September 12th, 2008 | Interviews

ian o’phelan

Download: Aesop Rock ‘None Shall Pass’


(from None Shall Pass on Definitive Jux)

What was the first show you ever played in L.A.? Who did you perform with? Where was it? What did people think?
Damn. Lemme think. I feel like I was probably with either Atmosphere or Cannibal Ox because I didn’t really get too far off the East Coast til maybe ‘99 or so? 2000? 2001? I really don’t remember at all. But those are some of the people I had traveled with in my earlier years of leaving the East Coast. L.A. has always been a great market for me for some reason, although I probably wasn’t really that great of a performer at the time and didn’t have much of a ‘show’ put together. I wanna say it might have been at the Knitting Factory but that may be totally wrong, too. Well, I answered this question terribly.
What was the last song of yours you listened to all the way through and why?
I’m on tour now so I perform my songs nightly, but I guess that doesnt count. It was probably something new—a demo of some sort. As for a ‘finished song’ it would probably be this song ‘Ruby and the Beagle,’ which is this thing I wrote for an upcoming issue of McSweeney’s. It’s this really short story over very minimal percussion—snapping fingers. I probably listened to it because it’s new, and I always listen most to whatever is newest. I don’t ever really go back and check anything once it comes out.
When you and John Darnielle are left in unsupervised conversation, what topics are most natural and rewarding for you to discuss?
To be honest I can’t keep up. That guy spews information out at all times. One second he’s praising a B-side album cut by Dionne Warwick with a pretty surreal enthusiasm and the next he’s critiquing ancient Roman architectural devices. I mean—it’s insane in a really beautiful way. He’s really bursting at all times—almost like he can’t get information out fast enough. I am not really a great conversationalist, so I kinda just take it all in. He likes to talk about West Coast gangsta rap.
You described your collaboraror Jeremy Fish as a gentleman and scholar—that makes you a gentleman and … a what?
I’m just like some dude.
What is the most nervewracking thing about performing in front of your parents? What sort of audience would you be most fearful of performing for?
Even though I’m sure they’re picking up very few of the actual lyrics—because to them I’m just talking fast—probably the cursing, or anything to do with not being into organized religion or Catholicism or things of that nature. They’re pretty straight people. As for audiences that make me nervous—at this point I just hate it when nobody knows the material. Occasionally you get thrown on a bill or accept a gig because it seems cool or weird, but really if the people aren’t there for you it just crawls by so slowly. It’s not like when I was young you could just go up blindly, rip a couple verses, and people say, ‘Dope shit!’ The ante is upped and I think I’m sort of expected to be able to perform at a certain level. So putting on a ‘show’ for people that just don’t care or aren’t there for you is the worst.
How can someone ensure that their thirties will be better than their twenties? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Ha! I feel like I still don’t know shit usually. I feel like I used to look at my parents and think life just coasts. You dont really think about that you have to find work, find money, find happiness, avoid poisons—blah blah blah! I wake up every day and I never feel like it’s just coasting. I guess I wish I knew that that insane scary feeling really never goes away—so just learn to deal with it and move on.
You said rap should always be listened to in a car—why? What particular album and what particular car would be best?
It just feels right. It’s clear, it’s loud, there’s scenery. It’s a great place to take in a full album. You’re in this little box with music and windows. It’s the soundtrack to your drive. It just seems right. I’d like some Slick Rick in a beater.
You predicted 2008 would be full of ‘weird stuff.’ What’s the weirdest stuff you’ve endured so far?
The death of Camu Tao. Obviously death is a difficult thing, but this one was different. There’s something so uniquely wrong about him dying now, and I still haven’t been able to really find the words to express why. I miss him at all times.
If America ever ceased to be a functioning nation, what do you think you would do to escape?
My wife’s Canadian so I have the getaway car revved and ready for whatever the future holds.
What is the most moving photograph you ever saw?
I worked at one of the more prestigious photo galleries in New York City and you know what? Photos just don’t move me. Well, lemme reword that. Photos are awesome and fun to look at but if we’re talking ‘moved,’ its always been more painting and drawing and illustation—things of that nature—that really hit me hard. There are plenty of dope photographers—Ben Colen, Chrissy Piper—but it’s a different world for me. I realize that is completely just personal preference, but hey—what can I say?

—Chris Ziegler