Brad Cox is a vocalist, guitarist, songwriter, and frontman for a number of bands, including Skitzo Calypso and We Love The Underground. He's had his hand in writing and releasing over a dozen albums from the mid-1990s all the way to the present. When I first met him, it was at a concert in Baltimore earlier this year with Skitzo Calypso. His energy was contagious, and even though I wasn't familiar with any of the band's songs, I couldn't help but watching what he'd do next. Exploring more of Skitzo's music, as well as his newer solo project, We Love The Underground, I have discovered just how talented and tenacious Brad Cox is. That's why I was thrilled when he agreed to be interviewed for Better B#!
Take a few minutes and get to know this fellow a little better. You'll be glad you did.
I'd like you tell us the story of Brad Cox. How did you begin this crazy adventure in rock n' roll?
In a nutshell, I grew up in a very religious household, so rock n' roll became my escape. From a very young age, my parents really didn't want me listening to certain types of music; I naturally became drawn to it. At 18-years-young (August 10th, 1996), I packed my little red Toyota Tercel and left for Los Angeles, California with an acoustic and some clothes; this is what my heroes did. I followed suit. I really didn't know what to expect, but each moment was pulsating with energy, excitement and fear - everything was surreal and amplified. It made me feel alive; I'm still drawn to these types of gambles. The first Skitzo Calypso song I recall writing was a song called, "Blinds". So, from there, I just started writing lyrics, like a diary. When I returned home, I began putting music and arrangements to these muses.
While in California, I had a band called Ananda with now-professional surfer, Sharon Schaffer. She was a mover and a shaker actress, living in Playa del Rey; she had a hell of a voice. My step-brother put us together, but it fizzled out pretty quickly when I was fired from Tower Records for trying to unionize the store with a couple o' friends. Before we met, I was told, 'Your singer is the woman who gets burned in the subway toll booth in Money Train'. So, I was instantly impressed. But, post-Tower, she didn't really want much to do with me; Tower Records was a rite of passage for any up-and-coming group and I had soiled our chances of utilizing it as a stepping stone.
My father was also a musician and had a miniature studio in our basement; he'd let me experiment. There was a song on a cassette tape called, Guitars that Rule the World called, "I Understand Completely" by Paul Gilbert. I was mesmerized by the guitar work and began writing guitar compositions without lyrics. I was probably 12 or 13-years-young at the time. Over the years, I began realizing just how accessible writing and recording my own music could be and began seeking out ways to do it.
Somewhere along the lines I found a certain comfort level with darker music and themes; I guess it made me less accessible and therefore shielded me from judgment. Most of the music was cynical, jaded and angry; the themes were typically centered around society and my snarky perception of it (including but not limited to: peer groups, initiations, the seven deadly sins, judgment, drug abuse, self-destruction, mass media impact and revolution). Being that I was releasing demo records annually, it also became a running diary of my life. My upbringing, blended with my personality, inevitably brought to light a lot of juxtaposed ideas about society and religion; I guess I had a lot of inner conflict.
I loved bands like Faith No More, Guns n' Roses, Led Zeppelin, etc. The music had to move me, but it also had to have a brain. I can totally fall in love with mindless rock n' roll, but I really can't bring myself to write it. It's just not me.
Anyway, fast-forward 10 Skitzo Calypso releases and 100's of shows later and that's the gist!
Both of your bands' have unusual and interesting names. First there was Skitzo Calypso, which you started in the mid-1990s, while We Love The Underground developed just a few years ago. Where did these names originate and why did you decide to use them?
To me, Skitzo Calypso means 'Psychotic Paradise'; I just found a fun way of saying it. Being that a lot of the musical themes were centered around social changes/issues, I felt this was a fit. In the liner notes of the first CD, Join the Cult it says, "What is Psychotic?" It was answered in the follow-up CD liner notes with the word, "Reality." That was my mission statement; perhaps I was pointing out the obvious, but if you stop and look around, our world has lost it. The first record, Join the Cult, was about our tendencies to be drawn to certain peer groups - a group of individuals we feel share the same ideals. Premeditated Acts of Stupidity covers just about all of those groups (via genre hopping) and focuses on the rules we follow and the compromises we'll often make to fit in. The whole record is tongue-in-cheek.
If you think about it, the only thing crazy about people is the world they're asked to live in. It's mind-boggling how people keep their lids on at all; it's actually a miracle. We're pulled in a million directions [daily] and even more so now: we have social media documenting our every move (sometimes willingly, sometimes not), we have the ability to create alter egos, which require a bit of management, we answer 100's of emails daily, we have the pressures of work, family, friends, etc., we have often-unacknowledged social pressures, psychological disorders, temptations - you get the idea! It's maddening.
I can confidently say I have absolutely nothing figured out, although I may posture as if I do.
After years in the club scene, I realized that I really liked the escape it provided. Sure, I was often in my own world and selling it to anyone who was willing to listen, but there was also certain understanding amongst my musical brothers, sisters and those who hung out; we could be anyone or anything we wanted to be, albeit 'for the moment.' So, I can confidently say We (do) Love the Underground! It's a place, time and mentality that we simply can't allow ourselves to let go of. As Mick says, "Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind!" There are so many people, as you get older, who gave up or are simply aggravated and want nothing more than for you to join in their misery (cult). They are often beautiful people, who just got beaten down by life and want a way out. I think it's important to keep the free spirit alive; it creates hope!
"It sucks you in; before you know it, it can become your identity. "