With his new multimedia project Martyr Loser King, artist Saul Williams is taking on all the world’s ills. The project, which is one part album, one part play and one part graphic novel, is being promoted through his nationwide tour Martyr Loser Kingdom, which comes to State Theatre next Wednesday, May 6.
“Basically I wanted to find a way to succinctly talk about every issue that I see around the world,” said Williams, who is from Newburgh, NY but lives in Paris. “I might have been in Senegal at the time and looking at the U.S. from outside of it, looking at the world, talking to people from around the world and wanting to talk about everything from globalization, to technology, to gender issues, to occupying forces, surveillance, all of this stuff.
“So I came up with this story that basically built up this platform for me to be able to talk about all this s*** in the context of music.”
The album, which is slated for a July release, is just one component of a multimedia project that will reach at least into 2016. Williams said that the play component of the project will likely premier in New York City in either late 2015 or early 2016 and that the graphic novel, on which he’s collaborating with cartoonist Ronald Wimberly, will be released in 2016.
This diverse kind of creative output isn’t foreign to Williams, who’s a performance poet, published author, musician, acclaimed actor and screenwriter. But this is the first time, by his own admission, that it’s all come together as a single project, something he’s humble about.
“Normally I have a book over there and an album over there and a movie over there,” Williams said. “And this time I wanted to bring all of the things that I do into one project, under one heading. And other than that I wouldn’t say it’s that big of a deal.
“I mean it’s true that you go to school and you study chemistry in one room, biology in another, physics in another, but all of those properties exist within the body. It’s the same thing with me….[And] I think we all at least enjoy all of those things. We’ll read book while we’re listening to music. We’ll listen to an album while we watch a movie. All these things are connected. So for me it’s just the way that I find my balance and keep my balance, by expressing in all those different ways.”
In addition to the aforementioned pieces of the Martyr Loser King project, Williams has been keeping a blog at martyrloserking.com, which features a mixed media representation – gifs, videos, essays, photos, etc. – of the messages he’s trying to express with the project.
One essay he wrote, which was actually exclusively published on his label FADER’s website, was published along with a track called “All Coltrane Solos at Once,” which won’t be featured on the album but, Williams said, is part of the “Martyr Loser King” project. On the hook, Williams chants “F*** you/understand me.”
“All people – especially disenfranchised groups whether we’re talking about the transgender community, people of color, impoverished people – yearn to be understood, whether it’s the powers that be, the government, we yearn to be understood,” Williams said. “And when you don’t feel understood there’s a hardness that kind of prevails. Like the rib cage around the heart, essentially. That f*** you – there’s a lot of anger that you can hear in my music but realize that anger comes from this feeling of unreciprocated love. This love for humanity, this love for people, this love for humankind and sometimes seeing these politicians or these corporations try to stand in the way of love and progression, it makes us resist. And that resistance is that f*** you.
“It makes us subversive because we feel unrecognized, we feel unacknowledged. But within that balled fist is an open hand and we come with that first. We come out of love first, but, when we don’t feel loved, it turns into something else. But if you want to get to the root of it, it’s through understanding someone. That’s how you get rid of that f*** you. That’s how you dissolve the f*** you, is by trying to understand something or someone. There’s no one saying f*** you for no reason. There’s something within it and if you take the time to understand it then the [middle] finger’s no longer facing towards you.”
• For more information about Saul Williams, visit saulwilliams.com.