BLKHRTS sign with ORG Music and start working with Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio
Eric Gruneisen King FOE, KarmaThaVoice and Yonnas Abraham are BLKHRTS.
Update 1/17/13: Full interview with Yonnas Abraham added below.
Always check your spam filter. If there's one thing we can learn from BLKHRTS -- who, as you've undoubtedly deduced by now if you've been monitoring your Twitter feeds and Facebook status updates this morning, have signed a deal with ORG Music -- it's to always check your spam filter. Always. For, had it not been for due diligence on the part of the act's manager, BLKHRTS might've completely missed out on a life-changing email from Jeff Bowers, who heads up the outfit's new label.
Sometime before the end of the year, we spoke with Yonnas Abraham, and he told us that something big like this was in the works, but he wasn't ready to discuss the details quite yet. Yesterday, the news finally broke in the form of a video premiere of "OVR" on AOL's hip-hop blog, the Boombox. We caught up with Yonnas this morning and talked to him about the new record, how BLKHRTS hooked up with ORG and Dave Sitek, and what this means for the Pirate Signal.
Westword: I saw the news finally came out, and I just wanted to chat you up about it. Just wanted to talk about the deal, now that we can officially talk about it. So tell me how the whole thing came about.
Yonnas Abraham: Well, I don't know... you know what, the funny thing is, that video [that premiered on AOL's Boombox blog] was our EPK, and it had a bunch of press clippings on it -- I don't know if you saw that in the past. But that's what got us our deal because these guys at ORG, they saw that. And he told me, 'That was the video that made me want to sign you.'
We'd been fucking with this management company called Mammoth for the past, like, year. They manage Bassnectar and stuff. This guy David Temple, he's basically been sort of pro-bono managing us for the past year, and he had a real bright idea to set up a management account. So he had set up this management account and this label sent an email, like, "Let's make some records," or "We want to make records with you guys," or something, and we never saw it.
It was in the spam folder. And this guy David goes, "I went through the spam filter and I saw this email. I don't know what you guys think." It was an email that said, "Let's put some records out," and it was from ORG. The signature was like, "Jeff Bowers. Works at Warner. Distributed through Warner. Works at Atlantic." I sent it to FOE, and he was like, "Does that say what I think it says?" I was like, "I think it does, bro." [laughs]
Tom Murphy King FOE
So there was a number at the bottom of it, and I called him, this guy named Jeff Bowers, and he called me back at, like, one in the morning. He was like, "Yo, I want to sign you guys," blah, blah, blah. We had already been getting a little bit of interest from some guys at Atlantic and stuff like that. We were kind of burnt on the whole thing. The deal that ORG was offering is, like, revolutionary, bro -- a fifty-fifty split, right down the middle, after recouping. They take zero percent of our publishing -- zero percent! Yeah. And we have guaranteed release dates.
How many records is it for?
Wow. That's incredible.
That's what I'm saying. We'd been approached by other labels and stuff, and I think we've done a pretty decent job of getting out in the mix, but it's not like we have a ton of leverage like Odd Future, these people who already had hundreds of thousands of fans. I think we have maybe five thousand, twenty-five hundred fans in the world. I don't know. Our email list is kind of big.
So all these labels were offering us shit deals because we don't have any leverage. So they were these horrible deals, where it would be like development purgatory for twenty million years and shit. Nobody needs to sign a record deal so I can sit in development purgatory. Remember the Rouge? Remember? These bands that get major label record deals with Atlantic -- ten percent of them come out. Ten percent of them put out an album. You know, I don't need that. I'd rather sit in my basement and make records and put them out on my own, period.
So when this deal came along, we were like, "Holy shit!" Like it came from God -- it came from God. This is the only record deal we were ever going to sign. And so, but even then, we were playing hard and fast with these guys. You know? We were like, "Yeah, I don't know." And then, they were like, "Well, who do you guys want to work with? Who would you like to have produce your record?"
BLKHRTS on stage at the Westword Music Showcase last summer.
Because this album we're working on, JZBL JNKNS, it has some samples on it that are -- I mean, the album is littered with samples. If we put it out as is on a major label or a pretty big label, we'd get our asses handed to us in court, in litigation. So we wanted to remake the samples. So he was like, "Well, who would you want to work with to do that?" I was like, "I don't know." He was like, "What about Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio?" and it got really quiet. He was like, "Hello? Hello?" And I was like, "Quit fucking playing, bro. Quit fucking playing with me." He was like, "No, I'll ask him. I'll see if he'll do it." I was like, "Quit fucking playing." He was like, "No, he's my friend. He'll do it."
So I shit you not; he asked him, and then like a week later, he called me. He was like, "He's in. He's a hundred percent in. He wants to put you on his label. He's in." I was like, "You're fucking lying. You're so full of shit. If you're serious, have him call me." Dead ass: Dave Sitek calls me the next day. I almost crapped my pants. I'm a grown ass man, dawg. I'm thirty years old. I almost shat my pants, bro. I shit you not, bro. Dave Sitek called me with some weird New York number. I was like, "Uh..." and I just picked up, and it's, "Hi, is this Yawness?" I was like, "Yeah, it's Yonnas."
He was like, "Hey, what's up? It's Dave." "Dave who?" "Dave Sitek." I was like, "Oh," and then he gets to talking and he's like, "I don't know if you guys are familiar with my work..." and I busted out laughing. Because, you know, Return to Cookie Mountain was like top five in my albums ever. I was obsessed with TV on the Radio in that period, you know? So I laughed really loud, and he was like, "What are you laughing about?" I was like, "I'm super-duper familiar with your work." He was like, "That's cool, bro, because even if you guys were assholes, I'd still work with you." I was like, "Really?" So that was a great compliment and stuff.
But even after they got that lined up, still, we were like, "Man, we just can't do this as is. We have to get a lawyer." So it took us a long time. We researched a bunch of lawyers. We ended up getting one from out here to help us with the contract negotiations. We ended up getting a better one in L.A., so we fired that guy. But nonetheless, when we got to the contract negotiations, we were able to work in the release date clause and a couple of other things -- you know, just to cover our asses, in terms of everything. It's a really simple contract, six, seven pages. It's not long at all. But it's really artist favorable, really artist favorable.
So when's the record coming out?
We've recorded the record entirely on our end, and now we've sent all the stuff to him. So he's tinkering with it and stuff like that. But I think we're going to go out there [to Los Angeles]... I mean, basically for the past two or three months, we've been sort of circling each other, but he has the material now. So we're going to start correspondences, start sending us his mixes, and then eventually we'll probably go out there in, like, February or March -- I don't really know when -- to finish it up, after we start corresponding.
It will be sometime this year, probably second quarter, June or July [that the album gets released], but we don't know exactly, for sure, yet. It's recorded. We've recorded all our raps. We've recorded all the beats and everything like that. The process we have now is remake the samples. So I'm working on that a little bit on my end. He's working on it on his end, and we're sort of doing correspondence and stuff, and then eventually we'll probably spend a week together or a couple of weeks together just finishing it up.