A remix should transform an original work of art. This is not a golden rule as it is often not achieved, but it is the high water mark in musical metamorphosis. In listening to Willie Green’s treatment of “Rod Stewart” by PremRock, the original version becomes foreign despite being available since April 2014. In fact, the memory loss is instantaneous as the piano keys feel as though the sentiments delivered from the bottom of a rocks glass are finally at home in their favorite watering hole.
That’s where we find PremRock in the video for “Rod Stewart”. He’s living out those transgressions with old flames, trying to be the self-aware lush as though that clarity is going to cut through the desperation. And while the despair runs deep, the rapper’s bête noire is amplified in considering the source material for the remix record’s title, Who Art In Nada. If A Clean, Well Lighted Place is Hemingway at his most picturesque—a rare Norman Rockwell moment—then the “who art in nada” quote tucked within the story is the provocateur undercurrent, the heart of darkness, and the infinite aloneness of the godless. The same could be said of PremRock’s return to old flames within “Rod Stewart” and return to old records on Who Are In Nada. It’s a destructive streak when one suggests belief in nada, but that disregard for sacred allows one to summon new paths without that old faith-based guilt.
PremRock’s Who Art In Nada is out now on his Bandcamp. Read on for a brief interview on the transformation of “Rod Stewart” and his return to old flames.
It’s been a year plus since the release of A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. Given the passage of time how has that record aged for you?
I still enjoy the record when it comes on the old shuffle. I still listen to “Young, Alone Alive” and wander through Lower East Manhattan at odd hours. I think some of it has aged well and other parts of it hasn’t… to me, at least. I truly love some songs on there but I’m excited to leave it behind as it is and move forward. It joys me that it was an introduction for some people to me. It’s a fine snapshot of a period of transition…. flux… a constant state of being for me but this I will recall fondly.
You left NYC for awhile, but you’re back now, correct? What did that journey do for your perspective on life and has it changed your songwriting at all?
That is correct, Blake. Perhaps I am still digesting the entire thing. If you knew more details you would find this to be a rather loaded question but you don’t so I can certainly excuse that. My perspective on life changes always and it changed quite a bit the past year too. My songwriting has become even more honest which is a product of digesting hardships and growing up a little more. I turned 30 a couple months ago. Shit gets a little bit realer when you eclipse that milestone. I just think it all contributes to stakes being risen and my songwriting should reflect a wiser, less broken man. I have regrets but I don’t count leaving as one of them.
I truly love New York City, and have become a New Yorker. There’s never been a place on earth I’ve seen that matches what I see in my mind the way this city does. I’m a maniac. I can have three jobs without a problem, all while going as hard in music as I possibly can and galavanting throughout the night until 6AM. I feel like a lifer because I can’t really imagine being anywhere else for the foreseeable future. It fuels my creativity. Both creates and quells my anxiety. New York is cold but I like where I’m living.
With Who Art In Nada it’s essentially a remix record, correct? What prompted your intentions to transform art that’s by all accounts a finished product?
Essentially it is, yes. I wanted to work with some people I have respected and known for years and see what they thought about these songs in particular. I thought it’d be crazy interesting to get Elucid to remix a song… a romantic one at that! Needed something from Uncommon Nasa at this stage and I met Tom (Cars & Trains) in Paris like almost five years ago and we finally nailed something down. I love everything Dr. Quandary sends me. So it was a combination of killing birds with stones (colloquialisms are so violent sometimes) by working with talented folks I have been meaning to, creating some content for people who care about my output as I prepare my next projects and sitting back watching it come to fruition.
Quite effectively “Rod Stewart” feels like an entirely new song. How involved were you in the transformation of “Rod Stewart” by Willie Green and what’s your impression of his new take?
Not very involved other than I told Green I wanted to be sitting at a bar pleading my case and singing the blues. He knew. He always knows. I rarely am lukewarm on anything he does for me and this was no exception. I love it. He always surprises me and one day he’s going to get the due he deserves. A lot of people that matter really know the name and that for lack of a better phrase is what really matters.
Thrilled with the video too… I’d like to shout out Mike Petrow aka Duncey Dunce Cap aka Sugar Hands Mike [director of the “Rod Stewart” video] for really going above and beyond here. He made a lot of trips to Harlem and made it his mission to give this video the needed amount of attention. He’s true blue that Duncey.
Do you see “Rod Stewart” as being a progression for you music and possibly pursuing this sound further?
Certainly, sure. We have discussed what we as a duo want to do next and although our plates are full at the moment we have a loose idea of a timeframe. We both share the ambition to make it rather far-reaching and expound on some ideas we have. I am very excited but if I start talking/thinking about that right now I’ll get wrapped up and drunk off future elixirs. That’s a ways away.
After “Who Art In Nada” what’s on the horizon for you?
I am about to go on tour with billy woods, Mo Niklz, and Henry Canyons all over this fine country (dates below) and almost directly after that to Europe with my favorite Canuck Fresh Kils (Nov/Dec. Dates coming soon) So this little EP should get some nice mileage.
I am basically wrapped up on a project with New York City’s 2 Hungry Bros and I think it’s an enjoyable piece of music. I also plan to expand upon my teaching this coming year in order to include more ideas I have to serve up some knowledge to the NYC youths… that in itself is an undertaking and trust me my plan is an ambitous one long-term.
I might record an EP in a cabin in Vermont in February. I really hope that happens. I also might be working on something with some European guys that sounds like Charlie Parker took the LSD that’s in my dresser drawer. Hopefully I don’t need many more explicitly drawn life lessons but I doubt it! Me and learning shit the hard way go together like Porgy and Bess.
I’ll also be bartending in Harlem which the good folks at Harlem Public (Lauren, Jay & Chad) allowed me to shoot the vid there and also allowed me to go rap around the globe and come back. I love you guys for that.
To Tory, Zack, Janine, Roni and Tina for showing up at 9AM! Which is like akin to 4AM for us nightcrawling weirdos.
Jillian, Alexandra and Luisa on the violin! Of course Willie Green and Mike.