Since the theme for Nintendoâ€™s Platoon video game was sampled for the now canonized â€œDiplo Rhythm,â€ it seems that the threads already binding electronic music and video games have grown even tighter. Bouncy, MIDI-infused tracks are becoming more and more common at clubs, and Torontoâ€™s Times Neue Roman are definitely helping to speed up this process. But what sets them apart, you ask?
Well for one, vocalist Arowbe Arowbe Arowbe can rap. Avant-garde projects such as these often fall victim to cringe-worthy staccatos and non-sequiturs, but Arowbe, AKA Robert Bolton, steps forward with locomotive cadence and clever rhyme patterns, while producer Alexander The, AKA Alexander Punzalan (of Styrofoam Ones fame) lays down blip-heavy, slightly-alienating nostalgia, reminiscent of the first time you got to Ganon in The Legend of Zelda. Psyche; no-one ever made it that far.
â€œMusicâ€™s kind of like a big buffet, in the sense that you try to load up your plate with as much shit as possible. We try to keep our music lean, like throwing some vegetables in there.â€
Format: Tell us a little about your conception.
Arowbe: I came in, and I took my mink off. Everyone was doing drugs in a movie theatre, and Gavin Sheppard, a mutual friend of Alexâ€™s and mine, introduced us. I thought to myself, â€œwho is this unknown renegade?â€
Alexander The: I had to stop my Christian auditions- yâ€™know- dancing. I met this guy, and knew he was no trouble, so I started to make beats, and he began speaking his word of gospel.
Format: The To Die EP dropped at the start of September. For those who arenâ€™t yet informed, why should they be running out to pick it up?
Alexander The: If you go up to Pacific Mall [editors note: a notorious bootleg outlet in Northern Toronto], you can actually get it on a USB drive. You can also get it from us in Kensington Market, at 167 Augusta Avenue.
Arowbe: Weâ€™ve also got a deal [with some vendors] in Chinatown – with their DVD sales, you receive a bootleg copy. Other than that, get at us on our Myspace, and itâ€™s on iTunes, too.
Format: Who or what are your stylistic influences? What is in your headphones right now?
Alexander The: Everyone is about plaid and leopard print. No-one is recognizing the polka-dot.
Arowbe: [Musically speaking], weâ€™re heavily influenced by Hippie 92, 93-â€˜Til, and MC 1994; they were part of the â€œscrewed and choppedâ€ movement. Their style was pretty avant-garde at the time. Their big hit was â€œIâ€™ma Mutha Focker (Fuck Art).â€
Format: There are a whole lot of people making music for the club right now. How are you guys doing it differently?
Arowbe: Youâ€™d have to ask Adam; heâ€™s the sound guy at The Drake [Hotel].
Alexander The: Itâ€™s fucked up man, itâ€™s all fucked up.
Arowbe: Weâ€™ve modeled our style after ultimate Frisbee, because itâ€™s a distraction from things that matter, and thatâ€™s what weâ€™re about.
Alexander The: The problem is that no-one likes to play ultimate Frisbee anymore; weâ€™d probably be a lot more successful if they did.
Format: What do you think has broken down the walls between club music and traditional rap, in recent years?
Alexander The: Itâ€™s funny, when you say that, I think of that Run DMC video [â€œWalk This Wayâ€] which was like the ultimate metaphor for mash-ups and stuff like that. They literally smash down a wall in it. I think itâ€™s an amalgamation of things – a lot of media perspective. Thereâ€™s culture and anonymity, podcast celebrity, Myspace friends, Google memoryâ€¦
Format: What do you look for in production? That â€œRecord Storeâ€ remix is crazy.
Arowbe: Itâ€™s gotta have a Big Muff [points to Electro-Harmonix â€œMuffâ€ distortion pedal on the ground].
Alexander The: Itâ€™s gotta be like mixing cement and soap, itâ€™s hard but clean.
Arowbe: Better than being soft and dirty, right? Thatâ€™s just nasty.
Alexander The: Musicâ€™s kind of like a big buffet, in the sense that you try to load up your plate with as much shit as possible. We try to keep our music lean, like throwing some vegetables in there.
Format: There is a distinct MIDI influence in your music. What video games did you play growing up?
Alexander The: â€œ1949â€- definitely â€œ1949â€ . You know, that top-down airplane game, where you could blow up aircraft carriers? I really liked using Game Genie, too.
Arowbe: â€œChuck E. Cheeseâ€- it was actually started by the founder of Atari- Nolan Bushnell. I was really into Ski Ball. When you think of the sonic environment of [Chuck E. Cheese], itâ€™s actually very similar.
Format: What are you playing now?
Arowbe: You know what I wanna play with right now? Is an oscilloscope- it measures voltage. They actually created a tennis game you can play on them. You press a button, and it creates a certain amount of voltage; like swinging a racquet. This was pre-Pong.
Alexander The: I want that marble game with the straws that you pull out- whatâ€™s that called? Oh right, â€œKerplunk.â€
Arowbe: We might actually have a videogame with our friend Eepmon- he does live visuals for us sometimes. His style is more anime-influenced than video game, but Iâ€™d say thereâ€™s a degree of 8-bit influence in there, too.
Format: Street Fighter, or Mortal Kombat?
Alexander The: Mortal Kombat, man. Scorpionâ€™s my favorite character.
Arowbe: I like Street Fighter; Ryu. You like Ryu or Ken?
Format: Ryu, definitely
Arowbe: I gotta question anyone that picks Ken. Ryu was the honorable one; Ken was just a pretty boy living the fast life.
Alexander The: In terms of Street Fighter, my favorite character was always Blanka. I used to play [at] arcades where youâ€™d have to pay the next guy a quarter because of his [electricity move], otherwise theyâ€™d ban you from that arcade, or youâ€™d get beaten down. It was at Yonge and Gerrard.
Format: You guys recently performed out of the back of a U-Haul at Torontoâ€™s Nuit Blanche festival. How was that?
Alexander The: It was fuckinâ€™ ill, man. Iâ€™d had that idea for about two years, and Nuit Blanche came along, so I thought to myself, â€œThis shit has got to happen.â€
Format: Was this an official attraction?
Arowbe: It wasnâ€™t official, no [laughs].
Alexander The: We had cops stopping us the first time, so we moved to Trinity Bellwoods Park at the U-Haul parking lot. We were going to perform at Rollyâ€™s Garage, but they got shut down.
Arowbe: There were at least 15 cop cars, and six on bikes.
Alexander The: It would have been sick too, because we were just going to open up the [garage] doors and back right in, performing.
Format: Have any other- Iâ€™m hesitant to say- stunts planned?
Arowbe: Itâ€™s funny that you mention that. Our manager sent an e-mail to somebody today, and used the same word. He had it in quotation marks, though.
Alexander The: If something comes to our brain, itâ€™ll be done next week. You never really know.
Arowbe: More bands need to be looking into alternative venues, like playing under bridges or [hopping out of U-Hauls].
Format: This is your chance to address those who might be looking to collaborate. What are you looking for in a team-up?
Arowbe: Youâ€™d have to be high to ask us a question like that.
Alexander The: Everything we do is a collaboration, weâ€™re down to fuck around with people. Pink Dead Whale just did a remix of â€œTo Die,â€ DJ Barletta just did a remix of that too, and Bombaman actually did a dubstep remix, which is crazy.
Format: Thanks so much for your time. Is there anything else youâ€™d like to mention?
Arowbe: Nope. Not for love or for money would I ever take part in something like that, and I donâ€™t want you to take part in that either.
Alexander The: This man donâ€™t trouble no man. We would like to shout out Mr. Hands, DJ Mensa, Eepmon, and the KPC (Kapi Sanan Philipino Centre) though. Welcome to the end.
More Info: http://myspace.com/timesneueroman
Images by: Metsa Design, Chris Wang, Alex Felipe