CREATIVE DIFFERENCES WITH MIKAL KHILL


If you know me, then you know that I like music.

Music is a big part of my life, always has been.

In fact, back when I was just fifteen years of age (after having played the saxophone in the school band for the previous four years) I convinced my parents pay for drum lessons. Later that year, I even convinced them to buy me a set. It was cheap, and the cymbals bent the first time I hit them, but I played quite a number of live gigs on that old set before the upgrade.

From that point on I was was dead set on making a career out of music, a career that lasted about 15 years.

Though I put away my sticks some time ago, there isn't much I can do without music. Be it writing, driving, mowing the lawn, or washing the dishes, I need music to get me there.

I may no longer be up on what is considered "in" these days, but that hasn't stopped me from discovering new music.

A few years back, being the colossal geek that I am, I ran across a little something called Nerdcore Hiphop. This is music made by men and women who love all the same kinds of stuff that I do, and they rap about it.

One such person is Mikal kHill who describes himself on his Bandcamp profile thusly:

I make nerdcore rap about videogames, zombies, and feeling bad.

Co-creator of the Browncoats Mixtape & Slytherin Mixtape with Adam WarRock. 1/4th of NOFRIENDS. Founder of the ThoughtCriminals.

I'm a big fan. In fact, you can read my thoughts on one of his latest, Human Disaster, right here - http://www.steevenorrelse.com/2016/11/why-i-love-human-disaster-by-mikal-khill.html




NOTE: The following interview was done entirely through email.

STEEVEN R. ORR: How did you get into making your own music?

MIKAL KHILL: My dad was in bands when I was a kid, mostly metal bands. I used to go with him to some of their rehearsals at times and music was just always around... My parents were interested in art of a lot of different kinds, so I was always interested in art as a whole. I started writing lyrics before I was even a teenager. Even then they were largely rap lyrics.



SRO: Why rap?

MK: Hiphop always spoke to me. I grew up well below the poverty line and hiphop was largely music speaking about struggle and that spoke to me in a very real way when we were constantly getting evicted or living with no power in the house because my parents couldn't afford to keep the lights on.



SRO: I discovered your music through Adam WarRock who was a nerdcore rapper. Do you consider your music nerdcore?

MK: Well, something to be clear about is... nerdcore is more of a scene. I dunno how [MC] Frontalot thought about it when he originally coined that term, but I do think that really nerdcore is a scene more than a genre. There is very little connecting a lot of us in terms of sound (there are even nerdcore rock groups) but I think that in generally it's more of a music scene. It's a local scene, but our location is the internet.

My fans call me nerdcore so I am nerdcore. You don't really get to pick what folks think you sound like.



SRO: The one thing that I appreciate about nerdcore, other than the subject matter, is that you all seem very supportive of each other. In fact, you all are on each others' songs. With what I have to assume most of you being spread out around the country, how does that work? I'm guessing there's a lot of file sharing involved?

MK: I think that comes with nerdcore being a scene. As people meet each other and become friends, it just becomes natural to want to make something together. With a lot of my closest collaborators, we get on some sort of video chat (google hangouts or skype or whatever) and we write in a google doc and just all work at the same time. I find that to be really fun.



SRO: I've heard you referred to as the King of the Sad Rap. Do you find your music to be a form of therapy for you?

MK: You know, I have never really thought about if KidDEAD was talking about me or himself when he said that at the begining of that song... haha. I think music is a compulsion for me more than therapy. It certainly helps keep me balanced but creating is almost like an addiction.



SRO: Do you record everything from home, or do you use a studio?

MK: I've recorded with some very expensive equipment in other people's home studios, but I have never even been in a brick-and-mortar professional studio.



SRO: Who are your influences?

MK: Elliott Smith, The Beatles, Dan the Automator, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Sebadoh, Rza, Gza, DJ Muggs, B-Real, Weezer's first two albums, Black Sabbath's first four albums, Cake, Hayden, Beck, DJ Shadow's first two albums, Pete Rock, Sole... George Romero... Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell... uh... Stephen King... haha. It's hard to know where to stop, and there are definitely many things I'm forgetting. There's no one artist that's central to influencing A TON about my sound, but there are tons of varying types of artists who influenced very specific elements.



SRO: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

MK: A Ghostbuster, a super-powerful businessman or a writer. Or possibly some combination of the three.


SRO: What are you most proud of, creatively?

MK: My children. lol. No, but seriously, probably my last two albums (The Snuggle is REAL and Human Disaster), which I generally think of as one album.



SRO: Where do you write?

MK: Everywhere. I don't have a set place. My studio is in my basement, which is basically a semi-finished basement so it's like a really big second livingroom with a fireplace and tv and game consoles, etc, so that's where I spend the most time writing music or playing instruments but lyrics just pop in my head wherever and I jot them down if I think of them.



SRO: When are you at your most creative? First thing in the morning, late at night, middle of the afternoon?

MK: Honestly, there's no set time. When music was ALL I did I used to give myself a work schedule and I'd work from 9 to 5, so that I could balance my worklife with spending time with the wife and kids... given the option I used to work from the time I woke up until I went to bed, but that is honestly not a healthy way to live your life and I had to stop myself from doing that.



SRO: You have a day job, you're married (I assume), you have kids, and you make music. How do you balance it all?

MK: Yeah, I'm married with two kids and I'm a System Administrator. I generally just have the attitude "make time or make nothing," and I just make time wherever I can, and try to work whenever inspiration works.



SRO: If given the choice, who would you love to collaborate with that you've never worked with before?

MK: The only honest answer to this is probably Dan the Automator. I don't really actively care about working with artists I don't know for the most part, though, I just want to make more art with my friends, so I could say I'd like to make a record with my wife more than I want to make a record with anyone else, to be honest, but we already worked together on a Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover, so she's not an answer that works, I guess. But to borrow and paraphrase something Brother Ali said, "strangers don't know how your heart sounds."



SRO: What are you reading, what are you watching, and what are you listening to?

MK: I spend so much time creating art that I spend way less time than I care to admit consuming other people's art (and I spend a ton of time actually listening to my friends records just because it feels weirdly like we're hanging out? haha), and a huge part of my art time is gaming because it is also the main way I can socialize with my friends that live in other places, like Tribe One, Sulfur & WarRock.

That said, I'm reading the Hyperbole & A Half book, which if you've heard my music probably... makes sense. I'm watching a bunch of anime with my daughter and wife, that's like a nightly thing for us (though I kind of avoid television by accident, I only watch one or two shows at a time).

We just finished rewatching Big O (I published my review recently with HorrorGeekLife.com), which is one of my favorite shows, and I'm looking forward to rewatching the bizarrely-cute-and-depressing zombie epic, School-Live! when the deluxe bluray shows up at my house next month.

Of course, we're watching Game of Thrones. The new season is good so far. I just listened to some of the new Dual Core album today, and it's amazing.

Other than that I'm usually listening to Lana Del Rey or Babymetal.



SRO: Can you talk about, or tease, anything you have coming up?

MK: I have a lot of new projects in the works... when I finished my last album I wasn't really sure what I was going to do. But that said, I've started working on another EP... it's untitled so far but it's leaning heavily towards live instrumentation and sad melodies... it's probably going to be the most folk-rap sort of thing I've done in awhile. I'm also working on two new Two Weeks Notice LPs with Tribe One, one of which will be produced by Jesse Dangerously. I'm also working on a new ThoughtCriminals EP, a new TroubleShooters LP (which is my project with Dual Core), and planning on resuming work on the covers album me and my wife started kicking around a few years ago. I am pretty much always busy. haha

My most recent release is an EP with my new project, The TroubleShooters, which is me on beats and raps with Dual Core. I'm really excited about this stuff and the  EP is up at our Bandcamp, which is at https://thetroubleshooters.bandcamp.com



SRO: Where can people find you online?

MK: All my stuff can be found at http://howcouldyoudothisto.me



SRO: I want to thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions I barraged you with over the last week, and there are many more that spring to mind, but as they are specific to some of your upcoming projects, maybe we can throw another interview together once those are out.




There you go folks. Check out http://howcouldyoudothisto.me for all things Mikal kHill and then head over to his Bandcamp page to find all of his music.

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