Deathbomb Arc describes their new compilation simply: “Exploring genres unknown since 1998.” Attempts have been made to tack genre labels onto Deathbomb artists: “noise-rap,” and “noise-punk” come closest, but there is also “krautrap,” “punkrap,” “prograp,” “experimental electronic,” “horrorcore,” even “ravesploitation.” It’s a fun writing exercise, but ultimately a fool’s errand. The Los Angeles label, run by Brian “Charlemagne” Kinsman, is not interested in classification, only in releasing truly next-level weirdness that pulls from all music styles and pushes the limits of what people think they’re interested in listening to.
To celebrate 17 years as a label, Deathbomb is offering No Children, a free compilation of previously unreleased material to remind you of their worthwhile contributions. There are requisite bangers from clipping, Captain Ahab, and the Soft Pink Truth (Drew Daniel of Matmos). Other highlights include unlikely dance tracks with unexpected earworms, like “SATAN” by BLKHRTS (“Can you make it / hot / Satan?”) and “After the Club” by “I.E.” with minimal PC Music-like beats and rhymes like, “I hide you from my timeline / I’m a cider, you’re a fine wine” and the climax, “You were somewhat famous on the internet / then you retired from the web / but I don’t give a shirt / I don’t give a shirt / about them pants.” Another standout is from a Florida teen who goes by Shady Van Gogh and follows in clipping’s noise-rap footsteps with an unrelenting spitfire track that drops a FTP verse over a mashup of satanic hymnals chanting “Beelzebub” and heavy trap beats.
Along with No Children, Deathbomb Arc is also dropping a T-shirt and three new cassettes, two from True Neutral Crew (including their collab w/ Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt) and a tape from Baltimore noise rapper Abdu Ali. The release party is at the Smell in Los Angeles on Sat Feb 21, with BLKHRTS, True Neutral Crew, tik///tik, and Rale from clipping.
We caught up with label honcho Brian Kinsman over Gchat to talk about the compilation, the label, comedy, evil, drag, and #poppunk, which you can read after the stream of No Children below.
Why is 17 a birthday to celebrate?
Mostly the shock of realizing the label was so old. I don’t normally even think of the years going by. Somehow it came to mind and when I calculated 17, I was just blown away.
Congratulations! That’s a long time to run any one thing.
I’ve done a lot of different music related things, but I think the label is the only one I’ll be doing my whole life.
How has the label changed over time? Are you drawn to different artists now than you were 17 years ago?
The first band I put out, Turbine, sounds really tame by today’s standards. Essentially indie ballads that embrace post-IDM electronics. But when I put them out I had to really fight with stores to even get them to carry the album. Amoeba told me something along the lines of, “The electronics will alienate the rock people and the guitars will alienate the electronic people.” The type of bands that try things most assume are taboo, are the ones I’m drawn to and that seems to tie all the years together.
Not to say that all the bands I work with are intentionally breaking taboos. But all the bands have instincts not under the influence of the indie rock superego.
It’s interesting because some people find this stuff immediately alienating, but with bands like clipping and AIDS Wolf getting wider recognition, there might be more of an audience for this stuff now. Has Deathbomb helped make the world a weirder place? Has the world gotten weirder on its own?
I think the world will always be weirder than any of us can ever imagine, but the corporate music industry can’t really work with that assumption, so our culture’s art got presented much differently than is natural. I’ve heard it is important for comedians to realize that if they are having a strange thought/reaction/whatever that its important to share because we’re all humans and if one person is thinking something, many must. I’ve adopted that with experimental music as well. If I like the adventure of hearing something, tons of other people will as well. I’d have to be a complete egotistical monster to assume otherwise.
The type of bands that try things most assume are taboo, are the ones I’m drawn to.
How important is the idea of ‘evil’? It’s definitely a running theme through Deathbomb releases.
That’s an interesting question that no one has ever asked before. I think the interplay of comedy and evil is something I’m really drawn to. In that sense, evil is vital. But only in that it there always has to be a light side as well for contrast, even if focus is on the evil sometimes too.
I think the comedic side is what startles people more. Comedy in music, especially experimental music, I’ve found to be taboo. Like, if you tell someone you love both Weird Al and Merzbow, they’ll most likely assume you make really tacky music.
Same goes for the Academy Awards, right? Respect is a “serious” thing, so we have a hard time seeing non-serious art as respectable.
I think the internet is changing that a little. I think of Soundcloud music, especially the more vaporwave stuff, as really funny.
Yeah, I’ve had some discussions about how films like the Joel Schumacher Batman films and the strange Super Mario and Street Fighter live action films would have actually done really well if they came out post-tumblr. The ’90s was such an uptight time in many ways.
The mid-90s also happens to be when I started playing music publicly and putting out albums, so I know what it is to have people say my art isn’t good because I’m not following “the rules” of being serious. Perhaps that is why I cling more to the comedic side of things here than the evil one. But I do love both.
What project was that?
Rose For Bohdan, which ended up going well into the mid ’00s. The initial line up was myself and two Asian gangsta friends. We sort of were like a really inept Germs style punk band by people that mostly liked hip-hop. The only place in LA that really loved to have us play was a drag night. The normal indie spot at the time just thought it was too alien and stupid.
That is an incredible album name. (It’s Nice to Know that One of Us Is Gonna Die and the Rest Are Gonna Make Mad Cash)
If there was a job out there for someone that just names things, I’d take it. My dream job!
That title is an obtuse reference to the transition from Joy Division to New Order.
I read somewhere recently that America doesn’t actually love the underdog, America loves the underdog story. In other words, if the underdog hasn’t already proven itself the victor in the end, America still says fuck you to it.
That is even more amazing. Deathbomb names are really killer all across the board. I really like Chatroom Enhancing Drugs
See, comedy. Lots of dumb sci-fi jokes with that project in particular.
It’s interesting that you only got to play at drag nights. When you first talked about combining darkness and comedy I immediately thought of drag culture, because it’s so good at combining those two things.
While I personally haven’t spent any time involved with the drag community, a lot of the acts Deathbomb has worked with have a deep connection. This is especially true for Margot Padilla who does a solo thing called I.E. and is in True Neutral Crew.
She has incredible charisma and such a natural flow. Her solo album is great. Jonathan from clipping. produced it so the music sounds super slick as well.
The bandcamp for that album self-identifies as “Ravesploitation.”
Back around ’05(?) it felt like a very real thing happening here in LA, but none of us really talk about it anymore. Not out of shame or anything, but music descriptors can be so disposable.
That’s one of the reasons I’ve embraced the “genres unknown” slogan for Deathbomb lately. I’d rather not tie this music to disposable words. The music isn’t meant to be disposable.
Respect is a “serious” thing, so we have a hard time seeing non-serious art as respectable.
But you did name an album #poppunk.
Is pop punk a disposable genre? That reference was primarily meant to address this issue of serious vs comedic… the idea that the most teen of musics could at the same time be high art and vice-versa.
True. Yea, I feel like poppunk is one of the most derided genres but I love it. Poppunk is forever.
I read somewhere recently that America doesn’t actually love the underdog, America loves the underdog story. In other words, if the underdog hasn’t already proven itself the victor in the end, America still says fuck you to it. I find this to be very true and a huge part of why I also love derided genres.
That makes me think about the act of claiming an underdog story as a way to implicitly declare oneself the victor. Or, the curatorial act of choosing which underdog gets a story.
I’m definitely not above this. After a certain point I realized Deathbomb had been the first to put out so many notable acts… Death Grips, Clipping., Captain Ahab, Julia Jolter, etc etc. but didn’t really get that sort of recognition in the press. So I just started claiming the victory. Is it a false melodrama or an empowered act to make sure all acts on Deathbomb know they are winners? I have a hard time saying there is a strict right/wrong in these sort of low stakes ethical matters.
As an artist, my instincts tell me to be humble. But running the label, as a patron to other artists, my instincts tell me to brag about them, so them that respect. Honestly, I think that is why I’ve done a better job promoting clipping. than my own music typically—and back to one of your first questions—why I’ll be running a label for far longer than I’ll be out there in the world being a public musician. I just have way more unflinching confidence when it comes to the label.