In Conversation with Sunny Gang, Part IV

Sunny Gang is a lively thrash-punk-rap outfit based in New York, known for inspired (and inspiring) rap with a zealous rock ambience. Fronted by rapper Nasty Nate, other members include Chris Bacchus on guitar, Joe Sap on bass, and Marshal on drums. Sunny Gang just released “Godzilla“, a single off their album, Party/Animal. Recently the band took the time to answer Wanda Waterman’s questions about their musical experiences. (See the first part of this interview here, the second part here and the third part here.)

Is New York an exciting city for a musician?
CHRIS BACCHUS: New York is so diverse and its music scene follows the same fashion. You can walk down the street and just pop into a few bars and see an array of different musical genres. I do find the New York music scene to be very cliquey, but the more I think about it, That’s present in any metropolitan hub.

JOE SAP: I love working in New York because You’re constantly finding yourself in front of a different kind of crowd. We’ve shared stages and audiences with everything, whether punk bands like Cerebral Ballzy to throwback hip-hop acts like Pastor Troy. It keeps you on your toes, as a band, because you have to learn to tailor your set to your audience a little. That constant flux in crowds informs our writing too; we’ll step back and realize, “we’ve got too many hard, fast songs? let’s write a few things that are a little more laid back and rap-oriented.”

MARSHAL: There’s such a large music scene here that it becomes a little overwhelming for both the artists and the fans at times. There have been times when it can feel competitive to me as both a performer and a spectator due simply to the oversaturation. I would never say It’s a bad thing, but there have definitely been times when It’s been hard to decide which gigs to go to, either to perform at or to watch.

NASTY NATE: I personally think It’s really saturated so It’s hard to stand out. Also I feel like there’s a lot of expectation to sound a certain way, and when you break that, people sometimes get turned off. New Jersey is way more underground anyway. I like New York but it gets old real quick.

Why did you call your debut LP “Party/Animal?”
CHRIS BACCHUS: It’s the juxtaposition that exists in our music. We love making party music That’s fun and leaves people with smiles on their faces. We also love making serious music that comments on society. We don’t want to be that band that only wants to crush beers, but we also don’t want to be that band That’s angry about everything in the world. I feel like this album is a great balance of our capabilities as musicians and songwriters.

JOE SAP: The album is also essentially split down the middle, almost as if it were on a vinyl record, the first half being the “Party” side, featuring most of our fun, lighter, “lets get drunk” songs. The second half is the “Animal” side, which is a bit heavier, more political, and more intricate in the songwriting. The songs on the Animal side actually all flow together musically, and It’s kind of constructed as one solid “song cycle.”

In “Godzilla” there’s a mention of “revolutionary suicide.” What does that mean?
NASTY NATE: It was Huey Newton. When he was locked up he refused to work and eat, so he was put in solitary confinement and not fed. His prison mates said, “Man You’re gonna die. You’re commiting suicide.”

His response was, “You’ve committed suicide also,” i.e. by accepting the system and the way it dehumanizes prisoners. They were also giving up their humanity in a way that the system promoted, continuing the status quo. Newton called that “systematic suicide,” letting your humanity die because the system says it has to.

What Newton did, he called revolutionary suicide because it was his choice and not the system’s choice. By rebelling against the system, he was “committing suicide” in an effort to change the status quo, as opposed to letting it roll on. So the full line really is “revolutionary suicide?we die before they change,” meaning that sacrificing your own life is sometimes a necessary evil for creating a greater change.

Are there any books, films, or albums that have inspired you?
NASTY NATE: Revolutionary Suicide. Fanon’s The Wretched Earth. Run The Jewels. The movie Burn. Rage Against the Machine.

CHRIS BACCHUS: Metallica’s Kill ?Em All, Children of Bodom’s Hate Crew Deathroll and Black Sabbath’s Paranoid have played crucial roles in sculpting my guitar playing and providing inspiration. Some books that have really stuck with me are Peter Guralnick?s Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues and Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

JOE SAP: Riders on the Storm: My Life With Jim Morrison and the Doors by (Doors drummer) John Densmore was a pretty fascinating and inspiring read. He details how The Doors came to be a band and how they found success. I think about them a lot, because just like with Nate, Jim Morrison was not a traditional singer. He was actually a poet before joining The Doors. So It’s interesting to see how a band with an unconventional approach to rock music was able to make it.

As far as albums go, I don’t even know where to start. My playing style is very heavily influenced by Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath and Jack Bruce of Cream. Those were two guys who I really looked up to when I was first getting into the bass. There was a time where I knew about half of the songs off Cream’s Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire albums.

But I’ve always been into hip-hop as well; one of the first things I ever taught myself was the bassline in Biggie’s “Hypnotize.” As far as our approach to making music as a band goes, I look back to Rage Against The Machine’s first record a lot.

MARSHAL: NINE INCH NAILS. The Offspring. Brave New World. The Painted Bird. Captive Women VI. Zach Hill. Dave Grohl. Wavves. Kurt Vonnegut. George Orwell. Nirvana. The Bloodhound Gang. Myself.

If you had an artistic mission statement, what would it be?
CHRIS BACCHUS: Lose the ego and be open to criticism. No one goes anywhere thinking they’re the best. Listen and learn, let your music speak for you to a point where you don’t have to flex your “muscles” on Twitter.

JOE SAP: Try everything. Never say “no” to an idea until you know for a fact that it sucks and won’t work. Dare to attempt something that nobody else is doing.

MARSHAL: Save the planet; kill yourself.

NASTY NATE: don’t be ignorant and pretend like fucked-up shit doesn’t exist in this world. And don’t be so negative, thinking that everything in the world is fucked up. Have fun but be conscious of the world.

Wanda also writes the blog The Mindful Bard:The Care and Feeding of the Creative Self.