Feeding off a lifetime of hardships and real life experiences, the Bay Ridge native pays homage to his hometown of New York City for not only providing the fuel to follow a career in music, but for laying the groundwork for a genre that he has called his own career path.
Today the group is fronted by Eaton’s lyrics, Michael “Dusty” Youree is on guitar, piano and vocals and Michael Lapke is on the drums.
I sat down with Eaton at Dominie’s Hoek at 48-17 Vernon Blvd. in LIC to discuss the makings of a rock and hip-hop group in NYC.
Where did your band first start?
It was born while I was doing my own solo project, when I was just sort of doing my own music.
Who were some of your influences?
The first exposure to music was my mother, stuff like Al Greene and Led Zeppelin and just really good music that she would play in the living room. And then I went to school and all the kids were getting into hip hop, so I just kind of fell suit to that.
What about your influences in the rap world?
Probably Prodigy, Mob Deep, Jay-Z and Eminem. He (Eminem) probably found the remedy for saying whatever he wanted to and it would still get radio play. He let the anger out so he is kind of a hero to me.
How did you first begin writing?
Writing lyrics became a good way to release some of the tension of my shifty childhood. So I started writing poetry, in a way, just to get words out on paper as a way of therapy to just push it out there, and that turned into rap.
What fueled that artistic expression when you first started?
It was a rough childhood, a lot of beatings and watching my mother get beat up all the time. I finally grew into an age where I could step in and do something. In one of my songs, “Thank You,” I describe an instance where I remember very vividly my father beating up my mother, ran up behind my father who was in his skivvies, and I went up behind him and I bit him in his ass. That was just this turning point where he turned around, and he saw me and he walked out the door right there and never came back.
What do you think he thought when he saw you there?
In the song, he turned around and said, “Okay you’re a man now.”
When did you first start writing music?
That’s really hard to say. I always wrote stuff down, like ideas, but I think when I first started really getting into it was in high school. I went to Fort Hamilton (High School) in Brooklyn and it was basically like the lunchroom beat box situation; all the kids would basically sit around the lunchroom table, slamming on the table, making a beat and everybody was rapping. I kind of got into that. I just sort of fell into that and everybody responded to it and whatever it was that I was delivering; they wanted to pay attention to it.
Do you have any idea now what people are paying attention to?
Really I’m just expressing myself, but one thing I try to do is just be extremely real in my lyrics and I guess as raw as possible. Realism, like if I go see a movie, I don’t want to see Sci-Fi, I want to see something that actually happened. I want to see a documentary or a true story, those are the things that I’m interested in.
So projecting that and where these lyrics are coming from, in that I’m not just trying to please you with words or word play, I’m delivering what’s in here [points to chest] and hopefully people will get it and can relate to it.
So after high school, how did this all continue?
After high school I joined the Marine Corps for four years and I totally stopped music, but it was interesting that it went down that way because when I got out it was the first thing that I got into. At that point the lyrics changed and it was more militant and aggressive style of writing and I became a solo rapper for a long period of time.
I would be in Washington Square Park rapping with all the backpack rappers on W. 4th Street, and then I went to a studio and started recording some songs, I liked how it was turning out. One day I started to perform at this place called Speed in the city, and while I was doing a sound check there I met this kid called Ace Sinner and he was doing a song that night as well. We just bonded. He loved my song, I loved his song and then we started getting together and writing a lot of stuff. And we’ve been doing that for about 13 years now.
How long has Pushmethod been together?
For about four years. We have a five song EP (Death or the Purple – 2010) and an album (PushMethod – 2012). Now we’re working on the next album, but I don’t even want to say that because we’re just recording songs and releasing them.
So how did this all happen?
I was in the studio, the cutting room, and a couple years before that a friend of mine introduced me to Dusty and he was actually the first one to say to me that rock and hip-hop hasn’t been done justice yet, which I really respected when he said that. So the birth of Pushmethod is this song called “Scrambled Eggs” and the eggs meaning your brain. I had Dusty come in and lay guitar and vocals on that rap song and it just sounded so good, so we mixed it, finished it, played it for a few people and everybody seemed to like it.
Have you been using the lyrics you wrote before, when you were a solo?
Absolutely. Most of my lyrics that are Pushmethod songs, right now, are lyrics that I wrote when I was solo.
Have you written new stuff yet?
Oh yeah, but I have books of lyrics, and I’m always one to say, “never let a good lyric die.” If it’s good, you have to use it somewhere.
How do you know you found something that works?
I stop writing like right there when I come up with a great line. When that line encapsulates the entire vision of what I’m trying to say in the song, I just stop right there, not for the night, but I’ll kind of pat myself on the back.
Do you ever wake up one day and the whole song written?
All of our songs have been written in different ways. Dusty will come up with a groove and come into the studio and lay that down, Mike will lay some drums on it and I’ll put some lyrics on that, or it can all just come out of one lyric that I had.
It’s organic. Sometimes it’s well thought out, but to me the best music is written when it’s just off the top of the head.
What is your philosophy on the music today?
Everybody’s going though a tough time financially, and when that happened in the past, people would write about it in their songs and express that anger and angst and now you just don’t feel that.
Why is that?
Everybody wants to be signed, man.
Is there a misconception that there are no bands coming out of Queens?
I think it’s sort of an up-and-coming spot right now. It’s a very family-oriented area, but I think LIC kind of invites artists since it’s a cheaper place to live. I want to live in Manhattan, but it’s too expensive. It’s the same thing with Brooklyn, and I know there is this whole misconception that Brooklyn is where all the best bands come from, but what about the Ramones? I could be walking down a block in Queens and think I’m in Brooklyn, but then vise-versa. The lines are blurred. I know guys making great music in Queens.
Check out the Pushmethod website (www.pushmethod.com) to follow the group as they kick off their east coast fall tour beginning this September in Asbury Park.