Nicholas Panagakos: What can you tell me about this album? Where did the idea come from for Degenerate?
Travis Egedy: I’d been working on it for the past three years. My last album came out in 2015 and I didn’t really have a set, cohesive idea for this record when I first started doing it. I was putting thoughts together and seeing what happens. The name Degenerate came about sort of late into the project. Last year after the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, where 36 people died in that DIY venue there, it hit me pretty hard. I knew some people that had passed away in that fire. Just a few days later the warehouse that I lived at in Denver called Rhinoceropolis was shut down by the police and fire department. This was along with a bunch of other warehouses across the country. That was super frustrating; really tragic and sad. It only added to the chaos around that time and the sadness of the Ghost Ship fire. Also at that time, there were all these Reddit and 4chan forums that were publishing names and addresses of all these DIY venues across the country to try and get them shut down. To them it was a political thing to try to shut these places down. They saw it as being homes to anarchists or leftist scum, as they said.
NP : So basically you got doxed by the Alt-Right?
TE : Basically, yes. They were taking credit for shutting down Rhinoceropolis so I was getting into it on Twitter with some of these people. Then they started calling everyone that died in Ghost Ship degenerates, and they were calling me and all of my friends who live in warehouses degenerates that need to be squashed. So I was just like, ‘If you people think that all these artists and beautiful people are degenerates living in these kinds of spaces, then I will happily be a degenerate.’ That’s me. I thought it was a great name and a great word. To some people it means a negative thing, but I wanted it to be a positive identity for the album and for my entire life. Badge of honor.
NP: Right, like if I’m going to be doing something that is upsetting to you, I will do it with a great honor.
TE: Completely, yes. I thought that it was perfectly encapsulating the album. That kind of tied it all together and started making it into a cohesive project.
NP: With the Ghost Ship fire, was that the cause of the other warehouses getting shut down?
TE: Oh, totally. It was a crazy domino effect. Once that happened, it was such a terrible tragedy that a lot of cities got scared of their DIY spaces and just chose to shut them down.
NP: So they shut them down instead of taking the proper steps to maintain them?
TE: Yeah, they didn’t want to invest in them as cultural places that are important. A lot of places just chose to shut it down. In Denver, a lot of my friends that were living there were made homeless immediately. The police and fire department didn’t give them any other option. They just raided the place and said, ‘You have to leave now.’ They boarded the place up and kicked them out into the street. It was crazy.
NP: Now I know you’re living in Brooklyn now, so there’s more variety, but as far as Denver is concerned are there still DIY spots available to sustain artists in that area?
TE: I mean, yeah. Of course there are, but it’s changed a lot in the past few years. I think cities all over America are going through this really intense transitional period where the cities are changing quickly. You can call it gentrification, which is definitely happening, but it’s a modernization of the cities where it means that rents are going up everywhere. The warehouses are being transformed into new restaurants, bars and breweries. You see it everywhere now. It really pushes artists out to the side and to the fringe. It’s extremely hard to run a DIY space if the rents are expensive and there’s no space to do it. It’s a trend that’s happening everywhere.
NP: We’re seeing that a lot in Boston, too. I can only speak for my own perspective of what I’ve witnessed, but a lot of the established venues for punk bands or small bars that have live shows are in the middle of these development plans where they’re putting up these new High Rent artist lofts that are only going to file noise complaints against actual artists.
TE: It’s a weird transitional period that we’re in right now. Even in New York, everywhere has to go legit now. The days of having renegade warehouse raves are kind of over, it seems. There are still lots of parties going on but it’s transitioned into this thing where everything has to be legal now. It has to be by the books or else the cops just shut it down. All these venues have to pay a lot of money to get everything up to code, licensing and all this kind of stuff. This is the way it is now.
NP: Have you been able to perform regularly or have you been focusing more on studio recording?
TE: I keep it rare in New York. I don’t like to perform all the time. I’ll DJ quite often and I’ll do a live show once every few months. I’ve been going on tours the past couple of years here and in Europe, but I don’t play that often in New York. I was fortunate to get to tour Europe maybe once a year. I was just there a couple of months ago where I did an artist’s residency in Ghent, Belgium. Like a month long exhibition and then played a festival in the Czech Republic after that. It was pretty amazing.
NP: Have you been collaborating with anyone for Degenerates, or is this primarily your baby?
TE: Yeah, there are two collaborations on it. One is with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal and the other is with Smart Death. Smart Death is a Canadian artist. He sings on the song Color Spectrum and then Sex Trigger is with Wicca Phase. Both are really rad artists that are more in the kind of underground rap world. They’re in this sort of Emo/Trap phenomenon that’s going on. Wicca Phase Springs Eternal started Gothboiclique, which was Lil Peep’s crew, Lil Peep who passed away last year. Wicca Phase is an amazing artist who I feel a really cool connection with. I know he was a big Pictureplane fan, so I reached out to him to sing on a song. It came out really, really cool.
NP: Now what have you been listening to the most, lately?
TE: I’ve been listening to a lot of Hide, this album Castration Anxiety. There’s this really cool shoegaze band called Kindling and also the band Soda Lillies. They’re both brand new bands that I really like right now doing really cool Lo-Fi shoegaze stuff. I’ve also been listening to a lot of 90’s black metal stuff like Ulver and Burzum. It’s been pretty influential on my life right now.
NP: Do you have any other projects that you’re working on right now?
TE: I have a new clothing collection that’s coming out and a clothing company called Alien Body that I’ve been working on for the past few years. There’s a whole new fall/winter drop and that’s the next thing I got going on.
Degenerate is being released soon on Alien Body Music. Supplies are extremely limited so order a copy while you can! Also grab a shirt, maybe? It’s gonna get fuggin cold, khed.
Nicholas Panagakos is a writer based out of Cambridge, MA. He has published one book of poems and illustrations titled Laughter You See and plays in bands regularly. Soon to open a home for adult orphans. Buy him a drink.
Anti-Cop. Anti-ICE. Pro-Union.