by Leo McGovern
Hailing from the far away and mythical land of Chalmette, Louisiana, Sun Valley Deth Trap fits right in with the eclectic nature of the underground music scene in New Orleans. Are they Rap? Are they Rock? In reality they're both, but not at the same time. The Deth Trap live set can change directions in an instant, going from slamming hard rock to beat-filled rap between songs. They fit right in at the genre-splitting Alternative Media Expo. I talked with members Mike Freemont (vocals/guitars/synth), Smoke Masta Dank (bass/vocals), Mickey Barka (lead guitar/vocals), MonkeyMan (drums/samples), and Mr. Picch about their musical tendencies and their best Chalmation jokes they've ever heard.
Leo McGovern: How did the band form?
I've known Mike and Dank since grade school. We go back to the first grade.
And since Mike Freemont and Mr. Picch are brothers, I've known him since he
was a little kid. But the band didn't come together until 1995. Dank was hanging
around my house with me and my brother Shawn, and we got bored. I had this cheap
plastic toy guitar that I found in my attic, a pair of Hit Stix and a basketball.
Shawn threw a tape in a handheld tape recorder and on the spot Smoke Masta Dank
and I made a song called "Playing with a Comb". It was extremely lo-fi and it
only lasted about 30 seconds. The next day we played the tape for Mike Freemont
and by the next weekend he had made like 5 songs of his own. So we got a name
from some gibberish a friend of ours said and became "Nuts Can Surf". We did
that for a few years occasionally doing a show here or there and making hours
and hours of demo tapes. We never really did anything with them except for drop
them off at the Mushroom's "free section". Although my brother did mail a copy
of one of the demos to Beck... along with a weird fan letter that included snail
shells scotch taped to the inside of the letter.
And we met Mickey through a mutual friend in the summer of 97 just after Dank, Mike, and I graduated high school. After about 2 years of us playing around and making more tapes, we (rather unceremoniously) disbanded and started concentrating on other things. Everyone had solo projects and jobs and school to concentrate on. And then about a year ago we figured it was time to resurrect the band and use our old songs, solo projects, and new material combined together to have a massive mutant musical monstrosity!
Leo McGovern: Where did the name "Sun Valley Deth Trap" come from?
Mickey Barka: It came from an ancient scroll that appeared from the heavens from a chariot of fire with a midget that squirted ketchup in our eyes then through the ketchup dispenser at Dank's forehead.
Smoke Masta Dank: It's an old song from one of our old Nuts Can Surf tapes. It's a good song and you should hear it. Its got a lot of feedback and an awesome bass line.
MonkeyMan: Yeah, the song was called "Sun Valley Deth Trap '84". When we got back together I threw a list together of names that I liked and went through some of the old songs NCS song titles for name ideas. I gave the list to Mike Freemont, and that's what he chose. Now, where the song's title came from, I don't have a clue.
Mike Freemont: I kind of like the words "sun valley" together... and I don't know where "deth trap" came from but I guess I just put those together... but now people think we're from California.
Leo McGovern: Sun Valley Deth Trap's musical style moves all over the place, from hip-hop to hard rock. How much effort goes into keeping from moving too far in one direction? Could the band ever be a straight up rock band, or just a rap group?
Mr Picch: NEVER! I think we need to experiment more.
Mike Freemont: I like rock and rap but I can't ever mix them together at least not too much... the results have been pretty catastrophic thus far when attempted by others. I'd rather write a really good rap song or make a good beat or a really good melodic song.
MonkeyMan: I don't think we could just go with one style. If you were to go through everyone in the group's CD collections you'd find so many different artists... Nine Inch Nails, Beethoven, Pizzicato Five, Beck, NWA, Kanye West, Weezer, Wu-Tang Clan, Miles Davis, Marilyn Manson... and that's just my CDs. You can't live on bread alone.
Leo McGovern: Is playing in the city like going on tour for you?
Mike Freemont: I liken playing in the city to a mystical journey into a magical land of fancy and fun, where anything is possible, almost as if you had shrunk yourself down to like the size quanta and began randomly breaking things with psychic powers.
Smoke Masta Dank: Going on tour to me is like having people go out and find you drugs cause you are famous. And unlimited amounts of alcohol and requesting Mortal Kombat 2 and X-Men Vs Street Fighter for your dressing room and getting it.
MonkeyMan: I live like 20 minutes outside of the French Quarter. I used to drive farther than that on a daily basis for work. I just like being on stage and having people enjoy what we're doing. Touring would be going to some strange place that I've never been to before. I'd love to tour in Japan.
Leo McGovern: Being from Chalmette, you must hear a ton of Chalmation jokes. What are a few of the best Chalmation jokes you know?
Smoke Masta Dank: Why wasn't Jesus born in Chalmette? They couldn't find 3 wise men and a virgin in Chalmette.
Mickey Barka: What do you call a Chalmation that has no control over where God puts him on Earth? A human being! What does a Chalmation like to eat on Easter? Eggs.
MonkeyMan: Dude, what are you on? I can't say that I know any Chalmation jokes. I guess they tell them behind our backs. People think we're all backwoods and toothless here. I've lived here all my life and I've got my own teeth, I don't own shrimp boots (aka "Chalmette Reeboks"), and I've never had sex with a family member. When I tell some people that I'm from Chalmette, they look at me like I just whipped out my penis in church.
Mr Picch: Here's one. How many Chalmations does it take to punch you in the face? One.