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I’m really stoked on this interview with Miller Royer aka Brainplane. To me, it seems like Brainplane is just raw creativity. Free form abstract music that is always headed somewhere. Whether Miller is rolling around on stage in his chonies while his bass feeds back from the amps or he is going on an extended, laser focused psych trip with layers and layers of wah wah, Brainplane is always an exciting addition to a local bill. If you haven’t been on the brainplane, you need to book a ticket as soon as possible. Window seats are like looking out of snow globe prisms onto dinosaur planets but the isle seats are equally exciting with primordial rock’n’roll sludge flowing down the isles like blood pouring from an Overlook Hotel elevator into a Reitman-esque slime river peppered with guitar loop lava rocks. -Travis D Wiggins
photo courtesy of M Keany.
Who are you?
BP: My name is Miller Royer and I’m one of those weirdos.
What is a Brainplane?
1 (n.) a plane of existence in ones mind
Eg. “Dude, I was just on the brainplane.”
2 (n) a vehicle used to transport oneself to the brainplane
Eg. “All aboard the brainplane!”
3 (v) An act which results in a mind-blowing catharsis.
Eg. “You just got brainplaned.”
These are just a few definitions, as you may find other ways of interpreting thought processes and reality.
You build your own guitars. How does that effect the way you play them?
BP: Yes. It is essentially a part of me which I do not think of as a material possession, so I sometimes end up abusing them to get sounds or reactions in ways most wouldn’t if they paid a great deal or if it was real pretty.
Where did you learn to build a guitar?
BP: My first experiment in building/modifying guitars was when I bought a Floyd rose for my Epiphone special (my first guitar). There needed to be a hole routed through the body and I didn’t have tools so I took a flathead screwdriver and a hammer and “chiseled” a hole in the guitar.
I took wood shop in 9th grade and then I picked up a book written by an amateur luthier and then invested in tools and really got into it after that.
What is punk?
BP: Punk is not music. It is an attitude. When someone does something that annoys us we call them a punk, and a punk does what he/she wants and doesn’t give a fuck what you think anyways. Some punks make music, and some eat your peanut butter out of the jar with their fingers when you let them crash on your couch.
Merry Prankster and psychedelic warrior Ken Kesey said, “It’s time to move on to the next step in the psychedelic revolution. We’ve reached a certain point, but we’re not moving any more.” Miller, if it were your call, what would that next step be?
BP: Well he’s dead and so is any psychedelic revolution. Really it comes down to a personal revolution. Do you want to live your everyday life, or do you want to expand your mind? Take some psychoactive drugs, or commit yourself to the loony bin like ol Jack Nicholson.
Sometimes your guitar loops and explorations remind me of ragas. Is there any connection there for you? What are you influences?
BP: I really like the sound and tuning of some Indian music with twangs and resonances that you get. I used to listen to a lot of meditational music and ambient stuff. Where does my music come from? I think songs are eternal and they are just floating out there, forever playing, and you just have to tune in, like frequencies on a radio. No one really invents music anymore. It’s just the same timeless, age old melodies that we reinterpreted.
Your artwork for Brainplane is pretty interesting, do you draw it?
BP: It all depends. I’m not a great artist, but I do my own album covers. Most of what I do is digital manipulation. I use ms paint as my photoshop.
MTV is dead, radio is dead, does the 3 minute format for a song even matter anymore? Your songs usually seem to just be getting rev’d up at the 3 minute mark!
BP: The 3 minute format is just a money making formula. Peoples attention span can only be held for some amount of time. I like punk songs that only last 4 or 5 seconds. A lot of my songs are based on layering so it usually takes a lot longer for me to get into the groove of the soundscapes that I’m building. I prefer to have hour or longer sets so that I can really get out some cool sounds.
What was your introduction to the underground music scene on Oahu?
BP: Coffee factory when I was in high school being a punk. I would just drink forties and get lit and never thought that I would ever be on stage.
Can music be a weapon against psychic oppression?
BP: Yes, but it can also be used to oppress people on a massive scale. Be careful what you listen to.
If given the opportunity would you rather go to the moon or the bottom of the ocean?
BP: Well I wouldn’t want to get eaten on the bottom of the ocean by a dinosaur. Actually that would be a pretty good way to go.
photo courtesy of Angel Giesen
You run WING ice cream parlor, how does ice cream relate to your art? Do you think of guitar tones and textures as flavors?
BP: I try to keep business separated from pleasure. However it seems that ice cream has become the theme of my universe for now.
What are some of your goals for Brainplane?
BP: I want to do a collaboration album with all of the local artists that are willing to participate where each track features a different member of the Honolulu music scene. One of my next ideas is to pre record my whole set, and then have it play while I make tea on stage and invite people to come up and drink tea. Working on a split with Kevin Titty which we are gonna release at my shop eventually. I want to sell a double neck.
What is it about the wah wah pedal that makes sense for your music?
BP: It allows me to have that much more expression. When something is looping over and over you need to add more variety before it gets boring. Plus it’s just such a sexy sound.
Where did you learn to play guitar? Do you play any other instruments?
BP: I learned how to play the bass in high school because a friend of mine wanted to start a cover band. From there I moved on to guitar. I learned by ear and have a hard time reading sheet music. I also play the bamboo flute, mess around on the keys and blues harp. I will pick up any instrument and try it out.
Do you have any other musical projects in the works?
BP: There are projects that I want to happen but it seems so hard to get people together to actually do it, just because of scheduling and whatnot. The Uprubs was awesome but that died pretty quick. I’m trying to start this band called An/Dor so keep an eye out for that one, and then hopefully we can resurrect the creature Anthe and kill it again.
The Grateful Dead started out as The Warlocks, proto-punk legends The Sonics had a song about an evil chick called, “The Witch,” Miller, what is it about witchcraft and the occult that excites rock’n’roll groups? Do you subscribe to any occult beliefs or practices?
BP: It’s the dark side of life. It’s half of everything. And Magic! What’s not to be excited about? The unknown has a draw to it. I have secret powers.
Whats the next step in human evolution?
BP: Extinction would be a step forward at this point. People need to get their minds right. See you on the brainplane.
photo courtesy of M Keany
The first time I met Kevin Richie aka Kwalified, was at a punk show. My band Coral Stabz was sharing a bill with him. He asked our drummer to drop some beats and Kwalified took suggestions from the audience and just free-styled about any crazy shit that people said. It was rad. I’d just moved to Hawaii and I was really trying to find a place in the music scene. That night I walked away stoked. We played to a crowd that could get down with emcees and punk bands. If it hadn’t been for that show, I wouldn’t have been as motivated to be involved in the DIY scene here. It was the turning point for me where I just decided to put as much into supporting local music as I could. So believe me when I say that Kwalified’s new long player is dope and worth picking up asap.
Kwalified is raising the bar with this one. Next level production and a sort of timeless vibe that calls back to cats like Blackstar, Lootpack and Little Brother while looking to the future. Storytime is one of my favorites with a classic boom bap, but then theres other tracks like Another Day that just bleed posi vibes. I can’t get the hook from Simple Life out of my head. Home reminds me of a single by Chance the Rapper that you haven’t heard yet.
The guest emcees are proof that Hawaii has a enough legit hip hop artists to rival any city in the universe.
Pick up a copy on itunes or at About The Goods. Shit, if you haven’t been to About The Goods, its about damn time you supported local business and picked up a whole mess of stuff over there. If you are screwing around online looking at this blog, chances are you could go buy a record by a local artist at a locally owned store right now!
Oahu has a lot of music happening at any given time. I don’t really separate music by genres anymore, its all art right? There are a few styles, crews and cliques doing different things around town. One of the most exciting collectives making shit happen lately is Workhouse. Ill Hill, Night Marchers, Kwalified… a lot of awesome stuff is happening under the Workhouse umbrella. While indie rock bands take years to record anything and dudes in tall socks ride the third wave of ska like its the endless summer of 1998, Workhouse dudes are taking care of business. Videos, Long players, and crazy shows like the recent Kwalified release party at Downbeat. I am hella stoked for this new Workhouse project The Horror Show. Their record doesn’t drop till next month, but If the promo and their previous work with Ill Hill /\ and Night Marchers is any indicator, its going to be an exciting release. Here I talk with JonCozy and DecibelGrand about Darby Crash, droog theory, hip hop and how dope/underrated the Mo Illa Pillaz record was. -Travis D Wiggins
You dudes have been involved in a few projects on island, can you guys give us a little history lesson?
Decibel Grand: The first group I got down with was The Night Marchers and we put out an album, “Three Dots” that we dropped in march of 2012, so I’m on that shit. Then we dropped a little mixtape in, I think december of that year, called The Black Friday. Honestly, not my favorite shit, but we did it and its out so whatever. Other than that, I’ve been featured on a couple projects, like Kwalified’s new album, Listen&Share. and Prie’s 1991 Mixtape and The Prolific Unknowns (Mox and K Luv) Project that dropped to name a few…
JonCozy: I guess my first official project i worked on was with a crew called The Ill Hill Society. With a mixtape entitled, …On Beats We Wished We Made. Where we took beats we liked and decided to rap over them. As a follow up to that, we released the “Rap Better” EP, which featured production from myself. After that I released a solo project titled “Self Suicide” which was my first solo project and it was a lot more personal and dark when pertaining to the subject matter in the lyrics and music.
What were some of your first experiences with underground music in Hawaii?
JC: Hip Hop at the Trops was my first exposure to underground hawaii hip hop. Thats also where I got my first DJ gigs. I remember the first time i got booked to DJ there, I got booked by DJ Revise, and didn’t even show up cause i got wasted and decided to watch the movie 300 instead, cause I didn’t give no fucks. Young, dumb, and full of cum. So I didn’t even show up to my first gig. So I guess Revise was my introduction into the underground Hip Hop/DJing scene in hawaii.
DG: 2 years ago, I went to this hip hop show at 4play to support some homies I knew from high school cause they were supposed to have their first performance and whatnot. I was super drunk and chilling outside with a couple of people and then the Night Marchers showed up. There was Punahele, Definition, and Rukka. and they just started free-styling forever. I was drunk and it seemed like fun, so I just started rapping with them. That was the first time I ever rapped. Fell in love with that shit on the spot. Hit Definiton up the next day and told him “I wanna rap, and I want you to be my mentor.” [laughs] and from then on, I rapped all fucking day long, every day. We performed 4 or 5 times a week, we were always looking for open mic spots. and we wrote music and free-styled all day long. It was the best shit ever.
Was there a record or tape or video on mtv that stands out as a turning point where you knew you wanted to be in hip hop?
JC: Mine is dumb. You know that Linkin Park music video for “Crawling”? Mr. Hahn is in the video and he was scratching. That was the first time that I saw it, and I was a fan of Linkin Park back in middle school, so i was like “Fuck, I wanna do that. I could probably do it better than him. Fucking asshole.” Thats the DJing part. Then for rap, it was when i saw Eminem’s music video for “Stan” thats when I fell in love with rap music. I was a fucked up kid and mad and shit and when I saw that I was like, “Oh shit, they make music for me?”
DG: Before I started rapping, I was already a huge fan of hip hop, but it never registered in my fucking brain to try doing the shit. But after I started rapping and shit I started to appreciate it on different levels. Nas and Atmosphere are my favorite fuckers. So when I went back and started really listening to their shit, thats what did it for me. “Illmatic” and Atmospheres, “God loves Ugly” and “Overcast” is what made me really wanna do this shit. I thought to myself, Heres these people from different parts of the world, with different approaches to hip hop, with things to say. And I felt like i had something to say. So them dudes is the reason I’m doing this shit. I swear a lot. sorry.
Jon, You make beats and get on the mic. How does your approach differ in these works? Do you think you hear a vocal line within a beat you have made or once you’ve made track does it sound new when you are putting lyrics over it?
First of all, I am not very musically literate, but I guess I do have a talent for fucking around until shit starts sounding like I am. When I’m writing lyrics it’s the complete opposite. I started reading at a young age and that built up into a love for creative writing and literature during school and into college. I’m very conscious of what I’m saying and writing down and am very particular with how my words connect on different levels. As for when I’m creating a beat, I like to think of the vocals as just another instrument weaving it’s way in and out of a song. It doesn’t always work that way though, as I am still pretty new to rapping and still learning. It’s a lot different from poetry and prose.
D.G. What is the silliest thing you ever said in a freestyle?
DG: Damn, you really did your research huh? [laughs]
I be saying all types of dumb shit when I’m free-styling. Part the reason why I love the writing aspect of being an emcee so much more. I like that its premeditated and I have the time to choose my words very carefully.
But the silliest thing? First thing that comes to mind would be the infamous “Teatherball Incident” where in a battle I stated that I wanted to play teatherball with my opponents testicles [laughs]. In my mind it sounded so much more sadistic. but it just came out wrong… Fuck it.
I really appreciate the aesthetic of Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of the Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange. Though I think a lot of people miss the social commentary of the film and glorify the violence. Sort of like dudes who LOVE the movie Scarface, but don’t realize that its a cartoonish comment on violence, drugs and racism in our culture. What do you guys think about that?
Decibel: I feel like a bunch of folks see the world as black and white. Like, theres good and bad, and things fall into one of those categories, and there’s no in between or gray areas. Which is bullshit. The thing that I took from the movie “A Clockwork Orange” was there was this guy, Alexander DeLarge, who lived his life the way he saw fit and there were people who didn’t like it. Yeah, he was out doing bad shit, but thats not the point. What I took from the movie was that there was these people that wanted him to conform to their standards, which worked for a while, but at the end it shows him going back to his old self, which just proves that you’re gonna be who you are and who you wanna be. Just in a more radical way. But thats just me.
Why is Zulu Nation important to you?
DecibelGrand: Hip Hop has a very long history and just like any culture its important to know your history… and Hip Hop itself, is a culture. Its the way we live. the way we talk, walk, dress, and all that shit. That old saying talking something about ‘you don’t know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’re from.’ or something like that, explains it. Being a Zulu means that we’re the guardians of hip hop. Knowledge seekers. We perpetuate Hip Hop culture through, not just our music, but in the way we live. We bring a positive light to hip hop, and thats important especially now a days since hip hop has such a negative connotation with a bunch of folks. WERE NOT ALL MISOGYNISTIC dudes. Not all of us rap about fucking bitches, and making money and killing people on the block serving rocks with a 64 impala, bling bling hanging from my neck with a midget riding shotgun in a g-string. Although, sometimes I will say something about fucking a bitch… and by fucking a bitch, i mean having relations with a very beautiful woman.
Not to get too morbid, but when I die, I hope that they play Santo Y Johnny’s Sleepwalk at my wake. What record do you want to play for you when you go?
JonCozy: Enter Sandman by Metallica
DecibelGrand: UGK and Outkast’s “International Players Anthem.”
or Outkast - 13th floor/growing old.
If Workhouse is the Wu Tang Clan of Oahu, what Wu album would you compare the new Horrorshow record to? Cuban Linx? Ironman?
JC: Liquid Swords from GZA. Because of the lyricism and storytelling.
DG: Does “The Blackout” count? Since Meth’s on there? If so, that one.
If not, probably 36 chambers cause its gonna be a classic. and thats my favorite shit. and so far this album is my favorite that ive been a part of.
What is hip hop?
DecibelGrand: Life. 2 times.
MF DOOM wears a mask to separate his music from the cult of personality and to shirk the materialism associated with mainstream hip hop. What separates The Horrorshow from mainstream hip hop?
DG: We don’t rap on EDM shit or be singing like Drake’s weak ass. I honestly feel much better about my music being played in a car with like 2 or 3 homies listening and pay attention to the shit I’m saying and think to themselves like, “damn, i know what hes talking about.” because they been through the same shit, or know what its like to be homeless, or be so far gone off drugs, or just concerned with life. If i make music for anybody besides myself, its the people that live in their mind.
JC: When it comes to the music that I make, I don’t make it for anybody else except for me. I don’t care about the mainstream. Although I do care about being heard. If I wanna talk about taking acid while going to meet the pope, or fantasizing about tying up a catholic virgin to a basketball hoop then I’m gonna talk about it. and the most I can hope for, is that somebody out there can relate to it. Now tell me if I’m mainstream.
Is music dangerous?
JC: 3 People have died during the making of the Horror Show Album.
DG: I quit my job as a welder, a bunch of my family has given up on me. I have a hard time maintaining relationships with people outside of music. My girlfriend often gets neglected because I’m always working on music. When I’m not working on music I’m constantly beating myself up for it, because I feel like I’m wasting time.
Sometimes i even listen to “emo” shit or just sad songs and sympathize with the writer and that can put me in a dark place. So yeah, music is pretty dangerous.
JC: Anything that gives people a voice can be dangerous.
In the first 5 minutes of the horror classic Scream, the pretty young starlet of her day, Drew Barrymore is killed off. What hip hop tropes does The Horrorshow ice right out of the gate?
JC: The first thing we decided to kill off was the notion that hip-hop and rap music was just the story of the streets. This album is a story of about what goes on in our heads, and the medium for which our thoughts are expressed happens to be rap.
Killer Mike said that he put himself in a “Reservoir Dogs state of mind” when he did Run The Jewels. Are there any movies, beyond maybe the Clockwork Orange nod in the group’s name, that are reference points for you guys?
JC: Identity, directed by James Mangold. The idea of multiple personalities is permeated throughout everything I’ve been writing recently. I believe that most people are different people. I believe that I am different people. And I want to kill every one of them until I’m all that’s left. Like Jet Li in The One.
DG: “What We Do Is Secret” - a film about the rise and fall of Darby Crash, frontman of The Germs. I like how in the film Darby knew exactly what he wanted to do, and did it, even though there wasn’t really a detailed plan, it was more like a start game and endgame. That’s pretty much how I approached this album. I knew where I was, and I knew exactly how I wanted this album to turn out. The inbetweens were kind of blurry and whatnot, and I wasn’t too sure about shit, but I just put my trust into Cozy and myself and fucking did it. Bang.
And Requiem for a dream. Because i fucks with that shit tough.
While cd’s are around and vinyl and tapes are making a come back, most music is consumed via digital files and the internet. Does the lack of physical product challenge the music listener’s perception of reality in a new way? Are mp3’s a sort of ghost in the machine? Does Gilbert Ryle’s work apply to ipods?
JC: I think the value of music has gone with the absence of physical music. Value as in, I don’t save up my lunch money and choose to starve just so I can go to circuit city and buy a new CD every week. So the convenience is there with digital music, but the sentimental value is gone. Like, “I don’t care if I lose my favorite album, cause I could just go and download it again.” I don’t think that mp3’s are the ghost in the machine. I think they’re a result of technology moving faster than some of us were ready for, but a product created to fulfill the needs of convenience.
Where is hip hop headed?
DG: I hate when people say “Hip hop is dead” It ain’t. Its never gonna die. But it is being shadowed with the current popular EDM. That don’t mean that there isn’t dope hip hop out there, cause there is. but I think it speaks volumes that a bunch of hip hop artists who were doing great things with music, decided that in order for them to keep up with todays dominant demographic in “hip hop” culture, they need to rap over a fucking Tiesto beat or some dumb shit like that.
JC: Tiesto’s DOPE!
DG: Like, hip hop came from nothing. Its a culture that the people created from nothing, and the OG’s in hip hop culture built this shit with the idea that we could uproot ourselves from the negative shit going on in our communities with this movement. they believed that we could overcome adversity with rap, dance, art, music and all that shit. I think this is something that we should fucking be proud of. Why on earth would any hip hop artist choose to conform to the “hot” shit now just to be relevant, is beyond me. So wheres hip hop headed? Its on a steady downhill slope. but it ain’t gonna die.
Like Darby Crash said, “Everything in life works in circles.” Theres a cycle thats going on that we pay attention to. Full circle trill shit. Hip hop will be back and this Eurotrash shit wont rule forever.
Side note: I fucking love EDM. I just dont like that it seems that hip hop has to conform to EDM to live. fuck that. They can co-exist. But thats just me.
JC: From where I stand, Hip hop, especially in hawaii, is in good hands since we out here [laughs].
Do you have any advice for people just starting to make music on Oahu?
JC: Fuck man, know your history and know the tools that you decide to use. and stay hungry.
DG: If you’re rapping, be aware of the things you choose to say. Words are so powerful. Other than that, don’t be afraid of shit. Don’t be afraid to say shit if its how you feel. you wrote it down for a reason. don’t be afraid to try something new. experiment.
oh yeah, and this shit is a full contact sport. if you don’t like something, speak up. too much aloha out here. you need adversity to grow. Surround yourself with competition.
there’s a lot of bullshit going on in hip hop in hawaii. Favoritism, and all this shit. folks talk about this community-sense in hawaii hip hop, but its real clique-ish. Evidence is in the fact that Mo Illa Pillaz didn’t win hip hop album of the year last year. That was bull shit.
thats kind of all over the place haha but overall, love what you’re doing, man. Peace.
photos by TOOK_HNLA