“I’m not a ladies man, I’m a landmine” were the opening lyrics to the opening track on one of the greatest albums made since the turn of the century. In 2008 Yoni Wolf took his once-solo project WHY? and created a masterpiece of ambition and vision that was far greater than the sum of its parts and confounded expectations of what he was capable of. That album was called Alopecia. For as long as Yoni Wolf has made music he has gone against convention, whether as founder of influential experimental hip-hop label Anticon or as one third of the hugely influential cLOUDDEAD project he’s been redefining what the definition of hip-hop is for his entire career. He’s been involved in a multitude of projects since then, whether it be going out on his own, as part of someone else’s project, or working as producer. His voice has always been his trademark. A nasal and divisive that gives his flow a vulnerability that’s rarely associated with the genre, it’s the reason some people love him so much and some cannot understand at all.
His music has always sounded so insular and confessional, without compromise, that he’s managed to remain incomparable yet surprisingly accessible. Alopecia’s second track is a confessional that puts its protagonist in such an ugly light to create a polar opposite of the machismo often associated with rap, all over an almost hypnotic beat and a chorus that sounds weirder than it should. The album eschewed samples in favour of a beautifully orchestrated piece that used acoustically created unexpected sounds with an alchemist’s touch that would sound unnatural in lesser people’s hands. From start to finish the album has been an inspiration for many, its unflattering lyrical content striking a chord in a world where we’re subjected to the laminated best side of everyone we know. It’s line after line of memorable one-liners which create vivid mental pictures, even on repeated listens. Whether it’s “Even though I haven’t seen you in years, yours is a funeral I’d fly to from anywhere” on These Few Presidents or “Sometimes I claim to know a guy but I can’t tell you what his hands look like” from Gnashville, there are an abundance of lyrical nuggets which are so understated and simple yet so confoundingly effective.
In celebration of ten years having passed since Alopecia was originally released, and with a repress of the album on vinyl, WHY? embarked on a tour playing the album in full at venues around the world. I caught up with Yoni with fellow journalist James Turrell before their set at Amsterdam’s legendary Paradiso. Sitting outside on a cool evening in a café near the venue chosen specifically for its position in the still-warm autumnal sun, we got talking.
Tonight you’re playing Alopecia in full as part of your ten year anniversary tour. It’s become quite a common thing for bands to revisit albums after ten years now. Was it your decision to mark the occasion for Alopecia or something or someone else?
I wanted to re-release it because it hadn’t been available on vinyl for a long time. We knew we wanted to do a re-release and when you do that sort of thing you have to tour on it to sell it. I also have to make a living and it was the perfect little chunk of time between other things since we didn’t have another tour for this fall. We already toured twice in the States and in Europe for the last album so it just made sense. There was a free window and we took it.
It wasn’t something that worked out for Elephant Eyelash, it was more timing?
No, this album specifically needed to get re-released. With Elephant Eyelash I felt like there was some vinyl for a little while, while it had been a long time for this one and we’d get asked about it constantly. It was a no-brainer.
What’s it like revisiting stuff that’s over ten years old since you originally wrote it? I mean, I know you’ve been playing a lot of these songs live since then, but still.
It’s cool. I think five years ago I wouldn’t have felt great about it, I’d have been like “These songs are too sad” but enough time has gone by that it feels like I’m reaching back in the past and it truly is in the past. It’s something I can celebrate now as a good album and that’s what we’re doing.
Do you almost feel like you’re covering songs written by a younger Yoni?
Sort of, yeah. It does feel that way.
When you look back at the recording, is there anything that you wish you’d done differently?
Getting this far from an album, ten years on, it is what it is. The gel has set. I accept what it is. Always for a while on an album I hear the flaws or the things that I would have done differently, but not that far back. You’ve got to accept it as something from the past, and that’s that.
You’ve brought Serengeti with you on this tour. Have you been doing any Yoni & Geti songs as part of it?
Yeah, we have been doing one in the encore.
Did you specifically choose him for this tour, or was it another case of good timing?
It just made sense timing-wise. He was already out here in Europe doing some other touring. I was talking to him and we realised we were both going to be out here around the same time, so we were like “let’s do that”.
(a loud motorbike driving past on the pavement drowns out the conversation)
Yeah, I know. I’m still not used to motorbikes just being everywhere here. The mopeds are kings.
There’s no laws!
There is actually a new law coming in stopping them, but none of them follow it.
They’re not supposed to go on the bike path any more but no-one’s enforcing it. Then everyone else is being so chill about it that you feel like if you say something, then-
You’re the dick.
You’re the foreigner dick.
Speaking of being a foreigner in Europe, do you get much of a chance to explore while touring?
Explore? Not really. I always prioritise sleep and eating really. I cook for myself so that takes up a large portion of my time. I don’t go out at night or anything like that. On a bus tour it’s a little easier to walk around and have some time, but on a van tour you don’t really have it. Soundcheck, interviews and stuff, then I eat dinner, then I play a show and then break down and leave.
Is this a bus tour or a van tour?
This is a van tour.
How do you make that decision?
Money. If you have a larger budget you do a bus tour and for a smaller budget you do a van tour. Usually on a longer tour we do bus tours. In the States we do bus tours for a month or more but if you’re touring for two weeks like on this tour then even in the States we can’t really afford a bus for two weeks.
I remember hearing one of your older podcasts that after Matt left the band that seeing you guys doing a bus tour was a moment of regret, as though the bus tour meant you’d made it.
Are you guys all getting on fine now?
Has the dynamic or the way you write changed much since Alopecia?
Every album is quite different in terms of the genesis, but everybody’s getting along well.
I see you’re still making time for the podcast too, up to 132 episodes which is quite an achievement in itself.
It’s getting up there. I was doing it once a week for 100 episodes without fail and then loosened up after that.
Are you much of a podcast listener? What made you decide on that as a medium?
Yeah, I listen to podcasts.
The only music based one I listen to on a regular basis is Song Exploder. I listen to that on a regular basis.
Have you ever done a song for them?
No, I haven’t, I talk to them, I know Richie from a long time ago from his old band but no. He’s never had me on there unfortunately. I would love to, I’m a huge fan.
Well I’m sure he’ll read this interview and then get you on.
Let’s hope, let’s hope.
What song would you do?
I think that’s up to Richie.
Oh it’s up to him?
I think so.
I did wonder because when they did R.E.M. I thought it was an interesting choice of song to explode.
What did they do again?
It was Try Not To Breathe.
Try Not To Breathe, OK.
Which was really cool because it’s a good song, but an often overlooked one.
Yeah, I remember hearing that, I’ve heard all the episodes. Other than that I listen to American public radio podcasts, there’s one called Fresh Air which is an interview show. This American Life which is a segment show, stuff like that.
I know you originally started it with self-improvement motivations, to get outside your comfort zone. There’s a huge difference between those episodes and how you’re doing it now. Do you think it has changed you?
Well, I feel like I don’t say “um” as much and stuff like that. Probably still say it a lot though. Um.
Well, you knew that was coming.
I think I’ve gotten better at speaking to people and knowing where to go with a conversation and paying attention. I would say I’m probably as good as I was after the first 20 episodes. Those first ones were like a learning curve.
I guess you were still trying to work out what the podcast was going to be.
Yeah, the first few for sure. Now I have a template that I stick to which makes it easier to edit them too.
How do you decide what project the stuff you’re writing will be used for? Do you have different distinct ways of writing with WHY? for example.
Well we’re not a ‘band’ like that. We don’t come up with songs jamming in a room together. It depends. When collaborating with people, sometimes…do you know Yoni & Geti?
Yeah, the album’s really great.
Thank you. Those songs I wrote with Dave pretty much in the room. WHY? songs are my outlet for my own voice, my own poetry or so to speak. Yoni & Geti was more Dave’s voice lyrically. I think if it’s my voice lyrically, then anything goes with the music. Anything goes.
OK, so you are the primary songwriting force behind WHY? still.
Behind WHY?, yeah.
So you’ll come with a particular idea formed and then…
It depends, I have collaborated in writing with other people, but by and large I write songs by myself. I mean, more often than not.
I remember seeing you guys years back on the grand piano tour which was a novel idea, do you intentionally try to find ways to keep touring interesting and reimagine things?
I like the setup to be different for every tour, and the feeling of it to be a little different. I love the more acoustic-style stuff, that’s my preference, but I also know that a lot of young people like it louder. I get that and we can do that and we like that too, a bit more rock and raucous. My old age will probably look more like the grand piano tour maybe.
In Vegas or something, yeah?
Speaking of old age, a lot has changed for us all since this album came out, how do you feel about your place in the world? Not just musically. Do you find as you get older you start to become more nostalgic and introspective or do you feel like you still have more to prove?
My M.O. is to be a little bit down on myself. “What am I doing with my life?” but then sometimes I sit back and I say “You know what? It’s cool. This is what I do. I write these songs and then travel around, I actually have a decent amount of people who enjoy listening to them and even get something profound or comforting out of it”. When I really step back and look at it, it’s cool. Also I’m aware that my life is not a big thing in the scale of deep time or even smaller than that, in history. It’s a small little grain of sand, but that’s OK, it’s cool. I have influence over history in a small way and that’s it. I throw in my little contribution and then I die and then life moves on, and that’s kind of neat. A little stitch in the fabric, you know?
Yeah, it’s something I think about more and more, especially when something comes up, like the ten-year anniversary of an album that doesn’t feel like it was released that long ago and you have that moment of saying “No! It cannot be ten years! I refuse to accept this!”.
Yeah, I accept it.
Let it roll on. I don’t believe in the concept of glory days or anything like that, it’s just a different time.
Take Anticon, for example, the entire landscape of hip-hop and music in general has changed hugely since you co-founded that. What’s it like looking back on that compared to how things are now?
That’s pretty much a chapter done, but that was a cool chapter. That was before the super-active WHY? thing I guess. That’s a cool thing too which I’m proud of. We founded this record label and we put out all these acts and it’s neat. At my best I don’t stress out about it. When I’m hard on myself I’m always like, “How come I’m not as successful as so-and-so or so-and-so”.
That’s a really human thing I think.
Yeah, but it’s all bullshit. I think it’s human but I think it’s really driven by the way that we live. We don’t have to live that way, but that’s the way that we live right now in history and that’ll be done at some point. All our minds will be melded through technology or something and maybe we won’t be individuals anymore. Maybe we’ll just add to the whole and be one unit called earth. “Earth intelligence” or something like that.
Sounds like the start of a dystopian novel.
Could be, or maybe not even dystopian, maybe utopian. I don’t know.
What do you think about the fact that technology keeps improving with the view that we shouldn’t have to work as much, yet the 9-5 life is still such a standard? Why has that not changed? Why do we hold on to that so tightly? It feels like it’s a matter of time before it does change.
Oh, definitely. I was reading this book which was talking about how we think of the idea of history as being this infinite thing, but that’s not true. History started at a certain time, 10,000 or 15,000 years ago, and it’ll end at some point and then we’ll move on and it’ll be a different aeon or a different epoch.
Yeah, it’s funny how that’s a thought that to some people is liberating, and to some is terrifying.
Yeah, depending on when you’ve been asked.
Or how much weed you’ve smoked or eaten really. That’s when it gets really scary, but I don’t do that. I smoke it, but I don’t really eat it all that much.
Right, well it’s a lot easier to get everything here in Amsterdam, although that’s another thing that’s changing as well, particularly in the US.
Yeah, not too hard.
Are you involved in putting out records through the label Joyful Noise, or at least choosing artists?
No, but I have brought on a couple of artists, but that’s just because I’m friends with them. I don’t have an official A&R title or anything like that.
I really like The Ophelias record.
Thank you, thank you. Yeah, that’s great.
What was it like, producing that?
Cool, it was cool. I really liked the record and I enjoyed working on it.
Was that the first time you’d been the sole producer of another band’s album, where you didn’t have any influence on the writing of the songs?
Yeah, maybe. I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I don’t even think of what I did on their album as production exactly, though if you were to hear the songs before I touched them and after I touched them they do sound a shit ton different. I think of it more as that I mix it, but I am a very heavy-handed mixer. I change the arrangements, I copy and paste things, move things around. That’s why they call it production. I wasn’t even there for the basic track recording for all but one song, which I recorded with a friend of mine. I did record most of the vocals and the violins, and acoustic guitars and stuff like that though.
Where do you feel more comfortable, as producer or writer?
I don’t feel comfortable with either, but it just seems to happen. I like both, but they’re both a weird journey of searching for what you want. You might have an idea of the sound you want and then there’s this hunt. The hunt is on and you just spend a ton of time and energy trying to figure out what it is.
How about the Divorcee album, was producing that different again because of your personal relationship with Anna Stewart?
That was a very different process as well. The process for that was sort of similar to making the Serengeti album Family And Friends, do you know that one?
Not really, no.
Great album. I produced half of that and this guy called Owen produced the other half. He’s in a band called Advance Base and used to be in a band called Casiotone For The Painfully Alone.
He produced half of it and I produced half of it, and we both did it on cassette 8-tracks, super lo-fi, and that’s how I did Divorcee as well. That one kind of felt similar in that we did a song, recorded it pretty quickly, and then spend time mixing and making the arrangement.
Did the personal aspect create a different dynamic as well?
Absolutely! Any new person I’m working with is going to be hugely different. For that, Anna Stewart is very different to Serengeti and we’re going to come up with very different material because they’re very different people and have very different ideas and lyrics, even though I did the music on both. The music sounds very different because both people are very different. I have to produce to the lyric writer.
Are there any projects which you’ve had the opportunity to work on that are just so far removed from your comfort zone or capabilities that you’ve had to turn them down?
I think I’ve been asked to do things that didn’t feel right. A lot of times I think I don’t know what I can add to it, or they already know what they’re doing and I would fuck it up because it’s too far out of my wheelhouse or something.
Outside of my wheelhouse is a phrase that I’ve just discovered.
I know what it means, but I don’t know what its derivation is exactly. What is a wheelhouse?
I have no idea.
It’s probably something like where all the mechanics go. The wheelhouse is where all the gears and stuff go or something.
Like the things that control the clock or, yeah. I don’t know what.
That’s the thing with these phrases. The first I heard of it was someone saying they’re sick of people saying wheelhouse and I was like “Sick of what?”.
I started thinking “is it an offensive term?”.
American or no?
The person wasn’t American but then someone else said that’s an American thing.
I think it might be American. It seems like it would be. You know? It feels like an American phrase.
It does feel that way. Sorry for that aside, I think it might be the first time I’ve actually heard someone say the phrase in real life, so it was quite a moment.
It’s kind of a pedestrian phrase, you know? Too pedestrian to be a British thing I thing.
Right, more sidewalk than pavement.
Are you still doing martial arts?
No, not in a long time man. I’ve been meaning to get back to it, I want to get back to it. I love doing it but, I don’t know, it takes a lot of energy.
What belt did you get up to?
No, it’s not like that, it’s not formal. It’s in a basement and it’s more like a fight club.
Is it an offshoot from one of the major ones?
Well, my friend Megan was instructing but now there are others who are instructing, called Shifus, that’s a kung-fu term. What I was taking was JKD (Jeet Kune Do) which has some kung-fu in it but also some American boxing and kickboxing; stuff like that. If you’ve ever watched an MMA fight, it’s like the standing game. The punching and kicking and shit.
Yeah, ok! I did Taekwondo.
But part of that is because I was so inflexible and I wanted to do something that I knew I would be bad at because I don’t want to get to that age where I’m like “I can barely move”.
Yeah, I don’t want that.
I tried Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at first, and everyone was so-
Limber and wild?
Wild! Yeah wild, and I was kind of like “this is not my scene, I can’t be doing this” so I went for something where the atmosphere was a little bit less testosterone-fuelled.
Taekwondo is more structured and based on forms. I don’t think what I was doing, was like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at all, because that’s a lot of floor game, but more impromptu styles. Street fighting styles, like if someone’s fucking with you, what do you do? That sort of thing.
Was that with full contact sparring and everything?
Not much, sometimes a little bit, but mostly we’d be hitting gloves and bags.
You’ve taught schoolkids in the past as well, haven’t you?
Not how to fight, but-
Yeah, not how to fight (laughs). What a segue, hey? Or maybe one leads to another, I’m not judging.
Yeah, it could. I taught music for a little while to these kids but I dropped out after a while. I didn’t have the energy.
Was it quite draining then?
It can be draining, especially because it’s free for these kids so maybe their parents weren’t really around that much and maybe they weren’t forced to practice. They’d come the next week and you’d know they haven’t touched a piano since the last time I talked to them. It’s like “What are we doing guys?”. At some point I was, I don’t know. I just don’t want to keep doing this sadly. I loved the kids, I really did, but yeah.
Was it drumming you were teaching them specifically?
I taught drums and piano.
You’ve been playing drums since you were 6 years old, right?
Pretty young, yeah.
Did it make you rethink some of the fundamental things that you thought you knew and have taken for granted?
Yeah, I mean it’s hard to teach an instrument, it really is! Drums especially. Piano I found myself starting with teaching kids major and minor chords and then I’d teach them a song, Lean On Me or a pop song that they like. I’d learn that for them and teach them that. Drums? My brother teaches drums sometimes professionally and I guess he goes through rudiments and stuff like that. I didn’t really know how to teach because I taught the way I learned which was like how you play rock ‘n’ roll on the drumset. Some kids had great rhythm and could fall into it easily but other kids, if they didn’t, it’s hard to know how to teach that.
That’s it, teaching is such a different thing from applying something.
It is, it really is, yeah. I don’t know that I’m the best teacher, but that’s alright.
Yeah, you’re doing alright. It’s a nice thing to explore though.
Yeah, I enjoyed it and there were a couple of kids where I was astounded.
How old were they?
They were like 12 or 13 to 18. Junior high and high school is what we’d call it in America. This one kid, he always was very shy and self-conscious and when we started doing drums he just learned so fast and was killing it. Then his confidence boosted and you could just see it in him which I thought was really neat.
Coming back to the band and why we’re here. How do you feel about playing some of the more personal songs like Good Friday live? Has it been long enough now that these just feel like words?
Yeah, that’s it. Like you said before, it feels like I’m playing a cover of my younger self.
Is there anything on Moh Lean which has a comparable level of being so personal?
Where it feels hard to do?
Yeah, or have you changed your lyric writing style to such an extent that it isn’t something that comes up any more?
I think Moh Lean is still new enough that it feels OK to do that stuff. It depends on the subject matter. There was a time where it felt tough to do some of the Alopecia songs, but not right now.
Alopecia was an album that meant a lot of things to a lot of people and combined with its critical acclaim really gave the project a lot more exposure. I’ve spoken to people to whom it’s an album that was a huge part of their lives, myself included. Have you had much contact from people who’ve reached out to tell you this sort of thing?
Definitely. Yeah, all the time. It’s really neat. That’s what I was saying with feeling comfortable with my place in the world. I’ve affected people and I’m not tooting my horn or some shit but a lot of people say that. They tell me that the music has really affected them and it makes a difference and it’s comforting to know that someone else went through these things. It’s neat! I like that. Even if I don’t ever have kids, I don’t have kids right now, I’ve still left a mark on history in a very small way but in a way I have, and that’s neat.
Was that part of the motivation behind the Golden Tickets EP to connect with your fans and give something back?
Yeah, it was fun doing that. It showcases our weird sense of humour I guess, being silly.
What were the responses like from the people who the songs were about?
By and large they really loved it. I can’t think of one of them who was like “Don’t put my name in this song” or anything like that. Everybody seemed into it.
At the very least were they at all unsettled by how much you’d gotten to know about them?
Yeah! Some people did have that response, yeah.
Did you do it all by looking through social media?
Sometimes I would find a friend of theirs as well and ask about them.
Or their significant other, stuff like that. I got pretty in-depth with learning about someone’s life and whatnot. Some of them touched a nerve a little bit. There’s one I’m thinking of specifically, this guy on the song Murmerer. It was kind of about how he’d lost his girlfriend but he wouldn’t have if he hadn’t been so jealous and stressed, and I was like “dude, man, I don’t know”, but I had spoken to her about it and…it was a fun project.
Have you ever been tempted to do something similar again, or some other high-concept project?
We do have a full length, maybe 13 or 14 other Golden Ticket songs from that same era, the tour that we did around that time. Every day we picked a person from the ticket buyer list that was going to be at the show and then I wrote a song about them in the van. Then I worked on it a little more in the hotel and by the time soundcheck came around I would sing it for the guys and we would work on parts and then we performed it for the person at the show. We’d say “Is so-and-so in the audience?” and they’d be like “uh…” and then we’d be like “Alright, come on up, you’re our Golden Ticket winner for this show!”. Then we performed it and later went home and recorded it in our studio. It exists, I just haven’t found a good time to put it out because I don’t want people thinking it’s like a WHY? album, you know what I mean?
Yeah, I do.
It’s a side-project but it’s still WHY?, like you said, it’s a concept piece. It’s its own little universe of weird, funny shit.
You had a lot of reaction after playing Meteor Festival in Israel last week, and I know on your podcast you’d talked about the difficulty you faced with that decision when an artist plays in Israel. You were saying that you were hoping to learn things while you were there, but how was the experience? Did you get a chance to do much other than playing?
I did a couple of podcasts and a guy wrote a big piece about us for the biggest left-wing paper there called Haaretz, but that’s about all I did. We were there for just over 24 hours, so it was a brief visit. Too brief, I think. I did not get to pow-wow with any Palestinians. I wanted to, but I spoke to a lot of other people and it was good. It was a good trip. I made a statement from the stage about the situation and was greeted with cheers. Not a single person at my show was a right-winger, you know what I’m saying? These people don’t understand at all. To me that boycott is kind of ridiculous. I understand it’s based on 90s era South Africa and how they dealt with apartheid there. To bleed out all the culture and people will just be starved for it and it then will say- I don’t know, that may have worked in the 90s but they’re forgetting that we have the internet now and it’s a different era. The idea of boycotting culture to me is ridiculous. I understand boycotting things that bring money to the government but that doesn’t. I decided not to fall in line.
What projects are you working on now, other than touring?
I’ve been working on songs. I don’t know exactly what it is yet, but it’s WHY? stuff.
I know that you’ve been posting solo stuff on Bandcamp over the last few years, is that stuff similar to how you said you didn’t want it to go out as WHY? but wanted to put it out somehow?
Yeah, it’s mixtapes and covers. Those I really made to sell on tour as Yoni Wolf solo. I went out on tour several times in the States just doing straight rap shit off of beats.
Were you just on your own when you were doing those tours?
I was performing on my own but sometimes I would have a DJ. I would roll usually with Geti and he would do a set and then I would do a set. What Geti likes to call “Gentlemen’s Tours” where it’s just the two of us in a Ford Fusion or whatever white rental car. In the US all of the rental cars seem to be white, well not all of them but rental car white is a thing. We’d roll around in some stupid looking whatever.
Where you have to pay extra for a different colour.
Super new, 2015 car.
That’s been aged horribly over that short time.
Yeah. All we had were our little suitcases and laptops and that’s it. It was easy breezy man. I definitely enjoyed those tours a lot. That’s what I made those tapes for.
I saw you brought back Hymie’s Basement for that benefit show for Alias’ family a short time ago. Is that a project you’ve ever thought about revisiting, what with Broeder having been part of the band for so long too?
Yeah! Well we would always do a song from Hymie’s Basement whenever Broeder was in the band.
I remember you playing 21st Century Pop Song in London.
Yeah. I don’t know. I’ve talked to Andy and we’d like to do something together again for sure. I’d like to get him to produce some WHY? stuff, I just love his stuff so much.
Speaking of older projects, I know a lot of people get hung up on cLOUDDEAD specifically, especially as it’s been such an inspirational project for so many. It’s obviously something that you have to address a lot still, but is it something that you’re over and aren’t tempted to ever revisit? No chance of something one day aligning and making you want to make a third album.
I don’t think we’ll ever do another cLOUDDEAD album. I’m not over it, it’s cool material. There’s a big re-release of all the cLOUDDEAD material planned but it just hasn’t come together through the label yet. We have all the stuff ready to go with art and a big box-set, beautiful shit. We’re hoping to do that, but I don’t think we’ll make new material. I don’t think there’s any reason to go back to that. That chapter’s closed and it’s a cool chapter, but it’s the same thing. I’m proud of it and I think it’s neat and it would be nice to be available.
How do most of your collaborations start out? Is it just that you cross paths through work or touring or do you proactively seek out and contact people you think you could do something interesting with?
I would say more the first thing, organically.
Did any collaborations come up from your podcast guests?
Yeah, I became really good friends with this girl Lillie who I recorded a podcast with recently. She’s in a band called Lala Lala and they’re super-good. They’re about to have an album drop and I think they might blow up. I knew her a little bit throughout the years but we became a lot friendlier since then. She came down a couple of weeks after we did that podcast and stayed with me and my girlfriend and we hung out a lot and recorded a song together. Stuff like that happens through the podcast from time to time. I became friendly with Aaron Weiss from mewithoutYou and he did some vocals on Moh Lean for me, I owe him one still so we’ll see if he collects. That happens too. The podcast is good for seeing if you have a connection with someone, it’s kind of neat.
I know it’s a long time ago, but why did you transition the name WHY? from being you as a solo artist to being a band? It’s quite confusing.
When you know, it makes sense but what made you make that decision?
I guess that happened around 2003 or 2004 and I was working on new material and it didn’t seem right to have a new band name for something that evolved from the previous WHY? album. How the other guys started with WHY? was playing in the live band for Oaklandazulasylum which was the album that I did by myself. Then when I was working on new material I was like “I’m gonna get these guys to play on this”. It was a very natural evolution and it seemed stupid to change the band name. You start having a little bit of momentum on tour and people knowing who you are. It’s the same singer and the same style, I think it would have been detrimental to change the band name.
That makes sense, it wasn’t like you one day made a formal announcement. “Attention everybody, from today we are now WHY? The Band”.
Right. I don’t think about it as a band because the band has changed over the years. It’s more a project name, like you said. It’s about having this little collection of albums that can be traced back to the same root which is the WHY? project. There’s some kind of through line there, or there should be. That goes back to what I was saying, it’s where I put my personal poetic lyrical expressions.
Stream the 10-year reissue of Alopecia below.