by Jeff Milo
Well... the Hazel Park-proud emcee (normally known as John Panich, or, on record, JP From The HP) isn't dead. In fact, we just followed-up with him. But, his new music video, "John Panich Is Dead" blossomed into a short-film, directed by Colin Duerr, a local talent known having a finger or two on the freak-pulse, achieving darkly surrealist trips like Clive Barker, David Cronenberg and Hieronymus Bosch bloodily blended together on film.
Panich, as a writer, has often dug into the dark depths himself, cleaving into himself as well as into an ugly, ignorant, violent society he sees around him, day to day. "...even if my life became a super dreamland of positiveness, the world will always suck, so I will always channel that "SUCK."
JP From The HP, as Panich is known, has been slogging away in the local rap game for several years, but this upcoming film (premiering Nov 27th on the respective sites of Panich/Duerr) is his most ambitious project to date. For Duerr, who entered the hip-hop scene last year with Passalacqua's "Sirens," this film was particularly important for him.
"John and I are like family," said Duerr, an alum of the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan. "We get in little arguments like brothers and criticize each other in that way."
A year and a half ago, with Duerr's production plate full, Panich was busy working on the album My Asteroid Wants To Kill Your Planet. "I put this video off, slightly out of spite," says Duerr, striking that brotherly bite he shares with Panich. "And..parlty out of ball-breaking. Like: 'See what’s not gonna happen if you don’t put this album out?”, kind of way. But, he put it out and it’s fantastic. Whatever role I’ve played in his life has nothing to do with his music and his heart bleeding out on every track. I can’t take credit for shit. I’ve pushed him, yes. But, he’s pushed me, too. We push each other sometimes. Then we hug..."
JP From The HP -on the origins of the song/album:
"I had just sold my really nice midi controller to pay rent for a room I was renting on West George in Hazel Park. I couldn't make beats the way I wanted to without a midi controller, so I traded an my brand new quad core processor , for a an old duo core processor, and very small 2 octave midi controller, so I could at least still make beats.. The first thing I played with my freshly downgraded gear was the piano loop on the track John Panich Is Dead. My roommate / friend landlord at the time walked by room and randomly sang"JOOooohn pANICH IS dead" obnoxiously. I continued added pieces with my crappy little midi controller until the beat was finished. That night I went out to vent and got blacked out drunk. I woke up in my bed with the instrumental looping, and 2 pages of lyrics, in my hand writing Hence the song John Panich was born."
JP essentially harnessed frustrated feelings of despair and self-loathing and put them onto the record, through his lyrics and throttled under beats, partly for his own catharsis but also partly to push against popular rap songs portraying ostentatious images or impossible circumstances that most people couldn't relate to.
JP was out to portray a real kind of angst. Identifiable angst.
"I feel people should experience hip hop from all sides of the spectrum. Music reflects life, and the way people feel. .I think its unrealistic for everything to be sexy and glamorous , and "dope" and full of money." Every emotion should be well represented and I feel HIP HOP, of all genres, should be the best at doing so, but in my opinion, its doing a piss poor job."
Doesn't get much more against the grain than a dark, horror-tinged video like this... If most popular hip-hop is all about living-it-up, than JP is...well...dead.
Duerr can assure viewers yet another "intense" experience. "It’s the way it mutated and I’m quite proud of that. I’d want the viewer to make up their mind on what vibe it gave them."
What Duerr assures:
"Do not expect your’ typical music video. You won’t see a bunch of dudes standing around staring into a handheld camera. You won’t see us ripping off Wes Anderson or Harmony Korine, using odd little “Herzogian” sketches to give us art points, being “random” for the hipsters. It’s a fleshed out, monster of a video that will remind you of the cold, hopeless feeling death can bring while making you dance and reach toward your zipper at the computer, that is, if your’ roommates are gone."
"A part of me feels like I will never run out of negative things to rap about," says Panich. He assures that his life is getting better, he's making more friends, "great friends," and appreciating the virtue of patience and the benefits of "teamwork." He's grown as a person over the duration of this project. "I feel like I'm climbing out of the rut."
Both the rapper and the director can't stress enough how taxing this production was... This writer won't indulge puns on how "killer" it was, but suffice it to say - they didn't phone it in - lots of blood, sweat, tears and angry fights along with some significantly inspiring moments stemming from their brotherly bond, from JP's visceral lyrics, and from Duerr's "amazing, twisted, creative" imagination.
Yes, "very long and grueling," JP says, with a weariness. "But the project developed into something way bigger than it would have been if things went according to our original plans...And, even more important, I still have my best friend."
"We are ready to show it to the masses, for them to either marvel over it or turn it off 15-seconds into it and just put on a youtube-video of cute kittens."
"It’s hard to make this stuff happen, especially with a shitty day job and lack of funds," Duerr surmised. There'd be tension between the two throughout the production but then they'd start shooting again, get into a groove and it all went away and they'd get excited anew. "That’s rewarding as fuck for me. He believes in me and went through this painful process because of that belief, and it means everything. We now have something really special to show because of the process."
JP From The HP, still living, despite the video, is looking forward to releasing a new album in the spring, collaborating with as many artists as possible, and touring next fall.