Underground spoken-word rapper Sage Francis, a self-declared “road warrior,” will embark on a seven-week U.S. club/theater trek later this month in support of his latest album, “Human the Death Dance,” which hits stores today via Epitaph Records.
The approximately 40-date Death Dance Tour starts May 23 at Middle East Restaurant & Nightclub in Boston, and wraps July 13 at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Francis’ hometown of Providence, R.I. Supporting on all dates are rappers Buck 65, Alias and Buddy Wakefield.
In such cities as Boston, New York, San Francisco, Denver and Chicago, Francis, who has consistently toured for the last seven years, will perform back-to-back gigs. “We’re getting to the point where sh*t is getting so large that we’re having to play the same club twice in a row,” Francis tells Billboard.biz. “I’m in an interesting position where I have the kind of following that is really big, but not big enough to fill an arena.”
Francis, who describes his live show as “confrontational and devoid of cliché,” will perform material from “Human the Death Dance” with the backing of a three-piece band. Whereas his 2005 Epitaph debut “A Healthy Distrust” displayed very “socio-political, agro, abrasive and punchy” material, “Human the Death Dance” takes a more personalized direction.
“For this one I took a more introspective, personal approach and started with my own relationships,” he says. “I had a couple of breakups that get documented on the album . . . and talked about my upbringing and things I went through in childhood, and how that turned me into who I am now. I just felt like I wanted to personalize it more than the last album.”
This time around, Francis collaborated with a host of producers. “It’s like a mixtape of producers all across the board — some famous, well-accoladed cats like Mark Isham . . . and a few unknowns, who I came in touch with through my Web site and e-mail.”
Fans and hopeful producers were also allowed to contribute song ideas. “I had an open invitation for producers to send me material for possible use on my album,” Francis continues. “So I had to sift through like 500 f*cking beats before I found something that was great.”
Francis is particularly keen on new tracks like “Going Back to Rehab,” which is “some of the heaviest sh*t I’ve done. And musically it’s the most satisfying. It’s like 36 tracks of live instruments and different vocal approaches.” Along with that, “Keep Moving,” is “some of the most soothing sh*t I’ve ever done for some reason. I just listen to it and it calms me down, and that’s really odd because usually my [songs] are very aggressive, like a dog growling.”
After completing dates on the Death Dance Tour, Francis will jump on the 10-plus date Paid Dues tour, featuring Felt, Living Legends, Mr. Lif, Cage, Brother Ali and others, starting July 25 at Congress Theater in Chicago, according to Francis’ booking agent Christian Bernhardt at the Kork Agency.
Paid Dues runs through August, and will collide with this summer’s traveling Rock The Bells festival tour in such markets as New York (July 28-29), San Bernardino, Calif. (Aug. 11), and San Francisco (Aug. 18).
For those select Rock The Bells dates, which will include performances from Rage Against the Machine, Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy and the Roots, among many others, Paid Dues will have its own stage. “I perform for people all the time, and crowds are great and all, but having the opportunity to share a stage with acts of that magnitude means a lot,” Francis says. “It’s a good benchmark in my career and for my own personal accomplishments.”
Beyond Rock The Bells/Paid Dues, the rapper is looking to tour “Human the Death Dance” through Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand through the end of the year.