Allen C. Picard - Interview
Allen C. Picard a.k.a. Rob Luzynski will be performing live at Ann Arbor’s Blind Pig this Friday at 9:30pm. Allen has been Rob’s side project for quite some time now, and this show will be serving as a fond farewell concert for him. On the bill will be other Ann Arbor area artists such as JLA, Evan Haywood, Ian Petrarca, The Robs, and Rustique Boise.
More Than The Melody was able to sit down with Rob a couple days before his big show to share with our audience who he is and what to expect at the show. Rob’s answers are quite fascinating as they range from his influences to why someone should even consider attending his performance. Take a look at our conversation! Tickets are inexpensive and you can buy them at the door!
MttM: So, Rob, you’re a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, what are you studying?
Rob: Environmental Sciences, Program In The Environment (PITE)
What is the significance behind your alias?
The alias is for another event. I created a character to do a performance art piece. So I was in my friends basement, it was an event for our art collective, I was in this basement and played a guy who was like a prisoner, right, and the idea was that this little room that people walked into was like his mind, and so it was kind of a play on a person who is a prisoner in their mind. So I created a character for that, and then I needed a name for my other rap show, which was at this guy’s house, and I couldn’t think of one so I used Allen again. So, since then I’ve been developing this character, it’s kind of like, it’s essentially writing a book but through performances. I’m trying to create a persona and a personality of sorts and then telling some sort of story through that person.
So where does Allen Picard come from?
When I moved into my co-op, I found this stop sign in my room that somebody had left. You know, a sign with stop on one side and slow on the other. And it had the letters “ACP” on it, and I wanted to use it for that performance piece, and so a couple days before the performance I was looking at it and trying to come up with a name for that guy. I was trying to give it a 40 year old man vibe, very average person, so i just used those letters.
What is this show all about? Why are you doing it?
The idea behind it was that I was trying to have a music event, like a show, but kind of have it be different. I’ve been developing this character and then when I began to think about playing at an actual venue, like the Blind Pig, I started to think of what my show was going to be like, and I realized I definitely will never be the kind of rapper that goes up there and is trying to be like, you know, hyping up the show in some false way. I’ve seen so many rappers and it seems that even the conscious ones fall into that. “Gangster” is a really lazy way of describing it but I kind of feel like you get the point when I say that, the presence and the persona. So I want it to be a lot different than that and it was just an opportunity for me to introduce the audience to this character in a more intimate way. Then the fact that I’m playing the character gives me a lot of freedom cause I can really craft that persona and that person to really tell a story in some real way. It’s much like what you would imagine when writing a character in a story, as opposed to me going up and performing as myself, I’m playing the character, so it’s sort of a one man theatre. At least my set will be that way.
The entire venue will be an immersive set ideally. The idea is to change the space in some significant way where you go in and it feels different, it will feel like the setting that I am trying to create.
How did you start to rap? Do you have an interest in pursuing it as a career?
I started rapping just as kind of a hobby when in High School. I started kind of messing around, never got too serious with it. I recorded a couple songs in high school. probably like three in total. Then I got to college and I still wrote sometimes but mostly I would just freestyle at parties and it was super fun, super fun. I always had more fun freestyling at parties than I did writing music and just recording it. I think that is the main reason why I wanted to get to performing. To be honest, I don’t even know if I am going to record anything more, I’ve written six new songs for this show and I don’t think I will ever record them necessarily. I’m going to have video documentation with the show so that will be that. It’s much more about the experience and being there, that’s an essential part of the project.
How do you write your lyrics?
It’s so weird, I don’t even know how to describe it. It sounds super corny because I’m sure other people say this kind of thing too but you kind of just catch something you know, and for me it’s really random. I’ll just be sitting down and I kind of maybe decide that I want to write something you know, especially over winter break, I was like shit, I got to write something for the show. So you’re kind of always semi in that mindset then you catch one line and then keep going. Sometimes I would have like a subject in mind in the beginning but a lot of the time it’s kind of like having one thought in mind then hopping on that thought train, and just go. It’s pretty deliberate in some senses but it’s also a lot of, you know, serendipity I would say.
Was it that same method you use when freestyling? Just faster paced?
That’s essentially what it is. Sometimes I would have a beat in my head. I’m a lot better just going with a stream of thought, and stringing those together in some sort of way or building on one that’s already happened. I’m not really going line-by-line. Kind of just let it happen. Honestly, in general with my creative process that’s how it works. I kind have like other aliases, when making art I go by Broccoli (set design is done by Broccoli), so that is just another way of separating myself from my work. Having my identity separate from what I am creating.
What is your favorite verse that you’ve ever dropped? Was there one that you were ever like “oh snap!” I came up with that?
I can think of one that I’m super stoked on, I don’t know if it was my best but this song that I wrote, I remember finishing the last couple of lines when I was in the studio recording it back in high school. I was just super stoked on how I ended the song. It’s only like a half a line but the first line was some stupid shit, went something like “And you know I get higher than your pastor” then the second line went like “Raps so fat they got roles like an actor”, rap so fat (like obese) they got rolls…. I was like Damn! Like I was surprised I could think of that in the studio, right there. I don’t even know what to say, it’s weird being stoked about your own line. It’s always fun to have a couple of those, but I’ve never been much of a punchline rapper, it’s more about the content. I used to listen to a lot of Lil’ Wayne. He is like solely punchline, he’s just doing like the wackest metaphors and shit, I used to be really into Lil’ Wayne.
So going off of that, who are your biggest influences both in the music world and the art world?
I’m really inspired by people who do performance art. It’s really a broad and weird term so it’s hard to really know what I mean but like the people who are in the interarts program here, I think it’s dual degree in fine arts and theatre, and they do like one person type of skits, it was really cool you basically get to be in a play that you write. It’s only you, so it’s just a crazy thought and I started to integrate that into the music.
Music wise, in terms of rap, definitely Jay Electronica for sure. For a long time, you could not tell me that he wasn’t the greatest. I don’t know about now because he hasn’t released music in a while. Then now, I’ve been listening to PRhyme (Royce Da 5’9” and Premo). They are so good, PRhyme is the shit. Premo is too good, I saw him at Dilla Day a couple years ago. I’ve listened to that album tons of times, Royce’s flow is crazy. They’ve got Jay Electronica on that, Ab-Soul, Mac Miller. Those are all influences as well. Danny Brown for sure. Huge influence, probably too much of an influence. One time someone at Arbor Vitae told me that I sounded like Danny Brown up there, and they probably did partially say that because they know I like Danny Brown but also I can totally see how I can sound like that because it is literally just all energy. Sometimes he is incoherent, but I’m like whatever, just going at it.
Is there a different genre, other than rap that you strongly connect with?
In music, yeah, reggae. Huge, huge into reggae. Also like a lot of different kinds of music, acoustic stuff, I love to sing. When I sing at open mics I love to sing acoustic Arctic Monkeys covers, that is my main open mic staple. Then softer punk music, and then soulful, like Arctic Monkeys type shit.
Do you play any instruments?
Can’t play instruments for shit, but I can kind of play drums. That’s another thing that was hard for me, getting into a band when you’re a single person who only sings, especially when you don’t have recordings of it and you haven’t been doing it for very long. My first musical performances were literally singing covers at open mics. Then i started writing a little bit and then rapping at open mics a little bit. Yeah, that’s about it. Red Hot Chilli Peppers are really good too.
What motivated you do to a show at the Blind Pig and how did you go about getting that gig?
I definitely can’t say that it was all me and all merit in terms of music following. But I do a lot of music stuff around Ann Arbor, organizing shows, and a good friend of mine wanted to put on a show so I helped her book it at Arbor Vitae. Then there is another show I am bringing to town in February, so I booked them at the Pig too, you know just sort of a promoter type deal. They’re like electronic, pretty dope. So yeah it was kind of like her returning the favor, which is great cause I love working with the Pig and doing stuff around town.
How did you pick the special guests that are listed on the bill to support you at the show?
The musical support was really just musicians that I’m friends with and really respect what they’re doing. Great people and great musicians, really nice for them to be hooking me up and supporting me. We have a lot of good friends together in Ann Arbor, it’s really nice, you can rely on people like that. Also, I tried to deliberately pick them in some way where it made a vibe, I didn't want it to just be random music, to set the tone. Especially the two acts leading up to my set are pretty deliberate. I’m trying to make people feel uncomfortable to a certain extent, not so much weird, but expose them to something new. I want it to be a new experience while the guests are still comfortable with it. So that will be a huge theme throughout the show, even when developing Allen’s character, kind of weird, kind of creepy, but also kind of relatable. That progression with being more comfortable with that.
What are their names?
The first one is Evan Haywood , he'll be doing an acoustic set . I don’t really want to try to describe it because he has only done it once, I think, live at Canterbury house. I caught that show and was super into what he was doing. I wanted to get an acoustic musician to open up a rap show because I feel like that’s never happened before.
Then JLA is after that, and they’re like electronic jazz. They’re really great, I’m really glad. Another thing I tried to get, with all the musicians, was try to get musicians that I hadn’t seen at the Blind Pig before, at least in the kind of music that they were playing. Because I am super honored and grateful to play a show at the Blind Pig, it’s a great venue, something that I didn’t think I would be able to do. All these guys are amazing musicians and a lot have played in different projects at the Blind Pig. Kind of just spreading the love, feels good to be playing with your friends.
Ian Petrarca is awesome. I rapped a bit at Ian’s set at Taco Room the other night. Great dude, plays in a project called Which Way the Train that is really dope.
The Robs are made up of Steve Stavropolous. and Dylan Greene. Two very good friends of mine, they were down to back me up, probably the first people to say “yes” to playing the show. One day I texted Steve and told them to get a band name, and he goes “Allen C. Picard and The Robs” I thought it was so funny, also really stupid, but like stupid enough to be funny so I kept it.
Rustique Boise is a group of guys I got to know over the summer, great dudes and cool music, and I'm really happy to have their first time playing at The Pig be at this show.
Why is this a farewell show? Where is Allen going? Where is Rob going?
That’s a really funny thing. The idea of this show originally was to have a kind of MF Doom thing, where it is very much like not me performing. So I didn’t want my personality and that type of shit to interfere with what the performance is. So a lot of this is me separating myself from Allen. So I am more like the creator, but during the show I basically don’t exist. So people don’t think about Rob during the performance. So Allen though, Allen is like this kind of persona that I created for the performance piece then for rapping. It was very experimental, didn’t put a lot of thought into it originally, it evolved from some very small thing to realizing that it would work for this, and then this, and then that. So I love how it came about but I’m kind of done with him and that whole project and everything. So he played the house show, he also was in the basement of Nick’s house, so that was him as well. I felt like if I do this again, if I keep rapping, which is also a huge “if”, because this is a big shebang type of deal, how this goes is just another piece in my portfolio kinda. I’m very stoked about it though, kind of freaking out but very excited.
On an ending note, what makes your show special? Why should we come to your show?
Totally, that is great because I’ve been thinking a lot about that question, about why people should come. So I’ve been working really hard to make this different than other shows. I’m also not going to lie to myself to say that no one has ever seen anything like it, because everyone has done everything a million times already. I wanted to try something new with what I really like to do, rapping and the performing, there will be interactive stuff, sculptures, set design, a very immersive and detailed experience. It will be very different than any other kind of show that I’ve been to. If you read the description, it sounds weird. I don’t want to invite a whole bunch of people and say something like “dude, trust me, it’s going to be cool”, but honestly I’m enjoying the fuck out of this project and I hope people will enjoy it too. I think it is going to be very interesting.
On a funnier note, what does Allen think a whale’s concept of land is?
Oh man, that’s good. So whale’s can go above the water, they blow air out of the water, that is such a trip. I think for Allen, if he had to think about that, he would have a great time with it. He likes thinking about stuff in different ways, trying to get out of the box, he thinks of the mind as like this super complex thing, he’s very interested in how and why someone perceives something in the way that they do. He would love to think about that question, but I’ll ask him and let you know, hopefully he tells you before he leaves (laughs).
By Ben Schechter