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Five questions with: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya

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Nnamdi Ogbonnaya w/ Sen Morimoto, Karen Meat

The Mill — Sunday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m.

Nnamdi Ogbonnaya heads to The Mill on Sunday, Nov. 4. — video still

Nnamdi Ogbonnaya is a hip-hop artist, a drummer and founder of Sooper Records. While it might be tempting to draw comparisons to others, I’m going to refrain, because he’s just not like anyone else. A drummer for Monobody and a bassist for Nervous Passenger, this California-born Chicago transplant is performing Sunday, Nov. 4 at The Mill with Karen Meat and Sen Morimoto. Show starts at 8 p.m.; tickets are $10. He answered five questions for Little Village via email.

Tell me about your rock gods. Though you are maybe more rooted in hip hop, it’s obvious to everyone who listens to you that you enjoy rock music. Would you ever dress up as a rock star for Halloween? If you could play with one of your idols, would you?

I’m not too crazy into guitar! It’s a great instrument, but I’m not as drawn to it as I am most other instruments. I think that maybe has to do with the overflow of guitarists. Everyone wants to play guitar and be a rockstar or serenade people at parties, and I think I inherently shy away from things everyone’s doing because I’m super stubborn.

I definitely enjoy some guitar-board licks here and there but really only started playing it because there was always one around the houses I lived at — and it’s a lot quieter and easier to deal with than a whole dang drum set.

I would definitely do a Thin Lizzy cover set on Halloween. I’ve been talking about that for years but still haven’t done it!

I don’t have rock gods, really. A vague description of my progression with rock obsessions starts this way: Sum 41, The Beatles/The Who, Queens of the Stone Age/The Mars Volta, Frank Zappa and also all of the Kinsella, Chicago-based bands. Those are a handful of folks that made me actually want to play guitar, and throughout that journey of musical discovery I started being drawn more to people with unique and even cryptic playing styles like Dirty Projectors, Maps & Atlases and Victor Villarreal.

I don’t think I would really choose rock idols to play music with. I currently listen to more rap than anything else. My dream would be playing drums for OutKast!

How has starting your own label impacted the way you choose songs for yourself? I would imagine that the impetus to start your own label is so that you have even more creative control, but does financial success make a difference in how creative you can be? Talk to me about what you might look for in other artists for the label.

Starting a label was not at all the result of any issues with maintaining creative control of my music but it is definitely one of the many perks and something most musicians and artists in general hold as being one of the most important things they can do. Definitely when you are on a bigger label there’s a lot more hands in the pot deciding when and how music should be released which can be frustrating. I’ve just been putting out my own music online since I started so it’s nice to maintain that control but also be able to do it in a more organized and larger way.

The most important thing for us as a label (me, Glenn and Sen — my label partners) is that the person/people who we work with are passionate about what they’ve created. And it has to be folks we all gel with. Obviously we have to love the music. Usually we all know what musicians we should work with after a few listens and meeting up with them. Some after only one listen! It gets a little more difficult the more inquiries we get, but we are dedicated to putting out things we think are dope and are created by good, passionate people.

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Similar vein — I have read that, musically, you want to do all the things. Does the desire for all of it ever seem super overwhelming, and you’re like, “I kinda just want to do a hip hop record?” I’ve listened to your catalog, and it does encompass all the things, and does it well. Basically, does being super good at a lot of stuff ever hinder your focus?

I don’t think I’m super good at anything except being myself. I have so many friends that are way better than me in their respective areas, and watching them create is very inspirational. I don’t get overwhelmed by the desire to create unless I don’t have the outlet for it — then there may be build up of thoughts and that can seem overwhelming.

Just the concept of knowing there are so many possibilities and avenues to be explored with art is such a constantly reassuring thing. It can go both ways though. I do overthink things sometimes. I think most people’s weaknesses are also their superpowers waiting to be revamped so I just use all of that to try and create some things that are undeniably ‘me.’

I’ve read that you have a good relationship with your dad, has he ever been to one of your shows? How does his love of music play into your own?

Where’d you read that? Haha, I don’t remember saying that. Our relationship definitely isn’t bad though. I think he did a pretty good job with me and my siblings. Raising a human is a crazy thing and obviously no one is going to do it perfectly but I love both my parents.

He hasn’t been to any of my shows where I play my own music (it’s a pretty recent development and we are rarely in the same city). But I played drums in church, and he saw me in a few other bands I was in growing up. I also wasn’t really going out of my way to invite him, haha.

I remember him playing guitar and singing a lot when I was little. I don’t remember much besides a few songs he wrote that are kinda just etched into my brain — but they are there.

And finally, what’s the most bizarre/best/worst thing that’s ever happened on tour?

This is so hard to think about because I feel like most tours have just blended into one giant blob.

I try and steer clear of the bullshit and the madness on tour but sometimes it has ways of finding you even when you’re not looking. Lol. The most recent thing that was kind of a shock to the senses was in San Francisco, where this lady apparently nonchalantly was doing some pretty x-rated things to herself in front of the venue! It was a very strange/intense night. Keeps you on your toes, I guess!


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