An Interview with Brownbird Rudy Relic

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Brownbird Rudy RelicEvery so often I get a CD to review that not only blows away all other unsolicited submissions, but anything I’ve recently purchased.  Brownbird Rudy Relic’s Anti-Stereo Acoustic Holler Blues is that type of disc.  Hands down, it’s my album of the year for 2007.  Quote me on that.

Brownbird Rudy Relic is a “a straightedge Vegan Chicano purveying traditional acoustic blues music.”  Whoa.

His music is intense.  You know how when you hear an amazing singer hit that perfect note and you get chills up and down your spine?  That happens from the first note of Anti-Stereo Acoustic Holler Blues.

Enough about the music for now.  Go check out his MySpace page and his vegan blog, buy his CD, and keep an eye on the pages of Herbivore in 2008, as I’m going to threaten Josh with death if he doesn’t let me write a feature on this dude.

Who are your five favorite blues singers?

Son House, Charley Patton, Muddy Waters, Mamie Smith and Washboard Sam.

But.

In all honesty, I am always hesitant to answer this question: not because I don’t have them but more so because I refuse to let an affinity for a segment of blues musicians to define who I am. I obviously have a sincere affinity for the blues (after all it is what I play) but my personal partiality is not the barometer that I use to gauge my place within the blues itself.

I prefer to think of myself as a bit more enlightened than the average member of the blues bourgeoisie (which I would never claim to belong to) for as a blues musician I am sum of my musical and personal experiences; I don’t ape a particular style or long for days of yore – I have never sung about antiquated themes nor do I intend to. I don’t tell stories: I share my life with the listener.

For frankly, I would be nothing without the DIY ethos of Punk Rock, the rollicking Rhythms of 50′s Rock n Roll, the over-the-top drama of Mexican Ranchera, the sweet supple sounds of Doo Wop or the poetry put to page but such poetic masters like Neruda or Plath.

I am the blues, but I am all of these things as well.

How does one manage to make fun, foot-stomping blues whose lyrical
roots are clearly in painful experiences?

Both the music and the lyrics fight for supremacy. The can exist outside of each other but they would mean little for they share a sincere and symbiotic relationship. They are both built on a foundation of pure emotion but lay on different ends of the spectrum – one is the lucid feeling of happiness, the other is the horrendous feeling of pain.

The result is what my music is: an amalgam of everything I have experienced, from the depression of lost love to the weight of insecurity to the confusion that often mars life.

Please oh please tell me all about the vintage equipment and
recording techniques you use.  Permission to geek out as much as you
want: granted.

Geek out granted…

In the late 40′s Ampex created the first 1-track home recorder. It was a bulky small dishwasher sized wonder that allowed a user to demo out tracks without having to enter a studio.

This is the machine I used.

I split the one track to two 30′s Era Model 55 Shure Unidynes by using a 2-dollar Radio Shack splitter and some electrical tape.

I recorded live in a rehearsal room designed for opera (read: natural reverb) and did everything live (obviously sans overdubs). Because the recordings themselves could not be set to level afterwards (as there is little more than volume) each Microphone had to be strategically placed to fit each songs vocal and guitar specifications. Since I did not have an engineer (or anybody’s help at all) I had to cut a track and meticulously listen to the play back to ensure that everything was near perfect as there was (and is) no way to change the tracks afterward.

Finally the tracks were transferred to CD without the use of digital manipulation and mastered to industry standard from the original transfer CD.

Picture of Brownbird Rudy Relic @ CMJ ganked from suckapants Do music and veganism ever cross paths for you, or are they two
separate worlds that never shall meet?

My veganism will always play a role in what I do because it is such an integral part of who I am. I’ve always tried to use the fact that I play music to help AR and/or Social Justice causes by donating my time and the proceeds (when I can) to what I see is a greater good.

With that said I am still a bit of an unknown within the Vegan movement and I hope to change this in the coming years.

I am a compassionate person, this is why I play the blues and it is also why I am vegan.

For you see, underneath the greasy pompadour and blues aura lays a hippy of monumental proportions.

Your dream gig: where would it be held and who would be making the food?

Most people who know me well know that I love vegan food with an unbridled passion – I can talk about if for hours and I can consume it much the same way.

Most people who know me also know that I have the biggest crush on Isa Chandra and the mere thought of her cooking at an event that I might be playing at sends me into a dizzy spell.

So. Dream gig? Anywhere Isa’s cooking and there’s room to pull up a chair and play.

Seriously though, I don’t strive for dream gigs or acclaim, just intimate moments where the wall breaks down between musician and audience. Where our thoughts, feelings and emotions become connected like thatched fingers and where we, together, are the only things that matter at that precise moment. To me that’s the dream. It’s what I chase everyday.

Up the vegans!

Brownbird Rudy Relic’s Anti-Stereo Acoustic Holler Blues is available now via CD Baby.  He’s currently performing live anywhere that’s cool and working on a 7″ with Orb Mellon to be released next summer.

11 Responses to “An Interview with Brownbird Rudy Relic”

  1. Kris

    Finally! Another talented and cute vegan man to crush on. Now Joaquin won’t have to be all alone.

    Seriously, Ryan, thanks for shining the spotlight on him. You brought me Michael Franti and now you bring me Brownbird Rudy Relic. I loves you.

  2. vegbanger

    Great. I’ll definitely give this band a try. By the way, I promoted your interview in VegBang:

    http://www.vegbang.com/Buzz/An_Interview_with_Brownbird_Rudy_Relic/

  3. Van DeLisle

    I agree wholeheartedly, Brownbird’s CD is absolutely astonishing. And wonderful. I would love to see him live and I hope he comes to Chicago soon.

  4. Maria Alejandra

    Brownbird is soul and heart. And when he plays live, it’s plain AMAZING! XOXO Brownbird Rudy Relic

  5. Bert

    I checked it out on itunes but the quality of the sound is pathetically bad! Try better equipment next time.

  6. ryan

    ^^^ A guy who completely missed the point.

  7. John Eckman

    Definitely picking up the CD – thanks!

    By the way, the link in the first paragraph to “his vegan blog” (wentvegan.com) seems wrong – goes to a “domain for sale” page.

    Anyone find a better link?

  8.   NY trip notes (and some music) [The Veg Blog]

    [...] an added bonus, I was lucky enough to catch up with the world famous Brownbird Rudy Relic. It was great to finally meet him in [...]

  9. Last minute vegan gift ideas | The Veg Blog

    [...] His first full-length album remains one of my all-time favorites and his latest is another great collection of original “holler blues.” He goes the old-school route once again, recording on a 1950′s Concertone (One Track) reel-to-reel with a 1940′s era RCA Victor Radio mic in an abandoned Brooklyn loft. You’ll be up and out of your seat in no time. (Plus, this is likely the first blues album to reference N.W.A in the opening seconds.) [...]

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