Interview: Bomb Zombies On Autotune, Smashing Pumpkins, Moms
Bomb Zombies is a collaboration between Low End Theory's DJ Nobody and Nocando, offering smart lyrics executed overbass-heavy 808-and-autotune backing tracks. Their Sincerely Yours EP with a provocative cover was released two weeks ago on Nocando's Hellfyre Club. Nobody and Nocando speak now over video Skype from a hotel room in Singapore.
How do they like Bomb Zombies in Singapore? Is it going well?
Nobody: It's going great! The first time I came here was in June. I played "Hurry up and Wait" and the kids knew the words. The promoters were really thrilled, so when they found out that both of us would be kind of nearby [doing Low End Theory Japan] they decided to book us out here. When we did our show this past Saturday, they knew every single one of Nocando's songs and when we were done, they were requesting songs that we didn't have the instrumentals for. So it was pretty crazy.
What's the set up?
Nobody: I DJ for him and he raps. I back him up on the choruses. I don't have the Autotune, but when we do the States, there's an electro-harmonics autotune pedal that I wanna get.
Is that a crotch on the cover of the Bomb Zombies album? Who photoshopped the Brazilian wax?
Nobody: That's cleavage. A lot of people think it's a crotch. Theo Jamison took the picture.
Why did you guys decide to collaborate again?
Nobody: The first time we collaborated was on Jimmy the Lock. We did "21", and when we went on the same tour last year, we really bonded on our love of commercial rap. He was a big Drake fan, and he put me up on all the mixtapes and I downloaded all the Weezy mixtapes. By the end of the tour, I was like, "We should do a whole project where we try to do these kind of songs." He was totally into it. So when we got back we just started making songs. And one of them was "Hurry Up And Wait." Daddy Kev heard it when we played it at Low End, and was like, "That song has gotta go on the album!"
Nobody, you got a bunch of shit for using Autotune on your last album. What are people missing when they criticize you for doing that?
Nobody: I think they're just--they don't like the Autotune because of what music is usually associated with that. Which is, you know, "commercial rap" or "commercial R&B." So they're just biased against it cause of what it reminds them of.
But that music would be shitty anyway.
Nobody: Exactly. Those songs without the Autotune would still suck. There's a lot of sick Autotune shit that was the inspiration for it. Like Imogen Heap, and Bon Iver did that song "The Wood." That's a big one.
Nocando: And "I'm in Love with the Bartender" by T Pain.
Nobody: And I love 808s and Heartbreak even though I'm like the only person that does.
Is there a specific girl with bangs that you're talking about in your song paying homage to girls with bangs?
Nobody: No. Just all girls with bangs.
Nocando: At the time my wife had bangs. My daughters don't have bangs. They have afro-puffs.
Nobody: That's the song that got me rapping again--"Bangs".
When did you rap?
Nobody: Way long ago, like in 1995.
Why did you quit?
Nobody: I got more into beats, and I liked the way other people rapped better than my raps.
What's your favorite song off the record?
Nocando: "Sincerely Yours."
Nobody: "Over the Edge."
How is the experience of recording an album different from battle rapping?
Nocando: One is like performance for the sake of a crowd, a live crowd. One is for the sake of something that will last longer than a moment. And I feel like recording is way more difficult even though people give you more props for the battle stuff.
Why is it more difficult to record?
Nocando: At least for me--I had to learn how to make my voice really believable and unwavering. I had to be really honest in everything I was writing, whereas in battles, I can exaggerate a whole lot.
The battle stuff--it seems intimidating.
Nocando: It's easier than it looks. I mean, this record, I spit out whatever came to my mind. The battle thing, especially nowadays, is like re-editing and writing and you go over and over and over it till you got the perfect verse for the guy you're battling. This was actually more freestyle than any battle that I've done in the past three years. Battling, it's just thinking of jokes. Like the Wilmer Valderama "yo mama" thing. If it's a female battle rapper, you tell her to wash your dishes. If it's an Asian guy you tell 'em, "You can't drive." If it's a fat guy, you say, "You eat too much greasy food." And everyone laughs. I think the hardest part about it is getting over the fear of having someone roast you, and then being able to pull off your lines right after he finishes.
In your interview with L.A. RECORD, you said that you know how to manipulate emotions on a crude scale from doing all this battle rap stuff. What emotions were you looking to manipulate in this record?
Nocando: "Sincerely Yours" is a song about competition. About being competitive. So anyone who listens to that, hopefully, that's something they can have their Rocky montage to. Recklessness--is that an emotion? Trying to manipulate that.
Your mom also said of your last record that it didn't have enough negrismo. Is this better?
Nocando: No, she doesn't like Autotune. So this one has too much negrismo and too much Autotune.
Nobody: Your mom doesn't like Autotune? Why?
Nocando: Because it's for young folks. She wants something out of me that sounds like a DJ Quik record.
He's playing at the Key Club. You can take your mom!
Nocando: I love DJ Quik!
You have a Smashing Pumpkins line in one of the songs in this album. Who is responsible for that?
I would have guessed Nobody.
Nocando: Oh, that's so racist.
Why? Are Puerto Rican-Filipinos known for their love of Smashing Pumpkins?
Nocando: Yes, they are. I'm just joking. We kind of bonded on this record because of my love for '90s rock and his love for contemporary hip-hop. I like the '90s rock. That's my shit.
Nobody, do you really like 'em "blond, platinum, and stackin up"?
Nobody: Yes. Most definitely.
Nocando: Most definitely he does. And if I could add, he loves them young and rich.
What can you tell me about the song "Wednesday"?
Nobody: Oh no. This is actually a hook that I got from James when he did this Low End podcast. He had this hook that I just loved. We did the Wednesday song, and it was about a particular person that used to come to Low End every week.
Nocando: And my verses are about my wife.
Is it the most personal one on the record maybe?
Nobody: Yeah it's kind of a continuation of the last record One For All Without Hesitation. There's going to be a few more songs coming out about that person, unfortunately. It's all good though.
Is there anything else you wanted me to ask?
Nocando: Ask, "What have you learned about yourselves on this trip?"
What have you learned about yourselves on this trip?
Nobody: That James loves the guy from Temper Trap more than he loves me.
Nocando: Nocando has the best two hip-hop records that came out of L.A. in 2010: this record and Jimmy the Lock.
Bomb Zombies' Sincerely Yours is available now from Hellfyre Club.