Tech N9ne On Playing Through Broken Ribs & Swine Flu

Independent rap mainstay Tech N9ne says he hasn’t missed a show, ever, and not even H1N1 (the dreaded “swine flu”) or broken bones have been able to stop him. 

Tech N9ne
Amy Harris / Invision / AP
– Tech N9ne
Tech N9ne soaks in energy from the crowd at the Bunbury Music Festival at Sawyer Point in Cincinnati June 3.

“The promoter got me to the hospital and they diagnosed me, they said you have H1N1, you have the swine flu,” Tech N9ne told Pollstar of landing in Australia for a tour in 2010. “I said damn, I just did a show in a place where it broke out, in Lawrence, Kansas.”

Halfway into the 15-hour flight, Tech N9ne, real name Aaron Yates, said he started to feel sick and was afraid of passing out.

“The promoter looked at me like, ‘So are we going to cancel the show?’ I said not at all. I did those shows. They gave me that Tamiflu, pills, and they shot me with something, and I did the meet and greets with rubber gloves and a face mask.

“I did that show! Sweating, almost dying. I did all those shows in Australia,” Tech N9ne said, laughing. “I’ve never missed a show. I’m about to knock on wood right now.”

And that wasn’t even the worst one, Tech said, recalling a photo op he had while on a 2011 USO tour in Kuwait near Christmastime.  His publicist insisted.

 “So I’m climbing up this damn thing trying to get up in the cockpit of this Apache helicopter,” Tech N9ne said. “I get all the way up to the top and I miss one bar and I slipped all the way back down. And I hit my ribs three times on the way down. And I couldn’t breathe. And I had all the troops behind me asking if I’m OK. I thought it was just bruised or something.

 “I do the show that night. It killed me. I’m doing my rap, holding my left side of my ribs. They took me to the Troop Medical Center the next day and told me I broke my eighth and ninth ribs. There’s nothing you can do for broken ribs, you just put a little wrap on you and let it heal on its own. I did them fuckin’ shows, man.”

“These are not made-up stories. That’s the worst one, though. That shit hurt like a motherfucker, to this day! When it gets cold outside I can feel that shit,” Tech N9ne said, laughing.

It’s par for the course for the Kansas City native, who has been touring nearly nonstop since forming his Strange Music Label/Agency/merch front/everything imprint in 2000 with partner Travis O’Guin (see Pollstar interview with Travis O’Guin). 

The team represents and books a stable of artists including Rittz, Murs, Stevie Stone and longtime Tech N9ne collaborator Krizz Kaliko.

“We’ve had bronchitis and didn’t miss the show. We’ve had food poisoning and did the show. I broke my ankle the second day of the Wicked Wonka tour in 2003, racing my bandmate in the arena, broke it, did the whole tour on a cane and hopping on one leg. It just goes on, man.”

Tech N9ne at one point had done more than 1,000 gigs in five years and takes great pride in his live show, known for his high-speed technical flow and 90-minute sets with full live band. 

Krizz Kaliko and Tech N9ne
Paul A. Hebert / Invision / AP
– Krizz Kaliko and Tech N9ne
“Skee Live,” Los Angeles, Calif.

“We’ve built a lot of love over the years. And now we get to see the appreciation. It’s a beautiful thing.

“When Kendrick Lamar came to Kansas City a couple months ago, he stopped his show to say, ‘This guy Tech N9ne taught me what a real tour should be like, how you should perform on stage, how you should be an entertainer.  I learned that when Tech N9ne took me on my first tour,’ when we took Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar on their first tour. That’s something. Man, that’s something.”

That constant practice would keep anyone sharp, but Tech says he also surrounds himself with others who are at the top of their game, adding, “You’re only as fresh as your last verse. Andre 3000 of Outkast said that once.”

And he’s had plenty of those collaborations, with a series of albums called “Collabos” featuring other prominent hip-hop artists, adding to his body of work that already includes collaborations with everyone from 2 Chainz, to Lil Wayne, to Korn’s Jonathan Davis to Serj Tankian of System of a Down.

Tech N9ne said that kind of melting pot of genres and different kinds of fans was what he envisioned in the early days, and is demonstrated today when he plays events like the just completed Aftershock festival in Sacramento, which ran Oct. 21-22 and featured a varied roster topped by Nine Inch Nails, Ozzy Osbourne, Five Finger Death Punch and Run The Jewels.

Despite “thousands of potential Raiders fans,” the diehard Chiefs fan joked, “all came together and enjoyed music without worry of genre or barriers.”

Aftershock reported to Pollstar 50,000 tickets sold out to the festival, which grossed just under $4.1 million, promoted by Danny Wimmer Presents.

Tech N9ne also just did Knotfest in Mexico City Oct. 28, which featured A Perfect Circle, Anthrax, Korn, Stone Sour and others.

The just-released the Strange Reign Collabos project came with a release party concert at Red Rocks in Denver Oct. 13 featuring other Strange Music artists, selling out the famed amphitheater.

Tech N9ne’s 2017 headline touring wrapped Oct. 11 at the Wilma in Missoula, Mont., and Pollstar has box office data from shows including the Knitting Factory Concert House in Spokane Oct. 10 (1,291 tickets, $31,913 gross), Arvest Bank Theatre At The Midland in his homebase of Kansas City June 4 (2,686, $90,178), as well as The Truman in KC Sept. 16 (sold out, 1,100 tickets, $38,500), 2,381 tickets sold to the Fillmore Detroit May 19, which grossed $61,755 and 2,280 tickets sold to The Marquee in Tempe, Ariz., April 22. He spent most of 2017 on the road like he always, with 77 dates this year according to Pollstar’s tour history, including festivals.

For his new LP, called Planet, which he was working on right after taking this call, he is going mostly solo.

“I left planet Earth,” Tech N9ne said. “I created my own planet since this one looks like it’s going to be at war. Maybe I’ll create a planet that’s more about love and respect.”

“There will probably be free healthcare on this planet. It’s probably going to be The Rock as president. He and Kanye were going to be running for president, but Kanye lost,” he said laughing. “Although I love Kanye.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be an IRS on this planet,” he said. “I’m still creating it, so I can’t tell you everything.”

Before that, Tech said he’s going to enjoy his birthday Nov. 8 and maybe catch a Travis Scott show.