Since their formation in late 2010, Californian group Death Grips have been the contagious itch on the back of anyone witness to their poisonous mutation of contemporary music. Their aggressively lo-fi spin on hip-hop electronica has been part of a larger ambiguity surrounding its members since their first full-length Exmilitary, which was released for free as a mixtape midway through 2011. Aside from their music, which comes laced with a sour examination of society and the human condition, they have largely avoided giving interviews or opinions. Collectively they pound to the relentless, raw and surprisingly poignant side of their creativity, and in the case of their recent live performance at Camden’s Electric Ballroom, a thousand furious spectators.
The London show was their third date in the UK, part of a three month world tour ending in Australia next January. Controversy has circled the band since the defiant release of their L.P No Love Deep Web, which left hearts and contracts at Epic Records shattered. By giving away the album for free online without permission from their label (downloads were reported to have reached 35 million), the Death Grips collective have taken on cult status as spokesmen for the underground, fearlessly taking on the hierarchy of the music industry with a previously unmatched disregard for major label blue ribbon.
On the night, it was the abrasive size of the band’s music and collective persona that set down an electric atmosphere; accompanied by prolific, London-based musician, The Bug along with long time-collaborator Flow Dan. Following their set, we’d normally have skipped away merrily with a head full of great memories and stories, confident that the night had reached its climax. That wasn’t to be, though, as ‘The Death Grips Experience’ (yep, we’re calling it that) was still to come. With their show, they proved why they are such a force in new music, one not limited to a talent for loud self-promotion.
Further adding to the mystique of this revolutionary crew, due to unknown circumstances co-producer and synth-player Flatlander was missing. The only piece of information on his whereabouts is an email, replying to a fan, where he stated: “I regret being unable to play, but it is not currently safe/legal for me to travel outside the U.S. I’m there though, don’t trip.” Death Grips didn’t play like they were a man down, though.
Frontman and lead vocalist MC Ride (Stefan Burnett) and Drummer Zach Hill ran through a relentless and nail-biting set list of tracks spanning all three albums, and their energy and anger summoned up and built on the rawness of their studio releases. Zach never left his sparse and damaged drum kit, throwing pieces of equipment to the floor and screaming into his snare drum, while beating chaotic rhythms with his feet.
MC Ride seemed trance-like, stalking the stage for highlights such as ‘Get Got’ and ‘Tekyon (Death Yon)’. At one point, the female MC performing with The Bug took to the side of the stage to dance, until Stefan slammed her in the chest, pushing her right back off her feet and back into a crowd of people. The whole night reeked of chaos, the kind of uprising that you’d expect to follow an exercise of such monumental disregard for authority. Death Grips might be caught up in legislation and legal action for some time, but one thing’s for sure, when they hit the stage, they’re going to take the opportunity to tear it up and unleash all that anger that inspired such a move in the first place. Every beat being another middle finger to The Man. Death Grips will not be silenced.
For propaganda, tour dates, leaks and more, visit Death Grips’ site [here]
Words by Charlie Wood.