Giovanni Marks’ approach to rapping is as lyrically dense as he is tall. The 6’8” philosophical rapper, who stems from Compton, seems to have more in common with sound poets than his LA peers. I had the pleasure of recently joining Subtitle at ‘Monty,’ his favorite bar in downtown LA. Wearing a button down flannel, necktie and sporting hair taller than Kramer’s, he maintains an appearance that’s as striking and energetic as his music.
Sarah: Gino, it’s always a pleasure to hear your new work. When we were in LA you handed me a CD disguised as a floppy disc containing your new album Black Jack Parsons. I felt compelled to tell you then that I had no means off retrieving information off a floppy disc. You then assured me it was a CD. I felt embarrassed to admit I haven’t got a CD player either. Does your fetishism with nostalgia and past technologies translate into to your work?
GM: Very much so. Without going too in-depth with it, the late 80s and early 90s made the strongest impressions on me as a kid. The musical equipment made itself indispensable with every new innovation in the technology, so if you grew to like a “dirty sound” then you used older equipment. Even though rap music as a whole is conflicted in terms of how they view old versus new musical ideas, it still holds nostalgia close in the form of deejaying with records and making music primarily on drum machines. I enjoy that sound along with the machines used to create the sound and I feel that there are many unexplored directions within the confines of that sound, which aren’t really confines at all. This can also be said about the technology from that era, such as storage devices…
Having been your neighbor in both Montreal and Berlin, and listening to your work over the past half decade, I’m reminded of this unique elegance that can be found in some if your more personal works. You once wrote a love song to your heart which has stayed with me through the years; can you extrapolate on this?
It wasn’t a love song to my heart per se. At the time, I was diagnosed with some random genetic condition that was projected to take the worst toll on my heart. I was understandably bummed and wrote the first verse about it. The second verse was more along the lines of what happens when people get separated. Both of these things are forms of heartbreak so they make a heart dangerous, I guess.
Right. Far less of a love song or plea but more of a reminder directed towards your heart. The second verse touches on a more casual heartbreak. Is proximity or lack of an ongoing cause for heartache in your world? I know it has been for me. Does your somewhat nomadic lifestyle inspire verses for songs like “Dance Invite #1″?
It is and it more or less did. You can’t live a functional life as someone’s partner while spending all of your time away from them. Or, so I’m told. Hearts break and people split while in close proximity, you can be a million miles away from someone in the next room. There are many iterations when it comes to this type of song and if you can find it, “Dance Invite #2″ gets more specific…
Your vocal spectrum has the radical ability to go from a hyper-amplified nerd rapper to portraying a feeling of isolation and romance easily comparable to Ian Curtis (demonstrated in “My baby don’t love me no more”). Will we be hearing more of the latter in the future?
Later on. That stuff will be under the name ‘Mink Voxx’ and will not be mixed together with the subtitle stuff as before. People don’t like their music too mixed and if they do then it’s usually for reasons that are different than why I would make that type of stuff. I never intended to alienate myself from rap, hip-hop, urban music or its participants but as time passes, there are less and less examples of the world I came from in regards to it’s contributions in hip-hop. The rock and roll world is all-encompassing and electronic music is just something in the background of everything going on. Innovation in those genres can come at any point and is greatly appreciated when it does appear. Rap music is the only genre that is still treated on some racist shit where you can only make music already available on a commercial level and if you don’t then the value of the music starts to depreciate to its target audience.
No doubt you have your style and it stands alone. Heres a question: Berlin vs. LA street style? What’s to like and have you seen trends travel between the two?
I’ll always go with Berlin because its clothes choices are influenced by the four seasons. True LA fashion is predicated by surfing/skateboard culture, gang shit from 30-40 years ago and what you THINK famous people are wearing. I’ve seen stuff out here like fake lumberjack flannels and fake Vibram sole boots just because someone wanted to look the part and can do it at H&M. You don’t really know how functional this stuff is aside from a look until you live in a port city by a dock and dress like a sailor from 1932 or you live in a hillside area and dress like Paul Bunyan based on logistics. I’m not trying to dress like I haven’t aged in 10 years and I really hate going to a party and wearing the same thing as 24 other people. I like how ‘dirtbag’ chic got rebranded exactly 10 years later as ‘ratchet’ fashion just in time for the ghettos to get involved.
Your new album comes across less manicured than your earlier works, what’s the reasoning behind this?
I’m starting over so I figure I might as well start from whatever point ‘scratch’ is to me. I did Black Jack Parsons on a shitty radio shack microphone in 3 days’ time just to get people into the idea of listening to the music and reacting to whatever they thought it was about rather than the whole thing with who produced it and where it was recorded and such. The next record will sound a stage better and the record after that even more so, until everything that you hear is of a “standard” sound quality.
Any future tours? And most importantly, where can I buy your vinyl?
No tours anytime soon – and ask your favorite local record store to order my stuff! Also, I have a label called Get Crev Labs that has been and will be releasing stuff all year long in various formats. Keep it crev….
Last time I spoke to you you were performing in Moscow for some undefinable show. How do you go from playing with Mars Volta and relatively avant but still predictable settings to the Moscow underground?
I have no idea. I mean, there were very specific things that went down in the form of me releasing a record (Nerves of Ice) exclusively for Russia and having to go to Moscow and St. Petersburg to support it or whatever but there isn’t a straight answer. I suppose if I was some famous dude, all of it would be par for the course or a travel circuit or some type of shit like that. As with every other facet of my “artistic career” all my actions are predicated by fluke-level luck and being in the right place at the right time. Making quality material has damned near nothing to do with it, that is a subjective sort of thing…
I relate to your 3-month ventures from one continent to the next. Will LA be considered home for the foreseeable future? Who are you involved with there?
So far, I’ve been back for a year and I guess I’ve been involved with a few things. As far as who I’ve been working with, it’s a long list! From the dudes over at Hellfyre Club (I dropped a record on 11/11/11 at 11:11am entitled Black Jack Parsons) to the HIT+RUN camp, Computer Jay, Taz Arnold, Self Jupiter from Freestyle Fellowship, the list keeps going. Who knows who may call me up to work next?”
Lets talk about Crev….
There isn’t much to say without saying too much! Crev is short for crevice and it’s a life to live, a way to get, a particle and a wave. Crev is the way of the walk, the truth and the light.
What can we expect to hear from you in the near future?
“Next month (August) I drop another EP entitled “African American Psycho” and my full length album “My So-Crev Life” is supposed to drop on 12/12/12, but who knows? Other stuff will come out before, during and after on my label Get Crev Labs/GCL but I won’t talk about that as of yet…”
Are you creating anything non-music-based?
Uh, yeah. I’m working on a photo book/short story type of thing, some designs for a clothes company and stuff having to do with secret societies, magick of many types, esoteric sciences or all three at the same time.
Interview by Sarah Varacalli