Never Die Alone press conference, Los Angeles.
Q: The recurring themes of your music - redemption and living without morality - how does that apply to this film and your acting as opposed to music?
A: I had actual events and issues to draw from. I think that is the theme of my life. Right, wrong, good, bad, heaven, hell. I think you have to know both in order to honestly choose one. So I'm familiar with both sides of the fence. That was the character. All right, be a grimy nigger for a minute, then fuck around and get a conscience.
Q: How do you apply that to your career?
A: Well, I'm not a grimy person, so it doesn't really apply. I already got passed that point. So I treat people with the same respect that I want. I don't walk around big-headed. I'm not a superstar. I'm a man like you're a man. We're all people. It's a mutual respect. I'm not going to disrespect you, don't disrespect me. I say what's up, I'm easygoing, but if you violate, shit happens.
Q: What attracted you to this film and the role of King David?
A: I've read every one of Donald Goines' books. So as soon as I heard there was an opportunity for one of his novels to be turned into a movie, I jumped at the opportunity.
Q: Why King David?
A: Well, who else would I choose in that movie? It was brought to me. Someone brought it to me and I thought yeah, I'm with it. I knew I could do the King thing.
Q: Is this character different than the previous four you've played?
A: Yes. Well, my last three movies, all with Warner Brothers, I was kind of the same person: black guy doing karate, lotta money. It's all right for one or two movies, but there's not much realism in that character.
Q: Is there a message in the movie?
A: The message is: you do dirt, you get dirt.
Q: Explain in terms of the characters of the girls?
A: Well, he didn't get it like they got it. He'd give them heroine, tell them it's coke, just to get them strung out. This is a ruthless bastard. I didn't like him as a character, because of some of the things he did, but I'm glad I was able to play him well enough to where it's believable.
Q: How do you expect women to respond to it?
A: To the movie? I suppose somebody will be upset. Somebody's upset with every movie. But there's a few sex scenes in there, so I don't think women will be too upset. [LAUGHTER]
Q: How did you discover Goines and how did you apply what you read?
A: I was locked up for a term when I read the first book of his. It was like here were a set of novels that didn't always have a happy ending. There were a lot of things that I could relate to. A lot of the characters I knew.
Q: How did you take that into the film?
A: That pretty much answers itself. Know it, familiar with it, just carried it out.
Q: What did you find out about working with Ernest Dickerson and being a producer, with little rehearsal time?
A: No rehearsal time.
Q: Different from Warner Brothers?
A: Yes, it was a much smaller budget. The energy level was more intense because it was like we have this amount of time to shoot it. There wasn't much time for error. We had a lot of shots in like one or two takes. That's all due to the fact that we had a great cast, great crew. We all got along and would work with each other. That made for a great product.
Q: Talk about DMX the family man and Bloodline films?
A: When I'm at home, I don't discuss business. I don't talk business. I don't answer the phone. It's just me, my wife, my children, my dogs. That's my world. We go out, take a ride in one of the low riders or something. Totally different person than when I'm working. But the work comes to some headaches.
Q: And Bloodline films?
A: This is our first project... and ContentFilm. I'm glad it went as successful as it did, staying within budget, knocking out what we had to knock out. The colour looks great. I think maybe three or four projects will be under Bloodline films as well.
Q: You won't do a movie unless you produce it?
A: No, I wouldn't say that. But right now, that's what I'm focusing on because I have a lot of good stories.
Q: Are you comfortable under the pressure of one or two takes?
A: Yeah. I actually become the character for the duration of the movie, on and off set. I try to stay not all the way in where I expect somebody to call me King or something, but I might take the walk home, or the way the character talks, I might take that home, the body language.
Q: Talk about the character's talk?
A: I did a couple of things. For one, I had to learn how to walk comfortably in a suit, because I don't like suits at all. So that was one of the hardest things. Not just walking, but walk like I like to wear suits. The talk, because I usually talk kind of fast, I didn't think King David is as amped as I am. I don't think he has as much energy as I do, so I had to slow the whole thing down and just some old grandfather shit, old man talking shit to the younger person. "What's wrong with you, boy?" Almost a southern type of thing. But it wasn't that hard.
Q: How is your artistic approach different from music to film?
A: They're different because they're art forms in which I get to express and act out something. With the music it's verbally, of course, with the films it's physically. And difference? The money. Big difference?
Q: Which is bigger money?
A: In movies. In music, the highest paid artists get 18 cents off of a dollar and the record company still owns their product even though they paid for it. It's like straight robbery. Straight robbery. They give you nothing. Everything is an advance. But they'll offer it to you. "Hey, we were looking at the new Range Rover. We thought it'd be a great idea if we got it for you." And they'll get it for you, then you look on your PNL report, you've got $80,000. You end up thanking yourself.
Q: Your pay scale?
A: Like I said, the highest paid artist, 18 to maybe 23 cents off of a dollar. And they still advance you the money. They advance you the money, okay, that's cool. You give me the money, I make the music. After I pay you back the money, I should own the music, because that was the money, you put up the money. They still own it, they always own it and they ask for maybe 27 songs for each album, yet they only use about 16. And the rest they give away to soundtracks. It's robbery. I can't be a part of it anymore. I feel like I'm being disrespected and- -
Q: Have you ever thought of releasing your own music on the internet?
A: Yeah. I actually wanted to start a union. Protect the rights of the artist. We have no one to look out for our rights. We have a few people that look out for our best interest in terms of collecting our money, but what about what's right in a contract. The standard contract is five to seven years, five to seven albums. How the fuck do you call me a risk, yet you hold me down for five to seven years? And the average expectancy of any artist is three years. So you're already holding me for longer than you think I'm going to last. There is no risk factor. They got a lot of artists out there that's like straight garbage, and they play them so fucking much that after a while, you find yourself singing their shit. They control the market. They've got BET and MTV in their back fucking pocket. They do favours for each other. All the radio stations are bought and paid for. It's like, "Play this, play this, play this." It all comes from the heads of the record companies. It's not even about talent anymore. It's about who they like, who's their guy, who's their buddy? I'm nobody's fucking buddy. Fuck that. I'm not cooperating. If you don't like it, fuck it.
Q: Is your music career over?
A: Yes, it is.
Q: You won't do it anymore?
A: I refuse to give another dime to that record label, to Def Jam. I gave them their best year. I made $144 million for them in one year. $144 million dollars in one year. Guess how much they gave me?
Q: 3 mil?
Q: 3 thou?
A: There you go. They didn't give me shit. What they did was they loaned me three towards my next album. It was like soon as they give you that money, you already owe them two more albums. They don't give you anything. They advance you or they'll give you something and have you pay for it later.
Q: By taking this stand, do you worry your life is endanger?
A: Nah, not my life.
Q: Is there that problem in the film industry?
A: No. Not that problem.
Q: As a producer, you own this movie?
Q: What about recording for soundtracks?
A: Well, because I'm signed to Def Jam, of course they're not going to allow me to sing. But this is some shit. How the fuck do you tell me I can't sing another song for somebody else? That's why we need the union, for shit like this. I'm an artist, I was an artist before I met y'all, I'm going to be after I leave y'all. How could you tell me that I can't put a song somewhere else?
Never Die Alone is scheduled for UK release on 9 July