A deep thinker and empathetic soul, American hip-hop/soul beatmaker, DJ, singer/songwriter and trumpeter Miles Bonny got his musical start in the last year of the 20th century, after moving from New Jersey to Lawrence, Kansas to attend university. In Kansas he began producing music and founded the regional hip-hop website Lawrencehiphop.com, leading him to become a pivotal part of the scene. From there became a member of SoundsGood, and collaborated with the likes of Deep Thinkers, Ces Cru, Sage Francis, before stepping out as a solo artist under his own name. Since then he has been performing his soul, blues and RnB informed hip-hop music internationally, and carving a new pathway for socially aware, super independent musicians, artists and thinkers. With an impending Auckland performance on the horizon, I connected with Miles via Skype.
While I was researching you and your music, I found the term social awareness was a reoccurring theme. What does this mean to you, and how does it factor into the different aspects of your life?
I think it kind of runs in my family. We’re social workers and ministers and things like that, philosophical people, music therapists, things like that. Growing up around New York, I was exposed to a lot of homeless people, and urban life in that way. While I was exploring Manhattan by myself as a teenager, I think I was examining all of that, the rich people and the poor people. Later on that turned into me being an actual social worker with teenagers.
Now, it’s all those things plus, with respect to the music industry or otherwise, I have a fascination with mass media, or like that way in which the powerful messaging which surrounds many people in industrialized countries, influences us in ways which I think many people don’t understand. It’s a powerful set of mediums which big business has access to. I think a lot of what I do is in opposition to that, or trying to be something aside which is not associated with any of that. I’m a fan of independent media, D.I.Y videos, you know, people creating their own thing really.
Yes, and you’re actually so in opposition to that, that we can comfortably frame aspects of your life within the term off-grid living. Could you walk us though off-grid living?
A female partner of mine had the idea to live in the south western high desert area of New Mexico. We devised a plan to escape from our traditional house, kids, day jobs then, and find a way we could need less money, by having less bills. I realised that in social work, the problem is not the people largely, the people have problems as a result of their inability to manage money well, or acquire money easily, because they don’t have the skills. So, money is really the problem I think.
With the off-grid, in wanting to not have many bills, I was trying to figure out the ones I could eliminate. At this point that’s all but car insurance, cell phone and internet. I don’t have power bills, I have solar panels. I don’t have any gas bills, because we have a wood stove to cook on. If I don’t have to come up with certain amounts of money each month, I don’t have to make those amounts of money and I can spend more time doing whatever I want, which in this case happens to be trying to create music which I think is of a decent level.
You seem like a good example of someone who has created an achievable and sustainable life for themselves involving daily music practices.
I appreciate that, and it seems to be true. It’s still all kind of new for me. A lot of this process is not just about changing my own situation, but trying to walk the walk instead of talking the talk. Then I can help other people who have similar interests, or parallel interests that would lead to them having a similar but different lifestyle or combination of things that would best suit them.
I hope to write a pamphlet or something eventually, just to share little step by step things that were hard for me. That way maybe I can help other people feel confident to take the steps towards whatever goals they may be interested in. I feel that along with mass media not really helping us and actually hurting us, we’ve arrived at a point where a lot of people don’t actually know how to pursue their personal interests anymore. There are very few paths, places or people to encourage them, or teach them how to do so.
How does your focus on social awareness and off-grid living inform the way you approach being a musician, DJ, producer within the realms of hip-hop, soul, RnB, blues etc?
At the moment I am just investigating the mild awareness and success that I have as an artist. I’m trying to figure out what the limitations of that are, with respect to touring and releasing music. I’m testing the waters. What labels exist in the world, are any of them interested in projects I could present to them? Who am I interested in working with? Where can I get shows easily, where can I not? Why am I getting shows in these places? I’m not being strategic, but I’m being analytical after the fact, and trying to put the pieces together. What does this world of super independent sole creative music really look like as far as an international structure or system, and to what degree does that system not exist?
I feel like to give the power to the artist at this point, without them having to be sponsored by Gatorade or whatever, or be taken under the wing of a corporation for cheap, because they think, this is cool, I think there is a lack of structure or systems for people to become part of the pipeline of taking it to the next level. I want to do that without ever having to take money from Coca-Cola or whoever, but the hard part is this: quite often the people who have the money to invest in creativity are large businesses. So while I’ve done some work for Scion AV, I’ve also turned down money from Camel, and I refused to go on some television show before Ozzy Osbourne’s wife, because I could tell they were only interested in having a whole bunch of white people from Kansas come out because Eminem suddenly got popular. That isn’t something I want to be represented by.
I guess I’m just exploring culture, and the culture related to the music I make. I’m trying to determine what the web looks like for people who aren’t ‘Flying Lotus visual intrigue man status’. Because a lot of the time what I’m doing is so random. I’m just putting this together myself, especially on this trip. A lot of people at home would not even attempt to do this, just putting yourself out there and seeing what happens. You know, be vulnerable in the process, without being guaranteed thousands of dollars and having a tour manager and all that. I’m not going to do this all the time this way, but it’s fun once in awhile to, you know, jump out there in the world and see what happens.
Here’s a clip from Miles’ debut album…
Friday 18th April, 4 Cross Street, Auckland
Tickets available from HERE at UTR and Real Groovy.
Article source: http://www.undertheradar.co.nz/interview/707/Miles-Bonny-.utr