L'Orange “Some sort of beautifully surreal nightmare.”

For a man who hears in near-mono, L’Orange makes music that is anything but singular. His instrumental albums and collaborations with some of hip-hop’s most forward-thinking MCs are exercises in stereophonic storytelling, exploring such complex themes as urban dualism and apocalyptic love. And yet, he accomplishes all this while rarely, if ever, venturing outside of the old-time jazz and radio samples that have come to define his sound.

This year, L’Orange has released two albums: the first, a collaboration with Windy City MC/producer Jeremiah Jae called The Night Took Us In Like Family, which has been described as a “noir-hop opus”; the second, a concept album called Time? Astonishing!, starring none other than Kool Keith as a time traveler who comes to our present day from where else but the early 20th century.

Tiny Mix Tapes spoke with North Carolina-bred, Nashville-based producer/poet L’Orange about both projects, as well as his crate-digging process and being haunted by his guardian angel.

Jazz music is clearly a driving force behind your sound, but not really the hard-bop or smooth jazz that people most commonly associate with hip-hop. You seem to sample more early be-bop or even hot jazz. Why do you think you’re drawn to those styles?

It might be the nurture of it. I think maybe I gravitated toward those sounds early on, [because they offered] something that was low-key and more emotive for me, and I think that’s what everyone looks for in music, is to find what they identify with or what reflects the way they feel. Whenever I would listen to jazz — and I explored jazz when I was young — I don’t know if I knew what I was listening to, but I did know what I liked, and the stuff that I liked the most was the singers, the pianos, and the dust, the lo-fi recording and the sloppiness of not only being able to do it once, but the precision to be able to do it once. And so I was definitely drawn to the early 20th century sound that I think was a little bit more contemplative. I was always more attracted to this lounge feel. You could knock in the right way, get in, and smell the smoke in the air.

You mentioned the word “dust.” Your music is given a very rough texture by the cackle and the pops of your sample sources, and it seems like you often don’t bother to take any of that out, which can make for a very interesting listening experience when I play your records on vinyl.

[Laughs] Yeah, a lot of people have told me they tried cleaning my records over and over.

What do you think of as your preferred format for your music?

That’s interesting, because I’ve always described my style as headphone[s] music. It’s something that you can really hear the space [in], and you can go inwards more easily if you’re walking down the street, wearing headphones, making eye contact with strangers, but it’s hard for me to not say vinyl, because it’s not only such a big part of the culture, but it’s also a big part of my own process. It’s the way that I take in music most of all, and it’s also the source, the origin…

Looking ahead, would you prefer your music to be preserved and collected or forgotten, rediscovered, and then manipulated by others?

Can it be both? [Laughs] I love the idea of the cyclical nature of hip-hop and that’s one of the things that the genre does so well. I think I might even be in the minority, but I would love to have my work be recycled throughout the culture, even if that means that someone is taking something I’ve done and obscuring it so much that my original piece is unrecognizable. That’s not really the point, the point isn’t always an homage, the point is newness, creating something, and manipulating and finding these amazing patterns and sonic qualities that would have never existed without this process.

Time is obviously a central concept of your latest album, Time? Astonishing!. Tell me a little bit about how this project came to be. Who came up with the time-travel concept?

It was shortly after I did that joint off Mello Music Group’s compilation Persona, “Sometimes I Feel,” with Kool Keith, and I had been toying with this idea about time travel. It’s always very important to me to have concepts behind my records, and that might be as much for my benefit as the listener’s, because I find myself able to create something more cohesive if I know the story that I’m telling. With the process of creating beats and music being so perpetual for beat-makers, sometimes it can be tough to distinguish what fits better aesthetically, so, for me, to have a story to guide me through this is helpful.

I pitched the idea to Keith about doing a project about time traveling, because a lot of my stuff is very somber, it’s very dark, it may have some quirkiness to it and some comedy, I hope, but it’s a very dark tone, and so for this one I did want to escape that a little bit and escape myself a little bit. And doing a project with Kool Keith, there’s no way I’m going to get on the phone with him and say, “I want to do this project about a writer who drives himself mad alone in his room and dies.” You know? I’m not going to do that, so I came up with this concept that sort of came [from] this recurring dream I had where I was being followed by a time traveler who was always two minutes in front of me. I sort of became obsessed with this guardian angel-type time travel idea.

Sometimes in music, I think, the easier the concept at its core, or the easier the premise, the more you can expand on it and [have] people still be able to digest it. So I pitched this idea to Kool Keith about doing this time travel record, but what was really important to me was that we could explore the ideas about a man without time, while still allowing Keith to be abstract and indulge in his non-sequitur style and do what he invented, really. I wanted to put Keith in a position to be himself, and do the same for me…

He was feeling it, and he introduced a couple concepts about space travel tied in with that. I liked that, because the way I envisioned it was him moving purely to the future, like he ate breakfast and was like, “Alright, what am I going to do today? I’ll go to the future.” So yeah, he really embraced it.

What were your interactions with him like?

They were fairly brief. He knows what he does, so there was no element of me trying to make him into something he’s not. And that’s something I’ve learned over and over again with MCs… I have to always remind myself that I can only really control what I do. We [talked] probably four or five times while we were doing this, and all the interactions were very quick. I would sort of pitch him something, then he would just go, “OK, I got it, alright, I’m going to the studio tomorrow.” Alright! You’re Kool Keith, I trust you.

I imagine that before the notion of doing an album with Kool Keith actually materialized, as a producer and fan, you might’ve thought it would be cool to work with him someday, so how close is the music that you made here to what you might’ve envisioned?

It’s similar. Kool Keith has developed this new, slower style as he’s grown, and a lot of [his] stuff that I was listening to was very energetic. The beats were designed to showcase Keith. My favorite of his work was with Dan The Automator, who happens to be one of my biggest influences. It was very important for me to not depart from what I do completely, because part of the reason that my style is what it is, is in some way because of Kool Keith and the generation that he brought in, so I tried to ask myself what I wanted to hear Kool Keith on, and what I wanted was that old production from the 90s, the production that was very high-concept and lo-fi. I wanted him to shine with something that wasn’t glamorous, polished, shiny and terribly distracting, even though I think my stuff tends to be…

It was a genetic thing. I had a tumor in my ear, which sort of destroyed my ear, so now I’ve got a sort of a robot ear, but not in the good way. Normally, when you hear about robot body parts you think ‘better.’

The creative process drives it in a different direction.

Exactly, so at the end of the day, [when I’m able to] look back on what I created, I’m like, “Yeah, no, this is what I wanted. Even though I was putting it together the whole time, I don’t really think it dawned on me until now.”

Considering your affinity for jazz, what do you think drove you to become a beat-maker and hip-hop producer rather than a jazz instrumentalist in the first place?

Probably intimidation. I played bass for a long time in jazz groups, hip-hop groups, and rock bands, and I sort of scoured the Earth for it, but I don’t think I was ever as good at bass as I wanted to be. I could never really do what I kept envisioning. I would write these songs, and I would bring other musicians in, and I would tell them the parts I wanted them to play, and we would all get on the same page, and we would play this song, and then I would hear it, and I would realize it was fucking terrible. That’s a disheartening moment [for] musicians. Some are better at workshopping their stuff without hearing it, and for me, I wanted to control what I was doing.

For hip-hop production, I’m able to sit in my studio and torture myself for days if I want to in order to make something sound the way I want it to, and I don’t have to look someone in the eye and try to explain what I envision to justify the process. Maybe it’s a conceit, maybe it’s a resistance to collaboration, or maybe it’s an insecurity. But yeah, hip-hop production was always where I really felt I had value, even before I was good at it. I thought maybe my creativity was the most important thing for me there, and it wasn’t my technical ability. As I’m getting older and doing this more, it’s becoming more and more true. You can work the MPC like Dilla, but if you don’t have Dilla’s mind you’re not contributing something as substantial.

Do you still play bass?

Unfortunately, no. I played all the bass on my first two albums, Manipulation EP and Old Soul, and I think maybe [on] one song on The Mad Writer, and then I sort of switched over. KON Sci, a guy from a group called MindsOne in North Carolina, put me on.

He’s on the new album, right?

He is. I’m happy to have him on the new album. He was very much a disciple of Kev Brown from D.C., who’s one of my favorite producers in the world, and Kev has the greatest bass lines in the world, so studying that way of production sort of led me to how I do my bass lines now.

Another person you’ve been collaborating with for a very long time is Erica Lane. Is this Erica Lane the same as the Nashville-based Christian recording artist who’s starred in her own reality TV show?

[Laughs] Did she really?

I don’t know, I’m asking you.

No, no, it’s not her. I don’t know her. My Erica Lane is in a band called Evening Darling out of New York. My only correspondence with [Nashville’s] Erica Lane is when she hit me up on Twitter to please tell my fans that she is not the Erica Lane I work with.

Well, now you have.

[Laughs] Yeah, now I have. I have no sympathy for that. She can turn the other cheek.

So how did you meet your Erica Lane?

I met her in high school actually. We were both art students in college. Well, we ended up going to the same college. We weren’t very close in high school and then somewhere the summer before college, she and I just started hanging out a lot. She was a really good friend of mine, and I didn’t know she could sing. She would come to my shows when I was with these terrible bands, and then one time I recorded her. I was running a studio at the time, so she came in and asked to sing something, and it blew me away. I was floored, because this girl’s voice is just absolutely beautiful and like flawed and perfect in that. She has this very gorgeous and emotional tone to her voice that I really love.

Do you two share similar musical tastes also?

Somewhat, I think she draws more to the sort of indie-folk influences, maybe a little bit on the more classic country side than I do.

I would go through all these dollar records — I didn’t really know what I was getting into, and I thought there might be better stuff around the corner, in a different city, in a different state — and then I would bring them home and I would be sampling stuff that nobody had really sampled before, or maybe they had, but I hadn’t heard of anything, you know?

You’re sure this isn’t the same Erica Lane as the other one?

I’m telling you, she doesn’t do hymns. The band that she’s in now is sort of an indie-folk band, it’s really good, and I like my share of that music, but I don’t think she’s anywhere near as exposed to hip-hop. I think her being involved in my records is as close to being involved in hip-hop as she’s ever been.

Living in Nashville, which is known as a home of country and bluegrass, do you draw any inspiration from the city in your music?

I do actually. I don’t think I take from the country, the bluegrass or even the indy scene that’s around here, but what I definitely am forced to be influenced by is the amount of talent in this town, because anything you’ve ever heard about Nashville’s musicians that seems like hyperbole isn’t. There is no exaggeration to be made in terms of the quality of musicians in Nasvhille, to the point where for the first year that I lived here I didn’t tell people I produced hip-hop. I think there was a time when I first came here, and I was talking to someone and they’re like, “What do you do?” and I’m like, “Oh yeah, I’m a hip-hop producer,” and they’re like, “Oh, cool.” They’re real interested, they want to know things, and I’m telling them all about it and sort of feeling myself, and I’m like, “What do you do? and they’re like, “Oh, you know, I just got off tour with Bruce Springsteen, I was playing sax for him, and right now I’m just sort of waiting for the next gig. I think I’ve got a show with Victor Wooten down the street next week.” I completely didn’t realize who I’m talking to and where I am. This is a town where tomorrow’s legends make you coffee and today’s legends are walking the streets.

Let’s get into The Night Took Us In Like Family, which came out just a few months before Time? Astonishing!. Was it a challenge working on two albums that are this far apart conceptually within the same time frame?

Luckily, they were absolutely separated. That was very important for me, because it would have been incredibly hard to separate myself that much, but the first one was a lot easier for me, I think. The Night Took Us In Like Family probably [required] the same amount of work, but it came a little bit easier to me because it was a pretty easy transition [from The Orchid Days]. I knew what I wanted the album to sound like. I knew I was going to make an album that was a true homage to what people have been saying my work is for years. Old Soul was called “noir” even though I never thought that. These were old radio clips, and I wanted to tell the story of Billie Holiday. It was maybe vintage, maybe it was early 20th century jazz, but I didn’t think noir. So, when I started getting that [response], I was working with Jeremiah Jae, and we shared the collaboration in terms of the story, because he wanted to create something like that too.

Since it was going to be a true period piece, I wanted it to be more modern in terms of production techniques, so I used the same samples but I treated them differently. I went at it more aggressively. I did some things musically that I wouldn’t have done with any other MC. That’s one of the things that I think Jeremiah Jae is incredibly underrated for is his ability to ride musically with tracks. All through that album there are weird time signatures, random bars, breaks, arrhythmic bridges — I threw everything I had at Jeremiah Jae, and he never showed any resistance to it. He loved it, and that’s what I liked so much about working on that. He’s a musician, and you can tell from the way he uses his voice as an instrument.

Was he at all involved on the production side?

It was interesting, because normally I think I have a little more involvement in the content of records, and I think he normally has more involvement in the music. I think both of us just understood that the reason we were doing this record was mutual respect. I didn’t want to push him in any direction that he wasn’t already going to go, and I think that was the same thing from him.

So you didn’t really contribute many ideas to the plot development or the themes that were going on in that record?

No, in terms of concept, we sort of shared ownership, but [not] in terms of how he wanted to address it. The concept is at its core just an idea, and we can create together a little bit beforehand, but all these details — [on the album] he goes to jail at one point, he breaks out, there’s this revenge song — were things that he brought to the table.

What lessons did you learn working on The City Under The City that have informed these two more recent MC collaborations?

Oh yeah, that was my first one, and I even referenced earlier saying I don’t want to get too involved in how somebody raps. That was the most important thing, because I’m a little bit of a controlling musician/producer and that can potentially create some opposition when you’re working with someone, no matter how much you respect them, just like I don’t think I would appreciate it if an MC came in and said, “No, change your drums on this song.” I think initially when we first started [The City Under The City], I had this grandiose idea I wanted to impress. This was going to be the debut. Mello Music Group brought me on for this, which was my dream label. I wanted to impress Mello, I wanted to impress Stik, I wanted to make sure that everyone knew I could guide an album, that I could create something with another artist, so I felt like I had a lot to prove and, initially, I probably got a little too involved in what Stik Figa was doing. I was on the phone with him, saying, “OK, I liked that, but how about we do something like this?” and it was 20 degrees away from what he was already doing. Stik Figa was a really nice guy, and he’d be like, “Yeah, but do you see what I’m doing here? Do you see why I’m a rapper and you’re a producer?” And so that sort of kept me in check, because you can’t control everything. You’ve got to let things happen.

Were there technical tricks you picked up that then carried over to your later records?

There was a lot on The Mad Writer. That was when I really fell into my style. There are some trade things in terms of how I build beats or how I sample — BPM, bars, time signatures, how to get your drums right, swinging, layering, all these little technical things — but for me [The City Under The City] was a conceptual journey that was going to push me to adapt. In terms of technical things … there’s a song at the end called “We Were Heroes,” and I’ve never heard someone mention this, but that song has one of the weirdest structures I’ve ever done, because the entire song loops in 7/4 but ends up being 16/8 with a bar of 2 at the end. So, when you’re listening to it, when you’re nodding your head, there’s never a moment when you go, “Wait, was that off?” It feels fluid and it moves very well. That was a little trick that I discovered when I was just messing around one night, and I’ve actually returned to that. That was the same thing I did on “The Concrete Some Call Home.” It was the same sort of odd signature that you can sort of fight in order to make it cohesive, so you can explore a little bit differently in terms of how you phrase your instruments.

Working with Stik Figa throughout the whole thing, it was also about carving out where the MC was going to go, because I had worked with MCs obviously, but for a whole project, I wanted to make it a canvas for Stik Figa. Up until then, I wanted to dominate the track. Every frequency was going to just fill your ear holes with my music, and that was going to be compressed and loud and thick. With Stik, I wanted to make sure that the drums were where people were riding to, and that the drums and Stik’s vocals were the main focus. That was something that was different for me, because I’ve always been a melody-influenced producer.

Did the album title The City Under The City have anything to do with a novel?

No, which novel?

I don’t want to get too involved in how somebody raps. That was the most important thing, because I’m a little bit of a controlling musician/producer and that can potentially create some opposition when you’re working with someone, no matter how much you respect them.

There’s a China Miéville novel called The City & The City. It’s a noir-ish detective story, but it takes place in these two cities that are basically one, and it’s kind of a commentary on apartheid states or segregation. These two cities live directly amongst one another but don’t interact at all.

Wow, that is surprisingly similar to the concept of that record.

That’s why I was asking. I highly recommend reading this book.

I will. I’ve definitely never heard of it, but I’m always very interested, because I feel like if I could leave one legacy, aside from anything else, I would rather have 50 people debating the details of the stories of my albums than to have a million people listening 100 years after I’m dead. That’s the sort of effort that I put in most distinctly. The things that I leave the most of myself in are these stories, and I’m always so curious to know whether people can tell.

On your instrumental albums, the vocalists sometimes function like characters in stories — they pop up at important plot points — but on your collaborative albums, it’s almost as if your instrumental interludes serve the same exact function, especially when one factors in the radio clips. What’s your take on music as a storytelling medium?

I love the idea of telling stories in music. I think it makes the experience more personal. I’ve never made a song and thought ‘How would this play live?’ [My goal] was always this focus on the story, and if you look at producers like Dan the Automator and Prince Paul, you’ll see that people have recognized this genre as a great medium for storytelling, but I guess I wanted to leave my impression sonically or with a trace of a taste in the back of the mouth after you hear it, and you can’t quite figure out what it was, but you know that there was a progression and maybe even a resolution. It intrigues me. It’s something that I want to expand on, maybe even working more directly with someone as a full-time narrator. The closest I ever did to that would be the intro to The Orchid Days, which was with Erik Todd Dellums, who’s a very talented voice actor. Returning to something like that definitely interests me.

Your Facebook page describes you as a poet. Have you had, or do you have any plans to have, your poetry published, or is it just something you keep to yourself?

No, it’s something that I’ve toyed with a lot, and I have some little chat books. My first collection was [completed] a couple years ago. It was called Love Poems For Those Who Don’t. I was actually shopping it, and I ended up talking to a few people about publishing it, [but] I wasn’t sure if it was the right time or the right place to do it. One thing that I thought about doing was releasing it next to The Orchid Days, because The Orchid Days was sort of based on those works. That was definitely my love album.

The love-at-the-end-of-the-world album.

What could be a more authentic or genuine love?

As a record collector, I get the sense that you do a lot of digging in dollar bins, flea markets, garage sales and the like. Is that accurate?

I don’t do as much at flea markets and garage sales as I used to, but a lot of that stems back from me coming up in Wilmington, N.C., where there was really only one record store, and it wasn’t as if this one record store was curating their collection to the benefit of crate diggers. They mostly had stuff they knew would sell and then they had dollar records, and there was almost nothing in between.

But oftentimes the best stuff is in there.

That’s what I found out. I would go through all these dollar records — I didn’t really know what I was getting into, and I thought there might be better stuff around the corner, in a different city, in a different state — and then I would bring them home and I would be sampling stuff that nobody had really sampled before, or maybe they had, but I hadn’t heard of anything, you know? You find a musical from the 1950s that you just bought because it was a Hail Mary, and you bring it and home and you’re like, “Oh damn, nobody’s looking for this stuff!” And so when I was going back I would basically buy anything that was made before 1950 and just figure it out, because I knew the music I liked, and I knew the music I wanted to express, and I wanted it to reflect that.

Take me through your digging process. How do you find not just records that you think you’re going to want to use, but also places where you think you will find them?

The first thing that I go for is the miscellaneous category. I try to find whatever they call miscellaneous. They may call it exotic, various, weird, or any strange title. Anything where they were they were like, “I don’t know how to sort this,” that’s where I want to go first. Those aren’t the samples that you’re going to blow people away with, but those are going to be the most unique sounds that you can draw from. When you find a comedy section or a radio section, those records are worth their weight in gold to me because they’re extremely rare. I’m in my studio now and looking around, the top four shelves of my record bins are all just radio recordings. Those are the ones that I make sure I preserve and I make sure are in good condition. Then from there, I probably go to the hip-hop section to see if they have anything dope, which, usually they don’t, but it’s always worth a check. See if they have a few break records or anything else that may have just slipped through the cracks when no one else was looking for them. Then, while my head is still above the bins, I’ll go check out the jazz and see if anything pops out at me, or if they have a soul section or even an international.

Some places have this section called pop vocal, which is perfect for me. It’s like you just built a little section for me, because that’s usually what I sample. In Nashville, that section I refer to as the “Shit I Didn’t Want” section, because the only stuff that’s still there is the stuff I didn’t want. It takes me two seconds to look through those sections, because all I’ve got to do is look at the first three records that came in and see if I want them, then peace out. Then you go into the dollar bins, and that’s where you’ve got to be a little bit more savvy, and that’s sort of where I cut my teeth.

I think every producer has their own system. I was digging with Amerigo Gazaway — he did Fela Soul, he’s incredibly dope, he lives in Nashville, and he’s a good friend of mine — and we were talking about how he thinks it’s really crazy that I don’t normally listen to records before I buy them. I just don’t feel like I need to, because I have these cues. The first thing is the album art; that’s always what’s going to grab you. Then I look at the typography to try to get a feel of when it was made. If I can’t do that then I look for a date, and if it doesn’t have that then I read the write-up. I look at what instruments are on there, I look at if I recognize any of the song titles or where it was made, and then I read a little write-up on who they are.

Do you prefer to recognize the song titles?

Well, the only thing that helps me sometimes is with this old music, everyone was playing the same songs, so if I can recognize one song I can get a feel for the whole album. If they do a cover of “Round Midnight” then I sort of know the genre, I know where they’re going, and if it was that song I’ll probably buy the record, because it’s probably right up my alley. After that, I look at the price. If the price is under $3, then it’s mine. If it’s over $3, I will listen to it.

Is there any vinyl, not necessarily hip-hop, but in general, that you consider sacred in the sense that you collect it but you never have any intention of sampling it? Or is it open season on anything you buy?

No, there absolutely is. There’s music every now and then that I’ll find that I’ll be so interested in that I not only don’t think I could sample, but it’s possible I just don’t want to. There was one that was Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald together at a live performance somewhere. I can’t remember the name of the record, but it was like $30, and this was way after Old Soul, so I sort of did my thing with Billie Holiday, I hopefully provided an homage to her, and I don’t want to move into the business of exploiting her. She’s my favorite artist in the world, so I will collect Billie Holiday records if I don’t have them. A lot of radio recordings that are like that too. Even though I sample a lot of them, I don’t necessarily buy them with the intention or with the expectation that I will. There’s some that I’ve just become so interested in; there’s one I just got called Drugs Is A Family Affair. I’m looking at it right now … what the hell is this? Side 1: “Drug Addicts Relate To Their Experiences.” Side 2: “Parents of Addicts Talk About Their Feelings.” I don’t know what I could use this on, maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but I love that I own this.

This is a town where tomorrow’s legends make you coffee and today’s legends are walking the streets.

What are some records that people who are familiar with your music might be surprised to find in your collection?

Joanna Newsom, Melody Gardot, ummm, might be surprised to find in my collection?

Walk us through one of your most memorable record-digging experiences.

There was one where I found one of my most favorite records I’ve ever found, which was another one of these vocal records, a record called Scary Spooky Stories. Something about the way they recorded that guy’s voice — it’s just such high fidelity considering when they were made. Most of the records I have that are vocal records are dusty and lo-fi, and you’re not going to get a full spectrum of bass from a person’s voice. But yeah, it was back at Gravity Records in North Carolina. This was when I was first starting, and I felt like I’d finished digging [for the day], and the guy who owns the shop was like, “Hey man, I know you like these records. Why don’t you grab this one too?” and he handed me Scary Spooky Stories. I felt like was I was starting to get understood. I guess that’s what that represented to me, where I was able to go in and he knew what I was looking for; he knew my style as well as I did at that time, and so that might be one of the main turning points, because I remember bringing it home and listening to it and being like, “Yes! I know exactly what I want to do with this.” I ended up not using that record until The Orchid Days. That was on “The End.”

That’s one of my favorites.

Thank you. Yeah, that track was serendipitous. I really liked what billy woods was doing, and I reached out and gave him that beat. If you remember, the beats per minutes jumped in the middle of the song.

It reminds me of that MF Grimm song “Slow it up, speed it up.”

“Tick, Tick…” Yeah, man, MF Grimm was actually an important part of my life there for a minute. He and I were sort of close for maybe a year or two.

Huh, tell me about that.

Grimm reached out to me two or three years ago, right after The Mad Writer. He really liked my stuff, and he wanted to work with me. He’s an incredible writer, he was a role model for me for a while, it was amazing even getting that attention, being able to talk to him, and this is speculation, but I think he sort of envisioned me becoming a bit of a protégé and working with him more closely. He had talked about working on writing with me, because he knew I was a writer, and I think he was trying to build something with me, and I think when I signed to Mello I might have — well, I don’t know, I haven’t heard from him in a while.

Did you guys actually collaborate on any tracks?

Nope, never did. We talked a lot, though. He’s really good people. I’ve got nothing but love for MF Grimm. I love where he’s gone in his career. He’s gone into comic books and really been embraced by that community.

Do you have anything coming up next [in reality] that you can hint at?

I’ve got possibly one more thing before the year and then I’ll probably be trying to do something a little grand, a little more live instruments and something probably with an MC. I’m trying to create something with my hands.

Are you trying to totally distance yourself from sampling, or are you trying to meld sampling and live instruments?

It’d probably be a hybrid. I want to largely focus on songwriting. I think that’s where my mind is right now, and I want to develop that. I’m looking at the growth that I’ve seen from Oddisee to Black Milk to Danger Mouse. I want to get my chops a little bit better musically, because I want to take on the role of a more traditional producer at some point and that’s something that’s important to me, and I want to feel like I can create.

How did you go deaf in your right ear? What happened?

It was a genetic thing. I had a tumor in my ear, which sort of destroyed my ear, so now I’ve got a sort of a robot ear, but not in the good way. Normally, when you hear about robot body parts you think ‘better.’

Do you any have auditory sense in your right ear now?

About 10%. It’s something that I’ve dealt with since I was a kid. I wasn’t aware of what it was until the last two years but [throughout] my whole life, I knew I had not good hearing in my right ear. It was only in the last two years that it just went completely off, but what was so crazy about this was [while] working on [Time? Astonishing!], I was recovering from surgery and so I still have deadlines, I still need to do my work. This is just sort of who I am, I’m not going to keep pushing things back if I feel I can do them, and so I was on a lot of pain medications and whatever else they had me on there. I probably took two days after the surgery where I didn’t do anything and then after that, I went back to work.

It was a very surreal, strange experience, because I’m not used to working inebriated. Being on pain medication is sort of this interesting blend of euphoria and frustration, where you’re irritable but it doesn’t matter because the world is a beautiful place and you’re the most beautiful person in it, and so it’d be me working on these things and then the next day, coming back and being like, “What was I doing? What was I thinking? I need to do this over.” Then I’d come back the next day and be like, “No, what I had was probably better, I just fucked it up,” so the workshopping would be just like past L’Orange working against present L’Orange constantly.

That sounds oddly like the recurring dream that you said inspired the album’s concept.

Yeah, it does, doesn’t it? That’s interesting. Maybe that’s more about how I think. Now that you say that, it sort of reminds me of the concept for The City Under The City too. It’s divorcing your self from yourself in order to maintain. But yeah, the Keith record was a little bit of some sort of beautifully surreal nightmare.

Most Read