American musician and producer Martin Bisi has just wrapped up a short run of dates in support of his recently released documentary. Sound & Chaos: The Story Of BC Studio, looks at BC Studio in Brooklyn. Founded in the early 1980s with Bill Laswell, and with money from Brian Eno, who worked on the album On Land there, the studio is now under threat as it has struggled through the encroaching gentrification of the neighbourhood.
Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences.
I realise now how influenced I was by Frank Zappa – the big orchestration, the theatre and even the humour, though the humour is a little less evident lately. There’s also seeming opposites like Yes and Sex Pistols. This of course was way in my youth. Other touchstones would be the cosmos of My Bloody Valentine-influenced bands. And The Incredible String Band on the roots front.
How have you evolved as a musician over the years?
Lately I’ve gotten a lot better at space jams. I didn’t even intend to develop that. I got into it to do more shows in New York, maybe in less desirable spaces, and have it not always be my band, with songs that everyone had already heard. So, improvised. And somehow it started getting really good. And I was getting rockers who normally don’t jam to join me. It’s like I took what was always in the background sonically and put it right up front.
Were there any alternative band names before you arrived at this one?
Well, now I’m just Martin Bisi, with an implied band, but for a while I was The End Credits, and much as I liked the name, people got really confused. They thought I was coming to DJ, and play stuff I’d recorded. Or I was presenting bands I was producing. I finally just gave up, sadly, on having a band name.
What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I recorded like three hours of the aforementioned space jam in Sheffield just a couple days ago, with the Euro version of the band, along with two actual songs. That will somehow be forged into an album called The Solstice, with a winter and summer side – a concept really for vinyl.
How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?
I focus on recording projects that I’m really suited for. In that way people perceive a branding, though of course I don’t exactly want to have a personal sound that I impose on other artists, but to some extent that does happen, and there are people who want to work with me as a collaborator.
What’s on your rider?
Nothing – to the occasional chagrin of bandmates. I don’t like the focus on niceties. I hate dinner, for instance. It’s always in the way. I’d rather think about the show and soundcheck.
Tell us about your worst live show.
The bad ones are really about abusive staff – like where you worry about getting assaulted. Seems to have only happened in America. Usually has something to do with hard rock or blues people who despise indie, or experimental musicians, and resent especially attending to unsuccessful bands. So they prey on the vulnerable. That still happens now a bit, and I’ve learnt to avoid it but it was rampant in the 80s-90s.