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.