As I continue to post here, I will be keeping you all in the loop with regular updates to document how everything comes together with a project like this. Before I begin, I wanted to address some questions people have been asking me.
I thought it would be a hilarious extension of some of the ridiculous album themes from the past. “This Gigantic Robot Kills” was an album title that the late, great Wesley Willis came up with in 2000 while “Lars Attacks!” was my spiritual space-themed album, so killer dinosaur zombies were the next logical step.
“Lars Attacks!” was an experiment on how far I could move past the style of stuff I’d been working on up until then. I wanted to make a record with faster and more technical rapping, as little humor as possible, the least pop culture references possible, heavier minor-key beats and serious stories about my life, religion and hip-hop’s role in all of that. Basically, I wanted to take everything that “the Graduate” and “Robot Kills” were and do the opposite – to see how “non-commercial” sounding of a project I could create with my friends (KRS-One, Sage Francis, Mac Lethal, John Reuben etc.). I’m still proud of that record, but in retrospect I realize that it was rushed for me to try to finish for the 2011 Warped Tour. Between a mastering engineer who failed to meet deadlines and delays in manufacturing, I didn’t end up getting it back until Warped as half over. Also – I think I confused everyone because there were so many darn versions of that album: two different versions of the physical pressed copies, the sample-free iTunes and Spotify version, the Bandcamp amalgam and the version on the robot USB. I had become the George Lucas of rap in terms of rethinking everything. It was a chaotic time in my life; I was moving, constantly on the road and had recently come out of a serious, long-term relationship, so even though that album ended up like a hip-hop hydra with a million heads, it got me through a hard and strange year. There are mixing and production things on that album I still want to fix and repress, but that will come later. A friend who had my back through everything was the talented and hard-working producer Joe Oliger, a.k.a. Joey Flash of the Florida band I Am One (a project with my drummer Jon). We spent many days and nights in his home studio at his parents’ house in New Jersey working on beats, lyrics, mixes, and arrangements and pushing the boundaries of both or our abilities.
“Indie Rocket Science” was the mixtape that came out right before with some of the outtakes from “Lars Attacks!”… I listen back to that these days and I see how my heart and soul were right there, and that’s the CD that I really was most proud of in retrospect. But, due to the legalities, less people heard that project. The sample-free songs were later released on the “Frosty the Flow Man LP”, with songs from the “Frosty EP” that came out during the holidays in 2011. It was the first time that I had worked with Horris Records as its own entity, away from the labels who had helped me with distribution / promotion / A&R over the years, so I was learning. Also – I was working on Weerd Science to help get his “Sick Kids” album heard, so I was wearing many hats at that time.
I learned two things from that project: (1) as an artist, it’s good to experiment, but not to forget what makes you great. Humor, high-energy beats, and pop culture references were the bread and butter of post-punk laptop rap and everything I had released to that day. I dropped a project where I intentionally tried to abandon all of that, reinventing myself from the ground up. Where “Lars Attacks!” ended up not resonating with people, “Indie Rocket Science” did, but I think I confused everyone with the sheer amount of projects released that year and how they were all Frankenstein-ed together in confusing ways. Which led me to realize that (2) it’s a lot better to write and write and then put out one definitive album with the best tracks.
I didn’t go to the old friends in my life who I had previously trusted for their opinions on which tracks should be on the album and which should not. I was so determined to prove that I could do everything on my own and that everything I released would be flawless, but in reality, I realized that art is a process of trusting your instincts but knowing what to edit and revise. You don’t want to become Axl Rose or Dr. Dre and sit on a project forever, but you don’t want to rush it. The anxiety of trying to rush and create something for a perceived market is poison to the creative process, exacerbated by the assumed competition of social media and the sheer inundation of information. But good art stands outside of that – a well-crafted song will exist years after the Instagram selfie of the artist in the studio mugging for the smartphone.
That’s why people are still discovering “This Gigantic Robot Kills” and “the Graduate”, even though both been out for awhile. I find that young kids inheriting their older brothers’ and sisters’ music collections when they go to college are drawn to those albums. I get so many kind emails from young people who love the songs like “Download This Song” and “This Gigantic Robot Kills”, because I made those songs at a happy time and I channeled that into the studio. One of my favorite songs from “Lars Attacks!” was “Judas Priest”, but no one really seems to remember that song. I remember feeling a ghostly creepy vibe when I wrote and recorded that song – the lyrics just came to me, but I wasn’t really myself when I wrote it. I could analyze the hows and whys forever, or I could channel that joy and passion into the new project, which is the best solution.
Frontalot and I had a funny talk the last night at SXSW this year. We were sitting in a friend’s yard at 3:00 am and talking about the NES Game Genie and how with games like Contra you could just run through the levels. I told him that I saw life like a game – the cheat cartridge is like a code to spread positive vibes wherever you go, and that that’s the one real mission in life.
SXSW was a special time this year, one of the best, as it always is. I remember sitting with Random and Doc Awk one night after the Tech N9ne showcase talking about how and why hip-hop is important. At a surface level, it’s just poetry, someone talking quickly over a syncopated beat. But Awk made the point that art, music and anything important is deceptive because it taps into something bigger than itself. That’s why people love nerdcore so much – it speaks to the fans and creators as a folk culture that by virtue of its weirdness and unflinching intellectual swagger, it won’t ever reach Justin Bieber status. But we can still sell out small clubs, we can still get the reddit kids amped and we can still get hundreds of thousands of YouTube views. Why? Because we tap into something bigger than us; the subjective millennial quest for identity and meaning in a changing, cut and paste.