PAX East Preview: MC Frontalot Brings 'Zero Day' To Boston

MC FrontalotWhen I spoke to "Penny Arcade" creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik last month, the conversation covered a lot of ground — including some talk of the "Nerdcore Rising" documentary that followed musician MC Frontalot on his first national tour. That tour culminated with a show at Penny Arcade Expo, the massive gaming convention organized by the webcomic duo.

Well, the webcomic's "rapper laureate" is at it again this year, bringing nerdcore to the masses at PAX East, which kicked off today in Boston and runs throughout the weekend.

The comics- and gaming-friendly rapper hits the stage tonight (Friday, March 26) with fellow geek-friendly musicians The Protomen, Anamanaguchi and Metroid Metal during the show's 8:30 PM EST concert. MTV Multiplayer editor Russ Frushtick is already on the show floor (so keep an eye out for new and updates), but I managed to get a preview of tonight's performance from the man himself, MC Frontalot.

MTV NEWS: So, you just returned from South By Southwest and now you're off to PAX East...

MC FRONTALOT: ...That is a fact.

MTV: Well, it's been a while since we talked last. I think it was at one of those webcomics events around the city here. You have a new album out, I know, but what do you have planned for tonight's show at PAX? Some new stuff from "Zero Day," I assume?

FRONTALOT: Yeah, we'll be debuting a couple songs from the new album at the show. We're going to do "First World Problem" and "Better At Rapping" during the show, and we worked up a Brazilian samba version of "Yellow Lasers" that we do. ... We're also going to have Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm come and guest for "Diseases of Yore" again, which is a thing we only get to do at PAX.

MTV: You've become a regular feature at PAX, so what's the origin story there? How did you get connected with the "Penny Arcade" crew? I don't think I've ever heard that story.

FRONTALOT: Well, we go all the way back to the beginning of PAX, in fact. I've been lucky to be hooked up with the "Penny Arcade" guys for a bunch of years at this point. It was actually right after I wrote "Yellow Lasers" for a song fight and put that up. They somehow got ahold of it and heard it, and posted about it, and that actually took down the song fight server. They direct-linked to the song data.

MTV: Yeah, I'd imagine they can have that effect.

FRONTALOT: Yeah, they have the power to wang peoples' servers, as we call it. Wanging the server. So, I was headed up to Seattle for a song fight live thing in maybe 2002 or 2003, and I let [Holkins] know that I was coming up, and he came and got me from the bus station. We played video games for the afternoon. So that's when I met the "Penny Arcade" guys.

When they decided to have a convention the next year, they invited me over and that was part of what got me interested in having a real band. Before that, I had thought of it as just this Internet hobby and I didn't feel like my rapping was strong enough that I would want to do it in public. It's one thing when you can make a trillion edits on your computer and make it sound like you're a more confident rapper than you are, but the idea of trying to be a musician seemed ridiculous.

MTV: And then a touring musician on top of that...

FRONTALOT: Yeah, and even above and beyond, to be a touring musician is quite a difficult undertaking. I didn't think I would do anything like that, but doing PAX every year got me interested in getting the live chops worked up, and getting the band in good shape.

MTV: And now your first tour is archived for all eternity in "Nerdcore Rising," complete with all the highs and lows of the tour, the gaming and comic shops, and a grand finale at PAX.

FRONTALOT: Yeah, it came out well, that movie. We'd done a couple PAX shows. But that was the first time we were ever on the road. So we were learning a lot of stuff as we went. I don't know — it's a little worrisome to have people documenting your learning experiences. But they were very kind to us in the edit, I think. It came out great.

Photo credit: Sabelo Narasimhan

MC Frontalot hits the stage tonight at 8:30 PM EST at PAX East. His new album, "Zero Day," will be available April 6. you can find out more about MC Frontalot online at: Frontalot.com