Catching Up with Colby Stiltz
Tonight at Drink Bar in Burlington, the debut edition of The Cellar Cypher Series will be kicking off, hosted by Big Homie Wes and Colby Stiltz. This is an idea that Stiltz had been juggling for months now and it’s awesome to see it happen. The time is right and the talent pool is deeper than ever.
Mr. Stiltz has had a tumultuous couple of years, and still got a staggering amount of work done along the way. I caught up for a quick conversation that turned into a short history lesson on STILTZgang. Along the way, we’re about talking keeping scenes alive, re-starting your career, and learning every day. Dig it.
VTHH: It's great to see BTV getting a hip hop weekly -- what inspired you to make that happen?
Colby Stiltz: I believe a weekly hip-hop event is a necessity for any growing scene. I grew up on the Maine Hip-hop scene and we had one every week which eventually turned into the brand "Rap Night."
Locally, it’s important to network, practice the craft, and most importantly have something to look forward to each week. It’s great for new comers that have never touched a mic and for artists that have been doing it for years.
I look forward to building this event into a great weekly gathering, and even more so, I look forward to meeting a ton of new hip-hoppers in the area.
VTHH: "Human" is very Colby Stiltz, but also still a big change for you. What has the process been like working with Jer Coons?
Colby Stiltz: "Human" is a change to my authentic self. I covered up alot of emotion with drugs and alcohol for a long time. Even getting clean but still using marijuana had me rapping and acting like someone I wasn't. Getting completely sober, and working with Jer has been amazing. He is an incredible musician and singer. We both love this melodic instrument based hip-hop that we've been doing.
I go in the studio with lyrics and an idea and we build live instrumentation based around that. Usually we start on the piano, then he'll pick up a bass guitar, then sit down at the drums, and finally we'll add vocals. We have alot of new material, about 10 other songs together. “Excited” is an understatement.
VTHH: What have you been learning as a club DJ in the past year? Has that experience surprised you?
Colby Stiltz: Being a DJ is awesome. It has been a big surprise, in that if I knew I'd be doing this well?? I would have been doing it years ago! I get to continue to perform/entertain people with music and it's a lot of fun.
I've known how to use turn tables and mixer for years (Thanks Dakota and TJ) but my Ego as a rapper wouldn't allow me to step into that role. After getting sober (about 1 year ago now) D JAY BARON took me under his wing, let me shadow him at events, and taught me all the skills I have now. And I'm still learning more and more on a regular basis, about DJ’ing, sound engineering in general, and the business of it all. I couldn't be happier.
VTHH: How did the STILTZgang crew come together? They've been having a strong year.
Colby Stiltz: First of all STILTZ has nothing to do with me.... Its an acronym for Stepping Towards Infinite Love Through Zen. It's about doing what you love, and what inspires you... Whatever makes you feel connected to the love that we has humans are made from. (Pretty deep, I know.) Also it's an analogy for being on a higher plane of existence using ones’ "stiltz" to grow above the things in the world designed to bring us down.
The STILTZgang came together in a very organic way. A 16 year old, now Faded Flow, emailed me to express his gratitude for a performance that he saw me at opening for Immortal Technique. He told me I motivated him and that he was into rapping but had very few resources. I listened to his underdeveloped style and was impressed by his honesty. Rapping about being in high school, and misunderstood by his peers and teachers.
We began talking weekly via phone as I would send him beats and critiqued his songs. Then DZY came into the picture by hitting me up when he visited Orlando shortly after I started talking with Faded. He said he wanted to "meet me" — which seemed very weird to me — but I said Fuck It, and we met up. We hung around Orlando, listening to new music I was recording for "Down To Earth" at the time, and we also peeped his Soundcloud. I was VERY impressed by one song in particular (Epard In My Chest) and told him to focus on that.
As we talked more, I learned he actually knew Faded Flow, and they lived in the same town, although they were very different in age and circle of friends. From there, they connected in Morrisville and DZY would pick Faded Flow up in school to go record — and he got school credit for it, too. It was totally legit, set up through the school, and all came together nicely.
Wes “The Best” now dubbed Big Homie Wes was their friend. He was making music out in Colorado after going away to college, and moved back to VT to get involved with what we were doing. A year later, I moved back to VT and we really got started as we brought their other homie "The Big Scrilla" (singer/rapper) on board as well as DJ/producer Jeremie Mali aka "Jay Attick". We made music, filmed videos, started a friendship, and supported each other.
From there STILTZgang turned into the friend base/fan base, you know? It extended to the other artists and producers we worked with, and the crew that come to our live events. There's people that are STILTZgang and don’t even know it. It's not so much a group name as it is a vibe. I’m very happy with where things are going and with the progress we all have made personally. Also I heard there might be a STILTZgang mixtape coming soon.
Whoa... I think that's the first time I've ever typed all that out. Sorry for the long response.
Remember, The Cellar Cypher Series kicks off tonight in the basement of Drink Bar on St. Paul. It will run every Thursday except for Anthill Collective’s 3rd Thursdays shows. Bring beats and come early. 21+ $3 / 18+ $5