Stow away what you think you know about indie rap auteurs Themselves, a.k.a. Doseone and Jel.
Yes, the Anticon duo is performing at The Echo tonight, June 9 (with support from Talkdemonic and Baths). And yes, they plan to slay all comers with their inimitable mix of heady poetics, skronky beat-work and veteran swagger.
You knew that part (we hope).
But what about the part where the same men who make up Themselves sit around in the their Oakland digs swilling beer and cobbling together po-mo viral clips, overdubbing and editing together the bad flicks of yesteryear for laughs?
For the past two years, Adam "Doseone" Drucker and Jeffrey "Jel" Logan have been quietly creating hilarious webisode series ranging from animated shorts (see the parodic "NOTgarfield") to massive overdubbing projects (read about "Conan&Friends" below), to their latest venture, "TVhaha," which combines a bit of both.
A new episode of "TVhaha" arrives each Monday via YouTube and Vimeo, finding Drucker and Logan improvising new dialogue for the likes of Bill Maher and Mr. T (in D.C. Cab), Jason (Friday the 13th), Chuck Norris (career-wide), and even Naughty By Nature's Treach.
There's also an animated irascible slice of toast (Drucker's own creation) who pops in from time to time, if only to enhance the glorious ADHD-ness of it all. Drucker took a break from touring behind Themselves' latest, CrownsDown, to talk "TVhaha" with West Coast Sound.
West Coast Sound: So, first things first.... what's going on here?
Adam Drucker: I suppose it's the way Jeff and I watch TV in our heads, physically manifested in the form of complicated-but-lighthearted overdubbing. It's also me flipping movies straight off my TV, putting them in iMovie to edit, and then importing them into Pro Tools for a full audio recreation.
WCS: How did the idea evolve?
Drucker: TVhaha evolved from the Themselves CrownsDown trailers, in which we overdubbed movie scenes with arguments about us. Those trailers, in turn, were an evolution of "Conan&Friends," our complete overdubbing of Conan the Destroyer.
When I first saw "Shreds" by StSanders, I'd also just watched Conan with the director's commentary featuring Arnold, who has a few in him at the time. I grew up on Schwarzenegger's brawn and acting prowess, so poof - I was compelled to overdub the whole movie with my best friend and beat-maker.
WCS: Were you a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000?
Drucker: I never really watched it - just laughed at it on the boob tube now and again. I don't really think of that when I think of TVhaha because of the entire overhaul we give these films. We're definitely borrowing swag from StSanders though - we owe him a beer.
WCS: Is web culture a big influence on this series?
Drucker: TVhaha is made for webbers. It's short-attention-span city. I imagine it as ADD with a rap vocabulary running through a cable box. Also the low quality online end result does help suspend the disbelief. After all, the little kids aren't really saying "knife fight" and "skeet skeet."
WCS: How do you go about choosing and culling the footage?
Drucker: We have certain silver screen heroes who we've always wanted to mock better, harder, faster - Conan, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph [Lundgren], [Sylvester] Stallone. But when TVhaha began, we found ourselves stumbling upon all these gems, like Bill Maher in D.C. Cab, or Ben Stiller in Next of Kin.
Once we did a big movie gather, we loosely organized them into themed episodes, then dug for footage to knock the jokes out of the park, like [rapper] Treach's flaccid penis [from 2002's Love and a Bullet] in Episode 7 "Rap Acting."
WCS: Are the voice-overs improv-based?
Drucker: They are improvised around a central "Did he just say what I think he said?" sort of fashion. So we go with the one core funny lip-misreading and flesh out the rest, often taking the opportunity to allude to coming events or to acknowledge recurring characters.
For instance, with Jason, if you drop the audio on every Friday the 13th movie, it's just a man in a mechanic's jumpsuit and hockey mask who casually walks into rooms or kicks open doors before people yell at him and run away. So he naturally became a polite British hockey fan, always on the lookout for something esoteric.
WCS: Andrew Broder and Mark Erickson from Fog guest on Episode 6. Have you got plans for other guests in the future?
Drucker: Yoni Wolf of WHY? and Anna Stewart are featured on next week's episode, "Saturday Morning," which is all cartoons. Yoni plays an effeminate Daniel looking for Coachella in the desert when he happens upon the "Really Big Jews" that guard Moby.
From the 2008 "Conan&Friends" series:
WCS: Tell me about the animated characters, Toastman and his friend.
Drucker: Ah, Toastman. One night Jeff was finishing a drum take on a Themselves song and I was in my living room, bored and drunk. I drew a piece of toast on my chalkboard saying, "No one fucks Toastman." I think it was supposed to be my old landlord in bread form.
His little friend is "Oysters," his illegitimate son. I spent two hours drawing "Child Toast" before it dawned on me that I was just drawing a scrotum repeatedly - a scrotum with a hat collection.
WCS: How often is pot involved in this process?
Drucker: Honestly, this is Jel and I on beer. That said, there are very few times when I am not "on pot," but our writing/humor style is more from sharing a sense of humor rather than being on the same drug. After a decade of touring closeness, there is a very thin membrane between our respective funny bones.