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How did you and the rest of Oneida initially get involved with the space?
We've worked with Erik Z, Rachel Nelson [of Secret Project Robot] and Kayrock [Screenprinting] for years. We were getting kicked out of our old space and running around Brooklyn trying to find a place to make into our next studio. It turned out that Todd P's basement club wasn't working out and there was a bunch of space that wasn't being utilized. It finally worked out that we got a chunk of the basement, and with a ton of help from all of the above and a hefty outlay of cash, we got The Ocropolis up and running within four months. It was where I was 100 percent of the time when I wasn't working or sleeping.
Do you have a favorite memory of playing Monster Island Basement?
I'd have to say debuting the Man Forever drum-ensemble pieces down there last year. That was incredible. We didn't really know what things would sound like. Brian Chase tuned six drum kits to different notes, and we just went for it.
How about of another band you've seen there or of a show you booked there?
I've booked a few shows there. I think the Gary Higgins, Notekillers, Moonrises, Man Forever gig from a few months ago was a fun one... It's tough to single the stuff out though. There were shows there a few times a week, every week!
If I have my facts right, you also man Monster Island's recording studio, The Ocropolis. Is there a particular memory that sticks out from a recording session — something that sort of sums up all the hours you spent there?
Shahin Motia and I did a recording project there last winter. We recorded one song each by 22 bands — and all of [them] were incredible. People gave us some amazing compositions and performances. I feel bad singling them out because they were all so good, but Notekillers seemed special to us; Wingdale Community Singers nailed this complicated five-part vocal harmony thing — that just blew my mind. There's a compilation of this stuff coming out on Brah Records, the label I run through Jagjaguwar, soon.
We also recorded Sightings' album City of Straw there. We're really proud of that. Black Dice recorded there, Growing did Pumps there, White Hills recorded a couple albums there... it was a special spot.
5.) As for The Ocropolis, I heard there are plans to move it elsewhere. Any chance of opening another venue too? Well, I guess I should be clear: Oneida did not run the performance space. That was a building community space that was available to anyone who rented the spots in the building. We're moving to Bushwick with Secret Project Robot. It's unclear if the Ocropolis-style recording situation will remain. Our space there is a lot smaller... but we can make anything work and have, so we're all excited to get back to work.
With Market Hotel and Monster Island now closed, not to mention the recent troubles Silent Barn has faced, there's been some talk about the death of Brooklyn's DIY scene. Do you feel as though it's as vibrant as it once was?
Hmmm, in a way I don't feel like I have the authority to talk about the death of a scene. A lot of people complain that things have changed — it's true — but I'm not sure it's a useful way of looking at things. I might be out of touch with the younger Brooklyn bands right now — Oneida started about 15 years ago — [but] the DIY drive feels very much alive to me. The thing is that when Silent Barn had all its troubles, the community coalesced around them very quickly. Clearly there's a scene that cares about them and what they do.
If not, does that bum you out, or do you chalk it up to the natural progression of any so-called music scene?
I mean, I'm still doing my music and there are so many inspirational bands and musicians... they are all here. So I'm not bummed. I'm just excited, per usual.