Musa Bailey on How to Survive When You're Dead: "It's really just embracing Colorado"
Ryan P. Bilawsky
Musa Bailey has been a fixture in the Colorado music community for over a decade, from releasing music to promoting shows to his success with Cold Crush. For his latest release, How to Survive When You're Dead, the followup to My Robot Girlfriend, he embraced his Colorado roots by making an effort to get more in touch with the state's indigenous culture, and he also created an organic sound, both with the instrumentation and by enlisting the help of his friends to create original samples. We recently spoke with Musa about the new record.
See also: DJ Musa presents My Robot Girlfriend
Westword: It's been about three years since your last release. Why the layoff between projects?
Musa Bailey: Honestly, I'm the type of dude that really has to be feeling a project. It's tough for me to put out stuff too often. The break before my last project was almost two years. For me, it's part of my process to have enough experience under my belt to feel worthy of me putting out a project, you know. I've been working on stuff, and nothing I was really happy with, and this project just came, and it just was the next thing for me to do. I wish I could put out shit every month or once a year, and actually, I'm going to put out more stuff, but I wasn't really feeling anything in between that time.
What happened in your life during that time?
A lot. I did a little bit of traveling, went overseas. I'm having a baby, that's the biggest thing [laughing], but I also learned to ride horses and embrace Colorado culture, the culture of the West -- cowboys and stuff out here. I got to experience that firsthand. I actually became an efficient rider; I can saddle and ride a horse right now, you know? It's really just embracing Colorado. I'm from here, I grew up here, there's cool shit here. Little things like that contributed to making this feel like a real project, embracing and reflecting the real culture here.
How does that reflect in the music on this new project?
Directly, more so, because I embrace the Western concepts. This project is pretty much straight up a Western. It makes it feel more authentic. Connecting to Colorado and connecting to the outdoors and stuff like that breathed into the project. It really feels country, because I experienced that life out here a little bit more, the cultural stuff out here that people don't do. You can ride a horse out here anytime you want, and it's like thirty minutes away. That culture of cowboy shit -- it's still in Colorado. I was able to just translate that into my own street cipher and make it feel authentically like a Western.
How did the interesting title for this project come about?
Maybe about six or seven years, I had moved back to Denver from London. I was building a dream studio, really a 5,000-square-foot studio. I went out to deejay one night and someone broke in and got me. Stole everything, computers, beat machines, guitars -- I mean everything. At that point, I gave up on making music, kind of like metaphorically died inside.
The title came about after sometime just watching cowboy movies and seeing how their titles were always like, "Death Rides a Horse." I was trying to come up with a powerful title that would reflect my own death and the rebirth. The point is to survive. Any and every cowboy movie starts with tragedy. Some big tragedy happens, and the rest of the movie is about revenge.
What is the sound on this project?
I really tried to keep it to piano, guitar and strings. That's the core of the project. I tried to use more natural sounds. Everyone is racing to be the dopest electronic producer, Flying Lotus or like Dilla beats. I tried to make something less electronic sounding but that still was hip-hop. I kind of restricted myself to those three instruments as the core elements and then built beats around that stuff.
The sound is just organic. There are still electronic influences in it, but the majority of the project is like live guitar from my boy Delmar. I have live trombone from Gus Hoffman at Cherry Sound. Venus Cruz is signing on it, Jessica Caremoore did an amazing poem. Jeff Campbell did some amazing voiceovers, Oren did voiceovers, Gyp did voiceovers. So I actually incorporated my friends on it instead of samples on every interlude. I had my friends make original ones. And that's dope to me, because I can feel my friends' support around the process .
What is in the future for Musa the DJ? And what other projects are you working on?
Less Musa as a DJ and more of Musa as a producer. I love deejaying, and I'll do that forever, but I'm actually a good producer, and I love the being in the studio. I love the privacy, and I love the calmness. So, really, for me it's just more music. I got a project I'm about to start with Mass Prod from Foodchain, along with collaboration projects with other people. Wheelchair Sports Camp -- got something with her. Gyp and I got a little something coming. Oren from Foodchain, as well.
The people I want to work with -- I know, as far as Colorado goes -- there is a really dope collective of people here that are starting to work together. I honestly feel like the group of people in Denver are really talented.