Michael Barber is a recording artist and musician. According to Michael, who calls himself The Irish Jesus, his Hip-Hop based music has a twist of Frank Sinatra and Jim Morrison added to it and draws influences from Nirvana and Pink Floyd. It’s what he calls Dust Music, which he describes as one take verses blended with Muddy Waters dirty guitar riffs. He talks to Yo! Raps about his new solo album Thrift Shop II Hip Hop, his group Illuminati Sky, being co-signed by DJ Drama and the impact his music is having on the community.
Welcome to Yo! Raps! First of all, can you tell us where you are from and how you first got in the game?
I was born on a Greyhound Bus in Indiana, which makes me a blues traveller like Skinny Deville of Nappy Roots. I grew up in Southern Indiana and I started writing songs at 14 but mostly funny parody songs. I started freestyling at 16 and I have been in the game since then. I've never worked a job that didn't have something to do with music so I've been very blessed. I've met some great people throughout my journey and I continue to travel on.
What artists are you influenced by and why?
Salvador Dali and Stanley Kubrick are huge influences on me. They both had their own unique ideas and creative expression. Music wise, I’d say Nirvana and Pink Floyd. Syd Barrett is up there high on that list too. As you can see, I didn’t name anyone from Hip-Hop because most of it sucks to me.
You call your style Dust Music, can you explain this?
Dust Music is that warm, grainy and vintage shit with that grimy crisp that you hear on them old vinyl records. It’s pure passion, no clean ups -- straight true analogue sound.Dust Music is one take verses, like some old Wu-Tang Clan shit, blended with Muddy Waters dirty guitar riffs and Kurt Cobain singing live vocals.It’s dust music!
You’re signed to Hoopla Worldwide and WIDEawake Entertainment after your track Sofa Bed and Another Sofa Bed received heavy rotation online and a co-sign from DJ Drama. Can you tell us about that and how the record contract came about?
It happened because of Jonathan Hay. He sent the Sofa Bed instrumental to me as a two track and we turned it into one of the hottest songs of the year. It went from Hay's studio, to mine, to Buffalo Stille of Nappy Roots’ studio. Then it kind of sat around until one day, Jonathan called me at 4 in the morning saying it was going on the next Audio Stepchild record. It was released on Every Coincidence Is Significant through Koch Entertainment months later.
Then we worked on the remix, which we called Another Sofa Bed with Jonathan Hay again and also 1st Blood from Nottingham, England. Our publicity company Hoopla Media Group and Spin Dr PR went ape shit and got those two records everywhere. DJ Drama played it and of course almost every website you can think of picked it up. Then to top it off, it was released through AllHipHop.com on the Nappy Roots Presents Sh!t’s Beautiful project.
Can you tell us about being a member of the group Audio Stepchild and how you hooked up with them?
They were already an established act from one of Tony Draper’s old labels.They hadn’t released anything in like 10 years. They had a song with Prince… fucking Prince! So it was an honour to be asked into the group. We have the next Audio Stepchild album coming out soon and I am on several tracks.
This one will be released through INgrooves Fontana distribution. I think it is going to be a great album and not all that watered down bullshit. It will be much different from the one we released this year though. It's actually the sequel in a trilogy music release coming from the group.
Let’s talk about your debut solo album, Thrift Shop II Hip Hop, which will be distributed via WIDEawake Death Row/eOne. Why did you choose that title?
Don’t forget about Hoopla Worldwide [laughs]. Anyway, to make a long story short, I shop at thrift shops and I vinyl hunt all the time. But the real reason is, I was driving through Tennessee, and I picked up a hitchhiker. He said he was Jim Morrison. Pretty cool guy and we talked about music the whole time. I played him some music I was working on and he really dug it. I told him about my thrift shopping for vinyl records and he just blurted out “Thrift Shop to Hip Hop”... so it was born.
When will the album be released?
I don’t have a specific date, but very soon. It will come out this year through.
You also produce too. Did you produce the whole album or have you got other producers on there? If so, who?
It’s just me and my in house producer, Mr. Bootlegs. The album has no features on it either. I wanted it to be all me. It’s a Michael Barber solo record, not a Michael Barber compilation.It’s raw and uncut.
You have an animated video for the track Life’s Funny. How and why did you come up with the concept of doing an animated video?
I wanted it to be a cartoon from the very minute it was recorded in Cocoa Beach, Florida.It just happened. Life’s funny like that.
Tell us about a day in the life of Michael Barber, don’t hold anything back! [Laughs]
I work all night. I spend all night making music, sampling and writing. I have a studio here in the house, not a just Pro Tools set up with a microphone. I mean we have it all here. We have probably $50,000 in studio gear. I have thousands of records to sample that I’ve picked up from thrift shops all across the United States. I live on the beach in between two strip clubs, so that is nice [laughs]. I used to live in a house with nothing but a chair and that was it. Those days have gone. It’s all about music.
You also have a rock group called Illuminati Sky. Who are the other members and how did you guys hook up?
The band consists of Josh Tifer aka Mr. Bootlegs and DJ Fade is the official DJ. Mr. Bootlegs is actually a metal producer and he plays every instrument. I sample everything, so it is like a constant battle in the studio, but we always compromise and it comes out great. The Illuminati Sky album is done and it will be released through INgrooves Fontana probably during the holiday season or at the top of 2013.
You wrote the official song for the protests at Wall Street called Run Thru The Streets. The song has been compared to Rage Against The Machine's early work. Can you tell us about the track and the impact it has had?
I think somebody else labelled it that because nobody can fuck with Zack de la Rocha! We just wanted to make a song that was bigger than us. Everybody wants to be so politically correct right now and it sucks. Seriously, don't choose sides and just say fuck them all. A perfect storm is brewing right now. The baby boomers are retiring, getting to the age of who the hell is going to support them? The younger generation are lazy and feels entitled to shit. I don't see a civil war happening, but I do see a shortage of food coming. I do see drinking water being an issue. I do see riots. I am the Irish Jesus and I predict chaos ahead.
Can you tell us about the track, Pain Pills and Cornfields, which is a poet song about the meth and pills taking over middle America, which is also going to be used in a HBO documentary that focuses in on the same topic?
As a writer, my mom told me, you always write best about what you know. I am from that area of the country, so I’ve seen it. I watched Wal-Mart kill all the mom and pop stores. I saw the pills, the meth, and now heroine coming in, just wreaking havoc. Pain pills, hillbilly heroine have always been here. People in those small towns are struggling. I can't speak too much on HBO documentary because I signed a NDA (non-disclosure agreement), but I will when it comes out.
Where can people go and find out more about Michael Barber?
Visit www.MichaelBarber.biz or add me on Twitter @TheIrishJesus.