Carnage The Executioner Q&A

December 21, 2020
Carnage the Executioner is your favorite rapper's favorite rapper.

“I was told by a few people that music should be free and that rare and creative merchandise was more valuable. This prompted me to look at making music that had a theme to it. I figured I could then present well-designed, thoughtfully conceived images that created a brand that people could relate to — leading to an increase in how much music I was able to sell. I connected with an incredible graphic artist named Pat Jensen in 2015, and we had a mutual respect for each other’s work from years before. He’s a master at cartoon-ish designing, and Carnage The Executioner is a character that he was able to bring into somewhat of a comic book world. So I became obsessed with seeing how many cool things I could put my new brands on. Once I set out to put my brand on things I had never seen from any other musician, I knew there was no turning back. This opened up a great lane for me, and now people mention me as the artist with the ‘best hustle and merch game — which feels great to hear. I often ask my followers on social media if they’d purchase particular items I’m considering making available, as a means of testing the waters. Good responses lead to the availability of those items. Asking the people what they want is an important component to my marketing.”

You’ve switched to a plant-based diet and dropped more than 150 pounds. How has this lifestyle change influenced your music?

The actual drop since my biggest weight is about 120 pounds. But the lifestyle has given me more confidence: not only in my writing and content, but as a performer. I feel like my onstage execution is more accurate, and my attitude about how my music is received is a lot more positive. I also believe I have a responsibility to speak on the growth I’ve enabled myself to experience, as a means of encouraging others to find their own unique paths of success. Losing weight and eating better is something that just about anybody can relate to — if it’s spoken about in ways that are not judgmental or preachy. This realization and change has caused me to test out more universal concepts, thus making my music less intimidating and more inclusive. I have more layers to peel back and more to talk about now. I also have a clearer mind, and I know how much of a role diet plays in positive thinking. People are definitely noticing and appreciating my improved approach. The attention I’m receiving now seems deserved and not contrived.

You’ve spoken about how early on in your career you were writing a lot of music with bravado but lately you’ve been exploring other themes. Does it seem more natural to you to perform from this different perspective?

This is a great question for a battle rapper. I find it more of a welcoming, artistic challenge to say something of meaning that will carry more weight to a wider range of listeners. But now it does come quite naturally compared to when I had to try speaking with these new themes. New themes come to me as naturally as bravado rap once came to me. And consequently, it’s now actually more of a challenge for me to do bravado rap. I definitely feel better about the newer themes I’m tackling, and I plan to continue pushing myself past my own limits from here on.

Your beatboxing skills are outrageous. You’ve said that finding it early was a way for you to afford to make music, when guitars and drums weren’t affordable to your family. Do you teach young people how to get started beatboxing?

Beat boxing is super fun to do and I love the reaction it gets from onlookers. I do teach beat boxing — on a regular basis. I have been fortunate enough to teach both youth and adults. I get a great response from my students and it is a great way of getting those who are unfamiliar with hip-hop into it, with less force than trying to sell them the art of rapping. It’s even more fun when my students play instruments. Getting them playing instruments and beat boxing along with it is quite rewarding. My students now know that anyone can beat box, and that beat boxing goes with every genre of music. Playing an instrument is now the bonus to beat boxing for many of my students — when it was the other way around for me growing up.

Your branding presence has always been savvy, distinctive in the marketplace, and on point. How did you develop your marketing instincts early on?

In 2014, I started to see that it was becoming somewhat difficult to sell a CD to people. It seemed as though they wanted more — and that music was being viewed as disposable. I was told by a few people that music should be free and that rare and creative merchandise was more valuable. This prompted me to look at making music that had a theme to it. I figured I could then present well-designed, thoughtfully conceived images that created a brand that people could relate to — leading to an increase in how much music I was able to sell. My notion was correct. I connected with an incredible graphic artist named Pat Jensen in 2015, and we had a mutual respect for each other’s work from years before. He’s a master at cartoon-ish designing, and Carnage The Executioner is a character that he was able to bring into somewhat of a comic book world. So I became obsessed with seeing how many cool things I could put my new brands on. Once I set out to put my brand on things I had never seen from any other musician, I knew there was no turning back. This opened up a great lane for me, and now people mention me as the artist with the best hustle and merch game — which feels great to hear. I often ask my followers on social media if they’d purchase particular items I’m considering making available, as a means of testing the waters. Good responses lead to the availability of those items. Asking the people what they want is an important component to my marketing.

You once told me your idea of developing a cover act where you’d rap the hits from the and 90s in the suburbs. I thought that was a huge idea. Are you still mulling that over?  

Man … I’ll be honest with you: I tried that cover act out with the group of guys who originated the idea. We performed one show at a festival. It was the only event we played. It was an absolute disaster. Embarrassing beyond words. I’ll just leave it at that. It is something I’d try doing again, but only with the right artists. Maybe a live band would work better than what I had before. But it is in no way an easy project to execute correctly. I’m glad you weren’t there to see that first and only show, though.

How are you managing during the pandemic? Do you miss performing? 

I think I’ve hit a decent stride during these crazy times. I’ve done well with occasional live streaming, written quite a bit of new music and collaborated with a bunch of artists. My guest features (artists paying me to make beats for them and write songs with them) have gone up exponentially. I’ve even started building my own studio, so I now have the capability of recording my own songs in my own space. I don’t think I’d be this far into self-sufficient music production had it not been for Covid. Live performance is my favorite part of being a musician, so I do miss the stage. I’m also a touring machine! So it has been a bit weird being home for so long. But I’ve adapted well to the change. Once we can travel again and play in front of people, I’m gonna be ready to rock. Zoom has allowed me to build great relationships with different artists and organizations. I have done some live shows with social distance requirements that have gone very well. I’ve also been teaching a lot more online. So these times have not been slow for me. They have just changed the ways in which I create and do business. The learning experience has been a good one overall. 

You’ve spoken about the abuse you faced while growing up. Have you been able to transfer that pain into your art in?

I’ve been adding my experiences with abuse and a tumultuous upbringing to my music a bit since 2010. I took a turn back to bravado in 2014-16 when I felt I was being overlooked. It was a growing point for me that I was more aware of once I went plant-based in 2017. I noticed the void I needed to fill, so my upcoming material is going to highlight even more of my background. I have an abundance of stories and points of view — old and new — to present to listeners. This year has brought about a huge need for me to get into politics and world history, so I feel refueled and energized to explore even newer territory than I’ve traveled in my past music. I’m excited to release new music in 2021. I’m hoping people will notice a sharp growth in my writing.

I loved your collaborations with Eyedea. Did you two have instant music chemistry?

Yes, Eyedea and I had an instant chemistry — no doubt. He and I are both into stylistic, high-speed rapping, crazy drums in our beats and we’re well-studied in traditional hip-hop from the 80s and 90s. Not only that: we had a mutual respect for each other’s skills well before we met. He knew of me and I knew of him. So when we connected in-person, our collaboration basically hit the ground running. We’ve never had fights or arguments. We push each other to be better, and are never afraid to bounce ideas off one another. If these sentences read oddly to you, it’s because I am still influenced by what he and I share. I’m extremely lucky to have been such good friends with a creative, untamed force who is both kind and challenging. I’m sure he’s proud of what I’ve been doing with my art.

What’s next for you?

I plan to keep on promoting my most recent release, “Ravenous.” It seems to be hitting home with my supporters, and has maintained a steady stream of attention since its release date. Being it’s my best material to date, I will continue dedicating efforts to marketing Ravenous to people.  I am in the process of finishing up a project called AntiFaux — which focuses direct and in-your-face energy on anti-fascism. This project is a partnership with my brother-in-brutal-rhyme Johnny Pain from Omaha. I still have the super-group Saltee (guitar: Mike Michel; cello: Jacqueline Utan: beat box: myself) that I plan to do more live streaming with. It’s a project that could definitely use some more promotion.  I’m even working on a possible podcast which features vegan cooking, interviews with local businesses and live performances. This would take off in either February or April 2021. I’m scheduled to play the Lean On Me International Music Festival in Isla Mujeres, MX in March, but I’ll be in Isla for a month and a half! It’ll be a mixture of vacation and work which I’m excited about! And last but not least, a new Carnage The Executioner album will likely be released in October 2021. I’m hoping to drop this with a tour — provided Covid restrictions are lifted.  Whatever happens — Covid or no Covid — I don’t have a shortage of projects or ideas to present. I’m hoping people don’t get sick of me, because I’m not going away anytime soon.