Chris Brokaw has been in more than a dozen bands, released many solo records and is also the right hand man of artists ranging from Evan Dando to Thurston Moore. He is always working on either an experimental album, a rock album or a film soundtrack and if not, he’s on the road playing his own songs or playing lead guitar in someone else’s band. Brokaw first got his taste of the indie scene in the 80s with the band Come, also featuring Thalia Zadek. He’s been a fixture in the Boston music scene for decades but just recently re-located to Brooklyn. What follows is an unedited interview exclusive.
Q. Tell me about your upcoming 12 inch….and the series of 5 being released by the label. What is the label called?
A. —the label is called VIN DU SELECT QUALITITE. It is based in new york city. it is all acoustic guitar music. I’m doing mine all on 12-string acoustic, (Ed. Note, the guitar belongs to Evan Dando) which is basically a new instrument to me, so it is fun and a real challenge. I can’t tell you all about the other artists on the label (Ed. Note, one artist is Thurston Moore) but they are excellent, you’ll see. They are hoping for a late spring release. It’s a brand new label. No website yet. Run by Steve Lowenthal (Swingset Magazine, etc).
Q. You released “Gracias, Ghost of the Future” in January. Tell me about that release….
—-It is a vinyl-only release on my label, Capitan Records. I did some instrumental recordings at home over the holidays and wasn’t sure what to do with them. side A is all tenor banjo (some tunes processed beyond recognition); side B is a 16 minute drone piece for electric guitar and melodica. I decided to release it in an edition of 100 copies, essentially as a companion piece to a tour i did in February. people liked it; i just pressed a 2nd edition of 100 copies. each edition has a few different cover designs with photographs of mine.
Q. Is there any significance in the title?
—Sort of an in-joke from an email from my friend Jesus over in Madrid. Hard to explain. It vaguely references charles dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’…
Q. You are also a photographer, what do you like to shoot?
—-I’m really starting to enjoy taking pictures of people, after a long time of not caring much for that. Actually, I don’t really enjoy shooting people, but i like the pictures later. I take a lot of pictures of mannequins, and hope to do something large form with that one day (a show or a book).
Q. You just relocated to Brooklyn from Cambridge. What do you hope to do here, in this scene?
—–There are a lot of great players in New York. It’d be great to play with a couple of them. I also hope to find some place to play – ever since Tonic closed i’ve been adrift, it feels like kind of a wilderness.
Q. You’re playing some solo shows this spring as well as playing with The New Year, any other plans?
—I started making a rock record last year, which i’d like to get finished and released. I also hope to get the duo record I did with Geoff Farina out, too. We were asked, quite a while ago, by a midwest emo label to do a split LP – like, one side apiece. We asked if we could do it together; and ended up recording an album of all pre-WWII country blues songs. Basically just acoustic guitars and vocals, a few overdubs here and there. The emo label is no longer part of the picture, but, we hope to get the album out this year.
By the end of the spring i’ll have released three full length solo albums of instrumental music in one year; I think I should probably go do some more extensive solo touring. Hopefully more in the midwest and the west coast.
I also have a band based in chicago called flashlights, and I’d like to make an album with them.
The new DIRTMUSIC album will probably come out at the end of the year. We recorded that this past January in Bamako, Mali, and hope to mix it this summer over in the Czech Republic (we work in sort of a bizarre way – we all 3 live on different continents…)
Q. Do you still play with Evan Dando? Thurston Moore?
–Evan and I have played together a little bit recently, just jamming for fun, trying out some song ideas. I played on a new Lemonheads record which will is coming out in June. I haven’t done anything with Thurston since ATP last September, but, hopefully we’ll do something again before too long. Steve Shelley and I recently did a tour in Spain backing up Christina Rosenvinge – we both played on her new album as well. A lot of fun.
Q. You seem to be a go-to guitar player. Does that make you feel good, strange, what?
—Psyched. Lucky. I don’t know, It’s cool.
Q. What do you enjoy playing most? Instrumental music, rock music, soundtrack music? Why? What’s different about them?
—-Um, I guess i like them all. Instrumental and soundtrack stuff comes very easily to me, I can do it alone and get a lot of satisfaction from it. There’s work involved with some of it, esp. soundtrack stuff, but, it is all very intuitive and fun for me. It’s a blast. Playing rock music with other people is a whole different thing. I almost get to assume a different personality. Backing people up (evan, thurston, jennifer (Jennifer O’Connor) etc.) is great, I try best to serve their songs…I don’t know, I like doing a number of different things, and i’m not sure that i’m the best judge of where my strengths lie. When it goes well – which involves a lot of factors – playing solo might be my favorite type of performance…but then again, rocking out with a band is pretty great too…I’m not very interested in drumming, these days, it’s purely functional when i do it.
Q. Where do you get inspiration?
—–I’ll answer this one later….hm, I guess I should answer it now. I don’t know – the way I do all this is very intuitive – I get inspired by other art, but…I feel like I just sort of fumble blindly towards my own way of doing things, and that that’s how it’s supposed to be. My curiosity and enthusiasm for music only gets more vivid, so…it’s headlong. I’ve been very fortunate. I don’t know how to answer this question.
Chris Brokaw: Exemptive
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Chris Brokaw: Exemptive