This interview appears in ALARM #40. Subscribe here to get your copy!
[Ed. note: ALARM contributing writer Bobby Markos was improperly uncredited in print. We sincerely regret the error.]
“Fuck Your Stuff”
With an ear for diversity and a mind for critical thought, Stefon Alexander — better known as rapper P.O.S — has maintained operations as a multi-instrumentalist by day and rap artist by night. The early-30-something is a man whose DIY/punk upbringing aligns him more with Ian MacKaye than Kanye West, and that’s reflected in his many and assorted rock-band roles, including his current gig as keyboardist/vocalist for Marijuana Deathsquads.
But no matter the project, Alexander continues to reinvent himself with each release. His latest as P.O.S, We Don’t Even Live Here, is a testament to his 360-degree perspective of both music and the world we live in. Here he discusses what has changed in his life as well as the new album’s danceable vibe and anti-capitalist theme.
Is your life different on a personal level since you released Never Better in 2009?
It really is — completely, actually. I think in the time between finishing Never Better, hitting the road to tour, and sitting down to start this one, my views on the way the world works are entirely different. I was pretty mad, and I was looking to get everybody mad with me. And I feel like I spent a lot of my music-making career doing that, trying to point out what’s going on, what’s up with the world.
Since then, I am a lot less about trying to get people to vote or think about politics and [instead] get people to go and make themselves happy. Go make your life work. Everyone is aware that everything sucks; everyone is aware that even the best things are still horrible and bad. With capitalism, everyone is kind of working for the enemy even if they don’t want to, at all times.
Everybody is getting ripped off at all times.
What inspired the change in your new material and production, which are more danceable?
I feel like with every record, I try to make some sort of change. I used to really rely on erratic, punk-rock-sounding beats to distinguish myself. Around the Audition days, that’s what I felt like I had to do, so I could make these excellent aggressive beats and make it sound like hip hop and not rap rock. But I’m not trying to be that forever. I’ve been able to put a little bit of every kind of song that I know how to make on every record. This time I just tried to do it without guitars, distinctly. I feel like I didn’t lose any personality. I feel like if anything, it’s just a little bit sharper and easier to listen to.
What themes do you explore on We Don’t Even Live Here?
The record is about recognizing that the world is a rigged place, and figuring out your own way to spin that into your favor. There are things that you’re supposed to do and things that you aren’t supposed to do. But the world that we live in is not necessarily framed like that if you [look at] big business and capitalism. You’re not supposed to steal from a store, but the goods from the store are produced in a world that is horribly responsible and is stealing the world from others, so you might as well steal from the store.
Everybody is getting ripped off at all times. And even if you’re not getting ripped off, the production that is behind all of our favorite things is violently destructive everywhere. So what I mean when I say “we don’t even live here” is trying as hard as you can to remove yourself from a system that we all can kind of recognize is crumbling at the edges, where the infrastructure hasn’t worked — where the free market is punishing more people than it’s helping. And it’s a matter of, in a way that isn’t cornball, Rage Against the Machine, early-’90s “Fight the Power”…how do we make ourselves happy without having to gobble bath salt all day long and work at a garbage job? It’s like an anarchy dance party!
Does being in a rock band give you a different perspective that most rap artists don’t have?
Yeah, maybe. I think that’s always what I’ve been into: upbeat rhythms. There can be only so many four-on-the-floor loops and rap beats that I can listen to before I’m bored out of my fucking mind, you know? That’s the biggest problem with rap: shit just gets boring, man!