MC PAUL BARMAN
interview and image by debbie

SUCKA BITCH MCs ARE FRESH OUTTA TIME,

WHEN MISTER PAUL BARMAN BUSTS OUT A RHYME.

KNOWN TO ROCK A PARTY LIKE ERIC NIES ON THE GRIND,

FINGERBANG FUNNY BONES AND TICKLE YOUNG MINDS.

HERE, PAUL RAPS 'BOUT WU-TANG AND PANTIES HE'D SLICKEN,

WITH DEBBIE, THE KID FROM THAT RAG, TASTES LIKE CHICKEN.

(OKAY,.. HE DIDN'T REALLY TALK ABOUT PANTIES.)

Debbie: I know you’re probably expecting Wayne to call you, but he got sick. So I’m filling in for him.

Paul: Oh, that’s a shame.

D: Well, he’s been sick for awhile now. He needs his rest. Okay,.. first off, I have to let you know that you’re being recorded. That’s a law in Delaware or something. Also, tastes like chicken is a humor publication, and we tend to be goofy. So don’t feel the need to be too serious or anything like that.

P: Okay. I’m doing my taxes right now. So I’m feeling serious.

D: Oh. I’m sorry. Don’t you have someone who can do your taxes for you?

P: No one can stack receipts for you.

D: Alright. Here we go. Would it be possible for you to rhyme the entire interview for us?

P: I’ll try.

D: You’re a graduate of Brown, and you’ve gone from mathematics to visual art to music. Do you see this as a natural progression? Are all of those things related in your mind?

P: Yes! They definitely are related! Have you seen the show?

D: Uh-- no.

P: You didn’t see the Cleveland show?

D: No.

P: Did the sick guy see the show?

D: No. I don’t think anyone from the staff made it. Actually, one of our comic artists made it to the Chicago show. Jose Garibaldi. He said he talked to you afterwards.

P: Yeah! He gave me a postcard.

D: That kid rocks. He said he wants to get some work out to you. So does another guy, Jim Mahfood.

(WATER CAN BE HEARD SPLASHING IN THE BACKGROUND)

D: Are you doing your taxes in water?

P: Yes.

D: (laughs)

P: ,...

D: Well, you talk about how you want to sharpen people’s ears with your music. Do you think a lot of the stuff being made in music today is doing that as well, or do you think it’s not as smart?

P: Uh,.. (long pause) I’m still on your first question.

D: Oh, geez. I’m sorry.

P: Math, art, and music, right?

D: Yeah.

P: Well, music is obviously mathematical in the sense that it’s divided up and shit. Hang on a sec.

(TWO MINUTES PASS)

P: Hey, sorry about that.

D: No problem at all.

P: (reading) “There's a surprising mathematical ingredient in the sound of many performing artists and recording stars. It manifests itself in the form of clusters of panels hanging on the walls of recording studios, concert halls, nightclubs, and other venues. Sculpted from wooden strips separated by thin aluminum dividers, each panel consists of an array of wells of equal width but different depths.

Called reflection phase gratings, these panels scatter sound waves. The result is a richer sound with an enhanced sense of space. Listeners claim that the panels seem to make the walls disappear. A small room takes on the air of a great hall.

The secret lies in the varying depths of a panel's wells. With depths based on specific sequences of numbers rooted in number theory, the wells scatter a broad range of frequencies evenly over a wide angle.

The scientist who pioneered the ideas responsible for this development is Manfred R. Schroeder of the University of Göttingen in Germany. In the 1970s,” and this book is from 1991, “Schroeder and two collaborators undertook a major acoustical study of more than 20 famous European concert halls. One of their findings was that listeners like the sound of long, narrow halls better than that of wide halls.” I don’t feel that way. I’d rather live in a wide apartment than a railroad. But I guess that’s not a concert hall. “Perhaps the reason for this, Schroeder reasoned, is related to another finding that listeners prefer to hear somewhat different signals at each of their two ears.

In a wide hall, the first strong sound to arrive at a listener's ears, after sound traveling directly from the stage, is the reflection from the ceiling. Ceiling reflections produce very similar signals at each ear. In narrow halls, however, the first reflections reach the listener from the left and right walls, and the two reflections are generally different.

This may be one reason why many modern halls are acoustically unpopular. Economic constraints dictate construction of wide halls to accommodate more seats, and modern air conditioning systems allow lower ceilings. To improve the acoustics, sound must be redirected from the ceiling toward the walls.”


D: What is the book that you’re reading from called?

P: It’s called Islands of Truth: A Mathematical Mystery Cruise, by Ivars Peterson. And the Islands of Truth are: chaos, algorithmic complexity, randomness, and dynamical systems.

D: Damn. When did you pick that up?

P: A couple days ago. It’s like popular mathematics, ya know?

D: Well, it’s mathematics applied to everyday things.

P: I feel like that answers the question better than I could, how math applies to music. And your other question was about opening up ears?

D: Yeah.

P: I think what I said was in relation to palindrome, which is another mathematical thing-- not the most soulful side of the lyrics, but it’s in there. I remember reading some Wu-Tang lyrics online and finding out that they had all these “word tricks” in there. From then on, it was like I was listening for something else, as well as everything else I was listening to. Know what I mean? And that’s all I meant by, uh--

D: By “sharpening people’s ears.”

P: Like, um,.. there are just so many things to hear. And the more I learn about music, the more there is to listen to.

D: That’s how it is with most things. Like, a kid can listen to modern rock. Then they’ll go back and listen to early rock ‘n’ roll. Then they’ll take another step back and listen to old blues. Then they’ll go back and listen to old spirituals.

P: You’re listening to old spirituals? Like what?

D: I’m not listening to any right now. But a friend of mine is supposed to hook me up with a CD full of them. Do you have any old spirituals that you’d recommend?

P: No. I’m asking you.

D: I couldn’t name any off the top of my head. On the subject of Wu-Tang Clan, you seem to have a big appreciation for them. But you obviously were into old school hip-hop as well, but where did the Wu-Tang influence come in?

P: Well, I guess I wasn’t on them right away. I’d heard some stuff here and there. And I think once the first Ol’ Dirty Bastard record dropped, I was so thunderstruck that I had to get everything else they had done.

D: Wow. it seems like most people wouldn’t see Wu-Tang as anything to grab your ear--

P: That’s not true at all! Wu-Tang blew a lot of minds! It introduced some people to hip-hop for the first time, because they were too young to be exposed to the old school classics. And then, in my opinion, in between what’s called “The Golden Age of Wu-Tang”, there was a dip where, as a genre and a community, it didn’t seem to be as interesting. Or maybe I just wasn’t being exposed to the interesting stuff. Which is usually the case, before you poo-poo a whole genre. Generally, that means you’re not being exposed to the right stuff. But then, Wu-Tang came out. And for me, it brought me back to my old love. And for others, I think it introduced one.

D: Well, when Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) came out, I was a sophomore in high school. Back then, the big things were The Chronic and Snoop Dogg’s first album. But the Wu-Tang came in with the whole Shaolin sound. It was gritty, and they were all rhyming as this one, big group. I’ve actually been very stuck on Ironman, lately.

P: I love that record.

D: It’s so funny. I hadn’t heard that in years. Then, I picked it up a week ago, and haven’t stopped listening to it since.

P: Hey, did you hear about freedom toast?

D: Uh, no.

P: Listen to this. (reading) “House Cafeterias Change Names of French Fries and French Toast: Move Reflects Anger Over France’s Stance in Iraq. The restaurant menus in the three House office buildings will change the name of ‘french fries’ to ‘freedom fries,’ a culinary rebuke of France, stemming from anger over the country's refusal to support the U.S. position on Iraq. Ditto for ‘french toast,’ which will be known as ‘freedom toast.’”

D: (laughing) We hate the French that much? Goddamn!

P: All of these Republican ass-scratchers actually,.. I mean, your tax money is reprinting these menus as we speak. And there are so many funny jokes to make out of it, but I’m sure they’ve already been done last night by Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien. For example: What’s your favorite instrument? The freedom horn. What’s gonna happen when protesters in England finally topple Tony Blair and England drops out of its alliance? Freedom lessons.

D: Jesus. Is this Leno?

P: No. This is me. I’m assuming that it’s all been done already.

D: (laughing) You never know. Put it out there and see what happens.

P: Well, you better publish this shit quick, because those jokes were made last night, I must assume.

D: Well, this comes out in a few weeks. But maybe, by the time people read this, they’ll have forgotten about the jokes and they’ll think they’re brand new.

P: (laughs)

D: Or they’ll just think I’m interviewing Jay Leno, and get confused. Well,.. (laughing) I don’t even know what to ask you now.

P: Quick! React organically! Quick!

D: What thing did you hear that made you first notice rap music?

P: The very first rap tune I ever heard?

D: Yeah. Not something you just heard in passing, but the first thing that made you realize that rap was something significant.

P: It might have been “Wild Wild West”, by Kool Moe Dee.

D: Aw yeah! Was it the video?

P: No. Summer camp was where I got exposed to music.

D: What summer camp did you go to?

P: I went to Hillcroft and Buck’s Rock. And the day camp was called,.. I can’t remember. Damn!

D: Oh, that’s okay. I can’t remember, either.

P: Sunny,.. sun,...

D: Sun-Ra?

P: Sun-Ra Day Camp? I wish. I broke my leg the first year I was supposed to go to Hillcroft, and so I couldn’t go. I had to go to this lame gifted and talented day camp. It sucked. Ugh. I was on crutches forever. Ugh!

D: Was it like you went during the day, then you went back home?

P: Yeah. And what a bummer. Oh! And I also went to a Jewish sleep-away camp where they even had Hebrew prayers every day, and I didn’t speak a word. That sucked shit!

D: So you went through the whole bar mitzvah thing?

P: Nope. That camp was the most non-secular thing I’ve ever done. It was just randomly bizarre that I went to that.

D: Alright. I’ve got another question that goes back to the rap thing. In another interview, you stated you were sick of hearing lyrics about guns and violence--

P: I’m not sick of hearing guns! Not when it’s like Illmatic.

D: What’s that?

P: It’s Nas’ first record. I mean, I’m sick of hearing guns with the excuse that it’s a metaphor for how lyrically sick the vocalist is. That’s really annoying. Wu-Tang tells creepy gun tales, and it gets you every time.

D: What Wu-Tang songs in particular?

P: Oh, all the Only Built 4 Cuban Linx shit is crazy. Like, what’s that one song before “Ice Cream”? Have you heard Only Built 4 Cuban Linx?

D: No.

P: You haven’t?!? I thought you were a Wu-Tang fan!

D: Dude, my Wu-Tang fandom is scattered. It starts with 36 Chambers, Tical, the first Ol’ Dirty Bastard album, and Ironman. Then it just sorta falls off the face of the Earth.

P: Okay. Get Supreme Clientele and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. They’re both masterpieces. And have you heard Liquid Swords?

D: Part of it. Not the whole thing.

P: Get Liquid Swords. Those three records, that will be new to you, will last you for the rest of 2003 and then some. There are some incredible gun tales on Liquid Swords.

D: Like what? Can you explain, or does it get kinda involved?

P: Well, I don’t know the whole thing by heart without it playing. But there’s this one where he tells some really great third person stories-- where there’s this guy from Afghanistan who owns the neighborhood newsstand. He was an expert in bombs. He put some kind of bomb in a bottle of champagne, so that when someone popped the cork, someone lost half their brain.

D: (laughs)

P: Then there’s this one song on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, “Spot Rushers”, where, basically, it’s a tag-team rhyme between Raekwon and Ghostface. It’s like a heist, ya know? It’s like a stick-up. At one point, he says, “Threw the nine in his meatloaf,” which is really cool imagery. I’m pretty sure they’re in a kitchen where the drugs are being made. So on one hand, I can see “meatloaf” being slang for the guy’s face. On the other hand, it could be possible that there was a girl there making meatloaf, and he totally ruined it by throwing a gun in the pan.

D: (laughs) See, I thought there would be drugs in the meatloaf. So he sticks his gun in it, pulls the trigger, then ground beef and cocaine goes flying everywhere. But that’s just me. So it seems like this Wu love runs pretty deep with you. Are they your favorite crew?

P: No. My favorite crew is the NSP Crew.

D: What does the NSP stand for?

P: Negotiating Superior Power. They’re from Cincinnati. You should track them down and interview them. They’d be easy to find. They have a website called nspcrew.com. You can contact them through there.

D: Have you ever toured with them?

P: I played with them in Cincinnati. And I’d like to say “peace” to Free Flow and The Animal Crackers. Free Flow is from the Cleveland art school. The Animal Crackers are from Cincinnati.

D: Now, it’s obvious you’re into hip-hop. But what other sorts of music influence you.

P: Uh,.. Dylan. The Sea Monkeys.

D: The Sea Monkeys? I thought I was the only one who liked them.

P: You know The Sea Monkeys, too?!?

D: No. I was tricking you.

P: F.E.A.R.

D: Fear?

P: Yeah. Hang on a sec,... (pauses) So are you a student or what? What’s going on with you?

D: Me? I graduated. I’m a freelance illustrator.

P: No shit! No way!

D: Yeah. And I work on the paper.

P: You’re a freelance illustrator for a paper, and that’s how you support yourself?

D: Yeah. But I’m a comic artist, too. That’s how I know Jose and Jim. I’m actually working on a book for Image right now.

P: No way! What title?

D: It’s a book called “Puffed”. It’s a three-issue miniseries by me and this guy named John Layman. He used to work on “The Authority”. He’s actually writing a new miniseries of Thundercats comics.

P: Well, did you see my newspaper?

D: Yeah! In the packaging for the--

P: Did you see my “Cock Mobster” twelve-inch?

D: No, I didn’t.

P: That’s got a really nice illustration on it that I did. Actually, it was for Screw Magazine. But they didn’t use it, so I did. Listen to this: F.E.A.R.: False Evidence Appearing Real. That’s pretty fun, huh?

D: Is that a group?

P: I just read that on Michael Moore’s website. This southern guy wrote an essay about throwing away his last gun. And then he drops this incredible acrostic, F.E.A.R. Man, that really sums it up. At least, for right now.

D: Well, yeah. Our government’s keeping us under lock and key. They’ve got us all worried about terrorism, so we don’t even notice them eliminating privacy laws and taking away individual freedoms.

P: What do you think is the best rhyme for “false evidence appearing real”? Ideally, you would be rhyming every word. Like, you could start with “appearing real”. (pauses) It’s nice that “fear” rhymes with “appear”. So let’s make it “appears” instead of “appearing”. And then put “fear” up there. So it’s like “something-something-fear, something-false evidence appears real”.

D: ,...

P: Fear,.. feel! Ya feel fear. (pauses) I’ll work on it myself, dammit.

D: Man, I’m not a lyricist. You are.

P: So are you gonna send me some of your shit?

D: Oh, hell yeah.

P: I’m working on a comic book, too.

D: Really? What’s it called?

P: (pauses) I haven’t told anybody about it, yet.

D: Aw, c’mon. You can trust me.

P: Let’s just say, I have a zine with my first record. There’s a newspaper with my second record. I think that it should be a comic book for my third record. First, I thought it would be a magazine. But I don’t think that anymore.

D: That sounds like a natural progression.

P: What comes after comic books?

D: After comics? A graphic novel,.. like a big comic book.

P: No, no, no. That’s pretty close to a zine. You’ve seen the Jack Cole book of Plastic Man comics?

D: Yeah, the one Chip Kidd put together.

P: Incredible!

D: Hell yeah! Chip Kidd is an amazing designer. Plus, Jack Cole’s life is such a sad tale.

P: He cut up all of his originals after they were published.

D: I didn’t read that part.

P: Snip, snip! He methodically destroyed every page, once the issue was on the stands.

D: Why?

P: Why did he kill himself? They seem extremely connected to me. Jesus Christ!

D: Yeah, there was a lot going on in Jack’s head that no one will ever know about, since he’s dead. But, anyway,.. I want to finish up this rhyme thing you started. Where were we at with that, again?

P: “False evidence appears real”, so the first line will define it. Like, “Paul’s preference is to not fear feel”, as in the case of, “false evidence appears real.” That was just a first attempt.

D: Well, it’s better than what I’m coming up with, which is jack shit.

P: I got it. “Y’alls presidents, here’s the deal. False evidence appears real!”

D: That works. How the hell do you do that for a whole album? It must happen so fast. It must be going through your head all the time.

P: Well, it’s better than stacking receipts. (laughs) And, with that, I think I should go. So, let me give you my address, and I want your whole cartooning crew to send me all your stuff that you ever write for the rest of your lives. Okay?

D: Yeah. But, I’ve got one last question: do you think dogs have lips?

P: Yes.

D: They do? Do you have any proof or evidence?

P: Well, they’ve got a mouth, don’t they? That’s not a beak.

VISIT PAUL HERE.

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