Interview: Sintax.The.Terrific

BigSto: Sintax the Terrific I must say it’s an amazing name but where in the world did you come up with that?

Sintax.The.Terrific: It’s Aramaic for “fast runner.”  More importantly, it should always be written:  sintax.the.terrific.  Otherwise, I take great offense.  Like showing the sole of your shoe in Qatar (pronounced “Cutter”).  To your question, as I recall, adding “the terrific” was sort of a throwback.  Like, D-Nice.  Except I was way, way nicer, terrific even.

BS: Now if I have my history correct, The Pride was the first group that you were a part of, how did you hook with Manchild and Recon?

ST: manCHILD and I were roommates in college.  Thus, the very ironically titled, “We Used to Live Together In an Apartment” song on Simple Moves.  We met at a show, hit it off, and began to develop music together.  Easily the grossest two years of my life.  We would clipper our hair and leave it in the bathroom for weeks.  We left a halloween pumpkin for so long that it literally ate through our deck.  We lived above a guy that owned a pig and claimed to have invented the “fourth best CD player in the world.”  Not the second or the third.  The fourth.

manCHILD met Recon online.  HipHopZone maybe.  I don’t really remember the names of those early spots.  He was in Atlanta at Georgia Tech.  We wound up spending a ton of time down at the studio on campus, “Under the Couch,” I think.  Really good memories.

BS: How come we never saw a release from The Pride before “On Def Ears”?

ST: Actually, there were two important pieces before “On Def Ears.”  We did a cassette tape EP, entitled “Common Knowledge.”  It is a literal derivative but pretty good.  Except for a couple songs by Recon, it was produced largely by Jendor the Praying Mantis.  We also did a vinyl single, “Something IV Nothing,” which included a B-Side with Sev Statik.  My memory is fuzzy on all of this.  That single might have come out after On Def Ears.

BS:You’re one of the founders of the super duper group DeepSpace5 explain how everybody came together and how you’re able to get so many people into one group and not rip each other’s head off!

ST: Well, I’ve actually ripped Sev’s head off twice.  Literally, ripped it off.  That’s why he wears a ton of turtle and mock necks.  To hide the scarring.  The original 6 (not 5) were me, manCHILD, Recon, Severus, Listener, and illtripone.  It was all internet building back then.  We would send  each other our tape demos.  It was like Christmas to get an envelope from Chunkster the Listener.  We met up at various Cru-ventions back in the day to make music and build as a family.  Dust joined, of course, by way of Mars Ill (after we all met at an Orlando Cru-vention).  Playdough, Fred, and Rabbi were invited not too long after.  Siv was with us during the recording of TNWCID but just wasn’t official.  And Manny came on around the same time.

It’s a crazy tight rope of personalities and styles.  And, it’s been by the grace of God that we’ve all remained cool.  I mean there have been definite moments of tension but for the better part we’ve all been mature about it and worked through difficult times.  Each of us has had serious conversations with one another about a problem or concern.  I actually think deepspace5 has modeled some of the best and Godliest conflict resolution of any group I’ve ever been a part of.  A lot of real accountability in the process.  I’m tearing up to recounting it.  Ultimately, I think the distance between us has been a blessing and curse.  It has limited our ability to grow the brand but it has probably kept us tight as crew.  Distance makes the heart grow fonder . . .

BS: What happens when all of you step into studio, what determines who does what song and what not?

ST: The process is actually pretty cool.  We throw dragon bones to conjure titles and concepts.  Before getting together, all the beatmakers submit an enormous bank of beats, anonymously.  We vote on our favorites and reduce the bank to 20-25 beats.  At the same time, everyone is floating topics and titles, see supra Dragon Bones.  Preliminarily, people call spots on various songs.  Once we get together, we white board the whole thing.  Attach topics to beats.  People start committing to different songs.  We sort of police the composition of developing tracks.  All of this remains flexible as people begin writing and the songs start taking some form.  We scrap songs or add emcees or change beats.  For instance, we had a pretty good road map on The Future, midway through recording, and Rabbi showed us the beat for Black Magic.  We immediately scripted it and made it happen.  So, the process is some part premeditation and some part spontaneity, which has really worked for us through the years.  It’s not perfect and sometimes it creates some tension.  But, we’ve honed it over time and it worked probably as well as it ever has for the recording of The Future.

BS: Let’s talk solo stuff, “Simple Moves” in my eyes is a classic, what was the inspiration behind the album?

ST: Well, the principle idea of the album is that it was my first effort and I wanted to stay within myself.  TNWCID had just dropped to some success.  On a national scale, people sort of had my name in their mind for the first time as a writer.  I felt like I wanted listeners to approach the album for what it was, a first step.  A simple move.  I love the bboy phrase, “power move.”  I aspire to the windmill.  But, we all start with something we can handle.  The irony is, Simple Moves, wound up being this like 20 track monster, which is totally inappropriate for a first time effort.  But, it was raw and awkward in spots and I think felt really genuine to people.  It was probably one of the last records that you could get a pass as an indie artist on sonic quality.  After that, everyone sort of knew what could be done out of a home studio.  But, at the time, the dirtiness of Simple Moves was still pretty appealing to heads.

BS: We get another DeepSpace5 release in 2005 and then you drop Curb Appeal what was the inspiration behind that album?

ST: I’m not sure the album had particular inspiration.  I think in my mind I was trying to make a more polished album.  Sort of another step. I’m not sure that happened.  But, I liked the idea of me wanting to appeal to the heads on the curb but at the same time understanding that we make our appeal to the world from it.  Like an old school prophet yelling at passersby.

BS: Now after that DeepSpace5 release an EP and Beat Rabbi did his thing with “DeepSpace5oul” and then the 5Print mixtape, you did some guest verses but other than that you dropped off the face of the planet! What happened and where’d you go?!

ST: Hahaha.  Perspective is so weird.  I felt pretty busy actually.  I mean really there were three deepspace records between Curb Appeal and PWTE, plus the Qoheleth record.  It just takes me a long time.  PWTE was a slow process.  It took a long time to write and conceptualize and record.  But, then it took a long time to mix and master and bring to market.  It’s a constant juggle of my family and work and music.  I probably have played out more over the last 5 years than the 5 before it combined.  So for me, even though I hadn’t had a solo in a while, it was actually one of my most productive times musically.

BS: Now here we are in 2011 and if all goes well we’ll have two LP releases from you! We got to hear you with Caramel Skillington with Legend of the Fall how did the two of you hook up?

ST: I don’t think CS is going to happen this year.  Even if the record is complete, the work on the back end just takes too long.  But, we have a lot of surprises with that one.  And, I think it will be my most mature and enjoyable record.  We’ll see.   Rheomatic and I met at GMA a number of years ago.  Hit it off.  I knew of him from waaay back in the day with Deadbeats/Unction.  In fact, it’s just as likely that they would have ended up in ds5.  Anyway, we had the idea to sort of do this silly side project.  But, then we realized we were too old and too busy to do something on the side.  So now we’re aiming to blow.

BS: Now are we going to get the album this year and what can we expect from the two of you on this album?

ST: Nope.  And, something brilliant.  My voice EQs perfectly with his beats.  Don’t know why.  I really think it will be my most complete work.  And, I always hesitate to say something like that.

BS: Ok, let’s talk about you and Kurfu, Kurfu is the genius behind one of my favorite songs from you “The Way We Walk” how did you guys decide to get together for a full album?

ST: Kurfu and I met many, many years ago in Charleston.  Did that song with mouf (of SI) and a ton of shows together.  We met at an Acrobatik show right when I first moved to town.  He was sort of running things and I needed a dj.  Had a ton of fun.  He’s a great guy.  Anyway, after I left, he just sent me a batch of beats.  It was a natural thing for us to do.  The vibe and cohesion of what he did musically fit perfectly my vision to do a Watership Down themed record.

BS: Now the album is inspired by Watership Down, I personally have never read the book so fill me on what the book is about and how it inspired this project.

ST: The book is about some thug-a$$ rabbits.  This one rabbit gets a premonition that something horrible is going to happen to their warren.  He and another rabbit try and warn the warren but it goes unheeded.  So the two of them, and a few more, flee on their own.  The remainder of the story is about their adventures in traveling to their new and eventual home, Watership Down.  Along the way and after they settle there, the rabbits encounter various enemies, including other and more sinister warrens of rabbits.  Tons of fighting.  Tons of death.

So in the late seventies an animated and cinematic depiction of the book was done,  somehow intended for kids.  But, it was done like all “kids” movies from that era, like The Last Unicorn and the Hobbit etc. — mad creepy.  Like psychedelic, night terrors creepy.  And all of us who saw it at that impressionable age have been afflicted with both an affection for, and a nightmarish fear of, the story ever since.  Youtube the movie or the song Bright Eyes and read all the pitiable commenters from my generation who can’t escape the love/horror of the movie.  They’re like crying and screaming at the same time.   When I was older, I read the book, which just made my attachment more severe.  Like Stockholm Syndrome.  It’s not allegorical but it has all these great human insights sprinkled throughout the story.  Love it.  Wait.  Hate it.  Nope – LOVE it.

BS: What do expect listeners to take away from this release?

ST: I expect them to hear about one man’s struggle with doubt and fear.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been freaked out by unexpected doubts and adult fears.  This album is about learning to wrestle with those.  I think that’s a relatable and universal, albeit depressing, set of ideas that hopefully many will connect with.  I think I would want listeners to go one step farther and be able to find in our faith some equilibrium in the confusion and doubt and fear we all inevitably experience.

The album is themed on the book.  But, it is accessible whether or not you know anything about Watership Down.  The book or movie will expand a listener’s appreciation but it is FAR from necessary.  I just used themes from the book, which are themselves universal and elsewhere treated in art and literature, as a muse.

BS: When Sintax isn’t ripping apart beats what does he do in his spare time?

ST: Listen to Owl City, ESPN podcasts, and  Throw BP to my kids.  Eat a ton of Raisin Bran and blueberries.  Go to church.  Write legal stuff.  Record news raps.  Sculpt clay rabbits.  Sing praise songs.  Read Richard Dawkins and Francis Schaeffer and David Foster Wallace and Richard Foster and Brian Greene and the Bible.  Write about reasonableness.  Wash a lot of dishes and feed the cat.  Make my kids’ lunch and drive them to school.  Listen to Shad and Mr. J and Avett Brothers and Derek Webb and Invincible.  Wear Nike high tops and flat bill New Era and Jos. A. Banks and Furman gear and a lot of basketball shorts.

BS: After CS and PWTE drops what’s next for the DeepSpace5 emcee.

ST: I’m trying to make the world’s source for news song-blogging.  It feels like the culmination of my life’s artistic and spiritual and legal work.  I’m committed to capturing our times in song.  I have two other projects in their infant stages, in addition to the CS record.  Could be years though!

BS: What is Sintax bumping in his car right now?

ST: Owl City.  That is all.

BS: A question that has been on fans minds since we heard the freestyle on the first DS5 album…..what is the beef between you and MC Fong!

ST: I am a Korean bigot.

BS: Anything else you want to say to your fans?

ST: Thank you for being willing to try and give what I do a chance.  I appreciate the devotion of so many folks to dig into my music.  I’m sure I would be easy to dismiss.  But, I feel like heads have always tried to listen and take my words in the way I’ve intended them.  It’s always blown me away.  I don’t have a world of fans.  But, the ones I do, they are do or die.  And, I’m so grateful.

Go Buy and Download Sintax.The.Terrific’s and DJ Kurfu’s new album “Prince With A Thousand Enemies” out now on Illect Recordings

~ by Michael Stover on July 19, 2011.

One Response to “Interview: Sintax.The.Terrific”

  1. […] Fong the Unbelievable on Aug.10, 2011, under Props Check out an interview with sintax.the.terrific here. P.S. MC […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: