The King of Darkness Fighting For His Bright: An Interview With TECH N9NE On BRIGHTFALL
Tech N9ne is one of the biggest names in contemporary rap. Since his debut album in 1999, Tech has gone on to release a total of 20+ records (studio and collaboration LPs combined). His creativity and rhymes make him a fascinating artist who continues to raise the bar for rap. But lately, there’s been a lot more on Tech’s mind than just music.
Last month he released the first part of a brand new film series entitled Brightfall (based on the track of the same name from his latest record, Planet). Brightfall is a dive into the struggles of Tech’s life, along with some terrifying cinematic chills. He has been a lifelong fan of horror movies ever since he was young, thanks in part to his mom bringing him to the theater.
“I was born in ‘71,” Tech says. “I saw Carrie in ‘76. My mom took me to go see Carrie. Sissy Spacek did a marvelous job, scared the hell out of me. ‘78 my mom once again took me to go see the first Halloween. I’ve been connected ever since the ‘70s. Later in life, I became the Michael Myers of rhyme.”
Regarding the movie that freaks him out the most, he says, “The Exorcist. Anything religious and demon-like; Linda Blair’s head spinning around spitting out green throw up. You can kind of smell it, what it would smell like in that room. Being cold and getting thrown up, and the throw up is warm and hot. The cuts on her from the demon inside her; the cuts she put upon herself when she was stabbing herself in her pelvic area. That movie scared everyone. I have a life-size Regan in my Clown Shrine in my home; it’s Halloween all year round in my house.”
The Clown Shrine is where Tech keeps all his horror memorabilia. “You’ll find all the Michael Myers stuff when you walk into my library; it says ‘Welcome to Haddonfield,’ where Michael Myers is [from]. I have the original William Shatner mask, and I have the actual script with Debra Hill and John Carpenter from 1978. I have all [of] that in my Clown Shrine; along with Annabelle and Doctor Satan from House of 1000 Corpses. [I’m] the King of Darkness, hence why [in] Brightfall I’m trying to run from my darkness.”
In part one of Brightfall, Tech comes face to face with a sinister black ooze; as an artist, Tech uses this ooze to tell a much deeper story. The inspiration for this chapter comes from a traumatic evening he endured regarding a health incident with his mom. Referring to the ooze, Tech says, “I know what it was now, [but when I was five-years-old], I actually saw it come out of [my mom’s] mouth.
He continues, going into further detail of that night and what it was like being so young and feeling such terror. “It scared the hell out of me and traumatized me for all these years; to where I was able to build something bigger off of it. Think [of having that trauma], from being five years old to now I’m 47 years old. I was able to build Brightfall off of that. Being there, if I can remember correctly, I almost shit myself; that was the scariest thing ever to see my mom going into convulsions. I can’t remember if that was the first time I saw her have a seizure, but it was scary like it was the first time. It was nighttime at church, and there were ushers with white gloves on trying to hold her down, and the whole scene was just so sinister. I thought I would share it with people and let them know I really saw this.”
In time, Tech came into more of an understanding of what he had witnessed; in particular, his partner, who happens to be a nurse, provided some helpful insight. “What my lady said to me in the last year was, when people have seizures, they try to swallow their tongue; so what you saw [were the veins] under her tongue. She said that’s what she thought it was, and that makes sense. So that [ooze] came from what I saw as a five-year-old. It was bigger to me; it’s like it came out of her mouth and went right back in. Her eyes were bucked open and looking right at me as she was convulsing. That shit was scary.”
For Tech, like many other artists, his work is a means of coping. Being able to explore his trauma through music and film has allowed him to grow stronger as an individual. Speaking to his work, “This music is my therapy,” he shares. “So if something bothered me from way back when, I want to tell the story, and paint it to where it will be entertaining to people. [Brightfall] is a metaphor for me battling my demon that was transmitted way back then.”
He adds, saying how the Brightfall series is a means to share his fight against darkness, “All these stories I’m going to tell are real stories. About me growing up, to almost dying on drugs, and everything that was that demon connected to me. So Brightfall now is me as a man recognizing that that was an evil part of me back then that I’m trying to detach from; but whenever I try to detach, it clings even harder. It comes back to haunt me in my present life, anything from the past will resurface. Like, oh my goodness, why can’t I just leave all the darkness behind me?”
“Maybe it’s connected to me for life. I don’t know. We will never know until either I come on top or come out fucking affected by it and not living anymore. I’ve been trying to detach for some years now; it [has been] almost four years. So far I’m pretty good; my darkness was connected to my marriage. I finally got my divorce last year. My darkness infected my children and ex-wife. I’m in the midst of trying to repair things with my children; me being gone, being on drugs, almost dying, and being on tour and away from my family. That’s another chapter of people that know I was a fucked up person back then but hopefully they know I’m trying to be better.”
Having already fought his darkness through music, and inspired by his love for horror movies, film called out to Tech as his next venture in art. Regarding why he wanted to make a film, he shares, “Because of me being a moviegoer all my life. I’m the kind of dude that still wants to go to a show on opening night because I like the crowd participation. But it’s just so hard for me because everyone is a Tech N9ne fan. So sometimes I have to wait; sometimes I go and put a bandana around my face just so I can be in the audience with everybody as they’re getting the first ‘oohs’ and ‘awes.’ I like the crowd participation. I like to say ‘Oh shit!’”
“It was inevitable I would try my hand at film. So when I first came up with the idea for Brightfall, and I wrote out the outline and everything, and I sent it to my people in LA, they arranged it differently and still stayed with the theme of the story, and it turned out wonderfully. That was like my first time really writing an outline for a film. My second [film] I did on this [current] tour called USSQU, a little short film I did for the fans to see for [when I] come out on stage. It turned out really good.”
Speaking further to writing the rest of the Brightfall series, Tech dives into what fans will come to discover. “Now I’m going to write these other Brightfall stories to the series, and they are gonna get worse and worse; I don’t mean worse and worse as in horrible movies, I’m talking about worse and worse [as in darker] stories. [The Brightfall out now] is subtle compared to where I’m gonna take it.”
*“The thing about [this current chapter of Brightfall] is that it’s the last story kind of; I’m about to tell the backstory, and it’s going to lead to the Brightfall we just released. And now the fight is not complete, it just started right there, so then we can go forward after I tell the backstory. We’ll land where we started, and then we’ll continue the fight to see which side will win; light, or bright, or the night? And if my brightness falls, that means I lost. I don’t want my brightness to fall; I want my bright to shine bright and continue to shine in life, in love, in laughter. That’s what I want as the King of Darkness, in my 47th year. But can I have it? I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Part one of Brightfall alone is an excellent means of how an artist can use their work to explore their past and grow. By blending real-life trauma with fictional aesthetics, an artist can transverse their struggles and digest their emotions with time; this is also an incredible gift for fans. Through Tech’s work with Brightfall, he offers them a means to find strength and hope. Whether it’s music or film, art has a remarkable power to connect with people; to provide a sense of connection and allow one to find drive and courage. In Tech’s own words, he shares his hopes for fans in watching Brightfall:
“It’s a story of prevailing. You can fight for your light, or you fight for your rights, but there is a fight because people are trying to pull you down. That’s the message I want people to get; if you fight hard enough, you can have what the hell you want. That’s the whole gist of it; I could just lie down and let the darkness consume me and I could’ve died on drugs, but I weathered my storm myself.”
“That’s what I want people to take away from this whole Brightfall series. It’s a story of redemption and prevailing through bullshit; if I can do it, other people who have darkness pulling them down can do it too.”
You can now watch part one of Brightfall via the link, and keep an eye out for part two entitled “I Saw It” in the near future.