Bim from Obnox on the Spirit of Punk

Photos by Daniel Cabral

Lamont ‘Bim’ Thomas is a punk because he doesn’t play by the rules.

His version of punk doesn’t resemble that generic, watered-down, cookie-cutter definition that has come to define the genre over time. It’s not about the speed, volume, and brevity—although he and some of his other bands have dabbled in those parameters. For him, punk is an attitude; a musical middle finger to the sound of the status quo.

Bim isn’t new to the game. With more than two decades spent behind the drumkit for bands like the Bassholes, This Moment in Black History and Puffy Areolas, Bim stepped up to the mic in 2011 to front his own project, Obnox. Releasing nine records and three EPs in eight years, Bim’s prolific output shows no signs of slowing down. Yes, Obnox is punk—but it’s also hip-hop, blues, space jazz, light funk, dark psych, noise and garage.  It’s Bad Brains and Sun Ra. It’s Roy Ayers with an MPC or Curtis Mayfield spilling coffee on the mixing board.

Blending genres in the weirdest of ways, Bim creates sound collages that defy traditional categorization. Each song sounds like it’s coming from another place; almost as if each instrument was being played in a different room. Instead of one sound jockeying for the foreground, it seems like each element is fighting to stay buried in the back. The lows are super low and the lo-fi feedback seems maxed out and well into in the red. Distortion and noise lead to a whirlwind of controlled chaos with vocals often submerged in an already murky soundscape.

We caught up with Bim via telephone, to learn about the fresh new perspective Obnox is bringing to an increasingly stale musical landscape.

Bim: Ask me anything man. Turn that tape recorder on! I just smoked a joint man. I’m pretty happy about how things are unfolding right now.

MC: How many shows are you playing this week?

They say six. I’ve done two so far. You never know what’s gonna happen. Back in the old days if all the band members were around and there was a backline, you could land up playing someone’s kitchen at three in the morning.

You have always referred to your music as punk. What does punk mean to you?

It’s a deep question. Basically, it’s doing what you enjoy and what you think is creative. It probably won’t hit and catch onto the masses like the old model of success, going platinum, or whatever. But if it feels good, it probably sounds good, and years from now somebody’s going to appreciate it because it exists and it’s art. That’s punk. Punk revitalised rock n roll after it got so overblown. You’re in a stadium and this motherfucker is playing a classic concerto and shit. All you need is a riff and groove, you dig? Next thing you know punk rock happens and people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to do much of anything are in the game. Then people are doubling back and the concerto motherfuckers are playing three chords and trying to simplify shit, you know what I mean?

What’s your band’s mission statement?

‘Let black people back in rock ‘n’ roll’, like back when it used to swing. Man, I’ve been rocking over three decades and things have changed. Once upon a time, I was the only brother in the room, now there are a lot of brothers in the room. The standards and the protocol of what really rocks is really different. You can’t really say what’s on your mind, you have to rock on code now. They’ll do you out here. Or deem you undesirable or something like that. I keep it simple, I keep it funky. A good groove is the cornerstone of any good relationship, especially music.

Coming from a drummer’s background, how does that change your perspective when you switch to songwriter and guitar player?

The only difference is that I get to hear what I want to hear. I can stand around or I can go sing harmonies with my drummer. It’s the less is more thing. It’s real music happening and it’s still absurd and charismatic and likeable—like a politician or a used car salesman. It’s the underground, it’s street music. To be honest, to a certain extent I don’t even care about the record business anymore, I’m just spectating right now. Back in the day, I used to be Joe Industry: ‘Hey man, this is our new tape, stickers are free. Whoo.’ Now I just sit back and watch the shit and I tear down the room. Now that I don’t give a shit anymore… now, it’s getting fun as a motherfucker! That’s when you get to the goooood music. The show is good. The record is dope. I’m about to turn in a double album tomorrow. Roll your reefer on this record and prosper. It’s from the heart.

Do you think that the way you blend genres is beneficial because you can reach fans of all styles, or do you think it’s a hindrance because people can’t easily classify you with simple terms?

I’ve been thinking about that lately. Again, it boils down to a live show. When we play it out, it all makes sense. If you’re in the right state of mind and mood, it all sounds seamless. There’s some continuity, maybe through my voice or drumming over the beat generated shit, but it’s all punk to me. It might be made with an MPC and involve some funk, but it’s still gnarly, still thought-provoking. You still wanna wiggle your foot to it, ya know? It’s all the same thing to me man. When I hear a banging-ass hip hop song, it takes me back to when I first heard Public Enemy in 1987 and that shit sounded just like the first time I heard “Jealous Again” and “Damaged” by Black Flag. I felt the same way—that this is some rebel-ass shit right here. At 46, I should probably be on some Adult-Contemporary type shit or whatever the fuck. Whatever they call that shit “pillow talk?” “Grown-and-sexy?” Whatever the fuck they call it. I should be on that, but I want to be right in the shit. I don’t give a fuck about some tastemaking, gatekeeping-ass motherfucker deciding who’s who in the record business. My records are coming abundantly, frequently. The shows are going to happen a lot more. If you want to buy a tee shirt instead of a record, I got that shit too man.

Tell me more about the new record.

The new record is called Savage Raygun. I tried to make something that was a little more appropriate for a father at 46 with 25-years in the game. I had to double back and do what I thought was right. I just turned everything up. Friends started bringing beats over, we started smoking hemp, next thing you know the whole project just swelled up—20 songs with interludes. I guess I could shave a few things off, but I think it’s all worth hearing. I can send you a copy of it if you promise not to share. You guys always promise not to share.

I don’t really like many people. And I hate sharing.

That’s what I like, a rebel after my own heart.

I like the wit of your song and album titles. How does humor play a role in your music and is it hard to walk the line or humor and music with a message?

It’s like Chuck D and Flava Flav. When you got somebody kicking that much knowledge with that much power, you need a guy like Flava Flav to bring something light to the game. It’s like ‘Alright Chuck. Goddamn!” Then there’s this guy who is humorous. I mean we didn’t know that he was actually smoking crack, but that could account for all that extra energy.

How do these songs play out live? Are these records hard to recreate in a band setting? Does that even matter?

It goes back and forth. It’s like the Raw Power method. Something a little more laidback, “Penetration” into “Shake Appeal” into “I Need Somebody” into “Raw Power” itself. You know, those peaks and valleys of dynamics. We might get into some beat shit, we might get into some heartfelt cinnamon and then just hit it off with a couple more blasters. It’s all thumping and it’s all loud and soulful. My shit may sound like a boom bapper or it may sound like a ballad, but you ain’t heard no shit like that. It sounds familiar, but it’s its own thing. That’s what made rap great way back. Everybody was their own individual. Everybody had their own steez, their own way of dress, their own method, you know. Punk is on the same tip, but it was more of a regional getdown, you know?

What do you want to see happen next?

I want to see all of these young black folks get into the conversation—deep. It’s like that Afropunk movie. When you watch it, it’s motherfuckers bitching about not being included and alienated, but being into rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve been going through that same shit. I’ve met Greg Ginn, Keith Morris, Steve Albini and Ian MacKaye. I’ve played with Death. I know Pere Ubu, I know the Electric Eels and the Styrenes. There’s no excuse. Everybody, it’s time to get together now. Trust what these young brothers are doing because the black man is one of the most copied innovators on the face of the Earth. Trust in it, believe in them, don’t buy into the shit that they’re trying to sell you. In actuality, they’re ripping off the innovations and selling them back to us anyway. I’m not buying this shit. I’m making new shit that everybody’s gonna be going at in five or ten years. And that’s not me on some egomaniac shit. It’s just that this happens all the time—from Sam Cooke up until now. Everybody’s got a horn section, everybody’s a soul deejay. You’re trying to tell me what the real shit is? I’ve walked the point for every record I’ve ever loved. I gotta trust what the young people are doing too, because I’m in the environment. It’s a blessing and a curse. I love the underground, but let’s keep it original. Let’s keep it 100. I just wanna rock man, I just wanna play. Fuck all that other shit. It’s all a myth.

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