If you’re a fan of Lightning Bolt’s immensely quirky, insanely loud, outsider extreme music, then the name Brian Chippendale is probably very familiar to you. He’s the dervish behind the drums, often seen wearing a sock on his head with a microphone sewn into it as he seemingly grows three extra arms so as to hit everything in sight at the highest velocity. Chippendale also has a side project/one-man band called Black Pus and his third album, All My Relations is due out soon via Thrill Jockey.
To celebrate the release of All My Relations, the folks at Thrill Jockey are appealling to the sick and twisted side of your sick and twisted selves. Send a photo of some pus – whether it’s your own or someone else’s…actually, we don’t wanna know – to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your address and they’ll send you a print of the comic sheet that accompanies the packaging of the new Black Pus album. They have 10 copies to giveaway and no, it doesn’t have to be black to qualify. In the meantime, check out this chat I did with Brian Chippendale as he tells us what he’s been up to lately.
So, this post/interview is running in conjunction with the new Black Pus album, which comes packaged in a comic one-sheet. I also understand you’ve been working on some other comic stuff?
I have been working on a comic for two years and it is being released next year by a company called Picturebox. That’s called Puke Force. Like many things in my life, it’s a joke and a name that I didn’t give up on in the beginning when I probably should have, not unlike Black Pus. I made this book called Ninja like 5-6 years ago; that was about a trillion little characters wandering around this town and this is like the sequel to that. It’s been online on the publisher’s website. I was doing it weekly, kinda like a web comic.
Was it being published anywhere besides the web? Like in alt-weeklies or something?
No, no, just on their blog. I was just doing it there for fun. I did it like every week for six months, then took six months off, then came back and did it for another six months. I don’t think I’ve put one up in about a year now though I am trying to finish the third phase of it. I drew Puke Force up until about June of last year, then Lightning Bolt put out a tour 12” which I had to work on, then we went on tour, then I got married, then it was like the holidays or something in there [laughs] and now this Black Pus stuff.
Say huh? I hadn’t heard much from Lightning Bolt since the last full length.
Earthly Delights. That was the last announced like “this is a record” record. We’ve been touring every year and we have a whole record of new songs and we’ve recorded in like two different venues. One was with Dave Auchenbach, who we’ve recorded pretty much everything with. We did a bunch of stuff with him and we did some stuff here at a studio called Machines With Magnets where I recorded the Black Pus stuff. We have more than a full record worth of stuff, we just have to finish it. I think we were basically transitioning out of our relationship with Dave Auchenbach and I think a lot of our recording issues were us trying to change the method of what we’re doing and how to go about it. We’re still playing, it’s just been really slow. It’s also been the pace of our democracy of two people. We’re like the U.S. congress or something. It’s like:“I think it should be eight measures.”
“No, I think it should be four.”
“Fuck it, let’s go get lunch.”
We recorded some stuff here in the fall and we’re pretty happy with it, so I think we found the solution of how to do it. We just have to finish it up and transfer some of the stuff we did with Dave over here. In the meantime, last year I started a bandcamp page where I put a couple older things up which sort of led me to discovering this pile of stuff from 2008-09 that we put on the tour 12”, Oblivion Hunter. That was just home recordings, lo-fi cassette stuff.
I know a few years ago when you were being courted to open for bigger bands, that you remained pretty steadfast to your wanting to play in unique spaces, on floors, in parking lots, etc. Has that philosophy changed?
That philosophy has lightened. I think we care less, but we haven’t been getting asked to open up on a lot of big tours. We got a booking agent, which was new and we played Coachella and Pitchfork Fest and we played up on big stages for those things, but the bulk of our tours have kinda been the same, just driving around in a van, playing for a 150 people, most of the time on the floor. We’ve definitely opened up our options to include other things if they come along, just to try to communicate differently. I think for us that aesthetic and approach was really rad and it formed our music and who we are to some extent, but there are limitations. There end up being all sorts of people you can’t communicate with using that approach so we decided to allow communication with people who don’t want to get their heads stomped while trying to completely shed our older fans as well.
Introduce Black Pus to those who don’t know.
It’s totally me. I started releasing CD-Rs in 2005. The original stuff was just me with a four-track, multi-tracking stuff. Somewhere in 2009-10, I started playing out and this record and [first album] Primordial Pus is based on the one-man band live show. The new thing is all me. Half of it was recorded live and there was some stuff I overdubbed. The studio I was in was pretty hi-fi and it was the first time ever that I used studio separation techniques where I put the amps in a different room, put the vocals in a different room and all that kind of stuff. I think this is going to reflect back on the new Lightning Bolt stuff as well; I think I’ve finally ready to do some separation of sound to milk a little more hi-fi out of it.
When writing, how do you decide what’s Black Pus and what’s Lightning Bolt?
It’s pretty much just being at home and…lately over the last couple of months I’ve been playing drums, but a lot of times I have my Black Pus stuff, like the speakers and the oscillator and whatever, all set up and four or five nights a week I’ll strap it all on and just jam and write a lot of songs that way. Black Pus is kind of minimal in a way, so if I write a song by myself, it ends up being a Black Pus song. Then when me and [Lightning Bolt bassist] Brian [Gibson] write a song when we jam, it’s Lightning Bolt. Usually everything is written out of jamming. I feel like I’ve been a bit of a jerk and hoarding beats and stuff for Black Pus, but now that this record is done, I’m ready to start focusing on the next Lightning Bolt record.
Is Black Pus live done by yourself as well?
Yeah. I can pretty much play the stuff and it’ll sound 80% like it does on record. There’s some pretty cool YouTube stuff where you can see it all. It’s me playing drums with an oscillator mounted on my bass drum which I run through effects and then vocals that I run through a few effects; I loop some of them and it fills itself out as this one-man project. There’s a lot of fast, left foot loop flipping and stuff.
When you tour do you travel alone as well?
I have been, especially if it’s just for a couple of shows here and there. Also, the car I’ve been driving doesn’t fit much more than that. But that car just bit the dust, so I need to get a van so I can do this upcoming tour. I’m going to bring a friend on this tour to help sell shit, drive and carry stuff. I wanted to try and do it by myself because I thought driving by myself for a month around the states would be really interesting and a nice experience, but I just have so much shit. Where we practice is on the third floor of this old mill and the elevator’s been broken for a year-and-a-half now. When I play a Black Pus show, I carry all this stuff down and up the stairs. I weighed everything and it’s 630 pounds of shit. I weight about 170, so I always say that together with my equipment, Black Pus is an 800-pound gorilla. Trying to move all that and sell my stuff as well as driving eight hours a day or whatever, I should just bring somebody. I mean I could do it, but it would be super-stressful and I’d probably end up being some crazy dude by the end of it; it might actually be pretty cool.
Are you still doing the furniture building and freelance art to support yourself otherwise?
Collages, silk screen based paintings, working on comics. I just did a 7” cover for this place Death by Audio in NY who are doing a live 7” compilation. I was building these rooms and house shaped things, but I haven’t been doing that much though I am still trying to juggle a few different realms.
And it’s still enough to help you eke out a living?
Yeah, totally. I mean music’s changed. Lightning Bolt will do a tour and that will float my boat for a while, but royalties have definitely trickled off. Whether we’re selling records or not, we have felt the digital blow a little bit. But then I’ll do stuff on bandcamp and make a little bit off of that, but it’s really not much more than “Let’s go out to eat” money. It’s still kind of working; I’ll sell something here and there. Next Friday, actually, I’m getting on a plane and flying to the United Arab Emirates for 10 days to play at this art festival in a city called Sharjah. They’re setting up this performance piece that involves 10 international drummers – I’m going, Yoshimi from the Boredoms is going and Yoshida from Ruins, Kevin Shea, Susie Ibarra…so that’ll be a crazy kind of gift job though I don’t know what to expect. I don’t even know what to wear [laughs].
If you didn’t get over to the UAE, check out Black Pus on tour:
May 3rd – Boston, MA- Cambridge Elks Lounge
05-04 Buffalo, NY- Sound Lab
05-05 Cleveland, OH- Happy Dog
05-06 Ann Arbor, MI – Elk’s Lodge
05-07 Chicago, IL- Empty Bottle
05-07 Milwaukee, WI – Timbuktu
05-09 St.Paul, MN- Turf Club *
05-10 Omaha, NE- Slowdown
05-11 Denver, CO- Larimer Lounge
05-12 Salt Lake City, UT- Kilby Court
05-14 Boise, ID- Neurolux
05-15 Seattle, WA- Black Lodge ^
05-16 Portland, OR – Bunk Bar
05-18 San Francisco, CA- Hemlock Tavern
05-19 Oakland, CA- Lobot Gallery
05-20 Los Angeles, CA- The Smell #
05-22 San Diego, CA- Soda Bar
05-23 Tucson, AZ- Topaz Tundra
05-24 Albuquerque, NM- Small Engine
05-25 Norman, OK – The Opolis
05-26 Austin, TX- Mohawk (Inside)
05-27 Houston, TX – domy/cafe brasil
05-28 New Orleans, LA –Mudlark Theater
05-29 Atlanta, GA- The Earl
05-30 Raleigh, NC- Kings Barcade
05-31 Baltimore, MD- Golden West
06-01 Philadelphia, PA- PhilaMOCA
06-02 Brooklyn, NY- Death By Audio
* – w/ Skoal Kodiak, Seawhores
^ w/ MTNS, Numbs
# – w/Foot Village, Street Buddy