Brown Cuts Neighbors
a music and video project from Schenectady, New York.
Captain Beefheart meets improv Funkadelic meets garage rock noise, with tape edits, junk instruments, overloaded amplifiers and total freakouts. Made a lot of music and distributed assorted manifestos throughout the 90s. Got called a cult. A live performance of Brown Cuts Neighbors included anywhere from 2 – 15 people, and sometimes occurred in the street. Dozens of 30-minute television programs and video shorts were also produced.
A brief history:
BCN was formed by Jason and Colleen Martin (AKA Lady Starlight) in 1980, and included an army of stuffed animals, imaginary people, and other entities. Their first tape, “Should Could Would” was recorded in September 1980. Early performances included broadcasting toy guitars / vocals / percussion into the street, via the stereo. Throughout the ’80’s BCN made about 10 tapes with hand drawn covers. Variety shows were produced to accompany some of these tapes, using dad’s Sony Beta Porta-Pak video camera and light from slide projectors.
With the release of 1989’s “Beltsander Girls” and the first airing of “BCN-TV” on Public Access, BCN became what some might call a “real” band, including longtime members James Kopta and Marc Arsenault. Most members were still in high school at this time. During the 90’s, BCN released music and video on the labels Eerie Materials, Nose Hair Records, Time Stereo, Burping Turds Muzik and Wow Cool. In 2002 they covered “I’m A Mensch” on “The Necessary Effect – Screamers Songs Interpreted” double CD release ode to the L.A. based synthesizer punk-rock pioneers of the late seventies, The Screamers.
Performance highlights include: BCN’s organizing of shows/happenings in upstate NY, an appearance at 1994’s Lollapalooza in the spoken word tent, stints with 4AD/Warner Bros. recording artists “His Name Is Alive”, gigging extensively with jazz and noise acts, situationist street theater, live music jams over CB radio, and many a gallery or club-destroying riot performance starting with the one at Minor Injury Gallery in NYC back in ’89.
In its last few years, BCN was primarily a video project that played live shows. Aside from regular public access episodes, BCN videos have shown up in “Twilight Trash Film and Video Festival” (Berlin, Germany -2000 & 2001), the “Axelgrease” series (Buffalo NY – 1999), Albany Center Galleries (Albany, NY- 1998 1999, 2000), WMHT 17 (PBS, Albany NY- 2000), and on the syndicated show OffLine (2000).
A primary member of this group, James Kopta, passed away in August 2002 at age 30. We’re hesitant to say its over forever and ever, but since James contributed so much – on so many levels, it’s hard to imagine any more albums or videos could be made in the right spirit.