Picture
Brown Jenkins Interview with mastermind Umesh:  

First of all, hello and how are you feeling?

Hello. I’m feeling pretty good. I hope you’re doing well…

Could you share a brief history of the band, for those who are unfamiliar with Brown Jenkins? How would you describe the sound of your music? Why is this style a suitable outlet for your musical demons?

Hmmm…well, there isn’t much outside of the typical bio which can be found online. Brown Jenkins arose very quickly out of an instrumental band I had going in 2006 called Starshine. I stopped doing that (the demos are still out there), moved in a new direction, and this new band was born…it quickly became a single person operation for a while, a couple of years, but then…it wasn’t. Ha! But I’m the main songwriter so I guess it’s my baby? I’m responsible for it, anyway. When it comes to describing the “sound” of my music, I think that’s kind of…useless, to tell you the truth. One can simply listen to it. I guess it’s a mixture of old school death/black with avant-garde sensibilities, I tend to think of it as Morbid Angel meets Voivod meets Godflesh meets…Burzum? I have no idea. I listed my favorite albums below, in another answer. I think it’s probably a collection of all of that, plus my own addition. It’s heavy, it gets the job done. It peels the flesh away suitably. It’s basically meant to rape the minds of trailer park white trash girls who are lying in their beds either waiting to die or waiting for…something? It’s the serpent that offers everything and delivers…nothing, which ends up being everything. I have no idea. Ha! Why is style suitable? It’s the only style I know how to play. I honestly can’t play in any other style. This is it. I am completely untrained on the guitar…this is what comes out; this is what I’ve figured out as being satisfactory. I really don’t know what it means to other people or what they get out of it. I’m assuming they place their own fantasies and desires/wishes/dreams on top of it and see THAT, isn’t that what always happens? They have their own internal worlds, I can never touch that except in proxy through my music. My demons will remain throughout this, they’re internal/eternal…

What type of response do you expect to receive with “Death Obsession?” You did finally find someone to play bass on “Death Obsession.” How did you get into contact with them?

I don’t really know what to expect with this new album. In one sense I think it’s a logical progression from “Angel Eyes” but at the same time it’s really different, it has a different sound…the songs are much longer, more complex, layered, etc. It’s also much faster in many spots plus it shows a little more traditional black metal influence. I hope people enjoy it, but I don’t know how they’re going to react to the fact that it’s the last Jenkins release. Sometimes fans and/or journalists don’t know how to react to a band’s last album and they tend to dismiss it. As long as they listen to it, though, I’ll be happy. As far as finding a bass player, yes…that was very lucky. I know a few people here in Austin who play in bands, some of them are out there and are well known, some are not. This guy (Demiurge) who I worked with is in a band called John Henry, they’re more of a grind or hardcore style (really political, not like Jenkins) band but he’s really into older metal and black metal as well, so it was a nice fit. He’s a better bassist than me and I was having some trouble getting the bass right on this thing so I invited him to play on it. I think it worked out well. He’s also a really good guitarist; I hope people will check out his other work. As for how I get in contact with people around here who are also musicians…believe it or not, a lot of that happens through myspace. Ha! People write to me all the time saying, “Hey, I’m interested in meeting you, maybe playing or something.” Some of them I take seriously…most of them I don’t. If I listen to their music and like what they’re doing I enjoy talking to them…I always learn from other musicians. I enjoy seeing how other musicians handle their own bands, how they write and record, etc. I have a little bit of trouble relating to guys who are very young, just getting into all of this stuff, but…I try to be supportive. When I was growing up I was so utterly isolated as a musician I would have killed to have even been able to speak to someone in a band. It would have saved me a lot of pain in terms of learning certain things…not just about playing the guitar, for example, but about the music business, the industry, about other bands, about other musicians themselves. 

Why has Brown Jenkins come to an end after only a few years? Can fans expect a resurrection? If not, are there other bands that they can go to for a similar experience? Do you think Brown Jenkins will have a new influx of fans, just because you’ve called it quits?

For me…it’s just time to end this thing. I put a lot of work into writing this last album but I can’t see pushing it farther than that in the future. I want to move on to new things. I’ve never been the kind of person who stuck with any one band or project for a long time anyway. I like to design projects around certain ideas, explore them, and then get out of it when I feel I’ve said what I needed to say. I don’t feel any need whatsoever to stay in a band just because it has reached a certain point of influence or attention in the underground, etc. I don’t care about that at all. What I enjoy is making albums…writing the music, recording it and putting it out there. I can do that with any band or group…I don’t need to build up a band to a certain “level” and then just have it as a strange type of career or something. There are many musicians who like doing that…they just stay in the same band forever. That’s fine. I like the freedom of moving around, trying or doing all different kinds of things. As for Jenkins coming back to life…no, that will never happen. I don’t really look back once I’ve finished something; I rarely even listen to my old recordings. As far as bands with a similar sound or which offer people a similar experience…that’s a difficult question for me to answer. Maybe someone outside of the music could offer a better answer? I’m so deeply inside the music that I often can’t even tell what it sounds like to other people. I mean…I look at/listen to the bands that people compare my music to and I don’t understand it at all. Ha! I don’t know what people hear. If more people come to the music because the band is dead…well, that would be an interesting development. I would rather have them listen to my new stuff, but listeners or people who appreciate the older work are always welcome, of course. Once you put an album out it’s just…out in the ether, one can’t really control what happens to it. 

It’s really interesting sometimes seeing the tide or spotlight of public interest swing away from one musical style to another and then come back again over time…hopefully with the internet now albums will be available forever, so this might change that dynamic a little. It wasn’t too long ago that one had to hunt down really obscure stuff in painstaking searches…now all it takes is a few clicks of a mouse. Finding the actual physical object, an item with its own history, though…that can still be very difficult. I appreciate the people who have been rediscovering the joy of reality. Ha! Or maybe…an older form of reality. It’s somewhat fascinating how one era of capitalism breeds nostalgia (with some people it’s almost “spiritual”) for an older time…people actually long for materialism. Fetish of objects…smelling them, touching them, connecting them to memories, living through them, lives mainly of moments from the past…

In a previous interview when you discussed reasons for choosing Brown Jenkins, from HP Lovecraft, as a name, you also discussed how many black metal bands kind of pick names that are very predictable. Do you feel that in general, black metal itself has become too predictable? Is this perhaps, one of the reasons for killing Brown Jenkins?

Well, black metal as it is usually defined is completely dead. Make no mistake about that. It probably died in about ’94 or ’95, somewhere around there. That is…for what most people know of “black metal”, the way most people define it. In another sense it is still not dead as long as there are bands who feel it completely and honestly, and speak through it without pretense or posing, who aren’t just trying to mimic their strange idols. There are very few of those bands left, and most of the ones who “claim to be” don’t belong to that group. *grin* It’s obvious to almost everyone except themselves, it seems. But that’s the way it is for every artistic movement. There are the originators, the real people who convert actual experience into art, who actually live, and then there are the hordes of clones, imitators, pretenders, whatever. Over the years those people get swept away, it’s a lot like a force of nature. The really brilliant ones, the ones who were saying something true, who spoke from experience and were writing heartfelt, truly moving music, those people are remembered. Why? Because they said something eternal. The rest were in history and then moved on with it. They never spoke from the heart…they were too afraid, too calculating, too cynical, too tired, too whatever. They stopped to think, and thus were swept away. Music doesn’t work that way. It’s not a system that one can manipulate in order to achieve X or Y, it’s not a series of equations that can be worked in order to produce the right result if one is “experienced” enough. It’s passionate, heartfelt, lyrical, irrational, Dionysian, etc. It’s bloody, messy, disgusting, embarrassing, etc. At its heart it’s people crying out for something beyond themselves. Not many people have the courage, recklessness, or right frame of mind to find that voice…one has to be a little desperate. Not “desperate” in the sense of wanting to push one’s ego to the top of the squirming heap, but desperate in terms of wanting to leap beyond ALL of that, to escape, to find something true even if it kills you…I often think of music as a method of achieving wholeness, stillness, even if you have to burn your way through everyone else in the world in order to achieve it. Ha! And in expressing oneself utterly, it’s more than a little ironic that one eventually reduces all expression to the universal, the primal…that is, the ego is turned to ash in the process of celebrating itself to the nth power.

But, eh…anyway…black metal too predictable? Surely. Will that change in the future? I have no idea. I simply hope there will still be bands out there who write honest music that aims to destroy, to crush, to hurt…but…no, that’s not why I’m ending Jenkins. Jenkins is an abomination and was never really meant to be. I want to get back to things that were planned…

How satisfied would you say you are, with the legacy of Brown Jenkins? How have you seen Brown Jenkins grow from your first release, "Squamous" to "Death Obsession" and does this reflect any personal growth within yourself?

I’m pretty happy with it. I think there are some things I would change…for example with the way some of the older stuff was recorded, etc. The first EP, for example, that was recorded for about $100 and I should have spent more time/money on it. At that point I didn’t care, though. The second CD has a lot of guitar stuff going on that one can’t really hear because of the production, I regret that. I also regret not spending more time on the vocals, but they’re like…my least favorite thing in the world to do. They’re fun, of course, but it’s also just time consuming and because they’re done last I often don’t take them very seriously. That changed with the last album. The first two demo recordings were just done for fun and I probably shouldn’t have even released them, but…who cares, in the end? It’s just more noise floating around out there. Some people really like them…I don’t understand it, but I can’t criticize. I think if you look at the history of Jenkins what you see is me growing as a songwriter, as a musician, as a guitarist, so there is a definite sense of progression and exploration. I think I deal with the same types of emotions on all three of the Jenkins releases, I just get deeper and farther into what I’m trying to say each time. So each release has been that much more satisfying, cathartic, whatever. As far as “personal growth” goes, I don’t know…maybe? I got older over that time, one would hope I learned something. Ha! I think I’m only getting angrier and more intolerant as I get older. I didn’t really expect that, to tell you the truth. There was a time when I thought I would mellow slowly and be a peace-loving hippy by the time I hit 40. I suppose that’s not going to happen. Ha! I’m 35 now…I wouldn’t be surprised if the darkest and angriest music I’ve ever done is going to come in the next 5 years. The good thing about being someone who writes “angry” or “depressing” music when one is older is that one is better at it. The emotions might not have as much energy or wild enthusiasm, but they’re more profound, they have more experience behind them, and the skill to express them is more potent. So overall one is much more efficient…one knows where to strike, instead of lashing out randomly, or always at the wrong targets. There are so many people who have a vested interest in others striking out at the wrong targets, or expending anger (quite naturally) on illusions…

So, with your other band Ash Eaters, what do you have planned for its future? What can listeners expect from the band?

At this point, I don’t really know. I’ve written some material for the band so far but I’m sure over the next 6 months or however long it takes me to put together another release things are really going to change. That’s okay, though…I mean: I want them too. I want this band to be different from Jenkins but people should realize it’s still me playing the guitar. I’m on a certain set path of progression or exploration; I think people will be able to tell it’s still me. I have zero ambition to write anything that’s commercial or fluffy or “nice”, it’s all aimed towards darkness, as usual. It has to be true and feel good or I can’t play it. But…having said that, I think with this new band I’m really going to push myself as a guitarist and songwriter. I’ve put out three CDs of more traditional metal (although people seem to think Jenkins is anything but that), now I want to really launch out there and use my imagination in new ways. So I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, this new music, but it’s also going to open up all new ways of doing what I do, the kind of writing that I do, so I’m looking forward to that. I also plan to intensely study the guitar over the next few years and try to get as good at it as I can possibly get. At least, then, I’ll know I tried, I accomplished something, etc. I still think of myself as something of an undisciplined player and I want to change that. But I also want to learn how to play other instruments, expand into production, engineering, etc. There’s so much to learn. Anyway, short answer: I think people can expect The Ash Eaters to be a little like Jenkins at first, but then hopefully it’s going to change, go in a new direction…

For some more general questions, what bands/genres would you consider favorites?

Well, that changes all the time. I have albums that I consider “classics” or whatever, but I actually don’t listen to them too much because I find that my responses to them dull over time and they’re much more powerful or effective if I come back to them maybe two or three times a year. That way I’ve changed, I hear them differently, and it’s nice to reflect on that, to see what sticks out for me at different points. I actually don’t listen to much metal at all anymore because not much has been that interesting to me for a while…I mean in terms of new releases. Every now and then something will catch my ear but that’s actually becoming increasingly rare. When it comes to metal what I’ll do more often is get a band’s entire discography loaded up in my mp3 player and just absorb that over a period of days or weeks. I like to trace the progression in songwriting, what changes the band goes through, etc. The band I’ve been doing that with lately is Demoncy. I love his work – actually I believe he has a new album coming out very soon, which might be a surprise for some people, I know it was for me. But…as far as outright favorites in metal, I can list my top ten or twenty for you:

1. Bathory – The Return/Under the Sign of the Black Mark

2. Autopsy – Severed Survival

3. Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness

4. Possessed – Seven Churches/Beyond the Gates

5. Voivod – Killing Technology

6. Darkthrone – Transilvanian Hunger/A Blaze…

7. Burzum – Hvis Lyset Tar Oss

8. Death – Scream Bloody Gore

9. Venom – Welcome To Hell

10. Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion

11. Disembowelment – TITP

12. Napalm Death – FETO/Mentally Murdered EP

13. Godflesh – Streetcleaner

14. Slayer – Reign in Blood

15. Carcass – Symphonies of Sickness

16. Bolt Thrower – Realm of Chaos

17. Black Sabbath – Paranoid/Master of Reality

18. Metallica – Master of Puppets

I think that’s about it. I would be very happy just owning these metal albums, I think. Maybe a few others. Over time most of the other ones have kind of fallen away. Some of them have a great song or two but not more, some I’ve just lost interest in. These seem to be eternal for me. As far as other types of music go, I’m really into power electronics, industrial, postpunk or no wave, dark ambient, early jazz, contemporary (20th century) classical, etc. I like all different kinds of music, but…I think they all share the common characteristics of being powerful, dark, complex, intricate, otherworldly, etc. So: Joy Division, Bauhaus, Death in June, Swans, Merzbow, CMI stuff, etc. Too many to name, really. I’ve been really exploring more of the PE and noise scenes lately, going back into the history of that, tracing all the different streams. 

Why do you think the direction that metal is going in now, to be faster, more technical, resurrecting that importance in image, is so popular now? If you were currently a teenager, do you think you’d get swept up in this mess?

Honestly, I don’t know if I was a teenager now if I’d even get into metal. It’s just not the same as it was when I was younger. When I was growing up there was a real power in the music, a real authenticity, honesty, etc. That’s not there anymore. It’s something that can’t be faked or “brought back to life”, it was simply there at exactly the right time because of the way the world worked then. That’s what attracted me above everything else. So if I was young these days…if I wasn’t able to discover older forms of metal and wasn’t able to feel what those people were trying to communicate…well, I don’t think I’d be into it. I might not even be into music…who knows? I was very lucky to live through those days and be a part of it. I don’t know what the hell young people do these days. But…I’m well aware that just might be me. The music coming out these days might have just as much meaning for the young people as my music did for me, I just can’t feel it. I hope that’s true. I would hate to think young people today (I mean teenagers, people in their early 20s) didn’t have access to the same kind of emotions I did growing up, but really…there’s no way to tell. Worlds pass away, right? 

I don’t really know why technical metal, tech death, things like that are getting so popular now. Most of that stuff, for me…just doesn’t communicate anything, there isn’t any emotion or feeling in it so although while I do listen to a lot of it for fun or diversion I can’t say that any of it means anything to me, really. I mean…it won’t stay with me. As for the “image” thing in metal becoming so popular or important now, that’s just part of commercialization. Commodification. Lifestyles being turned into methods, split up into fragments, bought and sold. I suppose technical metal is easier to quantify, rationalize, fragment than music with actual soul, feeling, etc. It’s easier to measure how many breakdowns or technical flourishes are in a song vs. how many truly evocative moments there are. Perhaps “feeling” is a little too relative or subjective for people mainly interested in shifting units, t-shirts, sunglasses, merch. It provides a rationalized instrument of measuring expertise, some way of determining “worth”…as in the quality of a product. It is of course completely meaningless and these bands will be forgotten almost immediately…but I suppose they’re meant to be. There is very little that it human or soulful in this music…one can see their songs as temporary aggregations of energy, really, places where riffs come together almost randomly before flying out into new configurations. The “human element” seems to be an afterthought. I mean…if this music could be written/performed by a computer owned by record labels, t-shirt companies, tour marketers, and musical instrument stores, well…but one gets the sense that even the fans are illusions. I suppose they’re only vessels for money, in the end. They come and go, off into some new lifestyle, prepped for another market. 

Why do you feel that many black metal bands include a topic like Satan/Satanism, into their music? What are your thoughts on Christianity and perhaps, religion in general?

Satanism is just traditional in black metal these days…it goes really well with the darkness of the music itself, the obsession with the occult, the attempts to appear “mysterious” or whatever. I don’t really understand it but I guess there are many others who are still into it even though it can be utterly ridiculous half of the time. I’m an atheist so for me to have a Satanic band that wasn’t just fashion, that was doing it for the sake of the art, the attempt to mimic older bands or create a certain “atmosphere”, well…I would just be a hypocrite. There are certain people in the underground, of course, who are Satanists. I don’t know what that means to them exactly. I think they shop at the same grocery stores I do. As for religion, I absolutely loathe it. I hate Christianity with a passion and I often hate Christians even more. I wish the entire world could be cleansed of them, but…what can one do? It’s like trying to fight against water running downhill. The only things that will eradicate Christianity, in the end, are education, science and economic opportunity. Atheism, education, socialism. I despise the instinct in people to look to bizarre old texts or the charlatans who read them for “guidance” and I hate, equally, the fake “spirituality” of most people which is, more often than not, either some kind of peculiar vanity or sublimated resentment. I honestly wish people would just learn to think for themselves…but that’s like the rarest thing in the universe. Honestly, most people don’t seem to have the depth of character or experience to understand themselves, much less anything that’s going on around them. They live in perpetual fear, confusion, anxiety, or in an arrogance and pride that serves to hide their fear and uneasiness from themselves. They’re shallow, weak, boring, and timid. Even a pallid religion like Christianity had to be watered down into whatever pabulum it is today in order not to scare them. Seriously…what do these people do but consume and wait to die? But no…I’m not religious, I consider religion an absurdity and I eagerly await its death. 

Is there anything left unsaid that you’d like to close with?

Not much! Thank you for this interview! If anyone who reads this wants to contact me, the info is:

Myspace.com/asheaters

Myspace.com/brownjenkins13

Coldradianceofdeath AT gmail.com



------ Interview by Suiisolation