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El-P Discusses His New Album, Brush With Death

November 7, 2006 1:31 PM ET

Indie hip-hop producer-rapper El-P, who founded the Definitive Jux label (home to Cannibal Ox, RJD2, and Aesop Rock), gave us an exclusive preview of his new album, I'll Sleep When You're Dead, which includes collaborations with a slew of hip heavyweights including Trent Reznor, Cat Power's Chan Marshall and Mars Volta's Cedric Bixler-Zavala. The Mars Volta frontman sings on a track called "Tasmanian Pain Coaster," Marshall appears on "Poisonville Kids," and Reznor's tortured vocals are subtlely mixed into the dense soup of "Flyentology." El-P (Jaime Melone) tells us he wrote the song after a plane engine exploded during a recent flight home from Costa Rica. "Everyone was freaking out, people were praying, some people seemed ready to go," he tells us. "I found myself coming up with my own brand of religion called 'Flyentology.' "

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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