Background Noise, Episode 29: Elbow Toe / by Matt Valerio

The "Background Noise" podcast series focuses on the music that artists listen to when they work, what music inspires them, or just music they like. This week, in Episode 29, the focus is on Elbow Toe.

The "Background Noise" podcast series focuses on the music that artists listen to when they work, what music inspires them, or just music they like. This week, in Episode 29, the focus is on Elbow Toe.

photo by Redboy

photo by Redboy

It was a few years ago that I started noticing Elbow Toe's work around NYC's East Village. Although at that time, the only works of his I'd seen were random phrases he'd write. Phrases like "Instantly Transparent With Your Obvious Actions", "It's a sad day for somedays", and what not, would appear on trash bins and various surfaces. This was around the time I first moved to the city and had begun to notice Jim Joe's work, which was similar in its abstract nature, and to be honest, not knowing anything about else about Elbow Toe, I sort of wrote him off. Turns out, that was a big mistake.

photo by Matt Bomarr

photo by Matt Bomarr

It wasn't until about a year or two later that I found out that Elbow Toe (who also exhibits his work under his birth name, Brian Adam Douglas) doesn't focus strictly on writing these phrases all over the place. His main focus was wheat pasting his drawings and paintings in the streets, and displaying his extremely detailed collage work in galleries. While he's insanely talented at painting and drawing, it's really his collage work that stands out to me. These collages are not the type of collages one would expect to see in the typical sense of the word. They are pieced together using a very meticulous process, where Elbow Toe paints tiny pieces of paper the colors he wants, and then assembles them together to create beautiful, almost paint-by-numbers-looking pieces of art. The type of work you really have to look closely at to truly appreciate it.

Elbow Toe gets a good amount of praise as it is, but he's still quite underrated. Every time I see one of his pieces, I'm blown away and absolutely fascinated by the amount of patience and detail that goes into each of his creations. All this from a man who is also the father of two twin boys. Being a new dad myself, I'm also impressed that he's able to find the time to devote so much to his work. The world needs to see more of this man.

photo by Lenny Collado

photo by Lenny Collado

What was your first concert?
Sadly it was Julian Lennon. I went with my parents. My first concert on my own was Depeche Mode - Music for the Masses Tour.


Last concert/show you went to?
The last concert I paid for was Radiohead’s Kid A Tour. I caught Yo LaT engo a few years back at Celebrate Brooklyn, but I spend so much time in the studio that there is little time to get out to shows.

photo by Matt Bomarr

photo by Matt Bomarr

First album you bought?
The Cure - Standing on a Beach/ The Singles on CD.


Last album you bought?
I think it was the deluxe packaged Radiohead Amnesiac album. I still have the booklet. After that I started using E-Music and I never looked back.


Was there one record that made a significant impression on you?
I was a mopey kid and the album that got me through my high school years was Disintegration by The Cure.


Who is your musical hero?
These days I would say Tom Waits. His story telling is beyond compare. In terms of music I like to sing out loud to in the studio, Radiohead. I love Thom Yorke’s voice, and my natural singing voice is in his range.

How important is music to your creative process?
It’s very important. When I am struggling with a piece of work I listen to quite a lot of classical music, in particular Marin Marais. I often will listen to one song over and over for hours at a time if I have gotten into a groove. I tried to compile a playlist that I could loop over and over as well as loop each song over and over.
 

Wake Up/ The Walkmen
Three Changes/ The Good, The Bad And The Queen
Picture In A Frame/ Tom Waits
At Long Last/ Swell
It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)/ Arcade Fire
Zig Zag Wanderer/ Captain Beefheart
I Am Citizen Insane/ Radiohead
I’m Still Here/ Tom Waits
Fish And Bird/ Tom Waits
Mothers Of The Disappeared/ U2
Futura/ Battles
Treefingers/ Radiohead
Juveniles/ The Walkmen
Why Would You Want To Live/ Wilco
Culture War/ Arcade Fire
You & Me/ Damon Albarn
“40”/ U2
Where I End And You Begin/ Radiohead
Last Goodbye/ Jeff Buckley
Fawn/ Tom Waits

Check out Elbow Toe's excellent mix below, download it directly here, or subscribe to the Background Noise podcast on iTunes. Be sure to like Background Noise on Facebook for updates on future episodes.

Also, you can find Elbow Toe's website here and his Instagram here