New Brunswick rapper Silent Knight has been working in and out of The Band Called FUSE for than a decade. He chats about both the band and his solo stuff in the Makin Waves Interview.
New Brunswick rapper Silent Knight continually lives up to his best-known song, “Stayin’ Busy” from his 2011 solo LP, Busy Is My Best Friend, with solo and group activity with The Band Called FUSE, a fusion of rap, rock, soul and hip-hop also based in Hub City. On Christmas Eve at Blackthorn in New Brunswick, he’ll present the fourth annual Silent Knight’s Silent Night Christmas Spectacular with a holiday parade of special guests, plus DJ Manny Faces spinning throughout the evening.
Less than a week later, The Band Called FUSE will be at Blackthorn on Dec. 29. And in the New Year, the band will continue to present a free eclectic monthly all-ages expression, The Lineup, on second Saturdays at Sidewalk Cafè in New York City. They have done so for the past eight years with a combination of a rap cypher and an open mic featuring singers, MCs, rappers, instrumentalists, poets, dancers, beat makers and more. The Band Called FUSE also are readying a concert film entitled Rise Together Live.
I spoke with Silent Knight about all that he and the band have going on, plus more, including his artist-in-residency at an social justice podcast entitled “News Beat” that mixes journalism and music. Here’s our chat!
When, how and why did you know you wanted to pursue music and who inspired that desire?
I grew up into music. I even started creating it a very young age. A lot of people in my family are musicians, so I feel like it was in my blood. But also growing up in Brooklyn in the ‘90s, I was just always listening to hip-hop. I would say my brother, Arcane, inspired me to write. It wasn’t until later though that I consciously made the decision to pursue music professionally.
So which was first Silent Knight or The Band Called FUSE? Were they a band and were you doing solo stuff before you joined them or were you a founder of the band?
I was doing solo stuff and they were already a band.
How did you come to join them and are you on all their albums?
One of the main reasons we connected was because of Tent State University at Rutgers. Tent State, or TSU, was an annual grassroots event, where tents would be set up on Vorhees Mall, and classes and workshops were held during the day and performances at night. It started as a protest for tuition raises and money being spent on wars.
I’m on almost all the albums. There is one album that predates my time with them. It’s called 9 Cuts, and it features the original MC of the band. His name is Jalil.
Who’s all in The Band Called FUSE these days and do any of them help you with your solo stuff?
The Band Called FUSE is me, K. Desireé (singer), Soul Qloc (MC and mpc1000), X (guitar), Toast (bass), and Mr. Pokkett (drums). I would say they all help with my solo stuff in their own ways: K Desireé is on some songs with me, Qloc and Pokkett will help me with certain ideas, Toast has contributed bass lines, and X and I are pretty much writing partners in the band so that carries over a little bit with the solo stuff. More than direct musical collaboration, when it comes to my solo stuff, it’s more of a moral and resource support. We help each other and are a team, and that team is a full band AND a solo artist. Somehow we make it work [Laughs].
With my solo stuff though, I work with a lot of different producers. And a lot of the ideas and all my lyrics are pretty much my own. I really enjoy having both worlds exist simultaneously: SK and The Band Called FUSE.
What is the LP/EP discography for both Silent Knight and The Band Called FUSE?
The Band Called FUSE: 9 Cuts (2007), Soul Rebels (2009), Sucker Punch Gospel (2011) and Impossible Dream (2014).
Silent Knight: Fall Of Ignorance (2005), Hunger Strike (2007), Restoration (2008), Holla Burton (2009), Busy Is My Best Friend (2011), Busy Is My Best Friend 2 (2013), Weaknd (2015), Vegan Coquito (2015) and See You In Hell (2016).
The last couple years have been more singles than full projects, but more is on the way.
What are the recording and record and video release plans for you and for the band?
Myself and the band are getting ready to release our live album and concert movie, titled Rise Together Live. We recorded it live at Littlefield in Brooklyn over two nights. It was the culmination of our last Kickstarter campaign. We’ve done three, and are so thankful for the results.
And on the solo front I have an LP and an EP that I’m really looking forward to sharing with the world soon. We also have some surprises and plan to put out a lot more content in the near future.
What’s great about you and The Band Called FUSE, as well DRKBXT and Cook Thugless, is that you play out often, especially in New Brunswick. Yet, you are the only hip-hop acts that do get to play out regularly there despite their being an abundance of rappers and hip-hop DJs in New Brunswick. In contrast, there’s a rap or hip-hop show in Asbury Park nearly every week and frequently in Jersey City. Why do you think there’s such a lack of opportunity for rap and hip-hop in New Brunswick and what can be done about it?
You know, that’s a good question. I feel like for us and Cook Thugless, one of the reasons we get to play in certain venues is because even though we’re hip-hop … we’re live bands. So it just works better or venues are more used to it. No matter what city or town, there’s always a stigma attached to live hip-hop and almost always a fear of attracting the ‘wrong crowd.’ They’re used to be a lot more hip-hop shows in New Brunswick though. I’m honestly not sure what can be done to revive that. Maybe we need to have a committee.
One of the entities that utilizes rap and hip-hop fairly frequently is New Brunswick Cultural Center. Tell me about what you like working with them and why?
That’s definitely true. It’s been a pleasure working with them. They have good people who care about the music, and they also have the resources to do good shows and free outdoor shows. Plus, they have a budget to pay performers. Those things all go a long way. They’re professional, while also being real/relatable.
What has the transition been like working with The Old Bay to Blackthorn and how has that impacted your annual Silent Night with Silent Knight show and other events you do there?
The transition has been incredibly smooth, thankfully. The Silent Night show was started by Tommy Brennan and I, and he’s still doing booking over there. So that show and the band shows have continued, and the relationship is great.
So tell me about this year’s holiday show. Who’s involved, how is it different than previous years, how long have you been doing it, and is there a charitable component?
This will the fourth year we do the show. Each year I bring in a different DJ. This one will be my good friend Manny Faces. It’s basically a party that I host, but I also do a performance. I also usually have some surprises and treats so you’ll have to come see! Also, there’s not currently a charitable component, but I would be open to the possibility in the future.
You also do a monthly show with The Band Called FUSE called The Lineup at Sidewalk Cafè in NYC. Tell me what’s special about that?
Yes, indeed. It’s every second Saturday, and in total, it’s been going on for over eight years now. It’s a free show, and always has been. It’s also all ages now. And every show we open up the mic and the stage during our cyphers. Singers, MC’s, rappers, instrumentalists, poets, dancers, beat makers, it’s open to all. All of those things make it a very fluid, organic, community-feeling event. It’s also helped us grow our base and helped us advance our music. Not just live performances. We test our written music there. It’s helped to get reactions and adjust certain things or just get ideas from the live energy.
Will that continue in 2019? If so, when, are you looking for acts, and if so, how can they get involved?
What other events do you and the band have coming up into the New Year?
Right after the Silent Knight’s Silent Night Christmas Spectacular, we have a full band show at Blackthorn as well. That’s Dec. 29. We also have some cool stuff in the works for NYC, and I have a unique idea in mind for an event when I release my solo projects.
Tell me about the podcast you’re involved in, your role, its mission, the impact it’s had, the awards it’s won, and how listeners can find it.
The podcast is called ‘News Beat.’ I’m the artist-in-residence. It’s a social justice podcast that mixes journalism and music; that description doesn’t do it full justice though. I would say to give it a listen and see. It’s not like any other podcast. Even though there are, of course, social justice podcasts and music podcasts, ‘News Beat’ episodes are more like a combination of songs and stories. It’s a breathing, building, growing, crescendo-ing piece of music, while also being a well done documentary-type of piece. I can brag about them cuz it’s not just me [Laughs].
We won the Best Podcast Award from The New York Press Club. That was for an episode titled “Why We Riot” that actually featured my whole band, as well as Dr. Cornel West, Rosa Clemente, Larry Hamm, and Elizabeth Nix. ‘News Beat’ was also a selection for The New York Times’ Podcast Club and has won (or been nominated for) other awards. It’s been great working with the team over there. We’ve even done some in-person talks and workshops at some colleges and universities. Anyone interested can listen to it wherever you listen to podcasts or you can find more info and episodes at usnewsbeat.com.
Is there anything I didn’t ask on which you would like to comment?
I just wanna say thank you for what you do. Your passion and work in the music scene is so appreciated, seriously. Thanks for supporting me and FUSE but also shedding light on so many other artists.
Besides that, you can find me and the band at bandcalledfuse.com and bandcalledfuse on social media. I’m at @silentknightisbusy on Instagram as well. That’s about it. I’m thankful for this journey and for anyone listening/reading. Much love!
Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at email@example.com. And like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.