Mike Biskup

BIG BUTTER: TIM & MIKE BISKUP


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Brothers Tim and Mike Biskup have some pretty artistic blood swimming around those veins of theirs. Not only are they both incredibly talented artists, but they’re equally gifted musicians, too. Over the next week, Slow Culture Gallery are showcasing these talents in a two part show. The opening reception of their art show will be help February 20th, 7-10 PM at Slow Culture Gallery. Then, a live music performance by their band, Big Butter, will be held February 26th 8PM at DAY XIX Studios.

Big Butter - Full Schedule

Recently, Xavier Burt sat down with Tim Biskup to talk about their music, and Steve Lee visited their studio to snap some photos of their work. Over to you, Xavier.

Tim Biskup is a true artist and one of the most genius guys I know. He lives life to the beat of his own drum, no pun intended (he’s a drummer), and is always pushing boundaries, taking ideas to the next level and consistently creating art for people engage with. Tim’s work is incredibly thoughtful, layered with meaning, and in most cases, intended to make you think. He’s a continuous source of inspiration for me and I miss the days I shared living with him and having the opportunity to talk out crazy ideas on the regular.

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As long as I’ve known Tim, he’s been playing music and working on Big Butter, a band he started with his brother Mike when they were kids in central California. I don’t know Mike that well, but from the few times I’ve got to hang, hear him play music, and see his amazingly detailed art work, he’s cut from the exact same crazy cloth as his brother. Must be in the blood. Over the past 30 years they’ve been releasing music that defies genre. It’s art, and you should know that going into it. Nothing these guys do is straightforward, and thank God for that. The last thing anyone needs today is another soulless hit tune. Some music is meant to be challenging, make you question what you know, and leave you feeling nice and weird. That’s Big Butter.

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A few months back Tim pulled out the entire original discography, laid it out across the living living room floor and blew my mind. They have hand made all of the covers and art since the beginning, grade school days. It made me think about how talented these guys are, and the amount of thought they put into their work. A Step Felt in Full, the new show at Slow Culture gallery in Highland Park, is your chance to experience Tim and Mike’s art and music together for the first time at this level. Both artists have been working around the clock on paintings, drawings and the band’s live performance that culminates this week with a run of events. In between all of the chaos, and a little winter sickness, I got a chance to ask them some questions.

Xavier: How would you describe your style of music, and what would you say is the underlying influence?

Mike: Experimental – Pretty much all the music we’ve ever made has been in the spirit of experimentation. Trying something new, something we haven’t done before, using whatever instruments or tools we can muster up.

Tim: I agree. Literally experimental rather than the genre of experimental music, although we do get totally abstract and noisy at times.

X: Of all the collaborations you’ve been part of, how does working with your brother differ?

M: I’ve enjoyed jam sessions with lots of folks, but very few recording collaborations other than Big Butter. Working with Tim musically has almost always been painless and refreshing. Sometimes we get to haggling about the harmony/noise ratio – That’s a big part of the experiment.

T: Musically, we operate very smoothly with each other. We have our basic roles and trust each other to do them well. We push each other and have strong opinions and we disagree once in a while, but after so much time working together we know how to work through our process and end up with something that we both like.

X: Describe this Step Felt in Full show.

T: It’s actually a lyric from one of the songs on the album called “The Outer Limit”.

M: A Step felt in full is one taken with 100% commitment and experienced fully in minute detail. It’s listening to the inner voice and choosing to go forward with integrity to it. It’s paying attention to the more subtle aspects of the self and doing the work we were put on earth to do.

T: We are constantly talking to each other about our work, both musically and as painters. We always get back to this idea that we are trying to let go of what we think we should be doing and just do what we want.

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X: This is Mike’s first fine art show outside of sleepy Port Townsend, WA. How has it been working towards a big presentation of your art?

M: A lot of very rewarding and mostly enjoyable work. I’ve spent the last couple of years painting full time and that focus has allowed me to really like who I am and understand how important sharing my art and music is. Generally my mantra has been sit down, shut up, and paint. I also created a Life Mission for myself back in 2009. “I create a world of beauty and bounty by sharing my art and music generously.” This has helped me feel my steps fully.

X: What do you feel is at the core of each of your work in the show?

M: At the core of my work is an exploration of what Thich Nhat Hanh has called “Interbeing”. Although I don’t consider myself a buddhist, I was deeply and permanently moved by reading his books and staying at Plum Village back in the early 90’s.

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-“ with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be.” –  Thich Nhat Hanh in The Heart of Understanding

T: When I first started working on paintings for this show I was just coming out of a pretty brutal bout of back pain. It took me to some pretty scary places, emotionally and physically and I was feeling very happy to be alive and free of that misery once I finally pulled out of it. I feel like it unlocked some new pathways in my brain or something because I have been more prolific and comfortable with my work than ever. I find myself embracing my personality more completely than ever and letting it be part of my paintings.

X: What would you like people to take away from experiencing your art and music together?

T: I think it’s important that people take their time with these pieces. There’s a lot to look at in all of this work and there is a lot going on in the music. My hope is that people will take a break from their lives and experience that density completely. Stand there and look at what’s going on in the paintings for a while. Put on some headphones and play the record a few times. It’s all been done with so much care and love.

M: Well said.

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For more images of Tim and Mike’s work, check out the gallery:

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