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MC Frontalot – Nerdcore Hip-Hop’s Final Boss

MC Frontalot is oft-touted as the Godfather of Nerdcore Hip-Hop, a term he coined back in 1999 to describe his own musical stylings. Many cite him as a major catalyst in the explosion of geek-flavored music in the past decade. Regardless of how much credit the real life Damian Hess wants to take, there is no argument that MC Frontalot has been a huge inspiration to many artists worldwide and helped shine some mainstream attention on geek culture.

Now, Frontalot is preparing to release his sixth studio album, but kindly took some time out to chat with us here at Living Myth Magazine:

Photo by Deborah Lopez

Photo by Deborah Lopez

You’ve been at this for fifteen years now, what are your thoughts on how nerdcore hip-hop and other nerd-type music have grown over that time?

Well, it’s certainly not a fresh idea any longer to have a band or a whole genre — or several  — that caters to a geek’s particular sensibilities. When I started, you only knew who Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson were if you subscribed to Fangoria, and now they’re both A-list mainstream Hollywood directors because of Spider-Man and Lord of the Rings respectively. If you’d told me in 1999 about the future of American culture, I’d think you were a bit Quake-addled and that you ought to take a nap.

Music flows in the same currents, at least a little. Almost every hit radio song of the last 15 years has been made out of synths and drum machines. The idea of having a top-ten hit that wasn’t at least produced and mixed on a desktop rig is kind of outlandish. I didn’t see that coming, I don’t think. I assumed these tools were just going to let us bedroom musicians sound better than we used to sound on our four-tracks. But lo & behold, it’s how everything’s done now. And the medium shapes the music, as it must. So does distribution… over the last 15 years, it’s come to mirror the 1950s in that singles are once
again vastly more important than albums. That’s because of MP3s, iTunes, etc.

The upshot is that little niche musicians with dedicated followings can compete with general-interest pop both sonically and in terms of potential audience reach. That’s excellent news for every band with a sort of special interest appeal, and for those of us who are likely to fall into their audiences. That goes for all kinds of music. But since the nerds had a head start on the production and distro technologies, we tend to seem more prevalent than any other niche audience.

The music itself is coming out of the same imaginations that were always there. I think we just hear a lot more of it.

Photo by Phil Palios

Photo by Phil Palios

Has your approach to writing music changed at all over the course of that time?

Sure… I think I make fewer mistakes in the composition process. There are probably other mistakes that I’ve been making for so long that I’ve grown unlikely to ever recognize and correct them. I hope that I’m still able to experiment and create surprises but I’m sure I lean pretty heavily on what I’ve become comfortable with over the years.

What were your inspirations musically starting out?

De La Soul and Public Enemy were huge for me. Also Tribe Called Quest, Tom Waits, Tori Amos, Jane’s Addiction, Soul Coughing, PJ Harvey, Liz Phair. And then, a lot of what was happening in indie rock and hip-hop from 1992-1996 when I was in college radio, all that stuff left its mark on me.

Are there any current acts that you’re into right now?

I love Jean Grae and all the guys in Hellfyre Club. Funny that those are both rap names taken from comics. Some of the hippest rappers on earth.

We’ve heard rumblings of a sixth album in the works. When can we expect to see that released? Is there a title for it yet?

It’s called Question Bedtime and I think it’ll have pre-ordering in July.

You’ve had some fantastic guests on previous albums. Are there any special appearances that we can look forward to on this album?

Tons, but I haven’t put the list out there yet. Trying to save up some surprises for the loathsome yet vital Hyping Up The Release period.

Any tours or shows coming up that we can keep an eye out for?

I’ll be at PAX this coming weekend, with a show at Great Scott in Allston (greater Boston) on Monday April 14th. I’ll be down at Comic-Con in San Diego at the end of the summer. Keeping my head down as much as I can till the album’s mixed.

Photo by Phil Palios

Photo by Phil Palios

Being a bit of a nerd icon, I’m curious to find out what some of your favorite fandoms are?

Fans are often a bit crestfallen that my key obsessions do not overlap with their own. I am only sort of lukewarm to Anime outside of a few unimpeachable classics (Akira, everything by Miyazaki, FLCL, Macross saga). I don’t read sci-fi or play D&D any more, and I’ve never played Magic. I don’t understand much about bio or physics or robotics or programming. I do tend to pay too much attention to certain parts of the comics, animation, and horror landscapes. And I have spent roughly the same amount of my life playing video games as I have sleeping. That must be an exaggeration, but it feels that way.

Any parting thoughts for our readers?

Make things! Worst that happens is it isn’t any good, and even then you’ve learned that you’re able.


Our thanks to MC Frontalot for joining us. If you want to know, hear and see more, follow the links below!

[box] LINKS:

Twitter: @mc_frontalot

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