Where Serengeti’s album is pretty much straight-up hip-hop, much of the recent WHY? material has moved away from those associations, even more so than ever. Eskimo Snow had considerably more in common with country and indie rock than the abstract hip-hop that Wolf started his career with. Has the Serengeti experience pushed him back towards those roots at all? He is, as ever, difficult to pin down. “I don’t know, I don’t draw those lines the other people do,” he says defensively. “Eskimo Snow didn’t really feel like hip-hop at all, though of course, phrasing-wise I owe a lot to rappers of the past that I grew up on. As far as the sound of that record goes, it definitely doesn’t sound like a hip-hop record. All in all, I really don’t draw those lines, I let all the sounds of different kinds of music seep into my brain. I don’t delineate as much, or try not to, when it comes to creating music. If I hear something I might say, oh, that’s dubstep or that’s tango and you can categorize something by it’s mixed properties and beats per minute I suppose. When I’m making stuff, I try not to categorize too much.”
As a core member of the Anticon collective for over a decade, Wolf has been involved in numerous projects and groups but over the past few years the amount of extra-curricular activity seems to have slowed down. With the exception of his work with Serengeti and one collaboration with Themselves, it’s seemingly been all WHY? all the time for Wolf for quite a while. Is this concerted focus a new step for him? “I’ve been pretty goddamned focused on WHY? for while now,” he says.
“I’d say ever since I quit cLOUDDEAD, WHY? has been my main focus. Going into the writing process for this album, I found a new kind of focus which has been very useful. It always fluctuates and changes, the way you work and the way you understand what you’re doing in your work. I did find a new understanding this time but it’ll change next time and the way we work next time will be different. Which is good, that’s what yields the amount of variety in our songs. I think a lot of our songs sound different from each other and I think that might be part of the reason.”
That variety and prolific writing tendency came to full fruition on the last WHY? albums, Alopecia and Eskimo Snow. They were products of the same recording sessions and though they were linked in time, they were different enough stylistically to make calling them a double album problematic. Were there any plans in the WHY? camp for a similar approach this time around? Would one album become two again? “We were very close to doing that but then just three days ago, as we were assembling the songs, we thought we should make one really strong record and one really strong EP. So a record and an EP is what we’re looking at. First of all, I would’ve had to write a few new songs when I got back from tour in November. Basically, it would have been two like 29-minute records that would’ve felt incomplete. I just couldn’t do that. Last time we had more material. We actually added three new songs to Alopecia after the recording sessions. At that time we had twenty songs and then we added three or four more to Alopecia.”
So is there an overall theme to the album? Any preoccupations throughout? “I’m still trying to wrap my head around that,” says Wolf. “We’ve put the songs in order over the last week and I think that’s right, but we got rid of some good songs on there and put them on the EP. We got rid of some really good songs that didn’t fit, thematically, with the other songs. I can’t say that I understand totally what the album is about yet. The songs that are on there make sense together. I’ll figure out after listening to it a few times, what it’s about and what’s going on. Then I’ll learn a lot of things about myself.”
WHY? play The Button Factory on Saturday October 22nd with Serengeti.