Music and Conversation with Night Train 357

SAAM’s Luce Foundation Center is teaming up with DC local music podcast Hometown Sounds to bring you music and conversations from your favorite artists.

Emcee, Night Train 357, poses with his WAMMIE award in front of a gold curtain.
Night Train 357, Photo courtesy of the artist

From 2011 to 2020, SAAM hosted Luce Unplugged, a free, monthly concert series that celebrated the work of local musicians in its Luce Foundation Center. Since in-person events have been restricted during the pandemic, we teamed up with a local music podcast, Hometown Sounds, to continue to bring you music and conversations from your favorite DC artists. In our September episode, Night Train 357 describes the importance of organization in a creative life and teases his new independent martial arts film. To hear the full interview, visit hometownsoundsdc.com.

Hometown Sounds: Night Train 357, can you introduce yourself and explain your moniker?

Night Train 357: I’m Night Train 357. I’m the cure for the common cool. My name comes from my father, who was a CB radio enthusiast. He died about 19 years ago and when he passed away, I started to use the name to pay homage to him. It’s really kind of cool because, since then, not to toot my own horn, I won the WAMMIE for best rap album. What’s special about that is that win enshrined my dad’s name is in the DC-area history. I was hanging out with my uncle not too long ago and he said, “I’m so proud of you, I’m sure [your dad] would be proud of you.” It makes me feel good. I’m just a rap nerd. I’m not a super thugged-out kind of guy. When I say “cure for the common cool,” I mean I need to be real with myself. There are a lot of levels to hip hop and the kind of things that you can rap about. I figured I would stay in my lane and rap about things that I knew and that my friends would get. I basically make music for my friends. All my friends watch Beast Wars, so I’m going to make music about Beast Wars.

You played a show at The Pie Shop in August and one at DC9 in September. How did those shows go? Have you missed the live crowds?

Yes, oh, I missed it. I love the energy you get from the live crowds, everything about it. Most people who go to see shows don't realize the work that goes into them. When I started doing music, there was no guidebook. All sorts of crazy stuff happens. It all melts away when you’re on stage. You’re a different person. I’m really kind of introverted. I don’t like being out with crowds, but there’s something about being on the microphone and letting people give me a chance to express myself after a hard day’s work. I’ve missed getting on that mic and seeing the faces of people and thinking, “that's my song.” That’s the best feeling in the world.

At this year’s DC Music Summit, you gave a talk on expanding your brand called “Exploring the Creative Process Beyond the Music.” What is one lesson or piece of advice from that talk that you can share with listeners?

Spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets, and organization. Everybody wants to do everything. I deal with a lot of friends who say, “it’d be cool if…”and it ends there. So, a lot of it is writing things down and being organized. What people don't understand is that everything that I do is organized. I can’t speak to every artist out here —I got a life, I got a nine-to-five, I got a wife, I got family. I can't drop everything and say, I'm going to do a rap show. There needs to be time to think about it. To be on DMV Soundcheck, there were three months of me saying, “Hey guys, I won an award. Can I be on TV? "You have to be patient and organized. If you’re not organized, you won’t be able to really handle the blessings when they come.

How do you stay focused on your creative efforts when you are writing and recording music? Do you have a creative routine or space? Or do you just wait for inspiration to strike?

I hate when inspiration strikes, because when it strikes, it strikes randomly. I have a pen and a pad and I write it down. There’s an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry Seinfeld wrote a joke on a piece of paper and he spends the entire episode looking for the joke. He finds the joke, and it isn’t funny. And sometimes it happens. Sometimes you got to sit on it and think about it.

Do I have a creative space? I have my office, which is covered with robots and art pieces. We live in a two-bedroom apartment and the second bedroom is an office space with all the cool stuff we picked up from Comic-Con and key blades from Kingdom Hearts and all that stuff. It’s a great place to just sit back and be creative.

You co-wrote and co-starred in a full-length, independent martial arts film. What can you tell us about this?

The movie is called 1 out of 100, which is a youth-focused martial arts movie set in the time of COVID. A couple of years ago, I got really into fitness and I lost a ton of weight, but then, I messed up my foot badly. I can’t run anymore, so I started doing martial arts as an alternative to running. I got swept into this martial arts world. I started as a white belt and my eyeballs were just huge.

I met a guy called Willie “The Bam” Johnson and I trained with him on a lot of occasions. He would teach me a lesson here and there and I helped him with some design. He called me at 3 o’clock one morning and said I need you to help with this movie. I’d never worked on a movie before. This man had me up every morning for two months at like six, doing stunts and writing every single piece of the script.

What new releases do you have coming up?

I’m working on a passion project with Edward As Is. It’s going to be mostly Transformers nerd references. Edward does very abstract beats, very abstract beats. I’m talking like MF DOOM or ASAP Rocky. He’s got such a bizarre, interesting sound and it’s perfect for the mechanized world of Transformers.

The other project I’m working on is a music video, that we’re treating like a horror movie. We used a lot of tropes from horror movies like The Grudge and The Conjuring. I’m not really a horror guy, but I respect the craft. It’s an adrenaline rush. We were trying to figure out to capture that feeling and give somebody a unique experience. It’s coming out in October, in time for Halloween.