#MixxInterview: @HaileSupreme

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Haile Supreme
Haile Supreme is a conduit of ancient vocal techniques. Equipped with a shimmering falsetto, otherworldly vocal effects, and a lush bed of psychedelic tribal arrangements, Haile Supreme is the standing chief of The Ultimate Tribe. He released the first installment of his blessings as an album entitled “Liquid Temple”. An album title can be a name borrowed from the best song on the record, or maybe a description of the artist’s state of mind while writing it. But rarely is there an album title as perfectly descriptive of the music and ideology as Haile Supreme’s latest Liquid Temple. Mashing Tricky beats with Justice production and Motown arrangements, Haile Supreme’s songs are a temple to smoothness and pensivity. Aside from Haile Supreme’s project, he also lends his energy and vocals to the burgeoning DC music collective, Congo Sanchez, which is lead by Jeff Franca, drummer of Thievery Corporation. The Congo Sanchez crew, albeit being a fairly new band,  has already spread the vibrations during two different nation-wide tours that spanned from DC to Portland, Oregon and more than 20 stops in between. Their blend of high-energy outernational dance can infiltrate any dance floor with tribal rhythms and global sounds.


NGM: Who were/are your major influences?

HS:                                                      Bill. Withers. Is. god.

Bill Withers is any and everything. He’s an incredible songwriter, storyteller. One song in particular, to me encapsulates everything that is genius about Bill Withers would be “Grandmas Hands”. Where the average person would have written a song about ‘oh how I miss my grandmother . . .’ Withers focuses on that one specific thing that everybody knows about their grandmother. Grandma has either cooked for you, picked you up, and the very vessel by which she does all those things are her hands. Bill Withers is my absolute inspiration. I’m really into psychedelic rock so of course Pink Floyd, and I love the freedom that Andre 3000 has. But the top two for me influentially would be Bill Withers and George Clinton.

NGM: What got you started making music?

HS:           I was living in Lousiville, KY during my internship at GE and I hated it so damn much. Living in Kentucky, being depressed – like literally the FIRST day in Kentucky I was walking home and a bunch of white dudes in trucker hats and camou gear stopped next to me in their truck and were like “What are you doing here n****r?” I’ve experience blatant racism before. But at that time I had to almost to do a double take like was that really just said? And then and there I thought about what my Mamma Told Me. Be good to your neighbors. You don’t have to be a saint. I called my mother after that and had a conversation with her and that is what she told me. You don’t have to be a saint. You don’t have to be a savior to everyone; but you do have to do one simple thing and that is being good to the people to your left and to your right. And if everyone did that everyone would be taken care of.

NGM: Do you see a lot of your Ethiopian culture being infused in your music as well?

HS:           More so now than ever before. I’ve learned Ethiopian styles, and sought out musicians. Actually my mom used to sing, she never sang in the American style, but in the traditional Ethiopian style filled with undulations. It’s a pretty difficult vocal styling to do but as I listen to my mother sing more and I definitely am channeling that into my music.

NGM: How would you describe your creative process?

HS:           I want the melody to be able give the same meaning that the lyrics can. In other words, if someone living in Spain was listening to my lyrics and didn’t speak English, I want them to feel the same emotion, same message from the melody without even knowing what I’m saying. So I begin first, by listening to the music and asking myself ‘what is this piece saying to me’, then I do non-lexical vocals while completely focusing on the melody, and once I get that improvised melody that I like think of the message I would like to convey. This is essentially an important part and also the hardest. I want to get to the point where writing lyrics are just as easy and fun for me as improvising melodies. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle where I try to fit certain words and syllables so that they can envelope the message. It takes a little bit longer to write songs, it’s not instant. Completing the “jigsaw puzzle piece” usually takes me about a day or two; and I tend to write the best songs when I haven’t slept.

NGM: How did you come to titling your project “Liquid Temple” What does that mean to you?

HS:           Well before I say what it means, I would like to hear what it means to you Nadia. What do you think it means?

NGM: Well to me when I hear the words “Liquid Temple” I think of how there are so many things that are liquid; it could be water, wine, rain and etc. Liquid can also be something that is easily accessible but when I think of the purpLiquid Templeose of liquids it is to keep something wet, keep something fresh. When I think of the word temple, I think of something sacred, something holy. A place or something where you can have an experience, it can be good or bad, but more so something ineffable and intrinsic like a spiritual experience.

HS: That’s beautiful, very beautiful to hear someone break it down like that. Essentially, Liquid Temple just refers to how ubiquitous water is, not only in the planet but our bodies (temple) as well. The first sounds you actually hear in life, although you may not remember it, are you moving around in your mothers’ womb. I think the sound of water, regardless of who you are, is something that is very tranquil. Like listening to the sound of a creek, you’re like wow all the bullshit of the city is washed away. No matter how much bullshit may be around this creek, water is always going to be there and always has been there. Liquid Temple is an ode to how vital water is to our existence, an ode to how water connects us to every single living being on the planet.

NGM: How did you bring the project together? I hear a lot of live instrumentation and we rarely get that anymore. Do you play any instruments yourself?

HS: Thievery Corporation is just an amazing musical entity, from showmanship to live performances and recordings; they’re just really top-notch. During that year off I also started going to more jam sessions and meeting new local bands like Sun Cycle and SeaLab. From being around them, in a live environment and witnessing five different people master their respective instruments was just awesome. That’s when the music becomes more than just a collection of sounds that one guy uses a laptop to do.

NGM: How do you prepare for a live performance?

HS:           I recently tapped into something new within myself. I’m finding it harder more and more to remember what happens before I get on stage or while I’m on stage. Much like when you get into a fight, you have this adrenaline you don’t remember each punch, only the after effects. I get this adrenaline, I still have complete control and I know what I’m doing. I like to jump up and down and get my heart racing. I just feel the vibrations in the room and perform.

NGM: Which song(s) do you like to perform the most?

HS:           Aaaawwww man that’s hard. I’d have to say at the last show at Tropicalia, the song that people responded to the most is Burning Man.

NGM: Are the reactions from your performances what you expected?

HS:           Yea. So I’m involved in different bands that I perform and tour with and it has been such a fruitful experience for me to see how audiences respond to different bands and the energies they give. I think one of my weaknesses as a performer is that when I’m on stage and I’m in my final form – I close my eyes I’m not there. My body is there, but my energy is with my ancestors receiving wisdom and giving it to the people. It is a matter of fact that I travel to another place. Some may take me closing my eyes as not connecting with the audience enough but it’s just something that I noticed when I perform. I find that no matter where we have been, the audience engages in the tribal collective conscience that consumes that room.

NGM: What criticisms have you received, good or bad, that you feel were essential in how you approach yourself as an artist?

HS:           Earlier in my calling, when I first started recording songs, I sent it out to friends and I was like you know ‘Hey listen to my song and give me some feedback’. All the feedback I received from that song, I let that change my direction. So I ended up putting that feedback into what I was creating. So now that I look back at all the songs that I created in regards to that feedback I received it was some of the worst songs- well let me not say worst – they are some of the most unhappiest songs for me to listen to. That’s when I realized that there are only a few people whose opinion I would let sways the course of my creation. I’m a very big fan of first takes. The first time I sang it and I felt it I want to leave it that way. At the end of the day, it doesn’t fucking matter what people think of your music. More importantly than trying to get people to like your music, as an artist whether it be a painting in a gallery or a song, it is not just a piece of art it is a piece of your naked self exposed – in your more truest form and most vulnerable state. So I realized that if you are changing the image of your natural self, your most vulnerable state, you’re not being true to yourself. The only true nirvana as a musician comes from knowing that your art is not tainted and that it is a true representation of who you are, what you felt, and what you saw.

NGM: With the music that you make, do you ever feel that you hold back sometimes because you don’t want to give too much too soon?

HS:           No. When I write I pull from my experience but it may not necessarily be the full truth. I can either extend or exaggerate an experience to better match the overall message or the tone of the melody of the song. For example, Dear Patricia is partially a true story where I took it and molded it to the extreme of the story.

NGM: What are some goals that you have for yourself as an artist? What are the next levels that you are trying to grasp?

HS:           I used to think that if I had this amount of people at my shows, and had this kind of presence and etc was important – not saying that it is a bad thing but when you focus on that instead of focusing on the music itself – its detrimental. These record labels got marketing and consumer behavior down to a science so much so that the talent is not even a factor. They have the marketing down so packed that everything else just falls into order. I’ve learned instead of trying to pack out this and that venue, I just want to focus on becoming the best musician that I possibly can. I truly believe that if I dedicate all my efforts on my talents and passing on to people, then that is when everything else will fall in line. If I continue to get better and better, and learn how to better connect with people, how music interacts with the spirit and entire consciousness, that’s really where I think I’ll be the best that Haile Supreme can become.



Stay connected with Haile Supreme:

Twitter: @HaileSupreme

Nadia Gladys is a Special Features Writer for The Mixx Magazine who has a passion for the BLACK ARTS.