Having just released Kill The Wolf, his self-produced third full-length album, Rhode Island native and underground orator B. Dolan was kind enough to answer our probes on his process for his new, savagely original album, his thoughts on the perils of promotion and what he’s digging at the minute.
Was waiting 5 years to release the album a conscious decision you made or did it happen naturally over time?
Five years is how long it took. We worked steadily from the completion of my last album ’til now, and released two mixtapes in the interim, but to get this new album to sound how I wanted it to sound, and to make sure it was good enough to ‘stand the test of time’ … I spent five years re-inventing my sound and working with over 20 musicians on this project.
Was it a relief to finally release it?
Releasing the album is an intense process that involves a lot of other people. Once your work in the studio is finished your life goes into this other mode of touring, labels, agents, publicists… I don’t know if I’ve had time to feel relief in any big way, because now my focus has shifted to maniacally making sure the album gets the attention it deserves, which is another kind of consuming work.
Describe Kill the Wolf in one sentence.
A vast artistic conspiracy come to life.
What song came first in the writing process and did that dictate the direction for the rest of the project?
I think ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘Graffiti Busters’ were the first two to really shape up the way we wanted, and show how good the marriage of breakbeats, live instruments, and analogue synths could sound. Once we had those I knew we had a type of sound we could build the album around.
What song are you most proud of from the album?
I love all my children the same, but different. There’s a lot of moments I’m very happy with on this album at the moment.
Is this ‘the album you’ve always wanted to make’ or do you regard it in the same as any instalment of your back catalogue?
I try to make every album the one I’ve always wanted to make, and never be pumping out songs just for the sake of doing so. I think that’s how rappers fall off, and I expend an incredible amount of effort trying not to do exactly that.
What inspired you to record ‘Who Killed Russell Jones’?
My disgust and sadness after reading a piece the Guardian did a few years back – ‘Portrait of the Artist in Jail‘. I read it after ODB had passed, and was just disappointed that rap music had lost such an incredible voice. I knew the Bob Dylan song ‘Who Killed Davey Moore?’ from years earlier and the two things just sort of coalesced in my mind.
You make a lot of references to not wanting to be attached to your phone as much on the album. Is that a hard thing to find a line between promoting yourself and constantly being online?
Yes, it is. If people could see me working in my home office/studio I wonder what they’d think. I sort of just pace and veer drastically from one task to another. Right now I am answering this interview. But then I might put on a record to play in the background while I do that that I’ve been meaning to check for samples. Then I might hear that sample after 30 minutes and start fucking with it in Ableton. Then after three hours of working on that I might realise I’ve gotta finish this interview and schedule a rehearsal with DS3K. So I pick up my phone and on the way to the text message window I see 80 more things I need to reply to. I probably need some fucking meditation in my life. I’ll add ‘meditate’ to the to-do list.
What type of atmosphere is to be expected at a B Dolan gig?
It’s a good atmosphere I think. A lot of the time it’s about energy. Big sounds and wiling out. But there’s thoughtful moments and real moments too. It’s a familial vibe at this point, and people show up ready for everything.
What was the best show you’ve ever played?
Impossible to say. I’ve had so many moments where I’ve felt like “this is the best show I’ve ever played”. The most recent best show I ever played was at the House of Blues in Boston with Atmosphere.
What was the worst?
Shit, probably one of the ones I don’t remember. Even the horrible gigs are great in a horrible way. The ones where you have to bodily threaten the promoter to get your money and the sound cuts off. Those become funny things to look back on in retrospect so often that you end up perversely enjoying them as they happen. A little while ago I somehow got booked into a taco shop in Ft. Collins with no monitors.
Was working with Sage Francis something that you had always wanted to do? What is it like having a working relationship with him now?
The story of how I met Sage in 2002 is pretty well documented. At that time he had just released Personal Journals I think. I remember hearing that when it came out and seeing him do his thing live. But we sort of met as competitors and peers first. For a couple years it was very much like some kind of national geographic special. He once told me not to piss on his electric fence. I once asked him if he was running a Dojo of rappers that sounded like him. Nowadays we’re pretty good at working with each other I think though. We’ve become adept at navigating each other’s brainwaves and shared some best-friend life-type shit. The bond is as unbreakable, I’d like to think. We’re gonna test that theory out soon and try to make an album together though.
What albums have caught your attention in 2015 so far?
Kendrick’s record has gotten the most play of any new album this year. I also heard some production I really liked on the new Meek Mill. For the most part though my listening is pretty focused on what I’m working on or what I’m digging through and the music my peers have put out. People can hear all of that at Strange Famous.
Kill The Wolf is out now via Speech Development/Strange Famous Records.