Monday 14 May 2012

MC Lars // Interview & Live Review, The Parish Huddersfield

Time flies when you're having fun, so they say, and MC Lars must've been having a lot of fun; he is now in his tenth year as a rapper and about to release his Greatest Hits! [No, we can't believe it either!] He's back in the UK on tour with Wheatus and also appearing at Slam Dunk Festival. We caught up with Lars on the first night of the tour at The Parish in Huddersfield. 

First, we have to ask what you thought of The Hunger Games; you posted that you were reading it on the flight over here?
It was great! It was emotional. I saw the movie too, but I think the book’s better! The movie is more violent and maybe more mature. I feel that she [Katniss, the heroine] is more adult in the movie and surer of herself. From the book it’s more her doubts and she’s like a little girl.

What’s your favourite book?
Well, my favourite book is “A Confederacy of Dunces”. It’s by this American Southern writer called John Kennedy Tool. It’s about this crazy guy who’s really academic and think he’s knows everything; it’s really funny. The dialogue is really funny and it’s dark; he thinks he knows everything but he’s so isolated.

MC Lars on stage in Huddersfield
So, it’s the first night of the tour, you only actually got into the UK yesterday; are you jet lagged or just raring to get going?
A little bit of both; I’ve been up for a long time, like thirty six hours and going to keep going until after the show. This is the first show and it’s smaller clubs that we’re playing and then Slam Dunk Festival in the middle of the tour. In the middle I also fly back to New York to play a show at Carnegie Hall, so that’s really cool and I’m excited. I’m doing it all solo on this tour [with no backing band], so I use more visuals and story telling. I definitely need to command the audience more, but also they give you more leniency and you’re more in control of the pacing of it.

You’re celebrating ten years since you first started rapping. If you could go back and give your younger self from ten years ago some advice, knowing what you know now, what would you say?
That’s a good question! I would tell myself not to try to please label people or managers, because I think the music industry is so random and success comes and goes and you really just need to do the art that resonates with you. I think between my “Graduate” and “Robot Kills” albums I had a lot of writer’s block because I was trying to make everyone happy and I think if I would have just written something from the heart it would have been more unique. I love the “Robot Kills” record, but I feel like I was trying to please so many people with it. I started out doing comedy pop-culture stuff and I think that really resonates with people, but really I want to say real things about life and some darker truths. The trick is to use comedy to shine light on things like that. So yeah, I would have told myself to take more chances and not worry about pissing off people.

Your Greatest Hits is going to be your first release on vinyl. You sing about the “iGeneration” which is all about downloading music; do you think it’s important to still have vinyl records?
That’s interesting. I think the interesting thing about hip-hop is that it wouldn’t have existed without vinyl. Vinyl just sounds nice when it’s well mastered and I think it’s cool to have because you can’t download it, but both is good. And with vinyl you get the big art and it’s fun to be able to put out a “best of” the first ten years.
You have used the “iGeneration” and modern technology to your advantage and have strong online presence. If you’d started twenty years ago do you think MC Lars would have existed? Or at least, not got to where you’re at today?
I think if I’d been ten years earlier or ten years later it would have been hard; I think I started at the right time. Before you really needed a record label behind you and I think now there’s so many people doing DIY music and putting it on YouTube that it maybe would have gotten lost in that noise. So I timed it really well, by accident I think, but things caught on. In 2003 doing laptop hip-hop was still pretty much a novelty, YouTube didn’t exist yet, Myspace didn’t exist, so I timed it nicely. And now I get to do it as much as I want, so it’s cool.

MC Lars' new E.P
As well as the Greatest Hits you’re also releasing “Edgar Allan Poe E.P” which paying homage to Poe’s works, right?
Yeah, I studied him a lot college and what I love about Poe is that he wrote his poems and everything to be read aloud. He was obsessed with the magic of the sounds, so I wanted to do an E.P that shone light on that. This year I’ve been doing a lot of hip-hop education through the University of Southern California, helping kids create content, so we were writing Poe songs with them and making videos. He’s just a great teaching tool, because if you look at his cadences, the flow of it is just like a rap song. So when I do my history of hip-hop lectures I say that he’s the original MC; he lived in the Bronx too, 125 years before hip-hop!

And that’s going to be a series, so you’ll do a Shakespeare one and Herman Melville? You’ve rapped about Moby-Dick and the Raven so it gives fans a proper insight?
I think Herman Melville will be next. People like old literature and if you do it in a thirty minute chunk it makes it easier. I think what’s awesome about writing songs about books is finding the inter-personal relationships of the characters and exploring those. Because “Ahab” is about his relationship with the crew and “Hey There Ophelia” [my Hamlet song] is about Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia, “Raven” is about him confronting his death and it’s always interesting.   

Want to read about why Lars loves Slam Dunk Festival so much, what he thinks about hip-hop and which artists he’s tipping for the top? Well check back soon to read our Slam Dunk 2012 Preview: Lars edition!

And here's what happened when MC Lars took to the stage...

MC Lars
MC Lars may very well be the nicest guy in hip-hop. And more than that he raps about issues that allow him to connect with the audience; he doesn’t present himself as some unobtainable, over the top rapper. Lars is approachable, intelligent and a genuinely friendly guy and those are attributes that have gained him much respect in the industry.  His shows rarely feel like “shows”; instead they have a more relaxed mini block party essence to them. Everyone at an MC Lars show is encouraged to just get involved; it’s about losing that pretentiousness, losing your inhibitions and just enjoying the music together. 

The tour kicks off tonight at The Parish in Huddersfield and with no backing band it is just Lars, a laptop and projector. Mc Lars as “front-man” is the perfect vehicle to drive the set along; the very fact that he is up there alone doesn’t matter as he captivates the audience from beginning to end. Lars is currently releasing his Greatest Hits and the set tonight reflected music spanning his entire career; from the upbeat “Hurricane Fresh”, which storms through the venue, to the newer and slightly darker “Lars Attacks”.

Lars on stage at The Parish
With no backing band, Lars is free to command the audience and the setlist as he chooses, even preparing something a little special for this tour. Using a sample of Dead Prez’s renowned track [“Hip-Hop [Let’s Get Free]”] replacing “It's bigger than hip hop, hip hop, hip hop, hip” with “still rocking that lap top, lap top” followed by an impressively fast rap, showcasing how talented MC Lars is. Combining his extensive knowledge of hip-hop and love of literature with nerdcore beats, Lars turns it into something current that his audience can relate to. Cynics who said that Herman Melville’s 1851 “Moby Dick” wasn’t relevant and interesting should listen to Lars’ “Ahab”, with its witty take on the classic tale. His songs create a party atmosphere and on the surface are light-hearted and fun, but purposefully work on a deeper level. “Raven” his ode to Edgar Allan Poe is just as musical and stylised as the poem. The crowd gathered here in The Parish are in the palm of Lars’ hands, or should that be laptop? Singing along to every word those who didn’t know Lars before are now firm fans. The infectious “iGeneration” is the perfect climax to the set which marks ten years of MC Lars’ unique blend of post-punk laptop rap. Here’s to the next ten!

Be sure to check out MC Lars on tour with Wheatus this month-
12 THE PARISH Huddersfield
14 THE FRUIT Kingston
16 ARC Stockton 
17 BLAKE HALL Bridgwater
19 CRAUFORD ARMS Milton Keynes
21 THE OTHER ROOM Birmingham
22 FROG AND FIDDLE Cheltenham
23 ESQUIRES Bradford
24 LONDON Relentless Garage
27 SLAM DUNK FEST Hatfield
29 TUNNELS Aberdeen
30 SOUNDCONTROL Manchester

05 SUB 89 Cardiff
06 LASER HUB Crawley
08 TALKING HEADS Southampton