Inside the Draft Dodgers: Evil Ebenezer [Interview]
Vancouver, B.C. – Evil’s not as sinister as he seems. The pale, sunken-eyed character on the cover of his new album The Wanderer may look like something out of a Dickens novel but his brand of villainy is more mischievous than depraved.
Anyone in their late twenties probably saw Evil on TV back in the day. He had a part in CTV’s twisted kid’s show The Odyssey, not to mention those car dealership commercials he rapped on. Evil has since become a staple of Vancouver hip-hop; his work with the Draftdodgers earned him several awards and helped carve a niche in Vancouver’s soundless scene. His work with Camobear Records and DJ Stu Ray helped pioneer the gothic hip-hop styles used by other dark personas like Snak the Ripper.
The boy who once pissed in his basketball coach’s suitcase now weighs his options carefully. He wants it all: hip-hop, film, artistic self-expression that can be reflected upon by an audience. He’s open, and you need only to visit his MySpace to know that he’s got some demons. He’s cautious too, and is sensitive to the effects that his statements will have. He hesitates to say anything unkind about his peers, aware of the violent consequences his words may incur.
The classic image of a bad boy redeemed by music works well for Evil. His sullen stories are tied together with an inner consistency and given depth through layers of cryptic beats and gritty rhymes. He’s hungry for change; grounded in the production of Stu Ray he’s experimenting with crossing genres and mixing media. I met Evil on an auspicious spring day in East Vancouver to discuss his new projects, his dark places and his contemporaries.
HipHopCanada: You know, Evil, you don’t really look so badass. What’s with the somber image?
Evil: That’s just who I am when I do this kind of music that I make. Evil Ebenezer is a grumpy kind of guy, I’m not content. I always have this scowl all the time. I joke around a lot, I think I’m pretty funny and other people think I’m a funny nice guy but I have a lot of dark things that go on in my mind and I try to write about them. I like to step outside myself and think about what things would have been like in the olden days, I really like history. I just kind of like this dark imagery and the Gothic, haunted stuff is the kind of stuff that I dream about and that I see in my mind. I think everybody has a dark side but not a lot of people know how to express it other than in a negative way by fighting or having aggression towards women. I’m not always happy with this world so I just try to imagine living somewhere else. I think people kind of get it but if they don’t I don’t really care.
HipHopCanada: How’s your new album The Wanderer going over?
Evil: A lot of the feedback at first was that it was weird, that people liked the old Evil. Some feedback I got was that it’s not as focused: I made it in a week, the writing and recording. I just wanted something new to tour with. I like it. I’m the type of guy though that I’m already working on something new. I want to be prolific, I’m really inspired by people like Moka who put out lots of projects cause your work or product is all you really have at the end of the day.
HipHopCanada: So what other projects are you working on?
Evil: I’m working on a short film that’s also going to have my music to it. It’s basically a small town rap murder mystery. I’m doing that with my producer and best friend Stu Ray. It’s called “Dirt Cheap,” coming out this spring. It’s a 20 minute film that has my music as the soundtrack and it’ll probably be available online. It reflects where I’m from, a small town, and what small town people do. They’re really bored and living there you feel trapped.
My next major release is going to be the ZZBRA record which is me and Moka Only. It’s going to be good. I think Stu wants to do something crazy, like a film or a variety show that goes with it with crazy performances and skits. It’s going to be more of a major release in Canada, don’t know what label yet but we’re working on it right now. It’s a big-sounding record, it’s got a more pop feel to it. I compare it to something like Beatnuts, 2 crazy guys doing their style over really big sounding cool beats. I’m really excited about it. It’s very different than The Wanderer. I don’t want to sound the same as I did on my last record. I don’t want to just be a rapper, I want to be Evil, I want to be me. I want to be this weird kind of guy who does all these different things.
HipHopCanada: How have you found the Vancouver hip-hop scene?
Evil: The scene here is very divided and competitive. It’s all these squirrels trying to get to one nut. There’s all these camps and all these people and it’s like we’re all chasing the same thing, it’s almost like we’re just chasing our tails. There’s no point in trying divide a scene so small; you think it’s so big but go down to Monday Night Live and see the same people week after week. It’s rappers performing for rappers. There’s a million people here but only fifty at MNL . Where’s the fans? They’re at dance clubs because you can’t dance to hip-hop anymore, you can’t have fun with it right now and that has to come back. I want it to come back.
I remember when I was a teenager that’s what it was all about. Hip-hop clubs were the clubs to go to and now everyone claims to like hip-hop but there’s only one hip-hop night so what do people really like? The hipsters are the ones who are having fun right now. They’re the ones having a good time, the hip-hop people aren’t having a good time right now. Something needs to be opened up; I want to tour with a punk band and get out to a different audience cause I feel I could win over any crowd. To me that’s a challenge and I want those kinds of opportunities. I like a lot of the punk shit.
HipHopCanada: Who do you like collaborating with?
Evil: I like working with Snak the Ripper because he’s very passionate. None of us are getting paid a lot of money so I like to be around people who are passionate and have a style and their own thing going. Me and Snak have a lot in common. We’re both from small towns, we’ve had similar upbringings and I think he has similar taste in music. We’re actually good friends and we’re on the same wavelength so I think his music’s very different from mine but at the same time we have similar influences.
HipHopCanada: Who would a dream collaboration be for you?
Evil: I think it would be someone weird like Prince or someone like that. I don’t know if it would be a rapper. I like Mad Child a lot, I like his style. I like [DJ] Kemo, I’ve been talking to Heatwave lately, I’d like to work with those guys too.
HipHopCanada: HipHopCanada interviewed you in 2007; how has your role in this industry changed since then?
Evil: I’m thirty now, I’ve been on my big 50 city tours with Josh Martinez and I’ve done the partying and I just try to take it a little more seriously now as far as having control of my image and my music. This is a business I’m running so I’m just trying to take care of it. I don’t always chase the party, sometimes I have responsibilities. Everyone has to go through it and find their own way.
The world has changed in the last couple of years, everyone’s on a computer now and the way of marketing yourself is so different. You don’t necessarily need that video on MuchMusic anymore, there’s other ways to get out. I’m just trying through MySpace or Facebook or whatever to be in closer contact with my friends or fans. These are the people that you’re inspiring, or are into your stuff, so that communication is right there. I can be like, ‘do you like this?’ and I get negative feedback and can respond to it. It’s that instant access with people that I’m learning.
HipHopCanada: Your music is pretty honest and emotive, what’s it like to be so vulnerable in an super-accessible forum like the internet?
Evil: It actually feels good. If anything, this music is a release. People always go, “what’s your style?” and I say “self-expression.” My style is being able to say how I feel at that exact moment in time and try to have people relate to it. When I first started making music it was hard to talk about emotional stuff, I didn’t know how. It was hard for me to access that part of my brain and I was more into battle kind of raps. Ever since my first emotional song, “I’m Leaving,” I was able to just make that kind of music happen. Which is good, I find that those kinds of songs are my most popular.
HipHopCanada: Are you where you thought you would be at this point in your life and career?
Evil: I released The Wanderer and I got to do a couple tours this fall. I did R.A. The Rugged Man and the Bliss and Eso tour. Europe hasn’t happened yet although I’d hoped it would, but Australia is in the works for the summer with Bliss and Eso. I can’t put time on anything. It’s great to have goals and schedules to help you elevate where you’re trying to go but at the same time things are going to happen if they’re meant to be so you just got to try to keep working at it.
Editor’s note: For more information on Evil stay tuned to HipHopCanada or check out http://www.myspace.com/evildraftdodgers.
Written by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada