Freedom to Experiment: Brian Lambert Interviews Marc Schuster

Quick note: This week’s post is by Brian Lambert!

To say that Marc Schuster is multitalented would be quite the understatement. I first met him online when he started reviewing tunes from my 52-week song challenge and then interviewed me on this blog. What came out of it was friendship and a collaboration in music production blossoming into a full-fledged band, The Star Crumbles. I thought for a change I’d flip the script on Marc and interview him and give his many readers and fans an opportunity to learn a bit about the hub of the wheel on which the #Tweetcore scene revolves.

Thanks for doing this, Marc. 

Absolutely! I appreciate the opportunity.

Your productivity blows my mind and I have a hard time keeping up with all of the things you are able to do. I suppose to start, could you give the readers a rundown of all the collaborations and projects you’ve worked on in the last couple of years.

I’ve actually been trying to figure that out myself lately. Obviously there’s the Star Crumbles, and that’s led to some other fun collaborations, including the mockumentary we made with a bunch of our #Tweetcore friends, and then we’ve both been working with Mike Mosley in Jr. Moz Collective recently. My other big collaborative music project is with my friend Tim Simmons. We record instrumentals under the name Simmons and Schuster. And I also record a decent amount of music on my own as a solo artist. Outside of making music, I interview musicians and occasionally opine on musical topics on this blog, and I’ve been doing the weekly #Tweetcore Radio Hour on AMS Radio since November. Once in a while, I’ll work on a more ambitious writing project, like my Beach Boys book, Tired of California: The Beach Boys’ Holland Revisited, or the children’s book I wrote and illustrated last year, Frankie Lumlit’s Janky Drumkit. Then there are the one-off collaborations with various musicians where I’ll play drums or keyboards on a track.

The first music I listened to by you was, in my opinion, very experimental, Brian Eno-esque as well as the sounds you craft for the Star Crumbles music. In contrast your latest solo effort Factory Seconds is a pretty straight forward rock affair focused more on your lyricism. What inspired the decision for what might be described as a more stripped-down approach?

I was reading a book about Elvis Costello called Complicated Shadows by Graham Thomson when I started working on Factory Seconds. As is often the case, the book made me want to listen to the music I was reading about, and the music made me want to make similar music of my own. Specifically, Elvis Costello’s first album, My Aim Is True was a major touchstone for that project since it was recorded fairly quickly in a studio that didn’t have all the bells and whistles of other “big” studios at the time. That one, Get Happy!! and Blood and Chocolate were in pretty constant rotation when I was recording the album.

How do you get started with a song?  Is it beats, a guitar part, lyrics?   Does that approach change depending on if it’s a solo project versus a Star Crumbles Project?

I usually just fool around until something starts sounding cool to me. Right now, for example, I’m working with some beats that I recorded last week. I just sat at my drumkit and recorded seven different sessions in different tempos and styles. The sessions were all between five and seven minutes long, and when I was done, I started listening for parts that I could loop and splice together into rhythm tracks. I’m still in that stage now, but the plan is to start riffing over them on guitar, bass, and keyboards until I have something. That’s my usual process, though I’ve also just started singing over drum tracks to get started. That way I know the song will be in my vocal range when I start adding instruments. That’s actually how the chorus for “The Way We Walk” came to me. I was looping a drum track, and the first words that came out of my mouth were “We walk the way we walk, it’s the way we walk.” Not that it made a lot of sense, but I liked the way it sounded.

You play so many instruments well. What was your first instrument and what would you say is your favorite to play?

My first instrument was the song flute, which is kind of like a poor cousin of the recorder. That was when I was in third grade. Every Friday, an old nun would come into our classroom and teach us to read music and play songs like “Chiapanecas.” Then I started taking piano lessons in fourth grade and guitar lessons when I was in high school. The problem was that I never really practiced much, so I didn’t start getting decent until much later.

In terms of playing, they’re all fun, but if the goal is just to unwind and have fun, drums are my current go-to. In some ways, it’s the physicality of playing drums that I like. I mean, even getting to the kit involves climbing over a bunch of junk in a back room of my basement, so there’s the adventure element, too. And once I’m behind the kit, I’ve gone to all that trouble to get there, so I’d feel silly if I only played for a minute or two.

One of the aspects of your drumming that I love is the bounce your beats always seem to have.  Who were some drummers that informed that approach?

Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello and the Attractions is a major influence. If you listen to his playing on “Tokyo Storm Warning,” you’ll hear some real bounce. I think he’s doing kind of a Motown groove on that one, so I guess I’m also influenced by Benny Benjamin and Pistol Allen. And Ringo Starr. Listen to “Love Me Do.” Loads of bounce on that one!

With your many musical creations, a weekly radio program and blog, you also teach full time and are married. It makes my head spin just trying to imagine how you get it all done. How do you keep track of and manage all the projects that you have going on at any given moment?

I’m pretty good about putting everything I need to do on my calendar – and also scheduling my day around activities that need to get done. I know I’m going to spend a good chunk of time on teaching every day, since it’s my job. After that, I have some room to play with other interests, but if, for example, I have an episode of the radio show that needs to get done, I’ll focus on that instead of doing something that has a softer or non-existent deadline like working on a song. Otherwise, I just play it by ear and work on whatever grabs my attention.

As the hub around which the #Tweetcore world revolves, what have you learned over the last year of being in the scene? How, if at all has it changed you approach to making music?

It’s funny, I don’t think of myself as the hub of #Tweetcore. If anything, I’m more of a node, which is related to one of the things I’ve learned from being part of the scene. The music industry is hierarchical in nature. There are top artists who make loads of money, and then there are what might be considered second-tier artists and so-on down the chain. And, of course, there are gatekeepers throughout the industry trying to sort out who’s who and who gets not only to have their music heard on influential playlists and radio stations but also just to be considered “real” musicians. But none of that has any bearing on music. If you’re making music, then you’re a real musician. I don’t care if you’re doing it by banging rocks together or switching your vacuum cleaner on and off. If you’re having fun with sound, then you’re making music. It doesn’t mean everyone’s going to love what you do, but that’s okay. Just have fun with it.

Because one of my favorite topics for us to discuss is mixing and mastering, what’s one of your favorite things about mixing at this moment in time?

I love the freedom to experiment. The fact that I can try different mixing techniques or play with things like EQ and compression without ever having to worry about paying for studio time – or even paying for equipment beyond my laptop and a set of speakers – is amazing. Plus, I can practice various techniques at my leisure or go back and try new approaches to mixing old songs, again without worrying about paying for studio time. Really, it’s all about the amount of time technology affords us if we use it in a constructive way. I can spend three hours scrolling through TikTok videos or I can spend three hours playing with attack and release times on a compressor. I’m not saying one is necessarily better than the other. I just know which one I’d rather do.

Factory Seconds

I released my latest EP on Wednesday. It’s kind of a mixed bag of tunes, but I think they hang together pretty well.

The EP is called Factory Seconds. I was thinking of Andy Warhol when the title came to me. I was also thinking about how I often check out factory seconds and B-stock when I’m looking for musical equipment. Usually it’s just a little blemish or a crack in the finish that knocks a few dollars off the price of a guitar. My favorite guitar, for example is a Gretsch Streamliner with a crack in the finish. The guitar plays great and stays in tune better than any of my other guitars. But because of that crack, I paid a lot less than the suggested regular retail price.

Along similar lines, I’ll be the first to admit that one of the things that lends a bit of charm — and, one might argue, humanity — to my songs is that they’re all imperfect in one way or another. For one thing, I’m no Caruso, but to quote a review of my song “George Around the Corner” by the (quite excellent) music blogger Jeff Archuleta, “He doesn’t have a powerful singing voice, but he more than makes up for it with a quirky, endearing vocal delivery that never fails to put a huge smile on my face.” 

So I thought I’d play on the idea of factory seconds and offer four songs on an EP for what’s usually the price of two and give folks the same kind of deal I got on my guitar. Plus I added a couple of bonus tracks to the mix to sweeten the deal.

The first song on the EP is called “The Way We Walk.” If there’s a unifying theme to be found on Factory Seconds — and, to be honest, most of the songs I write — it’s expressed in this one. We’re all outsiders in one way or another, and if we’re lucky, we’re cool with it. The hook is admittedly — is “solipsistic” the word I’m looking for? I mean, what does “We walk the way we walk, it’s the way we walk” even mean? The words just came out of mouth when I sat down in front of my microphone and started singing to a drum beat that I had recorded.

The obviously rejoinder for the next line was to replace “walk” with “talk,” and that got me thinking about where I live. Ever since Mare of Easttown (and probably long before it), the peculiarities of the Delaware County accent have been getting a bit of attention. All in good fun, of course, and I, for one, take it as a point of pride. But the funny thing about accents is that no one really notices they have one until someone from “outside” points it out. Which, I suppose, is the idea at the heart of saying “we talk the way we talk, it’s the way we talk.” There’s nothing weird about it to us Delco natives. That’s just how it is.

Of course, there’s also a bit of an edge to the song as well. The first verse lets you know something is amiss: “You and I both know the lies they tell about our kind: The only good one is a dead one, and the dead ones just aren’t trying.” I actually wrote that long before the song’s hook came to me — probably a bout a year ago or more.

But once I started figuring out what the hook was trying to tell me, that verse fit nicely with the theme and the idea that arbitrary social markers like an accent can sometimes make a huge difference in one’s life, signaling as they do all kinds of insider vs. outsider distinctions. More than once I’ve said something in my Delco accent only to realize that I’m suddenly the weirdo in the conversation as a result.

Which is usually fine by me, largely because being an outsider to one group also means being an insider in another. And that’s why the rest of the verses are, to some extent, about finding comfort even in the fact that “the way we walk” and the “the way we talk” sets us apart from the mainstream. Even if the way we talk is a dead-end street, it takes us where we want to go.

Also worth noting, the “This is the glue…” lyrics in the bridge came to me while I was out walking my dog. It’s rare for me to sit down and write an entire song in one sitting. Mainly, I just jot things down in a little notebook throughout the year and then try to piece the scraps together whenever I feel like I want to develop them into a song.

The same is true of “All the Hairy Boys,” which I see as a companion piece to “The Way We Walk,” though I originally wrote it as a response to the first song I released under my own name, “Before the Boys.” The original idea of “Before the Boys” was to look at the kinds of pressures that society puts on young girls to behave in a certain way, and “All the Hairy Boys” was initially an attempt to do the same with boys — or boys of a certain era, anyway.

In the song, they’re teenagers in muscle cars, revving their engines and play their music as loud as they can because it’s the only way to let the world know they exist. Of course, they’re teens, so they don’t realize they’re just coming off as jerks. Eventually, one hopes, they’ll grow up and figure out some other way to express themselves constructively, but until then, it’s all about being loud and rude to mask their insecurity. Which, as you might guess, is a version of what’s going on in “The Way We Walk.”

With “Before the Weatherman,” I got a little meta. Once again, the phrase “before the weatherman” came to me when I was out walking my dog, and I started building a song around the idea of a precocious or pretentious teen trying to sound wise and philosophical by making claims about what life used to be like “in olden times.”

The problem is that there’s nothing in the song itself to indicate that I’m in “character” while I’m singing, other than the fact that I’m singing in a voice I don’t usually use — my faux Michael McDonald Steely Dan voice. It’s like I’m trying to embody some teen who wants to sound older and wiser and therefore someone other than who he is by singing in the voice of someone other than who I am. The more I explain it the less sense it makes.

Anyway, the basic idea this kid is trying to convey is that people used to live much more engaging lives in the past than they do now, largely because their lives weren’t mediated by technology — like weather reports or the “tiny screens” that appear in verse three.

The original version of this song ran a lot longer.Once I started recording it, I realized that it was going to be nearly six minutes long — or longer. And though a six-minute meditation on the decline of interpersonal relationships at the hands of technology as told from the point of view of a pretentious teenager struck me as incredibly funny, I also felt like the joke might wear a little thin after a few listens. So, in the words of Billy Joel, I cut it down to 3:05. Or 3:20, as the case may be.

In case you’re curious, here are a couple of the verses I cut:

Vandals on the edge of town
Sharpening their axes
Made us wonder why the hell we
Paid so much in taxes.

The walls of stone we built could
Barely keep the bears out,
Let alone the savage scent of
Simmering sauerkraut.

Maybe it helps to know that the Vandals were a Germanic tribe that sacked Rome in the year 455? It’s the kind of thing I imagine the teenaged narrator of the song would know, anyway. And think was incredibly poignant. But as far as the song goes, it was incredibly unwieldy. In any case, some boys rev their engines while others try to sound smarter and wiser than they are. I imagine you can guess which category I fell into as a young man.

In terms of recording the song, I was lucky to have my friend and fellow Star Crumble Brian Lambert offer to add some backing vocals on “Before the Weatherman” and also to provide a brief spoken-word interlude in place of my guitar solo on what I’m releasing one of the bonus tracks on the EP. I’m calling it the “Bespoke Version” because it’s both bespoke in the “custom made” or unique sense but also because Brian is speaking on it.

If the first three songs of the EP are about young people who feel like outsiders trying to figure out where they fit into the world around them, the final song is about stepping out of the world for a quiet night at home with a hot cup of tea. And an interloping shape-shifting Pagan goddess named Bertha. Technically, it should probably be “Bertha with a Swan’s Foot” or “Bertha with a Big Foot,” but I liked the image that “Bertha with a Crooked Foot” conjured.

The “rewarder of the generous, and the punisher of the bad, particularly lying children” (so says Wikipedia), Bertha (or Perchta as she’s known in German) is a mythical figure who sometimes takes the shape of a beautiful woman and sometimes takes the shape of a beast. In this version of the myth, I imagine her being transported to the 21st century and, with some degree of amusement, trying to figure out what people are doing with their lives while the narrator of the song is himself trying to figure out what he’s doing with his.

In some ways, I suppose, Bertha is herself an outsider looking in. But since she’s a divine entity, she’s pretty okay with being an outsider and just views the ridiculous pursuits of contemporary humans as fascinating albeit silly curiosities.

It took me a little while to figure out how “Bertha with a Crooked Foot” should sound, and the lyrics evolved subtly as I continued to work on it. You can hear some of the differences in the early sketch of the song that I’ve included as the second bonus track on the EP. It’s just me working out the first verse and the chorus on a wobbly piano with clacky-sounding keys.

Altogether, I had a lot of fun recording Factory Seconds. It’s a weird little EP, but I’ve always said that weird is good. It beats the heck out of ordinary, anyway, and in the final analysis is probably what makes life worth living. We’re all weird in one way or another, and if I can celebrate that weirdness in music, then I feel like I’ve done my job.

Fake It Till You Make It: A Conversation with Quizboy

Quizboy is a fascinating character—and I don’t use the word “character” lightly. There’s something mysterious about him. Part noirish superhero and part snarky gadfly, he’s wearing a pair of steam-punk goggles and a skeleton facemask in his Twitter profile picture, and the cover of his 2020 album Rest in Pain depicts a young boy—possibly Quizboy himself—in a red cape, to all appearances ready to take on the world. And his music is pretty awesome, too. Grungy in places and cinematic in others, Quizboy’s tunes have a strong 90s vibe reminiscent of Nirvana.

I’m curious about your identity, if that’s something you’re comfortable talking about. I see on your Bandcamp page that the primary contributor to all of Quizboy’s music is Ben Dayho. Are they one-and-the-same?

If I’m being quite honest, “identity” has always been uncomfortable for me, regardless of whether it’s the alter-ego or the wage slave that would be considered the “real” person. I appreciate that you are taking the time to be mindful about what I am or am not comfortable with though, thank you for that. Ben Dayho is indeed one and the same and is in fact a word play on the Spanish word for “stupid person” or “stupid asshole” in some context. I also go by Bennito Malcooster, a character that was dreamed up for me in my friends’ project “Weed N Stiff” – a comedy band. In their universe, I’m the band’s company secretary.

That said, the bio for Quizboy begins with “Billy was born Hydrocephalic.” Where does Billy fit in?

Hahaha. It’s a bit of an inside joke. There’s a cartoon called “Venture Bros” and in that show there’s a character named “Billy Quizboy,” which is where the music project name comes from. I chose that character because I liked him the most. The “Billy was born Hydrocphalic” bio is actually his backstory in the cartoon, and I just top it off with “oh yeah but the band…” part at the end. Of all the characters in that show that have very elaborate backstories, I was particularly connected to Billy Quizboy’s because he is this odd duck, that has a medical condition, he’s not quite “good” enough to be a higher tier of superhero (the whole thing in the show is a satirical take on “good guys” vs. “villains” and their respective unions and bureaucracies that govern them).  Quizboy, the character, tends to be taken advantage of because of his short comings and social awkwardness. Yet, at the same time he’s called upon to bear huge responsibilities like perform illegal open-heart surgeries (multiple times) because he’s actually smart enough to do them, but was never dealt a hand in life that put him in a position to go to M.I.T. like he dreamed of (a running joke in the show). I just have an affinity for that character, so that’s basically where all that comes from.

Your Bandcamp page is a funhouse of snark and intentional misdirection. I’m thinking specifically about your “Bandcamper” offer: $2000 for access to all the new music you release plus bonus items and access to supporter-exclusive messages, followed quickly by an all-caps warning: !!! DON’T DO IT!!! What’s going on there?

I’m flabbergasted and flattered that you poked around enough to notice that stuff, haha. In short, I used the “subscriber” feature in Bandcamp to house some old demos and stuff I don’t intend on putting out publicly. I put the warning up to tell people not to subscribe, set the price point at something absurd, so that no one takes it seriously. What’s REALLY housed in there, are some recordings of me with an acoustic guitar, strumming and singing songs to my daughter during bath time. Whenever it’s my turn to do bath time with the little one, I sing her songs and she requests certain ones and it’s a nice bonding experience. I guess my overall intention is that one day when I die, I want her to have some recordings to re-visit of us hanging out together. I call the demos “Bath Salts”

I’m also fascinated by your merch. There’s the pig poster, which depicts an anthropomorphic pig standing in front of a nuclear reactor, and there’s the “Nuke a whale for Jesus” mug. Plus the Follow Your Leader line of apparel, which depicts Adolf Hitler blowing his brains out. It calls to mind a blend of Pink Floyd (at least as far as the pig is concerned) and a lot of the punk iconography of the 1980s. How does the imagery on your merchandise reflect your values?

If me suggesting that Nazis blowing their heads off can be categorized as a value, then I’m gonna go with yes, haha. I am steadfastly opposed to bigotry of all kinds. I don’t like to get lost in the weeds of arguing semantics about each type of bigotry, that to me is noise. Everything to me comes down to being humanist. I have been subject to racism, abuse, and some of the few people that are the most important to me in my life are homosexual and/or non-binary. So to me those topics that we like to debate about are not just topics, they are very real people, with very real lives. And they matter to me. Am I an idiot that says foolish things or not the right things at times? Yup. I am a sore thumb in just about every way you can be, so conversely, I also never expect everyone to be perfect and always be keen to everybody’s specific sensitivities all the time, I get that too, but I always humble myself enough to listen to perspective and learn. If we can humble ourselves enough to say, “I’m sorry” when we need to, actually mean it, and treat each other as humans, you can’t really go wrong. Only thing I would hope and ask for is that people can grant me patience for my flaws and ignorance and help me grow as a person, just as I would do for anyone else. Don’t know if that answers the question, haha, I doubt the basic imagery could reflect all that, but that’s what it is.

The pig art was painted by my wife. She’s an awesome spray paint artist, most of the art used by my radio station was painted by her. The “nuke a whale for Jesus” phrase is a slight on organized religion and its interference with political ideology. It was a saying my friend came up with in high school and we used to holler it at each other from time to time, so why not put it on a coffee mug, I says to myself.

There’s definitely something political going on, and I particularly appreciate that your Linktree page includes an option to support Anti-Racism. How do you view the relationship between politics and art?

I can’t deny that, even though I don’t think I intentionally try to be overtly political. And when I say political, I mean in the sense of talking about “politics” as it’s presented in the news. That stuff is really off-putting to me. I get overwhelmed and burned out really fast on the “hot takes,” statements made in absolution, propaganda, slogans, etc. I think most of that stuff is theater, we reduce complex situations too much in order to sway influence one way or another. However, I do hold true to some principals and ideals, and that’s mostly based on personal experience. So, it’s not so much as I’m trying to be political, as it is that we’ve politicized things that I have been affected by.

To add context to that, my father was (is) an abusive narcissist. When we were young, we were not allowed to know of any other kinds of music other than the “real” music he deemed we (and by we, I mean including my mother) were allowed to listen to. Coming from an impoverished neighborhood and school system, my only other exposure to music, was on the schoolyard. So, up until I was well into adolescence and distanced enough to be more of my own person, I only thought there were two types of music in the world. Stuff like Johnny Cash (before it was “cool”); Merle Haggard, George Jones, Lynn Anderson, on and on. The only other music the world had to offer was that “N-word” music at my school. Gangsta Rap was the hugest coolest thing at the time. I knew about the Beatles, because of my mom, but we had to listen to that when Dad wasn’t around because they were “F-slurs.” Imagine the identify crisis of being a person of color at school and having to secretly like “N-word” music because it was not allowed at home, which based on the demographics of where I lived, was a contradiction to the homes of my peers at the time. So, if I’m political because I harbor resentment towards experiences like that, yeah I guess I’m political.

In terms of music, I’m hearing a heavy Nirvana influence. Do you feel like being from the Pacific Northwest has anything to do with that?

Absolutely. Well, I’m not from the PNW. I’ve lived in the Portland area for 8 years now. However, the sounds of Sub Pop, Grunge, and PNW hardcore were so huge for me at such an important age. So, while not being from here, it’s certainly a place I gravitated to. I’m from a hardcore lovin’ town. Reno, Nevada. In that town, you were either a lounge, slick, “finger gun” type of cover musician or band, that get paid well albeit, in the Casino circuit, or you were a hardcore band. I mean, I hate to speak in absolute, nothing is definitively absolute, but that’s where most of the activity tended to be. So, a lot of my band and gigging experience was in metalcore type of bands, I was never cool enough or accepted enough to be one of the cooler kids in the scene or in some of the more hardcore punk bands that I actually appreciated more musically. A lot of the projects I was involved in were machismo, beefy, metal type of “fuck yeah” projects. Which don’t get me wrong, there were fun experiences in all of it. And I love heavy music so much. I played in a band that got to open for Horse the Band once, I thought that was amazing. I had a good friend that had a band that got to open for Hatebreed and Unearth and The Bled, so I was able to get into a lot of shows. I’ll always look back at that fondly. I got to meet Every Time I Die a couple times when they came through town and that was so cool.

At the same time I gravitated to places like the PNW that were a bit more eccentric? I guess you could say, centered more around creatives. I discovered “Alternative” music in 8th grade. It was revolutionary to me. I was the weird kid that was into weirdo music. There’s such a rich history of punk music and beyond here in Portland when you think about bands like Poison Idea, the Wipers, Red Fang, The Decemberists…and it’s kind of insane. I think MDC, Green Jello, and The Dandy Warhols are based out of here too now. So many insanely talented artists that want nothing to do with the commercial aspirations’ aspect of it. It’s refreshing and kind of off-putting at the same time. I never fit in anywhere. Really is different than where I was from.

I’d describe your lyrics as nonnarrative and impressionistic—again, reminiscent of Nirvana. What’s your approach to writing lyrics?

Yeah, Kurt Cobain is indubitably my primary inspiration for most everything I dabble with. It’s hard to explain just how much impact that had on me at the time I found it. I don’t personally attempt to write lyrics too literal. I don’t think I do that well. In long form, like a blog? I think I’m better at getting my point across. Twitter? I am a sore thumb and weird. My mind is always racing, and I must constantly remind myself, “hey stupid, THEY don’t know what’s going on in your head, show some restraint.” In my approach to lyric writing, I try to do it in a way that uses fervid words that get a point across about how I’m feeling, but consciously try not to be too literal. Even though, in my own head sometimes what I’m writing is about something very literal.  

And your approach to writing and recording music?

Fake it till you make it. Haha. I got to a point where I had so many songs written and been in so many projects where my own artistic sensibilities weren’t cultivated or really accepted that I figured, “well, I better figure some shit out or this will just die with me.” That’s basically it. I gave up, haha. I literally just learned basics, hit record, and tinkered with things over and over. Eventually, the tinkering got good enough to where I could understand tutorials and apply some fundamentals. Today I feel like I have a good foundation, I feel like the next two records will really be something that I’ve been meaning to do the whole time but just didn’t know how to do before. As far as writing, it usually comes out when I’m just rifting at my rehearsal space. I’ll usually start with a riff on a loop or a couple layers of loops and just kind of go nuts on it, then eventually structure it at some point later. I have a combination of tracks that are live drummers and programmed drums. I’ve worked with Nick Schlesinger who’s a hired gun, really nice guy and drum instructor, and I’ve solicited help from my friend Toby Lugo, who is I think is in what must be one thousand bands now in the Portland area, hahaha. So I’ll plug what I can remember from the top of my head….Othrys, Henry’s Child, Seven Second Circle, Val Bauer…. Toxic Zombie. The guy is insane. But yeah, that’s the closest thing Quizboy has to an actual drummer.

You also run an internet radio station—AMS Radio. How did you get that started, and what’s involved in keeping it going? You do all of the programming yourself, am I right about that?

Yeah man, that to me is my labor of love. I have no friends man, hahaha, I do it all myself.

It started in… I want to say…. 2019 ish? It was one of those exercises in tinkering and rabbit holes I burrowed into. I got into Music Publishing and all the industry BS that goes with that and I started out with a station where I was paying all the PRO licenses myself. I wanted to be legit. I wanted to make sure if I spin artist, I wanted them to get paid performance royalties. Then the vendor I had, had a server crash, and wiped out all my stuff. Not so much as an “I’m sorry” or anything and to have to keep paying the licenses to ASCAP, BMI and SEASAC the frustration boiled over and that’s when I found Live365 in 2021 which is a place that handles all the license stuff for you and does the “advertising” thing. So, all I have to do is curate and as long as the stuff I spin is published correctly, people earn royalties through their PROs. That is an important thing to me, as much as I have no qualms about pirate radio and the other punk rock stuff out there, I do kind of take it as a personal mission to advocate for artists and learn the business side, as gross as it is sometimes, properly.

In line with the station and the blog you maintain alongside it, you do a lot to promote independent musicians. What’s the draw for you?

I do try to behave when it’s the AMS brand. Quizboy is allowed to be crude, clumsy, and stupid because that’s what I am at my core. With AMS I really am trying to build a culture and brand of independent music appreciation.

I have such an affinity for independent artists, some might say it’s unhealthy, I probably should go over this with my therapist. Is there a lot of “trash” out there? Yeah, but there’s a lot of trash out in mainstream music too, the only difference is money backs one and the other gets up goes to work, and still figures out how to squeeze in creativity somehow. That to me comes through when I hear independent music I like, that makes it all the more brilliant. There’s an authenticity that is just there… I’d rather focus on that. I’d rather discover and focus on all the good things that I feel like people are missing out on. Maybe that’s the little bit of value I can add. Other people’s time is important, mine isn’t, so I don’t mind sifting through the trash to find the things that are unjustifiably underappreciated. If I can show somebody, anybody, something and make them go, “oh my god, I love this” and carry that forward for … forever, right? You hang on to your favorite songs forever. That’s kind of my bizarre and inexplicable motivation for all that. I don’t even entirely understand my own motives. I just love music.

Like the Star Crumbles! I love it. Even though you duped me into pushing cold lies and propaganda. I don’t care though. I’ll keep doubling down. I will still tell everyone I encounter that you opened for Dead Milkmen. Did you happen to listen to Native Tongue in the piece I wrote though? You really should, I think you’d dig it.

I will definitely do that! Anything else going on right now? Anything on the horizon?

I have an EP that is right there, I can almost taste it. I just need a quiet day to myself to put down vocals. I’m really excited for that one, like I was saying before I was able to apply a lot of fundamentals I didn’t have before to it. There’s a cover of The Decemberists on it, a song I wrote on piano, and a song that is pretty personal to me about some pretty heavy stuff, but we’ll see how literal that translates.

And I have a full-length album that I’m putting guitar work on right now. Talk about disappointment, yay! That one will be nice and heavy and angry. Almost, not quite, but almost a complete abandonment from the EP coming out next.

Other than those two things I’m focused on, I’d oddly enough like to maybe put a band together to rehearse this stuff. Or even if it’s just a backing track, I’d like to do more live stuff, and largely I mean virtually, like Bandcamp live and stuff.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!