Aug 16, 2009
Aug 13, 2009
Aug 5, 2009
Aug 2, 2009
The first single from my upcoming EP with K.Flay, "Single and Famous", will be debuting tonight on Aaron Axelsen's show on Live 105. For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can listen at 105.3 FM, or online here to check out "Soundcheck", from 7 - 10 pm PST tonight.
Jul 31, 2009
Every Friday leading up to the August 18th release of our "Single and Famous" EP (on Horris Records / Flayzer Beam), K.Flay and I will be posting a preview of a new song and another podcast in our "Inside the Rappers' Studio" series.
We will go deep into the creative process to uncover the joy and magic of two post-modern geniuses working with beautiful creative synergy. Or just straight clowin', you know what I'm saying? HAHAHAHA.
This week, we are previewing "We Fresh" (beat produced by the Dust Collector) and our first behind-the-scenes podcast, live from a writing session in a cabin deep in the woods somewhere near Lake Tahoe.
WE FRESH Y'ALL!!!
- MC Lars and K.Flay
Jul 29, 2009
Jul 28, 2009
Jul 22, 2009
Jul 20, 2009
Jul 19, 2009
It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I just tracked a Hannukah song with Jim from the Rondo Brothers at their Potrero Hill studio a few blocks down from the coffee shop where I am checking in. San Francisco is summery as August approaches. Last night K.Flay and I did an interview on Live 105 to promote our upcoming EP and then I went to Ocean Beach later that night with some friends. We had a bonfire in a non-designated place and the cops came and made us leave. We then went to a bar called Zeitgeist where I ran into my college friend Josh who saw I was there because I posted on Twitter. He's starting a company to help promote bands and living in the Mission. It seems like everyone who's surviving in the music industry nowadays is doing so with independent funding through their own companies and channels.
I saw that Terry McBride of Nettwerk fame is starting a new company called "Polyphonic" to help fund artists' independent releases. Props to them, that is very much the future of music. Labels now function as banks that are, hopefully, invested in artists' careers as brands. The labels' primary goal is to help to further the bands as touring entities that license songs to commercials and movies. So when that relationship becomes more direct financially, as with Polyphonic, then it optimizes this new economic model. It's the artists' responsibility to the investor to recoup that money, and then both are free to do their own thing, and money is not wasted, like it was in the 1980s. I like it.
I had a good run with Nettwerk. Tom Gates, who managed other bands like Brand New, the Format, Men, Women & Children, and Anathallo, got wind of my act when I was playing underground punk clubs in England in 2003 after my term there studying Shakespeare. Our partnership was totally random and probably wouldn't have happened nowadays. I had 0 Myspace followers, since Myspace didn't exist. I had 0 Twitter followers because "status updates" to thousands of people through cell phones were unheard of. I was just a kid with a laptop and website and a love for punk and hip-hop. I had a dream.
He had read some press on my first UK tour with my Dad tour managing in 2003, we met when he was in San Francisco with Brand New while I was a Junior at Stanford, and he started working with me after seeing me play a coffee shop on campus. He convinced a lot of people in the industry to invest time and money into my career, and it paid off for everyone. We never sold a million records, but he and Nettwerk really helped to establish the "MC Lars brand" internationally through radio and video connections they'd established with artists like Avril Lavigne and Coldplay. When a 15-year-old girl in Houston was sued by the RIAA for downloading Avril Lavigne mp3s, she contacted me because she had heard "Download This Song". I told Tom, who told Terry, and Nettwerk invested a ridiculously huge sum to help her defend her case in court. Those were some of the benefits of being with a big company like Nettwerk - the good things they could do with their power.
When the industry started imploding in on itself in 2007, Tom bailed for a life of international travel and teaching, something he essentially did with developing young acts, but without the industry politics. I'll be honest, it hurt to have a partnership I had so much faith in crumble, but it was eventually liberating for everyone. I got a new lawyer. I got an new accountant. I went through a few different agents before finding the right one. Oglio came along with the gift of Crappy Records, an ironically titled label I was brought on board for through my Bowling for Soup and Hollywood connections. All things considered, they did a kick-ass job with pushing "This Gigantic Robot Kills" here in America. Yes, mad kids have downloaded the record for free, which wasn't necessarily surprising due to my statements in the press over the years. Nowadays this is something I officially discourage because Oglio is a small label and their existence is contingent upon their projects recouping if they want to survive. "Download This Song" was a call for the destruction of the major label system. These guys are more than just a bank, they are friends who have a brand that I'm pushing to give exposure to too. It's a new-era music partnership.
We're going to put the K.Flay EP out like we did the Digital Gangster LP - via donations from our website and then press physical copies. She, YTCracker and I are going out on tour in the US from mid-August to mid-September. My new manager, Mark Saffian (whose company Content House is an up-and-coming entertainment giant), has been opening lots of doors for me in other aspects of the entertainment world. I enjoy working with him because he's so energetic and focused and always on top of his game. He set up this showcase for us at Comic-Con next weekend, which anyone in the Southern California area should attend. YTCracker and MC Frontalot will be there, along with some other music and web-comics friends. I'll be at the convention signing CDs at one of the booths too.
So that's it from my front. I've been doing a lot of business thinking as you can see, because this helps me organize my creative world. Nowadays, independent artists really need to be on top of both hemispheres of the "grind" to make things happen. I've heen reading a book about script writing that is giving me good ideas for formalizing our hip-hop musical we're putting together. I've been writing for my next solo record. I've been talking to Dual Core and Jesse Dangerously about getting going on these EPs we've been talking about doing (Jesse's for a long time, Dual Core we thought up at Nerdapalooza). I've been traveling and swimming and plotting my next moves on this nice time off of the road.
Play on players, stay up!!
Atlas Cafe, San Francisco, 7-19-09
Jul 18, 2009
Tonight on Live 105 in San Francisco K.Flay and I talk with Menace about our upcoming EP. Listen live at 9 pm PDT by clicking on this link to their streaming ish.
The EP is called "Single and Famous" and will be available in August on Horris Records to coincide with the upcoming "This Gigantic Robot Kills" US promo tour with Flay and YTCracker.
Jul 16, 2009
Jul 15, 2009
Jul 13, 2009
I'm sitting by myself at the airport in Orlando. Nerdapalooza was such an epic win for everyone. There was so much love in the room the whole weekend, the fans were all very forgiving and loving during the technical problems, and the performances were excellent. It's a team, an army of artists who all support eachother and are more of a family than anything else.
Props to Hex Carter for organizing, and for everyone who helped.
I'll write more of my thoughts later, since it's 7 am and I haven't slept much at all in the past few days, but check out these photos I posted to Twitter earlier.
Big thanks to John and Judy for taking us to Universal Studios!! That was awesome too.
Jul 10, 2009
I just learned that my Oakland homies the Matches are going on indefinite hiatus for creative reasons. Come see their last shows in California for a while. They will always be a legendary Bay Area band, we've had some great tours together, here and internationally.
Jul 6, 2009
Let me preface this piece with an important truth: I have love for ANYONE trying to make a career for him or herself as a professional musician. The odds are stacked against you incredibly. No one buys CDs, so you're going to have to make your living off of touring and selling t-shirts out of a suitcase. GarageBand is in the hands of any and everyone, so unless you have more than a remedial understanding of home recording, the competition is ridiculous when it comes to the need for your product to be presented professionally. Plus, on top of all of that, nowadays everyone knows how to market themselves with Myspace and Facebook and Twitter and blah blah blah, so unless you get extremely lucky with the best song ever written played for the exactly right people at the exactly right time with the most dope YouTube video ever filmed, you're dead in the water.
That being said, it's time to get something off of my chest that I've been feeling for years. Unless you are MC Frontalot, it's time to stop trying to make "nerdcore hip-hop". Damian Hess, a.k.a. Frontalot a.k.a. the inventor of the genre made a name for himself when the Penny Arcade guys saw what a hilarious job he was doing on Song Fight! years and years ago. He is legitimately talented and I respect and love what he does. I've been friends with the man since 2006, toured with him twice, and done quite a few one offs with him at places like the San Diego Comic-Con and SXSW, and will see him again this coming weekend in Orlando. When comedian Negin Farsad made a documentary about Front's first tour, it got some exposure, and when coupled with the "Nerdcore for Life" movie by Dan Lamoureux, the genre's name gained some more press briefly in 2007. It was made increasingly popular for a moment when one of the rappers in the Lameroux film used his YouTube connections to get a preview of the documentary featured on the site. The rest was history. I was lumped into the genre even though my management, my publicist and I had always seen what I do as entirely different. I never self-identified as a "nerdcore rapper" and always cringed when people said I was. Because I knew the end was in sight.
At this time everyone thought, for a second, that nerdcore was going to blow up. "We finally had a voice," a cadre of mediocre rappers exclaimed. But people forgot to notice one thing: the genre was ultimately limited. It traded on the notion that home-produced beats and an awkward flow were something people would want to pay to hear, instead of just laugh at for a minute while you were looking to put on some "real hip-hop," like Jay-Z or Kanye West. And now we are seeing the brunt of this fallacy in thinking.
As with any genre, if you want to last, you have to write songs that affect people in an emotional way and have an interesting live show and be very savvy with your business. What came up were hundreds of Myspace sites with kids rapping over Nintendo samples about Star Wars and how they couldn't get laid. Nerdcore has been declining in popularity and notoriety because, to be quiet honest, its appeal as a genre outside of a select few people is ultimately finite. The Ramones and the Sex Pistols had an aesthetic that changed music forever, Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash perfected the art of the breakbeat and changed the party vibe by creating a context for funky beats to be played for hours with no gaps. It wasn't until punk evolved into the post-punk of bands like Joy Division and Public Image Limited that it became interesting again and it wasn't until the production of the breakbeat was reinvented by guys like Dre that hip-hop began to evolve musically. Not to oversimplify things, but music evolves when people realize that it's time for something new, and that time for nerdcore hip-hop is now.
I get demos all the time by kids who self-identify as "nerdcore hip-hop artists". And I tell them all that before you try to artificially incorporate yourself into a subgenre, that they need to UNDERSTAND its genesis and BE PREPARED TO PUSH IT FORWARD. Sounding exactly like the dopest people in the scene is not enough.
Let me illustrate by describing some people who have pushed things forward within this Internet-based hip-hop community who have the potential of having a career in the years to come by respecting but transcending Frontalot's movement:
YTCracker is my boy. We've been working together for over a year, he's helped me with my hustle and I've hooked him up with shows, and our "Digital Gangster LP" recouped all of its costs within a few days of its release. That is unheard of, as 90% of records that come out never make back the money invested in them. Yes, he has "Nerd Life" tatted on his torso, and yes he put out an EP with Nintendo beats, but this dude is also a DJ and musician who truly understands music and runs one of the biggest forums for hackers on the Internet. He uses the "nerd" concept as a branding device, but he's really a hip-hop gangster with a lot of talent who, when he pushes himself and expands his subject matter, I tell everyone still has the ability and flow to reach a mainstream audience. He also hosts my website and the Horris Records site.
Schaffer the Darklord is one hilarious and very talented MC. He's a great writer and performer and he's one of the nicest people I know. He gets his rhythmic skills from his earlier career as a metal drummer - which is why his flow is so precise and his stage movements are so engaging and energetic. I've found that many great rappers are also great drummers.... case in point: Josh Eppard, Coheed's old drummer, whose Weerd Science project is pretty untouchable. Schaffer will go far because his YouTube presence is so huge and he will keep building on the underground notoriety he's made for himself. It's not "nerdcore hip-hop", it's very entertaining and clever rap that tells stories in the tradition of Slick Rick or Snoop, with a flow that resembles "Weird Al" at his best. Say what you will about his "hip-hop cred", Schaffer is an artist who I will always be excited to hear live or on my iPod any day of the week.
Jesse Dangerously is someone I've admired from afar and finally got to work with last year and meet at SXSW. We became buddies because he, like me, has never wanted to be part of the nerdcore genre and intentionally approaches the mic with a knowledge and flow of some of the best old-school rappers. When we were rehearsing in the alley behind the venue in Austin for SXSW, some kids walked by and heard Jesse's flow and were blown away and all started freestyling with us. He's a true talent that I know will go far. We once spoke about working on EP together, and it looks like that probably won't happen anymore due to our conflicting schedules, but I know Jesse will be in the game for years to come and I will proudly say that I knew him back in the day.
Beefy is an amazing talent and has taken the "nerdcore" identify and had fun with it and made some great records and pushed the aesthetic criteria. He's a great storyteller and performer, and has a great ear for dope beats. In five years, he could be on the forefront of his own movement. Go see his live show - and you'll agree that homeboy's a powerhouse performer. I've had the pleasure of sharing the stage with him a few times and he always rips it up.
Dual Core is an international crew with an American emcee who calls himself int80 who works with a British producer called c64. David (int80) came out of the Scribble Jam Midwest hip-hop scene, birthplace of people like Eminem, Slug from Atmosphere, and Sage Francis, and is a rapper who HAPPENS to be a computer programmer by day, which makes him more than a "nerdcore rapper". He's an amazing freestyler and one of the nicest people I know (next to Schaffer), and I'll never forget the fun afternoon we spent in Chicago one day before our show there with Front and YT. He's an amazing rapper and friend.
Look at these artists and then look at some of the lesser known peeps in the scene and you'll see why some transcend and some are doomed to obscurity. My point is this: if you want to make music, make amazing music and don't try to be in a scene. Don't limit yourself. Don't just be a rapper. Master all of the programs for beat making. Study hip-hop, but not just hip-hop, study all music and learn to sing and play guitar or piano. Push yourself and THEN send me your demos. In Negin Farsad's documentary about Front, Jello Biafra warns us, "be careful of your own stereotype, it could become a prison." That's what's happened in the past year with nerdcore but no longer needs to be the case. We're on the verge of the second decade of the twenty-first century. Kids who are doing dope things with hip-hop sonically (3OH!3, Hyper Crush etc.) are the ones reaching fans and changing things. Kids who are ONLY listening to MC Frontalot and mc chris sound like lo-fi versions the Lonely Island guys.... and if that's what you're going for, more power to you... but true music fans would rather listen to artists who make great albums and move us emotionally than listen to a novelty act looking for their fifteen minutes in a genre that has come and gone.
Let's push ourselves outside of our comfort zones and flip the script by surprising each other with what we can do.
It's time for something new and I'm typing this as a call for action to all of the kids out there who want to make careers in music. If you want to make a mark, keep impressing those of us who have been in the game for a decade plus, don't simply try to emulate what we've done. Say something original, say it well, and make my car shake when I listen to your demo mp3 or keep my attention rapt with the dope YouTube video you make to go with the song. You are all mad talented and I know you can create amazing stuff.
RIP Nerdcore.... what's next?? It's honestly a really an exciting time to be on the mic or producing beats.
P.S. A lot of people ask me what my favorite hip-hop records are when I point to originators that can inspire us to move forward. These are some good ones by true artists that I think everyone should study and keep handy in their iTunes:
Jul 3, 2009
Jul 2, 2009
Jul 1, 2009
Jun 26, 2009
Jun 25, 2009
Jun 24, 2009
Summer is upon us. I've been working like crazy with K.Flay and DJ on some hot jams for our EP. We've been writing for weeks and are tracking with our favorite Bay Area production team the Rondo Brothers Thursday and Friday. We had like nine plus songs and have narrowed it down to our six favorites. I'm currently at my parents' house in Carmel Valley because I had to come back for an appointment with my optometrist tomorrow morning. Fuuunnnnn. I'm living a double life.
Tomorrow we're working on one more song for the EP. Tonight I rapped with my friend Chris Peck's band the Crymuscles at their show in San Francisco. I've been taking BART a lot because traffic and parking in San Francisco is terrible. I love my summer sublet in the Oakland hills. I'm learning my way around the East Bay again.
My sleep schedule has been so weird. I'm usually up until four or five a.m. then I get up a few hours later and start work. I don't understand it. It may have something to do with all of the time changes and different time zones we've been touring through so my body gets confused. Maybe I need to stop drinking coffee. Or stop smoking meth. Just kidding about the meth!!!!!!!! I like my teeth and face being intact.
I did a collab with int eight of Dual Core and 17,000 nerdcore rappers. Basically, it's a Twitter song where we all rap back and forth like we're on Twitter. Cool concept, but when I sent him my vocals, he wrote me back like, "Lars, you sent me silent tracks." I don't know how it happened - maybe ProTools is haunted or something. So I sent him my ProTools session for him and his British producer to have fun with. It's going to be cool. I really love Dual Core because David (int) is a really talented rapper and their production is always catchy and fun to listen to. He transcends nerdcore because he came up in the Scribble Jam / indie hip-hop seen of the mid-west late 90s community. He's a rapper who just happens to be a computer guy, not the other way around.
Been hanging out with cool people, doing awesome things like going to the Ansel Adams / Georgia O'Keefe show at the SF MoMa with my Orinda friend Samantha. I've been swimming every day at the UC Berkeley pool to get back in shape. Touring sometimes makes my body rusty, with McDonalds and the stress of hours and hours of driving and the weird sleep schedule and lack of aerobic exercise off of the stage, so I'm returning to the lean, mean muscle machine that I was when I first started this touring life. It feels so good to be getting back in shape.
The other day K.Flay and I went shopping. She has become my unofficial stylist. We were learning how to update what I wear so I'm less 1998 and more 2009. I used to always wear giant jeans that were way too big, because I forgot that MC Hammer didn't have the comeback we'd all hoped. Now I'm chilling and whenever I've been going out women keep starting up conversations with me because my pants are no longer three sizes too big. It's nice to have female friend advice on what to wear and not be sloppy all of the time.
Oh man it's almost 4 a.m. Got to get up in a few hours to see Dr. Flicker and talk about my contact lens prescription. To all of you in Internet Land - sweet dreams. Your boy MC Lars loves you. Unless you're doing meth and robbing people. Then you should be executed.
Carmel Valley, CA
P.S. Look for K.Flay's new mixtape. I did a guest verse, as did Eligh from Living Legends. Hot.
P.P.S. We're starting work in the "This Gigantic Robot Kills" video. WATCH OUT FOR IT!!!
Jun 20, 2009
Jun 11, 2009
I'm performing an improvised art piece tomorrow at noon at the Stanford Cantor Art Center. My old professor Mark Applebaum invented a new type of score and different musicians have been interpreting it (mainly classical musicians).
I'm rolling up with K.Flay, MNP, and Thomas Tissot on percussion to interpret his piece with video, freestyled raps, and poetry. It's going to be a one of a kind performance, unlike any other MC Lars show ever before.
More info here.
Time: noon - 1 pm
Where: 328 Lomita Dr, Stanford - (650) 723-4177