If you’re a Jay Z fan you’ve more than likely heard him repping his new slogan #NewRules with veracity. Ironic as it is that one of the most commercially successful hip hop artists in the game is pushing this anti-industry motto. However, there’s no denying that indie rap is the new wave. With today’s technology, having major label backing is no longer a necessity to make it in the game. With social media and global marketing available at your fingertips it’s possible to stay self-sufficient in this new age of hip hop. So, we’re bringing you a new artist or group every week that really creates their own rules, and asking them how you too can make your own lane.
For this installment we’re featuring Shinobi Njinja.
Shinobi Ninja consists of Dave Doobie Aaron (D.A.), aka Duke Sims on vocals, Alex Confurius, aka Alien Lex on bass guitar, Markus Hrdina, aka DJ Axis Powers on the ones and twos, Edara Johnson, aka Baby G on vocals, Mike Machinist, aka Maniak Mike on guitar and his twin, Dave Machinist, aka Terminator Dave on drums. Based in Brooklyn, but representing all over, this eclectic group melds hip hop, funk and hard rock seamlessly and with finesse.
Mass Appeal: What is your sound?
Maniac Mike: Abrasive texture, high energy rock and roll, with that boom bap.
D.A.: That’s what I love about it too, with the grooviness and the ability to just move with the music, that’s just raw rock and roll. And, that’s where the hip hop comes in – with that grooviness. The two and the four must be there. If they’re not there then there’s something going on.
Maniac Mike: There’s also that thing where heavy music also has that consistency. You’ll look at a band like Pantara then you’ll look at groups like A Tribe Called Quest, you have to be able to punctuate a rhythm.
DJ Axis Powers: I grew up in Jersey, so being so close to New York and just hearing all of this amazing music really inspired me. It was like Wu Tang and Biggie, and even back when I was younger, when all of that West Coast rap was on the radio, it would be really cool to hear like Pharcyde, “Passing Me By.” Hip hop was in it’s golden era when I was a kid. I just feel so lucky, growing up in Jersey and being so close to the Mecca of where it all started that definitely influenced me. And growing up and pursuing my career as a DJ and being able to tour with Wu Tang, or rock a show with Raekwon, it just blows my mind. And now working with Shinobi Ninja it’s crazy.
Mass Appeal: How did you guys come up with the name Shinobi Ninja?
Alien Lex: It’s from a video game. It came out in like 1987, and they kept making it.
Terminator Dave: We were calling the band Brooklyn to Babylon and we sat on it for a few days, and then D.A. comes back in and is like, “We’re going to call the band Shinobi Ninja.” Mike and I were immediately like, ‘That’s wack.’ And, Da was like, ‘No, it’s not wack, and I’m going to prove it to you.’ So, the first show we play, we were at the Knitting Factory, after the show everybody comes up to us like, “Yo man, I love your name!” And I’m sitting there like, ‘Shit’, And D.A.’s like, “That’s right.” So, it’s Shinobi Ninja. Oh and I forgot, it’s Ninja because D.A. thought my mom’s house looks like a ninja house. So, Shinobi is our favorite video game on Sega Master system and Ninja, because that’s where we did all of our sounds.
Mass Appeal: Tell me a crazy studio story.
D.A.: We smoked a blunt with Rosie Perez once.
Baby G: Yeah, that was really awesome!
Mass Appeal: Did she do the “Do The Right Thing” dance? Because that would make my life complete.
Baby G: No, but I wish she did! She had hurt her neck, so she was wearing a neck brace, and she offered me a vicodin! And everyone looked at me like, “You better not take that,” but I was so excited, I was like, ‘This is from Rosie Perez!’
D.A.: That’s how the Hollywood system gets you addicted. Because when you’re younger you look up to them, and then when you’re older you meet them and they offer you drugs and you take the drugs [Laughs].
Mass Appeal: So, what about your first music video? How did that happen?
Maniak Mike: “Stop” was our first video, and we filmed it with our studio camera. Every time we had a party we’d snap a picture.
Alien Lex: It got ridiculous after a while.
Maniak Mike: You’d click a button and it’d be like three, two, one, bing. And that was one picture. We took thousands of pictures.
Terminator Dave: D.A. was a beast with video editing software so he lined them up and it looked awesome. And it’s literally like everyone who we were partying with and existing with within our little scene. We decided that wow Shinobi Ninja was dope, and we wanted to really make a great video to be dope, So for our next video, Brooklyn to Babylon we hired our high school buddy to make it for us. Over the course of two days we shot this dope, awesome, cinematicly beautiful video. Our man Evan, killed the game on the camera. And a lot of unexpected things happened, like our van got robbed while we were shooting in Bed Stuy.
Alien Lex: We found a daycare full of kids who had tons and tons of rhythm and Baby G taught them all how to dance on the spot.
Terminator Dave: And, we shot on the steps that Spike Lee shot, “Do The Right Thing” on, but it was our buddy SB’s house. But, that video and “Stop” were the ones that really showed us what power you can have with a great product. So, the music plus the visuals it’s like bam, it’s right there, you get the whole thing.
Mass Appeal: How did you guys book your first shows?
Terminator Dave: These hands yo! I had been playing a few shows in New York City, just on my own and with bands that I had with Mikey and Axis. Mike and I and Axis were in a band called “The Wax Machine” with Stalley. It was called “Stalley and The Wax Machine.” So, I had been around and I had a few contacts in town. So, I was like, ‘Who want’s to give me a show?’ Made a few phone calls and found Battle of the Bands. That was the first one August 17, 2008 at Knitting Factory.
Maniak Mike: We’ll play the same show in front of five people that we will for 500. We love that, when you can give someone that type of energy it’s real. It’s as real for them as it is for you.
Mass Appeal: How have you guys been able to become so popular?
Alien Lex: We just keep chipping away. We just keep working. Every single day, just keep chipping away at the statue and the statue will look beautiful after a while. But in the beginning, you might not know what’s going on. It might be a mystery as to how everything is going to come together. You gotta just keep working at it.
D.A.: Of course we hustle, but then there’s the other aspect of Shinobi Ninja, there’s a reason why we’re kind of popular, because there is something happening that is organic. It was meant to be. There’s a realness of it and that’s combined with the hustle. Because, if you have the hustle but then you suck, it’s just like you hustle and suck. Like shitty tamales. But, if the shit is so dope and you’re hustling then you really have a product and you’re achieving your business.
Terminator Dave: Stickers! We stickered the crap out of everything.
Mass Appeal: Do you guys have a clothing line or merchandise?
D.A.: We got shoes, we’re coming out with shoes. And we got a Shinobi Ninja guitar pedal. So, now instead of just getting the album, you can get the tone, you can play it and feel like you’re rocking with the band.
Terminator Dave: Back in 2009 or 2010 we did a first of it’s kind album app on iPhone, so that got us a lot of great notoriety. It was a side scrolling video game that you could play as us. You’d have to beat up the characters as you made your way to the club where you’d kick off the evil band that was posing as us, and you’d rock the show. So that did really well for us. We also do CDs, we have these great four finger rings that say Shinobi on them. So, we put all our music on the USB drive as something you can wear.
D.A.: Right now, I’m personally into like, you build up the brand but then you apply the band. And that’s the artistry of thinking of a guitar pedal or something that hasn’t been done already. Every band has sweatshirts and t-shirts. But, you gotta try to think about the things that are in between the lines. That people haven’t thought about yet and then try and create that. Like, the iPhone app. We were the first independent band, or any band who had the iPhone app. And Lincoln Park just literally stole our idea and came right out with it. So, it’s like as soon as you think about something that hasn’t been done, then you have to do it before it’s done.
Terminator Dave: Bar none, the thing about merchandise is you have to think about what’s the iconography of your group. Does it make sense? Why are people buying this? When other people see it does it remind them of Shinobi Ninja or is it just some generic band shit. That’s kind of our deal, we’re a very specific set of characters that have our own set of visuals and personalities. I think all of our merchandise shows that.
Mass Appeal: Do you want to be signed by a label or do you like doing it independent?
Baby G: The thing about the record label is that the label does a good job of pushing you to the masses but I think all six of us agree that we don’t want to change ourselves for anybody.
Alien Lex: I think the reason why people enjoy our music is because we stay true to ourselves and it feels real to them.
Terminator Dave: I’ll tell you what, we hustle a lot, and there a benefits to hustling hard. But, we only have a finite number of connects. We can only put so many hours in before we have to do something else to survive. So, having a record label, if they weren’t so encroaching on our style and trying to change us, that would be great.
Mass Appeal: What do you want your fans to know about you?
Terminator Dave: We’re touring super hard. We’re touring in support of our new record called “Escape From New York.” We’re touring February 19th through March 8th, and then hopefully March 19th through the 30th. And at the moment we’re planning a summer tour from June 5th until July 13th. We’re doing it straight up on the DIY grind.
Mass Appeal: And you guys just jump into a van all together and head out to these shows?
Maniak Mike: We have a 15 passenger Ford with a trailer on the back.
Terminator Dave: If you’re looking at a DIY outfit, you have to make a lot of personal sacrifices. Mike and I used to have a car and we were like, ‘What are we doing with this thing?’ We were literally just shoving equipment in it and using it for the band. So, I went to a dealership in Queens, haggled with the guy who was speaking broken English. A week later, I gave him the car and drove away with the van. The personal sacrifice that’s involved with something like that is super real. If you don’t do that and you don’t take the steps to make that happen, who’s going to do that for you?
Baby G: You must sacrifice and you must invest in yourself and the universe will reciprocate your sacrifice. If you don’t sacrifice and you don’t invest in yourself then it’s all just bullshit.
Check out the first two videos of Shinobi Ninja’s 3 part series below, and be sure to look out for the 3rd video premiering on Mass Appeal in March.
Don’t forget to check Shinobi Ninja and others preform this Saturday, 6:30pm at Slake.