When Aesop Rock visited Seattle in 2011, he played foil to anti-folk hero Kimya Dawson. But the New York-bred, San Francisco-dwelling MC is used to running his own show, a surreal, intellectually menacing presence brandishing a Roget-worthy vocabulary and a baritone to rival James Earl Jones. This month, he releases Skelethon, his first album in five years, and headlines Capitol Hill Block Party at 9 p.m., Saturday, July 21.
When did work begin on Skelethon? Has it been developing over several years or is it more a snapshot of right now?
A lot of the songs were developed over many years, but it didn’t really get wrangled in until the final year. The first verse on “Fryerstarter” is probably the oldest thing on there, whereas the last verse on the same song is relatively new in comparison to much of the rest of the LP. I tend to jump into making “stuff,” not necessarily songs, or even fully realized ideas of any sort. I just kinda go.
What kind of non-musical influences went into the album?
I’m constantly taking in all sorts of arts and entertainment. I love checking out visual artists and finding cool things, I love watching movies—from your artsiest indie to your most bloated summer blockbuster. I can find influence anywhere—I just like to see what’s out there. No matter what level you work on, or what chapter of the arts you’re involved in, everything is made by someone, and I like learning how things are made.
What’s the last thing you read and loved?
My reading is pretty limited to science magazines. The last interesting thing I read was an article about the newly discovered cave paintings in Spain which are being called the oldest ever, older than those in France’s Chauvet Cave and Lascaux cave system. I think they’ve dated them to over 40,000 years old, which to me is pretty fucking awesome.
What complement to your own style do you find in Kimya Dawson’s music?
I don’t know. I’m just a fan. I’ve loved her music from Moldy Peaches to her solo work. I love her writing, her singing, I just connect with what she’s doing. I’m a fan who was lucky enough to become a friend and collaborator.
Surrealism can be really funny. How important is a sense of humor when making or listening to your music?
It is as important to me in music as it is in everyday life. There’s humor to be found in even the darkest scenarios. I think most of life isn’t made up of scenarios in which you’re limited to one emotion. People equate and limit specific experiences to specific emotions a lot: death equals sadness, new things equal nervousness, gifts equal happiness, etc. But that’s not that realistic to me. There’s a gigantic range of emotions that occur in me in almost every scenario, and nothing is as black and white as one single reactionary feeling.