In The Moment with Watsky at Vans Warped Tour
Meet George Watsky – rapper, writer and performer from San Francisco, who has just spent an entire summer touring across the country on this year’s edition of the Van’s Warped Tour. Performing on the Beatport Stage to thoroughly enraptured crowds, Watsky and his band presented an exhilarating, wildly unpredictable set. A new album entitled All You Can Do is about to be released through Steel Wool Records, and it’s sure to cement Watsky’s reputation as one of the most gifted rappers out on the scene today. Here is an interview we conducted with George Watsky at the Pomona date of the Van’s Warped Tour…
How’s Warped Tour going? What have been some of the highlights for you?
Warped Tour has been going great. We’ve been drawing good crowds everywhere we’ve been. It was really hot in Texas. This is actually, even if its in the 90s, is cool compared to where we were. I just love meeting all the bands, even six days in I’ve already made a lot of friends. I can only imagine we’re going to meet more people. I feel like we’re going to leave with a whole network of friends from all over the country, different musical artists. I’ve been really enjoying socializing and meeting the other musicians.
What’s it’s been like being the odd person / band out on Warped Tour?
We have a cool fraternity on the Beatport Stage, which is all the stuff that doesn’t fit on the other stage’s stage. I’ve made a lot of friends with those acts. Within our stage, I don’t feel like the odd one out. Wax, K Flay, MC Chris – we’re all Hip Hop and DJ sets so it’s been good. I think people have really open minds here. I’ve never at one moment felt like this audience isn’t interested in hearing what I have to say or these are hardcore kids and they’re not listening. They just don’t want to hear Hip Hop. I also happen to play with a live band so I think there’s already a reference point to what we’re doing. I’m not playing a DJ set, there’s a lot of musicality to what we do and a lot of styles. So, it hasn’t felt like I don’t belong here at any point.
What’s the title of the new album?
It’s called All You Can Do, it’s coming August 12th.
Is there a story behind the title?
It’s the first track of the album. I’ve had a great year, but I’ve also had a challenging year. I feel like I’ve dealt with the toughest things that I have in my whole life. I’ve also had some of the most satisfying successes I’ve had in 2014. The chorus of that song, it goes “all you can do is all you can do is all you can do.” It just repeats, so that’s one of the visual motifs of the album is a circle with “all you can do” just repeating around the edge of the album. It’s kind of a mantra I’ve adopted about living in the present moment and not worrying about anything that’s outside of your control. You take a deep breath and you move on.
Select any two songs from the new album, what inspired the lyrics?
We have a song with Stephen Stills from Crosby Stills and Nash called “Cannonball,” which was originally inspired by a bus driver of mine called Paul Hamer who is a large man who went crowd surfing at our Madison, WI show and the chorus is about seeing a field of daisies hold a cannonball above them. It was about this really large guy being held up by all these young kids, then it became ironic in the past year, we decided to include it on the album because we thought it had a nice self-awareness to it. “Canonball” is the last track on the album. Another song – “Let’s Get High and Watch Planet Earth,” which the chord progression and melody sounds like a Beatles song but it’s specifically inspired by the fact that I love the nature documentary Planet Earth. I like getting high and watching it. It’s a love song. That show really makes me reflect on my own mortality because you’ll see a Gazelle get chased down by a mountain lion, then you start rooting for the mountain lion because it’s been going hungry for two weeks. Then you start rooting for the gazelle because you don’t want to see it get hurt or injured. But it’s a song that, even know it’s a silly concept, it’s about reflecting on the circle of life and our own mortality. I’m proud of that song because I think it reflects my own quirkiness but also it is at its core, a serious message.
If you could open up for any band, either now or in the past, who would it be and why?
I’d like to just list off my favorite artists but because of the quirkiness nature of our music, I don’t think we belong opening up for Paul McCartney or some of the acts I love. I think we’d be a monstrosity at the beginning of their show so I’ll pick a hip hop act. I’d love to open for Eminem or some of my favorite rap acts, Outkast. That’d be a dream.
What was the name of the very first song you wrote? How old were you and what was it about?
I wrote a terrible song when I was 15 called “Nosey Clowns.” It was awful, I think I was a freshman in highschool. It’s got these fruity loops which was a beat making program from that era, these terrible stock beat sounds. Little synthetic sitars and stuff. It wasn’t about anything. When I was writing songs at that age, I couldn’t have told you the concept or premise for any of that material. I was just writing nonsensical bars that switch between self-deprecating personal stories or political diatribes from one bar to the next. It wasn’t about anything terrible, though. It’s on my soundcloud if you want to listen to it.
What did you do in Arrested Development?
I had a little bit role, they brought the series back to Netflix and they had different story lines of each of the characters of Gob, Will Arnett’s character. He had a storyline where he became an entourage member of a teenage Bieber type pop singer and I was – it was an actual parody of the show Entourage and I was one of those entourage members.
Is acting in your future?
I did study acting in school but while we’ve got momentum with music, i’m really trying to focus on music. It’s hard, if you’re touring as much as we do, you can’t really be back in LA for auditions all the time, so my focus in on music right now. I’d love to do some acting down the line.
What’s up next after Warped Tour?
We’re going right on the road doing a club tour. All You Can Do comes out August 12th, I’m playing Outside Lands in San Francisco on August 10th. The album comes out two days later then about three weeks after that we hit the road for about three months starting in Europe then to the US in October and November and we’ll be touring through 2015. Then I’ll figure out what’s next…
(Interview and Candid Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)
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