Cage just released his new album titled Hell’s Winter on Definitive Jux Records and the ex Smut Peddlers and Weathermen rapper is back at his best with this new record that features production skills from RJD2, DJ Shadow. But Cage is not your average artist and had the audacity to invite cult band Jo La Tengo and also vocal guest Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys in on the mix. Chris Palko aka Cage came through a seriously dark upbringing and has bounced back through his own private hell to deliver a cracker just in time for the winter. El-P, former member of the famed group Company Flow, and now head honcho of Definitive Jux records brought his new protégée Cage over to the UK shores, to talk to Sam Hesketh just after the London bombings and this is what went down….
So, is this your first show in the UK?
Cage: No, I’ve done more before, but this is my first show as Cage.
Looking forward to it?
Cage: Yeah for sure man.
There’s been a lot of hype over the new album that’s coming out, and everyone seems to be really pumped to be seeing you live. What can we expect from a Cage show?
Cage: Er… rapping! I think there’ll be a lot of paranoia, a lot of subject matter. What else is there gonna be in the show? What else can they expect?
EL-P: A lot of shit that we were a little worried about at some point about performing in the heart of the Muslim community in London. But just a lot of sort of American paranoia. It’ll be a live show though y’know, a lot of back and forth stuff between us.
Were you worried about coming over then?
Cage: A little bit but y’know we’ve been through it.
El-P: We’re from fucking New York man, talk to me when you get 3,000 people dead.
You’ve gone from strength to strength, with stuff like Agent Orange, the Smut Peddlers stuff and Movies For The Blind, and gotten good sales for them. You must be really proud of how it all went down.
Cage: Everything that I’ve done before now is kinda like a blur. I was doing a lot of drugs before this record. I didn’t really put a lot of this [points to head] into it and it was pretty much a lot of incoherent drug banter and with this record I didn’t wanna have anything misogynistic or have any battle raps or bragadocia. I wanted it to have real subject matter, so I turned it on myself and wrote about myself like I was writing about someone else but it’s all pretty much about me.
And you’ve recently signed to Def Jux, do you think this is the right home for you and your music?
Cage: Oh yeah definitely. I mean, I wanted to be on Definitive Jux like, a few years ago but I was under contract with Eastern Conference but I’d hit the ceiling with them, I couldn’t go any further. They stopped promoting and I felt myself shrinking instead of expanding. So it’s a great place to be.
It must be cool to have El-P as your boss too!
Cage: Well we’ve been friends for years so y’know, your friend as your boss is really cool.
On the new album, you’ve got a few non-hip hop acts like Daryl Palumbo [Glassjaw] and Jello [Biafra – ex-Dead Kennedys]. Do you think its important to have artists from other types of music on the record?
Cage: We didn’t want it to be a typical rap record that has like 20 different rappers on it. And I took a more rock approach making the record and its stuff that a lot of people can relate to, drug addiction, abuse, important things. And it was important in making this record to me, that it not be a typical rap record. That being said, I have made typical rap records.
When I read that you were going to have Daryl Palumbo and the guy from Yo La Tengo on there, I didn’t really know what to expect or how it would sound, but it worked really well.
El-P: Well they’re musicians y’know? And they’re cats that I knew and lived around me who played guitar and played bass. It wasn’t like we said “Let’s make a Yo La Tengo/Cage song!”. He played bass and Cage needed a bassline so, we hooked it up.
And at the same time you’ve got some really cool producers on there. I love Blockhead’s stuff so it was cool to hear him on there.
Cage: Yeah it was my first time working with him and all the songs I did with him, all the Blockhead produced songs are concept songs and he’s just really cool.
So did you grow up listening to just rap?
Cage: I grew up listening to rap and rock, and they kinda went like, hand in hand.
And is there anything you want to achieve in the future and with this record?
Cage: I just wanna achieve, you know, stay alive for as long as I can and make good music. That’s not something I woulda said a few years ago, but I’ll say it now.
El-P: You pussy! “Oh I wanna stay aliiiive”.
Have you heard anything from the UK at all?
Cage: I know some stuff, I mean, I have friends here and I know a bunch of people in the UK and they make me CDs but we don’t get too much of it in the States.
Yeah, I know people in the States and they’ve only heard of Dizzee Rascal.
Cage: The only thing we’ve heard in the States is like, Blade or The Streets.
El-P: I’m actually interjecting on the UK question. I’m a little bit more knowledgeable.
I was just asking if there was anything you’re feeling over here?
El-P: Yeah man, I know Skinnyman, Chester P, Jester [now known as Jehst], I’ve known all those cats. Those were the cats I met when I first came out here in like, the mid 90s. Those were the guys who took me out. But no-one in America is up on those things at all. And the point is, no-one in American even gets the chance to hear that shit except what’s majorly imported and put out, like Dizzee Rascal and The Streets.
Cage: As far as pop radio is concerned, it’s zero.
El-P: There’s no straight rap shit that gets any exposure from the UK.
It’s a shame, but it’s cool that you guys still come over to the UK. Back to the bombings, people thought everyone was going to pull out of their UK shows, so I’m glad you guys decided to stick with it.
El-P: Fuck it man. We’re not pulling out, that’s not us.
Well thank you both, I look forward to the show tonight. Have a good one.
Cage: Thanks a lot man, I appreciate it.
Cage’s new album, “Hell’s Winter” is released on Definitive Jux records on September 19th. Check out the Def Jux website at: www.definitivejux.net