Pablo Picasso: Every Gig is a Dream Gig



Interview first saw Pablo Picasso at the opening party for the Bruce High Quality Foundation‘s (BHQF) Brucennial, which was a jam-packed event for friends and family of the more than  a hundred artists ranging in age, sensibility, and level of unruliness. To this eclectic audience, the band played jagged, sparse guitar lines, and rough vocals with mostly inscrutable lyrics. They also demonstrated a troubled relationship with their paternal namesake, titling their songs “Picabia,” for the painter’s contemporary, and “Dora Maar” for his muse, but referencing him no further. BHQF comprises four young artists who use anonymity as a protest of the system of “art stars.” A bulk of their artistic output is community outreach—bringing together party-goers and conversants in a rotating scheme of situations, educational, labrious, and leisure. That makes Pablo Picasso, whose music stands on its own, something of an offshoot and mainstay of BHQF: Oto Gillen, 25; Darius Greyson, 21; Keegan Monaghan, 23; Eugene Wasserman, 26. BHQF interviewed Pablo Picasso to clarify its role and its goals:

BRUCE HIGH QUALITY FOUNDATION: Tell us about recording your album. How did it come together?

KEEGAN MONAGHAN: A friend of ours, Ray Smith, went to make paintings in Mexico and let us use his studio in Brooklyn while he was away. We only had three days to record it because Eugene, who plays guitar, was leaving for Los Angeles. The time constraint was such that it’s basically a live recording. We’re far more interested in performing these songs live than producing them for albums.

DARIUS GREYSON : We had a great time. It was summer.  We had a grill. We made burgers and hot dogs every day.

BHQF: How do you write the songs?

MONAGHAN: It generally starts with improvisation, something will stand out and a part will become central. We build off that with more improvisation, until it all comes together. It’s like an exquisite corpse.

WASSERMAN: I never knew what Darius was singing until I mixed the record. I was pleasantly surprised that I really liked the lyrics.

BHQF: How much of your life is working on material for this band?

PABLO PICASSO: We’re constantly writing new songs. We try to have a new one for each show we play. We’re working on having a new album before the end of 2010. The first one still hasn’t been released officially. Except by us, for free, via Sendspace.

BHQF: You are all visual artists as well. Did you have any music training in school?

WASSERMAN: Most of us met at Cooper Union, Darius went to The New School. It does inform how we approach writing music, but we’re not all artists.

GILLEN: I think everyone in this band is an artist. Eugene, you’re one of the best artists I know.

WASSERMAN: I’m not. You’re only an artist when you’re making art.

BHQF: Is there an emotional quality or message you’d like to give people through your work?

PABLO PICASSO: We do generally play in a minor key, and we like counterpoint and drama. But we create parts of songs that we then edit together like a film, so we don’t set out to create a certain mood or message; how a song feels is what it’s about.

BHQF: Many of the songs seem to riff on the persona of the artist Pablo Picasso, at least by their titles. How literally researched is he?

GREYSON: We’re interested in taking the things we like from all music and finding a way to synthesize them.  It’s got nothing to do with Pablo Picasso. There’s no attempt or interest in reflecting that persona. It’s all vaguely dirty and vaguely sad, which could be said of Picasso, but he’s not on my mind.

INTERVIEW: And a questionnaire:

BHQF: What’s your favorite painting in the Met?

GILLEN: David’s painting of a guy and his wife…

MONAGHAN: That El Greco painting of Groucho Marks.

WASSERMAN: They took it down. It was a Rembrandt of a white guy wearing a ruff. Maybe that Dierk Bouts fragment of the disembodied hand resting on the fat guy’s shoulder.

GREYSON: That Balthus painting of the little girl.

MONAHGAN: I want to change my answer to Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm.

GILLEN: There’s that Klimt painting of the cute girl.

BHQF: Last show you saw?

BAND: Brucennial 2010.

BHQF: Kiss ass.

BHQF: Favorite bars?

WASSERMAN: Russian Samovar on 52nd Street.

GILLEN: McSorley’s Old Ale House, on East 7th Street.

GREYSON: Winnie’s, the karaoke bar in [New York’s] Chinatown

WASSERMAN: The Four Seasons bar.

MONAGHAN: Milano’s, on East Houston.

WASSERMAN: Spain [the country]

BHQF: Dream gig?

MONAGHAN: I’d like to play the Olympics.

GILLEN: Mine is to play while one of our friends gets it on, acoustic set.

WASSERMAN: The International space station.

GILLEN: The dark side of the moon.

GREYSON: Every gig is a dream gig.