Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A UNIVERSE BE DAMNED, IT'S BLACK PIG: THE INTERVIEW! LIVE!

Once we get on stage I picture this invisible film, and suddenly you cross this barrier, not to sound too metaphysical, in time and space, now you are in the Black Pig zone, and it's our job to capture you. -Joe Milazzo, Black Pig

Brooklyn Original stepped into the confines of the Black Pig studio this past Sunday night to get deep within their psyche, and pull out all of THE DARK SECRETS! So here and now, bear witness to Wayne Daren Schneiderman (aka The Principal), Joseph Milazzo (aka Joe Business), Anthony Navarro (aka Tony Torch), and Barry Dobrin (aka Barry G.), BLACK PIG!!!


How and why did Black Pig come together?

JM: The short and sweet version... In about late 2004 I was looking to start a new project with Wayne; who I’ve collaborated with since 1995. I suggested we do something just for fun, just for ourselves. The idea was to get together once a week to write and record a song in one session. At the end of the project we were going to collect the songs into an album. We decided to call the project Black Pig, and we gave the CD out at a small release party. Shortly thereafter there was some interest by a small record label called Bald Freak Music, who had heard it on My Space. They suggested a good way to promote this album was to form a live band, that’s when we decided to call Tony and Barry to play guitar, and we used to have Johnny Clemente as a drummer in our band. We started playing shows and the band became a cohesive unit.

WS: The band sort of morphed into a more acoustic act by default after Johnny went out on his own and did his own thing.

JM: We couldn’t find a drummer, and we wanted to keep our profile out there so we were like, "lets play acoustic shows to keep our face out there." And then after a while it started to feel so natural, just us four. The songs just breathed more and sounded as they should sound, and we just kept it like that since.


So did the change to acoustic change the live approach and presence of the band?

TT: The music has gone through three different phases, from the album, to what we created as a full live rock band, into what we do as an acoustic band, because if you listen to most of the versions they are different in some way.

WS: I think the common thread between all three versions is the eclectic nature of the band, and the diversity of the songs. The band also has a tongue in cheek element, but the music is quite serious. A cornucopia of emotions is one way I would describe the Black Pig animal.

JM: And just in time for Thanksgiving!

Where does the comedy aspect of the band come from?

WS: I’m a freaking clown, I have to tell you. It’s an aspect of my personality, and Black Pig is a wonderful conduit to express that part of my personality. I believe it’s done in such a way that there’s room for it, but at the same time there is a serious element to the music as well.

JM: You can say we take what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. In previous bands I’ve been in, I’ve tried to suppress the humorous side of our nature because the music was ultra serious, and we wanted to try and present a cohesive image of a serious band. That’s why we called the album It Is What It Is, because I broke down all those pretensions and said let's be ourselves, and if there’s stupid or serious stuff going on let it be what it is.

Live you guys have this great banter, is this something you rehearse or is it mostly improv?

WS: A lot of it's rehearsed, but it’s kinda tricky because you want to rehearse it, but you want to keep it loose at the same time. Like that Ray Charles thing we do, I kinda know what I’m doing, but I don’t exactly know what I’m doing because you don’t want it to sound too rehearsed.

TT: It’s timing. We know roundabout what’s going to happen, when and where.

JM: It’s like improv, but we know the beats we’re going to hit.


What do the live crowds make of you guys?

BG: I very rarely look at the audience when we play, I guess it’s still a little bit of stage fright, but once in a while I peer out and sometimes, to me, they look like they don’t know what the hell to make of us! By the middle of the show, because there’s so many different styles, blue grass, rockabilly, metal, you put that all together and there’s people that get into us. That’s what I’ve seen.

WS: In addition to music, I like to call it performance art. It’s more than just playing songs; there's definitely a visual that goes along with it also. It’s the kind of thing if you walk into a club whether you like it or dislike it to say, "what the hell is that", and also to say, "they do what they do well." I don’t think there’s any refuting that.

TT: We don’t just come out there and play our 8 songs, and get off stage. Joe very much tries to draw the crowd into us. And we show them. Usually by the end of the show we captivate whatever audience is there, friends or not. They enjoy what we do, and we enjoy doing it for them.

This one’s for Tony and Barry, what did you initially think of the CD, and how did that affect your decision to join the band when Joe and Wayne approached you to be in it?

TT: I actually had the pleasure of sitting in on a couple of sessions; everything was recorded, but they were mixing, and stuff like that, and actually they had asked me to do the Strange Ways solo, but it didn’t work out…

JM: LETTING OUT THE DARK SECRETS!

everyone laughs

TT: But it’s a true secret! I didn’t mind, I really wasn’t very rehearsed to do it, and it didn’t work; shit happens! Joe had been talking to me about someone being interested in the band and I told him, “listen, I want to play in the band.” Then maybe a couple of months later he called me, from Costa Rica by the way, and told me they were putting together the band, and if I was still interested in playing and I was like, “Fuck Yeah! I love the music, I listen to it, I have it in my car, shit, I want to do this!” And it was the best decision I made.

BG: For me, I remember a few months before I was asked to join the band, Wayne came by my house to hang out, and I already knew about Black Pig, but I hadn’t really heard the songs yet so he gave me a CD and he tells me, “I played the plunger on this CD, and you’ll hear it during the song” and I was like, “alright that’s the first thing I’ll listen to.” But I really liked what I heard. I thought it was pretty different, and I even asked Wayne, “hey if you ever need help with anything let me know.” I didn’t think he would take it seriously. Fast forward about 4 months later, I get a message from Joe asking if I could fill in on a couple of sessions, but I didn’t think I was going to be part of the band. I just thought I’d go in and see how it goes. Joe told me to learn 5 of the songs, and I did, and the chemistry was there from the first rehearsal. We took a break and we walked into the backroom of the studio and they said, "you’re in the band", and I was like, "I didn’t know this was an audition!"

JM: And we offered you a million dollar signing contract!

BG: And I still haven’t gotten my million yet!

everyone laughs


So now that the lineup is set, what is the band dynamic?

JM: At first it was more like Wayne and I, as the originators of the project, it was centered around our ideas and how they can flesh them out, but as we progressed as a band Tony and Barry have brought in their personalities; their ideas complementing our original structure. I see it continuing to progress in that way. The launching board for anything we ever do will be that first CD that Wayne and I did. It was like a mission statement, and it will forever remain a very special part of the band, but we’ve accepted that Tony and Barry have their own voices and opinions, and because they’re working hard on the project you have to be open to that. It’s been a learning process. It was like allowing somebody else to hold your kid, but I trust them both.

WS: I think another aspect of the dynamic of the band is that we are all good friends, and that’s often an under rated thing. It doesn’t make a difference how talented a person is if you don’t have a certain chemistry. If you don’t have a certain gel with people and personalities then that project is doomed to fail. I think the fusion of that we are friends, and that we bring a lot to the table musically and otherwise is a big plus to the dynamic of the band.

Let’s talk about the first album, which was sort of an underground hit. Do you see that from your perspective, and does that success affect any future recordings?

WS: Correct me if I’m wrong if you guys don’t echo this, but I think most of what we do we do it for us. It has to ultimately pass the test of the 4 of us, because otherwise we’ll be chasing our tail thinking what is A-B and C going to think. We appreciate the fact that people like the work we are doing, but I think one of the reasons why people appreciate it is because of its honesty, and once you start trying to please the highest common denominator then you lose in that battle. So it’s really all about if it passes our test, and if we like what it is that what we do then we believe other people will like it as well.

JM: To answer one of your questions, I don’t see that it was an underground hit. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it was within a very small sphere of our friends. If 50 people getting into our album constitutes an underground hit, I don’t know. It’s tough to gage if there was a big buzz about it. If it happened, personally, I don’t feel it, but maybe I’m wrong, I hope I’m wrong!



Continuing the thread of a new album... since your stage show is now such an integral part of the band, how do you translate that to your next album?

JM: I think we all, in our heads, have ideas about that. When we play a set of songs we don’t just play the songs willy-nilly. We try to find thematic links. We try to create an arch, and take the audience on a little bit of a journey. I think we take that same approach into the album. Maybe we make the songs bleed into on another like the live show. That’s certainly a possibility.
We did do a recording live at the Wicked Monk, which is kinda our home base, where we feel comfortable. It was a good forum for us to present ourselves as we are with our crowd, in our neighborhood. Personally, I want it to be a record of a night hanging out with Black Pig in Bay Ridge. I think it would be interesting for someone on the west coast to hear it. I don’t know how audible it is that you’re in a Brooklyn bar from that audio, but maybe there is something there underneath it all, some kind of buzz that translates to the listener.

You touched upon this at the beginning of your last answer, but to clarify, how do you come up with your set lists?

WS: Funny you should say that, because we were juggling some stuff around just now!

TT: It’s tooth and nail; it’s tooth and nail sometimes!

JM: Sometimes we get lucky and we stumble upon a combination of songs where back to back there’s such a flow that’s just perfect, and it’s undeniable. What happens is you can get stuck in that comfort zone where for the next year we’ll just play these same 8 songs in a row just because it sounds good. You have to keep yourself interested. We write new songs, and you can’t drop in a new song in a set your comfortable with because that could totally set off the whole mood. It’s not done easily. There’s a lot of fighting. There’s a lot of arguing back and forth; just trying to get the best flow. You want to keep it dramatic.


How have the expectations of the band changed from the beginning till now?

JM: When Wayne and I got together there were no expectations whatsoever. If you would have told me 3 years later we would be doing interviews, doing live albums, and trying to get signed by major labels, I would’ve said, “what are you talking about, we’re just doing this for fun.” That’s what makes this all the more surprising and gratifying, and ironic. Considering how many bands we were all in where all we did was try.

BG: This band has evolved from then till now, and the only expectation I have is that we keep evolving. We've gotten better as a group, who knows what the future holds.

WS: Our expectations are to continue to write quality songs, to record a real album some day, perhaps to do a series of mini tours, and to garner new fans.

What is your approach to song writing?

WS: The song writing is now more of natural process; it’s kind of more organic, whereas in the beginning it was a little more preconceived. It was sort like let’s write a blah blah song, you know what I mean? That’s how I remember it.

JM: Right. We would come in with a song, like today we’re gonna write a swing song and we’d write a swing song. Now, it’s more like whatever riff pops out we’ll try to work it in.

TT: It’s kind of whatever fits into what we are doing too. We try not to go too far out from where we are, and just try not to make anything the same.


How does being born and bred in Brooklyn affect the makeup of the band?

WS: Personally, I don’t think it affects the band. I don’t think it affects the songs. I think it's more about mood, it’s more about vibe, rather than where we came from. I mean you can have a crappy day whether you live in the suburbs or in a more urban environment. I don’t really think it goes too deeply into how the songs are created.

BG: I would say the stage presence, the banter and all that, would show more of the Brooklyn side of us.

JM: There is a certain amount of aggression. There have been certain time that I’ve been outspokenly aggressive towards the audience because at times they haven’t been responding or sitting on their hands. That Brooklyn comes out of you. So I would say Barry is right, it’s more in our approach to talking to the audience. I think people have a lot of preconceptions and misconceptions of what it’s like to be a Brooklynite. Of course there’s the stereotypical kind of Brooklyn person.

WS: On a parallel with ignorance.

JM: Right. And I think we kind of parody that. We try and do high brow and low brow at the same time. The low brow aspects of Black Pig in the banter, but if you look at our lyrics I like to think they are deep and thought out. It's fun to play both sides in the same confines of Black Pig, and see what the audience makes of it.

Finally, guys, why Black Pig? Why not White Goat? Or even Brown Beaver?

WS: We were thinking about changing the name of the band to Brown Beaver! The original name of the project was The Grievers because a lot of the band’s lyrical themes are based on pessimism.

JM: To be true, a lot of the lyrics on the album are based on Wayne, who was going through a rough time with an ex-girlfriend. So those lyrics are about the misery and sadness of life, and he was going through this grieving process so we were like, "let's call is The Grievers."

WS: Black Pig though, the way I justify it in my head is if you think about how a black sheep is sort of an oddity, and a pig is smarter animal than a sheep is. It's like an intellectual oddity.

JM: Write that down.

WS: And the words, Black Big, just works so well, and is such a strong image, but at the same time there’s a repulsive aspect of it too, like a car wreck, and it draws you to it.

JM: Yeah, there’s an element of repulsion in the name, but if you look up a lot of mythological or ancient writings about the pig, the animal itself, in some religions, it’s this scorned thing, but in other religions its bolstered up and appreciated.

WS: They’re also very tasty creatures!

JM: You have to take into account, who doesn't like Bacon?!

everyone laughs

JM: Like we said, there’s something for everyone.

OK, thank you, guys!

WS:
Thanks, Sal, Pig out!


For more on Black Pig check out their website: http://www.blackpigmusic.com/

photography and live technical help by Anthony Patrizio


2 comments:

M. Patrizio said...

I still think Barry and Anthony look like twins in those pictures!

tommy said...

Great guys, great interview. I enjoy their music and their shows. Keep it up, you animals!