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Published: 2013/09/25
by Dean Budnick

Marc Brownstein’s Improv Epiphany

Speaking of the Biscuits, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the four of you will be back on stage in a few days for City Bisco. Can you talk about that event?

I’m the king of spewing hyperbole that people will throw back at my face and say this is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever said…but, I believe honestly, that right now the Biscuits are playing at the highest level we have in years. With exception to the year 2009 where we were firing on all cylinders the whole time and part of 2007 and 2008 which were great and parts of 2011 which were decent. I don’t mean to take away from the great times we all had. We all had great times. But I’m talking about being the best we could possibly be. I’m talking about a standard that was set high very, very early on in our career that we’ve always strived throughout the years to meet and surpass.

Well, that all having been said, I feel that 2013 is a year that although there weren’t a lot of Biscuits shows will be looked back upon by fans as a one of the great years of shows. When you aggregate them all, put them side by side and look at what was done, I think you’re going to look back and think 2013 was a great year. So that having been said, I’m really, really excited to get back on stage with Allen, Jon and Aron because the band has been in such a great place over the past 12 months, which comes out on stage.

You get into a place where everybody is happy and there is a good balance. There are no question marks. We know what we are doing right now. We know what we want to accomplish. We know how much we are going to play. There are no disagreements. Everybody is on the same page. It might have taken us a few years, but we are all on the same page. We all agree this is what’s best for The Disco Biscuits. If we are going to survive for the long term, if we are going to have longevity, we’re going to have to do this on our terms. Otherwise, it’s all going to go up in flames. We’ve learned the hard way. People will say to us, “You need to go on tour to be great.” I challenge that. I think on tour we wear ourselves down. We harm ourselves physically and emotionally and put ourselves in a place where we can’t perform at the highest level.

Well we are back. The band is killing it. This Camp Bisco was my favorite by far of the last 4-5 years. It was so much fun to be up there and know what my role is. What I’m supposed to be doing, how to do it and hearing the band members respond to it so precisely to just everything that everyone was doing. Everyone was in sync.

I was going to follow up with a question about the impact of steady time together on the road but you anticipated it.

We can go out and play a lot of shows, but then there will be no shows. Maybe we’re a little light right now. Maybe 25 is a little light. Maybe when Jon is done with the project he’s working on. I don’t want to go deep into because it’s his prerogative to his own privacy but he’s working on a really, really cool second career and having a lot success with it.

I can’t speak for everybody, but I know people in the band were bummed out that he was trying something else, that would affect the time he could put into Disco Biscuits. But I’m really happy for him. Jon’s one of my best friends in the world. He’s like my brother more than anything. We’ve been together for more than 20 years, and we’ve been a band for 20 years. We started the Biscuits in 1995 but we started playing together in 1993. For Jon, Sam and I it’s been 20 years since we started. I just want him to be happy. I don’t want to be out on the road with a miserable guitar player who’s pissed at me because I booked a fifty show tour because that’s what I want to be doing.

I love touring. Budnick, I love touring. I’ve got to tell you, I don’t care if it’s 7,000 people on a Saturday at Red Rocks, 20,000 people at Camp Bisco or 275 people on a Wednesday in Morgantown, West Virginia. It’s equally exciting to me. The other night the music got me so jacked up that I was like, “That’s what I’m addicted to. I’m addicted to jams.”

I would almost end it there but before we go I do want to ask you about studio recordings from both the Disco Biscuits and Conspirator. Let’s start with the Biscuits. Do you have anything planned for later this year or 2014?

I had a moment a couple of weeks ago where I thought to myself that it might be a good time to talk to the band about recording something new. While we were doing Otherwise Law Abiding Citizens, we would talk about what the next album will be. Then we went out on Identity Tour and came back and basically stopped touring. Then Jon got really deep into his new project and we got really deep into Conspirator. I thought to myself, “It’s time to say to the Biscuits, ‘Let’s take this two week period and go into a studio and bang out the basic tracking and then all do our overdubs.’” Basic tracking takes five to six days and then we could all do our overdubs. Whatever is left, we’ll do in our off time and make sure it gets done and put out a new album. That’s something personally I’d like to do, but I haven’t spoken to the band about it. I’ve spoken to the world about it.

But purely on speculation, I would like to record another album. I have a ton of unrecorded Disco Biscuit songs as do Jon and Aron. I could think of an album an album right now like Otherwise Law Abiding Citizens. Maybe it has something like “Crystal Ball” on there, but then it has stuff like “The Bridge,” and “Last Day of Everything” or some of the newer stuff Jon has written. Or maybe we go into the studio and we finally put “Hot Air Balloon” on wax. That’s something we’ve always talked about over the years.

I don’t know. What it’s going to come down to is do we want to take a breath from the projects that we’re working on right now? Everyone has been working really, really diligently for the past two to three years to launch some new project into the sphere of the realm of successes. I just think that it’s going to be a case of the stars aligning where everyone has the time and inspiration to say, “You know what, this is the moment in time to keep the Disco Biscuits alive and vibrant.”

Last one; In terms of the forthcoming EP from Conspirator, when people hear it, will they be able to detect the band’s new direction?

Directly before you called me I was on the phone with Chris having this exact conversation. Your final question, is exactly where we are right now with our conversation of what to do. The new song “Up” is an EDM song. It’s the first song we’re releasing from the new EP. It was written before we had the epiphany that we wanted to be a band of instrumentalists augmented by computers rather than a band of computer tracks augmented by instruments. A subtle but major difference at the same time.

When we went in to write we had been writing computer tracks without instruments. Now when we go in to write we’ll write the computer tracks but we’ll be writing the guitar lines and basslines right there and just augmenting that. We’re writing the songs like songs. The foundation of the music is guitar and basses and even when we play it with a computer track, it’s playing two other guitar tracks not synth tracks that we programmed. So for us, we’ve started to write tracks on computers that are incorporating instruments from the first moment. You’re going to hear on those tracks the direction we are going into in for sure. There are no wobble basses, we aren’t making dubstep tracks anymore. If we are making stuff in the dubstep tempo it’s being done with regular basses and regular guitars and regular sounds, which just sounds more organic. The song that got mixed first though, called “Up” is a straight EDM song and it was mixed and mastered by KJ. And I just listened to it right before the interview and my reaction was, “This is not going to be received well with the messaging of our band right now.”

The messaging is, “Hey fans of improvisational music, come hang out and see Conspirator, we’re going to take you on a journey right now. If you felt this band wasn’t for you over the past year and a half, come back into the fold, it’s not the same band anymore.” And it’s not. The music and the show is completely different. I am confident that all the fans of Conspirator that we’ve made over the last two years will be educated on the virtues of improvisation because we are doing it electronically. It is really high energy and awesome and cool. But it is also low energy, explorational and weird at the same time. There is this dichotomy there.

My suggestion was “I don’t want to come at the fan base with this message and our first release be completely the opposite of what our message is.” My feeling is we ought to make three versions of this particular track, a club mix, which we already have, a live mix, which is something that we need to put out if this is going to be the messaging of our band, that we’re more organic and an extended mix that might have a jam in it. That’s the conversation we just had.

Listen, that’s a great question and the answer is in as few words as possible, as we are trying to figure it out. I want the music to represent the direction. Mostly because that’s what I want the music to sound like. By the same token I do want to put out an electronic version. I look at Bassnectar and he opens for EDM acts and jamband acts. He always wanted to bring everyone in the fold. It was never about going after one type of fan or one type of base. It was always about everyone. I take a lot of inspiration from that.

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