Give the uninitiated a brief introduction of who you are, what you do, and where you live.
My name is Jason Cornell, aka “BRZOWSKI”. I am an artist, musician, and promoter who lives and works in Portland, ME. I was born in Providence RI in 1980.
You were on tour in Europe. Give us a brief itinerary and highlights.
The European jaunt with myself and Moshe was an idea that we had been kicking around for some time, and once we had solidified some contacts, that have since become friends (through MilledPavement Records, as well as a few moonlighting spots we respectively played on the “Our Accents Sure Are Pretty Tour”), we decided now was the time. We both have releases geared to the European market coming up, and it just seemed the timing was right. It was a bit of an experiment in “sustainability”, so we kept it brief. Ten shows in 12 days, France and Germany, set up mostly by friends. We are already planning on going back… the touring lifestyle is a bit of an addiction that needs to be fed. A rough night on the road beats a great day at “work” in every way imaginable.
Trier, Berlin, Lemans, Ferme de Mauriac (outside of Villefranches) were definitely all highlights, but the greatest pleasure was meeting friends, artists, and fans every night that we had communicated with for years on the intertubes.
Like Woe was just released somewhat recently… tell us some ideas you had working on the album and elaborate on working with fellow Portland artist Moshe.
Well, Moshe and I are both known for our “dark” sensibilities, him w/ sparse, bleak beats, and myself for self-destructive autobiography, so we just decided to make some dark, arguably catchy, tracks. This is what the fans would have expected, so we gave it full bore. It also includes the most “pop” song either of us has ever done, in “Dog Called Cirrhosis”. The hilarity inherent, is that the song is still bleak in its outlook on trading time for labor, work-a-day drudgery, our “fake” economy, and so forth. The EP was written, produced, recorded, mixed and mastered in 14 days or so, and initially just going to be a tour CD, but as it was coming together, we both realized that we wanted to take the project a step further. It is easily the fastest either of us have ever created songs, together or otherwise. We are usually slow as a glacier at creating, and unbelievably nit-picky, hence the plethora of guest spots and compilations where our names crop up, but not so in the “Official Solo Release” column. The immediacy is refreshing for my process.
You have some vinyl coming out, soon too? Tell us!
Ah, yessir. I have been touring with some regularity with H.W. and Shane Blakemore (both from Massachusetts) for the past 3 years or so, and have a working relationship with them and Delusional Records extending back at least 5 years. Last year H.W. and I had a bit of a brainstorm to do a split 7-inch, with myself on one side, and a bit of a Delusional Records “showcase” on the other. It will be limited to 300 copies on white vinyl, and includes a download card to grab the digital version. It will not be available as a straight up digi or CD release until the physicals are long gone. I am seriously attempting to maintain the “objecthood” of making records/CDs. Tom Brown, who did the Like Woe artwork handles my side of the sleeve… it looks super metal.
Tell us about the Blooddrive series.
The Blooddrive series is essentially a repository for collaborations, guest spots, compilation tracks, remixes, and “lost” verses. This way, all of the collabos from a given time period can be found in one place.There are no official digital versions of them at present and I intend to keep it that way. When I was younger I would collect certain artists ravenously and snap up every record they appeared on, only to find that they would be compiled and repackaged later. I would feel slightly wronged by these releases (by finding that I was no longer the keeper of “secret” songs), but now i guess I’ve become that asshole! Blooddrive Vol. 3 will be released late 2010 by 2-99 Records, out of Russia, who just released Moshe’s Thinning The Herd album, and handled “compiled” projects from Awol, Epic, Subtitle, and Existereo. I’m pretty amped on the release, it’s goon-deep and diverse, in so far as styles, beats, and guests are concerned.
What are some upcoming releases we can check from you? Contact info?
- The 7-inch will be available March 27th from circleintosquare.com and others to be announced.
- 1000 Crooked Miles Tour (US + Canada dates) w/ BRZOWSKI, Jesse Dangerously, Moshe, and H.W. in May 2010 [Including Saskatoon & Calgary]
- For a complete list of upcoming performances, please visit myspace.com/brzowski
- Facebook: facebook.com/pages/BRZOWSKI/172588563858
- Twitter: twitter.com/brzowskimusic
- For past and present releases: milledpavement.com/brzowski.html
- For additional info on Delusional records: delusionalrecords.com
I hear you’re a visual artist… how often do you get a chance to work on painting and how does it contrast with what you do musically?
I work on painting whenever I am offered a show or project. I don’t have a regular studio practice, in the normal sense. I constantly sketch and collect ideas, but dig in and paint when a deadline presents itself. My educational background is in visual art, Painting and Art History specifically. In the next year or two I would like to integrate my art and music a bit more, a la Thesis, Agent 8, or Awol, but I’d rather make art related to someone else’s music. It feels like talking to myself if I try to create an image to match my lyrics. My visual work is cartoony, and laced with more humor than my music. It is more cerebral and less emotive and brooding than my writing tends to be.
I also hear you like metal and hardcore. How have more abrasive sounds influenced your hip-hop projects?
When writing, I listen to non-hip-hop music. I don’t want to inadvertently regurgitate something culled from the same genre-cluster and so I’ll listen to music that gives me the same feeling as the one I want to convey lyrically in a “hip hop” format. Sometimes that influence will be Type O Negative, Amebix, Waylon Jennings… I’m a sucker for things that sound urgent, whether they be aggressive, progressive, or pop-oriented. I tend to gravitate to powerful riffs, melodies (or flagrant lack-there-of) and hooks.
What should people expect at one of your live shows?
Sweat, rapping, singing, good-natured aggression, alcohol, and poor taste disguised as humor.
How is the Portland, Maine music scene organized? I hear you live with some doom metal overlords.
In a city of 64,000 we have at least 250 bands/artists gigging regularly, all competing for the same 10 stages, plus national acts rolling through almost every night. It can be tough when booking, because someone that would come see your alt-country band may skip your gig to check out the metal show that night. Some of the best shows I’ve ever played in town are on mixed-genre bills. People have wide-ranging taste, which is admirable for a small hipster burg at the southernmost tip of the “Mississippi of the North” (no disrespect to my southern homies). I live with Candy Carlson, who sings and plays guitar for uber-slow doom metal band Ocean. If megalithic doom metal is your thing, check these guys out. Candy doesn’t realize how huge his band is in that scene, which is refreshing. I have metal bands at my apartment as often as rappers and dj’s. Occasionally both stay on the same night and the party gets interesting…
What things should an out-of-towner check out while in Portland?
Hmm. Seafood (I know it’s cliché, but the seafood you can buy off the wharf is so fresh, you could probably resuscitate it.) Strange Maine, which is an oddball little store w/ Nintendo games, records, tapes, and a lot of opportunities for breathing dust. The We Push Buttons and Beat Happening electronic monthly events,The Green Hand is a great cheap used bookstore, and also houses the International Cryptozoology Museum. Sanctuary Tattoo and Gallery, Whitney art Works, Phoenix Magazine, The Bollard Magazine, WMPG radio, the Spinout show on WCYY radio, The Portland Music Foundation’s music industry seminars, Geno’s Rock Club, The Big Easy’s hip hop night every Wednesday (hosted by my comrades Sandbag) and the vibe of a tight-knit creative community… at least in the Arts District.
As an artist what does the term sustainability mean to you?
Well, speaking as an artist, I would like sustainability to mean that one can eke out an existence solely based on finances gained through the sale and exploitation of one’s creative output. This is, in my experience over the last 15 years in the “creative economy”, increasingly rare. I can count on my fingers the number of visual artists/writers/musicians (that I am friendly with) that fit this definition.
Sustainability, in turn, has come to mean that it does not COST an individual to engage in the creative economy. That is to say, as much revenue comes back as is paid in. Hitting that mark, in of itself, can be considered a feat. Ask anyone that has attended an art school and paid for it with loans.
Are things getting better for the underground emcee in terms of sustainability?
Things are getting better for myself and for some people who have been doing it for a while. It took me 10 years of doing music seriously until I could tour and turn a profit. If I was more grounded in fundamentalist materialism or mired in responsibility, I’m sure I would have deduced that giving up and being a hobbyist was a good idea. The “leveling of the playing field” that took place with home recording, social networking sites, and rampant piracy hurt as many artists as it helped. For example, anyone can throw some flash on their Myspace, buy a bot to add friends, and boom, they look as legit as someone who has been sweating it out and paying dues forever… at first glance, if not first listen. DIY/Independent can be a double-edged sword, for certain. It always blows my mind when an acquaintance/fan/friend will inquire “so, do you LIVE off this shit?” It’s flattering when people think that may be the case. My creativity sustains itself, but my bills need some elbow grease.
Why is the front door to your house constantly unlocked?
That would be because my downstairs neighbors leave it open to offer convenient access to the steady stream of sketchy shitbags who need to buy… whatever. The resident(s) are too lazy to get up and open the door each time. Who needs exercise when you have contraband in demand?
What are you plans for the next five years?
Stay healthy, find homes for my upcoming projects, a ton of touring, ceasing diplomacy when unwarranted, and then likely getting my ass back to college to get some letters after my name. Oh yeah, and I’ve been considering quitting smoking. Again.