Interview with multi platform artist RUSSELL C BRENNAN
Russell is Londoner who made a big impression as a writer on some entertainment legends at an early age.(16) Including Chris Sutton at EMI/Hammer films and the legendary Lord Lew Grade at ATV.(where he had his 1st job) He sold his first film script and 2 TV options at 17 and was then offered an agent deal for his first novel. However age prejudice came into play and he took a different career path into music, first becoming one of the top D.J's in Europe then as a record producer & songwriter (Over 300 releases including number one hits) as well as marrying pop pin up and cult artist Eleanor Rigby along the way. He has been in a number of influential bands as well as running a successful indie label starting a number of music trends.
He also got into photography and finally got his first book published 'Music Business Bastards (How to do well the music Business without getting ripped off) which has now been released successfully 3 times. He also wrote an influential Fanzine 'Dedicated Follower' that is now housed in the Victoria & Albert museum and a recent anniversary issue sold out in a week. He was recently signed up by Saatchi Art in the UK & M.O.D in America for his photography and art and he has 4 exhibitions coming up, 3 in America & 1 in London. He recently had a limited edition Photo/Lyric/Poetry book 'Voyeurs Welcome' released that sold out in two weeks.
This was followed by the first in a number of novels, 'Adventures of a Dark Duke: The Pin', which is getting rave 5 star reviews at Amazon UK. There is also a kindle only mini bookend biog out called 'Beyond The Painted Smile'. His masterpiece novel Kidnapping Time is out on November 6th 2017. Musically, his latest band is Psykick Holiday, who released a CD album 'Forever Pop Noir' (featuring cutting edge material) off the back of a best-selling Bond cover of 'A View to A Kill' . A recent double 'a' single 'One Way Ticket the Moon/Psychic Holiday' went top 20 in the U.S Indie charts. Just out is a new double 'A' single of 'San Francisco/Let's go to San Francisco' on itunes to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Peace and Love and anther new single 'Love me Madly' will be out later in the year.
What's your secret to getting noticed whenever you do something?
My mantra has always been to stand out from the crowd from an early age. Luckily it came naturally to me as a creative artist. When I was a teenager I'd be writing film scripts and books while all my friends prefer to prop up the local bar with a pint of beer and I got a lot of stick & ridicule for not conforming and being to individual but my school friends (who I rarely see ) are propping up the same bar and I have had books and scripts sold, had over 300 releases as a record producer and many as a songwriter and done many iconic photos that also stand out and I have also been in a few influential pop groups.
So it was a good job I never confirmed or developed a sheep mentality. It's not an easy path to take but it's a necessary one that is needed to stand out from the crowd and get to the top. So for all the individuals out there stick with it and don't give up or buckle under peer pressure or financial pressures. being unique or individual will pay off in the end.
I was also lucky in that I have always been stylish and stood out from the crowd that way as well, so much so even to this day I get people asking where I got my clothes most weeks. I often design them these days so that I am the only one with that look. I was approached to design clothes for others earlier in the year but am too busy with other projects but will do it at some point.
In the music business it's important to stand out against other acts as they are your competition so image is almost as important as the music. Most musicians can be boring sticking with white T-shirts, blue jeans and a leather jacket. It used to make me laugh when producing many bands. I'd be in the recording studio and various people would visit and most came up to me asking am I the lead singer and I said know I'm the record producer. So if the record producer is standing out more than the group that says something.
Whenever I do networking in the film business I don't make that much effort to speak with people I find the right people are drawn to me. I also go to many art exhibitions as an artist & photographer and often get a dozen people asking me am I the artist whose exhibition it is and I'm not, so again standing out even amongst other creatives.
Also when you release a record you need to let people know it exists. You are up against the major labels who can throw big money behind it and get coverage that way but as an indie like me you need to be more creative. I have done many things to beat the majors over the years but the most legendary promotion was with the first singe I produced for my ex, cult artist Eleanor Rigby 'I want to Sleep with You' I came up with the idea to giving away a free condom with the first 1,000 copies of the 7" to put a safe sex message out as aids started to take hold. Not only did it get music press, but national and international press. It went straight in the charts but was thrown out because of the gift causing more press the record and video were all banned perpetuating even more coverage. Millions of pounds worth of free publicity and it sold many tens of thousands as it was actually a very catchy record as well.
It still sells everyday even now 30 years later and compilation companies still want to license it (had two this year) There are lots more examples I could give but don't want this to get too long but I divulge many other secrets about standing out and how to get results in the book 'Music Business Bastards (how to do well in the music business without getting ripped off) Many people have done well from reading it going on to have hits etc. It's been out 3 times but the one to get is the 2013 updated version for today's internet generation. Its like anything. knowledge is worth its weight in goal because there is a lot of competition out there and if you have something that makes you stand out more you've got more chance. Also, its a bonus as the book helps you also avoid many rip offs out there. I met so many people who wished they'd read this book first but were not aware of it and got ripped off. At least you are aware of it and the advice translates well to all the arts.
Also, I practice what I preached with the book itself. My original publisher didn't want to go with the title (though it a bit to controversial) I told him it needs to stand out. I won the battle and was vindicated when both National Radio a TV picked up on it and interviewed me giving the title as a main reason for noticing the book amongst a big pile of others.
If you can only choose one kind of art form out of all the are forms you do (music/art/photography/songwriting/Poetry/writing) Which do you like most?
I get asked this question a lot in interviews. It's always difficult because I love doing them all and have been lucky enough to be successful in all of them being self employed for over 20 years or more and made a dent with all of them. It also keep things fresh being able to switch from one to another rather than get in a rut and complacent with one of them. However my answer to the question is always writing. This is what I feel I was born to do and have been prolific since the age of 13 and sold my first film script at 17 and 2 TV options as well. My first novel was also picked up by a major literary agency at 17 as well. However I then encountered prejudice from the agent who despite a letter offering me a deal I was then rejected for being too young and too working class and it dented my confidence as I saw my career first and foremost as a novelist and I heard the publishing industry could be a bit prejudice.
I was also music mad as a kid and had been a D.J for a couple of years and at the same time the literary agent turned me off I was offered a big opportunity to DJ in big venues all around Europe so I turned my back on writing and became one of the top D.J's in Europe after a while and then marred Eleanor and she wanted me to become a record producer and songwriter for her and that's how I ended up in the music business instead and writing and it found its outlet in songs instead.
More info about my time with Eleanor and my influence in the music business can be found at Future Legend Records website or my own website.
Anyway, I have now come full circle and returned to writing in a big way. A few films are in the pipeline (which I hope to also direct) and a number of books have been released lately. My first novel 'Adventures of A Dark Duke; The Pin' got lots of 5 star reviews on Amazon UK and I am about to release my masterpiece of a novel called 'Kidnapping time' and this should be out as you are reading this. It is an Erotic Science fiction conspiracy thriller. It features descendant of H.G Wells and Leonardo Da Vinci building a Time Machine and deciding to make love to all the most beautiful women in history but the get more than they bargained for an get embroiled in some of the most famous conspiracies of the last 3,000 years and turns history on its head. It also features a very poignant love story about Marilyn Monroe & Frank Sinatra. If you are also a fan of Bridget Bardot, Princess Diana, Elizabeth The 1st, Cleopatra, Jane Fonda, (Barbrella period) & The Kennedy's its probably the book for you. Its on paperback and kindle at Amazon although you can get the paperback cheaper through my website for a limited period.
I have 5 more novels ready to go. All in the different genres but they are all different to what is out there in someway. I have a music business revenge book 'Over and Over' based on a film script I have written that is going into pre production soon and the Kindle version has a new element attached to it that has never been done before that has got Amazon excited because another thing I am known for s being innovative. Another thing about this 'Over & Over' project that has been on the go for a while is that it is very timely as it's similar to the current Harvey Weinstein scandal, only set in the music business. So It will be very current but I wrote it nearly 8 yeas ago. It's about a female singer songwriter who gets used and abused and takes revenge on music industry types who have abused their power.
Anyway. if you want to know about this or other book projects visit my website or drop and line to be put on the mailing list. Anyone put on the mailing list before the end of 2017 will get a free music track.
What inspired you to create the special piece of art 'Stargirl'?
In the 90's I had the same U.S management as David Bowie and I had just done a cover of his track 'Lady Grinning Soul' with my band of that time (Box Office Poison) and I wanted to know what he thought of it and so met him at the managers office one day as we were both in New York at the same time. Coincidently we were both also from Brixton, south London and hit it off. Fortunately he loved the cover version and we got talking about Brixton and then it switched to the subject of us both doing more than one art form. When you do more than one art form people always try to pigeon hole you. He refused to be pigeonholes and told me to be the same. We often used to refer to ourselves as Geishas because the word Geisha means 'Total Artist'. When he died I felt like the last Geisha standing and you can read an article about this on LinkedIn website.
Anyway the day David died I was doing a photo session with my French Muse (who is also a painter) She said would I do a music tribute to him. I pointed out I'd already done 4 of his songs and it was too obvious a thing to do. Not many people knew it but Bowie was an excellent painter so I decided I wanted to do some artwork as a tribute to him instead. I do one art form known as new media art which uses photos as a starting point and turns them into artwork, I've also been pioneer Alien Art for a while. so this was the approach I used. I turned my muse into a Stargirl. The idea was she was a Stargirl in Space is looking out for David to take him to his next planet.
The weird thing was when I was messing around with the colour all these planets appeared from nowhere. That was his influence from beyond I thought and I knew straight away I had something special and posted it up as a tribute to him and Bowie fans got the message straight away. My art agent was blown away by it and a some limited edition Canvases will be available for my exhibitions but I have insisted a couple be made available at a cheaper price through my website for those who can't attend exhibitions or afford such high prices. So if you are a Bowie fan or just an art lover feel free to check it out via my site and ask for more details. Bowie was the single biggest influence on me even before I met him and her certainly didn't disappoint in person. He was one of the worlds true geniuses.
What is the theme to your upcoming photo/art exhibitions in the UK & U.S.?
My exhibitions have a few themes. Alien Art, Asian Art & Iconic Photography.
I am best known for my photography as I have taken what are considered many Iconic photos over the years. Photography was something I stumbled into taking photos of my ex pop star wife and I also did posters and record sleeves and they apparently became iconic and I got lots of people asking me to do their photos and artwork since then. Other images also became iconic like Misty Cello (which you may see with this interview) Some of my images have influenced others. However as its not my main art I just go thru phases with it or pay the rent with photo sessions. As someone who always likes to pioneer something new I came up with an Alien Art concept about 15 years ago. It had two elements to it. One was making people I photographed more Alien looking the second was initially to take a photo that I may have discarded previously and turn them into an Alien artwork. I'm also know for doing erotic work and so married this up with some photos that didn't quite work turning humans into Alien Landscapes and these are starting to get popular.
I have taken the artwork more seriously in the last few years as a result of meeting my French muse. I initially inspired her with my photography but then we started to experiment a lot and found we were artistic soul mates and most people love the majority of work we have done together. so our work together will be the centrepiece of most exhibitions along with the Alien Art plus some photos and artwork I did about Asian that a few people requested (Japan and China in particular that people seem to really love) They will be on limited edition canvases. My Uk exhibition in Mayfair is next week to tie in with my book launch so will have been and gone by the time you read this as it's a one day thing.
However my U.S art exhibiting are in Feb of next year. The first one is at The Watergate Gallery in Washington, and there should also be another in New York and one in L.A but don't have the exact date from my agent yet only the month. I was also signed up by Saatchi art and you can get my work at Saatchi art online.
For those who can't afford Canvases I have a limited edition book 'Voyeurs Welcome' out on Amazon or a limited edition individually numbered paperback via my site. (although there are very few left) It contains my best work plus song lyrics and award winning poems of mine.
How do you intend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of peace & Love. Please also tell us about your band Psykick Holiday?
John Lennon once said 'Love is the Answer' and he was a wise man. With Trump getting in the white house, nuclear threats from Not Korea, unrest throughout Europe & the Middle East and terrorism rife I was thinking it's time for peace and love to be pushed a bit more. I've done my fair share of protest songs but they don't always work so I thought a gentler approach may work with it being the 50th Anniversary of the peace and love, so with my band Psykick Holiday finding a new bigger following via our original work I thought It time to turn people onto the peace and love vibe once more. So decided to do a cover version of Scott McKenzie's 'San Francisco & The Flowerpot men's hit 'Lets go to San Francisco. (obviously bringing my own slant to the production & arrangement as a record producer) Also to make it a worldwide thing so the tracks are in English, French & Spanish on and EP version is called 'Summer of Peace and Love 2017' These are available to get as downloads at the usual places like Itunes or on streaming.
Naturally I also did a photo session for it as well and we will be giving away a batch of these photo for people to buy to raise money for homeless charity at Xmas.
Although I have always helped people I have made it more of a priority to help more people this year, particularly some with mental illness. So peace & Love to all.
As for Psykick Holiday. I invented a new genre of music called 'Pop Noir' with my Previous band 'Box Office Poison' (its got a Jazz punk attitude, a classical ambience, hypnotic grooves, gritty or sexy lyrics and a filmic feel) The band split up after 3 albums and 6 singles but I wanted to peruse the music style with a new band and formed Psykick Holiday in recent years (Which has a very fluid line up) I write and produce all the tracks, do occasional vocals plus play punk cello, koto and percussion. I prefer females to do the vocals but mine are proving more popular than expected and with singer leaving and changing that's just as well Our first release was a cover of a Bond Theme 'A View to A kill' which became a best seller on Itunes as part of an album called 'The Themes Bond..James Bond (The Alternative Bond themes) I also produce the other 14 themes on the album, as producing Bond themes and cult themes is also what I'm known for. The female singer then jumped ship to use this success to get a solo deal. We then found another singer and we did an album of original material 'Forever Pop Noir' which came out on CD & download. I consider it my best work but unlike other bands I don't dismiss my old work. I'm still proud of all my releases. My catchy Bripop type songs I did with Eleanor are still very popular as are my humorous band 'Ministry of Ska' and although young people are getting into both its my older audience that like those releases and are more into vinyl & CD. With Pyskick Holiday being more innovative I knew it would take a while for it to catch on but it has done this year with a whole younger audience of teenagers and people in their 20's, who are searching for some more exciting and challenging. A few tracks went into the indie top 20 earlier this year and we got an avalanche of mail after that. Particularly from America. The track Come with Me although innovative is a catchy pop track proved popular but the track most have gone crazy for is 'One Way Ticket to The Moon' which just happens to be one of my few vocals on the album and the most experimental track on the album. (apparently I sound like a cross between Bowie & Jim Morrison). The CD album is at Future Legend records and the download of the album is at the usually download stores and streaming. We plan to have new single out in November 'Love me Madly' and there are plans to record and put out an album of new material sometime next year. We would like to do more concerts but with band members scatted to the 4 corners of the earth this is proving very tricky (So to date we have only done one sell out concert) But I want to make an effort to tour the next album worldwide but doing all the other arts also makes this tricky. More details about my music career is on my website.