john lawrence gets down with an OG from Brooklyn…
What happens when two brothers from Bay Ridge put down a can of Krylon and pick up a microphone? You get one of the most off-the-wall fusions of rap, metal, rock, and punk that you could imagine.
That has been the case for the Lordz of Brooklyn for twenty five years now. The Mcleer brothers Michael and Adam, aka Kaves and ADM (respectively) don’t meet anything halfway, whether it’s graffiti (Kaves is still one of the most legendary names in the history of graffiti), music (their first album still holds up today).
From the first song on their first album All in the Family, to their latest collaboration with legendary rapper DMC, the Lordz have kept it fresh and never fail to surprise. All in the Family was an album that hit on all cylinders, and for many graffiti writers of the 90’s, it was their theme music. From the hard hitting beats of “Out to Bomb” to the heavy metal riffs on “White Trash,” the album was an absolute masterpiece. I spent many days listening to this album with my cousin Frank hoping someday to be as good an artist as Kaves. We had to wait eight years for a follow up album, which picked up right where the Lordz left off. Graffiti Roc was not as “in your face” as All in the Family, but explored the group affinity for rock music with great collaborations on the album with Korn, Busta Rhymes, and Everlast.
In 2006, in preparation for their newest album, The Brooklyn Way, the Lordz launched their own TV show fittingly called The Brooklyn Way. The show gave us a rare glimpse into the lives of the brothers as they do everything from odd jobs to make ends meet, to promoting their own album. It was a refreshing look into the lives of a couple of blue collar guys who do what they do for the love of it, and who put family first and foremost. Throughout the show, we got to hear tracks from the long awaited album. The album, simply put, was great. Again, a different direction for The Lordz. The title track is an instant classic. It’s a smooth, acoustic jam with backing vocals from Everlast. The rest of the continues to rock and impress with it’s diversity.
There is definitely a huge punk influence in this record with collaborations with Jaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup and a ridiculously catchy Tim Armstrong (Rancid) collaboration called Outlaw. The album finishes up with a song called “Mama’s Boy.” A tribute to the Mcleer brother’s mother, who was killed in a still unsolved, hit and run accident that took the life of their mom and 4 year old sister. While the album was not a commercial success, the group still maintains their cult following (which I am part of) and seems just as happy to continue playing for their loyal fan base as they would be playing sold out arenas.
After twenty five years, and a lot of ups and downs, the Lordz are still standing. A true testament to their iron Brooklyn will. I was given the pleasure of getting to chat with Kaves and ask him about their upcoming Anniversary show and what the last 25 years has meant to the Lordz.
Pop-Break: Over the years, there have been a few lineup changes for the Lordz. Are you still in contact with the past members?
Kaves: There was a comeback that was announced on Warner Brothers and it was titled “The Lordz” just because we didn’t want it to interfere with our other music catalog. We put out that record, The Brooklyn Way and we had Scotty Edge come back out on the road with us during our TV show, and you know from time to time we all get to see each other, but everyone grows in different directions. What happens is everybody gets older and responsibilities change. My brother and I both have families of our own, and Scotty and Paulie [Nugent] went through their own adventures in life, and Dino [Botts].
The shame of it is that the record business and a lot of people anticipated it (All in the Family) as being a big record, and I think that when the floor dropped out on the record and the record company, it kind of sent everyone spiraling out of control. We didn’t know who to blame, who to take our aggression on and we kind of froze. We came from the same neighborhood and we were family first. So like sometimes with familes, you break apart, but you still love each other. You kind of look back and you think. God, we were stupid. We should have took advantage of maybe the best time of our lives. We were so worried about what we weren’t getting and what we weren’t doing instead of worrying about what we were doing and that was making our mark.
I don’t think there was a band like the Lordz of Brooklyn that was real graff crew from the neighborhood, from the street corner to playing fuckin Europe and big festivals. Being able to play with bands like Sublime and Korn and all those bands that actually went on to really blow up commercially, you know, the Lordz of Brooklyn didn’t have that fortune, but we did have that cult following from our fans that always, to this day, continues to always carry on. So, I don’t know how you judge success. Do you judge it from how many records you’ve sold or how many lives you’ve touched? It’s been quite a ride.
PB: Your sound has always been unique, whether it’s a laid back song like “American Made,” or “White Trash” which is the complete opposite end of the spectrum, then you have a punk song with Tim Armstrong. Was that always the intent or just the way the music flowed?
Kaves: Well, we grew up and so did the music. You know, one day you make wake up feeling like piss and vinegar and that’s what’s going to come out on the record. Then, you might want to try to do something that’s out of the box. We always felt like we were experimenting with being creative, being an artist, and an artist uses a large pallet. If we stuck with one thing we’d be kind of boring. If it was punk rock or hip-hop, it was all hip-hop to us, because hip-hop had no rules. We were conceived as graffiti writers and b-boys, and hip-hop artists, but hip-hop never had any rules. When we felt like everyone was going in this direction, we were like fuck that, there’s another alleyway over here that we can go down that’s less travel. It’s always been that way and my brother is mainly the producer behind the sound. He grew up on rock. He grew up on punk. He grew up on hip-hop. It was just authentic. We just try to do it all.
We’re not going to sing opera. We can’t sing that shit, but if you’re going to pick up a guitar and do something funky or do something melodic, then that’s the move. I always felt like anybody that said “I only like heavy metal” is pigeonholing themselves. I was always like, I like heavy metal, but I also like this alternative, or I like this punk, or I like this fucking hip-hop. I was just like put it this good sauce and let it marinade and that’s the way it’s always been.
PB: You had your show, The Brooklyn Way on Fuse. Was that a positive experience for you all-in-all? And do you feel that it showed you and your brother in the light you had intended?
Kaves: Yeah, it showed working class cats still doing it, and still believing in the dream. We’ve always had the dream and we were lucky to have my mother and family around that supported us in a sense to help keep the dream alive no matter what. It showed that we got dealt a bad hand, but we still stayed in the card game and kept on moving on. The only disappointment was that not enough people seen it.
It was like the same thing with our record, that not enough people heard it. So, it always becomes this cult thing, which is fine. If that’s the destiny of it, then so be it. But once people are exposed to it, they’re like this is some dope shit, where have you guys been? You’re like Kid Rock. You’re like this. You’re like that. We don’t like to knock anyone else, so we’re like just do your homework and check out who we are.
We’ve been in the trenches a long time and we get asked to do collaborations with Bumpy Knuckles or Everlast or Tim Armstrong. Then people say there’s got to be a reason why all of these classic cats fuck with these dudes. This is how it’s been, and we’ve just been doing our thing. We’re representing Brooklyn. Now Brooklyn’s cool. Every hipster and every motherfucker in the world wants to come to Brooklyn. We’ve been carrying that flag tattered and bloody for a long time. We’re not bitter about it. You know, the hipsters wear their hat one way and we wear them the other. The more the merrier, but please recognize the OG’s in this shit and clear the way, because we’ll still get on stage this Saturday and still rock the fucking place. I’ll do it with my friends and family like it’s always been. It’s always about family and friends and having a good time.
PB: How do you guys keep so positive and keep it moving when you see other bands that you were coming up with like Korn and Sublime blow up to become multiplatinum artists?
Kaves: Every dog has it day and those guys, you know, Bradley was a true genius and it’s tragic that we lost him. Sublime came looking for us and asked us to go on the road with them. They recognized us and it kind of feels good that we were part of that and that we were part of Korn’s first few tours. We just can’t help that we were young kids who didn’t know the music business. We had to learn it the hard way.
You can get bitter about the financial thing, or you can just fucking toughen up and get in there and give it another try. When you do music or any art, you’re supposed to do it from your heart. If you do it for any other reason…Don’t get me wrong it’d be nice to have the financial burden lifted from you because then you could do more art or become more of an artist. But you know what, if you have to work a day job, then this is your refuge. It becomes your outlet to blow off steam. So, you become those guys that become weekend warriors, but you’re warriors nevertheless. You still get to fucking rumble you know, and as long as we can still get up there and rock it, we will. There comes a time when you’ve got to fit in where you get in and our music becomes more refined. You just got to know where you fit in and where you belong and keep making good shit. We’re recognized by our peers and we’re recognized by our fans, and that’s enough. It’s got to be enough. If it wasn’t enough, it would drive me insane.
PB: I was looking around trying to find some hint of an album or an upcoming tour, but nothing. Is there any chance of a new album or, what’s in the future for the Lordz?
Kaves: We are very proud of that last record we had with Warner Brothers. It was like our comeback shot where we mixed a little bit more punk with the hip-hop. My brother has been in the lab producing a bunch of other people. He might be doing a record with Bumpy Knuckles next. We have a bunch of stuff that was never released. We might throw that out there as some unreleased material. We’re always looking for the opportunity to get back and do our thing. I started doing film, acting and directing, and my brother started producing other cats, but the Lordz of Brooklyn are still out there.
When the time is right and we have something to say, we’ll say it. The weak shit is when there’s these cats that just don’t know when to go away. They’ve got nothing to say. You’ve got to know when to come back and hit them over the head with something fresh and something innovative. We’re just waiting for the right time for us to do something that’s worth listening to.
PB: You can’t leave me hanging like that. I was like 17 when All in the Family came out and I loved that album. In 2006 you released Brooklyn Way, which was way more mellow and suited me where I’m at in life. The single you released with DMC last year was awesome, and I would just like to hear more.
Kaves: That’s one of my childhood idols. Between them and Public Enemy when we were young. They gave us that pat on the head and said go for yours. So, later on in life, when you get to hang out with peers and do songs with them, it’s like a dream come true. We seem to get lucky in that way. Over the last few years, cats have been asking what’s up. I tell them it’s like fine wine. As it ages, it gets mature and it gets finer. We will definitely put out an EP or something this year. We have a remix with Stress that we did with Travie McCoy that was never released. We have songs all over the place that we need to get together and put out already. There’s no reason we haven’t other than, you know, life has a way of sneaking up on you.
PB: Are you excited about the show this Saturday [it’s the band 25th Anniversary show at The Studio at Webster Hall]?
Kaves: The show should be fun, and that’s what it’s about. We want to get up there and do music because it’s fun to do it, not just to get paid. The days of that are over. Now it’s time to just do your art and be true to it.
PB: Nobody could accuse you guys of not having fun. You guys always look like you’re having a great time at your shows.
Kaves: (laughs) You know, it used to be drink, fuck, fight and now maybe it’s drink and maybe go home and put your baby to sleep. We’re growing up just like you guys. We’re doing the same thing. Got to pay the bills, the mortgage, got to put to the kids through school. But you know what, we still get up there on Saturday night and maybe the horn will come out and we’ll get into a little bit of mischief.
PB: Do you still make time for graffiti?
Kaves: Hell yeah. I’m a graffiti writer since the day I could write my name until the day I can’t write anymore. That’s something I constantly groom and over the years it’s been very good to me. The art exhibitions in New York, the wine labels for Beaujolais Nouveau, The Warriors video game, Nike, Adidas. I’ve been very fortunate. I’m a fine artist now and have been received by galleries and museums. You know, sometimes I feel like that ten year old kid again on my apartment building roof, dreaming about taking on the world. And now the world has come full circle and we’re being recognized as OG’s in this. Check out Khaves artwork here.