Sat Night! Rock Comic Con - our interview w/Adam WarRock
J Sheffer for Tri State Indie – October 8, 2010
Those headed to New York City this weekend for New York Comic Con have a Saturday-night after party option focused exclusively on the burgeoning music scene associated with the comic book’s place in pop culture. Rock Comic Con: The New York City Nerd Rock Festival will feature musicians whose songs explore topics like comic books, video games, and other subjects of interest to “geeks.” Proceeds from the event will benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
The festival is evidence of the groundswell geek music has achieved, thanks to its proponents’ competence for website development, Internet community-building, and viral marketing through social media.
It’s the perfect storm for attorney-turned-geek-music-rapper Eugene Ahn. Ahn had performed and recorded indie, DIY music while he was an undergraduate student at Ohio State University, but didn’t intend to pursue music after college.
“I decided to go to law school because I thought it would be the responsible, sensible thing to do,” says Ahn. He began working after school and turned back to music as a creative outlet to balance out the daily grind. He also started a podcast called The People You Don’t Know, an interview show based on the idea that everyone has a story.
Later, he began hosting and producing a podcast about comic books called War Rocket Ajax with co-host Chris Sims, founded on their mutual love of comic books and pop culture. Each podcast has a particular theme and features an interview with a guest. Ahn began to record rap songs under the moniker Adam WarRock (a nod to Marvel comic book character Adam Warlock) to complement the themes, and eventually felt the songs needed their own home.
“I had to put them somewhere,” says Ahn, “so I put them on a website, and the website took off.” Ahn continued to make the songs, and people were finding them. All the attention the songs were getting turned into opportunities to further develop the Adam WarRock brand. Ahn, who was a practicing attorney, had to turn them down because the demands of his day job didn’t leave room to do more than dabble in rap. Eventually, he decided that “the day job and the office would always be there,” and he now devotes full-time hours (and then some) to being Adam WarRock.
“It’s hard, because I don’t want to put out the vibe that I think people should quit their jobs and do whatever they want to,” Ahn cautions. “I definitely take a business mindset as to how to approach it.” Ahn’s schooling and work experience have lent themselves well to his new gig. He is savvy about marketing, PR, and the entrepreneurial skills necessary to make a go of it with his art. Doing this for a living, he says, was not a decision he took likely. Indeed, it “was a very well thought-out thing.”
Adam WarRock’s first full-length CD, The War for Infinity, dropped yesterday (October 7, 2010). He’s offering it for sale on his website in a deluxe package that includes the CD, a limited edition button, an immediate digital download of the album, the Adam WarRock vs. DJ Empirical mashup album, exclusive DJ Empirical 47-minute TrackLog megamix, and Ruckus Roboticus “Chicks” single, all for only $12. The album alone, without all the bonus content, is available from the standard digital outlets, like iTunes and Amazon.
The CD is something of a serial, mirroring the narrative form of a comic book. The website describes it as a “comic book concept hip-hop album that tells the story of Adam and Demonos, crossing the galaxy in the span of 17 tracks.”
“This CD is a story,” Ahn says. “The next one will be more normal.” A “more normal” geek rap album will give voice to some of his other popular songs, music that Ahn says has layered messages underneath it.
“Our generation…we all grew up in that big boon in the early 90s of comic books. It influenced so much of who we are,” he says. As a result, he sees music headed into a “natural, generational change.”
“There’s no sound right now that’s the conventional sound of music – unless you’re talking about top 40,” Ahn says. “It’s a natural result that you would conceptually make music that’s super-segmented in subject matter.”
Adam WarRock songs might have a title that piques someone’s interest, but the song will be about something deeper, like an emotion or idea that people can relate to as easily as the title that hooked them in the first place.
“And everyone has access to it because on the Internet,” says Ahn. And that’s really the key to the rise of nerd rock. In fact, it’s how Adam WarRock came to be included on the bill for Saturday’s Rock Comic Con.
In preparation for the album’s release, Adam WarRock released a free mixtape, which was soon discovered by nerd rockers Kirby Krackle, an indie pop rock band with a comic book focus. The band found it and emailed him, and invited him to join them onstage on Saturday for a few songs.
“They found a kindred spirit in my music,” Ahn says. “I take my cues from indie music rather than hardcore rap.” Kirby Krackle should be a good fit for the lighthearted rapper. And with the album having just been released yesterday, the timing couldn’t be better for Adam WarRock to perform in front of a large audience of geek rock enthusiasts.
He’ll soon be touring in support of the CD, mainly up and down the east coast, utilizing his contacts and relationships, both inside and outside of the world of comic book culture. He is also tentatively scheduled to do a full-fledged show at Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con in March.
This is all very logical when you consider that the terms “geek” and “nerd” often refer to people who are technologically inclined, and thus always ahead of the curve, early adopters who set the standards and trends before the mainstream arrives on the scene.
Ahn is also part of The Bureau Chiefs, the group behind the oft-re-tweeted Twitter feed FakeAPStyleBook, which he says began as “a bunch of people in an email chain trying to make each other laugh and happened to [start] at a time when the first wave of joke twitter accounts came.” The group has been working on a book of entirely new content slated for release in spring 2011. Although he has not been as active of a participant since launching his rap career, he enjoys being a part of the team. “It’s pretty much still a bunch of people trying to make each other laugh…that’s how it started, and essentially what it is today.”
So Eugene Ahn has his finger in a whole slew of cool pies. And they’re all projects that began and grew on the World Wide Web. Expect more from the geek rock world, and all its nuanced subgenres. Rock Comic Con appears to be the beginning of something much larger in scope and scale than we can predict, and Adam WarRock will continue to ride that wave.