Each Year of Mac interview is precious to me, but this one was particularly special.
Speaking with Syd of The Internet, we talked about the incredible generosity and unique sense of family that Mac Miller was able to cultivate between himself and everyone he worked with. There was beauty and purity to his essence.
My hope is that same essence comes through in our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, which follows below.
DJBooth: Take me to the first time you met Malcolm.
Syd: The first time I met him—he might not have remembered this—was at the MTV Woodie awards, or something. I was with Odd Future, and he was there with Wiz Khalifa. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but he introduced himself to me. Both of us were just kind of standing outside the trailers, talking to one another. That was the first time I met him, and I didn’t meet him again for another year or two.
First time you worked together?
Honestly, I don’t remember the first time we worked together, because we worked together so many times. I remember we got together because he came to the first concert we ever had. After, he was like, “Yo, you guys, come hang out at my house.” We’re like, “Oh, for sure!”
We started going to his house and hanging in the studio. A lot of the time, we would just watch him work. At the time we were recording a lot of live instrumentation and he was really interested in it, and he had the space and the money to accomplish some of the things that we kinda couldn’t. He took us with him to Guitar Center in a 12-passenger van. He was like, “What should I get?” He wanted to set up a live jam room. We helped him pick out a keyboard. He bought a new guitar. I think he already had a drum set. I think they might’ve got some microphones for it.
He saw Matt [Martians] and I kinda fanning out over this plug-in called Omnisphere. It’s a synth plug-in. He saw me and Matt kinda staring at it. We couldn’t really afford it, so we were just staring at it [laughs] like, “When we get this, it’s gon’ be a wrap!” And he saw us talking about it, and when we got back to his house, he pulled it out of a bag like, “Here, I got this for you guys” [laughs].
Everyone tells me he was the most generous person.
He really was. He was living life the way you’re kind of supposed to, you know? Spent a lot of time with his friends, and his family. Spent his hard-earned money on things that made life more fun. He had no problem spending six grand on a guitar because he really loved to play guitar, and he knew getting this new guitar would make him play guitar even more. Next thing you know, he had a new album out. He was just a very good energy to be around.
How much time would you say you two spent in The Sanctuary?
He spent countless amount of hours in there. Me with him in there? I don’t know, man. It was kinda random but kinda regular at the same time. We spent a lot of time at his house in general because we ended up putting the live room in this giant closet he had next to his bedroom. We had The Sanctuary, but we also had another studio in the main house. Altogether, I don’t know, man. Many hours.
How essential was working with him to helping you and The Internet find your sounds?
Yeah, man, he took us on our first big tour. Just watching him perform, watching how he handled his tour… Watching how happy he was when he woke up. Watching how he treated everybody that worked for him like family. It taught us how to tour. Being in the studio, being at his house and kicking it with him… I remember he had a birthday party one year, and his house was full of people, but he was in his pajamas still, from that morning in the studio. That’s just what he wanted to do. Not like, “Oh, for my birthday I’ma make music.” He was obsessed, and that was inspiring as well. He just wanted to make more, and more, and more. He wanted to work with everybody, too. That’s something that didn’t really inspire me until recently. Since what happened and seeing everyone who reached out and the impact that he had on people when he worked with them was so inspiring. He had a lot of influence.
You’re right, he was obsessed.
It was such a big part of who he was. He had so many hidden talents, too. I think a lot of people would’ve been really impressed watching him in the studio. He can run Pro Tools. He can kinda engineer himself. He’s really good at guitar. He’s really solid on the keys. Around the time I came around, he was making beats really heavy. I’d walk in and he’d be at the keyboard with loops going. A session with him could’ve meant anything. He just wanted to try everything, and why not? He was always, at least while I was around, always inspired to write something. I never saw him at a loss for words. He always had something on his mind that he could put out and express.
How did your relationship change once you all went out on tour?
We just got really close. We had started hanging out already, in LA before the tour started. He was holding rehearsals with my band, so they got even closer at the time. Once we got on the road, we knew, you know, that we were really friends. We weren’t just the opening act, we were homies. We could walk into his dressing room and it wouldn’t be like, “What are you doing in here?” It would be, “Oh, what’s good? Y’all want something to drink?” [Laughs] it was different than how touring usually goes. It felt like a road trip, a long, long road trip with friends.
Even getting cool with his family. His mom was at a lot of shows, taking pictures. She would send me pictures and that meant a lot. I had lunch with his mom yesterday. It just brought us closer to a family. I remember at the very end of the tour, my mom and my dad had fallen in love with him as well. So they hosted, at my house, a giant dinner for us and everyone that was on the tour. And mind you it was us [laughs] and our whole crew and [Mac] and his whole crew. Chance was invited. Everyone was invited, and he came and his mom came, and he said grace! We prayed before we ate, and he was the one who said the prayer. It was so right, you know? Everything just felt good.
Was the family component essential for him to make music with people?
I think it was essential for him to make the music that he made. I think people around that inspired him, people around that he could just hang out with and be himself with, and people who found the same things funny… A lot of times, it was as simple as that. We have [a] similar sense of humor and what not. Anybody, being around similar energy to you is enjoyable. It just made his music feel that much better, ‘cause he felt good.
Vince Staples said that without Mac there would be no Vince Staples. Is it the same with The Internet?
Yeah, definitely. Like I said, without that tour, I don’t know what we would’ve been doing at the time. We had nothing better to do, except stay at home and make some more music. That was one of the biggest learning experiences in our career, just being on that tour. Learning how a well-oiled machine is supposed to run.
As an artist, I think a lot of us get pre-labeled as prima donnas and he was just not [laughs]. It showed us that you can do this and especially for me, I had done a couple tours already but as a DJ. Those tours made me think I hated touring. I’ve been on the other side of it. I’ve been on a tour that was not fun, for me at least, and the energy was not good. Touring with him kinda showed me that tour can be fun. You can create a family out here.
Do you have one story that really sums up who Mac was as a person?
Not one, but… I have a few stories. One of the last times we hung out was super random. Super duper random. It was right before he dropped his album. I hadn’t spoken to him in a couple months, maybe, because he was going through a lot with the media and stuff at the time. He’s got good people around him, so I knew he didn’t need me to reach out—he knew the love was real. We all, over here, decided to give him his space. He hit me up out of the blue like, “Yo, I wanna hang out. We have so much to catch up on.” He came to my house. It was me and Matt, and our friend Sophia, and he came through and just told us everything that was going on. The truth behind it all, and also another couple things he hid from us, that he didn’t want us to know.
He came through and we spent the first two hours just catching up, chilling on the porch. Then we took him to Mac DeMarco’s house. He had been trying to convince me for months, maybe a whole year, to go on tour with him again, but this time it would be The Internet, Mac Miller, Anderson .Paak, and Mac DeMarco. But he had never been to Mac DeMarco’s house, and Mac DeMarco’s house is similar to how The Sanctuary was. So we took him over there and sat outside by the fire, and told stories for a couple more hours. That was just how he was. He would pull up on you! He caught an Uber over here by himself. My mom was happy to see him. He hung in the kitchen with my mom for a bit. Came upstairs, “You wanna go to Mac DeMarco’s house?” “Yeah, hell yeah” [laughs]. He was just good energy to be around.
How do you want Mac to be remembered?
I think what’s great [is] it’s not like people don’t know how good of a person he was. Thankfully, I don’t think I have to mention that. I don’t have to really say he was a great person, because everybody knows. I think that’s the beauty of it: he left his impression. He left a very accurate impression, while he was here.