A Therapy Session with Eligh

Posted March 28, 2012 in ,

Eligh the Grey Crow. Photo: Chris Proctor

Therapy at 3 is a collaborative between Living Legends MC/producer, Eligh, and Zion I DJ/producer, Amp Live. It was born out of the concept of not starting with a concept, resulting in a melting pot of the musical styles that Amp Live has mastered throughout his lengthy career, from ambient trance, 808-kick drum to electronic whomps and wobbles throughout the album. On top of the beats, Eligh writes in free form about cigarette addiction, his tattoo philosophy, love and more, making the album a therapy session of sorts for Eligh and those who can relate.

My first taste of Therapy at 3 was back when Eligh toured with The Grouch on his “How the Grouch Stole Christmas” tour when he performed what’s currently my favorite track on the album (I’m a sucker for dark music), “What’s In a Name?” Since that show I looked forward to when the duo was scheduled to tour through Salt Lake for the album, and wouldn’t you know it, a few days before the show on March 24 at Urban Lounge, I got a chance to sit down with Eligh over the phone to chat about the album, his first solo headlining tour with Amp Live and his long standing relationship with hip hop.

SLUG: What got you into hip hop and when did you first start rapping?
Eligh: I was very young in my neighborhood in Echo Park over by USC where I went to school. I remember my buddy, Josh and I were in first grade and he had a birthday party. I walked in and all the kids were crowded around this little TV and I looked over their shoulders and they were watching Beat Street. All of us kids were mesmerized by the stuff. Ever since I watched Beat Street I was addicted. Whatever affected me that young, man there must be somewhere deep in my soul that clung to it. From 12 years on, [rapping] was what I loved. It’s what brought me the most excitement and joy so I never had the thought in my mind that there was anything else I wanted to do. I feel like it was destiny. I was set on the road I’m supposed to be on which led me right here.

SLUG: What has your touring experience been like?
Eligh: Touring has never been fun for me, straight up. Maybe when it was really brand new I was young and acting crazy, getting fucked up every night and chasing girls and all that stuff, that was exciting. Before I got clean I had never done a show sober. I was drinking at every show from 18 years on. You get this liquid courage and it puts this film over your eyes and you don’t feel as nervous. At the same time I had really bad memories because I was beating my body up so bad and I was getting the flu every time on tour. Now I’m six years clean without touching anything, and to be able to perform with nothing hindering me and nothing putting a shade over my eyes is another kind of high. It’s just an amazing feeling. The traveling and everything leading up to the actual show is really hard, but when I’m on stage and people are having a good time and I see their faces and they’re tripping off what I’m doing, that makes me happy.

SLUG: What are you expecting coming into Salt Lake?
Eligh: The thing about this tour is I have no expectations about how many people should show up and things like that because it’s my first solo tour. I have no idea who is going to show up, and whoever does I’m very grateful that they do. I would say with Utah, the last show we did for the Christmas tour was one of my favorite shows on the tour actually. The crowd was awesome man. I would say Utah people like getting down in their own little way more than other places might. I’ve seen in the Utah shows the way people are so fricking drunk that it was crazy, which is not my favorite thing, but I don’t mind it either. This last one was a perfect balance. There weren’t a lot of extremely drunk people; they were all having a great time. There was a great energy, that’s why I’m looking forward to it.

SLUG: What was the initial idea for the album?
Eligh: We were going to do an instrumental thing, which was the initial conversation. Amp Live and I got back to each other about six months later when he was ready to work on something, and I started to understand that what he wanted to do was produce and have me rap, so I got real excited. I was totally livid. We had no boxed-in ideas or a set up way of what I was going to write about, I just wanted it to be really free. I wanted to walk into the studio and put on a beat and write, and wherever it went, it went. The concept of not having a concept became the concept of Therapy at 3. Writing therapy is what it’s all about. I try to tell people that you don’t have to be a poet or an artist of any kind to write and get therapeutic value out of it. So that’s what it became, a free writing therapy session.

SLUG: What was it like working with Amp Live on the album?
Eligh: [Amp Live] did his homework. He’d been listening to my Grey Crow stuff and everything and he just went off what he thought would fit me and he was right. We clicked so easy. He was making [beats] that I was feeling right at that moment. I would go over there and he would say “Hey I made this beat last night, let me know if you like it.” He puts it on and I’m like, “Dude I want to write to this now. Where’s a pen?” It was really easy.

SLUG: Do you ever assume anything that people should take away from what you write?
Eligh: No, I never assume. Different people will come at me talking about the same song and get totally different things out of it and it’s great. I never want to have a set idea of what someone should get out of something I make. It’s all personal.

After the interview I was about to offer to buy Eligh a beer at the show, when I remembered he went clean. “You can buy me a Red Bull,” he laughed. I never got a chance to get him that Red Bull Saturday night at the Urban Lounge, due partially to the fact that he apparently got about 15 free Red Bulls that night, according to one of Eligh’s touring mates. Chris Vastardas and the Danksquad people were present for the show, promoting the local openers Burnell Washburn and the Cavelight Captains. I was surprised to hear that they had pre-sold 130 tickets for the show, with another 40 or 50 to be sold at the door, not including the ever exclusive “List” which had more names than usual on it. The place was packed.

To put it in simple terms, Eligh and Amp Live’s set was a blast. It was clear that Eligh wasn’t lying when he explained to me how much he enjoyed the challenge of being on stage both sober and alone (as far as being the only one with a microphone). The guy had on a permanent smile for the length of the set and almost never stopped moving around. The highlight of the set for me was when Eligh put down the microphone and got behind the table with Amp Live. I noticed that Amp Live didn’t have any turntables with him, and instead had two sound effect boards plugged into the mixing board. What came next was much closer to electronic music on the musical spectrum, while the two went back and forth remixing the beat, each on a different sound effect board. It reminded me of the drum n’ bass sound I heard from the Dirtyphonics set just a few months prior. It was something I’ve never seen before at a hip hop show, and based on the crowd’s reaction, I could say the same for them, too. After their performance that night at the Urban Lounge, I think that “something I’ve never seen before” is something we’ll come to expect from this duo if they make any more music together. Here’s hoping they do.

Eligh the Grey Crow. Photo: Chris Proctor Eligh getting up close and personal. Photo: Chris Proctor "Transfer my inner pain to my outer frame." Photo: Chris Proctor Amp Live. Photo: Chris Proctor Local hip hop aritst Burnell Washburn, Amp Live and friends. Photo: Chris Proctor