FORWARD: I got to know rascal-y white rap suburbanite, Paul Barman, pretty well over the years. I’ve taken his wife and kid, Felix (one-year old in 2005), out for dinner near their Manhattan apartment. And we’ve attended a couple shows together. I’ve even unintentionally angered his mom with some asinine, ridiculous remarks made while helping Barman move his junk to the Big Apple from Ridgewood, New Jersey. I don’t know who’s more of a character, him or me, but I do know he at least has great talent and some renown.
Skinny, bespectacled, curly-haired post-teen MC Paul Barman received critical recognition when respected producer-rap impresario Prince Paul (formerly of Stetsasonic, then Gravediggaz) lent a hand to 2000’s spastically fun-tastic 6-song EP, It’s Very Stimulating. An intellectually idiosyncratic Jewish geek-hop gourmandizer, Brown University grad Barman grew up in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and spent weekends in Manhattan, splitting time between divorced parents. Perhaps the insecurities and paranoia caused by their separation informed Barman’s muse, providing a non-prescribed psychological remedy.
On Halloween at midtown basement club, Makor, Barman’s dressed as a loony professor in white lab coat, offering jocular highlights from the newly waxed Paullelujah while bunny-outfitted DJ Anna spins discs, drops beats, and scatters samples to his right. He’s got the lurching crowd in the palm of his hand rhyming about an all-purpose “Yamaichi Bra,” drawing a portrait of a blonde audience member during one self-deprecating rap, and asking the huddled gathering to shout out names for improvised one-liners. The lunacy hits fever pitch when he puts on a wolf mask and howls about societal ills like a wounded coyote.
As for the suggestive innuendoes and variegated insinuations of the multifarious long-play debut, Paullelujah, this contented varment sprawls quipped parodies across crusty backtracks resembling randomly patched quilts perfectly suited for The Onion canon (whom we visit post-interview, leaving with Our Stupid Century calendars and priceless Drugs Win Drug War t-shirts). A tantalizingly twisted newspaper insert, Jew Dork Rimes, is enclosed within the cardboard-encased disc.
The madness ensues when a joyous female choir helps Barman celebrate “the most amazing career in newspaper history” on the way-over-the-top crazed alchemy of the Gospel-spiked title cut, climaxing in delirious hymnal falsettos Weird Al wouldn’t dare attempt. Next, the “Rock Lobster”-inspired cum-fest “Cock Mobster” dissects delicious Hollywood trim in a gynecological “porn utopia of cornucopia,” becoming the most hilarious celebrity rip since Rocky Horror alum Tim Curry’s ’79 semi-hit “I Do The Rock.” As strangely empathetic as Eminem’s heartfelt stalker masterpiece, “Stan,” the affective “Old Paul” slips into peachy keen neo-Classical “Love Is Blue” Spanish guitar mode while sensitive flute and rainy day ‘60s orchestration embellish Barman’s plaintive memories.
The Prince Paul-produced paradoxical palindrome profundity of “Bleeding Brain Grow” segues into the cheerleader-chanted “get laid” call and response of the clitoral conundrum “NOW” while the MF Doom-twiddled Scrabble schism “Anarchist Bookstore Part 1” slips comfortably into neo-Jazz elegance overlaid by George Duke-like organ motifs. Above a haunting “Gone With The Wind” choir, Barman’s over-intellectualized dialect entices the interlude-ish “Excuse Me.” Somehow even the indelicately sophomoric “Burpin’ & Fartin’,” with its “Apache” groove and uppity orchestral Holi-daze, fits in next to the “darn tootin’” acoustic-minded Woody Guthrie-inspired Country-folk space warp, “Talking Time Travel.”
Opinionated, musically finicky, and reluctantly forthright concerning borrowed samples and soundbites, Barman also sketches cartoons in his free time. He’s even drawn two of Spin’s funniest back page segments.
AW: What’s the secret formula for your success so far?
MC PAUL BARMAN: I try to search for truth and express it like wonderful artists I know, though sometimes I feel like nothing’s happening.
Are you as bad in bed as you let on prior to “Cock Mobster”?
No. I’ve learned tricks in a secret… Did you ever hear of the Yoga Ranch? They have this underground layer near Hawaii in a giant air bubble emanating from an underwater volcano where the sexy swami teaches you the things I know.
How has emcee-producer MF Doom enhanced your style?
Dude, can we give it up for him just a moment. Nobody rhymes like MF Doom. He taught me certain words aren’t important. I have this sentential style where I leave words like I’m, this, or the in. But if you rhyme fast each word has to count. Little words become extraneous since they’re taking up space they don’t deserve. That’s one jewel he gave me. But the beautiful part about working with him is I was a huge fan. When his Operation Doomsday came out, I remember thinking, ‘they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.’ It was the genuine article like De La Soul’s Three Feet High And Rising. Did you know De La Soul didn’t like its hippie-ish cover ‘cause love and peace weren’t cool? They wanted themselves stuck in an elevator three feet below the floor. I could totally picture that ill cover. You should always let an artist do the cover they want. That’s why I’m thinking of recording my next album with a reel-to-reel and a microphone under a tree. I tried to make Paullelujah as multi-dimensional and awesome as possible, using my strengths to cover my weaknesses. If that’s not authentic enough, I’ll do the Folksway record. (laughter)
You’ve already touched upon old folk by turning Woody Guthrie’s “Talking Fishing Blues” into your own “Talking Time Travel.”
I have a friend in a rockabilly band named Nicky Tabasco, who sang backup in “Old Paul” and told me about the Talking Blues format. I already had the anthology of the first volume of Woody’s Ash recordings. It was a raw style with a new cadence for me. So I told producer MikeTheMusicGuy in San Francisco I’d love to do something with a guitarist. We walked 15 feet to his kitchen where Etienne (de Rocher) was cleaning up. Mike asked if he could play guitar with me tomorrow. The next day, I walked around with Woody on headphones and stressed about an ideal storyline.
What’s the genesis behind “Burpin’ & Fartin’”?
That song title was in my head for awhile. I forgot about it until the song was ready. It’s nice when you’re like a word processor. One day you’re like, “that’s a fun idea,” then forget about it. Three days later you have the rhyme version of what the funny idea would be. That goes into the song structure. (Barman breaks into a quick-drawn freestyle rap denigrating news crews) Anchormen are more despicable than confusing politicians and much worse than crack dealers. Every time they open their mouths to say something, they have giant invisible cocks shoved down their throats. They deserve to be prosecuted by the mystic beings that don’t exist to the fullest extent of humanity.
You’ve heard Don Henley’s media diatribe, “Dirty Laundry,” about the bubble-headed bleach blonde. I’d like to see t.v. news reporters die in a fiery plane crash so I could report the damage.
I saw this documentary about pro-automobile lobbyists who end up with powerful regulatory government positions. Everything’s at such a low level with politics. I don’t know how to climb out of the abyss.
My favorite cartoon shows are The Simpsons, Family Guy and King Of The Hill.
I like Dexter’s Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, and Spongebob. Tom Kinney, an early cast member of Mr. Show, is a cool funnyman who does the voice of Spongebob and was in Bobcat Goldwaith’s Shakes The Clown. He’s an inspiration who struggled in the trenches as a fuckin’ despised comedian and did good work along the way. That influence has a penthouse now.