Since the early 80’s, Martin Bisi has gained a reputation as an exceptional producer becoming one of the central figures of the music community of NYC. Bisi started discovering himself with “Creole Mass” (LP on New Alliance/SST) LP, released in 1988. The newest LP of Bisi, Feral Myths represents the symbiosis of different approaches – from jazz to krautrock influences. The tales of a wild state, of New York heroes and villains over the years, and random paranormal encounters.
The initial story of the Feral Myths dates back to UK tour in 2016, where some elements of the closing title, ‘The Great Trap In The Creek’ rose out of a jam, accompanied by Diego Ferri (baritone guitar), Oliver Rivera Drew (drums) and Genevieve Fernworthy (viola, vocals). “It was rare to have these three artists in one place”, recalls Martin, pointing out to the diversity of fragments of a forthcoming collage.
He stresses the importance of the collaborative aspect of his work saying: “Sometimes someone’s idea will be better than what I had in mind – for instance, in the chouses of “The Octave Bridge”, Genevieve had a complicated idea for overlapping background voices – I soon realized that those should be the lead voice”. The addition of Dave Miller, a well-known jazz drummer helped to get specific shading to the coloring of the whole song, that unites various approaches like a melting pot.
Prolific producer, Bisi never gives any instructions to his collaborators, leaving space for post-production – later edits and additional arrangements. Martin clarifies his way of converting them into the motifs: “That’s the only time I’ll be very fixed on something – if I really like a moment or an idea – it’s always positive feedback. I feel I get the best results if I let people interpret on their own the very ‘big picture’ that I lay out”.
A producer’s approach overlaps throughout every stage, keeping the participants in their own context. Four female singers collaborated with Bisi on various songs adding not only musical parts, but specific context. In “Esther Wins Again” Martin explores the narrative of women winning throughout history, while not being a part of the official story: “The first couple verses are about Stormy Daniels, the adult film actor who had a relationship with Trump. Then I go to a woman who was an animist witch. And then I play with the word “history”, turning it into “her story” which is of course “our story”, “your story” and “my story” which goes on in circular fashion”.
Explaining the system of characters on the record, Martin says: “I generally don’t write about myself or my feelings. It’s not very personal music. In the past I’ve written about groups of people or concepts, and any individuals were not really heroes or villains, they were just types of people I thought were interesting and worth considering”.
In the case of “A Storm Called Ida”, referring to the hellish night when Hurricane Ida hit Brooklyn in 2021 with mythic proportions, Martin personifies the storm with female vocals recorded by Sara Fantry. The storm, in Bisi’s storyline is portrayed as a force of nature that is both a destroyer, killer and a member of the community. Lamenting “the people’s dreams were soaked” and warning “as the waters warm, the storms will come“, Martin injects an action that is taken – a friend at the end narrates about trying to escape into the storm.
As an active member of Brooklyn community, which often involves protest actions, Martin notices that raw punk rebellion was always a part of him. “It didn’t always have a political agenda. But almost always had a social agenda. Autonomy and inclusion have been important values – these are the things that have guided me”.
Several reminiscences of his artistic stages converged with the imperative to be counter-cultured: “When I moved into hip hop, it was about Black and Hispanic youth to me. It was their rebellion, which was not unfamiliar to me cause I’d previously written graffiti. When I got involved in the scene around Lydia Lunch and Sonic Youth, it felt better to me because it was more female-centered. Then Cop Shoot Cop was anti-corporate”. Being currently involved in land-use activism, Martin thinks that “it’s where the battle for music and art is taking place”, broadening the rebellion-centered ideas of his record: “We are being displaced and dispersed from our cities, which affects the power and quality of what we do”.
Feral Myths are tales of a wild state, of New York heroes and villains over the years, and random paranormal encounters.The new LP from Martin Bisi is coming out on December, 2nd via Black Freighter Records on December, 2nd.