Billy Pollard makes music on his computer and still lives with his mom, but don’t hold that against him. As knifehandchop, the 21-year-old Torontonian is shaking dance floors out of four-on-the-floor complacency and using his plunderphonic speedcore style to expose the frailties of pop music.
Nursed on industrial music and noise, speed metal and hardcore rave, Pollard began making music four years ago, his early stuff churning along at 160 BPM with polylayered effects and pinging digital funk. Soon, in search of vocalists for his projects but unable to find any, he began chopping up hip hop, pop, and dancehall tracks. The results have been staggering. “Bounty Killer Killer” (and its many remixes) shows the dancehall MC to be more aggressive than ever; “Sunjammer Is My Favorite Pokemon Trainer” infantilizes DMX, and “Dancemix2000” (which mashes up everything from Eminem to Vengaboys) is a meta-commentary on the staid, unimaginative state of pop: “I want to mix these pop styles together that have nothing to do with each other and make them sound perfect together so people will see how there’s no difference in what they’re listening to right now. They’re just pop songs. Right now Blink 182 sounds a lot like Eminem, or Pink, or Destiny’s Child. If you put them on top of each other, they’ll still sound fine.”
Critics accuse Pollard of borrowing his credibility from the black artists he samples. “One guy who was posting on one of the IDM message boards assumed I was black,” he recalls. His reply: the song “Hooked on Ebonics,” slated to appear on his next album. A frenetic rave-style anthem, it chops up endless vocal samples of hip hop cliché words: “Rap / Die / Word / Money / Bitch / Benz / Wack / Raw / Black.” Says Pollard, “I’m making fun of the people who make fun of me. I can step back and laugh at the situation. If I took it as seriously as they think I do, I couldn’t do that. But it’ll probably go over their heads anyway.”
Hopefully for Pollard and his sample-happy peers, it’ll go right over the head of the musical mainstream as well. Unlike England, where bootleg remixing is a national tradition, North American record-industry capitalists don’t take kindly to their product putting in work for other artists. But Pollard remains sanguine: “I figure that the key is to try to get sued and then you’ll get really popular and maybe a label will grab you and sign you for a lot of money. Look at the KLF. That worked for them…didn’t it?”
Respect to All the Haters is out now on Tiberbeat6. “The TKO From Tokyo” remix EP is out this summer.