One can’t help but feel like Thunderheist’s music appearing in last year’s critically acclaimed movie The Wrestler was destined to happen.
After all, the Toronto-based electro-rap duo’s producer Grahm Zilla is the son of Olympic wrestler Gord Bertie.
“I was actually conceived in the Olympic village,” Grahm reveals, shortly before Thunderheist’s Exclaim Canadian Tour, which takes them across the country between April 2nd and May 2nd.
That piece of family trivia probably added further resonance to the moment he heard Jerk It, his group’s biggest single, bumping in glorious Dolby digital sound during The Wrestler’s credits.
At first Grahm wasn’t interested in the film, writing it off as “just some B-movie” when he heard Mickey Rourke was involved.
“It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and I was there at the time. But I didn’t go see the movie,” he says. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
“But when everybody started talking about it and I heard there was all this Oscar buzz, then I got excited. But actually seeing the movie, about half-an-hour in,I was shaking, like ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe my song is in this movie.’
“That was probably the highlight of my musical career to date,” he says.
Another highlight, then, must be when celebrity blogger Perez Hilton posted Jerk It on his website in 2007.
“Our Myspace got like 30,000 hits in a couple hours,” says Grahm. “I only realized the magnitude of his readership when I’m getting emails about it from my great-aunt.”
From there, Jerk It spread wildfire-like through the Internet, prompting a number of new fans to produce videos for the track. Seeing multiple versions of the track on YouTube was yet another surreal moment for Grahm and Thunderheist’s MC, Isis.
“I can’t believe it’s at that point where random people are making videos for our songs,” he says.
Thunderheist’s sweaty, high-energy, bass-heavy sound has evolved quite a bit since their blogospheric breakthrough.
On their self-titled debut, Grahm has further refined his production style by “trying to make it sound less mechanical and letting the music breathe more and have a more natural feel.”
As for Isis, while Jerk It found her rapping in a sultry double-time flow, the MC sings on much of the album.
“Her tastes are pretty diverse so she wants to get out of the rap box,” says Grahm, “and it’s good because for me, I’m way more interested in writing songs than making hip-hop instrumentals.”
Just don’t expect to hear any of the vocal effect du jour, the robotic auto-tune sound favoured by T-Pain, Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West, on any of the tracks.
“After the album was done, somebody was like, ‘Oh man, you should have put auto-tune on all the songs,’” says Grahm. “I was like, ‘Are you out of your mind?’”