Four Letter Nerd

Category - Music

Hip-Hop Batman: An Interview with Vancouver Rapper Tom MacDonald

4LN: So the whole reason we’re even talking right now is because you made a badass short-film music video, that is essentially a Batman fan-film. Where did your love of Batman start?
Tom MacDonald: Hell yeah. I’m not exactly sure where it started, to be honest. I’ve loved Batman for as long as I can remember. When I was kid I can remember dressing up as Batman on Halloween EVERY year. When I went to the fair or the street market or a birthday party – if there was a person doing face paint – I got the Batman emblem painted on my face. I had the clothes and the action figures and the video-games and the bed-sheets and all the bullshit. I watched all the cartoons and the movies. I just loved him. My Dad is a big Batman fan as well, so, I guess that’s probably where it started. He passed it down to me. I feel like I’ve got a lot in common with Bruce Wayne, so, that’s probably why it stuck.

4LN: What about hip-hop? When did you first discover hip-hip music?
TM: I’ve been writing poems since I was a child. My Grandfather was a brilliant poet. I think writing was just in my blood. One day I was on the main strip in a small town where I used to live and my Dad gave me five bucks to spend in a pawn shop. The only thing that five dollars would by me was a CD, so, I started digging around in crates. I found 2 Pac’s “All Eyes On Me” album. I had no idea who he was. I had never really heard hip-hop music before. It was a double-disk album and I figured that was probably the best bang for my buck, so, I bought it. I listened to that record for, like, a year straight. 2 Pac and Marilyn Manson. For a year. The poetryI had been writing turned into rock songs, but, I realized I didn’t have the right voice for that genre. Not long after that realization, Eminem’s “Real Slim Shady” hit MTV and I was like “Yo…this guy has blonde hair…I have blonde hair…this guy has blue eyes…I have blue eyes…he looks like me…he sounds like me…I could do that”. I started turning my poems into raps. I bought a computer and a mic and started givin’ ‘er shit.

4LN: Do you remember the exact moment when you realized that you wanted to seriously pursue rapping?
TM: I’ve never done anything in my life half-assed. If I’m going to work – I’m going to work harder than anyone. If Im going to party – Im going to be the last one awake. If I’m going to drive – I’m going to press the pedal against the floor the hardest. It’s just the way I operate. When I had the whole “Eminem realization” that I spoke of (previously) – I was like 14 years old. Strangely enough, I was a professional wrestler at that time. Like, the WWE/WWF stuff. I wrestled professionally across Canada for almost 6 years. When I was 19, I got out of the wrestling business. I don’t know if I fell out of love with it or what the fuck happened, but, something happened. I’d been writing and recording music the entire time I was wrestling, but, I wasn’t releasing it. I guess I kept it to myself because I wasn’t thinking…”Im going to be a rapper”…I was still in my “I’m going to be a pro wrestler” mind-set. When I stopped wrestling I was just sitting on my ass back at the house, twiddling my thumbs and whatever. I just had an epiphany. Like, a real one. I had all this pent up creativity with no outlet…and, you know. I said to myself, “I’m going to do this music shit like no one’s ever done this music shit before.” Best decision I ever made. It’s saved my life on more occasions then I care to remember.

4LN: How did you initially conceive this idea for this short-film? Like, were you just watch The Dark Knight and thought, “I could do that…”?
TM: Haha, no, absolutely not. As big of a fan as I am of Christian Bale’s Batman – I can’t give him credit for inspiring the film. All of my music videos are short-films. I’ve been a cowboy, an old man, a janky fight promoter, a criminal, an astronaut, a soldier with post-traumatic-stress-disorder. I just like to do things that way. I love film. I love characters. I just…love it all. I don’t understand why a rapper would want to be a rapper in a music video, you know? Adding visuals into the equation is a big deal. It’s your fucking chance, man. Its your chance to show people – “Look, I’m not just some bullshit rapper. Im not just some guy that rhymes words a whole bunch. I can do other things”. Anyway, I’d just been playing all these different roles and I was like…what’s next? What do I do? I’ve been living out my fantasies through film for a while…who else do I want to be? WHAT else do I want to be? I was down to my last God damn dollar for videos and I was talking to my Dad about it on the phone one night. I was on my way to a meeting or a party or something and he was said “I think a Batman video would be ultra cool”. It hit me like a fuckin’ punch in the face. I was in Los Angeles at the time and it was going to take place in a dessert and stuff. Long story short, I made it back to Vancouver and put the plan into action in an alternate location. All of a sudden I was fucking Batman, dude. Thanks Pops! Ps. Im still puzzled at why the hell I didn’t think of that first. Sometimes Dad’s have a way of making the seemingly impossible seem attainable. Mine does, anyway. Thank God.
 
4LN: I was really impressed with how the villain was portrayed. To me, he felt like a blend of Two-Face, Penguin, and Victor Zsasz. Am I close, or way off? 
TM: Hahahahahahaha! Man. I actually just laughed out loud at “Penguin”. Why did you get that vibe? Because he’s chubby? Hahaha! Im seriously dying right now. I have to show him this interview. Honestly, though…the villain was just Two Face to me. To me, the whole film is sort-of a steam punk/renegade/alternate-universe Batman thing. Bruce Wayne has long hair and face tattoos and nose rings. Batman doesn’t always make the right decision. Two-Face is a manic-depressive, self-mutilating psychopath. So, ya. The villain is Two Face. Just not how he’s typically portrayed. Hats off to the Victor Zsasz comparison, though. For some reason that never crossed my mind, but, I’m glad you put me on to it. Definitely can see where you’re coming from. ALSO – Shout out to my road dog Brandon Hart for playing a hell of a Two Face and kicking my ass in that needle-ridden alleyway! Love ya bro.
 
4LN: One of the things that fascinated me was that you did all of this yourself. These are your tracks, and you wrote the plot and made all the set pieces, as well as directed the video and acted in it. That seems like quite the labor of love. Why was it so important to you to take on so many roles for this project?
TM: Yeah, man. I did it all myself. Thank you for making note of that. I appreciate it. Ya, it’s an extremely heavy load, but, sometimes when you love something…you just fuckin’ do it! I’ve always been at the helm when it comes to my creative ventures. I just feel more comfortable that way. Have you ever relied on someone that you cared about and had them drop the ball? It sucks. You have to be pissed off at your friend for letting you down. It’s terrible. At least if you take it all on yourself, the success of the project rests solely on your own shoulders. If the project fails – that’s on you. You beat yourself up over it. As shitty as that is…it’s MUCH better than beating your friend up when their efforts fall short. It’s the age old saying, “If you want something done right then do it yourself”.
 
4LN: Finally, what do you have coming up that we should keep our eyes out for?
TM: Lots more videos on the way. Lots more music on the way. This “Batman video” features three songs; “Hourglass”, “Who I Am” and “Bout It”. “Hourglass” is the first single off my next album, coming out this year. “Who I Am” and “Bout It” are two singles off my mix-tape, also coming this year. So, you know. Be on the look-out for my album and the preceding mix-tape. Additionally, I have a ton of already-released stuff that you should probably keep your eye out for. Tons of other videos and music can be found at www.whoismrmac.comwww.facebook.com/TheRealMrMac, www.youtube.com/AllstarTWest and on Instagram/Twitter @TheRealMrMac. Get at me!
 
4LN: This next section is our Lightning Round. Just answer with the first thing that comes to mind…
Who was the best Robin: Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, Damien Wayne, Stephanie Brown, or Carrie Kelley?
TM: As long as it isn’t Chris O’Donell I’m cool with it.
4LN: Is there any other comic character would you love to make a short-film of?
TM: I can’t cheat on Batman.
 
4LN: The best Arkham video game is…
TM: Arkham Asylum was bad ass.
 
4LN: Who do you think Bruce Waynes favorite rapper would be?
TM: Tom MacDonald.
 
4LN: Last question, who do you think the most underrated Batman villain is and why?
TM: I want to get super deep on you and say that Batman was Batman’s most underrated villain because he sort-of was, wasn’t he? Haha. But, the first thing that came to my mind was Phantasm. She was never given the same respect that Joker or Riddler or Two Face or Mr. Freeze or Penguin or Bane or Croc or Scarecrow got, was she? Maybe because she wasn’t truly evil…she meant well…but it ended up being a massive pain in Batman’s ass a few times. That’s the worst type of person! The ones that mean well do the most damage, sometimes. She was Bruce Wayne’s ex-girlfriend, man! We all have an ex-girlfriend-arch-enemy! That’s the most evil other fucker on the planet! UNDERRATED!!
My thanks to Tom for chatting with me! Make sure to check him out on all his sites he mentioned and jam his music LOUD!

4LN Album Review: “Tales from the Deadside” by A Sound of Thunder

A couple of months ago we did a Nerds in Bands article with Mr. Josh Schwartz of Washington D.C. metal band A Sound of Thunder. I became aware of the band because Josh and I are both in a Valiant Comics Fanpage on Facebook and he’d posted about how the band was doing a concept album based around the story of the Valiant Comics character Shadowman. Being that Shadowman is one of my favorite Valiant characters (edged out narrowly by Woody, from Quantum & Woody), and since I’m such a big fan of metal, I’ve been really excited about hearing “Tales from the Deadside”, and I can assure you, it does not disappoint.

Tales from the Deadside (Music Inspired by Shadowman) cover art

The album kicks off with the haunting and extremely groovy Children of the Dark. There’s this opening guitar riff that’s almost sludgy and it picks up with the choruses. It’s so good that you just can’t help but nod your head throughout the entire track.

A couple tracks in we come to Can’t Go Back, which in my opinion showcases the real power and versatility of lead singer Nina Osegueda. She hits some crazy high notes like she’s Mariah f***ing Carey, but what’s really amazing is that she can then she immediately turn that into an intimidatingly gravely roar like she’s Wendy O. Williams. The track Punk Mambo is perfect example of what I mean. It’s fast and chaotic, and held together by Nina’s ability to sing, quite literally, all over the place.

Make no mistake, this concept album is no gimmick. ASOT is an incredibly talented and eclectic band. You’ll hear tons of different sounds on TFTD, even some sexy saxophone, which is nod to the sax-playing title character, but also just works really, really well on the record.

Let me close with this… If you’ve read Shadowman, you need to jam this record. Even if metal isn’t your thing, you should at the very least give it one spin. Who knows, you just might end up really digging it. If you just like metal but haven’t ever heard of Shadowman, I genuinely hope this will pique your interest in the character because his mythology is amazing. Also, to boil ASOT down to a single genre, they’re a straightforward metal band. There’s some epic metal stuff in there, and some sludgy stuff, even the occasional thrashy riff or two, but overall, they just play no-nonsense, no fluff metal better than a lot of bands out there right now. I’ll even go so far as to tell you that even though this album has been out for only a little over a week, I’ve already listened to it more than I have Iron Maiden’s new album, which has been out for almost a month. I’m not saying, I’m just saying…

Check out A Sound of Thunder’s Official Website for all the links to where you can get a hold of their new album, and make sure to play it loud!

Glenn Danzig, the God Butcher

If you have read any of my articles, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of punk rock. I almost always recommend a punk band for music pairing with comics, from 15-20 I was at punk shows almost every night, and I’m constantly trying to find the next great punk band. I can’t even tell you all the bands I’ve seen live over the years (but Against Me! are still one of the best). Hell, I’m not even sure I KNOW how many I’ve seen. As I’ve gotten a bit older, I’ve fallen out of the punk scene I once loved, but that’s due to my love for comics. Now, I feel like I can either go to a show, or I can hit up the comic shop on Wednesday for new books. But, as I’ve grown older and my music taste has evolved into a much wider palate, one thing has remained a constant: my love for the unholy Glenn Beck Danzig. So, in honor of our 666th article, we give you, Danzig, the God Butcher.

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For those of you who don’t know who Glenn Danzig is, he was the original vocalist for the horror punk band Misfits. You know, that skeleton face you see on every 15 year old Goth kids shirt? That was the band Danzig started with Jerry Only in 1977, and Danzig left the band in 1984 after struggling with creative disputes with fellow band member Jerry Only. Following their fallout Danzig started a new project titled Samhain, which was more Death/Heavy Metal with themes from horror movies. This band went through a few line up changes until it finally consisted of Glenn Danzig, Eerie Von, John Christ, and Chuck Biscuits. In 1987, the band changed their name from Samhain to Danzig, signed to Def American Records, which later became American Recordings (who also produced albums by Johnny Cash, Slayer, Flipper, The Jesus and The Mary Chain, and countless others) and recorded “Danzig” in 1988 which featured songs such as Mother, She Rides, and my personal favorite Am I Demon. (Still to this day, there are problems between Danzig and Jerry Only. The main one being, Jerry is now a born again Christian, and wants The Misfits to be family friendly. And, well, Danzig would be a god butcher, if he could.)

Following the success of Danzig the band released their second album in 1990 titled Danzig II: Lucifuge, and following that in 1992 released Danzig III: How The Gods Kill featuring artwork by world famous Swiss artist H.R. Giger (Who worked on the Alien films), and Danzig has since continued making music and has recorded 9 albums in 27 years. His latest album, Skeletons is slated for release sometime this fall, and will be a cover album of all the songs that have influenced Glenn Danzig over the year. Besides Skeletons, Glenn Danzig is working on a Elvis Presley cover EP, also rumored for a 2015 release, but no other dates have been announced. The music industry isn’t Danzig’s only area of interest. He even has his own adult centered comic book company, Verotik, which is a combination of the words “violent” and “erotic.” Verotik comics, is an 18+ publishing company, and is Danzig’s way of entering the world of comics. Since a young child, Danzig has always had a love for comics. My fellow 4LN writer Stephen and I are also an example how metal/punk music goes hands in hands with comics.

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We have all wondered who we would be if we were comic book characters. And, for the most part, when we ask ourselves this question, we look to our heroes. We want to be versions of Spider-Man, Charles Xavier, Batman, or Superman. We all want to see the best in the mirror. None of us want to see The Joker, Dr. Doom, or Lex Luthor in our reflection. Except for one person, and that is Danzig. If he were a comic book character, there is no one else he would embody more then the villain from Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder run, Gorr the God Butcher. A little backstory for the series, it was pretty much the most metal fucking book I have ever read in my life. Like, every page reminded me of some Black Metal/Death Metal music video, Stephen Andrew and I are almost certain he jammed Emperor while writing the scripts for the book. Gorr is a character that looses his entire family, at a young age his parents are killed, he then marries ad fathers multiple children, whom all but one die. And, to make his story worse, his wife and son eventually die as well. Gorr was taught from an early age to worship the gods, but in his lifetime, the gods never brought fulfillment or purpose. Eventually Gorr gives up all hope, but only to learn that the gods are real, and they don’t care. This causes Gorr to become furious and swears vengeance and death on every god in the known existence.

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My name is Gorr, son of a nameless father, outcast from a forgotten world. I have slain my way through multitudes to stand here at the genesis of all things. Blackened by vengeance, wet with holy blood. One simple dream still strong in my heart… The dream of a godless age.

I’m pretty sure this above quote could also be from Danzig by just replacing the name, and no one would be very surprised if he were to say something like this in an interview.

Danzig and Gorr have a lot in common. Well, I actually don’t know that, but I’m just assuming that if they were to hangout, they would have more in common then we would expect. I mean, if given the chance, Danzig would challenge Satan in a fist fight for complete control of hell, and for decades now Danzig has been telling us if you want to find hell, he can show you the way. So, Gorr and Danzig could bring about a true age without the gods, and metal would rule the sound of an unsung apocalypse.

Nerds in Bands: Aub Driver from JAHAI

Do you love metal?! Do you love comics?! If you answered “yes” to both of those questions then you’re awesome, and you’re also in the right place right now! Check out our interview with Aub Driver, lead vocalist for Portland metal band JAHAI!

 

4LN – Do you remember when you first got into comics?
AD – Totally.  It was 1992 and I was 8 years old. There was this little corner grocery called Calise’s down the street from where I grew up in Connecticut.  I used to go there with my Dad and beg him to buy me the “Death of Superman” issues.  Then I got hooked on the Ghost Rider “Spirits of Vengeance” story, and shortly thereafter the Spider-Man “Maximum Carnage” storyline.  Terribly convoluted crossovers really seemed to resonate with my young mind. I can hardly read them now.  I was always more a fan of the art.  In fact, I used to trade the collectible Marvel Masterpiece cards with friends on the playground and eventually got all comics/cards banned in school. Too many bad trades, man.  Then along came Pogs…and Yo-Yo’s with brains…and Tamagotchis and whatever other pop culture flavors of the week happened in the 90’s and I just went straight into music.
 
4LN – If you had to pick an all-time favorite comic series or graphic novel, what would it/they be?
AD – My all time favorite comics character is Ghost Rider (The Dan Ketch/Howard Mackie years). I liked the origin story well enough, but his character design was just metal to the extreme.  A close second would be Deadpool. And when I say Deadpool, I don’t mean the wildly popular shit that everyone is jumping on now (though I have hopes for the film…we shall see).  I mean Deadpool circa 1993 Circle Chase.  My mom hand-sewed me a Deadpool Halloween costume in 1993 — so I feel safe in saying that I was cosplaying way before it was cool.  I was the coolest 3rd grader, or so I thought.
4LN – Let’s chat for a minute about the band you’re in, JAHAI. How did you guys first get started?
AD – I actually joined the 3rd generation of the band.  I’d met lead guitarist (Nikk) at a pop punk show.  He was playing bass in another band and we got to talking – he needed a vocalist that could deliver, and I told him I could.  That was in 2012. Here we are in 2015, just released our first EP called “Death and Entrances.”
We’re a 5-piece melodic groove metal band from Rose City.  Nikk, Jon (Drummer), Loyd (Bass) and Jake (Guitars) had all been jamming for a year before I got in the picture.  Nikk & Jon have been playing together since 2002.
And of course, you want to know about the name… Word on the street is Nikk & Jon were working late one night at the steel mill (yea, they made bomb proof steel plating and shit) and they were trying to come up with a band name – so they asked the asian cleaning lady and she said “JAHAI!”
That’s one version.
The other version is that the Jahai are a native tribe of nomadic shaman hunters in Malaysia. I think in a way all the dudes in this band are some version of nomads, shamans or hunters.  A few are all three.
 
4LN – Growing up, what bands would you say had the biggest impact on shaping your love of metal?
AD – My love of metal is a weird story. In fact, I think most metalheads have weird origin stories of how they eventually go from nursery rhymes to loving, say Cannibal Corpse (which incidentally, I began listening to because of their appearance in Ace Ventura)
In 1994, My mom worked for Time Warner and used to bring home boxes of CDs (Compact Discs, if you remember) and she would let me go through them and take what I wanted.  Well, I swiped the entire 27-volume Guitar Rock Time Life set (the one you could order on late night) and listened to every CD from the 60’s up to the late 80’s and was totally loving all the variations of music. I really developed a respect for generational rock.
 
In 1997, I was on a YMCA swim team. I was in the locker room and there were all these extra refrigerators and freezers that weren’t in use – like the sliding kind you get ice cream from. I looked inside one fridge and pulled out a frozen Metallica Black Album on cassette tape.  It was King Arthur finding Excalibur. I brought it home and played it immediately.  Life was never the same (talk about trapped under ice!)
 
The “metal switch” came about in 2000.  I had a friend tell me about Meshuggah’s Destroy Erase Improve, which I went and ordered from Sam Goody (R.I.P.) immediately.  Changed my life forever. I also was working in the stockroom at Barnes and Noble and met a couple dudes who introduced me to In Flames Clayman. Boom. Life changed forever – again. Now that I understood that Sweden was the answer to every musical question, I couldn’t turn back.  I had a radio show in college where practically all I would play was Swedish Death Metal.
4LN – In addition to being the vocalist for JAHAI, you also do PR for Dark Horse Comics. What Dark Horse books we should be reading right now?
AD – There are so many great books out on comic store shelves now, it’s kind of unreal… At Dark Horse I’m personally a fan of Cullen Bunn’s Harrow County (super creepy southern horror) and Ryan K Lindsay’s Negative Space (Suicide suspense story with some Lovecraft).  Paul Tobin’s Colder has been one of the best cerebral horror books I’ve read – and the last series begins in September.  And I should call out Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal’s The Paybacks – because it is damn funny and superhero’s getting their gadgets REPO’d is a hilarious premise. That one also begins September.
4LN – Finally, anything we should be on the lookout for from JAHAI in the next year or so?
AD – We’re headed to Seattle Hempfest this weekend to play in front of a couple thousand stoned metalheads – I think that will be pretty beneficial for us. There’s a a few local shows that are coming up with some national acts.  Following that we’re looking at a couple mini west coast tours.  And then we’re back in the studio to record our next EP…which hopefully will be released early next year.  And new EP means new tour…Good things come to those who wait.  Stay metal.

Album cover for JAHAI’s EP, “Death and Entrances”.

 

My thanks to Aub for chatting with us! Make sure to check out the band’s website, JAHAI.net, and watch their video for the song Pandora’s Box below!

4LN Movie Review – Straight Outta Compton

IMDB Film Summary: “In 1987, five young men, using brutally honest rhymes and hardcore beats, put their frustration and anger about life in the most dangerous place in America into the most powerful weapon they had: their music. Taking us back to where it all began, Straight Outta Compton tells the true story of how these cultural rebels-armed only with their lyrics, swagger, bravado and raw talent-stood up to the authorities that meant to keep them down and formed the world’s most dangerous group, N.W.A. And as they spoke the truth that no one had before and exposed life in the hood, their voice ignited a social revolution that is still reverberating today.”

I did not grow up around rap music. It just wasn’t apart of my little white, suburban upbringing. The most aware of rap I was as a child was the christian kind-of-rap group DC Talk. Well, they were “rap”-ish early on and that was when I first heard of them, so I’m gonna count it. I remember this one babysitter I had, her daughter was older than me and she was really into R&B and rap so sometimes I’d hear a TLC or Tupac song coming from her room but that wasn’t very often. It probably wasn’t until I discovered Outkast that I really became aware of real hip-hop and rap music. After that though, it became a pretty huge part of my life, in the sense that music in general is a really big part of my life. I even remember the first time I heard Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 album. I was at my friend Josh’s house and we played it over and over and over. I knew who Dre was, and that he was originally from NWA, but I really didn’t know the story of NWA. I eventually casually read up on them over time and learned more about who they were and what went on in their groundbreaking career, but Straight Outta Compton takes their story, all the ups and downs and insanity, and presents it in the best possible cinematic way.

First off, the casting for this film is flawless. Every single actor was perfect and there wasn’t one weak link, or phoned in performance in the entire movie. Especially Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr. playing him. It could have just as easily gone bad and even though he looked the part could’ve been a terrible actor, but he’s not. He’s actually a pretty amazing actor. Then there’s Dr. Dre, played by Corey Hawkins. Dre’s always been the unassuming force-to-be-reckoned-with in hip-hop and Hawkins makes you 100% believe that quiet wisdom that Dre is known for. Eazy-E is played by Jason Mitchell and I don’t think anyone else could’ve been as magnificent as he was. The film shows you sides of E that you never would’ve know existed, like how he was kind-of funny, and it’s all thanks to Mitchell’s performance that we get that.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention how brilliant Paul Giamatti was as the group’s manager Jerry Heller. I mean, Giamatti is a brilliant actor anyway, but his performance here was just so perfect. You get the sense that while Heller was doing some less than noble things with the groups money, he always genuinely cared for Eazy-E and only wanted the best for him. I don’t think anyone else could’ve accurately depicted that conflict of character.

The film is directed by F. Gary Gray, who also directed Friday, as well as movies like Law Abiding Citizen, The Italian Job, and Be Cool. There’s a visceral sincerity in Compton that he captures so brilliantly. It’s very different that anything he’s done in the past and, dare I say, may be the best movie he’s ever made. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Friday is, like, a classic, but this movie has everything. It’s honest, and funny, and heartbreaking, and intense at times. The film is about how the NWA guys all came together, and the opening of the film shows Eazy trying to get paid for some drug deals but the cops show up to raid the house. Watching him and the other people in the house scramble to get out made me so nervous and I wasn’t anticipating that at all.

F. Gary Gray is the gentleman pictured in the top row between Ice Cube and Dr. Dre

Ok, so this is the part I’ve kind of been eager to get to because I’d like to clear something up.

I think that there’s this misconception, mostly among stuffy old white people, that Straight Outta Compton is somehow a political response to all the racial unrest that we’ve become more aware of taking place across our country the last year or so. That is false. This movie is about NWA, and the men that were apart of it. Yes, there are parallels between what was going on in the U.S. at that time, the late 80’s/early 90’s and today, but Straight Outta Compton isn’t trying to make some statement about those similarities. If you think that, you are missing the point. Which is, these men made something of themselves in an era and culture that told them they’d never amount to anything. They overcame great social obstacles to achieve something they didn’t even necessarily intend to achieve… becoming the most groundbreaking rap group of all time. Without NWA and their fearlessness, it’s entirely possibly that modern rap and hip-hop music, as we know it, wouldn’t exist.

Straight Outta Compton is a damn-near flawless film. I found nothing to dislike about it, aside from some minor cinematography moments that, in my opinion, made those particular scenes a tad unbelievable film-wise, but never took away from the story’s credibility.

It’s currently the #1  movie in America and with good reason. Understandably, it isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you love hip-hop & rap music, or you just appreciate a really good underdog type story, then I highly recommend you see it.

Nerds in Bands: Josh Schwartz from A Sound of Thunder

The main reason for the “Nerds in Bands” series even existing is because I love both comics and music (especially metal) so much and I really wanted to find a way to combine the two here on 4 Letter Nerd. This newest entry of Nerds in Bands perfectly captures that sentiment, and I think you’ll see why…

Ladies and gentlemen, nerds and metalheads, I present to you my chat with Mr. Josh Schwartz, guitarist for epic metal band A Sound of Thunder. They’ve got something pretty damn cool coming up that you should check out!

4LN – Give us a little background on A Sound of Thunder and how you guys got started.
Josh Schwartz – The drummer Chris Haren and I met in a local cover band. We discovered we had a passion for the same kind of powerful, slightly proggy hard rock and metal and for writing original music, so we said goodbye to playing other people’s songs and started on our journey with A Sound of Thunder. Things didn’t really take off until our vocalist Nina Osegueda joined us in late 2009, and the final piece of the puzzle was when our bassist Jesse Keen joined in 2010.

4LN – What bands, would you say, have had the biggest influence on you guys?
JS – We all have different tastes, but I would say the two most influential bands and the two that all 4 of us love are Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. Nina, Jesse and I also share a major love of King Diamond, and the 4 of us have a growing appreciation for Rush, spurred on by our drummer Chris who is a Rush fanatic!

4LN – Your new project is a pretty epic one, especially for those of us who are Valiant Comics fans. It’s a concept album based on the series Shadowman. Can you tell us about that and how it came about?
JS – Nina and I are both comics fans, and like writing songs that tell stories, so doing something based on a comic book was a no-brainer for us. There was never a big plan to find a comic book publisher to partner with us though. We just walked up to Valiant’s booth at the Baltimore Comic Con in 2013, with no forethought or planning, and told them we liked their comics and would like to do some music about some of their characters. We were surprised that they said yes almost immediately, and from there things took on a life of their own!

4LN – The Kickstarter you guys put up has already almost doubled the amount of money you needed to make the album happen. Did you anticipate that big of a response?
JS – We expected the Kickstarter to do well, because our fans are extremely loyal and helped us fund the last two albums through Kickstarter too. But we didn’t expect this campaign to blow up so fast! It really has been amazing to see and we are all incredibly thankful to everyone who has backed the campaign and helped spread the word!

4LN – Let’s talk a little Valiant comics before I let you go. If someone came to you and was interested in getting into Valiant, where would you personally suggest that they start?
JS – My favorite Valiant character is Shadowman, but for another reader, I might suggest they start with Harbinger or X-O Manowar, because I think they had longer, more consistent runs and there is more to dive into there. Shadowman was great but is kind of broken up into two distinct, shorter runs, with quite a change of tone and direction in the middle.

4LN – Ok, last question… If you could craft a concept album around any other Valiant Comics character, who would you pick and why?
JS – I think Bloodshot or X-O Manowar would both translate well to metal concept albums, or maybe Harbinger for a more progressive, thoughtful album. But for our band, I think Eternal Warrior would be the next best fit. Shadowman was really perfect for us because it has elements of black magic, and of course the Deadside, which suggest some of the darker tonalities that we use, and the New Orleans setting which suggests blues and jazz influences which we already have in our music. But Eternal Warrior would be great for some epic battle metal! You could really cover a lot of ground, from ancient Mesopotamia all the way to 4001AD!

I want to say a big “thank you!” to Josh for taking the time to talk with me! If you’re a fan of bands like Mercyful Fate, Hammerfall, and Nightwish, then I strongly urge you all to check out A Sound of Thunder. If you’re a Valiant Comics fan, make sure to also go to their Kickstarter page and support what they’re doing!

Nerds In Bands: Young Fox

For this installment of Nerds In Bands, we had a chance to chat with Marty Lunn from the band Young Fox about D&D, Battlestar Galactica, and what Young Fox is currently up to. Enjoy!

4LN – So I hear that, among other things, you’re into World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Dragons, HeroScape, and Magic the Gathering. Would you say that you obsess over one of these more than the others?

Marty Lunn – Well Dungeons & Dragons and HeroScape are things I haven’t done in quite a while (though I did use a 10-sided die recently to put the numbers on my Super Bowl pool — nerds and sports is another story), and Warcraft has kinda been put on hold for a while until I can update my computer (she can no longer handle the awesomeness). Magic is what’s happening with me right now…and it’s not my doing! My gal and I have a small vintage/collectibles business that we do and we recently purchased an old lot of Magic cards. She said “we should play it sometime”…and Pandora’s box opened.

 

4LN – What advice would you give to someone who is interested in getting into some tabletop gaming but they’re not sure where to start? Tabletop gaming can be very intimidating for newbies.

Marty – Walking into a store that sells Magic cards during a “Friday Night Magic” tournament feels like your intruding into someone’s home. That being said, each player and store owner that I’ve talked to has been more than eager to give out tips and to help people get started. The folks that produce the game are very aware that the way to keep the game alive is to get new blood playing it, and they have decks and card bundles specifically made for this task. My advice? Get some cards…read a few rules…and play!

 

4LN – It was also mentioned to me that you love Battlestar Galactica. What do you think it is about BG that sets it apart for you from, say, Star Wars or Star Trek?

Marty – Two things make Battlestar Galactica special for me. The first is that it is not so much the story of spaceships and battle, but rather survival. It seems that all of the best shows deal with this in some way, be it Lost or The Walking Dead. What people will and can do to survive always makes for great watching. The second is that it is grounded to us. Earth is a very real thing in their world (or so they hope), and we are meant to feel connected to them in all ways save technology. It doesn’t hurt that the cast may be the finest ensemble ever assembled, and the writers can die knowing that they have their masterpiece (and let me not forget Bear McCreary’s amazing score). Watch it kids, you won’t be sorry!

 

4LN – I’d like to talk about your band, Young Fox, for a minute. How did you guys get started?

Marty – What became Young Fox started out as an idea of mine to do a band based on many of my favorite bands that, for some reason or another, never became household names (several of those bands have recently begun working together again for new music and tours, so I may have guessed right!). I was a fan of Luke and Chris’ band before Young Fox, so when that band dissolved, I invited them out for a drink to talk about starting something new. We began writing things a little over two years ago, and last summer released our first EP entitled Predecessors.

 

4LN – I listened to your EP, Predecessors, and I really enjoyed it. I feel like it has this straight-forward, non-pretentious, pure rock sound. Do you guys have a specific direction you focus on when writing songs, or do you try to just follow the music where it goes?

Marty – Well first, thank you for checking us out! The songs on Predecessors are frankly all over the place stylistically and lyrically. Many of the songs are ideas that were kicking around for quite a while, and Luke and I were still figuring out the dynamic of how to come together lyrically. I love each of the songs on Predecessors, but each has its own vibe for me.

 

4LN – Lastly Marty, what does 2015 have in store for Young Fox?

Marty – Well to continue my last statement, Young Fox is currently working on pre-production for our first full length record. Whereas our EP is a scattering of ideas, the full length will have a more concise sound sonically and lyrically. We plan on being ready to record sometime in June and and hopefully it will be out this fall. We also plan on doing many more shows this year than we have to this point, so please keep an eye out for us if we’re in your town!

 

I want to say a big THANK YOU to Marty for chatting with me! If you want to know more about Young Fox you can check them out at any of these links:

I’ll leave you with my favorite song from their Predecessors EP, called “A Diet of Worms”. There’s something about the structure of the song, and all it’s layers, that reminds me of early Muse. Enjoy!

Nerds in Bands: George Schmitz of Stick To Your Guns

I think, if I’m recalling correctly (it gets tough to do that when you become an elderly hardcore kid of… 30), that the first hardcore bands I got into were Stretch Arm Strong and No Innocent Victim. I grew up in a religious household so my rebellion consisted of listening to “Christian” hardcore and metal (I use quotations because I feel like neither of those bands would label themselves “Christian hardcore”). Eventually I would discover bands like Earth Crisis and Madball, and my taste is music has really never stopped evolving since.

I wanna say it was…like… 2007 or 2008, I went to a show at a local venue (that has now been closed for about 5 years) to see a couple of bands (I think it speaks volumes that I don’t remember the bands I actually went to see but I vividly remember STYG). One of the opening bands had a t-shirt that caught my eye.

I had to have it. But I didn’t really know the band… I decided that I’d watch their set and if I liked even one song I could justify buying it. I stood in the back with my arms crossed and Stick To Your Guns went on. By the end of their set I didn’t like one song. I liked ALL OF THEM. I was hooked. I bought the shirt (which, in all honesty, I lost almost immediately because I’m terrible with possessions), I bought a CD, I probably bought something else I don’t remember, and I became a STYG fan from then on. I’ve got every album, and I jam them all frequently.

Recently I heard the news that George Schmitz, the drummer for STYG, wrote and published his own comic. Well there was no way I couldn’t do SOMETHING on 4LN about it. I reached out to George in the off-chance that he’d be interested in letting me interview him about the book and (SUCCESS!) he enthusiastically agreed. Check out our chat below about how George got into comics, how his new book came to be, and what bands he thinks you should be listening to right now…

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4LN: When did you first get into comics?
George: I first started “reading” comics when I was in the 6th grade, but I was always ga ga about super heroes. Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman the Animated Series were my favorite things in the world when I was a kid. I remember going to the Warner Brothers retail stores when those were still a thing and losing my mind when my parents let me get some new toys (haha). So, superheroes were always a part of my childhood, but that first Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie really got me hooked. I was already going to my local comic book shop to compete in Pokemon tournaments, so I just started buying up back issues of Spider-Man while I was there.

Which would you say came first: your love of comics, or your love of music?
My love of music came first, but it was quickly followed by my love of superheroes and comics. When I was in middle school, I no joke had the conscious thought of “Man, one of these days I’m probably going to have to choose between the two of these hobbies if I want to make one of them work out.” I shortly thereafter fell out of comics for a little bit to focus more on the drums and being in bands, but that was VERY short lived (haha). I feel like everybody takes that break from comics, almost like it’s a rite of passage.

What specific comic writers and artists would you say you gravitate most to?
I am a sucker for a writer who is unapologetic about his/her love for a character and their mythos. That being said, it’s no wonder that Mark Waid and Kurt Busiek are my favorite writers. I love it when a writer can embrace what makes these characters and their worlds inherently special. I’m all for re-imaginings and some deconstructing, but I love watching superheroes BE SUPERHEROES.

You’ve just self-published your first comic, Diamond Lass. Can you tell us how that came to be, and what your inspiration was for writing it?
Diamond Lass was an idea that I had for quite some time now, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about it. Fortunately, my friend Caleb Goellner is an incredibly talented artist and has been making his own comics for some time now. Without Caleb, I’m not even sure if I would’ve been able to pull any of this off. He’s as much a part of it as I am!

As for the inspiration, it was a combination of ideas in comics that I wanted to explore, as well real life things that we experience while touring. It’s loosely tied into our band, but it functions on its on as well.

Have you always wanted to write comics or is that something you decided more recently to pursue?
I’ve always wanted to write, whether it be prose, screen plays, comics, etc, but it’s always been something that I’ve pursued casually.

Can we expect to see more of Diamond Lass in the future? Maybe in print, perhaps?
I actually have physical copies! I had them this last weekend at Emerald City Comic Con and I will be selling them on tour as well.

Lately, there have been many other musicians venturing out in the comic book world (Claudio Sanchez from Coheed & Cambria, Max Bemis from Say Anyrthing, and Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance, for example). Do you have any desire to turn comic book writing into a “career”, or at least to branch out and do more comic writing on a professional level?
I think it would be really cool. I have a long way to go as far as writing, but I am really enjoying myself now that I’ve gone through the whole process. Writing comics on a professional level would be the dream. Maybe one day!

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This next section is our lighting round. Just answer with the first thing that comes to mind…
What’s your current favorite comic series?
Mark Waid’s Daredevil is still my favorite book on the stands. Everything Jonathan Hickman’s been doing with Avengers and New Avengers has been nothing short of phenomenal. G Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel is absolutely delightful. Snyder’s Batman is incredible. All the big books coming out of Image: Bitch Planet, Sex Criminals, Black Science, Deadly Class, Low, Wicked and Divine. It’s an AMAZING time to be reading comics.

Doom, Duke Nukem, Wolfenstein… If you could only play one of these 3 video games for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Duke Nukem…..because that’s the only one of those games I’ve ever played (haha). I peaked at Mario 64 and never really got into games!

What new band should we all be listening to right now?
As far as hardcore goes: Discourse, Turnstile, Angel Dust, Code Orange.

For punk though: Rozwell Kid has been one of my new favorite bands! And Teenage Bottlerocket just put out a new record that everybody should buy!!!

Assuming she doesn’t, if Diamond Lass had a theme song, what would it be?
If Diamond Lass had a theme song, it would be the Propagandhi discography. She’s all about social justice and mental fortitude. But when she’s looking to relax, she’s listening to a heavy dosage of Tegan and Sara.

If given the opportunity, what established comic book character would you want to write?
Oof. That’s the million dollar question. I want to write a Plastic Man book! He’s so insane. I feel like he’s overlooked! How about Plastic Man teaming up with Metamorpho for some real wild adventures. That’s a bedfellow team that writes itself.

Last question, I know that you’re also a big wrestling fan and one of our other writers here, Bill, is as well. He wanted me to ask you how it felt to see your buddy Seth Rollins getting the belt and becoming the WWE Champ.
It’s so fucking cool!!!! I’m so stoked for him. I can’t wait to see how the story plays out.

Had a blast at #SummerSlam. Huge thanks to @wwerollins & @joshyg27 for the tickets!!!

A post shared by Stick To Your Guns (@stygoc) on

 

I want to thank George IMMENSELY for talking with me about Diamond Lass. If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself you can get it at a pay-what-you-want cost here: DIAMOND LASS.

I read it and loved it. If you have been in the hardcore scene at all then I think you’ll be able to appreciate, and even chuckle, at the nature of the story and how it plays out, as Diamond Lass confronts Slandering Sammy Simmons and his misguided arrogance. It’s funny, honest and self-aware. And it’s super easy to read, which is always nice. I highly recommend it.

Additionally, if you’re interested in checking out Stick To Your Guns’ new album “Disobedient” (which debuted last month on Billboard’s 200 Chart at #85 because it’s REALLY F–KING GOOD), you can find that here:

iTunes: http://hyperurl.co/Disobedient_iTunes
Google Play: http://hyperurl.co/Disobedient_Google

Nerds in Bands: Barren Womb

Welcome back! I hope you’ve had a chance to check out our first couple of Nerds in Bands interviews, but if you haven’t all you need to know is this a series where we interview people in bands who also happen to have a nerdy side.

For this installment of Nerds in Bands, I had a chance to chat with Timo Silvola, drummer for Norwegian band Barren Womb, about his love of comics, and their new album “The sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken”.

 

4LN: When did you first get into comics, and was there any specific issue or series that got you interested?
Timo: I’ve always been into comics. When I was a kid I used to scavenge secondhand bookshops for old Conan the Barbarian issues. One day I picked up a compilation album from a Norwegian comic publisher and it had a piece of Preacher in it. My mind was blown. Soon after I began working at the local comic book store and a new world opened up before me.

 

Do you have an all-time favorite issue?
Hmm. That’s a tough one. I’m a sucker for one-offs and although I’m not a Superman fan, I really enjoy Red Son. Instead of crashing down in Smallville USA, Superman grows up on a Soviet collective farm in the 1950’s. This results in a global communist superpower that is governed by Superman. Batman, my favorite superhero (due to his lack of any real superpowers) also has a different spin put on him. He is an anarchist saboteur who opposes Superman’s totalitarian regime. It’s a perfect mindfuck of an alternative course in history – both in comic and the real world.

 

Typically, comic readers will gravitate to certain writers and/or artists whose work they really enjoy. Which writers and artists do you feel most drawn to?
These writers certainly adorn many covers on my shelf: Moore, Jodorowsky, Ellis, Ennis, Miller, Loeb and Mignola. As for artists: Bolland, Mæbius, Gibbons, Miller, Mignola and Sale.

 

What’s your favorite ongoing series right now?
The Manhattan Projects is absolutely the best new thing I’ve read in a long time. Jonathan Hickman incorporates historical people and events into a crazy new story where nothing I love gets left behind. From aliens to the Illuminati, Einstein and quantum physics, killing nazis and the multiverse to exploring the mind. It’s like the comic equivalent of DMT.

 

Switching gears, let’s talk about your band, Barren Womb. How did you guys get started?
We met up in Tromsø with a band in mind which never took off. Moved to Trondheim around 2007 to start a three piece and from the ashes of that came Barren Womb.

 

You just released an album “The sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken” last year. Can you tell us a little bit about that project?
There’s something special about putting out the first full-length. For us it was a confirmation. We recorded it during a weekend in our rehearsal space and Tony mixed it. It felt like nothing could stop us from doing what we want. It received an overwhelming amount of good feedback. We’re really looking forward to the next one, it’ll blow your mind!

 

Finally, do you guys have any upcoming touring plans?
Oh yes sir. We’ll be touring the US East Coast with New Haven’s Grizzlor From March 21st to April 4th. Starting in Austin, TX at SXSW and ending up in New York, we’ll be promoting “The sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken” as well as our new split 7″ with Grizzlor. Later this year we’ll be releasing our second LP and touring accordingly.

 

I want to thank Timo for taking the time to talk with us. If you’re interested in checking out more from Barren Womb you can do so by going to any one, or all, of these links:

I spent quite a bit of time jamming “The sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken”, and I really love it. I think most people would say that Barren Womb has a vibe that would remind people of Every Time I Die or maybe even The Chariot (RIP), and they’d be right, but they actually reminded me of a band that I used to listen to about 15 years ago called Selfmindead (and I maintain that their album “At the Barricades We Fall” still holds up today among all the other late 90’s/early 00’s hardcore punk albums.) However, it wouldn’t be fair to label Barren Womb as any one specific genre. These dudes are all over the place (there are even some black metal elements, and I LOVE ME SOME BLACK METAL). I honestly feel like you just have to listen to their album all the way through in order to fully appreciate their sound. Just listening to a few track won’t give you an accurate comprehension of their versatility. Do yourself a favor and listen to “The sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken” as soon as possible.

4LN Music Review- Catch the Throne: The Mixtape, Vol. 2

Last year HBO dropped the Catch the Throne Mixtape, which was collection of hip-hop songs inspired by Game of Thrones. The album boasted hip-hop heavy hitters like Big Boi, Common, Wale and more. They made the 10-track album available for free and I remember really digging it. It was a fun concept. Take this epic show that people love so much and give it a hip-hop soundtrack. It makes sense if you think about it because Game of Thrones and hip-hop music are both servants to well-crafted linguistics. (Well, good hip-hop anyway. I won’t name names, but some hip-hop is superfluous garbage and it’s creators have every right to make it, but I also have every right to call them manufacturers rather than artists. That got a little off topic. Sorry.)

Anyway… I like hip-hop, so I was pleased with the Catch the Throne Mixtape. WELL GUESS WHAT?! They’re back!

Last week HBO dropped the Catch the Throne Mixtape Vol. II on iTunes, and once again they made it for free! However, this time around they made a little more eclectic, adding some electronic elements (MDNR), some Spanish jams (Yandel, Raquel Sofia), and my personal favorite… METAL! Oh, I should mention. I also like metal. Actually that’s an understatement. I f***ing LOVE heavy metal. And HBO went out and got a trio of some of best metal bands out there: Killswitch Engage, Mastodon, and Anthrax. (There’s also a track by the band Mushroomhead that most people would probably consider “metal” but I’m choosing not to comment on that song because…)

Killswitch and I go way back. All they way to their first album. I once saw them in a venue that held like 500 people and there were only about 40. It was nuts. A year later, they sold out that same place in minutes. They’re a band that rarely breaks new ground musically though. They mostly just do what it is they do REALLY well. And they do melodic heavy metal better than most other bands out there. Their track Loyalty is just that, a really fast, really melodic metal track that gets your blow flowing.

Mastodon is another band I go way back with. I’ve been a really big fan of theirs for years and they’ve proven themselves true artists by constantly evolving. They contribute the track White Walker and I swear to god(s) it reminded me of something that I could image Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds doing. It’s slow and kind-of creepy. I love it.

Finally, for our last metal section entry, we have Anthrax, heavy metal godfathers who bring the thunder. Their track, Soror Irrumator, hits your ears and like a sledgehammer and leaves you with musical blunt force trauma to the head. It riffs SOOOO hard.

Hey! Let’s talk about the hip-hop tracks now, shall we?! No? F*** you, we’re going to anyway.

The very first track, The Oath, is from Method Man and it sets the perfect pace for the album. It opens with Jon Snow reciting the Night Watchmen’s Oath and then goes into Method throwing down in that amazingly unique way that only he can.

The next hip-hop track on the album is called Never Back Down, and it’s from a dude named Ty Dolla Sign who’s been around for a few years and is just now starting to get some recognition for his talent. The track, and Ty in general I guess, reminds me a little of Future. Not that they’re exactly alike or anything, just similar sounding to me. Ultimately, Never Back Down has a polished depth to it that makes it inherently Game of Thrones-like.

On down the line a little we find a track from the almighty Snoop Dogg, called Lanister’s Anthem. What can I say… It’s f***ing Snoop Dogg. It’s a catchy, solid rap song, cause that’s what Snoop does. He throws out that laid back flow that makes you feel relaxed, and then he builds a killer track around it. Dude knows how to make people love his music, that’s for sure.

The last hip-hop track I want to mention is Lord of the Light by Talib Kweli. Ok, so Method Man’s style is incomparable, and Snoop is a damn legend, but Kweli… is a FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH. He has a focused energy that not many other rappers can match but, the thing is, he doesn’t have to always come out swinging for the fences because lyrically he SLAYS. This track is one of the major stand-outs for me.

There a few other hip-hop tracks that are sprinkled in with what I’ve already mentioned, plus there’s the Spanish-style tracks that I also alluded to, but another thing that’s really neat about the album is the heavy presence of female artists. There are 4 tracks that are contributions by women and I think that’s fitting and necessary due to how crucial women are to the plot and story in Game of Thrones. Honestly, I think on the Game of Thrones Mixtape Vol. III (*fingers crossed*) they could bump that number up. I mean, off the top of my head I can think of at least 10 female on Game of Thrones and the exact same amount of male characters so I feel like it’s not far-fetched that they could split the balance to an even 50/50 next time around. I guess we’ll find out.

All-in-all, the Game of Thrones Mixtape Vol. II is a great album with some really solid tracks that are sure to please any GoT fan because there’s something for everyone.

Check it out by clicking the link below, and let us know what tracks you like most!

Catch the Throne: The Mixtape, Vol.