Interview: Tim Biskup

The musician and artist talks about Brainsled by Big Butter, a current Kickstarter to reissue the band's 1989 cassette as a double vinyl LP


Known for his visually intense work and populist aesthetic, visual artist Tim Biskup grew up in Southern California and, adding music to his creative talents, started the band Big Butter with his brother, Mike. Together they explored their favorite music genres, experimented with sound and put on live stage shows. Now with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign the Biskup brothers are transforming their original Brainsled cassette into a double vinyl LP with a gatefold cover. Biskup fans can support the Kickstarter campaign by buying the digital download or the full double LP, which is also available with a limited-edition print or an original painting created for the package design.

We recently caught up with Biskup to find out more about his how Big Butter Kickstarter project came about.

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Why did you create a Kickstarter campaign for the Brainsled LP?

I wanted to raise awareness about the album and to experiment with the new idea. I have always been excited about working around traditional ways of working. I just had a show at a gallery in Milan. I wanted to do something a little different. I had this album that I wanted to put out and a bunch of paintings that I thought were pretty interesting for packaging ideas. I took the opportunity to attack a bunch of different things that I am interested in at the same time.

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How did you and your brother start Big Butter?

We were always into music, but from a very strange place. We used to have a tape player. There was something wrong with it—we would record ourselves and we never knew what it was going to sound like. We used to do weird comedy routines and cut up pieces of tape and things like that. So we came to music from a very experimental place. We did not have traditional ideas about music. We started listening to Devo, The Residents, all these weird bands and discovered that music can be whatever you want. We started putting out cassettes and records in about 1986.


Why did Brainsled end up being just a cassette?

We did it right after we had done an album that we spent a lot of time on it. It’s a lot of work to do a vinyl record and it’s expensive. We wanted to be able to experiment and do something quickly and not feel pressured to come up with a perfect thing.

Do you have a theory about why the tape resonated with people and sold out so quickly?

It’s got an energy that is reckless, and also a sense of atmosphere. It keeps jumping from feeling kind of expansive to feeling very intimate. Some of it is jazz combo. Other parts are ambient drones that sound like tanks rolling down the street being attacked by monsters. I always liked that it jumps all over the place. It’s a very complex thing and a bit messy too. There are moments where you can just hear the tape crumpling. We left all of that stuff in there because I like the chaos of it.

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In what ways does your music influence your art and your art your music?

I came to music as a little punk rock kid when I was 12 or 13. Everything was always done from a very improvisational do-it-yourself place and that’s what I have always been like as an artist. I started my career by starting my own art auctions. It was called “The Burning Brush Art Auctions.” It started at the beginning of my career in 1999. I was working in animation. I knew a bunch of really good artists. None of us knew much of anything about the gallery world. I had a few friends in the gallery world that were willing to give me work. That helped bring attention to the auction. I did five of them over two years and by the end we were taking over a whole theater. We started out in bars and by the time we got the fifth one a bunch of the artists had gallery shows. Then I got too busy with gallery shows to do the auction anymore.


How much do you feel that punk music, Big Butter shows and planning Burning Brush auctions influenced what you are doing now?

“It is another opportunity to subvert the idea and infrastructure of a traditional gallery or music system”

That’s the impetus for doing a Kickstarter campaign for sure. It is another opportunity to subvert the idea and infrastructure of a traditional gallery or music system. The fact that it is music and art together, that is on purpose. I am really interested in the way that the demise of the music industry has created some of the best music in history. The vinyl record world is really strong. I’ve come to the point that I find most of the music I like by buying vinyl. Seeing the way that has transformed music, I am interested in the way the art world could be transformed as well. Kickstarter is a new frontier. It’s a new possibility. I am certainly not going to abandoned museums and galleries, but I think it is great to have other options that challenge the parameters of the infrastructure. I like the ideas of doing something this accessible. It’s a little subversive. I am excited about it.

Support Biskup and Big Butter through Kickstarter prior to campaign’s end on 29 November 2012. Biskup’s latest art works are also currently on view at the Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea gallery in Milan though 17 November.