"A chip and a chair" is a poker reference - - - if you still have one poker chip and a seat at the poker table, you still have a chance in the game. A fitting metaphor for Mark Bowen aka AKA, the Olymp hip hop artist whose new album Chip & a Chair is out now.
Mark has been living in Olymp for over 38 years; the "still got a chance" aspect of his life relates to his drinking problem. "I'd gotten to a point where I was a really bad alcoholic. Last Nov 3 I called my best friend Sam Miller, 'I need help.'" This is a turning of the tables; a few years ago Sam Miller, an Olympia stand-up comedian, was himself lost on meth and turned to Mark for help and a place to get straightened out. Mark says "He was waiting for the phone call." They've been good for each other, and now AKA is back at the music-making.
Mark comes from a musical family, his father was a professional musician who always had a lot of instruments around the house. "I was 13 before I realized not everyone can dance, not everyone is singing and playing music all the time." This was around the time Mark discovered hip hop from the other kids at school, and his cousin who was always writing rhymes. "I thought it was so cool." Even so, when he first got into hip hop, "The emphasis was always on the rhymes. I've always been more of a songwriter." All his previous albums included live players and pop song structures. "This is the first album that has been all beats and not live musicians."
Some folks may know AKA from his contributions to the All Your Friend's Friends [KLP255] NW hip hop compilation released by K in 2014. It was produced by Smoke M2D6, which is how AKA got back into hip hop after he cleaned up his act. Before, "A lot of it [making music] had to do with alcohol, I could feel the feels a lot more. I was worried I would lose that feels, and I was numb to music. After four months suddenly my signal exploded and I was absorbing music more than ever before. I called Smoke and said 'Send me a beat.' He sent one thousand, I picked one
and wrote to it and it was one of the best pieces I've ever written." the two continued to collaborate and Chip & a Chair is the result. Despite it's harrowing origin story the album is fresh and spritely, fun, and sonically divers. One can feel Smoke M2D6's production is amped up, inspired by AKA's expressive creation. A wild ride!
And the story has just begun, the music never ends. AKA has a couple Olympia shows scheduled over the next month, Sept. 30 at Olympia Weed Company, Oct. 15 at Rhythms Coffee.