Tech N9ne picks 10 essential rock albums
Kansas City-based rapper Tech N9ne released his dynamic new album Something Else only three months ago. Featuring compelling collaborations with the remaining members of The Doors and System Of A Down's Serj Tankian, it's a bravura piece of record making, one which could stand as something of a personal best for Tech, which is doubly impressive when you consider the fact that he's issued 13 studio albums and six EPs since his 1999 debut. It would appear that the hardest-working man in hip-hop is just getting warmed up.
And now comes Therapy, a blistering, riffs-a-plenty rock-metal EP produced by heaviositude specialist Ross Robinson (Korn, Slipknot) and framed around the unrelenting grooves of Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland and Glassjaw drummer Sammy Siegler. “It’s full-blown, man," Tech enthuses. "This is what’s always been seeping through my music, but now it’s got live instruments with Wes and Sammy, and I've got Alfredo Ortiz, who played percussion with the Beastie Boys. They came in and killed it. It’s beautiful.”
A lifelong rock fan, Tech recalls being the only kid in his neighborhood who even heard of The Doors, much less listened to them (he named his label Strange Music in honor of the band's album Strange Days). "It was the ghetto, so it was a lot of rap and R&B," he says. "But my uncle Ikey liked a lot of different stuff. I remember him playing Elton John's Benny And The Jets – that was a great one." He pauses, then snickers. "You know what song he liked? [sings] ‘Gonna find my baby, gonna hold her tight/ gonna grab some afternoon delight/ Sky rockets in flight…’Afternoon Delight, man. I'm sure I was the only dude my age who knew that one!" He explodes in laughter.
Before running down his list of 10 essential rock albums, Tech explains that he finds his pleasure regardless of genre – his iPhone is a cornucopia of styles. “Music is music – it makes no difference what it is," he says. "I can like Slipknot and Public Enemy equally. Pulse Of The Maggots, Welcome To The Terrordome – totally different songs, but I get the same thrill from them. Or listening to something by the Deftones might make me just as happy as De LA Soul. I can’t separate it like, ‘OK, rock does this to me, and hip-hop does that to me.’ It doesn’t work like that. It’s music, period."
The Doors – Strange Days (1967)
“It’s a dark carnival. I’m a big movie buff, and when I hear this album and look at the artwork – you got all those cool circus people doing their thing – I imagine that it’s from a film. There's a whole story going on.
“Plus, I am indeed the killer clown – I paint my face. The things that Ray Manzarek played on the keys, everything sounding so off-center and weird, it speaks to the way I am. The song Strange Days is spooky as hell, and I love it [laughs]. That’s why I remade the track with them [Strange 2013, recorded with the surviving Doors members, last year]. Talk about a trip. What an honor to have been with them.
“Not all of their music is dark, but a lot of it is, and I am the king of darkness, so there you go. All of the Doors’ albums are great. I could go on and on about everything that band did. LA Woman is phenomenal. But I have to say, Strange Days is it for me. That’s the one I always gotta listen to.”
Jimi Hendrix – Nine To The Universe (1980)
“A very cool female in Salt Lake City hipped me to this record. We used to get high to it like a motherfucker. [Laughs] I was kind of late getting into Hendrix, but I’m still trippin’ to him. This is a pretty amazing album. The songs are long, they're jammin', and they take you on a journey.
“I was veggin’ out on Jimi before I did my last record. He feels good to my soul. As a performer, you can’t touch him. I’ve never seen anybody play guitar with his teeth – and actually play it, not just do whatever. That’s how good he was. There’s a lot of great Hendrix records, but I’m partial to this one.”
Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet (1986)
“I’m old, man! I’ll be 42 soon, so of course I know this one. I had a girlfriend, Shannon, back in 7th grade, and I used to go to down to the plaza with her to buy Bon Jovi posters. That’s all we listened to.
“Wanted Dead Or Alive, Livin’ On A Prayer – shit, those are humongous songs. Anybody who can write stuff that good, that sticks in your head for days and years – you can’t put it down.”
“Everybody listened to this album back in the day, even black motherfuckers. [Laughs] Hell, I still love Bon Jovi. He just popped up at a lady’s wedding somewhere and walked her down the aisle. That's wild, man."
Lenny Kravitz – Mama Said (1991)
“Oh, man! Mama Said takes me back to when I was 19 or 20. I ran away from home and was living with my DJ, Icy Rock. He played Mama Said all day every day.
“I remember sitting under a black light and listening to Lenny. He was always vintage – the vintage guitar sound, the vintage drum sound. He could take you back and move you forward all at once. The Meters used to do that, too, but Lenny pushed it even more. He had the knowledge of the equipment and knew how to craft the sonics in a way that a lot of younger guys didn't. I learned how to use Leslie cabinets by listening to him.
“It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over, Always On The Run are beautifully written songs. It's crazy what a good composer Lenny is. I could listen to this all day every day, just like Icy Rock.”
Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)
“This record changed everything – music, clothes, attitudes, MTV. Not many albums can turn it all around like that. It started making me wear long john shirts. I’d punch holes in them, and that's what I wore when I listened to Nevermind. I’ve always been like a black hippie.
“People went crazy over Teen Spirit, but In Bloom is my favorite. There’s anger in the music, but I hear euphoria, too, and I respond to that. The music was about being free, being who you are. I understood where Kurt was coming from. He had a lot to say.”
Slipknot – Welcome To Our Neighborhood (1999)
“OK, it's not an album-album, but I still love it. What’s not to love? In ’94, I started painting my face, and I had a group called the Nnutthowze that wore red jumpsuits. Then I saw Slipknot and everything they were doing, and I was like, ‘Damn, these guys take it to a whole new level.’
“The music is so mad and so loud. Corey Taylor’s voice is the shit. He’s incredible at everything he does. The guitars are awesome, and check out Joey Jordison on the drums. He’s got feet like a trigger. He’s so fast and so beautiful – most people have to use electronics to do what he does with his body.”
Slipknot – Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) (2004)
“I feel this album. I fell in love with it. Everything on it is beautiful. Pulse of the Maggots, Vermilion – no matter which cut comes on, I trip on it. The only bad moment on it is when it stops. [Laughs]
“I think I bought it more than five times – that’s how much I’m into it. It’s bigger and louder than what they did before; it’s an altogether heavier experience. That’s what I like about Slipknot: They’re not just about ‘Here’s a song, here’s another song, here’s a song.’ They bring you into their world.”
System Of A Down – System Of A Down (1998)
“When I first heard Sugar, I was beside myself. Serj’s voice was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. He was definitely doing his own thing. It was schizophrenic and lovely. Rapping and singing and yelling – the perfect medicine for a psycho like me.
“I love it when you hear a band and you just go, ‘Yes! I never knew it, but that's exactly what I want to hear.' System Of A Down’s first album is a total masterpiece."
System Of A Down – Mesmerize and Hypnotize (2005)
“I’m counting these records together because they’re kind of like one big album. I bought Mesmerize and was blown away, and then Hypnotize came out and did it to me all over again.
“I love these guys, man. They make wonderful music that just makes me feel so good inside. I finally got to work with Serj on my song Straight Out Of The Gate from the Something Else record, so that was a real honor. He's a seriously impressive man.
“Question! is such an awesome song. Rhythmically, the drums are moving all over the place, and they’re just lovely, man. I can listen to that one all day and never get tired of it.”
Avenged Sevenfold – Avenged Sevenfold (2007)
“Avenged caught my attention because I’m a big Beetlejuice fan. I bought this album a million times for the song A Little Piece Of Heaven – it was inspired by Danny Elfman, who did the Beetlejuice music. It’s sizzlin’.
“M. Shadows can sing his heart out, and the guitarists can blow so hard. I love that shit. I’m still into all of their own music, but this record is a big one with me. I play air guitar to it.
“I met these guys on tour, and I can’t say enough about them. I love their imagery, the deathbat and all that – they have it down. This is a serious, serious rock band. Call me a big Avenged fan.”