Demon Queen is the collaborative result of Tucson's Zackey Force Funk and Tobacco of indie-weirdos Black Moth Super Rainbow. The sound is hard to describe. It's been referred to with such superlatives as "neon," "electro," and "Kool-Aid." It does evoke an image of a 1980s Commodore 64 unearthed in a dark room, still powered on, with an inch of dust hanging off the speakers. Or a melted VHS tape of a grade-Z horror movie from the same era.
Zackey Force Funk (born Zachary Hose, 1974, in Tucson) says, with hesitation, the sound is "grunged out hip-hop. But I hate putting labels and genres on shit. It just makes me sick to my stomach. There's sex shit on there. It's on some Devil's Rejects-type shit. It's like a Satanic, freaky, sexy-ass bitch right there." Hose wrote most of the lyrics to the album at Tucson's Venom strip club and he says Tobacco's tracks "sounded that way to me already, and it just came out this way."
But to confine the lyrical content of Exorcise Tape to sleaze would be irresponsible. The carnal concerns Hose displays are far from glamorous; it's more of a report of superficial beauty and its accompanying emptiness. There's also the aforementioned "Love Hour Zero," which is as gorgeous of a pure love song there is.
The true genesis of Demon Queen may have occurred in 2008, when Hose was on house arrest for drug charges. He was a music connoisseur, having soaked up his parents' record collections, ranging from the Beatles to Cameo, as well as his own love of early hip-hop he'd heard on both coasts. He'd already owned the local Planet Z record store, but he started to make music on his computer. "When I first started doing music ... I was doing experimental stuff, making beats. I wanted to have vocals, but I didn't want to have a rapper. So I just started fucking with my own vocals, doing weird shit, singing and (reciting) poetry on my own beats."
Asked if he was a rapper, Hose says, "I'm a singer who can't sing. I try to stay in what I know I can pull off. (My vocals) sound better fucked up." This point is emblematic of the many different sides of Hose. He's embarrassed to record in front of other people, and he's being overly humble when dismissing his vocal ability. He has an eerie falsetto sing-speak delivery that is unique, and serves his proclaimed worldview of "the yin and yang, AC and DC current, good and evil." Simultaneously childlike and threatening, his voice is nothing short of incredible, especially on a song like "Demon Practice," where its unpredictability makes it so frightening: Anything, good or bad, can happen.
"I record with a $15 Radio Shack mic, the gamer's mic with that headset. It just has a dirty sound to it naturally," he says.
This approach works in tandem with
Tobacco's instrumentals, which are sent to Hose via email. (Tobacco is notoriously uninterested in dealing with the media; he did not respond to any of our requests for an interview.) Tobacco's tracks are minimalistic, rickety, and near-hallucinatory, capturing what life in the city actually feels like; which is to say, smog-stained windows on skyscrapers worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In a rare 2008 interview with Kotori Magazine, he shed some light on his intentions: "I want to make you feel paranoid in a good way. There's something seriously fucked about workout tapes from the mid-'80s, and just about everything obscure on Beta tape. They make me feel awful, but really good and curious at the same time."
Hose refers to Tobacco as a "genius — the most underrated producer," and says, "with him it's just a natural thing — no one's gonna sound like this. He's minimal (to begin with) and he scaled himself back for (Demon Queen). He tries to figure out ways to destroy his beat as much as he can. Damage it."
Exorcise Tape runs slightly over a half hour, and is brilliant all the way through. Although the musical approach is sometimes challenging, the sound is not, making Demon Queen able to compete in the mainstream marketplace. Besides, hip-hop and electronic music fans have always been more welcome to innovation than the rock audience. Hose wants to "take Demon Queen to the top. People could love it and Tucson could love it. I want Demon Queen to go as far as the imagination. I'm representing Tucson."
There's a fall Tobacco/Zackey Force Funk West Coast tour, with one of its seven stops at Club Congress on Friday, Sept. 6. If all goes well, there will be a full-fledged Demon Queen tour in the winter, according to Hose.
In addition to the Demon Queen album and tour, there is a new Zackey Force Funk mixtape in the works and an upcoming split 7-inch single with N8NOFACE, who guests on Exorcise Tape. Spork Press is also reportedly publishing Hose's autobiography, which will focus on his prison experiences and his subsequent interest in spirituality and science.
"I went completely crazy in prison," he says. "They gave me a pillow, a blanket and a Bible. I started reading and at first it didn't make sense to me. But I had nothing to lose. I started doing meditation. I started studying Deepak Chopra, quantum physics and Stephen Hawking. We are here to create. If you really believe something's gonna happen, it'll happen. And then you start seeing it happen." Hose believes that God is in everyone, and through that connection, harming someone is self-destruction. I asked him how he reconciles writing lyrics peppered with first-person narratives of violence with this attitude, and he admitted it was a conflict. "It does fuck with me," he says.
Tucson is very important to Hose, musically and personally. "I grew up on East 29th Street. It was very diverse racially. With the gangs, it wasn't Mexican Crips, or black Crips. It was gangs of whites, blacks and Mexicans shooting at other gangs of whites, blacks and Mexicans," he says, laughing at the notion that racism need not get in the way of gang warfare. But he also adds that "because of all that (diversity), you hear all kinds of music."
Additionally, Hose says, "Outside of Tobacco, everyone on the record is from Tucson." Indeed, Isaiah Toothtaker, Chuck Steaks, and N8NOFACE all make fine appearances. "It's all Tucson, and there's a lot more than desert rock in Tucson."