I haven’t done many interviews for this band and the ones I have done have not included the dread(ed/ful) question about my influences, but it’s such a common question that it’s bound to happen eventually, so I’m just gonna go ahead and address it now.
Nothing. Or everything. Actually, it’s more accurate to say a little bit of both.
The whole thing doesn’t really matter or make sense to me. I have never intended to mimic any band or musician, never thought “I wanna be in a band that sounds like (some other band)”, never gone out of my way to sound like anybody. I have used known bands as comparisons to convey an idea- I wrote about my first band, the Impediments, here once and said “I wanted to sound like the Replacements getting drunk and covering Sonic Youth” or words to that effect, but that was me attempting to explain the sound I was after twenty-odd years later. I didn’t say that at the time.
I have, at times, thought that what I was doing at that moment seemed like a combination of other bands. There’s one BDSR title that I thought sounded like a mix of Pussy Galore and Acid Mothers Temple, but only kinda because that combination would actually sound like the Royal Trux magnum opus Twin Infinitives, not like the skuzzy, fuzzy slab I came up with. More than one person has mentioned what they thought was an Acid Mothers Temple influence, which I don’t see at all unless it’s just the frenzied and over-long guitar attack. Actually, AMT guitarist/frontman Makoto Kawabata is 100X the guitar-slinger I am. I’d give my hands to be able to play guitar like that yellow dwarf star. Furthermore, I was overdoing guitar shred before I heard AMT – part of what I like about them is that they do what I naturally and independently did, but they do it better. That’s true of a lot of bands that I like – I was doing something and then discovered somebody else who was doing almost the same thing so I started listening to them more.
Of course, I’ve used other people’s riffs and made some attempt to sound like them and sometimes it works. More often, the end result sounds nothing like the original which is why no one has ever mentioned the Black Sabbath, Rivieras and/or Norman Greenbaum riffs buried in some tracks. Some may assume that my use of a riff – played or sampled – indicates my fondness for the musician who wrote it. Nope. Not necessarily. I have and will use material by people I like, don’t like, don’t care about one way or another whenever it suits my need. Obviously though, I have to be familiar with music before I can think to steal it. And I am more likely to use stuff I dig.
I’ve been hearing music for forty-four years. I’ve been soaking it up. It all exists in my grey matter somehow. I could run this thing to over 2000 words just by listing the bands and musicians I’m familiar with off the top of my head, but I’m not going to because it seems somewhat pointless. There have been some noteworthy musical moments.
When I was fifteen, I heard the Sex Pistols and it blew my mind. After “Holidays In The Sun”, I knew things had changed. I didn’t become a punk, though. What the Sex Pistols showed me was that there were worlds of music that I’d never heard and that all I had to do to find them was to dig just under the surface. Within months, I’d found Black Flag, the Velvet Underground, Camper Van Beethoven, Sonic Youth, Hüsker Dü, R.E.M., Einstürzende Neubauten, Christ only knows what else. Free jazz, extreme noise, old-time country, country blues, grebo and all the rest came later.
Bongwater and Gaye Bykers On Acid maybe opened my eyes some to the possibilities of sampling. Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music certainly impressed me with its uncompromising commitment to a ridiculous idea – anybody familiar with the BDSR catalog should be able to name at least one thing there that shows similar determination. Albert Ayler incorporated well-known melodies and riffs into his free-form freakouts, which seems like an obvious thing to do, but which blew minds and heated tempers in the late ‘60’s free jazz scene.
I listen to a lot of world music and old American folk stuff. I’m sure that stuff has wormed into my brain and somehow slips out, but I don’t hear it in BDSR. Actually, there are some Bukka White and Uncle Dave Macon samples on some things and an unreleased cover of Charlie Patton’s “I’m Goin’ Home”, but those don’t sound anything like the original works.
Then, there’s also the nonmusical influences. I was a visual artist before I started working with sound. Recently, I started focusing on ink/watercolor work, but for years I was known around the various local art venues as a collage artist. Collage certainly figures in BDSR. I’m just as incapable of citing influences in the visual arts as in the musical, but I really dig a wide range of styles there as well. Albrect Durer was fucking great. Norman Rockwell, Nick Blinko, Henry Darger, Hieronymus Bosch, Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollack. I’m not a huge fan of surrealism or modernism, but I love dada and fluxus. None of those artists or movements are apparent in my work, but I’m sure they all influenced both my visual and musical works.
The various religions of the world have shaped me as a human being and changed my life trajectory so they can’t be counted out as far as influences are concerned. The drugs I took and the fact that I don’t anymore played a part. The women who convinced me that I’d be happier being single and spending my evenings recording, mixing, drawing and painting must be influences. Coffee – black blood – has made it all possible, but I guess certain selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors deserve credit, too.
There’s also the fact that I work with other people and welcome their input. I’m going to be doing BDSR for a long time; I’ll have plenty of opportunity to indulge my quirks and foibles, so it makes sense to me to exploit those of my cohorts while they’re around. I read a review of a show recently that compared BDSR to Bitch’s Brew-era Miles Davis. It was an old review that I just found out about. I think I had the trumpet for that show and two of the people I was playing with then – Love Buzzard and JuJu “Dallas” Sweetlime – had jazzy backgrounds, so I could kinda sorta maybe see how someone with not much knowledge about jazz could get Bitch’s Brew from it, but not really. Ascension, maybe, but not Bitch’s Brew. I’ve never really dug Miles much. I really enjoyed the jazzish elements Love and “Dallas” brought to the mix, but they’ve departed for greener pastures. The people I expect to play at the house show we’ve got next week are not jazzy. Even if I take the trumpet – I will – it won’t be comparable to Bitch’s Brew. In all honesty, I doubt that that performance really sounded Milesy; the guy who wrote that had probably been listening to Bitch’s Brew and it was the first thing he thought of. I suspect that happens frequently. Certainly, that would explain how/why BDSR gets compared to bands that I never heard of or at least never really listened to. It is quite fine with me if reviewers compare BDSR to other bands. That is an almost necessary tool for describing a band and I appreciate it when people project their own tastes, values and whatever onto my artistic products, musical or visual.
There’s also the fact that I read somewhat voraciously about experimental music et al. and I can be interested in a band’s process and start to think along those lines without ever hearing that band. I’ve read about numerous bands that fit the basic description of BDSR: improvisational, shambolic, chaotic, with a semi-open membership policy. There have been countless such bands over the years, but most of them managed to avoid being recorded and nobody ever heard of the few that did. I’ve heard a few of those off-beat, free-form combos –Amon Düül, Anima Sound, Taj Mahal Travelers, No-Neck Blues Band – but many, many more I’ve only read about. One band that I can see people comparing BDSR to is the Residents, a band I've read numerous articles about and for whom I have great respect and admiration, but whose music I've somehow never gotten around to listening to.
So, what it comes down to is: I don’t plan on citing influences. There are by far too many individuals, organizations, entities and avatars behind the scenes and in the woodwork which have and will influenced the progression of BDSR for me to suss out any one or few for special mention and I am loathe to do so.
Besides, if I was to make a statement like “The Big Drum In The Sky Religion is my own attempt to channel the wonderful sounds of Raymond Scott”, everyone would know immediately how far short of the mark I’ve fallen and that would be embarrassing.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.