Even though major label musicians have become more prominent in recent years at the South By Southwest music festival, it remains a showcase for independent artists.
Some of the most impressive recording artists, who played at the recent event in Austin, Texas, were indie artists from Asia and Europe. And then there was independent kingpin Tech N9ne, who performed at several clubs.
Tech N9ne, aka Aaron Yates, brought plenty of energy when he hit the stage. The veteran Kansas City, Mo., rapper, who has sold more than 2 million albums, was bawdy, funny and intense in Austin.
Yates, 42, was rendering tracks from his latest “collabos” album, “Strangeulation.” “It’s like strangulation or strange relation,” Yates cracked after his performance at the Main. “Take your pick.”
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“Strangeulation” is made up of hedonistic, confrontational and at times menacing cuts. Album No. 14 for Yates is his fifth collaborative effort with his Strange Music posse.
The songs are vivid and intense and feel realistic. “That’s because I write about my life,” Yates said. “I write about what I experience. I’ve had a really interesting life. It’s only getting more interesting.”
Some of the most fascinating tunes Yates has penned have come courtesy of the collaborative process. “I’ve been fortunate since I’ve worked with a lot of recording artists that I really admire,” Yates said. “Working with people you adore can’t help but inspire you. I can’t tell you how cool it was to work with Serj Tankian. I love his band. I’ve been a fan of System of a Down for quite a while.”
Yates, who will perform Wednesday at the Cotillion, loves to take sonic chances. “I need to have that autonomy,” Yates said. “I don’t want anybody looking over my shoulder. That ruins it. It’s crazy to have people who don’t know anything about music tell you what to write. It’s crazy. So I never let anyone interfere with me creatively. I’ve been on some of the big machines, and it just didn’t work for me. What’s great about doing it on your own is that nobody can say a thing to you.”
Yates believes there is hope for the music industry since young recording artists can make waves without assistance from the corporate world.
“Technology has made it easier for those just starting out since they can get their music out via the Internet,” Yates said. “You can put a video out on YouTube and millions can check it out, and boom, you’re known. Nobody has to be a slave anymore. You can do it yourself.”