Nathan Haskill—L.A.-based MC and one-half of the nerdcore hip hop duo Cold Slither—talks about the group’s new album You’ll Be Joining Us Soon, his musical influences, his favorite comics, and the inspiration comics and geek pop culture provides.
Nathan Haskill is something of a late musical bloomer. Oh, he’s been writing and rapping since he was 17, but it wasn’t until he was in his late twenties that he first stepped inside a recording booth and it would be a few more years before he could compile enough material for a full-on solo debut record, last year’s Shots From the J.W. Booth. That was quickly followed a few months later by What If… The Villains Won?, a nerdcore smorgasbord chock-full of references to and samples from The Amazing Screw-On Head, Super Friends, board games, Iron Man 2, G.I. Joe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, The Planet of the Apes, Clash of the Titans, and more. None of the tracks from the record have been annotated on Rap Genius (yet), but if and when they do, we can only imagine that contributors’ will have their hands full.
The Comixverse caught up with Haskill last month soon after the debut of You’ll Be Joining Us Soon, the first album by Cold Slither, the duo composed of Haskill and New York-based producer Dustmightz. Check out the interview and listen to the full-length Bandcamp embeds of all three of his albums below:
The Comixverse: For our readers, please introduce yourself and tell us where you hail from.
Nathan Haskill: My name is Nathan Haskill and I’m from Los Angeles CA, specifically, Redondo Beach.
CV: How long have you been writing and recording?
NH: I’ve been writing raps since the age of about 17, but didn’t start recording until—shockingly enough—the age of 28. I didn’t even drop an album until I was 32.
CV: In terms of your music, who are your biggest influences?
NH: I started out loving Run-DMC and the Fat Boys when I was a kid in the ’80s, then in 1990 at like 10 years old I knew all the words to N.W.A.’s “Fuck tha Police,” so those were my early influences. When I hit junior high it was all about the whole Death Row stuff being from L.A. and all. But I would say my main influences when it comes to my style and who I think shaped me as a MC, it had to be Wu-Tang and the Cypress Hill/Soul Assassins camp. You can def hear their influences in my music.
CV: If you could label or classify your style, what would you call it?
NH: I call my style Nerdrap or Geekhop I guess. It’s not like I rap about World of Warcraft or straight comic books for an hour or anything, but my stuff is really heavy with nerd culture references. It could be anything from comics to wrestling to G.I. Joe to lines from movies. All the while keeping the integrity of trying to be being a dope MC. Word play is really the art of it to me. That and if I can get someone to either google some reference I made to figure it out or rewind my verses and catch something new each time. That to me is a win.
CV: Are you a comic book fan? If so what are you reading right now?
NH: I’m a huge comic book fan. I can’t say that I read any the newer stuff, but I love the graphic novels of the titles I grew up with. So I’ll re-read my favorite story arcs like [Marvel’s] Secret Wars or The Fall of the Mutants or Inferno or The Infinity Gauntlet or [Todd] McFarlane’s run on Spidey… you get the drift.
CV: You mentioned Run-DMC as an influence, and Darryl McDaniels is known as a huge comics fan and he’s actually launching his own comic last year. The members of the Wu-Tang Clan have dabbled in comics as well, from GZA getting veteran Marvel and DC artist Denys Cowan to do the album cover for Liquid Swords or Wu-Tang getting their own Image Comics miniseries in the late 1990s, and Ghostface Killah writing the comic miniseries companion to last year’s Twelve Reasons to Die. And then you’ve got guys like MF Doom and nerdcore acts like Random/Mega Ran, mc chris, and a host of others. What is it about comics, animation, and geek/nerd culture in general that seems to draw a certain segment of the hip-hop community (and not necessarily just the “nerdcore” subgenre)?
NH: I think it’s for a couple reasons. One: comics were huge in the ’80s when a lot of those dudes and myself were growing up. Also they were cheap like $1 or $1.50 so it was easy for a kid to buy, and it’s great way to sort of forget about whatever hardships you would go through as a kid whether it be a divorce or living in poverty or any other of the multitude of things that children deal with as they grow up. Getting lost in them is fun. Also, the stories are so creative and imaginative that, at least for me, it’s an endless source of material to draw upon for references and metaphors in my lyrics. It’s also timeless. At 40 I can still rap about comics and stuff and have it be relevant as opposed to rapping about bitches and drugs and thugging and the club. I mean how long can an MC rap about that stuff and be taken serious? I don’t know, maybe that’s just me.
CV: Tell us a little about your new record You’ll be Joining Us Soon and how the Cold Slither collaboration happened.
NH: My new record is a collaboration between myself and a producer out of New York named Dustmightz. We met on Instagram via the Decepticon Clique which is a Transformers collector and fan group we were both a part of. We got to talking one day and he saw that I rapped, and then I soon found out he produces hip-hop. He sent me some beats and, boom. We just clicked. The “let’s do a couple songs” turned into “let’s do a five-song EP,’ which then turned into a ‘let’s just do a full album.”
Our group name became Cold Slither—it comes from an episode of the 1980s G.I. Joe cartoon in which Cobra attempted to use subliminal messages in music via a band named Cold Slither to control people’s minds and take over the world—and our album name became You’ll Be Joining Us Soon [taken from a lyric from one of the episode’s songs—ed.]
It’s just a great overall record I think. I’m very proud of it. look If you’d rather go to a comic convention than pop bottles in the club, this album will not and cannot disappoint. If you wanna pop bottles in the club, but then go home and be a secret nerd, then this record’s for you too!