Interview: The Art Of The Revolution

Andrea Swensson talks to artists featured on the compilation community album, The Art Of The Revolution. (MPR)

The Art of the Revolution is a new collaborative album that will release on Feb. 15, 2021. Ahead of this community project's release, The Local Show's Andrea Swensson spoke to some of the collaborators on the project: Taylor Seaberg, Queen Drea, Kashimana Ahua and Nathaniel Nelson.

Interview Transcript

Edited for clarity and length.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Hello, I'm Andrea Swenson, host of the local show. And I'm very excited to be joined by a whole host of people that have been involved in the new Art of the Revolution project, which has been brewing for several months, and finally comes out at the beginning of this year. So we're gonna get into it, we're gonna find out some of the backstory of this. And I thought, you know, just to start with, if we could just go around and have each of you introduce yourselves. And if you want to say what your role was in the project, and then anything else you want to say by means of introduction. Taylor, do you want to start?

TAYLOR SEABERG: Yeah, so my name is Taylor Seaberg. I'm a community organizer, multi instrumentalist, and I'm the director more or less on the Art Of The Revolution album. So at the start of everything happening with the uprising, and with the murder of George Floyd, but after Chauvin, or formerly, we ended up creating this album, I got every all the mixing engineers, all the videographers and all the artists connected to one another and did a lot of did some of the work also with photography and videography. And mixing. Yeah, that's me.

QUEEN DREA: I am Drea, Queen Drea. I'm one of the artists featured on the Art of the Revolution album. And I also was a part of the original or the the grassroots other project, which was the George Floyd memorial concert in Taylor's backyard. I can't say enough how the experience has been just you know, being a part of this project has been very so meaningful and just healing for me. During this whole crazy year that we've had.

KASHIMANA AHUA: My name is Kashimana Ahua, and I am a singer, songwriter, composer, sometimes poet, producer, artist, and I love creating music. And I'm a singer on this project and a writer on this project. And was also part of the original George Floyd memorial concert. And it's just been amazing being a part of this project during this time. And so just happy to add my voice right now.

NATHANIEL NELSON: I'm Nathaniel Nelson, I'm a videographer. And for this project, I was kind of the production, video production lead, or the nerd behind the editing desk. So most of what I did was focusing on the back end of the project. I shot, I think, was it six or seven?

TAYLOR SEABERG: Yes. Yep.

NATHANIEL NELSON: And then I edited eight of them, or so. But most of what I was helping out with was kind of helping with the release schedule and that kind of jazz. And I didn't expect to be a part of a project like this being from the southeast part of the state. But it's been a huge experience for me.

TAYLOR SEABERG: And to preface, I want to say I got connected to Nathaniel because Nadirah from Gully Boys reached out for a Carpet Booth Studios live in-studio sessions that were based out of Rochester through that was sponsored by Midwest Music Fest. And so Nathaniel was the lead videographer doing work for them. And I ended up being like, "Hey, I'm looking for a videographer to do these live and studio sessions for the Art of the Revolution album, would you also be down to do work?" And Nathaniel was like, "I really want to work with artists in the Cities. Can you connect me?" And so I kind of was like, I like to say I like to just be a connector of people, you know, like getting people connected, getting people in the same spaces and rooms to talk to each other like, so I'm grateful that I got connected.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Well, I can't even imagine what the process has been like to wrangle all of these different people creating all this and all these different ways. But why don't we start at the beginning: so it doesn't get more grassroots than starting in Taylor's backyard. I want to hear the story.

TAYLOR SEABERG: So, Oh, it's so interesting to talk about it now. Because, you know, when everybody was in the when it was in the thick of everything, I think I was also reacting a lot. And everybody was, like, at the start of the uprising, which kind of was also like this fast of quarantine, where like for three months, everyone had been inside, been indoors, hadn't had any, you know, huge contact outside of quarantine, like COVID bubbles. When George Floyd was murdered, I lived on 35th in Chicago. So I lived across from Pillsbury House Theater. And Cup Foods was like the convenience store that I used to go to and talk to these Black youth who were working there over the summer. And so when it happened, I was like, This is literally in my backyard. This is really close to me. And then a couple months later, Mario Sanchez is a 17-year-old boy who was also shot on the block on 35th across in Tony's Market. So I've been in a in a very hot block that has had a lot of activity when it comes to people being murdered, people, you know, a lot of police kind of not investigating why like some of these things that happened or dropping cases, just really messed up stuff that's happened for years, years before George Floyd. There's been a lot of things that have happened on this and specifically in what is now George Floyd Square. There's been a lot of people before. And so I knew at the start of everything, there was the North Minneapolis fund. We were going, we were volunteering, me and my roommates, Joshua Koepp, who also did a big chunk of the recording for the, for the musicians on the album. And there was a point where I think a month-and-a-half in, it was like Juneteenth, it was the week of Juneteenth. And he was like, "I really want to do more and figure out more ways we can show up intentionally." And so I told, me and him, I kind of said, "Well, why don't we do what we do best? Let's throw a show."And at the time, because we were already doing mass protests and rallies, and everyone was kind of getting together. We were like, "How do we do this safely and ethically, and adapt to COVID?" So he, literally -- Josh -- got like 20 Peace Corps volunteers that he had worked with, and that he was in this like, group with and they did cook out, they did donation drives, and then, like, Pillsbury House Theater donated stuff, like tables, and people who are boarding up businesses, like who were theater stagecraft people built us a temporary stage. I'm not I'm not supposed to say who we got it from. But we got it from a well-known theater, let's just say that. And so we just saw community coming together in droves. Like, because everybody wanted to help. And then like, immediately, I was like, "I'll be in charge of the artists; like who we're gonna book, who we're gonna get,"and, you know, Kash and I had gone way back; we'd met. Drea and I go back like five years, I think. Like a long time; we played a show at the Aster Cafe, like, so it was also bringing together people who were arts organizers who were also doing political rallies and doing commentary on what was happening in the political environment. And so we put it together in six days. And we had 250 people come, and Gully Boys headlined, and there were people also like buying their shirts that they were having for end white supremacy, and so it was a lot of good community solidarity, all pulling in to make it happen and make a Black healing space in the midst of tragedy.

QUEEN DREA: It was so beautiful. It was such a beautiful -- I mean, when just even from the start of when Taylor contacted me and then the communications leading up to the actual event. And then when you showed up at the event, like Taylor said, just you know, you think, "OK, we're going to this fundraiser event in the backyard," and you're just like, you know, cuz it's just like, let's we need
to hurry up and do something but it was so--

TAYLOR SEABERG: Nate wasn't there at the time, but Rachel Knoll was. Rachel Knoll did six hours of live streaming. She's also -- she also shot, she filmed Kashimana's live in-studio video.

QUEEN DREA: Me too!

KASHIMANA AHUA: Yeah!

TAYLOR SEABERG: And also Drea's. And she filmed Drea's, too.

QUEEN DREA: Yeah. So I mean, it was just, I was just like, "Yes! This is what I'm talking about!" It was just--

TAYLOR SEABERG: Community!

QUEEN DREA: It was just exactly how Taylor said it was, just that kind of, that kind of vibe, that kind of goodness, and, and feeling. And the community responded very, you know, beautifully in support, you know, verbal support on the streaming platforms, but also, financially, because I didn't know this, but they, you know, Taylor was like, "Give us your Venmos"or whatever. And then I got off the stage and I was like, "What??" [laughs] And that was just so beautiful, because it was more, you know, it's not like this thing where, you know, because they people were donating to the actual organizations that we had listed, but also recognizing artists as well. And it was a, just, it was just a freeness of love and support. It was beautiful.

KASHIMANA AHUA: And we're really like felt taken care of, like, you know, as far as you know, what our needs were and everybody being masked and everybody being sanitized, you know, and being outside.

TAYLOR SEABERG: My friend Sheree was going around with like, hand sanitizer.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Hand sanitizer, just making sure, I mean, they had the entries both covered where people you know, you're coming in and getting, you know, a mask and this was before like everybody, like not everybody quite was like, you know, like, it wasn't like full-on, like 100% masking. So, you know, just being ahead of the time and like it's outside we're, you know, encouraging people to spread out and it was just so well done, and the energy, too, have like not like I don't know if you have the same experience but the energy of like, not having a show for months.

TAYLOR SEABERG: Yeah, and people--

KASHIMANA AHUA: And then like being in front of like a real audience and I think them being in front of like, a show, was just like also electrifying, but also the cause and the reason we were all there was for love and to grow and give back in the way that we know best to do.

TAYLOR SEABERG: And there were a lot of pieces because like Maddie Thies who's like the bassist in Mrs. Pinky in the Great Fox, like, handmade a lot of the masks that said, "I can't breathe,"and then like, also, an Ojibwe artist, like, also donated a lot of these free masks that later we gave out to the community after the show and during the show, who, just people who wanted free masks. But the thing about craving live shows, like Mrs. Pinky and Great Fox, their album release show was to be at the Cedar March 22. And it was canceled. And so that was also an opportunity for them to have their album release show kind of that didn't get to happen and get the same energy around these songs while also just like putting on, and supporting and donating to Black arts organizers and these Black organizations.

ANDREA SWENSSON: So did you know as this was all unfolding over that day that you wanted to do something more long term to kind of pivot into this recording project?

TAYLOR SEABERG: No, I did not. I was like, this is a one-off event; we raised $1400, I was like really excited that we could donate that money and give it to the artists. And then a lot of artists were like, "Don't even give to us give it to Black Womens Collective!"and all these different places. And it was really beautiful just to see people be generous and compassionate. But I slept for a week after that show. I was I was like, "I'm never again putting a show together in six days!"That was...

KASHIMANA AHUA: Exhausting.

TAYLOR SEABERG: People were like, "Enjoy your event!" And I was like, "I can't."

KASHIMANA AHUA: No. Taylor was working the whole time.

QUEEN DREA: All the time, all the time.

KASHIMANA AHUA: All the time.

TAYLOR SEABERG: But no, it was Jacques. After the show, Jacques hit me up because Douala Soul Collective. They do records and production. And so he was like, "I really love this event, we need to do more." He was like, "We need to do more events like this, we need to do more healing spaces like this." And so he was like ... I said, "Let's do an album!"Like, let's -- "I'll make it work; we'll put together the pieces." And so largely, it was Jacques who kind of like was like we need to keep, you know, creating momentum and building momentum around this. And so he gave me the idea.

ANDREA SWENSSON: What's so unique to me about this project is that it's not just a compilation that you know, was recorded in a short period of time and released, but it feels so intentional. Like you're building all of these pieces of it, you want it to be studio videos that are produced really well. And you want to involve all of these different engineers and people that are playing all these different roles. Tell me more about, you know, envisioning the project and how you wanted to approach it.

TAYLOR SEABERG: So me and Josh initially knew that we wanted to work with 10 artists. We knew we had we basically went into a Google Calendar, we planned everything out. I hit up, I hit up, Nathaniel and I hit up Rachel and I hit up Ryan Stopera as well, who did Jacques and Dumont's video. And I was like, "What times do you have available? What do you you know, what are you willing to do?"And as me and Nate started getting like more into like the nitty gritty of editing and like the technicalities, I really enjoyed his vision for things. And I really appreciated how he was talking about the technicalities, because he's done so many live in-studio releases on Treedome, and also the Midwest Music Fest and all these things that I also was like getting a lot of knowledge and expertise from like, "How do I do this well? How do I get reach? And then how do we have cross reach?"because I wanted to also make sure that he was getting extra subscribers or like people to tune into his work as well by being a part of this. So everything was kind of like: How do I get people connected to people? And how do I get people plugged into other people's work w ho might not normally see it, but then one video gets posted, and it automatically has six people on it like the recording engineer, the mixing engineer, the production, the person who produced it, the person who did this, like the person who did the video, the you know, so it's it's a lot of like, pooling together. But so yeah, me and Josh initially did the operations where we said, "This is how we're going to plan out the dates for people." Everybody came on time for their sessions, that was the most wild thing to me, everybody was like, on time, I was like, "Wow, like, you're here." And it's six o'clock it's like, you know, and people were the cool thing was like, people like Rebecca, for instance, were like, "I haven't been in the studio before."Or like, "I haven't been in studio in a long time." So it was also like working with some people who are very familiar with the studio process, and some people who weren't, and being able to like kind of coach people and then also just like ask people what they wanted, like, what how would you like this? Like, what are some things and that you would like done or just production notes. And Josh has a really in-depth knowledge of DAWs and digital interfaces and mixing, so him and I were kind of like talking to artists about how sound was going to happen, as well. So yeah, and then it just, and then some of the things just spontaneously evolved as we came upon it. I feel like Drea and Kash, you know, like, I ended up asking them for help. Like, "I need help! I need a steering committee," because I need like, it needs to be more than just me. And I learned how to ask for help in a lot of the logistics of the album. And so I'm extremely grateful that they decided to kind of help take a lot off my plate.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Well, from a songwriting perspective, I'm curious, you know, were you guiding what you wanted people to write about? Or were these I guess I should ask, first of all, were all of these songs written specifically for this project? It's all new, original material?

TAYLOR SEABERG: I think a lot of them I think, yeah, like I would say, I mean, obviously Drea and Kash can speak to their songs. But I know that like the Smokes, specifically like Himes, like he was in he was like in the live in-studio session with his like laptop of lyrics sitting in front of him as he was like playing song being recorded, like, "I just finished these like two days ago." And so it was cool because I ended up like playing some bass on their song and then like jamming with them in my house and we kind of like I said, like, "It would be really cool if like your harmonies hit here, if they did this," and, and I really love the Smokes. Matt and Himes and I, like, we played a show together. And we're both Black punk-rock heads. So we were like, yeah! And then it was cool because like with other people, EJ Easley, who's a hip hop artist, like who goes by Grey Matter. I was like, "Hey, do you want your ad libs to hit like this?" Because he ended up bringing a special guest that came in to do his like vox ad libs, he did gang vox. Like specifically, he's like, I just want to gang up my people in the studio and like all of us do. Yeah. And so on the fly, like, and another friend of ours came through. So like everyone just crammed in the vocal booth. It was like doing the stuff and, and just suddenly, we just had random, you know, these backing vocals that just kind of like came about because we were all kicking it in the house naturally. Cuz we were recording half of the artists in our basement; like we had like Josh had a really beautiful sound setup that he was using. And then the other half was recorded and Rob Hagen's space in the Tilsner artist laughs above the Black Dog Coffee and Wine Bar. So we were literally operating out of our house, and then his his space that he so generously did work out of.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Well, Drea and Kash, since you're both artists in addition to being on the steering committee, I'd love to hear more about your approach to creating work for this project. What did you have in mind? And how did you tackle it?

KASHIMANA AHUA: Well, um, I know we were on a Facebook and I think, you know, it's started off as a thank you and whatnot. And then it became the Art of the Revolution album. So I was sitting in my house, I usually have "Singing Humming Mummies" thing that I do on Instagram Live, that I started when quarantine started, where it's just me using my little loop station, and creating hums for, like, moms to just chill, listen to or hum to their baby or just hum to themselves, mostly for me to just have something to like, relax my mind. But, you know, the the week after the murder of George Floyd, the song just kind of came to me and the the loop that it starts on, just came out of me that day. And it was so powerful and like raw emotion of what I was feeling and going through, just poured out of me that day, musically. And so, you know, fast forward to Taylor asking me to participate in the concert. And I was like, "Yeah, sure. I got this idea, song." And each time I improvised it, so took the stage with my looper first like two tries, like something crapped out, it was my cable or something. So, you know, started off with that loop, [sings] "Mama..." And then my looper crapped out, and then I tried it again, and the crowd was just, like, "Yayyyy!" They were ready for it, just looped and said, and improvised everything I felt about the situation and how, you know, hoping for change. And we all know is as a mother and a Black mother, when George Floyd said, "Mama," we all felt something down to the bottom of our souls. And I wanted to answer that call and amplify that call in a way that felt authentic to me, or in a way that was unfiltered. How about that, like, unfiltered, and so the song came from it and going into the studio was unsure exactly what I would do. But I knew I wanted to start with that foundation. And so, you know, we went in there, Joshua and Taylor were there, and Rachel was also filming. And right away, I was like, "I feel so comfortable." It's very rare when you go into the studio, even as a musician that's been in the studio a couple of times, there's always like, some jitters or nervousness or whatever. But right away, I didn't feel that. And so just going in and just being like, allowed to -- not even "allowed" -- but just being free to create something. And so, we did that. And it's my hope that with all the different sounds that people can listen to that song, get pulled into it, but also, like on a different level, feel themselves change as they listen to it. And so that's where that all came together in the studio. And yeah, afterwards, I still feel the same way; like it was one of the most pleasurable studio experiences I've ever had. So thanks, Taylor!

QUEEN DREA: It's a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful song. I heard it for the first time I don't know where. I think that Taylor had and listening session at their house, back at the scene of the original scene of our origins. And I was it's like, Yeah. you've I don't know if you've heard it yet, Andrea, but it's like, flow. Yeah, it's just like, you just float around. It's so gorgeous.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Thank you.

QUEEN DREA: Yeah, it's gorgeous, so gorgeous. For me, um, you know, my piece, I actually -- so after the the murder of George Floyd, I spent like, that week after, starting every morning, like eight o'clock in the morning on Facebook singing the song that I'd written called "Black on Black Love." And I would just do it every day on Facebook, just so that we could all like kind of focus on what was important to us was Black on Black love. Because you know, when you have a tragedy like that, you tend to focus on the thing that happened, but we needed to kind of build ourselves up, so and then, when Taylor asked me to participate in the concert, that was like the final song that I sang for my set, you know, as a part of what I had been feeling for the movement, which is what I was going to do for the album when Taylor asked me to be on the album, and I spent so much time working on this piece. I'm also a looping and improvisational artist like Kash.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Well, what? Yeah!

QUEEN DREA: And we still gotta get our little series together!

KASHIMANA AHUA: We do! Oh, my god. Yes.

QUEEN DREA: When do you want to do it?

KASHIMANA AHUA: Springtime. Springtime.

QUEEN DREA: Exactly. Winter, we might as well do, we got nothing else to do -- it's cold!

KASHIMANA AHUA: True.

QUEEN DREA: But, um, so I spent all this time working on it. And then my, you know, being electronic musicians, you know, sometimes electronics have to get some gremlins in them and get a mind of their own. And so I told Taylor, I was like, "Oh my god, things just disappeared!" So I had to start from scratch. And I am not sure what I saw on TV the day that I wrote that song, because I wrote the song. And you know, it was just like, something on the news, something on CNN just led me to be like, "GTFOH, like, get the eff outta here. Y'all aren't getting it." You know, just the question about women's bodies with abortion again, and then. And just, you know, I think I had gotten something in the mail from the IRS. And I'm like, Why? Why are you bothering me and like, the President of the United States [Donald Trump] doesn't pay, won't pay $300 an all how many years, you know, how much seven or however much small amount of money that person paid in however many years in taxes. So just basically, the I would say, you know, for me, my piece was written specifically for the album. And it was born out of frustration of my original song not working.

TAYLOR SEABERG: Yeah.

QUEEN DREA: And, and then also, whatever happened, there was something on that day, and I can't really remember exactly what it was because we have survived a whole year of every day you get up and you never know what kind of craziness is happening on you know, in, in our country.

KASHIMANA AHUA: I'd say four years of that.

QUEEN DREA: Yeah, four years of that. Exactly. So it was just born out of that. And I'm like, "Yes, you know, this is the Art of the Revolution and I this is how I'm feeling. I'm just mad. Get the eff outta here with all your BS!"So I'm glad, I'm very proud to have a very --na fightin' song.

TAYLOR SEABERG: Yeah, definitely.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Like during the --nare we still calling it a debate between Trump and Biden? I was like, "Yeah! Drea's track is the best soundtrack for this!"

QUEEN DREA: We're good cop, bad cop, Kash.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Yes we are. Yes we are.

TAYLOR SEABERG: That is true.

ANDREA SWENSSON: I love that, listening to the collection of songs, how everyone brings their own perspective. And there are different emotional responses. You know, this year has just been so heightened in every single way. To be able to work through that musically in all of these different ways, it's just so cool to hear, you know, your take on how you want to approach it. And to hear so many different voices coming together. I do want to pull in Nathan here who's been patiently waiting, I want to hear a little bit more about how you got involved in the project, and specifically working with the artists on on their videos.

NATHANIEL NELSON: Over the past few years, a lot of what I've done is both working with Treedome, as well as a lot of the festivals down here, like Big Turn, Boats and Bluegrass, Midwest [Music Fest], is I'm predominantly like a live-show photographer. And then I do music videos and live sessions. And that's kind of the majority of my work. And so I've done live sessions for Boats, live sessions for Midwest, as well as a couple series on our own. And so when Taylor asked me to help out, I didn't entirely know what the structure was. And so how I approached it initially was kind of like how I usually do live sessions, which is like taking a few cuts, and cutting them all together to kind of get this flow going. And so as that evolved, because I think I took on, like, two shoots, and then it was like four shoots, and then it was like, seven.

TAYLOR SEABERG: Yeah, he was doing a lot, I really, really respect the time and just work that you put into it. We had a GoFundMe, and I like, tried to pay out all the mixing engineers and the videographers right away. But I know it wasn't nearly enough, I applied for grants trying to... Yeah, just the work is very appreciated. And I know what it's worth.

NATHANIEL NELSON: I mean, it was a blast. I think the... So with that, like as we were kind of moving along and moving into like month three, month four of the project, we were kind of trying to figure out what the end product was going to be. Because what we have is, you know, 10, 11 artists, all with very different styles from like punk to kind of jazz to experimental hip hop, as well as two different locations, three different videographers, like three different mixers, so trying to find ways to tie that content together in a way that's like super easily distributable. So outside of just the album, like, specifically on the video aspect, what I found is that like, in doing my stuff, is that people did like these three-minute live sessions, four-minute live sessions, where you just kind of turn it on, here's the song, boom. So it's kind of working toward that and taking all of these different parts together and kind of merging it into one. So that most of my projects, like, I know, Taylor came down here for a couple days. And we knocked out initial edits for like six of them in like 12 hours, 14 hours.

TAYLOR SEABERG: Yeah, he was pretty fire. Getting all those edited right away.

NATHANIEL NELSON: We just stuck around, drank and ate pizza, and did that for a whole day. It was nice!

TAYLOR SEABERG: Yeah.

NATHANIEL NELSON: Yeah. So I guess that's kind of been why I got brought in. Because I mean, this isn't my project at all. I'm just kind of here to help. And it's not my story to tell, but I'm just doing everything I can to kind of help them tell their stories.

TAYLOR SEABERG: And Nate is also is an administrator on the Art of the Revolution Facebook page. So every time we drop a live in-studio video, it actually gets cross posted on like about three or four different forums, as well as on YouTube. So we have all these channels that our artists can use and can also then share as further you know, materials of their works, then artists are getting like new original content, but it's video and it's audio and you know, it's just trying to like really create more content that they can then use and carry forward as well as sharing their message, which both is like having the two pieces.

NATHANIEL NELSON: M-hm. And sharing the message to the places that don't often hear the message as much as Minneapolis. Like I mean, I'm based here in Winona, and I split my time between here and Rochester. So a lot of our drops ended up coming through there. So it was kind of hitting a different audience versus what we'd normally like be heavily Minneapolis and maybe spread down here. Just kind of trying to find more ways to get that story out to people also whp wouldn't normally hear stuff about what's going on.

QUEEN DREA: I have to say as an OG in the game, I really appreciated the experience of seeing all the different pieces come together and the way that Taylor, Josh and Nate have organized everything for, just intuitively for the current landscape of how you know you do things, so that has been really helpful and very cool for me to witness and to experience, without having to actually do all the hard work but now!

TAYLOR SEABERG: Well, yeah, like like even with the show, we wanted to have a live stream element because we know that we knew there was a lot of people that weren't physically going to be there. So we really put, me and Josh, put a lot of work into figuring out how to get OBS Studio to work how to set up the you know, Rachel's camera or her Sony FS7, I think it's a Sony FS7, and like how to, you know, switch out batteries in between like, you know if it gets to the four-hour mark, it's like, how are we going to switch up batteries so the stream is uninterrupted. And how are we gonna make overlays. My roommate, Beatriz Lima, who did the album cover art, she's literally moved on the block two weeks before George Floyd was murdered. She's from Portugal, originally, she's from Lisbon, she just suddenly happened to also doing a lot of not only design work, but just political movement work. And so she did the overlays and designs for the live streaming segment. And so there's just a lot of technical elements that we're also focusing on, as well as like, how do we get these stories and these messages out and make it look good and make it look efficient, and work with people who are efficient and work with people whose heart is in it, as well as like, the talent and the skill level behind it?

ANDREA SWENSSON: That seems like something that so many artists have had to try to figure out in this last year that maybe you've never done a live stream, we've never even used your computer to make video before, you know? I know I've definitely learned a lot about, oh, getting this microphone and that input. But there's this huge learning curve. And it's really cool that you were able to create this environment where people are kind of learning together and trying to figure out what what the landscape even is right now, since we can't all gather in person.

TAYLOR SEABERG: And I like to call myself a jack of all trades, master of none. That's why I have Nathaniel who actually is great at video. And I know like the rudiments to be able to like translate the language to people, you know, and be like, this is how I can talk about it to someone else. Same thing with mixing, and audio technical work. Like it's like I know how to say some of these things, that people who straight up have no knowledge of it can at least have a starting point and an entry point and frame of reference. But I'm always learning, so it's like I'm also always learning from Nate. I'm always learning from Rob and Holly and the rest of these engineers.

KASHIMANA AHUA: I wouldn't say you're a master of none Come on now.

QUEEN DREA: I also don't agree with that as well.

TAYLOR SEABERG: And then I'm a musician, but, you know.

NATHANIEL NELSON: Oh yeah, that one other thing.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Just that other thing.

QUEEN DREA: That other thing! [laughs]

TAYLOR SEABERG: Sometimes I do music on the side.

ANDREA SWENSSON: So where did the term "The Art of the Revolution" first come from?

TAYLOR SEABERG: Honestly, we were looking for names for the album. And it was the first thing that pops into my head and I said, "Josh, does this sound good?" And he said, "Yeah."But there was a lot of you know, I knew that we were talking about you know, a lot of my co workers. I work at Minnesota Youth Collective. I work with a bunch of young BIPOC communists, who they self identify as BIPOC communists. And so there there's a lot of talk in the office about youth organizers and this revolution around police abolishment. And so I was like, OK, we should talk about and we had done a zine, we had done a zine through my job called the Quaran-zine. And so I liked the idea of talking about, in the midst of like, the political protests, there's such an art. And especially because like, Patience Zalanga is like a really beautiful Twin Cities, Nigerian photojournalist, and I love her photography. And I've been following her for years. She does a lot of photography, specifically of movement work and of political rallies. And so I was like, there is a true art behind even like showing people being tear gassed, even behind showing police doing brutal, horrible things. Like there's an art behind the way that people are reacting to it. And that's been throughout time because like, you know, Vietnam War, when people were protesting the Vietnam War and de facto segregation. And like, there was always people taking pictures, it was always artists playing music, and those things have stood the test of time, because we still listen to them, even if we don't remember the exact time frame that that song was talking about. It still can hit, you know, decades later.

KASHIMANA AHUA: It resonates. Yeah, I mean, I did not know the backstory of the title. But when I saw the title, I was like, "That is so correct." Because just the fact that art usually survives longer than anything else, and gets to people's hearts and emotions better than anything else. And then I think during a concert, somebody was like, "This is what we do as artists, this is!"

TAYLOR SEABERG: "This is what we do."

KASHIMANA AHUA: Yeah. We help movements, go forward, move farther, spread out. And there's an art to that. And the Art of the Revolution, like art in itself, can be so many different things. And I think that seeing it that way is so important right now.

QUEEN DREA: The world would not survive without artists. It would not! Without artists, it just would not and as we've all seen various you know references to...

KASHIMANA AHUA: "Essential."

QUEEN DREA: We are essential!

KASHIMANA AHUA: Essential workers.

QUEEN DREA: And this pandemic has proven it because it has been the artists that have taken to the virtual world to keep, to soothe people through these times when they're stuck in their homes. Definitely nothing else has been soothing. You know, this has been pretty, it's been pretty, you know, prickly around these parts lately, and so artists have taken to the internet, in most times for free, you know what I mean, to keep people soothed and to keep people, you know, healthy emotionally and spiritually and, but when it comes time to cut a thing, you know, and whatever program or schools or whatnot, that's first thing that goes, Yeah.

NATHANIEL NELSON: Right. And I think it's not just soothing either with art, especially with like political movements, and any any major uprising. I mean, if you go back, like, for me, I didn't hear really about like, anti war stuff, except from movies that ended up being anti war. And that's like, "Oh, so this is an idea." And it's kind of the same thing with music, with painting, with anything; you go back in history, a lot of those, the documents that talk about these movements aren't necessarily like news articles or anything. It's the art that was being made at the time. And I think that's really important. It's not just for soothing, but it's also a blatant call to action.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Yeah, a call to action. Exactly. And also, yeah, resilience and GTFOH.

QUEEN DREA: And a reflection -- yeah! GTFOH! (laughs)

KASHIMANA AHUA: Mirror. Yeah, exactly.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Well, I would love to hear more about the artists that have participated. As you were receiving songs and watching things unfold in the studio. Were there moments that surprised you or, you know, what are some of the moments that stood out as this project started coming together?

TAYLOR SEABERG: At EJ's session where DNic, Dominic Tinnell, came in who are like two Black men who are part of Mac House, the talent music agency based out of North Minneapolis. I mean, a I was geeked out because we were all wearing purple during the session. And I've been like a huge purple fan since I dyed my hair for the summer. But also they came in...

KASHIMANA AHUA: Prince, too.

TAYLOR SEABERG: I knew Nate was gonna laugh about that. But yeah, we all came in wearing purple. And I remember being like, "What is the frequency of that?" You know, I'm an Erykah Badu fan. I was like, "What is the frequency of this? It's like meant to be. It's Kismet. You know, like--

NATHANIEL NELSON: And then just more people walked into the room, and they were also wearing purple.

TAYLOR SEABERG: They were also wearing purple, yeah! My roommate came out, she was wearing purple. It was like, I was like, what's happening? What is going on, um, but I love that that like little things like that kind of just felt like it was like, meant to be in the space. And the little moment, I mean, particularly with them, I remember what, like two Black men from North Minneapolis and like, like, the, the way that they were, like treating each other. And like this kind of like intimate brotherhood that they were having with each other where like, you know, EJ would mess up. And Dominic would be like, "No man, like, have faith in yourself, like believe," or he'd be like, "I'm gonna record after you because I want you to own this, this is your song," you know, like being really empowering to his like, friend, like, it was just, it was like, so much like beauty and just seeing how people were like collaborating and like talking to each other, and like asking questions, and having those little moments that you see just like, naturally in the studio, and for me, it was nice to see from an outside eye. Because I was like, I'm used to doing so many studio sessions with my own band, where it's like, we have our own band dynamics, chemistry, you know, things going on. So it's like really beautiful to see it with other people and watching people kind of form new relationships as well.

QUEEN DREA: I was just gonna say I also I appreciated what you said, watching, you know, artists get to or, you know, getting to meet people because that was one thing that I really, you know, enjoyed about the experience was being able to hear the other artists' pieces and get to know them. And, you know, that was a beautiful community experience.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Yeah. And then the other thing about like, sitting down and just talking about the agreements and what we wanted to see the project do and what it was about, like just, you know, taking the time to do that as a group, eat, break bread, as they say, and listen to one another and kind of talk to each other about why, what our pieces meant to us. And having that community sense was really reassuring, you know, on top of like, the logistics of the situation.

TAYLOR SEABERG: Yeah, the little little cookout that we had where we had people sign artist contracts, cuz that was another thing. We were having people sign contracts because I'm really honest about this. I've been screwed over in the past for like, not being credited on stuff, like people using my material without my consent, like all types of stuff. And so we also in good faith wanted to tell, like me and Josh, wanted to tell the artists, "Hey, we're getting you all together so that we have a contract between the both of us that says we're agreeing and being mutual to consenting to what we we know what you want and what we want, read the material." And the cool thing is like the artists were like, "We're chill with it. We don't mind," and we were like, "We know you don't mind. But we make sure like we're holding ourselves accountable."Because not a lot of people do that. And there's so many things I learned was split publishing and and just how publishing and intellectual property rights work and like all types and how we distribute the music and being really careful of like crediting, like how we're talking about this when we're getting revenue. And so there's just a lot of things that we wanted to consider and that we wanted to make sure the artists knew we were operating in good faith. And so it was good to have those conversations from the jump in the midst of like, have a lot of energy and positivity around the project and not losing like the business element, like, Hey, we're trying to be professional and make sure that we're holding ourselves accountable as producers.

QUEEN DREA: That really, you know, enhanced the experience, that feeling of being taken care of and honored in that way, artistically.

ANDREA SWENSSON: I was going to say, Taylor, it sounds like you're ready to start a record label.

TAYLOR SEABERG: One day! Hopefully I can be Janelle Monae and make Wonderland Records. That's my dream. It's like, yeah, that would be cool. One day.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Well, we talked a little bit about, you know, what work like this can do for the times, acting as a mirror, acting as a document, as a way for people to come together and process things. You know, as you're releasing it now and more videos are going to be coming out and the album's going to be available, what are your hopes for it as it enters the community and people consume all of this work?

TAYLOR SEABERG: I just hope that people are receptive to it; I mean, I think the sad thing is, as 2021 starts, we all know the year is not just going to magically change. It's not. All the problems that we're facing, they're, if anything, just doubling down and getting worse because, we were talking earlier about the Capitol being stormed by pro-Trump supporters, and somehow, like, the response to that versus, like, if Black people had done that, you know, would be like completely different. And so, we're still going to be experiencing these issues with police brutality. We're still going to be experiencing these issues with the pandemic and how do we navigate things and people getting sick and people getting worried about going to COVID funerals and having all these really sad, heartbreaking moments happen in the past year. So it's like I really hope people just resonate with it and do find some light in it, in the same way they did with the show in the midst of all this tragedy, because it's the thing that's going to keep us going and keep us alive and keep us still motivated to do this work, even when it's really difficult to keep going. And I just really hope it can be that source of support for people in these trying times, you know? And that people look up people's work, because I want people to look up everyone's work and support each other and be like, "Look, listen to this person. Hire this person for video work. They're dope."

KASHIMANA AHUA: My hope is that it brings whatever that each person listens to it, because we have so many different artists, so many different styles, so many different voices with different messages in them. So I hope, like, if somebody's listening to the album, and they feel like they need a song that's like, you know, angry and aggressive, we gotcha. You need a song that's calming and healing, we gotcha. Or you need a song that's just, like, going off, we got you. So just to be able to hold people and give people support in what they need as far as expressing themselves and enjoying some good music at the same time, and also at the end of the day, having this message of, like, we're here with you, we see what's happening, and we have something to say and you have a voice and you can add to it.

QUEEN DREA: Yeah. I would say this whole album is a mood, and I would hope, as Kashimana said, that we can offer any day, anybody's feeling that they need, they need a theme song for that moment, that we can offer that with The Art of the Revolution. And we're, I think, you know, based on what is happening today in our nation's capital, I think we are going to be entering another Reconstruction period -- I'm doing these things here [making air quotes] -- another "Reconstruction" period, and I hope this album is like a little fuel for that Reconstruction period. You know, I think everything as we have said with whether people like defund the police or not, we're saying everything needs to be torn down and started fresh. So hopefully this is fuel for that.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Yes. I mean, we're seeing a lot of craziness going on in our nation, and something's gotta change. We need something new. And it's going to require a lot of our humanity and a lot of action and a lot of conversation and a lot of listening. I mean, I was talking with my friend before the New Year about what we were thinking and hoping for in the New Year, and what the signs were, and we kept saying, like, excuse my language, but we were getting all these signals to slow the [eff] down. You know? And really connect with our humanity. I don't know how much else, what other signs, we need. Period. Like, we cannot make it without each other. End of story. I don't know what other signs you've got to have.

QUEEN DREA: I've been saying that from the beginning. Sit down. Relax. Find something else to focus on instead of the capitalism and whatnot. You know what I mean? Just like -- we talked before we started recording about me going to New York with my daughter. All that was like, yes, I went somewhere else, but it was really, we just was walking around and enjoying each other. She's graduated from high school this spring, so I'm like, "Hey, I'm gonna use this time!" And be with my baby before she's too grown for me, you know what I mean? That's what we should be doing. We should be recalibrating.

TAYLOR SEABERG: Yeah. We should be.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Or at least included. Hello. But yeah. Politically, on all fronts, we're getting these messages of like, something's gotta change.

NATHANIEL NELSON: On top of that, too, like, what I'd personally like to see is this used as a format for other artists, too, because we have, like, a bunch of people involved in this project, but there's also, like, 20 times as many artists in Minneapolis, and that's just one city. But like, these sort of politically driven projects with a lot of people collaborating can do a lot to spreading a message and kind of getting people behind it. And obviously, there's the "Listen to the album, support the artists, watch the videos, share it, tell all your friends,"but even beyond that, it's about the message that's going out. And I just hope that kind of resonates with people, and hopefully gets more people to do similar things, so it just continues to spread.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Well, this has been a wonderful conversation. I'm so glad that you were all able to participate and that I could learn more about this project and share it with Current listeners. There's so many amazing songs on this, so we're going to play as many as we can on The Local Show, but I'll be dropping the links to where people can check out the full album. Is it officially released? Is there a date where it will all be officially available?

TAYLOR SEABERG: Aiming around February 15, but I don't want to write that in stone. I will say it will probably be available on Bandcamp around then, but I'm going to have to wait an extra six weeks to have it officially posted on Apple Music and Google Play and all those fun little things, Spotify, just so we can make sure everything's mastered and make sure everything has gone through its rounds a couple of times. That's like the biggest thing is making sure all the artists have reviewed it, they like all the changes, and that it plays on all platforms well.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Yeah. Well, don't hurry. Take your time. Slow down.

TAYLOR SEABERG: Exactly! (laughs) We did start it, like, last July, so it's like, it's only been like, what? Six or seven months.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Was it in July? I feel like it was August.

QUEEN DREA: Hello! Pandemic! (laughs)

NATHANIEL NELSON: It started in July.

KASHIMANA AHUA: Pandemic. Yeah.

NATHANIEL NELSON: It's all still March.

TAYLOR SEABERG: It's still March. I don't know.

QUEEN DREA: Government insurrection. Come on now.

TAYLOR SEABERG: Exactly. Government insurrection, yeah.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Well, thank you so much, Taylor, Drea, Kashimana, Nathaniel. This has been great chatting with you.

TAYLOR SEABERG: Yeah, it's been great chatting with you. Thank you for the opportunity. I just want to say, Andrea, you've been a really amazing person to be connected with on The Current, and you've always been really supportive, ever since I was a wee little performer.

ANDREA SWENSSON: I'll never forget watching you open for Chastity [Brown] at the Fitz.

TAYLOR SEABERG: Oh, Chastity. My heart.

ANDREA SWENSSON: Thank you all. This is awesome.

ALL: Thank you.


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