Anthony Kim (aka Tony Trimm) is what many people would call a modern-day renaissance man. Originally born in Des Plaines, Trimm has taken his unique perspective on life and has put together a diverse range of work as an MC (he's released two albums as Haiku: Brainstorms and Blew), a producer (Yoome's The Boredom of Me), a director (Yoome's "Amsterdam") and a DJ. His upcoming projects include a film score for a George Romero documentary and a project with Bryan Herweg of Pelican. Trimm's a busy man these days, but Centerstage was lucky enough to catch up with him, and hear all about how his "Rat-Stabber" came to fruition.
Where are you from originally and how did you first get into music?
I'm from a little town outside of Chicago called Des Plaines. It's where they opened the first McDonald's. It's actually kinda scary because they turned it into a museum and there's a plastic work staff in there serving plastic hamburgers to plastic patrons. Anyways, I first got into music when I was really young. My parents owned a copy of Michael Jackson's Thriller on vinyl, and when they'd put it on I'd start rolling around the carpet and acting crazy. My relatives would think it was great and threw money at me.
Take me back to your first performance as an MC.
Like I said, my relatives would throw money at me to see me perform strange antics to music. I think this was about when I was like 5 or 6. When I became introduced to making money off of music, I'd jump on tabletops and rip off my shirt and start singing shit like "Born in the U.S.A." Then my older brother, being the businessman he is, became my manager and we would hold shows in the basement and he'd charge a dollar a head to come see me perform. We ate a lot of candy in those days. That just naturally progressed into me wanting to play on stage for whatever reason I could. Years later I played my first real show in Evanston at some cafe that didn't serve alcohol. Nobody was drunk. I slammed a half a bottle of whiskey before going on. Pretty much you can imagine what happened from there.
Hmm. Now, you're one in a handful of Asians in hip-hop, how has that molded your perspective and creative process?
Well in the beginning, I tried to address the issue of Asians in America or Asian Americans if you will, but I quickly realized that was pointless. We don't really have serious issues. Just the occasional ridicule of being good at math and having money. Which is not a bad stereotype. Well the small penis thing isn't really cool. You know I was listening to a Redman song the other day and he was talking about how smoking weed makes him chinky-eyed. That kinda sucks because I used to listen to a lot of Redman and didn't realize he was being creatively derogatory. But anyways, people are people. If you suck you suck. I don't think being Asian has anything to do with sucking.
Tell me about Blew.
Blew was the quickest album I've ever put together. It was sort of like a series of songs that hit me all at once. I was in the middle of working on other shit and something just clicked and next thing I knew there was an album's worth ready to go. It was fun. I was also very depressed around that time because I was seeing a girl who would do mean things to me like kick me out of her car on the middle of Fullerton at four in the morning. I also did a lot of bumming around and crashing at people's spots and stuff. For about three months I frequently shared a couch with a black lab named Mookie. It was a small couch, but if I pushed the Mook he'd growl and eventually bite me. We later became friends. Rest in peace to him.
Since that album was abstract in dealing with moods and emotions, did people begin to pigeonhole you as an "emo" artist?
Not really. But if being pigeonholed as a certain genre sells records, so be it. Honestly I'd rather be pigeonholed as "emo" than something bad like, "that one really wack dude."
Tell me about the Yoome project and how that developed.
Yoome was something that me and my best friend Serengeti came up with last winter. We were both dealing with relationship issues and the weather started getting brutally cold. We purchased a midi keyboard in hopes to enhance our live show but instead started working with production software that I pirated off the internet. What started as a MySpace-only song turned into a full-length album of lo-fi poppyness [The Boredom of Me]. We finished the majority of the sessions before we brought Renee [Louise Carafice] in to put the icing on the cake. All in all, it was mostly an excuse to keep positive during the winter.
You directed the "Amsterdam" video too, right?
Yes. That was the second video I directed.
Is film something that you're looking to delve a little deeper into?
Actually, I've been told for a while that I would make a good director. I just wasn't really into it because I figured you'd need a certain amount of schooling and whatnot. So I tried it out with my roommate as Director of Photography for my first directorial experience with the "Conversationalist" video, and I hadn't felt that alive about something in a while. Except for the occasional funding problems and unreliable people, directing has been a rather pleasant experience. Oh and yes I have a few future film projects coming up.
You also worked with Jeff Parker. How did you guys meet and what was that experience like?
Jeff and I frequently spin around Chicago. We just happened to cross paths one night at a spot we liked to DJ at. We clicked and started spinning other gigs together. He's a super chill cat with a real jazz-like personality. Lots of musical wisdom in that fella. Anyways, I asked him to play on the Yoome stuff and he was down with that. I went to his crib and he basically caught the chords real quick and just started playing. From there I just hit record and the shit was magical.
You're more of a producer on this album.
Yup and I'm still new to it. I'm still learning. I humble real quick around other producers. But producing is cool because you don't have to say shit. Sometimes it's better not to say shit. But it is rather time-consuming. I'm a perfectionist, so if I can spend an extra eight hours making my drum kick sound better, I'll probably end up doing that.
How does your upcoming album, Dawn of Mystique, contrast with Blew?
Like I said, I didn't plan Blew. It just happened. I didn't even think all those songs were going to be good enough to form a decent album. Also around that time was a transitional period for me. Lots of scattered thoughts and philosophical soul searching. I've been working on Dawn of Mystique since my college years. I wanted to make a cohesive album based around a fictional world. I spent a lot of time making sure the story made sense. I did a lot of writing, rewriting, reconsidering and scrapping to get that shit done. For a while I thought it was cursed. But who knows. It ain't out yet so maybe so.
You did something interesting by getting Esho to provide visual imagery.
Yeah. I needed some inspiration to convince me that the album was worth reworking again. I called my good friend Esho to paint some visual interpretations of some of the chapters in the story. I looked at his interpretations and reworked my writing too. We did a bit of back and forth and finished it that way.
Where are you residing now?
I'm in Logan Square now. My car got broken into a few nights ago and all the bastards took was a bottle of cologne. I work at a bar a few blocks west of here and a cop was pistol-whipped around there a week or two ago. There was a really bad rat problem at the place I reside, but the rent is really cheap and my neighbors don't mind my random outbursts and 808 kicks. About a month ago I almost caught a rat that got stuck in one of those glue traps, so I disassembled a broomstick and duct-taped a broken knife blade to it. I call it the "rat stabber." He hasn't been back but I still practice on bottles to keep my hunting skills in check. Also, I recently quarantined the whole apartment with bleach because I lost a 3-and-a-half-month old puppy to the Parvovirus. I have a new puppy now. Her name is Roxanne and she looks like Alf.
Any favorite spots you go to to relax or get creative?
I'm a day worker. A cup of coffee in the morning and a little peace and quiet is good for me. I prefer to work under the sun.
What can fans expect from you in the next year?
They can expect the name change. I'm planning on going from Haiku to Trimm full-time.
Trimm performs with Yoome on Saturday, December 13 at Quennect 4 Gallery.