A Convo with LYNX of Beltaine’s Fire

Hi, we’re RHHR, what’s your name? My name is Lynx.  For a long time it was Emcee Lynx because in 1998 when I first started performing the local scene in the south bay where I was all about “emceeing” – not rapping – because we had all decided that Rap was what happened when corporate america stole hip hop. Of course 13 years later the reference is totally lost on most of my audience so I’m just Lynx or Lynx T’chass now. 

We know you’re in the group Beltaine’s Fire with a full live band, what solo stuff have you done to produced beats? My first 2 albums, Soundtrack for Insurrection I and II, were all beats i produced myself.  The Black Dog EP, my third release, marked a big shift because I’d attracted notice from several underground producers and that 5-song ep included instrumentals from several of them.  My next two solo albums, The UnAmerican LP (in 2004) and Living in the Shadow (2005) were half and half my beats and beats from other producers.

When did you get together with the group? In 2005 I decided I wanted to start a band and I wanted to do something really different. Now I grew up listening to hip hop, obviously. I wrote and performed my first rap song at the age of 12 – though it was years later before i started to take it seriously and as I said I didn’t get out and really start doing shows until ’98. So by 2005 I’d been in the scene making and releasing albums for 7 years and had an established fan base but wanted to do something new. I put out the word I was looking for musicians to collaborate on a new project and eventually put together the first version of Beltaine’s Fire with my girlfriend (now my wife) Laura Noel on Bass, and several other musicians on drums, guitar, and violin. The idea was that I wanted to do hip hop that really reflected me and my background as a Celt – a person of Irish and Scottish descent – living and making music here. A lot of artists come to hip hop and grab onto whatever’s cool at the moment and end up very gimmicky and fake. I wanted to create something real so it’d be clear I wasn’t trying to appropriate hip hop but bring something new to it. The music we ended up with in that first version of the band was somewhere between Rage Against the Machine and Flogging Molly. It was amazing. No one had ever done anything like it before. The great thing about that fusion is that the political content and the activism that’s always been a core part of my music fit perfectly with both halves of the fusion – Irish rebel music has a very very long history as a core part of the 800 year anti-imperialist struggle against British rule and of course Hip hop has always been political. And, of course, Laura is still rocking the hell out of the bass and singing backup vocals. I can say honestly that I didn’t recruit her into the band because she was my girlfriend but because she’s the best bassist I know. And it’s still true.

You guys just came out with a new CD Anarchitecture, how was the process of creating, writing, and recording it? We wrote all the songs for Anarchitecture collaboratively. One of the great things about the band is everyone writes their own parts. We don’t have a band leader who comes in and says “we’re going to do this now”. We function as a collective and everyone has a say in what we play and gives each other feedback. All of us live in the SF Bay Area so getting together and playing and jamming live is really at the heart of that collaboration. I might come up with a verse or some lyrics and spit it and then we’ll all riff on it for a while and take the best stuff out of that. Laura and I built a recording studio into our house and we jam and practice and record there, it’s very mellow. As far as my writing process, I used to write songs as polemics – essays in verse almost – but somewhere along the way I realized that made for terrible songs and stopped. Now I might start with an emotion or an abstract concept and just sort of roll with that – I’m always freestyling to myself and try to remember and write down the best images and lines I come up with that way. Those become the cores of new songs.

Speaking of your lyrics, your very conscious and revolutionary, have your lyrics always had that in them or did you develop and evolve your concepts over time? So all the songs are political in the sense that everyday life is political if you examine it – the sweatshops where your clothes are made or the politics of what music gets on the radio and TV and the influence of corporate power and oligarchy on the media and the perception of the world advocated by those corporate media companies. But then a song like ‘Quit My Job’ isn’t really political in any immediate sense, it’s just about having a shitty job and hating it. You could build that into a whole set of arguments about the oppression and economic coercion inherent in wage slavery but I think most people understand that stuff on a gut level already and I’m tired of preaching. I just want to make music that reflects real life and let people relate to it. The politics are obviously there, but they’re less in-your-face then they used to be and i think that makes the music accessible to more people and can help get those ideas out.

So what’s next for Lynx and Beltaine’s Fire, the album is out, are you going on the road, got any shows lined up? We’re playing a few shows – tonight we’re playing at a student activist thing in Berkeley and next week we’re playing a big function for the IWW. Mostly though we’re just focused on promoting the album. 14 years in I’ve finally come to terms with the fact I’ll never make a living off my music so I’m working full time and it’s hard to get the time off to go and tour. On the plus side, not relying on music to pay the bills gives us tremendous freedom to experiment and try new things, something a lot of bands have trouble doing.

Have you hooked up with any like minded artist or groups for collabos or events? I’ve been on a dozen mixtapes and compilations over the last several years, including several benefits for the Anarchist Black Cross and various other regional anarchist groups. And on my solo albums you’ll see verses from other artists whose music I like. the thing with big-name artists is that (understandably) they want to get paid up front to appear on an album and I don’t have the budget for that. Hip hop for me has always been about cyphers with friends and my approach to collabs reflects that.

What are the best ways for people to look you up, check out your music, and contact you? You can find info on me at http://emceelynx.com, on the band at http://beltainesfire.com, and of course the new album is available to listen to online and purchase at http://beltainesfire.bandcamp.com/album/anarchitecture

Well it was fun talking to you Lynx, any final statement or parting thoughts for the RHHReaders? Parting thought – Fela Kuti said “Music is the weapon of the future” and Beltaine’s Fire named our first album Weapon of the Future in tribute to that idea. I think it’s really true. Any genuine revolutionary music is going to have songs that express the love and rage of what people are going through and help to spread the ideals of the movement (any genuine revolutionary MOVEMENT). I’ve spent most of my life writing those songs and Anarchitecture is some of the best songs I’ve ever written. We hope ya’ll get as much out of them as we put into them.

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Categories: Bay Area Hip-Hop

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