by Mack Dreyfuss
May 2009

Madison, Wisconsin band Brainerd

Madison, Wisconsin band Brainerd

Dan Dieterich, founder of Brainerd, is a man who is not afraid of getting in touch with the darker side of life. If you are aware of Madison, Wisconsin’s musical history, chances are you’ve heard of this band. Recently signed by (Zodiac Killer Records), their third album approaches. Called simply, “The Goat Album,” Dieterich says that Brainerd plays “deathpunk” and has “congealed into a unique sound.” He describes their first album, “There’s No Eye in Pussy” as “an amalgamation of sound that ranges from traditional punk to rockabilly. We came together more on our second album ‘Animal Mother’. That was more grindy. Fans who come out to hear our latest music can be assured that they will receive a hearty dose of high-powered, high-energy rock n roll party music.”

Dieterich created Brainerd in 2002 with other local music notables. The original Brainerd guitarist named Matt “Knife” Porwall was from Brainerd, Minnesota, which is the source of the band’s name. Prior to this, Dieterich cut his teeth in a variety of other musical endeavors to include co-writer for Mad Trucker Gone Mad (95-01), Ted (85-87), Shit Bong (86-93), Abu Temple (87-90), Clip the Daisies (91-93), Seize Mars (92-94), Fuzzdolly (93-95), John Kruth (94-96), and Xor (98-00). Currently, Brainerd consists of Dan Dieterich (bass/vocals), Mike “Magma” Henry (drums), Jon Chvojicek (guitar), and Shawn Blacker (guitar). The fragments of this musical grenade include four prior alumni. Although the name of the band references a town in Minnesota, Brainerd is intensely Madisonian. Dieterich states: “We’re an American band, and we extol the virtues of freedom although we don’t necessarily always agree with the decisions made by our government. We sing the song of the party. We sing the song written by Madison, the most extreme party town in America. It might seem brash or offensive to some, but these are true stories about living life to its most severe potential.”

The band has a turbulent history which includes Dieterich’s own struggle with addiction. Currently in recovery, Dieterich states that sobriety “has inspired me, cleared my head. It’s allowed me to extrapolate my skewed vision of the world. It has enhanced it—I mean, I’m not talking about puppy dogs and butterflies, but I’m definitely more appreciative of life and what I have. Being hopelessly addicted to drugs is a black and terrible place I hope I never return to. I still have many dear friends that are addicted to drugs and are in the midst of slowly ruining their lives. Unfortunately, I can’t be with them any longer because it pains me. I pray they get the help they need, and if I can help anyone with this problem, people can feel free to contact me. I’m here to help.”

Brainerd’s music is filled with violence, death, and the demonic. Dieterich cites his experience of growing up in the height of the Cold War, where the threat of nuclear war loomed heavily in the public consciousness. He states that he “never thought any of us would live this long, honestly.” Many of his friends haven’t. At a moment’s notice he produces a list of friends who have successfully committed suicide or overdosed. He states concern about the current government, the wars America is involved in, the effects that war has on young servicemen and servicewomen, and the horrendous effects of misused religion. He states: “We support our troops. We believe that war is SOMETIMES a necessary evil, which eats at me, but people are just not supposed to kill people.” These concerns enter the music. A track called “Blood Money” has a political edge and critical of the war in Iraq. “All Night Party” finishes off some solid rock with a bit of haunting piano. “Mud” has Clutch-like barkings from the other side of the grave. “Hurt in a Skirt” sounds like the Lemonheads were taken hostage, set on fire, then handed their instruments. “Love Convulsion” may or may not have subconscious messages encouraging mass murder, but you’ll have to play the record backward to find out. “Powerlines” has a rare glimmer of positivity as it touches on a theme of self-respect. This song was written during Dieterich’s first rehab experience and explores a situation where people “realize that they need to get help or they are going to die.”

Dieterich doesn’t have a specific release date for the new album. He does state that (Zodiac Killer Records) is a good fit for us. We’ve worked with them before.” Based in Wyoming, their website states: “We’re not a corporation, we’re an army of crazy people! We do not have the same objectives as other record companies. We are here to have fun.”
Brainerd is also connected to the Turbojugend phenomenon, a highly organized movement/international fan club for the Norwegian deathpunk band called Turbonegro. Members wear iconic jackets listing their “Turbojugend Chapter.” Brainerd has been listed as a band that Turbonegro has “taken a shine to.”

This album is definitely not for the faint of heart. It provides a powerful insight into the mind of people affected by psychological and actual violence. Dieterich states that he has found “inspiration in negativity,” that Brainerd’s music allows him to “sing about things that bother me, things I want to get off my chest, or things that tell a story and will influence people. I like to make people think about themselves, their lives, and what they’re doing or have done. Any strong emotive response. I want to make you feel. However, if you pay attention, some of our songs are about redemption and digging yourself out of the muck, the goop, the primal matter of life and doing the right thing for yourself and those around you. I guess Brainerd is a probe into the darkest chasms of the mind, beyond good and evil, and we are here to report back on what we’ve found.” Keep your eyes posted for “The Goat Album” if you’d like to experience their third journal entry.

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Brainerd Online:

CD: The Goat Album Record Label: Cockroach Media/Zodiac Killer Records
Purchase The Goat Album on Amazon