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Time-Travel Through War Zones with Jerry Quickley's "Colonist"

The performance poet's new album, '(american) Fool,' was produced by Busdriver, and its hazy first single features Mike Ladd.

by Alex Robert Ross
Jan 26 2018, 4:30pm

Jerry Quickley makes art about war. Since travelling to Iraq in 2003 as a correspondent for public radio station KPFK, the Queens-born, LA-based artist has grappled constantly with large-scale conflict, writing poems, screenplays, and even librettos. In his three-part one-man show Live from the Front, he told stories about the Iraqi civilians he’d spoken to on assignment; in the bizarre 2016 movie Vampire Wars, which Quickley wrote, Lincoln’s army fight off the undead; in the forthcoming Whistleblower, commissioned by Philip Glass, Quickley looks at the exile of Edward Snowden and our relationship to privacy.

Quickley’s new album, (american) Fool, is out February 16. It’s a bewildering and engrossing record, produced entirely by the legendary LA rapper and beatmaker, Busdriver. Its focus shifts and shimmies around Quickley’s lucid poems and Busdriver’s emissive beats, but Quickley’s lyrical focus—he tells stories rather than grasping at amorphous concepts—keeps it centered.

"Colonist," premiering below, is the first single from the record, a collaboration with Mike Ladd. Over a hypnotic beat, Quickley reads a letter from an imaginary combatant, touching on the horror of things, before giving way to a list of the soldier’s pre-war memories: "Dear Dimitrius. I’ve never seen water this beautiful. They’re going to make us go back and clear those villages tomorrow. Sergeant makes them stand in the tide pools." Ladd takes the second half of the song, wandering between languages and mindsets as the music behind him starts to trip over.

In an email to Noisey, Quickley wrote that the song spiralled away from its foundation as tangible as it does on record.

"In many ways I don't really know what ‘Colonist’ is. Initially I conceived it as a duet between two brothers, both colonial soldiers, who were filled with regret at the horror of their work, writing old school snail mail letters to each other, from vastly different spear tip points of some horrific global colonial operations. But after my first verse, it takes a turn and goes somewhere else with the martyrs, big and small. Then Mike Ladd comes in with his verses and they take the track even farther out in some ways. But in the end I think that maybe, somehow, we might have accomplished a drunken time travel version of my initial idea of a conversation between two brothers, both trapped and being used as spear tips in a colonial nightmare."

Listen to "Colonist" below. (american) Fool is out February 16 on Temporary Whatever.

Follow Alex Robert Ross on Twitter.

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colonist
jerry quickley
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