Head Shots For The Undead
Background image by Daveybot and used under a Creative Commons License. Foreground image courtesy of Matt Braman.
Phoenix-Based Matt Braman’s 2006 Debut Effort Might Not Have Sold Many Copies But It Just Might Be The Best Underground Album To Come Out Of The Valley Music Scene
By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine
Dec. 3, 2013 — Matt Braman’s 2006 debut album Headshots For The Undead is probably one of the best albums that you’ve never heard of. Braman himself did not even bother with an official release party, “I had kind of an unofficial release party at Aunt Chiladas,” said Braman, “I don't remember exactly now if we did anything special.”
Nearly eight years later, Braman still has about 700 of the original 1,000 pressings. But as all musicians and fans alike know, album sales are definitely not the end all, be all of great music. Braman’s paranormal concept album is a hidden gem of the Phoenix music scene that is just now being unearthed.
“This is my first press ever, I’m fucking stoked,” said Braman “I never pushed it. I think it was a good album, but I am a perfectionist. You have to be a certain level of perfect for things to be at a commercial level for whatever thats worth. At the time I thought I had to be at that commercial threshold.”
The eccentric Braman has also released released a six song E.P. entitled Senseless Perception which he performed and recorded with his co producer on Headshots Ken Erickson. He chose not to push that recording either for more personal reasons.
“It is primarily egotistical reasons. It was an album by committee and not by dictatorship, I’m a dictator man I can’t help it,” said Braman.
Which is probably why the musical dictator chose to play all of the instruments on Headshots For The Undead except for a few minor parts.
“I really enjoy swapping instruments, I’ve always had a really hard time pinning myself down to one particular instrument per se. I’ve always been primarily a guitarist but never content to just play guitar,” said Braman. “For me. it was an opportunity not only to enjoy all these different instruments that i like playing but also to have total creative control.”
The only instruments Braman did not play himself on Headshots For The Undead was guitar and bass on track 11 “Invincible” which were played by Erickson and Nick Cioffi respectively, and berimbau on track 14 “Yes and No” which was played by Braman’s step sister Tracy Davis.
The engineer who mastered the album, Warren Ross, “toiled in obscurity for 15 years teaching part time at Mesa Community College and recording really shitty ametuer rappers,” according to Braman. Before being hired for an internship for Universal Music Group as an engineer in their archive. The internship worked out well for Ross who turned it into a full time position mastering albums for high profile artists and is now the head mastering engineer on the television program “The Voice.”
The 14 track, folk-punk masterpiece was conceived in 2005 while Braman was working as a graveyard dispatcher for a limousine company.
“I listened to a lot of Coast to Coast AM at the time, so I was always listening to stories about conspiracy theories and aliens and shit like that,” he said.
On one episode of the radio program a guest of the show discussed how many people live their lives on “autopilot,” according to Braman.
“The guy talked about how people kind of just stumble through their lives, so I started paying attention and looking at people when I was out and about. Just kind of looking in peoples eyes and just seeing that kind of cow eyed blank stare. People just sort of muddled about and I started seeing everyone as zombies walking around,” Braman said. “And I started thinking this is ridiculous I am surrounded by the walking dead.”
With the overarching theme of “people really are just fucking zombies,” Braman moved forward with his creative process, and though the album has some heavy paranormal themes there are still some more traditional types of songs. Such as the the politically charged track four “Propaganda,” which comes off very much like early Haymarket Squares, or track 12, the love song, “Weights.”
“I was going for a vaguely paranormal album. I didn’t want to make it overtly every song is about aliens and shit. Some are more standard emotional testament types of things,” said Braman.
But the album’s clear single, “Swing Low” (Sweet Flying Saucer) is definitely one of the heavily paranormal themed songs.
Though the album was conceived while working the dispatcher job it was realized by regularly attending Aunt Chilada’s Restaurant once a week open mic.
“I went to their open mic like every single week, because my friend was hosting it. So that was just fun, he would give me free beer I would play and that was where I would kind of workshop these songs,” said Braman.
The album received no press, has no official music videos — though local artists Neal Johnson and Vav Vavrek did put together an unofficial video for “Invincible.” And, Braman gives his permission to other aspiring videographers to take a whack at making a music video of a Headshots song.
The album is available at CDbaby.com as well as at mattbraman.bandcamp.com and in physical form at Stinkweeds, and The Firehouse Gallery. Go take a listen, and here’s a nickels worth of free advice, listen to the entire final track.
Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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