Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Brave New Nerd

I have truly been dreading the writing of this year's closer post. Not because this has been a bad year for nerd music and culture, mind you, but because I've spent the last several months making a concerted effort not to sermonize. And I reckon this will blow all that hard work straight to hell.

So please forgive me if I climb up on that well-worn soap box. If I filibuster. If I testify. Know that I take no pleasure in it.

Okay – know that I only take a modicum of pleasure in it.

Perhaps more than any year before, 2010 was a contest of opposites within the nerd community, a study in stark contrast of who we are and what we do. Case in point: this year started off with a bang as a geeky white rapper explained to us how geeky white rappers making geeky white rap was inherently racist, and we got all up in arms and shit. Like we do. Meanwhile on the other side of the meta-community, those kids who make music about that one book series were working in a concerted effort to raise money for disaster relief. Peep the dichotomy.

I'm not really sure if this set the stage for the events to come or simply opened my eyes to the very duality that defines the modern nerd, but regardless it colored my understanding of all that transpired thereafter.

It also gave me a newfound respect for subtlety.

You see, while some of us were debating the nature of geeky art others were making geeky art and employing it to positive ends. While we were mistaking self-importance for actual importance others were breaking ground and moving mountains. While we were debating what it means to be a nerd others were being – with apologies to John and Patrick – functional nerds.

This was the year that finally drove home the fact that nerd life can be whatever you make of it, and that terms like nerd, geek and nerdcore are all deceptively flexible. The trick is in making sure that those words actually mean something special. The magic is in giving them legs and, in some cases, teeth.

The best nerd music of 2010 seems to clearly acknowledge this fact.

On the nerdcore side, genre mainstay MC Frontalot seemingly ignored the unfolding drama while crafting his best album to date, the eclectic Zero Day. Likewise YTCracker favored us with the THC-laced genius of his Space Mission. Both releases powered nerdcore forward, refining its artistry and strengthening its community through example.

There was also amazing movement outside of the stylistic fence that is recognized geeky hip-hop. Navi (formally Myf of the nerdcore-adjacent Metamystiks, Inc.) dropped Lo Fi Muey Thai – a veritable roller coaster ride of beats, rhymes and aural intelligence. And he was joined by a growing number of underground hip-hoppers from east (Never Yet Contested) to west (A-1) willing to fully mine the nerdier side of pop culture for artistic inspiration. Hell, 2010 is even the year that former attorney Adam WarRock proved to us that comic books and hip-hop were not mutually exclusive concepts.

The chip music community also saw amazing strides from stalwarts like Inverse Phase and Doctor Octoroc, both of which released genuinely inspired cover albums that helped push minimalist electronica further into the minds of the masses. These were only surpassed in quality by the vocal bit-pop of works like Stenobot's emotionally wrenching Sink or Swim We'll Go Together and Doctor Popular's exquisitely day-dreamy Beeps and Smudges.

Still, I was most impressed by the musical output from our friends making what I collectively refer to as geek rock. The aforementioned Wizard Rock community – long lambasted as single-note niche acts – expanded into everything from LOST-themed concept bands to indie pop. (Big ups for my friend Matt for introducing me to the concept of post-WRock!) Nerdcore heavy-hitters ZeaLouS1 and Dr. Awkward even tossed a dash of geek metal into the mix with their own project The Bossfights, heretofore known as the band that changed Nerdapalooza forever.

The common thread throughout all these artists and releases is clearly a focus on musical nerdery that is in no way devoid of talent or craftsmanship. I can't help but see 2010 as the year when quality control came full circle. The output was so astounding that you couldn't just slide by on a couple of Zelda samples or a Star Wars tribute – you really had to create a quality product to get noticed.

For my money, no act did this better than Kirby Krackle. E For Everyone built on the formula established by 2009's self-titled release. It combined pop hooks, smart songwriting and non-stop nods to gaming, comics and nerd culture without ever alienating the uninitiated audience. Jim and Kyle have become so adept at blending equal parts geek and rock that they don't have to use one to sell the other. They are the ultimate nerd songwriters in that they are both comfortable within their niche but not afraid to step outside (as Kyle's additional body of work is sure to attest).

In a year where geek became a marketing term, a time when making actual art often took a back seat to alternately clinging to or rejecting the nerd artist label, some soldiered on. And those are the artists that truly matter. They represent the community that I support and wish to be a part of.

You see, for years I've had this grand idea that we as the burgeoning nerd community stand for something. That we have some deeper, righteous purpose, and 2010 really did a lot to shit all over such high-minded idealism.

For an example we need look no further than the recently published Wired piece from Patton Oswalt. While it is the nerd's first instinct to celebrate and devour such gems from one of our kind in such a position of notoriety, the subtext of his piece on the death of geek is really just another example of the "get off my lawn" posturing for which we dorks are famed. It doesn't matter that our hard-fought pop culture has been absorbed into the mainstream, because the grand secret of ultimate nerdery is that everyone is and has always been a geek. Whatever passion you feel for whatever diversion you find most palatable is your own shade of geekiness. In Patton's own words, "It’s the method of consumption, not what’s on the plate."

The problem here is that we've let the bright lights of the outside world blind us. We want to preserve the sanctity of nerd, but we don't want to actually have to do anything with it. We want our studious nature and our sacred minutiae, but we don't want to acknowledge that these came from a place of self-realized degradation. Ill-content to simply be accepted or even valued, we have succumbed to the urge to feel superior. We don't want to see Boba Fett on the shirts of "gym douches hefting dumbbells," instead we want to be the gatekeepers of these geek artifacts. Essentially we have squandered our cultural heritage to hedge out the dreaded sell-out syndrome.

But in the end talking about nerd culture is no way to spread the news that we really need to stop talking about nerd culture before all the straights gobble it up. In fact, the things that those we deem as outsiders can easily assimilate – Star Trek or D&D or birth control glasses – are the least important elements of our civilization.

We retreated into such nerdy passions because we felt different, because forces both internal and external told us that we were incapable of meaningful interaction with our betters. But folks like you and me and Patton and Frontalot realized that this was bullshit and we worked through it. The trick is to leverage that strength into something meaningful, be it a song about the power of fan conventions or a charity event to benefit the world at large.

And while a lot of you are likely applauding Oswalt's words regarding our obsolescence, I'd like to conclude by explaining why nerd culture is in fact more important than ever.

You likely remember the story of Katie Goldman, but in case you missed it here is the skinny. Earlier this year 7-year-old Katie was bullied by the boys in her first grade class for liking Star Wars. An adopted kid with glasses and a lazy eye, she was an easy target, and the combination of her gender and a Star Wars water bottle proved a proper lightning rod. Her mom Carrie wrote about the experience in her blog at Chicago Now, and the news spread like wildfire.

Social media sites and blogs passed the word along, and support began to swell. Clone Wars' Catherine Taber weighed in with her own words of wisdom, ThinkGeek sent her a lightsaber of her very own and a hashtag trended on Twitter in Katie's honor. Normal, functional nerds, people who were more concerned with supporting the next generation than debating fucking semantics, let their voices be heard. And I'll bet that at least a few of them were those oft-maligned n00bs only now dipping a toe into our culture.

This surely won't be the last time Katie encounters resistance in her life, but just knowing you're not alone has a steeling effect on minds young and old. Being a part of something bigger, a veritable fraternity of freaks and weirdoes has a distinctly therapeutic quality. And I can't help but think that in a time where geek culture is acknowledged (if not always positively), in a place where Kirby Krackle plays the stage at your favorite con and Adam WarRock gets love from the BBC and anyone in America can walk into a mall and absorb a little of our heritage by buying a Punisher hat and a copy of Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, the next generation of nerds of all stripes are keenly aware that they are a part of a larger whole.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 102: Double Stuf

If you find this particular episode to be too lengthy, I suggest you take it up with Snipe, Data, Scott, Kyle and Vincent. They said it was okay to extend this show out a bit, it being my last one of the year. So, y'know, totally their fault. ;)

That being said, this edition is positively loaded with studious hip-hop, quirky covers and bitpop galore, so I can't imagine you'll mind.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 102: Double Stuf [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 61.5 MB Running Time: 1:07:16 Subscribe to RFH 

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Spellah and Beefy, or as I like to call them Father Time and Baby New Year. 

Track 1: Illbotz – "At the Trap" / "Gyeah!"
I can't help but admire Stevie D's near preternatural whiteness!

Z's 1st interlude: "That's exactly what I'm gonna do today."
Yep, my usual year-end show. Don't even act surprised. 

Track 2: Wordburglar – "Walking Dope"
New hotness from Burg! 

Track 3: Glee dialog / Harry and the Potters & Erwin Beekveld – "Felix Felicis [Eighth Clockwise Stir Mix]"
Because a reggae-dub Wizard Rock remix is exactly the kind of thing every New Year's Eve party needs. 

Track 4: Hidden Fortress – "Apotheosis (feat. Modulok)"
I'll be reviewing Hidden Fortress's All That Is next month. 

Track 5: The Office dialog / Doctor Popular – "Möbius Strip Tease"
In case you missed it, Doc's Beeps and Smudges is truly his best release yet. 

Track 6: The Vitrolum Republic – "Make Believe Girlfriend"
Featuring the talents of fellow GeekDad Chuck Lawton. 

Track 7: Never Yet Contested – "Get it Down"
Speaking of, I spotlighted NYC's "Retro" single on GeekDad back in November. Since that time the EP has been released in earnest, and I highly suggest you give it a listen. 

Track 8: Tetrastar – "Crank That"
Superpowerless also covered this track with his previous project Scared of Dinosaurs.

Track 9: The Grammar Club – "Super Girls and Ghosts"
On Christmas Day the Club dropped their long awaited follow-up release MC Horse Rides Again. 

Track 10: Say Anything dialog / Stenobot – "Butterfly Wings (feat. Jen Wood)"
It occurred to me that, though I've talked a lot about his latest album, I haven't actually played anything from Sink or Swim We'll Go Together. This situation has now been remedied.

Z's 2nd interlude: "This marathon exposition."
The good news is that this episode features a larger-than-usual collection of songs. The bad is that it also features more of me talking. 

Track 11: A Little Dead Podcast bumper / YTCracker – "Take a Knee"
Because "Quarterback Kneel" doesn't have as nice a ring to it.

Track 12: sadnes – "Bittersweet Symphony"
Yet another amazing cover from sadnes. 

Track 13: Selfhelp – "The Rent is Too Damn High (feat. Ill Seer, prod. by Hoodee)"
The wise words of Jimmy McMillan's core platform celebrated in song. Next up, a track about marrying a shoe. Please?

Track 14: I Fight Dragons – "The Power of Love"
I love the original, and this chip-rock take is equally enamoring.

Track 15: Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers dialog / A-1 – "Black Ranger"
A-1's After School Special mixtape is a thing of beauty, and the perfect companion piece to Doctor Octoroc's After These Messages. 

Track 16: Benjamin Bear – "Burning Away (feat. Jaylyn Hindle)"
Your second dose of Jaylyn. 

Z's final interlude: "Another year of my own exploration into nerd-friendly music."
For the record, next year marks my 5th! 

Track 17: Girl Talk – "That's Right"
Likely the best moment of Girl Talk superlative All Day mix.

Thanks to all the listeners new and old that came along with me throughout 2010. It was a great year for the podcast. I mean shit, I won an award! What more can a fellow ask?

Looking forward to 2011, inspired by a particularly interesting listener voicemail I think I'll kick off the year with an upbeat mixtape-style show. From there the sky's the limit, so feel free to hit me up with your own requests or show ideas.

And until then, Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

That Southside Swagger

"Like a Louisville Slugger."
It's Christmastime and, though I imagine it breaks all manner of seasonal mores, I got myself a present. It's cool, though, 'cause you can share it too. It's an interview feature with one of my favorite nor'western hip-hop cliques, Southside.

As talking to the whole band proved problematic – Southside is a large group by anything short of Parliament-Funkadelic standards – I instead had a chat with founder, rapper, actor and all around dapper motherfucker Troy "Thunderball" Lund.

He shares with us Southside's unlikely origin story (spoiler: it includes booze), what the future holds for the band (again: booze) and the secret to his success (which is booze.)


I often describe Southside as a musical collective consisting of every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 34 in the Seattle metropolitan area. While this isn't exactly true, Southside is a noticeably sizable group. Who are its core members, and how did this exquisitely eclectic crew come together? 

We first started as a ragtag group of college misfits in Columbia, Missouri. There were exactly 2 liquor stores in town, Eastgate and Southside. We all played in different rock bands at that time (St. Monday, Amish, FeeFee Bag) and decided rep Southside as our own personal party proprietor of choice. It's funny to watch old videos of ourselves at rock shows screaming "Southside!" at the crowd, long before this band was ever even conceived.

Shane (aka Buc Preston) is a graphic designer and bought an SGI computer at a University clearance sale which had Goldwave installed on it, so we started making beats for fun using music that had never really been sampled before (Danzig, Flaming Lips, Blues Explosion, etc). We would dump the beats onto stereo cassette, drop the tape into an old Fostex cassette four-track recorder, throw a party, get drunk, and take turns dropping verses. This was 1995, and thus Southside as we know it was born.

Shortly thereafter, a posse of us moved to Seattle where we just kept making beats, throwing parties, and recording songs. Eventually those songs became more popular than anything else we were seriously trying to do as musicians, so we just rolled with it and started playing parties as a live band.

We kept recording, making mixtapes (you know, actual mixtapes on cassette) and mailing them out to our friends. We were invited to play SXSW and pieced together our first ever official release, the Vibrate EP. If you have one of these, you are truly old school. Shortly thereafter, we compiled all of our recordings (somewhere around 40), weeded out the junk, and made our "best-of" mixtape. This ended up being Please Southside Don't Hurt 'Em, our first full-length release.

The crew during those days was myself, Buc Preston, Marc from St. Monday (MC scrilla), Brent from FeeFee Bag (B-real), Dave (MC Boy RD of Monkey Drool), Brandon (TheMightyGooch), Curt (Dumptruck), and Steve (Slackjaw) from Amish, Quest, Mike (TK from Schmar), and a handful of other buddies who contributed when they could. Shows were chaos – we covered everything from Misfits to Beastie Boys, wore costumes, played in Dojos, and had a ton of fun.

People moved, babies were made, things happened, time passed, and there was turnover. Space Joe (current bass player) was a friend/fan from the Missouri days and he moved to Seattle with his friend, Matt (Reno - current drummer). Shane recruited a couple of homies he works with: Ben the DJ (Tony Snark aka Crunchy Boy) and Ryan (Slim Dickens) on guitar, filling out our current lineup. This is the core group (along with MC Boy RD and The Gooch) that made Southside Liqours, our second full length release.

You typically refer to Southside's musical style as "drunken trucker garage hop." Could you further describe this designation? 

We used to call our music "drunken trucker style" like we were the white Wu-Tang Clan or something. After our SXSW show, a friend of ours who was writing for a music magazine wrote up a great review and coined the term "garage hop." We combined the two and history was made. There was actually a short Midwest tour several years ago with Metaforce and King Solomon called The Drunken Trucker Tour!

The Southside sound combines both live instrumentation and more traditional hip-hop beats with a rotating cast of MCs. How many members typically contribute during the songwriting process? 

This is an interesting question, because in the beginning everyone involved was an MC and a multi-instrumentalist. Someone would make a beat (mostly myself, but not always), we would all record the vocals, and then when we would book a show we would all sit down and figure out how to play it live. Every show was different, a whole new production made from scratch, built around whoever was available and into it at the time. There was a lot of instrument swapping, typically in-between almost every song.

With the new lineup, roles are a little more defined (although there is still crossover). We are trying to write songs together as a band, instead of producing the songs first and then figuring out how to play them live. There are pros and cons to this. It's definitely cool to now be sampling ourselves when producing beats, as opposed to digging through other people's tunes and pulling samples that way. That is something we've always dreamed of. And now with Serato we can even scratch ourselves! However it does sometimes make the process a bit more difficult and time consuming. The results, though, are turning out to be pretty rad...

The distinguished competition.
I tend to agree! In fact, Southside were the winners of Scrub Club's inaugural Versus Mode competition. How has that this attachment to Scrub Club impacted the band? 

We are proud to be part of the Scrub Club family. We've received more kudos, made more fans, and given away more downloads than ever before. It's a great vehicle for getting our music out there. The main bummer is that as a full live band it's not quite as easy for us to travel and play convention/event shows as it is for a single MC with a laptop or CD with beats. We do, on occasion, play shows without the live band (just the MC's and DJ), which can be fun. It's a totally different feel. However, the full experience with the band is a lot of fun as well.

It's funny because we've always somehow managed to elude genres (not necessarily to our benefit). We've been told we're too rock to be hip hop, too hip hop to be rock, and now in the Nerdcore community people have said that we're not nerdcore enough (whatever that means) or that we are "frat rap." We've been rapping about computers and the apocalypse for 15 years, so we don't really care how people want to categorize or not categorize us.

Which brings us to an interesting point; because of this affiliation with Scrub Club you've slowly become more linked with the nerdcore hip-hop community. Have you noticed any shift in your audience as a result? 

We have had a few people show up at live shows in Seattle because they heard about us through Scrub Club, and we struck up a friendship with Billy the Fridge via SC as well. When people were knocking us on the forums during the VS Mode challenge, he stepped up and had our back. Beyond that, we are now being exposed to people all over the world who would most likely never have heard of us otherwise, so it has been a blessing. We'd like to say thank you and Madhatter for that.

Would you say that most of the members of Southside are nerds? 

I do voices for video games, build my own computers, and have an SQL book sitting on my desk. Shane, Ben and Ryan all work in graphic/motion design. Ben has a pile of servos and gadgets in his apartment. Between us we could build a robot that could paint graffiti on your driveway, so make of that what you will.

With Liquors still getting ample play (at least by me) and Please Southside Don't Hurt 'Em recently re-released by Scrub Club, what's the next move for Southside? Is there another album in the works? 

We're in the middle of recording now. We like to record a ton of stuff, then sift through and pick out the best and make it sound as good as we can. Some of the production on Liquors wasn't as good as we would have liked because we set our CD release date and booked our CD release party before the album was even done. Because of this, we rushed some of the mixes. I picked up the boxes of CDs on Thursday afternoon for our Friday CD release show. Not a good idea. We're taking our time with this one (working title: Science Diction). There are 27 songs in the mix right now, at various levels of completion, including some collabs with names you will recognize...

In addition to Southside and your other more rock-centered projects, you also occasionally moonlight with the aforementioned MC Quest as rap duo Metaforce. With Quest currently otherwise occupied, are there any plans to officially release group's third LP Feared Science? 

Right before he went away, we recorded Feared Science. I would call it 85% complete. We are re-purposing a few of the songs as Southside songs for Science Diction, which is not too crazy as there has always been crossover. Quest is on a lot of Southside stuff, and Southside members are on a lot of Metaforce stuff. Metaforce has always seemed more of a serious hip hop project, while Southside is more about having fun and entertaining.

We played a dual Southside/Metaforce show in Seattle a couple years ago that was absolutely off the hook. We wrote all of the song titles down on playing cards and let the audience pick a card. We would then jump up and play that song. It was a party and a half. Bjork was playing across the street and some of her musicians came by to see what the hell was happening. They stayed for the whole show, and even kept a bunch of the cards that they had drawn as souvenirs. They said it was the most fun they'd had at a concert in a long time...

From Sir Mix-a-Lot to Optimus Rhyme, Seattle is a big rap town. What is it that makes Rain City hip-hop so special? 

There's something about this town that sparks creativity. From way back in the day (The Sonics, The Kingsmen, Jimi Hendrix), to the hair metal days (Queensryche, Metal Church, Heart), to the grunge days (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney), to the indie rock days (Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie), this area seems to always be on the forefront of whatever is happening musically. Now there's this whole 3rd Wave hiphop movement happening (Fresh Espresso, Helladope, Dark Time Sunshine) and a solid nerd posse (Billy the Fridge, Death*Star, Ultraklystron). Must be the combination of the coffee and the weather... It's a beautiful city in an amazing part of the country.

Lastly and most importantly, who's the J.R. Ewing of Seattle? 

Definitely Sir-Mix-a-Lot. That title is undisputed.


It's really hard to overstate my love for the music of Southside. Though their sound was born elsewhere, it has obviously taken root in the Emerald City – it was there that a humorous, alcohol-fueled side project grew into an inspiring experiment in new school hip-hop. To me, Southside is as much a Seattle band as Optimus Rhyme, Bloodhag or The Murder City Devils.

They are a big bass kick, a sharp arpeggio and a sarcastic snort. They are the soundtrack to a lost weekend. They are my favorite things about rap and punk and electronica all wrapped up in one crazy package.

One of 2009's best albums available free in 2010
It's odd to me that the nerdcore community still falls back on the "not nerd enough" argument of ages past, especially as the new beef seems to be with those who are, in fact, too nerdy. But alas, haters, as I'm sure you've heard, are inclined to hate.

But whether detractors are decrying their perceived lack of nerd cred or their cleverly concealed hip-hop heart, Southside admirably moves forward. Still making music that mines the geeky mindset as easily as it channels the irreverent, comical nature of Golden Agers like Biz Markie and the Beasties.

Southside's albums – just like their live shows – are big, beautiful, messy affairs. Because Southside is a musical force of nature.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Nerdapalooza 2010 was an interesting affair, and not just because of DataVortex's magical confections. (Bazinga!) This year's festival featured a strong geek rock component that really helped define the fan experience. Admittedly I've already talked about this at length, but a recently unearthed video interview of yours truly by the delightful Lo-Tech of The GeekPeekPost revisits this topic. We also discuss nerd parenting and compare D20 tattoos. In a unisex bathroom.

Which, for the record, is where I shall be conducting all of my future interviews. Seriously. Check my rider.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Southern Fried Geek

Meet the band.
I make it a point not to tout my own perceived skills or abilities – generally because that's the quickest way to come off looking like an uninformed chump – but please indulge me when I state that I know a few things about nerdy music. Following such acts has become, if not my bread and butter, at least my coffee and jam over the last several years. I put a fair bit of effort into such endeavors, so I hope that when I say that Florida's Sci-Fried is a geek rock band like no other you'll at least entertain the notion.

I discovered Sci-Fried in the same manner as many other nerdy outfits – it all started with an email. Drummer and co-founder Jim Frederick introduced himself (and the band) to me by way of a track entitled "Level UP!" From that point I was hooked.

By the time I caught the guys at this summer's Nerdapalooza I'd already committed a number of songs, both standard fare like "Level UP" and b-side material like the KISS send-up "Doctor Jones," to memory. Not by choice, mind you, but because tracks like that, music that combines the most studious of geeky passions with the power of classic-style arena rock, appeal to me on a base level.

You see, I am a lover of hip-hop and I've said many times that I grew up punk rock, but the most elemental components of my formative musical years were steeped in Zeppelin, Rush, ZZ Top, Nugent and all the other iconic bombast of rural classic rock radio. Yet despite the uncanny influence of these powerfully patch-worked styles, few modern artists (geeky or otherwise) mine it directly.

And yet Sci-Fried does just that.

Formed in 2007 when Jim and guitarist Chuck Silver set out to combine their twin loves of science fiction and rock 'n' roll, Sci-Fried began in a most unsuspecting manner – by cranking out high-energy parodies inspired by their favorite movies and TV shows. The addition of co-vocalists Dr. Vern and Mike "KSV" Jensen and bassist Sunni Simmons rounded out the lineup and also shaped the band's overall sound. Sunni's metal roots helped to add an additional level of musical aggression, while the combination of Vern's soulful, theatrical voice and KSV's low-key almost nerdcore-style delivery helped to smooth out the mix. Which brings me to my second and likely counter-intuitive point.

While Sci-Fried are perfectly comfortable channeling the wild energy of what I have affectionately come to think of as redneck rock – Sunni once referred to the band as the Mötley Crüe of the geek scene – they refuse to be musically boxed in, to limit their repertoire to what may be simple or expected.

Though I find it hard to quantify the exact essence of their intoxicating blend of styles and influences, let me endeavor to do so:

Part Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, part Anthrax, part Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem,Sci-Fried has easily inserted itself into the list of my favorite bands in all of musical nerddom.

Across the breadth of two albums Sci-Fried have explored a sonic palette colored by everything from American soul to British pub rock, from rap to punk. I'll be the first to admit that all this sonic experimentation leads to an occasional ill fit, but the guys are always expanding their musical scope while still holding onto that very classic rock element that provides their greatest strength.

Slated for an early 2011 release!
The aforementioned albums showcase the band as a split entity. Their twin debut LPs Geeks Unite (which features an amazing selection of original material) and Ramming Speed (a humorous collection of filk-rock parodies) present the Sci-Fried sound in very different ways.

Geeks Unite opens with "Welcome to the Geek Age" and the title track – a clever and hard-hitting affirmation of nerd life. From there it weaves ably through surreal noise rock ("Don't Phase Me, Bro"), aggressive sleaze metal ("Sci-Fried") and ridiculously hilarious Dementia Music ("Ninja Drinking Song.") Occasionally the band's odd juxtaposition of styles fails to satisfy ("A Hero"), but more often than not it manages to hit the sweet spot. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the album's stand-out track "Saturday Night on Syfy" - a song infinitely more palatable than its titular subject matter.

Ramming Speed likewise starts strong with another odd spoken-word piece that bleeds into the Primus send-up "Too Many Zombies." It's not exactly KSV's strongest vocal performance, but it manages to grab the listener. Joints like "Stargate Zone," "Trippin' through The Wormhole" and " My Name Is Spock 2.0" also blend the easily recognizable sounds of their musical source material with properly geeky lyrical content, but this album also has a few skippable selections. More often than not, though, Ramming Speed's material tends to fall along the lines of WAR parody "Land Speeder." It's fun in small doses, but not exactly the most compelling stuff the band's provided to date.

I'm not going to mislead you here; I genuinely adore Sci-Fried. A number of my friends were a tad skeptical as I talked the act up early this summer, but seeing the fellows perform live on the Nerdapalooza stage managed to make true believers of most. As much as I enjoy the sound of the band on wax, the live experience truly showcases their strengths. From Vern's larger-than-life voice to Chuck's classic licks, Sci-Fried is a band that begs to be experienced live.

They're also one of those acts that relishes the chance to connect with fans both on-stage and off. I'd be lying if I didn't say that some of the best parts of my Nerdapalooza experience was spent simply hanging out with Sci-Fried and their extended musical family. (What up, Jaime!) And it's important to note that Nerdapalooza was merely one stop on the band's dorktastic summer circuit. TOUR 2010: The Year We Make Con‐Tact took Sci-Fried from nerd hot-spots like Megacon, Dragon*Con and even the Klingon Feast. A fitting tour regimen for the reigning kings of southern geek rock.

Yeah, that pretty much sums 'em up.
Over the past couple of weeks I've had the pleasure of further cultivating my love for this most unorthodox act by way of a series of preview tracks from their forthcoming album Future Tense. Thus far I've been treated to a strong Serenity-themed ballad, a literal geek rock anthem and a proper studio version of the Marc with a C collab they unveiled at 'Palooza 2010. The sound of the album seems to be a bit more consistent, but the guys are still experimenting with styles and merging genres for the greater good of nerdy music.

To illustrate this point, I'll close with a season-specific single from Sci-Fried (and again featuring my brother Marc with a C.) It's the perfect example of the kind of good-natured musical madness one can expect from the band. And if this one doesn't do it for you I encourage root around a bit in the Sci-Fried back catalog. They offer a myriad of sounds for any mood.

Assuming, of course, that said mood involves geeking the fuck out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 101: Snowblind

I can't help but think that what our great nation – nay, the world needs is an irreverent and occasionally sexually explicit holiday podcast.

In fact, I've taken it upon myself to provide the citizens of Earth with just that. Because I am a giver.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 101: Snowblind [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 42.5 MB Running Time: 49:25 Subscribe to RFH 

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Tis the season for Baddd Spellah. #falalalalaalalalalaa 

Track 1: 30 Rock dialog / Catchlove – "It's Still Snowing (feat. Danny Dementor)"
Is it me or is Danny D channeling mc chris in this tune?

Z's 1st interlude: "Compliments of my fellow Christmas elf Dave the Knave."
Much seasonal love to Dave for the 30 Rock audio clips.

Track 2: Voicedude – "Fuck You, Santa!"
From the amazing new Santastic V: Snow, Man! comp.

Track 3: 30 Rock dialog / Billy the Fridge – "Bad Santa"
Billy the Fridge is the official nerdcore Santa.

Track 4: jmr – "Little Drummer Boy"
An OCR classic from 2007.

Track 5: Elliot Kimmel – "Mitosis in a Winter Wonderland"
Once again Church comes through with the holiday hook-up. 

Track 6: 30 Rock dialog / Anamanaguchi – "All I Want 4 Xmas Is U"
Yet another fine selection suggested by Dave the Knave. 

Track 7: Former Fat Boys – "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (The Joker Got Away)"
This track starts out pretty low-key before getting all freaky and disturbing. Such is the FFB way! 

Track 8: John Anealio – "Batman Smells (A Rebuttal)"
Available on John's new Season's Geekings EP.

Track 9: Sci-Fried with Marc with a C – "Star Wars Christmas"
Easily at the top of this year's holiday music offering is this little ditty from my southern brothers.

Z's 2nd interlude: "Let's take a look back at this year's very early Hanukkah."
Dear Jewish calendar: you really confuse me. Love, Gentiles everywhere

Track 10: 8 Bit Weapon & ComputeHer – "Hanukkah (Festival of Lights)"
From their own It's a Chiptune Holiday collection.

Track 11: Schaffer the Darklord – "Terror of the Bells"
Just like the Billy the Fridge track, this one is from the Shael Riley-helmed Come Down the Chimney. 

Track 12: 30 Rock dialog / TheCoop – "Algorhythmic Bells"
I swear I've played this one in a previous holiday special. :/

Track 13: Abra West – "Lonely Christmas Eve"
If you're unfamiliar with this fan series check out the awesomeness.

Track 14: 30 Rock dialog / Paul Slocum – "Up on the Housetop"
Side note – I have convinced my son that the words for the original song are as follows: "Up on the housetop, reindeer balls…"

Track 15: Go Home Productions – "High Tides and Blocked Peace Pipes"
It's a very Blondie Christmas!

Z's final interlude: "As long as you buy me a present."
Let's not forget the important things this year.

Track 16: Insane Ian – "Yellow Snow"
Big-ups to Ian for sharing this new single with me early.

With this measure of holiday merriment out of the way we begin looking toward year's end. I pretty much have the final podcast of 2010 all worked out, so I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

As promised I'll also be sharing another interview, a profile piece and my annual year in review post over the coming weeks.

What will 2011 hold? Only time will tell. But until then, happy holidays to you and yours!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Not Safe For Anywhere

His Satanic Majesty Schaffer the Darklord has a brand new video. It's for his lyrical exercise in overindulgence known as "The Bender."

Now, for those of you saying "Oh Z., I totally saw that video when Schaffer including it in his vidcast last year." I say, hold the phone, kid – this is a brand new production of the Manslaughterer classic. Also, don't back-sass me.

Yeah, you heard me.

Directed by Burke Heffner and featuring the talents of countless NYC burlesque stars (and my main Ghostbusting man Nelson Lugo), this bad boy is highly offensive and shouldn't be viewed by anyone ever. But that's not gonna stop you. On account of your admirable boldness. 

Obviously this joint glorifies sexual promiscuity and drug abuse and guyliner – y'know, because it's another track from a man whose claim to fame is humping his own clone – and even in its sanitized state it's still pretty raw. So maybe try not to watch it when the bossman is about.

If, however, you wish to support the unbridled American arts by viewing the original, uncensored cut, you can do so at

You filthy little monkey you!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens and Shit Like That

"Oh balls!"
The crossover into early December is typically when we bloggers put on the cruise control. It's all about gift list this and top ten that, but I (sadly) don't have that luxury.

This year, as in holiday seasons past, I am helming GeekDad's 12 Days of Geekmas giveaway, which means I'm doing even more writing and podcasting than usual. Still, I'm taking it as a personal challenge not to let Hipster, please! fall by the wayside as a result of my professional responsibilities.

While I can't promise an abundance of posts or anything on par with the kind of mega-contest we're hosting over GeekDad-way, I do pledge to you that I'll be using this month to spotlight my favorite artists, tracks and albums of 2010.

Highlights include an interview with one of my favorite hip-hop crews, a feature piece on the south's preeminent geek rockers and, of course, my yearly nerdcore wrap-up. And along the way you'll also get the requisite pair of December podcasts.

You're very much encouraged to share your own picks for 2010's superlative nerdery. Y'know, the kinds of things you remember so that you don't… feel… so bad?

Wow, I extended that Sound of Music thing to an unhealthy level, didn't I?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

TV on the Radio (No, Seriously.)

... We'll be riiiiiiiiiight back!
There are few artists with track records as proven as my boy Doctor Octoroc. His always unique concept pieces and all killer, no filler approach to chiptunes have made him a wholly deserving internet legend. From his 8 Bit Jesus holiday album to his amazing interactive YouTube video series based on hit musical comedy Glee, Doc Oct always seem to have just the right release waiting in the wings.

His latest creation, After These Messages, is a 33-track monster inspired by classic television. Theme songs, commercial jingles and even those unforgettable ditties form your favorite game shows are each given the NES-style musical treatment from the good Doctor. And the prognosis is awesome! (See what I did there?)

It's a pay-what-you-want release, which means you can, if I'm understanding this correctly, pay what you want for it. And whatever you pay, I promise it'll be well worth it.

Check out the official project page for more details, and "Like" that bad boy on Facebook to help out with the all-important album promotion.

Still, the question remains: what is next for Doctor Octoroc? My guess is an 8-bit musical based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's highly influential German-language tragedy Faust. But that's just, y'know, me spit-ballin'.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 100: Centennial Man

I compare producing the 100th episode of a podcast to losing your virginity – you're really anxious and excited about it, but once it's over you're pretty sure you did it all wrong.

That being said, here's Radio Free Hipster episode number 100. I couldn't have done it without you, and I mean that in more ways than one. So kick back and enjoy.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 100: Centennial Man [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 53.1 MB Running Time: 58:01 Subscribe to RFH

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Fun fact – Spellah's RFH theme song premiered in episode #15. Does that necessitate its own anniversary show? 

Track 1: Baddd Spellah – "99 Balloon Flights"
Starting off the show is a cut for GeekOnABlog. 

Z's 1st interlude: "And pretty much did my job for me."
For serious.You did. 

Track 2: Parry Gripp – "Yub-Nub"
My brother Dave the Knave picked this one. A fine addition! 

Track 3: Dual Core – "Fantastic Four (feat. Beefy, YTCracker & Wheelie Cyberman)"
This one was sort of a catch-all. A lot of y'all wanted to hear it. And so did I. 

Track 4: Dave Ross voicemail / Captain Dan & the Scurvy Crew – "Shore Leave"
Thanks so much for the nice voicemail, Dave! 

Track 5: 10000 Spoons – "Astley Gone To Heaven"
This one is for Antisoc, without whom this podcast would be bereft of the bandwidth it needs to succeed. 

Track 6: POWERLIFTER – "Mr. Brightside (feat. Jeremy Spring)"
Oberon the Fool asked for some Scrub Club, so I delivered the new hotness. 

Track 7: Wordburglar – "Hermaphromic"
This podcast has only one rule – if Snipeyhead makes a request, I damn sure better play it. 

Track 8: The Mudbloods – "I Wish You'd Be My Witch"
My buddy Matt, who actually really got me into the Mudbloods, asked for this little jewel. 

Z's 2nd interlude: "You knew I'd play them anyway."
You guys know me so well! 

Track 9: Optimus Rhyme – "Click-Click"
Is it wrong to play my own request? Probably. 

Track 10: Schaffer the Darklord – "Club Destroyer (feat. Removal)"
For Tom B. I chose this amazingly rocked up joint from Manslaughterer. 

Track 11: Metroid Metal – "Prime Theme (MP)" / Bonehand voicemail
Steve was not only nice enough to have me on his own show to promote RFH 100, he even went so far as to leave me a congratulatory message. What a guy! 

Track 12: Random & K-Murdock – "Dream Master" / Seattle Geekly voicemail
Thanks to my homey funky49 for the request, and much love to my comrade-in-arms Matt (of Seattle Geekly) for the voicemail. Truth be told, the kind words of my fellow podcasters were the true highlight of this show for me. 

Track 13: Rivercrest Yacht Club – "Robot Jox"
Alex wanted to hear some Rivercrest Yacht Club. I chose this one because I love the trippy, Star Trek-style intro. 

Track 14: I Fight Dragons – "With You"
This one's for datavortex who wanted to hear an IFD song featuring the dulcet tones of former member Laura Trainor. 

Z's final interlude: "Turning you on to even more great shit."
Speaking of, big ups to my longtime friend Brux for the tailor-made background music. 

Track 15: Southside – "1010011"
Southside, just like Schaffer the Darklord before them, are the recipients of the coveted "See, I Told You They Was Dope" Award.

Guys, I've said it before and I'll say it again – this show wouldn't exist without you. For those of you who've been down with Radio Free Hipster from the beginning, thanks for your continued support. For those that are new to the show, thanks for giving it a chance. To my fellow podcasters, thanks for your kind words and for providing me with constant inspiration from your own unique undertakings. And to my crew – Church, Matt, Soc, Dave, Jason, et al – you guys are the oil, gears and animalistic grunts that keep this machine moving ever forward.

By this point y'all know the drill. December will see my annual holiday episode and a last musical gasp before year's end. If there's anything you'd like me to cover in either, don't hesitate to give me a holler.