Milwaukee's globe-trotting troubadour is back in town. Brett Newski went to South Africa, wrote some songs and came back home to record them with no less than Victor DeLorenzo. The result is a five-song disc called the "Hi-Fi D.I.Y." EP.
As Newski preps for a Saturday, Feb. 20 gig at the Cactus Club, we managed to pin the wanderer down long enough to answer five questions about the record, before he heads back out on tour...
OnMilwaukee: I see you've been back out on the road a lot since we last caught up. Is it true that you wrote this new record while in South Africa?
Brett Newski: The last few winters were skin-ripping cold here. I picked up a residency gig in South Africa last winter and posted up for a few months, writing some of the songs for "Hi-Fi." I’d thought a lot about moving there the past few years. America runs at a turbo robot speed that is not built for the modern human.
OnMilwaukee:Where else have you been recently, and how do your travels influence your music?
Newski: All fall we toured Europe. It went smashing, but, honestly, we pushed the pedal to the floor too hard. While it was nice to eat primo lasagna in Italy and jumbo pretzels in Germany, playing six nights a week for three months will kill you. It’s good to be back home recharging the sanity-o-meter. The Crusty Adventures You Tube series captured our weird life on the road:
OnMilwaukee:Victor DeLorenzo produced the new record. How did you guys connect?
Newski: In 2011 I was playing a show in Bangkok in this packed little rat hole venue, maybe 80 capacity. A South African folk/punker named Matt Vend opened for me. After my set he came storming up to the stage all excited and said, "Bru! You remind me of Violent Femmes, bru!" I rediscovered my Femmes records when I moved back to Milwaukee and found out Vic lived four blocks from me.
OnMilwaukee:What was it like working with him? Did he bring something unique to the process for you?
Newski: Vic is a jolly man. He radiates a giant blue energy and made our band feel completely amped in the studio. I go over to his house whenever the music-industry puts its foot into my ass and I need moral support. He’s like my band psychiatrist.
OnMilwaukee: Where are you headed next?
Newski: My manager Danimal and I will be plowing thru the Midwest, South and East Coast of ‘Merica. It's called the "High Fructose Corn Syrup Tour."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.