Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys are one of the most unique bands that you will ever see. Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys are one of the most unique bands that you will ever hear. Their abilities in entertaining you with sight and sound is something that I wish every band tried to accomplish. Or, maybe I don't wish that; If every band was doing it then maybe these broken toys wouldn't seem so special. Walter Sickert & Edire, one of The Broken Toys, took the time to sit down with us and talk about some of their experiences, sights and sounds.
YB: What's the origin of your band name?
WS: The name came to me in a dream where I was at a table and Oscar Wilde was standing behind me with his hand on my shoulder. Around the table were Hunter S. Thompson, Abraham Lincoln, Harry Houdini., JFK, Jesus, and the little girl from the Poltergeist. Oscar Wild placed a tureen in the middle of the table. He lifted the lid with a flourish, revealing a wax cylinder that read Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys
YB: What are the names and respective instrument of each band member?
--- Band Bunnies ---
(live performance artists who sometimes join the fray on instrument or body)
Madelaine Ripley - Violin; Nate Green Slit - Drums; Daniel Schubmehl - Drums; Tony Leva - Standup Bass; Paul Dilly - Standup Bass; Mali Sastri - Vocals, Piano; Katrina Galore - Dancer bunny; Eli Higgins - Mental Patient; Kelsey Jarboe - Accordion, Voice, Piano, bunny; Ben Parsons - Marionette; Irina Peligrad - Marionette
Al - Marionette; Kama Lord - Lady; Martin Owens - Gent
Stephanie Ramirez - Plastic Lady; Amy Roeder - card bunny; Natasha Sorokin - nested doll bunny; Ted Read - circuit bent bunny; Bex DuSunshine - Mermaid bunny; Penny Candy - ballerina bunny
YB: That is a lot of members. How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
Edrie: Walter and I have known each other for a few years. We met though an art collective that I helped run. I produced shows and his band was one of the more creative acts I came across.
The rest of the band has filtered in over time – we only started being a full band in May 2009 when we played May Fair in Harvard Square and the lineup, which is pretty solid now, was fluid for most of 2009. People just kinda showed up to open practice and then showed up at gigs – we welcomed anyone and everyone and still do!
TJ, for instance was a bunny at the May Fair show but started drumming for us a few shows later. We met him at a video store, he and Walter bonded over making fun of the movie I had chosen to buy.
And Meff came to practice with TJ to hang out and picked up a guitar and played so amazingly she was instantly ensconced.
jojo had traveled around with us being her Burlesque Poetess self and then found an AMAZING tenor ukulele on a tour with us and the rest is history
We’re even spawning spin off bands like Meff 'n jojo's Tiny Instrument Revue - http://www.facebook.com/tinyinstruments they are currently busking for Cabaret at Oberon and opening for Jill Tracy on 10/8 at Lily Pad!
YB: What inspired you to make music together?
Edrie: Walter and I got tossed together by fate and started making music as a positive outlet for the pain we were dealt. It was a band that was meant to be. The entire gory story is all over the inter-web if you do a little research.
YB: Who are your major influences?
WS: Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, Hieronymus Bosch, The Rat in Mi Kitchen song by UB40, The Tiger Lillies, Érik Satie, Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll, Aleister Crowley, Terry Gilliam, and Alan Moore to name but a few.
YB: Dr. Teeth, best band leader in history! Do you have a record label or Are you a member of any music organizations?
WS: We have nothing but the WIREFOREST which isn’t so much a record label as it is a place that houses the collection of our art. I’m not sure what a traditional label would get us.
Edrie: I’m there with Walter, our heroes are the Tiger Lillies who have no major label baking but managed to get nominated for a Grammy and have a fantastic career. We wouldn’t turn down management or even the right kind of label but they would have to be willing to work with us hand in hand to create a beautiful community of art!
We are members of ASCAP; I mean we want to get paid when people use our music after all.
YB: Could you speak to your association with Pan 9?
Edrie: Pan9… what can I say, I lost my virginity to all things in that space.
WS: I went to Pan9 quite a bit before the great fire. I fell in love with the atmosphere and the people and the kneeler on the wall, salvaged from some forgotten church. My favorite part of the open house nights was around 5am when passed out bodes were strewn next to art projects making it look like creativity exploded leaving only a few art refugees.
YB: What can you tell me about your instruments and gear? (i.e., Are you subject to brand loyalty or will you play with whatever's available?
Edrie: I play an antique accordion that is actually Walter’s – it’s beautiful and old and German and I beat on it too much, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. The other instruments I play are toys or some variation on unusual. I’ve been through four melodicas and MANY tiny toy accordions. eBay is my friend!
WS: I play and handmade Alvarez from the 80’s that is older than I am. I was given it after the owner died in a bizarre boating incident in a National Park. I’m loyal to this guitar in particular, but it’s more important to make music on whatever you have instead of wishing for perfect gear.
YB: What made you choose the instruments you have now? Was it cost or was
it a style/model/brand/color preference?
Edrie: We really don’t use all that much fancy equipment. Maybe a stomp box or two for a special sound once in a while, but all in all the magical music we play comes straight from us. Rachel, our viola player for instance, can LITERALLY make ANY noise come out of that viola of hers, she is MAGIC!
Give us a little house reverb and we are SET!
YB: What are your favorite and least favorite venues?
WS: I like playing at Toys ‘r Us, but I don’t like playing at the Gap.
Edrie: We’ve played ALL kinds of places. I think, for me, a non-traditional venue or a theatre is really where I feel the most free. Places like the MelkWeg in Amsterdam, or the 930 Club in DC, or Usine C in Montreal, or Royce Hall in LA (where we played with the Tiger Lillies and went to dinner with Matt Groening – dream come true!) or smaller spaces like the Red Room in Boston really treat their artists like guests. It’s great to form a solid, mutually beneficial working relationship with a venue.
YB: Do you have any upcoming shows?
9/18 – Lily Pad Cambridge – EARLY show w/. Bewitched of MN
9/25 – Red Room @ 939 – EARLY show – the award winning indie movie The Why screens after out set
10/2 – Private Showcase in NYC with some of our favorite people
10/12 – Amanda Fing Palmer’s Late Fing Night Cabaret @ Oberon
10/13 – Union Hall of Brooklyn with Jill Tracy
See ArmyofToys.com for the complete list!
YB: Could you briefly describe your music-making process?
WS: There is a lot of clap-clap , snap-sanp and a squeeze of lime. I like to wade out into the either, and then record everything that happens in the deep dark. I also think the best take is the first take and most of our songs have come out of that method.
YB: Do you care if people like your music or is it just for you?
WS: I would make music if there were no people in the world, so I guess it’s for me.
Edrie: The standard answer to that is we make music for us and do what makes us happy and what comes out is a reflection of our hard work, but I secretly hope people like it! We’ve been lucky so far in that they do! And if they don’t, they either don’t tell me or they meet with some mysterious accident involving a lister knife…
YB: Art and Music are tied closely together. It seems your band is very
interested in visual as well as musical art. When doing a show, what
one takes a priority, visual or musical art?
WS: Each is as important as the other – you can’t separate the two.
Edrie: For the band the visual art is the music and the music is the visual art and vice versa. I’d add performance art and writing into that mix and put it in a blender and you get us.
YB: What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
Edrie: TIME!!! I need Hermione’s Time Turner for this entire band! I constantly have to say no to things because we’re fully booked. Granted it’s not a bad problem to have, but I want to say YES to everything cool ever!
WS: I wouldn’t use Hermione’s… necklace, but if we had a flux capacitor for our SteamShip – that would actually work.
YB: What's your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?
WS: We’re seeking fortune cookies. Possibly the best thing about making underground music now is that the fans are the label. It’s a unique opportunity for everyone to be involved directly in the art that gets made.
YB: What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands or
are in bands? have any secret tips?
Edrie: There is absolutely no secret! Just do it! Figure out what you want and go for it; and if you don’t know how, ask someone who is already doing it how they did it! All you need is a good work ethic and the ability to sleep five hours a night or less!
YB: First Album you ever bought was.....
Edrie: A 45 single of Dancing on the Ceiling by Lionel Richie. I think I bought it for $.10 at a yard sale. I played it on my hand-me-down Strawberry shortcake record player.
WS: Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine by the Doors and Black Sunday by Cypress Hill
YB: What is the craziest thing to happen at one of your shows?
Edrie: Well that would be hard to get at – I mean our crazy quotient is so Fing high… Our shows are a unique blend of music, art and PURE unadulterated CRAZY! I mean we have burlesque performers, bunnies, audience members coming on stage etc. What ISN’T the craziest thing to happen at a show?
WS: We did once have a venue start on fire while we played and once in NYC got shut down for fire code violations just before we set foot on the stage.