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Das Racist

Das Racist

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Tuesday 17th January, 2012 9:13AM

As well as starting a television show, and releasing a myriad solo albums, Das Racist released their debut album, Relax. UTR caught up with Dapwell to talk about writing those tracks, what else they've got on their plate and the delicate balance between sarcasm and seriousness.

Hey, how are you?

I’m good I’m walking out of my apartment heading over to a friends but I’m good to go.

What have you guys been up to over the break?

Victor (Vazquez) has been in Chile but I came back to New York after the European tour two weeks ago. Himanshu (Suri) was on tour and just came back so we’ve all been in our different zones.

It must be nice to have a bit of a break after last year?

Yeah it was pretty massive that's for sure, yeah.

You released your album Relax last year. Tell me a little bit about releasing the album and about writing and recording it:

Yeah I mean we started in January 2011 and were working on some lyrics and reached out to producers to see if they had any beats. A lot of the time people think it’s us asking them but a lot of the time they’re non-traditional producers who have beats that they think could be rapped on; they’re not coming from somewhere somebody with a rap background would consider a rap beat. Some work and others work but are too strange to put on an album, and others don’t work and are weird and not very good.

Oh and then the recording process took three or four months of the year and happened two months before the album came out. We recorded with our friend Patrick (Wimberly) who’s in the band Chairlift and he produced the album and recorded a whole bunch of it, too.

Tell me about the lyrical content - was there anything in particular that you were interested in at the time?

I feel we were in a transition. Some of the content is quite different from earlier stuff and some of the songs are non-traditional but still have a hook; we played around with a lot of stuff we hadn’t done before.

I feel that we took a different tack on this album to our last in some ways; there’s more of a straight forward approach to the lyrics and less wordplay and a different kind of rapping to what was associated with the band early on.

There's this interesting dichotomy in Das Racist where at surface level your content seems jokey or sarcastic, but having read a bit about your backgrounds - and reading further into the lyrics - you're actually dealing with some relatively heavy stuff. Can you explain this a little further?

Ah I mean that's just a natural extension of the way we hang out and the way we were before we even met each other. You know there are giant heavy references in our work and I just think that attitude and that sort of content isn’t as prevalent any more, so it seems like more of a 'thing'. There are just not that many rap ‘groups’ in general and it’s a lot easier to make it comedic if there’s a group of people who are in a group playing off each other; it’s easier to see they’re funny. Whereas people may not know that one person is funny from listening to their music but if you watch their interaction with other people in the studio or whatever you can see that they can be remarkably offbeat - it just takes a group.

Groups like De La Soul, Prince Paul and a lot of that early nineties stuff was freaky funny message rap. It happened early on and was very successful and then it just died out.

Going back a little bit, tell me how Das Racist started out:

Victor was at university and graduated and then Himanshu graduated and moved to Brooklyn and Victor had been in Brooklyn with his other band for eight-to-nine months or so. We were sort of hanging out much more than in college and a lot of the people in the scene weren’t writing and recording rap, they were recording electronic stuff or whatever. We’d go into this studio with these people and they’d record us in this non-traditional rap way, which was the case right up until the second album which is more traditional. Those are the kinds of sessions that things like ‘Pizza Taco Bell’ came from, and there was a song called ‘art school’ and a whole lot of other things.

So we were just going to some guys house who was probably in a rock band or something and lot of these dudes love recording rap because they’re like 'yus I don’t need to mic up some dudes drums', and then 'Pizza Taco Bell’ became a song and at that point it was too late to change our name of the band. You don’t want to be the band who changes its name you know so once that became popular it was like 'oh this is a real thing' and then we started playing a shitload of dates in New York; we were literally playing 2-3 dates a week in New York and partying heaps. Then we played a festival in Wisconsin and Montreal and it became a bigger thing. That was such a long answer!

And looking forward, what are you guys getting up to in 2012?

Victor just did a solo album and he has another one coming out soon, and we’re going to Australia New Zealand, and we’ve got an internet TV show we’re working on. It’s called Sherman Island - the third episode is being worked on. It’s just us doing this New York based show involving interview, sketches, tour footage, animation; just a place to collect a lot of the weirdo stuff that we do. We’ve also got more stuff coming out that I’m not allowed to talk about because it violates privacy stuff.

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