11 QUESTIONS: Vincent Blackshadow
interview by Brent Cole
photo by Chloe Johnston
I first met Vincent when he was around four years old. I was doing some work at his parents house – Jeff and Patti Braimes, who I knew through the magazine – and he played “God of Thunder” by KISS on the piano for me… and it wasn’t a mellow or tame version in any way. The kid, at the tender age of four, was so into it – fingers crashing down on the piano keys, head banging while belting out the song at the top of his lungs. I knew at the time we’d eventually do an interview with Vincent and here we are. Fourteen years later, Vincent is our 11 questions of the month (as well as in the band Sweet Invicta, who are one of the Local Spotlights this month). His band has just released a fantastic record and he’ll be releasing a solo album in June as well, then heading off to Chicago for college in August for the next chapter of his life.
So, before he goes, ladies and gentleman, may I present to you Vincent Braimes.
Who are you and where did you come from? Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Vincent Blackshadow Alexander Braimes. I spent the first three years of my life honing my street-smarts in the Most Dangerous City in the United States (Tukwila, WA). After that, I escaped to Bellingham, full of firm beliefs and ulterior motives, stupid hopes and lucid dreams. They’ll never find me here…
After growing up in Bellingham, you’ll be headed off to Chicago for college in August. What are you most excited for and what are you most afraid with the next chapter in your life?
It’s gonna be a weird feeling to have to start from the top again; it takes a loooong time to build the kind of chemistry I have with my bandmates in Sweet Invicta.
Having said that, I couldn’t be more excited to expand my network and start fresh. Presumably I’ll be a different guy when I come back for vacations.
I remember, way way way back years ago, when you’d just started getting into KISS. Do you remember the first time you heard them? What was it about the band that connected with you so much?
I think KISS is the easiest band to get attached to when you’re 2 years old, like I was—they’re only a few steps up from my other favorites from that time— the Tele-Tubbies. KISS songs are catchy and thoughtless and the image is irresistible to boys 2-16.
I bash them now, but I still believe that they were a perfectly healthy introduction to rock ’n roll.
Both of your parents are musicians and have played in fantastic bands (dad in Panic and Watts, mom in The Dts. How did their history in music influence you?
Until very recently, it was all very indirect. I was (am?) too stubborn to let them show me anything at all. Only a few years ago did I really start to realize what a profound impact the Watts record and The DT’s Hard Fixed had on my development, not only in the guitar playing but the singing.
Who has been the greatest musical influence, outside of your family?
Oh come on. Really?
I mean, Dave Crider taught me how (and what) to play, Diana Young taught me a lot about what to sing, Urge Overkill taught me what to wear, but my greatest musical influence? Probably G.W.A.R.
What are your all time top five favorite records?
1. Urge Overkill – Saturation (for teaching me what cool sounds like)
2. Frank Black – Teenager of the Year (for teaching me that songwriting knows no melodic or lyrical bounds whatsoever)
3. The Replacements – Let it Be (for teaching me how to combine melancholy and sincerity with obnoxious brattiness)
4. The Flaming Lips – In A Priest Driven Ambulance [Deluxe Edition with “Lucifer Rising” and “Ma, I Didn’t Notice”] (for teaching me the value of noise)
5. R.E.M. – Murmur (for teaching me that jangly-ness is relevant in any era)
The night before you head off to college, what will you be doing and where will you go for your last Bellingham meal (outside of home).
I imagine a lot of convolution—we’ll probably all be hangin’ out in this big group that all have to take their own cars for some unexplained reason. Someone will manage to get a parking ticket. After we all find each other, there will be a half-hour long struggle on what to eat, even though the vast majority of the posse are indifferent to what restaurant we end up at. We’ll laugh at vile things and try to avoid fond memories. I’ll get a lift back to a dark and quiet house and descend into my cold basement bedroom for one last night on the west coast.
Do you remember playing “God of Thunder” for me on the piano when you were three?
No, but you’ve mentioned it so many times that I feel like I do!
How was it working with Conrad Uno?
Dude. That guy knew how to get the best stuff out of each individual band member—a lot of times, people kindof assume that Sweet Invicta is my band or whatever, but Conrad was into pushing all five of us to sound as good as we could be.
Plus, Egg Studios is just soaked with legend. The first three Mudhoney records, Supersuckers’ La Mano Cornuda, almost all The Mono Men stuff, about 5 copies of Failure by the Posies on green vinyl laying around…the Sweet Invicta EP would have been much different had we recorded at any other studio.
He’ll be getting a greeting card and a CD soon. Love that guy.
Tell me about the solo record. How does it differ from Sweet Invicta?
I’ve been recording Blue Box, my first solo album in a decade, since November of last year— as opposed to Sweet Invicta’s EP, which was recorded and mixed in 24 hours. I chose Northwest Sound Studios because it’s walking distance from my house, and I got to work with Sam Chue, whom I’ve admired as a singer and songwriter since my brief stint with The Vonvettas.
Also, I think the songs on the solo album are a lot more orchestrated. I was able to micromanage and have control over the songs, but I think there was also a lot of room for collaboration. This record has been a long time coming and I couldn’t be prouder of it.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Releasing the next solo album, and working on the answer to a 12th question.
Any last thoughts?
Not much more than a huge THANK YOU to Brent and everyone at What’s Up! for all the support they’ve given me and my bands over the years. I’m so grateful for the encouragement I’ve gotten in my upbringing not only from my folks, but from all their super rad friends. I wouldn’t be nearly the same person without you all.
Whether or not that’s a good thing is for another issue…
Published in the June 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine