Ready, Steady, Go: A Chat with The Disco Biscuits’ Marc Brownstein

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2010 has been a major year for The Disco Biscuits. Touting such accomplishments as ranking #5 on Billboard’s Heatseeker chart with their latest release Planet Anthem, having 15,000 people show up at Camp Bisco 9, and crossing over and out of clubs and into some of the coveted "sheds" across the country to perform their live shows, these veterans of the jam scene are doing anything but going away. Throughout it all, one thing has never wavered nor has it ever been in question. That one thing is their love for their fans. So when they offered to give up some free tickets to their upcoming Halloween show to a couple of our readers, we were not surprised.

 

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As will be shown in the following exchange with bassist, Marc Brownstein, 2011 looks like it may just top 2010 as The Disco Biscuits continue to integrate new sounds into what is already a genre spanning repertoire. From Perez Hilton to beats per minute and Marc’s love of talking, Brownstein provides the evidence to support what we all already knew: The Disco Biscuits will continue to provide thrilling soundscapes that spawn unparalleled musical and ass shaking journeys for the foreseeable future.

Honest Tune: So, Marc.

Marc Brownstein: So, Dave, I hear that Dylan Tracy won a ticket to Halloween. He lives up in Montana or something and he has taken a lot of crap on my Facebook page. I am a big Dylan Tracy supporter. He doesn’t get to see too many shows because of location so I hope he is able to come.

HT: Yeah and he won with this question: When do you think that we will actually [find out] Allen’s true identity? Do you think he will be going full robot or do you think that he will be Terminator style with the robot insides and the red eye showing?

MB: (Laughs) Hilarious! I am going to say full robot. When he fully decides to come out, it will be full blown robot. It is funny because Allen (Aucoin) and I were talking last night in the studio. I was like "look man, I wrote this new song and there is this drum beat in it and you are going to hear it and it is going to be very straight. Like there is no swing in it whatsoever. I don’t want there to be any swing in it. I am looking for something completely computerized sounding- I want it to sound like it came off of a computer. So he turns to me and says "full robot, I got it!" (Laughs) So I am like "great, let’s do it" and he did and killed it right away.

HT: Charlton Griffith asks: Why does Brownie get to do all of the talking? I mean that in the best way possible. I love Mark to death and I get it, but I am sure there are inquiring minds that want to know what other people have to say.

MB: (Laughs) Man, it is free speech, know what I mean? If they want to say whatever, they can say it. All I can say is this: If you say something and if you’re comfortable enough as a public figure to talk about your opinion, you might get hated on for it by some people because there is nothing I can say that everybody is going to agree with. There is no comment that I can make publically that everyone is going to agree with.

When you are in this kind of a world, a lot of people just don’t like to say anything. You know, the safe thing to do is to just be quiet and not say anything. That is why Derek Jeter became the classy figure that he is and why A-Rod became the polarizing figure that he is. They are both great players but A-Rod talks a lot and I am like A-Rod. I talk a lot and half of the people think that what I say is moronic and sometimes they are right. But I like to communicate, particularly with fans.

Barber can speak, Allen doesn’t know how, and Aron can speak and does from time to time, but they are probably smart in doing so and just keeping their mouth shut.

biscuits-(7).jpgHT: It is engaging, and I and many others appreciate the interactions and some of the stuff that you guys and you particularly have been involved with like HeadCount – that does need somebody who is willing to get out there, speak their mind, not fear the consequences, and let the results fall where they may.

MB: It’s funny Dave, you just reminded me of something funny. HeadCount did a Jay-Z PSA last week and it got picked up by hundreds and hundreds of media outlets. I only went to one to look at it and it was at Perez Hilton. So I went over to Perez Hilton to see the video and to see what Andy (Bernstein, HeadCount Exec. Director) said on Perez and it was the funniest thing that I have seen recently in terms of an artist getting bashed.

Jay-Z, you know, is an outspoken and here he is on stage talking about how "we changed the world" or whatever. We kind of usurped his message and put it into a PSA and brought it to him and got it approved so that we can go put it out there. Basically all he is saying is that we changed the world with the election in 2008. I implore everyone to go and look at the comments on Perez Hilton underneath Jay-Z speaking. This is Jay-Z now choosing to speak up, ok? Jay-Z is the greatest figure in American hip-hop in the last decade. He is possibly the largest pop star in the country and it made me laugh so much when I read the comments because as a musician, it is nothing for me to hear "Shut the fuck up Brownie" (laughs). I also laughed at it just because it was fucking funny. You have to just laugh at it and just be like "wow, somebody just told me to shut the fuck up."

But when it is Jay Z, you don’t expect him to take the same kind of heat, that say we do, from The Biscuits fans. The day that I looked at it, there were 22 comments and it was 22 "shut the fuck up Jay-Z’s" in a row. So I look over at Barber and I am like "you have to see this, even Jay-Z is catching shit" and it is saying shit like "Fuck you Jay Z, the world sucks because of you" or "no one gives a shit what you have to say." And I am like "that just is what it is" you know. Make great music, say what you think, people are still going to tell you to shut the fuck up. (Laughs hysterically)

HT: That is some hilarious shit although I doubt very seriously that many would take the same approach face to face with Jay Z and his entourage. I sure the fuck wouldn’t.

MB: I am quite sure that I am more sensitive than Jay-Z too, and when somebody tells me to shut the fuck up Brownie, I take like a two-minute period and am like (in a whiny voice) "why did they tell me to shut the fuck up?" Then in the long run you just kind of take it all in stride and laugh at it.

biscuits-(5).jpgHT: I will be checking it out as soon as possible. You guys are hitting up this east coast run basically starting now that culminates in Charlottesville, VA for Halloween and of course doing the Hulaween thing with The String Cheese Incident. That is an interesting billing in terms of polarity within the jam genre. What were you guys’ thoughts on that when you decided to take that on?

MB: Well you know, we can play with Rusko, Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, and LCD Soundsystem on any night of the week and at the same time, we can play with Umphrey’s McGee, SCI, and Gov’t Mule on any other night of the week. It really puts us in a really unique and awesome position where The Disco Biscuits fit everywhere. We are really a lucky band because I could drop the bomb and play a "Basis" (For a Day) at Hampton Coliseum next week but if we were offered to play at Electric Zoo, it would work there also. We can play at Ultra Music Festival but we also play with the hippiest of all hippy bands out there.

So when the offer came, it was just like:  first of all do we really want to do that or do we want to be all about image and what the carbon image of the band is and what the current direction of the music is and stay electronic and stay in that scene? Or do we just want to drop some fucking Biscuits on the Coliseum? I am thinking that would be the best. And in the end, we have played with The String Cheese Incident many times. Obviously it has been a long time since we have. That is what it is – the jam band world is an amazing world. It has things like STS9 opening for SCI at Red Rocks back in the day. The jam band world is everything from Del McCoury to Rusko, which is dub-step, but he is playing at jam band festivals. It is a great scene because what it says is that music is music.

HT: It is an amazing thing in so far as where the scene is going where there is a more unilateral acceptance of multiple sounds all sandwiched into one "jam" or other "mainstream" music event or festival. What are your thoughts on going towards the fully electronic spectrum of music? Do you have any reservations about the potential of losing authenticity if you did or if you did would it simply be something that you wanted to do and therefore you are?  

biscuits.jpgMB: Well if you listen to Planet Anthem, you will hear that that is not really us. We are not electronic, we are rock. I think people forget that we are a rock band. We have always been a rock band. We have introduced so many people to electronic music over the years and thrown electronic music festivals and we have emphasized our improv heavily on electronic and we even write electronic music and play some electronic music.

But the Biscuits are a rock band whereas Conspirator is an electronic band. It is what it is. We couldn’t sell ourselves as an electronic band because electronic bands don’t play songs like "M.E.M.P.H.I.S." and "Hot Air Balloon" and "Jigsaw Earth." These are the songs that made us "famous." Those are the songs that if you poll our fans right now, and we did, the first ten songs that they all want to hear are all compositional rock and roll and classically based songs. So you just have to make sure that you don’t get too far away from your roots while still trying to do something that has never been done before.

I mean, we are who we are and we write what we want to write. We aren’t trying to be anything really. We are just being The Disco Biscuits and whoever wants to come and see it can. We know our fans and what they like and we want to provide that.

HT: Going back to what we were talking about before…the crossing of genres is something that is becoming much more commonplace where you don’t have to be "either/or."

MB: Yeah and that seems to have had an impact on my writing. I have seen LCD five times this year and it has given me a lot of help and guidance in the direction that I kind of already knew my writing was going. It has been influential on me because I am now writing more a more natural mix between rock and electronica. I made the shift from writing songs like "Therapy" to songs like "Rock Candy" and now I am writing songs like "Feeling Twisted" which is half way in between. I sometimes wish that I could have hit that stride three or four years ago but it is what it is and I have all these musical ideas and little by little I am finding ways to get them out.

biscuits-(9).jpgHT: From my perspective, it seems as though the writing process must get extensive with some of the compositions. Where do you consider yourself to be right now in regards to written direction?

MB: I go through these stages where like two years ago I only wanted to write between 90 and 100 (beats per minute) like with "Rivers." Now I am writing at either 120 or 175 and I am going back to my roots of writing faster music and getting back to who I used to be and people are responding really well to that.

I feel like the last 5 or 6 songs I have written have been the best collection of songs that I have ever written and some of the stuff that people haven’t even heard of that I am working on in the studio is just really good music and when I am getting feedback from people they are telling me different things that they hear. Some people are saying "Bowie." Some people are saying "Talking Heads."

HT: Those insights that you just shared are important I think. All too often bands that are at the same stage in their career as you guys are on the verge of getting to the point of stale. It sounds as though that would be the polar opposite place from where you all are at right now in Bisco-ville.

MB: Yeah it really is. We are trying our best to stay current. We are lucky because we do not have adult contemporary musical taste. We’re into Muse, LCD, and Diplo. Jon (Gutwillig) loves dub-step so we aren’t getting left behind. We have never changed from wanting to take on everything and assimilate that into our material.

In ’98, we brought in trance, in ’99 we were bringing in drum & bass, and in 2000 we were bringing in dub. Dub-step is just the flavor of the month right now and as professional musicians and artists, we are going to learn about it and it has caught the fancy of Jon so much that we are all growing from what he is doing as an individual with that.

So every year or two we are continuing to assimilate new styles of music into our workload and making it a part of The Disco Biscuits.

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The Disco Biscuits Tour Dates

Baltimore, MD 10/27/10 at Ram’s Head Live!

Norfolk, VA 10/28/10 at The NorVa

Hampton, VA 10/29/10 at Hampton Coliseum  (with SCI)

Asheville, NC 10/30/10 at Moog Fest

 
 
 
 
 
 
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