When freestyle phenom Mike Averill teams up with DJ Gregory "Max" Keltgen as Eyedea & Abilities, it seems that anything's possible. Their most recent release, 2009's By the Throat, merges razor-sharp rhymes and dark, crunchy guitars. I recently spoke with Averill about the making of the album and what's next for the Twin Cities duo.
How have you and Abilities grown as recording artists since 2004's E&A?
A few years ago, I was in love with the idea of telling a story, but it would end up being so detailed and complex that it didn't leave room for the listener to be part of the sound. Now I'm trying to let everything have a lot of room for interpretation. I don't want to write songs about certain things; I want to create a picture of a certain feeling. So when I go to the studio, I grab pieces I've written over the years...in different contexts and make a sort of mashup, then get out of the studio before I overanalyze it.
A lot of artists have struggled to blend rock and hip-hop. What was your approach on By the Throat?
We try to keep things organic. I play guitar and like that sound, and Max and I grew up listening to a lot of rock, so it seemed like a natural direction to go, one that's true to our personalities.
What's on the horizon?
We're gonna keep touring and stay an active group, but it's hard to settle down and do one thing. Right after we made E&A, I started a band called Puppy Dogs and Ice Cream, which I've been wanting to get going for a while, so I'll probably spend some time doing that.
Why's it so hard to focus on one project?
Every time I start doing something and it becomes mildly successful, I get nervous about being defined by it. I've always been an outsider, whether it's in the punk rock world or hip-hop. The idea of anchoring my identity in one genre of music, that kind of freaks me out, so I keep moving and improvising.