Noise rap has consistenly been on the cutting edge of the music scene at least as far back as a decade ago when The Money Store entered the world, with artists like JPEGMAFIA, Ho99o9, and Backxwash most recently keeping the genre relevant by taking it to new and exciting places. While Moodie Black are excited to be among the acts waiting in the wings for their moment in the spotlight, emcee kdeath sounds a bit exhausted at the thought when I speak with her—and rightly so, considering the fact that the duo’s debut preceded Death Grips by a few years. In fact, they even own the domain noiserap.com.
As kdeath explains, there’s an irony to the fact that her project—which she’s released music through alongside guitarist Sean Lindahl since 2008—has never quite fit a mold they’ve helped to create, despite the fact that this mold generally gives a full-throated voice to marginalized individuals. She tells me how she was even shit-talking the negative aspects of individual scenes and the industry as a whole long before folks like JPEGMAFIA logged on, only her voice was drowned out due to the fact that MB hadn’t accrued the devout fanbase needed to back her—in addition to the inherent othering that comes with being a half-Black, half-Mexican trans woman regardless of what scene you’re in.
Yet it was at the exact moment she and Lindahl had switched their attention from music to other endeavors that things started picking up steam. After making a quick ascension from working as line cooks in a food truck in the Hollywood Hills to opening their own taco space in Minneapolis with the goal of bringing decent Tex-Mex to the Midwest (MB hail from Phoenix), a fan by the name of Maynard James Keenan invited the duo to open a string of summer shows for his band Puscifer, providing both an opportunity for exposure and a sense of validation in receiving this offer solely on the strength of their music. “What makes this so special is that Maynard reached out to us,” kdeath tells me. “We have no agent, we have no publicist. It’s not because we knew somebody, it’s off the merit of our work. And to me, that’s powerful.”
Despite the high-profile gigs, kdeath assures me the trip home will see Moodie Black playing “middle-of-nowhere-Midwest, backwoods DIY bars” to keep themselves humble. In our conversation, she goes deeper into their adherence to DIY ideals, the backstory behind their chance encounter with Keenan, and whether the future of Moodie Black will look like its past. For more info on the tour, check MB’s site here.
How exactly did you get connected with Maynard in the first place?
We were releasing Fuzz right before [the pandemic] happened. We had a Europe tour and all these things going on in support of that record, and literally the week before we were leaving for France everything shut down. Putting out a record at that time—the album kind of just dissolved into the ether. At the time I was doing a lot of cooking, and I was getting kind of burnt out [on Moodie Black]. We’d been grinding for so long, and everything was just falling on deaf ears. We did OK, but we had to see a lot of other noise-rap groups be pretty successful, one after the other. It gets frustrating. We weren’t gonna quit, but we were pretty much just spinning our wheels, and I was just so focused on this goal for so many years that I decided that trying to get into something else due to the pandemic helped push that.
“What makes this so special is that Maynard reached out to us. We have no agent, we have no publicist. It’s not because we knew somebody, it’s off the merit of our work. And to me, that’s powerful.”
We started doing pop-up tacos out of a house, and I started doing all this training and getting all my certifications and all these crazy things started happening—we got an offer to move into a space, a legit taco place inside of a coffee shop. Meanwhile Maynard has his Caduceus vineyard, and he’s really into the culinary stuff, and as all of this is going on I realized his wife is following us on Instagram. She was posting daily playlists at Caduceus—they play music to their grapes as they’re growing them—and we were on those playlists a lot. I was like, “Oh that’s cool that they’re playing our stuff there,” and I didn’t know that that’s his wife posting about that stuff. But then she hit me up one day, we’re at the taco shop and she sends an Instagram message saying, “We’re gonna send someone out there to try your tacos.” And I’m like, OK, cool, but I think it’s just bullshit [laughs].
And then one day we’re just working and Maynard’s agent comes in and introduces himself, eats our food, buys a bunch of our merch, loved the food, and we just start talking. At the end of the conversation he’s like, “Well, Puscifer has this tour coming up, and if you get a message from us, it’s really us and we’re interested in having you join the tour.” Then two or three days later I get a DM from Maynard introducing himself. He’s like, “We want you to join the tour, blah blah blah,” and then we just start talking about food, and we become really quick friends.
It is—even more so because I’d just made some changes. I was getting fit, going for runs, and kind of separating myself from Moodie Black because I’d been beating my head against the wall, so frustrated with people not paying attention. I literally thought, “I’m gonna focus on something else, and all this stuff’s gonna happen for MB.” And it literally happened. We’ve been traveling everywhere trying to make noise, and for us to go back to the desert with one of the biggest rock stars in the world…we’ve been everywhere, and then this opportunity comes right from our backyard. It’s wild.
The sad reality of making music now is that in most cases it seems you can’t just make music—more often than not you have to have some kind of crazy internet presence or something. For you, you literally had to become a chef to get this big break.
I feel like I’m the only one in noise rap who cares as much as I do about the culture, about noise rap itself. You look at noise-rap groups, they don’t tour together, they don’t really interact with one another—it’s very rare. And when I talk to them it’s like most of them were discovered very early on and kind of manicured to become what they became. So I’m kind of happy that it happened the way it did for us, because our music and what I wanna do isn’t necessarily like that. I’m not pliable, because I’ve been through so much stuff. It wouldn’t work like that for us. I feel like this is the way it’s supposed to happen.
“We’ve been traveling everywhere trying to make noise, and for us to go back to the desert with one of the biggest rock stars in the world…we’ve been everywhere, and then this opportunity comes right from our backyard. It’s wild.”
I also wanted to ask about your tour with Sleigh Bells.
Yeah, so six or seven months after starting the taco shop we got an opportunity to upgrade and move to a full kitchen space. And I took it, I had nothing else going on. And again, I’m just hanging out and we get a message from Sleigh Bells, Alexis hit us up. I’d been keeping in contact because I had her on a podcast, and I was always asking, “Hey, if you’ve ever got a tour thing…”—which you ask all the time and no one ever gets back to you. And randomly, we were two weeks away from moving into our new location, they asked, “Don’t you live in Texas?” I was like, “No,” but in my mind I’m like, “But I can get to Texas.” They’re like, “We’ve got an opener but they got COVID and they can’t do these three dates, do you wanna do it?” And I’m still thinking this is bullshit but I’m like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” No idea how I’m gonna get there, I have this business that I have to move, and it was like a week away. But you can’t say no to that.
What was your impression of the crowds for Sleigh Bells? Did they seem engaged?
In my brain, us and Sleigh Bells is a perfect match. I’ve been trying to tour with them forever. But it was weird, because we’ve been playing a lot of our own stuff for so long, and we hadn’t played a show with a band like that in a long time—if ever—and so I was ignorant enough to not really consider that being an issue. But when we played, the energy felt a lot like it used to a long time ago when we’d play and people had no fucking idea what was going on. They were kind of apprehensive and, “What the fuck?” But the difference is that now we’re mature and grizzled enough that we dispelled that pretty quickly, and as soon as the first song was done people were completely glued to the set. It was a mix of confusion and being really, really into it.
It was awesome, but we played three shows and it was over. I’m just sitting there like, “This is what we should be doing, we’re good enough to do that, why are we always sitting here doing nothing?” I’d love to be support for all kinds of bands, that’s how you get your name out there. But I don’t know what it is, it’s just hard for us to find opportunities like that. With music, you just have to enjoy it. Enjoy the opportunity that you have, because you can’t have hope that this is going to become anything other than this moment. That’s how you set yourself up for disappointment in the music industry—I did it for years. You don’t enjoy the little things you get, you just think it’s a stepping-stone to something else.
“With music, you just have to enjoy the opportunity that you have, because you can’t have hope that this is going to become anything other than this moment. That’s how you set yourself up for disappointment in the music industry—I did it for years.”
Your new music sounds to me a lot like the music you were putting out 10 years ago. I feel like it’s usually a criticism to say that, but it’s still really interesting. Do you worry about repeating yourself, or is the goal to not veer too far from what you’ve done in the past?
Yeah, I’m very concerned about that. But in a weird way maybe it makes sense, because we just re-released the Sana Sana album. There’s a label in France that insisted on doing a remastered re-release, so I let them. And Dälek just posted about it—they were like, “Oh, Moodie Black’s really coming into their own!” It was 2011 when we made that record [laughs].
It’s weird because it’s like, yeah, I’m afraid of that, but at the same time I’m probably destined to be repeating some older work as people—especially with this tour—are gonna start discovering us as if it’s brand new. And I guess that’s a testament to that sound, but I’m worried about it all the time because we’re working on newer things. I do want to change, I want to make stuff that’s more emotionally engaging. I’m working on trying to make a lot more friendly stuff, because it’s really hard for me to do. I’m always thinking I’m making pop music, I swear to god. I’m like, “Oh, this Fuzz album’s, like, mainstream.” Like that’s my version. That’s the best that I can do right now. So I’m a little delusional. FL