OK. Please introduce yourself.
My Name is Rob Smith. I am from the group Sonic Sum. I am also called Rob Sonic.
Can you give us a little background info on Sonic Sum: Who it consists of, when you formed under the banner and mission objective if any?
Sonic Sum is: My self vocals/production, Eric M.O. production/Bass, Fred Ones Turntables/production and Dj Jun, Turntables/production. We have been formally working together as Sonic Sum for about 6 years. But we worked on stuff before that, just not as a group. We are all on highly classified missions, so if you have a problem and no one else can help and you can find us.
Where did you grow up and where do you currently reside?
I grew up in the DC area, and have been coming to NY since I was child. I’ve lived for over a decade. I’m in the Bronx now but I’ve lived in every borough.
The thing that strikes me the most about Sonic Sum is the feel of live instrumentation within the music. Do you use live instruments on your records? Are they used on the majority of your records? Are you at all musically inclined (trained) or are you going based off feel?
Yeah. We enlist every thing we can from church organs to guitars with not enough strings. Necessity you know? Eric is really the only one with any training. The rest of us come from a more traditional hip-hop production background, but there’s really nothing traditional about the way we do it. Whatever works is our motto, we try to keep our songs as different from each other as possible!
Your lyrics hearkens a sense of compression & encoding; as if you’ve packed so much information into a very small amount of space. How do you feel about meaning in songs, levels of encryption?
I don’t really follow the compression thing because writing is how I decompress, but I’ll take a shot. It all makes sense to me when its written, but I am aware of my selfishness as a writer. I feel like I give it back the way I get it. Like you’re not going to pull ten things of true worth out of a days worth of information from the various sources we have. And if you do it’s instantly erased by some shitty add for a product. Well it’s like I comprehend in short hand, so that’s going to come out in my writing. I try to deliver message 1 and message 2 as rapidly as possible. So that people can see the similarity in opposites and that the sense that isn’t made is not our fault cause we are overwhelmed.
Do I remember correctly you hanging around the old Ozone message boards a few years ago?
Ummm. Yeah I guess, but how does one hang around images on a screen?
Does technology, and more directly the internet fit into your own strategical plan for Sonic Sum. In what degree?
Sure, the internet is cool. I’ve met lots of cool people on the web, its a good economical way to promote and surf the web, its mad webbed out. I just hope artists don’t have to rely on it, I know I wouldn’t, I’ll stop releasing music if there isn’t the human contact that music naturally evokes, It’s like anything else good and bad.
Please describe your relationship with Ozone.
If not for Ozone I prolly wouldn’t have put anything out, really Meech believed in me when I did not. Showed me the ropes of this the realities and most of all they had the vision. So they are friends, as well as Management, and they put out our music.
Have you known Mike Ladd for a minute? How did ya’ll meet up?
I have known Mike for years, We met through friends. I was kinda going through a bad time when I met him. I think the actual meeting was me being passed out drunk on his floor. And he just came in like it was nothing. Just came in went about his Biz, like “What up man”?
Just recently, you’ve linked up with Definitive Jux. Can you go into that partnership: its history, present & any possible future plans?
I’m doing some stuff outside of the group. And if it’s Ill, then Definitive Jux it is. I mean I’m a fan of the label so it’s got to be a great record for me to approach them with it. The way it happened is that I’ve known El for a while through Ozone, We always talked music and shit clicked on some things. I think he liked some of the more recent stuff I’ve been doing and it sparked some interest. We’re friends anyways so.
Do you get a bugged reaction performing in NYC? How does the crowd react to your live shows, and is it any different from a few years ago?
For the most part people are receptive and we try to put on the best show we can. I think the thing with crowds anywhere now that is different from when I was younger is, it seems to me everybody wants to hear from someone else what they should like. So you develop these championing super fans and if you’re not who they want to see they don’t give you a chance. Which I think is bullshit. For the most part we get a great response.
Rob Smith: Top left, DJ Jun Bottom Left, Eric M.O. Right Front, Fred Ones Right Back
What’s the stage setup, live bass?
Its me on vocals and Eric on bass up front, And Fred and Jun on three turntables spinning our instrumentals and cuttin and Jun playing keyboards in back…So there’s more to look at than just me runnin my yap.
Are you hip to overseas reaction? Any feedback been thrown your way?
Of course I got friends all over the UK and Eric is from Dublin so, we are actually received very well on the other side of the drink. The thing about Europe is that they really enjoy going to venues and they dig into music quite deeply. So they are knowledgeable about acts that may not be that well known here. It’s fresh, always a good reaction, don’t really know about anywhere else.
What kinda science fiction you dig on?
All kinds. Mostly the standards: Bradbury, Vonnegut, P.K. Dick, Aldous Huxsley…
It’s between Kafa and Mikhail Bulgakov…Too many to pick though. Reading is the one thing I wish I could do more.
Any non Def Jukies you’d like to get up with and collaborate on?
I don’t know, I’d like to work Shadow, Roots Manuva, Mike Diamond. The rest is people I know El-P, Anti Pop!
Have you ever visited the Peach site?
Yes a few times, It’s fresh.
So go ‘head and tell us what’s coming up for Sonic Sum: Future releases, all
In late April we are releasing a limited edition CD called “Plaster Man” which will have songs that we only released on vinyl and a few exclusive tracks. Then in September we are dropping our second album called “Films” and I really like it. It’s more aggressive but not outside of our sound so, yeah that’s the big one.
And finally, any closing words?
The lobby with it imposing mouth and morning breath, it’s disregard chewed us both. We were stories that were told to its friends that were giant and Laughing. Train’s pitched us like pennies from their drunken hands, they watch us lean. – Grand Central Station 1993.
Special thanks goes out to Rob Sonic, Ese @ Ozone, KennyK & Reggie for their help with this interview.