Q. I want to be a full-time musician like you one day. Any tips?
A. Whenever I do school workshops, this is the main thing I am asked after my talks. I came up at a time when everything was changing dramatically in the music industry, so additional advice would be specific to someone starting when I did (i.e. 1998-ish). I started putting out music and videos in the early years of social media (pre-YouTube) with the help Nettwerk management, with whom I connected after studying at Oxford in the winter of 2003 and getting signed to Truck Records. I have since found an audience in the "nerd rap scene", a group of people who are both loyal and very generous with their support. Being asked to open for bigger artists over the years and doing things like Warped Tour has helped as well. These things have also helped me establish my brand and fanbase.
My advice would be to work to find your own niche where you can similarily keep creating and connecting with loyal fans. If you can find 1,000 people who will support any project you put out, that is potentially enough to survive and have a satisfying career. Work on hitting that benchmark in increments of 100, which comes about by putting out regular, topical content on YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud etc. Make sure that your material continues to be strong, that your live show is special and authentic, that your online videos are well-produced, and that you are always good to your fans. If you are talented, unique, consistent, kind and are willing to work as hard as you can for 10+ years, doors will most likely open for you. If you want to do it and are willing to put all of your free time into it, you can.
Q. Can you teach me how to rap?
In short, good writing takes time. Your first few songs might not be Eminem-status, but that don't be discouraged! I tell young rappers to write for at least two hours a day, be fearless in their revisions, and to listen to as much lyric-focused music as they can. Learning to produce your own beats can help create a unique sound and inform your cadence, helping you tell your own story. There are lots of great YouTube tutorials on beat production. Good luck, and most importantly, have fun!
Q. What is Horris Records? I make music too, would you consider signing me?
A. Horris Records started out as an imprint through Nettwerk. They had a distribution deal through Fontana, who helped me release my first EP and my first official full-length, the Graduate.
After leaving Nettwerk in 2008, I retained rights my first few projects. I did an album with YTCracker and an EP with K.Flay as well as few other solo projects. In 2011, I signed Weerd Science (Josh Eppard from Coheed & Cambria), releasing his sophomore rap album Sick Kids, a dark record about addiction and recovery. These days, I'm not currently looking for new artists to sign, and anything Horris might theoretically be able to do for you or for your brand you can definitely accomplish without a small indie rap label like mine. As Jello Biafra once said, "Anyone could have made this album. Now go do your own."
Q. Will the songs you've been releasing recently via Patreon ever be available publicly, i.e. on Spotify, iTunes or anywhere else?
A. Most of the songs I'm releasing via Patreon will not be available anywhere else. Though there is still a small chance that a few of the Patreon songs may mutate and eventually be re-recorded, edited, tweaked or re-mastered for future compilations, signing up to support me through Patreon is the only way to make sure you won't ever miss any of my new jams. Thank you so much again for your support!
Q. What programs do you use to make your beats?
A. Logic Pro X, GarageBand, Ableton Live 9 Intro and Reason on my MacBook Pro, and Chordbot and ReBirth on my iPad Pro. I program and play synth and bass lines with my Akai MPK25 and record my vocals with a Shure KSM32 single diaphragm microphone via a Resident Audio T2 Thunderbolt audio interface. I have an Epiphone ES-335 PRO electric guitar that I write and record the majority of my guitar riffs with.
Q. Can I use one of your songs on my podcast / YouTube channel / Twitch stream etc.?
A. Yes, yes and yes. Anyone out there has blanket permission to use any of my music for any projects, as long as it's not being monetized. If you are monetizing it, hit me up and we can work something out. Thanks!
Q. Will you please come play my venue / wedding / school / convention?
A. If you have a serious offer and a venue ready, please email my agent Eva and we'll make it happen! I also do school workshops.
Q. I am getting engaged / it's my girlfriend's birthday / my son just graduated from middle school / something else amazing happened to someone important to me. Would you please record him or her a congratulatory message?
A. Happy to record congratulatory videos or freestyle raps for all of your celebratory needs. All I ask is that you support my Patreon at any level you feel comfortable, and I'll send you whatever you need.
Q. Is the upcoming show in (insert any town's name here) all ages?
A. If the age restriction information listed on the venue's sites is unclear, please hit up the venues directly. I try to make every show all ages, but I do sometimes get booked to play bars and clubs that aren't, but it's best to get in touch with venues directly as asking me may result in misinformation. Thanks!
Q. Do you ever do features / collabs?
A. Of course. If you think I might be feeling your project and would like to commission a guest verse fro me, please email me an mp3 of your track with your verses and the hook already recorded, explaining a bit about what you are looking for me. I will get back to you as soon as I can and we can negotiate business stuff. Thanks!
Q. Can my band open for you on your next tour?
A. I'm all for giving up-and-coming artists a place to showcase their work, but I have so many friends I want to tour with these days that it's unlikely I can take everyone who asks me to bring them on tour. That being said, if you do happen to have a draw in your city and want to open for me locally, please get in contact with the venue where I'm playing (I always list this info on my tour page), and ask for the promoter's contact info. The next step would be to hit up promoter and see if they need a local opener. If they do and you can guarantee a draw, there is a chance you'll be added to the show if there's room. I
Once you kill it and if my fans like you, maybe we could end up doing more shows together down the road, you never know. Thank you for your professionalism, going through the promoter is your best bet.
Q. I want to perform a cover of (insert song name here) for my high school talent show. Can you please send me an .mp3 of the instrumental?
A. Honored that you would want to pay tribute to my music! Thanks! A few of my instrumental are on YouTube or my SoundCloud, and there are ways to rip them, but I won't be able to send specific mp3s, sorry! (However, please note that Patreon subscribers at the $5-a-song level get every instrumental, so those are available too.)
Q. Can you send me an .mp3 of the acapella for (insert song name here)? I had an idea for this crazy remix.
A. Awesome, thanks for asking! As I said before, if you support me on Patreon at the $5-per-song level, you will be granted access to the instrumental of every new song I ever release through that platform, as well as the acapella. Alternatively, if you search for "MC Lars acapella" on YouTube, you'll find acapellas of some of my older songs which I give you full legal approval to rip and remix.
If neither of these solutions is helpful, I can't offer much more help, sorry! However, if you wanted to do a rap "cover" of the song in question by rapping it yourself and using the new vocal for such a remix, you have my blessing!
Q. If I ordered a CD / shirt / hat / etc. from your webstore, would you personally sign it for me?
A. Thanks for your support! Since my merchandise is warehoused and shipped from a fulfillment center in Phoenix and I currently live in California, that makes it hard to personalize items ordered. However, if you want to bring anything you've bought online to an upcoming show, I would be happy to sign it and even draw you something special.
Q. What are your real thoughts on nerdcore?
A. People aware of this hip-hop sub-genre often consider MC Frontalot, mc chris and me to be its three of nerdcore's original architects. I met chris in 2005 and Frontalot in 2006 and have always admired both of their music as well as their work ethic. We've all toured together a lot this past decade.
Over the years, fans at shows would sometimes tell me, "I don't like rap, but I like you guys," which seemed problematic for a few reasons. The first generation of (usually white) nerdcore rappers created frequent, comedic comparisons between (a) the painful experience of people of color in late 20th / early 21st America and (b) the experience of contemporary awkward former-high schoolers once teased for their love of D&D (i.e. nerds). Appropriating the hip-hop trope solely for comedic reasons seemed inappropriate to me, but it was an easy and effective joke in the mid-00s, which was something no one in nerdcore really wanted to discuss. If young people who didn't typically create rap were now inspired to do so, I wanted their understanding of the culture to expand beyond the entry point that the first two documentaries on the subgenre explored.
So, I spoke out. I wrote a blog about the sub-genre's limitations in 2009 and in 2010 argued that white appropriation of black culture without acknowledging its social roots is a form of racism. This led to an angry backlash by the nerdcore community, which I addressed at length on Jensen Karp's Get Up on This podcast. For further reading, check out Jason Tanz's Other People's Property, an interesting book of essays which offers a well-researched chapter on appropriation in nerdcore.
It’s very complicated, but thankfully these days, nerdcore has become more diverse and inclusive.