Mighty Clyde, The Vicious Lee, Professor BX, and Steve McPherson for City Pages discuss fast food, honor among music thieves, and their place in the local scene.
Vicious Lee: This has pickle and onion, so these ones are yours. The blue ones are mine, and let's just make sure they didn't fuck it up. And you'll be interested to know, White Castle uses the highest grade ingredients of all fast food chains.
City Pages: Really? Where does that come from?
VL: It comes from this guy that told me this thing. He also told me that Parliaments were created so World War II machine gunners could bite down.
Mighty Clyde: And we all know how true that was.
CP: So does this guy have any cred?
VL: None. I'm just saying this is just something I overheard at a bar somewhere and I just decided to adopt it as the truth.
CP: Now, I've had—
MC: I said cheeseburger, dammit.
VL: No cheese?
MC: No! I'll be right back ... uh, I didn't get charged for the cheese.
VL: Then you got no beef, man.
MC:[Gesturing to burger] I've got this very small amount of beef.
CP: So, I've had the frozen kind.
MC: That's a totally different thing.
CP: OK. Now, I was talking to David about this: Onion comes in a ring shape. Chicken does not.
VL: There's definitely some real work that has to be done.
CP: Now, are we sure it's not chicken butt?
VL: Wait, didn't you get any honey mustard for the man?
MC: No man, I roll with ketchup.
VL [disgusted]: We have to wine and dine this man!
CP: So, you guys seem to know a lot about fast food.
VL: It's basically our life's passion.
CP: Because I heard recommendations about [national chain of Southern-style fast food restaurants] and [national chain of Mexican-style fast food restaurants].
Professor BX: Actually, I can tell you [national chain of Mexican-style fast food restaurants]: No.
CP: [National chain of Mexican-style fast food restaurants] is a no for you?
BX: My brother went dumpster diving in high school, because he was known to do that, and he actually found boxes that actually said "Grade D: Unsuitable for Human Consumption." Basically there's two levels of Grade D: There's Grade D Human and Grade D Animal Only and this was Grade D Animal Only.
VL: I dispute that claim. I'm sorry, I dispute that claim.
BX: Are you calling my brother a liar? I think you are.
MC: Now [a second national chain of Mexican-style fast food restaurants]. Anybody worth their salt knows [a second national chain of Mexican-style fast food restaurants] blows [previously-mentioned national chain of Mexican-style fast food restaurants] out of the water. Incredible.
CP: Now that's another place I have not been. I did see a sign for a burrito that had tater tots in it, which seemed like a good idea.
CP: But what makes White Castle so awesome? Other than what I'm eating right now.
MC: It's like fast food but it's—it's ... it's like when Ritz came out with Ritz Bitz. This is the Ritz Bitz of fast food. It's like, "I'm on the go. One bite." You don't have to think about it until a couple hours later.
CP: If you're lucky.
BX: It's also a value, too. It's like 3 o'clock in the morning, you're driving home, it's like, "Hey, you know what? Instead of getting two hamburgers at McDonald's which I think will make me sick, I can get like 10 tiny ones."
VL: A lot of it has to do with four little chores is way easier than one big chore. It's task management. It's just fooling yourself. The same amount of work is involved in eating.
CP: I feel like there's less meat and more bread.
VL: It's definitely bread-centric.
MC: It works out really well, because another perk to White Castle is the hours of operation.
CP: Is it basically 24 hours?
MC: For the most part.
VL: And I've heard that they make a phenomenal breakfast. I've heard that their breakfast menu is phenomenal. Yeah, that they use real toast.
BX: As opposed to plastic toast?
VL: No, they actually cut bread and toast it in a skillet. They crack eggs and they make a real breakfast.
CP: That seems ironic, given how not real most of this seems. But I like crinkly fries.
VL: I know! And look how they serve it to you! It's like a high school cafeteria. It's like I'm in a ma and pa joint.
BX: I'm stuck on this real breakfast as opposed to fake breakfast idea. I'm just imagining going in and getting that plastic kitchen food that you used to play with as a child.
VL: Hey! Here's something really weird: Do you know what they use in restaurants when you see display versions of food?
CP: Is this from the same guy?
VL: This is from a different guy—this guy has slightly more cred. This is true, because I have friends who work in restaurants, but when you see display versions of what they offer for dessert, and they have a scoop of what appears to be ice cream, do you know what that is?
VL: Yes! Shortening!
CP: And also I heard Elmer's glue for cereal when they're doing photo shoots. Because it's super white. Because I've taken some photos of food, and it's hard to make it look good. Even good looking food, you take a photo of it and it looks terrible.
VL: The thing that blows my mind is that [chain of fast food sandwich restaurants] —they don't even make an attempt to make that food look edible in their commercials. You see the commercials, and you're like, oh my god.
BX: Emily—one of her best friends works for [meat company name redacted] or whatever company they get meat from and to save money they were actually asking to add more water to their meat (VL: [noise of disgust]). And the guy replied, "You do realize, if we add any more water to the meat, it won't actually stay cohesive."
MC: On my lunch break today, I had to rattle off all the fast food restaurants I've decided for whatever reason to boycott now. [Redacted], I'm not going back to: I'm not eating [redacted] it's making me ill. I had [redacted] a couple days ago—I had [redacted chicken sandwich] for a dollar.
VL: That's safe. That's the healthy option. That's the heart-conscious menu choice.
MC: But I brought up my whole [No] thing, which I still have the pictures on my phone of my screwed up order that I called and chewed out the manager over. I was on my lunch break, and I only have a half-hour. I get something as far from what I ordered as possible. OK. I got a hamburger, instead of the hot ham and cheese, which I ordered. And I was like, "Listen, I understand that ham is in the name hamburger, but they are different, sir." And he personally drove over my corrected order.
VL: I never would have done that. If I was the manager of a fast food joint, I would have hung that phone up.
MC: It was the worst hamburger I ever had. And I like [No No No]. [We have to redact these names or we are going to get sued or something. REDACTED!] has awesome hamburgers. Their cheeseburgers are really good. Like, they have the six dollar burger which is five dollars.
VL: How avant-garde.
CP: It's like performance art.
MC: Their hamburgers are awesome. When Carl's Jr. bought it—I am a wealth of knowledge on fast food—Carl's Jr. bought it—the burger that, if it doesn't drip, you can get your money back. And Carl's Jr. is awesome: West Coast, delicious. Carl's Jr. bought Hardee's, and Hardee's totally revamped and got their shit together and instead of being the butt of a Chris Rock joke, they redeemed themselves.
CP: But they're on your shitlist now because ...
MC: Like, four times in a row, they screwed up my order and I would be with other people. They would get everyone else's order perfect.
VL: Maybe they just weren't complaining. Maybe the other people were like, "I don't want to rock the boat. I'll just eat this."
CP: OK. So, what are the ones you're boycotting?
MC: [Sandwich chain]—that's what made me think of it.
VL: [Sandwich chain]'s trying to be health conscious—that's my problem with it. They're trying to make fast food healthy and it's not going to work.
MC: They have to try a little harder: Have you seen their tomatoes? Disgusting!
VL: There was a commercial—[former Saturday Night Live castmember] is now a spokesman for them—they had a commercial for some Angus steak thing, and the narrator describes the sandwich ingredients. He says, "Juicy, center-cut Angus steak topped with bubbly cheese." Bubbly cheese. This is how he describes the sandwich he's trying to sell me.
BX: So it's cheese with Pop Rocks in the center of it?
VL: No it really is. They show it and it's this simmering cheese sauce that is bubbling. If I hadn't been paying attention, I would have been like, "Oh yeah, bubbly cheese."
BX: Also available: The bubbly cheese soda.
CP: I want my beverage to be bubbly, not my cheese. Plus they don't do any favors for themselves with how you can see them do everything. So when you say, "I'll get the chicken," and they pull out the chicken and take the Saran wrap off and put it in the microwave, you think, I could do this at home. So [sandwich chain] is on the shitlist. What else?
MC: [Second sandwich chain. Sigh]. I'm really low on sandwich places, which sucks, because sandwiches? Delicious. I got food poisoning at [second sandwich chain].
BX: [Second sandwich chain], though, they don't wear gloves.
MC: And I'm all about stoners in the workforce. Get them doing something. Keep them off the streets and out of trouble. They're cordial enough, but handling coldcuts with no gloves? That's where I draw the line, sir.
CP: So, Potbelly? Have you had Potbelly sandwiches? You have not experienced? It's a chain. There's one in Dinkytown.
VL: That's where the Purple Onion was.
CP: They have good sandwiches. I don't know about their glove policy.
VL: You know what? I think I've been drinking your Coke. I taste some Diet.
CP: Uh oh. Did we switch?
VL: We might have.
CP: Should we just kiss now?
MC: I was about to say, "You know what? You're looking good, Steve. You can handle a regular Coke."
CP: I don't know, I feel like I'm getting Diet here, too.
VL: This is definitely Diet. Goddammit. This interview is over. I would like it if everything was about fast food. I don't want any mention of anything else.
CP: I've already written many things about you. I'll just mine that, and then we'll talk about fast food.
MC: As long as we have this on: We have never sampled Led Zeppelin. Ever.
CP: Did I say you did?
CP: Then why is it called "Moby Dick"?
MC: 'Cause Moby Dick's a good book.
VL: We worked on that beat for like six or seven months trying to get it right and trying to get lyrics to it, so it was kind of our white whale. And it was also the hardest song to mix on the album.
CP: So what is that sample then?
VL: It's a really obscure jazz sample of a song that's fucking amazing. It's called "Moon Germs"—no, it's called "Great Gorge." It's by Joe Farrell, and I believe Herbie Hancock actually plays Rhodes on it. You can download "Great Gorge." That's a fucking amazing album.
CP: You know, I'll let you in on a little secret of writing: Sometimes, it just kind of sounds like something and you can't go the whole nine to find the song and check it out.
MC: I mean, it makes sense. It starts with a very long drum intro.
CP: I'm not as familiar as I should be with Led Zeppelin either.
VL: I honestly don't know if I've ever heard the song "Moby Dick" by Led Zeppelin.
CP: I know I've heard it—I thought I heard it on your record.
VL: We're really getting our skeletons out of the closet. I'm not really a big Led Zeppelin fan. I haven't heard that song. I don't know what Potbelly is. I've never eaten White Castle. I hit a guy in my car and just drove on; I don't know whether he lived or died.
CP: But you did sample AC/DC.
MC: Yes. It's actually cross-layered with "For Those About to Rock."
VL: There's another riff from something off of Back in Black that I isolated. A guitar hit.
VL: You know, I went and bought some Mac and Cheese the other day. When did it go up to a dollar-fifty? I remember when that shit was 65 cents.
MC: Well, did you get Scooby-Do shape?
VL: Kraft! Elbow macaroni.
MC: Maybe it was the elbow macaroni shape that bumped up the price.
CP: As opposed to just the straight?
VL: There's a guy who has to bend each one as it comes along. You have to go to trade school for that.
CP: Wait, I wanted to talk more about sampling.
MC: It's all totally cleared.
VL: Yup, it's all on the up and up. We had to pay Angus Young $40,000.
VL: For "Thunderstruck." He was really nice about it though.
CP: Did you get to meet him in person?
VL: No, no. This was all by proxy.
CP: I thought maybe it was exchanged in a back alley.
MC: He didn't even let us bring the money to the guy that we had to bring the money to. We had to hire somebody—a bagman.
BX: We actually hired Dee Snider.
MC: He was happy to get the work.
CP: Did you make him wear the schoolboy shorts and suspenders?
BX: Actually we had him wear the pink-striped tights and the pink wig.
CP: So ... none of it's cleared.
VL: Absolutely not.
MC: Everyone we've sampled has become really rich. Because we sampled them.
VL: Retroactively. They actually got big because they knew we were going to sample them.
MC: That's how Run DMC started.
VL: Did my guy tell you this?
MC: Which guy?
VL: The second guy. The guy with the cred.
MC: Yeah, yeah, yeah ... the guy with the curlicue mustache?
VL: No, that's the first guy.
MC: Oh, it was the first guy.
VL: Well then that's shit. That's not true.
MC: I love this beef that Girl Talk is having with Kanye West, because, uh ...
VL: Here's what happened: Girl Talk opened up for Kanye West seven or eight months ago and then what happened is they didn't talk, they didn't talk and all of a sudden, "Stronger" comes out and what happened is Girl Talk, at the show, had actually done a mashup of a Kanye West song and Daft Punk. So now Kanye's making big bucks off of the single where he samples Daft Punk and Girl Talk is like, "Hey." But Girl Talk doesn't have a fucking leg to stand on! Can he really act indignant and say this music is my property?
BX: Well, that's the thing because after a certain point you stop trading in music and start trading in ideas. Even though he didn't create any of the music, he's the one who made the idea.
VL: Girl Talk does not have any leg to stand on.
MC: It's like borrowing money from a bank robber and him demanding, "When are you gonna pay me back?"
CP: Intellectual property gets real dicey in this day and age.
MC: That's why we approach it as unintellectually as possible.
CP: Is that even a word?
MC: It is now, sucka! That new word is my intellectual property.
CP: So you guys didn't go out on tour, though.
VL: We are reviving some short term tour plans with Vampire Hands for the winter and just hit the Midwest. Because one of the things that really hurt us was that we decided to go out with Vampire Hands, but it turns out it's their first tour, too. So not a big priority for out-of-town booking people to give up two spots on a bill for two bands that haven't toured. So by the time we go out in the winter, it won't be any big thing, just spots they will have hit on their tour with Thunder in the Valley, because they're going on tour with them soon.
Drew [assembling a structure out of empty slider boxes]: Hey, check it out: Golden arches.
MC: Be careful what you say.
VL: Have you done this before?
VL: Wow. This is quite something.
CP: He's forging new ground right now.
VL: Wait, now you've gotta look up and go, "This means something."
CP: OK, you're flying too close to the sun now.
VL: Yeah, come on.
MC: I'm actually impressed.
CP: I'm going to slowly move my tape recorder out of the way of the ketchup.
VL: That's it.
BX: You're done.
CP: I was going to ask you about tour ... no, I was going to ask you about "Get Up!", that song that's on Twin Town High, because when you gave me the track, you said how you namecheck all these local bands, but they're not hip-hop bands, and it seems like in a lot of ways, you guys fit more in with Vampire Hands, Birthday Suits, that kind of scene. I guess this is almost a slightly weighty question, but do you feel yourselves connected to hip-hop in the Twin Cities or do you just feel like you're a band and this is what you do?
VL: I don't know, I personally feel much more connected to rock. And that's just how I've always felt.
MC: I never imagined that I would rap to people. Rap at people. I've always listened to punk rock and rock and roll and that's always been my cup of tea and I like hip-hop and I like my old school jams. And I never imagined that of all the musical endeavors I've ever entered into, that old school hip-hop would be the one that I'd start performing instead of just practicing for two weeks and then breaking up.
VL: And then playing on a bill where the headliner is country punk and the opener is psychedelic, '60s Swans post-punk. It's the weirdest time for music in this town because people are being so imaginative with the bills they put together. I'm not kidding you—it's the only way we can survive: that there are bands who are willing to put together bills that don't make sense on paper and all the kids come out and they love it. Just look at the show at The Entry last night: P.O.S., Digitata, Millionth Word—these are bands that don't have any business being on the same bill and it works and people are receptive.
BX: The funny thing is: I never thought that I would be DJing for a group again. Just because I got so sick of being part of hip-hop groups so I figured it would just be in my bedroom, because I hadn't listened to hip-hop in so long. Frankly, you guys have given me an excuse to wheel out my turntables.
CP: I feel like in the Twin Cities it's always been open-minded in terms of some of that stuff, but you see it even more.
MC: The last two years, the bands that have been coming together are pulling so many different areas and different parts of the spectrum of music, that it's just a really, really exciting time for local music right now.
VL: I remember just in the course of ten years when I was going to shows at a 16-year-old kid, the bills were so much more homogeneous than they are now. And a lot of those bands I listened to are still together, but the way shows are being put together is really good, especially for us. We don't really fit. We are equally, uh, what's the word ...
VL: No, don't hijack my brain, man. I think on paper we fit just as poorly in the hip-hop scene as we do in the rock scene.
MC: I mean, we've talked about trying to segue into getting more shows that are all hip-hop bills, but we don't know anybody.
VL: But we're playing that show with Yo Majesty, which I'm excited about. We're gonna put on a wild show.
CP: I feel like you guys—and it's not a knock—like you guys are very tongue-in-cheek and also likable. And I feel like those two things are not things you often hear with regards to—
MC [mock offended]: What do you mean likable?
CP: But I mean there's something nice about that old school—and I mean old school including Native Tongues stuff like De La Soul or Tribe Called Quest—where it's not just really serious or really underground or anything. It's just kind of fun.
VL: I think the one thing that we've always battled is: yeah, of course we're cracking jokes. We're not making any grand political statement and we are having fun, but fun is worth something too. And tongue-in-cheek, that has its own meaning. That is something that has worked against us, is that the word "goofy" and the word "ironic" comes up a lot, both of which I take some mild umbrage to.
CP: I don't think I've used either of those words.
VL: You haven't. That's why we're talking to you [laughs]. I've got a list of words you did use, though. But the words goofy and ironic pop up a lot and I think that's unfortunately–well, I don't have a big problem with it, but if something is fun, it tends to be sort of demeaning.
CP: You never see comedies win Best Picture.
VL: That's exactly it. I think one in the history of film. That's interesting: people's relation to things—
VL: Uh, no. I think it was Weekend at Bernie's 2.
MC: That one is good.
VL: It swept.
CP: Well, it was because they got robbed on the first one.
MC: I mean, the special effects in it, too. They had to find a guy—a dead guy!
CP: They actually kept him refrigerated that whole time.
BX: The other thing is that if you look at a lot of the best hip-hop, it ends up being a response to not having fun.
MC: When we sat around and talked about starting this group, we wanted to make hip-hop music like the stuff that I really grew up listening to, which wasn't a whole lot of hip-hop. Raising Hell was my first hip-hop album and from that point forward I listened to a fair amount, but we wanted to make hip-hop for boomboxes, not headphones. And I'm getting a little tired of that segment of the indie hip-hop scene. I listen to a lot of music. We were just talking in the parking lot how—working at a record store—I have stacks of CDs that I haven't even listened to.
VL: And to be honest with you, hip-hop comprises probably about 15 percent of what I listen to. It's not my main—
BX: That's a really small amount considering that you hate all music.
VL: Yeah, I want a shirt that says "Hate All Music." What's 15 percent of nothing?
BX: I think it's negative 15 percent. That's really small.