Interview: Ebony Tusks 12-19-20

(l-r): Daniel Smith, Geese Giesecke and Marty Hillard of Ebony Tusks. Photo by Dominick Williams, courtesy of Ebony Tusks

Interview by Cale Ward with Marty Hillard of the group Ebony Tusks.

Who are your biggest artistic influences – rappers or otherwise?

It’s varied. We generally agree on artists that are committed to experimenting throughout their musical catalog. I’m pretty old-school alternative, Daniel is into electronic music, and Geese probably has the coolest taste, always checking out new, good stuff.

Were there any sound samples used while producing that stand out as unique to the group?

Geese and I didn’t do much sampling for the album. Daniel sampled the automated message from the unemployment line for the State of Kansas in “Punks Jump Up.” It always makes me smile.

With the aggressive sound of the album, I imagine that live performances are energetic as well. Have you had the chance to perform any of these tracks on stage, and if so, which track is the group’s favorite to perform?

We’ve been fortunate to perform the entire album live. We had some release parties for our single, “HDF,” back in early 2020. That gave us an opportunity to perform Heal_Thyself top to bottom. “Schuyler” is fun. I like performing “Heir Apparent,” “Alpha Dog,” and “You Runner.”

Who designed the album artwork for Heal_Thyself, and what was their inspiration?

Justin Bergin is a painter and visual artist based in Madison, Wis. They are a friend of Daniel’s from the University of Kansas. I reached out to them once we’d gotten halfway through recording plans and shared unmixed versions of seven of the songs with them. They and I talked at length about the album’s subject matter, the ghosts of my friends that helped me navigate its making, the nightmares I had when my own life was in danger, and spirituality in general. They would send me edits of the canvas in progress. When I received the final edit, they shared how ghosts are referenced to in Greek mythology – how they appear, where they emerge from, and where they escape to. I knew we’d made the right decision by working with Justin.

What’s a goal the group as a whole shares for 2021?

We’d all like to remain healthy and to continue writing new music together, just like the last 10 years.

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