In the midst of touring Australia and Japan, King Yosef spoke with ReGen about his latest musical endeavors and traveling down the road to self-realization.
An InterView with Tayves Yosef Pelletier of King Yosef
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Top 50 Albums of 2023.” Now, he’s begun 2024 with a bang as he has recently completed a touring cycle with fellow underground rabble rousers Trace Amount and Greg Puciato, performing first in Australia, and most recently in Japan; from March 2 to April 4, he will return to North American shores to join Pixel Grip and HEALTH for a tour that only promises to further enhance his formidable profile. Just before touching down in Japan, King Yosef took the time to speak with ReGen about his new album and the evolution of his artistic process.
First of all, how are you? How’s your health?
Pelletier: I am well. I am tired, but still moving along. Love touring, but also excited for a consistent sleep schedule in the near future!
You just completed a tour of Australia with Greg Puciato and Trace Amount, and are now heading to Japan; how has the audience response been?
Pelletier: It was really great honestly. I think my music is fairly divisive, especially to the uninitiated, but it seems Australians get it. I enjoyed my time there and the people a lot. I hope to go back soon to keep that relationship going.
In what ways would you say the audiences in that far Eastern/Southeastern part of the world compare to North American or European audiences – or is there really not a difference?
How difficult is it to translate your studio recordings to the live environment? Also, in this post-pandemic world, what have you found to be the most challenging aspects of touring, especially internationally?
Pelletier: It used to be hard, but nowadays, it’s part of the writing process, which in its own way is invigorating and inspiring. Things gear towards what I want musically and what I want others to feel in a room now vs. what is the craziest sound I can make. I want things to have some sort of tension and release in a live setting. Post-pandemic issues are everywhere, but the main one I see is just the saturation of everything. Seems more and more everyone is playing a show the same night in the same town against four other tours of the same genre. Everyone wants to tour and get out, which makes sense, but there’s just no structure for people not to overlap and constantly battle each other for tickets.
The themes of An Underlying Hum – processing past trauma and evaluating personal identity – you said that you’d not done that much in your earlier work. Besides the intensity of the album, what were the results of that introspection? What do you feel you learned that you are better able to apply to your thoughts and working processes moving forward?
Pelletier: It freed up a lot of emotional space for me to move forward in my personal life and in the music space. I was in a paralysis of some sorts when it came to stepping in a new direction until I settled what I settled in AUH. It really taught me the game of tension and release, and also knowing when to breathe with the idea of songwriting. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes more is best.
Sadly, I think it can be said that there are still social stigmas around mental health and how people deal with mental and emotional trauma, especially in art. In your experience or observation, do you feel we are overcoming those stigmas to address these issues more openly?
In what ways do you feel the new songs – ‘Cut the Cord’ and ‘Shame’s Mirror’ – continue where An Underlying Hum left off; either from a lyrical/thematic sense and/or in terms of the production… is the single a step toward a different direction for King Yosef, or is it simply the next logical step?
Pelletier: I think it’s the next instinctual step. I laid the groundwork for the sonic directions I wanted to be able to take later on in An Underlying Hum, and these new songs felt very natural after that. I wrote these songs within a few months, possibly weeks, of AUH coming out and just let my instinct drive me to where I was going to go. Lyrically is probably the closest they could be to connected. ‘Cut the Cord’ is a part 2 (lyrically) of ‘110817’ from AUH.
With An Underlying Hum and the ‘Cut the Cord/Shame’s Mirror’ single, you worked with Kurt Ballou and Steve Evetts. How would you say your vision for King Yosef has been altered for the better as a result of their contributions? What sorts of changes did you make personally in how you approach music/production?
Pelletier: The biggest thing they taught me was to trust myself. When it came to moments of doubt, they were both very big on ‘You’re the artist. What’s your vision?’ And hearing that from people I have looked up to for a long time shifted things for me a lot. On a technical level, I don’t think about sounds in a mixing context as much, and just write because I know I have people in my corner who I trust, and it has opened me up to trying more things.
You’ve also worked with Youth Code, Zheani, XXXtentacion, and several others. Are there any particular collaborations that you felt were especially fruitful and that you’d hope to continue in a deeper capacity? Also, are there any artists/bands that you’ve not yet worked with but would like to?
Just to fit in a bit of gear talk, are there any particular pieces of equipment that you’re especially fond of and that you feel you couldn’t create the sound of King Yosef without?
Pelletier: For live shows, my MPC X is imperative to what I do. For studio, I’d have to go with Trash 2, any Valhalla reverb, and my Prophet 6.
Aside from the album artwork and music videos, you kept a video journal surrounding the production of An Underlying Hum. What is your philosophy around the visual presentation of King Yosef – both in terms of videos and live performances?
Pelletier: As time goes on, the visual essence of what I do is becoming more a part of the art. I used to not worry too much, but as my writing concepts become more visual and thematic, the more everything else is moving towards a specific vision. I think it comes with more the self-realization and honesty I give to the work.
Your music encompasses many different elements, from trap, hip-hop, hardcore, industrial, noise, etc. I’ve long held the belief that ‘genre’ in music has become obsolete. What are your thoughts on this? Is there any validity to such categorizations?
Pelletier: I think genres are important as a cultural point and not respecting where things comes from is the issue of non-genre discussions. Looking to the future though, the only way things will evolve into the next thing is by understanding the work before you and when, why, and where it happened. After that, learning and understanding is where the tools of how you can adapt and modify them to continue on in a new vision come from.
Besides King Yosef, you also run your Bleakhouse imprint. Firstly, what are your thoughts on the traditional models of releasing music and how it applies to you? Moving forward, do you think we will still be bound to record labels? Secondly, what are you finding to be the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects to being an artist running his own label?
Outside of music, what do you most enjoy? Hiking, reading, movies, sports, gaming, etc.? What is giving you the most joy now?
Pelletier: I enjoy time with my fiancé and lifting weights. If I am not doing either of those, I am writing music, thinking about music, working on music, or doing something related to music. Not a great balance, but I love it.
What’s next for you and King Yosef?
Pelletier: New music, new videos, new tours, and executing my vision to the highest degree I can!