THE FIVE FACES OF DORKNESS: BLUESWADE CARTOON’s Five Part Interview Series on Nerdcore Hip Hop
PART TWO: THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU ARE DEF
Comic Geek Punk interviews Denver Nerdcore Vetern AN HOBBES
Denver, Colorado. As fall chill and early dusks settle upon the city, its vibrant art scene makes their way to their favorite watering holes. A central focal point of America’s music industry, Denver has served, for decades, as the central hub for artists traveling and touring abroad. Once in awhile, one of these aspiring musicians falls fancy for Denver’s charms: it’s multiculturalism, its expansive job market, its microbrews.
Weird hip hop holds a bigger sway in this city than most in the U.S. In a city that plays host to acts such as Wheelchair Sports Camp, Strange Powers, and Liquid Assassin, AN HOBBES found ample opportunity, and moved there a few years back. He isn’t trying to keep up with the Brass Knuckle crowd, or be the next Flobots; he’s doing art for art’s sake. Hobbes is a scene veteran, favoring regular shows at local small venues and coffee houses over the stress and hassles other acts deal with on a larger scale. Despite keeping almost exclusively to the 303, Hobbes grinds almost every single weekend. He’s just at home playing a show with a metal act like In The Company Of Serpents, as he would be with an act like Ancient Mith. An Hobbes has an intimate familiarity of Denver. And he’s happy him and his family are an extension of his city’s eccentricism.
Earlier this year, An Hobbes released THE CHAMELEON & THE THIEF, a concept album told as a comprehensive chaptered overarching story arc influenced by cyberpunk-crime noire. Heads into some of the more obscure Kool Keith aliases like Dr. DOOOM and SPANKMASTER, Madlib, or MC Paul Barman will certainly enjoy Hobbe’s stream-of-conscious bar structure, and plot connectivity layered in different songs. From the Shaw Brothers get-go, to the eclectic use of FINAL FANTASY VI’s haunting melodies, and down to the brass-tax atmospheric jazz offerings, the production sets the perfect complimentary mood for the paranoid who-done-it of aliens and nanobots.
Being a fan of BLUESWADE CARTOONS before even Comic Geek Punk was brought on-board, Hobbes was ecstatic when we reached out to him for an interview. He’s got a few of our various designs in his wardrobe, and rocks them at shows from time to time, so it was mutually a great opportunity for us to give him some ups with an interview. We talked with Hobbes about his recent project, about being a breathing, performing component of Denver’s music scene, and where to go if you are looking to geek out in his backyard…
- Here’s a stream of THE CHAMELEON & THE THIEF to listen to while you read this. Don’t tell An Hobbes we’ve been bootlegging his albums!
CGP: So, let’s talk about your latest album, CHAMELEON & THE THIEF. This has been out since January. I listened to it, and it’s a doozy of a concept album. I felt like I was listening to a graphic novel, beginning to end. It’s certainly unique, as far as its approach. I got a real Philip K. Dick-Blade Runner feel from it. Tell us what inspired you to approach this album this in such an experimental format?
AN HOBBES: Well, for those readers who are unfamiliar with my works, this is my third concept album to date. The first two albums belong to a series I created several years ago called Diaries of a Space Cadet, which chronicle the adventures of a young man who by chance is taken far from earth by a mysterious spaceship he traded for some Gundam models.
While I was writing Diaries 2, I was also talking with K Murdock about making the Chameleon album. At first I wanted to write a “who-done-it” style murder mystery. However, the more I threw around ideas, the more the story started to evolve into a noir style detective tale. I wanted the atmosphere to be dark so I drew from a lot of different sci-fi sources for imagery. Flicks like Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, The Fifth Element; even some titles from my childhood like Transformers and Tim Burton’s Batman.
As far as writing style is concerned, the biggest obstacle I encountered was trying to find a way to blend in the classic “faux-noir” inner monologue with the rapping. I found that working in the monologue as a sort of spoken-word format sounded the best, so I ran with it. I really wanted this story to be both incredibly cohesive as well as entertaining. I also felt it was very important to create an album that was stylistically pleasing with an original sound. In the end, I think those goals were accomplished and I am incredibly proud of the results K and I were able to produce
CGP: I actually think that your experimentation with getting the right vocal tone and reflection really paid off. I totally get that down-and-out detective feel from your protagonist’s point of view in the album. We had talked a bit earlier on about how Point & Click computer mysteries of the 90’s influenced THIEF & THE CHAMELEON. I heard name-drop of LucasArt’s Monkey Island in one of the earlier cuts. What is it about these particular gaming genres embolden you? What inspires your passion for those titles?
AN HOBBES: (Point & Click) games hold a lot of nostalgic value for me. I started to get into P&C gaming when I was in fifth grade. A buddy of mine introduced me to a bunch of titles including Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, Leisure Suit Larry (WHERE WERE OUR PARENTS?!!) and Sam & Max. There were so many aspects that drew me towards these games but I think at the core it was the stories and the humor that hit home for me. I love absurdity. I love a good pun. These games had it all and blended them into puzzles that I found to be genuinely entertaining and at times infuriating. For games that were so simplistic on the outside, they boasted so much creativity once you started playing. I couldn’t get enough. I still can’t! I’m currently playing Broken Age by Tim Schafer (Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island 2, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango). It’s amazing. I highly recommend it to my fellow gamers if they haven’t had a chance to check it out already.
CGP: Have you thought about reaching out to a developer homie about putting together a P&C companion game/prequel/sequel/sidestory for the album? Maybe as a followup, or a packaged deal bonus?
AN HOBBES: I have definitely given the idea of converting the story into game a lot of thought. This is something I would love to do. Unfortunately, I don’t know any game developers. So if any developers read this and are interested, please contact me. I would love to make this happen!
CGP: There’s a lot of hard anime references and samples done throughout the album. There are cuts on this that feel right out of Lupin The Third. We had also talked a bit about Trigun. What Animes and Mangas brought sustenance to the table, in terms of the production of this album?
AN HOBBES: Mutual love for anime and gaming, specifically Trigun and Final Fantasy 6, is a large part of what brought K (Murdock) and I together for this project. For production, we decided to only sample from games or anime. I went through and made a list of different titles that were my favorites and started listening to OSTs. Some songs I knew I wanted right off the bat. Others I had to do some searching. K took my ideas and breathed life into them. It was amazing. We ended up drawing influence from The Master of Mosquiton, R.O.D the T.V., The Getbackers, Great Teacher Onizuka, Baccano! and Irresponsible Captain Tylor for Anime. We decided revisiting Final Fantasy 6 was also essential as that was the game that brought us together in the first place on my first solo release. Paying homage to my favorite P&C title, we also decided to draw from Sam & Max. Really I can’t suggest that series enough, Steve Purcell is a genius.
CGP: Let’s talk about Denver. People tend to talk about Portland and Austin as these Art District-type cities. But the 303 is vastly overlooked…
AN HOBBES: Absolutely. There is SO MUCH art here. It’s crazy. You can find a great live show pretty much any night of the week. The visual art scene is off the hook. It is a great time to be an artist in Denver. There is just so much opportunity here and so many people who want to be a part of the art scene. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to perform with some of the most talented acts in this city. Artists like Felix Fast4ward, Aethernaut, 3Two, Abeasity Jones, Adam Selene, the list goes on and on. Make sure to check these guys out. You won’t be disappointed.
CGP: When I was down south, Houston has this dope little bar, downtown, named Neil’s Bahr, a pun on the name of an acclaimed physicist. This place has Smash Brothers tourneys, live music, Card’s Against Humanity, Legos, and comic art on every inch of walling on the place. It’s a small joint, but its geek cred keeps it a popular destination for some folks. I’m curious to know, in your travels and performances, what does Denver offer that might compare to a place like Neil’s?
AN HOBBES: Well the comic books art on the walls instantly reminds me of 3 Kings Tavern, my favorite venue to play in Denver. There is also a great spot up the street from there called Mutiny Info Café. It is a small venue/bookstore/record store and as of just a few months ago comic shop. Another great spot is the 1-UP Barcade. I mean what’s better than catching your favorite band (playing) live then tossing quarters into your favorite old school arcade game? We are spoiled to have such a multitude of conventions that come through the city annually. Every year these Cons draw larger crowds and gain more attention. Denver Comic Con hit over 100,000 attendees this summer! The geek culture here is strong and seems to just keep gaining momentum.
CGP: I was down that way about six weeks back. I went and saw Mile High Comics. It was this massive warehouse full of pop culture goodness…
AN HOBBES: I haven’t had a chance to get to the warehouse but I do visit the Mile High Comics a couple miles down the road. It’s a great place. The staff is both friendly and knowledgeable and they have a great selection. However, I feel like I would be doing my neighborhood a grievous error if I didn’t give a shout out to the local comic spot All in a Dream Comics. My dude Travis over there is the man and they’ve got a nice manga selection too. If you are extra nerdy like I am, you might find yourself picking up some toys along with some over at Twist and Shout or even trading those toys down Broadway at Lowbrow Gallery. Denver has it all.
CGP: Next time I work my way out there, you are deffinately taking me to them spots! We was talking about Denver’s music scene earlier, and I meant to ask you: What are some of the drawbacks to Denver’s scene compaired to other places, if any?
AN HOBBES: All of the talented competition! There are so many great artists and we’re all trying to get on shows. I play pretty often but I apply for way more shows than I actually perform at. Getting booked requires a constant upkeep and a lot of luck. I’m already booking shows into next spring. That being said, having the competition requires you to really hone your skills for your live set. For me, competition gives results in more drive to become a better artist and performer. I’m constantly analyzing my sets and trying to figure out what kind of adjustments I can make to win the crowd over that much more.
CGP: Scenario question: I get on the horn with Bryan Wade of Blueswade Cartoons, and I’m like “An Hobbes wants you to design THIS specific shirt.” What are you having the boss draw you up?
AN HOBBES: Man, that’s a tough question. I’ve been an avid follower of the 24 hour shirt business for several years. I have a pretty vast collection but there are two pop culture references I haven’t seen printed that I would love to have produced. The first would be for Quark’s Bar from Star Trek: DS9. The second would be for Brisco County Jr. That was such an amazing series that no one ever talks about and to be honest I think it deserves a tribute. Those definitely could be some designs that could be added to my wardrobe.
CGP: Brisco County Jr. would be a good one, now that you mention it. That series has a bit of a following amongst some of my peers out this way. Back on the subject of your music: You are working on another album at present. Story writing has been an element in your past albums. Is it safe to assume this album will also be articulately planned out, plotted and drafted like a story?
AN HOBBES: That is a safe assumption. The next project will actually be the debut of my new group Secret Dog with producer Aethernaut. I’m taking a step away from Sci-Fi and am going to try my hand at writing a fantasy story. We’re only a few tracks in but i got to say, this album is going to be great. The tracks Aethernaut has been sending my way are off the hook!
CGP: Do you do any writing outside of songwriting? Maybe a blog, or a book of your own?
AN HOBBES: I have been tossing around the idea of writing a novel. I haven’t really come up with an idea i want to go with. This is something I really want to pursue and hopefully I will have more to report next year.
CGP: Well, you will have to keep me informed on your progress, as it comes to you. This interview was an absolute pleasure, Hobbes. Thank you for the time. We really appreciate you coming through on the interview. Next time we’re out doing the Blueswade Cartoons thing out in Denver, hopefully we can catch ya at a show. Or, get you back out this way, for a show!
AN HOBBES: For sure! Thanks for having me on the site!
An Hobbes has a ton of music available to purchase or stream through SoundCloud. Support this man’s passion, and stay updated by visiting www.facebook.com/anhobbes and clicking LIKE.
We don’t have a Brisco County Jr. shirt. We do have an Ash Williams/Army Of Darkness shirt. You can order one today, and have it just in the nick of time for the premiere of Bruce Campbell’s series on Starz, this Halloween!
Rick McDowell, AKA Comic Geek Punk is a writer, blogger, and gentleman adventurer. His credentials include being featured on an Adult Swim bumper at two in the morning, and haven captured all 720 Pokemon through six game generations. You can reach out to him through any of Blueswade Cartoons various online media, or check out his stuff at facebook.com/comicgeekpunk.