“I’m Talking to People who Have Regular Jobs”: An Interview with Video Dave

Will Schube speaks with Video Dave about his relationship with Open Mike Eagle, retiring from rap, and the freelance television industry.
By    August 18, 2020

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One day, there will be a book written about how, exactly, Southern Illinois University was a breeding ground for immense artistic talent during a wildly specific time frame. That was the late ‘90s and early 2000s, when Open Mike Eagle, Hannibal Buress, Serengeti, and Video Dave were all making their way through college, putting on rap shows for anyone willing to listen and comedy shows for anyone needing a laugh. Until that day arrives, though, we’re left to consume their work and try to figure out what was happening to the water in Carbondale, Illinois throughout this period.

While ‘Geti, OME, and Hannibal are household names (at least for those that know), Video Dave is a late arriver to the scene. He’s been rapping since his college days, but a false start and a successful foray into reality TV production postponed his career as an MC by a decade or so. But with Week 1560, Video Dave has helped usher in Open Mike Eagle’s new label, Auto Reverse Records. Dave’s own Bandcamp page is populated with old releases from his early days as an MC, but this record feels like a rebirth, a concept album about Dave stuck in a seven day cycle. Dave began working on the record in 2010, recorded it in 2012, and finally updated it earlier this year when Eagle solicited Dave for an Auto Reverse release.

Video Dave is a known entity for fans of Open Mike Eagle, as Dave has been an integral member of the OME tour unit for a few years. He started videoing all the shows, helping with footage for YouTube and Twitter, the sort of extra media you need to be providing when you’re an indie rapper. Then, Dave would occasionally rap a few verses during OME sets before eventually arriving as an opening artist in his own right. To unknowing fans, Dave’s impressive skills on the mic may come as a surprise, but with a back catalogue of albums, the MC’s rise and growth is easy to put into context. On the heels of Week 1560, we spoke with Dave about constantly retiring, trying to escape Open Mike Eagle’s shadow, and living the same week over and over. — Will Schube

This has been a long time coming. How does it feel to finally have the album out?

Video Dave:It feels good to have it out because I’ve been working on it for so long. It’s nice to see something I’ve been working on like, “Oh wow, this shit is actually out.” It’s also this idea of, “Is this going to come out? What’s going to happen?” The response so far is good. I hear good things, but what else am I going to hear? I don’t have any haters. I think people that might not like it or don’t care will keep to themselves and will just not care.

When did you begin working on it?

Video Dave:Officially, I began working on this in 2010. I had the beats for like two years before I had ever written anything, and I wrote it in 2012 and recorded demos. It just sat there; I put it out on Bandcamp many years ago just for my friends. Years later, I was talking to [Open] Mike [Eagle] about putting out an album, and I was like, “I really want to revisit this album.” I forced the guy who made all of those beats, he’s ten years behind all those beats and he didn’t want to work on them, to dig up all the old beats and redo shit. I went to his place and recorded ‘em last summer; that was when I actually recorded this version of it.

What’s it like for you, revisiting something that’s from such a different part of your life?

Video Dave:That part was weird. It was this story that I wanted to tell of my time in New York, so it was like I wrote it as a movie or a story in my mind. It’s like watching that story again. It never went away; I’ve always had that project, and I’ve always listened to it like, “Man, this could still work. I could still do something with this.” It didn’t feel that old.

When you were at Southern Illinois with Serengeti and Mike, were you rapping as well, or were you starting to do the video side back then?

Video Dave:Yeah, I was rapping back then. I had albums; I had a crew in Chicago, and we would do shows. I was all about it back then, more than I was in the in-between time. Halfway through my time in Miami, and then in my time in New York, was when I got serious about video.

Why did you move away from rap?

Video Dave:Because it wasn’t working. I was in Miami, and I was putting albums out on the internet, using Facebook, going to open mics, selling CDs; I was still selling CDs with street shit, going to open mics all the time, and I was just broke. Then, all of a sudden, one of my friends started offering me some camera and editing work, and I just followed that path. I started to do more freelance and more video editing, and that took away…I still made beats and would write raps, but I just wasn’t focused on it.

Was linking back up with Mike what got you back into rap, or when did that start bubbling back into your life again?

Video Dave:This album, when I wrote it, was after I kind of “retired” in 2010. I used to use that word, that’s what I would tell some of my friends. I would always come back a few months later, but I was always “retired.” My whole rap career, from the first two months, I’d be like, “Oh, I’m retired,” whenever I got bored with it. When I retired in 2010, that time I thought it was real. It actually felt real to me because I put out an album, it didn’t do anything on Bandcamp and shit, I was doing open mics in New York, and it was like, “I’m living in New York, I’m doing open mics, and this rap shit ain’t working.”

I started getting reality TV opportunities and I just took those. On Facebook, I saw that Mike was doing shows, and I was like, “Holy shit!” That’s how we reached next; I hadn’t spoken to him since 2004. In 2009/2010, I was like, “Oh shit, Open Mike Eagle?” I’d been seeing little articles, so I hit him up on Facebook and we went to lunch, we started chilling, and we started speaking after that.

A year later I did a music video for him, then I started doing more music videos for him, and then I started touring with him, doing the video shit – that’s when I met Uhl, she was just doing the video stuff for him. When I’m touring with him, we’re in the van freestyling here and there, and they made an opportunity like, “Hey, you want to work on some stuff? Do you want to put out an album? Do you want to open up?” They offered me the opening act first, and then I was like, “Fuck yeah.”

That worked, and Mike offered that if I wanted to put out an album that Auto Reverse was an option. I had to ask him about Week 1560. I don’t want to say he wasn’t into it, but I don’t know if he was completely onboard at first. I know he was like, “Are you sure you don’t want to just do something new?” and I was like, “No, I’m sure I want to do this.” He trusted me to do it.

Do you have a bunch of new stuff, now that you’ve been back on the rap side of things? Are you itching to make new stuff?

Video Dave:That last album that I made was newer than this album, and that was released with no fanfare, without distribution. That’s why this was the first official release on Auto Reverse, because even though Mike put out his stuff and I put out my stuff and officially they say Auto Reverse, they weren’t under the distribution, they weren’t loaded; this was an actual push. Since I started making stuff, I made “The Video Dave Theme Song” last year, and that was when I bought Ableton and was like, “I can work it.”

I’ve been making beats again, I’ve got a lot of stuff that I’ve been working on, and I’m writing stuff. I was just talking to the producer, the guy who made the whole Week 1560, and he wants to work on something from scratch. I know this guy, Smoke Bonito in Chicago who works with my cousin and I rock with, so I’ve got different places and I’m looking at beats. I’m not sure what the next project will be.

Since you still do video work, how do you balance those two entirely different worlds? It seems kind of stressful from the outside.

Video Dave:I’ve been freelancing now since 2010. Honestly, when I wrote this album, after I quit the job that the album’s about – I worked at that school for three years, that for-profit college, and I quit that job for a freelance trip. When I came back from that trip, a few weeks later I wrote this album, exercising that fucking office life, writing all of that out. Since then, I’ve been freelancing completely, and I’ve worked a whole bunch of reality shows, different projects, music, and all kinds of shit.

That’s just what my life is: bouncing around, traveling, being on the road and working on shit. Now, the idea of if I get this reality TV job, I’d be like, “Okay, that’d be a few months of reality TV, some more traveling, some more shit to write about, and some more shit to do.” I’ll just do it. I have my computer with me, so I can make beats wherever I am. I always have my computer and I always have all my tools with me.

Can you talk about the idea behind the project, the days of the week, and what 1560 is about for you?

Video Dave:The title itself, Week 1560 – there are 52 weeks a year. I literally wrote this album around my birthday, in 2012 on my 32nd birthday, and I was looking back at the last three years of my life when I was working that job. I did the math, and week 1560 is your 30th birthday. This album isn’t specifically about my 30th birthday, but it’s just about that time in my life. I spent that week, week 1560, and it wasn’t a true story, it wasn’t one story of what had happened to me, it’s a mix of what my life was for three years. It’s kind of like a loop, like Groundhog Day.

I used to go to the bar all the time (I was a bit of a drinker), and in Brooklyn especially, I used to go to this bar called “Bar Reis.” The first time I walked in there, there was some Do Or Die playing, a remix, and a Bulls game. I was like, “What the fuck is this?” It became my favorite bar instantly. The bartender that was working was this dude, Josh. He worked like three days a week, and this became my spot; it was literally half a block from my place, I’d go there all the time, I’d bring my dog, and I’d hang out.

This dude Josh, the other bartenders were cool too, after a while we started to talk about music. He was in a band and he made beats, so he threw me these beats and I had ‘em forever. He’d always be like, “Did you write? Did you write?” and I never did, I would just listen to it. Eventually, one day, one of them sounded like Sunday morning. I was like, “Oh, there are 7 of them.” I listened to them for a few more weeks, and I arranged them as days of the week.

I walked around for literally a year, listening to these songs, just these beats, in order. I didn’t even know what they were about, I just would listen to them. Sometimes I would have an idea, but I just listened to them. It was when I came back from this trip to Africa, I went to Kenya to do some shooting for charity, and I came back and that’s when I wrote the album. It was a week of my life on loop. I don’t know if people get it, I don’t know if people can catch the story, I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell people the story or if I’m supposed to let people figure it out.

Basically, Sunday morning is the only thing I don’t make clear in the lyrics because it’s kind of a movie too and it would start and end with the same scene, and the scene is Sunday morning – me waking up in bed with some girl, and she’s got short, red hair and a tattoo on the back of her neck. I’m drunk still and I’m like, “What the fuck is this?” I don’t know where I am, neither of us are wearing clothes, and I’ve pulled the terrible, asshole move of sneaking out. I sneak out of this girl’s bed and escape to my life, go run my errands, and go to a party and go crazy.

Monday, I go to work. Tuesday, I have a blind date with some girl who has long, black hair, and I like this girl. Wednesday, I go back to work, then I get crazy drunk that night. I call into work Thursday, she happens to have the day off, we meet up and have this day-long date, and I fall in love with this girl on the second date. Friday, it’s the last day of work, I get paid, go to Happy Hour. This girl just happens to walk into Happy Hour like, “Holy shit,” coincidentally, and we hang out all of Friday.

Saturday morning, I’m like, “Hey, what are you doing today?” She’s like, “I’m going to go do some yoga and get a haircut.” I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to these parties. You should come through.” She shows up to the parties, I’m drunk as shit, and she shows up with this short, red hair and I barely recognize her. I do recognize her, we go back to her place, and I wake up Sunday morning like, “Oh shit! Who’s this redhead? I came home with some random girl.” That’s why I sneak out (not that that makes it okay). It’s like, “This guy’s an idiot. He’s the drunk who messes up his dating life and hates his job.” That’s the story of the album.

What’s it like trying to carve your own path, because you became known in this circle through working with Mike Eagle? What’s it like trying to create your own lane, outside of what you’re doing with him?

Video Dave:That’s tough; on the one hand, I wouldn’t want to separate myself from Mike, but on the other hand, I have to as an artist be my own person, and I have to stand on my own shit. Nothing in the world is forever, so at some point me and Mike might not work together, and I’ll have to work on my own shit. That’s in my head, but it’s weird because even the name Video Dave came from Dead Ass and it came from working with Mike. He started calling me Video Dave, and people took to it.

I had rapped for so long, and I had had so many different names before, and it was clear to me after touring with him and being around him, it was like, “Oh, I see how this works and why it didn’t work for me in the past.” My first rap name was Cogs Wellcogs, then I changed it to InCog, and I was trying to have people know me and I was calling myself InCog; that doesn’t even make sense.

Calling myself Video Dave – Dave is a common name, there are a million Dave’s, so I’m just Video Dave. The “Video” part is just so you can distinguish me from all the other Dave’s. That’s what I do for work and for fun, I like TV and I like videos. I guess I came in with Mike, through Mike, but I’m trying to talk to people who have regular jobs, who had regular jobs for 10/15 years. Mike used to be a teacher back in the day, but Mike’s been rapping for longer. He talks about a lot of different artist stuff in a way that I don’t talk about it because I’m more blue-collar geared.

I don’t know how I’m going to separate myself from him, I’m just going to be myself, but I don’t actively know how to do it. This is my first play with this where people are actually paying attention. I’ve done this so many times, I’ve put out so many records and songs, I’ve made music and all this shit, and now people are watching. It’s like, “Holy shit.”

It’s exciting. Is it terrifying too, or is it just exciting?

Video Dave:There’s so much to be terrified of this year, so this doesn’t scare me that much. I think it used to scare me more, with all my “retires.” I think it used to scare me more than it does now, and part of that was just being the video guy on the tour a few times and just watching, seeing all of the open nets all around the world. Some of them were great and some of them I’d sit back there like, “I could do better.”

When they gave me the chance, I was like, “Yeah, fuck it.” If they were to have offered me the first tour like, “Hey, do you want to open up?” I’m not sure I would’ve taken it. But after two or three tours, watching opening acts, and some of them still would aspire to be like, “Yo, that was a dope-ass opening act.” One time, Leikeli47 played before Mike, and she’s a beast. Just watching billing and acts and what people watch now, it’s like, “I can be up there.” That came from being older, watching it, traveling, and doing so much other shit, where I’m like, “I can do this too.” I’ve met people all around the world that do shit and make music on a big scale, and they’re just regular people.

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