The government knows him as Andrew Mayer Cohen, but you probably know him as Mayer Hawthorne (a combination of his middle name and the street he grew up on in Michigan). Hawthorne pulls sounds from where he grew up, specifically Motown Records. When he’s not rapping as Haircut or producing or podcasting or working with Snoop Dogg (!), he’s touring with the County. Hawthorne is hitting up the Rock and Roll Hotel tonight. We spoke to him last week about vinyl records, soul music and his latest project Mayer vs. Food.
Brightest Young Things: Where are you?
Mayer Hawthorne: Somewhere between New York and Baltimore.
BYT: Great, let’s get started. You have your hands in a lot of different pots: Mayer Hawthorne, Podcasting occasionally for Stones Throw, Producing, DJing and rapping as Haircut and working with the Athletic Mic League. Which project do you prefer?
MH: My favorite project is my new one: Mayer vs. Food. I’m going to be eating at my favorite restaurants and reviewing the food during the tour. I’ll just be eating and spouting off catch phrases.
BYT: Best and worst food?
MH: I don’t really know where. Everyone says the U.K. has terrible food. I don’t think that’s the case. I had fish and chips at this place called Frier’s Delight and it was good. I love food. I’m such a food guy that I can’t even name something bad that I’ve had. I love it all.
BYT: I read somewhere that Mayer Hawthorne was originally meant to be a joke. Are you surprised that it caught on as much as it has?
MH: Nah, man. That’s wrong. I said something like that, but it was taken out of context. I want to clear that up. For the record, I take this music very seriously and this was not my main goal or plan. I don’t take myself that seriously as a person, but I take making music seriously. When I started I was doing it on the side as fun. I wasn’t planning on recording an entire album of soul music. It was never something I planned on, but it’s about having fun.
BYT: There’s a mix floating around the Internet that you released on Stones Throw, Soul With A Hole, Volume 1. Who approached whom when it came to putting the release together? Will there be a volume 2?
MH: Soul With A Hole, Volume 1 was a real spontaneous decision. The only rule was that it had to be 45s. I just hit record. The mixtape was mostly a bunch of 45s I picked up on the road. Stones Throw had done a rap compilation called Yo! 45 Raps that was compiled by Peanut Butter Wolf. I had a bunch of dope 45s that I wanted to share. Soul with A Hole was essentially a comeback to Yo! 45 Raps. There is a Volume 2 coming out that J. Rocc and Wolf are curating.
BYT: How did you get into soul music?
MH: I got into it mostly from my dad. That was the music we listened to. He had an auto parts store and when I wasn’t in school I would go to work with him. It was the stuff we listened to at his job.
BYT: You’ve released a good portion, if not all, of your singles on vinyl, including that expensive looking heart-shaped record in 2008. What attracts you to vinyl as a medium?
MH: I’ve been collecting my entire life. That’s actually how I got my DJ name, Haircut. My parents would buy me 45s because I needed something to distract me and I hated getting my haircut. Vinyl is the greatest format. Every time I release something it has to be on vinyl. I’ve been trying to put something down on cassettes too. I like the cassette as a format too. There’s just something about the analog format. The boom, boom, bap sounds better in that format. The first Black Moon album is just better on cassette.
BYT: I read that you’re a vinyl junkie. How many records do you own?
MH: I just moved to a new place and I had to take my records over there. I’ve got a decent guage for the first time in a while. I would estimate in the neighborhood of around 5,000 pieces. I got rid of a lot of records before moving from Michigan and there’s still a good amount in my parent’s basement.
BYT: What are your favorite places to shop for wax?
MH: I just got back from Japan. There was a sweet spot in Osaka called Afro Juice that had some really dope records. There’s a place in Rotterdam. New York is one of my favorite places to shop for records. I discover somewhere new and great where ever I go. But the best places to dig for records are not necessarily in record stores. You can find them in a Value Village or vintage shops. Where ever really.
BYT: Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in soul inspired releases — Jamie Lidell, Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, yourself. Are you worried at all that you might end up getting lumped in a trend genre when this is all said and done?
MH: I’m not worried about it because I’m going to stay ahead of the game. I’m the type of dude that can’t do the same thing twice. The next record is always something different.
BYT: One last question — Lakers or Pistons?
MH: [Laughs]. Pistons all day. I’m a Pistons die-hard so there’s no way I’ll root for the Lakers.
Mayer Hawthorne and the County is playing tonight at the Rock and Roll Hotel. Doors are at 8 p.m.; tickets are $15.
BONUS! We have a pair of tickets to give away to this. Just leave a comment about Mayer, the interview or whatever and we’ll pick someone up at random around lunchtime OR so. Cool?