The emerging NYC-based hip-hop artist Timothy Dark has just released a new album, “The Last Days of the Dark.” His album is a pastiche of different genres, even finding inspiration from ’60s psychedelic rock. His rock influences manifest while he performs with a live band backing up his hip-hop lyrics. His work is eclectic and introspective, and he shares artistic commentary on existential issues such as experiencing life and learning from our experiences in earnest to find personal motivation and appreciation for life. He also released a music video in October 2017 entitled “Unpatriotic” as a slightly dystopian and honest expression of his anger toward the new presidential administration.
Dark took the time to speak with the Amsterdam News to express his personal inspiration and his experiences as an up-and-coming artist in NYC in today’s tumultuous climate.
AmNews: Was your new track, “Don’t it Feel Good” (“Comfortably Numb”) inspired by Pink Floyd?
Dark: Yes, most definitely. There was a time when the only thing I was listening to was “The Wall” album. I loved every track on the album, but there was something special about the song “Comfortably Numb.” Every time I listened to the track, I would just sit there, hypnotized by the lyrics, the guitar, the strings, the spacey sounds and the eerie vocals. It became a sort of daily therapy. Years later, while working on “The Last Days of Dark,” the title “Comfortably Numb” came to me with new meaning. I looked at the state of the world and realized that so many people were in the position to say something but didn’t. So many artists were comfortable with having fame, but had no real meaning behind what they were selling to people. So my version of the song is a tribute to the brilliance of Waters and Gilmour, as well as a reminder that so many of us go through our lives just doing our daily nine-to-five routine, only worrying about the issues that affect us—blind and unconcerned about what’s happening to others.
AmNews: What is the inspiration behind your album, “The Last Days Of Dark?”
Dark: “The Last Days of Dark” is basically a directive to live each day like it’s your last, and bask in each and every experience. These are the last days for everyone on the planet. People might think this sounds kind of harsh, but I feel like every day after a baby is born is one of his or her last days. You can look at the glass as half full all you want, but sometimes, the half empty glass is the thing that truly motivates you. It’s the thing that drives you to enjoy and appreciate every minute of this wonderful life because, as far as we know, we only come down this road one time. “The Last Days of Dark” is my way of sharing those days with you.
AmNews: What are your musical influences?
Dark: There are so many artists that have influenced me and taught me over the years—Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Kool G. Rap, Gang Starr, Big Pun, A Tribe Called Quest, Slick Rick, Eminem, Metallica and Phil Collins, to name a few. But one of my primary musical influences was Public Enemy. Their music was always direct. It had no fear and pulled no punches. Chuck D tackled the issues that were affecting people in this country, the majority of which pertained to African-Americans. Every one of their songs was a lesson and every album was a semester. PE taught me to focus on and write about what you think is wrong and speak out, no matter if you think it’s going to sell records or not. They taught me that music must be used as a teaching tool as well as a healing tool. There are so many people that feel lost and have no music to turn to for therapy and no little voice to keep them on track. Right now there are very few leaders. Right now there are very few prophets. Right now there are very few musical beacons to guide the righteous as they fight the good fight. Groups like Public Enemy taught me how to be that beacon.
AmNews: What’s the state of the independent music scene in NYC? Has it been easy to perform in the city?
Dark: The independent music scene in NYC is in flux. As gentrification creeps in, more and more music venues begin to close. When this happens the music scene just migrates to other places. Manhattan was where most of the popular venues were located, but that’s changing fast. Brooklyn seems to be holding on pretty well and the Staten Island scene reminds me of the East Village in the ’90s, where there’s this wonderful underground movement of poets, songwriters and visual artists. I’ve been blessed to have made a lot of good musician friends over the years. We keep each other abreast of what’s going on. Being NYC born and bred, I’ll always find a place to play or a scene to be a part of. If I can’t I’ll create my own.
AmNews: Have things changed in the city since the election, and if so, has the social and political change affected your art?
Dark: Things have changed in the city since the election, but I feel like they have changed for the better. New Yorkers for the most part are proud to live in a “melting pot” city. We love to say we live in a place where all are welcome, no matter your religion, skin complexion or sexual orientation. I was born and raised here, so my music reflects this and rejects the negative social and political changes that are happening now. This way of being led me to record songs like the “The Future” and “Unpatriotic,” and create music videos to accompany them.
The end goal is to combine them with a third video to make a short film, showing the country as a brainwashed dystopia with severe martial law overtones. I want you to feel the way I feel both audibly and visually. What’s going on around me has always been fuel for my art, and right now I’m definitely running on a full tank.
AmNews: What are your goals for your music?
Dark: My No. 1 goal is to play as many shows as possible with my band, The Indestructible Characters. I’ve managed to book New York shows through the middle of 2018. The plan is to hit the West Coast by the end of it. All my players [Lisa Bianco, Carl Gibson, Stephanie Linn, Correy Thornton James Rushin and Dan Garmon] work so hard. This is the tightest we have ever been, I want the world to hear us and the message that we are bringing.
I also want to do a lot more performances for charities and social justice organizations, like the ACLU. The times we are living in require us to look out and support each other when our leaders won’t do it. I’ve been doing this for a long time, longer than many of today’s mainstream artists. I’ve definitely paid my dues, now it’s just a matter of making all this knowledge work for me. I want to use all I have learned to promote positive changes and eradicate racism, using thought-provoking artistry.
I’m also co-hosting, curating and performing on “The Evan Ginzburg Show.” I feel like this is an opportunity for me to not only feature my talents but the talents of those around me. Evan gave me the opportunity so I’m definitely going to pay it forward.
AmNews: If you could give advice to young up-and-coming artists, what would it be?
Dark: My advice for young up-and-coming artists would be, never let anyone make you stray from your path. If you really love your art, stick with it. No matter how many times your friends laugh at you, your parents discourage you, the industry rejects you or the people boo you, you have to keep going. Keep in mind that this could take years. But remember, the more you write, practice and play, the better you will get. You won’t see it now, but when you look back in five years or 10 years, you will see how far you’ve come. You will be glad you never stopped, and the naysayers will be astonished at how far you’ve come. I know when I get to the end of this journey, I don’t have to look back with regrets, because I know I’ve left a legacy behind that I can be proud of.
You have to always remember to believe in you, when nobody else does. I wish I could go back in time and tell young Timothy Dark “Thank you for never giving up!”