Interview: Toothpaste for Dinner’s Drew (a.k.a. Crudbump, Kompressor, Dog Traders)

Drew

Columbus, Ohio-based humorist Drew may be best known for his Toothpaste for Dinner/Married to the Sea webcomics and YouTube videos, but there’s a lot more to the Internet superstar than writing captions and accosting Mother Nature. After eight hours of doodling day-in-the-lifes re: hipsters, hamsters, and other pressing issues, Drew likes to let loose in the home studio with some low-end bass and processed beats.

Since 2000, he has self-released four industrial hip-hop albums as Kompressor and three miscellaneous rock albums as Dog Traders; he’s also churned out about 50 YouTube videos featuring his music as soundtracks.

Under his latest guise, Crudbump, Drew has released his first full-length album in over five years, Na$tyjam$—an electronic rap project that blends his signature sense of humor with meticulously crafted synths and drum samples. MOLB recently spoke with Dr. Synthesizer himself to discuss the new album, the Buckeye State’s third largest metropolitan area, and Sudoku.

Making Out Like Bandits: Much of the material on Na$tyjam$ was produced on analog equipment—modular synths, a real vocoder. You’re obviously not using a four-track recorder and a pirated copy of Reason here. Can you talk to me about your setup?

Drew: All the drums and percussion were sequenced on an MPC2500, which is the center of my studio—all my other sequencers /drum machines are locked to the MPC since it’s got a stable clock. I don’t have a ton of equipment, but I’ve been writing and recording music in my home for about 12 years so I’ve slowly accumulated a few synthesizers and processors that work well for me.

All the tracks on the album have at least one melody/pad/bass line that I played live, which came from a Roland SH-2/Juno 60.

I started building a modular synthesizer a few years back and it’s a hybrid of Modcan/MOTM/Dot-com modules. You can send any audio or control signal in or out of the system, so I use it for processing sampled/recorded material as much as I use it to generate its own sounds.

MOLB: And about how long was the recording process this time around?

Drew: I put a few of the instrumental tracks together over the past three years or so, but as soon as the Crudbump concept occurred to me, it all came together within about six months. I wrote some lyrics, recorded them, then went back and replaced a lot of the drums/bass/melody with new parts. Most of the songs were all recorded in 2009. It’s like George Washington’s hammer—it’s had three new heads and four new handles, so it’s only the same in theory. And I think 10 of the songs were 100 percent new to begin with.

MOLB: You noted that the album should be listened to on a stereo system capable of producing strong bass frequencies, but earbuds and Cyber Acoustics desktop speakers have long since replaced the jambox and receiver. What is the optimal speaker setup you had in mind while mixing this album?

Drew: You should listen to it in your car, or on a stereo system with a subwoofer. It’s physically impossible to produce 40hz at a volume you can feel rather than hear with computer speakers or earbuds. The album still sounds fine on headphones or a small stereo, but you don’t get the whole picture unless you can feel the low-end.

MOLB: You’ve released a variety of material over the years, under many guises. Does that correlate with changes in musical taste? Perhaps a predilection for anonymity?

Drew: I don’t need to be anonymous, I have 50 videos online with my face in them. When I was working in the chemical industry, I didn’t want to fuck up my professional career by having stuff online with my name on it. I quit my last industry job in 2003 but this idea persists for some reason. Probably the same reason why people still think hot water freezes faster than cold water. It’s a state function, motherfuckers. Learn some thermodynamics.

Since I started writing and recording music, I wanted to make a rap album. There were several aborted attempts over the years, but this one worked out. I’ve dabbled in rock over the years, but I have too many ideas to spend a month playing different instruments and I don’t fuck around trying to get guitar players or drummers to come over. I could really give a shit about every other guy who thinks he’s Stephen Malkmus just because he has a haircut and a bad attitude.

MOLB: You’re a cartoonist by trade. Are your rhymes and lyrics leftover cartoon captions or do they come from an entirely different place?

Drew: This isn’t a leftover-based album. A couple of the songs come from the same ideas I’ve dropped into my comics before, but they’re all written specifically for this album. I throw out a lot of material, whether I’m making comics or writing songs. There’s something like 300 beats that I’ve tracked out, drums + bass + synths + guitars + samples, which haven’t been released. For a while last year I was putting out miniature versions of these unreleased tracks, 50 or 60 seconds long, and called it “Beat of the Week,” but as I got deep into working on the Crudbump album I didn’t have the time to keep doing it.

MOLB: Ohio’s stank is all over this record (shortage of Ikeas, Ted Strickland, Hot Pockets, Oprah). How has Columbus in particular helped with lyrical cannon fodder?

Drew: Columbus is the quintessential American city. It’s not too big, not too small. It’s extremely clean, and I mean this literally—there is none of the grime you see in Cleveland or Cincinnati since it’s largely a commercial city rather than an industrial one. It’s a pleasant place to live and so when you spend time in Columbus you have time to pay attention to regular things instead of focusing on the aspects of daily life you don’t like.

I’m not hating on other cities, just saying that Columbus is extraordinarily clean and average, and it’s cheap to live here, and nobody should move here, because I’d like it to stay that way.

MOLB: You’re a one-man show, but everybody needs a sounding board. Who is the first person you call when things aren’t 5 x 5 on a track you’re working on?

Drew: What’s 5×5? Is that a Sudoku joke? I don’t play that stuff, man. If I want to fuck with numbers I’ll just pull up a spreadsheet. To be honest, music is really just something I do because I like it, so I don’t focus group it. I’ll listen to it, and if I like it, then I get what I want out of it.

MOLB: 5 x 5. No? Like square? I thought you were a math guy. Haven’t you ever seen Aliens?

Drew: I don’t think I’ve seen Aliens. I’m actually not much of a movie watcher or a math guy. The basic concepts of math are pretty useful but I don’t get a boner from doing integrals.

MOLB: You’ve recently become a father. How has parenthood changed your daily routine in regard to creative output?

Drew: I probably get more done now that I have less time. You wouldn’t think it would work out that way, but it does.

MOLB: Is that like some kind of postpartum motivation syndrome?

Drew: No, it’s the fact that the more shit you have to handle, the faster you get it all done. It’s why a lot of people will have a two or three week break from school or work and get absolutely nothing done. The less spare time you have, the more precious it is, and if you have something creative that you want to accomplish, you won’t waste that time.

MOLB: As far as MOLB knows, you haven’t played a show since the Kompressor days. Did you perform any of the Dog Traders material live? Any chance we’ll have the opportunity to see the Crudbump material live?

Drew: I played one Dog Traders show with a three-piece band a few years ago here in Columbus. It’s fun to play live very occasionally, but it takes an immense amount of practice and preparation to perform a good live show. It’s not something I want to do on any kind of regular basis.

MOLB: You mention on “I Don’t Do Shit” your partiality for fine bedding. I too rock the California king with the pillow top, but my pillows don’t drop at 10 p.m. Are you trying to tell me that you go to bed at 10 p.m. but still wake up late? That’s a lot of sleep.

Drew: I wouldn’t interpret any of my work literally.

Crudbump: Na$tyjam$ is available for purchase through Sharing Machine, iTunes, and Amazon MP3.

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