"BRZOWSKI is a touring Post-Rap artist hailing from the icy wastes of New England. This road-worn vocalist has been regarded as a standard-bearer for Avant-Hip-Hop since his first release in 2001. Always prescient, often verbose, never for the faint-of-heart," reads BRZOWSKI ("BRZO" for short)'s Bandcamp Bio. He's done over 1,000 live performances, released three critically-acclaimed albums, four mixtapes, five EP's, and two 7-inch singles, as well countless featured appearances with a who's-who of seasoned Indie Hip-Hop vets. BRZOWSKI has been steadily touring with a wide array of projects since 1993 and has logged road hours in support of Atmosphere, Astronautalis, billy woods, Brother Ali, Busdriver, Cage, Ceschi, Doug E. Fresh, El-P, The Gaslamp Killer, MURS, Open Mike Eagle, Sage Francis, solo, and Uncommon Nasa. BRZO initially emailed me back in July, praising my recent published works with Height Keech, E. Grizzly, and Lt Headtrip, with a pre-release copy of his then-upcoming new album, ENMITYVILLE—his first 100% tried and true "solo" album since 2012. ENMITYVILLE showcases production work from 80HRTZ, C $ Burns, Chryso, and BRZOWSKI himself and overall, sounds like an imagined dark, twisted multi-layered collaboration between Beastie Boys and Nine Inch Nails with skeletal song-writing from Johnny Cash. BRZOWSKI's ENMITYVILLE was unleashed into the terribly unsuspecting masses a couple weeks ago, Friday, September 8th; he and I recently conducted a brief, yet extremely thorough interview via email. It's presented in full, unedited form down below the break and BRZOWSKI's ENMITYVILLE is now available wherever fine Underground Hip-Hop records are sold.
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Hip-Hop Purveyor & Taste-maker
I. What were the writing, recording, production, etc. processes like for your latest solo album, ENMITYVILLE? To what extent, if any, were your fellow Vinyl Cape group members and affiliates involved?
I'm your garden-variety beat hoarder. Over the past three years, when I'd heard a beat from C $ Burns or 80HRTZ, I would ask for the stems or sit down with Burns to do a little re-arrangement and then, sit on it until the proper inspiration or theme strikes me. I'll usually write a song all in one day, edit it a few days later, and then, record it with a few other tunes several weeks after that. The song then goes into one of three piles: the "BRZOWSKI" solo-project pile, the "Vinyl Cape" pile, or the "collaborations/compilation songs/singles/mixtape pile." For this album, C $ Burns produced three tracks, but did post-production, plus mixing and mastering on every g**damn song. I don't trust anyone else to touch my "finished" art, these days. He and I have an artistic and philosophical connection and we trust each other unquestioningly. We've made over 100 songs together, at this point. Adding effects and layers, EQ'ing sounds with precision, all the hair-splitting. The mixing and mastering process alone was eight weeks of us sitting in a room saying: "let's turn that snare down 0.2 decibels (dB)... down another 0.2dB... no, def up 0.3dB"—we take this sort of detail dead-serious.
Mo Niklz dedicated some great scratching to "Leave It All Behind," which is one of the most psychologically hefty tracks on the album. I've toured with Mo about five times and he is one of the most lovable humans I know. His skills as a DJ are precise—I get his files for a track and they barely need a nudge. That's the sign of someone who takes pride in their craft. His work on the [Vinyl Cape] album was immaculate and I'll be harassing him for more "zigga-zigga" in the future. In addition to the OG Mo, my good comrade Jane Boxall (an amazing drummer and full-patch VC member) joined us for our brief run on Northeast release parties. Jane is an accomplished drummer and percussionist (she tours the Western-world playing solo marimba) and I'm so glad she could join us on these gigs on the drumkit. She's one of my favorite humans I've ever toured with. Positive, unflappable, and inspirational. She's taught me UK slang and calls me on my (minor) sh*t, when nobody else would find it necessary. We're doing some Vermont gigs together this Fall. She's all over the Vinyl Cape album and I'm stoked to work with her in the future. Vinyl Cape is a coven of some of my favorite humans.
II. How do you generally craft your beats. BRZOWSKI? Do you prefer to use samples or live instrumentation, interpolation, etc?
I, personally, prefer starting with a striking or moody sample and then, build synthetic drums and keys around it, topped off with guitar and bass guitar played live. I prefer to have at least two organic elements played live in a song to be sure the human hand is in there somewhere toward the end of the process. No matter how precise or sanitary the buffing of the beat may end up being. Vocals would be recorded next. Scratches and other folks playing instruments would be the last piece added. And then, I call up C $ Burns and we boil it.
III. Do you have any current plans to make any music videos, 7-inch singles, or anything else of that nature to accompany ENMITYVILLE during its release roll-out?
Yes, I have two videos in the can presently; one directed by Jake Ripley, the other by Jason Knightly of Lucky Hand Studio—both hyper-talented Mainers. Both videos have lo-fi affectations by design. The video with Jake is for "Contemporary Cynic" and it's a humorous interpretation of an exceedingly bleak indictment of contemporary life. "Leave It All Behind" is... well... it paints a direct picture in relation to the song. I don't want to say much more than that just yet. Both videos roll out this Fall and perhaps a third video solidifying come this Winter. Spot shows this Fall in ME, KS, TX, VT, and RI with a proper touring cycle of several US regions and Western Europe in 2018. Milled Pavement Records does not plan to do a vinyl or cassette version, but I'm certainly open to a limited-run, if approached by another label, whom I dig.
IV. What would you likely cite as some of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence while writing and recording ENMITYVILLE?
I had a long string of dead-end-type employment situations, where I felt totally trapped in a hand-to-mouth world and once I had clawed ever-so-slightly out of that existence, I wanted to distill those feelings of isolation and powerlessness, juxtaposed against a backdrop of the current sociopolitical climate here and abroad. I had a lot of space in my life back then because so many activities that happened outside of my apartment/studio were not responsibly accessible. So, I read voraciously on art history, geo-politics, Marxism, and more... and the influence certainly, reared it's head here. The parallel topic discussed throughout is the devaluation of art. Art still has a transformative power, but it seems to have been superseded by easily digestible kitsch at every turn. Hip-Hop (Indie and otherwise) in particular tends to come off as some obscene parody of a once-rich counter-culture, now steeped in spectacle. I wanted to challenge that disturbing development at every turn-lyrics, beats, artwork, etc.
V. How would you say your overall rhyming style and sound has grown and progressed since your last proper full-length, 2011's A Fitful Sleep?
It's been a glacial, interesting evolution over the past five years. Between solo outings, I did a 7-inch, mixtape, and album with Vinyl Cape—which was primarily, very arrhythmic and non-rhyming flows to the backdrop of Doomy/Sub-Jazzy-Experimental Metal—a Noise-laden/Industrial EP with Fake Four's DJ Halo, 40-odd features, which were primarily "bars" for other people's projects, and a full-blown unapologetic Rap-Metal-Dub-circa-'99 record with the French homies, D-FAZ. Between that and 15 or so tours across the same time-span, I arrived at a well-seasoned place when writing rhymes for this new record, when at last, that was the primary task at hand. I wanted to slow down the delivery and lessen the syllable-cramming. I love rapping fast, triplets, and lyrical-torrent style spitting. I love "choppers" from California, "chewers" from the UK, and the "Cambridge-sound" coming out of the Abstract Rap cats in the Boston Metro area, circa 1998-2004 (Komadose, Logic Based, Lost Channel, etc.) but I wanted to SLOW DOWN. I wanted people to actually hear and understand the lyrics that I had written, edited, re-written, and then, spit, whilst the "Record" button was pushed. I feel like I have some weighty material to be unpacked, via this album and I did not want to risk being misquoted or misunderstood. This is primarily, the same reasoning behind the fact that this album features zilch Rap features; it had been so long since I spoke solely for myself via record, that it would have been disingenuous to have a grip of guests on the album. Next time I venture out into the public sphere under my own pyrrhic flag, a grip of my friends will be with me... but it just did not seem appropriate, this spin around.
VI. How did you come to get involved with "Gingerbread Hag" from Uncommon Nasa's latest album, Written at Night? Now, are you able to divulge any particular information about its recently-filmed music video accompaniment?
Uncommon Nasa and I have been good friends since around 2012 or so... my memory is not precise here, as we've done so much work together, in the meantime. Mo Niklz and I rolled with Nasa on his very first tour and now, he's a road animal. The bug bit him hard and I love watching that enthusiasm grow. I think he and I have toured together two or three times since. Nasa and I have about four collaborative songs in the can for a future project—no hard timeline there, it's ready when it feels complete and our solo schedules align... we're BOTH control freaks and we respect that about each other—and Nasa thought it would be an effective way to introduce our musical pairing on his primarily collaborative album. He sent me a left-field concept and an Avant-garde beat, C $ Burns got on the guitar, and we made a strange little beast of a Literary Rap song. The ["Gingerbread Hag"] video was shot in Portland, ME a few weeks ago, directed by Duncecap of The Karma Kids NYC... it's rather involved, as we are drawing visual influence and flow from the [Grimms' Fairy] Tale, as well as our lyrical bent concerning it. I haven't seen the roughs yet, but I expect it will be out late October. I've been impressed by the preliminary shots I've seen.