At the Movies with Stones Throw – An Interview with Peanut Butter Wolf

03/27/2014

When Peanut Butter Wolf was 24, his friend and musical collaborator was murdered. Charizma died shortly after the duo had finished recording their album. At the time, Wolf, born Chris Manak, was still signed to Hollywood Basic (a division of Disneyland Hollywood Records) and the label wasn’t interested in distributing the album. Three years later, Wolf left the label to share that album on his own record label, Stones Throw. In an interview with us a few nights back about the newly released documentary, Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton, Wolf said he’d want the label to end with his own death.

The evening was not all somber. The movie was a great story about artistic creation for its own sake, and Stones Throw’s Haley Poticker revealed that theres a “Wall of Wayne” which features a whole wall of pictures that mock Jonwayne, an artist on the label who is usually sandaled, who has a song called “Fat Boy Face,” and who is regarded as one of the most interesting rapper / producers in the country. There’s also this and that.

I sat down with Wolf to talk about the documentary after the premiering of the film at the Noise Pop Festival.

First off, I want to say, great documentary, up there with Scratch in telling a great hip-hop story…are there any music documentaries you love? Any you’d want to see made?

My favorite music documentaries are….one is the Wild Style hiphop documentary in the early 80s, and then this movie The Devil and Daniel Johnston, which was about a singer songwriter in Austin Texas. I’m actually wearing a t-shirt from it right now. I was just wearing it as an undershirt, wasn’t trying to promote it or anything. Guess I’m promoting it right now by talking about it.

What was it about?

He was a guy I related with, there were some similarities between him and me. He would make an album, and then every time someone wanted that album, he would have to record it by hand from scratch and then give it to them on cassette. I did it that same way (**Wolf would manually recreate mix tapes he made in high school the same way**). It was like wow, that’s like me. And then we both worked at McDonald’s as our first jobs.

Was there ever a time you didn’t trust your musical judgment?

I always trusted my ear. But I never know if what is good to me ear is good for a lot of people, versus a few people. I feel very utilitarian, where I’d rather have a few people really like it as opposed to a lot of people kind of like it. But yeah, I need to sustain a living from it.

It seems like the more time that’s gone on, you’ve put out less music. Has this been intentional? Are you making music for yourself?

No, I’m not doing it for myself either. I think I’m being creative in different ways. It’s weird I have so many records and ideas, it’s like where do I take the first step.

Could you ever see letting go of the reins of Stones Throw? Stepping aside and giving it to someone who shares your creative vision?

I used to always want the label to outlive me, but now I want it to go when I die. I mean, Madlib tells me he doesn’t want anybody to ever find his reel to reels and like, do remixes of his stuff, after he’s passed. So like maybe that subliminally that got in my head. It wouldn’t be a personal label if someone else was doing it. And I don’t think it’s like successful enough to where anybody would fight that and be like, “It has to live on!”

What’s the best way to support Stones Throw?

Yeah I mean the best way is to probably download it for free and see me at the club and give me like ten bucks at the club. Don’t pay the artists or the people at the label. Kidding again!

Write up & interview by Creighton Vance