WolF J McFarlane.
Everyday thoughts and inner conversations flow through our minds at least a couple thousand times a day. This process of thinking allows us to model the world and to deal with it according to their objectives, plans, ends and desires. And when these mental events manifest into art, one is able to delve deeper into the individual’s true mindset. The result is a kaleidoscope of one’s character, and the understanding of the world surrounding this individual. It is precisely this ability of interpreting one’s thought into something that stimulates emotion from others that led our ears and eyes to WolF J and his “technicolour soundscape”. What transpires from his art is a unique and brilliant translation of hypothesis’ and inner-ramblings that go far beyond what other artists would do in a lifetime. And this is just the beginning.
Part of a new collective of Toronto artistes we like to call, “the new class of Toronto’s sound” (KJ, Leilani, Brendan Phillips, Blake Carrington, and crew), this multi-disciplined artiste defies all perceptions of what he should sound like. Not one to be categorized into a single genre, WolF J utilizes his deep love of music and art to redefine the way our city understands music. Yet, he views this “musical revolution” as something that comes from what he already loves doing in the first place. And much like his new mixtape, UpSideDownDay TapeMix, he truly embodies a man of originality, insight and fortitude. Enlisting the help of home grown producers: Rich Kidd, The Carps, KJ, LordQuest and Shane Tone on UpSideDownDay TapeMix, WolF J takes us on a journey to a far away galaxy that brings us closer to understanding his subconscious. Along the way, we are met with a sonic clash of distinct sounds that shape his everyday thoughts, his way of deliverance in every track, and most importantly, his undying devotion to his art form that oozes out of him from the moment you meet him. And what is most striking about WolF J is not only the fact that he can sing and deliver lyrical dexterity (and do both well), nor is it the fact that he is not afraid to blend different sounds to create his own. It is really his simple philosophy of being true to oneself: be true to yourself in life, in your art and never let anyone tell you otherwise. A man unequivocally deserving of the title, artiste.
We had the distinct privilege of sitting down with WolF J and discussed about the interpretations of his most inner thoughts, what makes him happy, and his views on his changing of Toronto’s music scene.
WolF J as an Artist is who you see on stage and in my graphics. A very aggressive, passionate and militant person. Jesse has quit and won’t say anything until spoken to. It sounds weird, like I’m some skits, but over time I’ve made more and more choices to become what I want to be. Like finding myself and not allowing people to put words in my mouth. If you noticed, I used to be J Wolf. Always placing the J (Jesse) in front of the Wolf. Now it sounds like nothing to you but it’s actually a big step forward. Every one’s a J-something (Jay-Z, J Holiday, J Millz, etc.). In this I’ve made the choice to become an artist. Not just someone that makes music but someone that is a part of music.
Where did the name WolF come into play?
I got the name WolF from a bunch of different people. There are several stories from different groups of people who had given the name on separate occasions and none of these groups knew that I was already called WolF. After a while I decide to stop running from it and just hit the accept button.
Who or what inspires you musically, artistically and in life?
Life inspires me. The littlest thing will allow me to start working on madness, as I like to call it. I tend to zone out a lot and look back at what I created. Sometimes I’ll just sit for hours and stare at my graphics or listen to a song over and over again. “I’ve become a fan for the process in packing a product for the public”. I’ve done things where I’ve reacted like a fan and spit lyrics where I’m in shock to hear them played back to me.
Growing up I had a Mommy, a Daddy, 3 older brothers, 1 older sister. I lived in Bay Mills at Birchmount and Sheppard. I went through a lot. I was not too young to understand the problems around me, but I was too young to feel the problems. Once I was in Senator O’Conner High School, it was really just me and my moms. In high school I still don’t think I really understood what was really real. Until grade 12 everything slowly started to make sense. I’ve lost 4 people in my life whom I was very close with. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be as motivated as I am now. My biggest loss was my cousin Micheal Murray. I’m crazy shy and Micheal would always be telling me to sing for the girls. He had so much faith in me and I could never understand it. More than I’ll ever understand.
When did your passion for the arts begin?
Since I was little watching the original Ninja Turtles cartoon, I’ve always been drawing and I knew I was good, not the best but good. I only started taking it seriously when I got into high school and was put in the gifted program by Mr. McConnell. He was one of my art teachers in high school. I had this thing with not making mistakes so I only drew with a pen. Fading, shading, anything I did, I did it with pen. I remember when he saw my art work he thought I was lying and that I got one of my older brothers to draw for me.
At what age did you decide to make the arts (graphic design, music, videographer) your career?
First of all this videographer thing is just something I really took on this year. I’m good at it but wouldn’t call it a profession. Other than that, I really made the choice to make art my life when I realized I never want to work in a factory. We watch movies everyday about people on the pursuit of happiness of what they want in life. Yet, we never realize we are not doing what makes us happy. Everyone is always stressing and trying to make everyone around them happy. Yelling, trying to be heard. In the mean time forgetting about themselves. Always turning out to be the one who feels like they have done nothing with their life. Me, I’m just doing what I love. Music and Art make me happy.
Things always have a tendency of falling into place for me. Graphics and Music have always gone hand and hand. It just makes sense. Being a graphic designer and when I’m in the studio, I know what I want my album cover to look like. The vibe, feel of the music should be seen through my art work.
You are part of a new breed of Toronto artists that’s changing the way we view our city musically. How did you end up meeting the others (especially KJ, Leilani, Blake etc) and become part of this movement?
I didn’t really think that I was changing the game by putting this CD out. I also didn’t think that it was going to be seen as something this different. This is the norm for me. I met Blake Carrington in 2004 going to Seneca@York for GRA while he was in the IMP. I’m a fan of KJ’s “Fresh out the Box”. One day chilling with Brendan, I said that I wanted to meet him, because I really wanted to do a house remix for that song. That’s when Brendan was like “Oh, You want to meet him? He’s my roommate”. Leilani, I really don’t remember how we met. But it feels like years.
To me, I’m just doing music. Now I know this is really different to everyone else’s ears but this was nothing. I always sounded different on every song. If we are music, then over time music is about sounding really different, because we’re constantly changing. Music is an art. Depending on how I feel, how the beat makes me feel and what is needed on the song anything is possible. Especially the fact that I sing and rap.
As an emerging artist, what has Toronto’s reaction been like towards your music and performances?
Although a lot have people have downloaded the UpSideDownDay TapeMix, I also know that a lot more people won’t download it until they hear someone else say they should. I’m not forcing my music on anyone and I’ve always got a positive reaction at my shows. I take being on stage very seriously. You can’t force someone to eat, so why force them to listen? The thing is, once you get them listening, “you must remain real” because as soon as you get on stage, people will see if you’re being fake. “Real recognizes real”.
You’ve performed live at many shows and events, how does it feel to perform in Toronto in front of your peers?
Toronto is not as bad as people say it is. People always say the city sucks. No. The city doesn’t suck, you do and it’s up to you to change it. Performing is really the best thing I can do. It gives you a chance to connect with people. Teaching you how to control the mood in the room. Knowing when to perform certain songs at certain events. I never take a performance for granted. Everyone of them is a great opportunity to do something even better or bring you one step closer to your goals. As a performer, it’s up to me to choose which ones are necessary for me to do.
I’ve only have one re-occurring problem in my career. No one will be more serious about your career other than you. I know it’s supposed to be some huge race to reach to the top and everyone’s trying to jump on what’s hot right now. But that isn’t going to get anyone anywhere. If you’re serious about what you want to do, have some idea about how you want to do it. Just try, something will happen.
Some people said a lot of songs on UpSideDownDay were “wack”. Now those same people are playing those same songs. Let people live their lives. You live yours with faith in you.
Upsidedown Day Mixtape appears to be a manifestation of what your thoughts, emotions and mind would sound like. How did you imitate your thoughts into sound?
It’s just the way I was feeling and also having a great producer like Shane TONE to understand what I was going through. Being able to let go and not care what people have to say is the first step. As long as you know what you’re saying is “Tru”, it doesn’t matter what everyone else has to say. Everything the people around you say is just an opinion once your decision is made. I can’t remember who I said this to when they were in the booth recording, but I told them “Bring your heart to the booth and leave your mind behind. You’re past the point where you think about what you’re saying when it comes time to record. Now it’s time to make people understand”.
In your intro, you stated that “falling upside down is like jumping downside up”. Care to elaborate on this statement?
In the intro, it was Shane talking. The idea behind the intro was to paint a picture that I’m falling and everyone can see me. No matter how long I’ve been falling to the ground is never getting closer. Like being suspended above ground for everyone to see. I’ll know what it’s like to just be walking on the ground with everyone else because even if I touch down, I will still be seen as different no matter how much I try to fit in. So, with all that being said, what is RightSideUp for me is UpSideDown for you.
95% of your mixtape is hip hop/electro infused yet Deja View and Cufflink Tears were both far from those styles of music. What inspired you to birth a track that is neo-soul/Motown-esque and the other a rock/alternative type?
I don’t sing in every sound of music so far. I didn’t put them on “UpSideDownDay” because they didn’t fit with what I was feeling for the concept. I actually had an R&B song that didn’t make it on the canvas called “Freshly Innocent”. I’m still planning on releasing it. I’ve actually decided to do Hard copies of UpSideDownDay with 3-4 extra tracks on it. I suggested that people not put me in a bracket just yet.
What type of crowd do you envision would listen to this mixtape?
Your sound is one that is extremely unique, as it’s not your typical “urban” sound. What was your mindset like when writing and creating this mixtape?
If you really listen, you can actually tell what I’m going through when I was writing a certain song.
Is there a story behind your mixtape, is there a message you are wanting to put out or is it as mentioned above an inner monologue that is now external?
In this mixtape I had a lot to get off my chest and I just needed to breathe. I’m baring it all so take it or leave it.
“These days I heard a lot of wack MC’s…possibly could you stop this hypocrisy, it’s a mockery…Yo excuse let me introduce you to a part of me and why it’s hard for me to have a flow that’s ordinary…and if your flow ain’t got that diversity then take a seat…”
Why do you think music nowadays is what it is now, and what can emerging artists do to avoid this “wack MC” status, especially in Toronto?
Toronto music has always been supply and demand. People have always been following the follower and not doing what they really want. “It’s not that I’m different, it’s just that everyone’s trying to be the same”.
As someone who is starting out their musical journey, what are your views on the current state of our city’s music industry, the achievements that we have made in the past few years and what we, as a city, can do to better support our artists?
What I think Toronto as a city needs to do, is support their city’s artists. The industry, from what I’ve seen, only helps artists who are already known or can help them scratch their own back. People don’t take a chance in what they believe in and money has begun to lead the way of music. I always hear “blah blah blah WolF you got groupies”. It’s a total piss off. I should be happy that I have groupies. That means I’m probably doing something right.
The fact that the art of music is always lost in the chase on money.
Where do you see Wolf the artist and the individual in 5, 10 & 15 years from now?
Doing something that makes me happy as a person and as an artist.
Oh, yeah and people keep spelling my name wrong. It’s WolF J McFarlane. Capital F just makes sense when you look at it 😀
Download UpSideDownDay TapeMix: http://www.zshare.net/download/65076766a4acb96a/