Printed E+E Vol. 2: Writing the Tenth Chapter with Brock BerriganWords by Evan GabrielPhotos by Robert Deitmaring
As behind the scenes access to the music industry grows—think #bts—so does appreciation for historically under-credited producers.
On any given night, beatmaker Brock Berrigan may be meandering New York City’s bustling streets, seeking inspiration amid a blur of writer’s block and Budweiser. “Just being in the city, I look at people with their headphones on and I think, what are they listening to? What will make people move, you know?” Berrigan tells me during our conversation.But more than likely, the 28 year-old is hunkered in his apartment, at work on a guitar refrain, or playing percussion over a record that’s been on loop for two hours. He’s already been at music for 20 years. Having picked up the guitar at age eleven, Berrigan was touring with Punk bands by the time he was thirteen.
“I was a little crazy bastard [laughs]. When I was 18, I was in a Metal band, then I started writing piano pieces for independent movies. And then I found hip hop. People usually start hip hop by sampling, but I found out about sampling after playing music for like 15 years. It was a lot easier.”
While unable to track Berrigan down during E+E’s trip to New York in August, 2014, I later reached him by phone to explore how over the course of nine solo and sample-based albums, he has strayed away from the popular tendency to churn loops into the background. Instead, the rooster-faced maestro crafts dynamic compositions that have gained him a lucrative following via the likes of his Soundcloud and Bandcamp.
[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/178633702" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /]Where did the rooster mask idea come from?I started making beats like five years ago. When I was going to put up the shit on Soundcloud I didn’t know what picture to use. One of my best friends is named Rob and he’s a professional photographer. He had had a Halloween party and that mask was left on the floor. We did a photoshoot and it just sort of happened, but now it’s evolved. [editor’s note: childhood friends of 15 years, Robert Deitmaring has shot every photo of Berrigan].Is there something you’re trying to “say” with your music? Just to enjoy yourself. Life is short and you could fucking die any second. I got a good sense of humor so I try to put that in there.You embed your music with sound clips from TV shows and movies. Is this an unconscious effort or is there something deeper behind this aesthetic?With instrumental hip hop I get a little bored. You know how The Avalanche used to do it? I like to just toss in little phrases. It keeps the humor in it.Has Charles Bradley heard your remix for “The World?” I have no idea. I just put that out yesterday, so I don’t think so … but I’d be scared to send it to him because I love that dude.Do you play percussion? Yeah, I play everything.Being that you can play instruments, what does sampling bring to the table? It gives it a foundation. I find a good sample and then I just build on it. The drums are always fun to do too.While I was in New York you mentioned you were working with a rapper. Can you talk about that?Well I’ve produced projects with Jetpack Jones in the past. Right now I’m working with a few people. There’s two that I legally can’t talk about [laughs]. But one of them is the person I’ve been listening to for ten years. I sent him six songs. Three are done.What’s the significance of Jazz in hip hop?Oh, essential. It’s the backbone of hip hop. I used to go to Jazz clubs in the city by myself to just drink and watch them play. I also go to Operas alone. Any music. I love it all.What’s the best place to see Jazz in New York?A piece of shit dive bar, with about four people there and the glasses are dirty. The dirtier the better.Online, you noted your album is 90% done. Can you tell me about it?I think it’s 19 songs. I’m thinking late next month [November] and I think it’s going to be called Chapter Ten, because it’s the tenth album I’ve put out. But things always change last minute.You have a pretty big internet following. What is your stance on releasing music in hard-copy versus a download? Nowadays, vinyl’s coming back. I’m 100% going to vinyl in the future. But with the downloadable file it’s just very easy. It’s very DIY. And I can get away with it.