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Boy Dirt Car Celebrates 30 Years of Noise

May. 11, 2011
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"I found myself recording sounds in Milwaukee in 2007 with my old friends; it just sounded like Boy Dirt Car," Darren Brown says of the reformation of the band that made for one of Milwaukee's most cacophonous musical exports of the 1980s. "From there we slowly reassembled and released in 2007 the Spoken Answer to a Silent Question CD."

The group will mark another milestone in their long history when they celebrate their 30th anniversary with a May 26 concert at Club Garibaldi.

Boy Dirt Car, a band that Brown says has always been "isolationist by nature," issued several cassettes and LPs throughout their first decade and made an impression that has reverberated internationally.

The group's sense of isolation—a peculiar trait for an act that has seen more than 10 members in its fold since its inception—has fed a consistently shifting sound from album to album (or half-album, per their split release with local trance rockers F/i back when and a December 2010 collaboration with sometime-Milwaukeean Andy Gallagher). But what might be heard as a restless aesthetic nature by some heralds a sense of aural exploration for Brown.

“Boy Dirt Car is always attempting to move ahead, changing from release to release. In a strange way, we are much more in control of the noise we create—not total control," Brown says of the sextet's creative process.

That process results in an aesthetic that may be appreciated worldwide, but is rooted where the band members call home. Some may describe what Boy Dirt Car does as “industrial music,” and a certain kind of industriousness has something to do with its distinction as such.

"Wisconsin and the Midwest, with its industrial work ethic, has always been an influence," Brown says of one of the enduring features of BDC's artistry.

Brown now calls Minneapolis home, but the ethic hasn't changed. His sense of who largely comprises BDC's fan base might have, however. "At one time," Brown says, "I would have had an image of our typical fan as older, white male, loner, like a serial killer.

"Now I'm not so sure," he adds, in what must be considered an up note.

No matter who's listening, the aforementioned appellation of industrial isn't quite what Brown and co-founder Eric Lunde (who has since left the BDC fold and allowed the rights to the band's name to go to Brown) had in mind upon their formation.

"From the start, we wanted to be a noise band," Brown explains. "The 'industrial' tag showed up after the fact. We are a noise band."

Much of the band's history will be on display in an exhibit to be featured at the Club Garibaldi gig. The exhibit will feature "posters, press cuttings and photos from Boy Dirt Car's history,” Brown says. The press the band has received over the years includes a mention in a New York Times piece on "junk rock" and a name-check by, of all people, newspaper advice columnist Ann Landers.

A band with that wide a gamut of recognition probably can't help but be influential, but Brown's not arrogant about it. "I am just grateful and humbled by whatever artistic contribution we can make," he says.

Looking back on the three decades of BDC, he says, “Do you remember what a long-distance phone call cost 30 years ago? Think of it: pre-cyberspace, pre-cell phone, pre-digital, pre-compact disc. For good or bad, our world has changed, and I have been in this band that long. I just think 30 years is something to celebrate.”

Boy Dirt Car headlines a show at Club Garibaldi on May 26 with Zerobeat, Peter J. Woods, Mobile Sound Unit and The Demix.


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