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VIDEO PREMIERE: Kim Jong Ill’s “Mission Impossible.”

August 19, 2015

The guys from electro/pophip hop duo Kim Jong Ill will drop a new album, The Get Down, in the fall. They released a brand new video as a teaser and we’re premiering it here right now.

We spoke with Alvaro Lopez-Moreno (aka Blackwolf), the group’s primary lyricist, and Ron Swerdon, the primary songwriter, about their name, their music, the new video and other fun Philly stuff.

Kim Jong Ill? What’s up with the name?

Alvaro Lopez-Moreno: I had the idea that it would be funny to do a rap album called Kim Jong Ill, with 2 Ls to represent how “ill” the project was. With kind of a real world “supervillain” theme.

Ron Swerdon: Alvaro called me one day and described what was then more of a collaborative project and I committed to it immediately

ALM: Halfway into writing the third song, Ron started suggesting ideas for how hooks and bridges should go. “You should sing like this…” and I recognized immediately that Ron could bring something to the table that I was severely lacking. Ron knows how the math of music works and is incredible at recognizing what makes something good and taking it to the next level, where what was good is now great.

RS: Though a lyricist, I am not.

ALM: After finishing that song, we scrapped the first two songs and started fresh. The idea of it being a solo rap album produced by Ron was left by the wayside. The songs there ended up on our first album “Rust.”

RS: And a few years later we are a electro-rock, hip-hop, indie pop band or all/none of the above at any given moment. It’s all fun though – and the name continues to be in keeping with that.

Has the name brought about any awkward moments/experiences or feedback from North Korea?

RS: You know we aren’t actually from there right? I don’t think you’re supposed to even go there if you don’t have to.

ALM: Well the name really was a stupid joke making fun of how rappers are all trying to be “ill” and equating villainy with being cool and here we had a real person who was seen by our culture as an insane villain. In keeping with our mostly sarcastic and nonsense sense of humor, the feedback we’ve gotten has mostly just made us laugh. The only weird thing that happened is that when Kim Jong Il actually died, we got a lot of random hits and mentions on social media as capitalizing on his death.

Where did you guys come from? What other projects have you been involved with?

ALM: Ron and I are both from DelCo, but we met in college. We only really began working on music together after we both graduated. Ron had a band that I did some backup and featured vocals on, and I was primarily focusing on a college band I had. I still do solo rap stuff under the name MC Blackwolf, and have worked on that for about 12 years now. I love working with other musicians and have had a lot of short lived side projects here and there through the years, but something about Ron and my chemistry really stood out as important and somehow bigger than what I could achieve on my own or with other musicians.

RS: We had our first shows in West Chester, PA, but we’ve both been living and playing in Philly for about 2 years. When we started, my main projects were my own singer-songwriter stuff, which I’d mostly do in coffee shops and such, and something of a kinetic dance mashup project that I would have fun with, but I don’t really do that anymore and concentrate on Kim Jong Ill and producing beats and sound engineering for other artists in my home studio.

KimJongIllbWhat’s up with the new video?

ALM: Ron and I are pretty weird. It often takes people a while to warm up to our sense of humor, and our sense of what is and looks cool. Our live shows really capture that, but it’s often harder to get that across with just the songs. This video gets that side across pretty well. It’s something we brainstormed and came up with and shot over the course of a weekend. We’ve only ever done one video before, but it’s a weapon we’ve decided to add to our arsenal.

RS: The last two years have been very busy for us, so with our new album, The Get Down, finally finished, we both really wanted to get something done and out there. Obviously, for “Mission Impossible,” the timing was right.

ALM: Ron’s right. The past two years making the new Mission Impossible movie were tough. While Tom Cruise is a pleasure off set and an excellent actor, he is not an easy man to work with. His demands and time constraints were a constant companion. This video was primarily a way of linking this amazing movie we made with the even better album it is essentially a prequel to. I feel like we were successful as it really comes across to the people who see the video.

RS: I’m not sure I’m liking your tone, which I can only describe as “anti-Cruise.” I try to maintain a very “pro-Cruise” atmosphere around me. We don’t talk about that Scienceburg stuff he does.

ALM: Don’t get me wrong, I love Tom.  I am in no way Anti-Cruise.  I have no problem with Cruise being a Scienton.  I was more talking about how exacting he could be and how much of a perfectionist he was in getting across the ideas form the album in our  movie.

RS: Sorry, I feel like we went too far down a Cruise hole here.

What do you prefer – the live shows, making videos or simply just making/recording music?

RS: I’m definitely more fond of creating the music/videos and recording/editing music or video. It’s like a drug to make a thing from nothing, and then show it to someone, and get some sort of response from them. Any reaction at all.

ALM: This is our biggest divide. I am all about the live shows. If you see us live, we are both energetic, but I tend to go a bit crazy. I jump off the stage, get in people’s faces, do wall kicks, even going so far as to fake seizures in the pit during breakdowns. You don’t get to fake seizures in public very often without a heavy punishment, believe me I’ve tried. For me the shows are the reason I do this. If you are a fan of ours and you haven’t seen a show yet I feel like you are missing out on a big part of what makes us who we are.

RS: We have a show coming up!

ALM: It’s September 20th at Bourbon and Branch with Hank and Cupcakes. Come out and buy me a beer. I’m really good at drinking beers.

RS: That would be fulfilling for everyone, I think.

If you had ten minutes with the Pope when he arrives here next month, where would you take him and what would you talk to him about?

RS: I have been referring to him as “cool Pope” in casual conversation for a while now, since he seems kind of cool, and doesn’t give off the “Star Wars Emperor” vibe that the last few have. I’d probably just fist bump him and try to say something that would blow his mind – philosophically speaking.

ALM: Real talk, the Pope is coming to Philly? Didn’t he hear what happened to Hitchbot? This seems like a bad idea. Also, why haven’t I read about this in every single Philly newspaper and blog? Also why isn’t it all over my facebook page? Oh wait.

RS: Is it controversial yet to talk about the fact that Hitchbot was like 75 percent pool noodles? Lame robot design.

ALM: I guess as long as the Pope has a significantly lower pool noodle to robot parts percentage than Hitchbot he should be alright.


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