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Tour Necessities Q&A: Gajah on West Coast Halfway tour

(@gajahmatik)
First, let me say that Los Angeles-based emcee Gajah is not a stranger to CrayonBeats. Second, let me introduce you, in case you aren’t familiar with his work. Gajah jumped into the hip hop scene sometime in the early 90’s with a couple of rap groups, until he became the founding member of the long-standing, two-man hip hop group, Acid Reign (with BeOnd), who eventually earned their stripes with Project Blowed. As a group, they’ve released a handful of projects, worked with a ton of West Coast underground hip hop legends, have started their own label (Acid Lab Records), and have had countless performances. As a solo act, though, Gajah has released nearly 10 outstanding projects (some of which we’ve talked about here), performed all throughout the West Coast, and has worked with various hip hop artists (such as Open Mike Eagle, Uncommon Nasa, Abstract Rude, The Kleenrz, Duke Westlake, Graves33, Atari Blitzkrieg, Ceschi, Tommy V, Ellay Khule, Mute Speaker, and more).

I was put onto Gajah‘s work about 5 years ago, when I heard the Tracks From the Abyss Vol 1 project, which came out right before they were about to make their album debut on Uncommon Records. I was immediately drawn into his insane breath-control, rapid-fire delivery, the complexity in his rhymes, and his often abstract, thought-provoking lyrics. Who wouldn’t be?! Since then, I’ve been a fan, have followed his work, and have become a friend of his. I even had the honor of having him on my first installment of The Monsters Are Due On CrayonBeats, and designing the art for his Poverty’s Prodigy (Remixed) album.

All that said, since releasing the Acid Reign Diversity album with Uncommon Records, in May 2011, his work with the label has not seen an end. In fact, his latest album, titled Hands of Gold Are Always Cold, was produced entirely by the man-in-charge, emcee/producer Uncommon Nasa. Now, Uncommon Nasa and Gajah are linking up to tour once again (they did a short run together in 2014 for the Gold Telephone tour), to hit some West Coast states, where they will perform songs off of their latest solo albums, as well as some hand-picked songs from their lengthy discographies, unveil new songs, and to possibly announce another forthcoming collaborative project (more on that in the interview below). To help promote this West Coast Halfway Tour and to get some insight on his touring habits, I asked Gajah several questions pertaining to this tour.

Here in this Tour Necessities Q&A, he talks about his musical relationship with Uncommon Nasa, reasons you should see them in your city, requiring peace and quiet wherever he stays, crucial travel necessities, places he’s excited to perform in, avoiding fast food and eating healthy, pre-show ritual including beer and weed, the merch he’ll have on deck, new albums on the way, touring tips, and more. Check it out!

Tiffology: This is the second time that you’ll be touring with Uncommon Nasa. Can you tell me about the relationship between you two, and teaming up for this Halfway tour?
Gajah: I’d say that we have a very healthy musical relationship. There is mutual respect, not only for each others art, but also for each others person. Uncommon Nasa is a genuine, humble, yet straight forward type of guy who will tell you how it is, and I can relate to his way of thinking. We’ve been building and collaborating on stuff for a few years now, and it hasn’t let up. He produced my last record, Hands of Gold Are Always Cold in full, and we are now working on a rap record together under the moniker, White Horse. The “Gold Telephone” tour in 2014 was a huge success, and we believe that the road will treat us well once again on this coming “Halfway” tour.

Assuming all the plans are all hammered out, which cities are you hitting?
We are going to start in my hometown of LA, then hit Las Vegas, Tempe, San Diego, Berkeley, Reno, Salt Lake City, Boise, Portland, San Francisco, and then return back to LA for the final show.

Tell our readers a little more about the tour and why they should attend a show in their city.
Having myself and Uncommon Nasa coupled on any bill is a unique experience in itself, I’d say. You will hear two distinct styles from Coast to Coast, some real life subject matter, and some heavy-duty, head nodding beats that may result in minor soreness of the neck by the end of the night. The overall energy will be huge. We will also have some awesome merch on deck… most notably, Uncommon Nasa’s Halfway LP on vinyl for sale.

What will be the main mode of transportation?
Uncommon Nasa will be flying in and out of LAX, and we will be traveling in a small rental throughout the trip.

When you’re traveling with other people, in the same vehicle, are you a talker or one who prefers to keep to himself?
It all depends who I’m rolling with, how loud the music is playing, and how much weed I’ve smoked. But I can usually get along and conversate with anyone. If it’s someone like Uncommon Nasa, who I am currently working with, I like to use the travel time to bounce around ideas and plan things out. I never shy away from telling a good joke or story either, whatever keeps me comfortable and happy.

Motels/hotels or staying with people/friends?
All of the above. I like to make arrangements early so there’s no worries or stress on that end. I don’t mind where I stay really, as long as we are not being put up by creeps, druggies, or extreme party animals. I like peace and quiet, for the most part.

What type of house guest are you/do you try to be?
One who is respectful, compliant, and down right chill.

How many bags are you likely to pack?
One small roller.

When you pack for touring, do you pack just enough clothes for the amount of days out or extras, just in case?
I always pack extras, but try not to over do it. I’m simple.

Another packing question: tidy and organized or random and chaotic?
Very organized. I’m compulsive like that.

Tell me about your top 5 albums that will be listened to during this tour.
I usually leave it up to the other party(s) to play the DJ. If it was all up to me, I’d probably play a lot of Snarky Puppy, old Squarepusher and random Jazz albums.

Tell me about your top 5 travel necessities–food & drinks not included.
I can’t leave home without my favorite vape juices and battery charger, or I’d go nuts (I have a Nicotine itch). Other main items are my headphones (for writing), shaving kit (because I’m a hairy bastard), and Saucony sneakers (for optimal comfort).

When I talked to DJ Halo about touring, he mentioned a sleeping bag having revolutionized touring for him. Will you be bringing a sleeping bag with you for this tour?
What a genius idea! DJ Halo is a smart man. I never brought one with me, but I must now consider. I always forget blankets, pillows and towels as well.

Tell me about your top 5 snacks and beverages for the road.
I like to take a bag of Chia Seeds mainly, to keep me regular. Cliff or Kind bars are also very effective. Bottled water is a must have, and maybe almonds.

While on this tour, are you most likely to be: a fast-food / local food spot junkie, a grocery store shopper to make your own food (healthy or otherwise), eating whatever’s put in front of you from the people you’re staying with, or are you most likely to be seen buying random cheap stuff in a convenience store and throwing something together as if you’re on an episode of Chopped?
I gave up all forms of fast food, except In N Out, so I will not be inclined to stop at any of the usuals. I like to munch on good, aforementioned snacks while on the road, and search for high-rated, yet affordable, restaurants at the next city or destination. It’s always the best when you are offered a home-cooked meal at a house where you are staying. You can’t go wrong with that. And no, I’m definitely not a food Frankensteiner.

Do you plan ahead for food? For example, do you make a budget, have an idea about what you’re going to eat for meals, try to eat well (healthy / healthy-ish), etc? Or, do you just wing it and hope for the best?
I know what I will and won’t eat for the most part, for I am naturally picky of what I put in my body, and the less I spend, the better. I have ideas of where to go in a couple of cities, but have no clue for the majority. I’ll probably end up Yelping or asking people what is good around.

When you’re in the city of your next show, and there is time to be killed before you load in for sound check, what will you likely be found doing?
First and foremost, I like to get my housing situation squared and drop my luggage. Once that is taken care of, I’ll usually hang with the local homies and catch up, get some grub, maybe smoke one and grab a beer. The basics. Exploring the city is always fun, too.

Are there any special stops that you’re looking forward to on this tour?
I love the Bay area, so I’m very excited to be playing in San Francisco and Berkeley. The food is amazing and I have my regular spots down. Portland is another big one, for the fact that I’ve never been or played there before, and there’s a ton of talent running through that city. Should be good.

Do you have a tour rider for this tour? If so, what kind of things are on it? If not, will you ever be the type of artist that has something weird and/or extravagant on the must-have list (whether for real or for a joke)?
No, I don’t. I just bring me, well rehearsed, and hope people like what I have to offer on stage. Though, I’d love to get a projector in the near future.

Who will some of the show openers be?
Collectively, throughout the tour, there are a lots. Let me see… Megabusive, Graves 33, Ohm & DJ Blesd, Kayer & DJ Fossil, Clock Wise, Corina Corina, DJ Halo, Stereotype, Henry Canyons, Eraser Face, Oso Negro, Phantom Threat, Cannabidroids, Skeptik & more.

What do you like most about touring? And, in contrast, what do you hate most about it?
I enjoy meeting new people mostly, and spending time in an unfamiliar place. It’s a thrill, and could be an adventure at times. I love sharing my music with people who know me and especially those who have never heard of me before. I don’t like being away from my family too long, because it hurts. But I know as a professional independent artist that it must be done.

Any pre-show rituals?
Lots of water, one strong beer an hour before I hit the stage, and a hit or two of some good grass to get me tingly.

Any particular songs that you’ll be performing and/or are excited to perform?
I’ll be showcasing two new tracks from my upcoming album, Imperfect Angels, so I’m very happy about that. “Little too Much” is a fave of mine to perform, also “Sponge” & my original classic, “Harry Shoeman”.

Which song from your most recent album, Hands of Gold are Always Cold, has been getting the most crowd reaction?
I have yet to perform them all, but the adrenaline filled, “Radio on Acid” is always a winner that gets the crowd pumped.

What is the first thing that you do after your show is over?
I take a deep breath and get a celebratory IPA.

What merch will you have available?
I’ll have my new shirt design available in dark green & silver, my latest EP, Zapped on CD, as well as most of my past releases, plus plenty of stickers!

Final words, or any touring advice?
I hope you all can make it out to a show or two, I would love to meet you. Let’s have a drink, cheers! For touring artists, I’d say, put business first, make your money, don’t party too hard because it’s pointless, and stay faithful!

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Written By: Tiffany B.

Music and arts journalist, music curator, and co-boss babe of CrayonBeats since 2008! I've published 3,000+ posts consisting of new music, reviews, and interviews. I also do half of everything of CrayonBeats Magazine, so get familiar with our issues! Aside from being a music aficionado, I'm also a freelance artist/illustrator, a creative soul, a natural born lover, a comic book reader, an optimist, and a bit of a weirdo. I hate writing bios about myself, so see ya.