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Artist Spotlight: OK Cobra

by Travis on November 17, 2009

The internet has made our world so much smaller than it really is. Before I started WYDU, I spent a lot of time on the Cocaine Blunts forums, where a bunch of like minded cats gathered to trade obscure, out of print, hip hop that most normal people would have no clue even existed. It was here that I met “Fritz The Cat” aka Ryan Somers. I don’t even remember his user name on there, but we started talking about our love for Divine Styler, Frankenstein and other out of the ordinary hip hop music. I had no clue that he started a well respected hip hop magazine in Canada in the late 90′s that gained a cult following. I didn’t even know he was an artist. Nope, Ryan was just a modest cat that was quick to help with an album when I was looking for something. We kept in touch, occasionally crossing paths, mostly on the internet and through WYDU and his blog, and even on AIM (which I never use except to talk to a handful of people as it is).

It was sometime in ’06 that he passed me on a link for his debut album as OK Cobra, a group consisting of him and longtime friend, Recordface. The self titled LP was was on some next ‘ol “other shit”, meaning that it was nothing like 99% of the hip hop albums out there, yet it was hip hop as Run DMC. Originality, something that a lot of hip hop lacks these days is something that the album possessed. The track “Time Flies” got a lion share of plays from that album from that year, as their music was something that filled a need that year.

Fast forward three years later and their latest album, Delirium Tremens, graces us with it’s presence as Ryan and Recordface aka Tim bring an even more creative and “alternative” hip hop sound to the plate. Not one to overly use labels in hip hop, but this album might deserve it’s own title as a plethora of sounds are used to craft the album and Ryan adds his own visions and input on the lyrics. Not concerned with sounding the norm, this is an album that is not for everybody, but anybody with a love for music in general can, and probably would, get something out this album.

We sat with Tim and Ryan to get their views on their latest release and life in general….

OK CobraI Quit (I Give Up)

WYDU: Drop a little introduction for the readers who are not familiar with you guys….

Ryan: My name is Ryan. I guess when you’re a rapper you’re supposed to have another name (unless you’re Keith Murray), so I go by “Fritz Tha Cat” sometimes. But you can call me Ryan.

W: Every group has a story about how they came together, craigslist, put together by the “man”, met during a game of duck, duck, goose…what’s the story with OK Cobra, how did Fritz and Recordface hook up?

Ryan: We first met when we were like 12 years old or something. We bonded over a mutual love of G.I. Joe toys and Ice-T records.

Tim: We were school buddies at age 10 who both liked 70′s hard rock and rap. Later down the road I was working with a former band mate of Ryan’s and one time when he was up here in Montreal we went in the studio to do some freestyles over some beats I had, he later decided to move to Montreal and we just hooked up to do some more cause it was fun, never expecting to have it go any farther then a couple of cats in the studio, messing around.

W: For those not in the know, Ryan aka Fritz The Cat has been in this rap game for a long time. Can you elaborate on your “decorated” history in the rap game?

Ryan: If my name has ever been associated with anything worthy of note, it is purely accidental. I’ve been lucky in life to stumble into a lot of great situations.

W: I think it’s safe to say that your sound isn’t necessarily traditional hip hop sound. Tracks like “How You Doing?” sounds almost indie rockish. How would you describe your sound? Where did the influence come from?

Ryan: Hmm, well, for me, uh, I don’t know how to answer that, really, because, well, I guess in life, I’ve got about three decades of sensory intake. Five senses. Sights, sounds, touches… so, I mean, throughout life, you’re always affected by the things that you experience, so you can’t escape it, it’s all going to influence everything that you do. But, to answer your question, I’m personally really influenced right now by Fat Lip and the lead singer of the Thrills, whatever his name is. But uh, I guess Tim would be a better guy to answer this question…

Tim: I’d prefer to not label it but it always needs to take on some title when we’re trying to explain to people what the music is all about. Rap is what I wanna call it, but I’ll let other people sub genre it. Influence wise, Ryan and I listen to every type of music under the sun so I assume it just comes from all of that, there is no real conscious effort to make this “sound”.

W: How do the two of you go about making a song? Beat first, then lyrics? Lyrics then beat? How difficult is it, or is it not, to work together?

Tim: Hmm, well for the most we both have a plethora of material always being developed, so I tend to send a bunch or loops and beats to Ryan and he kinda p
icks and chooses what he likes, occasionally I pick one or two and say, “I really wanna do this track, can you write something to it?” Next, easy as pie to work with Ryan, we just gel easy and seem to be thinking on the same lines when it comes to our tracks.

Ryan: I guess it happens in all of those ways. Sometimes I write stuff. Tim is always making beats. It’s sort of like those toys that kids have where you have to fit the circle piece into the circle hole, triangle piece into the triangle hole, etc… We just try out different lyrics
I’m working on over different beats he’s working on, and when something clicks it just drops into the hole. But other times it’s different and we sort of build something together from the ground up. sometimes it’s hard. We live in different places. Tim lives in Montreal. That’s where his studio is. I don’t really live anywhere, semi-pro couch-surfer. So, it can be hard, as sometimes I go months and months without really being able to record anything.

W: Let’s talk about the album, Delirium Tremens, first off, what does the title mean and why did you choose to name it so?

Ryan: It’s a medical term. Without going into it too deeply, it just really made a lot of sense to me, based on where I was in my life at the time when we had to come up with an album title. I suggested it to Tim, and we had been tossing around a few ideas, but we both liked it. I just really liked how my hand felt when i was writing out those two words.

W: How long was this album in the works? Was it difficult to have it come together?

Ryan: Our last – and first – album came out three years before this one. We did a lot of touring, and traveling, I was sort of all over the place. Europe a couple times and moving around within Canada, and I also was going through a lot of personal things. I had a bit of a bad depression for a while and had to get some help to get up out of that, and when I finally started getting better is when we finally were able to finish the album.

Tim: I guess the record has been in work for the last 2 years, after the support we did for the first record. It was real off and on for the first year after that, both off us were going through creative blocks but at separate times. It really came together in the last 6 to 9 months before the actually release.

W: Any chance that the track “Woodwork” is a bit autobiographical? How did that track come about?

Ryan: Line for line, that song is the truth. I wrote after coming home from work one night. I’ve been bartending off and on for 10+ years. I hate it. The line in the song where I say “He writes it all down in the dawn light creeping through the window,” that was actually happening as I wrote that, I had just gotten home from work and had decided “That’s it, I’m done, i have to move on from this…” I felt like a slave to it.

It’s a frustrating word. Drunk people. Idiots. Assholes. Shitty bosses. Stupid customers. There are some upsides when you first start working in that field, but after a while, it’s just hell.

W: Recordface sampled a Edie Brickel song for my favorite joint on the album, “I Quit”, that’s not your usual sampling subject. How did that sample and song come together?

Tim: Ryan had that written a chorus that was a take on the Edie Brickel one and we recorded it back during the first record. Later on when we began new work for this record he suggested we use it and when I finished an initial version of the song his lyrics fit the actual chorus better then the one he had wrote, so it just was meant to be at that point.

Ryan: I have had a musical crush on Edie Brickell for 20 years, and had always had that sample idea in the back of my head. I told Tim about it and he made the beat and it was better than I could have imagined.

W: It seems like you take a lot of your topics from everyday life type things. What is your reasoning for going that route instead of talking about the obligatory bitches, bling and gats?

Tim: What do we know about bitches, bling, and guns. I love women and respect them, I live paycheque to paycheque and the closest I have come to touching a gun is playing DUCK HUNT on Nintendo.

Ryan: The simple answer to that is that I just write about what i know.

W: Fritz, I know you’ve been locked up in seclusion up north, how did that effect your writing and your lyrics and overall feel to this album, if at all?

Ryan: We finished recording this album last spring, before I decided to go live in a tree house up north in bear country for the summer, so the lyrics you here on this album, are the words of a guy living in the city in the winter. On the next album you’ll hear the stuff I’ve been writing this summer in the tree house.

W: Just how much have things changed as far as promoting your album, making it, and the general overall music biz since you released your last album? What are you doing to make yourselves stand out? Any kind of promotional activities involved with the album?

Ryan: This type of thinking is something I just can’t get my head around. I worked at labels before and in the “industry” and the whole thing just made me want to vomit. I get anxiety attacks when I hear people talking about things like “marketing strategies” and using phrases like “utilizing social networking platforms” and bullshit like that. I live in a cave and make art and once in a while when I come out of my cave I release an album or try to make a little indie movie or do some paintings or something, but that’s about as far as I go with all of that. Somebody else can market it. I can’t fool myself into believing that I care about that shit anymore…

Tim: I not sure how things have changed, I don’t stay that in touch with it all , but I understand that we need to come off as more pro this time, so we invested more time and money in making sure our stuff looks good and people hopefully will think it’s dope.

W: It took some time for Delirium Tremens to come together. Will there be another OK Cobra album in the near future?

Tim: Our plan is to release digital EP’s online everyone few months to keep momentum going then hopefully we can have another album in the next year. Not 3 years hopefully again.

Ryan: I hope so. I love working with Tim, and I really credit him with bringing me out of my shell and convincing me that my words were worth hearing, so, I’ll always want to make shit with him. And, he’s a good friend, and we have fun making music together, and he gets me excited about the things that we can create together, so, yeah, I feel like we’re only just beginning. I think it’ll take us another album or two before we start to figure out what we’re supposed to sound like.

W: What else do you guys got lined up for the immediate future?

Ryan: Right now we’re on tour for six weeks across Canada, shooting a new video tomorrow for the song “Beautiful,” and after that, I’m not really sure. I’m taking off to Mexico for a while after the tour, so, I guess when I get my ass back up here we’ll get back in the studio. Hopefully by then I’ll have conquered my fear of the water and learned how to surf.

W: Any last words for the minions out there?

Ryan: Um, I don’t know, I just want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us, and for thinking our creative output is worth paying some sort of attention to. It means a lot to me. Life is short, and I’m just happy to travel and meet people and be inspired by the beautiful simple moments and find the deepest of meanings in the small gestures that people make. We’re such a fascinating species, I feel pretty honoured to be a part of us…

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ryan somers November 17, 2009 at 6:43 pm

holy crap these guys are amazing!!

thanks trav,

elke the stallion November 17, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Well done

O-Snaps January 28, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Wow, these guys are pretty sick and Delirium tremens is a dope name with some deep meaning.


ryan somers January 28, 2010 at 11:47 pm

thanks for checking out our stuff.
much appreciated.
and thanks again trav and wydu cats.

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