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Sage Francis Signs to Epitaph, Plans Side Project
We highly encourage him to mine their back catalog for dope beats
Ed Howard reports:
Quick: what do The Dropkick Murphys, Tom Waits, the appropriately named Merle Haggard, and underground rapper Sage Francis have in common? Well, as of now, they're all members of the Epitaph Records roster. PUNK ROCK!!!! Francis is latest signing to the label, and marks the first ever hip-hop act to join the Epitaph ranks-- unless you include Offspring in that tradition, as they did more or less rap that most maligned of mid-90s alternalyrics: "You gotta keep 'em separated!"

Epitaph has been stretching its boundaries for some time, signing Waits, Haggard, Tricky, and other unusual choices to the non-punk subsidiary Anti-, and Sage's addition seems to be a logical next step. Label press representative Hilary Okun says the signing came about because Epitaph "see[s] a correlation between core punk rock and core hip-hop values and aesthetics [ya heard?]. There is a lot of [motherfuckin'] passion and honesty [up] in this [shiznit] and we are [bustin' a nut] to be involved with it. Sage is one of the most unique and [off tha hook] artists of hip-hop or any other genre [fo sheazy]. We would be [cold buggin'] not to sign him."

We had the opportunity to speak with Sage via e-mail recently, and he seemed as thrilled by the prospect of signing to Epitaph as Epitaph was by signing him, though he says he "couldn't have guessed it in a million years." Yeah, we neither. "I was familiar with the name Epitaph because my friends are huge Bad Religion fans," he says, "and I had recently bought a bunch of punk albums myself. Up until this point, I had done nothing short of ducked and deflected the approach of major labels. It usually always felt so false. There are many reasons why I was receptive to Epitaph's interest in me though. It felt like they had a genuine respect for me and my music, and I had the same respect in return. All I have been hearing is good things about how they treat their artists and staff."

Francis, whose political, personal, and poetic lyrics have garnered a fair amount of controversy in certain circles, has committed to three records for Epitaph, the first of which he will begin recording this fall and will probably hit shelves early next year. In the meantime, his song "Makeshift Patriot" (which recently appeared as a vinyl-only single on his former label Anticon) will be ridiculously out-of-place on the 2003 edition of Epitaph's Punk-O-Rama compilation series, out now. The song, written just days after the attack on the World Trade Center, tackles 9/11 and its aftermath in typical Sage fashion; which is to say, long-winded and deeply thought-provoking. Punk-O-Rama, Vol. 8 tracklist:

01 The Distillers - "I Am a Revenant"
02 Motion City Soundtrack - "Don't Call It a Comeback"
03 Hot Water Music - "Trusty Chords"
04 Rancid - "As Wicked"
05 Bouncing Souls - "New Day"
06 Matchbook Romance - "The Greatest Fall (Of All Time)"
07 NOFX - "The Idiots Are Taking Over"
08 Bad Religion - "Who We Are"
09 Division Of Laura Lee - "Trapped In"
10 Ikara Colt - "Sink Venice"
11 F-Minus - "Sweating Blood"
12 Sage Francis - "Makeshift Patriot"
13 The (International) Noise Conspiracy - "A New Morning, Changing Weather"
14 The Black Keys - "Thickfreakness"
15 Randy - "Welfare Problems"
16 Death By Stereo - "Unstoppable"
17 Refused - "Coup D'etat"
18 Pennywise - "Holiday In The Sun"
19 Dropkick Murphys - "This Is Your Life"
20 The Transplants - "Quick Death"
21 Atmosphere - "Bird Sings Why The Caged I Knows"
22 Tiger Army - "Incorporeal"
23 Turbonegro - "Train Of Flesh"
24 Guttermouth - "Contribution"
25 Millencolin - "Bowmore"
26 Pulley - "The Ocean Song"
27 Bombshell Rocks - "Warpath"
28 Raised Fist - "Get This Right!"
29 No Fun At All - "Lose Another Friend"
30 U.S. Bombs - "Roll Around"
31 Bad Religion - "Shattered Faith"

But before Francis debuts with his new home, he'll be dropping another kind of debut. His whimsical side project Non-Prophets (with Joey Beats) is releasing its first full-length album, Hope, this summer on Lex Records, the hip-hop subsidiary of glitch empire Warp Records. More light-hearted than Sage's solo recordings, it should provide a welcome relief for those who don't want to hear George Dubya namedropped even once on a rap record.

Sage describes the 13-track album as "compact and punchy. Funny with a tinge of serious here and there. Perhaps the antithesis to Personal Journals, while still maintaining peculiar content and style." There is no release date as of yet, but the album is expected to drop within four months, once the artwork is finished. Sage is also working on an album called Sickly Business (the fourth in his "Sick of Waiting" series), and a collaboration with Buck 65 and DJ Signify which will be released as Sleep No More.

And finally, according to the Lex Records website, Sage will be on tour this summer with the Anticon All-Stars, hitting a number of European festival dates, plus two shows at small clubs in the U.K. In addition to Sage, the tour will consist of Sole and Themselves (the duo of rapper Dose One and producer/DJ Jel). Francis will be returning to the U.S. afterwards for some as-yet-unscheduled touring in the fall. The European dates are:

06-12 Barcelona, Spain - Sonar Festival
06-13 Hultsfred, Sweden - Hultsfred Festival
06-14 Bordeaux, France - TBA
06-15 London, England - Scala
06-16 Glasgow, Scotland - King Tut's Wah Wah Hut
06-17 Brüssel, Belgium - Ancienne Belgique
06-18 Frankfurt, Germany - Cooky´s
06-19 Paris, France - La Fondation Cartier (Themselves only)
06-20 Rotterdam, Netherlands - Waterfront
06-21 Amsterdam, Netherlands - Melkweg
06-22 Groningen, Netherlands - Vera
06-24 Budapest, Hungary - TBA
06-25 Wien, Austria - TBA
06-26 München, Germany - TBA
06-27 Berlin, Germany - Bastard
06-28 Lärz, Germany - Fusion Festival
07-01 Kristiansand, Norway - Quart Festival
07-05 Belfort, France - Les Eurockeennes

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