Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Duo thunders onto scene

Electro/pop/rap group has live show worth a look

- By Stephanie Classen

April showers may or may not be on the way, but this weekend’s forecast calls for a 100 per cent chance of thunder.

Toronto electro/pop/rap duo Thunderhei­st — made up of producer/mixer Grahm Zilla and sassy MC Isis — is currently on the Exclaim 17th Anniversar­y Tour and ready to bring a storm of sound to Saskatoon.

Grahm recently chatted with The StarPhoeni­x about Thunderhei­st’s accidental formation, their changing sound and why the live show is worth a look.

StarPhoeni­x: Tell me a bit about your music beginnings. What were you into growing up?

Grahm Zilla: In high school I was really into guitar music and old punk bands like Dead Kennedys and ’70s rock like Black Sabbath. Then Tiga, a DJ/producer, was one of the founders of the rave scene in Montreal and they were throwing these warehouse parties around 1993. I heard there was this party in my high school auditorium and I ended up checking it out. I was blown away. I decided I didn’t like guitar anymore and wanted to become a DJ.

So within a couple months I bought a turntable at Value Village, got a really shitty mixer and started playing around with that stuff. That lead to three or four years of DJing at raves. Then I started hanging out with people that were strictly hip hop and they would clown on me because of the raver thing. They convinced me it wasn’t cool so I hung out at hip hop parties and did some DJ battles.

Then I had a really bad injury where I pretty much obliterate­d my arm and had to get surgery with a metal plate and bone grafting and that killed my DJing. I realized I need to figure something else out. That’s when I started in production.

SP: So did all those elements influence what you were doing when you started Thunderhei­st?

GZ: Absolutely. I just want to try different things. I can’t make the song over and over or I’d want to kill myself.

SP: Before Thunderhei­st became a duo it was your private solo project. I’ve read that you lied at first and told people it was a group.

GZ: I thought it was funny at the time. I was really trying to be anonymous about the whole thing so it was a way of throwing people off. It came down to having friends that were very purist about hip hop so I wanted to keep it a secret and see what happened.

SP: Adding Isis to the mix happened kind of by accident, right?

GZ: I started working with Isis in the summer of ’06 but it was more on her solo project which was much more contempora­ry hip hop. We did a couple tracks together.

In the meantime I had started Thunderhei­st, but I didn’t really put the two together that maybe Isis could be on this stuff. I actually intentiona­lly kept her out of the loop because I didn’t know if she’d be into it. I didn’t want to show it to her but I was doing this remix and a friend of mine — one of the only ones who knew about Thunderhei­st — asked me for it on MSN Messenger. I had Isis’ chat window open too and I accidental­ly sent it to her. And I was like, ‘Oh my god it’s over. She thinks I’m a freak.’ I didn’t hear from her for a couple of days but then she sent me the file back and had recorded herself over the parts where there weren’t vocals. It sounded great. Within two weeks we had our demo finished.

SP: You released your self-titled debut album on March 31. How has the response been so far?

GZ: It kind of leaked at the beginning of February so a lot of people got it before it actually came out. Some people would send me comments on Facebook and be like, ‘Yo, I love the new album,’ and I’m like, ‘You realize it’s not out yet right?’ If people don’t like it they’re not necessaril­y going to contact you and be like, ‘This is shit,’ so the people that have contacted me have definitely been pretty stoked about it. I’m trying to avoid reading reviews of it. I think it’s better to just move on to the next stuff and whatever happens happens.

SP: So are you already working on new stuff?

GZ: We’re both very ambitious people and we definitely think we can bring more to the table on our next project. The first album is kind of an introducti­on album. A lot of the material on Thunderhei­st we can’t really deal with performing any more because we’ve been touring this stuff for two years, it’s kind of ridiculous. We’re definitely moving on with our sound. The sound is changing because we’re changing.

SP: So how is the sound evolving?

GZ: The biggest thing is that Isis has been rapping long enough that she feels like she needs to try other things. That’s why we introduced in a small dosage the singing stuff. She’s way more into songwritin­g than she is rapping right now. I think the possibilit­ies are endless for that direction. We’re big into pop music. We like writing catchy stuff that people are going to sing along to. Not to say there won’t be any rapping because she’s good at it, but we’re just changing it up so that it’s less standard format.

SP: You guys have become known for your live show, which isn’t always the case for electronic acts. Why is that?

GZ: The most obvious reason is Isis as a live performer is really hard to compete with. As she said, she was born to do this. She feeds off the crowd’s energy and is really fun to watch. We both like to crowd surf and be in there. I do music that sounds good in a club setting. All the bass heavy stuff sounds good and we’re a good combinatio­n. I agree with you, a lot of electronic acts are just like two guys that look like they’re checking their e-mails. We try to take some of that punk rock energy and apply it to our live show.

 ?? —Photo Supplied ?? Isis (left) and Grahm Zilla make up the duoThunder­heist
—Photo Supplied Isis (left) and Grahm Zilla make up the duoThunder­heist

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada