- Martin Bisi Biography -

Martin Bisi has been a NYC musician and record producer since the 80s. At BC Studio which he started with Bill Laswell and with the help of Brian Eno in Brooklyn, he has since realized albums by Sonic Youth, Swans, John Zorn, Africa Bambaataa, The Dresden Dolls, Herbie Hancock's Rockit, Boredoms, Helmet, White Zombie, Cop Shoot Cop, Material/Bill Laswell, Foetus, Serena Maneesh, Psalm Zero, White Hills, Pop 1280 (Sacred Bones), Invisible Things (members US Maple, Fred Frith, Wrekmeister Harmonies (Thrill Jockey), and others. He has also contributed to albums by Iggy Pop and The Ramones.

The History

Martin Bisi was born in 1961 to Argentinian parents and grew up in Manhattan. His mother was a concert pianist who specialized in Liszt and Chopin and toured extensively, and his father played tango-style piano as a hobby. Bisi was sent to French school, given a lot of music lessons and made to go regularly to the NY Philharmonic and the opera. He rebelled against all of these - it was the 60's after all - and developed a disdain for academically accepted music, never fully embracing the instruments he was made to study. The 60's were a vibrant time in New York City, and the energized youth culture that Bisi saw instilled in him a fascination with the social role of music. By 1975, at age 14, Bisi was doing graffiti on NY's streets and subways. His first tag was "Alive In 75" , but he switched to "TagE" the next year.

This first experience in anti-art inspired interest in the anti-music of avant-garde noise and downtown no-wave bands around '79-'80. Bisi soon met John Zorn and Bill Laswell, both older than himself, at a rehearsal/ performance space. Instinctively drawn in, he threw himself into doing live, then studio, sound. Soon Bisi and Laswell got a loft space in a frontier-zone of Brooklyn where multiple musicians lived and rehearsed. Bisi started acquiring recording equipment, and then in late '80, Laswell and Bisi met Brian Eno.

Eno had taken an interest in NY's no-wave scene and was coming regularly to see Laswell's band Material. At one show, Eno stood by the board and watched Bisi do sound; at the end of the set, he proposed they meet the next day. Soon the idea of Eno helping Laswell and Bisi create a viable recording space in Brooklyn was formed. In January, 1981, Bisi had the first real recording session of his life with Brian Eno. Those recordings found their way into Eno's ambient series of releases, notably On Land. He named the studio OAO for "Operation All Out", copped from William Burroughs' novel Naked Lunch. Much ground-breaking avant-garde music started to flow out of OAO.

Simultaneously, Bisi and the Material crew were going to the Roxy roller rink in Manhattan on Friday nights, where the Bronx based hip-hop nation would make it's weekly downtown in-roads. Material, which had become engrossed in studio experimentation, soon started recording hip-hop, and in '82 Herbie Hancock proposed that they make a hip-hop track for him to play keyboard over. Bisi and Material soon recorded the song "Rockit." It became the first top 40 song to feature scratching, and won Hancock a Grammy in '84. All this action in hip-hop, including work with Afrika Bambaata, drew Sonic Youth to Bisi, and they sought him out specifically as a hip-hop producer for their records Evol and Bad Moon Rising.

Around this time Bisi broke off with Laswell and Material, but he kept the studio and re-named it BC Studio. The studio flourished, recording nascent indie rock acts as well as industrial and more aggressive fare. Notorious avant-rock provocateurs Foetus, Swans, Cop Shoot Cop, Live Skull, Unsane and Alice Donut all did multiple recordings with Bisi.

In '88 Material was intermittently re-formed as a production team, and was sought out by The Ramones, Iggy Pop and White Zombie. They produced many notable World Music recordings as well, including a Ginger Baker solo album (Middle Passage), and a Material album (The Road To The Western Lands) which put some William Burroughs' readings into an electro-world context.

Around 1990, John Zorn, now a major avant garde icon, tapped Bisi to record a number albums of himself and for his label, most notably: Zorn's Spy vs. Spy, Naked City's Torture Garden, and The Boredom's Wow2. The late 90's brought projects to BC Studio with a distinct Eastern European flavor such as Barbez, culminating in the near mainstream success of The Dresden Dolls in 2003. In 2005, shoegazer sensations Serena Maneesh mixed their debut at BC Studio to widespread acclaim. After 2009, Bisi continued in more Noise and Industrial territory, such as Psalm Zero, White Hills, Pop 1280 (Sacred Bones), Invisible Things (members US Maple, Fred Frith, & Wrekmeister Harmonies (Thrill Jockey).

Bisi has recorded and released eight albums and EP's of his original work since the late '80's. In 2018 Bisi produced a record BC35 for the 35th anniversary of BC Studio with a number of alumni from over those years.

Martin Bisi

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Martin Bisi