Q&A with Himanshu Suri of Das Racist: Part II

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When we left off on Friday, Himanshu Suri, one half of the group Das Racist, was dishing on The Cosby Show and Taylor Swift. And now for more substantive questions…

Q: Das Racist has been labeled blipsters. Also hipsters. What’s the huge fuss about? In other words, why does everyone hate on you guys? And were you really a sk8ter boy growing up?

A: That blipster thing was weird. Those types of classifications of people don’t do anything positive. It was an article on black people dressing like white people that dress how black people dressed in the ’80s but didn’t address the cyclical nature of it and basically stood to further alienate an already alienated group. And I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m not black. I was told it was an article on cross-cultural fashion and I made a shit ton of points that were ignored for a quote on skateboarding. (Yo I don’t even skateboard!). And Daggggg. I wouldn’t say everyone hates on us. Certain publications have taken quite a liking but any time that happens in this age of fickle internet fandom you have backlash and that’s something any artist has to deal with. Like I said we’re not making music that’s instantly appealing. We dabble with nonsequitors, dadaism, repetition, repetition. We make dance music while talking about not-dancey things. We say things that on the surface can seem pretty dumb but it’s a mask on some Paul Laurence Dunbar shit for actual discontent with a lot of shit in the world. Further, not a lot of people want to hear rappers talk about Dinesh D’Souza being a punk, Eddie Said, Gayatri Spivak being dope or even know who they are. A lot of people hear Pizza Hut Taco Bell and then have preconceived notions about our entire body of work that fall prettty flat if you ask me. But yeah, we seem to be pretty polarizing.Q: You were in New York City during 9-11. Thoughts on its anniversary?

A: I was actually four blocks away and saw it in person. I had to cross the bridge to Queens with about 35 South Asian and Indo-Caribbean friends as we decided the safest thing to do in that confusing time was stick together. A girl we were with got harassed for rocking a hijab and I’m glad we were there. In reality, I still haven’t figured out the effects of witnessing that but I know they are there. I know a lot of things about me changed around the same time that happened but I’m not sure if it was just a natural part of adolescence or a result of 9-11. Therapy or something will help me figure it out I hope.

Q: What was your major in college? Was it fashion design? Because I’m pretty sure it was fashion design. Your blog covers a lot of new fashion designers…

A: My major was Economics. I took nine classes related to Economics and 12 related to South Asia (History, Literature and Art History mostly) and Postcolonial Studies though they don’t have a S.A. Studies program at Wesleyan and didn’t accept my several attempts at designing one. That led me to attend School of Oriental and African Studies in London for a semester where I studied History, Economics, and Cinema. Part of my impetus to go to London was also to observe the differences between South Asian diasporic youth there and here since immigration started later here (1965). I LIKE FASHION THOUGH.

Q: On your blog, in one post you write “post-9/11 you do have the Taqwacore movement and bands like The Kominas making music much akin to ADF in terms of political lyrics and visibly a band of South Asians but i’m not really buying that shit…” Hating on The Kominas, huh? Is a Hipsters v. Punks gang war on the horizon? Is a battle of the bands coming up soon?

A: I don’t hate on punks at all. Television is one of my favorite bands, ever, and Please Kill Me: An Oral History of Punk is top 3 favorite books of all time for me. And I’m not sure if I identify with “hipster” but that’s whatever. Sooooo, I didn’t mean to fire shots at Kominas but it’s not really my type of shit and not because it’s not rap. For my taste, it’s too straightforward politically, which if you see how we approach “political” topics in our music is pretty much the opposite. At the end of the day it’s always great to see South Asians making art and music but I’m not doing backflips over them and am a pretty outspoken guy so I wrote that. Again, I respect any South Asian making art or music but it’s just not for me. I think Popo is a far better band of South Asians making “punk” music, not to reduce them to one genre.

Q: Have your parents ever come to a show? Do you want them to?

They have not come to a show, though my sister has. She had fun. My mom’s offered to manage us though. I thought that was funny. I’m not sure I’d want them to come to a show. I wouldn’t necessarily mind but I feel weird enough at my shows I can’t imagine how they’d feel.

Q: Is it true Taco Bell/Pizza Hut have approached you folks for their new ad campaign? Or is that just a rumor SM is spreading through their Twitter account?

A: It’s a rumor SM is spreading through their tweets. Keep it up and hopefully they will approach us. Petition them.

Q: A little bird told me you’re a fan of the show Gossip Girl and one of your favorite movies is Leopold & Kate? How soon before Serena van der Woodsen shows up in Das Racist lyrics?

A: As for Gossip Girl, I’m a fan of escapism….. Breaking News: Local South Asian Enjoys Viewing Moving Images on Screen for Escapism – Associated Press. AND finally, Kate & Leopold (not Leopold & Kate, sheesh) is a national treasure if you ask me. (As is the film National Treasure, filmed largely in your home town of Philly). Years of growing up on Bollywood films have desensitivized me to romantic comedies and I’m good with who I am so I can openly appreciate a movie like that. It has time travel (who doesn’t like time travel?), romance (who doesn’t like romance?), and as a native New Yorker obsessed with the New York that existed before my time I’m particularly smitten with the 1800s NY vs. 2000s NY angle. So that explains that? Also, though entirely unrelated, I wanted to use the words “street heat” in this interview and had no way to incorporate them so…

Q: Last question, chicken vs. meat? Er, sorry. I meant kulfi v. ice cream?

A: Isn’t kulfi just ice cream? Why segregate? That said… kulfi, with faluda. All day.

Related Posts: Yo Das Racist, Q&A with Himanshu Suri of Das Racist: Part II

21 thoughts on “Q&A with Himanshu Suri of Das Racist: Part II

  1. I actually went to high school with Himanshu and knew him back in the day. Dude is super cool. He once told me he was starting a rap group called Loose Motions. I think that is a far superior name.

  2. Further, not a lot of people want to hear rappers talk about Dinesh D’Souza being a punk

    He always struck me as more New Wave.

  3. his earlier stuff was heavily influenced by Spandau Ballet, no?

    Many critics think he belongs in Spandau.

  4. Re: Kominas, Himanshu probably has people hearing his “Dadaist” music and wondering why the hell they spent years learning how to play a Kanjira, Ghatam, Mridangam or Veena. After all, call it “Dada” and you can call it a day, right? Nobody cries for the artists that produce gimmick commodities (which, in and of itself, is no bad thing for how you are received–look at the Kominas and how they managed to keep ‘punk’ cred ) and if they did the poetic justice violins would be playing for Vikku Vinayakram’s children, U. Srinivas and Prasanna–not people so conscious of their cultural companions that such awareness seems to permeate every 4/4 midi-constrained turd wattalappam they produce.

  5. and if it wasn’t clear (which it usually isn’t) i’m not saying that some work didn’t go into this–but for this guy to complain about a group of people who are equally vapid and not-a-musician, it strains credulity as well as my lesser ribs.

  6. nayagan: i have no idea what ur saying in 5, but it really sounds brilliant, like gayatri spivak. is that dadaism?

  7. Nayagan, Your analysis is straight-up Jainism–welcome-aboard, my friend. It has always been present in its absence, in your life and those live(s) of those you’ve loved. You can be spiritual and “free,” but we’ll still make sure you make a buck (or two!) before you shuff off your current mortal coil! Embrace the love.

  8. even after #8, i still have no idea whats going on. this is why i stick to straight shooters like dinesh d’souza and rudolf hess

  9. Manju, Rammstein; it’s a German band. Watch it, and weep for the power, the soul, the transcendent truth. It’s . . . indescribable. Then, go to puja to be a good boy again.

  10. Manju,

    you’re so transparent.

    “Dada” is when you find out that counting 4 with both left and right hands simultaneously is about as true an artistic expression as calling your granny’s favorite deity a feisty rentboy.

    “Bollywood punk” is “Chicken and meat” is “I have so little time to ponder my coolness, it finds expression in exactly how disheveled I make myself appear on a daily basis and how Pitchfork-appropriate my playlist is. Never once must I fail to invoke the specter of inauthenticity to describe any coexisting competitors for the title of Captain Identity-Politics for Unwashed Hipster Masses.”

    I do this for fun. Spivak does it for bucks. Dada did it for Dada.

  11. You can tell that these guys dont like their politics to be to straightforward from their photo.

    You guys just see a guy with an extension cord around his neck.

    I see two guys displaying their satisfaction with the powerful “Extension cord” lobby.

  12. Knowing that Suri probably understands the complexity of orientalism and how it is coded into language makes the line “Mahatma Gandhi Whats up my gandhi” totally my shit. So meta. And as for musical merit, Jinendra, get back to me when they bump Baltimore club in your local booty joint.

  13. i haven’t been this confused since the time an abstinence only teacher licked my ear at a dinesh d’souza concert

  14. I very seriously wish I could travel back in time to a point where I didnt read about these guys.

  15. Are the lyrics to their sorry excuses for songs supposed to mean something? Combination pizza hut and taco bell? Are you kidding me.. these guys are terrible

  16. OK, sorry if it’s a dumb question, but which one in the picture is Himanshu Suri and which is Victor Vazquez? Not that it matters, but just curious.

  17. So – apparently a meme is starting based on one of their songs (Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) - so far referenced in two of the comics I check every day – in the Dr. McNinja strip, it is mentioned in the alt-text (hover your mouse over the strip). Or just a case of two comic authors who are friends showing the results of a shared experience:

    http://www.overcompensating.com/posts/20091020.html

    http://drmcninja.com/page.php?pageNum=59&issue=15

    This remix seems to be preferred to the original:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6xXl3Ku-S8

  18. Seriously, the Captcha(C) was brown? It should have been daaljit.

    Popo might be a better band, but Das Racist is just as campy as our most nonsense shit. We started as a joke band and started playing marathon sets during tours that ended up sounding little like our recordings.I stand by our live sets, most night. You can HAVE the album.

    Das racist embraces a set of philosophies that makes poor translation to music or musical musings. Dadaism teeters so precariously on the edge of validity at any historical point that it is summoned, that I think most people should just leave it alone. At least leave it the romance of History. The same reason that modern graphic artists don’t drag cave painting technique back into modernity kicking and screaming to show us all how simple and uninteresting it has become since we’ve moved on as a culture.

    Mike Knight is legit even if you might think the Kominas have too much chrome in the grille of their punk hoopti. Read up on Mike, his autobiographicals are way betteer than Taqwacores. Personally, lets not talk about the music. Lets just see what happens with the next album, then we’ll talk.

    Nayagan About Prasana, I have to say I feel bad for him because his gimmick takes so much more time and energy to perfect than either Kominas or Das Racist, but in the end he is falling victims to the constraints of his instrument precisely in showing how one does not need to be contrained by western fretted instruments. Its very obvious that hes playing Carnatic music, badly, on electric guitar. I can hear every fret and it hurts, make it stop. I hope that wasn’t what he was going for….