1. So, first off, for those who might not be familiar, where did your artist name come from?
It’s based on my initials. ACW—Aaron C. Williams. That name is pretty common, I think there’s an NBA player and actually another drummer out there with that name, so I had to switch it up. It’s also loosely inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, who’s a huge influence of mine; E.A. Poe, A.C. Woe – I don’t know, I just liked the way it sounded as a pseudonym for my writing. A biblical “woe” is also a warning about end times prophecy. So, not to get too deep, but yeah, I want to warn people that something’s coming. Don’t get too comfortable.
2. And how did “Destinado” come about?
Lyrically, that was something I came up with literally just laying in bed one night. I have a tendency to overthink shit, and that might not be good for falling asleep, but sometimes it’s good for writing lyrics (laughs). The chorus says it all: “Lying awake, waking unrest, seen my mistakes, dreading my death…” Playing with words is not what it seems because when you open those floodgates it’s damn near impossible to close them. People seem to think that music is all fun and games, but this gift is a curse sometimes. It also stems from my time working in the industry on everything else besides my own music. I was doing photography for a lot of upcoming rappers, and I just saw them doing this balancing act between “woe is me – I come from the struggle” to “I am destined for greatness and riches.” Like, pick one. We’re all guilty of it. I’m guilty of it too. We paint this picture like we’re starving artists out here in the streets, as though that will somehow determine our eventual success. I’m not saying I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe you can f*** up your own destiny. Hence, “the struggle ain’t impressive when it’s self-imposed / acting like it’s destined, from the streets you rose…” That’s also a subtle play on 2Pac’s ‘The Rose That Grew From Concrete’.
(Single cover for “Destinado” designed by @GaianovaArt)
So I took those bars and gave ’em to Dalton [Riley], who produced the main beat, and he came up with a melody for the hook based on my lyrics. After that, I sat on it for several months to be honest, just mulling it around in my head over and over. The verse was me just telling myself to stop overthinking the process. Enough self-doubt. Just let it flow. And eventually it did. Even though Kanye has been pissing me off lately (laughs) it was kind of inspired by his cadence on songs like “Real Friends” off ‘Life of Pablo’ where he says, “When was the last time I remembered a birthday? When was the last time I wasn’t in a hurry?” I wanted it to have that feel, like you could sing it or you could rap it. Old Kanye was so good, man. I don’t know what happened.
But yeah, “Tell me when’s the last time you had a conversation with your past life?” “History unfolding and it never ends.” I just feel like we get caught up in trying to be “futuristic” when it comes to art and our personas and whatnot. It comes off corny. I often think about how things will be perceived from even further in the future, when this present moment is seen as a time gone by. That’s how we look at the people who inspire us. We see legends who were ahead of their time, yet fit perfectly within their own era. Now their images are grainy. They glow in all their rustic realness. If you’re not moving as though you’re a historical figure, you’re probably just going to be forgotten.
3. That’s pretty deep man. What about the little spoken part in the middle? What’s that lady saying?
So, I got really lucky with that. Actually it was Rain Bisou who introduced me to her friend who speaks Nahuatl. I had mentioned that I wanted someone to speak native Aztec on the record, and she happened to connect me over the phone with Quintila [Pascual]. I gave her three quotes to mix together and she translated them. It was basically supposed to be a nod to the 27 club, which relates to the theme of self-imposed struggle and fulfilling your destiny. The first one is Kurt Cobain, then Jim Morrison, and then Jimi Hendrix. It all got jumbled up and shortened a bit, but it fit the overall vibe perfectly. I’ll let the listener figure out what she’s saying though. It’s no fun if I just tell you.
4. And how about the music video? What made you want to do the whole A.I. thing?
I honestly don’t remember. I think I just wanted to get this song off my back already, but I didn’t want to just have it be the cover art running stagnant as a backdrop. I actually shot an entire music video for this track already, but it didn’t come out quite the way I wanted and we never really finished editing. I may revisit that in the future. We have good footage, but it was a combination of me taking forever and just not having the right budget to capture my vision. I should take this moment to shout out Consume Chris. He was the mastermind behind the whole thing, but I kinda dropped the ball on finishing it to be real. He’s a brilliant cinematographer. In fact, now that you mention it, I have a feeling we just might finalize that sometime this year and say fuck it, because it’s actually dope. As for the A.I. generated version, I’m not sure if I saw an ad for it or if I just Googled it, but I came across this app called WZRD. And after I toyed around with it for a bit, I got it to render some pretty sick visuals and just ran with it. It all came together very quickly and now here we are, doing an UGHH-Blog interview about it (laughs).
5. So, how does that work though? You just put in the music and it spits it out?
Well, yes and no. You upload your audio and then you pick a theme, like color schemes and different images. Then you can place the images in a certain order. You can also use your own images, but for whatever reason they actually charge you more to use your own, so I just went with the ones they generated based on my suggestions. After that, you can render previews until you find the one you like, and *voila* you’ve got a music video (laughs). Nah, I actually took the final product and uploaded it onto a timeline in Da Vinci Resolve and chopped it up a bit more. In hindsight, I actually feel like I could’ve done a lot more with it, but I also didn’t want to muddy the process too much. It’s kind of like a Rorschach test anyway; the viewer will see whatever they want to see in it. I know what I see in it, and that’s sufficient. The real music video and the album itself are still in the works.
6. Alright, so that brings me to my next question. What is the album? Does it have a title?
Yes. So, here we go, down the concept album rabbit-hole (laughs). It’s called ‘XOLO’. I’ve actually been working on it for several years now. I originally wanted to put it out in 2020, but we all know what happened… I mean, it wasn’t entirely because of the pandemic that I didn’t put it out, but it certainly didn’t help. I also just became disillusioned with everything and kinda just wanted to give up if I’m being honest. Maybe go live in a cave. At one point I had 15 tracks I was working on, and the closer I would get to feeling like I had something substantial, the more I would realize I was nowhere near completion. I’m still not satisfied, and I’ll probably never be, but I’ve narrowed it down to about 8 to 11 tracks now. We’ll see what makes it off the cutting room floor.
But yeah, it’s a concept album loosely based on the story of the Xoloitscuintli; this hairless breed of dog from Mexico. It basically looks like Anubis, so there are parallels you can draw between Egyptian mythology as well. According to Aztec myth, it would lead you to the afterlife when you died. The name itself comes from Xolotl, the god of death and thunder. So, because of this, they would bury the dogs alive with their owners. It’s pretty messed up. But essentially, I’ve taken this idea and supplanted it into the modern age, where the dog or what’s called a “psychopomp” – something that guides you into the next realm – is a metaphor for religion, for culture, even for music itself. We have all these beliefs about what will save us, and mostly they’re mythological. They’re figments of our imagination. Even though I want my record to be an homage to my roots in Mexico and in Los Angeles, I also want the listener to recognize that not only have we drawn these imaginary lines but we continually blur them over time.
7. And do you have a release date?
Not yet. I’ve been running with the whole “number 23” thing, so maybe it’ll be on the 23rd of the month. We’ll see. But yeah, that’s why I chose 3/2/23 to release “Destinado” – I was shooting for 2/23/23 but then so was everyone else (laughs). It just would’ve been buried by the algorithm.
8. Okay, well that pretty much concludes our interview. Do you have anything else for the people?
Nope, just go watch the video. Subscribe to my channel. I’m new on YouTube so if you shoot me a sub I’ll sub back. Artists gotta stick together, man, enough self-doubt. Enough self-sabotage. And enough of this famine mentality. A rising tide raises all boats. That means if you support me, I’ll support you, and we both win. Find me on Instagram or wherever and I guarantee you I will support your hustle if you support mine. Period.