Sometimes when we do our monthly Weird Band Poll, a band gets robbed. Any other month, they would have crushed it, but they had the bad luck to be up against someone super-popular, super-weird or possibly just super-unethical when it comes to repeat voting. (We try to prevent it, but let’s face it, this is the Internet we’re talking about. Most of you could probably use Bitcoin to buy blow and download a thousand Prince bootlegs right now if you weren’t such fine, upstanding citizens.) Such a band is Toxic Chicken, who narrowly lost out last month to Well Worn Boot. And while WWB totally deserved the win, TC gave them a run worthy of a belated Weird Band of the Week shout-out.
Toxic Chicken is the work of a Dutch guy named Kai Nobuko, who currently resides in Bangkok. When pressed for details on his backstory, Mr. Chicken obliged us with a rambling and highly entertaining bio, which we’ll attempt to condense here. Long story short: Like a lot of weird bands, the whole thing started as sort of a joke and now it’s his main gig. (Not unlike the story of this very blog, actually. But that’s a tale for another time.)
Kai wrote his first Toxic Chicken track as a joke submission for a music contest in the Netherlands. “It was a track I made by using the phonebook and calling random numbers,” he recalls. “Unfortunately the contest people liked it.” As a finalist, he had to come in and perform, so he hired a metal band and had them just stand around while he played a tape and made sandwiches for the audience.
After that, every Toxic Chicken performance was a little different, but always featured food in some way. Someone stole his synths early on so he mostly just performed on a laptop, occasionally making chicken noises into a megaphone “as that feels so good to get things out of the system.”
His only regret from that era? “I regret playing too much with chocolate because it is a pain to remove it between the tiny gaps of the keys of the craptop.” Preachin’ to the choir, buddy!
Here’s a sample track from those early days, called “You are my dog.” Yes, it’s a love song addressed to a dog. Try not to read too much into, OK? The guy in the song just really loves his dog. That’s all. Probably.
Eventually Toxic Chicken moved to London where, inspired by a punk-rock show, he decided to trash his laptop as part of a performance. “It was satisfying at the time but regretted it later because I lost a lot of music,” he admits now. These days he uses cheap laptops and backs up his files.
He also occasionally does songs with his sister under the name Jointriders, which are, if anything, even crazier than his Toxic Chicken stuff. Here’s a sample:
“Basically every gig was one disaster after another,” is how The Toxic One describes this period. Our favorite story from this phase involves a show in Belgium where he got a “nice guy called Hamtaro” to dress up in a chicken costume and perform his entire set “so I could hang at the bar and perhaps dance to show that it’s possible.”
Sometime after that, Toxic Chicken got heavily into the “lobit” scene, in which electronic musicians deliberately compress their music to make it easier to stream and download—and, if you’re into the bright, tinny quality of compressed music, sound better, too. “It makes everything sound better,” TC insists. “Even terrible noise sounds like pretty ambient in a lobit rate.” Lobit artists tend to post their music for free on sites like Archive.org and Toxic Chicken is no exception. Here’s an EP from 2010 called GIFKIP ORCHESTRA that’s actually quite lovely. I have to admit I was skeptical about the whole “things sound better in lobit” argument, but it’s really true that by compressing his synths, Kai’s able to make them sound more convincingly like a chamber orchestra than any Prophet or Roland synth I’ve ever heard on a major-label release.
When lobit artists release physical product, they tend to prefer “obsolete” technologies like cassettes and floppy discs. Toxic Chicken went one better in this department when he released an EP called Baby Boom Disk that came on a floppy disc wrapped in a dirty diaper. (For the squeamish among you, you can now listen to the EP poop-free on Bandcamp.) He also claims to have released a “floppy compilation” encased in recycled elephant shit and a project called Flop-Pee that’s just field recordings of his musician friends pissing. Those sound kind of made-up to us but with this guy, who knows?
Toxic Chicken’s crowning achievement in the lobit scene may have been when he and his sometime partner-in-crime Graham (who runs a label called Wrieuw Recordings, which just put out the latest TC release, an EP called My Cat) organized a lobit music festival that took place entirely online, even though all the festival info said it was taking place in Lobith, the Netherlands. Sure enough, some unwitting souls actually showed in Lobith looking for the music, not realizing that Kai and Graham were just broadcasting the whole thing from a hair salon in England.
We’ll leave you with one Toxic Chicken classic and one of his more recent works. First, the recent stuff: This is a track from the My Cat EP, another touching love song called “If you are my cat I will be your chicken.” As the kids used to say: It’s got a great beat and you can dance to it.
And finally, one of Toxic Chicken’s crowning achievements, from way back in 2007: “Biscuits With Jesus,” the best video you will ever see that features Hitler doing a puppet show.
For some performers, the weird is not something they rinse off after the show. Their weirdness runs soul-deep. Such a performer is this week’s artiste, Australia’s Kirin J. Callinan.
We first discovered Callinan through the Beggars Group, probably the closest thing us weirdos have to a major label. Among the Beggars Group’s many imprints is a newish label called Terrible Records, which also recently became home to rap provocateur and Weird List inductee Le1f. Who’da thunk our new favorite label would be co-founded by one of the guys from Grizzly Bear?
Anyway, Beggars sent out a press release a couple months back announcing Callinan as the opening act for fellow antipodean eccentric Connan Mockasin on an upcoming U.S. tour (dates below). So right away, we were intrigued. Then we read this, about a video he just shot in New York for YoursTru.ly: “Never one to bore, the video features Kirin getting interviewed whilst being massaged (a non-negotiable requirement of his interview policy).” So now we were really intrigued. Non-negotiable massages? Who is this guy?
Sure enough, in the YoursTru.ly video, there’s Callinan, getting worked over on a massage table as he talks about his childhood (“My parents would offer me two dollars for any report that didn’t say ‘easily distracted’; I don’t think they ever gave me any money”). Then he goes into an awkward yet oddly compelling solo piano performance of a song called “Victoria M.” Before you watch the YoursTru.ly video, I recommend starting with the original:
That’s the campiest of Callinan’s videos, but it’s far from the weirdest. That honor probably goes to “Way to War,” a flickering, mostly black-and-white video in which a series of disturbing tableaux appear to be seen through a broken View-Master. It won something called the J Award in Australia for Best Music Video in 2012.
As you can probably tell from those two tracks, Callinan’s style is pretty eclectic. But they really only hint at the range of his 2013 debut album, Embracism. Over the course of 10 tracks, he tackles everything from minimalist electronic noise to stately, Leonard Cohen-esque hymns to turgid, quasi-industrial freakouts like the amazing “Come On USA,” which somehow manages to name-check Springsteen while still sounding like Ministry. Vocally, his rubbery baritone owes a lot to avant-garde singer-songwriter Scott Walker; in an interview with V Magazine, he admitted that it wasn’t until he heard Walker that became confident in his own singing abilities. “It’s over the top and ridiculous,” he says of his own singing. But hearing Walker, he told V, “validated, in a sense, that vision I had of my own voice. I wasn’t ready for anyone to hear it before.”
Callinan’s music is so compelling he almost doesn’t need a backstory, but we’ll give you a brief one anyway: He got his start as the guitarist in a surprisingly conventional post-punk band called Mercy Arms, but quit over creative differences with the band’s singer. He briefly did improvisational tribal/ambient rock with a loose collective of musicians called Fashion Launches Rocket Launches, but apparently the collective was too loose to stay together long. In the same interview with V Magazine, he says his solo career started after the end of a long relationship, which might explain the raw-nerve quality of his music.
Most descriptions of Callinan’s live shows seem to focus on how he likes to get naked, or at least strip down to his skivvies. But based on the few good clips we’ve been able to find online, these descriptions seem to overstate Callinan’s nudist tendencies. Yes, there’s something overtly sexual about Callinan’s music and stage presence, but there’s also a lot of humor, goofy charm and a genuinely innocent quality, too. He might just be taking his clothes off because it gets hot up there. Or he wants to feel free. Anyone who finds his bare skin either confrontational or vulnerable might be projecting a bit.
We’ll leave you with Callinan’s most recent video, for one of Embracism‘s loveliest songs, “Landslide.” It’s actually an incredibly simple setup, but the effect, combined with Kirin’s aching baritone, is pretty disconcerting, no?
Kirin J. Callinan’s U.S. tour dates (all with Connan Mockasin):
4/28 Washington, DC – Rock and Roll Hotel
4/29 Philadelphia, PA – Boot & Saddle
4/30 Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
5/1 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
5/2 Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall Of Williamsburg
5/4 Montreal, QUE – Cabaret Mile End
5/5 Toronto, ONT – Lee’s Palace
5/7 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle
5/11 Seattle, WA – Barboza
5/12 Vancouver, BC – Electric Owl
5/13 Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
5/15 San Francisco, CA – Independent
5/16 Los Angeles, CA – Echoplex
Lots of bands make use of toy instruments, but apart from our old “toytronica” friend Twink, we’ve never met anyone more committed to toying around than Igor Krutogolov. His 10-piece group plays all of their music exclusively on stuff aimed at the six-and-under set: toy guitars, toy drum kits, toy clarinets, teeny little accordions and xylophones and glockenspiels and things that squeak when you squeeze them. All of which sounds adorable, right? Except they somehow manage to twist those instruments into infectious but slightly menacing grooves with hints of punk, jazz, klezmer and even metal, over which Krutogolov groans and growls like an old blues singer with lungs full of cigarettes. It’s like a Tom Waits concert broke out at Toys “R” Us.
Krutogolov’s band, alternately referred to as the Karate Band or the Toy Orchestra, is based in Israel and released their first album, Children 4 Muzik, back in 2005. Then they went on a long hiatus so Krutogolov could focus on other projects, including his equally weird avant-klezmer band, Kruzenshtern i Parohod. But the toys kept calling to him, so this year he’s brought the Karate Band/Toy Orchestra back with a brand-new album, How to Be a Crocodile.
The music on How to Be a Crocodile is so much fun we can hardly stand it: playful, dark, funny, funky and nasty-sounding in a way that totally defies its toy instrumentation. Here’s a video from one of the album’s recording sessions, for the song “Mad Medow.” Sounds like the best cartoon villain theme song ever, doesn’t it?
And here’s a recent live performance of the Crocodile track “Skeleton Dance,” which bears little resemblance to the Carl Stalling music from the old Disney cartoon:
- Igor Krutogolov’s Karate Band (Toy Orchestra) on Facebook
- How to Be a Crocodile on Bandcamp
- Kruzenshtern i Parohod official site
- Auris Media Records (label for all of Krutogolov’s various projects)
I know a lot of you foreign types read this blog, so let me explain something. Here in America, we have this thing every year called “March Madness” where suddenly everyone is expected to care about college basketball. It’s a tournament and the team that wins gets to bone every chick at the losing team’s school…at least I assume that’s what happens, because there’s no other explanation for why everyone gets so fucking excited about it.
Anyway, around here we had our own little version of March Madness with our latest Weird Band Poll, and the band that gets to cut down the net (look it up) is a little combo from Upstate New York called Well Worn Boot. I am excited about this because I grew up in that part of the world and these guys represent my favorite part of Upstate, which is the white trash part. They’re from Buffalo but they may as well be from Pigfuck, Arkansas. Except they’re probably a little too weird for that.
Well Worn Boot’s lead singer is a flute-playing hillbilly named The Plainsman. Their guitarist is a horse called Horse. Their bass player is a big baby called Baby Buckingham. Their drummer is a dead guy named Billy Klubb who, for reasons no one can explain, wears a tiny cow-colored top hat. They play music that has been described as “Johnny Cash meets Captain Beefheart,” and yes, it is very nearly as awesome as that sounds. Especially when The Plainsman lets rip with a flute solo. Then they’re like a cowpunk Jethro Tull.
They release comic books with their EPs, which chronicle the adventures of Well Worn Boot like they’re a bunch of drunken Upstate superheroes. The first comic/EP was called Fully Torqued and you can preview it here. The next one comes out next month and will be called Boot in Space. I assume it’ll be set in space but from what I know so far about these guys, it might just be set in Billy Klubb’s basement and guest star a nitrous tank.
Oh and they also have their own festival. It’s called the Wild Wild Fest and it’s happening this year Aug. 29-30 at the Willow Creek Winery in Silver Creek, NY. I’m usually more of a beer and bourbon guy, but I’ll drink whatever that place is pouring.
We’ll leave you with the video from “Drunk on the Highway,” which is pretty typical of the WWB catalog in that it features aliens, drinking and sex. Not necessarily in that order.
Actually, hold up. That one didn’t have enough flute in it. So here’s another one.
If this blog were a game of street hockey, FCKN BSTRDS would be the fat kid from the end of the block who showed up in full pads and started checking all the other kids into the pavement, screaming the whole time, “You want a piece of me? YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME???” They’re scary weird…intimidatingly weird. I’m not sure if people get physically hurt at a FCKN BSTRDS show, but I’m positive there’s some emotion scarring.
FCKN BSTRDS are from the Netherlands and have been around since at least the late ’90s. They’ve put out a bunch of singles, cassettes and DVDs over the years, but the best way to experience the BSTRDS is through their live shows, which are as close to total anarchy as anything we’ve seen this side of Caroliner or Crash Worship. Dressed up like giant trash monsters, they generate a wall of feedback, noise and primal screams, then run around like lunatics, dry-humping objects, audience members and each other, tossing trash everywhere, and basically reducing the performance space unlucky to have them to a rainbow-colored pig sty. It looks amazing.
The leader of these self-described “misfits from the margins of the Dutch music scene” is a guy named Peter Zincken, who’s been part of the Dutch noise scene since the ’80s. His other projects include Odal and Dr. Bibber, which you should not bother Googling because most Odal results will lead you to a German pagan black metal band (not him) and the Dutch version of the game Operation (still not him). Dude doesn’t have a big digital footprint, as the NSA spies like to say.
We did manage to find this four-minute documentary about Zincken. It’s all in Dutch, but it has some great clips of his old solo Dr. Bibber performances, which are basically the MTV Unplugged version of FCKN BSTRDS. Even minus the costumes and the feedback, he’s still more abrasive than a pair of steel wool boxer shorts.
It’s kind of pointless for me to even attempt further description of a FCKN BSTRDS show, so I’ll just let you view the carnage for yourself. Warning: May contain major dick-wagging.
You might think that such insanity would not work in the harsh light of day, but you’d be wrong. It is daylight that is no match for the awesome power of the FCKN BSTRDS. Behold:
P.S. Shout-out to readers to Blaffie and Steven for suggesting these guys.
[Note: In a crazy and sad coincidence, Monks singer/guitarist Gary Burger died just two days after we wrote this post. You can read more about his passing here.]
We’re gonna take a little trip in the Weird Band Wayback Machine this week. It’s 1965 and we’re in Hamburg, Germany. On the infamous Reeperbahn, at a club called the Top Ten, where The Beatles had been the house band four years earlier, a group called The Monks are pounding out original, primitive rock songs wearing matching black outfits with ropes in place of ties. They’ve even all shaved the tops of their heads in the style of monastic tonsures. Their music sounds like nothing else of its time; raw and rhythmic, almost entirely devoid of melody, with shouted, nonsensical lyrics (except the parts about Vietnam, which probably would’ve sounded nonsensical to most Germans in 1965).
Where the hell could such a group have come from, you might ask? Well, it turns out they were a product of the American military. They began playing in local clubs while they were still enlisted men, calling themselves the Torquays and performing a fairly standard house-band repertoire of Chuck Berry tunes, surf-rock instrumentals and early British Invasion stuff. It wasn’t until after they were discharged that they took a turn for the weird. The new name The Monks came first; the shaved heads happened later, on a whim. But the original music, even though it sounded like cacophony to most listeners back in the day, was all the result of careful experimentation and hours of playing live together.
“It probably took us a year to get the sound right,” said lead singer/guitarist Gary Burger, in an excellent history by Will Bedard on the band’s website. “We experimented all the time. A lot of the experiments were total failures and some of the songs we worked on were terrible. But the ones we kept felt like they had something special to them.”
Among their many unconventional moves was replacing Dave Day’s rhythm guitar with the harsher twang of a six-string banjo. They also did away almost entirely with high-hats and cymbals and were one of the first bands to experiment with the deliberate use of feedback. All of it was intended to produce a sound as raw, primal and grating as possible. And judging from their one and only full-length album, 1966′s Black Monk Time, they succeeded.
Originally released on then-German label Polydor Records, and never distributed in the U.S., Black Monk Time has since gone on to become one of those records that collectors will fight over like coyotes over a chicken bone. Until it was finally reissued in the ’90s, it reportedly sold for nearly $1,000; these days, an original pressing in good condition can still be worth as much as $600.
Like many bands ahead of their time, The Monks weren’t built to last. They followed up Black Monk Time with a pair of singles, the novelty tune “Cuckoo” and a throwaway attempt at writing a saccharine pop hit, “Love Can Tame the Wild.” But by 1967, the group was done, torn apart by internal tensions, frustration over their lack of commercial success, and the strain of non-stop touring.
Since ’99, the group has played a handful of reunion shows and been the subject of a documentary film, 2006′s Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback, which you can watch in its entirety (in German) on YouTube. They’ve also released one “lost” track, an early demo called “Pretty Suzanne” which was included in the latest reissue of Black Monk Time on Light in the Attic Records. (Another Light in the Attic release, The Early Years: 1964-1965, contains demo versions of songs that would later appear on Black Monk Time, as well as two songs the band recorded as The Torquays, “Boys Are Boys” and “There She Walks.”) But they’ve stopped short of recording any new music, which is probably just as well. It would be impossible to recapture the energy of those early records, especially since the deaths of drummer Roger Johnston in 2004 and banjoist Dave Day in 2008.
Amazingly, there’s a ton of archival footage of The Monks performing, mostly from German television. We’ll leave you with a couple: “Monk Chant,” which features an amazing guitar-feedback freakout that predates Hendrix at Monterey Pop by a year; and “Complication,” which was, improbably, the lead single off Black Monk Time. Those ’60s German teenagers are trying their darnedest to dance to this stuff, but sadly, nobody had invented mosh pits yet.
P.S. Thanks to readers Alex and Twufee the Wondermoose for suggesting these guys to us many moons ago. Told ya we’d write about them eventually, guys.
God bless Die Antwoord. If those crazy South Africans hadn’t pointed the way with their over-the-top rap-rave anthems and even more over-the-top music videos, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have the Polish “Slavschool” hip-hop of Donatan and we definitely wouldn’t have the Russian rap-rave anthems of Little Big, who are basically Die Antwoord after too much vodka.
On one level, Little Big resembles Die Antwoord so much that they almost seem derivative. Their music is glitchy and uptempo; their videos are grotesque, absurb and occasionally shocking; their lead singer is a skinny tattooed dude who used to be a hip-hop-loving performance artist. (Die Antwoord’s Ninja, aka Waddy Jones, got his start doing more high-brow, satirical with projects like Max Normal; Little Big’s Ilya Prusikin honed his mic skills doing raps dressed up as Josef Stalin.) Even Little Big’s two midget members, Olympia Ivleva and Anna Kast, are reminiscent of Leon Botha, the late Die Antwoord collaborator with progeria syndrome—although that’s probably a totally unfair comparison because for all I know, Kast and Ivleva are integral singers/songwriters/producers in Little Big who just happen to be little people.
And yet, for all the obvious indebtedness to Die Antwoord—and, I suspect, to the videos of Donatan—there’s something about Little Big that is thrillingly original, too. Their hyper-kinetic videos are especially addictive, recasting the stereotypical images of Russian culture—the folk dancers, the vodka, the tracksuit-clad hooligans, the drab, Cold War-era military uniforms, even a balaclava nod to Pussy Riot—as the ghetto-fabulous trappings of a non-stop dance party. And even though their music is almost entirely electronic, there’s a manic, gypsy-punk energy to it. They’re like a raver version of Gogol Bordello, especially on their most popular track, “Everyday I’m Drinking”:
And if you thought that was a wild ride, get a load of “Life in da Trash,” in which a junkyard doubling as a zombie prison camp turns into an apocalyptic dance party and, judging from some heavy-handed title cards, a metaphor for modern life. Prusikin told Vice UK that he’s also a big fan of Cannibal Corpse, which makes total sense after you watch this.
Little Big have an album coming out later this month—their first, I believe. They have a pair of album release shows coming up in St. Petersburg and Moscow and just released a new video earlier today to promote them. It’s called “With Russia From Love” and it gives me oddly amorous feelings towards goats. And makes me want to dance like a Cossack on meth.
P.S. Huge thanks to reader Vass for introducing us to these guys. You made our week, Vass!
I hate the English. When they aren’t busy playing our super-villains or dominating our television, they’re beating the competition in our monthly Weird Band Polls. Three of the last five polls have now been won by Brits, with Ipswich’s Gout Pony claiming the latest victory. How can a tiny nation of tea-drinkers kick so much ass?
Anyhow, Gout Pony have been together about three years or so and describe themselves as half “brilliant, budding musicians, half bearded, bedraggled tramps.” They call their music “trampcore,” so they must really like the word “tramp.”
Their lead singer is a gentleman by the name of Adam Whybray, aka Generation Y Bray. He has a blog called Cage Wisdom that’s mostly reviews of Nicolas Cage movies, and I’m only telling you that because we don’t know very much about these guys and this post would only be about 50 words long if I didn’t throw in a few random factoids. Here’s another one: When we first contacted Adam about Gout Pony being in the poll, he sent us this photo with the comment, “Here is a picture of the only attraction in Ipswich.” Maybe so, but what an awesome attraction.
The rest of Gout Pony is made up of The Saddest Thing (guitars, keys), The Nation (woodwinds, keys, stylophone…and no, I didn’t know what a stylophone was either, but I guess it’s this thing), and Timerous Ham (drums, Theremin). I’m not sure which ones are the brilliant musicians and which are the bedraggled tramps. Actually, after listening to their music, I’m pretty sure they’re all just bedraggled tramps. But hey, that’s OK. Some of our favorite weird musicians were bedraggled tramps, too.
Gout Pony have released one album, an eight-track collection available on Bandcamp called A Family Gouting. It’s all pretty weird, but I think this track captures them at their Goutiest.
They also do a mean cover of “Smart Girls,” from Brian Wilson’s unjustly overlooked hip-hop period:
So congrats on winning the poll, Gout Pony. And don’t worry, we were totally kidding about hating the English. Except One Direction. Fuck those little punks.
Thank Christ for Google Translator, because otherwise I would have nothing to tell you about this week’s band. They’re a “performance collective” from Germany…and I guess “performance collective” is German for “crazy art freaks making deliberately stupid techno” because that’s what these guys do. They make bad techno and sing over it like a bunch of people pretending to be retarded, as if to say, “Look how retarded this music is!”
Then they shoot videos that are even weirder and dumber than the music. In this one, a bunch of white girls strut around trying to look hard while eating candy bars in front of a gas station. In this one, a nerdy guy masturbates slowly and tenderly to a bad painting. In this one, two of the collective’s members, Tutenchamun and Maike Schönfeld, just dance like idiots in various public places.
They seem to release a new video every month or so. In their latest one, released just last week, a girl dances on a chair for four minutes while a fat biker dude flips off the camera and opens his mail. I know that sounds incredibly stupid, and it is, but the video is fucking great. Trying to describe a HGich.T video is like trying to explain to your wife that the funniest thing you’ve ever seen in your life was when your best friend in college spontaneously moonwalked across an entire frathouse basement because he was trying not to puke on his shoes. It was the funniest thing you’ve ever seen but…you just had to see it.
One of the best things about binge-watching HGich.T videos is all the recurring characters you can follow. There’s the obvious star of the show, Tutenchamun, who’s like a German parody of that douchebag from The Prodigy, if said douchebag had forgotten to take off his yellow safety vest after ditching his picking-up-trash-by-the-highway community service stint. There’s Dr. Diamond, who seems to spend a lot of time hanging out in his room and having arguments with his mother. There’s
Pussy Cat Diddel, who wears cat mouse makeup. And of course there’s my personal favorite, Dietrich Kuhlbrodt, aka Opa16, the group’s creepy old man in residence. I have a soft spot for creepy old men, being only a few years away from becoming one myself.
The video they’re most famous for is “Tutenchamun,” sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Goa Goa MPU” (we had this totally backwards, and also failed to realize that Diddel was supposed to be a mouse, until reader Iesus set us straight—thanks, Iesus!). In it, Tutenchamun rides around with Maike on a motorbike with broken shocks and tells a long, increasingly surreal story about getting pulled over by a cop, played by the least cop-like man in all of Germany, Dr. Diamond. Like all HGich.T videos, it’s incredibly stupid and you might not be able to stop watching.
So I think we can all agree that from here on out, anytime anyone tries to tell a long, rambling story about how fucking hard they partied last night, we’re going to say “Ja?” every five seconds in a bored monotone until they stop. Right? Ja?
As great as “Goa Goa MPU” is, the HGich.T clip that’s my favorite so far…and I say “so far” because they have like 60 some odd videos and I never quite got baked enough to watch every single one…is “die letzten titten von betlehem.” This one has everything: Drugs, vandalism, jailbait, wasteful use of toilet paper, an oddly creepy sequence in which a dude terrorizes a girl with a Sharpie. It’s like a German rave meets a scared-straight after-school special meets a Fellini film. Plus the track fucking goes off.
So anyway…next time I go out dancing, I really hope the DJ plays a HGich.T track so I can storm into the ladies’ bathroom and do my best Tutenchamun impersonation. I am so getting laid with that action.
Just because Macklemore sang “Same Love” at the Grammys (more on him in a minute), don’t think that hip-hop in 2014 isn’t still rife with homophobia. But a handful of ballsy performers are starting to change that—none ballsier, or weirder, than Mr. Khalif Diouf, better known as Le1f.
Le1f (pronounced “Leaf”) first made his name as a producer, making beats for fellow oddball New York rap duo Das Racist. You know that annoying/awesome song “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell“? That’s a Le1f joint. Even then, Le1f was already subverting hip-hop culture; he borrowed the track’s start-stop rhythm from “The Ha Dance,” a gay house anthem from the early ’90s, when the “vogue” scene made famous by Madonna was in full swing. “I was tricking them into rapping over a vogue beat,” Le1f gleefully bragged to Spin.
But punking his straight friends was the least of Le1f’s tricks. In April of 2012, he released his debut mixtape, a 21-track head trip of a record called Dark York. What immediately jumped out at most fans and critics—maybe because Le1f prefers to keep his vocals tantalizingly buried in the mix—was not the rapper’s out-and-proud lyrics, but his polyamorous relationship with genres. Dark York knocks boots with everything from dark electro and experimental beat music to the menacing, trunk-rattling sounds of the Dirty South—all of it tied together by Le1f’s syrupy flow and a vaguely stoned, psychedelic quality, as if all the music is coming at you through a bong-smoke haze. Or maybe it’s bathhouse steam?
Then came the videos. Starting with “Wut,” Le1f has created a visual style all his own, patched together from gay club culture, avant-garde modern dance (he has a degree in dance from Wesleyan University—my alma mater! holla!), neon-colored hipster fashion, and a dash of Pokemon. It’s playful, eye-popping and will probably make the most hetero among you extremely uncomfortable.
Side note about “Wut” and the aforementioned Mr. Macklemore: When Macklemore won at the MTV Video Music Awards last year for his pro-gay marriage anthem “Same Love,” Le1f launched into a tirade on Twitter, accusing the straight white rapper of cynically co-opting gay pride and style-biting the horn-driven hook on “Wut” for his other big hit, “Thrift Shop.” “[T]hat time that straight white dude ripped off my song then made a video about gay interracial love and made a million dollars,” one of the tweets read. “Wut” is hardly the first time anyone built a rap beat around a saxophone loop, but the timing is more than a little suspicious; “Thrift Shop” came out a little over a month after the video for “Wut” showed up on YouTube, and the similarities are hard to miss. But that’s way more space than Macklemore deserves in any post on this blog, so let’s move on.
Since the release of Dark York, Le1f has been on a tear, churning out EPs and mixtapes that seem to get better (and weirder) every time. He’s also created a live persona that’s a mesmerizing combination of hip-hop aggression and ball culture camp. And he has fantastic hair. (Watch until about the 5:30 mark; that’s when he really starts putting Willow Smith to shame.)
We’ll leave you with what is probably Le1f’s weirdest and/or sexiest (depending on what you’re into) video to date: “Soda,” from a 2012 collaborative EP with producer Boody called Liquid. Oh, and an important disclaimer: We are not making Le1f our Weird
Band Rapper of the Week because he’s gay. Thankfully, being a gay rapper is not as weird as it used to be, and there are plenty of examples of other hip-hop artists, from Big Freedia to Mykki Blanco* to Brooke Candy, making music that probably seems—to straight audiences, anyway—just as weird as Le1f’s. But he gets our vote because ultimately, even if you took Le1f’s sexual orientation out of the picture entirely, his music would still be weird. And we mean that, as we always do, in the best possible way.
*OK, yeah, Mykki Blanco deserves a spot on the Weird List, too. She’ll show up here eventually. Promise.