Nerdcore’s ‘Rising’ brings a rabid fan base to the genre’s geeky, uneasy godfather, MC Frontalot

MC Frontalot with the Doppelgangstas and Brandon Patton
9 p.m. Monday
The Conservatory
8911 N. Western

Nerdcore might sound pretty niche, but on his new album, “Zero Day,” MC Frontalot once again tackles a wide range of subjects, including the screwed-up priorities of the first world, software vulnerability, self-scrutiny, gaming, disaster movies and the perverse use of calculators for sex humor.

Frontalot himself coined the term “nerdcore” a decade ago, but still has some reservations about being referred to as its godfather.

“Aren’t godfathers people who never have youngsters of their own?” he asked. “It’s like being the spinster uncle of nerdcore.”

Despite his misgivings, there’s no question that Frontalot ” born Damian Hess ” has led the charge of a new group of musicians tackling topics like technology, which truly define modern life, especially for younger listeners. Frontalot suggested that he and his like-minded ilk have found a frontier because technology just isn’t “cool” yet.

“To people who still make decisions about pop-music production and distribution, it still seems like geeky loner fare,” he said.

Frontalot, who hails from San Francisco, no longer remembers exactly what inspired him to want to rap, but Will Smith might be to blame.

“I remember being intensely excited when I discovered rap music. And by ‘discovered,’ I mean found out about alongside many millions of teenagers, all those to whom ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ was a moment of awakening,” he said. “That was the first time I got obsessed with a rap song, learned the whole lyric, understood about how rap songs are so goddamn motherfucking awesome.”

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince quickly led Frontalot to N.W.A., 3rd Bass, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.

“There was enough amazing music happening when I was that age that I should rightly have been a listener to nothing but hip-hop,” he said. “Instead, I had long hair and was in love with Axl Rose in 1989.”

Hair-metal exterior aside, Frontalot started writing raps in high school along with his longtime friend and musical collaborator Gaby Alter, who’s known onstage by his minor chord moniker, Gm7.

Frontalot was widely exposed to digital audiences on the Web site, where he sparked attention from the guys behind the hit Web comic “Penny Arcade.”

“I had a massive stroke of good luck in that the fan base found my songs before I had to think hard about having a band and being a full-time musician. I did always try to have an awesome Web page, but I don’t think I did many of the things that bands who are trying to get noticed work really hard on,” said Frontalot. “I don’t mean to point out that I’m so awesome that ears simply gravitate in my direction.”

He’s since become a huge draw at comic and gaming conventions, and has been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek, Spin and The Wall Street Journal, and was the focus of the 2008 documentary “Nerdcore Rising,” a festival fave now available on DVD.

“‘Nerdcore Rising’ has exposed me to lots of folks, and for that, I’m very thankful,” he said. “It came out as the best possible introduction to the band and the idea of nerdcore.”

But in many ways, he said that very little has changed since the film was shot in 2006.

“We still play to a lot of small crowds, though they are always groups of real fans and shows are constantly satisfying for us as a band,” Frontalot said. “That’s enough for me to keep working on it full-time, but we’re not getting rich on touring.”

On the other hand, each year brings bigger crowds and larger stages.

“It’s not like we’re positioned to become the next big thing,” he said, adding that the most important thing is that his act is better now than ever before. “We’ve been working on it for four years, I promise.”

Keeping things in perspective, Frontalot’s modest goals for the “Zero Day” tour include defeating capitalism.

“The new socialist America will support the arts for sure,” he said. “Then my kindly fans won’t have to waste their discretionary cash at my album and T-shirt vending kiosks.”

Broadening the scope of the tour to include first-time towns like Oklahoma City is another goal.
 “If this show goes swimmingly, we will be back on every single national tour,” he said. “So if folks might ever want to see us, they should come by and check it out on the inaugural visit, to buoy our spirits.”

As for what the future holds, Frontalot declared, “Uncertainty! And yet, the inevitable.” “Eric Webb

Eric Webb

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