[Interview] Atlanta's Own Rapper Michael Myerz On Being Unconventional And His Next Album Coming Out Via VHS
Cover image from Michael Myerz Video "Dust Tone" directed by Trent Tomlinson.
Michael Myerz is an individual who is simultaneously welcoming and intense and quite comfortable firing off every stray thought in his lyrics. He is someone who knows who he is and wears his image proudly on his sleeve. He is the charming oddball who knows he's an oddball, eyes fixed on the future while his heart remains very much in the '90s. Active on the music scene since 2011, the eccentric Atlanta rapper invited me into his cathedral of '90s pop culture to chat about his experiences in the Atlanta music scene and how the future, at least as far as his next album is concerned, is VHS.
How long have you been a musician?
Well, I’ve been rapping since 6th grade. I’ve been what I classify as a musician since 2011. I don’t wanna get into what I did in high school because I think I would punch myself in the throat. (laughs) Perhaps the balls.
What did you do in high school?
I always rapped but I tried to form bands. As I’m sure you know, even forming a band at this age is hard. Imaging forming a band as high schoolers. It just doesn’t work. So I was in this one little project with this guy who played guitar. It was like a mix of... Oh god, I can’t believe I’m admitting this. (laughs) It was like a mix of Cage the Elephant meets uhh Beastie Boys? I sang over Digitalism and Ratatat and put out this “album”, called The Fundamentals Of Being Shallow. Which was me just super bitter towards this girl who didn’t like me [who lived] down the street, and every song was about her. (laughing) Like super butthurt that this girl didn’t like me!
I don’t consider that being a musician. I mean, I was dabbling in things. I picked up the ukulele and made a shitty side project called My Cool Schwartz. Throughout all of that though? I still had good lyrics here and there. And still had, you know, good play on words and vocabulary and all that. So even if I don't call myself a musician back then, at least I was still trying to make music and experiment, and I think that is good in itself.
I’m assuming that none of these projects are available anywhere?
You know what, fortunately, if you look hard enough. You can find my hit, it’s not a hit, called “Popping My Kippah.” It was me rapping over “Poppin’ My Collar” by Three-Six-Mafia. Kippah is the yarmulke and that guy who mixed it put in my vocals half a second too late. So the whole thing is slightly off. And it’s on myspace under Jew Unit I think.
No... Jew Unit?
Haha, yeah! Yeah, there was Little Jew. MC Jew. My first album was called Live In Jewresualm.
What initially drew you to rap in the first place?
I remember the time and the place. It was my friend Spencer Harvey’s basement with my other friend Delvin. It was two o'clock in the morning and I was in the 6th or 7th grade, and we were on albinoblacksheep.com. There was this jukebox that would play mini versions of karaoke songs, like anything from Britney Spears to Eminem, so I would rap over “The Real Slim Shady” mini-version and all of sudden I was like “Hey! I can rhyme words on the spot. That’s pretty cool.”
My friends were all like “yeah that's pretty cool!” so I kept on doing it, and in the 8th grade, I recorded Live In Jewrusalem and pretty much the rest is history. Because, after that, my friend burned copies and handed it out at school, everyone started listening to it. By the time I was already in high school people know me as, “Oh hey! The rapping Jewish kid!”
What was the birth of the persona “Michael Myerz”?
All credit is due to Tann Jones. He makes a lot of noise/house music in Atlanta. He’s the one who came up with Michael Myerz. When I came back from freshman year in college I said I just wanted to make some songs, and he said that now was the right time to record an actual album. This was May 2011, so I was like, what do I go by, cause I can’t go by M.C Jew. And he said,“What about Michael Myerz? Your Dad’s name is Freddy, your brother’s name is Jason, and your name’s Michael, and you like horror movies and all that shit. You should spell it with a Z cause your last name is Schwartz.
I was like, “Fuck yeah! Let's do it!”
Are there any artists or musicians in your family?
My brother played drums and got me into music at an early age. Growing up in ‘94 I can remember listening to good music. My mom was super into 60's pop music and my dad was really into the 60's and 70's music. When I was five-years-old, I specifically remember listening to Beck’s Odelay, Ace of Base, No Doubt, Oasis, Beastie Boys, oh, and there was a song I used to jiggle my butt too, The Association's “Windy.” Every time I hear that song I just smile.
Were you the youngest child?
I’m the baby. My brother and sister are straight A students. Both went to UGA. 4.0s, both got jobs out of college; meanwhile, you got me who’s smoking weed and skateboarding and rapping and all that. So when it got to the Michael Myerz shit I remember them (my parents) getting super concerned that I was gonna get sued, “You don’t own all the samples in your beats! You don’t own the rights to these images!”
I have an album called Tropical Bananas and Spray Cans (July 2012)and when it came out on cassette, the front cover was Woody Allen all glossy, colorful, and psychedelic. And they were like “Woody Allen’s going to sue you!” If Woody Allen sues me, I’ve made it! I mean Woody Allen’s not going to just randomly find me on Bandcamp and see me and go, “That guy!”
Shit, I think Woody Allen would probably appreciate me because I’m a neurotic Jew who is constantly being oppressed by the patriarchal white man (laughing).
Is it fair to say that you were sort of the black sheep of the family?
I’m 100% the black sheep of the family. I would say that my parents encouraged me once they saw me making money. My mom was actually convinced because of all the cursing in my music that I wasn’t going to make it (laughs). I remember mentioning weed in my songs concerned them. Having videos that were a bit risque or weird concerned them. They finally snapped out of it, I think because at first, they thought this was a phase. Once it hit the 3-year mark and I was still making music they realized, “Oh, I don’t think this is a phase.”
I have a very good relationship with my parents now but it’s taken me many many years to work on that. Now it’s like they always ask me how the music is going, and they’ve been to a few of my shows. I mean, none of them have ever bought an album of mine, and that you can leave in by the way! These people will not spend a whopping $8 on an album of mine.
Sonically speaking, how would best describe your sound?
It’s definitely rap. It’s definitely got the 90s aesthetic. And when I say the 90's, I don’t mean that my videos have VHS filters that I got off an app on my iPhone. I mean my style of rapping is, and everything about me is “the 90's.” I mean, look at what you’re in right now! (gestures towards the walls, shelves, and tables around his home filled to the brim with VHS tapes, Nintendo Cartridges, anime posters, action figures, and other relics from that decade).
I get pissed off when I hear people say, “Joey Badda$$ has got that 90’s thing,” and I’m like what because he has fucking saxophones in his instrumentals? Like what the fuck does that mean dude? Like, I am the fucking 90's and 20 years from now when they write history books about that shit and get to “who brought the 90's back?” I did. I brought back the fucking 90's. “Voice of the Generation?” No, I’m the voice of the fucking 90's. I am the fucking capsule you swallow and shit out the 90's.
You really, really love this particular decade and paying homage to it, don't you?
Yeah! I’m 90's hip hop/rap. I hate to use this but it’s fucking true. It’s “real rap" in the sense that it's music that actually talks about shit that’s going on in my life. So many artists nowadays are like “Open your third eye; get woke,” and I’m like, none of you are awake. You’re all talking about it but you smoke 17 blunts and are always in a fucking haze so how could you be woke? If you listen to my music, I’m not talking about all this political shit. Because I’m not involved in the political shit, and I’m a white guy what the fuck do I know? Seriously, like what the fuck do I know? I’m not going to rap about being super enlightened because I only know what I’ve experienced, what I've seen, and what I’ve heard.
Genre-wise, you’ve occasionally been described as “comedy rap." Would you say that’s accurate?
No! I’m funny, and there are elements of my music that are comedic and lighthearted. But I have released 200+ songs and if you’re gonna tell me that you can pigeonhole me into one specific genre, go fuck yourself.
How would you describe your experience being part of the Atlanta music scene for so long?
Yin and Yang. I didn’t start working with people from here until I moved here a few years ago, and that's when I started working with my friend Ben Hopkins (AKA Damocles) he’s the guy who worked with me on Jewnami (February 2017), Bury Me With My Money/Kosmic Krust (May 2016), and Scary Stories To Smoke In The Dark (October 2016). Then Alec Owens who’s under AO, who I’m working with now, and who I've worked with on Makeout Creek (Septemebr 2016).
I love the fact that I’m a rapper who’s been accepted into the metal community. That feels awesome. That is the last thing I ever expected. I expected to fit in with all the hip kids. To find out that the hip kids are fucking assholes because they’re talentless, mediocre shitheads who are embarrassed and are scared of me; all about looking cute on stage, looking cool on the internet, and posting pictures that say, “I made a thing”. That’s how I feel about the super contrived douchebags in East Atlanta Village who won’t go to anyone but their fucking friends' shows.
How would you say that you’ve evolved as an artist?
My rapping has gotten better, my flow has gotten better, everything just got better. A Lot of my lo-fi recordings were done intentionally. Some, though, was because I just didn't know people who knew how to mix well, or I didn’t know how to come in on the mic a certain way, or I should have done more vocal takes, but now I’m at a point where I like the fact that Bury Me With My Money isn’t mixed super well, because it’s supposed to have a gritty fuzzy feel to it. Then, if you listen to something like Kosmic Krust, the songs on there are a lot more polished. Then you listen to something like Makeout Creek and it’s very polished, or Jewnami and it’s very polished.
You have an extensive number of music videos for your songs. Are you the director for all of them?
I am definitely a contributor. There’s never been a video that I didn’t have a say in. However, the real brain child is Jake Kruse, the guy who's done a lot of my shit. One of the first videos we shot was for the song “Be Careful What You Wish For” that is just us like meshed 50/50.
Is that your favorite music video you guys have ever done together?
That was part of a trilogy. It was “Be Careful What You Wish For,” "Grocery Shopping,” and “Dystopia,” and they're all from A Mourning in Deja Vu (May 2015). Love that album. Love those music videos.
Was this a thing you always wanted to do? Have music videos for as many of your songs as possible?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to do it, but it’s hard to schedule people and shooting a music video is not easy. I mean, it’s easier to do one if it’s just me standing and rapping, but when it's got somewhat of a plot to it, people forget that shooting a 3-minute scene takes hours.
Are there any musicians in the Atlanta music scene you’re a fan of?
The people in the metal community. Lazerwulf is incredible. I love Death of Kings. I never thought I’d like a band like Malformity. I’ve always had an interest in metal music but never really dove into it until I met Amos (Rifkin, drummer of Death Of Kings and Atlanta show promoter), and I had to run these shows for these metal bands, and I was like, “ I kinda like this.” Sadistic Ritual, they’re great; Malformity’s great. Cemetery Filth, they are sick as fuck. Repulsory, fucking love Repulsory.
Is it a stretch to say your sound is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when someone thinks Atlanta rap?
I’m the last thing that comes to mind. I’m thinking the first thing that comes to mind when you think Atlanta rap is the trap scene. If it’s not that or rap then it’s probably something like Wake or The Difference Machine, who are carried by Speakeasy Promotions. They have got the monopoly, where they get to control everything and do a disservice to people like me. Those fans [of rap]. I mean, not all of them will like my music, but there’s going to be a handful of fans who will, and you’re preventing them from ever hearing about me because you throw me into some pigeon hole like “comedy rap." You don’t put me on any bills where I could be [in front of] these other fans of rap so I’m forced to open up for Hammerhead Fest, Captured By Robots, and the 2-Year A’Rippin Anniversary show, and I’m so grateful for those.
Would you say you’ve experienced push-back from more traditional rap fans in the Atlanta scene?
A lot of people who like rap music today won’t listen to a lot of my music, and I hate it. That's fine, I’ve been told this a lot. “You make rap music for people who don’t like rap.” I am fine with being unconventional. I think people don’t like being challenged. There’s so much music out there today, and it’s oversaturated. Unless some blog like Fader is telling you, “This rapper’s cool,” you don’t wanna pursue other shit, and that’s not everybody because clearly if that was everybody then I wouldn’t be playing any shows.
What upcoming projects do you have next for Michael Myerz?
This next album’s actually coming out on VHS. I'm part of the VHS community, that’s why this album’s coming out on limited edition VHS. It will be on Youtube and Vimeo., but basically, this album, NuJewbes, is my longest album yet. It’s about 15-16 tracks, and we’re shooting a movie where each song segues into another scene. Then it’s all going to be put on VHS. This is the first album I’m gonna to submit to labels. I’ve been unsigned since the day I was born. I would love to be signed. People might say that labels don’t do much for anybody anymore, and I’m like, “yes they do.”
If someone was distributing my album and I didn't have to worry about P.R? Jesus Christ.
Is there anything significant or special about the title?
Tribute to Japanese producer/DJ Nujabes who unfortunately died in a traffic collision in 2010. A lot of people after he died made tributes to him, remixing his songs, rapping on his songs. It was all instrumental that had features on and his music was always, whenever it had a rapper on it, about spiritualism or entitlement. He has a lot of ambient, piano jazzy soulful melodic vibes to his music, and the album that I’m putting out is very much like that.
What do you see in the future of Michael Myerz?
I will never stop ever. I did the math. If I crank out 4 projects every year, by the time I'm 47-years-old I will have released 100 albums, so that’s the goal, the short term goal. Music is my life dude. My music is nothing but journal entries, and that’s why it will never end until I’m dead. In the future expect more shows, expect more albums whether they’re in Atlanta or not, and expect more Michael Myerz whether he’s in Atlanta or not.
Nujewbes is due out August 26. The album releases party/show will be at The Earl (Get your tickets here).