Just about two months ago, my friend and frequent collaborator Darko The Super sent me an early Ruff Draft of his upcoming Rock sample-based album, Apocalyptic Bastard. I must say, it's a surprisingly accessible and dare I say, commercial album from the charismatic rapper-producer who released a whopping 10 full-length albums throughout the course of 2016. Apocalyptic Bastard contains samples and interpolations culled from the likes of Twisted Sister, Loverboy, Tears for Fears, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Slaves, They Might Be Giants, Steve Miller Band, Men Without Hats, Wheatus, and Comfort Food, in addition to countless others, and originals from All These Fingers and BLKrKRT; to the best of my knowledge, since December, it's been sent around to De La Soul producer Prince Paul, The Fabulous Downey Brothers, Wheatus, and Zilla Rocca. It seems a bit odd to say, looking back now, but over the course of the past 4-6 months since I first met Darko The Super—despite countless Twitter DM's, collaborative write-ups, a few EXCLUSIVE The Witzard premiers, late night email conversations about Punk Rock in Hip-Hop, and even one Darko-penned guest post—this is my first full-fledged published interview with Evan Souza. Darko and I spoke about Apocalyptic Bastard (now available for pre-order), his forthcoming Return to The Hell Hole Store with Philly rapper-producer ialive, and his recent All Proceeds to ACLU-fundraising Don't Call The Brain Police, amongst plenty of additional gripping, white knuckle-inducing topics. So, feel free to sit back, relax, and enjoy listening to Darko rhyme over a potentially uncleared sample of Wheatus' 2000 hit, "Teenage Dirtbag," while you still can! Darko The Super's Apocalyptic Bastard will be unleashed upon the terribly unsuspecting world this upcoming Feb. 24th on Already Dead Tapes and pre-ordered cassettes are expected to ship within four days of its releease.
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Your Twisted Musical Tour Guide
I. What was your inspiration behind Apocalyptic Bastard album opener “Take My CD?” I hate to say, but I’m all too familiar with the notion of a struggling “rapper” hustling his CD on NYC street corners... but I have to admit, nothing I’ve ever been hawked has been anywhere near as great as Apocalyptic Bastard!
After a set with ialive during our second Hell Hole Store Tour, a fellow musician from one of the previous acts introduced himself and told me how much he liked our set. I thanked him and asked if he wanted a tape, he flat out said "no;" which I understand, but sorta threw me off. Usually, people will say they don’t have any cash, in which [case,] I give them one anyway for complimenting us. His response and other experiences doing shows and trying to sell my albums was the inspiration behind that song. It’s self-deprecating, ['cause] I can’t even give these away sometimes.
II. Darko, would you care to briefly walk us through your typical beat-creation, rhyme-writing, and recording process attached to Apocalyptic Bastard?
I create everything with a software called Mixcraft. My typical production process would be to load in the song I want to sample; then, listen through it and choose the parts I want to use. Create the drum loop or find a break. A lot of it has to do with time-stretching. I then, loop everything by copying and pasting. I leave it like that until I write and record my lyrics. After that, I arrange everything to my liking, by deleting or adding certain parts. I’d like to thank Ruben Gallego for playing drums and synths on a couple songs for this album. He was a big help. When it comes to writing, sometimes I may have a topic or idea I run with, but mostly, it’s a stream-of-consciousness thing. Recording vocals is my least favorite part of creating music. I’ll go through as many takes as I need to get it done. Some songs, I’ll have to give up on and come back another day. I don’t do demos. The first time I can get it recorded and feel as though it works, I go with it. Like most of my albums, I mixed and mastered Apocalyptic Bastard myself. If you don’t like the sound quality, feel free to blame me.
III. What might you likely list as a few of your greatest sources of influence and inspiration during the creation and recording of Apocalyptic Bastard? How did they ultimately help shape the album’s overall sound?
A big influence on the production of this album is Charles Hamilton. I’ve always been a huge fan of his beats and after recently watching the documentary on his life and career, I revisited his albums I listened to in high school and that inspired many of the beats I made for Apocalyptic Bastard. My view towards sampling changed from finding obscure records to using well-known songs and making them my own. Another big influence was the Punk artists I was listening to through the Bandcamp app. I used the Discover feature to search through the "Punk" genre and sub-genres to find some of the songs I sampled for this album.
IV. I know you previously told me that Apocalyptic Bastard is your first full-fledged Rock sample-based album; with that said, would you care to walk my readers and myself through the albums contained sample sources, interpolations, etc?
Some of the artists I sampled are Twisted Sister, Isotope Soap, Loverboy, Tears for Fears, Beck, Lost Trails, Slaves, They Might Be Giants, The Grow Fangs, J Dilla [sampling] Men Without Hats, The Garden, The Spits, Mark Mothersbaugh, Wheatus, Steve Miller Band, The Offspring, The Soronprfbs, and Forget The Times.
V. How would you say Apocalyptic Bastard differs from your whopping 10 U DONT DESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ART/Already Dead Tapes albums released throughout 2016?
Apocalyptic Bastard is far superior, faster, stronger, and more lethal in every way.
VI. The early “rough draft” of Apocalyptic Bastard offered to writers, friends of writers, fans, etc. on your Facebook page a couple months ago included 14 tracks and the final Already Dead Tapes version has 15. What can you tell us about the album’s latest addition, "Doctor Giggles Eats Rubber Pickles?"
For Christmas, The Little Saint Nick had gotten me a USB tape deck and duplicator. One of the first tapes I played was Comfort Food’s Waffle Frolic, which I had traded for with them back in June at Already Dead’s Summer Camp. It glued my wig on tight and inspired me to write. I planned on sampling the song "Rubber Pickles," but soon realized it was too perfect as-is. Doctor Giggles was a name I heard in Fathed’s guest verse on Kool Keith’s "Run for Your Life" from Dr. Dooom 2.
VII. Let’s just say, for argument’s sake: you had an endless supply of duckets (read: cash) to make a hypothetical million-dollar, no holds barred version of Apocalyptic Bastard—who would you ideally recruit to be featured within?
Well, I’d definitely get that Exile feature, as well as Serengeti and Kool Keith, which is something I wanted to do, if I wasn’t so broke. I’d hire The Garden Twins to collaborate and be studio musicians for the album. Have Mike D of the Beastie Boys as Executive Producer. I’d hire Richard Kelly to direct music videos for each song. I’d pay Gears of War to make me a playable character. I’d release the album on vinyl with a hologram of Elaine Benes [Julia Louis-Dreyfus] dancing along. I’d buyout the venue The Fire to have my release show and then, a ceremonial demolition. We’d tear it down to build something useful. Any millions I [had] left, [would] go directly to Buzzy Linhart.
VIII. What can you tell me about Apocalyptic Bastard’s two outer-Darko, sample-less productions, "The Day I Beat Yao Ming" (All These Fingers) and "God, F**k America" (BLKrKRT)?
Well, I’m sure they sampled to make those beats. All These Fingers is a good friend and happens to be one of the greatest producers of all time. Each time he releases a new beat-tape, I write a few songs while listening, one of those songs happened to be the Aaron Carter & Shaq-inspired "The Day I Beat Yao Ming," my favorite NBA player growing up. During the holidays, I was looking to sell my Yao Ming autographed basketball to have more money for gifts. So, that was heavy on my mind and came out in my writing. BLKrKRT is another long-time collaborator and a very supportive individual. I asked him if he’d like to do a release with U DONT DESERVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ART and a week or so later, he sent me Okinato Black, his brilliant new lo-fi instrumental album. My favorite track was "3,000 Worlds," which I used for "God, F**k America," a song I wrote the night of the Presidential Election results.
IX. I know it’s probably a little late to assemble a year-end list, but what were some of your personal favorite releases of 2016?
I absolutely love the Mike D-produced album Take Control from Slaves, which came out last year. Also J Dilla’s THE DIARY. Testarossa by Yoni & Geti was incredible. Already Dead Tapes released over 40 albums in 2016, so that’s 40 or so more great albums from last year. Moka Only released 12 albums, so there’s 12 more. Pimp to Eat by The Analog Brothers. Revenge of The Pukes by The Pukes. Some albums that came out in previous years that I listened to a ton in 2016: King of Hearts by Camu Tao and haha by The Garden. All the songs were previously released, but if you count Da Supa Spic by MyGrane McNastee, then that, too.
X. If you had to pick one single piece of music to add to The Library of Congress’ rather expansive Complete National Recording Registry to best represent your legacy thus far, which track would you choose?
If I had to choose a song from Apocalyptic Bastard, it would be "Can’t Wait to Die," a song I truly spilled my heart on. I did once call into the suicide prevention lifeline and was put on hold. Choosing a track from my whole catalog, one that sticks with me is a song titled "Bob" [from Take Me to Your Computer] because it shows how I deal with having to come to grips with reality and also, my thoughts on society’s norms.
XI. What can you tell me about your recent NPR Tiny Desk Concert submission of "Mellow Yellow 2" from Return to The Hell Hole Store with ialive? What made you guys want to send one in and did they decide to pick it up for their series?
That was all ialive's idea, I just went along with it. I doubt we’ll win, but we'll find out in March. It was fun to do regardless of the outcome. That was the first time we performed "Mellow Yellow 2" and I’m a bit more confident in my memorization skills after getting this song down. Return to The Hell Hole Store will be a very entertaining listening experience; I feel, we really let loose with that album!
XII. I know Apocalyptic Bastard has just barely been released, but what do you plan to release next, Darko? Is your fabled Return 2 The Hell Hole Store album with fellow Philly-based rapper-producer ialive nearing completion?
Return to The Hell Hole Store will be released through Already Dead Tapes in the coming months; putting the finishing touches on it now. I’ll have another mixtape, before or after, possibly titled Don’t Call The Brain Police that I’m working on now, as well.