Thursday, March 12, 2009

5 Questions with Brook Dalton of 86

Not only does Brook Dalton have a gift for music, he is respected in his community as an organizer, artist, poet, and a curator of the 86 Art Gallery (where he also dwells) in Ventura, CA.

Brook's knowledge of life is vast, and his reputation as a raconteur--in combination with an easy wit--can't help but draw others into his gravitational pull. His formidable talent is augmented by an affection for narrative art: this man of stature is also a serious comic book collector. To check out Brook Dalton's published work, please visit: X-Ray Book Co..

1. What is 86 to you? When did it become such a community center?

That’s kind of a big one to start out with. On a basic level it’s a house and an art gallery. There are five rooms here and I do what I can to continually make it as affordable as possible, so as a consequence I’ve lived with dozens and dozens of different folks over the years. I literally couldn’t name all of the people I’ve lived with. There have been roommates that have put out albums, published books, received Master’s Degrees, absorbed astronomical amounts of THC, etc. We’ve had a steady group for the last few years now and they’re all amazing people.

As an art fan, I feel luckier than I can express to live here because there are hundreds of pieces in the house that I get to come home to every day. Each work of art (except for four) contains the number 86 in it, in some form or another, as a symbol of the sense of community that sort of embodies the place. There really is an astounding atmosphere here and we’re constantly surrounded by the funniest, smartest, most talented people you can hope to meet. I think the sense of community probably started around 1994. We used to be more of a party house until then, but that’s when the first Eighty-Six paintings started to roll in and also when we began to organize events rather than just have random parties. To this day, we’re known for our events and it’s nice to see them gain steam every year.

We’re also pretty heavily involved in the music scene(s) around Ventura. Everyone who lives here is a musician and we do what we can to help promote shows or let touring bands crash on our couches in order to help out in any way we can. Through it all, I think it’s safe to say that the sense of community has remained so strong over the years because we always try to stay as positive as we can while providing a fun/entertaining outlet for people. Well, as much fun as you can have without waking up in the clink or having to visit the free clinic the next day.

2. Do you have a certain personal vision of what you want out of your drumming or do you try to emulate techniques you admire? Or both?

Over the last couple of years, my goal with drumming has been to ride the fine line between being a role player and adding a creative element to songs. I mean, I don’t want to stand out by being flashy or incorporating weird timing changes, but I do want the drums to be integral to the way the song is meant to sound. I don’t ever consciously try to imitate other drummers or techniques, but I certainly get motivated by specific people. For instance, I’m really into Glenn Kotche right now but I wouldn’t go to band practice and try to add some fills or beats to a song that might sound like his style. However, I will take notice of the care and scrutiny that he takes with his drum parts and in turn I’ll try to do the same with songs that I play on.

Listening to good drummers usually lights a bit of a fire under my ass to pay more attention to what the drums should be doing in a song and to try and adhere to that.

3. Who are some of the poets you enjoy?

I’m eternally thankful for the poetry of Bukowski. I would never have motivated myself to start writing if it weren’t for him. Some others that stand out are: Sharon Olds, Billy Childish, Gerard Manley Hopkins, e.e. Cummings, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Dan Fante, Raegan Butcher, Raymond Carver.

Poetry is kind of a weird beast to me. I appreciate a lot of the underground/counterculture stuff because it appeals to my punk rock upbringing and disposition, but I truly feel that much of the canonized pieces are more than deserving of their status. It’s almost like the angry, more colloquial stuff really jives with my emotional state, but the anthologized poems become incredibly engaging when dissected and explicated. Especially the Victorians…I dig them friggin’ Victorians.

4. Do you consider comic books to be high art? Is there a particular example you can give?

Some of it, certainly. The beauty of comics is that they can appeal to two sensibilities simultaneously. There really are a lot of phenomenal, intelligent writers doing top-notch work on some titles. Authors like Brian K. Vaughan, Bill Willingham, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman really understand the craft and write better than most other people who put out books that don’t have pictures in them.

On an aesthetic level, some of the very best artwork being released today is in the comic medium. I’m also happy to see the borders between the gallery/fine art scenes and the comic book world starting to blur. I think that comic artists such as James Jean, Ashley Wood, Charles Burns, Alex Ross, Dave Cooper, Eric Powell, and Ben Templesmith are going to help merge the two realms. Also, I’d like to say that there is absolutely no truth to the assumed edict that the true ‘artistic’ talents in comics lie in the indie/underground titles and that hero books are nothing more than spandex and uppercuts. Some of the most thoughtful and intriguing writing being published today is coming from super hero books. Seriously.

5. What's your current passion?

I’m always juggling a handful of things that I’m passionate about, but lately I’ve been inundating myself with music. I’ve been going to a shit-ton of concerts, as well as playing as many shows as I can, and for some reason it seems like I’ve been having more and more really good conversations about music lately. I’ve also been introduced to a bunch of bands recently (thanks, Lingua) and that kind of serves as a catalyst for the enthusiasm. Furthermore, I can’t stop record shopping. It’s getting ridiculous. I don’t really think twice about spending money on records, but I don’t view that as a fault. It’s not an obsession, it’s sustenance. Besides, if I start to spend too much on music I’ll just cut corners on other expenses. For instance, I’ve bought about 20 records this week, but I barely picked up any crack cocaine or Cambodian porn. It all works out in the wash.