Being fans of some of the most mysterious and eccentric alter egos in hip hop (Madlib/Quasimoto/YNQ, DOOM/Viktor Vaughn/King Geedorah and Kool Keith/Dr. Octagon/Dr. Dooom amongst others), we’re happy to embrace the many faces of Evan Souza. Whether he takes the form of DarkoTheSuper, Doc Heller or Dwarf Nebula, his music transcends a lot of styles and personas between both production and rapping. We caught up with the master of nom de plumes and talked over a number of topics including his latest joint, Loser, and who he’s loving in the UK at the moment.
Sampleface: First off: who are we talking to now – DarkoTheSuper, Dwarf Nebula or…?
DarkoTheSuper: Doc Heller or Darko, either or. Dwarf’s doing a bid for sticking up a Blockbuster right now, he’ll be out soon though. #FreeDwarf!
SF: Tell us about your new projects – Loser and Good Little Automaton Droids.
DTS: Well I went in depth about “Loser” for the Indiegogo campaign, so I’ll try to keep it to a minimum here cos I could talk all day about this album. But I’ll say it’s definitely my best work yet, probably the best thing I’ve done with my life. It may be the greatest weirdo rap concept album since “MM.. Food.” That’s how strongly I believe in it. It’s all about accepting yourself or even who you want to be for whoever that is. “Loser” comes from the song that got me into Beck, who is one of my heroes. I felt like a loser for not going to prom so I start listening to that song over and over till I started laughing like Donnie Darko before the tangent universe ends. (*Spoiler Alert*) When it comes to GLAD, that was pretty much my greatest hits of the beats I made in 2013. There’s no clear theme, it’s more of a compilation album, but I’m still really happy with it. And I’m very glad it was released by such a great label like Lunatick Records. The title “Good Little Automaton Droids” comes from my favorite movie from my childhood “Mystery Men.” Which is also the film I take my producer alias from, Doc Heller. I used one of my favorite Mr. Furious quotes for the title because it seemed to fit the content in a way, I’m not sure why but it just felt right.
SF: Would you say they’re your best projects yet?
DTS: Yet, yes. But I’m working on a new rap album titled “Buck Naked The Movie God Vs. Buddy Jesus & The Keanu Reeves Statue” that might explode minds and grow em back like Robot Santa. Plus I just completed “Loop Diggin’ In The 8th Dimension 2” and that’s pretty damn great as well.
SF: You’re known for your wacky flow and obscure lyricism. Where would you say you get that from?
DTS: “Who he got his style from? His pops.” Shout out to Fred Farkle. I take in my environment, my situation, pop culture, things I enjoy, mix it in a stew, eat it, then proceed to puke it into a rhyme. I gotta credit my influences, MF DOOM, Eyedea, Beck, Frank Zappa, Murdoc, MyGrane McNastee, ODB, Del The Funky Homosapien, and many others. Listening to them helped me mold my own flavor using their spices. I look at everything like sampling, even lyrics. I take parts of all this poetry and time stretch it, pitch shift it, throw a filter on it and call it the new shit.
SF: When did you start making beats?
DTS: About four or five years ago I guess. I started rapping first but realized I would need my own production to start selling my work so I downloaded a free trial of a software called Mixcraft and have been using it to this day. I love it.
SF: What sort of music did you listen to growing up?
Eminem, Jay Z, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Gorillaz, Sum 41, Tony Hawk Pro Skater Soundtracks, Mike Jones, whatever was popular at the time. I was dumb.
SF: What was the first hip hop track that caught your attention?
DTS: Probably “The Real Slim Shady” cos I thought it was funny. I wanna say my older brother had it on cassette and that’s how I got to listen to it. I also really liked “The Day I Beat Shaq” by Aaron Carter.
SF: Who influences your style and the multiple alter egos?
DTS: Well the alter ego dynamic comes from wanting to be like DOOM, Madlib or even Kool Keith. The whole superhero aspect and being a man of mystery. Also Donnie Darko was a paranoid schizophrenic I might as well be one too. “The Dark One, take apart guns with my mind like The Sphinx. Terribly mysterious, you can ask my shrink…”
SF: Do you think it is important to have a musical background, whether it be classically trained or just learning an instruments?
DTS: No not really. I know nothing at all about the technical side of music. I can’t even count bars and I definitely can’t play any instruments besides a computer. I think the main thing is to “PLAY FROM YOUR FUCKING HEART!” as the great Bill Hicks would say. Just do what yah love and love what yah do and it will come to you.
SF: Describe how you approach the making of a track.
DTS: A good magician never reveals his secrets…good thing I ain’t Gob Bluth. First when it comes to making a beat. I listen to a record, take the whole side of the vinyl and load it into Mixcraft. From there I proceed to going through it all and choosing the loops and chops I want to use. Then I mix it all together with a break or what have you and then add the effects to it. I do a lot of EQing. I like to use all types of filters and get it to how I want it to sound. If I’m not using vinyl and it’s VST synths or something along those lines, I just align the notes how I want them along a drum break I made or found. With virtual instruments it’s all about numbers to me cos I don’t know what a lot of things mean so I just tweak it till it sounds cool then move a long. I try to make everything spontaneous so I don’t usually take any longer than an hour on a beat, unless it turns out being really good and I wanna keep working on it. That’s mainly what I do for production, for writing rhymes and recording, I always take my time. I don’t want anything forced. I’ll do a hundred takes on something if I can’t get it right. Sometimes I have to give up and come back to it another day. Writing I usually do pretty quickly. I write a lot, especially when I get a new beat I like for a collaboration. I just wait till things come to me though. I do a lot of writing in the shower of before I fall asleep. Rhyming is my passion so I really have fun recording, even when it can be frustrating. Once it’’s done it’s always a great feeling. Then it’s onto mixing the track. I load everything up then I compress, eq and reverb my main vocals. Then I get crazy with the cheese wiz for my backing vocals or ad-libs. I love mixing so I spend a lot of time on it to get it right. Then come back to it later when the albums finished so I can really master it better and get everything sounding correct.
SF: What equipment and/or instruments do you use?
DTS: I use Mixcraft, vinyls, samples, and a couple VST’s.
SF: Do you have one album you always go back to?
DTS: Beck’s Mellow Gold and all his early stuff like Golden Feelings. MF DOOM’s Operation: Doomsday. That’s the greatest hip hop album ever to me. If I’m feeling down, Nirvana’s Nevermind always helps me get through it. Also Eyedea & Abilities’ First Born and By The Throat.
SF: What are your fondest musical memories?
DTS: Probably all the concert’s I’ve been to. It’s nothing like seeing your favorite artists live. Seeing Kool A.D. was awesome! My only regret is when he asked for requests, I didn’t shout out “Lagrimas Blancas.” That’s one of my favorite songs ever. Performing for the first time was amazing, even though they seemed to not like it much, but I had a great time. Any performance I do, even getting heckled is a beautiful experience. Knowing you love yourself and what anyone else thinks just doesn’t matter. Most recently Homeboy Sandman shouting me and my album “Loser” out on stage was the greatest.
SF: What’s your biggest musical accomplishment and why?
DTS: I think getting to work with Murdoc. If my 11th grade self knew that was happening, he’d flip. Also working with Open Mike Eagle and getting the track up on Potholes In My Blog. This interview is another big accomplishment for me. I love Sampleface, so I really appreciate this. Another one would be The BasedGod blessing my beat. #TYBG! Being on the Lunatick Records roster is huge for me as well, and all the labels I’m down with. Hopefully this list will be longer very soon.
SF: Do you have a favourite record that you have produced, either solo or as part of the group?
DTS: Free Hostage by Murdoc. It’s not out yet but that joint is insane. That’s definitely my favorite. I got some new joints with my friend Lucid Optics that are really great. He sent me a demo to my beat Snot Bubblez that is just beautiful. I’m doing an album with my homie Emerald from Cult Fortified too. All the joints on there are dope. Of course the track Lil B did, that’s just fucking nuts to me still. My song Good Burger, that I produced on Loser is a real trip. I’ll always love that song. The title track for Loser is really great to me, that was fun to make. There’s a bunch of others I’m forgetting but those are the main ones for sure.
SF: Favourite label?
DTS: Stones Throw, Rhymesayers, Lunatick Records, Curious Absurdities, Hey WTF Records, Collective Resonance, Sampleface, Potholes and many others.
SF: Favourite producer and MC?
DTS: Producer: J Dilla. MC: MF DOOM
SF: How did you get to know Homeboy Sandman?
DTS: Well I went to his show in Philly a year ago to see him and Blu. We got there early and caught them while they were eating dinner. I tried to give him a CD but he gave me his email instead. The next day I sent him some beats and have been doing so since. He turns down most but a few landed in his vault as he called it, so I’m really happy about that. He’s a great guy, really nice to help an artist like me out. Got him to check out some of “Loser” too, he seems to dig it.
SF: Congrats on the Lil B feature. How did that come about?
DTS: Well I forget how I got into Lil B, I used to hate him but eventually grew to love him, and realize what he was really trying to do. The man’s a genius. I start sending him beats after I met one of his producer’s Marvin Cruz. Marvin sent me a message on Soundcloud a while ago, asking if I wanted to collaborate. So I checked out his page and found out he had produced a track for The BasedGod and it was awesome. So I had asked him how he got beats to Lil B and he directed me to his email. So I start sending him beats and eventually he replied to me saying something like “Bangers, love you” so when he dropped BasedWorld Paradise, like every one of his mix tapes, I was happy to check it out. To my surprise I get to “Stab You When Dead” and heard my beat “Therapy” (which I made in the lobby waiting for my therapist.) I freaked out, I couldn’t stop smiling. That was the most Based day of my life.
SF: Who would you most like to work with and why?
DTS: DOOM, cos he’s the greatest. I would love to take a time machine to 1994 and work with Beck, while on nitrous fumes. If time machines apply I would also love to take magic mushrooms with Bill Hicks and write a movie. I wanna do an album with the Dust Brothers as well.
SF: What albums are you currently listening to at the moment?
DTS: Big Baby Gandhi’s Debut. Lakutis’ 3 Seashells. Jeremiah Jae’s Lunch Special Series. Lil B’s P.Y.T. New SNK∆ beat tapes. Everything Knx. releases. Nickelus F & Ohbliv. Jonwayne’s This Is False. A lot of Khryo tapes. I Am Many’s DISOBEY and Obese. And of course I listened to Donuts and Ruff Draft a lot for Dilla Month.
SF: What are your thoughts on UK Hip Hop and is there anyone in the UK you’d like to work with?
DTS: The UK has tons of great beat makers. I would really love to work with Paul White, but more realistically I wanna do a joint with Cypria. I believe Languid’s from the UK as well and he’s amazing, I like his work a lot. I’ll be honest the only UK rap I listen to is the MC’s my friend You Haven’t Heard of Him works with. There’s a big scene of UK emcee’s in the Soundcloud community and they’re all pretty dope. Peace to my man Badbelly doing his thing with poetry. Conflict’s killing it as well as The Auracle from the Sampleface family.
SF: If you weren’t involved in music, what could you see yourself doing instead?
DTS: I think I’d be writing novels, and screenplays. I always loved writing stories since I was young, so I think I’d follow my passion with that. Also trying to make abstract art somehow through graphic design.
SF: Who would play you in your biopic and what would you call it?
DTS: Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko.
SF: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
DTS: “Do what you love, fuck the rest.” – Dwayne, Little Miss Sunshine.
“Life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves.” – Bill Hicks
“I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may.” – Tyler Durden
“I hope that when the world comes to an end, I can breathe a sigh of relief, because there will be so much to look forward to.” – Donnie Darko
“With so many billions and billions of people on the planet, most of us can’t be unique in any meaningful way.” – Les, Special
What advice would you give to beginners starting out?
Have patience, patience is key. Wait a while before you release anything, really grow as a person and artist till you truly feel ready.