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Q&A with B. Dolan

written by: on April 12, 2011

B. Dolan is not your average rapper. He’s not even your average rapper/slam poet. His music takes on a much more cerebral approach thanks to his expansive knowledge of social, political and philosophical topics. The average B. Dolan song gives the listener a lot to think about and also encourages them to be informed. As an activist, he is the co-founder of Knowmore.org, a website dedicated to providing consumers with information about corporations regarding social responsibility. He’s also a really nice guy. So nice, he let Pop ‘stache interview him.

Pop ‘stache: Give us some insight into your writing process.

B. Dolan: Sometimes it feels like my writing process has been the one constant in life, and my only way to be truly alone with myself. It certainly requires 100 percent of my thought and sensitivity when I’m doing it right, and it’s something I’ve been refining for almost 20 years.  The result is something that’s specific to me and can’t be imitated or faked, which I think is my value as an artist in a culture that’s flooded with them. Everything I do serves that process, really.

P’s: Who are the greatest influences on your work?

BD: I could tell you the first influences but I don’t think I could tell you the greatest, because I’m constantly influenced …  If the purpose of that question is for me to rattle off a list of names I think are good to know about so people can Google them, then here’s a random sampling of people that inspired me over the years:

Klaus Kinski, Big Daddy Kane, Pharoahe Monch, Philip K. Dick, Stanley Kubrick, Alexander McQueen, Eugene Ionesco, David Bowie, Chuck D, De La Soul, Samuel Beckett, Bob Dylan, John Bonham, Kool Keith, Afrika Bambaataa, Sun Ra, Howard Zinn, Andy Kaufman ….

I’m also constantly inspired by the peers I’ve tried to surround myself with …. Vockah Redu, Madge of Honor, Buddy Peace, Buck 65, Sage Francis … all of these folks have inspired me lately and for as long as I’ve known them.

P’s: What are your favorite cities to visit/perform in?

BD: That changes over time, because my experience of a city is usually based on a schedule, and sometimes that schedule allows me to get to know a place better on the second or third go-around.

I really dig Amsterdam, and not just for the obvious reasons. Outside the tourist district is a really beautiful city that I’ve had a lot of time to wander around and get lost in. I also had a great time in London the last time I was there … coincidentally I’ve also played really massive great shows in both of those cities. Belfast also stands out as one of my favorite crowds in recent memory.

Stateside, Providence is always home. My last show there was easily the favorite of my career. I’m also a big fan of the non-obvious cities like Boise, Idaho. I find that nine times out of 10 you’re more guaranteed to find a revved up crowd in places that don’t get a million shows a year … kids are uninhibited and show up ready to wile out with you. In the hip capitals like NYC and SF you sometimes have to fight through a wall of Cool to get to that same energy level.

P’s: What is something that really irritates you?

BD: Man. Haha. I’m easily irritated, which is a quality I sometimes exploit in my art. Off top: Chris Brown, nosy neighbors, loud chewing, patriotism.

Justin Bieber doesn’t bother me though, which surprises a lot of people. I don’t know why, but I’m on that kid’s side. Maybe it’s because he looks like a girl, and that girl could get it. Maybe it’s because he plays the drums and I played the drums when I was his age. But I’m not mad. Get yours, Lil’ Jus.

P’s: Recently you did a string of shows on the east coast called The Church of Love and Ruin. Can you tell us a bit about it and where the idea came from?

BD: That was a massive tour which was years in the making. All told it involved 30 world class performers, four tour vans, five months of preparation, and four shows that no one will ever forget.

The bill included Ms. Nicholle Pride (a drag queen from Boston), Vockah Redu & the Cru (a sissy bounce act from New Orleans), The What Cheer? Brigade (a 16 piece marching band), Madge of Honor (a burlesque performer), Jamie & Sissy Dewolfe (a kind of vaudevillain host and co-host leading a number of shocking crowd control experiments in between acts) and myself headlining.

Needless to say, it was a constant sensory overload, and the crowds all lost their minds. A huge success by almost any standard.

The idea came as kind of the culmination of all my years as a performer … I wanted to start 2011 off with something defiant and insanely ambitious after a brutal 2010.

P’s: Would you consider doing more shows like this?

BD: I’m beyond consideration and in the planning stages of more shows like this already. Nothing we can announce yet, but we will be bringing the Church to new regions in the coming year.


P’s: What was the inspiration behind “Joan of Arcadia” (namely, the Jesus dildo metaphor)?

BD: The direct inspiration was the movie “Jesus Camp.”  The woman I’m describing in the first half of that song is the pastor in that movie.

P’s: Your lyrics are often loaded with controversial issues or heavy philosophical topics, have you considered just rapping about how awesome you are and how good you are at sex?

BD: My music is loaded with those things because I am terrible at sex. I’m a good writer, but not good enough to spin my sex game into something boast-worthy. Try as I may, my dick simply will not reach my asshole. I just can’t figure a way around it and just end up drunk and sore.

P’s: Why do you wear a pair of sunglasses with one lens popped out?

BD: In tribute to ODB, and also because it’s a smart thing to do onstage. Sometimes you want to engage a crowd with your eyes, and sometimes you want to distance yourself from them with glasses. The one lens joints allow you to do both at once depending on where you’re standing and how you move around.

P’s: Tell us a bit about knowmore.org

BD: Knowmore.org is a website I started with Sage Francis, which allows consumers to educate themselves on the products they support. The genesis of the idea involved people being able to enter the name of any brand product or company, and be taken to a page that gave a rating for that company on issues like Worker’s Rights, Human Rights, Political Influence, etc.

We’ve been reporting on corporations since before their atrocities were daily, earth-shattering news in the world of mass media, and are currently in an overhaul phase with the site. We’re taking a fresh look at how to deliver our content to people from here on out … things like Smartphone apps and a re-approach to the whole design of the site. Volunteers and donors are needed and welcome. Beedolan@gmail.com is the place to reach me if you’re interested in the project.

P’s: What is the ultimate goal of your art?

BD: I’m just killing time like everyone else. I’ve realized that more and more lately. But I’m creating interesting artifacts in the meantime, trying to capture as much of what’s important in life as I can lay hold of.

P’s: Are you currently working on anything (music or other projects)?

BD: As always, I’m working on a hundred things simultaneously. Announcements are coming, and lots of new music will be released before the year is out.

Check out the video for “Earthmovers”