Interview | Tom Fec
BMSR frontman Tobacco talks music making, strategic rebellion
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 08:11
Pitchfork described Black Moth Super Rainbow’s 2009 LP “Eating Us” as feeling “like the baseline: collected, repeatable, respectable. You know, regular, at least to the point that melting faces and ‘f----d-up dreams’ can be regular.” It’s hard to tell if the website is trying to describe the music it wants to hear or the music it is hearing. According to Tom Fec — or Tobacco as he’s better known — everyone, everywhere is trying to do the latter. The music of Black Moth Super Rainbow is like your gender-neutral gay friend; it isn’t trying to be anything it’s not. The Daily talked industry, enigmas and BMSR’s new album “Cobra Juicy” with Tobacco, the project’s frontman.
The Tufts Daily: You’ve taken a notoriously enigmatic stance when describing Black Moth Super Rainbow’s music and your own music. Is there any reason you avoid labeling your own work and sharing information about the band?
Tom Fec: On a personal level, I want the artwork, the song titles and the music to be its own world. I don’t want them attached to people, what we do, what we look like or what we are.
TD: Does that have anything to do with why you guys use stage names?
TF: The stage names actually came from everyone having his or her own musical project. So everyone goes by their own projects name when we come together, but I think everyone’s pretty much in agreement with me in not wanting to put it out there. Members come and go so it shouldn’t really affect the way people think about the music because it’s the world of ideas more than anything else.
TD: Where did the name Tobacco come from?
TF: That was this one character in a movie I saw as a kid that really weirded me out, the Tobacco man. Not a lot of things in movies really freak me out but that’s always stuck with me.
TD: You’ve talked about having trouble getting signed in the past on larger industry labels because you’ve always done what feels right to you. Do you feel as if there is anyone in the industry or the counterculture that does that as well?
TF: It’s hard to say because I don’t think there is a counterculture right now. I think what people might call counterculture is really just mainstream culture. It would be really arrogant of me to say like I feel like I’m the only one but I don’t know anyone else. I’m also not really friends with music people. I don’t really hang out with any music artists. I don’t have my pulse on anything but I also feel like there’s not a lot of hope out there right now. Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older.
TD: Is that why you’ve always released your music independently? Is that sustainable for you as an artist?
TF: Yeah because I think people respond to honesty and the labels I’ve been with in the past have been small enough for me to still get my way, even if they didn’t necessarily agree with me. So I’ve always been able to do that and now that I’m on my own no one can tell me what to do; it’s awesome. I think, at least sometimes people can see when something’s pure.
TD: There’s not a lot of public information out there about how you make your music. What is that process like for you as an artist?
TF: It’s random, sporadic. There is no regular process, it’s just whatever ends up feeling right at the time. I just plug ideas into the sampler, then I come up with something and hook up the microphone. There’s no formula.
TD: How do you feel about your latest album, “Cobra Juicy” (2012)? A lot of people in the music industry, even critics like Rolling Stone and Spin, have responded differently to your sound. What do you think accounts for why people are responding differently to this album?
TF: I think I’ve worn everyone down over time. I mean it’s like conditioning. Almost everyone is now finally getting it. I’ve almost shifted their perspective a little bit. I don’t feel like the album is shocking — it’s hard for me to shock you at this point — but it’s easier to understand what I’m doing as you hear more and more. I’ve always said any kind of success is just going to be some form of luck. I wanted to make a more in-your-face pop album for me; I definitely didn’t make it for anyone else.