A couple weeks ago, I caught up with Stefon Alexander Ė better known as P.O.S Ė to discuss his new record We Don't Even Live Here and the status on his pending kidney transplant. We talk a little about the video for "Fuck Your Stuff", working with Justin Vernon and the album charting on Billboard.
The new album We Donít Even Live Here came out about a week ago. It charted on Billboard and was received pretty well critically and by fans. What has the reception been compared to your hopes or expectations for how people would receive this album, not just as music but as a piece of art?
Itís exciting. I never think about Billboard. I never think about any of that stuff. When Never Better came out, sales wise it made the hip-hop charts, but it just wasnít considered a hip-hop album so it didnít make the hip-hop charts. Not by my choice or my labelís choice, but because they were like no. I think it did 106 or 107 [on the chart]. To have it do 47 and be number nine on the actual Billboard chart is pretty mindblowing to me. Itís pretty exciting. Itís bittersweet though to not be able to be on the road supporting it.
Thereís a good handful of guests on this album. How much does the collaborative element affect the overall artistic direction of the music on this album?
As far as producers, it affects it a lot because I really wanted to step away from the sound Iíve made on previous records. I truly want to have a different sound every time. And it doesnít always hit the mark the way I want it to. This time, having the chance to work with Andrew [Dawson] as a producer and just letting go of the production of the record and letting somebody elseís name be the one associated with the production really gave me a good feeling and gave me a good feeling to step outside and take risks that I havenít taken before. Itís a dancey record, which is something I didnít know how to make when I sat down to make it. I had to work and try things out a lot.
You mention the dance element to this record. Thereís a pretty good amount of electronic influence on a lot of the beats and melodies on this record. Is there something in particular that led to this direction?
Probably the most direct is the time Iíve spent in the last three years playing with Marijuana Deathsquads. And just how much fun itís been. Those are people, if you look at the lineup of that band, those are people from the band Building Better Bombs, and weíve been playing together for a really long time as a hardcore band and a dancier hardcore band at the end. We just all together decided that as a band we didnít want to play guitars for awhile. You know? Getting time with my friends and getting time with Marijuana Deathsquads, itís the most ridiculous and heavy version of dance music. Two drummers, at least two drummers, playing pretty trainwreck-style at you. Synthesizers. So the idea of synths being for only happy, dancey music kind of got put to the side when I realized how hard you could push them and push that genre. So, it became really fun to try.
To touch back a bit as far as collaborations go, you have Justin Vernon on ďHow We LandĒ. Some people know him as the person behind Bon Iver, I more know him because he worked with Kanye West on his last album. How did that particular pairing manifest and what did he bring to the table to help shape that song in your eyes?
It came really because of the Gayngs record. I donít know if you heard that, but me and Justin both took part in that, as well as Dessa and Leisure Birds and a lot of bands from around the Midwest. We kind of made this big soft-rock record, and thatís where Justin and I met playing the shows that came with that record. We hit it off really well, and I think it was one of those things where we knew we were going to make something. We just didnít know at the time. That whole scene is very collaborative. I write with Ryan [Olson] like once a week. Itís pretty cool. How he added to the song, I did not want to have a Justin Vernon chorus. I didnít want to get into the singing and hook guy. I picked a song that I already had a hook to, and saved him a verse. I gave him a sixteen bar verse, the same thing I would give a rapper or anybody else. That way, it was kind of up to him to figure out how he wanted to sit in the song. After he came in and killed it, I went back to the hooks to kind of smooth them out and make them fit. I feel like it worked out really well.
To talk about another song, ďFuck Your StuffĒ hit first with a video treatment. To be honest, other than the video itself, people had weird mixed reactions over it and the entirety of the message being portrayed in the video and the song itself. Was there any particular reaction you had to people who were kind of scoffing at what you were trying to do with that particular song?
No. [laughs] I just try really hard to not pay attention to what anybody says. Thatís how I did it in the past. I donít read comments. I canít think about that stuff unless somebody is interviewing me and theyíre going to ask a specific question about a specific thing. Then Iíll think about it. I donít know what kind of vibes people got from that video. I got to explore some awesome places in Minneapolis and outside of Minneapolis that... people donít go there. Thatís a great time for me. I want people to do that. I want people to go there. I want people to fuck peopleís shit up to. Iím not saying all the time. Iím not saying every day of the week for no reason. There is a true and significant mood in my day sometimes where I say fuck it, I want to run across the top of all these cars and kick the windshields in because fuck Ďem. Thatís not every day and thatís not how I act all the time. They might get a mixed message because the lyrics are smarter than that. But the video kind of dumbs it to the total destruction vibe. Also, with the blurring of the logos and stuff like that, I feel like Iím getting to something a little cooler, you know? Was there a particular beef you saw?
Not really, it was just kind of like people were saying things on the YouTube video, and personally I didnít think there was any confusion about the message or what not but there were a lot of people who were pissed off about it apparently.
Yeah. I got a message on Twitter from a girl who probably watched the first verse and got to the chorus and tweeted me saying I was supporting terrorism. [laughs] We get into a huge debate and sheís like, ĎI studied the Middle Eastí and blah blah blah. Iím just trying to say I donít care about what your stuff is. I want to you to be a good person. I want you to think. I donít want you to be a blind consumer. I want you to think about what youíre buying and what you care about. Itís just one piece of the record as a whole. I canít expect people in this day and age to listen to a record top to bottom. But the people that do listen to a record top to bottom, they get a whole idea instead of this song is about fuck your stuff, this song is about I donít want to think about it, I just want to get down. If you put ďWanted WastedĒ next to ďFuck Your StuffĒ, you get a bigger picture of why I want people caring about stuff. Clearly I care about stuff. To a fault. The whole world right now is about not giving a fuck and being proud about that. And thatís the most fucking irritating thing in the world to me. I get it, but itís about picking what youíre going to care about. People are blinded by some of the most asinine shit ever.
Youíre known also for your non-rapping work including being a part of Wharf Rats. How does this record reflect what youíve done outside of the P.O.S. sphere?
I donít know. I think that because there is singing and shouting on all of my rap records, people are a little more clued in on that I do other things. The people that take the time to listen to Building Better Bombs or Gangs or Marijuana Deathsquads or Wharf Rats or whatever it is, I feel like they can take all those different things theyíve heard and apply it to P.O.S. records. Itís all in there. I feel like, you know about Wharf Rats, you know that itís me shouting at the end of ďPiano HitsĒ. People write me all the time saying, who is that shouting at the end of ďPiano HitsĒ? If you listen to Marijuana Deathsquads in the last two years, you might have expected this record to be more electro-based. Itís just that kind of thing. I donít try to separate anything, I just try to make as much music as I can and the people that are music nerds the way that Iím a music nerd, they get to notice little things. Like the ďAudition MantraĒ melody has been all of my records. And thatís just for me, thatís me being a Coheed and Cambria nerd. Iím hiding shit in there for the people that listen really hard. I donít think that you get that in rap music. As much as I want to get it from rap music.
Thatís about all the questions I have about the record. But Iíd like to ask how youíre doing and how the progress is going with the kidney transplant. I know otherwise youíd be in the midst of the tour that is now postponed.
Iím good. Itís bittersweet man. Itís a drag to have my favorite of my records and one that has done the best to date as far as the industry standards and stuff like that, and then have to sit and wait. And hope that people are still excited about it when I get a chance to get out. I feel like Iíll still be able to still play shows. I would really love to be out there. I have twelve matches between either friends and family or kidney exchanges with people who are either a match or arenít a match but they match someone else across the country who is willing to do the same thing. As of right now, Iím waiting for a date and Iím expecting to get that date pretty soon. When I get that date, Iím gonna start booking shows to tour on the record.
Thatís really great to hear.
Iím excited man. Iím really excited. The support from the fans, both emotionally and monetarily has been unreal. I feel like I canít even figure out what to say. I was planning to make a video to thank everybody and all that stuff but I havenít had a chance to figure out how I feel to be able to say it properly.