Name: Ian Lawrence aka Stimmy Stim aka Stimulus
Occupation: Rapper
Nationality: American
Recent event: Stimulus is set to perform at the X Jazz Festival in Berlin on May 4th 2022. For more information and tickets go here.

If you enjoyed this interview with Stimulus and would like to find out more, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started writing music in Junior Highschool. I was always into music. I got my first turntable when I was 7. I chose the visual arts as my first mode of expression.

After getting frustrated by people interpreting things I didn’t see or want to express in my work, I turned to music. I felt like words would be harder to take out of context.

Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?

I’m a crier when it comes to listening to music alone at home. It doesn’t even have to be a “sad” song.

As a writer, I try to focus on whatever my initial emotional response is when I hear music.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

I’m still searching for more of my personal voice. Different parts of it, different tones and possibilities as well as different characters.

My biggest breakthrough came when I started performing with jazz musicians. I felt limited by using backing tracks at shows.

I really appreciate the focus of the musicians and audience at a jazz concert. It makes me feel comfortable expressing myself fully and exploring musical possibilities.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

As a listener, I search for sounds, vibes, and themes that I can sympathize with and or empathize with. As an artist, I try to find the parts of my identity that people can relate to.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with being extremely specific about my personal experiences and idiosyncrasies. I’d like to see how many people can relate.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

Connection is the key.

I think about how the songs I make can be experienced at a concert, in headphones, and on a dance floor.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

Originality is extremely important to me. I feel a responsibility to contribute to the musical ecosystem and the culture of Hip Hop. Giving something original is the only way to do that.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

The first thing I do is get on the treadmill for a minimum of a 20-minute walk. I either listen to an audiobook, new music, or songs for an upcoming performance. That's usually followed by a 15-minute workout. Next is warm lemon water with Kurkurma, a walk around the neighbourhood, return home for a strong coffee, and then into my office. If I'm in album mode, replace the office with the studio.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

A recent release called My Place, My Home is special to me because of how honest I was able to be, the creative risks I took, and how easy it was to create.

It was my first session with a pianist I have known for years. It was in the middle of the lockdown of 2020 and I was really happy to work on music, but really unhappy with my situation. He just started playing a beat he made and we both started humming melodies. When he heard one he liked, I started writing without a direction in mind.

The result was the kind of lyricism, tone, and character I've been wanting to tap into. I used 3 voices in the song.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

I can't say I have a preference. I really like the different kinds of freedom given by both methods.

When alone, I feel no time pressure or pressure to honor the other energies in the room. When collaborating I enjoy the freedom of being a part of the song instead of being responsible for it. Overall, my biggest preference is a focused, experimental safe space.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

My creativity is always affected by the world. I don't shy away from political topics or sentiments, because it is part of who I am.

I think music can and should provide escape and or insight while complementing our individual and collective moods and emotions.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

Art is an important part of major occasions in my life.

The loss of my father when I was 5 coincides closely with the beginnings of my artistic expression, and my kidney transplant as an adult has had a major impact on my career choices and trajectory.