I stand hunched over an old arcade machine. The lights and sounds from rows of these archaic video games fill the dimly lit room with their garish, almost desperate cries for attention. I barely notice MC Lars approach as Ryu lets fly with a barrage of hadoukens. My Blanka stops mid-rolling attack and falls to the ground. Before he completes his slow motion death I let loose with a string of obscenities, pushing away from the machine and almost knocking Lars over in the process.
Recomposing myself, I try to make excuses for my defeat. The machine’s rigged. It’s a newer, hacked version where everything is sped up. Lars looks unconvinced. We wander over to another machine. Ten foot high monsters climb up and down buildings, smashing at their foundations and eating little pixellated people. I stare at the screen for a while, and it all begins to remind me of the cover of the new MC Lars album, This Gigantic Robot Kills. Turning my attention to the Laptop rapper, I ask what he might do with a similarly large cybernetic bully.
“Take it down to Orange County and destroy all of the reality TV garbage that has been dominating the airwaves.” he says, momentarily mesmerised by the action. “I’d make ska cool again.”
A two-hit combo. Nice. We turn to look around at the almost abandoned arcade. A few older men stand in front of machines frantically smashing buttons, their faces bathed in that sick fluorescent glow. There were two reasons I suggested we meet here. The first I bring up by motioning to the haphazardly placed gamers, pointing out that there are no women to be seen. His music might appeal to these guys, but I wonder whether being associated with nerdcore makes it difficult to score with the ladies.
“Extremely, which is why I always make the case that I’m not ‘nerdcore’. I write music that is sometimes about ‘nerdy topics’, but at the core I’m not a nerd. That’s why I still do well with the ladies.”
I’ve tried that tack myself. I’m not a nerd, I just like nerdy things. Looking at MC Lars though, it seems like he can pull it off. With his Wu Tang Clan hoodie and strategically lowered jeans, he looks more like a cool frat boy than the posterchild for a small niche of chip-tune obsessed geeks. He looks so genuinely popular that I decide to quiz him on something particularly uncool. What would MC Lars do if the Zombie Apocalypse came tomorrow?
“I would stock up on shotguns and shotgun shells, and hide in a place with great food supplies and doors that make it impossible to get out.” He answers without hesitation, as if he’s tossed the idea around before. “I would make sure I had my studio, and create beats so incredibly pounding that they would explode the zombies heads as they tried to enter. It wouldn’t be pretty, but it would get the job done. If this didn’t work, eventually global warming would melt their heads, so we’d be chilling (not literally).”
I’m not sure what to say. He can even make preparing for a fictitious war with the undead sound like an explosive house party. We start to wander through the aisles of machines, talk turning to the fading relevance of places like this one. I bring up my second clever journalistic analogy, and explain that I saw this place as a bit of a reflection on the decline of the major record labels in the past few years.
Lars’ 2006 single, Download This Song, was an indictment on the crimilisation of online music downloads and the eminent decline of major label superiority. He tells me that “’The Future of Music’ was an awesome book by Dave Kusek that inspired me to write Download This Song. It’s funny how much has come true in the past few years since that song dropped. I rapped about how ‘music was a product, now it is a service.’ This has increasingly come true as the bands who have put on great live shows are the ones who have ‘stayed in the game’. The labels who have a brand recognition for putting out good music are the ones who have kept their loyal fans. Independent labels with tight rosters are still going strong.”
Lars has his own record label, Horris Records, so he’s ticked at least one of those boxes. I have to ask whether he thinks his live shows qualify as great. What can we expect, I enquire, from his latest Australian tour, already in full swing.
“We have a full live band and a multi-media projection show. The Brisbane band A Year to Remember will serve as our backing band and will also open for us. It’s pretty exciting because the last two times I just had my laptop, and this time we’ve got the full-on rock show!”
His excitement seems to have upset the punters. They turn as one from their machines and stare at us with the dogged determination of men who have invested far too much time in the welfare of pixellated cartoon characters. I turn to Lars with a bemused look. He shrugs. Taking our cue, we decide to leave. Before we part ways, I ask Lars whether he has any time on tour to write new material.
“I always try to write and record while on tour. I’m working on the next CD, as well as a record with K.Flay, a record with Jesse Dangerously, and a children’s record. I’m also working on a graphic novel and some other non-music related projects. Best believe I stay busy, son!!”
He goes to shake my hand, but fearing a complicated exchange I know I’ll mess up, I go for the high five instead. He laughs, and starts jogging away down the street. I head back inside, intent on teaching that petulant Ryu a lesson in shock therapy.