MC Chris muses about childhood and cartoons

Courtesy of MC Chris

By Chloe Stachowiak, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 11, 2011

MC Chris has been around the block. He’s sampled a fair share of the entertainment industry in the past ten years, with eight album releases and work on cartoons like “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and “Sealab 2021” under his belt. Even with this long list of feats, the musician’s act is far from stale. He hit the Blind Pig last night with new music, new animation ideas and the same sense of humor that’s made him stand out since his childhood.

The performance showcased Race Wars, the artist’s newest album and installment in the related skits he weaves throughout his music.

“There’s a pretty huge story arc that goes across all of my albums, and Race Wars is just the latest kind of episode,” he said in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “There’s not a lot I can say without ruining it, but it’s heavily based on George Miller and his movie ‘Mad Max.’ ”

While he’s reluctant to drop his story’s details, the inspiration behind the new album is less cryptic.

Race Wars is kind of an extension of my childhood, which was filled with ‘Star Wars’ and G.I. Joe,” he said. “Basically, I don’t want to grow up.”

For a lifelong entertainer like MC Chris, separating childhood from adulthood is impossible.

“As a kid, I was very much the same exact person that I am now,” he said. “I would leave my table if (my family) went out to eat, and I’d go to someone else’s table and I’d tell them that I’d tell them a joke if they gave me a french fry. I think that at an early age I learned that if I entertained people, they’d give me something in return.”

Race Wars’s content may be based on the artist’s early days in Illinois, but that didn’t stop him from maturing and developing the album’s actual music.

Race Wars is very organic — lots of instruments,” he said. “We brought in a lot of great folks, like Superhuman Happiness, and they made some awesome-sounding songs for me.”

He added, “It sounds like an MC Chris record, but it starts out with a very different and foreign sound.”

New music isn’t the only trick up the artist’s sleeve. After receiving fan donations of over $60,000, he’s now working on his own MC Chris cartoon. With so much time spent in the animation studio, Chris is grateful for the chance to get out and interact with fans during his tours. Unlike other musicians, though, touring for him isn’t all fun and games.

“We go to Waffle House, we stay at the cheapest hotel we can find, we get kicked out the next morning by angry maid, and we drive six hours to the next venue and do it all over again,” he said. “There’s no TV coming out of the hotel window with me. There’s not a lot of shenanigans or drinking. If we get really crazy, we’ll eat rice or something. We’ll eat some carbs. We’ll have a loaf of bread, instead of a bottle of vodka like Led Zeppelin used to do.”

Professionalism has become especially important to MC Chris in the past few years, as he’s used more of his profits to support charity than to supply his “nerd cave” with new toys and gadgets.

“I have a nephew who was born with cystic fibrosis, and as soon as I found out, I decided to change the way I do business,” he said. “I devote 50 percent of my profits to a cystic fibrosis foundation. … When I’m at home, I sell my possessions to raise money, and now there’s almost nothing in my apartment. If I buy something for $45, I eventually start feeling guilty and think, ‘This is $45 for cystic fibrosis,’ and I sell it.”

While the artist sees his future packed with cartoons, music and tours, his goals for these creations will remain the same.

“I just want to keep raising as much money as I can, and I see the cartoon to get the word out there about cystic fibrosis and what people can do to help,” he said. “We can get together. We can have a good time. Let’s do something good, too. We have all this money. … Let’s try to stop a disease.”