Californian rapper Andrew Nielsen—alias MC Lars—is the architect of post-punk laptop rap. Lars was a visiting student at Corpus Christi between years at Stanford University and has returned to the town many times whilst touring.
His new album, This Gigantic Robot Kills, sees MC Lars maintaining his unique style of ‘nerdcore’ whilst also diversifying from his usual comedic rap.
Although he has moved from recording beats in his bedroom to laying them down in professional studios, his style of commenting on pop culture and life events in a knowing and amusing way has not changed.
Dan Gallacher caught up with him at his gig at Oxfords O2 Academy.
To readers who don’t know MC Lars, how would you describe your music?
It’s post-punk in that it takes the ideologies of bands like post-first generation punk bands who used different sounding music with DIY messages. It’s laptop rap because it’s hip-hop I do on my computer. I tell people it’s the Beastie Boys with a little Chemical Brothers and some ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.
You started your own record label, Horris Records, how much of a challenge has this been?
This Gigantic Robot Kills came out of a partnership with Horris Records and Oglio Records, under the guise of Jaret from Bowling for Soup’s new label Crappy Records. It was a challenge putting the album together but these guys helped me with the final tweaks and mixes. I’m all about giving away music for free, but with their involvement we are going the brick and mortar retail route and are kicking butt on both fronts. Bowling for Soup took me on tour in 2005 and are working on a new CD, staying in the pop-punk game. They are very great guys.
You’ve played in Japan, Australia and the UK. Do you worry some of your lyrics, like ‘Hyphy’, or ‘crunk’, get lost in translation?
People always ask us ‘what does hyphy mean?’ Crunk is pretty universal I’ve found, but there’s always that cultural clash when you bring up subcultures to different people. The Internet has kept everyone pretty much informed though, so the cultural divide has shrunk in the past few years.
BBC Radio 1 are celebrating thirty years since The Sugarhill Gang released ‘Rapper’s Delight’, which they see as the first ever Hip Hop track. Would you agree?
‘Rapper’s Delight’ was the first hit rap single, but the first rap song was ‘King Tim III (Personality Jock)’ by the Fatback Band, which came out a few months before ‘Rapper’s Delight’…but of course that Sugarhill song was the epic hit so Radio 1 is right to give it its proper respects.
Anyone who’s heard your music or seen some of the T-shirts you wear will know your weren’t a big fan of George Bush, how do you think Barack Obama’s doing after his first few months? Is Obama punk rock?
Obama is punk rock in that he’s a self made man. Bush was an example of old world politics and conservative ideologies. I guess we’ll have to see how Obama does, but I definitely voted for him and definitely believe in him.
You lived and studied in Oxford in 2003. What was your favourite Oxford haunt? Did you discover any hidden gems that the readers should check out?
My favorite places in Oxford to hang out were the Radcliffe Camera and the Cellar on Cornmarket Street. George and Danver was always awesome too!
A lyric in your new song ‘Hipster Girl’ states ‘Donnie Darko makes no sense’ yet my housemate tells everyone he understands it. Is he talking rubbish?
It’s a very complicated plot. If you’re willing to accept the fact that physics, logic and the linear progression of time can be changed however you want arbitrarily, then it makes sense. I just don’t like how Jake Gyllenhaal is so surly and dysfunctional.
And what’s next for MC Lars?
I’ve got an Australian tour, a US tour, then I’m back to the UK, and then hopefully will be getting to work on the new album!