Ever since he first appeared on the rap scene in 2009, Cleveland native Colson Baker – better known as Machine Gun Kelly – has been enjoying a steady rise to fame and fortune, experiencing significant artistic and personal growth and amassing legions of fans along the way. Following the 2012 release of his first studio album, Lace Up, Baker’s latest effort, General Admission, came out in October of 2015, reaching number three on the Billboard 200 chart and selling 47,000 copies in just one week.
G—General Admission’s lead single, “Till I Die”, has a harder sound, whereas “A Little More” seems more conscientious. Where does the album fall in the scale of these two songs?
MGK—I think that this album is a perfect blend of both. On one end you have the person who grew up on the east side of Cleveland, involved in a lot of things that I wasn’t comfortable talking about in the first album. On the other, it’s motivational, taking lessons I’ve learned and looking at them in a positive way.
Musically, this album is exactly what I wanted. I can pick up my guitar and play every one of these songs. The way we composed it is like a play of someone’s life. That’s why the General Admission title is appropriate – because it’s like a ticket into my life.
G—It’s been more than three years since you released Lace Up, and you had taken a step back from the limelight. Did the break from fame aid in the development of your sound?
MGK—I think [growing up] was what fine-tuned my artistry. My voice was a lot different back then. I was still young – 20, 21, just trying to find myself – but I’m 25 now. I’ve become more of the artist that I’m going to be for the rest of my life. I found my voice.
G—There are benefits to being in the spotlight, such as getting your sound out and having a platform. With that in mind, what do you think your responsibility is as an artist?
MGK—I take a unique responsibility. I took a step further than singing for the youth and I directed some of my messages towards addicts (heroin addicts and opioid addicts in particular). Since I made that connection with that crowd, I’ve seen the impact it has had – more than I could have imagined. With depression or addiction, if you can be there for them in your music, it can be a ray of light in the dark.
G—Speaking of being in the spotlight, you’re bound to gain more exposure with your new role in the upcoming Showtime original series Roadies.
MGK— I think so. It’s also fulfilling getting to play somebody that I’m not; it’s a high that I haven’t felt before. Roadies started as a TV pilot I did with Cameron Crowe. We spent a month in Vancouver shooting it. So many great actors – the season premiere is coming up this June.
G—Getting back to the music, your live shows are notorious for their unconventional mix of high punk energy with hip-hop eloquence. Where do you draw your inspiration for your on-stage presence?
MGK—I grew up a punker. All punk rock is attitude. It wasn’t about how well you could play but about your presence and how you played. So given that [punk] was what I grew up on, all I knew was to bring my energy out, lose consciousness and let the feeling take over. In my later years I sharpened my skills as a musician and blended the two. On tour, I maintain that high, punk rock confidence and attitude, but I’m also putting in a lot more soul [because] I became a much better musician. Mostly playing the guitar on stage – it’s a dope musical experience.
G—Have you been playing guitar for a while?
MGK—I used to be in a punk band a while back. Then I kind of stopped that when I realized I couldn’t sing. That’s when I discovered what rap music was.
G—What impression do you want to leave as an artist?
MGK—I want people to think of me as the person who took his own path. I didn’t have any footsteps to follow.
Swedish electro-pop mainstays Little Dragon have been around the block. The four-piece band first formed over a decade ago and in that time steadily rose to become one of the world’s biggest indie electro-pop acts. Touring in support of their fifth studio album, Season High, we spoke with bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin about evolving band dynamics, love of music and inspiration behind their latest release. Georgie—You released your fifth album, Season High, earlier this year. How do you feel about this record in comparison to your previous one? Fredrik Källgren Wallin—It is different, but it is hard to pin down how. We worked a little bit with a producer for the mixing parts, and we have never done that before. We have also become better at communicating and making decisions. I think we fight less; it’s more civilized [laughs]. G—You’ve also worked on some interesting collaborations with other artists, but these tracks didn’t make it onto any of your albums. Was this a conscious decision? FKW—It was a conscious decision; it is such collaboration between the four of us. We did have a friend who appears on the first track of the album – he’s an old high school friend,
Los-Angeles pop artist Billie Eilish began writing and recording music at the young age of 14, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to her. Her lyrics are seasoned with insight carried by a voice that softly and soulfully stretches over dreamy soundscapes. The result is a compelling collection of contrasts, both musically and lyrically, which is on full display on Billie’s debut EP, Don’t Smile At Me (Billie’s debut EP, Don’t Smile At Me (Interscope Records/Universal Music Canada)). Co-written and produced by her brother Finneas O’Connell, the Eilish siblings prove they have no shortage of talent. When we spoke to Billie she was on the road and had just begun her North American tour. G—You started singing at the age of 4, what at that time got you interested in music so early on? BE—I started singing before I could talk, and since then I have been singing all the time, every day. Music has always been part of my family, I guess a part of the way that I think, so it has never come as something separate from my brain. Music and my brain are just one and the same. G—Now, at the age of 15 you have a
Allie X began with a vision: of a blank slate. The multimedia electronic pop artist chose the letter “X” to signify infinite possibility – an attempt to strip herself of any pre-existing identity. Yet she feels the presence of multiple versions of herself: good ones, bad ones, and everything in between. “I think I’ve always had this self-awareness of the bad parts of myself,” she reflects. “I remember feeling as a kid like I hadn’t suffered enough, which is kind of a strange feeling. And then I remember in middle school feeling like I wasn’t being nice enough to people.” Her self-awareness has only expanded with age: “As I’ve gotten older, sometimes I just feel like I’m watching myself from somewhere else and think, ‘Who is this person?… Who am I, and is it good or bad?’” Unsure of who she is, anything does seem possible. The cover of Allie X’s latest album and full-length debut, CollXtion II, features her literally reassembling herself, slotting cubed pieces of her shin back into her leg. The visual perfectly captures what The Story of X, the name she has given the narrative that arches across all of her creative output as Allie