Saul Williams talks new album

Jordannah Elizabeth | 8/13/2015, 9:58 a.m.
Writer-actor-activist Saul Williams has released a number of vivid and emotionally penetrating collections of poetry, music and film.
Saul Williams

What’s the big turn on about a girl who’s a computer?

It’s not so much that she’s a computer. I was thinking about how the main character learned to code. He met this old guy whose neurological system is binary and he taught the main character to see Sirius with the naked eye, and somehow, between that and the fact that he grew up on this hill where colton was later discovered, he believes he has super powers by the time he actually encounters a computer. Nobody’s going to touch this guy’s confidence, he’s like Venus and Serena’s dad. He believes he’s got special powers (laughs).

So he meets this person named Neptune Frost, who was actually born a hermaphrodite. No one is fully accepting of he—she identifies as “her”—until they meet. She and [the main character] meet in Martyr Loser Kingdom. She represents the perfect wiring.

Where do you come up with this stuff?! I don’t get it, I’m moving slowly today—

(laughs) She represents the perfect wiring! He’s building a computer out of old computer parts.

Oh OK, I see.

Yeah, the perfect wiring. So he’s dealing with motherboards and all this shit, and he’s trying to figure things out, and everything that he theorized, she is. She is, and she knows it!

So “Martyr Loser King” is number one, the story of a hacker who gets labeled a terrorist and murdered, but it’s also about the rise of Neptune Frost because the next part of the story, the same story, is her side. That’s why I say there’s more than one album for “Martyr Loser King.” That’s just the first installment. I believe the graphic novel will be out in 2016. There will be a whole slew of new music as well. Right now I’m at about 35 songs.

This project seems like it’s in your realm, but it’s a bit loftier.

Yeah, I don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s true.

I didn’t say that. I think it’s fascinating. Are you attempting to fascinate yourself? Are you making this collection of art because you feel it has a purpose or are you filling up a few years in this imaginative world you’ve created just for the hell of it?

In this creative process, I am a factory at this point. This year, I wrote an album, a graphic novel, a book of poetry and a screenplay, and I’m not trying to be precious about it. I’m trying not to self-edit and complicate the process. I’m trying to transition into the comic world. This whole lofty concept was mainly for the graphic novel.

To get back to the album, “Martyr Loser King” has very little to do with the cities you’ve visited.

Not true. There’s one thing you should know particularly about [the song] “Burundi.” A guy named Adam Ant and another guy named Malcolm McLaren had this album called “Le Tambour Burundi”—“The Drums of Burundi"—and that drum sound actually became the root of what we know as new wave. When you listen to the song “Groundwork” [the opening song on the album] and you listen to the guitar rhythm [he sings the rhythm] and where I come in musically over it, I’m playing with one thing throughout the whole album, which has everything to do with every place I’ve visited: polyrhythm.