MC Lars has a brand new album out called The Zombie Dinosaur LP. We reviewed it here and now we have interviewed the man himself. He talks about nerdcore, the new album, and who could win in a fight between Superman and the Hulk.
“Nerdcore” is a term that is unfamiliar to a lot of people outside of the geek culture. Explain to those people, in your own words, exactly what nerdcore is?
Wow! Great question. The nerdcore label has been a blessing and curse to me these past ten years. Originally coined by MC Frontalot, the word “nerdcore” is a portmanteau of “hardcore” and “nerd”. Frontalot wanted to let the world know he was proud to rap about old-school computer games, Star Wars and being awkward. I’ve never self-identified as “nerdcore”, but when the documentary about Frontalot dropped on Netflix in 2007 and the genre started getting attention, the press realized it was the easiest way to describe what Frontalot, mc chris and I did. I shied away from the term then because I felt like the press embraced it exclusively for its novelty factor. Fans would send me demos and say “I want to be a nerdcore rapper!” and it was obvious they weren’t listening to other rap and were just trying to take the tropes of “rap” and insert Mario references. It seemed like a parody of rap, more of a mockery than a loving tribute. Fast froward to 2015; hip-hop has become so fragmented that it’s so hard to get anyone’s attention with content these days. I became less resistant to the term when I realized that a certain group of people recognize the musical genre but don’t have a negative association with it. The nerdcore rappers who are still putting music out (Frontalot, mc chris, Mega Ran and more) are all pretty awesome. If calling my stuff “nerdcore” helps new fans understand what I do (i.e. “Hey, MC Lars is nerdcore, he raps about intelligent topics!”), that can’t be a bad thing. I don’t mind how people label my music.
You started your career more than ten years ago. Looking back on it now, did you in your wildest dreams ever expect to be where you are now…touring the world, working with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Kool Keith, Less Than Jake and Ludacris as well as having your music reach millions of people?
I never did! It’s been an amazing ride! Very grateful that I’ve been able to do this for so long. The trick has been putting out a steady stream of content, owning my masters, keeping my costs low, and staying on the road for the better part of the last decade.
What are some of the noticeable differences in the music industry now compared to ten years ago?
A shift to streaming is probably the biggest one – nowadays you can have a wider audience through services like Spotify, but there is less revenue. YouTube has also become a bigger deal, and being on top of all of the different social networks is as important, if not more important, that writing songs.
What are some of the most memorable highlights of your career so far?
Working with “Weird Al” Yankovic and KRS-One for sure – honored to have collaborated with two of my biggest of my heroes. I did a TEDx talk at USC that I’m proud of as well… debuting “Flow Like Poe” at Carnegie Hall was a highlight too!
You have sound that is more diverse than your fellow nerdcore compatriots because of your punk and ska influences. What are some of the punk and ska bands that influenced you the most? Are you drawn to one particular era of punk or ska in particular?
Great question! I love the Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat, that old-school punk and hardcore sound with something to say is always my favorite. Less than Jake are my favorite ska band and I always loved Sublime as a kid. Anything high energy, smart and unique is really important.
On your recently released album “The Zombie Dinosaur LP” you had the opportunity to with Stza from Leftover Crack, Roger from Less Than Jake as well as members of Suburban Legends. What was it like working with them? Do you have any funny stories regarding recording with any of them that you would like to share?
It was awesome working with all of them. Stza did his demo vocals in a barn in England with me, that was pretty punk rock.”. I picked him up at the train station. “I’m pretty easy to recognize,” he said, his neck tattoos gave him away. Watsky had the idea for “Never Afraid” and I’m really happy with how that track came together.
It’s usually the norm for you to have a few guest musicians on your albums. Do you have a process for seeking out particular musicians that you would like to work with? Do they seek you out to collaborate with often?
I try to have different guests each album – it gives each project musical diversity and flavor. I mostly reach out to the people I work with, but sometimes they get in touch with me. I love hip-hop because you can pretty much rap over any kind of beat. If I feel like an artist will bring something new out in me, and I will in them, then I make it happen!
What band or musician out there would you like to work with the most?
Dr. Dre! If you’re reading this, give me a call! Would definitely work with the Insane Clown Posse too, I’ve always loved their production and unique take on rap.
You’re not known for controversy but your song “Sublime With Rome (Is Not The Same Thing As Sublime)” from your latest release seems to be creating somewhat of a stir within the punk and ska community. Other than the fact that most “reunion” bands are nothing more than a cash grab, what inspired you to write that song?
I think that truth breeds the best comedy – and sometimes simple truths are the best. The title just came to me and the song wrote itself.
As a teenager growing up in the 90s, Sublime as well as bands like No Doubt, Reel Big Fish and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were gateway bands into ska music for many kids like myself. What bands were your gateways to ska music?
Definitely Sublime, Reel Big Fish and No Doubt. Classics!!
There was a time not so long ago when words like “geek” and “nerd” were used as derogatory terms. Nowadays they are proudly used to describe what is now considered modern day pop culture. Why do you think that the mainstream has embraced geek/nerd culture?
Engineers and geeks are the ones on the frontier of culture and progress these days. We’ve become such a technology-reliant society so nerds are the new heroes! It’s great to see this shift.
It’s time for rapid fire nerd questions: Favorite comic book character?
Marvel or DC?
Favorite superhero movie of all time?
Guardians of the Galaxy.
Mario or Luigi?
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Who would win in a fight, Superman or the Incredible Hulk?
The Hand or the Foot?
The Foot, son!!!!
If you could describe MC Lars and his musical crew as a superhero team, who would you be and why?
The Avengers, because we always show up, surprise everyone, and sell lots of tickets.
You literally have a literary aspect to your music which is evident with songs about Moby Dick, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and, from your new album, a song about Jack Kerouac (“Forgot About Jack”) as well as one of my personal favorites “Never Afraid” which namedrops dozens of literary references. Where do your influences in literature stem from and what are the reactions from your fans like in response to those songs?
Great question! I call that genre lit-hop. I studied English literature in college and I’ve always loved making the connection between “pop culture” and classic books. The meter of certain poetry lends itself well to rap, I discovered it back sophomore year in high school! I did a TEDx talk in this topic a few years ago; the reaction has been amazing, a large majority of my fans are English majors.
If you had the opportunity to make any single book in existence into a video game, which book would you choose and what type of video game would it be?
Moby-Dick! The game would take years to finish, be excruciatingly boring at parts, but the last 20 minutes of the game would be amazing. The final boss would be impossible to beat, but you get extra points when you brag about mankind’s dominance over nature as the whale sucks you deep into the abyss.
As is the norm with most of us self-proclaimed nerds, do you have anything in particular that you like to collect be it comic books, action figures, records, Hot Wheels, etc.?
Kid Robot Simpsons figures are my kryptonite! If anyone has the Has Moleman one, hit me up! He’s one of the last ones I’m missing.
To wrap things up, feel free to give some shout outs or plug anyone/anything in particular.
My new album “the Zombie Dinosaur LP” is available everywhere! Our Star Wars video “If I Were a Jedi, that Would Be Hella Awesome” drops soon. Stay tuned! More tour dates to be announced shortly.