Let's get it out of the way: You're here because you saw an image of a grown man dressed like a giant turtle and wanted to know what the hell was going on. It's okay, us too.
Being the animal lovers that we are, we clicked on a tweet from LA-based rapper Old Man Saxon this afternoon, hoping for some lighthearted turtle-related content. Instead, we saw a beautiful video with deceptively deep themes—made with plenty of heart.
The video is our introduction to Saxon, so we had to learn more. What was it like inside the suit? Why turtles? What's this guy's story?
What we heard back was the story of a man who has sacrificed a lot for a chance to make the music he feels he needs to create. Learning that he recorded "Sunday Saxon" while he was homeless, the song's themes come into focus more sharply. There's a lot more going on here than a silly clip of a man in a turtle costume. Watch the video and read our interview with Saxon below.
Can you let us in on the original concept for the video?
My dad died when I was young, and I was constantly looking for other influences in my life. Sometimes all I needed was someone, or something, to merely tell me, "It's gonna be fine." [Music video director] Anthony [Yano Hays] saw turtles as these slow moving, all knowing, long living creatures—and felt that a turtle would best represent that void I had early on in my life.
[Hays] is actually one of my best friends. The original idea came from the fact that he thought I looked like a turtle, and he always wanted to put me in a turtle suit. So when we found the right song to do it for he jumped on the opportunity. Anthony is a really brilliant director so I knew that even if I didn't explicitly know why and how we were going to do the turtle thing, I knew that somewhere deep down it made perfect sense to him. He knows my past, and knows the background to the lyrics of the song.
It made perfect sense to me. The great thing about art in general is that it is always up for interpretation and people will come to their own conclusions about why there is a guy dressed up in a turtle suit spittin' bars. Hopefully, in some weird way it will connect with people.
That costume is amazing. Where'd you get it? What was it like to get into and crawl around in?
The costume was designed and made by Amie Schow. She's a costume designer in New York and she did dirt on a budget. As far as being in the turtle costume... It was miserable. I was basically crawling around in dirt for 8 hours. I was breathing in dust and coughing—and after we wrapped I was sick for a week. We live in LA so it was also hot as hell and I didn't smell pleasant.
I saw that you spent 2014 living out of your car. How did you get from that to where you are today?
I'm from Denver, Colorado and I moved out to LA after college at CU Boulder. I came out originally to get a video game testing job but then I quit that to start taking rap a little more serious. I ended broke as fuck and literally decided to sleep in my car maybe to get some motivation and start taking it a little more serious. The short answer is that I ended up getting a waiter gig and was able to start saving money and get a place to stay. I recorded this song while I was homeless and made it with my good friend Cer Spence (producer out of Echo Park) and we just clicked real well and I actually ended up moving in with him once I had enough money saved up. Because of the success of my last video "The Perils" about a year later I got a text from my friend Luke Strand asking me if I wanted to teach rap at a music college. So now I am the professor of rap at Musicians Institute in LA.
This song is from your Perils EP, right? Can you tell me about that project?
I decided while I was living in my car that I should document this experience in some way, so I started to write songs about it. It's a four song EP I wrote over the course of the year while living out the back of my Ford Explorer. I wrote hundreds of songs during that year but I thought that those four best described it. I would always hear rappers talk about how they were homeless and I always thought that was where the story was. I never really told many people I was living in my car. I slept alone, showered at gyms, and ate McDonalds Happy Meals twice a day while making the album. My car got broken into while I was sleeping in the backseat—multiple times. But in the end I know it was something that people wanted to hear, even if they didn't know it.
Do you have anything new on the way soon?
Yes I have bunch of new music coming soon. Like I said, I wrote hundreds of songs so I have a bunch of ideas that have been laid down and now I'm just figuring out the right way to release it. Right now I'm thinking of just releasing singles though.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I did a TED Talk recently that really explains who I am as an artist if that helps you at all.