Times Neue Roman

Since the theme for Nintendo’s Platoon video game was sampled for the now canonized “Diplo Rhythm,” 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 Toronto’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.

“Music’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: 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 Alex’s and mine, introduced us. I thought to myself, “who is this unknown renegade?”

Alexander The: I had to stop my Christian auditions- y’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 aren’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: We’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 it’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], we’re heavily influenced by Hippie 92, 93-‘Til, and MC 1994; they were part of the “screwed and chopped” movement. Their style was pretty avant-garde at the time. Their big hit was “I’ma Mutha Focker (Fuck Art).”

Format: There are a whole lot of people making music for the club right now. How are you guys doing it differently?
Arowbe: You’d have to ask Adam; he’s the sound guy at The Drake [Hotel].

Alexander The: It’s fucked up man, it’s all fucked up.

Arowbe: We’ve modeled our style after ultimate Frisbee, because it’s a distraction from things that matter, and that’s what we’re about.

Alexander The: The problem is that no-one likes to play ultimate Frisbee anymore; we’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: It’s funny, when you say that, I think of that Run DMC video [“Walk This Way”] which was like the ultimate metaphor for mash-ups and stuff like that. They literally smash down a wall in it. I think it’s an amalgamation of things – a lot of media perspective. There’s culture and anonymity, podcast celebrity, Myspace friends, Google memory…

Format: What do you look for in production? That “Record Store” remix is crazy.
Arowbe: It’s gotta have a Big Muff [points to Electro-Harmonix “Muff” distortion pedal on the ground].

Alexander The: It’s gotta be like mixing cement and soap, it’s hard but clean.

Arowbe: Better than being soft and dirty, right? That’s just nasty.

Alexander The: Music’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: “1949”- definitely “1949” . You know, that top-down airplane game, where you could blow up aircraft carriers? I really liked using Game Genie, too.

Arowbe: “Chuck E. Cheese”- 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], it’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- what’s that called? Oh right, “Kerplunk.”

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 I’d say there’s a degree of 8-bit influence in there, too.

Format: Street Fighter, or Mortal Kombat?
Alexander The: Mortal Kombat, man. Scorpion’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 you’d have to pay the next guy a quarter because of his [electricity move], otherwise they’d ban you from that arcade, or you’d get beaten down. It was at Yonge and Gerrard.

Format: You guys recently performed out of the back of a U-Haul at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche festival. How was that?
Alexander The: It was fuckin’ ill, man. I’d had that idea for about two years, and Nuit Blanche came along, so I thought to myself, “This shit has got to happen.”

Format: Was this an official attraction?

Arowbe: It wasn’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 Rolly’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- I’m hesitant to say- stunts planned?
Arowbe: It’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, it’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: You’d have to be high to ask us a question like that.

Alexander The: Everything we do is a collaboration, we’re down to fuck around with people. Pink Dead Whale just did a remix of “To Die,” 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 you’d like to mention?
Arowbe: Nope. Not for love or for money would I ever take part in something like that, and I don’t want you to take part in that either.

Alexander The: This man don’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

Andrew Rennie

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  1. Dr. Col. Aloysius Crain Dufle III Esq. says:

    Yeah I saw a bunch of “pseudo bohemian rapscallions”, “aspiring rogues”, “calculating cool cats”, “irrevocably transparent irreverent minstrels” galavanting around the city on that little “interdisciplinary bus of happenings” of yours. I suppose it was a real right on idea to give everyone in this predictable worker day world a little spice with your elaborate guerilla performance venture wasn’t it? I suppose you’ll all be having quite a laugh about narrowly evading the law and garnering the media attention you’re so clearly desperate for won’t you? Quite a success wasn’t it? I hope you’re all real proud of yourselves… also someone tell the Filipino gentleman with the ponytail that the sound from his keyboard organ echoes the with the pangs of a thousand hipster funerals, or it least it will in due time. Is it Filipino or Pilipino? What’s the deal with the P anyway?

  2. You guys need to come play in Stockholm, Sweden. I know a lot of people that could love to see you guys live. Keep making amazing music.

  3. These guys are so fun!!! just stumbled upon them recently and ended up buying everything they had on itunes, if you haven’t heard these guys listen o one track it doesn’t matter which one… looking forward to some new releases!!

  4. Greatest interview I’ve read in a while.

    I fucking love you guys.

    Shout out from TheLegendsLeague.
    Love&Respect as usual fellas.

  5. Absolutely Priceless.
    This rhythm is never gonna die.
    But if it does, then I’ll make sure to be put six feet underground with it.
    Mind-blowing beats + one of the dopest lyricists I’ve ever encountered.

    TNR til’ The End.
    Recognize that $#!T

  6. wow Col. Racist – wonder if you think you’re a poet with all those words?
    i hope you keep hating cause it makes you look like you do nothing with your life…fabulous.
    curiosity question: how long did that elaborate hate note take you???
    i hope your words make you proud.

    p.s. everyone: love your haters, you don’t know it but they’re your best friends.

  7. how is it that y’all are not FAMOUS yet. seriously. soon enough, shit this hot can’t be kept under wraps for long…especially when you give interviews as highly entertaining as this one…


    *Note: Filipino is spelled Filipino. not Philipino.

  8. long live Hippie 92, 93-‘Til, and MC 1994, the pioneers of the screwed and chopped.
    Fuck wha??.. that’s right people.. art.

    Times keep on keepin on.

  9. Follow these guys on facebook, they are the most likeable people with the sickest beats. cant wait til they get big, get doing it large

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