Thursday, December 26, 2013

Nerdcore performers wrap up midwest comic book store tour

Adam WarRock

   Most musicians dream of performing to sellout crowds in large venues and having their names up in lights.      For Adam WarRock and Tribe One, however, they just want to play in comic books shops and similar venues where they can be close to the fans.
   WarRock, otherwise known as Eugene Ahn, and Tribe One, otherwise known as Niles Gray, performed at Green Brain Comics in Dearborn recently.
   Both perform rap songs about various pop culture-related things, namely comic books, movies, TV shows and video games. Their music falls within the Nerdcore category. Nerdcore can be any type of music that is “for nerds, by nerds,” though most people identify is as a sub-genre of hip-hop.
   The performed to a crowd of about 50 people at the Green Brain Comics show.
   “It was a big crowd,” WarRock said. “I’ve performed for as few as two people when I was first starting out. It’s different every place. It depends on the weather, the day, if there is traffic that day. It’s such low stakes because its a comic book store and a free show.
   “As long as there is somebody there, we’ll put a show on.”
Tribe One
   The pair, who recently completed their “Middle of Nowhere,” tour couldn’t be more different. The tour was named after WarRock’s third album. WarRock is considerably shorter and quite slender compared to Tribe One, who stands north of 6 feet tall and is quite imposing.
   For WarRock, his music is more of a conversation with fans, it’s about getting it out to the audience as quickly as possible. Tribe One, on the other hand, takes his time and spends weeks or even months to complete a song.
   “If I have a beat and an idea,” WarRock said, “it probably takes about an hour to write a song for my website. The free music that I release on my website was always intended to be sloppy, the first draft of a song just kind of throwing it out there, an audio sketchbook like some artists have sketchbook blogs.
   “Now I try to make it sound as good as I can. I’m a fast writer because I don’t really care about it being perfect. I care that it’s out there, that it’s in existence and then I want to move on to the next thing. The website was always meant to be an exercise in fast writing.”
   WarRock said that at least once he’s taken his computer in the recording studio with him and written a song line by line as he recorded, finishing a song in about 20 minutes.
   Tribe One takes his writing to the other extreme.
   “I’m the polar opposite of him,” he said. “It can take anywhere from an hour to a month or two to write a verse. I’m definitely a perfectionist. I have to fit things within certain cadences and rhyme patterns.
   When pressured, Tribe One said that he can write quickly, but it’s not his normal working space.
   “That’s why he’s a much better wordsmith and rhymer than most people in our crew,” WarRock said. “I’m the most prolific, because I just want more stuff out there. I don’t want to be held back. I don’t care about making the perfect song about Hawkeye, I just want to talk about Hawkeye. It leads to conversation with fans. It becomes this excitable conversation. That’s the most fun part of it.”

Getting started
   Tribe One spent eight years as a librarian in Atlanta, Ga. before deciding to go his own way and become a full-time rapper.
   “I was offered a chance to go on tour with MC Chris,” he said. “I was two years away from a vested retirement. It’s very difficult to get permission to leave a job for two months so I had to make a decision. This is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
   WarRock, an ivy league lawyer, was working in Washington D.C. and hating every minute of it before he started recording music like he had in college.
   “My office was near a little wine shop,” he said. “Everyday I’d stop and buy a bottle of wine, it was a very bad time. Eventually I got to the point where I told my boss I didn’t want to work there anymore.
WarRock and TribeOne with
Dan and Katie Merritt of Green Brain Comics.
   “He told me to make sure, so I went back to my office and made a few phone calls. That’s how I became a professional musician.”

Building an album
   The music on his website is just that, music for the web. When it comes to building an album, WarRock is much more concerned with how perfect the songs are.
   “I start building a track list in my head,” he said, “and work on them together from there. The album I just released, ‘The Middle of Nowhere,’ I probably spent about a eight to 10 months working on it. I think about it as a whole first track to end track.”
   For Tribe One, the album-building process is a bit different.
   “I always start with a beat,” he said. “I listen to the emotion that the music is trying to convey, to see what kind of pockets that I can find in the beat.”
   In addition to his three albums, WarRock has released several “mix-tapes,” or short compilations of songs about various topics including “The Browncoats Mixtape” about the canceled TV show “Firefly;”    “Juggernaut;” “My New Warriors;” and “The West Coast Avengers,” which is all about Marvel Comics characters.
   Tribe One has a self-titled album out as part of the duo, “Malibu Shark Attack,” completely put together with a partner that he has never met.
   “We work completely over the Internet,” he said. “He’s in Ireland; we just send things back and forth.”
   He also has a forthcoming album, “Dirty South Swamp Thing.”
   Both artists release their albums independent of major recording labels.

Naming rights
   “The story on my name is terrible,” Tribe One said.
   He started as a battle rapper, and named himself Diatribes.
   “For a battle rapper, that’s perfect,” he said. “I looked it up in the dictionary, it means ‘abusive speech.’”
   When the battle rapping was over, he shortened the name to “Tribe,” and added the “One” after he discovered Myka 9, a Los Angeles-based rapper.
   WarRock’s name also came about in an unconventional way. His name stems from the comic character Adam Warlock.
   His first album was a narrative re-telling of Marvel Comics’ “The Infinity Gauntlet,” story line, told through a series of rap battles.
   “It’s my favorite comic of all time,” WarRock said. “I love it, some people might think it’s terrible when you read it now, but I don’t think so.
   “It’s a tragic story about a guy trying to impress a girl, who happens to be dead. Nothing he does pleases her, so instead decides to destroy half of the sentient life in the universe. What pre-teen kid can’t relate to that?”
   The story line is a battle between Thanos and Warlock.
   “I thought Adam Warlock was a cool name, but I didn’t want to call myself that,” he said. “I was doing a podcast ... the name was War Rocket HS, which is a “Flash Gordon” reference.
   “We ran that for a while, and I started making music for the show. That’s where the name came from.”
   Despite both of their seemingly unique names, both have run into issues with others having the same name, which sometimes causes confusion among the fans.
   Tribe One has a group that produced remixed versions of the “Austen Powers” soundtracks uploaded to Spotify under the same name.
   “Now he gets confused with world bands,” WarRock said.
   Tribe One said that he’s not sure if it’s a single person or a group of people that perform on the remixes. There is also some confusion with a youth outreach group from Tennessee that shares his name.
   “I’m the other Tribe One,” he said with a laugh.
   WarRock has a man from the Philippines with his name and a New York-based rapper that performs under the name of Adam Warlock.
   “I’m sorry that I ruined his (Search Engine Optimization) for life,” he said. “(Warlock) makes indy noise-rap. Every time we do shows everyone confused us for each other. When I first came out I think he was mad, but we’re kind of weirdly friendly now. We’ve squashed the beef.”

Nerdcore performers
   Some performers have struck out against the term Nerdcore, but the duo have both embraced the community that surrounds it.
   “I don’t think it’s that (performers) don’t like it,” WarRock said. “It’s that we all have this struggle. We don’t want people thinking that they are going to hear one kind of music and then be disappointed with our music.
   “I honestly don’t care what people call what I do. The categories and sub-genres are all for the categorizers, not for the artists. If you need to put us in a certain category in your CD store in the mall, fine, you can put us wherever you want to. But we don’t really think about it when we make music.”
   Both said that they like the nerdcore scene, and that any controversy over the name is over-hyped.
   “I love the nerdcore scene,” Tribe One said. “It’s one of the few communities that is a community and enthusiastic.
   WarRock added that the fans understand the support needed for the artists.
   “A lot of people work in tech jobs and really get it,” he said. “Unlike the punk rock kids, who have had music be free their whole lives and are just like ‘Let’s hear this band play.’ Or ‘I can just download this later.’”
   “Nerds get it, they’ve had ‘Firefly,’ taken away from them, they’ve had shows and books canceled on them that they love. They understand what it means to put their wallets behind something to show the corporate overlords that they need to keep this thing that I love on. That’s why nerds are awesome.
   For more information on WarRock, check out his website at For more information on Tribe One, check out his website at

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