“I blame it all on Jack Daniel’s,” quips Isis Salam before we finish asking about her no-holds-barred stage presence. “I don’t remember any of it,” she adds, laughing. There’s no shying away from the palpable energy of this 23-year-old, Toronto-based firecracker, the frontwoman for Canadian electro-rap sensation Thunderheist.
“I’m remembering way more from shows these days,” she continues. “We’ve been touring a lot, so I haven’t been able to stick to my old ways.” The old ways she’s referring to? Press and fans alike have had a field day describing the countless antics of duo Salam and 32-year-old Montreal producer Grahm Zilla—including stage diving, crowd surfing and bottles of Jack poured on the front row.
Thunderheist’s brash mix of buzz-saw electro, booty-clapping drum programming and Salam’s sexed-up, Kid Sister–like flow hit the Web in 2006. Since then, Thunderheist hasn’t stopped touring; the duo released a full-length, self-titled album last month.
The whole thing came together around one fortuitous—and accidental—instant message. A onetime video-game programmer for Ubisoft, Zilla was moonlighting as an abstract beat producer when he met Salam. “I was on the Flying Lotus tip,” he says of his solo work. “The job was killing me, so I was making really moody, stoner beats.” Eventually, Zilla quit the grind and connected with Salam via a mutual friend. They made plans to collaborate on her solo work, which has more of a contemporary, conscious hip-hop vibe.