Notes From The Underground: An Interview With Sematary

Donald Morrison links up with the Haunted Mound leader to talk about his latest mixtape Bloody Angel, putting on for the Haunted Mound crew, his love for Chicago drill and more.
By    May 22, 2024

Image via Sematary/Instagram

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Donald Morrison chooses Key Lime over Pumpkin, and it’s not even close.

There’s a cemetery on the edge of Bushwick called the Cemetery of the Evergreens that expands all the way into Queens. This final resting place for more than 526,000 people is where I meet Sematary in early March. The young Northern California rapper is known for his genre-melding exploration of angst, and a visual aesthetic that’s something like a mix of metal, early Gucci Mane mixtapes, and his former tourmates $uicideboy$.

When I settle in to ask Sematary questions, he looks at me with a tuned-in intensity. A thousand cylinders simultaneously fire off in his head. His music has an immediacy anchored by a love of art and destruction — evidenced by the decommissioned Butcher House where he records and shoots all his videos. Despite the roof caving in last winter, he’s continued to work and live in the home.

Sematary and his manager arrived in an SUV to the Evergreens at the exact moment that an overseer was closing the gates for the day. We decided to instead drive to McCarren Park in Greenpoint to do the interview. It was a strangely nice day in New York, with the sun coming out for the first time in nearly a week. Sematary was playing songs off the newly-released Chief Keef and Mike WiLL Made-It album and chain smoking cigarettes. His manager drove and dutifully rolled the windows up and down depending on if a cigarette was lit or not. We quickly transitioned into playing songs off Sematary’s new mixtape, Bloody Angel, which sees him expanding his sound with the shoegaze-inspired single, “Wendigo.”

Sematary’s aesthetic has earned the Haunted Mound crew a cult-like status. His music is an amalgam of his inspirations: Chief Keef, Gucci Mane, the metal band Salem. The rabid fans that make up the core of the Haunted Mound subreddit spend their days pontificating on everything from Sematary’s drug consumption to what his diet is. This particular subset of fans is not something Sematary likes to talk about. He would prefer to not be roped into conversations about his peers; he views himself and his Haunted Mound crew to be peerless. He may be right. The average Haunted Mound fan doesn’t fit any particular mold: there’s teenagers who would have been Soundcloud rap fans 8 years ago. Teenagers who would have been hard rock fans 20 years ago love Sematary, too. He’s managed to make something new out of the shattered pieces of scenes past.

When we got to McCarren Park, we found a bench and talked for close to two hours. We touched on everything from movies, traveling, the underground, and the future of the Haunted Mound crew. Sematary looked forward to the release of Bloody Angel, which has since been well-received from fans, with his experimentation even garnering attention from listeners outside of his usual orbit. He’s just now finishing the final leg of the accompanying tour and looking forward to a small break, although he says that’s probably unlikely. “It’s going to end up being like a month, then I’m going to have to mix a Buckshot song or something,” Sematary said. “I could never be gone for long.”

Last time I saw you at Madison Square Garden you were wearing these large platform boots.

Sematary: Those were the white New Rock’s, these crazy big boots I like to wear. It’s actually a rare thing to catch me not wearing them. I got the Louis’ boots today.

I peeped those when we got out of the car. They look like space boots.

Sematary: They’re the ones Chief Keef wore in like 2015 and Lil Peep wore them too. They were actually very hard to find. Only like 200 of these bitches were made.

What’s your favorite movie?

Sematary: I can give you a top three right now. Mad Max: Fury Road, Devil’s Rejects by Rob Zombie and 28 Days Later.

That’s a solid top three.

Sematary: If you listen there’s shit about those movies in my lyrics. My first song I ever put out was called “Fury Road.” I love a lot of movies. Growing up I didn’t have shit to do so I lost my life in movies. I really just want to duck off, get high, eat pizza and watch movies. Dune 2 is probably my favorite movie I’ve seen recently. I really want to get my music in movies or GTA, I think that would be sick.

What have you been up to since opening for the $uicideboy$ on their global tour last year?

Sematary: I’m getting ready for a tour now, making lots of merch. Have you seen the hockey masks I’ve been wearing with the Harold face? I’m very proud of that, and the Chief Keef style polo’s with Haunted Mound on them.

I work hard. I do all our merch design for the most part. Anything design related goes through me if it isn’t made by me directly. So I’m really proud of those merch items and we’re gonna sell them on tour, so I’m working hard on that and this mixtape, Bloody Angel.

What was the first artistic pursuit you sought? Was it drawing or music?

Sematary: It was music. I was 11 years old on GarageBand. My dad’s a music producer, so he kind of set me up with the software and shit and said “go nuts!” So since I was 11 I’ve been fucking around. And then at like 14 I started really studying underground shit like TeamSESH and Sad Boys, just studying what worked and what didn’t.

I got out of high school and started making mixtapes with my friend and just started trying to do it the way I thought would be the right way to do it. Drop the mixtape, make the shirts then, you know, do the tours. But I couldn’t do the tours because of COVID at first. It forced me to lock in and it was not always a good time, right? Stuck at your parents house, broke trying to make mixtapes can’t do shows, get fat because you’re depressed and making mixtapes and shit, but I made like fucking four tapes that year. So now I have a backbone of releases I can pull from and redo at will and the hype is crazy. I have an old EP called War Boy, it’s more punky. I’m going to remake it because I like those songs. But they need to be done better.

So how did you make it out of your parents house?

Sematary: In 2021, I saved up enough money to move into the Butcher House.

You call Bloody Angel a mixtape. What’s the distinction between a mixtape and an album for you?

Sematary: It doesn’t really matter anymore. But for me, I want my debut album to be done right. Where you go to the studio and you polish it, and you get a mixing engineer and you do the whole nine yards. Because we make these all in our bedrooms, with me mixing it so I consider them all mixtapes. Also mixtapes have hella DJ tags and on an album I wouldn’t have that.

What does a Sematary debut album sound like?

Sematary: I don’t know, we’ll get there though.

How do you imagine the Haunted Mound structure? Are you the leader?

Sematary: I’m the founder. I made the sound we’re all working in type of shit. It’s a collective or a record label, all of those things at once.

Do you plan on staying independent?

Sematary: Yeah, only use the fucking major labels structure for distribution, kind of like $uicideboy$. DIY is our whole thing so we could ever like suits involved or some shit like that.

What are your thoughts on Joeyy and that corner of the underground rap scene?

Sematary: You know it’s beef if you’re asking. I don’t do real rap beef because that’s stupid. It’s pointless. It doesn’t make anybody money. But those fools are cool with Sam Hyde. You know, Sam Hyde is a straight up piece of shit and I’m not going for that. So that’s why it’s fuck them permanently and anyone who associates with them. Alt-right shit shouldn’t be cool in the underground. Fuck that shit. I don’t give them a pass and I don’t work with anyone who works with them. Their music is meme shit. But it’s not beef, I just don’t tolerate Nazi’s in the underground.

Who do you listen to these days?

Sematary: I like Black Kray. I like Atlanta shit generally. I like OsamaSon right now.

What’s your favorite city to visit outside of your hometown?

Sematary: Chicago because of the history and the impact it’s had on me and my music. It’s cool to be in the birthplace of drill, because a lot of our shit comes from that. I don’t really give a shit about seeing places or traveling. I just like touring and doing my thing. I’m excited to go to Stockholm. We’re going to Sweden on the European tour. I’m hyped for that because Yung Lean lives there.

Where do you see yourself in five years? What’s the big picture for Haunted Mound?

Sematary: I just want to keep grinding for now. I want to keep touring and putting out mixtapes. My goal is, now that I’ve sort of blown up in the scene, I’m trying to get all my guys just as big so we’re all GOAT’ed, you know? Just keep touring, keep doing cool collaborations.

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