A Moment With: Vapor Eyes [Interview]

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Chicago based producer Vapor Eyes has created a steady buzz both locally and nationally since he first emerged in 2007, most notably through his shows and collaborations with Chicago’s Push Beats collective and Detroit label/collective, Young Heavy Souls. Since then, he has established himself as a bold experimenter and explosive live performer, unafraid to blend Hip Hop, EDM or whatever else has caught his ear and turn it into something new and wonderful. We sat down with him to discuss his influences, used Pontiac’s and his latest project Whispers

GLM: Alright, Ground Lift Media here with the one and only Vapor Eyes.  How you feeling?

Vapor Eyes: I’m feeling real good.

GLM: Wonderful.  First question: who are you and how did you get here? – it’s a two-parter.

V: I can go real deep or real shallow on that one

G: Hey man, it’s your world. The world’s yours. The blimp just flew overhead

V: Who am I? How did I get here, I’m part of push beats, we’re doin’ uh, we’re outside the weekly party and I drove my vehicle up here… like I said we could go as crazy as you want but we’ll keep it simple.

G: What kind of vehicle do you drive?

V: It’s a Pontiac.

G: Decent milage?

V: Ehhh not bad.

G: Did you get a Pontiac strictly because of your Young Heavy Souls connections as a way to feel closer to your label brethren, or no?

V: Nah, as a family connection.

G: Family connection?

V: Yeah, old neighbor.

G: Care to elaborate? Is he like in the Illuminati or like possibly like a secret society member?

V: Dude’s basically a used car dealer.

G: Used car dealer, okay.  Well I’ll let you know when I’m in the market for a used Pontiac.

V: They don’t even make them anymore.

G: That’s what I’m sayin’ man – super rare.

V: You’ll get it on the after market

G: Exactly, eBay.  Shoutout eBay,

V: Big shout out eBay– to help fund my lifestyle.  Real talk.

G: What’s the best thing you’ve ever gotten off eBay?

V: I usually sell a lot.

G: What do you sell on eBay?

V: Music related ephemera.

G: Ephemera – that’s a hell of a vocab word. I can probably surmise what the means but for the listeners back home, can you tell us what that means?

V: I don’t want to give away too many trade secrets – it’s kind of a side hustle.

G: With a word like that, how did you score on your SATs?

V: Not as good as you’d think.

G: I mean, those tests are bullshit anyways.

V: I agree completely.

G: Yeah, I just I’m impressed – that’s a huge word, you know.

V: I mean, my vocab outshines my SAT score.

G: Wonderful.  I mean if they strictly tested vocab you would have been in Harvard right?

V: Aced.

G: Aced?

V: I would’ve aced it.

G: Wonderful, wonderful.

V: Like down to brass tacks, huh?  Go to Dictionary.com and really look that shit up.

G: Or Thesaurus.com if you’re looking for some great alternative word choices.

V: Synonyms.

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G: We’re trying to get you a plug, man.  Let’s talk influences.  What artists, what people, what places, what things influence you and feed into your art?

V: Great question.  Um, again, there…oh God…nutty

G: As brief or as long as you want it to be – it’s your world.

V: Insane question.

G: The blimp just came back over us again.  It’s crazy.

V: So much, as far as my art and my life is concerned. I take in a lot of stimulus, a lot of culture, a lot of art, in a lot of various mediums. I like to read. I love music. I’ve been exposed to such a wide range of music in my lifetime starting from a young age- I was the kid that we got cable at age 12, finally, and it was like a miracle because I was able to skip family movies and watch MTV Raps on Friday and Headbanger’s Ball on Saturday. And real talk – I was 12 years old doing this so right from the jump, I was on some real diverse musical lineage.  I mean I found my way there, a lot of early MTV when it was relevant and the late night shows when they played shit that kinda mattered, and that started shaping me from an early age.  And as I grew up, I just was exposed to so many different networks and scenes and people in a lot of areas.

G: And where are you from originally?

V: Northwest suburbs of Chicago. I’ve been around this area my whole life.  And I mean, just by being involved in music I’ve been exposed to such a wide range of culture and sounds that I grab from everywhere.  But as far as this project, I suppose you could say everything influences me.  I mean, my daily life, the people I meet, the people I’m around. The collectives I’m a part of are a big inspiration to me currently and in recent years. But like – you know I started doing this shit, I’ve always been inspired by producers. Even at a young age I liked beats, like Pete Rock and Tribe Called Quest stuff and then Dilla, and just paying attention more to the backbone of hip hop, as well as the MCing too, but focused on the music element of things.  I was always the dude like back before the internet, I’d cop 12 inches just to get the instrumental.  So it was cool to see this scene kinda come to fruition over time. Now it’s like it’s this big thing, it’s a big deal with things like Low End Theory, like even in here, being part of Push beats, and just seeing producers in general take more of like a front line stance to things.

G: True.

V: But real quick: early stuff that moved the shit out of me: DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing, hands down, Prefuse 73’s One Word Extinguisher, Air, that Premier Symptoms EP.  These were instrumental records that just fucked my head up.  Early Dan the Automator stuff. Things in that department in like the early 2000s that  was like a hip hop focus but took it to the next level instrumentally.  Those are a big roots of my sound and just me in this world.

G: Now, another kind of two parter so we’ll start with part 1:  How did you first get introduced to Push Beats, and part 2: really where do you see things going with this?

V:  Aw yeah, well Push Beats – I started the Vapor Eyes thing in like ’07, very loosely and I want to say I got a little more focused on it and a little more regimented and serious around 2010 so I had few loose years there where I was trying to find myself and my sound and where I fit in and what I was doing. It was just basically for fun; it still is, mainly. But I was cold-calling a lot of people.  I wasn’t really dialed into a particular scene in Chicago.  I felt like a little – on a little bit of an island.  So I cold called Push on facebook through a message just trying to get a booking.  You know, I’m just trying to play shows and play out and I’d be networking wherever I play, just try to meet people and see what’s good.  So, I played a show with them.  To tie that back in to that last question: a big inspiration was that night, the first night I played Push, honestly was crazy to me.  It kinda shaped the whole thing.  I didn’t know any of these guys and it was a real chill night at Lokal back when the weekly was at Lokal around the corner? And I played and I did like, kinda like more of a DJ set of sorts, and I saw Raj Mahal play and it was kinda like “Game Over”.  This guy did an all original beats set, and I was like holy shit, I found my zone, man.  Not only did it just move me, but I was like these guys, these are dudes that are just on this shit that I’ve been bumping.  There are other people doing this.  And I guess for me it put the dots together as far as like a local thing.  So I just started hanging around Push at Lokal. I started just showing up and kicking it and getting to know these guys, and play a set here or there, and really started honing in on production, being inspired by this little movement they had going.  And over time I, I don’t know if I proved myself or just hung around enough or whatever, but they asked me to join part of their collective, so, you know, I became a Push Beats member.  And where do we see it going?  I don’t know, we’re just trying to cultivate it, man, real organically.  Doing the weekly, doing a monthly at Door No. 3, building with the people outside of the state, in the city. Just trying to push good art forward and be an open door to people who might not necessarily get opportunities. And just be this kinda DIY force for producers at large, with an open mind.

G: Well speaking of out of state, you know, the other prominent collective that you’re a part of is Young Heavy Souls based out of Detroit.  Can you tell me a little bit about how you’ve built with them?  And also, you know it’s been a very exciting and busy release schedule. I know Nunca Duerma he obviously got his big plug at Low End Theory recently and has got some really nice looks nationally, so I think that portends of great things to come for the label in general.  Would you care to talk a little bit about that?

V: Sure, yeah. I’m super stoked to be part of the Young Heavy Souls crew. And, you know, it’s a label but its also a collective of like-minded individuals. And Matt Black, the spearhead of the whole thing, is, you know, trying to venture off into some other things like film and art and fashion to a certain – you know just merchandising.  And music at the core focus, but, I kind of fell into that through Nunca Duerma, who you just mentioned, and we became buddies when he moved to Chicago. Met through the Push scene and the Beats scene. And I met Matt Black through him, who just was out in Chicago seeing events, caught me.  Kinda like, “Hey man, it’d be cool to work on some shit together”.  And, you know, you go, yada yada yada, everybody says that.  And he actually hit me up and followed through and I got a beat on his last hip hop MC record, which I think is an awesome, amazing album, Oak Street Market. So that began the whole chain of events and from there we just built and grew and he asked me if I wanted to put out a record and I did, and in 2013 we dropped Horizon Lines.

G: Between this project and the one you previously put out, how did you approach this one differently, and what do you anticipate in terms of the release?  What are you doing differently for this roll out than you did previously?

V: I mean I’m always experimenting with something. The climate’s so crazy with the internet, you know, each release as an independent artist is just, as you know too, I mean it’s just trial and error, you know.  So as far as the marketing goes, I don’t know, you’re always trying different things.  Putting money into different places, trying to advertise this way, trying to get bigger shows and so forth.  But I think how I approached it creatively, I don’t know, I look at this album as kind of like, if I look at the last two it’s kind of a fusion of the last two but a little more advanced I guess, a little more tuned into my emotional state.  At least that’s what I was attempting to do with this one and I think for me I nailed it, was just getting more of the scope of how my insides resonate through the outer music and so, you get more, on these 10 songs you get like a journey.  And it’s a lot of different influences from, you know, hip hop to electronic to footwork that kind of comb into, basically, you know, me.  My sound, my style, my vision and how I’m feeing internally.

G: Awesome.  Couple more questions.  If you could put together a dream concert, the line up could be anyone living or dead, or who hasn’t even been born yet, what would it be?

V: Jimi Hendrix, 1992 lineup of Guns N Roses…

G: Intense.

V: If we’re gonna throw a little current spice in there, I’d pick Kendrick Lamar, Uhh, let’s see, I’ll pick two more to make it an even five.  Goddamn, you’re stumping me.  I’m trying to get a nice round…

G: Oh no, hey man – from the hip.

V: I’d say throw the DJ Shadow live show in there.

G: Great live show. With the orb?

V: Yeah with the samplers and turn tables, that whole business.  Not with the CDJ set.  The real deal.  That and, uh, god, I’m trying to think of a hot babe.  Just so we could sell more tickets…

G: Robyn?

V: Haha noooo…

G: Actually, fanatastic live show.

V: Yeah?

G: Oh yeah, I went this summer.  I was hungover as shit and I had to go.

V: Um, God you know what… I could go on and on but let’s just, let’s throw Hum on there.

G: Okay.

V: Hum.

G: Solid

V: Kind of like a space rock band from the 90s that I’m a really big fan of.

G: Fucks with it.

V: Yeah.

G: Alright man, we’re at the home stretch.  Last one.  You ready?

V: I’m ready!

G: One word: what do you want to leave the world?

V: Good vibrations.

G:“Got them good vibrations!”  Thank you so much man.

V: Hey, thank you for having me – it’s been a real slice.

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