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September 7, 2011


Brzowski - A Fitful Sleep
It’s been a while since we checked in with Portland emcee Brzowski. He just dropped a dope new album called A Fitful Sleep that is out now through Milled Pavement. Brzowski talks about the new album and recording process. And yes, the goat’s head is real.

What was the motivation behind this album?

I have been stacking “a-sides” for years now, as my creative process can be glacially slow. Each time i demo-ed out a song that was of a certain quality, and had underlying themes gravitating around a sort of “manic frustration”, I put it in the “Fitful” folder, and let it marinate. The album is really addressing the series of sacrifices, stresses and mistakes that someone confronts when trying to make one’s way in the world of the “creative economy”. I wanted to make an album I could stand on for a while, with the somewhat smug notion that this next solo project would be the one that sets a high-water mark for myself in particular, and my stab at a mile-marker for progressive/experimental hip hop in general. Something I could stand on and be proud of if I got struck by lightning tomorrow. This is a fairly lofty (and self-important) goal, considering it is now the fashion to release 64 albums a year, and little of the material is actually properly digested, processed, and internalized by the listening audience…because they are already wanting the NEXT thing, and musicians are all too happy to oblige. Artists are changing their output to match the appetite of their listeners, and so I feel like a lot of music has grown ever more disposable. There were initially 18 songs, and from those the 12 that comprise the album were culled. I’m into the reductive process of selecting songs for an album. I started with 18 songs and ended up with 12.

What are some aspects of the album writing/recording/editing process that were memorable?

Well that is sort of strange to address, in that the album was done spread out over a few years. The memories of writing and recording have intertwined with the Like Woe and Songs For Marty EP’s, and the tours, and the mixtapes, and all the life experience that happened concurrently. The most memorable moment was receiving the mixes from Agent 8 via snail mail from the backwoods of Vermont. My brain nearly aneurysmed from the feeling of having the thing finished, as once the album was done it took around eight months of agonizing waiting to get the post-production into my hands. There were some real-life issues that needed to be dealt with in priority, and so it took an aeon. I could have had someone else handle it, but since 8 was there from the beginning it would not have felt right to have someone else get in it.

How would you describe the album to others both independent of and relative to your prior work?

This album is the sound of an introspective megalomaniac pushing against the times. Recaall described this record as a growth OUT OF the sacred, as in “away from”, and not growth “from the sacred”. The opposite of granola…abandoning altruism in favor of abject realism. I’ve evolved from the dreaming idealistic young man into a bit of a profane nihilistic curmudgeon. Worldliness will make a cynical cliche of us all. As difficult as that sounds in terms of concept, the album, is no where near as dramatically dark as MaryShelley… or Like Woe…this one is more of an honest self-and-environs appraisal. One can never be sure if what you intend will come out upon a few listens.

In terms of nuts and bolts, I sing more, rap a bit slower, handled some of the production, and played a fair amount of guitars on this record. Stylistically I’ve grown less concerned with what the perception of the song will be and make the weird mongrel of styles and genres I’ve been hearing in my head. I definitely feel like I’ve found my voice again in a new way, and that this is not a “variation-on-a-tried-and-true-theme” project. People that can replicate themselves in that way border dangerously close to self-parody.


How did you decide to move towards more singing on your releases?

I’ve been singing in bands since 1994, when I was a just a little shit with plaid pants, and its always been a preferred pastime of mine. It just seemed more natural to sing a grip of the choruses as opposed to rapping them. Most “hip hop” hooks bore me into submission, and so making the hook count was something I’ve put some extra emphasis on in the last few years.

What do you think brought about your more nihilistic proclivities?

Well, I think I’ve been taking out frustration concerning my lot in life on myself (lyrically and otherwise) for a while, and sort of moved back into the punk-rock realm of “I may be broken, but so are you, and so is everything else”. I’m no longer navel-gazing in a vacuum, I’m looking around at others, the decisions they make, and how the whole social strata involved are affected. Our ideals, machines, institutions, and as a result our society, families, relationships, and selves, are all outmoded and rendered non-functional. This is the joy of being an “unmarketable” creative producer in the death throes of Late Capitalism. Nihilism is one possible outcome of an analyzed contemporary experience. We need a new game, or “artists” need to learn trades, or use their dusty degrees in a more traditional sense…or be starved into compliance and retail work.

What formats will the album be released on and where?

There will 2 two physical versions on cd (Advance Edition in a sleeve, a digipak standard version), and a digital version… each physical version contains two different unlisted bonus tracks.

What is your relationship to Milled Pavement?

Milled Pavement is a small label based in Portland, Maine founded by Moshe in 2003. Myself, Nomar Slevik, A-Frame, Mike Clouds and Moshe are the only original members based in Maine that are still affiliated. Moshe handles the website and digital distribution business, and I tend to handle the “public relations” end, kissing hands, shaking babies, booking regional tour-stops for our traveling artists+allies, and handle street-teaming and MP merchandising. I will be handling a bit of “executive-production” on the new C $ Burns record, because i really want people to get to know this cat, and I think it needs to be presented a certain way to introduce him properly. As one of Milled Pavement’s touring acts (with Moshe, Crunk Witch, MC Homeless, Zoen, Ira Lee, etc.), I’m always trying to further our collective identity, and spread the word about our catalog of well-curated obscurities. We do small physical runs and have wide-ranging digital distro, with artists that are bringing something fresh to the table, musically. Find something you love to do, and you will work every day of your life.

Anyone you would like to acknowledge who was a part of A Fitful Sleep?

Moshe, C Money Burns, Agent 8, DJ Halo, Todd Richard, Beatmo- all made the behind-the-scenes machinery run. You need a team behind the curtain, because nobody can handle all the details and nuance themselves. I owe these people .

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’ll be pumping this release from home for the end of the summer, and then getting back into all manner of motorized transport to do some road work. I hope to see some familiar faces out there. Thanks so much to you and UGS for listening — And a BIG shout out to ALL the Canadian friends — I hope to see you all soon.


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