Following his successful WCMA-nominated first official release in 2007 with producer (and current business partner) Nato, Touch spent the next few years touring Canada, opening a recording studio in his hometown of Edmonton, and working with international producers from Belgium to China. Known for his engaging and expertly executed performance that includes as many elements of hip hop as anyone can fit onto one stage, Touch has rocked the crowd with the greats from hip hop’s past and present.
In this interview spotlight, I chat with Touch about motivations, his latest project, challenges and more.
Full Q&A along with links and music below.
Who is Touch? Where are you from?
I’m from Edmonton, Alberta, the most hated. This city has always been hyper critical of its own and has always been underrated outside of its borders. You develop a thick skin and an apathetic attitude in the arts scene here, but it goes perfectly with the weather.
What style of music do you create? What attracted you to this genre or style?
I create Hip Hop music. In my neighbourhood we used to break and create routines with each other, we’d battle other crews from across town. We were immersed in Hip Hop culture, it was just a natural progression when it came to creating Hip Hop and not just dancing to it. I went from breaking, to emceeing, to producing, to deejaying, promoting etc.
What attracted me to Hip Hop was the fact that it was outlawed. In my elementary school they banned breakdancing, so we literally became the mischievous troublemakers because we wanted to dance. I love the fact that sampling is an outlawed art, graffiti is an outlawed art, and I can’t play most of my music in public. Hip Hop is a legitimate form of protest.
Who or what influences your rapping?
I keep up with times as much as possible, I see the new trends, every once in a while I’ll dip into today’s styles just to show cats that versatility has always been my strength. But what I really want to do is create a Picasso. A work of art. I’m more influenced by the idea of painting a picture, or directing a movie. I’m more influenced by JJ Abrams and Alfred Hitchcock than I am by rappers. I have not yet painted my work of art, but every project I do, I just try to get nearer to it. That’s why 80% of the projects I put out have one producer, I like a canvas that’s even and consistent.
How long have you been creating and sharing your music with the public?
I’m a 90s rapper. I was doing shows when Run-DMC and Jam Master J were in the same room. I was doing shows when Hiero toured with Casual and Pep Love, and Del was about to drop No Need For Alarm. I was doing shows off D.A.T.. I did shows off ADAT.
What motivates you to keep going?
What motivates me is the realization that I will never master all the elements of Hip Hop. But I can become excellent in a great number of its elements. The fact that real Hip Hop is still outlawed, illegal and underground, and still needs protecting, keeps the MPC and ASR up all night.
Why should people listen to Touch?
People should listen to Touch because hearing Touch is not enough.
What is your new release? How is it different from the previous ones?
My new release is called Journey To The West. It’s based on a Chinese folk hero named Sun Wukon. A mischievous all-powerful monkey-god doomed to live among the mortals until he fulfills his destiny. I gave it a Hip Hop twist and a surprise ending. This was the first front-to-back concept album that I’ve done where each song is an important part of the story. This was written as a full short story before it was translated into bars. Writing myself into the story as WuKong was the most fun I’ve had with a character since I played Kirk. He was already so Hip Hop. Banned from heaven, arrogant, misunderstood, talented, and ready to battle anybody, anytime.
Did you set out to accomplish anything specific with this album?
Slick Rick is the best story teller in rap. Not because he had all this dope skill, which he did, but because you could listen to a whole song and be entertained. His story telling felt effortless. My mission was to study the art of Hip Hop story telling and try to master that element.
Where is the best place to connect with you online? And to discover more of your music?
Do you prefer Spotify? Apple Music? Bandcamp? Or something else? Why?
I mess with Bandcamp but you can find me on Soptify, etc… As an artist. I don’t really stream music myself. There’s too much out there, I prefer to buy physical copies from the artist while they tour.
What about vinyl, CDs, and MP3s?
I just bought some vinyl but I really shouldn’t. I have a problem with vinyl addiction and I stay out of record stores if at all possible. I got about 5000 pieces in my collection, modest, but still able to infringe on my personal space.
As an indie musician in the digital age, how does the technology help and how does it hinder your art and career?
Technology helps my art enormously. Everything is getting lighter and easier to use, and cheaper and more accessible. As it becomes more accessible, it becomes vulnerable to change and reinterpretation. That in itself is not a bad thing, but if it is reinterpreted into something harmful then technology can indirectly be blamed for corrupting it.
What was the last song you listened to?
The Vinyl I just bought. Reks and DJ Premier ‘Say Good’
Do you tour or play live? Where can music lovers find out where to see you perform?
www.touch182.com. Hit me up!
What’s next for you?
On to the next project, building a new studio, the saga continues.
Any last thoughts, shout outs, or words of wisdom?
It’s a basic truth, KRS One said it: “Rap is something you do, Hip Hop is something you live.”