photo by milton campbell
some links:
syntaxrecords.com
sphereofhiphop.com
mp3.com/stations/braille

 

interview : dj fisher

Please introduce yourself and where you're from?

My name is Bryan "Braille" Winchester. I'm part of a group called Acts 29 and we just dropped an album titled "Underexposed" on Syntax Records. I'm currently living in Portland, OR and hope to be here for awhile.

So what have you been up to since your first album "Lifefirst: Half the Battle"?

Hehe...that's like a span of 3.5 to 4 years. I was recording that album between the age of 16 and 17. When it dropped I was living in New Jersey. During my senior year of high school though my family went bankrupt so they all moved back to Portland. I stayed for awhile to finish out high school and then moved back as well. While living in Jersey I linked up with Ohmega Watts. Me and him formed a group called Return to Sender. He was living in Florida but for a whole year we would meet up at least once a month and record tracks together. We built a really close friendship in just about every aspect of life. When I got back to Oregon I was kind of a nomad. Spent a lot of time traveling. Toured 30 some cities, lived in L.A. for awhile sleeping in garages and stuff. Working on music with Johnny5 at the time but after the tour (with Fros'T) I settled back down in Oregon. Ohmega moved here so we did our own little bit of backpacking. hehe...borrowing cars...sleeping on floors.
Things are going really good now though. Ohmega has his own place. We are both youth leaders at the New Beginnings Christian Center and we're both staying very busy with music. So basically, I've really been working hard on music. I soaked in all the criticism from "Lifefirst...". Recorded 3 albums of material with Ohmega. Recorded a handful of solo tracks. An album and a half worth of material with Ethic. Half an album of material with Johnny5. Pretty much recorded non stop over the last 4 years. Aside from that just trying to grow and learn.

How was it during your last year of high school, did the other kids know you had an album out or did you just keep that to yourself?

Kids didn't really find out until towards the end of my senior year. I was really quiet about the "Lifefirst..." album. I was pretty quiet once I moved to New Jersey in general. Most kids thought I was a druggie...hehe. I'd be up until 4 in the morning working on music and then would fall a sleep in class a lot. The word got around slowly after I started doing some shows and was featured on the major radio station. It was kind of strange though because nobody really knew me by name. I was just that 'rapper kid' or 'Braille'. I was the poorest kid in a rich preppie school. So it was just a weird year. Me and my dad were living in a hotel part of the time. Hehe. I remember once freestyling for an hour or so strait. There was a lot of interest going around. I really kept to myself though. Performed at the talent show and would have random deep conversations with random people during lunchtime and stuff. I actually am not still in touch with one person that I met during high school. Most of my closest friends I either met through music or through New Beginnings.

Who were the artists in hip hop that influenced you to just pick up the mic and spit?

My first favorite group was probably Wreckx-N-Effects. Hehe naw. I had really got into Tribe Called Quest. Pretty typical for the era I grew up in. Tribe, De La, and a lot of the native tongue stuff. Music was like a driving force for me during high school. I was one of those kids on the bus with headphones on. Walking in the hall with headphones on. Up late at night with headphones on. So I'd get down on the karaokee, ya know? Rocking the "Chief Rocka" instrumental over and over again. I've been listening to tapes and I just recently realized that I was never meant to make hip hop music. hehe...it's like I forced myself into it. It probably took me a couple years just to learn how to rhyme on beat.

Let's talk about the future, is there a new solo album in the works?

Well, it's so hard to say now. Hehe. There is one in the works for sure. I've got some amazing production coming together from many different sources. DJ Kno, Profound, Celph Titled and many others. I'm just being really selective. Plus, I'm going to keep my group/family at the forefront because I feel like greater things can be accomplished through units then individuals. So, I'm most definitely working on a solo album right now. I'll be recording the first track soon, but I can't say anything about when it'll release. I have no idea. There are huge things going on with Acts 29.

So it looks like we'll see producers who were on the first album and new producers as well right?

Yeah, a mix. I've stayed in touch with most of the producers from the first album. Some I've slowly lost contact with but it was a great experience being able to work with so much talent. I got love for em all.

What can fans of "Lifefirst..." expect from this new release?

For one, improved vocal presentation. That's something I spent a lot of time working on after "Lifefirst...". A big part of music for me is communication. So through experiences and human interaction I'm just trying to communicate my thoughts as clear as possible. Just to really connect with listeners. Sharing things from my life. Things I've went through, things I've seen, things I've heard about. Things that inspired me or helped me get through difficult times. There's just a certain power to music that I can't ignore. On all scales, mainstream and underground. Music has a huge influence on our society. It can often set the tone for the world. In the same way the world sets the tone for it. It's like they react and respond to each other. My vision for music is very extensive as far as where I want to go. Right now my physical music is about 3 years behind the music in my head. I don't have the resources or talents to create what I hear in my head yet. More then hearing it, a lot of it is just images in my head that I'm trying to translate musically. GOD is really opening up some big doors. I'm seeing things come to pass that seemed so far away and I'm really speechless about it. Even though I talk way too much. Hehe.

Now with the Acts 29 album just coming out, lets talk about that. Who is all in the group and what producers did you work with on that?

The group consists of myself, Ohmega Watts and Soul Plasma. I've already said a bit about how I met Ohmega and what not. I met Soul at church. Me and him were creating two totally different kinds of music at that time. He had a lot of passion though for writing and getting things done. So we would hook up every now and then and just write. While the studio we record in was being re-built Return to Sender had a couple months downtime. During that downtime Soul was talking about putting together an Acts 29 album. Acts 29 is actually the name of the youth program we are all a part of. We were supposed to finish it within one week in the studio. It ended up taking close to 4 months. Things got really thick for us as a unit...which was not expected at all. Ohmega Watts did most of the production on the album. I did a couple tracks and K IV (K4) added parts to a lot of the tracks. Cody Johnson also did one beat for the album as well. We also worked with some instruments and vocalists on this album. It was our first all out studio album. It taught us a whole lot. Just having a more professional set up gave me new outlooks and insights.

Production by Braille, that leads into another question. When did you start up producing, I believe you didn't have any productions on "Lifefirst..."?

I co-produced "Homesick" and "I Am Who I Hate". I'm more of a concept producer. I've worked hands on with 15 plus producers. I've also worked on songs with over 50 producers by now. I just soaked in information and tried to apply it. I don't think it's something I'll end up taking extremely serious. I still can't do my own basslines. I don't know notes well enough. Hehe. My style is limited to chopping up some notes and replaying them in a similar (yet more repetitive) pattern then however it was when I sampled it. I was very close to getting an MPC but it didn't work out. I think I'm going to stay on the concept side of the production process. I originally produced close to half of the album, simply because Ohmega was so busy. Most of my beats got replaced by much better ones. This album as a whole was an experiment production wise. We tried new things. After doing this album, we now know how to do these things more effectively.

Now that things are taking off with Acts 29 and your next solo album to be recorded soon, where does this leave the recording of Return to Sender (Braille and Ohmega) album at?

Hehe. That's all I can say.
The Return to Sender album "Needles In The Hay" is already two years in the making. It's going to be one of those albums people will cop two copies of. One with vocals and one with just the instrumentals. We really aren't going to be able to sit down and focus on it until we're at a point where we can push 100,000 units or something. At one point I will be able to focus on only recording, but right now I need to make moves. Make sure these projects get out there. It looks like we are actually going to be taking the "Underexposed" album back to the studios believe it or not. The concept/vision was..."the WORLD is not receiving enough light to develop a clear picture of who GOD is". So now we are regrouping and embracing the opportunity to shine. I mean, in the last year I've featured on like 10 albums. Cunning Lynguists, Lojique, Fashion Expo, Redcloud, Man of War, Night Owls...and I'm currently finishing stuff for 5 or 6 other releases. My dad frames all the CDs I'm on so we have this dope "Braille" wall put together. It's even got Urb magazine clippings from the "A Piece Of The Action" compilation. Right now we are just taking time to get a lot more professional as well. We got the joint bank account. Invested in some stock. Getting our LCC so people can write direct checks to us. All those things. Getting life in order.

What was your favorite track from "Underexposed"?

My fav. tracks are "Blank Minds", "Smoke Clears", "Statements", "Come On", "Family Life" and "Posse On Burnside" probably. "Deja Vu" goes on that list as well.

What track means the most to you from any of your released material?

Probably "Come On". I was writing that late at night. It was actually after a studio session we had on September 10th. It was about 4 in the morning when I was writing that song though. Western time. Which was around 7 in the morning eastern time. The planes were literally in the air while I was sitting and writing that song. I want to perform that song live with someone on the piano, a string section, someone on the drums, someone on bass and a vocalist. Actually, a pianist and someone on the organ as well. The day I tried to step in the booth to record that song my jaw locked up really bad. It's still messed up. The whole thing is locked on the left side so my jaw is all crooked. After the song was done files would get deleted. Ohmega had to re-lay down the piano 3 times. Plus we spent probably 4 or 5 full studio days on the mix. We would finish the mix but then when we went to bounce it levels would just change from what we set them at. It was a trip because that didn't happen with any other song.
I also made a Christmas song for my mom in '99 but nobodies really heard that one. But yeah, "Come On" had the hairs on our necks sticking up when played at the right volume. There's like this perfect mid volume where you get the right amount of thickness and a my voice is fully audible. It just hits you...or hits me...or it did when we first did it ya' know. Hehe.

Is there a website for people to read more about you or hear some of your music?

Kind of, syntaxrecords.com has some info. And you can also catch some info here and there at sphereofhiphop.com. The crew is in the process of putting together our own website in the very near future. You can check out some tracks at mp3.com/stations/braille and we are going to have a listening station put up for the Acts 29 album very soon. Most of the tracks at my MP3 page are dated but you can check out "Butterflies", "Blank Minds", and some other tracks that are pretty cool.

Any guest appearances to check you on or compilation appearances coming up?

The Locke album. The hiphophotspot.com compilation. Some stuff with Johnny5, the Nutsons, Zak Morris, DJ Flick, Fab and Sev. I have a lot of stuff in the works. Once it's all completed I need to slow down though.

What have you been listening to in the CD player?

Beat CDs, hehe. I got a copy of Deepspace 5 and that's pretty dope. An old SFC album called "Illumination". I'm really getting into worship music lately and that's the honest truth. It's like...I've been hearing MCs rhyme so much that I don't even like hearing myself when I practice. Hehe. So when I'm not rapping (which is very seldom)...I enjoy listening to things that change the pace. Stuff that satisfies me in a different way. I really enjoy the Lojique album that dropped recently. It's called "Language Arts". That's available through Syntax Records as well.

Thanks for the interview, any final comments or shout outs?

I'm helping my fiancée's baby-sit right now, hehe. And so right now I have a baby of some sort kicking the keyboard while I type. Oh, by the way, I'm engaged to be married. And no, this child is not mine or hers. Hehe. Just baby-sitting for real. The official date is the 29th of June. Okay, I just got relieved of my duties. Final comments? GOD has become very real to me. Right now I'm just trying to focus my energy towards completion. The completion of goals, the completion of my purpose. Aside from that, just letting this music thing go as far as it wants to. I'm feeling like it wants to go really far right now. It's a good feeling but it's also challenging. I'm realizing that what I want isn't really important in relation to what other people need. So I'm focusing on the needs of this world rather then the wants of my comfort. It'll be a process though. I'm just letting it all soak in and praising GOD for life. Acts 29 "Underexposed". It's just begun I guess. Peace to all. Thanks for the interview and thanks for all the help and support you've given. GOD bless.


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