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Chris Ward is multi-faceted, to say the very least. Getting his start at Cartoon Network, Ward was among the team of weirdos that resurrected an obscure Hanna-Barbera cartoon titled Sealab 2020 and turned it into the more risqué Sealab 2021. During his stint with that show, Ward worked as an artist and writer and eventually voiced several characters.
A short time later, he crossed over to another Cartoon Network program that runs in the same Adult Swim block as Sealab 2021called Aqua Teen Hunger Force, where he appeared as MC Peepants -- a giant, criminally insane diaper-clad spider bent on world domination through subliminal rap messages. No, really.
In a classic case of art imitating life, Ward, aka MC Chris, actually has a professed love of hip-hop and has released three albums during his Adult Swim tenure. Led by his penchant for geeky self-mockery, the discs all feature his ridiculously high voice and his raps about the allures of Boba Fett, twelve-sided dice and Robitussin. We asked Chris about his latest effort, Dungeon Master of Ceremonies, and how he's managed to chart so high on iTunes.
Westword: So it seems like a pretty typical career track: Get a screenwriting degree from NYU, go to work Photoshopping old '70s cartoons about underwater adventurers, record hip-hop albums and lend your voice to a giant cartoon spider who wears a diaper. Do you ever look around and say, "How did I get here?"
MC Chris: Not so much how did I get here, but isn't life more interesting than the stupid dreams you had as a kid? I mean, those dreams drove me to never quit, and I still want to make movies and panel comics and do all kinds of stuff. But right now I'm rapping, and I think that's hilarious -- as does anyone who knew me growing up.
You recently reached the ninth spot in hip-hop records on iTunes and cracked the Top 100 albums on all iTunes. Was all of this strictly due to viral/grassroots/word-of-mouth publicity?
We had no budget, no label, no marketing. It all happened because the fans and I have been in close contact during the whole production of the record. They saw how I built; they read my blogs; they visited my MySpace a gabillion times. So I switched up the tunes a lot to keep 'em coming back. And I guess all that kind of stuff got them excited for the record.
What's different aboutDungeon Master of Ceremonies as far as material goes? Is the record self-produced, like your others?
Yes, DJ John and I did it ourselves, mixed it ourselves, got it mastered at a top-of-the-line facility -- but recorded it in a merch closet. The album is far more analog than anything we've ever done before. Lots of musicians visited John's place, so it sounds different. And the skits are longer or more thought out, but hopefully everything feels like it's part of my entire canon.
With huge MySpace numbers, iTunes numbers, adult-oriented cartoons and a DIY program for getting your music out there, are you a Renaissance man for the 21st century?
I'm definitely a new design, a new way of getting things done. Anyone can do anything these days. It's like the promise of America but even more infinite. What's surprising is, people still feel helpless when a better life is right under their nose. I say go out there and get 'er done. This is not an age for slackers.