Back in early 2017, Tech N9ne had what sounded like a pretty far-out idea for his next album, to be called Planet.
In an interview at that time with this writer, he said that he wanted the album to be made up of a single piece of music inspired by Billy Joel’s epic song, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”
That idea fell by the wayside, but Tech N9ne still pursued a far-out idea for his newly released album, Planet — creating his own world, which he calls Planet Pyune (Peaceful Youth Unit Neutralizing Earth), where one can escape from an earthly reality that has grown too frustrating to inhabit.
“It kind of morphed into its own thing after I left this planet spiritually and mentally,” Tech N9ne said about the concept for Planet. “I couldn’t pay attention to too much down here because it was so disheartening, you know what I mean, with watching the news and seeing what was going on in the world. So I had to leave and it took a form of its own and it changed into, like, its own planet and like nothing else.”
It wasn’t just the problems of the world that had Tech N9ne yearning to mentally travel to a planet of his own creation. He also had a dispute with a start-up label that he felt co-opted the name of his record company, Strange Music, by calling itself Strainge Entertainment. Tech addresses that episode on the album, with the song “No Reason (The Mosh Pit Song)” — the only track on the album, he said, that was born before he and his mind took up residence on Planet Pyune.
“The only song that was still on this planet, I would say, is ‘No Reason,’ ” he explained, “because I wrote that verse when I heard there was somebody trying to use our Strange name and start a label and disregarding what we’ve built over the years.”
One other big source of frustration was the indifferent response to his 2016 album, The Storm. Tech N9ne still struggles to understand why that album didn’t resonate with fans.
“I really don’t know. Some of my colleagues have their ideas, but I really don’t know because I put my everything in it. My song with Boyz II Men (“Buddha”) went over peoples’ heads. My song with Jonathan Davis with Korn (“Starting to Turn”) went over peoples’ heads. I finally got to work with Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry (“Anywhere”), who I’d been loving for years, and nobody cared,” Tech N9ne said.
The Storm is one of the few occasions when Tech N9ne has suffered a setback, although he had a few disappointments early in his career.
The Kansas City-based artist (real name Aaron Yates) gained a measure of notoriety in the early ’90s in the group 57th Street Rogue Dog Villains before going solo. Initially, Tech N9ne hoped to take the major label route to stardom. Despite three separate deals — one with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ Perspective/A&M Records, one with Quincy Jones’ Qwest/ Warner Bros. label and yet another with Interscope Records — an album never got made.
So he decided to go the indie route, starting Strange Music with partner Travis O’Guin, and in 1999, releasing his first album, The Calm Before the Storm. (The Storm was actually meant as a sequel to that first disc.)
In the 19 years since, Tech N9ne has become the leading indie rap artist on the scene, with a catalog of a dozen solo albums and another eight “collabos” albums, on which he has worked with other artists. Meanwhile, Strange Music has grown into a highly successful label with more than a dozen acts on its roster.
“Strange Music means family,” Tech N9ne said. “And the reason why is [because] it’s a family-oriented thing, and all the ‘technicians’ (the term for Tech N9ne fans) are connected mind, body and soul is because we are the medicine that navigates them through the darkness.”
In a very real sense, Tech N9ne and O’Guin have created their own record-label world for like-minded artists, and with Planet Pyune, Tech created a musical world with a philosophy similar to that of his record label.
“It’s a place you can go mentally, and this place has more love than Earth and (less) hate, because hate runs it [Earth.] It has togetherness and not separation, like this Earth,” Tech N9ne said. “We’re working on equality. There’s levels to everything, where people feel like nobody is above the other. That’s hard, that’s hard, but we’re trying to perfect it on Pyune. It’s just a place of love and understanding each other, man. That’s what Pyune is. It stands for peaceful youth unit neutralizing earth.”
Those themes of love and unity filter through many of the 19 songs on Planet as Tech N9ne raps his way through a varied musical soundtrack that ranges from the EDM-ish “Fresh Out!” and “Don’t Nobody Want None” to edgy jams like “Comfortable” and “Habanero” to an epic track, “Brightfall,” whose elaborate production could make Queen proud.
Unlike The Storm, Tech N9ne said early reaction to Planet has been overwhelmingly positive.
“They [fans] actually dig all of the songs,” he said. “It made me feel good that the rapport from the fans is ‘This is your best record.’ I’m like ‘woah, this late in the game.’ I’m talking about only four more years and I’m doing my best record.”
That mention of four more years refers to Tech N9ne’s plan to gear down his own career in another four years, as he hits age 50.
“It don’t mean I won’t tour anymore, just not as much, you know what I mean, and I’ll focus on building this label all the way up,” he said.
For now, there’s an extensive tour to do with a show that will include a set list that has him anticipating his audience’s reaction.
“It’s like the set list on this one is so for the fans. Now, don’t get me wrong, all of my shows are so for the fans, but I think I really nailed it,” Tech N9ne said. “I think this is really going to be a good show. The fans are going to love this one.”
Tech N9ne performs with Futuristic, Dizzy Wright and Krizz Kalico on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m. at the Majestic Ventura Theater, 26 S. Chestnut St., Ventura. For tickets and more information, call 805-653-0721 or visit www.venturatheater.net.