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Published: 2012/05/07
by Dean Budnick

Brownie Unlocked: Conspirator, The Biscuits, Electron and Onward

“In terms of Conspirator’s original songs, do the names inspire the songs or the songs inspire the name? How does that come about?” (Sarah F.)

A lot of the time it starts out as” electro track 13.” You just go for it like that and then at the end you’re like “What am I going to name this?” I find it’s much more meaningful when the name and the song are attached. In electronic music it’s not always easy to do that. For example, “Feed The Wolf” I named right when I started making it. The reason I named it that was because that morning I was listening to a lot of Feed Me, a lot of Wolfgang Gartner and that’s where I was drawing my inspiration from. I’m going to make a track today in the vein of Feed Me meets Wolfgang Gartner. I just went into the file and wrote Feed the Wolf and it stuck. It doesn’t always stick.

“Portal to an Empty Head” for instance, I was listening to a Portishead song in the car. That’s where the inspiration came for the name of that song. I was listening to the track, I went inside and I had the beat in my head. I opened up the file and as I was walking through the kitchen to go to the studio I heard a chord progression of a song that was being played on the radio in my house. And I put the two together. I opened up my computer and that’s what was in my head at the time. That beat and those two chords. I went in and starting writing the intro to the song. And then you have to “save” or risk losing it all. Another Brownie tip: always save.

When I was saving it, it makes you name the track so I was thinking Portishead and I named it “Portal to an Empty Head.” It’s funny because that’s what “Portal to an Empty Head” is. I just broke up Portis into Portal and I put Head at the end and threw some words in the middle just to name the track. So many people have been, “’Portal to an Empty Head’ means this or it’s like a trip or there’s a blank space where my mind should be” you know. Somebody handed me a sticker a Phish show that said “Got a blank space where my mind should be” [from “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan”] so I know the line. But, whatever it is, so many people have come to me and been like “This is what ‘Portal to an Empty Head’ is about. Is it about this? Is it about that time?” And really all it is was that moment of inspiration. Something inspires you for the name and then the name actually inspires the song. There the lyrics came out of the title. The concept of “Portal to an Empty Head,” I wrote the lyrics around that. But, it was really just a placeholder because I wanted to remember Portishead was where I got the inspiration for the song.

“Do you plan to record a studio album with Conspirator” (Greg S.)?

I would love to. Since the studio stuff is so different from the live show we wanted to do a live album first. I want people to hear what they’re going to hear when they come to a show. That was my purpose here. If we really wanted to break into the electronic music scene, the road does not lead to these hi-fidelity records. I’m not an idiot, I get it. You don’t break into Beatport with hi-fidelity, it’s not the path. We are heavily inspired by true electro music and we’re making true electro music and we’re remixing Porter Robinson, doing all this. We are doing things that EDM fans are currently enjoying. But, if we put that out as an album right now I feel like we’re not catering enough to the fanbase that we have and to what the show actually sounds like. So that was the hard thing for me: How do we get the fans to know what all this is going to sound like. So we’ll make a studio album at some point, but it was important for me for the fans to know what they’re going to get.

“Will we ever see Electron again?” (Dave L.)

Yes, we would like to do it. I called Joe Russo a couple of weeks ago to talk about it and we both agreed that the first weekend that we had available to even think about an Electron show would be in September. Two of the weekends have already been booked, by me for my band but I would like to do it.

We started doing Electron when I needed a band. I got kicked out of the Biscuits and I needed a band and I made Electron and I then got back in the Biscuits. The thing about Electron was that it was basically a replacement for the Biscuits. I don’t feel like we need that because the Biscuits don’t need to be replaced. If the Biscuits were to ever break-up I could see Electron doing a tour, just as a purpose to play those songs. When I play those Biscuits songs, I want to play them with Jon and Allen. No offense to Tommy [Hamilton] and Joe who are the best. If I’m going to go out and play the “Chemical Warfare Brigade” right now I would really want to be doing it with the Disco Biscuits. That’s my priority. If I’m going to be playing in another band that’s not Disco Biscuits I would want it to be its own thing. That’s why you haven’t seen Electron in a while. But for nostalgia purposes, and because the fans are begging, and because Tommy wants to do it, we’ll do it.

“In terms of Camp Bisco, to what extent do you see it as a responsibility in terms of introducing great new music to your fans, that might not otherwise know about?” (Kendall H.)

We always try to bring the best electronic music that we can possibly bring given our budget from the first Camp Bisco all the way until now. I know a lot of kids want us to put more bands on and more rock music, but really what it’s been about is the Biscuits and a ton of great electronic music. As our budget has expanded, we’ve been able to get the biggest guys in the country. We love that. We love that we can lay down the money and get the most absolutely massive, international lineup. And one of the coolest things about it is introducing new music to the fans. Sometimes it gets lapped up from the start before the band even gets to Camp Bisco. Sometimes they find out about it at Camp Bisco. Sometimes they hate on it incessantly for multiple years until they come around and start loving it. And sometimes they never love it. Those are all the scenarios.

I have to believe at this point that most of the artists you approach are familiar with the Biscuits, unlike the early days of Camp Bisco. Is that accurate?

I think everybody seems to know who we are at this point. Most of them don’t even like jamband music but a lot of the DJs are musicians too and they appreciate musicianship. When it comes down to it they might not know they like jamband music, but when they see the Biscuits they have an appreciation for the musicianship in the band because they’re musicians. So even if that’s not their style we usually get a lot of people who are blown away by what we’re trying to do and that we’re doing it live.

Pretty much at this point I’ll meet these guys at the festival and they’re like “Thank you for having us and we really appreciate that you guys have cultivated such an amazing event.” It’s a place that all these EDM stars want to come to now. It used to be hard to land people for the event. It was hard to get big stars because they we’re like “We don’t want to play before the Disco Biscuits” or “Who are the Disco Biscuits? I’ve never heard of this festival”

But now it’s this thing, everyone knows Camp Bisco. All of these artists are looking to get on it. It’s the festival in the Northeast that has Skrillex headlining. It’s had such a solid lineup for so many years now that it has a reputation all its own. As for the fans, half of them are there to see the Disco Biscuits and half of them don’t even know who we are. While that might offend some Biscuit fans, I just challenge them to remember back to when before they knew who the Biscuits were and allow other people to be exposed to what we are doing. That’s what this is all about. We don’t get on the radio. We don’t get on MTV barely ever. We don’t have the traditional methods of blowing up our music to the masses. As the New York Times pointed out a few years ago, this is the new radio, having your own festival is the new radio. It’s the new method by which bands with good organizations behind them are able to reach mass audiences. To me that’s the best part.

At this point Camp Bisco has blown up to its own thing. Dare I say we don’t even have to play it. Much like Jane’s Addiction doesn’t play Lollapalooza anymore. If the Biscuits ever break up, which we aren’t and I hope we never do, but if we do, we can still throw Camp Bisco. I’m sure we can grow it. If we find the right site it has an unlimited growth potential, just like Lollapalooza or any of these other festivals that do 8,000 people. The money is there. The reputation is there. The lineup has been great and as long as we’re in control of it, as long as we continue to love doing what we do we’re going to go out there and rip…

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