bryan joseph interview
(July 2009)

What it sounds like is. No, what it sounds like to me is. No, I was right first time: what it really actually objectively sounds like is that Bryan sat down with a guitar and no idea what he was going to do next, then recorded himself doing it. Ramshackle and off-the-cuff and messy and memorable and instant. I like it a lot.

Dusted magazine had this to say about the first 7” single, Drop the Needle: “As anonymous and inconsequential a release as I’ve ever encountered ... 100 sleeveless copies of a single on green vinyl, with no song titles ... from a goofy and excitable non-talent ... Thanks for putting more garbage that no one wanted into the world, Bryan.” (

I liked it a lot. But there were no contact details and nothing I could find the on the web. Smashin' Transistors weren't particularly complimentary about the next one, Skeltons, either: “This guy sounds like he's really into Daniel Johnston and Beck and trying too hard to be as heartfelt, weird or clever as them. Doesn't sound like it's working too well.” (
I liked it a lot. But there were no contact details and nothing I could find on the web. The Songs From the Summer of God album got some faint praise at Indiveille: “this album's kind of a huge bummer itself. Which isn't to say that it isn't good – only that it's sad and polarizing and more than a little depressing.” (

Needless to say, I liked it a lot and there were no contact details. I played it all on the radio and eventually Bryan emailed. We talked. I liked it a lot.

Tell us about yourself

I currently live in Toronto. Actually, I've always lived here. To be completely honest, I'd have to say that this city does very little to inspire me musically. There was a time when I would hang-out with other local artists but, I had to change that... I've found that I prefer to keep to myself. I actually built a little demo studio comprised of vintage reel to reel recorders. That's where I spend the majority of my time. Nicely tucked away from humans... So yeah, I cut a lot of demos, and audio experiments...

What's Toronto like?

Toronto's a whirlwind of artistic activity... There's some really cool performance related stuff going on... I saw a dance gig a few years ago that completely rearranged my perception of art... It was that good... People were crying in the audience... It was basically a play without words... like telling a story with their bodies kind of thing... I'd never seen something like that before, or since. It was really well done. So, there's stuff like that... I'm not exactly sure about the music scene. I'm way out of the loop in that regard. From what I can recall, there's the usual mix of DJs, teenager bands and coffeehouse artists... A few hippies... A plethora of rappers... Nothing I can relate to...

So what sort of music do you relate to?

I like some of the music that my friends are making, which does include hip-hop, punk, etc... And, generally, I do listen to, and enjoy, all types of music... basically, whatever is on the car radio. I really like that song I Want To Be Alone by Vashti Bunyan... Psycho Killer by Talking Heads is another song that speaks to me... Soft Machine has this really cool instrumental record that I've been spinning... Basically, I'll listen to whatever comes out of speakers...
I guess it's just the independent artists in this city... I just can't relate to their process of endeavor. I simply won't allow such a disease as theirs to dilute whatever purity I have left... This is something that I have to trust, and not just for the sake of art... My survival as a human-being depends on it.

Is anyone else doing anything similar to you?

Not too sure, actually... Most people seem to be going their own route. I've considered the idea of seeking out like-minded artists to join forces with, but, in actuality, I don't know where to pursue these types of individuals. Besides, behaving myself with other artists is way more work than I'm prepared to do.

How much effort goes into those tracks that just chucked down?

I'm not exactly sure how to measure my own creative effort... I work really quickly. I don't spend a lot of time on a song. It's either there, or it isn't... I like songs that sound loose and improvised, yet, are well recorded... I like a balance between the good and the ragged... Those sloppy songs set the tone. They tend to sound like I have a wobbly crew of skeletons as a back-up band, which I love.

How do you get those odd-sounding chords? Deliberately untuned guitar or odd fingering, or something else?

I usually keep everything in tune... If we're talking about the new album, then yeah, it should all be in tune... I just play awkwardly... It's impossible to describe, really... All memories from those recording sessions have been wiped-out... I honestly can't remember what I did with the guitar. It happened so fast... It felt normal to me... I guess it came off sounding strange...

Has it taken a long time to get the kind of sound that you have now?

It's taken me over a decade. I've made hundreds of demos... I'm actually really tired of the gig... I can envision a whole new life for myself... Perhaps I'll buy a farm in the country, and just live with the animals... I've been considering selling my recording gear... I haven't picked-up my guitar in months... But yeah, it's been a long process of trial and error, with no real destination... Actually, the sound of the new album came out of nowhere... it was a spontaneous process... So really, it only took about a month... Sounds and visions are always in a state of revaluation, and change... so, ultimately, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about...

Do you do everything yourself?

At this point, yes... I've worked with other individuals in the past... drummers, engineers, friends, whatever... But not anymore... I've become a bit of a creative loner...

How would you describe your own music to other people?

I couldn't, and can't... and probably won't... I don't see the purpose... I don't care about selling records, and I'm not really interested in the game. I'd just give them a copy and move on with my life. To me, that's the only way that makes any sense. I've done two vinyl 7" records and the 'Songs From The Summer of God' album. Just those three things. Basically, the first two records sound like something a child might make on a ghetto-blaster... My new album, 'Songs From The Summer of God', is different... I'm not exactly sure how to describe it... I think it speaks for itself... It's eight new songs, to say the least. It was recorded on an old 8-track reel to reel, in a very short period of time... It took me about a month to make it.

Is the sound of the old equipment important to you?

Yeah, it is. It's also a quicker way of working... I can get ideas down a lot faster when using tape machines. Basically, I'll just set up a mic and hit record... Also, tape machines kinda act like a compressor, which allows me to just concentrate on the idea, or performance. So, basically, it's just a really great way to work. It's easy, for me... I don't have to watch the levels... I can be as creative as I like without having to put a major effort into being a recording engineer. Computers tend to put my mind in the wrong places.

There are some guys out there who swear by tape and vintage equipment... They feel it's the end-all and be-all to great sound... I disagree with that viewpoint... For me, as I've mentioned, it's all about the ease of getting an idea out of my head, and captured, as fast as possible... In my case, working with tape does the trick.

Are there any left and can people order them?

The new album is available... Copies can be ordered through ... I still have some vinyl left over, but, I haven't decided how to release it.

Why don't you include contact details on them?

I should... When I started mailing out records I felt it wasn't necessary. However, I'm now starting to see the logic behind it. It just makes good sense.

I really like the fact that there are only 8 tracks on the album - most albums these days are just too long. Do you feel the same?

Yeah, I do. Maybe it's because we're children of the "album era", and we've mutated into this new "digital era" with a formed mindset, and that mindset is being attacked by the volume of modern-day information, and time constraints... I grew up listening to albums, especially when I was a teenager. There's something about spinning an album from beginning to end, absorbing the music as an entire work of art, that's undeniably mysterious, and interesting. There's the possibility that we're becoming more and more of the "new age", and less of the old mentality, and we're prepared for something less massive, yet whole. I have to admit that I download music from Itunes, and strangely enough, it's usually the entire album that I purchase. There's so much available these days, and not just music, and time is a factor, and there's so much to do. That said, people still like the process of listening to an album, I think. Personally, I don't mind long albums, it just depends on the type of listening I'm up for doing. If I'm painting, or dousing myself with liquor, a long album is preferred. But, I agree.

Could you tell us a little something about each track on- the album?

  • Delicious Love is the first song on the album. I recorded it mid afternoon on June 7, 2008... just an hour before breaking-up with my long time girlfriend. This song was suppose to be a gift, for her. It ended up being the beginning of the end, instead.
  • Disowned And Owned originally appeared on one of my old demo tapes. I can't remember what it was originally about, it's basically one of my toss-away songs. However, the idea in the lyrics, or the tone of that idea, is what excited me to rerecord it. It's perfect as a team player.
  • Vanishing is an attempt at convincing myself that escaping is the only way to deal with heavy pain. I'm not sure if it's the answer; I haven't figured it out yet. I think the idea of vanishing does work, but, you really have to vanish completely. Otherwise, people show up, knocking on your door, fucking-up your entire plan. Then you have to make another go at it. One of these days I'm going to play hide and seek forever, me hiding, and only my best friend might know where I am. It's not that I don't like people - I like strangers, or close associates like people at work - just not any ex-girlfriends, or people from high-school, or arrogant artist people, or kids on the street who ask me for cigarettes. I can't deal with it.
  • Skeleton Club, as I recall, was just a combination of random chords with me on the drums. I have no idea what the chords are. I recently sat down and tried to figure it out, but, to no avail. Lyrically, I have no idea what I'm talking about. It's madness, which is what is true to me.
  • Up We Go is the only song that I actually sat down and arranged before the session. I was drinking a bottle of wine, sitting on the stairs, singing to myself in the mirror. I made up the song right there on the stairs. It was in the middle of the day, I remember there being a bit of sunlight shining down on my fingers. It was nice. Once I worked it out, I hit record and just knocked it off.
  • Give Her Freedom was done quickly, I think. I remember driving around on a really hot day, listening to this cut, depressed as hell.
  • Time Will Speak was recorded because I needed to do a song for fun. Things were getting too heavy for my liking. Still, I included all the true facts of that summer into the lyrics, but, from a different delivery point. Now that I think about it, this album is kinda like the steps to acceptance, or something similar.
  • "Number 8" I really like how this song ends the album. It's basically a question mark.

And that question mark is about right. We know more than we did about Bryan now and we don't know a lot more than we didn't. And I like that a lot.


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