MJ MJ Records head Andrew Thacker Todryk, under the alias Sasha Conda, has put out an ambitious tape of what he calls “casino boogie” music (a little sleazy, a lot early ’80s, somewhat like an even bleaker and slightly more groovy version of Cliff Martinez’s work for the Drive soundtrack) with Not Not Fun Records. It’s a concept album, based on the anti-hero’s journey of the fictional Bronco Stephenson, “a morally naive cyber hedonist strutting ever deeper into the bowels of a dystopian capitalist arena called The Palace Interior, where he must eventually face a day of reckoning with ‘the true computer heart of the world'”, and is accompanied by a 24-page narrative by Thacker Todryk’s childhood friend, writer Patrick Scott-Walsh. We asked the two a few questions about the world they created together.
This album has such a fully realized concept. How did you come up with the idea? What were some of your inspirations?
Andrew Thacker Todryk: It was a fairly long process. I was working on this album that was just all over the place, really having a hard time nailing down what I was going for. So I came up with the character Bronco and the idea of this enormous city sized mall to give my song writing some focus. I’m a huge sci-fi nerd and found that once I had an idea to shoot for, like “now I have to write a song that sounds like this towering escalator and a dude so jacked up that he practically comes when he’s hit by a blast from an air conditioner”, the music came much more easily. He was just this funky hedonist piece of shit, completely out of his depth, exploring a capitalist system so enormous that he had absolutely no grasp of its depth. It wasn’t until I asked Pat to write the accompanying narrative that things began to take shape. He would come over and listen to some of the tracks I was working on, and we would flesh out the world and events that took place. It was so fucking nerdy just getting fired up listening to techno and being like “ok when this arpeggiator comes in I’m getting the image of Bronco going to a more sinister level of The Palace Interior.” There was a lot of back and forth over concepts but in the end I wanted to give Pat as much creative control as possible, cause I’m such a huge fan of his writing. So pretty much all of the names and details were coming from him interpreting the music, and a lot of times I would change the songs to better fit the narrative he was going for.
Patrick Scott-Walsh: The main character is inspired by Axel Rose. So Bronco starts out as a drug-seeking man-child, who views his lifestyle as glamorous but once his reality is dismantled, he is capable of seeing a bigger picture. I imagine this had to happen to Axel (the moment of clarity) but of course he reverts to his old ways. And that’s what Bronco does. He knows he has to work with what he’s got. The narrative and aesthetic were a mish-mash of pop sci-fi tropes of the the 80’s and 90’s really: Tiered realities, new forms of drug intake, consumerism and private police. Andy wanted something that mirrored the pulpy classics, so I over-saturated it with language that would be used in the time and setting with out much explanations. Thats jacked from Neuromancer and Snowcrash. Overly cool to the point of being obnoxious, like Bronco.
Is this the first time you two have worked together? How did you guys start collaborating?
ATT: This is the first time since high school that we’ve collaborated on a project. We actually grew up together and were in this really ridiculous proggy synth rock band from like 6th – 12th grade. Our first record was a concept album called “Sacred Ground Dirt Mound” about three families in this kind of steam punk colonial rock opera. I’ve always had a huge respect for Pat’s creative output, he was the guitarist in an incredible no wave / surf band called Christmas and is currently in probably one of my favorite bands in the world The Pen Test (both very worth checking out).
It’s interesting to see a cyber-landscape of this sort that doesn’t feel heavily dystopian, especially considering that we’re living in a dystopia for real every day. Do you believe in the future, or no?
ATT: I have a fairly bleak outlook on the future. I think that definitely comes through in Bronco. I’d say this story is very dystopian, but not in the fascist regime / abject poverty kind of way. Bronco lives in a hyper-consumeristic society, as long as you have at least a little bit of money the apocalypse is going to be pretty comfortable and crammed with neon lights advertising gaudy bullshit. The book sort of serves as a look at the decline of society through the eyes of a moron at peace with the way things are because all he really wants is to get more and more jacked up. He’s charging gleefully in to the abyss along with the rest of humanity. It’s not until the end of the album, around the track/chapter The Plasticmen that the veil is lifted and Bronco gets a glimpse of how the world really works. Throughout the whole story there’s no reference to the outside world, which kind of emphasizes the fact that the world is probably so fucked up and awful that there’s no reason to spend a second in it. Best to jack in to some pleasure simulator and let it fall apart as our capitalist overlords chuckle to themselves in their chrome massage chairs.
PSW: Yeah, its highly dystopian. The end is pretty much the Matrix. I have to admit I was high when writing a lot of this and laughing at times when combining all the classics. Andy brings up a good point, the outside world is barely mentioned. Bronco doesn’t care about it and only navigates it while on drugs. The whole scene outside of the Palace Interior was a homage to my favorite panel in the comic Hard-boiled, but instead of degenerate neo-nazis and gimps having an orgy, they are filing into the mall. In that panel, the main character slams into all of them with his car. The image is incredible. Driving your car through a crust-punk public orgy. I imagine that happening when Bronco is moving through the crowd into the mall.
Impose: What’s next on your plate? What other projects are you working on, if any?
ATT: Well, I’ve run a label called MJ MJ Records for about five-ish years, that’s still goin’. Far as what’s next for Sasha, not really sure. I’ve pretty much only been listening to music concrete, drone and other obscure experimental music lately. I’ve been working on some darker, more textural music. But I can’t seem to not add clavinet and synth bass to everything I do. I would like to do a follow up to Bronco at some point, but probably not for a while.
Stream Bronco below:
Bronco is available now as a deluxe box set from Not Not Fun Records.