PreciseHero Talks Reading for Inspiration, Being a Standalone Rapper and His Interest In Japanese Music

PreciseHero who? This little-known Detroit hip hop artist has a sound I guarantee you’ve never heard before and we are here now to introduce you to him.

I recently got to sit down and chat with the rhymer/producer over the phone and ask a few questions. A really interesting and funny dude, PreciseHero tells us a lot about him, his music and much, much more. Check it out:

Q: Why don’t we start off and you can introduce yourself and tell us where you’re repping out of.
A: “Alright I am PreciseHero. I am from Detroit, Michigan and I think that pretty much sums it up.”

[Mutual Laughter]

Q: Now could you tell us where the name PreciseHero came from?
A: “Actually PreciseHero was just something I kind of dreamed up. That’s honestly how it came to me; I was daydreaming and those two words just came together and I was like, you know what, I’m willing to use that as my new pseudonym.”

Q: Oh, wow, that’s easy [laughs]. Now could you tell us who you’re biggest musical inspirations are?
A: “Should we start from when I first started or my current musical influences or where should we go with it?

Q: You can go both ways; who originally inspired you and then you can talk about who inspires you now.
A: “Alright, when I first got started it was probably my closer friends that really, really got me into rapping and doing everything. There was this group in Detroit called Ill Rhyme Society and they got a few local hits, they didn’t really get big, but I went to high school with a couple of the dudes and they really got me into rapping and recording on karaoke machines and trying to make beats on keyboards and all that kind of stuff. Other than that, it was generally the stuff I was listening to. Everything from, of course the East coast stuff, like all the Nas and A Tribe Called Quest and all that, but a lot of stuff like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony really influenced me when I first got started. Outside of that, I guess it was generally a bit more of the stuff like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, stuff like that that was really influencing me. If I wanted to say some contemporary guys that are really doing it for me, it would be Shabazz Palaces or Guided By Voices or Toro Y Moi. Foxes In Fiction is another one that’s really good.”

Q: As far as them inspiring you, do they just inspire you to make the music or do you draw inspiration from the music they create? Do you put their sound into your style or is it just more of what they do makes you want to do what you do?
A: “It’s definitely what they do makes me want to do something because I would say, for the non hip hop artists that I mentioned, I would say their style of writing and their style of production is what influences me the most. I do care for literary or more surrealistic [ideas] in lyrics, so drawing from other genres really influences me. And probably just reading, authors like Ray Bradbury, reading a lot of his stuff and reading comics, that really influenced me a lot.”

Q: So do you draw some of your lyrics from books that you read, too?
A: “It’s more of the style they write with than directly referencing books or anything. Like Ray Bradbury, I would say his series, anything of his that was basically like Farewell Summer or Something Wicked This Way Comes, those books, those were probably my favorite Ray Bradbury books. Just the way he uses metaphors and description and things like that, that really captured my imagination.”

Q: Wow, that’s really cool. I’ve never heard a rapper actually cite books as a source of inspiration. That’s actually really cool!
A: “[Laughs].”

Q: Besides reading books [laughs] is there something that you feel sets you apart from other contemporary emcees?
A: “This may sound kind of cheesy, but me being me is the thing that sets me apart. For the most part, hip hop is very competitive where everybody is writing songs explaining “I’m the best. This is my situation – I’m from the hood.” Even the underground has its fair share of clichés. The mainstream, you may get a dude talking about his car a bunch or his chains or chicks or whatever, you’ll get the same thing from the underground, just from a different perspective. For a while it was underground emcees complaining about mainstream emcees and what they do, or you just get a bunch of dudes talking about “taking it back” constantly. For me, I want to create more of an experience with music versus just something that you listen to once or twice, I want to make more things that you can live with, something you can absorb. A lot music isn’t something you can live with. I’m going to put out a mainstream emcee, take 2Chainz, right? In most situations that you listen to his type of music, it’s got to be something like “oh I’m in the car, it’s got to be something loud I can play” or “I’m at a party” or “I’m in the club,” that kind of thing, but if you’re just sitting around your house, maybe thinking about something, chilling with your girlfriend, maybe visiting family, you’re not going to put on 2Chainz! It’s not appropriate for that situation!”

Q: [Laughs].
A: “I want to make music that can work in other situations, music that you can live with. This is stuff you can put on in the background, if I want to listen to something like “hey, what do those lyrics mean? What does this mean?” I guess more for someone who wants to think about things or relax a little bit.”

Q: Yeah, definitely, definitely, I can see what you’re alluding to there. I know some artists go back and forth, I know. For instance, Macklemore is a big subject now, how he has the underground sound, but the mainstream appeal. Do you try to work both ways or just stick with what you do and kind of fit the “do what I do” mentality?
A: “No I just kind of do what I do. I have a very small audience, so for the most part, I’m making music just for myself and maybe a few guys that know me. I just want to share it with people, that’s all it is just me sharing music. Because if you aim for somebody or try to reach a demographic, styles are fickle, people change constantly so you can’t really bank on, “I’m going to do the hot, trendy thing for now.” You have to do whatever feels most honest to you at that moment and to stick with that. That’s what I pretty much try to do, just stick with whatever I’m feeling at that time and put that out.”

Q: Alright, that works definitely. So I understand you are part of a group called Separate Science. Could you tell us a little more about that group and their music?
A: “Yes, well actually the group is still pretty young, but it’s myself and Starling Electric, we’re forming a group together. If you heard the song “Caterpillar,” that would be a good indication of kind of where we’re going, but it is going to be, of course, a bit different than that. We’re going to try out a few different sounds throughout the project.”

Q: So you guys have a project coming?
A: “Yeah, it’s on the way.”

Q: Is it still in its early stage or do you still have a set arrival?
A: “It’s way too early to say. I’m still writing songs and putting some tracks together. Caleb from Starling Electric has a bunch of tracks he’s putting together so we’re just seeing what works right now and writing everything out.”

Q: Well I look forward to that. Also in your Bandcamp info, you say you’re a “proprietor of Wonderkind202.” Can you explain what that means?
A: “Thanks man and yeah, Wonderkind202 is just a quasi-label that I made up. Every once and a while, I’ll get to release something on a label, but it’s not too often so I made up this fake label so anytime I release something, it’s through Wonderkind202, whether that’s music or say I decide to write a book someday, or anything I work on, Wonderkind202 will be attached to it sometime. So it is a catch-all for anything creative.”

Q: Ok and I just wanted to go really quick into that, you said if you ever decided to write a book – do you dabble in writing?
A: “A little bit. A lot of the stuff, especially from Wide-Eyed Serial onwards – I guess Wide-Eyed Serial to Canon – a lot of the stuff was influenced from me basically sitting around writing short stories. That’s something I used to do as a kid, I would write short stories and write things down because I enjoy writing. So a lot the lyrics come from that and there’s a chance I would do it, but I would be more interested in writing a comic or designing a video game, something like that.”

Q: So you also meddle around with comics and video games? Do you have anything looking to print or is it more of just a hobby?
A: “I guess it would just be a hobby right now. Maybe one day I’ll sit down and write a novel or get started on a comic if I found the right illustrator, but right now it’s just something I mess around with.”

Q: Do those comics come into the album covers? I know some of them are graphics and some of them are photos. Do you have a graphic design skill set or do you make these out of the blue?
A: “Well for the photography stuff, that’s me snapping pictures because I’m into photography a lot. I’ll go out with my 120 cameras or medium-format cameras, whatever I have on hand and take pictures and something will become the album cover. I had a cover for Daydreamer Dialogue that was done by this artist Celia Calle and she was just somebody I contacted – I really liked her artwork – and she decided to do a cover for me.”

Q: Man [Laughs], you do it all! You got the rapping, you got the photography, comics, writing. Do you also go into producing, too?
A: “Yeah I do the beats myself, too. For a while I didn’t, like I worked with tREBLEFREE and Mr. Keyes and Katrah-Quey and a bunch of other guys. [But] I took a break from music because life was happening. I get really burnt out working on music; that’s a reason I don’t just keep cranking out projects because if I do that, I just get tired doing the same thing over and over again. I need to take breaks; if I get tired of making music, I’ll take pictures for a while. If I get tired of taking pictures, I’ll think up ideas for something else. I just have to keep myself busy. So I’ll make the beats myself now, I’ll write the songs myself and then, if I feel like somebody could fit in to that, then that’s when I’ve been collaborating, like the stuff I did with Tim Monger and Beagles and what I’m doing with Starling Electric. I just kind of work offsides.”

Q: Damn [Laughs]!
A: “[Laughs].”

Q: Well, earlier you talked about it, but we first came across your music when eLL. heard Wide-Eyed Serial. We connected with you after a while because we were going through some of our older articles looking for broken links actually and your article had a broken link. And after talking to you, we found out that that album was a limited thing. So could you tell our readers a little more about that album and how they can listen to it now?
A: “Well a lot of those songs got incorporated into Canon and you can hit the Bandcamp for that or if you really want to support a label called River City out in Japan, they put it out. They’re based out in Yokohama; I have a link in the Bandcamp if you want to purchase the actual physical, 3D CD version of it. Basically the project came out of, like I said, I took a bit of a hiatus from music and when I decided to get back into it, that’s when I jumped into, ok, I’m going to approach my songwriting different, I’m going to produce all the beats myself. So you can hear it through Canon or I have a couple discs left over. So if you hit my website, I have a link that says ‘Shop’ and you can buy a disc there and it’s only like three bucks or something.”

Q: Could you tell us more about the music on the album itself? You said you produced it – what did you use to produce? Was there a theme or was it just you getting back into music?
A: “I guess the thing would be experimentation. I called it Wide-Eyed Serial because I wanted to approach it naively because, like I said, a lot of things now, it doesn’t have imagination or it doesn’t have a sense of adventure to it. I wanted to go back to that feeling where you were just a kid and you went outside and you just did stuff; you didn’t have a specific goal in mind, just like “I’m just going to dig around in the backyard and maybe I’ll find a worm or something” and you just had fun.”

Q: [Laughs].
A: “Just the act of doing things was fun. Music lost that charm; everything is either very serious or the things that are “weird,” they’re very manufactured like there’s a whole machine behind this “weird,” there’s a calculated marketing plan to be “weird” and I don’t really like that. So I wanted to get back to making things purely for the fun of making things, whether it’s good or bad, I wanted to take the risk of doing it because it was what I felt like doing at the time. Like the song, “The World Behind The World,” I’m not the best instrumentalist, but I can play a couple chords and put some 808s behind it and make something kind of decent. I did that on some songs, otherwise it was basic sample-based stuff that’s pretty similar to the other stuff I had already done. Most of my equipment, I don’t have any special beat-making equipment, I’m all computer-based. My computer is super old, it’s probably at least a decade old. I’m running everything on Linux, I’m not even using Windows anymore and I’m using all free, open-source software. I’d sample anything from a tape or an MP3, any kind of file I can get my hands on that I liked the sound of, I’d get it, somehow get it on the computer and manipulate it from there, whether that’s straight sampling it, reversing it, adding flange and adding different effects to make it pan side to side. Anyway that I can manipulate sound and put it together, that’s how I worked using whatever equipment I had handy. I have a digital recorder I do my vocals on, then I straight process everything on the computer.”

Q: Do you feel that that hinders you in any way or it only makes the music how it is?
A: “I mean, it’s all just a tool. The tools don’t really matter, it’s what you’re doing with them. Somebody could probably use the exact same tool set and come up with something totally different. That’s the thing, it really doesn’t matter; same thing with music, rap, you want to compare things, compare it to paint: anybody can do anything with paint. If I don’t like the picture one person is painting with that same paint, I can take that paint and paint something else, so it’s all the tools and however you decide to use them.”

Q: Alright, very wise [Laughs]. A few years ago you did a project you mentioned Daydreamer’s Dialogue that was produced by a producer that we at The Hip Hop Speakeasy actually know and love, Obsidian Blue. Did he actually produce the album or did you hear his beats and then pick and choose? How did that album come about?

A: “Oh, Obsidian is a friend of mine.”

Q: Oh!
A: “After I finished Particle Moments, I wanted to do something different for the next project. I wanted to do a project with just one producer and I had this grand vision, if I wanted to aim at anything, I was aiming at Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. That album was constantly in repeat when I was working on the project. So I wanted him to concentrate on making this one seamless sound that flows from one track to the other, just one continuous thing, one stream of consciousness. That was my entire aim throughout the project. It didn’t come together exactly how I wanted it to because I need to hop from one project to another rapidly and that project was so delayed like, “Ok this is going on” and “Can you get me this track?” and a week later I’d get it but I was over the idea that I had. So it didn’t come together the exact way I wanted to, but I appreciate that it happened. But yeah, Blue is a friend of mine, he produced all the beats as the songs came together. It wasn’t like I heard a beat, took it from here, no, we worked on it together.”

Q: Wow, that’s cool. Do you think there’s any possible future collaborations with you and Obsidian Blue again?
A: “Oh yeah, we talk about it, it just comes down to time. When he’s available to work on something and when I can work on something and where our ideas meet. If our ideas meet in the middle because he’s generally like, “hey, whatever you want to do, as long as it’s decent” he doesn’t mind. Because he’s a family man, he’s got a kid and a wife and all that going on, so I understand he’s busy.”

Q: Ok, moving on, what would you say is your most favored album by fans?
A: “Probably Particle Moments is the most popular one because it has a sound that anyone can latch onto. It gets lumped into the taking-it-back, underground hip hop kind of stuff. I can understand that because it’s slightly an homage to that sound because I love A Tribe Called Quest, Pharcyde and all that, but I’m not trying to be pigeonholed into the “underground rapper,” the “taking-it-back rapper” because, since rap started, people have been taking it back. How far back can you really take it? After a while, you have to look at the present and deal with that, or look to the future and try to do something with that and do something innovative. So I would say that would be my biggest album, mainly because it was released on a bigger label overseas, so it got the most promotion and most people heard of it and some of the songs appeared on compilation albums and things like that. More people got wind of it, but as far as my overall favorite, I would say my current album is my favorite because it’s where I’m at right now. When I listen back to Particle Moments, it’s like looking at an embarrassing picture, like your high school graduation picture like, who’s that guy?”

Q: [Laughs].
A: “[Laughs] It’s weird! I respect it because people like it and if I made a thing that people liked and I get to communicate with people and I get to connect with people off of something I made and it brought some joy to their life, then I’m happy about it. But at the same time, it’s kind of awkward going backwards when I’m thinking about other things.”

Q: True, I can see that. How has your music been received overall by fans and blogs? Have you read any reviews?
A: “A few people have written things and it’s like, “Hey! This is a thing we didn’t know existed” and “where did this guy come from?” I don’t really, actively promote my music very much, or I’ll go through phases where I do where one day out I’ll want to contact every blog to hear this and then the next minute I don’t care. Again, I make music mostly for me. It seems like it’s way too much work to get into the whole, “I’m going to contact this blog” and “I got to be seen” and the whole race to get to the “next level…” honestly, it doesn’t seem worth it to me. It doesn’t appeal to me at all. If people organically get to my music, where they heard it and they liked so they follow me, versus a blog promoting it 24/7, putting it in your face, forcing you to like it. To enjoy it because you were almost brainwashed into liking it, I don’t want to get into that. The idea of being a full-time musician to the point where it’s a job and I’m forced to crank out albums and forced to go on tours, I just wouldn’t want it. Otherwise, it’s been mostly favorable things. It also depends on who’s receiving the music, because I find that a lot of musicians I meet…like I hang out with a lot of the indie rock crowd around my town and they seem to get it and if I do something a little weird, they embrace a bit more. But if I’m talking to somebody that’s like “rap is all Pete Rock and this is how you rap” and anything that varies from that formula, I can’t get with it. For those people, they’re kind of iffy on me, they won’t really like it as much, so it all depends.”

Q: You also said this before, about how you don’t want to crank out albums all the time, but we haven’t heard an album from you yet this year. It’s only March, but do you have anything planned to come out like an album or mixtape this year?
A: “I’m going to work on the Separate Science project and that looks like that might be it for a while. It’s not that much to say and I don’t want to flood the market so to speak. If I release something, I want it to be more special than just releasing things to stay in the public eye or in your mind. If you forgot about me that quick, then obviously the music didn’t mean that much to you. So if I release a project, it may be months or years before I release the next one. But when I release it, it’s going to be different from the last one, it’s going to have a different feel and it’s going to reflect where I am now rather than giving you a bunch of the same thing.”

Q: That’s dope, it keeps listeners on their toes. Are you happy with your spot in hip hop right now and would you change anything about it if you could?
A: “I’m not sure if I even have a spot in hip hop per se [Laughs].”

Q: [Laughs].
A: “I’m just kind of a dude just doing stuff [Laughs]. I would say, if anything, I’d like more people to hear the music, more people to get wind of it. Otherwise, I have no complaints. Based off of just the stuff I’ve done, I’ve met a lot of cool people, I got a chance to go to Japan and that was super cool. I don’t talk to a whole lot of people online, but it’s cool when I’m on Twitter and I get a message from somebody from Korea or somebody from the Czech Republic saying “Hey, I played your song on my mix show, can you check it out?” Stuff like that is cool to me, just being able to connect with different people. Otherwise, I have no complaints, everything’s pretty cool to me [Laughs].”

Q: If you had to convince somebody to listen to your music, is there a particular album you would show them? How would you convince them to listen to your music?
A: “I would probably ask them if they’re bored with music right now [Laughs]. If they’re bored with the current trajectory that music is taking, if they want to hear something different than what they’re hearing everyday and what’s being blasted at them, I would say “hey, I do a thing, check this out.” I don’t know where I would start them; it would be logical to start them at the beginning, but I’d probably start them closer to the end and have them work backwards in my catalogue because I feel like the stuff I’m making now is a lot better than what I did before. Just like I said, going to back to things I did is kind of cringe-worthy. So I’d give him something more like what I did last week and tell him to check this out.”

Q: Now you did tell us a lot about yourself in this interview, but we always want a little bit more and so we ask, is there something very few people know about you that you could tell us?
A: “Well, I don’t think people know very much about me, so that’s why I’m trying to spill a lot in this interview. PreciseHero is a name I dreamed up, I’m from Detroit, Michigan originally, but I’m probably going to move somewhere else. I like Japanese stuff…video games are cool, comics are sweet…um…I shop at IKEA? I don’t know.”

[Mutual Laughter]

Q: Ahh, that was a good one. You said you were going to move, and that brought up an artist I know who moved elsewhere and talked about the music and creative outlet there. If you were to move, do you think that’d change your hip hop scope? Like how you said before how you got more exposure in Japan, for instance if you were to move out there, do you think that maybe you’d get more exposure out there as an artist than where you are now?
A: “Yes and no, because I think being in the Japanese scene would probably create its own set of problems. First of all, I’d have to adjust to being in a homogenous culture. Also, there’s quite the language barrier, it’s a lot trickier than speaking English. I’m not fluent [in Japanese] so that would cause a few issues. Japan doesn’t really have an indie scene the same way America has an indie scene, so here in America, at least I can somewhat be in the indie scene or build a little ecosystem where a few people know about me and I can push content to those few people. I would say leaving Detroit would probably be a lot better. There’re pockets of artists that do things that are interesting and things that are good, cats like Detroit CYDI, Doc Illingsworth and a lot of other guys that are doing some interesting things. But I’m not really on the scene, I don’t hang out with that many hip hop dudes, I barely do shows. I do shows on a whim, like today I feel like doing shows in front of this many people and then you won’t hear from me for another few months, you won’t hear from me for a year because I don’t feel like going to shows.”

Q: [Laughs].
A: “Mostly because I think I’m a lot older than people that go to shows or that I’m not that in love with like yeah, I’m going to sit in this dank bar for most of the night, then get up and do a set for twenty minutes after this dude has played all night and (before they stopped stopping in clubs) I’m going to go home smelling like smoke. In actuality, I want to go home, maybe my girlfriend comes over, eat some chicken tenders and fall asleep watching Netflix.”

Q: [Laughs].
A: “That’s what I’m about, so I don’t have it in me to hang out with a bunch of high school and college kids and try to round up a few of my friends that just got off of work to sit in the crowd and cheer lead for me [Laughs]. It’s not really a music scene in Detroit, at least one not for me without a lot more effort than I’m willing to put in.”

Q: Yeah, I can see that. Well do you have any dream collaborations, say that if you could work with anybody, would you want to work with them?
A: “If I could pick anybody I could work with, I’d probably work with Damon Albarn because it would be great to be on a Gorillaz album. If Prince Paul and Dan the Automator got back together and started doing Handsome Boy Modeling School records, I would love to be on a record like that. It’s mostly the kind of weird, fusion-y records that I’ve been especially digging lately. If Cibo Matto just needed a guest rapper all of the sudden, I would definitely do something with them. I think that’s about it, other than that, it would probably be some Japanese band like Sawako is an artist I really like and Daisuke Miyatani. I guess sound art would be the best way to explain it; a lot of it is very drone-y, electronic music, very textured music, music that would be great in the background – not quite white noise, but very atmospheric music. I’d probably want to do something in that space. Just [to] step out of the hip hop genre if I think that some cool art could come out of it.”

Q: Yeah, that’d be cool. Before we finish up here, do you have any shout outs or last words you want to give?
A: “I don’t really have any shout outs, but I’d like to thank anybody that’s giving me a listen, anybody that’s taking a chance and listening to my music. I know it gets compared a lot to a lot of the classic stuff, but I would recommend putting some headphones on and listening to it and seeing what kind of vibe you get from it. Hopefully what I do inspires somebody else to create something. If you think my music is odd and weird, hopefully that gives somebody else the encouragement to make something odd and weird that sounds cool and makes them want to go create something, too.”

Q: Alright. Lastly, we always like to ask this, what is on your iPod? What are you currently listening to?
A: “Right now, I’m listening to this band called toe. They released a record last year, but I just got around to listening to it. I’m listening to a lot of Cornelius, his albums Fantasma and Point, those have been getting a lot of play from me. You know, I can check right now and see what I have on here…[Laughs].”

Q: [Laughs].
A: “Oh! Pastels and Tenniscoats, I’ve been listening to Two Sunsets a lot, too, that one is really good. So it’s been a lot of Japanese indie and pop music like Shugo Tokumaru, been listening to Exit a lot. I haven’t really check out his new record, but Exit is my favorite from him. A bit of that and anything that’s kind of electronic-y, jazz, like Stereolab and every once and a while I’ll step back and listen to Sean Lennon or Elliot Smith or something like that, like classic rock gets played around me, too.”

Q: Alright, cool. Well thank you man, I really appreciate!
A: “Thank you, man, thank you for having me!”

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The author Stone

Stone is a hip-hop enthusiast residing in NJ/PA. As an aspiring hip-hop producer, Stone studies communications and shares his passion for music by letting the world in on the wonderful world of hip-hop.