Oct 8, 2015

You can now read Part 2 of our exclusive interview with BrockHampton creative Dom McLennon

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by Duke

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Dom McLennon (photo by Franklin Mendez)

Yesterday we shared Part 1 of our exclusive interview with Dom McLennon, where we talked about him finding his voice, his puppy’s playlist and more. Make sure you begin there and get caught up before reading on in Part 2, where we’re going to discuss more current events. Huge shoutout to Dom for the time, we spoke over the course of a few days and he really opened up. That’s why I’m proud to bring you this interview in full, unedited (save for minor grammar and spelling mistakes and removing LOLs) because that’s the way it should be. Thanks for reading, and share it with someone who appreciates dope shit.

[continued from Part 1, we picked up the conversation the next day]

Duke London: Wassup G?

Dom McLennon: Yo Yo

Duke: What’s a Monday morning like for you?

Dom: Well my girl wakes up every morning around 7 for work so most weekdays are early for me. The latest I’ll get up is between 9-11. It really all depends on my puppy (laughs), but I like to keep it simple man. I enjoy the simple things in life. I wake up, play with him for a little bit until he’s ready for his nap in the middle of the day. I’ll work on music or different creative projects and then depending on the direction of the day, head over to the BH house and work on music. If I’m not there working on music, I’m probably working on Jupiter Thief. If it’s not one of those things, I’m at home working.

Duke: Tell the people about Jupiter Thief in case they’re not up.

Dom: JT is something that started when I moved out to San Marcos. Before moving actually, I was just scrolling through Soundcloud looking at artists from Austin and found this guy named SHOGVN. I really fucked with his stuff so I shot him a message saying we should link up when I move to TX, and he was like, ‘word I’m right outside of Austin in San Marcos.’ It was just coincidence that we were going to live in the same town, so like a week or two after I get settled, we linked up. Me, him, another homie of mine Nat Plastic, plus Soifer and Yeoman Palace. We all got together at Nat’s crib and just started bouncing ideas back and forth. Jupiter Thief is kind of a byproduct of that, it happened super organically, just through the process of discovering talent in this area. It’s always some dope shit going on everywhere in the world, you just have to be savvy enough to look in the right places.

Duke: How often do you get lost in Soundcloud rabbit holes?

Dom: I’m always finding cats who will have less than 200 followers and it’s the best music I’ve heard in my life (laughs).

Duke: Evolution. Humans just get better at things over time, no matter what it is. People want to ignore the fact that kids are making music that’s just as complex and intricate as whole symphonies were making a couple hundred years ago.

Dom: I‘d agree. I’d take it further and say that through this age of information, the common idea that a big audience equates to a talented individual rings nowhere near as true anymore. A lot of people still judge and dictate what they listen to or digest based off what everybody else is listening to or digesting. You can go down the rabbit hole and find the people who are creating without an audience, but you may not have the same hot takes as everybody listening to the Drake & Future tape. Nobody wants to be the person who didn’t listen to it.

Duke: It’s about finding that balance though, isn’t it?

Dom: True, everything in life is about balance.

Duke: Both the unknown artist and Drake/Future have redeeming qualities, they’re just different.

Dom: True as fuck.

Duke: That’s kind of what I’m curious about with you. What’s your endgame, if you even know yet? Like, what’s your idea of “success” looking down the road with music?

Dom: In a perfect world I’d be doing shit like Hans Zimmer or Brian Eno in 20 years for the next generation. I was actually talking to my friends about this the other day, like the way I see it. Music and culture always goes hand in hand. If there’s a moment in pop culture that really sticks out to you, there’s usually a song behind it. For example, the first time I saw Toy Story was the first time I heard Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got A Friend In Me”. I had no fucking clue who Randy Newman was but any time I see anything Toy Story-related, that song plays in my head. I feel like everybody has their own moment in pop culture like that, where it’s just the context of the moment mixing with how easily impressionable we are as youths. It creates this unique experience that only resonates with us as individuals, even if many people can feel a certain way from it. I don’t care if I’m at the forefront or behind the scenes, I just want to be there influencing shit. I want to subtly raise the taste level of our generation until eventually people want more, but don’t understand why.

Duke: [After seeing him post something about PlayStation online] You would be a Playstation guy.

Dom: PS3 is still great, PS4 is fire too. Sony always makes great systems.

Duke: Yeah I’m OG Playstation, like sacrificed having multiplayer on the 007 games for a long time to have Playstation.

Dom: The ultimate sacrifice.

Duke: Top 3 PS2 games, go.

Dom: The Bouncer, Final Fantasy 10 and Tony Hawk’s Underground. Honorable mention would be SSX 3.

Duke: Damn I don’t know about Bouncer, have to check it out.

Dom: OMG it’s one of the first Square Enix PS2 games, my brother put me on. One of those games that deserves to be remastered but probably never will be.

Duke: Ok, I have homework then. Anyways… I don’t have a good segue back to music.

Dom: (laughs) We can just change the subject, it’s cool.

Duke: Tell me about AliveSinceForever.

Dom: Well ASF really doesn’t exist anymore, but that was something Kevin (Abstract) started that I kind of fell into due to my relationship with Romil. He wanted me in the group and after we made music together the chemistry was there, that creative energy. It’s different when you don’t have to be a leader and you can just focus on being the best of your abilities at what you do.

Duke: At what point did that turn into BrockHampton, or were they not connected?

Dom: They are and they aren’t at the same time. A lot of people who were in ASF are in BH now and there’s some people who weren’t in ASF that are in BH. I think really what it came down to was the legacy of ASF has a lot of loose ends, we were young and still figuring out what we were doing. When we figured it out, we made BrockHampton and capitalized on it.

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Duke: So what was the mission of BH? What did you guys set out to do?

Dom: The way we all see BH is different, but I think that’s the beauty in it. It’s a series of visionaries coming together for a common goal to impact pop culture in a profound and meaningful way. We want to usher what pop culture is today into the next generation so that when they look at where it came from and where it went they see BrockHampton as the turning point. There’s other groups of musicians doing cool things but I don’t think that anybody is doing what we do on the same level we do it on. That’s the reason we call ourselves a boy band. We can’t be pigeonholed.

DREAMS DIE YOUNG: DOM MCLENNON from BROCKHAMPTON on Vimeo.

Duke: Yeah BH is hard to explain stylistically, but I think you guys like it like that. With so many different things to offer, the range is infinite, very versatile.

Dom: Like, I have respect for Odd Future, Team Sesh, etc. for what they’re doing for rap culture, but it’s hard to transcend from that once you’ve established yourself in it. People love to put you in a box especially in the rap world, that’s why it’s so hard for artists to cross over into different creative fields because nobody respects rappers. We call ourselves an All-American boy band at this point because we want to solidify ourselves in culture the same way N*SYNC and all those other groups did. We are the standard for what’s next. In like 10 years I hope I can walk into a random venue in a random town on a random open mic night and see kids doing what we’re doing today on those stages. It’s possible, and the more we raise the taste level of the people who are influenced and inspired by us, the higher potential there is for that to happen.

Duke: Are the BH members from all over? Has it been tough to organize post-meeting on the internet?

Dom: Naw, I mean ASF was practice for what we’re doing right now. Most of us live in the same town in Texas now,  and we plan on expanding west together as well.

Duke: Lit.

Dom: Bearface is from Angola or Ireland or something, Jabari is from Grenada. Romil, Rodney and myself were all from the east coast. Kevin, Ameer (Van), Matt (Champion) and Joba are all from Texas. There’s more of us from a lot of different places but I feel like that gives a good example of how we’ve come together. [Dom didn’t disclose how many exact members BH had, probably by design judging by this other interview I came across with BH.]

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Duke: What’s the dynamic of the group? Is everyone kind of doing their own thing creatively, or is there a game plan in place as far as who is doing what and when?

Dom: As of right now, everybody is just creating together. It’s really free at the moment and I’m kind of glad it is, too much structure takes away from the group dynamic. When we do have something we create that we want to put out to the world, we organize it and deliver it the way we think is best.

Duke: So that brings us to “Dirt”. [On 10/6 MTV was to premiere the video for “Dirt” following a new episode of Catfish, but chose to cut the video short after about 30 seconds. Go here to see some of the reactions to the decision.]

Duke: When was that song born?

Dom: We made “Dirt” and “Hero” in the same session pretty much, both songs were made in a 72-hour span. Well, the foundations of those records were laid down in that time at least, we went in and spent more time after we finished the main elements. It was a result of all of us sitting down together for the first time in Texas and creating shit together as a group.

Duke: When are we talking?

Dom: This was probably sometime in the first quarter of this year, January or February.

Duke: So what was the plan for “Dirt” before the contest?

Dom: Can’t really say there was a plan, we knew we wanted to put it out but we didn’t really have an outlet yet. This kind of presented itself at the perfect time.

Duke: Is it a challenge for you to let outside people in creatively?

Dom: Nah I don’t think so, I try to allow anything good in this world the opportunity to inspire me.

Duke: With the VFILES contest, did they give you guys complete control or did they want to help?

Dom: The contest was ran by VFILES with support from Fool’s Gold & MTV, so we had to compromise of course. It was a cool opportunity. Really it was a chance to go back to the northeast and see my family, so that was the most valuable aspect to me. I hadn’t been back home in a few months. When you see the “Dirt” video you’re seeing an idea that was brought to the table by BH and executed by VFILES, just keep that in mind.

Duke: Were you guys not able to do certain things you wanted to?

Dom: Yeah, I mean there will always be limitations when you work with companies like that. I appreciate them trying to bring a vision of ours to life, though; it’s not easy to believe in a bunch of kids with ideas. Like if you look at the most recent example of a kid getting that opportunity, Tyler with Mountain Dew, and how that all ended up panning out.

Duke: Companies want to be a part of counter-culture up to a certain point.

Dom: As long as they can benefit or profit from it. Once it becomes a liability or a possible loss of profit, the shackles come on quick.

Duke: Is it worth it for a young artist to enter into collaborations like that? Obviously you get the increased exposure, which in turn gives you a bigger platform with which to spread your message, but is the compromise too much?

Dom: It’s really dependent on the individuals who are running the collaboration. I’m sure if i work with a guy like Jeremy Scott he’d allow me more freedom than Alexander Wang, you know? Some people have a certain way they go about things and you have to respect it. Sometimes they may reach out to you and other times it may be better for you to just respect their work from a distance instead of being directly involved.

Duke: Sometimes it’s better not seeing how the sausage is made.

Dom: Exactly!

Duke: How was performing at the Austin Fool’s Gold Day Off?

Dom: Honestly man, for me it was a great time. I made the most of the opportunity that was given to me. Our performance wasn’t perfect, but that’s also because of some shit regarding the sound guy. All-in-all though it went well, the crowd that was there rocked with us, and afterwards I kicked back and made friends with security. I got to see Earl from the side of the stage so that was pretty cool.

Actually some wild ass shit happened; I lost my phone while helping these two older ladies out. They were doing merch for Earl’s tour and somehow my phone fell out of my hoodie pocket and into the merch bucket. I’m looking around the venue for like an hour, we turn ‘Find My iPhone’ on through Merlyn (Wood)’s phone, and they actually let me check through the merch again and we found it in the corner of one of the containers. My phone would’ve just been on some random bus somewhere too, because Austin was the last stop for his whole tour. I have a really good memory so it’s not hard for me to find things when I retrace my steps, I’m just glad the people who were doing the merch gave me a chance to double check. They totally could’ve been like, ‘nah we don’t trust you’ and I wouldn’t have blamed them (laughs).

But yeah that happened, then I got to sit down and talk with A-Trak about some cool shit. We talked about Kid Cudi and other music he was listening to. I asked him if he had a set planned for the night and he said he doesn’t do that, he kind of just goes with whatever is happening through the night. When you see the guy live it’s on some completely off the wall shit just because of some of the shit he can throw together in a two hour span on the fly.

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Duke: I went to Brooklyn Day Off last year to do some shit with FG and his set was so ill.

Dom: I’ve been getting into DJing and I don’t know if I could just spin straight off my iTunes library like that (laughs). It’s just dope to get insight on another creative individual’s process like that.

Duke: Going forward, you more excited or nervous?

Dom: I’m excited for whatever is next after this.

Duke: What do you see?

Dom: Not really sure, honestly. Something though, something is there.

Duke: Whatever it is, you’re off to a great start. Momentum is everything. It’s that kinetic energy we talked about.

Dom: Exactly.