Until recently we mostly knew Joel Berk as the legendary/prolific Chicago taper – his name appears on live releases from Hausu Mountain, American Damage and Chocolate Monk (and you can also find the sets he taped on Sweet Blahg). And yes – there’s even a song named after him!
Joel is also starting coming into his own as a musician (under the nom de plume ragenap) – there’s last year’s No Ear to Hear, his split with Prana Crafter and back in 2018 he contributed a track to Splixtape compilation on EEG Recordings. This year will mark the release of his first full-length entitled Thankrupcy (out in May via American Dreams and mastered by Mr. Z of the magnificent Doom Trip Records).
We had a chance to ask Joel a couple of questions about origins of the word thankrupcy, Lou Barlow and few other matters, so read on! There’s also an excerpt from Side A of the upcoming album we highly recommend everyone to listen to – think Stars of the Lid / Theatre of Eternal Music for a comparison.
So thankrupcy – what is it? Any relation to Lou Barlow/Sebadoh and Harmacy there?
A madeup word presumably invented by a tv bankruptcy lawyer! The commercial is on seemingly every channel every day, and I started thinking about how it’s a funny word. What could it mean outside of its intended purpose, you know? …and ended up arriving at it’d make a good track/album name.
No relation to Lou Barlow! Though I am a fan.
What’s the overarching idea behind the album (provided there is one)?
There surprisingly wasn’t one, at least not at the time of recording. I usually go in with an idea / riff / melody / etc in mind, but this time I hit record without even so much as considering what I was going to do. It was an experiment in playing completely open and trying to stay out of the way.
What or who have you been listening to while working on this album?
I recorded it back in October 2020, so I’m not quite sure what I was listening to at the time…but lately I can’t stop listening to the new Floating Points / Pharaoah Sanders & Natural Information Society with Evan Parker records. And of course there’s still the a steady diet of Grateful Dead, which is like comfortfood at this point.
Did pandemic affected the creation of Thankrupcy in any way? Were you influenced in any way by what’s been going on with lockdown?
In a wild but direct way, the pandemic is 100% responsible for Thankrupcy! I’m not sure I would have played as much as I did last year if I hadn’t been stuck at home…and all of that playing resulted in being open enough to allow something like Thankrupcy to happen. I’m biased as heck, but I live in the best music city in the world and I had been less motivated to play while there was other music to see 7 nights a week.
I don’t think Thankrupcy was a reaction to anything other than trying to find some peace for a bit, but some of the covers I released last year ended up sounding like a reaction to what was going on at the time. For instance I recorded a cover of Masters of War during a pretty intense week in the city and figured out how to work some CPD helicopters into the mix that had been hovering over my place.
Listening to an excerpt from Thankrupcy got me wondering whether the whole tension/release was inspired in any way by alternative rock/loud-quiet-loud dynamics of Pixies et al…
Awesome! Not sure if i’d draw that line on my own, but it makes total sense. Tension/release is definitely a regular “theme” of my music…at least thus far.
Last, but not least…I know you have a release on Cardinal Fuzz (one with Prana Crafter). Why American Dreams now? What do you like that label/Jordan?
What’s not to like?! Jordan, Eli, and the whole AD operation, are just great! Cardinal Fuzz & Centripetal Force teamed up to release that split with Will, which was amazing…but AD just felt right for this piece. Thankfully, Jordan was into it.