If the details seem scarce, it's because that's how TOBACCO likes to keep them. Hailing from an unspecified burg in rural Pennsylvania, somewhere north of Pittsburgh, he has successfully made a name for himself even as he's avoided acknowledging that name's legal counterpart. As both the frontman of Black Moth Super Rainbow and the sole creative engine behind TOBACCO, he's earned the eager ears and prying eyes of doggedly loyal fans and smitten critics alike - a kindness he's repaid by granting few interviews, obscuring his face in photos, and seeming wholly uninterested in the subject of his own identity. Such things just get in the way of the music after all, so if it's easier, you might think of TOBACCO as music - a one-man genre made of equal parts analog crunch, earthy psychedelia, fuzzed-up hip-hop, and outside pop. All the same, here's what's known.
TOBACCO has a sister. He grew up in a decent neighborhood. He was nearly strong-armed into elementary school band after an aptitude test suggested he play an instrument. He hated the idea, so he didn't do it. He didn't like music at all, in fact, until he discovered MTV - and hence, the Beasties' "So What'cha Want" video - one long summer bridging the middle of middle school. The first concert he attended was Butthole Surfers, and it's still his favorite. His favorite record of all time is Beck's Mellow Gold. Sticking to his childhood guns, he typically doesn't like music released earlier than the late '80s.
As for high school, TOBACCO could have done without the classes. An extracurricular interest in freestyle BMX - flatland - was soon replaced by a growing zeal for music, even though his first band, called Wood, didn't employ any instruments to its cause. (Its two main ingredients were flyers and hype.) Acquiring a guitar and a four-track opened up new doors, to the purplish noise and busted ghetto-blaster tracks that now populate The Allegheny White Fish Tapes, which TOBACCO self-released in 2009.
This was before the gritty analog synths, the murky vocoder-ing, and the hypnotic aural crush that came with founding Black Moth Super Rainbow. TOBACCO rounded up the group's members before graduation, and until last year's Dave Fridmann-produced collaborative affair, Eating Us, roughly treated BMSR as a solo project, penning three albums' and several EPs' worth of sludgy pagan pop for his cohorts to realize live. He designed BMSR's album art as well, which occasionally involved scratch-n-sniff elements or hair.
But TOBACCO would come to crave a more pure musical identity, one steeped in guttural sounds that hit harder and flashed brighter. This fixation reared its ugly head as 2008's beat-oriented Fucked Up Friends, TOBACCO's official debut. Two years later, with BMSR effectively on hiatus, the man is back and beastlier than ever with Maniac Meat, a record designed to bully his previous works into a corner, gut them, and leave 'em for dead. This is a good time to mention that TOBACCO believes he is making pop music.
Accomplished abstract poet. Early architect of electronic-infused beatscapes. Founding member of legendary left-field rap act Anti-Pop Consortium. Childhood Kiss fan. So reads the résumé of the estimable Beans, a New York native raised in the suburb of White Plains. Born in '71, Beans came of age alongside hip-hop. As for siblings, he had one of each. His mother was a dietician, and though his father succumbed to cancer when Beans was 10, he passed on a library of books and records that his son subsequently devoured. Rap's echoes came through the radio courtesy of DJ Red Alert. Beans' mother forbade trips to the city to catch Marley Marl in action, but the action eventually came to the 'burbs, as his Bronx-based cousins brought wax with them when they came out to trim the hedges. Holed up in the seat of Westchester County, young Beans was privy to what his neighbors in Yonkers and New Rochelle were up to. In school, DMX freestyle tapes and Brand Nubian mixes were traded like baseball cards. He'd taken a shine to DJing at 17, but switched to rhyming as it required no equipment. He'd long been into comic books and drawing, so Beans eventually went to college for fine art. While there, he discovered the burgeoning slam poetry scene, and made a name for himself at the Rap Meets Poetry series in SoHo. That's where the future members of Anti-Pop first witnessed him in action. As an emcee, Beans has very few peers outside his circle. Within the Consortium, his rapid staccato and distinct lyrical bent a mix of classic rap braggadocio and fractured new school narrative helped vault that group into cult and critical favor circa '99 alongside artists from Anticon and Def Jux. Beans also honed his own beat-making style in the group, citing seminal No Wavers Suicide as his main influence (with nods to Sun Ra, Mantronix, Sonic Youth, Public Enemy and Autechre). Together with High Priest, M.Sayyid and Earl Blaize, Anti-Pop made four albums for labels as acclaimed as Warp Records and Big Dada, opened for Radiohead on the band's Amnesiac tour, and broke up in 2002. Over the course of three solo albums, Beans mastered his craft. Tomorrow Right Now, 2003, found him laying arty verbal swagger over skronky minimal tracks. Two years later, on Shock City Maverick, he'd doubled down on both counts, sounding more confident, fuller. And on 2008's Thorns, Beans exorcised some spiritual demons, delivering his most personal work to date. Tours and festivals came, EPs and singles too, and eventually, so did the Anti-Pop reunion. At the same time Beans was working with his old partners on their praised comeback LP, Flourescent Black (2009), he was carefully assembling the bits and pieces that would become his 2010 Anticon debut, End It All.
"[Shapers'] songs go through curious phases and spastic turns, yet all the disparate parts come together in one ecstatic whole. Unconventional and inspired."
"A Chicago 4-piece with a hazy, amorphous, art-rock soundthese guys have been invigorating and confusing listeners for about a year nowand I just can't get enough."
"Throbbing garage rock instrumentals endearing rants perfectly coinciding with synthy, spaced-out jams"
"Well-orchestrated noise that shines live"
"Atmospheric, ambient, and, in the case of 'Proboscidean,' unafraid of shredding guitars"
The Onion AV Club
"Moods and intricacies that continue to unfold with each listen."
Windy City Rock
High Noon Saloon
701 E. Washington Ave
Madison, WI 53703
|Minimum Age: 18|
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|