Alexander Kollman — Safari Al, aka S.al. — has spent most of his life in Wisconsin, but soon will be embarking on another journey to Portland, Maine.
Friend and collaborator Rory Ferreira — aka Milo, a highly regarded artist on the national underground hip-hop scene as well as a local favorite — already has made the move.
There, the Ruby Yacht crew will work on Milo’s new project, a collective called SoulFolks.
SoulFolks will function as a salon, in the traditional sense of being a venue and gathering place for sharing ideas. It also will be a record store.
Before Kollman’s move, I sat down with him at Fuel Cafe in Riverwest.
One thing that became clear during our conversation is the sense of artistry Kollman carries with him in all aspects of his life.
Despite a degree in biomedical engineering, he has opted for a simpler existence. Focusing on freedom and creativity, he finds happiness in the relationships he has cultivated through collaborative and personal creation.
While he seems to focus on creating music primarily, Kollman also is a visual artist and a carpenter. He’s the construction manager for the SoulFolks project.
Little Man, You’ve Had A Busy Day is the title of his newest full-length album. With nine releases to date, he admits his drive for writing music is mostly derived from “trying to impress his friends.”
WiG: To start, I wanted to talk about your new album, specifically the title Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day.
Safari Al: It’s a lot going on. A busy day. The feelings of exhaustion and fulfillment.
How do you relate to the title? Who are you speaking to?
Myself. Everybody. Anyone laboring toward something even if that something is the end of a busy day. It’s definitely me telling a story. I’m relating to myself. It deals with the personal death as a metaphor of acceptance. Become familiar with personal death as a means to accept and let go of things.
It is a 16-track album. Would you consider it an LP?
I usually listen to it as a continual stream. I consider it an LP. The way I performed it, when we were still living in Milwaukee, was continuous.
It seems like there is a live aspect to the tracks.
I had the beats on a CD and I played the CD through, into my mixer. I had one other channel for my mic and I recorded the whole thing. I like that it feels like someone is talking to you. That’s basically what I’m going for. It sounds like you’re in the room that the song was made in, while it’s being made. I like that vibe.
Yeah, I would say that too. Something I’ve noticed in your flow, as well as with the flows of other Ruby Yacht members, is the use of the repetition. There is a poetic aspect. The style seems real-time, as it was when the songs were created.
It is definitely a central element or technique to a lot of the music. Repetition has a way of stressing something. It also, for me, can be an ideological stutter — what occupies my mind when I can’t get past something and keep saying it until I eventually am able to move past it.
It’s not always intentional what is repeated. It’s like a tick or something.
Yeah, like you’re stuck on it. There’s also a rhythmic aspect. Sometimes it’s like a crutch. Other times it isn’t. Sometimes it’s a groove or a chorus. If you have a good pocket, sometimes you want to ride it out too. It can be as simple as that.
Your beats are very nostalgic and throwback style — the way you chose your samples. How is that process for you?
Often times, I like to make a beat using a bunch of samples on a single song. In my head I’m like “I can’t miss.” It’s all the same textural and harmonic palette. I will take micro samples of a tone or hit, across however many minutes and will build a beat while dancing.
What are some of your influences?
Mostly Rory Ferreira and Chris Misch-Bloxdorf. A lot of what I know philosophically is what Rory has put me onto or what my homie Max Bowen has put me onto. Many of my early music chops comes from hanging around Chris. I don’t look far. I’ve always been trying to impress my friends. I always clique up with people iller than me.
You’ve known Rory for quite a while.
He helped me find the confidence to be myself. This is why we do it.
Your friend group has had a maker’s guild (Ruby Yacht). How would you describe that?
Nerd kingdom. (laughs)
If you were to sum up everything you make, all of the mediums, what would you say?
Following a feeling.
It seems like your team is consciously deciding to live the life you are living.
It’s a lot of self-affirming stuff. Manifesting s--- for yourself. Making any skill that you have work for you, money-wise, career-wise, socially. What do I have at my disposal?
You are about to take off on tour again.
I’m accompanying Rory on his On A Horse With No Name tour — Midwest leg. Having just dropped Little Man, I am grateful for the cross-promo.
Did you go out to Maine with him?
Well in October, I was there for a month, working on the shop. SoulFolks. I’m trying to finish my year in Kenosha and move to Portland. It’s a really important opportunity. Rory is taking on a huge challenge as a small-business owner. He’s gaining experience in how to own and operate a commercial property. It will also function as our HQ.
If you were to define your role then, in SoulFolks?
Really? OK, cool. How do you know how to do that?
I’ve been working with my dad on houses since high school. I also help my uncle refurb trailers. I want to make a commercial trailer. During the rest of this year, I am hoping to make significant headway on the trailer. I want to bring it out to Portland with me.
Is freedom important to you?
Yes. It is the riding sentiment. Rory has taken great measures to install a Radically Free steering system on the Ruby Yacht.
On the web
To listen to Safari Al’s music, go to safarial.bandcamp.com.