|Just call me Mr. Gimmick.|
You see, throughout the album, Kabuto and company speak out against the notion that the Python is merely a gimmick. This admonition struck an immediate chord with me, and, unfortunately for you, precipitated the following sermon.
Gimmick is a word that's tossed around a lot in my "line of work." Wizard Rock, for example, is blasted by outsiders for employing a simple gimmick of overzealous fandom, and Beefy once felt motivated to quip that nerdcore itself is "not a fake genre or a parody." More to the point, California hip-hopper Satellite High once called out the whole of nerd rap on a track entitled – wait for it – "Working a Gimmick."
So, in summation for those of you with short attention spans, gimmicks are bad. When we hear the word we think of the publicity stunt. The ruse. The bait and switch.
We typically see a gimmick as a crutch for weak flows or sketchy songwriting, an easy excuse that insulates an act or artist against the rigors of otherwise mandated quality control. To put it bluntly, we tend to view it as a fucking cop-out.
But we're wrong.
In professional wrestling, a gimmick is an athlete's persona, his distinguishing traits, and it's the most important tool in helping the wrestler get "over," or accepted by fans.
What – wrestling talk not good enough for you? Fine then, let's get esoteric.
A gimmick isn't a moat that protects your castle from attack. A gimmick is an open gate. It's an in-road. It invites company into your antechamber.
Wow. That metaphor was dense.
All I'm saying is that a gimmick in and of itself isn't a bad thing. In fact, every artist has a gimmick. Some may have exceedingly clever ways of concealing this, but, at its core, it's all simple gimmickry.
Maybe your gimmick is that you wear iconic glasses or have weird hair. Perhaps it's that you smoke lots of weed or have been shot a whole fucking bunch of times. Maybe it's a reliance on a particular vocal motif or an emphasis on a continued lyrical theme. Maybe your gimmick is an attachment to a particular style or artistic subset. Either way, your gimmick is important because it's yours. It may make you easily attached to or paralleled with others who share a similar slant, but it provides an easy jumping-off point for your own creativity and, more importantly, an easy point of entry for fans.
If your gimmick is your whole act, then, yes, you have a serious problem with creativity and an obvious deficit with regard to credibility. But if you have the chops to back that gimmick up, to surpass your own obvious niche – like Kabuto or Kirby Krackle or 8 Bit Weapon – then you've truly succeeded as an artist.
In an oft-cited scene from MC Frontalot's own documentary Nerdcore Rising, Jello Biafra warns "Be careful with your own stereotype; it could become a prison." And he would know, because he too has a gimmick.
Jello was the poster boy for an entire generation of anarcho-punk thinkers and thus a man firmly rooted in an easily recognized stylistic box, but he has managed to channel the energy of the purposefully limited genre of hardcore punk into a number of disparately stylized projects over his 30+ year career. He's an artist with a gimmick, sure, but he has leveraged his gimmick. He has made the most of it.
In closing I'd just like to say, all honest-like, that I have a gimmick, and I'll gladly admit it. I am a diminutive southerner that is very obviously overly focused on his own inherent nerdery. I'm a smart-ass writer who channels the things I absorbed throughout my formative years from studious cats like Bill Hicks and have spent the larger chunk of my adult life leaching from geek luminaries like Jerry Holkins through a distinctly rural filter.
My hope is that I manage to properly convey this particular device across a number of projects and mediums in ways that you may not completely expect. Because if you can use your gimmick to divert the audience's attention slightly, and then surprise them with even more stellar (if still specialized) output, well then, my friend, everybody wins.
"I used to be a somebody in this town. Now, everybody has a gimmick. I was going to show them all. And I did."
The Riddler, Batman: Hush