"You Need a Space to Get Crazy": Pictureplane on His Denver DIY Roots
Pictureplane (Travis Egedy) has long been an ambassador for Denver’s DIY scene.
“I was basically a DIY punk kid, but doing it through hip-hop music,” says Travis Egedy, aka Pictureplane, about his early days of making music. “It had the same energy and intelligence and sent the same type of message, and I was really into that.”
Born in Santa Fe, Egedy grew up a fan of hip-hop. His older brother, Zach, listened to rap, so at a young age, Egedy was exposed to groups like the Wu-Tang Clan and early alternative hip-hop acts.
“[The first underground rap I heard] was probably Company Flow,” Egedy says. “Their album Funcrusher Plus changed my life. I stole the Funcrusher Plus tape from a friend’s older brother when it came out, probably when I was in seventh grade. Around that time, 1999, I started getting some Anticon songs off of Napster. The more underground the better, for me. I was anti-mainstream and tried to find the weirdest rap I could.”
In 2001, when he was sixteen, Egedy made his first forays into music using the same software he uses to this day, Magix Music Maker 7 Deluxe. The software made making beats easy and accessible to a teenager, because it didn’t require owning an expensive piece of gear such as an MPC. In Santa Fe, he went to shows at longtime DIY space Warehouse 21, including those of his peers in post-hardcore bands.
The space also hosted the debut performance of his first musical project, a hip-hop group called Thinking in Circles. “It was sort of socially conscious, abstract, emotional teenage rap music,” recalls Egedy. “We rapped about our girlfriends, and I was rapping about pyramids and aliens and shit. You could call it backpacker rap.”
Egedy had been making visual art for most of his life, and he moved to Denver to attend the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. The first person that he met there was cartoonist and experimental-hip-hop musician Neil Ewing, and the two ended up getting a house together.
At that time, RMCAD was home to some of the more innovative artists in Denver, including Harry C. Walters and Sterling Crispin. The school recently ended its fine-arts program, but while Egedy was there, he was influenced by painter and teacher Clark Richert. “He spoke a lot about philosophy,” Egedy remembers, “and I felt more like a philosophy student at that school than even an art student.”
In 2004, Egedy had already started a recording project called Pictureplane. He recorded a self-titled album, but more than a year passed before he found a place to play his first show: the late, great DIY space Monkey Mania.
While at RMCAD, he’d become interested in noise and experimental music — acts like Wolf Eyes, Black Dice and Lightning Bolt. He wanted to see music like that but didn’t know where to find it in Denver until he saw a listing online for a show at Monkey Mania. Once there, he felt like he fit right in with the music and art around him. He was particularly struck by the noise-rock dance band Ultra Boyz.
“They were my favorite band,” enthuses Egedy. “Their shows were just balls-to-the-wall crazy. That band would make people go apeshit, and I loved that. Denver had a really awesome keyboard-punk thing that was really inspiring to me. I think part of that was Zachary Spencer [of Ultra Boyz]. His keyboard playing was influential in Denver.”
At Monkey Mania, Egedy became friends with Milton Melvin Croissant III of Ultra Boyz, as well as Warren Bedell, who would go on to start Rhinoceropolis in 2005 with Egedy’s RMCAD classmates Walters and Jeremiah Teutsch.
Because of those friendships, Egedy attended the first party Rhinoceropolis held when it opened its doors in May 2005 (he moved into the venue a year later). Internationally, Egedy’s name is synonymous with the DIY space, in no small part because he has long championed it with people both inside and outside of Denver. In many ways, Egedy has been an ambassador for Rhinoceropolis and its collective vision of “no rules,” advocating for younger bands and any underground artist who operates outside conventionally commercial channels. He and his fellow Rhino residents became part of the exciting and original national DIY circuit. Egedy’s experiences at Rhino shaped him as an artist and linked him to a larger world of music and art. But more significant to him is what DIY spaces represent.
“That’s where realness comes from, DIY spaces; it’s where all the passion is at,” he says. “It’s so important to have these spaces and keep them affordable and accessible. It’s also the all-ages thing. It’s really inspiring for young people to have a place where they can express themselves freely. You can’t do that shit at a bar or whatever. You need a space to get crazy, and that’s what DIY spaces provide.”
Numerous bands have come through Rhinoceropolis, including Future Islands, Dan Deacon, High Places, Matt & Kim, Indian Jewelry, Abe Vigoda and GOWNS. But the one that probably had the strongest connection to Egedy, and which championed his music in the most direct way, was the Los Angeles-based experimental pop/noise band HEALTH. Egedy first saw HEALTH at Monkey Mania and later opened for the group when it performed at Rhinoceropolis. HEALTH took Egedy on a European tour and released his 2009 album Dark Rift on its now-defunct Lovepump United imprint. Egedy is currently touring with the band in support of its new record, Death Magic.
Egedy just released his first album since 2011’s Thee Physical; the new full-length, Technomancer, is on Anticon, the label whose music and musicians have inspired him the most. Anticon founder Tim “Sole” Holland moved to Denver in 2009 and was already a fan of noise and more adventurous electronic music when he started going to shows at Rhinoceropolis, where he and Egedy became fast friends. Though Holland has long since parted ways with the influential imprint, its original spirit — of using whatever creative and musical tools are at hand to express ideas and concepts through poetic lyrics and imaginative, evocative soundscaping — endures with Egedy and other Anticon artists. Given that Egedy’s own music isn’t strictly hip-hop but could be included in a more expanded idea of what hip-hop could be, Anticon was the perfect fit.
“Those Clouddead albums, nothing has ever sounded like that,” Egedy says, citing another Anticon act. “It’s the weirdest music, and a lot of people hated it for that. Anticon had a lot of haters, but I thought it was brilliant. That was my attraction to Anticon — the total originality of its artists.”
Egedy, who now lives in Brooklyn, says that the title of his new record refers to someone who uses technology for magical purposes. “My work is always conceptual, and I think this album was really dealing with anxieties that come from the technological age we’re living in,” Egedy says. “I’m not anti-technology, but I think it’s good to be wary of blind technological progress.”
With HEALTH and Bangplay, 8 p.m. Thursday, December 3, Larimer Lounge, 303-291-1007, $15, 16+.