killermike

Killer Mike on Anarchy, Bernie, Keanu, the Parkland Kids and Why Gun Control Is Inherently Racist

How can a gun-toting gangster-rap anarchist love Bernie Sanders so much? The 'Trigger Warning' host sits down with MEL for a deep conversation about transforming America

When James Baldwin spoke at San Francisco State College on October 22nd, 1960, he attempted to warn the nation about what he sensed was coming for the U.S. in the riotous 1960s. In particular, he cautioned that the myth of America was in collision with the reality. The prescient writer said that if the nation didn’t meet this “collision head-on and try and become what you really are,” it would be doomed to “retreat and try to remain what you thought you were, which is a fantasy, in which you will certainly perish.” Five years earlier, in his Notes of a Native Son, Baldwin had confessed, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Today, 43-year-old rapper Killer Mike offers this same advice to America, a nation he loves as much as Baldwin did.

The man known legally as Mike Render is a husband, father, proud son, compassionate entrepreneur and pillar of his community. He’s also an iconoclastic, unapologetic, gun-loving anarchist in addition to a thoughtful bridge-builder, wealth-builder and wig-flipper. Basically, he’s a paradox in all-black.

As Killer Mike, he’s half of the Grammy-nominated rap group Run the Jewels, which has turned him into a globe-trotting millionaire and regular fixture on hip-hop radio. Recently, he made headlines for chopping it up with DJ Envy, Angela Yee and Charlamagne tha God on The Breakfast Club. He’s also a frequent panelist on Real Time With Bill Maher, where he once debated former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich on gun control; in the end, he seemed to win Reich over. After all, when Killer Mike speaks, people listen.

Killer Mike’s new Netflix show, Trigger Warning, is both like the things you’ve seen before, and wholly unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s a dichotomy befitting the big man. In one episode, he starts his own country. In another, he wonders why an outlaw biker gang like the Hells Angels can brand themselves and get paid but a black gang can’t. To try to change this, he and some Crips start Crip-a-Cola.

For this MEL Conversation, Killer Mike spent half the afternoon speaking his mind. We were interrupted by locals asking for favors, assistants jotting down his food order, and of course, so he could take pulls off the persistent blunts and joints he seems to keep within arm’s reach. He was candid and opened up in ways that even seemed to surprise himself. He spoke about how a gun-toting gangster-rap anarchist such as himself can love Bernie Sanders and his brand of socialism. He talked about why black people need to self-segregate again. He explained why he prefers N.W.A. to Wu-Tang Clan, and he answered who the greatest rapper of all-time is. (Hint: It’s not who you think.)

It was Baldwin who once said, “A country is only as strong as the people who make it up, and the country turns into what the people want it to become. Now, this country is going to be transformed. It will not be transformed by an act of God, but by all of us, by you and me.” Those words, however, could have just as easily come from Killer Mike.

I thought we’d start with some word association. Answer with whatever comes to mind. Starting with… hip-hop.

My savior.

Ice Cube?

My shifu.

Ice-T?

My shifu’s shifu. You know what a shifu is though, right? On some, like, kung-fu shit, Ice Cube was my teacher. And Ice-T is like the grandmaster.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Truly progressive. Truly radical.

Donald Trump?

Casino owner.

Bernie Sanders?

The OG, man.

Barack Obama?

[Pause] The 44th president.

Socialism?

For public schools? Pretty good. For Russia? Not so much.

Capitalism?

Compassionate capitalism has worked for me. Pure capitalism enslaved my race.

Black Panthers?

The movie? It was okay. The organization… No, the movie was good. The organization was great.

James Baldwin?

The griot. The teacher. The leader. In my head, he’s my mentor. You know, he’s whom I aspire to be.

Ford pickup trucks?

Toughest pickup truck on the market. There’s soon to be a F-250 in my driveway.

Bugatti?

Nice to look at. Guess I wouldn’t buy one. [Laughs]

John Wick?

Possibly, the most badass Keanu role ever. Even ahead of Neo in The Matrix, and I forgot the character’s name from his surfer movie. But yeah, John Wick is, right now, the best Keanu Reeves role ever. And I hold Keanu Reeves in high regard. Straight up.

What would you say is the quality about Keanu Reeves that you most admire or respect?

I feel like when the camera goes off, he remains Keanu Reeves. I think you get a bit of who he really is in some of his characters. Like, I saw Keanu on a shooting range just as he was preparing for John Wick. This motherfucker can shoot! You hear what I’m saying? So I know he’s not hiring a stunt guy to come in and shoot for him. That shows a level of dedication to the craft. And now that I’ve dealt with TV — like, doing TV ain’t easy and it’s long — I know that he could take some shortcuts, but he doesn’t seem to. And if I was a white man, I’d just want to be a cool motherfucker like he comes off being. So for me, Keanu, man, it feels like there’s something real.

Now it’s you making moves on the screen. You have your new Netflix show, Trigger Warning, which a critic called “the most dangerous show on TV.” I’d agree. It’s a dangerous show because it dares audiences to do the one thing they’re rarely encouraged to do: think for themselves. You attempt to discover a third way of doing things, to find a legit alternative to the status quo. Do you think asking audiences to think for themselves is the most dangerous thing you can do as a creator?

Absolutely! Because you don’t know if they’re going to be fucking mad at you for tearing their dream of this all down. [Laughs] Americans, in particular, don’t like being shaken out of what they feel is comfortable. Like, you know, Noam Chomsky often talks about being given two different views, and a wide array of ways to argue those two views. But neither of the views are particularly radical. As radical as the arguments become, you never have the option of thinking of a third alternative. And so, when you pop up with one, people look at you like you’re from Neptune or Mars. For me, if they’re never really going to ever give an anarchist the opportunity to create their own space, what you can do is inject that into the current climate.

In people’s mind now, there’s no difference between reality — like the real world around them — and the reality TV that’s in their phones and on their televisions. Ten years ago, I couldn’t have convinced people I’m taking you to an island and this is our new country, and now I want you to operate as though it is. Because they wouldn’t have bought into it. But now, because of reality TV, you can put people in a room and say, “Hey these are the official circumstances,” and they’ll agree to this new reality. They’ll operate like it’s real.

But what makes that new or radical, or something that encourages people to think? Essentially, it’s about people having the freedom to choose if they want the greater good or not. The show offers a new view on the example that Chomsky gives up: If you want freedom of speech, then you want it for the person that you despise as much as you want it for the person you admire.

Is that why in one episode you allowed a white nationalist to call himself a “white nigger,” with the hard r and everything? Did you do that for that same reasoning that Chomsky espoused?

Well, like James Baldwin always said, “I’m not a nigger. That’s not my word. You made that word up.” The word nigger is just a derivative of the Latin word for black. So instead of calling me Bantu or Zulu, instead of recognizing me as an Ethiopian or a Somalian, you just wiped me down with this one word that allowed you to call me chattel. When I say “you,” I mean the system of Western patriarchy, imperialism and colonialism. It allowed you to do that — to rob me of my identity.

But I understand what that white man was attempting to say. Because I don’t think he’s a white supremacist. I don’t think he’s a Night Rider. I don’t think he’s running around with swastikas tattooed on his forehead. I think he’s a white working-class man. And like white working-class men of Mississippi of the Civil Rights era, who weren’t allies, I think he’s confused. I think he’s poor. I think he doesn’t understand why the nation isn’t working for him in spite of his whiteness. And I think he’s distilled it that way. Even though it’s not right to say that, or to claim that.

And again, as a black person, that’s not my fucking word. I didn’t make up that word. So that word doesn’t trigger me in the way that it did, say, when I was 13. But you know, if he’d come into the strip club and he’d called me that, I might stab him. [Laughs] So watch what you’re saying. [Laughs]

One strength of your show is how it operates kinda like a barbershop argument that’s come to life. It’s like watching the homies argue, and then boom: “Let’s run a social experiment based on this argument.” Is that how you saw the show?

Barbershops are wild places for radical thoughts and suggestions — but ones that could actually work. What are some barbershop suggestions that could work? Well, one of the ones I’ve heard in barbershops before, “These little dudes don’t like each. Before the police get involved, let’s sit them down in a room and get them to talk to each other.” And I’ve seen two different barbers sit two different customers down, and say, “Let’s figure out what you guys aren’t liking about one another, because we don’t want a dangerous environment among these other kids around here.” Barbers are the counselors. They’re the wise men and the griots in our community. And I appreciate them for that. That’s why some of those ideas made it into the show.

I really found the episode with the Black Messiah of a church dedicated to sleep very moving. When we hear the confessions from the parishioners, it’s black people speaking about how focusing on their sleep was so powerful for them, how it’s uncommon and how it had unexpected results. Like one woman broke down and said, “I just want to be recognized as a black woman. I don’t need the ‘strong’ in front of it.” What moments from your show affected you deeply?

That moment was one of them. It was particularly deep. Because black women are so under-appreciated by general society. Black families, a lot of times, are matriarchal. Now, black men in romantic relationships? Maybe we could do better. But in terms of, “Do we honor our mother, our aunts, our sisters?” I’d argue we do honor our women. I think we’re doing a solid job. There’s always room for improvement, but in our community, we do a great job of honoring our women. In general society, though, black women bear a big burden. They don’t often times get thanked and get appreciated. Instead, they get given this title of “strong black woman.” I just respected and appreciated that woman so much for saying that. My heart still goes out to her. I still say prayers for her because that sister really opened up. I think she said something that was a bigger truth for more women than just herself.

After you shot that scene, did you go home and talk about that moment with your wife and daughters?

It’s definitely made me interact with my wife and daughters differently. Like, I get up in the mornings now and my first duty of the day is to clean the kitchen and the living room. You know, we keep pretty late hours. We have people in and out, lots of family. We’re country folk. So I try to make sure that that’s not my wife’s issue when she wakes up in the morning. ’Cause usually she’s waking up dealing with business, and she shouldn’t have to wake up to dealing with business and then go straight into a domestic role. So I try to play a bigger part in that. With my oldest daughter, I’m trying to be more talkative and understanding about what her dreams and goals are and supporting those. With my youngest daughter, I just try to stay more engaged — ensure that she knows she has a protector and provider in her dad and someone who’s a confidant, not just an authoritative figure.

In one episode, you attempt to spend money only at black businesses, and it’s difficult. You end up hungry, sleeping on a park bench. Now, you’ve advocated for what could be called self-segregation for the black community. It seems anti-progressive, at first, to a lot of people. But as you point out, older black men in your life told you that as a people we’ve lost a lot more from desegregation than we seemed to have gained. Would you say that black people need to economically imitate the immigrant community experience?

If black people imitated the immigrant community, all you’d be doing is repeating what you’ve already done. The only skilled labor coming out of slavery was black people — and those who were white and poor enough that they had to be skilled. Meaning, if you needed a welder, a blacksmith or a brick mason, you needed a black man. So, within seven to 10 years after slavery was over, black people had already amassed community wealth and land. There wasn’t just one Wall Street, there was Black Wall Street, too. I grew up in Collier Heights in Atlanta as a working-class kid in a neighborhood full of rich black people, because black people, by way of segregation and Jim Crowism, had to live around and with one another. So the dollar stayed in our community longer and supported other black people.

Now, that’s not segregation for the evil intent of denying others the ability to interact with one another. That’s simply saying if you want the best cornbread, you should drive on down to Browntown. You should enjoy the cornbread and have fun. But then go back to your neighborhood. Then, when I want a pastrami, I’ll come to your neighborhood. When I want Greek food, I’ll come to your neighborhood. If everyone did that — to interact with one another as a client and customer, as a friend and ally — we really would be one of the best republics on Earth.

I love America. You won’t often hear black people who identify as radicals or rebels say that. But I do. The blood, tears and sweat of my ancestors went into building this country, in the figurative and in the literal. I am that. And not just only from me being a descendant of slave heritage, but the heritage of the Irish who came, the Chinese who came, the Vietnamese who came. I think it takes all of us. If we all start to appreciate one another on an individual level, then you have companions, allies, co-conspirators and cohorts from different backgrounds who are able to create a greater entity and understanding.

Labels can be onerous, but how do you describe yourself: as a contrarian, an anarchist, a pragmatic capitalist?

I think that, pragmatically, I’m a capitalist. I think I’m, instinctively, a contrarian. And I think the older I get, the more of an anarchist I become. But I best describe myself as Michael, Shana’s husband and Denise’s son.

They say your boy Bernie’s running again. Will you be campaigning with —

He is? Has he announced it?!?! People keep telling me that. Has he announced?

He’s not technically announced. Not yet. But all signs indicate he will soon.

Okay! ’Cause I’m, like, I talked to the homie a couple of days ago. He wouldn’t tell me. I was asking him, like, “What are you gonna do?” And he wouldn’t spill it. [Laughs] And I was like, “Oh, shit, now the whole world knows before my boy told me.” [Laughs] Okay! Now, I have heard from pretty good sources that he is. I hope he does.

Do you plan to campaign with him again, if he runs?

Oh my God, absolutely.

But as somebody who upholds the ideals of individual accountability and has a strong sense of independence, socialism doesn’t seem like an obvious choice. Why are you attracted to Bernie’s brand of socialism? Why does it work with your personal brand of anarchism?

What attracted me to Bernie’s brand of socialism is when you place it next to Dr. King’s agenda in his final three years of life: the eradication of war, the elimination of poverty, the stopping of corporate greed that creates that poverty, the uniting of workers in terms of fair wages. All of that is on Bernie’s agenda. So other people can pragmatically decide who they think can win or lose, but I have principles and ideals, and I can’t break those. Because if I did, it disgraces Dr. King. It disgraces what the [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] pushed for. It disgraces what [the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] pushed for. It disgraces what Marcus Garvey pushed for. It disgraces what Malcolm was doing at the end of his life, what Fannie Lou Hamer did, what Shirley Chisholm pushed for. And I’m just not willing to do that.

We’re entering into the 2020 campaign, and although we still have a long way to go, it looks like things will be getting angrier and angrier on social media. Facebook is Facebook. But what do you think about Twitter’s influence on the culture at large?

Twitter’s fucking shit up. Not like Twitter, but the people on Twitter. Twitter’s a great vehicle for social connectivity, if we allow it to connect us socially. What we’ve allowed Twitter to do is become a window that we use to snipe at each other from, while we hide socially. Twitter should be the beginning of the conversation, not the beginning and the end.

What gets called “Cancel Culture” is being hotly debated right now. Is it good? Bad? Toxic? Helpful? Would you say this zeal to cancel people keeps us divided? Or is it an important tool for marginalized people to hold the powerful accountable?

You canceling a millionaire is not marginalized people having power. Marginalized people having power is about really achieving social, economic and political power. Making someone else marginalized, made poor or to feel bad isn’t the same thing as you being powerful. That’s just a feeling.

We’re becoming the people that you see under lynchings. When you look at the picture of a lynching, you look at two disfigured black bodies that are brutally torn and ripped, hanging from a tree like strange fruit. What people often miss is the crowd under them. The crowd of regular-looking white folk. They look like your next-door neighbors, the kids your kids go to school with. Then you look at them smiling like they’re at a picnic. And they’re pointing. They’re looking at those bodies as though they’re a piñata that candy’s gonna come out of.

We’re becoming that crowd — one that loves to see people punished. We’re becoming the crowd that cheers people on when they’re tied to the whipping post. We’re becoming excited in a pornographic way by virtual violence. So figure out some compassion and forgiveness. Or at least a zeal to understand before you’re so quick to call for a whipping.

A lot of black people don’t get thought of as gun owners in American imaginations. But my father, a black man, always moves around the world with a gun. He’s even a member of the NRA. You’re also very much an unapologetic supporter of gun rights. Do you, or would you ever, support any measure of gun control?

All gun control — whether it be in my grandfather’s lifetime; in Dr. King’s lifetime, when he tried to get a concealed weapon license; or my lifetime, because there’s a high probability that I will be pulled over by the cops — is inherently racist. It’s going to affect you and your neighborhoods first. So I do not support any new gun law. I do not support any national gun registration. Because that’s about as un-American as having to register your name with the feds just because “we want them.”

Last year, you got into hot water after you did an NRA TV interview. They held the interview for a week, and then ran it as if it were a counter-message to the March for Our Lives protest. For that, you received a ton of criticism. What lesson did you learn from the experience?

I apologized to the kids. And I apologized… Well, you know what? This the lesson I’ve learned: We’re not ready. If African Americans are so sensitive that they care not that you tell the truth, but where you tell the truth, my grandfather was right: We’re not ready. Doesn’t mean we’re not gonna get ready. But we’re not ready.

And I have to understand that most African Americans aren’t gonna understand someone who grows his own food. They’re not gonna understand someone who will kill and eat that wild game. They’re not gonna understand people who find pleasure in hunting and fishing. These people think they’re safe in cities. They’ll tell you that the president’s Hitler, and then ask you to turn your guns into a national registry tomorrow, because they don’t know that that’s really what happened in Germany before the Holocaust. They don’t understand that. And it’s not my job to teach them that. It’s on them to pay attention in history class.

As for me and my household? We’re gonna stay locked and loaded. We’re gonna stay clothed and fed. And we’re going to be okay. And when people want to hear the truth, they’ll ask, and I’ll tell it. But I won’t be used by either side. I won’t be a toy. The NRA is just an organization. I can live and die without any organization. I left any allegiances to them behind when they didn’t step up during Ferguson to say, “Why are military vehicles coming down the street?”

Instead, I joined NAGA, the National African-Americans Gun Association. Because people have to understand: Don’t get out-organized by government and lose your fucking rights. Don’t be so busy calling for other people to lose their First Amendment Rights that you lose yours. I always say, “Government should fear the people, not the other way around.” This government’s not afraid of you right now, man.

Your partner El-P spoke out after the NRA interview debacle. He said he was bummed about what you said and how it all unfolded. But he also said that he would always fuck with you. His expression of loyalty must have been touching for you. What conversation did you two have after that whole firestorm?

He encouraged me to do the apology. And I did it. I love my partner, man. I love my team. My team’s not all black, my team’s not all Southern. They don’t all fish and hunt. You know we got managers, lawyers, accountants. We got family members, we got interns. We got a team of people. Run the Jewels is a living, breathing thing, and my personal opinion shouldn’t be affecting my team in that way.

I did that interview with the best of intentions. It was a conversation between two black men about the state of Black America and how it relates to guns. It was used in a way that I don’t think either of us wanted used. So that happened. But my brother [El-P] stood beside me in solidarity; he proved himself to be an ally, and I love him.

For other people who wish to be allies for their friends in tough times, all you gotta do is be there. Encourage them to do what they believe is right and stand with them. And because of that, I said the apology: “Sorry if I offended. Doesn’t change my opinion on the Second Amendment, not one bit. I wish you all the best. And I’ll be fishing and gun-owning, you won’t. Still, we’ll all hopefully make this country a better place.”

What’s your creative process with El-P like? You’ve said y’all like to get some weed, some mezcal or tequila for him, some whiskey for you —

We get the mezcal for him. We may have some shrooms in the mix. All I need is like weed and accessibility to a car site, strip club and books. I like books. I like to read. I saw Maya Angelou writing one time: She had all these jigsaw puzzles and stuff to get her mind busy so she could really think. I need something like that to get my mind busy. Then I just sit in the room, smoke and let the holy ghost in there. Let a spirit move through the room, get in the booth and get it out.

Do you like to hit a pen and a pad first? Or do you prefer to freestyle and maybe pull some gems you spit?

In life, I always have a pen and pad near me, ’cause I like to draw and doodle. Like, I might write one line, and then draw a doodle on the page, ’cause I have to give my mind something to do so I can think. Your mind can get in the way of creating. You’ll start worrying, and anxiety creeps in. Carrying a pen and a pad around with me, I can sketch and bullshit. But the words just kind of pour out. To me, it’s about getting open to the energy that’s moving through the beat, or through the room. And once I’m open, it flows. At that point, a pen and a pad would get in the way.

How important is pot to your creative process and your life in general?

I smoke marijuana every day. Sometimes, it’s radically lighter than other days. Like, if I gotta go to my kid’s school for a meeting or something, I might only take a couple of tokes. But if I’m in the studio writing creatively, I can go through a quarter to a half ounce pretty easy in a night. On average, my wife and I probably go through about an ounce every two and a half, three days.

So it’s integral.

Yeah, marijuana’s a pretty important part of my life. My wife says we get high and holy. It’s not just smoking to get stoned. We’re in continuous observance, an act of pouring libations. So we’re always smoking. But we fast. There’s some days when we won’t. There are some things you want to be there for, and you don’t want to be absent of a certain mind.

But we’re marijuana smokers. And I don’t have a problem with that ’cause marijuana isn’t hindering my children’s progress. My mother’s children all graduated college and trade school — except for me. I dropped out… and became a millionaire rapper.[Laughs] So marijuana hasn’t done the travesty that alcohol has done in my family. It’s not taking people out of my life like cigarettes. So I don’t have judgments of marijuana, and I don’t worry about people.

Switching back to music, who were some of your favorite emcees growing up?

I’m an Ice Cube student, and that’s apparent in my style. The greatest rapper of all time, in my opinion, is Scarface. Over 33 years and no wack albums — and in terms of having the moral depth of Shakespeare and the irony and darkness in his writing. Plus, he can be as witty or sharp as Mark Twain. His taste is just amazing. I also have to highlight Ice-T for his practical realness and songs like “6 ’n the Mornin’.” His first two albums are amazing. Kool G Rap from a pure flow perspective. And Roxanne Shante, to see her battle at 15 years old. Like, she went absolutely insane. Trina has kept the Southern vixen alive for over 20 years. Trina and Trick Daddy were amazing with that. And she’s never credited in the way she should be. Yo-Yo was another amazing sister.

This list can change any day. But on a permanent basis, I’m definitely a student of my shifu, Ice Cube. He’s definitely the G.O.A.T. to me. And Outkast was the greatest rap duo ever.

Speaking of the greatest of all-time: N.W.A. or Wu-Tang Clan?

N.W.A. N.W.A. because Niggaz4Life. I just don’t think that there’s a better rap album. Like, in terms of how it’s evil yet joyous. Now, there are individual Wu-Tang records that you could argue that with. Like, GZA’s Liquid Swords. You can argue even Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Brooklyn Zoo, or Raekwon’s Cuban Linx. But Niggaz4Life is stabbing, flowing and violent. Like blues had a child.

Who’s an emcee coming up now that you love?

Man, I like Cuz Lightyear. I like J.I.D. I like this kid called Bags out of Decatur. I like RaRa, who also out of Decatur. I like Dustin Prestige out of Houston. Who else? Blueface. City Girls. Again, that’s that Southern rebel girl aesthetic. I like City Girls a lot. They dope. And EarthGang, I like EarthGang a lot, too.

On your track Close Your Eyes, you and El-P worked with Zack de la Rocha, a legend of hip-hop activism. What was that like?

Zack is the homie, man. I lost my fucking mind. We were recording in Silver Lake. We were driving, on our way to a juice bar or something, and El-P saw Zack, and he introduces me to one of my musical fucking heroes. They’re homies and shit. Then, me and Zack become homies. Next thing you know, he’s recording a verse for us and coming out on Coachella. I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking my life is a fucking dream.

Cars and car culture have been super important to you, too. Let’s not get into the cliché of how many cars you have now. Instead, what are your top five favorite muscle cars of all time?

All time? [Thinks for a long moment.] Buick Grand National GNX. Hellcat. Hell-people put Hellcat and Demon on the same line. So I get a two for one. And I mean, the current Dodge Hellcats and Demons. The classic 1968, 1969 Vipers. You can put those two on the same line too. The 1969 Chevelle. And the 1966 Ford Galaxie. There was one just on the cover of Hot Rod. But that old Ford Galaxie is one I’ve always wanted. Didn’t get it, but always wanted it.

When you were on Joe Rogan’s podcast recently, you spit out a great quote. You said, “Old white guys and young black men have the same interests. They both like young black women. They both like muscle cars. They both like slightly gaudy jewelry, not working and money.” I laughed out loud when I heard that. Had you thought about that before, or was it like some on-the-fly genius?

I mean, it was on-the-fly genius that came out. But I have that thought a lot. ‘Cause I’m in all the worlds. I’m in the strip clubs with the ratchetest rap shit at night, and I’m at Carbon Octane in the morning. So I’ve seen that these two groups of people like the exact same shit. They just don’t know it. [Laughs] They just need to hang the fuck out more — and let that bullshit go, man. [Laughs]

Your grandfather seems to hold a very special place for you. What was the best advice that he ever gave you?

Just be quiet. He gave that in reference to my grandmother. ’Cause my grandmother’s a leader. Like, I married a Gemini woman — they’re leaders. Sometimes they just make up their mind and do it their way. [Laughs] You gotta be comfortable with that. Like, at first, I’d be like, “Grandpa, why’d you let her? I’m trying to —” And he’d say, “Just be quiet.” [Laughs] And what ended up happening was I started learning — because I’m passionate by nature — to be quiet about a lot of stuff.

My grandfather was very contemplative. I understood later that’s what fishing was about. It was about him getting on the lake, getting by himself or with a friend and just letting his mind quiet itself. There really is a meditative aspect to it. As I’m getting older, I’m learning — because I’ve liked to talk my whole life — to be quiet, and appreciate that silence.

You also give your wife a lot of credit for your success. What’s the greatest lesson she’s taught you?

Truth and transparency will get you a lot further than lies and manipulation.

You’ve been focusing on your health lately. How has working out and making sure you “sweat today, so you don’t regret today” changed your thinking, habits and relationships?

I haven’t been able to work out today, so I feel weird. It gets your blood pumping in the morning. It clears your mind, and it just gives you some alone time. And you need that. You need to be a little more selfish with yourself.

What do you use that’s a helpful reminder to center yourself, focus yourself, ground yourself? Whatever it is that’s necessary in that moment.

The only thing real is this moment. Whatever’s past has past, and whatever’s in the future, I shouldn’t have anxiety over. You know, real mental health is an issue in my family. Bipolar and depression are things that have popped up. Schizophrenia, things of that nature. So I try hard to rest my overactive brain.

Are you optimistic about the future, even though right now is all we have?

Yes, I am. I’m optimistic either we’re gonna learn and work together and make it right, or aliens are finally gonna come back and attack, and we gotta unify and die together.