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“The ZDLP Diaries” Part 5 – “Crowdfund This Song”

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What have you been up to this past month?

I’ve finished six new songs have made significant progress towards seventeen more that are still in the running for the album. I will narrow all of these down the best to the final fourteen in the coming months. I’ve also been designing and ordering tons of new merch for an upcoming fall club tour with an old friend. I can’t announce who it’s with yet but I promise you all will want to come see him too! I’ve been living in England at my girlfriend’s house, working on demos in a barn on her parents’ property near a lake in Milton Keynes. Some days the inspiration strikes like a torrential British thunder storm, while others I sit staring at my laptop holding my guitar in frustrated artistic blankness. It’s been a rollercoaster of elation and sometimes despair, but as my previous projects and the mercurial nature of art have shown, it will all be worth the end result. Getting stressed about the commercial viability of my rhymes and beats is the last thing I need. It takes a focused positive mental attitude to keep going up this arduous, but admittedly fun, journey that is the mountain of my fourth studio album.

Through the magic of the Internet in 2014, I’ve been fortunate enough to assemble a crew of reliable, hardworking, passionate international producer collaborators for this project. I still do the majority of the music myself on my laptop in Logic and Ableton, but I’ve found that it’s always been fruitful to “co-write” with different musicians and engineers who can help translate my ideas into reality when I am sometimes limited with my organic instrumentation and production capabilities.

Anyone you specifically wanted to shout out, Lars?

Jordan Katz. I met this guy through Adam WarRock in LA a few years ago, he’s the live band director for Brother Ali, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane and a bunch of other hip-hop legends. He plays basically every instrument ever invented, and for those that he doesn’t, he’s been amazing at connecting me with artists who do! He’s helping make this album my most live one yet. I’ll call Katz and be like, “Okay, we need a part like this, with this kind of vibe and emotion to this drum pattern,” and within a few hours he’ll send me send me something amazing. He’s one of the only producers I’ve ever met that works even faster than I do!! Every track we’ve collaborated on has been great – you may have heard the “Annabel Lee (R.I.P.)” folk arrangement he did on my last release, the Edgar Allan Poe EP.

Monte Pittman: When he’s not playing guitar with Madonna or doing his own solo metal stuff, Monte and I have been working in his LA garage studio on some crazy trap-inspired metal songs. I met him at the Warped Tour kick-off party last year and am so stoked to have him on this new album.

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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 non 21+ show on my long 2008 fall tour with MC Frontalot. Since then we’ve collaborated on many, many tracks. He always works hard and he is the definition of perfectionist. He’s really grown up in the years I’ve known him and the flavor he’s done on this album so far is impeccable. Good things to come from this young talent!! (He’s the guy in the middle in the photo above.)

Watt White. Watt used to sing in a post-hardcore band called the SmashUp years ago. I’ve known him for almost a decade and he is the master of the genre parody. I’ll be like, “Watt, we need to do a track about how not to write a Slayer song,” 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 hilarious and different ideas and options. As our kids’ show Yes Yes Y’all! continues its path of forging its way into the television world, Watt has been amazing at helping us with music for pitch meetings. I love this guy and how he’s always on top of his game… he’s so talented it’s scary.

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Damondrick “DJ” Jack. I went to college with DJ and have been touring with him on and off for years. He’s the primary “overseer” of the project (like the Rick Rubin to my Run-DMC) and is always the first one to hear the demos and give me honest notes about how he thinks they will resonate with the rest of the album as each song comes to fruition. He’s always honest and has been a great with helping me curate the beats, finalize the concepts and track final vocals. I always have fun in the studio with this DJ because I’m relaxed when we work on stuff. 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 his butt off and always has an amazing instinct for melody and arrangement.

Nate Monoxide. Nate is a British fan from Cumbria who has an incredible ear for rock and rap arrangements. We’re working on the album’s first single together (a Game of Thrones tribute 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.” Then I’ll be like, “I wonder if he’s going to resolve it to the major seventh in the final mix?” when I hear his changes, and he always somehow arranges the tracks like I’m thinking. He’s a true talent and a prolific-ass producer.

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Mike Russo. I know you all heard how we told him how 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 a plethora of different guitar parts on various albums I’ve dropped over the years, Mike has also co-written stuff with me 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 and a metal edge when it comes to songwriting. He’s from an indie background but can play pretty much anything.

THE KICKSTARTER FANS! I asked everyone who donated at the “play on Lars’s album” donor level what instruments they played and was quite surprised by the diversity in their musical talents (melodicas, violins, accordions, etc.). Our collaborative song “Crowdfund This Song” is sounding like nothing I’ve ever worked on. I’ve been getting cool new parts every day from people and have been quite impressed by everyone’s talent and creativity. The concept behind this song is very “punk rock” in that we are literally breaking down the barriers between the audience and the stage.

What kind of songs can we expect on the new album? Is there anyone else you’ve been working with in addition to the guests you’ve announced so far?

I have two “lit-hop” tracks for the album in the works (based on Huckleberry Finn and Romeo and Juliet). I’ve decided to keep my Kerouac song off of this project this time 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 that entire generation’s work really changed the literary landscape. It will be a full-length LP, not just an EP.

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I’ve recently 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) and was really impressed! I sampled one of Stza’s tracks for the new album, I sent him the beat and said I wanted to have him sing on it and told him a bit about the concept. He said he was down, that 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 seems like a genuinely nice guy and I think his political views are really brave but right on.

There’s a track on the new album with a rave-inspired outro. I love the newest Die Antwoord album and I’ve never done anything quite like they do, even though I started making music back in the 90s doing those kind of beats. (For the “Remixes & Rarities” compilation that the Kickstarter fans get, I’m going to revisit a bunch of the tracks from that Lars era. You’ve been warned!!)

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

Have you been doing any shows these past few weeks? Or at least guest rapping with any old friends at any summer festivals?

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. 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 ran into so many of my awesome friends from the tour and beyond. I ended up rapping on three different stages that day, with I Fight Dragons on the Ernie Ball stage, on the main stage with Less than Jake and finally a solo set in one of the smaller tents. I got to watch mc chris, Watsky and K.Flay and said my hellos to everyone. I hadn’t seen chris since I was in Brooklyn last Christmas and it was 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.

Also, weekend I rapped with Wheatus at their festival show in Hyde Park in London. We had a tech rehearsal on Saturday… I’m really getting to know London because my girlfriend and I have been spending a lot of time there recently. I love the energy, the chaos, the architecture, the museums (she took me to the “Comics Unmasked” exhibit at the British Library – amazing), the cool restaurants, everything. 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.

The Hyde Park show was awesome, I was backstage for most of Wheatus’s show but when I came out for my verse on “Teenage Dirtbag” (which is also verse one on “Lenore (I Miss You)”), I was amazed to see the thousands of people watching us. That song is such a classic over here – it was one of the biggest audiences I’ve ever rapped for. We stuck around and watched the Backstreet Boys and the McFly / Busted reunion on the main stage. McBusted had an audience of 50,000+ people watching them! I’ve never seen a show that big and our friend James Bourne killed it, especially when he came out to sing with the Backstreet Boys on “I Want it That Way.” It was a really great weekend.

How does it feel living out of your suitcase for the past eleven years?

I’ve loved the freedom of being able to travel and work on music wherever I’ve been staying in between tours and shows, but I also feel a bit scattered to be honest and am longing for the day when I can have a permanent location. My storage locker in Monterey has been my “home” for awhile, I guess that’s the price you pay of being an indie artist. When I was working on my book after Warped Tour last year, 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. We’ll see.

Lars

P.S. Photo credit to Ben Rey for the corwd surfing photo at the top of this post. We’ve been in touch and it looks like I’ll probably be back for Slam Dunk in 2015!




I hadn’t seen this girl in years, but K.Flay truly rocked…

I hadn’t seen this girl in years, but K.Flay truly rocked Warped today. :)




This beautiful Florida grasshopper has the magical colorings of…

This beautiful Florida grasshopper has the magical colorings of a monarch. :)




Happy #fathersday to the coldest hype man in the game, MC Bob…

Happy #fathersday to the coldest hype man in the game, MC Bob Nielsen!

Category: fathersday




My new friend is a camera hog. (at Camp Indian Springs)

My new friend is a camera hog. (at Camp Indian Springs)




“The ZDLP Diaries” Part 4 – “So in Tents”

This week I am teaching rapping and music production at a small summer camp near Tallahassee, Florida. It’s a long story, but I’m here because I ran into an old friend from New Jersey when I was in LA, and his brother is one of the directors here and asked him if I could come be a guest artist for the first eek. So they reached out to my agent Molly and booked me. It’s really just a morning schedule with occasional activities at night so I’ve been able to do production on the new album in my downtime. The guy who owns the camp also runs a tour bus / van rental company, so I’m living in a tour bus in a field by the skate ramp with a mobile studio I’ve set up.

Also teaching music with me this week is an indie band, Stages and Stereos. Last night we all did a show together for the campers in the dining hall. The kids had so much energy, I couldn’t believe it – I brought one of them up to rap “Mr. Raven” and he put his heart into it. I had a bunch of campers dance on the small stage with me “This Gigantic Robot Kills” and I kept high fiving everyone. They were all so happy to be away from home and to be on summer break and you could feel the joyful energy. Later, one of the counselors told me that one of the campers had been crying in the back of the room because it was his first time away from home and he missed his parents. This same kid was then dancing in front of the stage with everyone, giving high fives during my set. That made the whole night worth it – I’ve been that emo kid before who missed his parents at summer camp and I’m glad the songs gave him an excuse to be in the moment and not miss home. Awesome!!

Things have been going well on the “Zombie Dinosaur LP”. I’ve been getting vocal parts back from some of my collaborators. Watsky’s verses sound amazing and Roger from Less than Jake schooled it on our ska song! It’s now just a process of editing of everything… I’ve finished eleven new songs and am working on music and luyrics for about sixty more. MC Frontalot told me that when he does an album, he doesn’t really have extra songs. Instead, he finishes every song start to finish and then that’s his album. Not me, unfortunately, I get too scattered and want to follow every creative impulse in my brain… but the cool thing is even after the “ZDLP” drops, I can probably put out a box set of b-sides.

The spring UK tour was awesome– the festivals sold out and so did my London club show. I wanted to give a huge thank you to everyone that came out – I love that I can still headline there and people still care, without a label, publicist, radio plugger or honestly anything new. I debuted some of the new songs from the album and was able to work out some of the kinks by testing the tracks in front of forgiving audiences. Malibu Shark Attack (Tribe One’s new band) and Bee Mick See were the perfect openers; everyone loved them and we all had a blast. I miss that crew a lot – they went all out on that tour and I hope to get to Belfast to work with them on some music. Also, shout out to my amazing tour manager Hannah Edwards for all of her awesome organization.

People often ask me where they can get the physical version of “Lars Attacks!”, since it’s been out of print for awhile. Because it was the first album I did without any official record store distribution, I haven’t repressed it. I’m doing a new pressing for my fall US tour though (I can’t tell you who it’s with, but I promise you’ll be stoked!), so before the summer camp started, I hung out with my drummer Jon Longley and producer friend Joey Flash in Tampa. They showed me around the area and that night Joey and I tweaked some mixes for the re-release. Mike Sapone did some of the other final mixes that I’m going to tweak for the re-release. I’ve also been talking to him about working on tracks for the new album, he’s been sending me beat concepts and they are awesome.

Also, in other production news, two summers ago I recorded a track with Beefy and Random called “Hax”, I just got the final mix back for approval. Beefy is one of my favorites in this scene – he’s a hardworking dude and an incredible performer. Mustin did the beat on our song, I’m glad the song is finally coming out. Sometimes art takes a long time… it’s important to put something out every few years, but not to force it if it’s not read. Here is my time line of things I put out over the past decade plus that I feel were my most important:

- 2003 – Radio Pet Fencing (a compilation of early high school and college tracks that Truck Records put out, led to everything else)

- 2004 – the Laptop EP (songs I made on my computer in my dorm room at Stanford that Sapone helped me finish)

- 2006 – the Graduate (more songs I made in my dorm room, with help from Sapone and others)

- 2008 – the Digital Gangster LP (recorded in a week in 2008, YTCracker and I chilled with the Rondo Brothers in San Francisco with our friends and released this album for the fall tour we did with Frontalot)

- 2009 – This Gigantic Robot Kills (a record that took me two years to make, with production help from Jaret Reddick, Linus Dotson, Carl Caprioglio and the Crappy Reords team)

- 2009 – Single and Famous (what I created when K.Flay and I spent a few weeks writing songs up at Tahoe that summer)

- 2011 – Indie Rocket Science (a mixtape I did as a free download for my first summer on Warped Tour)

- 2011 – Lars Attacks! (my third actual album, my first Kickstarter project, has been released with various mixes and sample and sample-free editions, finally coming out in its “definitive” state this fall)

- 2012 – the Edgar Allan Poe EP (my second Kickstarter project, helped lead to awesome things like my invitations to speak at TEDx and the Carnegie Hall debut of the single / video at the Scholastic Awards show)

As you can see, Horris Records and I have pretty much been about trying to put a new project out every year or every other year. I was hoping to get the “Zombie Dinosaur LP” out this fall, but it’s looking like it could be an early 2015 release. I’ll be putting up previews of the songs as they come together; it’s going to be an awesome album and well worth the wait but I think dropping it in Sept or Oct is too ambitions right now. Have no fear though! It’s going to be ill.

My kids’ show co-creator JJ and I had a meeting with out friend Adam F. Goldberg in LA last week. Goldberg’s the man – he’s worked on so much cool stuff over the years (Fanboys, How to Train Your Dragon, etc.) and now has a show on ABC called the Goldbergs about his life growing up in the 80s (I Fight Dragons did the theme song). He said he’s gotten a reputation in Hollywood as “the nerd guy”, but that has worked to his advantage. He told us that he wants to help us find a home for our kids’ show. JJ and I hung out with him at his office on the Sony lot in Culver City and got to take pictures with the original Ghostbusters car that was chilling outside! Queen Latifah does her show on the floor upstairs from him. We put together a pitch packet with character and episode descriptions, but it was crazy how Goldgerb already got the concept without us even saying much. I know production in the TV world takes awhile, but it was so awesome to meet up with Goldberg IRL and to hear his enthusiasm for Yes Yes, Y’all! Will keep you posted as it comes together.

I haven’t had much time to read these days, but on my flight back from London I did get to read Andrew K. Hurst’s book about touring with Itch on Warped last summer (“I’ve Got 99 Problems but an Itch Ain’t One”). Check it out here! He was Itch’s merch guy and it was his first time on Warped. His British perspective on the American subculture of doing Warped is hilarious – he’s an awesome writer.

One, I still want to do a series of author EPs, which I’ve been talking about for years. I was working on a book about the Beat generation and its connection to hip-hop, which I still want to finish and find a home for, but in the meantime there are a bunch of Jack Kerouac / William S. Burroughs / Allen Ginsberg songs that I want to do. I love how the lit-hop songs give me an excuse to dive into books and find contemporary connections through hip-hop. College was awesome because for a brief period, was my “job” to read Moby-Dick and write analytical papers on it… but the real world isn’t as forgiving. Not that I function in the “real world”! It’s just that taking a week to read a literary classic seems indulgent these days unless I’m recreating and reinterpreting the story for an audience. Then these exercises count as “research”. Grad students work very hard, but it must be awesome to dedicate the day to expanding your brain with a final, concrete dissertation on the horizon. I have a few indie rapper friends who have come back for their PhDs or are in the process of getting them. I think that’s a smart move. I’m not there yet, but I applaud the hardworking academics of the hip-hop community!

When the camp directors came to get me in Tampa, we listened to pop radio all the way back to Tallahassee. It’s interesting how every indie / rock / hip-hop song is so fused with EDM these days. Electronic music has become a dominant genre again. When I was making house music as a California teenager in the mid-90s, I never realized that twenty years later the aesthetic would mutate and come back to dominate. Eminem once rapped, “nobody listens to techno!”, and then surprised everyone to come back eleven years later to rap over a dubstep beat. Fashions and pop culture movements come and go, and as “Weird Al” Yankovic told me over coffee a few years ago the key to being successful is to keep working at something meaningful to you, get really good at it, and then hope it hits a nerve with an audience. I think it’s important for any musician to be aware of what’s happening in pop culture at the moment. It shouldn’t dictate and inform your entire oeuvre, but being stuck in your own aesthetic bubble away from everything for too long can be stifling in some ways.

Case in point: at Slam Dunk, I had a great conversation with a young rapper who was working on his start getting into the “indie rap scene” and asked me what advice I could give him. His lyrics were smart and funny and he gave me his demo, (which I unfortunately haven’t gotten to listen to yet), but he told me about his influences for awhile. One thing that impressed me was his taste. He had such a breadth of cool rappers he was into, old and new, which I think is an important first step if you want to be a professional artist. It’s important to study the craft of the giants in your field and then create your own style from, which is why Picasso studied realistic painting before he into cubism. All good artists are “fans” of the art they want to create before they become practioners. That is why Adam F. Goldberg’s show is so great – he’s a true fan of 80s, which is reflected in both the toys on the wall in his office and the funny pop culture tie-ins on his show.

Anyway, I should probably go, since I have albums to make and workshops to teach! I hope you are all having a great summer so far. I will keep previewing the new jams. Stay tuned!!

Thanks again to everyone for your love and patience. I’m excited to get this album launched and make some amazing videos for it!

Much love from your homie,

MC Lars

Crawfordville, FL

P.S. Pickles says hi.




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