Champagne Jerry, also known as Neal Medlyn, believes himself to be the greatest rapper in the world. With a look that recalls Terry Richardson as well as Bernard Goetz, Champagne Jerry emerged from Neal’s mind as yet another pop culture tribute along the lines of his other strange performance-art amalgamations, which have skewered and/or applauded everyone from Lionel Richie to clowns to Beyonce. Champagne Jerry was born when Neal friend Max Tannone who had success with a Jay-Z /Radiohead “Jaydiohead” mashup album some years back, wrote and asked if he would want to write raps. Soon, Neal was writing original contemporary hip hop songs in a style all his own, using the name Champagne Jerry. We caught up with Neal to ask about Champagne Jerry since another of the character’s Joe’s Pub gigs is upon us, and he also gave us his five favorite videos in our RAVES & FAVES section.
1. How was Champagne Jerry born?
I’ve been performing for several years in downtown New York and around the world. Not that long ago Max Tannone told me he’d love to work on a project together and he sent me a dropbox folder full of great fucking beats. Then I was in a hotel room on tour with other projects and started writing songs as Champagne Jerry, a nickname my friend Bridget Everett had given me at a party one night when I drank a whole bottle of champagne and got in an argument with her about snacks.
2. How did your association with Adam Horovitz happen?
I’ve known Adam for several years. We play softball together in the summer and we had done a stage show together, with Bridget, a few years ago. Then, once I started writing Champagne Jerry songs, he and I started talking about doing something together. He sent me the “Tampa Realness” beat right after he wrote it on a plane to Hawaii, and it fit perfectly with lyrics I had been making up for “Tampa Realness” on a city bus, and boom! Then we made our worldwide softball anthem: Yo Kev.
3. You seem to be channeling the Beasties by way of Neil Hamburger. Who are your biggest influences, and do you run with the Nerdcore rap contingent in NYC?
Ha! I love Beastie Boys. I used to rap their songs on the school bus for money when I was a kid. I found about them from some kids who gave me a ride to a church lock-in and had “Licensed to Ill” playing in their Camaro. That shit changed my life.
Other than that, I’m super influenced by Kathleen Hanna, Lisa Carver, Karen Finley, and rap music in general. I’ve always been a huge hip hop fan. Public Enemy, Mike Jones, Dre, Too $hort, Kanye, Brooke Candy, Outkast, Fat Pat, etc. etc. etc… I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Texas and didn’t discover punk music until much later. Hip hop was the wildest craziest music I had ever heard when I first came across it and I still think it’s a uniquely great musical form that I’m psyched to get to work in.
I actually don’t know anything about the Nerdcore crowd. I’ve been meaning to bone up on that.
I feel like I fall into the space where, like, if Biz Markie and Bikini Kill had a baby, I’d be him. A drunk baby, I mean.
4. What can we expect on the new album?
There’s songs you haven’t heard yet, including maybe my favorite song we’ve done so far and a song so wild and epic, Max Tannone almost ran out of sounds to layer on top of it. Plus some fucked up skits. And some other really great, great extras on there too that I can’t announce yet but people can follow me on twitter (@nealmedlyn) or sign up via champagnejerry.com (http://www.champagnejerry.com/contact.html) to get the info as soon as we can announce it.
5. What surprises are in store for the Joe’s Pub gig? The last one was epic and will be hard to top.
Thanks!! We have surprises every time because each month has been themed to that month’s single. Once we had Roger Clark of NY1 introduce me from inside a live onstage hurricane, once I rode into the venue in a mini Ferrari. The June 21 show at Joe’s Pub is themed to this month’s single: http://www.champagnejerry.com/justwokeup so we’ll premiere a new music video directed by genius Jason Cacioppo and we’ll have Bridget Everett in the house so things will most assuredly get somewhat, um, adult.
And for the July 19th album release show, we’ll have special guests I’m not at liberty to divulge and all sorts of other things. We throw everything we can at the live shows.
6. Which rhyme summarizes Champagne Jerry the most perfectly?
I have some favorites, but don’t tell the other rhymes, they’ll get jealous. I like “I’m a heavy flow day, I’m not a spotter.” I also like “I have a medium sized dick, my dick is medium sized, look it up on the internet, it’s medium-sized.” But the rhyme that jumps out to me is from “Be Number One”: I’m sorry I couldn’t come in today/I was working at my other job: being the fucking best.
Check out Champagne Jerry at Joe’s Pub on Saturday, June 21st.