“Come and scream with me!” – interview with Andy Bothwell aka Astronautalis.

In February 2012 he headlined Asymmetry Festival Before Party and left the audience amazed by his performance. In 2013 Andy Bothwell aka Astronautalis is coming back to Poland and is going to play at exactly the same event in Wroclaw’s Centennial Hall.

Andy’s music is often labeled as alternative hip hop, but this description is definitely very limited. When you listen to “This Is Our Science”, Astronautalis’ last studio album so far, you will quickly notice that there are elements of many genres in his songs – indie rock, electronic landscapes, synthpop, classical music. Andy likes to travel, he works really hard to get recognition he truly deserves and tours for the most part of the year. When he travels he likes to take pictures. Of course, music is always on his agenda. Is Andy working on new songs? What has he learned from journeys he experienced within the last two years? Has he witnessed Prince’s show in Minneapolis? You will find answers to those, and a few more, questions in the conversation below.

Andy, last year you visited Poland for the first time and headlined Asymmetry Festival Before Party. In 2013 you will be performing at exactly the same event in a big venue. Why have you decided to come back to Poland? I’ve had the feeling that you were not too pleased with 2012 show. Do I have the right impression?

No, no. I really enjoyed 2012 show. It was great. I had a great time. I was looking forward to come back for a while now. My stay was very brief and I hope this time I will be able to be there a while longer.

I remember you were very excited and you were looking forward to come to Poland. And you also revealed that your family on your mother’s side comes from Poland. You stayed in Poland for around 24 hours. What memories, impressions did you take with you from this visit? Maybe anything inspired you to write a song or do any historical research?

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time for looking around. I did a little bit of research prior to coming to Poland. It was really one of my favorite place to tour ever. I remember that we got into town and one of the organizers from Asymmetry Festival helped us out to park the car. He gave us directions and told where to drive. We took one way street and I shouted at my manager who was also a driver: “Why? Go fast, go fast! You are going on a one way street” (laughs). So we went fast for about five blocks on a one way street, fortunately with empty traffic. The was the best welcome to Poland I could have ever gotten.

A couple of weeks ago I did interview with Robert Chmielewski, director of Asymmetry Festival. When I asked him, which performances he will be awaiting the most, he mentioned among others, and here comes the quote, “the handsome American guy, Astronautalis”. What can he and other fans expect from your show on Asymmetry Festival? Are you going to bring live band with you or it’s gonna be only you and DJ on stage?

I’ll be there with the full live band. So it’s gonna be a lot louder and a lot of fun. I think everyone should get ready to be deaf and sweaty.

In February 2012 in Poland you were still promoting “This Is Our Science” album which came out in 2011. Are you currently working on new music? I’ve found out that your new album is going to be titled “The Four Fists” and you’ve been working on it with P.O.S., but I’m not sure if this information is correct. Could you please refer to this?

The Four Fists is a new project on its own that P.O.S. and I started. I’m also working on my solo record from which I’ll probably play at least one song when I come to Poland. I also have a couple of other project that I’ll be working on.

“This Is Our Science” was an incredible album, hard to label. It’s hip-hop mixed with indie rock, electronic landscapes, synthpop, elements of classical music. Would you say that your new release will be a natural continuation of the fourth album or maybe you decided to do something completely different?

I try to do something different with every release. To incorporate new sounds and have a different view. No matter what it will always be music and it will always have my feel.

“This Is Our Science” was lyrically focused on your life and career as professional rapper. Is there any common theme on your fifth album or maybe this time you decided to cover a variety of topics, not necessarily in reference to your life?

The new record is not about myself. It is more about people in the world. How people cope with problems and struggles, how people make their lives better. So it’s not about myself. More about things I’ve seen people do to have better life.

I know that you like to be on the move, to travel around the world. As you said, this influences your music more than anything else. Within the last 12 months you did a lot of touring. Can you tell me how did it affect your music, your songwriting, lyrics writing?

One of the most important things in my travels, especially last year, was coming to small places. I’m not talking about America right now. America is comfortable, very easy to live in. I’m talking about when you travel around the world and you come to not so big cities. In Central and Eastern Europe I played a lot of shows in small towns and villages. What was the most interesting to me, was coming to a small village, seeing people who do not have a lot of money, do not have a lot of opportunities, like we are lucky to have in America, and still making things happen. Still making amazing concerts, making amazing art, making their place beautiful and amazing. That made me feel sort of embarrassed with Americans, with all what we are given, and all we waste. I’ve seen a lot of people with a lot of less opportunities than American have and make a lot more out of very little. That was definitely the most important thing I’ve seen in the last two years of touring.

One more question connected with the previous one. You tour a lot, work very hard, and I think you spend more than half of the year away from home. What did you do to not get crazy on tour? To kill boredom, routine?

I read a lot of books, I play a lot of games on my phone, I listen to a lot of music, podcasts. And I take a lot of pictures. That would probably be my favorite thing apart from touring. I play a lot of shows and sometimes you have to do a hundred things to keep you interested. Touring is generally a lot of fun, but sometimes is very boring. So, you have to find a lot of little hobbies to keep you interested.

I was lucky to witness your first show in Poland in 2012 and what amazed me was when you asked people in the audience to say a word, a topic and a little bit later you did a freestyle including all of them. Since this kind of audience engagement in your show worked so well, are you going to repeat it on Asymmetry Festival or are you going to prepare another surprise?

I’ll probably do something very similar. With the whole band is even more fun.

Some months ago Justin Vernon of Bon Iver revealed that he will be doing a musical project with you and a couple of other musicians. Have you already recorded anything? What kind style music it is and when it is going to come out?

We are still working on it. There is a little bit more of work to be done. We will probably release this music this year. I’m not going to tell you what kind of music it is. I’d rather keep it as a secret. Only thing I can tell it’s not going to sound as you think it will.

Andy, do you still call Minneapolis your home town?

Yes, I’m here right now.

Does Minneapolis inspire you in any way? How this city influences you? I’m asking because you already lived in a couple of places in America, one of them being Seattle, and you were born in Florida.

Minneapolis is quite beautiful. Amazing place. I’ve been here for almost 2 years now. I think what makes Minneapolis special is how people are excited about art and music in the city. They really support local artists, local musicians. I spend a lot of time going to the concerts. Art is appreciated here. They have great local radio stations, newspapers, magazines. It’s becoming really rare in America and in the world that so big city is so devoted and supportive to the local art scene. It’s beautiful to me. It’s very inspiring seeing people who actually give a damn about art and music.

Does Prince still live in Minneapolis?

Yes, he does.

Does he perform there? Maybe you were lucky to see him performing?

It’s very rare when he does. Actually, he performed two weeks ago, but he didn’t announce the show until three days before. And tickets for the show sold out in an hour. So I was not able to go. He was playing in small club which was amazing. Normally he plays in stadiums. And this time he was playing in a small jazz club for 200 people. Friends who were there said it was amazing.

Thank you for your time Andy. I leave you the last words. Please encourage fans to come to see you performing on Asymmetry Festival.

Hello everyone reading this! Come to see us on Asymmetry Festival and scream with me and my friends. We will have fantastic time. I’m really looking forward to come back to Poland.

Interviewer: Leslaw Dutkowski