Paul Dickinson grills Timmy and Juan

The high energy apocalypse of Brainiac is becoming well known. Brainiac has been busy with both European and American tours. The Squealer caught up with them down by the ping pong scene in the basement of Coffman Memorial Union right before they rocked the Whole Music Club. Brainiac is a band I’ve seen five times, the same number of times I’ve seen Cheap Trick (more on that later). The last time I saw them was at First Avenue and the singer was wearing blue earmuffs and really belting it out. This band is chaotic and deliberate at the same time. They churn up a tornado cloud and drop it exactly where it needs to go. Their performance is a shameless salute to to the unreasonable side of human nature. They were supposed to arrive at five p.m. but we all knew that would never happen. In a rare attempt to be professional, I actually showed up at five. Band after band arrives in their beat-up vans, lost and confused, looking for the mythical meal that is always promised to a rock band on the road. After the photographer beat me in two games of pool and the clock was closing in on seven we were forced by our own unhealthy urges to head for THE BIG 10 bar nearby for some sorely needed libations. As the cosmos has a way of collapsing we ran into BRAINIAC disembarking from their van. The band wanted to relax so we decided to meet in an hour. An hour and a half later I got back from the bar, turned on the boom box and began the interrogations with Tim the singer/moog maniac and Juan the bass player.

PD: How was Europe? How did the old country react to Brainiac?
Tim: There were different ways of reacting in each country.
Juan: I think we are bigger in the continent than we are in England.
PD: How has the U.S. tour been going?
Juan: Great! this is my favorite tour so far.
PD: And you guys have been at it for a while.
Tim: Since 1992. We have been to Minneapolis maybe eight times.
PD: I’m really impressed with the tempo of your music. It’s not too rushed, but it is a constant rhythm attack. Do you plan that out?
Tim: The way we make records is we record what we do live.
PD: The energy does translate onto the record, which doesn’t always happen with a band.
Juan: Girls Against Boys tends to slow down when they play live, I think that’s strange. We tend to speed up.
PD: Is there an emotional release? It seems like that’s the thing that takes you guys over the top.
Tim: Yeah, we try to do more than just duplicate a recording live.
Juan: Execution and technique are important, but there is a lot to be said about entertaining people. It’s weird how few bands really understand it.
PD: What do you think about right before you play? Is it just day-to-day or do you prepare?
Juan: It really doesn’t hit me until I’m on stage. I’m like walking around and then I think, “Oh yeah, a show!”
Tim: I like to get away, to be alone for a little bit before I go on.
PD: Do you get lost in the song or do you feed off the overall atmosphere?
Tim: I’m pretty oblivious to everything when I’m up there.
PD: Do you get into a trance?
Tim: Yeah, people will tell me that we were being heckled, and I didn’t even notice it.
PD: Do you guys ever plan to slow down? Will there be any Brainiac ballads?
Tim: We tried slowing down, but it didn’t work out. They say you play at the rate of your heart beat, so I guess we just have naturally fast-beating hearts. These last few tours we have actually been trying to play songs at their actual tempo. We used to just machine gun through the set, the faster the better.
PD: How did the use of the Keyboard evolve with the band? was it there from the start?
Tim: Yes. We bought the Moog at a pawn shop right when we were putting this band together and just started messing around with it. I mean, we were playing in an all-guitar band and we wanted to try something different, take a different angle.
PD: I like it because it sounds ghostlike, an other-worldly voice. It’s just freaked out. Sometimes it’s menacing, sometimes it’s soothing. It’s like the sirens at sea enticing you, “Come crash on the rocks!” I find that exciting because keyboards are usually used as a production tool. It’s all molded into this homogeneous slab of sludge. But you guys really tweak that little machine.
Tim: I think that’s why we were so intent on using this, because we were so unsatisfied with the way keyboards were used. I really wasn’t into the techno and industrial stuff that was coming out back then, but there is a lot of better stuff now. As far as rock goes, they always hide the keyboard player in the background.
PD: I saw Cheap Trick out at Valleyfair amusement park and they had the keyboard player way to the side, behind some weird divider. They had to play two shows at the Dolphin Arena. It was a real “Spinal Tap” situation.
Juan: It would be so weird to be those guys, to go from playing huge shows to playing in the Dolphin Arena.
PD: Yeah, well, I like the band…
Juan: I like them too, but it’s got to be weird.
PD: I remember listening to the ad at like 2 a.m. on my clock radio when I was in Ninth Grade “CHEAP TRICK!!!” The announcer sounded like a high Moses, it really made me want to go. I’m thinking, man, I’ve got to be there, I’ve got to be down at the St. Paul Civic Center when this happens. Lying awake, mesmerized by the clock radio…
Juan: The clock radio.

PD: Yep, the clock radio.

The show was opened up by Sleater Kinny, a band I just so happened to see the night before in a basement in Madison, Wi. They thought I was some old creep following them around (very perceptive). They can really sing and rock, much more than they care to realize.

Brainiac did not let me down, either. We picked up some beer for them (hence our admission into the little back room where the pizza was hid.) There was a metal detector at the entrance to the Whole. Some guy said, “Cool” and a worker stated, “No, it’s not cool.” An overzealous State Trooper made even the staff go through the metal detector, multiple times. (A kid gets a job at the Whole so he/she can stab and shoot people??) I could go on and talk about the Trooper’s fuzzy view of laws and human rights but I don’t want to make it sound like the Whole is a wild, problematic place–it’s not. The cop should’ve just relaxed and studied the lottery numbers. You should buy the new Brainiac CD on Touch -n- Go called Hissing Prigs in Static Couture.