Tuesday, October 2, 2018

DIG 2 GRAVES: The Witzard's Round Robin-style Interview with BRZOWSKI, MC Homeless, 80HRTZ, C$ Burns & Damien Miller (I Had An Accident)

"In the Punk-derived tradition of split releases, DIG 2 GRAVES pairs a trio of new songs from Portland, Maine purveyor of dour verbosity, BRZOWSKI with the first [newly-]recorded material from erstwhile Ohioan, MC Homeless. Old friends who have shared stages across The US & Europe, these two both share an affinity for Indie Rap, Punk Rock ethos, and a nostalgia for the schlocky Horror of the 1970's & 80's.

BRZOWSKI sculpted the majority of the lyrics for this release immediately following the sessions for 2017’s acclaimed opus of personal ghosts and political realities, ENMITYVILLE. An Indie stalwart with many note-worthy credits under his belt, BRZOWSKI has not slowed his pace of peculiar catalog pieces in the space between solo offerings, to which DIG 2 GRAVES is the latest addition. The lush production provided by C$ Burns + BRZOWSKI (as Vinyl Cape) & 80HRTZ deploys samples evenly with live instruments, woven in layers thickly appropriate to the nature of the lyrical approach. These three new songs, distinctly "Goth-y" in nature feature Maine songstress Renée Coolbrith and the singularly strange sounds of Avant vocal performance artist, The Asthmatic, along with a "cover" version of The Conqueror Worm by Edgar Allan Poe. The overt politics and personal revelation of the ENMITYVILLE album have given way to a trio of songs about "Flesh," in a critical, Gothic-Romantic, and observational capacity.

Native son of The Rustbelt and no stranger to Indie Rap from the basement up, MC Homeless is back after six years of self-imposed musical exile. Since his classic 2010 album, 27 he's toured through 20 countries and subsequently, "retired" from rapping for a spell to direct and produce the critically-acclaimed Punk/Hardcore documentary, Destroy Cleveland. Returning to the microphone after a 6-year hiatus, the material on DIG 2 GRAVES serves as the debut of a sonically harsher, more confrontational, and in many ways, a loudly retro nod to Hardcore 1980's-90's Shock Rap in lyrical content, if not aesthetic. San Antonio's rising star of ardently Queer Rap, Chris Conde contributes a scathing verse to "Dead Rappers" and all Noise-laden production for MC Homeless was contributed by the mysterious and unheralded upstart, Death Woods."

- I Had An Accident Records (@ihaarecords)

I. How exactly did two emcees hailing from Maine & Ohio who have never, seemingly, worked together link up for this split, DIG 2 GRAVES?

MC Homeless: I think, the first time we actually worked together was 14 years ago on a song in my friend's basement in Youngstown, Ohio. No clue what release it ended up on. BRZO might have a better idea. We have known each other a long time and have played together in at least 10 states and two countries that I can recall, off the top of my head, but we never did a full-fledged tour or anything. Just lots of fun, seemingly random shows. The Underground Rap world is small and BRZOWSKI is one of my closest friends in it. Even when I stopped rapping, we would still hang out, if he was doing a show in my city and that says a lot because I was seriously a ghost for a while.

BRZOWSKI: Back in 2004, I took a bus for 23 hours from Providence, RI to Youngstown, OH to do three shows with Homeless and work on a track and we have been friends ever since. Our mutual love/hate relationships with Punk Rock, Schlocky Horror, and Indie Rap sort of sealed the deal... plus, we were both using the "Crass" font for our logos back then and so, I thought, "well, great minds think alike!" During The Homeless Hiatus, we still stayed in touch and would talk music, UFO's, wrestling, and grab a taco or low-calorie beer, what have you. Almost all of the people I would call "friends" were made through music and that connection does not stop, if someone is inactive at their given craft. I've performed more places with Homeless without being on tour with him than anyone else... I think, maybe, k-the-i??? would be the close second.

II. How would you personally say the material each of you contributed to this split differ from you past releases and larger bodies of work?

MC Homeless: I don't even feel like the same "Matt" or "MC Homeless." My influences and who I am has drastically changed. Around the time of 27, which was my full-length on Milled Pavement, my biggest influences were Project Blowed, Vincent Gallo, and Black Flag. It's worth noting that I had a lot of melodic beats on my old releases, but the new stuff is harsh, aggressive, noisy, and Industrial. Ironically, I feel a lot less inner turmoil these days. I didn't care if I lived or died around the time of 27. My new music has been a very cathartic way to release demons and keep my mind on the positive things in life.

BRZOWSKI: These three songs I contributed are about "Flesh," in one form or another. It was refreshing to put together a suite of material about a specific topic handled a few different ways than the ENMITYVILLE album or the Vinyl Cape material, which are meant to be taken as far-reaching Grand Inquisitions. There are connective tissues to the past, of course. I touched on the topic of "Flesh" on the 2009 7-inch, [Your] Phantom Limb, and I rapped a dead writer's words on "Notes from Baudelaire" on the Vinyl Cape Veneficium 7-inch... "The Conqueror Worm" on this tape is an Edgar Allan Poe poem.

III. I understand BRZOWSKI & MC Homeless are heading out together on a 6-date DIG 2 GRAVES 2018 Fall Tour. Now, is this your first time touring together?

MC Homeless: This is news to me! I have a job working with dogs full time that is very fulfilling, but unfortunately, doesn't allow for much time to tour. I prefer my nice, quiet life, but also being involved in the Rap community on a local level. I throw Homeless House [shows] each month, which is a totally DIY showcase we hold in different people's living rooms. Bushwick Bill of The Geto Boys even played my old house. Kool Keith is my ultimate goal, but really, it's a nice gathering of friends and something to bring people together. It's been a huge success!

BRZOWSKI: Oh, actually, that's just me, solo, doing a series of spot-dates, as I do every Fall. We WILL be playing the 1-year anniversary of Homeless House in Austin late September, as a "release party," of sorts.

IV. How exactly did this release end up in your hands, Damien, and ultimately, released on your label, I Had An Accident (IHAA) Records? Especially, since BRZOWSKI & MC Homeless are both signed to/affiliated with Milled Pavement Records?

MC Homeless: I wouldn't, necessarily, say I am "signed" to any label, but I do feel an affiliation to Moshe, BRZO, and The Milled Pavement family. I have also, worked with DIY Bandits and have stuff in-the-works with Fake Four & Audio Recon. Also, super-important to me is my own personal brand, Rust Belt Hammer. RBH is basically, me. I released a full-length movie that screened theatrically, a video collage of VHS footage, cassette tapes from Punk bands, had a website with extensive articles, and do multiple podcasts all under the banner of "Rust Belt Hammer."

Damien Miller: Me & BRZOWSKI have been discussing doing a release, now for over a year, a question of timing was the biggest barrier, but finally we were able to connect and set everything up and get it started. Really excited to finally get this project out! We, actually, should have the tapes within the next week or so; they went into production today.

BRZOWSKI: *chiming in* Damien & I have been talking for so long about doing a project together, over a year. I have [had] a great home with Milled Pavement Records since 2006, but that does not mean I'm barred from releasing music with different people that are interested in working with me. I'm glad IHAA+MP could both handle an aspect (tape vs. digital) of this release. I'm a fan of what IHAA has been doing over the years. I knew it was only a matter of the stars and schedules aligning.

V. What might each of you site as some of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence on your side of DIG 2 GRAVES? I instantly recognized a jarring difference between ENMITYVILLE (2017) and BRZOWSKI's side of the split!

MC Homeless: "Dead Rappers" is a collaboration with Chris Conde and for me the influence comes from Extreme Metal music, like Venom, plus, 1970's & 80's Horror films mixed with braggadocios 90's Rap. It's kind of accidentally a Horrorcore song. "Annie Lennox" & "I Am The Wind" take some inspiration from Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Lil' Wayne, and Myka9 of Freestyle Fellowship. Funny combo, right? There is also, some cinematic influence on "I Am The Wind." I took some inspiration from Alejandro Jodorowsky. "Manimal" is influenced by Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, and Nitzer Ebb.

BRZOWSKI: Honestly, I feel like the "BRZO" side of this release is just a natural exploration hewn from the sounds and concepts that have been deployed on the last few records I've been a part of. Exploring new topical ground, this time around with more melody and 70's influence, which has not really cropped up as clearly-voiced on "solo" record from me before. Matt, what are you hearing as a jarring difference? I may be too close to the project to hear the divergence.

The Witzard: I just meant "jarring" in a sense, whereas this being the second release I've heard of yours, EMNITYVILLE & DIG 2 GRAVES just seem so different, when compared against each other; equally great, but just cut from different cloths. Catch my drift, homie? The "BRZO" Side of DIG 2 GRAVES just seems so much less harsh and abrasive and even less Hip-Hop overall. Dare I say, it even sounds upbeat? lol. It's great and I very much look forward to hearing where your music progresses sonically post-DIG 2 GRAVES!

VI. In addition to BRZOWSKI & MC Homeless, who else contributed to DIG 2 GRAVES? I noticed a few familiar names within IHAA's "liner notes" on Bandcamp, as well as a number of names I'm not entirely familiar with?

80HRTZ: I—Dennis Faria, otherwise known as 80HRTZ—produced one track on BRZOWSKI's side.

MC Homeless: Besides the Chris Conde verse, my side is mixed and recorded by Chris Boasso. C Money mastered both sides and Death Woods produced all of my jams.

BRZOWSKI: Renée Coolbrith is an amazing vocalist from Maine, whom C$ and I have had the pleasure of working with a few times in the past on BRZO, Vinyl Cape, and C$-driven material. Always a pleasure to hear her angelic tones over the material we present... this time, on an 80HRTZ beat, which she was perfect for. The laser-precise Mo Niklz of Fake Four Inc./Vinyl Cape contributes turntables to "The Conqueror Worm" and The Asthmatic is another local legend in the outré Portland, ME music ecology. Asthmatic has some of the most original and Experimental music/live performances I've ever heard/witnessed being made in the state. C$ is working on behind the boards their debut solo album... I'm excited for it to come out!

VII. Who produced the tracks contained within Side 1: BRZOWSKI & Side 2: MC Homeless of DIG 2 GRAVES? How did said producers initially get involved in this project?

80HRTZ: I produced the second track on BRZOWSKI's side titled "Cemetery Rose." I've known Jay (BRZOWSKI) for many years and have sent him probably 100 beats by now, but he showed immediate interest in this beat, when I sent it to him in 2013. He even kept the title I gave the beat and built off it. As far as how I became involved in this project is Uncle BRZO turning my instrumental into a dope song that fit perfectly into what he was building, I suppose.

MC Homeless: Death Woods is my exclusive guy on this one. He will eat your soul.

C$ Burns: BRZO & I produced "The New Flesh" & "The Conqueror Worm," credited as Vinyl Cape. I played baritone guitar and bass on both. We're generally working on a pool of material for several projects at once—BRZO's solo stuff, Vinyl Cape, some of my projects, some one-offs, soundtracks, and collaborations—and these two tracks came from some demo beats BRZO had been making from Horror movie soundtrack samples. We started with five tracks for our side, but these two tracks fit the best with "Cemetery Rose" and ended up being one of our most melodic, organic-sounding sets of songs yet.

BRZOWSKI: I'm spoiled by working with these mega-talents. I rarely seek to work with anyone else these days, truthfully. It's rare to be such good friends with your co-creators and I'm thankful.

VIII. Who exactly is "Death Woods" from MC Homeless' side of DIG 2 GRAVES? I've heard rumblings they are, in fact, K Death from Moodie Black; although, when I recently reached out to K Death, she denied she was "Death Woods" or had any involvement in this very project...

MC Homeless: Death Woods was not available for this interview, as he lives in the woods and is a bringer of death, as his name implies. He has zero social media presence and may or may not even have a phone. Very dangerous and elusive fellow. Don't ask him to produce your sh*t, you won't find him. I can assure you that Death Woods has NEVER even heard of Moodie Black. K Death/Moodie Black produced my whole upcoming EP called Sex & Death, so maybe, some people are confused. She didn't touch this release, though. They both just have an Industrial edge to their beats, but I can spot a Moodie Black beat pretty easily; very distinct, heavy sound. Death Woods is more spastic and crazy. That's why every song on my side of the cassette sounds different.

IX. What made you decide to re-emerge from a six year-long self-imposed sabbatical period, subsequent hiatus, and "retirement" from rapping for this specific release, MC Homeless?

MC Homeless: I have been involved in the Punk scene on and off for my whole life, but I just got sick of their gossipy, high school, cliquey ways. It's a scene full of people who are too afraid to have thoughts that differ from the pack or fall out of line with the herd mentality. They believe whatever they read on The Internet and severely lack critical thinking skills. Come to think of it, sounds like I'm describing a Trump voter. They have more in common than they think. Seems scathing or like I'm bitter, but I'm not. It's just the truth and some people are hurt by the truth, when it affects their social identity.

This doesn't apply to everyone, of course! Look, things go in cycles and it was time to move on, so here I am. I was burnt out on Hip-Hop for years and knew that if I were to ever return, it would be with a completely different approach and vision, both musically and aesthetically. It happened pretty naturally. It wasn't just for this cassette. I'm being myself without having to force sh*t or act like someone I'm not. It was a physical and emotional need for release. I had a sound in my head and needed to find the producers who could lay down the foundation for that sound. That's where Moodie Black & Death Woods came in. They provide a great canvas for my paint.

X. Now, following the imminent release of DIG 2 GRAVES, do any of the involved artists have any immediate or future plans to work together again in any specific facet?

80HRTZ: Well, I will continue to work with BRZOWSKI as long as the two of us are still making music. And every time I do work with Jay, I kinda work with Chris (C$ Burns) as well through his post-production. He's super-good at what he does. I've never directly worked with him in creating a piece of music, but I certainly would love too! He's a beast of a musician and one of a kind. I'm game to work with any of the talented G's involved on both sides of this project! Who knows what the future will bring?

MC Homeless: Maybe, we could star in a buddy sitcom together.

C$ Burns: BRZO & I are still actively writing and recording Vinyl Cape material for future release and are generally, always working on either that material or BRZO solo music, which includes a decent amount of 80HRTZ beats. Dennis & I have never worked together directly, but I love all the material he supplies us with and am grateful for the amount of trust he has in us to work on his creations from afar. I write a ton on my own and occasionally, release the better/less terrible parts under a few project names: KENNY ❖ LOGIN, MAXX LEGROOM, ELEVATOR HOTELS, and C Money Burns.

BRZOWSKI: Well, I have at least three more songs in various stages of completion with 80HRTZ, over 12 already recorded with C$ for solo/VC or C$ releases... and the machine keeps rolling on. I don't like to divulge details, but there is a lot on deck already for 2019 from the three of us (80, C$ & I) in different projects and configurations. Personally, it's an exciting time to be working with other motivated people at the peak of their powers.

Homeless & I are way overdue to make some songs and I like the idea of a "buddy sitcom" or maybe, a satirical "buddy cop" movie, where we are both terrible people... like real contemporary cops, but with zombies or vampire/aliens running the world... like the regular real world. Hmmm, I guess, I'll need to go back to the the drawing board on this.

XI. I know MC Homeless recently released a Joseph Ramirez-directed video for "Dead Rappers" with San Antonio-based Queer emcee Chris Conde... but are there any immediate plans for any more music videos or anything of that nature planned for DIG 2 GRAVES release roll-out?

MC Homeless: I actually, co-directed, co-edited, and conceptualized that whole video with Joseph. I probably won't do another video for a while. We gave it our everything.

BRZOWSKI: I don't like to talk about things that aren't completely finished and in my possession, so... hard maybe, as far as future video treatments for this project are concerned.

XII. What are each you favorite songs/moments from the side of DIG 2 GRAVES you WERE NOT personally involved in creating and why?

80HRTZ: Well, since I've only heard the two songs from the pre-release—aside from the rough cuts of "Cemetery Rose"—I have to say "Dead Rappers"!!! BRZO, WHERE'S MY CARE PACKAGE? Haha! Yeah, this joint's dope! MC Homeless & Chris Conde both have dope verses and the beat is sick and is suspiciously produced in the style of K Death of Moodie Black fame, who I'm a fan of. So, whether it's [her] or not... Death Woods, keep it up! Love it!

MC Homeless: "The New Flesh" is pretty awesome. Not to blow up your spot BRZO, but is that a Videodrome (1983) reference? The beat reminds me of Goblin or John Carpenter, so you really can't go wrong there.

C$ Burns: The moment in "I Am The Wind" where Homeless says, "coming down the mountain with a snake around my neck..." It's the first track of his new batch of music that I heard since 27 on Milled Pavement. There's something about how he says it, where it's funny and dead serious, at the same time and I think it perfectly expresses his confident new direction and mindset. I instantly knew all the other tracks were going to be super-different than any of his earlier stuff—both musically and lyrically—and it was even better than I had hoped. "Goth Rap Super-star" indeed.

BRZOWSKI: I'm in awe of the amount of talent packed into this brief release, truly. It takes 20 people to make a record like happen and people like Damien to believe in and place some gusto behind it, to give it legs. Put generally, I'm enjoying the re-imagining and re-invention of "MC Homeless" as a whole entity—from the aesthetics, to the jarring lyrics, to the delivery and beat selection. He's a new iteration and maybe, a truer manifestation of the music he always wanted to make and that is a difficult and admirable undertaking.

"The New Flesh" is a kaleidoscope of rapid-fire imagery, definitely, a nod to Videodrome, Deleuze, and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus, "The New French Extremity" movement, Hellraiser nods, all stretched over some loudly retro 70's Horror soundtrack vibes... a real party jam for the ages, you folks know how I roll! *laughter and spilled coffee*

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