"Zombie Dinosaur", final touches

A lot has happened since my last update.  I’ve finished six songs that are still in the running for the album and have made significant progress on seven more.  It’s been a rollercoaster of frustration and elation but as my previous projects have show me, it will all be worth it and getting stressed about the commercial viability of my rhymes and beats is the last thing I need.  It takes mindfulness and a focused meditation to keep going up this arduous, but admittedly fun and glorious mountain.  I’ve been jogging regularly, taking my vitamins and eating right.  Both really help!

I love how I’ve been able to assemble this really reliable, hardworking, passionate crew of collaborators for this project.  I still do most of the work on my laptop in Logic and Ableton, but it’s always inspiring to “co-write” with different producers and engineers across the world who can translate my ideas into a reality when I am limited with my production capabilities.  The magic of the Internet has brought us all together in 2014. Shout outs to:

Jordan Katz.  I met this guy through Adam WarRock a few years ago, he does live band arrangement for Brother Ali, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane and a bunch of other hip-hop legends.  He’s been amazing at arranging artists to play various instruments on the record - and he plays everything himself.  I’ll call him and be like, “Okay, we need a beat like this, with this kind of vibe to this drum arrangement”, and within a few hours he’ll send me a fully arranged version of my idea.  He’s one of the only producers I’ve ever met who works faster than I do!!  Every beat we’ve worked on together is flawless.

Sam Waldo.  This kid is from Portland, I met him years ago when he drove all the way down to Bakersfield from Oregon because it was the one all ages show on my long as hell fall tour with MC Frontalot in 2008.  Since then we’ve collaborated on many beats and he’s always up to suggestions, he works hard and he is a perfectionist.  He’s really grown up in the years I’ve known him and the flavor he’s done on this album is impeccable.  Good things to come from this young talent!!

Watt White.  Watt used to sing in a post-hardcore band called the SmashUp years ago.  I’ve known him for almost ten years and he is the master of the genre parody.  I’ll be like, “Watt, we need to do a Slayer parody”, or “Watt, I need a melody for a song making of fun of how Sublime with Rome is not the same thing as Sublime” and he’ll give me tons of different options and always be open to my notes.  As our kids’ show Yes Yes Y’all! finds its way into the television world in the years to come, I want to keep working with him in that capacity too because he’s helped us with lots of music in that department as we’ve developed it.  I love this guy and he’s always on top of his game.  He’s so talented it’s scary.

Damondrick “DJ” Jack.  I went to college with this guy and have been touring with him on and off for years.  He’s the primary “overseer” of the project (he’s the Rick Rubin to my Run-DMC) and is always the first one to hear the demos as they come to fruition.  He’s always honest and has been great with helping me curate the beats, finalize the concepts and track final vocals.  I always have fun in the studio with this guy because I’m relaxed when we track.  He handles his business and has an incredible ear!!  It helps that he’s one of my best friends.  No one makes me laugh like DJ.

Kevin Brew.  Kevin is an Australian fan who raps and makes beats.  He did the “Lord of the Fries” beat for me on the “Indie Rocket Science” mixtape and the “Moleman (Hans Moleman)” song on the upcoming album.  He works hard and has an amazing ear for melody and arrangement.  Every time he sends me ideas, it’s awesome, and he’s always quick and professional when I have arrangement ideas.

Nate Monoxide.  How I met up with this guy is amazing - he’s a British fan from the North of England and has an incredible ear for rock and rap arrangements.  We’re working on a song together that’s going to be the album’s first single (a Game of Thrones song).  We have a strange Vulcan mind-meld thing going… I’ll be like, “Nate, we need to change this synth line to something in a major key at bar 17, but let’s split the difference between that and the last interval.” He’ll say okay, and I’ll be listening to his changes and think, “I wonder if he’s going to resolve it to the major seventh?”, which he does before I can even write down the changes. A true talent and a prolific producer.

Mike Russo.  I know you all know how we told him he needed to cut his hair on the last album.  But little did you know that Mike is one of the best guitarists I know and a true genius when it comes to chord structures and melodies.  In addition to playing various guitar lines on albums I’ve dropped over the years, Mike has also co-written stuff like “Do the Bruce Campbell” (from my album with YTCracker) and a new Ninja Turtles song on the upcoming album.  He has a pop sensibility, a metal edge to his playing and a punk rock instinct when it comes to chord arrangements.  He’s from an indie background but can do pretty much anything.

THE KICKSTARTER FANS!  For the “play on Lars’s album” donor level, I asked the fans what instruments they played and was surprised by the diversity in their talents (melodicas, violins, tenor saxes!).  Our collaborative project “Crowdfund This Song” truly sounds like nothing I’ve ever worked on.  I’ve been getting cool new parts every day and have been so impressed by the talent and creativity of the worldwide audience of supporters.  It’s very punk rock - literally breaking down the barriers between the audience and the stage.  I love it.

I have two “lit-hop” tracks for the album in the works (Huckleberry Finn and Romeo and Juliet) so I’ve been forced to be selective with what I finish.  I decided to keep my Kerouac song off of this project and to save it for a future record that’s completely Beat lit inspired.  I’ve been reading Burroughs and Ginsberg too and plan on doing a hip-hop project about how their work really changed the literary landscape.  It will be a full-length LP, not just an EP.  After my last EP (the Poe project), I don’t want to inundate the audience with too many literary rap songs… this new album is more punk rock / pop culture / music genre parody inspired, like “the Graduate” was.  More on that later.

After the summer camp gig I was talking about in my last post, I went to hang out with my friends Jon Longley and Joey Flash in Tampa.  I hadn’t gotten to chill with those guys for a long time, we’ve all toured together over the years and I love them both like brothers.  Joey and I worked on some final mixes for the upcoming “Lars Attacks!” re-release for the upcoming three-year anniversary reprint.  We went out to a local hip-hop show and went a little bit “too hard on that tetrameter” you could say.  Jon drove me to the airport, I came back to California to check out the Mountain View Warped Tour date where I so many of my awesome friends from the tour and beyond.  I ended up rapping on three different stages that, with I Fight Dragons, on the main stage with Less than Jake and finally a solo set on one of the small stages.  I got to watch mc chris, Watsky and K.Flay and said my hellos.  I hadn’t seen chris since I was in Brooklyn last Christmas and it’s so great to see how happy he is and well he’s doing.  I really love that dude and I’m glad we got to reconnect.

I’ve been in touch with STZA Crack about our collab for the upcoming album - I saw Leftöver Crack years ago in Santa Cruz (Jello Biafra was at the show and I met him too)!  I sampled one of his tracks for the new album, I sent him the beat and said I wanted to have him sing on it.  He said he was down, he loved rap and emailed me a video for a song he did with Boots Riley from the Coup.  He’ll be in London for some shows while I’m here so the plan is to track his parts before I head back to California.  He is a genuinely nice guy and I think his political views are really brave but right on.

Last weekend I rapped with Wheatus at their festival show in Hyde Park.  We had a tech rehearsal on Saturday in London, I’m really getting to know the city more, I love the energy, the chaos, the architecture, the museums.  One day I’d love to have a studio in London and spend a few months a year out here.  When we were getting on the tube to rehearse with Wheatus, I ran into my agent Geoff completely randomly at King’s Cross!  It’s almost like I’m a British citizen these days.

I’ve loved the freedom of being able to travel and work on the Zombie Dinosaur LP wherever I’ve been staying in between tours and shows, but I also feel a bit scattered to be honest and longing for the day when I can have a permanent location.  My storage locker in Monterey has been my “home” for awhile, but that’s the price of being an artist.  When I was working on my book after Warped Tour, I drove up to Eureka and spent a few days laying out my first few chapters and exploring the beautiful NorCal coastline.  I’m hoping to head back there for a few days before I fly to back Florida for Orlando Nerd Fest.

There’s a track on the new album with a rave inspired outro.  I loved the last Die Antwoord album and I’ve never done anything like that, even though I started my career back in the 90s doing those kind of beats.  For the Remixes & Rarities compilation that the Kickstarter fans get, I’m going to include a CD with revisited tracks from that Lars era.  You’ve been warned!!

Also, it looks like the Zombie Dinosaur LP won’t be dropping until early next year.  I wanted to get it out for the fall, but it’s just not ready.  Sorry everyone!  I promise it will be worth it, even though it’s going to be “fashionably late”.