Crafting mind-bending sonic onslaughts since 2012, this year New Jersey rebel duo Ho99o9 have reached their decade milestone together. After a five-year wait since their first album, United States Of Horror, established their genre-smashing template, sophomore release SKIN is ready to burst on the scene. Packed with guest spots, their trademark blend of contagious hip-hop and corrosive punk dominates.
The world, however, has changed a lot since their debut album, and not necessarily for the better.
Tackling systemic racism and classism in their own unrepentant manner via searing lyrics and gut-wrenching instrumentals, SKIN emerges a more embittered but nonetheless empowered beast. Masterminds theOGM and Eaddy give AltPress the lowdown on their next chapter, their journey to dare society to face its shortcomings and the famous friends they’ve made along the way.
It’s been a long five years since United States Of Horror was released in 2017. What’s taken you so long to drop another album?
THEOGM: To be honest, we got caught up in this whirlwind of touring. When we dropped that first record, it did well for so long that we just got caught up. We dropped mixtapes and EPs, but that’s why this break was a gift and a curse because now we have an album to drop. When you’re touring, you need time to get back into album mode, so this break has allowed us to do that. I hope it won’t be another five-year gap moving forward because I hate pushing records back this long. If it were up to me, I’d drop an album every year.
What do you feel has changed musically over those years? What can we expect to hear on SKIN?
EADDY: One thing is that we sound different live to how we sounded on that first record. Sometimes I listen back to United States Of Horror, and I cringe because it wasn’t getting that hype that you feel onstage. We talked about Rage Against The Machine albums that were recorded live and sound just like their shows. When people come to our shows and go crazy about it, we needed to get that same energy into the music, so this time we’ve progressed and brought it into the studio by really locking in the sonics and sounds. You can put us into a frame, but that frame is about to be very different now [that] we’re tapping into another level. If you’re expecting something from us, you’re gonna get hit with the unexpected.
Your style has always been effortlessly undefinable and uncontainable. Now that you’ve settled into a second album, has your signature approach arrived at a definitive genre with this new era?
EADDY: [Hip-hop’s] in our blood even before we were in a band because it’s the first music we heard besides our parents’ music. We’re just taking it to the next level, and so you’ve got to be real and genuine about it. There’s no faking it; everything we ever do is genuine from the ground up. This is not an overnight success, and we are really grinding.
When you’re tackling serious topics like racism and classism, do you feel any pressure to cover those subjects sensitively and effectively?
THEOGM: We feel no pressure because this is our calling. This is what we were meant to do, and it’s happening in real time. Some of this shit, even going back on United States Of Horror and the album title itself, we’re still going through that shit. During the pandemic, we had elections and the George Floyd events, but that was just two years ago, and things are still happening as we’re talking about them. They don’t feel pressure when they’re shooting us or taking our money, so of course I don’t feel any. Why should I? I’m speaking my mind, my heart and my truths.
EADDY: It’s really about who’s going to step up to the plate and hit a home run for the team and get everybody to the home base. It’s our job as humans and African-Americans, as those who speak up and want to make change and want to make people aware if they aren’t already. It’s in our nature, and if we weren’t doing it, I’d feel a certain way about myself: What is my purpose? What am I even doing?
Your song “Pigs Want Me Dead” was a decisive anthem during the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. Do you feel anything has changed as a result of that year’s events?
THEOGM: People definitely forget that BLM happened now. Before George Floyd, that shit was happening every year. People only scream it when it’s trending. Look at our material: Everything we’ve ever performed has been about the same topic. I’m gonna keep letting people know they’re phony. They’re only supporting when it’s cool. That’s what we’re here for, to keep pushing the word.
Holding society accountable for its failures is a huge responsibility for a band to carry on its shoulders. Do you really want to see change happen in the world, or would you rather watch it burn?
THEOGM: I’d love to see change, and I’m all for it because I love making music. Change is important, but that shit’s never going to happen. The reality is there isn’t ever going to be change. There’ll be moments that will be better than others, but there’ll never be no war, racism or classism. The people before us have been fighting for the longest, the Ice Cubes and the N.W.A.s, but that’s 20 to 40 years ago, and we’re still talking about the same damn shit on our songs.
EADDY: The answer is always for change, but obviously it’s been 100 years on this Earth, and things have progressively got better, but the world’s going to burn regardless of what and how we sing. You’ve just got to make things that plant that seed in people’s minds and go from there. Change is going to happen. It might not happen as rapidly as we all want, but we’ve got to keep chipping away bit by bit. Some people may not want to hear it, but you’ve got to keep moving forward.
One of the most unexpected moments on SKIN is Corey Taylor’s guest spot on “Bite My Face.” How did that opportunity come about?
EADDY: That’s a dream track we never would’ve thought we could make. We played a few shows with Ministry years back. We’re friends with their bassist Jason Christopher, who’s also best friends with Corey Taylor, so Jason was giving him the wrap about us. Also, Corey’s wife, Alicia, was a fan of our Prodigy song “Fight Fire With Fire,” so that’s two of his closest people telling him to check us out. Eventually, he tweeted us about the Cyber Cop EP being great, and I was looking at my phone like, “What?!”
EADDY: Jason told me he gave Corey my number, and no less than 10 minutes later, I’m still in bed, and I got a text from Corey. From there, we grew a cool relationship. He’s a really cool and down-to-earth human being, and there’s no celebrity attitude. We’re all on the same level musically. He gets it and understands what we’ve got going on.
Your first record was solely your own work, and you’ve gradually ventured into external features in recent years. What was it like letting others into your creative process after curating your own sound so carefully?
THEOGM: When we first started, we were on our high horse and definitely not into doing any features. We wanted to get our own sound out there and lock it in. We actually love collaborating with like-minded individuals now. All of the features on SKIN felt good and weren’t forced. Bun B’s feature is some monumental shit to me. Saul Williams is one of the OGs, and I love him. Then Josiah is one of the great young turn-ups.
EADDY: They were genuine on both sides, no friction or pulling teeth.
THEOGM: There’s so many reasons why not to do guest spots. For me, it’s in the percentage in the writing. When 100% of the writing is cut down to 20% because you’ve got so many writers and producers on there, I don’t like that. But when you’re trying to make history with dope things, you have to work with dope people, and you don’t mind sharing a piece of the pie.
Travis Barker, the busiest man in the business right now, produced and played drums on your record. What was that working experience like?
THEOGM: We’ve been working on this since 2019, and we met Travis in March that year. He wanted to work with us. He’d been wearing our merch, and a couple of friends were trying to link us up. At the time, we weren’t trying to collaborate with anybody, so we avoided it. Eventually, we linked up, and it was only supposed to be songs that were going on the record after this. We’ve been working on so much music, and we’ve got some fire stuff.
Over time during the pandemic, we were making so much music that we realized we actually had a body of work to make a Ho99o9 album produced by Travis Barker. We’d never worked with one producer on a record before. The sound is much more cohesive, and we’re not running to a bunch of producers. Travis has been making some of his best music in the last few years, but this record sounds like nothing else he’s put out — Ho99o9 doesn’t make pop punk, bro. You aren’t gonna get a whole album about how my girlfriend left me, but when you hear me making a record like that, that means the government’s on our side, and it gave us everything we needed.
EADDY: That means racism has ended!
How do you want people to feel when they hear SKIN for the first time?
THEOGM: Hopefully it’ll make them feel good or want to rebel in some way. Right now with NFTs going around, artists are finding out they don’t want to deal with the middle man, and they can do things themselves. That’s a form of rebellion, and I love seeing it. Hopefully this album makes people want to turn up, then walk into their 9-to-5 job the next day going, “You know what? Fuck it, I don’t want to be here anymore.” That’s the unapologetic energy you need to have.
EADDY: I think it will bring up a lot of emotions, and they might overlap each other with how experimental and forward-pushing the record is. You’re gonna feel angry, confused, happy, compassionate. You might feel like you wanna rip your face apart. You might feel like you want to rebel. There’s a lot of things being thrown at you at once, so for the most part, I know people will want to see it live because I wanna see it live, too! I relate to Nine Inch Nails’ Downward Spiral album all the time because it was really ahead of its time, and it’s a staple in history. So that’s what we’re trying to do.
THEOGM: We’ve got shit to talk about and things to do. We’ve gotta push the culture and our people further.
What’s your goal for 2022?
THEOGM: I’d like to do TV, some late-night show or something. People look at a band like us and go, “Don’t do that, bro. Keep it punk and underground.” I’ve been punk and underground all my life, so it would be dope to not compromise what we make but also get where we need to be, to gain more fans and keep the word going.
EADDY: Slipknot did Conan O’Brien once, and it looked crazy onstage.
This interview appeared in issue #403 with cover star Dominic Fike, available here.
The post HO99O9 on new album ‘SKIN’: “The world’s going to burn regardless of what we sing” appeared first on Alternative Press Magazine.