PopLurker Interviews: Rob Tanchum- Comedian, Artist, and Definitely ‘Not a Rapper’

Rob is a comedian/rapper/writer living in an apartment.

A graduate from NYU, Rob Tanchum is making waves with his unique blend of bitingly sharp comedy. And now, his rap album from someone who insists he’s not a rapper has freshly dropped. It’s called Disturbed, Depressed, Inadequate which is produced by Dan Harmon.

The first single IDFSG (‘I don’t feel so good’) is a great send off into a world that is a man’s spiraling brain. Where the aliens are going to tear you down if you’re your worst enemy. So today on PopLurker, we’re hanging out with Rob for a super fresh and awesome interview. Check out the single below and read about this awesomely badass new album!

Hey Rob! Thank you so much for giving PopLurker this interview! We’re super stoked to have you today. All right, let’s talk about your new rap album Disturbed, Depressed, and Inadequate. What was the biggest inspiration for this album? What’s the balance between your own mental health and the outer space theme?

The biggest inspiration for the album was my stupid fucking brain! All the obstacles I set up for myself that get in the way of me creating what I want to create. I’ve started and given up making about six albums in the past six years, so exploring the “why” felt like the best way to turn the process in on itself and give myself a chance to explain.

Setting the album in space and having aliens “extract the songs from my unconscious mind” was sort of a creative compromise with myself, so at least narratively it felt less like I was coming from a place of “Hey I’m a rapper, listen to me rap.” That inner monologue is usually the kill switch that shuts down the whole operation. I don’t want people to think I think I’m a rapper.

The original narrative was actually me meeting with a court-appointed psychiatrist, but once I started working with Superfool and heard the synthy, ethereal vibes that run through a lot of their music, I immediately transported it to space. It accomplished the same therapy framework, but with way cooler sound design. Plus it was extra funny to me that a couple aliens are trying to abduct an average human to study earth and they get stuck with me. I’m a terrible representative for humanity.

Disturbed Depressed Inadequate.jpg

How did you come up with the name for the album? It’s pretty top shelf there. 

The original working title for the album was Topics I’m Upset About. I just wanted something on-the-nose and dumb. But once the album began taking shape it didn’t really fit anymore, so I started searching for something more self-loathing.

At some point in the process, I was rewatching Seinfeld (binge rewatching TV shows is my primary coping mechanism) and there’s a George Costanza line “But I’m disturbed! I’m depressed! I’m inadequate! I got it all!” that just described the themes of the album perfectly. Especially that he was demanding recognition for it.

What are your own musical and artistic influences? Can you talk about some of the media you consumed and your favorite fandoms growing up?

My earliest musical influences were Tenacious D and Flight of the Conchords. I always knew I wanted to do comedy, but my obsessions with those bands is what made me pick up the guitar and start writing songs.

As far as hip hop goes, there are way more influences. Earliest ones were Kanye, Talib Kweli, Common, Outkast. Hands down J. Cole and Kendrick have played the biggest role in my writing. Lil Wayne, Tyler the Creator, Pusha T. This could be a very long list. The final week of making this album, I listened to Jay Rock’s Redemption a hundred million times.

I’ve consumed so much media, I don’t even know where to start. I’m very nerdy and obsessive about TV. Cheers is the pinnacle for me. Futurama, Home Movies, Curb Your Enthusiasm. I feel like my proper answer to this question would be thirty pages long. 

On the flip side, what are some fandoms or hobbies you have that people might not expect from you? Do you listen to any specific or ‘weird’ genres of music? 

I don’t think I listen to anything that unusual. My ultimate musical euphoria is soulful female vocalists. Nina Simone, Etta James, Fiona Apple, Lauryn Hill are all magic to me.

Outside of music, I love reading about psychology and mythology and religion and stuff of that nature. There’s a lot of Joseph Campbell/ Carl Jung language and ideas written into the album.

My most unusual hobby is probably collecting toys. You know, since I’m “an adult.” Toy Story was my first obsessive fandom, so I’m sure that played a role in programming my brain to love toys. I mainly go for small posable action figures of TV characters/ superheroes. I have so many Buzz Lightyears. My girlfriend, who I share a studio apartment with, does not love this hobby. 

Are you touring for Disturbed, Depressed, Inadequate? Now that the album is out, what can we expect from you?

LOL absolutely not! That would be a nightmare. I love performing comedy live, but music terrifies me. When I’m onstage performing sketch or improv or standup, there’s a sense that I belong there, because I can actually feel and tap into the pulse of the room. I’ve never felt that way with rapping, because again I don’t self identify as a rapper. I love to write music, but I have no desire for that kind of spotlight. I hate the sound of my voice- my dream vision for this album was an animated musical with all featured artists. I didn’t intend to be on it as much as I am.

I don’t know what people should expect next, because truthfully the rollout of this album had a different trajectory when I first took it on. I can say that my goal is to write for television and I’m taking all the steps to make that happen. My ideal next project would incorporate music and animation. 

Are there any upcoming projects or appearances that you’d like to plug or promote? Where can PopLurker readers find you on social media?

Not so much at the moment- I took a pause from performing live when I was traveling back and forth to LA to work on the album and I haven’t dived back in yet. There are a few things on the horizon but no official dates yet. But stay tuned with me on Instagram and Twitter @robtanchum. 

Lastly, what would you say to someone who is feeling a little Disturbed, Depressed, and Inadequate? Do you think they’ll identify with the album, or is in more of a rabbit hole in reverse through the black darkness of galactic nebulae and demise? 

Fight back. Don’t settle into the negative portrait of yourself you’ve painted in your head. Therapy, exercise, friends. To quote myself from the album, kick your legs a little before you quit trying to swim. I’m not speaking on this from the other side, this is all still stuff I’m working on.

I hope anyone who identifies with the album does so in the sense that it makes them feel less alone, because depression and anxiety is so so so so lonely. It feels like you’re broken or defective and you’re letting yourself and everyone else down. So at least for me, hearing from people who identify with IDFSG or THOUGHT SPIRAL helps me feel connected and supported. We’re not doomed. There are plenty of people who live with mental health issues and we can learn from and help each other.

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