Interview: Ben Chisolm & Felix Skinner On ‘Burgeoning Verse’

What happens when two crazy-talented multi-instrumentalists with decidedly busy schedules decide to collaborate on a no-holds-or-sounds-barred free for all? You get a head-spinning, soul-churning musical voyage like Burgeoning Verse, the fever dream mashup between Ben Chisolm – known for his work with Chelsea Wolfe – and Felix Skinner of Wreck And Reference, released in April on Weyrd Son Records.

“The first time we met was at a small warehouse show in Los Angeles,” Skinner says, describing his initial encounter with his eventual coconspirator, Chisolm. “We chatted about making music on computers and how strange it is that people fetishize analog equipment. Then, a few days later, Ben messaged me asking if I’d like to do something digital with him. The process of writing the album was fairly simple and straightforward, nothing more than a back-and-forth of ideas.”

“There was little conversation, even less disagreement,” he adds. “The songs came out in a flurry, and then, we let them sit in the cellar to ferment for a few years while we worked on our main projects. At some point, Ben played some tracks for Michael Thiel of Weyrd Son, and it was Michael who pushed us to dredge this up and get it out. I say this so you know who to blame and in what proportion.”

Skinner says the tracks fermented in the cellar, but other sources claim it happened at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The press release for Burgeoning Verse is a dizzying collection of tall-ish tales, centered on the duo’s numerous recording sessions and an ill-fated shipwreck that plunged the master recordings of their album into the ocean’s depths. “Some parts are true, some parts are not, and we will never say which is which. We’re just doing our part to keep postmodernism alive,” Skinner shares.

What is true is that the hypnotic pianos, synths, and other ear-rattling sounds brought together on this record are sonically striking. “So often, in music, the temptation or drive is to project an image onto the mind of the listener,” Skinner says. “I think this music asks the listener to project their own image onto it.”

The duo have released a semi-traumatizing music video for their track “I” that can’t help but project a haunting visual narrative: that of the epidemic of police misconduct and abuse in 21st century America.

“Karlos Rene Ayala is a good friend and a brilliant filmmaker, author, photographer, musician, artist, etc.,” Skinner says of the video’s director. “The project eventually drifted toward this document of police violence in America. At the time Karlos was working on this, it seemed like the country was transfixed by the cataclysmic circus burning down the White House and that the discussion around police violence had been abandoned for a more fantastical and garish horror show. Of course, police brutality is a daily occurrence in America, stopping for neither man nor spectacle. The [March 18] murder of Stephon Clark in Sacramento is a brutal reminder of this.”

“There are many for whom this video shows nothing new and offers little beyond the unwelcome possibility of relived trauma,” Skinner notes. “We hope those people spare themselves the experience of watching it, but there are many—especially those in cultural circles who claim nihilism and independence—who probably need this confrontation.”

Purchase Burgeoning Verse here.

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