New York City’s REBELMATIC are a one of a kind band who come to us rooted in the punk and hardcore community but also add in a bunch of other influences ranging from classic rock, hip-hop and metal to create their unique blend. More often than not these multi-influenced approaches turn into a “hot mess” but as described in a recent review of “Eat The Monster” on this site that is NOT the case here. We will let you decide for yourself as each of the Rebelmatic album covers shown within this interview contain links to their music. Rebelmatic members “Creature” and “Karnage” were interviewed in September, 2017.
Above photo by: Jessica Pohl. Graphics by: Bas Spierings.
IE: What’s up fellas? I want to start off here by saying that Rebelmatic has so many things going on within your music and that it is just refreshing to hear in a music scene that can often sound stagnant. You guys are rooted strongly in the punk scene but I also can hear some Sabbath riffs in there as well. You have listed The Doors, Nirvana, Public Enemy. Motorhead, Wu-Tang and the Bad Brains as influences as well. There are probably some out there hearing the name Rebelmatic for the first time. For those just getting initiated with the name please tell us HOW and WHEN this band got its start?
Creature: The band started in 2008, but it kept building more in 2009. The name was inspired by the song, "Rebel Without A Pause" by Public Enemy. Also, because I've always liked the word "automatic"… Rebelmatic meant to me a rebel without a pause.
IE: You guys came up with the phrase "James Brown in a mosh pit" to describe your sound. Who actually came up with that phrase and have you found that it is just way easier to use that description for the band’s sound than rolling off a list of bands that have influenced you?
Creature: Yes, it is much easier.
Karnage: It was Creature who came up with the description. It makes sense. James Brown was one the greatest entertainers in the world. His music always had hard grooves from “It's A Man's World” to “Sex Machine”. By us saying our sound is "James Brown in a mosh pit", it says our music is aggressive with grooves. You can dance and slam in the mosh pit.
REBELMATIC 2017. PHOTO BY: RICKY POWELL
IE: The new music out now is the 4 song EP “Eat The Monster”. Can you talk about the new songs and how the “Eat The Monster” title and artwork came to be? Who designed the cover art and is the monster in the artwork based off an old children's book?
Creature: My five year old son came up with the title. I was putting my son to sleep, and he didn't want to get in bed because he said there were monsters there. I told him there aren't any monsters there and he said, "yes there is daddy, we have to eat the monster". I thought that would make a brilliant title, and so I used it. The artwork was designed by a friend of mine, Gotham FX. The monster was inspired by the children's book, "Where The Wild Things Are", it's not an artistic interpretation of it. The songs on the “Eat The Monster” EP, came about from song ideas we had. "Blood -N-Gold” came together at a rehearsal, as well as "The Woes". “Feel Some Type of Way" came from a song idea we were kicking around I had written the lyrics for. "Don't Shoot" five years ago. One day, Alkatraz had a riff idea, I put my lyrics to it and it fit. That's how music came about. Taking ideas and forming them into a structured song.
IE: Rebelmatic seems to be very proud of the fact that you are a NYC band. Where in the city is everyone in the band from?
Creature: Alkatraz, Ray, and myself are from Queens. We are a born and raised in New York City band. That we are proud of it. Unlike a lot of bands over the past 15 years, we are from here as individuals. They come to New York for a couple of summers, and brand themselves as a New York band. They don't have the same texture as the people who are born and raised here. Our music reflects that native New Yorker sound, from growing up in this city during the Mayor Koch era, the Mayor Dinkins, era, and the Mayor Guliani era. We're not a New York-based band. We are a New York band.
Karnage: I was born in Harlem, but I was raised in The Bronx. I first lived by W.225th by the 1 train. Then at 12 years old, I moved to by Dyre Avenue, the last stop on the 5 train. I'm very proud of being from New York. It runs through the veins of our music. We are a reminder of how crazy this city was, but these elements are still here.
IE: The city has undoubtedly gone through a lot of changes within the last 10 to 15 years leaving many life-long residents wondering what has happened to the city they grew up in. With all the changes that have happened in more recent years what are some of the things/places about this city that you still hold near and dear and give you that feeling of "home" that represent true New York.
Creature: The people. The real New Yorkers. As neutered as the city is, when you come back through the Holland Tunnel, you get butterflies in your stomach. Also, when you arrive at Kennedy Airport after traveling overseas, you know you are home. Those are symbols, those don't change. In a lot of ways, New York City has become watered down, but we're not watered down. We're from an older place… our coming of age is an older New York.
Karnage: The place in New York that gives me a feeling of home is The Bronx. Being raised in the Northwest by the 1 train, I went to elementary school with Greeks, Irish, Albanians, Latinos, Asians, and Blacks. I went to Junior High and High School in the Northeast Bronx by the 2 and the 5 trains. I was exposed to the Caribbean culture there. But, like the Northwest Bronx, there's an urban cultural landscape combined with the residential surroundings. There is a lot of wide spaces, hills, peaks and valleys. Also, these areas are closer to Westchester County towns such as Mount Vernon, Yonkers, Pelham and New Rochelle. I used to ride my ride my bike everywhere between the Bronx and some of those towns. Growing up in an isolated area, gave me the drive to explore as much of New York City as I could.
IE: Is NYC still a great place to live in your eyes?
Creature: The greatest city in the world. Where else can you get food 24 hours a day, and get home in numerous ways. In other cities, transportation and convenience stores close at 1am. This city literally doesn't sleep. It's getting more and more harder to live here. New York City is becoming highly expensive, but there is still diversity. Where else can you get Indian, Caribbean, Italian, Asian, Columbian, African and other sorts of international foods in one place?
Karnage: It's still a great place to live. The cultural and geographic diversity within each borough, 24 hour stores, bodegas, the free summer concerts, the public street art, even though it's mostly in Brooklyn… New York City is still the greatest in the world. Another thing that keeps New York City great for me is the nostalgia from my younger days. When I turned 14 years old I started going on journeys to Manhattan. I spent time going to record stores like Revolver Records, Bleecker Bob's, It's Only Rock-N-Roll, Tower Records in Greenwich Village, and J&R Music World by Brooklyn Bridge City Hall. Those stores, as well as rock clubs such as CBGB, Continental, Coney Island High, Brownies, and countless others are gone. Those were physical representations of New York that inspired me to play heavy music.
IE: Rebelmatic has been fortunate to garner attention from not only within the punk scene but beyond. Can you talk about being mentioned by both HR from the Bad Brains as well as David Byrne from the Talking Heads? What did they have to say about the band and where did they say it?
Creature: The mention from HR came from an interview he did on stylematters.com. They asked him if there were any bands that reminded him of Bad Brains. He said another band and then he said Rebelmatic. David Byrne from The Talking Heads quoted me in an article he wrote about Afropunk Fest 2017. It's on afropunk.com. We were talking about the music and fashion and the freedom of the festival. He winded using a quote of me saying how Afropunk is about liberation, being unadulterated, and creating your own cool to summarize Afropunk Fest 2017.
REBELMATIC LIVE ON THE CHRIS GETGHARD SHOW SEPTEMBER 14, 2017 (CLICK PHOTO TO WATCH)
IE: You guys recently made an appearance on the Tru-TV cable show “The Chris Gethard Show” How did this opportunity come about and how was the experience?
Creature: The experience was a lot of fun Chris was very cool and the whole staff as well. They just reached out to us via email: Rebelmaticbiz@gmail.com and asked if we wanted to play. It made a lot of sense, and we are very appreciative for the opportunity to reach as many people as possible.
IE: This December the band is heading down to both Cuba and the Dominican Republic to play shows. How did these shows come about? How many are you playing in each country and what kinds of bands are you playing with on these shows?
Creature: The festival we are playing in the Dominican Republic is called Destruccion Masiv Metal Festival. We will be playing with punk and metal bands. That came about from a German dude I met at Afropunk Fest 2016. He lives in the Dominican Republic. I sold him a CD and a t-shirt. We stayed in touch, and then he passed it on to the organizers of this festival. They liked the music and we stayed in contact, and wanted to fly us out there to play their festival in the capital of Santo Domingo. That led to us seeing that Cuba is an hour away from the Dominican Republic, so we started talking to the promoters for Destruccion Masiv about playing in Cuba. So in total, we will play 3-4 shows and stay there for seven days. So it should be fun. We are excited about it.
IE: Is the name Rebelmatic meant to be taken literally where you view yourselves as rebels of sorts WITH a cause? You guys do not shy away from taking on tough topics within some of your lyrics…
Creature: Well our music rebels against the status quo. Some people say it's political, and socially aware, but I just write lyrics based on what I feel. It's not like I wait for something to happen, and I write a topic. I'm wired to write as I feel. They are more concept lyrics than anything. But yeah, we are rebels with a cause or rather rebels without a pause.
IE: Over the years you guys have probably found yourselves on some pretty diverse shows since you guys are not pigeon holed into one category. Who are some of the bands you have shared the stage with in the past where when you look back you think “wow, I can't believe we played with them”
Creature: Playing with HR was great, playing with Aesop Rock was great, Onyx was dope, and being on tour with Angelo Moore from Fishbone, with his solo project, Dr. Madd Vibe, was incredible. Anybody we have played a show with, has usually been music acts that it makes sense for us to share the same stage. The Grand Victory in Brooklyn, NY closing show with Crown of Thornz was great too.
IE: What are the members of Rebelmatic doing musically besides this band? I know Creature has done some hip-hop in the past. Is that still an ongoing venture or is everyone in this band solely focusing on Rebelmatic?
Creature: I still rap. But Rebelmatic is the main priority. This the focal point. I still appear on songs with others I know, but I still do it. I may give y'all a Creature solo joint if y'all nice, y'all nice… (laughter).
Karnage: I play guitar, but I joined Rebelmatic as their bassist. I also DJ under the name DJ Eddie Nocentelli. I spin funk, soul, jazz, world music and hip-hop. I also rap. As it stands now, Rebelmatic is more active than my other musical ventures. Rebelmatic is a central focus for all of us, but it doesn't mean we stop engaging in our other musical interests. Besides, what always happens is, anything we do outside of Rebelmatic music still includes Rebelmatic providing the music.
IE: 3 of your 4 members are named Creature, Karnage and Alcatraz. Care to tell us how these names came about and is Ray Reed (your drummer) looking for a cool name as well? Haha!
Creature: Ray Reed is not looking for a cool stage name as well. He's like Dr. Reed Richards from The Fantastic Four. That's not a superhero name, but at times he's Mr. Fantastic. My name came about from my sister. She was joking around with me about being a creature of some sorts, but a creature is a human being. So I said yes I'm a creature. That's how my name came about.
Karnage: My name came about from the Spiderman villain Carnage. He is the red and black version of Venom, another villain. I was in a rap group called Get Open back in the day at Purchase College. I wanted a stage name that reflected an alter ego. I replaced the "C" with a "K" and I took it on. It describes my on stage personality. I get wild on stage and become driven by the music.
IE: Attacking former and current day presidents seems to be what we as a nation do very well these days. If Rebelmatic as a collective were voted into the oval office in the future and granted a magic wand of sorts to fix 3 needs what kinds of issues would you be taking on with your 3 shots?
Creature: If I had a magic wand, the three issues I would take on would be: 1. Affordable living wages, 2. Free healthcare, 3. Education
Karnage: The three issues I would take on are 1. Imminent Domain 2. Better job wages 3: Free Healthcare