After a chance meeting in Austin during South By South West, Thrillcall had the opportunity to sit down and pick the brain of enigmatic poet Sage Francis. After getting some recognition as a battle MC, winning Scribble Jam in 2000, Francis began releasing albums under his own label, Strange Famous Records. From there he became the first rapper to be signed to Epitaph records, a label widely known for their conglomerate of seminal punk bands. With a relentless touring schedule, running his label, and the 3 year painstaking process of creating his new album Li(f)e, there seems to be an unstoppable force within the man known as Sage Francis. Here’s what he had to say…
THRILLCALL: It seems that your earlier releases were more bent on social commentary, addressing what you saw in the world around you. Lately, especially with Li(f)e, you get very introspective. What has happened in your life throughout the last several years that triggered this change in your writing?
SAGE FRANCIS: Social commentary has always been a part of my writing, even when I was a kid, but what I’m mainly known for is my introspective material which dates back before my Personal Journals album was even released. However, since Personal Journals it is true that I focused mainly social commentary. With the LI(F)E album I talked about my personal situations and tried applying them to the world picture. Nothing in particular changed my writing. It just felt like it was time to address a lot of the things I speak about on that album.
THRILLCALL: There always seems to be a recurring theme of inner struggle, battle of opposites, that you play with in your imagery. What is it that fascinates you about pitting one extreme against another in your lyrical content?
SAGE FRANCIS: I think that’s a good description of my writing style. I like extremes. I view both sides of any particular matter and try to find a middle ground. But if it doesn’t feel right for me to promote the middle ground then I just offer the extremes and let listener decide which way they want to lean.
THRILLCALL: Mental illness is another issue you seem to draw from. What are your personal experiences with that?
SAGE FRANICS: Just being human I suppose. Mental illness is part of all our lives. It’s a shared sickness. Some cover it up well, others can’t.
THRILLCALL: You also seem to play with themes of spirituality, what’s your opinion on the state of organized religion in America today?
SAGE FRANCIS: I feel the same way about organized religion as I do about organized crime. Just when you think you’re out they pull you back in.
THRILLCALL: In several 2010 interviews you’ve stated that Li(f)e may be your last record. Given more time to reflect on this, do you feel this to be more or less true?
SAGE FRANCIS: Although I don’t remember that statement or its context, LI(F)E was my last album on Epitaph Records. But I don’t know how I could ever stop making songs. However, I *did* stop writing and recording for a full year once LI(F)E was finished. Which is very strange because I’ve been writing and recording songs consistently since childhood. In the past few months I’ve gotten back in the saddle and I’ve recorded songs for other peoples albums which I think is sufficiently warming me up for my next solo project.
THRILLCALL: It was great getting to meet you at SXSW in Austin. What was your experience there like? Did you feel encouraged by all the artists and bands who came to Austin to spread their name doing what they love?
SAGE FRANCIS: That was my third or fourth time at SXSW. I have no idea why I spend so much money in order to play a free show in one of my strongest territories. That’s just bizarre. That said, it was one of my favorite shows ever in Austin so I’m glad I did it. The crowd was rowdy and singing along to all of the songs. Lots of energy and love despite it being such a late show. I can’t say I felt encouraged by other artists or bands but it sure was nice bumping into some of them. SXSW is like music band summer camp.
THRILLCALL: You’ve spoken about the possibility of moving toward other creative outlets in the near future. Do you have any particular idea on what these outlets may be?
SAGE FRANCIS: Outside of recording, I’m currently working on a book which will be a compilation of writings from various musicians. I’m also dedicating some time to www.knowmore.org and I hope to start working on beats soon. A DVD has perpetually in the works since my “Life is Easy” release. Other than that, I’m just preparing myself for album releases on Strange Famous Records.
THRILLCALL: If you could be granted one wish, right here and now, what would you wish for?
SAGE FRANCIS: Well, that’s easy. I would wish for an unlimited amount of wishes. Thank you for not putting a restriction on what I can wish for. People always try to screw me out of an unlimited amount of wishes.
Be sure to check out Sage Francis and B. Dolan’s social awareness website, www.knowmore.org, and pick up Sage’s latest album, Li(f)e, out now on ANTI-/Epitaph.
Sage Francis-“The Best of Times”