Q&A: Conspirator's Aron Magner on the Disco Biscuits' Future

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Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein
​Just as the Disco Biscuits reached the height of recognition of their 16-year career and seemed on the verge of even more, founding keyboardist Aron Magner and bassist Marc Brownstein began focusing on a side project called Conspirator. Off-and-on since 2004, the group explores technologies and techniques to make more "true to form" electronic music, which is in contrast to the Biscuits' improvisation-based, electronic-infused, "rock band" approach -- sometimes referred to as "trance-fusion" or "jamtronica."

Extra-curricular bands are nothing new, but these days, it seems to many that the two are focusing on Conspirator because being in the Disco Biscuits full-time is not an option. Even though  Camp Bisco, their annual festival in upstate New York, grew from a 900-person get-together in 1999 to 25,000 attendees this past summer, not all members are prepared to continue moving that band forwards. On Conspirator's website, it even states that the band "can no longer be considered merely a side project."

The possibility of a world without the Disco Biscuits has caused many among the band's long-time "rabid" fans -- who follow as obsessively as Grateful Dead and Phish devotees -- to express concern and vitriol on message boards, such as Phantasy Tour. Some Conspirator threads go so far as to call for a boycott, but one online poster sums up many fans' rage: "No one would be bitching if the Biscuits were touring." Recently, Brownstein posted an infamous Facebook comment stating that he "miss[es] the Disco Biscuits too," and wishes that they would do a "real fucking tour." 

Ahead the Conspirator's late-night, post-Yom Kippur show at the Culture Room on Saturday, County Grind had the opportunity to talk with Magner about the "rabid" fans, Brownstein's "candid" comment, and some of the uncertainties swirling around "Bisco-land."
 

County GrindConspirator has always had a rotating drummer's chair. How were these recent shows with K.J. Sawka in that spot?

Aron Magner: Oh God, do I miss K.J. Sawka! K.J. Sawka just left four hours ago, and I miss him dearly. He contributed the fact that he's my long-lost best friend that I never knew. K.J. plays with fervor and intensity and precision. Aside from the actual crazy musical skills that he has, he's a showman, first and foremost, and that's the way a drummer should be.

Do you think that eventually anyone may settle into a permanent role as Conspirator drummer?

We talk about it a lot, man. There are a lot of different reasons why we do this rotating cast of drummers. The best reason is that we're almost forced into having to do this. It has everything to do with all these drummers are in other, very successful bands.

You and Marc Brownstein are obviously in another popular band as well. Could you describe the difference between the Disco Biscuits and Conspirator, both in artistic intention and product?

Two definitely, completely distinctive bands. What the Biscuits do is bring a certain improvisational aspect to electronic music. Conspirator is basically a little more true to the actual electronic feel. It's definitely a little more true to the art of electronic music.

So there is intentionally less improvisation?

Absolutely.

You and Marc Brownstein have been playing together for 16 years or so...

Oh God, it's been so fucking long!

Can you describe your relationship and why your creative partnership works so well?

Huh. Good question. Um...[pause] I think that we have an ability to actually communicate with each other. That kind of lends itself towards a relationship that allows us to write music together for long periods of time. Or at least to play in the same band for large periods of time. At the end of the day, it's unconditional love with pretty much any bandmate. It's about being open and being honest and having communication. Those are the key pieces you need to have any relationship, musical or otherwise, work. It's the ability for us to communicate both verbally as well as nonverbally, meaning musically, that's allowed us to prosper for over 16 years.

There is a lot of vocal communication happening in the fan world. Your fans are madly dedicated, analytical, critical, vocal. Does it ever become a challenge for you to appreciate that without letting it become too distracting?

Our fans are really intense, man. They're incredibly intense. They're incredibly opinionated. They're incredibly rabid. But they're all in all very loyal. Because of all of those elements [laughs]... that make up our fan base, they're very, very vocal about what they'd like to see in their favorite band. And they'll talk about it constantly. I think every band has their intense fans [laughs]... I think our fans definitely surpass that a little bit more with intensity and fervor. It definitely can have the ability to backfire.

Because of the intensity, a lot of times, if you have anything to bitch about and you're hiding behind the internet and some sort of avatar, it's real easy to bitch and complain about whatever you want to bitch and complain about. That's for sure. And people seem to like having negativity over the internet as opposed to positivity over the internet. So it seems on pretty much any messageboard. When you think about it, people just kind of like to bitch as opposed to show appreciation. It's an interesting phenomenon.

In terms of actually reading it and looking at it, you kind of have to take everything with a grain of salt. I think that we, as a band, really respect our fans. And we cater to our fans pretty much all the time. We're always listening to what they have to say.

There seem to be a number amongst your fans who are worried about Conspirator becoming the post-Disco Biscuits project. At this point, what do you think is the future of the Biscuits, and what would you like it to be?

[Sigh] That's also a tough question, man. The goal ten years ago, 15 years ago, like any rock band, was to make it to Madison Square Garden. What's interesting about the Biscuits is that we're almost there. It's almost in our scope. I think after 15 years of playing together that everybody's goals kind of changed a little bit -- what they're trying to get out of life on the road, what they're trying to get out of a band, what level do you deem is an appropriate level of success for a band. And then how to take that next step up towards a better level of success. I think that everybody's visions of that have kind of changed a little bit, and I think that being on the road for 16 years -- seven, eight, nine months out of the year -- was starting to take its toll differently on everybody.

Now, Conspirator... I enjoy being on the road, personally. I enjoy playing for our fans. I enjoy writing music. I enjoy playing music, whether it's my own, or whether it's Biscuits music, whether I'm playing Jon [Gutwillig's] songs, or Marc's songs, or my songs, I really, really, enjoy that. That's why I'm on the road. That's who I am. Not everybody sees it that way, and so we're not playing as many shows with the Biscuits. And so not playing as many shows with the Biscuits lends itself to do what I need to do as an actual musician. And here's a side project that I like because I enjoy playing music and seeing our fans and going around the country for them.

So that's why I'm here in Conspirator playing a lot of these shows. Now, I do understand that there's a lot of backlash because I'm playing a lot of shows with Conspirator and because the Biscuits aren't playing as many shows right now... but yeah, what are you gonna do? I like playing music.



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7 comments
Biscodiscuits
Biscodiscuits

Fuck skrillex, fuk his "influence" that piece of shit ruined what bisco was...stick to yor roots

waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

ugh........this article makes me angry. if the end of the biscuits is near, that would really be unfortunate.

Sammy
Sammy

Nice interview! Very insightful and hard hitting questions! It's nice to see someone doing real research on a band before interviewing them. Quality work!

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