Terminally Ill isn't an easy band to wrap your head around. Despite labeling themselves as "crunk rock," their beer-swilling live show and fuck-shit-up attitude is only a slice of what these rap-rock pranksters are really about. We've followed them since the "Bro Anthem" and even given them some Locals Only love, but now it seems they're ready to give us a full revelation of the Tao of Terminally Ill.
Recently, the band created a little documentary (er dankumentary) that shows us just what makes them tick. They'll be premiering the doc on Sunday, May 4 at Proof Bar, the sight of one of their latest videos, "Act Sick." We caught up with the group's hardcore rhymers Ryan Risetter (Dank Nasty), Steffan Burrati (Steffen Illuminati), Atwon Bartolic (Twon Solo) and Chris Rock (The P-Town Skrillionaire) to get some insight into one of the most fascinating pieces of local cinema we've seen since in a while (eat your heart out, Newport Beach Film Festival!).
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): What made you guys decide to do a band documentary now, ya know, before all the fame?
Steffen Buratti: Even though we haven't made it yet, Terminally Ill has always been about hitting people with the preemptive strike. We figure if we assume fame long enough, people will start believing us. You can only bullshit so long before you become the bullshit, you know what I mean?
You guys are starting to get pretty well known for your music videos, was part of the intent to show what goes on behind the scenes of your projects?
SB: I think a lot of people don't truly understand what we're doing [as a band]. So we're trying to actually demonstrate that even though we are sloppy pieces of shit, we've been sloppy pieces of shit for a long time. Also because when we tell people we're a punk hip-hop band, we get the same reaction every time…'that's cool, what's that sound like?'
Ryan Risetter: We went on a small tour and filmed another music video, so we have a lot of footage. There's a lot that didn't go into the music videos that's still really funny and cool and we just wanted to make good use of film that was just lying around collecting digital dust.
Is showing people what you do on stage part of the doc as well? Your shows get pretty crazy.
Chris Rock: I think the live show is part of the DVD, but the best thing about our live show is that usually before we start people think we're just like a shitty band, not an actual tight band until they see us play. Our live show is actually something we take pretty seriously. It's not just us getting shitfaced. We're getting shit faced with a purpose.
Next: A clip from the Terminally Ill Documentary
How did you get Proof Bar involved in premiering the film?
RR: We filmed our last video "Act Sick" at Proof Bar. We originally got banned from there, but when we asked to play there again they remembered 'oh yeah, that band made us a lot of money in alcohol sales, probably more than we've made in a single night.' On the day we did the music video shoot at Proof, we also played a show there, and in between I tried to order a beer…and they ran out of beer. Except for Coors Light or something.
How many clubs have you been banned from at this point?
SB: We get banned from almost every place that's not a straight up venue when we play. But we do so well on selling their drinks and shit. We've literally gone to a bar, played the bar, ruined the bar, before I left I was like upset for them because we fucked up the counters, there was an inch of water on the ground. But in the same week they called and offered us to come back. So almost every ban is temporary.
RR: The only ban that hasn't been lifted, is with Slidebar, which we're actually proud of. I've been physically thrown out just going to a show, Terminally Ill has been totally banned and Chris has been thrown out on his own too. Jeremy Popoff from Lit was actually quoted in OC Weekly saying we were the most immature and unprofessional band. We're pretty proud of that.
In the clip you guys sent us of the documentary, you talk about this guy named Sheamus who makes a cameo in your "Bro Anthem" video, but then apparently is never seen or heard from again. Who the fuck is Shamus?
SB: Sheamus is one of the biggest enigmas that's ever existed. He only showed up to one thing, the "Bro Anthem" video. The big joke was that Shamus was in the video, but couldn't be in the video. He volunteered for it, but every time we tried to film him he said his girlfriend would be mad if he was in it.
Anton Bartolic: The funny thing is that none of us are even close to Sheamus at all, but there's this one shot of him making like the goofiest face ever in the "Bro Anthem" video and that spiraled into him being worked into every conversation. So it kinda took on a life of it's own.
RR: I think he just showed up to the "Bro Anthem" shoot and it was kind of just another day for him.
Talk about Kyle Cox, the guy who shoots your videos. Is he like an honorary member of the band?
AB: Kyle has worked on every video, any promo or any video we have that looks even moderately professional all because of him. He went on tour with us, filmed a bunch a stuff with us, he's definitely a member of the band.
If there's one thing you would want Terminally Ill fans to walk away with after seeing this documentary, what would it be?
SB: Even though we don't take this seriously, it's the most seriously serious, non-serious there is. We've put in a lot more work in this band than people realize. When you're not a part of something like this, it's easy to look at the shit we do and take it for granted, but it's a good insight into the good work process of it, its fun, but its still work. And I hope people realize that we try really hard to not try hard at all.
The Terminally Ill documentary premieres this Sunday at Proof Bar. Event starts at 3 p.m. For full details, click here.