RIP MF DOOM: Remembering the Nash Money Sneaker Speakers
This might be a few days late, but what the hell. 2020 was a nightmare of a year, with hundreds of thousands of COVID deaths around the globe. Kobe Byrant, Diana Rigg, Bill Withers, Andrew Weatherall, Eddie Van Halen, Sean Connery, Maradona, Jerry Stiller, Hugh Keays-Byrne… we lost more than a few great ones. More recently, it was revealed by his family that the incomparable MF DOOM, aka Daniel Dumile, had passed away several months ago.
If Madvillainy isn’t in your top 50 albums of all time, I don’t think we’re gonna see ear to ear on musical matters. You simply got no taste! I could go on about the chronic pop-culturisms and Madlib’s brilliantly blunted frequencies, but Stevie Chick’s obit does the subject more justice than I ever could. Another fine piece on DOOM’s eccentric persona and the power of his cultural lexicon was posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The New Yorker. If you have ever wondered why DOOM is so exalted, these two perceptive writers break down the other-worldliness that made him such a unique force.
As I pondered the sad news via Frank the Butcher’s IG feed, I recalled an old feature in Sneaker Freaker Issue 21, published back in 2011, that detailed a crazy four-way collaboration between Nash Money, PUMA, SF and MF DOOM. For whatever reason, the article has disappeared from our online archive, which definitely needed to be rectified.
So here we are...
A friend for close to 15 years, Nash Money is, to my mind, the original sneaker customiser. How he cooked up this crazy concept, I have no idea, so you’ll have to ask him, but I do remember us both begging PUMA UK to send over a few of their enormous Suede promo shoes. DOOM might be a legend in mine and Nash’s world, but convincing entertainment marketing folks that a paunchy, brew-chugging underground rapper – who wears a metal mask and spits complex comic book rhymes with no discernible hooks – needs two gigantic PUMA sneakers so we can make (even more) gigantic speakers out of them was not just a preposterously long sentence, but also a downright ludicrous idea.
'No problem!' they said.
Getting artist management on board can be just as tricky, especially since DOOM has always been renowned for getting paid in full. Surprisingly, everything fell into place perfectly and the green light was lit. Now all Nash had to do was deliver on a super tight deadline. As many have pondered at this precise juncture in an ambitious project… what could possibly go wrong?
My abiding memory, and I don’t think Nash would mind me saying this, is that the production process burned him out metaphorically and almost literally, when one of the speakers caught fire in his London studio. Making all the electronics sing was a serious challenge, and Nash was in no mood for short cuts. This was a highly personal project for him and he would not take the easy route.
After many manic all-nighters, Nash finally had a working prototype. Fully assembled and erect, the towering Sneaker Speakers looked incredible and were more than capable of rocking the house. The micro DOOM design details Nash included are insane. Ignition keys, throbbing lights, touch pads, equalisers, premium cables... These things were stacked!
When DOOM popped up in Melbourne for some live shows, the timing was exquisite. Around 3AM we adjourned to the Sneaker Freaker office for a private photoshoot and a few lazy VBs. DOOM is (was… dammit!) notoriously and compulsively elusive, but this moment also fell into place perfectly. Charming and engaged, DOOM breezed through the shoot. And yes, I did get to see the great man sans mask, though no photo exists as proof! A second photo shoot when the speakers were actually gifted to DOOM was handled by Errol Thomas in London.
My final (amusing) footnote is that I never did get to see, or hear, the Sneaker Speakers with my own eyes and ears. I had an inkling that it might have gone down like this from early on. The budget was blown to smithereens and some things are just meant to be.
Reposting this article, close to a decade since it was written, was always going to be bittersweet. The world desperately needs more iconoclasts, and in MF DOOM and Andrew Weatherall, we lost two musical exemplars last year alone.
RIP Daniel Dumile.
RIP Zev Love X, King Geedorah, Viktor Vaughn, Madvillain, DANGERDOOM, JJ DOOM, NehruvianDOOM, DOOMSTARKS etc.
RIP MF DOOM.
A true original, lost way too soon in one lousy fucking fucker of a year.
This article is republished from Sneaker Freaker Issue 21, released May 2011.
With a swag of novel enterprises already under his moc-stitched belt, UK trainer customiser Nash Money has long been a Sneaker Freaker favourite. His handiwork has always betrayed the existence of an ingeniously creative mind, backed up with bespoke technical skills. This particular project marks the first time we’ve worked together on an official basis, and it may just prove to be Nash’s most ambitious and most officially bananas undertaking yet. As is the way with these things, ideas were tossed around and then Nash retired to think for a day, before coming back with a plan. What if we made a set of kick-ass speakers using the giant Suedes that PUMA had recently sent out as promo items? And what if we made a set for Sneaker Freaker and a complementary set for a music artist? Say… someone we both know and love, someone eminently worthy of such a vestal gift. Now who would that be?
MF DOOM, that’s who!
High fives gave way to sober negotiation. Convinced we had a higher calling, we never deviated from our righteous path to DOOM’s door. Then lady luck delivered the hip hop immortal right to us – out of the blue he arrived in Sneaker Freaker’s hometown for a clutch of live shows. Thanks to friendly management, we learned he’s a huge PUMA fan and a mad villain for electronic boffinry. The game was on!
The first step was to design the Sneaker Speakers to El Doom’s esteemed taste. Our enquiries revealed the following characteristics are to his particular liking...
- red LEDs, gems and rubies!
- sci-fi and laser guns!
- mad villian shit!
- comics and chrome!
- gothic shit!
- def hard metal - not timber!
- modern architecture and geometry!
- gadgets and metal shit!
- mad exclamation marks!
All of this, we anticipated. One-upping MF DOOM’s alter ego and his heavy metal mask was key to making the speakers rock hard. With a brief tucked under his arm, Nash locked himself in the studio, emerging every 20 hours or so to refuel on toxic Turkish coffee, Cheetos and the odd jazz cigarette. Strangely, this exotic diet seemed to inspire Nash to even more extreme acts of DOOMishness. Once complete, the design can clearly be considered a proper collaboration and Nash’s greatest feat of creative endurance. There is DOOM in every pore of this sonic masterpiece.
Normally you might expect such an act of artistic genius (and we don’t use the term lightly) to evolve over several months of intellectual finagling. In this case, Nash had deadline instructions issued by Sneaker Freaker’s impatient editor to be no later than ‘Several weeks, but probably less than that because we’re in a hurry.’ Pffffftttttt!
They say planning makes perfect, but even a minute to think was a luxury Nash could barely afford. Like two and a half men possessed, he tore into the project like Charles Sheen at a Warner Bros. xmas party. Napkins were used to sketch elaborate boomboxes, lighting and sound modules were deconstructed into bite-size pieces and Skype calls were made to obscure electronics suppliers in four different countries.
On the third day, a man in a van arrived carrying two of the world’s biggest PUMA Suedes. Measured end-to-end, they are three feet high and rising. Big shoes mean big socks and we had some bigguns to fill. Gutting the inch-thick sole was Nash’s first and most dexterous challenge and with scalpel in hand, he endured a solid day of slicing and dicing that was in his own words ‘long and well hard!’
With the trio of circular holes behind him, he added layer upon layer of foam, timber and sheet metal to create a flexible yet sturdy cocoon for our bangin’ speakers. As it turned out, this was the easy part. We now know that even a rocket scientist from the former Soviet Union could not have worked out how all the various pieces of electronic trickery could fit inside a shoe, even one big enough for the hoof of Vladimir Shaq. However, after much cussing at the moon and several hours of cranial stimulation using live electrodes rejigged from the strobe light feature, Nash was able to engineer a cunning solution to the multiplicity of problems at hand. Using a soldering iron, a thin strip of foil from a frozen TV dinner and some good old Kensal Rise know-how, everything seemed to come together just in the nick of time.
In the downtime, Nash taught himself to weld, via sessions at the blacksmith studio known as Conan Sturdy. Without their assistance it is unlikely this project would have made it to D-Day. Using these new skills, the metal frame to hold the shoes upright was politely bent into place and fixed to the base unit holding the amp. Incidentally, this is wrapped in velvety suede and topped with industrial diamond-plate steel.
The graphics and details deserve special commendation. Deep etched into a metallic veneer, the speakers are laden with enough DOOM references to sink a battleship. This thing is... heavy metal! And do we have features? The stunning DOOM RGB disco lights are controlled via remote control, should one need to adjust the ambience from a healthy distance. And there’s eight different lighting effects, including speed control and a dim function. The woofers and tweeters and mids are all top shelf, with over 40 RMS on tap if DOOM ever wants to rattle the windows. There are four input terminals, an LCD screen for barometric pressure readouts and two ports for a mic so DOOM can rock the house – all channeled through a meaty megawatt amp. And did we mention it can only be started with a key engraved with DOOM’s twelve secret codes?
Nash has revealed his ‘favourite’ part of the project was the moment he turned the key to crank the huge unit into life for the first time. This immediately caused it to hum, fizz, belch smoke and ‘almost’ catch fire and burn to the ground. Some swift remedial action was required to save the day – this after all is truly a DOOMSDAY sound system.
After the kinks were ironed out, our Sneaker Speakers were ready to throb for the man himself. Barely three short weeks of perpetual motion and chronic wakefullness is all it took to deliver them from the drawing board to DOOM’s gloved hands.
DOOM’s reaction? It’s fair to say he was... amped! In his own words, ‘Oh man, check it out! With the metal wires coming out and the overall specs, I mean it just looks bonkers! Based on the woofer and the tweeters and the mid range speakers in there, it’s out of control. Then there’s separate controls for everything, there’s volume control, crazy lights, you can also bypass the amp, so based on that, this thing can thump! It’s dope!’
Mad mission accomplished and another happy Nash Money customer.