Death Grips x Alec Empire

"The future is now."

Earlier today, ClashMusic received a phone call.

“We’ve got an interview” the voice on the other end informed us, “which might be of interest”. Intrigued, we probed further. Turns out, Death Grips spent time at Coachella hanging out with Alec Empire.

Two ferocious, unrelenting talents the German noise provocateur was able to tease out some fascinating answers from the reclusive Sacramento collective.

Handed the complete transcript, the Clash team have opted to present the conversation entirely un-edited.

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Alec Empire: I was glad to see your show at Coachella this year in 2012 for the first time. When I included your video for “Guillotine” over a year ago in a debate about video clips in a European magazine, a lot of people were putting it off as one of these ‘obscure things Alec Empire likes because no one else likes them’ or whatever. So a lot happened with you guys since then, and it’s awesome that so many people are getting into your music. In the past decade new groups who are pushing the boundaries get absorbed by the machinery of hipsters and commerce very fast, too fast. Hardly anyone survives that. But what struck me was that at Coachella, Death Grips stuck out like no other band and was totally confrontational. How do you deal with the attention you guys are getting? What do you think of it all? What does music mean in 2012?
We deal with the attention we are receiving by keeping our heads down and minds on nothing but the music. None of us are ego driven so staying focussed is not a problem. The opportunity we have been presented with is a double edged sword and we handle it as such.

You come from Sacramento in the US, right? Can you describe that city? Most people have never really heard of it outside of America. Is there a music scene? Does every band sound like you guys out there?
Sacramento is a slow but watch your back kind of town stuck inside the downward spiral of a never ending Twin Peaks trip. Last week someone decided to call it quits on the train tracks and their decapitated head was found close by, behind a locally owned boutique/venue. Just this morning Zach was approached by a kid in his early twenties who, double fisted with twelve inch kitchen knives (held in plain sight like they were two bananas) asked if he had any money. Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of homeless teens roaming around in large packs day and night like I heard stray dogs do in Detroit. There is a toxic air of desperation here that lingers on and on. It is disturbing and inspiring.

There are a few bands I like and respect very much here but I do not follow the local music scene. Like many things, for the most the part, I think it sucks…played out, lazy, lacks feeling… No one sounds like us. Death Grips is the pulse of the individual and that exists only within itself.

In your opinion what produces more creative energy: Boredom or sensation?
Boredom is a sensation like any other. Its all about how you freak it. All art is a product of the atmosphere it is created in but art worth paying attention to stands alone in how it reflects a real ones ability to transform the way that very atmosphere makes him/her feel into a masterwork.

How and why did you start your band in this environment?
Zach and I were neighbours. We often hung out and regularly discussed our mutual desire to do new things with rap music . Andy, who had already co produced and engineered numerous albums with Zach, wanted to do the same thing. The three of us eventually got together one night, wrote a song and knew we had something worth exploring. Being that we were all broke, we started crafting our sound the only place we could…where we were at the time.

I personally think that what makes Death Grips so exciting and refreshing is how you integrated samples in your music. There is a lot debate about copyright since a few months. Where do you draw the line? In my opinion you clearly create entirely new music because the samples are manipulated beyond recognition. Do you think all attempts by the government to clamp down on internet freedoms is protecting you as artists in the long run or are the new laws they are trying to implement in the way of innovation?
We pay no attention to the endless debates over what one should or should not be able to sample. We use what we want and if we can’t clear the sample so be it. There are always other ways. When it comes to the government…I have never and will never put my trust in the government or anyone who does.

What’s the worst Hip Hop record ever made in your opinion?
Too many come to mind to single one out. Honestly, I don’t like most of the hip hop I hear lately….shameless pride in total ignorance pushed over spineless beats that sound like senility….oppressor worship force fed to the masses by entertainers disguised as artists…
There are rappers I’m feeling right now like, “Fuck, they got that SHIT!!”, but as a whole I know hip hop could be far more than it presently is and I want to see that happen.

In my opinion your videos defined a new era of DIY video making. How do you make your videos? Where do you think the medium is heading? Your live show has unusual video backdrops as well. Do visuals influence your music?
We come up with visual concepts think tank style. We build upon one another’s ideas until one of us or all of us receives a “flash”….the idea that seemingly comes out of nowhere but was right before our faces the entire time. Where the medium is headed is of no concern to us. Artistic progression is not fueled by paying attention to where current trends appear to be heading….a matter of irrelevance…a chew toy for spectators and/or critics. Strong visuals enhance the sonic experience. Zach, Andy, and I are visual artists. We see the music and are attempting to create the world we envision. The visual aspect must be arresting in every way imaginable.

Most people I spoke to about Death Grips don’t seem to understand your lyrics (one can all read them on the website by the way). Could you sum up what your songs are about?
How do you write your songs? The stuff has a very live feel to it. It makes one feel alive, although I personally have images of a world ending and destruction in my mind when I listen to your music. How do you see that? What do you say to people who feel so safe in the grid of society and criticize you for being ‘negative’ or ‘pessimistic’?

Lyrically, Death Grips represent the glorification of the gut…the id..summoned, tapped, and channelled before being imprisoned and raped by the laws of reason… All songs are written collectively and then maximized through painstaking attention to detail. We practice the art of deconstruction with the devotion of possessed fanatics. Both idealists and pessimists live in delusional fantasies rooted in their incapacity to deal with the way of things. We are realists. Anyone who feels safe is a brainwashed lamb ready for the slaughter.

2012 is just a number. Music will always mean the same thing to us. Music is timeless, and like all things timeless, beyond definition.

What is the future?
The future is now.

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Death Grips’ new album ‘The Money Store’ is out now.

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