Chiseling his name into history: An interview with P.O.S.

by Patty Templeton

P.O.S. has “optimist” in cursive across his knuckles. His music feels, in alternate turns, to be a cerebral assault on a sleeping world and bomb-ass party tunes.

More than 15 years in the game and a kidney transplant later, P.O.S. hasn’t let up. Erudite lyrics pound over dramatic beats. His newest album, “Chill, Dummy,” feels less chaotic than previous works but still as if it could soundscape a gritty, “” future.

On Tuesday (March 14), P.O.S., accompanied by Dwynell Roland and DJ Fundo, will perform at the Animas City Theatre, 128 E. College Drive. The Doomtree co-founder chatted with DGO while he was on his way to Missoula, Montana, for another tour stop.

You’re new album’s called “Chill, Dummy.” What’s it mean? I wanted to think of a name that was more casual than my other records. It was between “HOTDOG!” and “Chill, Dummy.” When I picked the final song, the album sounded more like a “Chill, Dummy” album. That title comes from the idea of stressing myself out and trying to make everything perfect, with myself and the world. I think it was a name to take the pressure off myself of making the greatest album of all time.

Was there pressure as an artist to write songs that will “fix the world’s problems,” especially with all the political upheaval going on? I’ve definitely written that way before. I’ve tried. This album, all the songs that I wrote, they are more inward facing. They ended up being better songs, this time around, focusing in instead of out.

There’s science and sci-fi all over “Chill, Dummy.” Everything from quantum mechanics to “They Live” references. Are you an awesome secret nerd?Um, I mean, yeah [laughs]. I did pretty terrible in school but I think it was mostly because the school books and structure weren’t interesting. I do a lot of research on things that I’m interested in. I think that some of the most interesting stuff is science, science fiction, and history.

What’s a science or sci-fi book you want more people to read?Oh man, pretty much everything Philip K. Dick wrote.

The album’s a mix of anarchic sounds and zen slowdowns. How did the beats come to be? The beats feel more stripped back to me than stuff I’ve made before. For beats I make, I usually keep my palette pretty sparse and it’s like bass guitar, synthesizer, real drums, fake drums. When I was making this record, I came to the inevitable writer’s block or being stumped about what to write. It ended up that I went back to what I know are my basics, which is to stop looking for samples and to pick up the bass. Give it some distorted something and play until a cool part shows up. I think it feels slower than some of my older music and I think that’s just a pocket that a lot of music that I am listening to right now sits in.

Sleepdrone/Superposition,” arugably the hella best single on “Chill, Dummy,” is almost nine minutes long. Did you ever think about breaking it up?I made the beat almost a year before I had anything to write on top of it … I think as soon as the beat was done, I knew it was going to be a long song. It felt like something I could listen to for a long time and that was more of a consideration than whether or not other people would check it out. I feel like I’ve always been down to check out long-form music or experimental music and if I like something, I assume that there is someone else out there that might, too. It got longer and longer and instead of trying to cut it apart I left it alone because the zone still felt right.

To me, the synth line is soothing after you get past the noise of it. I feel like it hits nice inside your body.

The song hits a personal place. The line “All I want is to chisel my name into something permanent.” What does that lyric mean to you?The way I write, whether it is on purpose or if it is just the way I ended up writing, is that if I can have something mean a bunch of things all at once, I will take that. I learned a long time ago that whatever it is exactly that I see when I’m writing, it doesn’t necessarily translate to the audience. People will put what they want on a song. Which is great. For me, when I wrote that line, I was thinking of a giant 500-story monolith. I was thinking of literally scaling a giant monolith and chiseling my name into it. Because that’s the kind of thing I picture when I’m writing. In real life, it’s wanting to leave a mark on the planet. On people.

There’s a ton of guest artists on this album. Who is someone you especially want people to dig into? I think everybody. I mean, that’s the cop-out answer, but I don’t think there is anybody that I work with on there that was by mistake. It is almost exclusively people who are super inspiring to me. Mike Eagle, I find him a kindred spirit, and Busdriver is the same, people that are doing their thing super hard on the other side of the country, inspiring me for years. Everybody, they are people who maybe people don’t know who they are, but I think they’re dope and I want people to hear them. Everybody kills it.

Is your favorite part the creation process or performance?Performing. When I was younger, the only reason to make my own songs was to perform them. Then it began to become more fun to make music and explore styles, but still it’s more fun to make the music and finish the song than it is to write words. Writing words very much feels like homework. It’s still the hard part. Especially when almost nobody ever actually understands what the hell you’re trying to say anyways [laughs]. People always get the gist. I guess that’s more important. But I spent a lot of my early records really wanting people to know exactly what I was trying to say. Now, I feel a lot better about saying what’s on my head or what’s on my heart and letting people assign their own meaning and values to it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity.Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer

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