ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Bdwthr, Cyrus Chrome, Pay Dirt, Paralyze

Quarters Rock n’ Roll Palace hosted a stacked bill Saturday night featuring Indianapolis-based electro-garage-punk artist Splat Gorek as well as local acts Paralyze, Bdwthr, Cyrus Chrome and Pay Dirt.

Paralyze is the project of Hal Crossno. Specializing in industrial-electronic dance music and power electronics, Crossno named Paralyze after a Front Line Assembly song. Explaining how he got interested in making this type of music and began the project, Crossno recalls, “In high school I took an electronics repair class at the community college because I didn’t like going to high school and it was a way to leave. When I first moved to Milwaukee I had an apartment on the East Side, and one day I was taking the trash out and saw that someone had thrown away a synthesizer, and so I took it out and tried using it but it didn’t work. I went online and learned how to fix it – it was an easy fix – and since I’d been getting into industrial stuff, maybe this meant that it was time to start something. I acquired a few more pieces, started writing with a friend and went from there.”

Some of his biggest influences are Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy, Street Sects and Youth Code. He released an EP in 2018 titled “Dissociative Prosthetic” and a live recording titled “Live Prosthetic” in 2021.

On what’s been going on with Paralyze since then, Crossno shared, “Honestly, I haven’t been working on a lot of new stuff. I got really into working on electronics projects and found out that working on electronic and musical equipment was what I really wanted to do, so I started building my own sampler that I was planning on using to get an internship at a job at Yamaha, Roland or Korg in Japan…but then COVID hit and that didn’t happen. Between that and other bands starting up, Paralyze hasn’t been something that I’ve had a lot of time to devote to…but new people keep seeming to find it and get excited about it, and so they’ve been asking me to play their shows. I have like one new song so far and will be working on more soon, once I have time.”

Paralyze plays a DIY show on May 26th.

Bdwthr is a hip hop artist and producer known for her textural, wavy style. Her influences range from Odd Future to Squarepusher to Radiohead. She began making music in high school with her friends but really started breaking into the Milwaukee scene over the last few years. “It wasn’t until COVID times when I really pushed myself to play more local shows,” she said.

Bdwthr’s debut album “Summiteer” came out in February of last year. “It was my first full-length endeavor so I wanted it to be as grandiose as I could make it in a producer-oriented way,” she explains. “I just wanted to lean into the weird, crazy ideas I get for beats; one of the songs is sampled from the unemployment hotline and I was trying to capture that moment of trying to get ahold of them but as a producer. I’ll get a lot of ideas like that, where I’ll just be at work and think of a beat in my head and start writing it from there, rather than go to the studio and come up with it.”

Bdwthr’s most recent single “Bluetooth Knife” dropped in January and is a collaboration with Tombo. “That song came together really quickly…probably two or three days,” Bdwthr said. “I made the beat and Tombo put their verse over it, and when we were writing the song we were talking about how Teslas on autopilot crash a bunch, and that’s what inspired the hook…evil technology stuff.”

On what place she feels her songwriting has been coming from lately, Bdwthr shared, “There’s a lot of unreleased stuff I have where I feel like I’ve been writing less introspectively, like it’s more immediately understandable. I’m starting to have more fun and just let my ideas flow, not holding back and letting stuff become more stream-of-conscious. I’m speaking more directly from my experience.”

Bdwthr is working on a new project that she hopes to release over the summer. She performs at Cactus Club opening for Cupcakke on June 14th.

Cyrus Chrome’s pop style is hyper, eclectic and animated. Some of their biggest influences are SOPHIE, Lady Gaga, Namasenda, Shygirl and A.G. Cook. Originally from the Madison area, Chrome began making music during COVID times. “Music has always been something that I’ve enjoyed in a sense, but quarantine was really the vessel where I took it a step further with singing and songwriting,” they recall. “I never really envisioned myself being a musician but I made it happen for myself. I have autotune to thank for that, plus my best friend Boitoi produces all my tracks and he’s really instilled a lot of confidence in me. It started mostly as a passion project and it’s something that I’ve really been able to explore my identity with.”

They embrace the fact that there’s pop elements in all types of music as well as the performance aspect of it all, saying, “I feel like when I’m alone making music, I can see myself taking it to the next level, pouring my emotions into it on stage and showing people what pop music can make you feel. It’s so broad and there can be elements of other genres in it, and I think it’s fun to showcase that.”

Chrome and Skymall dropped a collaborative EP “Just You Wait!” last October. On how the project came to be, Chrome shared, “I did a show with Skymall at Quarters a year ago and we came together in a way where we weren’t really ready to collaborate…but eventually found a home in each other in a way…and there’s a lot of different shit sampled in “Just You Wait!” so it’s like a buffet of sonic candy (laughs). We both wrote songs separately but I was also able to explore my songwriting differently through Skymall’s eyes. It really broke me out of my shell.”

“Just You Wait!” was followed by a remix EP titled “Take What’s Mine!” in January featuring contributions from artists Violethead, DJ Chad, Boitoi, Liquid City Motors, Greyhound, FLESH MITE, Police Create Hippies, Dataexit, iCandi, NRGetics and Videodroid. “It was cool to let our message carry on through the works of others, and all their work speaks for itself,” Chrome said. “It’s a really eclectic, shiny project that’s literally like a rainbow road from Mario Kart.”

“Outta Control” is Chrome’s latest single, dropped a few weeks back. “That was me journeying back into solo songwriting,” they said about the track. “I feel like my songwriting is really different now; it’s gotten more cohesive and concise. The song is about taking ownership of your own sexuality through finding control within yourself.”

Cyrus Chrome has a few more tunes in the works but also hopes to do more features for others, plus the “Outta Control” music video is on the way as well. They perform at Cactus Club on May 13th.

Pay Dirt formed as a continuation of Gnat Bowden’s solo performance art project Kleaner and consists of Bowden on vocals, Grey Jensen on bass, Billy Dimmit on keys and Brian Traut on drums. On the expansion of their project into a full band, Bowden explains, “Pay Dirt is more of a collaborative project with friends that want to play music together. I was getting bored making music by myself; it was starting to feel like a lot of the same routine. Collaboration is key to making good music and I’m more comfortable with the people that I’m working with. It felt like a natural transition, honestly.”

Bowden’s plans for Pay Dirt will take the project into a different sonic direction while still touching on themes of brutality that Kleaner previously explored. They shared, “I want to do a genre called “Black dream suites” which is basically about my experiences in this world but with the collaborative experiences of others around it to make the feelings more accessible. The future live sets will be more industrial and EBM stuff, but right now we’re just doing Kleaner covers pretty much (laughs).”

Murder Zone has been another side project of Bowden’s as well. “That was me trying to learn how to play guitar,” they said. “I was focused on playing actual notes rather than just plucking.”

Pay Dirt plan to start writing and recording new material right away. They play Cactus Club on June 25th.

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