Sunday, August 29
He's the coolest rapper who has ever written a track about Edgar Allen Poe...I interviewed MC Lars a few weeks ago at the Truck Festival. The proper edited interview will appear on some website or in some magazine very soon, but for the time being, here is part one of the full unabridged interview for all you Lars lovers... Part two will follow next week.
Katy, Squib and I met Lars in the main area of the Truck Festival after discussing for ten minutes whether this random other bloke was him, until we spot the man himself striding across the field.
Lars is really talkative and chatty on the way backstage and as it begins to rain, we take refuge in Katy’s car where I press play on the Dictaphone…
Lars: ...But I wanna do the Warped tour next year, I really want to
Phill: Did you play some punk shows already, earlier this year?
L: Yeah you’re right, I did this festival called Skate and Surf, which is in New Jersey – it’s cool
P: And how did the crowd react when you played, were they into it?
L: Yeah for the most part. They were there to see HIM.
LAUGHTER FROM EVERYONE IN CAR
P: That’s Katy’s favourite band!
L: There was a band called One Line Drawing on after us and then HIM – so they were all waiting and they called me Vanilla Ice and I said “My album’s coming out on Truck Records" and they were like “who gave you a record deal!". But out of about 800 people I think there were only three people that hated me….but they just happened to be at the front, so it was a bit of a disproportionate representation. But that show sparked a lot of cool emails from people.
Katy: But they stayed in the front row, they didn’t leave – they could have!
L: Yeah, I guess I polarised the crowd.
P: You used to be in punk bands yourself didn’t you?
L: Yeah, in High School I played in this band called Amphoteric and it’s a chemical that if you take an electron out of it can be Hydrogen or base if you add an electron. So we were trying to be like nerdy you know and funny… So I was in that band for a few years, but meanwhile I was doing my rap-laptop stuff on the side. So I’d do shows where I’d do the laptop rap and then we’d do the other show – and more people responded to the Laptop stuff.
P: So how old were you when you started?
L: About 16, but I was doing the other bands since I was 15 – but I didn’t get serious until I was around 19.
P: Did you just practice in your room and then start to do shows?
L: Yeah I would do local shows back in Monterray, which is south of San Francisco and I did them in my school. And then I got to Stanford and did shows there and it was cool, but it wasn’t until I got to Oxford in the winter of 2003…I contacted all the local bands that I could find and said “Hey I’d like to do a little set before your show, like maybe two songs or something". And people responded who I didn’t know. Before it had been my friends and my grandparents and then it became random people and I thought wow, maybe this is an appeal outside of my bedroom.
P: And then how did you end up hooking up with Truck Records?
L: They did a Trailer Park night with Mark Gardner and they had me open that show and I met PC and they invited me over for tea at the little Percy Street house and we talked, and then I got back home and they were like “We wanna put out your record" and I’m like “really?!" and then it led to Truckfest and all this cool, cool stuff, because they were nice to me.
P: So, you’ve just done a tour around the UK…
L: Yeah I’ve been here for two weeks with this band Audiokarate and this other band My Awesome Compilation and it’s kind of a punk tour that this website punktastic.com sponsors. And it was really, really cool – because there were all these kids that liked the other two bands..and then started to like us.
P: Did you check out any of the places around England and the UK when you played?
L: Yeah we were in Cardiff and there was a castle right across the street. You mean the sites like that?
P: I mean did you just wander around the cities and stuff?
L: Yeah! I mean I love this country, because I feel it’s all within reach, the public transportation is cool, people are nice – do you think that’s a fair judgement?
P: I don’t think the public transportation is cool! (laughs)
L: It’s definitely better than California
L: Yeah I mean it cost us £17 to get from Guildford to Oxford on the train.
P: I wanted to ask you about that, in one of your tracks when you’re name checking English places you said ‘London, Oxford, Guildford’ – why did you choose Guildford?
L: Well I was in Oxford and I did the gigs around Oxford because people let me open for them. Then this band Chicone let me play with them in London. Then I sent this email to as many people as I could find who were promoters and one of the guys who responded to me was this dude from Guildford. So I did this small punk show there and it was crazy, because everyone there had never heard rap really, and they went nuts – so I decided to shout ‘em out in the song. We’ve played there three times now.
P: So back in the States have you released any of your stuff there?
L: The Radio Pet Fencing record came out in January there, but they didn’t really push it, because it’s kind of an indie fringe record.
L: But the ‘Laptop EP’, there’s a label in LA that’s putting it out. So Truck Records is an awesome presence in England and I guess part of Europe, but in America, I think it’s hard for them to push new artists, so we have an indie label helping us there too. So that’s cool and I hope Truck Records doesn’t hate me for that (laughs).
Squib: I’m sure they don’t.
P: What do you think of the other acts on Truck Records, because they aren’t really similar to you, it’s mainly kind of an indie label isn’t it?
L I know huh… I think they all have a similar ethic, like do it yourself, just go out and so it on the flipside of the big major labels or something – they all have a kind of cool spirit. I love Goldrush a lot. I like the Trademark EP and I like their band Fonda 500…
K: They’re great…
S: They played here last year
K: They’re really cool yeah
P: You know when you’ve played here five years in a row, do they say you have to have a year off or something?
K: I dunno – it happened with Smilex
S: Well Goldrush play every year!
L: They should have them back because they’re a fixture…..
L: (closes the car door) I hope I’m not getting the car wet…
K: That’s ok, don’t worry about it!
P: I wanted to ask you about MP3’s and file-sharing and stuff, because one of the tracks on your new EP you’re name checking Lars Ulrich and Shawn Fanning and stuff – what’s your standpoint on the issue?
L: I think Lars Ulrich has so much money. Any recording musician with their own pool should not be worrying about someone downloading their MP3’s right? I mean, I think MP3’s are a way to spread your music and you make money when people come to your shows because they’re fans and they buy a T-shirt. And so if you’re going to be a jerk and say “I don’t want you to download my MP3’s", that means that you get less fans. It’s the new way to share media and I think it’s an important thing to embraced and appreciated. So the lyrics are ‘I ripped one track in MP3, then Lars Ulrich came after me’ cos he’s a punk. And then he kicks him and then Shawn Fanning has justice. I think a lot of artist realise that MP3’s are important. It’s just the greedy ones to put it bluntly, like Dr Dre and Metallica that have kind of ruined it…
P: So if people are downloading your tracks from sites that are perceived as illegal, would you encourage that or…..
L: I love that! Because if someone’s gonna download my songs it’s really cool because they’re interested. And then my hope is they might download two songs and like it, then they might come to a show and buy a shirt…maybe. And that’s definitely worth the exchange, you know what I mean? So like if you sell 2,000 less records, but you sell more shirts, that’s better.
P: So you just want as many people to hear it as possible?
L: Yeah, because it’s so exciting for me that people want to listen to my songs that I just did in my room, and just all of a sudden people care…and that’s awesome…
P: When you first started and you were just getting your own style, who were your influences? Who did you look to and maybe draw inspiration from?
L: It’s kind of embarrassing, but the dude who started me was Weird Al Yankovic – you know him here?
L: I thought it was so funny, because he has such great quality music and he’s funny and I didn’t realise you could do that at the same time…so when I was ten I kind of got into him and then I started listening to Nirvana, Green Day…when they were big and I started playing guitar. And then in High School I listened to more punk, but then when I got into College, Hip Hop became my main thing, I started listening to Old School KRS-One, Run DMC and Public Enemy, because I did this radio show at my school and they had this great collection of vinyl which I discovered. The old school Hip hop world is a lot more interesting and fun and cool and I prefer that to the new stuff. That’s just my opinion but….
P: You did a song about Atom and his Package as well...
L: Yeah I love him, I mean like in High School, I listened to him in Senior Year all the time and I love him to death. And I met him and he was really nice to me. Do they like him here?
P: I dunno, I think he’s still quite obscure...
L: I’m wearing his sweatshirt actually!
P: I don’t think he’s that famous or popular, but he should be...
L: Actually he just stopped, did you know that?
L: He’s just started a new band. And do you know MC Paul Barman?
P: No I don’t...
L: He want to Brown University, Prince Paul produced his first record and he’s really funny and witty.
P: So what I wanted to ask you about was...you did ‘Rapbeth’ and then the new Edgar Alan Poe one (Mr Raven). When did you decide to put Literature into a rap song?
L: The Shakespeare one was an assignment in High School. The idea was make fun of Macbeth. So that was a cool assignment and I did a song and it was good…and it was like wow, people like literature songs. There’s just something about it, because I guess Lou Reed does it, but I mean you don’t hear Britney Spears doing... ‘Gullivers’ Travels’
L: I think it’s cool because people appreciate the stories. What I like about it is that I like to think I’m making those old authors cool – not that I’m any judge of cool, but if it’s in a rap song – it makes it more universal.
P: What mark did you get for your assignment?
L: Oh I got an A on that. Do you think that’s a good grade? The one on ‘Radio Pet Fencing’ I re-did, the old one was kind of less energetic
P: You’ve released two CD’s now, how do you improve as an MC and progress?
L: In my Hip Hop show and sometimes live I try to do freestyle battles and I practice that, so I’m always trying to push myself as an MC. I’m not the best yet, but I definitely take that very seriously and I think the Laptop EP, one thing that makes it stand out for me from the last album, was that it was actually done in the studio, as opposed to all just done in my room. My band and I did the pre-production in my room, but going into a real studio and working with a real producer…he coached me on delivery and stuff, so that what improved the next album for me. And the next album after that, I wanna experiment with different genres and I wanna maybe do more electronic stuff, so it’s just a matter of not getting bored with yourself...
PART TWO TO FOLLOW LATER IN THE WEEK