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Dynamite Hack

Slims Sept,San Francisco, CA
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......It all began in Austin, Texas where roommates Mark Morris (guitar/vocals), Chad Robinson (bass/vocals) and Mike Vlahakis (guitar) began mixing funk , blues, and rock. Dynamite Hack drew inspiration from bands like Weezer, Pavement, as they began to form their sound.
.......Dynamite Hack's acoustic folk-rock cover of N.W.A.'s "Boyz -N- the Hood," which became a local radio hit in the Austin/ Dallas area in 1999. In its wake, the group recorded a full-length album title Superfast, which was released locally in January 2000 and remixed for national distribution by Universal that summer. "Boyz -in -the Hood" became the most requested song on radio station 101X…which lasted for nearly 3 months.
......The band soon began to receive flack for taking a gangster rap song and making it so damn white. "We were all rap fans growing up," says Chad, "listening to lots of Public Enemy, NWA and the Ghetto Boys.
.......With the successful recording of their first album now behind them, the members of Dynamite Hack are hitting the road. I caught with them playing at Slims in San Francisco for this Interview..

......INTERVIEW with Mark Morris of DYNAMITE HACK

Q: It looks like the song "Boyz-N-the Hood" has pretty much catapulted your music career

A: Yeah. It was kind of accidental really how it happened. We put it in our first record and our first record was so bad, it was like a demo that we made for so little money and it was very bad and then we went in to record again and the producer had these big dreams of how it's going to be of big record and we weren't going to put Boys- N- the Hood on it, and he was like "You've got to put Boy's in the Hood on it. It's like your foot in the door." We totally didn't believe him. It's doesn't matter, no one's going to hear this at all. So, we re-recorded it, because he thought the first recorded version of it was just really sloppy and bad and it was. So, we redid it and we had the album for a like a year and we were just sitting on it, and then we made copies of it and a friend of ours who is radio DJ at 101X Austin, he was like - let me put this on. We didn't want him to. No, you can't put in on. And then, finally, the band was going through a whole bunch of problems, like we were fighting a whole lot and then we just said oh fine, take it, put it on, we don't care, nothing's going to happen anyway. Stop bugging us about it. So, he put it on and phone calls started coming and they went to Dallas and it was like Number One for three months at the Edge. It was crazy. And then labels started calling. Yeah. It's been blessed. It's kind of funny though. Just cause that song is kind of like - I like the song, I think it's catchy and I think it's fun, but it's kind of not exactly what we are about you know.

Q: Did you have a lot a controversy after that with Dre?

A: You know, they are getting most of the money I think. So I think Dre was behind it from the beginning, from what we were told. I don't know - record labels have a history of telling you exactly what you want to hear, and so, I never talk to him about it. There didn't seem to be too much. I got some negative e-mail from some gangsters - "Don't come to L.A. or I'm going to kill you," that kind of thing. I wasn't trying to make fun of Easy-E . It wasn't like I sat there and said, "Hmm, I want to do this sociological thing. I'm going to say something so I'm going to make fun of rap they way - I'm going to steal from them the way they steal from us, or something like that." People give me way to much credit for it. I was just trying to write a love song and I started singing that and you know, and it wasn't like there was any great thought process.

Q: The guitar rifff at the end with the Beattles song Blackbird was cool?

A: It was at first "Blackbird" and then it was directly, "pump gas tricking in the dead of night" - I mean just directly from Blackbird, and then Sony and Michael Jackson said you have to cut that out, so we changed it. We changed it I think just enough to where they don't have any legal grounds. But the guitar riff is not anything like Blackbird, and the melody now isn't anything like it, but people still say they can see it, they can recognize it in there.

Q: There is a lot of old songs mixed into new music nowadays and people are getting used to it when it sounds good. But really their is only so many cord variations you can make, what do you think. ?
A: I think David Bowie or somebody, I forget who it was, I think it was David Bowie, said that music is like a finite thing. There are only so many cords that are there, so you can't - there is going to be a certain point where everything is going to remind you something else that happened, because there is only so much to work with. It's a pool is what he said and you're going to drain it and you're going to reach the bottom, you're not going to just keep draining it forever.

Q: That makes sense. How about using the "N" word in a song did that kind of upset any one.?.

A: I never wanted to put it in, in the first place. I was outvoted by every single person in the studio from band members to producers to engineers to everybody. And then, it always upset me and I never liked singing it, and then Dre saw the video and he said that's gotta go, so the record label at the very last minute just did a quick edit and just cut out the sound completely, which is just horrible. They ended up destroying 90,000 copies of the record or something, because the edit was so bad that we didn't like them sending it out. And so, I had changed it from the "N" word to Brothers, just cause that's workable, so hopefully it hasn't upset too many people, cause I never like sat there and really believed in it or wanted to say it.

Q: I'm glad to hear that you got fed up with controversy. So how are your other songs doing ?

A: "Anyway" has gotten a little bit of air play. It's not taking the world over, but it's not doing so bad. I think a lot of people would kill to have as much air play as we have, so like we want to be the Foo Fighters, so we are just impatiently waiting for it to hopefully pick up more, but you know.

Q: Has Weezer influenced you in anyway?

A: I think so. I think that every song I've tried to write, I've tried to write like Rivers Cuomo for many years. And then Chad wrote "Anyway" and it was right at the period of time when were listening to a lot of Weezer, so I think it does have some sort of influence on it, but he won't admit it now, but I think it does.

Q: They were here just a month a go.

A: We were on tour with them. That was a dream come true. We played 22 shows with them. It was awesome.

Q: I bet that was fun.

A: It was great. The crowds were a little mean. They were a little impatient for Weezer. Like we'd come out and they'd cheer for a second and then they'd see that none of us was Rivers and then they'd go "Weezer, Weezer, Weezer". They are one of my favorite bands ever. By the way, just for your knowledge, Chase Texas isn't in the band anymore. Yeah, he's our old drummer and we had to get rid of him and we got Kyle Schneider.

Q: He's from Texas too?

A: He's from Austin.

Q: Is Austin a good place for music now?

A: No. You know they hype it us as the live music capital of the world, and it's like. Here's how the system works and we are very bitter about it. The system works like this. If you are white boy funk bad, funk band and if you are good looking, then the sorority girls go to see you and then the guys say, wait a minute all the chicks are going here, let's go here, because I don't want to go see this cool Indy band or this cool pop band, because no one's there - like no chicks go to see them. And the chicks that do go to see them, don't give the fraternity guys the time of day. You know they're like all the alternative chicks that don't want a frat boy boyfriend. So, Austin has a huge Greek population (not Greek like nationality, but like Greek like in fraternities), and so, these people like Bob Schneider. Have you ever heard of him?

A: No.

A: He's a white boy funk kind of guy. He's a good looking guy. Then there's a band Vallejo. Vallejo is the name of one of the bands and Bob Schneider's like been in 4 different bands or something, and he's dating Sandra Bullock. So, girls galore go to see him - both of the bands. All the frat guys follow, and then consequently, every venue only wants to book bands like that you know. They don't want to book us. They want to book the bands that are going to bring 800 drunk frat boys and sorority girls and make a shitload of money. So, it's a bad scene and it's not as cool you would think it would be. And you usually get the white boy funk or you get the people who are trying to be the next Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Q: I was wondering about that?

A: And they are failing miserably and they think that they're just ripping it up and they are doing just the same old blues riffs and the same old blues solos.

Q: I'm glad you told me that, because I was told Austin had a music scene with being a University Town. It gets stereotyped and typecast into a certain thing.

A: Yeah, yeah. And no one ever makes it out of Austin. Fast Ball did, but no one went to see Fast Fall before they made it. I mean they were just like us. They were a struggling band in Austin. There a lot of cool bands there and everyone's friends and it's a cool community, but at the same time you can't get anybody come see you.

Q: So was it the air play of this song that brought you to the attention of Universal?

A: Yeah. It got on the air, and like I said it was Number One in Dallas for so long, but it was actually Number One with the original Blackbird ending. Then Universal same, and so when they were going to release it wide, that's when we had to change it. So, yeah, the air play did get them to come.

Q: How did the song about "Kate Moss" come about?

A: That was like Chad and I, we used to sit around and argue who's choice of supermodel future wife was going to be hotter. He liked this model named Latichia Costa and she's kind of like a full figured big busted model and I always liked Kate Moss, so we'd get in these big arguments - Here's Chad now - and Dear Kate was born out of that. So I decided to write a song. Chad helped me write it. And so, it was kind of jokingly written, but there are some bad things about it, but he wrote all the bad things and I wrote all the good things. So... all the insulting things he wrote (laughter).

Q: So you merge on songwriting?

A: Sometimes, but not very often. Most of the times I'll come in with a song and give it to them and they will do what they want to over it, but occasionally, like there is 4 or 5 songs that we've written, that we wrote together.

Q: What do you think might be your next single?

A: I think "Anyway", and then after that, it might be "Alvin" or "Dear Kate." I think it's kind of shifted between the two of them. A lot of people want Alvin and a lot of people want Dear Kate. I don't really care. I like them both a whole lot, so whatever they choose.

Q: I listened to your C.D. You have a lot of good beats to your songs. It's catchy.

A: Thank you.

Q: How many times have your toured the East Coast.

A: We've played the East Coast like 5 times. All year. We've been out since like May and we have been on the West Coast twice. We were on the East Coast with Weezer. We played New York City, Boston, Jersey, Providence. We just went up to Toronto. So we've been there like I said, we've played Boston twice, Providence twice, New Jersey three times. We've played a lot up there.

Q: Are you able to write any songs on the road?

A: No, I haven't been able to, but a couple of them have been. But I mean we all have just a whole crap load of songs at home. We've had these songs from like 1996 or '97 that are on the record. They're old. They were written a long time ago - most of them. In that time that we were waiting to record them we wrote a whole bunch of other songs as well. I think I have like 30 or 35 songs just sitting at home just waiting to do something.

Q: Do you have to pretty much run the course of this tour before you can release them.

A: Yes. Good question. We are just kind of like out here waiting.

Q: So you already talked about influences like Weezer. Is there any other bands you like?

A: I think lately we all went through the Pavement phase, so we're getting to like real Indie experimental kind of stuff and less pop. I don't like the Melvin's , but Chad does.

Q: Chad does has glasses, are you starting to transform into Melvin ?

A: I could be a Melvin, or one of them.

Q: What about your rap influence?

A: This is going to sound bad, but the only rap band that I ever listen to is Easy E and NWA. Those are the only two. I listen to the Beastie Boys, but they're not really gangster rap. So it's still rap I guess.

Q: Lyrically they are really different.

A: And they are a lot more experimental in the music world.

Q: They are always talking about New York this and Brooklyn that...

A: Yeah. So I listen to Easy E all the time in high school. That was my most played CD's in high school.

Q: Hopefully things will change for Dynamite Hack after you've done this tour and go back to Austin to have hopefully a better turnout then the sorority people.

A: I know there is a lot of cool people there. They just don't go do anything. They sit at home and complain how there is nothing to do. Meanwhile, there are great bands playing places. The good thing is that there is like every night there is like maybe two, but usually one band that I want to see, so it's like, that's what I do. I go through the schedule and pick out that I'm going to go here from 7:00 to 9:00 and then from here from 11:00 to 12:00. Then I would pick two of them .

Q: Does labeling what kind of music you play bother you?

A: I've always been against that, because pop music isn't really pop. I guess it is now, like Brittany Spears, that pop and its popular. That's where pop comes from. Like Nirvana, that was one of the most popular bands around, but they weren't pop. I have always just been against that. As far as music changing, I would like think that it all works in cycles. Like you had some good 80's rock bands that came along and then it got so distorted that everyone started copying them and then it got to be like a joke and then it went through a boy band phase like New Kids on the Block and all these non-threatening pop idols started coming out and then everybody got sick of it and grunge came along and it just blew up. And then it got ridiculous because everybody started copying everybody and it just got ridiculous and then the boy bands are back. So I am hoping that there is going to be some band that's going to come along and just like take everybody over.

By Randy Cohen

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