Chris Palko, better known as the rapper Cage, is not quick to grant interviews. He tends to disappear from the limelight for long stretches of time, popping back up with a new album or as part of a new underground rap group. Within the past decade, he has lent his talents toward collaborative work with artists as far reaching as Kid Cudi and Shia LeBeouf.
Born in 1973 on a military base in Germany, Cage spent his childhood years bearing the brunt of various traumas, eventually landing him in a psychiatric hospital where he was forced to serve a trial subject for one of the chemicals used in Prozac. The negative reaction to this chemical that he experienced led him to attempt suicide several times, and helped fuel his already-present struggle with substances and the darkness within himself. This darkness is ever-present in his music, a world which he has created to vent years of abuse and pain.
Last year, Cage re-emerged to release his fourth studio album, Kill the Architect. The album is wrought with his signature storytelling skill and aggressive vocal delivery, adding another piece to the complex puzzle that is his legacy. This Sunday, Cage will perform in Minneapolis at Pourhouse. He hesitantly granted Gimme Noise an interview, much at our behest. Despite setting up a definite interview time, Cage called us randomly a couple hours late, explaining that his phone had been dead, and granting us a few quick questions before he hit up the Halloween shop to prepare to leave town for the tour.
Gimme Noise: Can you tell us about Kill the Architect, and where you're at today?
Cage: With this record, I feel like I drew a line in the sand a while back, and rather than entertaining what's on the other side, I decided to stay on my own side and do what I wanted free of any PR, or using the machine. As much as it is self-destructive, probably, I actually don't feel like people buy much independent music, so it's like, getting out on the road seems to be the only place that you can make your money.
I don't feel like people really respect artists that much anymore, because anyone is an artist. Everything reminds you of something you've already heard, just not as good. I think once I figured out how to play the game, I didn't want to play. I find cult life fascinating, because, who wouldn't want to be liked by people, and people just want to be around you...that kind of seems like what a cult is, right? I think that that kind of thing keeps you around.
You might see something like, someone just suddenly tucks $100 for a song into your Bandcamp, tries to get you to waiver from what you know the truth is, whatever the current climate is for doing independent music. I'm not going to pay a publicist $3k independently, or consult with these magazines to do pointless interviews.
The interview thing is another thing. I don't do interviews -- I mean, here and there... I'm not trying to be mysterious, maybe it's just self-destructive, but more so because I just don't really agree with being social, or fuckin' pulling out all the tricks. Oh, in this interview I'm going to act like I'm on drugs... or maybe I am on drugs! Or fuckin' play games. It just seems like a bunch of nonsense. I mean, if someone is interested in reading it or listening to it, you know, I would think I sound retarded. Interviews are funny.
You mention Aleister Crowley on the album. His "Do what thou wilt" philosophy seems similar to yours. It's interesting that you mentioned him. What is you particular connection to his work?
I'm well-read, and I kind of look up to these people in a weird way. More of what I was kind of saying was that you can be any one of these dudes, stupid. Pick a side of the fence. Don't get fuckin' corralled by youth culture, and not being an individual. You could be any one of these dudes. Of course, I wouldn't suggest wanting to be one of them, but I always wanted to be one of them -- not necessarily them, but just someone that was liked, because I wasn't liked as a child. You grow up and you want people to like you, and it almost then seems that people don't like you for any reason anyway. People only like you for selfish reasons. That's a blatant, obvious reason that you would like an artist.
Do you feel isolated like that now?
I have awesome friends. I socialize. I have a cool life, I think. I am happy, and most of the things that I wanted to come true have already started to. There is perhaps a better ending than I may have thought or predicted. But there's still time.
What do you want out of your life, aside from rapping?
I'm getting it. Music isn't my life; it's part of my life. I write stories. I act. I have a film coming out later this year called Spring.
Can you tell us about that?
I don't know if I can actually talk about the synopsis, but... It's kind of a horror movie, a thriller.
Have you been working on it for a long time?
No, it's a small part. I did a short film with Kid Cudi back in 2011, that I wrote with Shia LeBeouf, and Shia LeBeouf directed it, called Maniac, and that was the first time that I had attempted anything like that. It just kind of opened my eyes to that. I had been on movie sets for years and never once thought that I could do that. I never thought to that degree. Then people tell you, "Hey, man, you should act!" Actually, Marilyn Manson is why I'm in Spring. I said "Hey, these guys want me to be in their movie, should I?" He was like, dude, that's why we're even friends, because I liked you in Maniac, because I thought you were an actor.
It was fun. I found some fun from the work. The best part was that I figured out that I could use it to vent, the same way as playing a live show. I feel so relieved, because I just throw tantrums on stage for an hour. For me its like, I get to release some shit. It's like something physical, something involving some sort of chaos that I could wrap myself into and get lost in the craft or the art of it. That's how the shows feel. It's like a whirlwind. They mean completely different things to me. Some don't mean anything to me, but some do. You get to these places in a live show and you can understand how artists that you might be into could have a nervous breakdown on stage. You go, god, I can relate to that shit. You can relate to that feeling.
The main thing is, I'm just glad that it's still happening.
Why did you take such a long break between releases?
I don't know. I think it just took a lot out of me. I would do a record, then I would do shit tons of drugs... I'd tour, I would work the record. Then I would kind of do these other projects. I did the Hell's Winter record, and then from there Depart From Me, that was like a four year gap. I think I just didn't even give a fuck about making music anymore. I was making music still, but I was just doing it because it was a release. I just didn't have any idea of the way I wanted to continue.[page]
How do you feel now? Will you put out another album soon?
Oh, yeah. Now it's like, I think I waited too long, so I got really anxious. The last tour I did was in 2010, and then in 2011 I went on that Cudi tour. Then I just got to putting my songs together. A lot of it was about the production. This is my get back in the game record. I was like, let me jump back in, this is what I want to say. This is what I have to say right now. I'm just happy to still be doing this shit. You go away from things, but sometimes this is all I fuckin' know. I don't know how to do anything other than some form of entertainment. That's the business I know the best. I don't know any other business that well.
Do you remember the moment when you first realized that this was what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
Yeah. I was like, twelve, or eleven. That's pretty much it.
How did you figure it out?
It was a child frame of mind. It's hard to understand, it's just pretty much the same as any kid, you know? Dinner plate eyes, looking for a big fish. I think the same thing interested me that might interest anyone else -- oh, I want to be famous. There was an honor that I felt I always had to live up to. There was this kind of sacred ode to hip-hop, and being real, or being like, don't sell out, or what does that even mean? Just a bunch of fuckin' sayings and opinions. It's like, as long as you're not compromising what you want to do, who gives a fuck?
The thing that I find, that nobility, well, being noble...There's no money in being noble. No one's going to give a fuck. I'm lucky that I started a little cult. I keep feeding them, and they don't know what's going to be for dinner. If they don't like it, they can fuckin' leave. That's how I feel. The ones that stay...It's interesting to have like-minded people listen. I just sometimes wish that my music could come with a self-destruct button. There's some people you don't want to listen to your music. I've met people where it's like, I don't want you to like my music. We're not alike.
Well, I want anyone to listen to it. I want everyone to like it, sort of. Within reason.
It is very dark. A lot of people that really feel connected to it may be the people that have shared similar experiences with you.
I want people who make changes in the world to like my music. Like serial killers. I want people who fascinate others to listen to my music. I want people who have other cults to listen to my music. Or just people who like cults, or are in cults. I'm always excited to go to Salt Lake City. There's where I take my notes. One day, a town where we all can go. Hey everyone, let's gather around and smoke pot and not listen to my music! No, we're forbidden. Father forbids us to listen to his music. But, that doesn't make any sense; that's why we're here! Yes, but if we're caught listening to it aloud, we're expelled from the community!
After you make music, it's like, it's done, get it out of there. Unless you're brushing up for rehearsal or something.
You don't listen to your music anymore?
No. I've never listened to my own music. Are you kidding me? Do you know how much shit there is in there, how much fucked up shit? I already know it. There's some stuff that I'm just like... I don't know. I have a thirteen-year-old daughter.
Does she listen to it?
Oh yeah, she likes it! She goes, that song, "CK One..." And I'm like, yeah, what about it? It was on The Wire, right? I just assumed she'd heard it there. She was like, "No, it's really fucked up." I'm just like, oh, yeah.
My phone is dying, but I can maybe try to continue this tomorrow if you want...
Cage never did call us back. See him perform this Sunday, July 6 at Pourhouse with Sadistik and Maulskull. $15, 8 PM, 18+
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