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Guerilla Ghost Go For the Jugular

Apr. 25, 2017
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Here’s the origins of Guerilla Ghost in a nutshell: Two hardcore kids, a black rapper named Bad Graphics Ghost (aka Chuck Jones) and a white producer named Tron Jovi (aka Martin Defatte), meet for the first time, hit it off instantly and form a group with the goal of making antagonistic hip-hop. If that sounds a bit like Run the Jewels, there’s a funny story about that.

The Milwaukee duo’s debut single, the politically charged “Make AmeriKKKa Great Again,” started as a solo venture for Jones. “The original version I recorded for my solo material, but it was actually over a Run the Jewels beat,” he explains. “We took the better instrumental parts of the song—kind of kept my cadence, my rhythm and BPM the same—and Martin constructed a beat over his lunch hour. The following day, he came over and we laid the entire song down.”

The duo’s ability to work quickly together comes from a friendship and partnership that was forged immediately upon a series of events that resemble kismet. The duo first crossed paths when Jones’s old band, Importer/Exporter, opened for Defatte’s band, Volunteer. Defatte and Jones exchanged pleasantries after the show, but nothing really came of it. Then, last summer, Defatte got back into producing when Volunteer was on hiatus. “I really wanted to do hip-hop again,” recalls Defatte. “I produced a lot when I lived in Racine, but I didn’t have any local support at the time.”

Their paths crossed again during the Beet Street Harvest Festival last October. Volunteer had a booth at the event, and when Jones came over to buy a T-shirt for his birthday, they exchanged contact information. “I reached out and sent him my demos,” says Defatte. “Maybe a week later he came over, and we recorded our first song.” They clicked right away as a duo. “After that one night, I knew we vibed as personalities, like playing off of one another,” Defatte says. Jones agrees. “It’s kind of cliché, but we’re almost to the point where we’re completing each other’s sentences,” he points out. “It’s really weird.”

Weird or not, that efficiency has allowed Guerilla Ghost to write, record and release two singles and a six-song EP in just a few months. The pair of singles, the aforementioned “Make AmeriKKKa Great Again” and “Tomi Lahren Better Shut Her Mouth…,” have an obvious political bent to them, but the EP isn’t so overtly political. Instead, Jones came at this project from somewhat of an extreme perspective. “The basic idea was, if this was the last recording I ever did as a musician, what would I leave the world?”

As it turns out, what he’d leave is a work called Suicide Notes of the 21st Century. Featuring grating, Death Grips-esque audio terrorism courtesy of Defatte, the EP finds Jones at his most unfiltered. “It was no holds barred for me,” he says of the material. “There’s no tip-toeing or pussy-footing around here.”

While politics is mentioned in Suicide Notes, it isn’t simply a political manifesto from two working-class guys. “I guess we’re probably giving people a false impression with the first two singles,” concedes Jones. That doesn’t mean, though, that Guerilla Ghost wouldn’t explore politics more directly in the future. “We’ll probably get back to that—you know, fuck with politics a bit,” says Defatte. “Everybody is so angry; we’re angry.” Jones then jumps in: “We just did a cover of ‘Sound of Da Police’ by KRS-One, so we’re still in that vein.”

Defatte concurs, having grown up on hardcore punk. “Honestly, I draw a lot of influence from independent, DIY music,” he states. “Hearing Dead Kennedys’ Bedtime for Democracy, if you listen to those lyrics, that’s one of the most fucked up political things you could hear when you’re like 13.”

Guerilla Ghost’s Suicide Notes of the 21st Century is streaming at guerrillaghost.bandcamp.com.

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