MC Lars
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MC Lars

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
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We caught up with MC Lars at his recent Norwich gig to chat about Hearts That Hate, 'The Graduate' and Mark Hoppus...

Q: This genre you're part of - post-punk laptop rap - technically, it doesn't exist. How has that made things harder for you?

A: I make hip hop music with all the rock influences in a different way and that has made it harder because it's like, when you're trying to get on tours, it's hard. If I did straight rock music that's harder to do, but I think that more people try to figure out where to market you, you know what I mean? So it's like, doing post-punk laptop rap has let me get on tours with a lot of different bands and I've toured with all sorts of people, but it also in limiting.

Q: Has this made things easier for you in any way?

A: It helps that it's different - it stands out a little bit and I think that if I were doing rock, I probably wouldn't be doing music professionally because there's so many rock bands; you really have to be a great singer, or a really technically great guitar player, and I'm more just kind of quirky and different.

Q: So why create your own genre? Why not step into something that already exists?

A: Well, I think if you try to copy what's on the radio, if you try to be like the next My Chemical Romance, in six months no-one's going to want to hear something that sounds like that. From a business perspective it's silly to try to be someone else, and from a creative perspective it's boring; you kind of have to do your own thing.

Q: With being a genre by yourself, where do you draw your influences from?

A: I love old-school punk rock, I love a lot of indie hip hop stuff, old-school rap and I like a lot of indie music. I also like funny music like Weird Al and Bloodhound Gang, so it's a weird hodge-podge of influences.

Q: Having previously played in a guitar-oriented band, where did the inspiration come from to do something that's almost the complete opposite?

A: I got bored of doing the punk stuff. I went to college and I started doing a hip hop radio show and that was really cool because there was all this vinyl form like, the 70s and 80s and I got into old-school hip hop, and I realised that there was this whole history to this music and my generation isn't particularly aware of that. We know Snoop Dogg and we know Dre, and Eminem, but there's all this stuff that I hadn't heard of and that really inspired me to try to contribute to that underground. It's exciting.

Q: By not going 'mainstream' how has this made things both easier and harder for you to get your music heard?

A: That's a good question. When you avoid the mainstream channels it's harder because you have to work a lot more, and it's a lot more hands-on management and micro-managing everything, but it's easier because I make all the decisions, like I can do a track in a day and then get it on iTunes the next day. It's not part of this big machine. It's like, doing it independently gives you more creative freedom too; I got to pick everything that went on the record. I think that most bands try to do that, and want to do that but it's like, if you have an A&R guy, you have to go through that channel, and if you're your own A&R person - it's awesome.

Q: You've collaborated with a number of different people on the album ['The Graduate'] - how did they come about?

A: The Bowling For Soup collaboration was because I toured with them in 2005. I got Ill Bill from Non Phixion on the last record because he knew this dude who knew my manager. MC Chris, I played a show with him and he'd heard of me; I asked him to do it and he said he would. Who else? Oh, The Matches I toured with in Australia, it's kind of just random friends. It goes back to what you were saying earlier about being different; because I can be in a whole bunch of different scene, I was able to pull in a bunch of different guests.

Q: And who would you most like to work with in future?

A: On the new album, I'm doing songs with Mark Hoppus from Blink 182 - that's gonna be good, but I'd love to do stuff with Chuck D, and like, the old-school hip hop guys - that'd be fun. Or Missy Elliot, Lady Sovereign; she's got some great production, great beats.

Q: The 'Laptop EP' has been categorised under 'Urban' and yet the album has been categorised in music stores under 'Rock and Pop'. Is this how you see your music - as crossing those boundaries?

A: Yeah, it's weird. It's a hip hop album but people who buy Mims and 50 Cent aren't gonna buy my record; people who buy Bowling For Soup or Wheatus records are probably gonna like it. It's a hip hop record - it's black music for white kids, really, which is a terrible way to look at it, but in the market, that's where it fits in.

Q: With the samples you've used, have you ever had problems getting any of them cleared?

A: For 'Download This Song', Iggy Pop's publishers and label wouldn't let us use it, but then Iggy Pop liked the message in 'Download This - Rocklouder Online


No One Is Safe: MC Lars Attacks Crunk, Hot Topic, Ace Of Base

05.05.2006

Laptop hip-hop star on a one-man quest to make music that says something.

MC Lars is making enemies faster than 50 Cent. On his new album, The Graduate, the Stanford- and Oxford-educated laptop hip-hop star
not only goes after crunk rappers, but the music industry in general, Hot Topic stores and even Ace of Base.

"I think with any artistic endeavor, your chief goal has to be honesty," Lars explained. "Even if it's gonna ruffle some feathers, it's probably good, because so much music is so safe. There are issues of personal safety, which is why I have the disclaimer on the crunk song at the end."

The crunk song, "Generic Crunk Rap," ends with the line "I'm just playing, Lil Jon, you know I love you," but not before ripping the genre to shreds for "not having anything to say."

"Not just with crunk, but with a lot of mainstream hip-hop, it's the lowest common denominator and just mindless," Lars explained. "The crunk beats just fit well with the generic flow and phrases I could think of."

Lars hopes to release "Generic Crunk Rap" as The Graduate's second single, with an accompanying video parodying hip-hop clips. "But to do that, I'd have to make the video awesome, and I'm trying to figure out if I have the budget," he said.

In the meantime, Lars is causing enough of a stir with "Hot Topic Is Not Punk Rock," which he never intended to be a single until influential radio stations like KROQ-FM in Los Angeles began spinning it. Since then, he's been flooded with angry e-mails.

"They're kids who think they're punk and they're like, 'Lars, you wouldn't know what punk was if it hit you in the face,' " he said. "After a while, you realize you can't please everyone. What's funny is, I'm making fun of Hot Topic, and now they're selling my stuff. They're so dumb they don't realize I'm making fun of them and they suck and they have to pretend that they like someone who makes fun of them. They're definitely not punk rock at all."

Cindy Levitt, vice president of music and marketing at Hot Topic, confirmed the chain has in fact been carrying more Lars merchandise since the song surfaced.

"We don't ever want to censor an artist in any way," Levitt said. "Just because they poke fun at us doesn't mean we're going to ban their music or merchandise. In fact, we embraced it. We think it's funny."

And that's exactly how MC Lars pulls off his bitter diatribes, which mostly center on the music industry: They're funny. While downloading has become a mundane topic, it's ear-catching when it's Lars rapping, "It's all about marketing/ Clive Davis see/ If fans buy the shirt/ They get the MP3 for free" on "Download This Song," which features Jaret Reddick from Bowling for Soup.

"I read this book called 'The Future of Music' by this professor, Dave Kusek, and it was interesting to me how there's this giant paradigm shift in the music industry, and the labels aren't willing to accept it," Lars said. "I just wanted to make a song that summed up what the book was about, and it's sort of a letter to labels who aren't getting it."

Lars also goes after the industry on "Signing Emo" and "iGeneration," both of which were first released on 2004's The Laptop EP (see "MC Lars Sends Up Emo On New Single, Which Stars Fake Band Hearts That Hate").

"The two things I mix are satire and pop-culture references," Lars said. "And I love music so much that I am frustrated with all the problems with it. It's legitimate anger, but I find people react better [to humor], and it's hard to ignore that you're writing for an audience. You don't want to tailor your songs to an audience, but if you keep that in mind, it informs your writing. And I think people know me as the guy who makes fun of the music industry."

That's not his only ammo, though. Lars also raps about everything from American history ("If I Had a Time Machine, The World Would Be Fresh") to relationships ("Rapgirl" and "The Roommate From Hell").

"I had a difficult roommate my last semester, but he was not eating dead babies," Lars said, referring to a lyric in the latter. "I'd written a song about this guy, but it was too personal, so I thought it would be funny to write something with Satan as the actual roommate."

Lars even wrote a song about his own songwriting, a tribute to "99 Problems" called "21 Concepts." It's home to the line "I wrote a song about the '90s that sampled Ace of Base/ But I kept it off the album in the interest of taste."

"I like Jay-Z, and I thought it would be a funny way to reference him," Lars said of the track. "And it was a cool way to sum up all the songs that didn't make the album. You can see some are better than others." - MTV News


Meet MC LARS, the world's first 'post-punk laptop rapper'

04.29.2006

HE'S A ONE MAN SCENE!
MC Lars is 23-year-old Andrew Nielsen. A former punk guitarist and comic artist with an English Literature degree, he's a New York-based 'post-punk laptop rapper' in a genre of one. He's toured the world with nothing but a computer, done shows on an iPod, and marketed himself through the Internet. With a DIY ethic that extends to self-produced, self-released records and designing his own merch, he might just be the ultimate punk hero for the MySpace genration.

Says Lars: "Punk is being yourself and not being afraid to say something that people disagree with and hip-hop is a simple way to get your message across. It's portable and it's efficient. I'm all about saying something and getting to the point and not wasting time - because life's too short."

HIS DEBUT ALBUM RULES
Lars' debut album, "The Graduate" is one of the most astute, entertaining and ridiculously catchy releases of the year. Covering everything from time travel, the perils of Internet relationships and sci-fi geekdom as well as the merits of Chaucer and Virginia Woolf (sic), it's possibly the only record Bowling For Soup have guested on that boasts a track condensing Harold Melville's literary epic 'Moby Dick' into a three minute song ('Ahab'). With Supergrass samples.

"My father's a lawyer and my mother is a librarian so I was set up to be a nerd! You can't be afraid of people thinking you're not cool."

HE'S A COMEDY GENIUS
Though he hosted a hip-hop radio show at Stanford University, it wasn't until he came to the UK to study at Oxford that his career as an MC got underway. Working on tracks in his dorm room, he met local independent Truck Records who released his first EP, 'Radio Pet Fencing' in 2003 (everything since has been released through his own label, Horris).

"I realized I could have a voice. With rap it's so much easier to say more in a short amount of time." His stay here also gave him an affinity with British comedy. "I love 'Ali-G' and 'The Office.' Ricky Gervais is amazing. British culture is so reserved, so to see him making such a fool of himself and making it so awkward - that's hilarious!"

HE'S AT WAR WITH EMO
If you download only one MC Lars track, make sure it's 'Signing Emo.' Chronicling the rise and fall of one-hit wonders Hearts That Hate, the chorus features a none-more-screamo sample from their record. Except... the band doesn't exist. "It's just me and a couple of friends. We made a fake website and we had loads of kids emailing the site thinking we were a real band! There's not a lot of humor in emo, so I wanted to bring a new perspective. We still get emails saying, 'We love Hearts That Hate, but we hate the MC Lars bit!"

HE'S THE ROCK SCENE'S FAVORITE RAPPER
His first major tour was with Bowling For Soup, while his Simple Plan support here in February achieved hte rare feat of sending a 2000-strong Astoria crowd apeshit at 7pm.

"BFS are a band with a great sense of humor who liked what I was doing so they took me on tour. Simple Plan are a different genre, but they see I have fun. Generally I think my fans are people who are tired of the same stuff - punk kids bored of everything sounding the same, hip-hop kids tired of hip-hop taking itself too seriously and college students who are looking for music that's fun with lyrics they can thing about." - Kerrang


05.31.2006

"Honestly," says MC Lars while picking at a plate of fries, "I didn't know how much I could trust it." The 22-year-old rapper is sitting in a diner under the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn where he's spent the last half-hour talking about how screwed up the music industry is. He would know. Following the minor success of his 2004 underground hit "Signing Emo," Lars was courted by a string of major labels but surprised most of them when he decided to create his own imprint, Horris Records. "People don't take it with a grain of salt," he says of such attention. "You have to."

With his smarmy voice and hilarious rhymes, MC Lars (real name: Andrew Nielsen) often uses the music biz as a target on The Graduate, his full-length debut; on the new-wave-meets-reggae track "Download This Song" he takes to task the out-of-touch record labels who have "overcharged us for years." But with its scene-heavy samples and lyrical nods to Hot Topic, chances are it won't be the industry execs that are listening to The Graduate. In fact, it's doubtful any other rap record will impact the mainstream punk scene in a similar way this year.

Now living in New York after recording the majority of The Graduate in his dorm at Stanford, Lars isn't about to complain if his songs continue to affect more emo kids than legitimate hip-hop heads. "I used to worry about what kind of people my music appealed to," he admits. "But I stopped worrying. There is a fear that I'll be some pop guy that only 13-year-old girls in the Midwest like because it samples bands they know. I definitely don't want to be that. But if that's part of my appeal, I'm not going to be ashamed of it, either."

WHY YOU SHOULD KNOW 'EM:: As quite possibly the only rapper ever to sample both Piebald and Brand New, MC Lars became a huge hit with Generation MySpace. Eminem don't know squat about emo. - Alternative Press


Discography

This Gigantic Robot Kills (coming 2008)
"White Kids Aren't Hyphy" via iTunes (2007)
"Hipster Girl" via iTunes (2007)
The Graduate (2006)
Download This Song single (2006)
Signing Emo single (2006)
The Laptop EP (2004)
Radio Pet Fencing (2003)

*All albums from The Laptop EP on are available via iTunes, with rotating tracks available over MySpace.

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Bio

It isn’t easy being a Post Punk Laptop rapper. You’re forced to lead a genre that doesn’t exist, navigate around cookie-cutter superstars, push yourself to make music unlike anything else on earth, and spend every penny of your own money to get it all done. You push the boundaries of DIY and give major labels the middle finger. You hope – and know – that this will be all worth it some day.

MC Lars is a member of what he dubs the “iGeneration,” a group born and raised in the time of the Ninja Turtles, cassette tapes and new wave music, who now live in the age of Desperate Housewives, Sidekicks and screamo bands. These are the kids who have grown up using the Internet as a part of their everyday life. They can conveniently carry 5,000 songs in their pocket, but are faced with the glooming fact that the world’s oil supply and Social Security will both run out in their lifetime. Lars has spent the past three years building this group of fans, performing around the world with nothing but his laptop and lyrics. He has sold over 13,000 albums to a dedicated group of misfits, allowing him to pulse the mainstream through unexpected outlets like Rolling Stone and MTV News.

A self-proclaimed Post Punk Laptop rapper, MC Lars is the hero of this new generation, addressing such subjects as music piracy, hyphy, hellish college roommates, and hipster girls.