Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is a Grammy award-winning "kid-hop" artist, former Asheville resident and longtime advocate for children's music education. He's also a celebrated adult performer and founding member of the famed Asheville collective GFE. Last year, Skidoo relocated to the West Coast where he currently lives with his wife and daughter, who are regular contributors to his albums.
First, I assume you've gotten all settled in in California. Can you tell us a little about where you're living now and how that's changed your perspective and music (if it has)?
I have moved to a small gold mining town in Northern California to, as the ancient alchemists put it, "turn my lead to gold." Hopefully that means turning pencil lead to gold records. The place looks pretty much like Deadwood but with paved roads and wineries, and I consider myself to now be the Al Swearengen of family hip-hop. Except a bit nicer and less erudite. Though there are many great possibilities and opportunities here, in all my national travels I have yet to find a music scene I like as much as Asheville, so I will be continuing to fly back and deal with Ashvilians both on the musical and engineering side, with a temporary headquarters at Echo Mountain, in which to conduct my alchemical processes.
You've launched your own label. What's the status of that, and can we expect you to be breaking new artists anytime soon?
While I do have my own label, Underground Playground Records, the only artists officially signed to it are my myriad of multiple personalities. But I will be releasing an album called Live at the Orange Peel later this year that features my MVP local conspirators Yo Mamma's Big Fat Booty Band and us rocking a full set of 23 Skidoo material that's equally pulled from all three albums. It's pure, undiluted funkistry.
I've heard that you've got more than just music on the horizon?
I'll also be releasing a book called Weirdo Calhoun and the Odd Men Out, which is illustrated by Asheville's favorite punk rock cartoonist, Stu Helm, and which features three musical versions of the story that you read along with and ‘turn the page when you hear this sound,’ inspired by the cassette tape books I read growing up. We have a funk/hip-hop version by Booty Band and I and a bluegrass version by Snake Oil Medicine Show, along with a lullaby version with Billy Jack Sinkovic on cello, Ellie LaBar on violin and my sweet wife's storytime voice. We may only release it digitally for iPad and Kindle, unless there's anyone out there who wants to publish it or invest in physical copies. Anyone?.... Anyone?... Bueller?
I know education has always been a big part of your mission and you've been involved with LEAF for many years. Why do you think music education is so important for young people, and do you feel like our society is making progress towards recognizing that?
Arts education is the most important training we can give to kids right now, both as a method to find meaning in life and to create skills for a Western, first-world market that is increasingly right brained and gestalt based. I am able to use hip-hop, which focuses especially on individuality and uniqueness, yet contains within it all the DNA of American music, to promote creativity, self knowledge and worth, and I love to rock classrooms with high-energy learning. Mostly, arts education is going down the drain as budgets get slashed by maniacal tyrants who think making kids into robots is a good long-term economic strategy because they themselves were never taught to be creative, have fun and share love. Boooooo. Let's change that.
Secret Agent 23 Skidoo will perform an “educational informance” at the Orange Peel on May 13.