Question In the Form of An Answer: An Interview with Tyler, the Creator

Art by Sara_for_Dinner Late last year I sat down with Tyler, the Creator for a feature that ran in the Feb/March issue of Malibu Mag. Just a few weeks after the Odd Future Carnival, we met on his...
By    March 13, 2014

Art by Sara_for_Dinner

Late last year I sat down with Tyler, the Creator for a feature that ran in the Feb/March issue of Malibu Mag. Just a few weeks after the Odd Future Carnival, we met on his lunch break during shooting for the third season of “Loiter Squad.” I’d been told I would have an hour, but upon arrival management said I’d only get 15 minutes. In the end, Tyler granted me close to an hour. He’s much kinder than he’ll probably ever get credit for.

We talked about Kanye, directing/screenwriting, Wolf, depression, happy ending massages, jewelry, and more – the important things. What I used in the feature has been excised, but this is essentially the conversation from beginning to end. – Max Bell

You guys just had a pop up shop in Honolulu. Odd Future merch must be moving well. Do you think you’re moving more merch or albums these days?

I don’t like knowing actual numbers. All I know is that it’s going good enough to where everything’s fine. I mean, I don’t fucking know. I draw in a notebook, get the shit made, sell it, people happen to buy it — probably don’t — and then I go on. I don’t sit and compare album sales to socks. I sell more socks, I can tell you that.

Are you still filming your movie Wolf?

I can’t talk to you about that. There’s some stuff I keep very top secret.

Are you writing any screenplays you would consider presenting to other people – directors, studios, etc.?

Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. I could be one of those pretentious assholes that sounds like I’m super busy and I’m really not doing shit. Or I could actually be writing a fucking movie right now and you’d just be surprised next year. Like, ‘O my gosh, he wasn’t lying.’

I wouldn’t be all that surprised.

That’s sick. I’m happy that you wouldn’t be surprised. That means I’m doing something good.

Let’s talk about your short film, The Ghost in the Hotel, which you dropped on Halloween.

That’s the greatest movie of all time. Niggas is tripping. That shit is 30 out of 10. [Earl] takes the cake as the best actor of all time.

How long did it take to shoot?

That took us 8 weeks to shoot — 8 long weeks to shoot. Effects took another month. We fucking shot that in July. We started end of July [and shot in] August [and] September. It took like two weeks in October to edit with the special effects. Bam! You got the shit a couple days before Halloween.

[Question from the photographer] Were you sweating bullets trying to get it done in time?

When you have a passion to act like we did, you don’t give a shit.

Did you write a script or improvise?

It took three months to write that. I had to write it, rewrite it, and all of that.

So what did you actually do on Halloween? I know it’s a big day for the OF camp.

I went to the Mellowhype show, went home, and went to sleep.

Speaking of the rest of OF, and given all of your releases in 2013, is there any in-camp competition?

Dude, I don’t know. But this kid’s collection of Eminem stuff [on Instagram] is ridiculous. I have that Eminem Europe tour. I have Slim Shady LP, Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem Show, Encore – I don’t have Curtain Call, but I do have every song on there, except the two bonus songs. I didn’t get the Re-Up one. I have Relapse. I hated Recovery, but I have it. I didn’t get Bad Meets Evil. I have 8 Mile. I have Devil’s Night. I have D12 World. I fucking have Marshall Mathers LP 2. I had the E tape back when it came out in 2000 on VHS. I had Up in Smoke. But he has two other things I don’t know. He has a hard copy of Infinite – wow! He doesn’t have fucking Angry Blonde though. He doesn’t have the Angry Blonde book, so he don’t know shit!

I’m sorry for cutting you off.

I try to keep up with Earl. He’s a really, really, really good rapper. Hodgy though, niggas sleep on Hodgy. His verse on “Jamba” is so fucking good. He has my favorite verse on the whole album. When Hodgy’s in his zone he’s the fucking best. I love that dude. That’s my nigga.

How do you feel about the reception of Wolf? You moved 90k in your first week.

If you did a comparison and you see the different resources that I have and what my outlets are that’s like selling a million. But that shit doesn’t matter. My fans like it. I’m grateful that it went well. Now I can do something else. Hopefully that does well so I can keep making shit.

Are you going to do another photo book?

We planned on it last year, but we didn’t do it. I have a bunch of books I want to do but I don’t have time.

You’ve collaborated with Pharrell, Erykah Badu, Pusha T, The Game – who else is on the list? Eminem?

Naw. I wouldn’t work with him. He’s god. Some people you shouldn’t even touch.

Probably Mac Demarco, he’s number one right now. Geoff from Portishead, the drummer. He’s pretty sick. All his stuff he did with Anika is so sick. I mean all his stuff is, but that specifically is very tight… I want to work with Roy Ayers before he dies. He’s getting old. Stevie Wonder too.

A lot of your earlier work — Bastard for instance — dealt with your depression. Do you still find yourself depressed often?

Not as much… [No] matter how much money you have you’ll still be bummed out on certain shit. And with certain people, no matter how much money you have, you can’t buy anything to fill that void. That’s why people say money can’t buy happiness. It can buy happiness, but not for that long.

So you’re relatively happy these days?

O yeah. I’m fucking stoked. My life is sick. I get to still skate around like I did three years ago. I might have to take a couple pictures, but whatever. I have money to go do stupid shit. I couldn’t ask for nothing else.

What’s your daily routine like when you’re not recording? Are you writing or taking photos?

Now I just wake up every day and shoot this shit. People who write routinely suck. Who the fuck does that? ‘O it’s 4, so I have to write a couple of really deep lines because I’m an artist.’

So creation is more of a spur of the moment thing for you?

Yeah. I haven’t made a beat in weeks.

Does that affect you in any way?

It really sucks. I wish I could but I don’t really have the time. Shooting here all day; we leave around seven; I get sleepy around nine. There’s traffic, so I can’t go home right after. So I’m probably at the store for a good hour. Then it’s 8. We could loiter anywhere and do nothing for hours so next thing I know it’s 10:30. I drive home around 11, 11:30, 12. Fucking go to sleep. Wake the fuck back up at 6:30 to get where I have to be by 8. Shoot all day and that shit Monday through Friday. Past couple weeks there’s been a pop-up shop on Saturday or some stupid shit I have to do. Or I just want to take a break from shooting all week, so I don’t do anything. And then, you know, I just don’t do anything. I try to bring my notebook with me to try to figure shit out when I’m bored. Draw.

Or work on the screenplay that you can’t talk about…

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Are you serious when you say that you want an Oscar?

Hell yeah. It’s going to be sick too. I don’t know when it’s going to happen. It could happen in the next three years, it could happen in twenty years. It’s going to be sick.

Are you still looking at Instagram?

Yeah, I’m on Instagram. I’m not really looking at anything because I’m really in tune with what you’re saying. I’m just scrolling up and down, but not really paying attention. Plus that music in the background is also pretty distracting.

They’re playing some good songs.

I’d have to disagree with you.

As far as directing is concerned, are there any people you admire?

There are people I really admire. But they influence me pretty heavy right now because my own style is still blossoming. So I’m not going to tell you who they are because then you’ll know where I’m stealing from.

With the bright colors in your work, you’d think Wes Anderson might be a direct influence. And then there was that photo you posted of him with Owen Wilson…

I love Wes Anderson so much. He’s so awesome. And I didn’t know who he was until a year and a couple months ago. I don’t know shit about directing. I just know I like to make fucking films and place colors and do one-takes and shit. And when I found out about that guy I was like, ‘O my god, this dude’s awesome.’

Hype Williams is sick, his old stuff at least. Everything pre-2007. He’s horrible now. Spike Jonze has some cool stuff. Crooklyn is a good movie. I feel like that’s the only Spike Lee movie I’ve seen all the way through. I’ve seen some of Bamboozled. There’s some really good Spike Lee stuff I’ve seen. I still have to see Do the Right Thing. But I’ve seen like five minutes of it and I was amazed.

Did you really get a happy ending massage the other week?

Yeah, like three weeks ago. It was fucking weird. [Addressing everyone in the room] You ever get a happy ending? You don’t even know. I don’t even want to go into detail.

I just fucking went for a massage and this bitch said, ‘Make it soft.’ And I was like, ‘What?’ She was like, ‘Do you want water?’ I was like, ‘That’s not what you said. What did you say, make it soft?’ So my dick was out and she fucking just jacked me off and she was like a fifty-year-old Asian lady.

I don’t know if I liked it or not because the whole time I’m thinking: ‘What if the cops come in and my career is over? O, shit, what if there’s a fire starting right now? I can’t believe this is happening. O, my phone just vibrated. Whose texting me right now? This is crazy. Damn, the lights are red in here.’ There’s so much happening going on in your head, so you don’t know if you like it or not. It’s one of the most awkward things ever. But I think every dude in the world should drive a Ferrari and get a [happy ending]. I want every person I know to experience that.

What’s your favorite recent Amoeba purchase?

Kings of Summer, with Moises Arias and Nick Robinson. It’s a movie. It’s pretty sick.

Movies. Fucking records and stuff.  I got this Norman Connors record. I just listened to it on Youtube and then I walked past and saw it, so I got it. It’s like fusion jazz.

How does it feel to have Kanye West call you an ‘innovator’ and a ‘mentor?’

Kanye calling me that is so…Because he’s like the big guy. But he really likes me. It’s so weird because I feel like no one likes me in the industry. But the only three people that fuck with me heavy, that I talk to weekly are Jay, Ye, and Pharrell. Those are the only people that actually like me. When you have those three being the only people that like you, no one else really matters. It’s pretty cool. I can’t even lie.

You’re in contact with them all the time?

I always just ask Jay for random advice because he’s fucking rich and I want to be — he was young and dumb too, just buying jewelry and fucking cars and all that shit. Once he got a little older he figured it out and became a businessman. If I take what the fuck he knows, what he learned, what he figured out at like 30 or something at 22 I’m going to be good by 30 and won’t have to do shit else for my life. So I hit him up on shit like that.

Ye, we just talk. We both hate everything, so it’s cool to have someone I could medium with. And Pharrell is just the man.

Do you ask Pharrell for music advice?

Sometimes. Sometimes it’s just trading songs. He told me some books to get. We talk about jewelry and different stones, shit like that. There’s so much about stones that people don’t know, like the difference between sapphires and diamonds and what gemstones are. And like diamonds come in only certain colors, there’s math to every cut. I want to make a lot of jewelry when I’m older.

Is that something you’re studying?

Yeah, like just different health benefits of different stones. You wouldn’t even believe. Jade has health benefits because that has minerals from the ground. People wear jewelry and really don’t know much about it. But I actually really like jewelry and seeing the different colors coming together.

At this point I pull out the list of questions I generally bring to all interviews in order to see what I have/haven’t asked. 

Let me see that. These are questions you wrote down?

Tyler begins to scan my list, reading and answering most of my questions aloud.

Do you feel like you’ve matured in the short span of your career?

Yes. Yes, I have. I’ve matured a lot in the past three years.

Are there things you’ve done in the past that you wouldn’t consider doing again?

Um, a couple things. I don’t really know though.

Do you feel like the other members of Odd Future don’t get the respect they deserve because they’re in your shadow?

Yeah, at times. Sometimes it’s just how things are.

How many hours of planning and preparation would you say you put into the OF carnival?

It’s a team of us, but figuring that shit out is crazy. Especially just little shit like from what the prizes are to, ‘Are we going to do a crazy shirt for the carnival or just something simple? Fuck, what colors are those going to be? What song am I going to do for this set?’ Figuring the background clouds took fucking forever. It was a lot, but it was sick.

Were you really a consultant for Kanye’s clothing line?

Some stuff. I was just telling him what would do this blah blah blah. This is too much. Just telling him the stuff that I like, the stuff that I wear. If a regular person like me came who’s not into that crazy fashion world they would just want a regular t-shirt . Just things like that, just giving him my two cents.

Did you take film classes at West L.A. community college? Someone wrote that in an article about you.

I didn’t take film classes at all. I went to West L.A. for like three weeks and the only class that I took was this English class. And once I kept getting C’s and D’s on my essays I just stopped going. I wanted to go to school for film, but I couldn’t afford it. And they didn’t really have film classes at the school besides stupid beginner shit.

Now that you can afford it, would you go back?

I wouldn’t go back. I’m learning as I learn, if that makes any sense. I play the piano. I always wanted lessons, couldn’t get them so I figured it out. And the fact that I’m playing and coming up with chords and I don’t know what I’m playing makes it way more fun.

How about guitar, are you still learning how to play?

I gave up the first hour. I’m not going to lie. I’m probably going to pick up bass. I wish I didn’t have asthma beacuse I really want to learn the saxophone. My goal is to learn four instruments. I can do drums and piano. Bass and trumpet or saxophone is next. So by 30 I’ll know those.

Do you ever listen to film scores?

No, but I love library music. The Price is Right music — if you really listen to all that stuff, that stuff is fucking beautiful. Library music is just millions of all that type of stuff. It’s really good.

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