Emerging in 2015 onto the Irish music Scene, Kojaque would release a string of projects over the next few years such as Green Diesel and Deli Daydreams, which would help cultivate him a devoted fan base. These projects were often centred around themes of love, loss and dissatisfaction at society. Songs often personified feelings felt by many but expressed in a way that was wholly unique to him, creating a distinct relatability within his work. In his latest release, Town’s Dead, Kojaque only builds upon this reputation.
Town’s Dead explores the complex state of emotions Kojaque feels towards the perceived decaying state of his hometown, Dublin. Throughout the album, Kojaque effortlessly weaves a narrative of not just sadness for the state of his hometown, but also a strong love for the memories that he has been able to create within it. Town’s Dead carves a path of both painful reflection and fond remembrance, masterfully balancing both whilst simultaneously, grounding the listener in a countdown to New Years, and the chaos that ensues. An intimate yet fast paced return to home, Town’s Dead is Kojaque’s invitation to receive his own personal tour of Dublin.
Before we begin, would you like to introduce yourself to the readers? Telling them just a little bit about who you are and how you would define yourself as an artist?
I’m Kojaque. I’m a hip-hop artist and a video director. Yeah, I’m an artist!
You’ve just recently finished your extremely successful Town’s Dead tour. Would you like to tell us just a little bit about how that went and your feelings about it, post tour?
Good, I’m in withdrawals from it at the minute. Not to be facetious, but it can feel like the life of an addict. Your life is in on hold until tour happens, and then you’re on tour and it’s all encompassing, you work all night, then sleep all day. You can’t make time for anything then you come off it and suddenly what is life? It was really good though, it felt crazy because it had been so long.
Multiple venues throughout your tour were sold out, which is very impressive, especially given the ongoing Covid restrictions across Europe. Was the idea of playing sold-out venues ever intimidating to you?
What I always try and remember is no matter if it's sold out or if there's 10 people, those 10 people came to see the show, so you got to put the show on. And I mean, oftentimes it can be fucking fun to play for like a smaller crowd, there's less of the kind of bullshit, smoke and mirrors kind of thing. I didn't get into it for numbers. I got into it because I love art, and I love music.
To build upon this, you have been an outspoken critic of the failures of the UK and Irish government’s efforts to support music and nightlife venues throughout the pandemic. To you, what do you perceive as the most significant ways in which the governments have failed to support these industries?
They opened the country up with a plan, they had a budget in mind with the idea that we would have an end to restrictions, so you know, full opening of the country. They had a budget in mind, they designated money for nightlife and they started weaning people off of P.U.P, which is a pandemic unemployment payment. Then four weeks later, they turned around and said, We have to reintroduce restrictions. Now, the issue in my mind is the healthcare system. It's not nightlife. It's not that they introduced the curfew for nightlife and restaurants and everything like that. Everybody that was signed off the P.U.P and signed off dynamic unemployment payment, that service has now ended. And we're basically looking at a lock down again, and everybody that was in the nightlife industry, who were looking forward to restrictions being lifted and able to get back to work, is now unemployed, again, but this time with no means of making any money.
Your tour was centred around the release of your latest album, Town's Dead. Would you say there were any major influences during the album making process, that particularly helped you define your sound for this project?
I’d say the biggest ones were good kid, m.A.A.d city, To Pimp a Butterfly, ‘the ground will come for free’, Ready to Die, Flying Lotus, any of the strings by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. I kind of just wanted to make, good kid, m.A.A.d city if he grew up in Cabaret, Dublin. That's kind of what I wanted to make. And that's where a lot of storytelling comes in. Even the interludes when you listen to them you can see the influences. I think I wear my influences on my sleeve to be honest.
The release of Town's Dead was followed up by several impressive visual projects. You mentioned in a previous interview about how you’d like to create more of these projects, but cost is always a factor. Are there any projects you’ve wanted to do for a long time but still just need the funding to do so?
To be honest, I've co-directed pretty much every music video that I've put out, bar maybe three and I've absolutely loved making them. The big issue is just it's just so expensive when you want to make them at the level that I want to make them, which is really just like mini movies. Something that just hasn't been done before, because there is like a formula to a lot of music videos like rap videos. And that's not really what I'm interested in, I'm interested in making cool art or unique art, at the level that I like to do it at, it’s just very expensive. There's a lot of people that need to be working and you’ve got to pay them all. Basically, all the music videos I love, but I also would love way more money to deal with them. It's funny because people are kind of a little less interested in music videos now. Which is a bit of a shame, but then again, I'm interested in them. So that's kind of where I spend all the money.
In your performance piece, Midnight Flower, you held your breath for the entire 3 minutes you were underwater. What were your motivations for incorporating a risk like this into your performance piece, and could you elaborate on how you managed to achieve this?
It’s a technique called purging, which is basically when you purge all the carbon dioxide out your lungs, because you’ve got residual carbon dioxide in your lungs. That’s what gives you pain in your lungs when you're holding your breath. So the idea is that you take a full inhalation of breath then exhale and you keep doing that cyclically for about two or three minutes. I did that the first time and managed to hold my breath for like a minute and a half. So I was like, yeah, this is doable. I was big into performance art in college, and the whole idea of using your body as a canvas. And so I got the simple idea of like, could I do a music video? One breath? Three and a half minutes? I wouldn't advise at home doing it at home though.
A re-occurring theme throughout Town's Dead was about how inaccessible Dublin is becoming as a young adult due to a variety of factors such as unaffordable housing. Do you think this crisis is something that will eventually result in most young people having to leave Dublin?
I suppose the government that we have is the same government for the past 50 years or even longer, in one shape or form. It's been two parties that have ruled basically since independence. And I think we've seen kind of time and time again, where their interests lie and that’s in multinational companies. It’s profit before people. And you see that with the erasure of space in Dublin. There are just countless buildings, countless nightlife venues, that have just been raised from the city to make way for hotels, and that's with only the most recent. I’m in Ireland at the minute you know and it's just, I don't know, it’s quite sad. I just don't know who to visit. And I don't know who's left and that's an overwhelming feeling from kind of people my age.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews how you were nervous at first to be rapping in an Irish accent. Was there any specific piece of advice or experience that helped you embrace it in the way that you have?
Start. That's one of the biggest pieces of advice I would give to anybody starting off. I’ve had at shows young people coming up to me and being like, I look at the shit you're doing and I'm like, How the fuck does anybody do that? Like, how has he got this far and stuff? And I'm kind of like, you know, I'm nearly six years into this. It's only fair for you to look at me. Try not to compare yourself to others, especially if you've not put anything out if that's something that you're looking to do, just start. I just had to start putting stuff out regardless of what I thought or my fears of it not working. If you're making your art and you keep putting it out it, it doesn't fucking matter because they'll be sat at home typing on Twitter while you make something and go forward and do something with your life.
As a recent transplant to London yourself, if there was one aspect of Dublin you could bring over to London, what would it be?
A good pint of Guinness as stereotypical as that is. People in this capital that can pour good Guinness are few and far between, but there are a couple of pubs that do a good Guinness in London anyway.
Many of your fans may know of your love for the music critic, Anthony Fantano, and may have even discovered you through your feature in one of his reviews. Would you say it’s a goal to get one of your full projects reviewed by him?
Yeah, I want him to rake it across the coals! I've been trolling him on Twitter trying to get him to review the album. I'm going to rally up the twitter army and just be like ‘hit this man up.’ I think he really does take his time with the albums that he reviews. So I don't think he has much of an agenda. With him, I feel like if he likes it, he likes it. If he doesn't, he doesn't. And so that's what I respect about him. Regardless of whether or not I agree with his opinion. So, I like that about him. And I'd like to have my shit reviewed by him because I think he's a tastemaker. And it'd be cool to open it up to a new audience. I like the idea of spreading music.
A follow up to this, are there any artists you’re particularly excited to be working with within your art collective Soft Boy Records?
We just signed Yankee for a project and getting the test pressings back for the album is amazing. I'm a really, really big fan of his and have been for years. So, it's been great to be able to work with him. And when he was on the tour, he was a fucking dream. We’ve figured that we're really a one project at a time kind of a kind of a label, just with the manpower that we have. We haven't really expanded much more than that. You just have to work with the resources that you have. Yankee’s the next one that's coming out and then we'll figure out who's after that.
Finally, have you found that your goals have changed for the coming year due to the critical acclaim your latest project has received, or are you happy with the projects you’ve already started working on and the goals that you have set?
I'm collaborating a bit more than I have done in the past. And I want to do that a little bit more, I think this year, just because I haven't been able to with the pandemic. And as well as that, I think it's good to have an open mind about this stuff and approach people and see can you make something that sounds a little bit different than your usual stuff. So I'm doing a bit more collaboration. Basically, just keep chugging, keep chugging along and keep chugging along and see what works!