Interview: Korum Bischoff (Recess Monkey)

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It's can be hard to be the new guy, especially the new guy in the trio of beloved and very active musicians known as Recess Monkey, but new drummer Korum Bischoff seems to have pulled off the transition from longtime drummer Daron Henry with nary a hitch.  Daron's announcement of his departure from the band well in advance of his actual departure helped to be sure, but having spent some time talking with Korum in Brooklyn during Kindiefest, it's also clear that Bischoff's a very talented musician with a friendly, thoughtful personality that meshes well with his two bandmates.

Bischoff answered some questions via e-mail post-Kindiefest, so read on to hear about playing with David Bryne, playing in a bear suit, and how kids are dealing with the transition from Daron to Korum.

Zooglobble: What are your first musical memories?

Korum Bischoff: My dad is also a drummer and my first musical memories are centered around hanging out with my dad in his home studio (which was rare in the '70s) with different musicians that would come through. There was always some group of disco musicians or punk rockers hanging out in the house. I remember watching election night returns sitting with the Butthole Surfers the night Reagan was first elected! When the studio was quiet, he'd let me bang on his drums and piano and we'd record little songs together.

What's your professional musical background prior to joining Recess Monkey?

Immediately prior to joining Recess Monkey, I was playing with fellow kindie musician Johnny Bregar. But before that, and prior to a 6-year hiatus after my first son was born, I was playing with a jazz-influenced indie rock group in Seattle called The Dead Science. We put out a few albums on an independent label and toured up and down the West Coast a couple of times a year. I still play non-kindie music with my brother Jherek in different configurations, usually orchestral in nature. We recently played at Seattle's Paramount and Moore Theatres and at Merkin Hall in Manhattan with David Byrne on vocals among others.

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What if anything did you learn from working with circus folks [Bischoff previously worked for Teatro ZinZanni] that prepared you for life with Recess Monkey?

Interesting question! I think what I learned was whatever you do, you have to commit to your choice, that people will always route for the underdog, and that it's okay to look like a fool -- everyone can identify with the red clown. When we laugh at the clown, we're laughing at ourselves.

Were there any weird parts about replacing Daron in the band?

Truthfully, no. He gave the guys ample notice that he was ready to move on. I had been working with them all on the live circus production of "In Tents" at Teatro ZinZanni so it was really a pretty natural fit. In fact, I was playing a giant bear in the show who took over on drums at the end of the show and played "Human Cannonball" with the band. I guess it was foreshadowing in a way.

Does your presence (instead of Daron's) confuse some kids who are longtime fans of the band?

The first few gigs I'd end up with a kid at the merch table or at the front of the stage that would stare up at me in silence (I'm a lot taller than Daron [Ed: I can vouch for this.]) for a couple of minutes and then say "...you're not Daron." Many of these kids come to every public show we do. After a month or two they got used to the new guy and now they are my little buddies.

What have you been surprised by as part of the Recess Monkey experience, what have you enjoyed more than you anticipated?

The most surprising elements of the Recess Monkey experience are the amount of repeat audiences, Jack's tireless enthusiasm and efficiency, and Drew's incredible songwriting and pitch-perfect singing.

What were your favorite parts of recording the new album(s)?  What songs are you looking forward to playing live?

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It felt great to get deep into the creative mode like only happens with multiple days in the studio. I was a little apprehensive about going into the studio since I'd only been in the band for a little over a month, but once we got rolling we just turned into a machine. We've already started playing a few of the songs live. I enjoy "The Deep End" and "Fish Sticks" in particular because they are challenging to pull off live. But others like "Tambourine Submarine" or "Shrimp" can be [fun] to just rock out on.

You have 3 distinct jobs -- communications/PR guy, drum teacher, kids musician -- not to mention all the other jobs like parent, and so forth?  What are your secrets to time management?

The funny and overwhelming thing about this question is that I actually have 4 jobs: I'm the Director of Communications and Events at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, Washington (an internationally renowned public garden), I teach private drum lessons, I play with Recess Monkey and I am a freelance graphic designer and keep about 6 ongoing clients along with clients that come and go.

I get your question a lot, and I don't really know how I do it. I just keep working constantly. Each job uses a different part of my brain so I think I never get bored which allows be to just keep going. When I do stop, as rare as it is, I really stop. My phone is off, my computer is put away and I go days without communicating with anyone.

So how are you getting along with Mayor Monkey?

Good ol' MayMo. We haven't seen much of him lately, he decided it was time for new adventures right around the same time that Daron left the band. Strange coincidence... but true!

Photos by Kevin Fry