INTERVIEW: The ThoughtCriminals

Posted on August 10, 2012 by Beau B Wan.
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I had the opportunity to ask Mikal kHill and Sulfur of the Charlotte based ThoughtCriminals a few questions earlier this week after the MC Lars show. Hear that and more below!

Thought Criminals, photo by Dane Hansel Abernathy

The show was great! It was a superb lineup. Justin Aswell of Mr. Invisible was DJ throughout the night. The ThoughtCriminals took the stage first. Adam WarRock followed them. Things really got crazy when Providence, RI based electro-punk duo Math The Band took the stage. Rounding out the show was a great set from MC Lars. Aswell continued with an impromptu dance party on the legendary Milestone floor until everything winded down. Truly an epic night to be remembered by all!

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@abortedclone | @kHillmatic

Next month half of The ThoughtCriminals, Mikal kHill, will be departing on the NOFRIENDS tour 2012 with Jesse Dangerously, Adam WarRock, and Tribe One. Check out the tour dates below and see if they are heading toward you!

No Friends Tour

  • 9/2 Chicago, IL – Burlington Bar
  • 9/3 Pontiac, MI – Crofoot Pike Room w/ Sample the Martian
  • 9/4 Cleveland, OH – Roc Bar w/ MC Cool Whip
  • 9/5 Philly, PA – M-Room w/ DevoSpice & Zilla Persona
  • 9/6 Worcester, MA – That’s Entertainment! w/ Shane Hall
  • 9/7 New Haven, CT – Cafe Nine w/ Ceschi Ramos
  • 9/8 Brooklyn, NY – Grand Victory w/ Schaffer the Darklord
  • 9/9 Baltimore, MD – Metro Gallery w/ Super Art Fight!
  • 9/10 Chesapeake, VA – Chicho’s Pizza w/ Nerdlucks
  • 9/11 Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
  • 9/12 Atlanta, GA – Drunken Unicorn
  • 9/13 W. Columbia, SC – The Conundrum
  • 9/14 Charlotte, NC – The Milestone w/ Sulfur & friends

You can listen to audio tracks for each question. This interview is best enjoyed by hearing Mikal kHill and Sulfur answering in their own words. However, if you feel like reading I have transcribed the answers into a simplified but complete text version. You may notice Mikal kHill refer to a Eugene. That is Adam WarRock. I guess it’s no secret that is his name since his twitter handle is @eugewarrock.

I have also included two music videos and a link to stream a new song. “Loaded Question” is the final track on the newest release from the duo The Game Changer EP. It is available on a “name your price” basis so you have no excuse not to check it out! “1945” is from Sulfur’s solo album Entropy released earlier this year. The music video for Cold Winter‘s “Liquid Happy” is also embedded within the interview.

How was Nerdapalooza 2012 this weekend?

Listen to their response!

Mikal kHill – It’s amazing. It’s like a family reunion with family you didn’t know you had yet. It’s always great.

Sulfur – That’s exactly it. You meet too many people on the internet and you never put face to name until you’re there. It’s incredible, it really is just like a family reunion.

M – You wind up in a random hotel room and everybody is magically your friend.

S – You wind up rapping about stabbing dicks and drinking, it’s great. That’s a true story.

What can you tell me about the upcoming ThoughtCriminals release Everyone Looks The Same When They’re On Fire?

Listen to their response!

M – It’s partially done. Originally when we still had a live band I had a concept that we were going to do an album without the band and then follow up six months later with an album with the band. I was working on both of those projects at the same time with the beats I was doing. So the album’s about fifty percent done. It’s a lot more like grimy 90’s inspired hip hop than what people may have previously heard from us, except for the new EP. The new EP is a good example of what the stuff that is done sounds like.

S – I know what I can tell you about the new ThoughtCriminals release… it’s fucking awesome.

Thought Criminals - The Game Changer EP

You mentioned the Game Changer EP. Are any of these tracks on the upcoming album?

Listen to their response!

M – It’s been a weird path to that EP. Originally it was part of an idea we had to put some of the songs on it. “Loaded Question” was one we actually just finished. It was originally something I was planning on putting Jesse Dangerously on forever ago. Adam Bomb produced the three last tracks on “Everyone Looks The Same”. I don’t know for sure if he’s going to end up with that heavy of a production presence. He might end up doing like two songs on it but I think most of it is going to be me.

There’s a certain vibe on that album that I want to catch from when I was younger, what made me love rap when I first got into rap. Well, I first got into rap when I was five, but when it became where rap was what was most important to me. I was thirteen years old. I want to catch that moment. That song “Feel Good Song”, that’s totally what that is about: wanting to recapture that moment. I want somebody else who is thirteen to hear that record and both piss off their parents and be the record they bump all Summer.

You work together under the name ThoughtCriminals as well as on your own solo projects. What makes you decide whether a song gets put on an individual’s release, a ThoughtCriminals album, a mixtape, or whatever?

Listen to their response!

M – It just comes down to what feels right. I write mostly stream of consciousness. Most of my lyrics I write in one sitting. If I stop at one verse then it’s a ThoughtCriminals track and if I can’t stop writing until there’s three minutes of song then it’s a Mikal kHill song.

S – If I get beats in my inbox, I write to them. There’s times when I get a full fledged beat with full fledged raps in my inbox and that’s a Mikal kHill joint.

Direct link to the video

Sulfur, earlier in the year you released “Entropy”. A post apocolyptic nuclear wasteland is an interesting concept for an album. What was it like putting this one together?

Listen to their response!

S – Honestly it’s been something that has always been inside my head since I was a kid. I grew up on, not comic books in general, but a few select titles like Judge Dread. Things that really set this post Apocalyptic setting, like Mad Max and things like that. I always had this thought in my head of like “What was the prequel to that? When was everything going to shit?”

I had that thought in my head around the same time me and Mikal are writing raps and what not. That’s always been kind of a motif in his lyrics too so when I brought the idea up to him it was specifically because he was that guy. I thought his production would be the perfect background and canvas for those kinds of lyrics. That’s where it went from there.

M – It helps that all of my shit is so bleak and desolate.

S – Oh, it does. It does.

Who is the best Ninja Turtle?

Listen to their response!

S – Aw man… ok, there are two answers to this question because there’s no answer to this question. You can’t say who is the “best”. I can tell you who is my favorite and that is Leonardo. The only reason the Ninja Turtles are the Ninja Turtles is because they’re all different and they all work as a team. There’s not one that is really above the rest. I always liked Leonardo and I hate how he is in the cartoons. He’s always portrayed as the asshole and nobody likes Leonardo. No body likes Leonardo but I like Leonardo because I know who the fuck Leonardo is. He’s dope. He’s the one with the skills and the focus, the born leader. That’s my favorite.

M – Actually, Leonardo was always my favorite too.

S – Biter.

M – When me and my brother played when we were kids we would role play our favorite cartoons. I was always Leonardo or Splinter.

S – It was weird because they were being vampire hunters and shit and it just didn’t work.

M – Actually we just got gifted a huge collection of vintage Ninja Turtle characters from our friend Count at Nerdapalooza. You know Count. He gave us a huge collection of Ninja Turtles figures.

S – It’s amazing.

M – It’s fucking awesome. He’s the man.


kHill, what’s the story behind your upcoming concept album The Walking Dead?

Listen to their response!

M – I wrote a song in 2006. The concept of the song was basically being trapped in a building and the main character deciding, which was totally me, just to give up. I envision me and my brother trapped in the building, which in the album is turned into The Milestone, but in the original concept it was a hotel we were holed up in on the top floor. My character decides he’s going to fight his way out. He’s going to go home and let his wife and kids eat him.

I was going through a bunch of personal shit at the time and it was really Cathartic to make an album out of that concept. Stemage from Metroid Metal has an album actually based on Dawn of the Dead. We started talking about doing some beats based on that stuff. He contributed some guitar work and the first track on the album is totally sampling one of his songs from the album about Dawn of the Dead. It’s actually the most painful thing I have ever written. I literally finished some of the songs and cried. It’s super depressing, it’s super dark, and it has zero humor to it.

Zombies have been a thing for a while and people approach it with a sense of humor. That is the exact opposite of how I wanted to approach because that’s not what I like about zombie stuff. My favorite zombie stuff and why I liked The Walking Dead is the approach of “how are people going to handle shit when it gets that extreme”. Once you’ve lost everything and society doesn’t exist how do you cope?

I like Romero’s because it deals solely with social issues, what’s perceived as a horror movie. The original Night of the Living Dead, I’ve literally sat and watched that movie for twelve hours before. It’s an incredibly bleak movie and it’s all social commentary. The zombies are just a secondary device. That’s how I view it too. Once you’ve lost everything how do you deal? Or DO you deal?

One of your most well known collaborations is The Browncoats Mixtape with Adam WarRock. How did this come together?

Listen to their response!

M – Adam hit me up. One of the things I like about WarRock is that most of his albums only have one producer, which lacks in modern production. On hip hop records you end up with fifty people doing different songs and I’m not a Brother Ali fan but a Brother Ali quote I like is to Slug from Atmosphere about production styles, he talked about getting a bunch of producers instead of the guy he used from the beginning so they could have a bigger record. He was like those people don’t know what your heart sounds like. We had been talking for a while and I appreciated that he only used one producer.

He hit me up one day like I’m thinking about making a whole album out of Firefly. Would you want to do all of the beats on it? I was drawn to his first album because it was so 90’s hip hop. It sounded like what I listened to as a kid. It really reminded me of this concept album A Prince Among Thieves by Prince Paul, which was probably my favorite concept album ever. When we were talking he was like that’s exactly what we were going for. We connected off of that.

I went back through Firefly and studied the soundtrack and I picked out pieces. He had a couple songs he definitely wanted to write. The show itself just resonates on an emotional level so well with people. It was easy. It was one of the easiest albums I’ve ever done. We were really done with it in a month. I didn’t spend more than twenty five or thirty minutes on any of those beats. It was just easy. It was already done before we started.

Direct link to the video

How would you sell Firefly to a science fiction fan who has never seen an episode before?

Listen to their response!

M – I don’t know, I wouldn’t really lean on people from the sci-fi angle. It works so well as a drama and again how people deal with extreme situations. The show to me is about those characters coping and begrudgingly growing to work as a unit and a team and loving each other. The sci-fi thing… I like sci-fi but I think part of the reason Star Wars works is because it works beyond sci-fi. It’s like a drama. You’re dealing with this dude dealing with a bunch of crazy shit.

I think Firefly is the same way. You’ve got the war hero dealing with his world ending. What he fought for was a lost cause and he’s coping with that, still trying to make the most of an incredibly terrible situation. It’s worth a watch. To me it goes 1) Firefly, 2) Star Trek, 3) Star Wars.

S – I never watched the show before I listened to the mix tape. I’ve never really publicly said that except to this dude. He was like you’ve got to watch this shit, it’s amazing! I watched the pilot episode and I was like it’s great! I never watched another one until after I listened to the mix tape several times. This shit is fucking incredible. I went back and watched it. It is like a sci-fi western, you know? That’s how I’ve sold it to people, even to my own father! He likes sci-fi, Star Trek, and western movies. This is the perfect blend of those two genres right in one gritty awesome show. It works, man. It works on that level.

M – One of the most crazy things to me is having people approach me and say they didn’t watch Firefly until after they listened to the mix tape.

S – That was me!

M – I think that’s partially a testament to Adam WarRock. I think the lyrics work without the references. If those were songs we just wrote and put out on an album I think they would work just as well.

How is the followup The Slytherin House Mixtape coming along?

Listen to their response!

M – It’s coming along. A big thing to both of us is that it be the best album that we can possibly muster. Browncoats to me, and I know to WarRock, is among the best stuff we’ve ever done. The beat on “Objects in Space” may be my favorite beat I’ve ever produced. It’s important to me partially because I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter series that it has to resonate in the same way and it has to be perfect.

We have pushed it back and part of that is because some of the people who are collaborating on it are big names in the indie rap scene. Ceschi is rapping on it, the dude from Fake Four. He went on Warped Tour. He got an offer and didn’t have time to track his vocals. It’s worth waiting for to get that.

The main thing is it’s going to get done. It’s probably 45% done. There’s other things I’ve done for it but as far as vocals laid out and everything I think it is probably 45% finished. It will come out when it’s perfect, when it’s ready. To be crude I could finish it in a month. I could finish it in a week if I needed to. I’m not just going to shit it out. It needs to be something that resonates with people that way. It’s important to me.

Thought Criminals, photo by Muzzy Saurus

Both of you have collaborated with different people. Is there anyone you want to collaborate with that hasn’t happened yet?

Listen to their response!

M – Total dream situation, I would get Frank Zappa and John Lennon. I’d like to do something with Marvin Gaye. I’d like to do something with the original lineup of Black Sabbath but without Ozzy Osbourne if we’re talking total delusional fantasies.

I don’t know really, most of the collaborations that happen with us are people that we listen to immediately and we’re friends with immediately. When we did Cold Winter the only person we didn’t really know at all was Beefy. It was important for me to get him on that album but I didn’t really know him at that point. We’re friends now and doing other stuff together. There are people who are lined up to be on the next ThoughtCriminals that I’m really excited about and those people are the answer and I can’t tell you who they are yet. Spoiler alert!

S – Total dream situation for me is a rap album produced by Trent Reznor.

M – The only producer really is Romero Shaw that did my solo album. He was the producer I wanted to do shit with forever. Now I’ve done that.

S – I have dreams, I have realities!

M – I’m probably going to do it again. I don’t know. I’m such a narcissist. There’s not a lot of producers that I think can speak to what I’m doing better than I already do. Actually I would like to do a record produced by Dan the Automater from Deltron.

S – Fuck, that would be so amazing. I would love to spit some raps with Del.

M – That’s probably the only person I could really say that about. The only person I can think of who has done it forever and never faltered. Everything he does is amazing.

If you were a hot dog what condiments would you have and would you eat yourself?

Listen to their response!

S – I would be southern style all the way, man. Mustard, slaw, chili, and onions.

M – But he’s a vegetarian though, it would have to be vegetarian chili. A veggie dog.

S – NAH, FUCK THAT! I wouldn’t be a vegetarian dog but I wouldn’t eat myself either! I’d just be… “‘Sup. I’m a fucking hot dog.”

M – I would be Carolina style. Mustard, slaw, chili, and onions and I’ve already been eating myself for years. So yeah. I would… I would eat myself.

Any closing statements?

Listen to their response!

M – Stop rapping forever! Everybody should stop rapping. Anybody with any sense would stop. Also… stab dicks. Stab dicks.

S – What he said, I can’t possibly give better life advice than the shit that was just put out there.

M – I’m the polar opposite of Astronautalis. I know his whole thing is quit your job and do what you love. I’m like fuck that, man. Anybody with any sense would stop. Stop. Rapping. Forever.


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