by: Shay Mehr
We met up with L.A. Salami on the streets of Austin, Texas to discuss his influences, the big shoes he’s been left to fill, fashion, and fulfillment. Here’s what he had to say.
Shay: Tell us a little about yourself.
L.A. Salami: My name's Lookman Adakami Salami. I'm an arbitrator between a _ soul and a keen heart.
Shay: You've been promoted by several large entities from fashion to NPR: Burberry, Esquire, Bob Boilen, Zane Lowe to name a few. Did you have any expectations for these mentions? Do you even pay attention to things like that?
L.A. Salami: To be honest hopefully because I need to pay the rent and put dinner on my own table. You know? So yeah, I appreciate it and hope something comes from it but you know if it didn't I'd still make the same music. I’d feel disappointed because you obviously-I don't think I believe people who say that they don't want to be recognized. I have no interest in being famous or anything but I’ve got a lot of interest in being respected. So that's- and they're respectful guys who have respectful opinions so yeah it does mean something.
Shay: ‘Going Mad as the Street Bins’ describes an overflowing mind filled with seemingly useless ideas or information and the video features you sort of going through various authorities on life and living and asking them to sort of give you the answer to life. A guitar seems to be the answer for you. What sparked this existential search or idea? Is music the answer for you?
L.A. Salami: yeah, I think music or art in general. I think in general art is an answer. It's the most human thing I think. I mean there are a lot of things that separate us from animals but one of the things that mainly separates us from animals is that if you show a chimpanzee the Mona Lisa he'd probably rip it. But human beings for the most part -obviously, some won't get it-a lot of people as a collective we stand around these things and look at them. And think oh wow that's interesting. Yeah, I think art that's the answer. (laughs) if that's a good enough answer.
Shay: I mean nothing is a good answer right. It's literally how you feel or what you think. So, do you have any lyrical inspirations? Your lyrics often tend to be descriptive or tell stories.
L.A. Salami: yeah, I’ve got quite a few. I just grew up reading a lot of poetry and obviously, the Leonard Cohens and Bob Dylans and stuff who- who's music is based around poetics. I think _ is where my strength is. Obviously, music has to come with it because there isn't one without the other if you're making a song. But my element in _ is the lyrics part so. Plays quite a pivot role in making a fully formed idea.
Shay: what poets inspire you or writers?
L.A. Salami: William _ Williams, a lot of Americans actually. To be honest the American beat poets. I think because I like classic poetry over romantic poetry, but with the surge of American culture and the idea of the American dream it did lend itself to this surge of really interesting poets from the sixties and seventies. Took it to the next level because it's the modern romance, which is romantic like the Kerouac’s, and Ginsbergs. You know it's dirty and epic, and it's traditional but it's American. It's modern. It lives firmly in the twentieth century. I think you've got to reflect your time whatever you're doing. You can be inspired by the past but it has to filter through you currently living in the time you're living in so anything you're doing has to represent the time that's taking place. Or the time you're experiencing. Otherwise it just doesn't add up.
Shay: it's kind of inauthentic in a way. A lot of your song it seems deal with rough conditions or characters that seem to be carrying a heavy load. 'Six days a week", "going mad at the street bins'...would you say this a main inspiration for you? Do you feel like these are the stories and feelings that are important to tell?
L.A. Salami: not leaning towards one or the other, just whatever you write about. Obviously, you write about what you know. I mean I could write about love all day, but really, I don't know that much about love. I know how it feels for it not to work out but essentially, I think more about other things. Feeling like I don't know the current system is weird and unfair so you know. It comes from the same place as love songs but you're just writing about something else that makes you feel as intensely as a break up did or something. It comes from the same place. It just depends what you're particularly writing about. I wouldn't say I have particular leanings or intentions for one thing or the other. It just what happens to be on my mind more than another thing or less than any other thing whatever. Does that make sense?
Shay: yes! (laughs) you've been compared to some big names some pretty great people. Such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young...does that kind of give you more pride or pressure? Kind of to fill those big shoes I guess?
L.A. Salami: Uhm-pride to be honest. I did take it seriously even though it was a hobby and for me even though I was terrible when I started. But even though it was a hobby if I was going to do it then I’d have to-to me if you're going to do something then you look at the people who you think are the best who've done it and think oh can I stand next to these people? If I’m going to do this? I should be able to stand next to them if I’m going to put my effort into it. I should be able to look those people in the eye and answer. If they have a song that quick powerful I should be able to answer that song with an equally valid uh I don't know philosophy of my own and be able to be mentioned in the same sentences as those people. I feel pride I think because that's what I kind of-that's the point for me. That's one of the reasons you should be doing it is like to make a mark or whatever.
Shay: yeah if you're going to do something basically do it really well.
L.A. Salami: (laughs) yeah.
Shay: you've opened for some fashion events and have been mentioned in the press as being relatively stylish. Do you feel that being a musician and being in the public eye forces you to have some sort of aesthetic to cultivate your brand so to speak?
L.A. Salami: no. I don't. I'm not a fashion guy. I do have style. I'm not going to pretend I don't. But I don't think particularly about fashion. I have friend who are designers and stuff and they've taught me about fashion and stuff in terms of like I didn't know-up until a few years ago-I didn't know that you know on the cat walk how that stuff filters down into what you just buy or whatever. I've really-Burberry that time which was a few years- was the first time in a while I was able to go out and get clothes so. It's just clothes are expensive man. Yeah, I like colors and patterns and I just put stuff on. When you think about it too much it's like you just with what you feel.
Shay: okay and then I have an existential question that I ask everyone, what fulfills you?
L.A. Salami: it's a quite boring answer but, art. (laughs)