Second Hand King is Joe Stanziola. Combining the storytelling and wordplay punch of rap with the melodic uplift of doo-wop, Second Hand King reinvigorates both genres with a lot of humor and gifted musicianship. One visit to his website soon reveals a multidimensional artist in other areas as well, whether as a blogger, creator of a podcast, or as the force behind some terrific videos. It's obvious Stanziola is always aiming for something beautiful. We are fortunate to share an interview with and book, music and movie recommendations from Second Hand King, as well as songs from his highly acclaimed recent album, Almost Blue.
Please introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
My name is Joe Stanziola. I live and work in Kansas City currently. I've been pushing this Doo Wop Rap thing for about 5 years as of this point. It's really just a fancy way of saying I like to make music that's my own. Someone from Atlantic Records when I first started out told me to pick a genre so that's what I did. I think he meant, pick Rap or Alternative or something but that's besides the point.
Your latest album, Almost Blue, has been receiving very positive reviews. Talk about the recording of this album. What were the biggest challenges for you? What did you learn that you'll take to future projects?
Thank you for that. Almost Blue is really the B-Sides to Before the Bomb Drops. I had songs like Tokyo, that I just wasn't sure how to fit on Before the Bomb Drops so within 6 months of each other I dropped them. I like to consider Almost Blue a small story within the world of Before the Bomb Drops. It's the story of a jazz singer who realizes his dreams aren't his purpose. Among his story are other stories that denounce things in this world that deal with depression, angst, anger, money, and other topics. I will admit this probably would of never been a full project had I not lost a friend to depression.
I'd say the biggest challenge from creating this record was deciding whether to release it or not. I sent it to a peer group before I released it to see what I had and what I got back was pretty positive. I decided to run with it and the response like you said has been great.
I've sort of accidentally turned into a concept based writer. I didn't mean to but I guess I just enjoy writing tracks that way. I can vent through the characters, and Almost Blue I think I pieced together a story a little better. Which the next album I'm working on will be something completely different.....
You've been outspoken about your love of jazz and doo-wop music, two styles that you weave into your brand of rap and hip-hop. Who do you see as your musical peers? Who really inspires you?
I started the Doo Wop Rap thing not as a gimmick but more as a Doo-Wop awareness. I'm a huge fan of Doo Wop music and when I first started out I used to call managers of The Drifters, The Coasters, The Cadillacs, and others asking for advice and how to approach this thing. As far as peers go, that's a tough one. I've kind of been focused on doing my own thing. I'd like to think someday my peers will be those oldies guys, or this new wave of retro artists but who knows. I'd like to someday have a whole fleet of Doo Wop rappers, even if they don't create Doo Wop music or music in my style but just a group of people who get it. I'm working to create my peers I guess.
I'm really inspired right now by failing a lot. I've kept all those demons pretty close. I'm really inspired by Gil Scott-Heron currently, Miles Davis, I'm listening to ANOHNI currently, there are certain cuts on this new Kanye record that really get me. Kendrick Lamar is incredible. Natalie Prass, Ceschi, STEDDY P, the way Mac Lethal has been creating is awesome. The scene in Synecdoche, New York with the preacher talking about how angry he is. The Jumpman Derek Jeter commercial I watch a lot.
Delve a little into your own process of songwriting. What may surprise a listener about how you create your music?
I really enjoy isolation when I make new music. I'm not sure how surprising that is, but it's how I do it. I also, at times, have directed my personal life to figure out something I was writing. That might just be an excuse to do something but who knows. I released the B-Sides of Before the Bomb Drops and probably have a full length C-Sides if I ever decide to release them which I probably won't. Sometimes I'll write a song and choose not to record it because I enjoy the writing too much. I have one song in particular that I'll never record but I think it's awesome. I've never recorded anywhere other than my bedroom.
I prefer subjects I can relate to which is why the concepts come. CHUCK, Before the Bomb Drops, Almost Blue, this project I have coming in 2017. They are all things I personally relate to in someone else or would rather say in another way of saying it. If I make a concept record it gives me an excuse to get extra personal which doesn't make any sense.
What inspires you the most about the Kansas City music scene?
The most inspiring thing I've gotten from Kansas City is the love. That might seem like a cliche answer but it still blows my mind every time I play the song Cold Shoulder and people are singing along. It's been happening for a year but it still surprises me.
Kansas City gets the short end of the stick when it comes to touring artists sometimes, and nobody mentions the Kansas City music scene as a place to break out but there are some really good things happening here. For instance, I've started to get some airtime on 96.5 because I told them that's what I wanted and boom. It's right there. I'm really happy that Kansas City isn't putting on airs and it's allowing me to create. I'd love to have more money at shows, and more people but right now I'm in a really sweet spot where I can create ANYTHING I want and nobody can really say anything.
Second Hand King's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
1. Live at Harlem Square Club 1963 by Sam Cooke. Maybe one of the greatest performers of this generation.
2. Frank's Wild Years by Tom Waits . My personal musical hero.
3. Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche. This book changed my life and this author may of saved it. Every Nietzsche book I've ever read slows everything down for me and helps me better understand even though it was written forever ago. That's talent.
4. Games People Play by Eric Berne
5. Mr. Nobody
6. Vanilla Sky . I watched Vanilla Sky before I recorded the first song under Second Hand King
7. Synecoche, New York. WATCH THE PREACHER SCENE.
8. Whiplash. Pretty sure it's my life story
9. "The Duke of Earl" by Gene Chandler
10. "Runaround Sue" by Dion