when I think about those people within me I can think of people that I know like that as well. So in a way I am talking for myself so I get away with saying [me], but I am also talking about other people.. But I am not saying that I’m above them, I am part of them — I’m them as well in away.
“It doesn’t matter if you like me or not, or if you disagree with what I’m saying, because I feel so passionate about it there’s nothing you can actually say or do that’s going to change how I feel about this.”
HH: How did you do in your english exam? I am asking you about English specifically, for a reason.
NU: Pretty, pretty well aye. I did one piece, for my creative writing I got fail because it was too abstract they said. [Laughs].
HH: What are you reading at the moment?
NU: Oh, it’s real cheesy, but I am reading Unconditional Life by Deepak Chopra he is a therapist kind of dude and that book is like, crazy, wholly shit. I’m half way through but the first chapter is honestly like, it tells you about all these people who got terminally ill and I thought it was fake — I looked it up cause I was like, is this actually real because he was saying you can get an illness just from being stressed because the brain sends the same signals and he says that people who thought differently [shook the illness]. It just teaches you to live in a way that you’re going to die — it sounds real dark but people have literally beaten their illnesses with their mind — completely changed everything with their mind. [They’ve been told] there’s no way you’re going to live, we’re going to try everything and then just one day they’ve changed everything and they’ve turned their whole life around.
HH: It’s kind of relevant here because I have a question pre-planned, there are samples in the EP that talk about depression, why were these things poignant to you?
NU: I was thinking about people I know that say they’re depressed, and it’s easy to say that they don’t really know what’s going on in the world you know and they’re not ready to understand that people have bigger problems and stuff like that; I thought there’s been so many songs about depression and stuff like that.. The first song was like okay, we need to do this, we need to stand up, do this, do that; the second song was talking as if I was having a conversation with these people and someone said ,’we can’t stand up and talk about the bigger things’, because within the bigger conflict, the societal conflict, there’s our own conflict that we’re going through. So it was addressing that if you can’t understand what’s inside of you and you can’t understand the conflicts happening with the youth — then how are they going to understand what’s happening above them?
“I hard out love someone who’s confident — they might not even be talented but they’re just so confidence in all these other things and being an individual.”
HH: It’s very Zack de la Rocha your sound and feel on the EP.
NU: Who is Zack de la Rocha?
HH: From Rage Against The Machine.
NU: Aww, yeah. It’s real weird because I watched like 1000 live shows, [one of them was] a Rage Against The Machine in Mexico. It was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen. People were just going absolutely crazy because of what they were talking about, you know standing up and stuff. And I actually do find a little resemblance behind the first song, Generation Y and Rage Against The Machine. I listened to them a lot when I was younger.. I saw them at Big Day Out 2007 — I was like 11 years old — definitely in ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Generation Why’ there’s a strong resemblance — I like it aye, I don’t shy away from that, I think it’s cool. I’d rather be compared to them than like Gucci Mane or someone.
HH: There being only three tracks showed a sturdy confidence to me, in you.
NU: Thank you. Yeah it’s weird because I thought if you did something that isn’t asking for approval, I was thinking, why don’t I just come out and say this and just be like, ‘I don’t fucken care if you think I’m wrong’? Like this is actually what I feel like 150% ..It doesn’t matter if you like me or not, or if you disagree with what I’m saying because I feel so passionate about it, there’s nothing you can actually say or do that’s going to change how I feel about this.
HH: In a way are you trying to teach people something?
NU: I think, instead of trying to teach, it’s kind of like encouraging, I’m trying to encourage people to ask questions that’s what the whole first song is about..Instead of teaching I think of it as like putting on glasses [when you listen to the song] and it’s a different lense. But it’s not trying to say you need to do this and that, even though it sounds like I’m saying that in the songs, it’s [me] trying to be encouraging.
HH: Expecting people to receive an underlying message is like stabbing in the dark don’t you think? How do you feel as the artist that people might miss your point?
NU: I feel, that’s the thing, you know I think it’s way cooler to just give your album over with the artwork and everything surrounding it. I didn’t put out any videos or anything, it’s supposed to be all up for interpretation. I want to see what other people derive out of it, that’s way cooler.
HH: Who’s someone you spoke to after the release and you were like, yeah man, you fucken got it?
NU: Someone said to me, ‘Aw bro I like how you were talking about yourself, using yourself as a metaphor for the wider group and then you used the metaphor of the wider group for yourself. You were separating yourself, but you weren’t but you were.’ That was real cool.
HH: Okay your thinking process — do people in general have to get to know you first before they understand you?
NU: Yeah. [Laughs.] I don’t even think that anyone really gets it aye. You have to spend a lot of time with me to kind of get it.
HH: It’s like some kind of complex pattern that seems to bounce of the parameters of your mind or thinking — but not in a random process, a logical one.
NU: Yeah, well I think, cause I can have normal conversations with people and that’s easy and that’s what a lot of people know me as. But I haven’t had a chance to have these kind of conversations with everyone so not everybody gets it. There are people, like me and my old DJ, Denny — Bucks A Pop, he is one person who definitely gets it. My Dad definitely gets it. I think those two, honestly, those two.
HH: Those two in particular are interesting comparisons because they’re also the two people you mentioned at the beginning of the interview who you took advice from when switching the whole EP up.
NU: Yeah, it’s cause they get it. They know that I’m not going to just disregard what they say. Even if they said something that was completely offensive and like straight insult, I’m going to digest it and I’m not going to take offense or get real depressed about it… I’m never going to disregard anything that anyone says, I don’t ever want to be the kind of guy who someone says something to me and I disregard it, because I’m encouraging having an opinion [in the music].
HH: What things in the world though, don’t you care for, like human nature in general?
NU: I don’t know.. I don’t care for..I think it’s fucken stupid to be a part of a group, if it’s not a group of individuals — I honestly, that’s one thing that I fucken hate — when I finished school I totally separated myself from a lot of people because it felt like when I hung out with them, it was like I was being assimilated.
HH: So you detest pack mentality?
NU: Yeah. I fucken hate that shit. It’s stupid man. I still hang out with a lot of people, but the difference is that it’s a group of individuals. One thing I don’t care for is people getting and pulling confidence from getting fucked up, I hard out love someone who’s confident — they might not even be talented but they’re just so confidence in all these other things, and being an individual; not from someone being a bit tipsy and they can talk to someone because they did like a 10-day bender and got pissed every day. It’s cool to pull energy, not from inside you, but from around you.
HH: What aspects of Summit do you feel will improve in your next release?
NU: I think that I wish there was more thought put into the relationship between the vocal and the music. I think that’s something that I want to work on for my next project, the relationship between the vocals and music and having them as one thing as opposed to separate.
HH: Did you have a beginning, middle and an end in mind?
NU: Yeah well I was originally going to call the songs different stages of the mountain. Like the ‘Summit’ is the peak of the mountain, and this is crazy — this is the full concept and I haven’t told anyone this — the EP is like a mountain right — the summit is the top, watching the ‘Eclipse’ from the top, that’s the end, that’s the last song. So we’re at the summit, but [in the beginning] we’re at the base with ‘Generation Why’ because that’s the encouragement of asking questions. What I’m saying is from starting the climb up the mountain is by us asking questions right? And that’s us starting to move up. But then it’s like we’re questioning stuff, but why can’t you guys figure out anything for yourself? And then it’s like half way up we start figuring out conflicts within ourself which is Shipwreck. So that’s when we figure out all this stuff within us, we’re lost but we’ve come together — we’re all travelling up together. But then we break past that, we get to the summit and we watch the eclipse and all this energy, the process and all the frustration, everything that comes together explodes at the top as we watch the eclipse and that’s where all that passion is. That’s the top. That’s the Summit. That’s it
Name UL’s Summit is available for free download on Bandcamp.