From avant to opulence and even the absurd, Chris Brokaw’s a musician whose voice is compelling, whether composing, creating, or collaborating. With a career that’s zig-zags through genres like a treasure map of American underground music, Brokaw’s list of credits includes the ethereal influence of his bands Codeine and Come, along with a songbook of co-conspirators as eclectic as Steve Wynn and the departed GG Allin.
Whether he’s putting sonics to movies via soundtrack, playing in traditional bands with The New Year, Lemonheads, and Pullman, or rattling off streams of solo work that tap into all the corners of his experience, Brokaw’s created a dynamic body of work that’s directly or indirectly touched a chunk of your music collection.
Steve Lowenthal, VDSQ Records co-founder and author of Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist, recalls encountering Brokaw while record shopping in New York’s East Village: “Chris used to come into the Hospital Productions store to shop for black metal” he said. “One of the great things about Chris is how open to suggestion and collaboration he is–he soaks up so many ideas and interprets them through his own lens, which really makes for a musical style all his own. I can’t think of another guitarist that sounds like him.” A longtime fan of his work, Lowenthal released an LP by Brokaw in 2009 as part of the label’s solo acoustic series.
Currently residing in Seattle, Washington, Brokaw’s set to perform three dates in the New York area starting March 11 at Secret Project Robot in Brooklyn, NY. He’s to release a new double album titled The Periscope Twins on March 17th with Matador Records co-owner Gerard Cosloy’s experimental 12XU and spoke to us about contrasting works that fill each side of the release.
Chris Brokaw on the influences behind The Periscope Twins.
The Living Room Theater – Portland, Oregon
Sort of an “arthouse multiplex”, Portland’s Living Room Theater also has bar/restaurant attached, where people drink and nosh before and after seeing movies. At one point while they’re doing a Q+A for the last film I scored, “Now, Forager”, the theater asked if I’d also be interested in doing their weekend bar gig: playing in the restaurant from 8pm ’til midnight. I’d never done a four hour gig before, and it sounded sort of interesting. I started playing there once every few months for a year or so, just playing electric guitar as background music. I imagined it could be an incredibly demoralizing gig, but it turned out to be really fun and good for my playing.
I played about half originals and half covers–no singing, just playing. Usually by about the fourth hour, my playing would start to get free and weird–20 minute versions of “Old Man River,” stuff like that. Marathon playing became interesting and part of the impetus for these recordings. With each piece, I gave myself a template (electronics or guitar) and said, “Ok, press record and go. Play for 45 minutes and see what happens.” Happily, I was really pleased with the results.
“The Periscope Twins”
The only song with lyrics I’ve written in the past year. All of the song titles on the new album come from lyrics from this song: A rock tune that I hope will appear on my next rock album.
As the middle continues to disappear in American society, nowhere is this more evident than in my new home of Seattle. Home to more millionaires per capita than any city in North America and a growing, desperate homeless population spread through the hills and underpasses, it feels like parallel worlds, where each peer up from underneath the water of their particular world… that’s how I began to view it, anyway.
Recent works by Kevin Drumm, Dominick Fernow, Rene Hell and Wolf Eyes
They’ve inspired me both musically as well as in form–this recording was originally released as a cassette in an edition of 20. But after releasing several tapes and CDRs in similarly limited forms, I decided I wanted more people to start hearing my more abstract work. This seemed like a good place to start, and, happily, 12XU agreed.
Chris Brokaw will be performing:
March 11 at Secret Project Robot, Brooklyn, NY,
March 12 at Union Pool, Brooklyn, NY with guests Norman Westberg and Matthew Mullane
March 13 at Prohibition River, Nyack, NY