Friday, January 12, 2007

Weekend Maintenance

I just wanted to pass on to you, faithful reader, that I plan to do some much needed blog maintenance over the weekend. Blogger has long been owned by Google, and recently the many-headed beast has decided to beef up the service a bit. This new version has been out of beta for a bit and appears to be no more problematic or unstable than the current version that I employ. Moreover, there are a couple of these new features that specifically appeal to me. To hear “them” tell it, I should soon be able to use a legitimate CSS with my template, have greater flexibility with my meager RSS feed, and even be able to actually use my current domain name as my URL. This last part really appeals to me, as domain forwarding is so passé.

Now, before anyone mentions it, let me go on record as saying I know I should be using WordPress. Yes, I should be using WordPress and I should actually pay for some genuine storage and bandwidth and whatnot. I know this. I accept this. I also summarily dismiss this. (Shit, I’m still mooching off of poor Beefy for podcast hosting.) I guess what I’m saying is, I know that Blogger is not an ideal place for me to do business, but I’ve got a lot going on and I’ve come to understand and accept the service’s shortcomings. To quote the (poorly translated) king of El Dorado, “When you are pretty comfortable somewhere, you had better stay there.”

So, for the foreseeable future, I’m gonna stick to the service for it has gotten me this far. And if switching up versions makes things a bit more scalable, then gravy. Of course, it also opens up the door for a whole new set of catastrophic incidents. Such is the nature of technology, even with regard to incremental upgrades.

In the meantime, I wish you all a delightful weekend.

And feel free to wile away those hours by listening to my latest podcast and reading a very interesting interview with My Parents Favorite Music. That is, of course, if my meddling with the fabric of space and time doesn’t cause the blog to disappear into the internet ether from whence it came.

EDIT: Okay, so my man Matt from Headphone Sacrament just hipped me to a few more little issues with the new Google-Blogger interface. Taking these into consideration, I think maybe I won’t be updating over the weekend. So, you know, just disregard the above.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Take What You Get, Like What You Got

My Parents Favorite Music began as a joke, and now, some eight years later, founding members Steffen Messinger and Matt Steller are still laughing. With Steffo handling the bulk of the vocal duties and Matt seeing to production, the duo have taken their unique brand of dorky hip hop from their small Michigan suburb to a place where nerd music can truly flourish: the Internet.

Like most independent bands, MPFM found a new home at MySpace that supplemented their success in the local scene with a broader audience eager to hear their eclectic mix of hyper hip hop flow, classic rock hooks, videogame samples, and irreverent sarcasm. Along the way, Matt and Steffo discovered that they weren’t the only nerds making music, and this breakthrough afforded them a vital connection to the newly thriving nerdcore scene.

My Parent Favorite Music took some time away from working on their new album (and their fervent responses to friend requests) to talk about where they come from and where they’re going. Read on to pick the brains of Michigan’s nerdcore torchbearers, and read further for a delightful auditory surprise from a pair who are, in their own words, “relentless in their pursuit to give video game inspired punk rap to the masses, or even just the small town arcades.”


I guess my first question is fairly obvious; where did the name My Parents Favorite Music come from?

A lot of people ask us this, and I think it was conceived by some epiphany I had while in my g It's a mixture of nerds being driven to the edge of the ball crawl at Chuck E. Cheese’s…randma's attic looking at old Lovin' Spoonful and Carly Simon records. But we were sitting around my [Steffo’s] dinner table one night eating spaghetti, and my mom asks us what we were going to call our band for the "High School Battle of the Bands" that we signed up for as a joke. (Yeah MPFM started as a casual joke. Still is, but it's okay.) Anyway, the first idea we had was "This Band Sucks". Then I got one of those 'looks' that a mom gives you when you're being retarded. So I said how about "My Parent's Favorite Music?," and she chuckled. So it stuck.

How would you describe the sound/style of MPFM?

You know when you hear a sound that is similar to your alarm clock and you have that sense of "OH FUDGE, WAKE UP, IDIOT!" even though you're awake and you freak out for a split second? It's definitely NOT like that. It's a mixture of nerds being driven to the edge of the ball crawl at Chuck E. Cheese’s, and whatever music sounds good to us at the time. Our style is sloppy and horrid.

I’d say your style was varied and imaginative, but fair enough. Did MPFM begin as a hip hop outfit, or did the rap sound develop over time?

We started out as a band that did Bloodhound Gang cover songs, then our band ditched us and we said screw it. The main reason we made these songs is because we wanted something to listen to in our car and drive around town and have somebody say "What the hell is that awful stuff?" and we say "That's us, we're MPFM! And we're crazy." and have a story to tell our adopted grandchildren. I honestly have almost no clue what the difference between rap and hip hop is. I just know that it's fun to make the words rhyme and have a good song to do it to.

Is Michigan a hotbed of nerd rap? Was there anything else similar to MPFM going on up there when you first started the project? How about now?

No. Oh, God no. LOL. No. Maybe in other areas. I can only hope there's more now. We were in the Flint area which is known for either the heaviest rap, heaviest metal, or most off-the-hinges emo-punk you've ever heard. And crime.

I think you forgot Michael Moore! ;)

And we were less than an hour away from Detroit, so we got a lot of retarded Eminem comparisons as well. We mostly had people calling us 'Nintendo Rap', 'unique', or 'different'.

What is the genesis of an MPFM track? Does a typical song start out as a beat or a collection of rhymes on a cocktail napkin?

Napkins? What is this the Regency Hotel??? We write on our shirts. LOL. We basically get ideas from the samples we get, then start working on which song idea is best or worst suited (sometimes the worst one works the best), and put a beat to it and work from there. By the end we say "this is BS!" or "this is wow-o!" and make up words to use for another day's song.

With Matt still firmly in Michigan and Steffo now in Tennessee, how has that creative process changed?

It's actually changed drastically, but we don't let it get us down. We talk on the and whatever music sounds good to us at the time. emails and phone and send songs back and forth with email to compare vocals. Occasionally we'll take a trip to each other's place and record at that person's apartment. This is our biggest problem since we used to go to a studio back home, but neither of us have been able to make it back there since we both moved away from our hometown.

When did you first become aware of the nerdcore hip hop community?

The second we made a MySpace. We get on the Internet as much as any nerd and we're pissed off at ourselves that we somehow missed it. We are grateful that there's not just a little community, but a whole other world of people that we can be a part of when it comes to Nerdcore.

Was their any trepidation about associating yourselves with the fledgling scene, given the fact that MPFM already had such a lengthy musical history?

Not a drop. If anything, we have been doing this since '99 and didn't feel we were reaching all of the people that we could've because we weren't techno enough for the electronic music scene, and we weren't serious or heavy enough for the rap or heavy metal scene. Stuck between a rock and a McDonald's PlayPlace. We played at the metal, rap, and indie venues. Even a few coffee shops, which, ironically, didn't really dig the coffee song. They said it was "too much." To each his own. I don't care; we rocked that place. So when we found MySpace and realized that we were part of a group of people that were doing the same thing, we didn't feel at all like jumpers of a wagon with a band. We don't even have a band.

You've previously released two independent albums (2000's ©®@~Z Mystery and 2004's Wheel O' Ex-Girlfriends). Are either still available for download or purchase?

YES! And no... and kinda sorta. We used to burn the CDs back in the day when we didn't have money, then we made so many hard copies and they all sold out, then we tried getting decent jobs while still selling WOEG to save up for Testing the Waters. We’re in the midst of finding a good place to print the CDs. We assure you, though, by the time TTW is out in June, both of the CDs will be available to purchase along with other merchandise. And as for downloading, we will put songs on our MySpace periodically to keep the songlist fresh until the new CD comes out.

So Testing the Waters is due out in June of 2007? How is this album coming along?

Oh ASS-KICK-TASTIC would be the correct terminology for that one. We were about 48% done with the album, but now we wanna put a couple of the songs on the backburner to make way for new songs with all of our new Nerdcore family. So get a-hold of us now to make history! You can be Abe Lincoln! But don't get blood on our pillow...

Is there a specific story behind the title Testing the Waters? To what does it refer?

It was an idea I had to make all of the upcoming CDs part of some mystical, far-away videogame/cartoony/land-world fictional geographical location map... thingy. And the first CD would be just like starting any cool video game: usually a ship hits a dock or a shore from a far off coast, and you don't know too much about the land. So 'Testing the Waters' is just that. It is where you start your quest into nonsensical rhymes and we are here to give you the map. But just a piece at a time. You could consider it testing the waters of Nerdcore too since we're rookies in this new world as well!

Aside from a new album, what else can fans expect from MPFM in ’07?

We should have the website up by spring, and we'll have shirts and things as well. We wanted something to listen to in our car and drive around town and have somebody say 2007 is gonna be the best year we've ever seen. We will be trying to book as many shows as we can afford to fly out to as well. After 2004, we hadn't picked up a pen to write in a while, but near the middle of 2006 we figured it was about time to get back into action. And since it's been a while I think the sound will be a little different, but not too much. A little evolved, but just in the parts where it matters. Like talent.

You already have songs about coffee and Kool-Aid. What are the chances of an entire MPFM EP devoted to tasty beverages?

Easter of 2099. It was a fluke that they came together on the same CD, but a lot of people that haven't heard us say "do a song about Crystal Light next" or "insert favorite alcoholic beveragatto here" but it's okay, more people will get a better understanding of what we're about with the new CD. And if not, we'll slash tires and retinas.

Musically, MPFM has a lot going on: the rhymes are fierce and sardonic, the flow fast and deliberate, and, while the beats themselves generally follow traditional precepts, the breaks that are often incorporated are endlessly eclectic. How broad are your influences?

We could go on all day about influences. I grew up with older brothers that listened to Run-DMC and heavy metal, while my parents listened to The Beatles religiously. We get inspiration from anything with passion - something that somebody wrote for a damn good reason, and that you can hear in their voice when they sing it. But the trick to that is to have fun WHILE having a vision or an idea. Rule number UNO: never take it seriously. If you do, then jump off of an old X-box controller. The climb alone will finish you. People know passion/fun when they hear/see it.

How did you Minibosses collaboration come about?

Technically it hasn't YET, but maybe one day. The Minibosses were the first Nerdcore I had ever heard, but I didn't know that. I just wanted to rap to [the theme from] Castlevania, and they had that song. I downloaded the song off of their website, cut that portion out of their medley and hipped a hop to it. I don't know if they've heard it or not. I've emailed them a few times, but no response. So if you guys are reading this, let us know if you like or hate it or want to sue us, okay please?

I notice that you use the term “nerdcore” (a word that is, for better or worse, used almost exclusively to refer specifically to nerdy rap) to describe The Minibosses. Do you see more rock-centered nerd acts as an entirely separate entity from those in the hip hop sphere like MPFM, Beefy, or Frontalot, or is that simply splitting hairs? To put it another way, are sub-genres like geeky hip hop, rock, and electronica intrinsically linked? Do you feel that we should compartmentalize these individual sub-genres, or is it more advantageous (to artists and fans) to enjoy all these flavors of nerd music together?

I think it's absolutely an advantage to have everybody come together on the terms of Nerdcore. I, for one, think it would be great to have everybody get together, whether you make electronic music, hip hop, rock, whatever the case may be. I mean if it's NerdCORE, then the CORE of the nerd shouldn't be singled out to any one sub-genre. It's for people that make nerdy music! What's there to segregate? There's not a lot of us; we need to stick together. I have noticed though, with sub-genres or not, nerds tend to be good to their own kind without regard to the type of music they make. As long as it's geeky people have something to be a part of. Same with us: we just wanted something to be a part of.

Are there any other artists with whom you'd like to collaborate?

Any nerdcore artists that would have a good time with us and that would make for a good mix-up. We've been talking to Shael Riley, Beefy, and we're in the middle of a project with Fanatical for the new CD. We'd like to do a song with MC Router, maybe something about beating the crap out of people for random reasons. We'd love to do a song with Karl Olson too, we dig anime and his music is just perfect for what it is. If Front is the King of Nerdcore and Router is the Queen, we want to be the gaurdnerds watching over the Gates of William, keeping all the riff-raff out.

If you had to distill your entire catalogue of music down to a single song – one solitary track that would most clearly Rule number UNO: never take it seriously. demonstrate to listeners what MPFM is about – which song would it be and why?

A song called "Valuable Tension". It's a song that you guys haven't heard yet. I've got it for the new CD. It sums us up in deep levels, but still keeps the nonsense alive. This song feels like you do with your friends when you all squeeze into your car and play slugbug and enjoy the moment. Pointless with a point. LOL.

What kind of nerds are My Parents Favorite Music?

We're not THAT deep or intelligent. Hell, we're probably the stupidest nerds you will ever meet. We love video games, anime, comics, Magic, MMORPGs, and Pauly Shore movies. We don't really feel overwhelmed by the "everyday man", but sometimes by the pressure to be something. We're just lazy, crazy, and that's good enough for our horribly, HORRIBLY low standards.

And lastly, what, in your opinion, is the nature of nerd?

In our opinion, nerds are the ones that have the biggest set of d20s in the world. You have to think: this is the stuff that people cringe at. The stuff people want to have nothing to do with. But in their hearts, their souls, they know that this is their life. This is what they want. And fuck a mongoose, they actually DO IT. With nothing to stop them in terms of other people's thoughts or reactions. The nature of nerd is 'take what you get, like what you got' and then have fun and live life your way. And no I did not get that from Dr. Phil. He is not a nerd.


My Parent Favorite Music represents an interesting phenomenon within the landscape of nerdcore; the duo is, at once, new to the scene itself, but already well-established in their own brand of nerdy hip hop. It’s an occurrence that is becoming more and more common thanks to the efforts of high profile projects like Nerdcore For Life, and, in part, to the very elastic nature of the Internet. Social networking sites like MySpace and video sharing sites like YouTube not only allow current scenesters to promote themselves and interested newcomers to see, hear, and interact with there precursors, but also help to build bridges between the established community and related artists still working in relative (cultural) obscurity, still unaware that countless other nerds are making similar music.

Furthermore, MPFM represent a welcome change from the purist ethic that sometimes blights contemporary nerdcore. While some in the scene would surely prefer that related genres and artists keep their chocolate out of nerdcore’s peanut butter, Matt and Steffo seem far more interested in fostering appreciation and crosspollination with other categories of modern nerd music.

But perhaps most importantly, MPFM stand out as a group who understands that music, nerdcore or otherwise, should be, at its core, fun. With all the recent press and exciting new projects in the works surrounding our little corner of the musical spectrum, it’s sometimes easy to forget that. Finding the proper mixture of silly excitement and serious passion is a tricky balancing act for anyone who creates, but, somehow, My Parents Favorite Music make it look easy.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the following track, a WWW exclusive from their currently out-of-print Wheel O' Ex-Girlfriends that I am - to understate the fuck out of it - proud to present. So set down your controller, pop a cold one, and crank up the volume; MPFM are here to shake your ass and satisfy your soul.

Download My Parent Favorite Music - Sticks and Stones

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The (Nerd) Entertainment Capital of the World

Last night my nerdcore brothers and sisters from across the very breadth of the US (and Canada!) ripped shit up at The Beauty Bar in the City o’ Sin. Tonight they bring all their superfluous funk to the Consumer Electronics Show thanks to the fine folks from DivX, who are also behind this evening’s sneak preview of the Nerdcore For Life documentary

Yes, I’m well aware that everyone already knows this, but I just wanted to give a shout out to the crew and to tell them to break many-a leg. Furthermore, I wanted to wish Dan and his cohorts the best with regards to the screening.

I may not be there in body, but I am with you in spirit. Ben Kenobi-style.

Run tell ya mama!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Radio Free Hipster EP. 14: Greed (or E.F.F. the R.I.A.A.)

It’s easy to see the Electronic Frontiers Foundation and the Recording Industry Association of America as diametrically opposed forces in the war of fair use vs. intellectual property, but there’s more to both organizations. However, at the end of the day, I can’t help but see one side as the folks that helped Steve Jackson Games (a company whose tabletop offerings I have various fond memories of) find justice in the aftermath of an illegal raid and the other as a group that sues the pre-pubescent and the elderly. Is that a “fair and balanced” assertion? Probably not, but those are the kinds of things that stick out in my mind. I reckon I’m just funny that way.
I understand the need for a corporate structure at the heart of the music biz, but the current age has seen more heartless scheming and sanctimonious grandstanding from the RIAA than most of us care to recollect. Things like file sharing undermine record sales to a degree, but so do the relative quality and price of the albums in question. Furthermore, it’s hard for me to buy the “don’t hurt the artists you love” bit from a group who seeks to pay their songwriters less. For me it’s simply too tough a pill to swallow. And don’t get me started on the industry’s vilification of mash-ups and other “unauthorized remixes.”
Modern music has become so pre-packaged, so commercialized, that it’s no wonder that many of us look for our fix outside of MTV and Top 40 radio. Whether it’s a club DJ cutting a Destiny’s Child a cappella with an Iron Maiden break, an unknown MC spitting rhymes on his bedroom Mac, or the enduring image of a bunch of kids in the garage trying to find four good chords, there’s no shortage of fresh, new, talented musicians out there with real heart. And if the parties in questions are a little on the nerdy side? Well, shit; that’s what I’m here for.
Show Notes
Intro: Futuristic Sex Robotz – “Law & Order” / “Fuck the MPAA”
I’ve been listening to the track for months, but I still find the “Law & Order” bit really funny! Listen.
Z’s 1st interlude: “Lars Ulrich is a dick.”
You heard it here first, kids.
Track 1: Weird Al Yankovic - “Don’t Download This Song”
I think you can still snag this track at Al’s MySpace.
Track 2: MC Frontalot - “Charity Case”
Frontalot played this track last year when I saw him in concert, and then proceeded to give me a free t-shirt. I am a contributor to the Front’s destitution. :(
Track 3: Go Home Productions - “Pretty Rudy”
I’m not blaming record industry red tape for all of TLC’s financial woes - Christ knows catching an ex-boyfriend’s house on fire is costly – but the girls should stand out as an example of how artists’ hard work make their handlers rich.
Track 4: funky49 vs. Beastie Boys – “Pass the Mic
Read the whole sordid tale here.
Track 5: Beefy - “Buy This CD
Rent ain’t free. That’s why Beefy lives at home. ;)
Track 6: Camp Chaos - “Sue All the World
"I can't go on knwoing everyday / That my songs aren't generating any pay."
Z’s 2nd interlude: “Anthropomorphic dog-men.”
K.K. Slider’s contributions to modern music are far more artistically valid than, say, either of the Simpson sisters. I’m just sayin’.
Track 7: Depeche Mode - “Everything Counts” / Antisocial - “Double Standard”
I really hated that most of the songs in this podcast had to be so heavily edited, but such are the travails of podcasting within time constraints.
Track 8: Jay-Z vs. The Verve – “Bittersweet Dirt Off Your Shoulders”
Can anyone find me the name of the cat who mashed this? I couldn’t seem to find a definitive answer.
Track 9: Willie Nelson & Kris Kristofferson - “Write Your Own Songs”
Lyrics like "You call us heathens with zero respect for the law / But we're only songwriters, just writing our songs, that's all" just become more and more relevant.
Track 10: MC Lars - “Download This Song”
Check out this excellent video (that uses the alternate version of the Lars classic) by ChurchHatesTucker.
Z’s final interlude: “Screechy McMallPunk”
The frontman for Bowling for Soup is actually named Jaret Reddick. Apparently Screechy McMallPunk sings for Good Charlotte. I apologize for the mistake.
Track 11: Beatallica – “Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band
Metallica also supported Cheap Cologne’s Double Black Album. A change of heart from the boys or damage control from the post-Napster anti-Metallica sentiment? Who knows?!

So… um… yeah. I… uh… got kinda preachy there towards the end, didn’t I? I’m quite sorry.
I hope, aside from my brief sermonizing, that you enjoyed my little podcasting effort. Moreover, I hope you find your way back here to listen again sometime. I’ll try to reel in my righteous indignation if you do. :D Questions, comments, or suggestions? I’d love to hear ‘em. Complaints? Well, yeah, you can send those too.

K.K. Slider will lead the way.

You gotsta see dis…

The Church once said that on Monday morning “the cracks become quite clear,” and, while that may be true, Monday morning is also sometimes full of surprises. Pleasant surprises, like the ones I’m about to share with you.

First, let me pass on a little piece from my boy ChurchHatesTucker. In response to my post about the DivX nerdcore hip hop CES show, Church mentioned that said genre was referenced in a recent comic by the guys at Rooster Teeth. It’s not overly obvious, but peep panel two.

Likewise, I just received word that a new trailer for Vaguely Qualified Productions MC Frontalot tour documentary Nerdcore Rising is up on ye olde YouTube. This trailer features footage of Front and his crew (obviously), and also of high profile nerds Brian Posehn, Weird Al Yankovic, and, my personal favorite, Baddd Spellah. It also boasts some face time from Jello Biafra. Or, as I called him during my initial viewing, holy-fucking-shit-it’s-goddamn-Jello-Biafra.