Posts Tagged ‘Keith Walsh’

Brick Bosso strikes back, and doesn’t wait for Valentine Day to pay a tribute to the women in his life. Introducing “Bianca”, an album made of 8 portraits of important influential women in Keith Walsh’s life.

One could think Brick Bosso called it a day, after its man Keith Walsh having found success in MindFree. On the contrary, Walsh wouldn’t let go that easily: “As Brick, I am my own man. Though the MindFree/ Brick Bosso phenomena are in an energetic, infinite loop that feed off each and need one another.

Walsh also admits that his songwriting with MindFree benefited Brick Bosso: “The thing that’s changed the most is my ability to come up with parts…. music is always swimming in my brain now, so it’s easier to keep a conversation going when I power up my studio.

The keyboardist of MindFree needs Brick Bosso, his solo project, as much as Brick Bosso needs him to keep on going: “Creating music generally helps keep me together, that’s for sure. It lets me give expression to ideas and emotions that might otherwise boil over.

All along those 8 songs of various influences, Walsh obviously leads, though delegating the guitar parts to now frequent guest Eric Endo. “I love working with Eric, he’s an absolutely brilliant guitarist who always knows how to bring a song to a higher level.

Working with Eric seems fun, but having the great Mark Abbruzzese as MindFree colleague, would the latter be more appropriate to guest on Brick’s albums? Walsh doesn’t seem to bother choosing: “I will work with [Eric] again whenever possible, and also with Mark Abbruzzese from MindFree when he’s available for Brick Bosso projects.

Being now recognized as a member of a solid band, wouldn’t Walsh be tempted to turn the Brick Bosso project into a real band? A live band? He doesn’t seem to be fond of the idea: “I’ve thought about doing a one man show, either with stripped down versions, or using sequencers. Right now I’m messing with my midi files a bit to see if I can get them into a groovebox for that purpose. If and when that happens, I’d probably bring a guitarist in for live shows.

But back to the album, knowing that each song is a tribute to a woman influencing Walsh’s life, it would be easy to get into gossip. After all, who wouldn’t want to know who is who, especially that Burger Queen?

I really like the way the album came together under the female admiration concept. I found some old digital notes showing that I came up with Burger Queen as a concept in 2017 and I hadn’t written the rest of the songs yet. Like the other paeans on the album, it’s to a mythological idea of a woman. In the case of Burger Queen, she wins my heart through my stomach.

Turning an almost embarrassing question into a plea for veganism is a sign of Walsh’s smart mind: “[…] I couldn’t resist putting a recommendation about vegetarianism in there, as I’m not one to eat red meat every day. The song is partly a satirical comment on the unhealthy tastiness of fast food. I felt obligated to tip my hat to veganism, I love vegan cooking as much as anything else. To me it’s clearly more ethical, and if done right, you get all the nutrients one needs. Not to mention that with cultured meat becoming more affordable, there may soon be no reason to be cruel about dinner, even if you do prefer something’s flesh.

Flesh or not flesh? Not mentioning food, the character of Bianca seems to be virtual, as fleshless as she can be. Keith Walsh, as opposed to the main opinion, doesn’t shy away from AI: “I’m definitely optimistic about relationships with A.I. becoming more intimate, and sure, the potential to help with loneliness is promising. Though A.I. can’t really pass the Turing Test 100% , virtual interactions can certainly be satisfying. But then again, I enjoy vegan burgers as much as those made from cows!

However, Walsh adds: “I’d like to clarify, all the songs aren’t necessarily about women. ‘Thief of reputation’ is about a shadowy figure, pulling strings behind the scenes. Could be a man or woman. ‘Sz Blue’s isn’t really inspired by a woman either.

In the tradition of dance artists, Brick Bosso released a bunch of creative remixes of the album’s songs. Why suddenly? “It was Julian Shah-Tayler of The Singularity who kindly offered, last year, to remix a song (I chose ‘Dougie Draws Dirigibles’ off of ‘Brick.’ Now live on Bandcamp). After I finished ‘Bianca’ this Spring I was inspired to ask my musical comrades for the same favor, and have been thrilled with the results. Each one is unique and cool.

How about a remix by MindFree? “I haven’t thought about MindFree doing a remix, but that’s a good idea.”

You know what to expect anytime soon.

Let’s examine the album, track-by-track:              

Leonard Cohen’s freaks would wonder if “First Girl On The Moon”, the opener of the album, had any lyrical relation with the Canadian crooner’s “Master Song”. Obviously not: “That is such an interesting coincidence! I’m familiar with the tune, it’s hauntingly beautiful. But I never really paid that much attention to the lyrics, having only heard it twice, years ago. It’s funny how poetry bubbles up from the chasms of the mind.” (nb: check Leonard Cohen’s lyrics online and compare with Brick Bosso’s. The coincidence is rather funny)

“Sweet Scarlett” follows, with a strong Bowie feel, not only on the gated-drum arrangement, but also in the melody and the swirling piano, not far from what Rick Wakeman did on “Hunky Dory”.

“Oh, Macy!”, probably related to Walsh’s early love, has nice synth parts, sometimes brass, sometimes a “Strawberry Fields”-oriented Mellotron flute. And that great guitar solo!

Then comes the “Burger Queen”, with its light dub mood counterbalanced with a stadium-like chorus and funny voice effects.

But the definite highlight of the album is the moody, atmospheric “Sz Blues”, dreamy and dark, hard to define and great to get into its feel.

Walsh gets back to his rockier roots with the straight-ahead “Thief Of Reputation” with a captivating organ solo.

The aforementioned “Bianca” is described in a more typical electro-pop song in the vein of earlier Bosso work, while  “Unicorns And Fleas” wouldn’t have been out of place on an experimental Beach Boys record.

Between MindFree, Brick Bosso’s classic sound and the creative remixes, Keith Walsh expands his talents and you shouldn’t be surprised, while eating your vegan (or not) burger, that the Californian songwriter is invading your radio stations. Seducing AI Bianca’s and fleshed Macy’s.

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Listen to and buy “Bianca”: https://brickbosso.bandcamp.com/album/bianca

Brick Bosso’s discography on Bandcamp (including yours truly’s remix of “Burger Queen”): https://brickbosso.bandcamp.com

Brick Bosso Official: https://www.brickbosso.com

MindFree: https://mindfreemusic.com/

Eric Endo: https://www.facebook.com/eric.endo.guitar

Los Angeles’ underground rising star Brick Bosso, the project led by MindFree and Ska’n’Bones keyboardist Keith Walsh, has started an unexpected transformation recently. A transformation that could be compared to a worm becoming an 80’s star, while skipping the butterfly step.

In a short lapse, Brick Bosso released two full albums, showing an impressive boom of inspiration. I decided to do a joint review, since they are somehow linked in the process. Brother albums? Sister album? The artwork being in both cases created by graphic artist Liliane Avalos, one may think it’s the case. Nonetheless, they are completely different from each other and the main link between them is precisely that very transformation, that sometimes separates a good record from a great one.

Phase 1: The worm.

1. Blues Song Don’t be misled by the title: this ain’t no blues song. The organ intro leads to a typical Brick Bosso, almost Beatles-esque, traditional pop song. The ska feel is still obvious in the choruses, while only suggested in the verses. A dramatic bridge brings a nice twist of mood. Keith Walsh’s voice is sometimes close to break, without reaching the point of no return however.

2. Everyone’s Hoping For A Great Answer A noisy intro brings promises, kept by a truly great guitar riff, courtesy of Anthony Feliciano, with energetic organ responses. Again, Brick Bosso doesn’t shy away from English pop in the bridge, that smartly features a short quote of ‘What A Wonderful World’. Brilliant song.

3. Looking For The Perfect Plaid Always that ska feel, with a more poignant bass line and intriguing synthesizer topping.

4. Literature Foreshadowing the next album “80’s Star”, “Literature” navigates into the 80’s new wave abundance of synthesizers. Beautiful mood. Though a bit short, this is another gem.

5. Under Control The crispy guitar is a signature of Brick Bosso’s past productions. Interestingly, Walsh sings like a teenage Ian Curtis. Deep, dramatic, yet lighter than our late Joy Division singer.

6. Not Quite Right Now if that’s not a children song, what is it? The double voice adds some (unwanted?) humour. Pleasant without being what I’d call absolutely essential.

7. Bully Walkie Talkie The vocoder makes this “Bully Walkie Talkie” easily memorable, though somehow less captivating than other tracks on this album. It can be the perfect single. The 90’s-sounding synths are an odd choice in my opinion.

8. Mouth Monster Oh, now that’s quite rare: a piano intro, smooth and almost romantic. The light swing and Mellotron-like strings make it irresistible. Singalong comes without even trying. Great infectious track.

9. Miss Begotten That could have been a good tune from the Korgis, who also carried on the Beatles pop spirits and took it to a more sophisticated level. Nice bass, to say the least.

10. From A Worm To A Butterfly A new wave-infused intro and a catchy chorus make this “Worm” a potential single and possible stage favourite.

Phase 2: the star.

1. Perfect One may immediately think: that’s another typical Bosso song. But there’s something new: the real and sincere smoothness of synth. The out-of-tune bells coming out of the blue are quite beautiful.

2. Wicked What a captivating song! Full sound, quasi-hypnotic electronic snare, funny voice FX serve a tasty arrangement. Not to forget the cool synth bass.

3. Enhanced Brick Bosso breaks the speed limit with a fast song that starts with a heavy brass synth intro, before leaving space for synth bass and some rock piano.

4. Eyes Everywhere (Okuloj Ĉie) Anyone remembers the Esperanto language? I love the heavily echoed drums, the again Beatles-esque parts, and the superb atmosphere thanks to the synthesizer. Cool synth solo but I’m less enthusiastic about the guitar solo, that I find too self-conscious, if it makes any sense.

5. 80s Star Strangely the least synth-oriented song of the album, considering the title, this is the most natural, organic, and should I say least 80’s-sounding? Pay attention to the lyrics!

Keith Walsh: ’80s Star’ is an ironic song because though I never became a star, in fact my music career went very wrong, while at the same time several of my lovers and bandmates did become huge 80s stars. That coda you refer reflects my lifelong wish to have one of these projects record and release one or more of my songs.”

“In addition to the irony, the concept of ’80s Star’ portrays the dialectic of fame, how someone can reach the heights of fame and fortune, but then in middle age find him or herself with financial or romantic problems. The entire album is about the ups and downs of stardom, about love, despair, and redemption.’

6. Woe Superb hypnotic synth intro, echoed drums and low voice: “Woe” is Tangerine Dream meets Joy Division.

7. All We Are The butterfly visits the IQ / Yes territory with another great riff, followed by a haunting whistle synth.

8. 8 Billion Beautiful People Wasn’t the hippie movement born in California? Obviously it’s still alive in this hymn to human kind. Some might think of it as a cynical view, others might find it sissy, but as a song it’s a great way to close an album. Brick Bosso’s transformative album. That great album.

Keith Walsh: ‘8 Billion Beautiful People’ is a sincere song celebrating the value of every person. Sure, it’s idealized, as there are people with flaws that make them irredeemable. The song is also kind of a hippy song, celebrating peace and love. I would say it has a spiritual meaning–it’s meant to provoke thought about seeing the good in others.”

Controversy If you visit Brick Bosso on Bandcamp (https://brickbosso.bandcamp.com), you’ll notice a different track listing, with the song ‘Lucky Magic (Metroid)’ being part of the album, while on Spotify it’s a separate single. Actually, Keith Walsh doesn’t hesitate to poke at people who hurt him, whether it’s an employer or his former fellow musicians who he worked with just before they hit it big with Berlin (the band, not the city). If you think ‘Lucky Magic (Metroid)’ bears some resemblance with Berlin’s ‘The Metro’, you can’t be more right. We asked Keith Walsh to explain the reason why.

Keith Walsh: I deleted ‘Lucky Magic (Metroid)’  off the streaming distribution of the album except for Bandcamp because it’s a sound-a-like of the Berlin song ‘The Metro’ and includes soundbites from Berlin members. There’s some legal protection for things like that but if my old friends in Berlin asked me to take it down, it’s easy on Bandcamp, but on Spotify, Apple Music etc I would have had to recall the entire album. However, ‘Lucky Magic’ is available on all streaming platforms as a single.’ (They’re soundbites from VH1 Bands Reunited featuring Berlin, from about 2004. Samples are Terri Nunn, John Crawford, David Diamond and unknown narrator.)

I like to include a naughty song on every album. My first was ‘Here Comes Mr. Faketapes’ ‘The Hyper Supermarket’ (about a former employer) was a recent one, as was ‘Mouth Monster.’ And another was ‘Leaky Connections. These songs are messages to people who have hurt me in some way. ‘Lucky Magic’ is my newest and most naughty song experiment so far.

Brick Bosso. Photo by Anthony Feliciano.

Brick Bosso. Photo by Anthony Feliciano.

“From A Worm To A Butterfly” and “80s Star” were released within a mere 2 month lap. Is it that you had a sudden, unexpected blast of inspiration, or was it carefully planned? Can one be the volume two of the other, in a way?

Keith Walsh: It was actually four months, but yeah, I had some reservations about releasing actually three albums in 8 months (Birds and Believers was released on the first day of spring, Worm to A Butterfly on the first day of Summer.).Part of it was definitely being inspired to write, and making an effort to write more, but a major factor was having fewer distractions because of the global quarantine.

 

Aren’t you afraid that releasing two albums so close to each other in time would spoil their promotion? I mean, people usually love to get used to a record, and wait a year or more before the next one comes out.

Keith Walsh: Yes, I had some reservations, but promotion and marketing is something I worry little about. My main concern is just to create something good, and to have it heard. I don’t have the patience required to wait before releasing something, once I have a collection of 8 or 10 songs that are ready to go.

 

Both albums are rather short, from 27 to 30 minutes, which can make them fall into the EP category. Do you think that people are tired of 70-minutes long albums that became the norm since the CD arrived?

Keith Walsh: They’re short, but they have at least 8 songs each. It’s more about my short attention span than any concern about people’s preferences. It’s probably a lack of planning that stopped me from putting in an extra verse of chorus for a guitar or keyboard solo that would stretch the songs out a bit. In MindFree we have plenty of solos, and as a result the songs are longer.

 

With the “80s Star” album, you seem to take bold steps in experimentation (I’m talking about the songwriting), yet staying into a pleasant melodic mold. Have you consciously changed your songwriting approach? 

Keith Walsh: It wasn’t so much a conscious change as it was just letting things happen. I used to think very actively about using a ‘intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/middle 8 /outro’ structure, but lately, and especially on 80s Star I’m relaxing a bit and just letting the songs happen. Part of that comes from not wanting to do the same thing over and over again.

 

The cover artwork of both albums has been designed by Liliane Avalos. How did you meet her and how do you guys collaborate? Is she inspired by your music?

Keith Walsh: I approached Liliane after seeing her work on the Facebook page of a friend, Cirilo Rios, aka CD Rios, who also recorded and is mixing MindFree’s debut album. In fact, her artwork inspires me to perform better. I asked for her work on 80s Star before I was done, and then was motivated to finish sooner than I might have. Her work on both albums is so, so good.

 

Mostly with “80s Star”, your sound is less ska, warmer, more into synthesizers. Is your work with MindFree allowing you to loosen up a bit and explore different universes?

Keith Walsh: Playing with Mark and Moe in MindFree definitely changed me stylistically, because of their different influences. “All We Are” has a progressive rock riff that I wouldn’t have even tried except that these guys gave me confidence to try something more complex. Moe has played jazz, world music and rock, Mark is into prog, indie, and everything. We have a lot in common musically, but it’s the differences that helped me grow. The fact that the songs are more synth based is partly just a stylistic choice, and partly because keyboards have always been my main instrument. A few years ago I was learning guitar and was writing everything on an electric or acoustic, but felt, especially on 80s Star, that an abundance of keyboards was appropriate.

 

“Woe” starts with beautiful hypnotic synths, before segueing into a more typical Brick Bosso mood. Have you ever thought of letting yourself go and create some techno instrumental music, à-la DJ?

Keith Walsh: Someone recently suggested I could make some money doing music for meditation and massage music. I said ‘I have a friend named Gilles who does that.’ As for DJ and instrumental techno, I haven’t thought about it much. I think “Eyes Everywhere” is the closest to that techno sound. But this ties into the previous questions, part of why I’m exploring new sounds is because of all the new synths the latest releases of my DAW have added. Another part is just wanting to break away from bass/drums/guitar/organ/piano and try new things, partly because I didn’t want to repeat myself.

 

Do you construct the songs as ideas arrive, or do you first record demos?

Keith Walsh: I usually have a melody or a theme in my head that I can build a song around. Then I’ll sit at the piano and create some chords, verses and choruses, for the songs. The demos are just recordings I do on my phone. This is also so I don’t forget what my inspiration was. Then in my DAW I flesh out the song and do the arrangement.

 

Are there unreleased songs from these two albums? If so, why aren’t they released on the albums, is it a matter of not suiting the concept, or simply you don’t feel they’re good enough?

Keith Walsh: There might be a couple fragments that haven’t developed yet. “Under Control” from “Worm To A Butterfly” is something from 2016 or so, but I didn’t feel that it was strong enough. Then in 2020 I added some parts and now I feel it’s one of the better ones. Same for “Wicked” and “Enhanced” which are from 2012 or so, and show up on “80 Star”. I rummaged through my hard drive and was able to mix them and add parts, as well as add new lyrics (for Wicked) that I feel made them something worth listening to.

 

Are songs from these two albums becoming live material for MindFree?

Keith Walsh: So far, “All We Are” is the only one that MindFree is doing now. We played it at rehearsal today and it’s sounding awesome.

 

About MindFree, is it a reference to some 70’s seminars like the EST training or Mind Dynamics, that so many artists loved to join?

Keith Walsh: MindFree comes from the title of a song that Mark wrote, one of the first ones we played after getting together. It’s a song inspired by Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, not about one of those inspirational programs at all. But definitely we try to be inspiring and positive in our music and message, and don’t mind that our band name could be thought of that way. The name MindFree is definitely meant to have associations with positivity and inspiration, something we all believe in and try to live every day.

 

The listening corner

Brick Bosso on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6UFTEtXrJ9asWWv6MvD45B

80’s Star special: https://brickbosso.hearnow.com/80s-star

Liliane Avalos: https://www.lilianeavalos.com

MindFree: https://www.facebook.com/MindFreeBand

Ska’n’Bones: https://m.facebook.com/skanbones