People with Passion — rapper E-TRAIN


Interview February 10, 2007

For the original edit of our interview, click here.

E-Train. (photo by Benjamin Schwartz)

Up-and-coming rapper/hip hop producer Erich Malo, known professionally as E-Train. Malo’s young career has featured four self-produced mixtapes (2006’s Dragon’s Breath and The Wrath of Roxane, 2007’s Rising of the Phoenix, and 2008’s White After Labor Day) along with an extended catalogue of unreleased mixtape tracks. The Wrath of Roxane LP due out September of 2008. Career highlights include opening for KRS-One at hip-hop shop The Bassment in Chicago and being featured on DJ G-Spot’s Midwest Invasion 4.

The first thing that I am drawn to whenever I watch you in here is the transition from sitting at your chair writing lyrics into a point at which you’re ready to record…when you’re ready to transfer that onto the mic. What is that transition for you, as far as how your mind is previously, and how your mind is as you set up?

To be honest, I just sit down and find a beat or think about something—anything…the beat can push me, or I’ve got something on my mind, some other reason to make a certain kind of song, and I’ll sit down and write the lyrics. When I get to a point where I fill a certain amount of space—a verse or a bar, whatever it is I want to record—I usually just grab a beat and run with it. There’s no real change there; I’m reading it while I’m writing it, then I’m just reading it when I’m rapping it…it’s just part of the process. Continue reading “People with Passion — rapper E-TRAIN”


People with Passion

By popular demand, I will be re-editing the early interviews of the ongoing People with Passion series and running them on the blog. Along with these re-edits, stay tuned for upcoming stories with electro pop duo A&R, artist Ira Upin, and actor Maestro Harrell of The Wire fame. Continue reading “People with Passion”

An interview with hip-hop violinist Lee England Jr.

This is an excerpt from an interview with violinist and music teacher Lee England Jr. 

I’m amazed to say, when I was little, I used to tell my mom “I’m gonna make violin cool.” I didn’t lee-england-jr1know how I was going to do it. That’s just what I used to say.

Being an instrumentalist—you practice so hard, every day. You’re practicing for perfection. But you take that mentality into your day-to-day, and you’re trying to make everything perfect. You’re trying to be good at everything. You have to have a certain passion to even just pick up an instrument and stick with it though the times when you want to put it down. And so playing an instrument, it gives you personality traits.

It makes you better, it makes you patient, you have to be tenacious, you have to be diligent. When you get together with a group, you have to be able to hear and listen, and all these things translate into how you live your life. So the better musician you are, the better person you are. That’s what I’ve seen, what it’s done for me, how it’s shaped my life. That’s what I want to transmit to my students.

FOR MORE ON Lee England Jr., check out

Lee on Jimmy Kimmel Live, 4-14-09:

Continue reading “An interview with hip-hop violinist Lee England Jr.”

Interview excerpts with J. Gatz, Louchiano, Young General

Author’s note: The following are excerpts from longer interviews. The full versions can be found here (J. Gatz), here (Louchiano), and here (Young General). Along with E-Train, these three artists will be playing at Subterranean in Chicago’s Bucktown on March 4th.

I want to take you into the future, all right? It’s March 4th, Wednesday night, Subterranean, you’ve just finished your set. You’re walking off stage…what has the crowd experienced?

J. GATZtoenail-of-a-giant1

(laughs) Pretty much, they experienced something they probably didn’t expect. Something new, something different, something funny…I think the audience will feel entertained. Not just rapped at. Entertained. Like they just experienced a show, a well thought out performance, as well as experienced a true MC.


Connection. You want to feel as if for twenty minutes, or however long I’m up there, the twenty minutes went by like that. (snaps fingers) I want it to feel as if you got lost in music. You got lost in wordplay, you got lost in words. It just felt, for just twenty minutes, that nothing else in the world mattered, and you was just zoning. Not to say you was high, but kinda like, man, you just got caught, got stuck in the moment. It’s like watching rain fall. Like snow.

Outside of that, I just want you to be blown away. Not just entertained, but educated as well.

YOUNG GENERALyoung-general

They’ve experienced the best thing they never knew about. Something that is valid. When you see something where you’re like, “That was real. There was no way that could have been artificial.” And I think it’s something you know to your core—it’s something that I’m dedicated to and really talented at but work really hard at. You’re happy with what you get. It’s like when you leave a restaurant and you’re like “I feel like I got my money’s worth.”

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An interview with Alex Kotlowitz

Alex Kotlowitz

This is an excerpt from an interview with author and writer Alex Kotlowitz. For the new edit of this interview run August 15, 2011, please go to ChicagoNow’s Eye on Chi. For the original edit of this interview from December 2008, please see

It’s glib, but the first thing that Studs taught everybody is how to listen. I think it’s clear if you’re a close reader of his work: he wasn’t a passive listener. He didn’t just put a tape recorder down and ask questions. He engaged them. He knew what he wanted to know.

I had been interviewed by him once on his radio show—he’d come with the book all marked up, and he’d pull tape that resonated for him from stories he had done years ago. He was somebody who loved to talk. He couldn’t shut up. He was incredibly loquacious. Continue reading “An interview with Alex Kotlowitz”