ULTRA Magazine Interview

ULTRA spoke with Timmy Taylor, frontman of Brainiac. Not too many people in Belgium know them, so before the interview we will give a short history of the band.

In the beginning of 1992, singer/Moog operator Timmy Taylor and bassist Juan Monasterio form a band with guitarist Michelle Bodine and drummer Tyler Trent. By the end of the year they had already released a seven inch single and a split single with Bratmobile. Through these singles they came to the attention of Grass Records who released their first album Smack Bunny Baby in 1993 with the help of Eli Janney (Girls Against Boys) as producer. In 1994, Michelle Bodine leaves the band to form OMatic and John Schmersal is recruited as the new guitar player. In this formation they record Bonsai Superstar, again under the supervision of Eli Janney. Then they went on tours with Jawbox and Shudder to Think. After that they became friends with Cory Rusk, owner of Touch & Go. First they released a song on the famous Dope, Guns and Fucking in the Streets (Vol.10) (from Amphetamine Reptile, alongside Chrome Cranks, Today is the Day and Steel Pole Bath Tub) called Cookie don’t Sing. Then their first product was released on Touch & Go: the single Internationale, produced by Kim Deal (of Pixies fame). And now the first full length CD Hissing Prigs in Static Couture is released. The music of Brainiac is an absolutely unique mix of weird sounds, samples, guitar rock, dissonance … But let Timmy do the talking.

Most people in Belgium probably don’t know the music of Brainiac. Could you describe it?

Brainiac: Well, we try to make our music sound as original as possible. Originality is more important than actually writing songs. I don’t think we have a specific style, type of music, or sound. That is reflected in the stuff we use. We play real instruments, we use tapes and synthesizers, and we put a lot of effects on all of that. All this results in very dissonant music. The most important thing is that the music must be original and interesting.

But there must be some influences; right? For instance, I hear some Sonic Youth, 50s rock’n’roll and also some Devo (your fellow townsmen). And one could compare you to The Make-Up as far as originality is concerned.

Brainiac: Of course Sonic Youth is a big influence, but you would be surprised to what other stuff we listen to. We like electronic music, even techno, some 70s soul music and we mix all of those influences in an original way. It is a great compliment to be compared to Devo, because they were also very original. There is a kinship with The Make-Up, but no influence of course, because it’s still a young band.

You have a new album out. What can we expect from Hissing Prigs in Static Couture? Is it a further evolution from Bonsai Superstar?

Brainiac: It’s more similar to Bonsai Superstar than to Smack Bunny Baby. This time we tried to put more melody in the songs. The dissonance is still there, but we were more into the song itself this time. We also tried to make the songs fit together better. Although there is still much diversity in sound, we tried to make the songs more unified. The sound is also less synthetic: we tried to make it sound more physical.

So this is were producer Eli Janney comes in?

Brainiac: Yes, Eli’s always there when we are making stuff too excessive. He brings us back to earth when we are using to much effects and when things get out of hand. To him the song is more important, so actually he’s the best possible producer we could have. Also he’s worked with us on all of our records, so he knows us pretty well by now.

The album is released on Touch & Go. Is this a new era for Brainiac?

Brainiac: It sure is. First of all Touch & Go is bigger than Grass Records, so more people will hear our music. It is very exciting knowing that your album is released by the same label as Shellac. As far as the music is concerned not that much has changed as we still do the same things as we did before.

How do you make those weird sounds, the distorted vocals and all?

Brainiac: I put my voice through a processing device. It just happened like that. A few years ago we bought a few cheap synths and we started experimenting. Our drummer has a drumkit with all sorts of devices: electronic drum pads, a synthesizer that is triggering with the drums, and the guitar has been connected to synthesizers too. Furthermore we use tapes, samples we take from everywhere, On top of that we make noise, of course.

When will you be touring Belgium? And could you tell us why we should go and see Brainiac?

Brainiac: I think we will be in Belgium late May, beginning of June: it’s not sure at the moment. You should come and see Brainiac because we are mainly a live band. it is not easy to capture the intensity we have on a record. Moreover we mangle our records on stage. We don’t play exact duplications of our material. Some people who know us, have already told us that they don’t even recognize the songs anymore. We don’t want to be tied to the arrangements we use on the records. We use different tapes and all. Anyway: come and see us: we are a live band.