Backstage before her set, Isis shared her views on Skittles and being an independent female artist with WDCV’s Tessa.
Tessa: So, Isis of Thunderheist!
Isis: Yes I am Isis of Thunderheist.
Tessa: And you like red skittles.
Isis: I like red skittles. I used to like green skittles, but I’ve changed, I’ve grown older. My tastes have changed.
Tessa: I respect those tastes. Red skittles, where it’s at.
Isis: I’m telling you, f*ck green skittles! [laughs] I’m gonna write a letter to Skittles: “YO, F*CK GREEN SKITTLES. RED POWER.” Okay, I’m done.
Tessa: No, sorting them was good, it was a nice…
Isis: I was going somewhere with that, I was! You know, if you don’t stop me now…
Tessa: I mean, that they should just make bags of red and green. They do it for M&Ms.
Isis: That’s what I’m saying, segregate the skittles. I think it’s about time, you know. Segregate these skittles! [laughs] Some of the soundbites you’re gonna get are f*cking ridiculous, oh my god. Okay.
Tessa: So you’re from.. Toronto?
Isis: I’m Nigerian. And I was born in Nigeria–Africa, it’s a continent, not a country–some people don’t know that–and I was raised in Toronto, and I’ve lived in Vancouver, sometimes Philly, and … yeah that’s about it.
Tessa: Did you go to college for music, or…?
Isis: No, I’m a college dropout, I went for a week and then I went on tour.
Tessa: And you were originally Thunderheist, were you something before that?
Isis: No, I was originally Isis, and then I met Graham through a mutual friend, and he was really into my musical stuff, my solo stuff, and then accidentally sent me a beat for this other thing he was doing. I rapped on it and he was really stoked about that. And then he was like “Do you want to be in a band with me?” and I said “Sure, why not?” And then we started Thunderheist, and that went for about three years. And then we decided to take some time apart, and now I’m going back to my solo music, which is now different from what I was doing initially. Initially when I first started as a solo artist I was doing a lot of spoken word and I got into MCing, and then a little bit of singing, but mainly MCing. And then with Thunderheist it was mainly MCing, a little bit of singing. Now I’m focusing more on singing and writing vocal stuff versus just rapping. I think I’ve mastered the rap thing.
Tessa: And you write all of your lyrics?
Isis: Yes, I write all of my lyrics, and on this–on my solo project now, I’m for the first time also producing music as well. So it’s not–so, the music I’m writing as well, and co-producing… So it’s a real collaboration, whereas with Thunderheist it was more like, you know, I rapped and Graham would make the beat for me to rap for, like, you know, Graham would make a beat and I’d rap on it. So it’s definitely more of a hands-on, full experience. I think, for women especially it’s like usually we are just a voice, we’re a face, you know, and I think it’s important for us to start exploring the other back-ends of the music industry, not just, like, you know, being the front singer, like really writing your own music. It’s really liberating. Also extremely, extremely difficult. And hats off to anybody who does that full time and is good at it, because it’s not easy. I become kind of anal, because, staring at a screen and wavelengths… Just looking at waves and cutting and pasting for hours, and like moving things around and trying to get the synth to sound an exact way, that’s why it all make sense now why Graham was the way he was.
Tessa: So, since you write all your own lyrics and everything… most of what we’ve been talking about at the radio station is what is “Jerk It” really about?
Isis: Oh, really?
Tessa: We wanna know what it’s about [laughs]. We’ve been… is it dancing?
Isis: Well, “Jerk It” is a Thunderheist song, I’m Isis! Why are you asking me about “Jerk It”? I wrote that song a long time ago. No, I’m kidding, um, “Jerk It” is… um… honestly I made it up, I made up the f*cking word, I have no idea what the f*ck it means. Um… It’s really just, for me, a song about, you know, not really caring what society tells you you’re supposed to be or you’re supposed to look like or any of that stuff, essentially shaking off any of society’s rules and really just embracing self and individualism and kind of just going for the gold, you know, and not really–and I think, especially like, a lot of times we spend too much time worrying about what other people think. I do it too, you know, we all do it. And I think that song, it was kind of like a moment for to step back and just enjoy being you and not having to apologize for it.
Tessa: Well that’s pretty awesome, we had little bets going what it was about–
Isis: Yeah? Who’s winning?
Tessa: Well, I don’t think anyone won that one. We were–we said it was, you know, the fifties dance “the jerk”–
Tessa: There was like, a dance move like that in the fifties, um, called “the jerk” and we thought it was about that, and some people thought it was about beef jerky, and, you know, the obvious, “jerk it”…
Isis: Oh, like jerking–
Tessa: Yeah, especially with the video. But–
Isis: Oh, you know, I didn’t ask to put a cock in the video. You know, it’s just a chicken. But a male chicken, so a cock. I see the innuendo. I see it! I didn’t ask for it, it’s just happened to happen, you know, sex surrounds me, I don’t know why. [laughs]
Tessa: It was, when we found it we were like “Oh! Interesting. I’m excited for this woman to come to Dickinson!”
Isis: Are you excited just because you want to hear me play “Jerk it” or are you excited because you actually want to hear some of my solo music?
Tessa: Well, we want to hear someone who can bring it and who can have us all dancing, and we just want someone with energy and that’s what you–
Isis: That’s a good answer! That’s a nice way around the answer, too, that was good, you didn’t really–that’s good, you’re good at this! If you’re looking in the world of interviewing, you’re alright stuff. I’ve been interviewed by many people and I’ll say you’re doing a pretty good job.
Tessa: Thank you for complimenting me on my–
Isis: I also liked your jacket earlier, too.
Tessa: Wilson’s leather. They’re everywhere around here.
Isis: Really? Do you guys pay taxes here?
Tessa: Um, not on clothes in Pennsylvania.
Isis: F*CK YEAH we’re going shopping, yo. …Sorry, you can’t see, I was pointing at my bag. Pointing at the bag!
Tessa: On clothing, no tax.
Isis: That’s nice. I’m gonna buy some chaps.
Tessa: There’s a cowboy store..
Isis: Oh yeah, I’m sure there is. This is America, cowboy [laughs]. Cowboys and Indians! [laughs] Okay. So do you want to ask me anything else about my solo stuff, ’cause that’d be cool.
Tessa: Why don’t you tell us about your solo stuff?
Isis: Yeah! Well, like I said, I’m producing and writing the record. It’s not nessessarily the same Thunderheist music because again, it’s not the same people. But it’s still danceable. I think a lot of it’s introspective instead of me writing more for people and helping them find their confidence, I guess I’ve kind of gone inside and just, kind of used this as an opportunity to write about things I don’t normally tell people. I’m not really a share-my-feelings kind of person, I’m more like “let’s all get drunk and not talk about it,” so it’s a really cool opportunity then to be a bit more vulnerable. With that said, I still get the b*tches on the floor, so it’s all good. Don’t be scared guys, you know, you’ll still be able to dance to some of the songs. But I hope people will listen to the lyrics as well, and actually spend some time listening to the music and, you know, not just hoping for another “Jerk It,” cause that’s… sorry it’s not gonna happen. I might not even play “Jerk It” tonight, see? That’s how much I don’t like that song.
Tessa: You really don’t like that song.
Isis: I just… it’s just.. I love the song, it made me lots of money, you know. I think now, as somebody who’s pursuing solo music, I don’t want people thinking I’m Thunderheist, you know, I’m Isis. And I was Isis before Thunderheist and I’ll be Isis after Thunderheist. And… [knock on door] hold on a second! And, you know, I think it’s really important to not have people pigeon-hole me. Again, a lot of Thunderheist, a lot of the branding of Thunderheist was me… and I don’t want to be typecast right now, I want people to remember that as much as I am the party-starter and the girl that made sure some people got pregnant, I also am somebody who’s an artist first and foremost. And I think that’s a very important message for me to get people. I’m not, you can tell I’m not a super-serious person or anything like that, I just don’t want people thinking that every time they come to my show, they’re gonna hear “Jerk It.” You’re not going to. I literally haven’t this entire time we’ve been doing this tour. I play the other songs from Thunderheist, it’s just that that particular song is so iconic with Thunderheist, it’s so connected to Thunderheist. I really avoid going there. So again, I’m not mad at anybody who asks for it, I don’t blame them, it’s a great song, I’m glad that I was able to have that three years of awesomeness. I just, again, like I said, it’s really important for people to understand that this is not a Thunderheist show. Thunderheist is no longer playing shows, so it’s really important for people to know that it’s Isis of Thunderheist and not Thunderheist. It still can be fun.
Tessa: No, I respect your independence.
Isis: Yeah, it’s just really important for me to get that message out there, cause you know, people get sh*t f*cked up and confused. And, you know, I don’t have to choke anybody.
Tessa: So were the posters okay…?
Isis: Can we just cut that part out? I will not be assaulting any of the Dickinson College students [laughs].
Tessa: So were the posters okay? We put one of them in the box, they were fine, “Isis of Thunderheist”…?
Isis: Yeah, that’s fine, that’s totally fine. Honestly it’s just a matter of like—were you just talking at me? Honestly I didn’t even notice that, you’re good, you’re getting good at this! Um, no, it’s just, again, it’s like I said, I hate pulling the W-card but again, especially as a woman too in this industry. It’s such a boys’ club, so now as somebody who’s producing the music as well and writing the music I want people to respect me as an artist, and as somebody who’s actually bring something to the table besides a couple dirty words and fun beats, there’s—
Tessa: And shock value, right?
Isis: And shock value, you know, I’m not Gaga. You know, I definitely provide the same kind of excitement, but there’s–
Tessa: You’re not gonna come out wearing like, a seashell.
Isis: Exactly, exactly. I don’t make music for shock value. I make music because it’s what I was born to do, it’s what I’ve done pretty much all my life, and I love doing it. And I love having that experience with a crowd. When you’re in a different country, across the ocean and people know lyrics to your songs, that’s a very–it’s a high you can’t even describe, you know. And that’s why I do it. I don’t do it for the sake of just to get headlines or anything like that. It’s nice to be in the headlines. But everything I’ve ever said that’s been shocking is only because I don’t have a f*cking filter, you know, I was never born with one, and doctors are still trying to see if they can post-op, you know, figure something out. But uh, whatever. I’m stuck this way.
Tessa: Um… I would say–
Isis: Yeah, you’re like “yeah, so uhhh”
Tessa: That’s just awesome that you aren’t just gonna censor yourself or censor your feelings or put yourself into this box that, I agree with you, I feel like a lot of female artists–and thinking back to female artists that I’ve listened to throughout the years, starting with Britney Spears when I was like nine years old–the issue is all about, like shock value–
Tessa: And then, going through other.. like Amanda Palmer, who is not like a Britney Spears or pop idol, but still, what does she do? Shock value. And I really respect you for saying “I don’t want to do the shock value route, and anything I do say is accidental.”
Isis: Well, that’s what I’m saying, it’s like, I don’t go for shock value, I’m just f*cking shocking. It’s just the… this is my life, it’s not a joke, it’s my f*cking life, that’s just who I am. You know, if I decide to blow up a couple f*cking frogs, you know, I might just f*cking do that, you know, I get the urge sometimes to kill something. [laughs] I’m kidding. No, but that’s what I’m saying, I do it just for the sake of doing it and not nessessarily for the gimmickness of it. And I think a lot of people get lost in gimmicks and that kind of… that world, that part of the industry. I think it’s important to remember the music, what happens–the feeling you get when you hear that song at the right moment, like when you’re going through a breakup or something, that one song comes on and your whole entire world opens up and everything makes sense, like that’s why I write music. For those moments. Not for… you know, not just to get laid. Although it’s really helped my sex appeal, it’s totally… if my sex appeal was stock, f*ck the recession, it hasn’t hit yet. I’m good. It’s recession-proof.
Tessa: You should write for Cosmo.
Isis: I’m telling you, man! Cosmo should call me.
Tessa: They should.
Isis: There’s definitely a column. Call it “Surprise Sex”. “Sexualation.” You know what, I’ll just make my own magazine, “Sexualation Nation.” What do you think about it?
Tessa: “By Isis”
Isis: By Isis. “The new fragrance for Isis? Sex.” [laughs] Just “Sex.”… “By Isis.” And then the commercial would be like, all like super-sultry, like a girl with brunette hair, all this silk flowing in the place, and like, on a beach or some sh*t, you know, and like a guy on a white horse, like romance novels, and it’s like “Sex, the new fragrance by Isis.” I like it guys. And it’s smells like sex.
Tessa: Would the bottle be shaped like…
Isis: I don’t know, might be.. boobs. Or just one boob. And then there’ll be the little spray thing… [laughs] GUYS. WRITE THIS DOWN! THIS F*CKING GENIUS IDEA, GUYS. GENIUS. I’ll write the f*cking mayor of this b*tch. That should do.
Tessa: I’d buy it!
Isis: I mean, yeah! That’d be awesome. “You smell cool.” I .. I should totally get an investor.
[knock on door]
Isis: Yeah hold on!
Tessa: We should probably actually get that.