When he takes the stage at Rockfest on Saturday, Tech N9ne will have a chip on his shoulder.
“I read the YouTube comments from people saying I don’t belong there because I’m hip-hop,” he told The Star on Thursday. “They don’t know what Tech N9ne is.”
Born Aaron Yates in Kansas City in 1971, Tech N9ne has evolved into one of the most successful independent artists in music. But his tastes in music are varied, which is something the naysayers don’t know, he said.
“I started my label (Strange Music) because of a rock band, because I’m an enormous Doors fan,” he said. “I worked with the remaining Doors on my last album and I got Jim Morrison on the chorus. I worked with Serj Tankian (System of a Down) on my last album. I had Corey Taylor of Slipknot on my new album. They don’t know that. They don’t know I’ve worked with the Deftones. I’m on Five Finger Death Punch’s new album. They don’t know that.
“There are people saying they’re not coming out to Rockfest because I’m going to bring gangsters, but they do not know what I’m about to do. ”
This will be Tech N9ne’s first appearance at Rockfest, which is presented by KQRC (98.9 FM), but not his first at a rock festival. In September, he performed at the Aftershock Festival in Sacramento, Calif., which also featured Rob Zombie, Godsmack and Black Label Society. In October, he performed at Knotfest in San Bernardino, Calif., in a lineup that included Slipknot, Anthrax and Hatebreed.
And on May 17, he performed at Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio, alongside Linkin Park, Rise Against, Volbeat and Halestorm. Rob Zombie and Anthrax are Rockfest headliners.
“I was the only artist at Rock on the Range that had the whole crowd yelling, ‘One more song,’” he said. “The only one. That’s what everybody told me. And I was the only hip-hop artist there.”
At Rockfest, Tech N9ne’s set begins at 5 p.m. on one of the two main stages. He performs after Halestorm and before Papa Roach. He will be accompanied by Krizz Kaliko, a Strange Music artist, and a rock trio: Alien Warr on drums, David Pastorius (nephew of the late jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius) on bass and fellow Kansas Citian Tyler Lyon of Evalyn Awake on guitar.
“They’re giving me 50 minutes,” he said, “which is more than I got at Rock on the Range. I usually do a (95-minute) set, but for 50 minutes, playing for 55,000 people in Kansas City, I’m gonna kill it.”
Tech N9ne’s latest album, “Special Effects,” released May 4, features a variety of collaborators, including Eminem and Lil Wayne, and styles. Kansas City jazz pianist Mark Lowrey also performs on three tracks. Tech N9ne says it’s his way of breaking down music barriers.
“For me to do a song with 2 Chainz and B.o.B., then turn around and do a metal song with Corey Taylor, then an (electronic dance music) track with Excision, then a Trapt song with T.I. and Zuse: I wanted to show how we can do beautiful music together,” he said. “Man created barriers and genres. Who’s to say in your culture you can’t dabble in other cultures? Music brings people together. At Strange Music, we’ve always wanted melting pots at our shows.”
His next album will go even farther in that direction. It will be released in October 2016 with the title, “The Storm,” in reference to his first recording, released in Kansas City, that was called “The Calm Before the Storm.”
“‘The Storm’ will have to be all-the-way top-notch, bigger than ‘Special Effects,’” he said. “So, yes, I will be calling Gary Clark Jr., like I’ve always wanted to. Yes, I will be talking more with Lana Del Rey and Alanis Morissette. Yes, I will be looking at Floetry and Marsha Ambrosius. Yes, I will try to see if I can get a beat from Dr. Dre for the very first time.”
Saturday, Tech N9ne will try to show the doubters what his fans already know about the diversity of his music and the ferocity of his live shows.
“I’m so happy Johnny Dare (of KQRC) and them even considered putting me on,” he said. “And the reason they did is they know what Tech N9ne brings. But the people on YouTube saying they don’t want to cross genres, they’re going to see and leave Tech N9ne fans, unless they’re total haters.”