Pestilence is an artist that spits from the heart and goes off what he feels when he hears a beat. He is also very involved in Hip Hop coming out of Wisconsin. He is a part of one of the biggest Hip Hop movements in Cyphaden Music that involves, Taiyamo Denku, Urban Legend, and Rambuxious (respectively). He is also involved with that includes; JEX, V.A.D., a dark path, Ben Luten, Sheol Dynasty, Chump Serivce, and Space Kase. Both movements are potent in their own right and out of Wisconsin, the most unlikely of places and they are all loyal to their locale refusing to move and make it somewhere else eventhough it may be the better decison for their musical careers.
"Animal Farm" to me is one of the best projects to come out this year (I'm not one to say who is the best. We all GOATs at something). It is lyrical, story driven, schemed well, beats are dope, features are all sick, and Pestilence's personality shines through bright on this one. His mic presence makes him unique on how he delivers on a track. Well anyway, let's here from him and his interview so you can see who he really is.
You can do pure lyrical "backpack" boom bap Hip Hop, but it seems you like doing the hardcore flavor, what can we expect from Pestilence here on out (as far as your artistry is concerned. Please explain your brand of artistry)? What drew you to Hip Hop in the first place? Who are your biggest influences?
To be completely honest, I haven’t really planned much of my music up to this point. I sort of let whatever emotions I have when I sit down to write manifest themselves however they do naturally. I think a lot of why I gravitate towards darker subject matter is because I’ve lived a life filled with loss and many other traumas, the music is how I cope with life. Perhaps the biggest of those losses came in 2019 when I lost my best friend, Conor. At that time I hadn’t yet discovered hip-hop, but had been writing poetry for several years. His brother and I went out to celebrate and honor him and we happened to stumble into a local hip hop show. The music and energy was infectious, I ended up introducing myself to Space Kase and he invited me to the studio that weekend. We had mutual friends and he knew I was a writer so he suggested hip hop as a potential outlet. Honestly, I went to that session expecting to never be back, but Space took me under his wing and helped mold me into the artist I am today. Being that I didn’t really grow up listening to hip-hop, I have had a lot of music to dive into over the past few years. Some of my biggest musical influences include Space Kase, Rancid, Mastodon, Tool, Aesop Rock, Apathy, Sean Price, and many others.
How was it growing up in Wisconsin, how did that influence your Hip Hop? Wisconsin is mad slept on and the people you are involved with alone has put more shine on it than most artists in Wisconsin. Who do you look up to the most in Wisconsin Hip Hop and how has that influenced your own path?
I have always had a love-hate relationship with the state of Wisconsin. So much of the culture is focused around drinking, and as such I’ve had to deal with alcoholism plaguing many of the people I care about. On the other hand, it’s rather quiet and peaceful in most of the state which I really like. As far as hip-hop, I feel really lucky to have had exposure to the people I have and the honor to become a part of both Twoface Media and Cypaden music. Space Kase being my mentor has really shaped a lot of what I’ve been able to accomplish, especially from the live performance side of things. He’s the one who got my foot into all of the doors originally by vouching for me which allowed me to discover my passion for performing. He booked Taiyamo Denku for a show one time and we began doing a lot of shows with him. I continued to do shows with Denku and our mutual respect and shared passion for hip-hop and performing continued to draw us together. There is a bit of a division in Wisconsin hip hop between the ones who take performing very seriously and those who choose to rap over their vocals. This is something that has also helped band together artists like Denku and myself to fight against this new plague. I see it as the equivalent of a rock band playing a show to a backing track which just seems lazy and unfair to people who come to watch a live performance.
You are a part of Cyphaden Music and Twoface Media, how did that come about and what are both of these entities all about? What is it like being a part of two different Hip Hop entities? It must be hard to keep up with the workload sometimes.
As I mentioned previously, Space Kase got me involved with hip hop to begin with so my transition into Twoface Media was rather natural. He and a few others had been making music for a long time with him being the consistent driving force behind it. Once he got me into making music, I felt inspired to keep building from what he had started. Him and I along with our video/web design/ CEO of business practices, Dusty, formed an LLC and have continued to expand ever since. We have also partnered very closely with Madworld Apothecary, which is owned by my good friend, Christian. We all work together and share our unique skills to push towards a common goal. Cyphaden was more of an unexpected invitation, but I was incredibly honored and excited to join the family. Denku, Urban, Ram, and Bo Faat are all amazing artists and all people I looked up to before and continue to look up to now that I’m part of the family. While there may be more to do being a part of several entities, there’s also more people to help me through the process so it doesn’t seem overwhelming. I’ve also found that being honest with each other when someone isn’t able to do something has really helped avoid any weird and pointless contention between us and allowed us to keep moving forward.
You wear like a plague doctor mask which is also a play-off of your name, I'm sure. What made you wear that as a signature type look? It is fire too because it is perfect for your villainous songs. Where did you get that mask? When you go out and do a show, do you keep it on throughout the whole night? What are the interactions like when you get in conversations wearing that mask? Isn't it uncomfortable wearing that during performances?
The mask is actually more of a piece of armor than anything else. For years, I have been an extremely introverted individual and I found my love for music clashing with my need for space. I had done a few shows without the mask early on when I was just getting started and found it very difficult being around so many people. I have always felt comfortable pretending to be someone or something else and I think that comes from growing up in a household with parents who weren’t particularly supportive of me in the ways I really needed them to be. When I put the mask on, I don’t usually take it off until I am home or on the road with just my close inner circle who has seen me without it. I’m only able to see what is directly in front of me while I’m wearing it so that definitely makes for an interesting challenge, though I’ve gotten pretty used to it. I miss a lot of daps and handshakes when people approach me from the side. The mask was something I found online and had a friend modify so I would be able to perform with it. I’ve tried to get one custom made, but have so far been unsuccessful. This mask has been with me through so much and has a lot of special memories from cyphering with K-Rino to getting kicked in the face by RA the Rugged Man. As far as comfort, I’ve become so used to performing and rehearsing with the mask that It doesn’t bother me much. I always make sure to have ChapStick along because my lips get chapped easily when wearing it for too long, but I don’t see myself taking it off or revealing my face to the public anytime soon if ever. I appreciate the ability to obscure myself from any attention when I want to and avoid unwanted interactions.
Animal Farm is such a dope project, big ups on that one. I really love "Hiss" and "Raccoons". What are these two songs themed around? How did the album as a whole come about? All the features are fire, what made you decide to pick each one of them? How did you pick the beats for this one and who picked the samples and skits around this theme?
Thank you, the feedback for the project has been extremely positive and humbling for me as an artist. As my first full length solo project, I wanted to make something special. Boomtact and I linked up through Grind Mode Cypher and he asked me if I wanted to do a project, as one of my favorite producers I was thrilled about this opportunity. He sent me a couple beat tapes and I listened through them, to be honest there weren’t very many beats that I passed up. A lot of this project sort of seemed to fall together as if it were meant to be. The features were all people I had linked up with through Grind Mode as well as a few local acts and my mentor, Space Kase. As I was writing tracks, I would envision various emcees I wanted to get on the project. A few of them were given tracks that were partially complete and others were given several beats and told to pick one they wanted to work together on. “Hiss” was actually the first song I wrote for the project, when I listened to that beat I envisioned a snake charmer playing the flute melody. Everything sort of fell in place with the track being loosely based on the story of Adam and Eve, but from the snake’s perspective. After I had that one written I decided to theme the project after various animals. I’ve always felt like creatively there’s a lot more to be explored in darkness than in light; in elementary school I read “Animal Farm” and remember how gripping that story was to me then and thought it would be a fitting title. “Racoons' ' I wrote the hook first and then sent it off to Dtaylz the Profit. We both had different takes on life as a raccoon which I really liked, Xecutive reached out as I was almost done with the project wanting to work together and I sent him the track as well and was really happy with what both of them did with it. Though some of us are closer than others, I consider everyone on this project to be a brother of mine. Space Kase and I have always enjoyed the art of detailing tracks and adding finishing touches. The sketches were all picked out during the final stages of mixing with some coming from my suggestions and others coming from him.
What sort of equipment do you use for recording? Your mic, programs, plug-ins, studio speakers, computer etc., all that sort of stuff. What new equipment do you have your eyes on or are you completely happy with what you have as a whole right now?
I have a Rode NT2-A microphone, Focusrite Scarlett solo interface and an Alienware laptop. I run Cubase 5 for all of my recording and don’t currently have speakers in my home studio. The Twoface Media labs are a bit better equipped, but what I have allows me to record from home and send my stems to Space Kase or whatever engineer is mixing the song. I’m happy with what I have for the most part, I definitely plan to add speakers and a few other things to the home studio and also a performance mic for live shows.
Tell us about your hospital experience and what happened there. You have a GoFundMe account set up for these crazy bills. Why is it so important that you get help? Does Cyphaden Music and Twoface Media have a fundraising show coming up for this (if not I think that would be a great thing to do)?
I have had Crohn’s disease since 2005 and have had various surgeries over the years for complications related to this. Most recently I had a large abscess in my pelvis and another on my butt cheek. I had the latter drained, but was continuing to experience discomfort. I went back into the Emergency Room where they discovered the abscess in my pelvis. A drain was inserted through my buttocks and left in for ten days. While I was in the hospital it was also discovered that my disease had progressed to the point that I required another surgery to create a permanent ostomy. Overall, I spent twelve days in the hospital. Recoveryhas been a painful and arduous process and I will be off work for two to three months. This should all give me a much better quality of life though, so I’m excited for that opportunity. As of right now we are discussing dates for a benefit show, but don’t have anything set in stone yet. There are a lot of events going on currently and it has been difficult to find time when we can get a significant amount of us together to plan, but several of the people close to me have been helping me get by while I’m unable to work.
You are very active on social media platforms. What do you use social media for and how does it play into who you are as an artist?
Social Media has been a part of my life for most of it. For the most part I use it to stay connected to people I don’t otherwise talk to often. More recently I have begun using it to promote music and have found it to be a good tool to remain connected with fellow artists as well as fans. It does have the advantage that you can post when you want and go ghost when you don’t have the social energy and that’s important for me.
You have been a part of Grind Mode Cyphers, how did that come about? They have been very supportive including you in an interview, cypher, and promoting some of your music. This must be a big deal for you to be a part of their movement. What have you learned from this experience?
Grind Mode was something that Space Kase turned me onto shortly after I began making music. We watched the Sunday Night Grind pretty religiously and both began submitting music there. Lingo and Ayok always showed us a bunch of love and that’s how we found the Facebook group for Grind Mode Cypher (which everyone should join if they haven’t already!) I saw an announcement for cyphers in Salt Lake City and sort of jokingly posted about asking off for work to go out to that event. Lingo responded a few days later asking if I got off work, I ended up asking for the time and getting it off. Space Kase asked to get off work as well and along with Christian from Madworld, we traveled out to Utah for our first cypher event. We expected there to be a lot of competition and egos with there being so many hip-hop artists in one venue, but it was exactly the opposite. Everyone was mad cool and supportive of each other and that made us want to get to as many events as possible. We got out to Worcester later that same year and have continued to remain close with the movement and many of the artists. To me the problem in hip hop today isn’t that there aren’t enough dope artists, it’s that the best ones are buried in the underground while labels pump commercial trash to the masses. The solution I have always seen for this is to band together with as many other independent artists as possible. “Apes together strong.”
What are the next steps for you? What new music do you have coming out and are there any shows coming up and/ or music videos? I saw your post when you performed "Hiss" live, it was fire. Where can we go to find merch and is there any new plans to expand your merch?
I have lots of new music in the works including projects with JEX, DW Underground, Marz One, Space Kase, and Lobotomized Geniuses. I’m on a couple tracks for JEX’s debut producer project “The Science Projex” which just released and Space Kase and I are finishing up our duo project as Rat Nest Regicide. We have a website https://twofacemediagroup.com/ where people can currently purchase some of our older singles we have released directly from us. We will be updating the site with merchandise as well as physicals for both “Animal Farm” and “The Science Projex.” Christian from Madworld Apothecary is the driving force behind all of our merchandise and he is always innovating and expanding what we do with our merch tables, so stay in touch with him as well for all the latest updates.
Thanks very much for doing this, I know you spent a lot of time in the hospital (to help him fund his very expensive hospital bill https://gofund.me/7f3bba06)