On April 20 the legendary New York producer, engineer and musician Martin Bisi will release BC35 through Italian label Bronson RecordingsBC35 is an album paying tribute to the 35th anniversary of BC Studio, and serving as a unique document of the New York City underground.

BC Studio was founded in 1979 by Martin Bisi with friends Brian Eno and Bill Laswell, and still owns and operates to this day. At BC Studio, Bisi has personally recorded landmark music by Sonic Youth, Swans, Unsane, Afrika Bambaataa, Herbie Hancock, John Zorn, and so many more. Bisi’s name is synonymous with the New York City underground. Disparate sounds – from hip-hop to noise-rock to the far reaches of the avant-garde – have added up to a logical whole under the umbrella of BC Studio.

We’re very pleased to present to you 3 records that have influenced Martin greatly throughout his musical life. 

Photo by Joan Hacker.

Grateful Dead – Anthem Of The Sun

It was 1969. My mother had been a classical concert pianist her whole life, doing extensive world tours, guesting with symphony orchestras. And that summer she was taking classes in electronic music at Mannes College Of Music in Manhattan. Occasionally going to class with her, it was quite a sight to see her, born in 1922, alongside her strikingly freaky classmates. It was also great to see her have fun with it. I was 8 years old.

One evening in Greenwich Village, after class, she came out of a record store and gave me two records that a classmate had recommended, ostensibly for me – John McLaughlin’s Extrapolations and Grateful Dead’s Anthem Of The Sun. I soon realized one was fairly serious, and the other tied to popular culture and the mysterious revolution happening around me.

I lost interest in Extrapolations after a couple plays. Anthem Of The Sun though struck me right in the first few vocal lines as having an evil undercurrent.

“The sky was dark and faded / Solemnly they stated / He has to die.”

What music directly referenced death? I had never heard such a thing. It struck me as a dangerous record – actually not sure what it might do to my mind. My accurate memory of it then, was of a rolling tapestry, beautiful, both holy, unholy and dangerous.

Years later I understood that many devices I use in the studio and live, are on this record: stringing together, even overlapping different versions, from both live and studio takes; a certain degree of chaos, as with their two drummers; dramatically switching to lo-fi vocal treatments; psychedelic panning.

I can only guess that I would have ended up in the same place as a musician, without this record, but I can’t be sure.

The Mothers Of Invention – Freak Out!

You might be able to blame my occasional forays into humor and satire on this record. I was never even sure if some of the social commentaries, like ‘Who Are The Brain Police?’ weren’t just a mocking of social commentary. The mocking is quite a thing on this record, down to the sounds of kazoos, orgasms with heavy reverb, exaggerated hippy lingo – very schizophrenic.
“Help, I’m a rock / Help, I’m a rock / Help, I’m a cop / It’s a drag being a cop / I think I’d rather be the mayor.”  
This is where I first heard genre cut ‘n’ paste – years before I heard John Zorn. This is where I first saw that really anything goes, where the meaning in the genres disappears, but is replaced by the energy of “going all the way.”

The gems here are on sides 3 and 4 – this being one of the first double albums. A fond teenage memory of mine is memorizing with friends the a cappella sections of ‘It Can’t Happen Here’ (side 3) – it was 1974.

Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

1977, when this came out, was a big year. Bad Brains were forming in DC. No Wave was about to be codified with the No New York record. New York subways were bombed out with graffiti. The ’77 blackout resulted in the largest mass arrests in NY history – an entire block next to where I would start my recording studio 2 years later was arsoned during the blackout.

This record, just in the sense of pure energy – keeping much of the tempo up, and attitude in the vocals – really stood out. Compared even to the Ramones, this had more electricity, which could have been to a point a factor of the production. And unquestionably, the uniqueness of Lydon’s voice, affectations and accent. I’d never even heard a British accent like his before, I don’t think. Again, if you compare to Joey Ramone who had a cool, nonplussed, blasé delivery, Lydon was unrelenting, digging in, in your face – possibly even, rivaling [gasp] Iggy.

For me this is one of the touchstones of political music, even though many bands, like The Clash, Crass, and Dead Kennedys were more serious, or respectable even, and would later claim that mantle. This pulled me off the couch many a night to go paint the trains in 1977: “Cause I want to be Anarchy – in the city.”

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