Green Dot Session with Henry Brawlins

Dave Anians - February 17, 2014

Hey, here’s a new edition of Green Dot Sessions! It’s been a bit, but this is a good one.

Henry Brawlins (Kevin Sawa) is a songwriter/poet/drummer/singer/photographer. He writes and plays for The Stockyards and Sleeping is my 9 to 5. He’s got a lot of passion and a lot of things to say. His work is very real and really good.

We talked about art and music and punk and drumming and you can just read it.

The Stockyards:

Sleeping is My 9 to 5:

Dave Anians 2/4, 10:14pm

alright, so finish this sentence:

"My name is Henry (Kevin) Brawlins and I...."

Henry Brawlins 2/5, 10:50pm

am a genetically engineered shark-human hybrid

Dave 2/5, 10:58pm

excellent! so is my uncle frank! already starting this off strong

whats your favorite thing about music?

Henry 2/5, 11:01pm

its something that i can do well..i can't pay my bills on time or brush my teeth everyday but i sure can play my heart out..really, its everyone..anyone can do this, if they can delude themselves long enough for you to get can be anything, there's so many different approaches you can take and its only wrong if you lack the vision and creativity to see how it can be right

Henry 2/5, 11:01pm

sorry that was long

Dave 2/5, 11:04pm

awesome! feel free to write as much as you want. whats your history with music? like, when did you start getting into appreciating/playing music as more than just a passing fancy?

Henry 2/5, 11:20pm

i started jamming with alex when i was like 14..we played for years and it just kinda went by the wayside, we never played out or anything til that first stockyards show in 2010..i always felt like i lost so much time cause everyone gets started so young, most punks have died off by the time they reach my age haha and i'm not even old..anyway, when i was 17 i started making music on my computer under the name 'Valkyr' ..i did this cause it was the only way i could get exactly what i wanted out of music (perfection of composition, mood and total control over the qualities of was total control and it was beautiful but nobody likes it but me which i guess is the only audience that matters in the end)..with valkyr, i started making these dark kinda soundtracks that evolved into hyperactive nightmares (all instrumental, lots of polyphony and complimenting melodic lines..i stole from cage, aphex twin, everyone..i loved it)..i think the last total i had was around 14ish CDRs filled to the brim and a double CDR i gave my fiancee back in the day..i stopped doing that cause i can't find a good program that works with a mac..but by then i was doing the Stockyards stuff with Alex..i guess i never really stopped making music since i was 14..but valkyr was my most productive time

Dave 2/5, 11:25pm

for sure, what drew you into the idea of making your own music?

Henry 2/5, 11:30pm

with jamming with alex i just wanted something to do..i had a lot of anger, loneliness and boredom and it was a great way to feel good about doing 'nothing' ..well, nothing productive in the sense of getting a job and shit..

with valkyr, i didnt wanna pay for CDs so i decided i could do it better myself..i used to chop up lots of real songs to get to the best songs..most songs have too much shitty filler..i wanted what i wanted and i didnt wanna settle for some successful person's half assed attempt at something, so i did it myself

Dave 2/5, 11:31pm

what do you like to hear in songs, musically and lyrically?

Henry 2/5, 11:34pm

a great melody..if the words are great and communicate something and are easy to remember that's the best..mostly though, for being a words guy (a writer type), i hear the music more than the lyrics

but yea, the winner is passion..i hate dispassionate music, whats the point of me caring if you cant even care enough to put yourself into the song

Dave 2/5, 11:39pm

cant disagree with that. how did you get into punk music? was it a result of having those tastes or did it help shape those tastes for you?

Henry 2/5, 11:40pm

do you mean listening to punk or playing?


Dave 2/5, 11:41pm


Henry 2/5, 11:51pm

its hard to say what came first..i never knew what was cool, my folks like 20 bands and they've been listening to them for decades..they'd always ask me what the name of 'that song on the radio' was and i always knew so i guess it came about from my voracious appetite for music..i get bored so easy and i always want more and more music..i process it all (literally.. i collect, rate, catalog, arrange and put it away in the back of my mind..i amass and pare down what i have til i have the songs that i CAN'T do without)....anyway, i must've got bored with led zeppelin and looked for something else (but i was always so shy, i couldnt ask anyone) i think i got into punk from hearing a song in a movie and saying "holy fuck thats so cool, what is that?" and i'd fast forward the VHS to the credits and get the CD from Kiss the Sky or Record Breakers or Disc Replay or Rolling Stone..i'd get that CD and i'd get bored after a while so i'd try to find something 'like that' and i'd trace the related artists and all that shit..but yea, it all goes back to my copy of the VHS of Return of the Living Dead that i dubbed from the video stores copy..piracy, whoooo!

oh god..actually i remember the first time i heard a punk song..way way was from Metallica's garage days..god, that's how i found the misfits..through metal..even worse..through metallica ewwwww

or maybe it was my copy of Offspring's 'Smash' i dunno

that wasn't really a super punk release

Dave 2/5, 11:58pm

hahahaha hell yeah. you still get there, no matter who it was via haha.

what about punk drew you in?

Henry 2/6, 12:02am

it was didnt sound like one narrow thing or can sound like metal, it can sound like a rockabilly tune, it can sound like the old 50s tunes you'd hear at Garibaldi's when we'd go for a pizza was everything, so it was easy to get into

Dave 2/6, 12:03am

for real. so how did you start playing drums?

Henry 2/6, 12:10am

its hard to remember..i think alex was playing guitar at that point and we wanted to jam and there were never any drummers cause that shit was i got roped into it..probably also cause i couldn't figure out how people hold chords without looking at it..and drums seemed easier even though you're doing at 4 separate movements at the same time..its like if you try to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time, but double it and if you fuck up one tiny thing everyone gets thrown off..its weird how performing is like fucking, everything's gotta be just right to get to the end of the song and one small fuck-up or external thing gone awry can fuck your rhythm

Henry 2/6, 12:13am

sorry, was that weird for was weird for me

Dave 2/6, 12:13am

were you typing more? i feel alright, you know, just gotta keep on truckin

Henry 2/6, 12:14am

im good lol

Dave 2/6, 12:14am

haha okay

for real though, its a tough job. do you come at making music as more of a want or a need?

Henry 2/6, 12:19am

its more of a need..16 years on and i still got all that heartache and pain..its the only thing that keeps me from wanting to go on a kill crazy rampage and even then, no matter what i do its never enough

Dave 2/6, 12:22am

a blessing and a curse, i tell ya.

you do other cool art stuff too, how did that come about?

Henry 2/6, 12:33am

i always wrote songs, little stories and poems from a young age..i liked to draw a lot too, sculpt, everything..i was never good at any of that except writing (i was kinda passable in certain ways) but i always looked back at what i'd done with such shame and disappointment..when i got arrested when i was young i was so paranoid that i took all that shit out to a field right by the tracks by my house and burned it all with some napalm i made..i was paranoid that they'd find it and put me away..i kinda developed a habit of destroying my old shit after that, i was always so ashamed of everything i made..but with everything, you burn it all away and start fresh..its like when a fire sweeps through a forest, it gets rid of all that stagnant and overgrown shit and lets something new come up..create, destroy and create something better

Dave 2/6, 12:43am

excellent philosophy. one you don't hear alot. what do you think the role of art in society is?

Henry 2/6, 1:00am

sadly, its frequently barely an a perfect world, art serves as social critic, its beauty and truth (even if the nature of beauty and truth is ugly by popular standards) serves to give the individual some greater life purpose than passing on their DNA and propagating the gives you the keys to the kingdom despite how trapped you may be in should function in society to allow us to move where we can't and say what we desire..its the only reason for living that i can honestly think of and it belongs to us can do your worst but you cant take that spark from me

Dave 2/6, 10:21am

awesome. whats your place in all of that?

Henry 2/6, 12:11pm

well i guess it makes me feel less trapped..i can be whoever i want and do whatever i desire in art

Dave 2/6, 12:19pm

is there anything you want people to take away from the art you make? or do you leave it open to interpretation?

Henry 2/6, 4:53pm

telling is bullshit, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink..that's why the best songs show what the band was going for..a person's gonna take away what they're gonna take away and you have little power over the effectivity of your message..for me, the only thing really is the individual song, stressing your songs to fit a particular overarching message or theme is very difficult to achieve on both thematic, lyrical and musical levels (and to make it a catchy, aeshetically pleasing song in addition is even trickier)..i guess through that convoluted line of reasoning i mean to say that i like my songs to be full of concrete images but abstract and playful enough that the audience will draw whatever they want from it (if they even get as far as remembering lyrics or reading them)..i got a message, a lesson to teach, on a song-by-song basis but i like to word it in a way that there is some ambiguity..

i dont know if that makes sense or not haha

Dave 2/7, 7:33am

for sure. stylistically, do you write songs to sound a specific way or do you let them take whatever form they end up taking?

Henry 2/8, 4:48pm

we might try to make it sound a certain way but the first riff we work up usually comes about by accident and leads the song in a certain way..haha we have very little control over that

Dave 2/8, 4:54pm

for sure, are there any themes you see alot in the songs you make?

Henry 2/8, 4:59pm

a lot of our songs are about depression, being an outsider, our personal difficulties with functioning in the world around us, that and getting wasted

Dave 2/8, 5:03pm

*cough* in dekalb

Henry 2/8, 5:03pm


Dave 2/8, 5:04pm

but for sure. time for a fun part. please find me 3 or so bands, with accompanying youtube vids, that you feel have been very important to your development as a songmaker

Henry 2/8, 5:05pm

i thought that was the fun part..haha gimme a second

Dave 2/8, 5:12pm

haha for sure

Henry 2/8, 6:01pm

KISS, more so when i was starting..i love rock and roll and their songs have great energy

GWAR gets called a joke a lot by people that think they're too cool for music but i legitimately love GWAR, i've loved them since i was a kid..they go through so many phases and their songs are well crafted..they're not afraid to have fun and still lampoon politicians in their stage act in interesting ways..if you're not having fun in making music then you really picked the wrong field

THE RAMONES!! again, great energy and simple songs that get stuck in your head..they made it cool to do pop songs

Pegboy had a lot of power backing up a lot of hurt and that's spoken to me a lot in recent years..they made Emo an option for goons like me who would otherwise be too shut off to get that nasty shit outta your head

Naked Raygun had great power and melody, great dynamic changes and always made me feel more positive despite most of the songs having that down kinda vibe..they make feel like i belong

Night Birds have been in my head like crazy lately..i used to listen to their discography on repeat at work (over and over and over) got me through the day feeling bullet proof

there's a ton more obviously but those ones stuck out in my head more

Dave 2/8, 6:22pm

hell yeah. ive actually never heard this kiss song. its rad.


what do you consider some successes or victories youve had in making and performing music?

Henry 2/8, 6:24pm

dude KISS' b-sides are super underrated


Henry 2/8, 6:32pm

well for one we actually put out a vinyl by the time we hit 30..i've gotten over a lot of anxiety in performing..i think playing DIY shows prepares you to be a better adult, more tolerant of stupidity at least haha..i've made a lot of cool friends..but most of all i found something i'm good at, performing is such a charge (most of all emotionally) ..i feel like a vampire feeding off people's energy

Dave 2/8, 6:48pm

woo! thats awesome dude. where do you hope to see yourself, musically, in five years?

Henry 2/9, 2:52am

situated on castle greyskull awaiting the death of my sworn enemy he-man..


i hope to have 2 LPs out on vinyl, a couple tours under my belt, and anticipating a tour to a weird/awesome place like australia or germany

Dave 2/9, 12:18pm

awesome, though. those are rad goals.

arlight, we're on the home stretch

what do you think your life would be like without music?

Henry 2/9, 11:12pm


haha, no..boring as fuck..unbearably boring

Dave 2/10, 9:55pm

hahaha fair enough.

what would 12 year old kevin think of all the stuff youve done with music so far?

Henry 2/10, 9:57pm

he'd probably be pissed i dont sound like Darkthrone

Dave 2/10, 10:01pm


is there any question youve always wanted someone to ask you during an interview?

Henry 2/10, 10:04pm

"why are you so devlishly handsome, henry brawlins?"

"hahaha oh you.. you'll never gain my confidence enough for me to tell you what jimmy hoffa was really like in bed"

that was the question AND the answer

Dave 2/10, 10:05pm


alright dude, almost done.

any shoutouts you wanna give? or anything coming up worth noting?

Henry 2/10, 10:09pm

super stoked the Sheckies are coming to the 7th St. in Dekalb on 3/20..keep on rockin in the free world and DOO DOODLEDOO DOO .....DOOT DOOT

haha i dont know..sorry, davey

Dave 2/10, 10:16pm