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In Extremis

Fear Smells Delicious: An Interview With Ho99o9
Daniel Dylan Wray , May 17th, 2016 08:28

The unnatural end point of mixing hardcore-hip-hop-industrial, sweatbox live shows and a penchant for boxing shorts, the duo of theOGM and Eaddy talk to Daniel Dylan Wray about the (literal) bleeding edge of their hybrid

Ho99o9 [pronounced "horror"] are a duo – although a trio live - originally from New Jersey and now based in LA making, quite literally, horror music. Lyrically and visually their tracks are often rooted in the bloodthirsty theatrical gore of slasher flicks and grimy B-movie dungeon exploits. There's a seeming intent to shock, to instil fear, to kidnap and torture their victims, whether those victims be in the contextual narrative of a song or in fact the listener.

The duo put out a three-song EP, Mutant Freax, in 2014, following it with another EP, Horrors Of 1999, and a ten-track mixtape, Dead Bodies In The Lake, last year, with a one-off single, 'Blood Waves', their most recent release. Musically, they are a ravaged amalgamation of old-school hardcore; filthy, electronics-coated rap that often wanders into trap territory; rattling industrial noise and the occasional monolithic slab of stoner sludge. A sort of Death Grips-meets-Bad Brains directed by Rob Zombie. It's mutant music made by self-described mutants. The set-up is knowing, it's theatrical and it's constructed, but it's no less impactful when you face it live in the flesh or it charges through your speakers with palpable, seething malevolence.

All of this is funnelled through the co-vocalists, theOGM and Eaddy, a pair that forego any inclusion of instruments on stage – beyond the powerful presence of a drummer (often Ian Longwell, who plays with Santigold) – instead triggering the live recorded parts through a sample pad, allowing them to pinball freely across the stage in frenzied, often confrontational, bursts.

The first time I encountered Ho99o9, Eaddy ended up stripped to nothing but his socks, bouncing around the room slipping off everyone he crashed into, so drenched in sweat he was like a human bar of soap slipping through the hands of the crowd as they tried to prop him up or push him away in repulsion. The show ended with him curled up naked on the floor, screeching into the microphone as blasts of bass-heavy beats sputtered and screeched to a final white-noise death. A handful of crowd members remained near the front, but most had recoiled and backed off, so intense and physical was the experience. It takes a lot to spook a Berghain crowd, but Ho99o9 managed it gloriously.

What was it like growing up where you did in New Jersey? What were your neighbourhoods like and what did you get up to there?

theOGM: I was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. I then moved to Linden after second grade. We moved because we lived in a bad neighbourhood, our home would get broken into frequently. Linden wasn't bad but there are bad neighbourhoods and gangs like anywhere else. My parents are from Haiti. They were strict and didn't trust us hanging out with friends, going out, anything fun, unless it included them or Haitian people. When my father wasn't working in a factory, he was a bass player and DJed for friends and at parties, he collected vinyl, etc. Music was always around me but I never learned how to play an instrument. I enjoyed playing basketball, dressing fly, colours and women.

Eaddy: I was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, also known as Brick City. I grew up in the middle of poverty, I lived on the south side of Newark and there was a lot of gang activity, heavy drug trafficking and poor living. For the most part I was never caught up in any of it for the simple fact that I was an athlete and focused on school and basketball.

What can you tell us about the NJstreetKLAN you were involved with?

theOGM: The NJstreetKLAN is a collective of creative artists that was formed around 2009, 2010, by myself and Eaddy, along with some other people called Moruf, Vic and Neh. It later branched into and opened up smaller groups like FanBase and the New Jersey Rebels. We created a platform for ourselves and others in New Jersey; we would go to all these cool shows, events and galleries in New York as there was nothing or no one doing it in a way that would unify sounds, people and colours together in New Jersey. Our goal was to get New Jersey recognised with local talent, put on really dope shows, get NYC niggas to come out because they hated taking those trips. We also became better artists because we had a stage to practice. 

The 9s in the group's name I understand are an inverted 666. What's the significance of that?

theOGM: We bow down to no one. It means you're among the elite, it means evolution, it means we're all one.  

Eaddy: 999 resembles one with self, free spirit; no gods, borders, masters, rules, religion, race, good nor evil, but mutual in the presence of humanity and life.

Can you recall the very first time you met? If so, did you speak about music instantly and can you remember what you connected over?

theOGM: Yeah, I met this fool, I think, for the first time when I was working at this shop in Woodbridge mall. Him and a couple of other homies came by, the next time we linked up we were going to this party in NYC, Happy Endings – with A.L.I.E.N. and Ninjasonik – they used to throw like every Wednesday night in the Lower East Side. We all got real cool from that point.

Tell me about some of the shows you started going to when you first started hanging out. Are there any real standout shows that were important enough to trigger you guys wanting to do something together?

theOGM: When we first started going to local shows it was Ninjasonik, Japanther, Cerebral Ballzy, Death Set and a few others. Then Eaddy started getting me onto more hardcore bands and shows, as he discovered them. Goosebumps, Hoax, Hank Wood And The Hammerheads, Dawn Of Humans, Who Killed Spikey Jacket? The energy at all of these shows was so intense, vicious, contagious and dark to me. I was already rapping and making music at this point but it wasn't that kind of vibe. Eaddy was just a wild child without the music. It wasn't a show that got us started or excited about making music together, it was just fate. 

What's your recollection of your first ever show?

theOGM: It was November of 2012, it was at this venue in Newark called the Metropolitan, we used the smaller room they had. It was like any other event we've ever put together: good crowd and energy. The performance was pure energy as we had no solid body of work, sonically.

Eaddy: I was wasted, I had a bald head at the time and I got hit in the face with a glass bottle and my eye was bleeding. It was beautiful.

I've seen you guys play several times and you really do go from very heavy, glitchy, dirty rap one minute to full on breakneck-speed hardcore the next. Have you found that you're attracting a more punk or rap-orientated crowd? I was wondering if some of the more traditional, straight-up hip-hop guys would gravitate towards your craziness as much as the punk kids?  

theOGM: We get both, they just need to be exposed to it in order to decide. These young rappers all wanna be rock stars anyway, everyone is moshing, crowd-surfing and getting loose, so if they're exposed to it, they'll eat it up.  

Eaddy: We get creatures from all types who gravitate towards it. Whether you're into punk or rap, all the rappers today want to be punk rockers. It's funny when you see someone wearing a Sex Pistols shirt and they don't know any songs.

Given you have this incredibly split punk/rap DNA in your group, can you talk us through some specific records or artists that were really important in connecting you two musically?

theOGM: Onyx – their first three albums are straight classics. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Nas, G-Unit, DipSet, DMX, Bad Brains, Nine Inch Nails, Body Count, to name a few.

How important is cinema in what Ho99o9 do? It seems at times the lyrics and imagery are very much like a slasher film unfolding narratively. Do you intend to create literal horror in your music?

theOGM: Yes, we're actually screenwriters and directors disguised as rappers.

Eaddy: There's more to the music than what you hear, more to the eye than what you see. Horror is the forefront of this monster truck – licence to kill.

What's the fascination with the bloody and the gory and the violent? What sucked you into that world and what keeps you there? And would you say these sonic and visual explorations just represent your tastes or do you feel like you're a part of that world yourself?

theOGM: I've seen many dead bodies, I've touched them, I've seen the sorrow in families' faces, I've seen the evil in faces of other humans. I've seen them in faces of my family and some friends. It's all around us. 

Eaddy: You can't sugar-coat the world we live in today, it's all around us whether you acknowledge it or not. Read the newspaper, turn on the TV, take a step back and look at our world from there being terrorist attacks, to racism, to war, to gun violence, to police brutality; the list goes on and you can't hide it. It's less a fascination and more real life punching you in the fucking face.

How important is the visual image of Ho99o9? It seems to change a lot – is it important for you to be visually striking and ever-changing?

theOGM: We don't want people to get comfy with a particular sound or space we're in. Shit always changes. As far as the looks, the Nigga God [another name theOGM uses – the words are tattooed prominently on each thigh] has a way of making sure everything comes together.

Eaddy: It's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – now you see me, now you don't. Alive today, dead tomorrow.

TheOGM, you often wear a wedding dress or something that isn't 'traditionally' expected to be worn by men. Is this just stuff you feel like wearing or are you wearing these clothes to break down the outdated idea that men aren't supposed to wear them?

theOGM: I don't follow anyone's rules when it comes to what is expected to be worn by men. I do what I want, when I want. So, it's both: stuff I feel like wearing and breaking down the idea, but I'm not trying to prove a point though. I look sexy in a wedding dress [laughs].

What's the kind of reaction you look to get from fans at shows, what do you want to ignite in an audience? I've seen people genuinely fearful at your shows. Do you like to see that fear?

theOGM: I wanna see them break out of their shells, or be broken.   Eaddy: Fear smells delicious.

Given your reputation as a live group, when you make music, are you making it based on how it's going to sound in that environment?

theOGM: I just make what I feel at the time – sometimes we do make songs knowing that live it'll get wild. Sometimes we wanna make mood music that you can drive to, smoke weed to, fuck to.

Is there an album on the way? If so, when and who is putting it out?

theOGM: Maybe. If so, we don't know yet, honestly.

Eaddy: There's an album, it's called Ho99o9's Greatest Hits and it's coming out through Nickelodeon. 

And your plans for the rest of the year?

theOGM: Get better at cooking home meals.

Eaddy: World domination.

Blood Waves is out now on 999 Death Kult. Ho99o9 play Aviv in New York on May 20 before beginning a run of European festival dates with Primavera Sound in Barcelona on June 4; for full details and tickets, head here