If the details seem scarce, it's because that's how TOBACCO likes to keep them. Hailing from an unspecified burg in rural Pennsylvania, somewhere north of Pittsburgh, he has successfully made a name for himself even as he's avoided acknowledging that name's legal counterpart. As both the frontman of Black Moth Super Rainbow and the sole creative engine behind TOBACCO, he's earned the eager ears and prying eyes of doggedly loyal fans and smitten critics alike - a kindness he's repaid by granting few interviews, obscuring his face in photos, and seeming wholly uninterested in the subject of his own identity. Such things just get in the way of the music after all, so if it's easier, you might think of TOBACCO as music - a one-man genre made of equal parts analog crunch, earthy psychedelia, fuzzed-up hip-hop, and outside pop. All the same, here's what's known.
TOBACCO has a sister. He grew up in a decent neighborhood. He was nearly strong-armed into elementary school band after an aptitude test suggested he play an instrument. He hated the idea, so he didn't do it. He didn't like music at all, in fact, until he discovered MTV - and hence, the Beasties' "So What'cha Want" video - one long summer bridging the middle of middle school. The first concert he attended was Butthole Surfers, and it's still his favorite. His favorite artist of all time is Beck's Mellow Gold. Sticking to his childhood guns, he typically doesn't like music released earlier than the late '80s.
As for high school, TOBACCO could have done without the classes. An extracurricular interest in freestyle BMX - flatland - was soon replaced by a growing zeal for music, even though his first band, called Wood, didn't employ any instruments to its cause. (Its two main ingredients were flyers and hype.) Acquiring a guitar and a four-track opened up new doors, to the purplish noise and busted ghetto-blaster tracks that now populate The Allegheny White Fish Tapes, which TOBACCO self-released in 2009.
This was before the gritty analog synths, the murky vocoder-ing, and the hypnotic aural crush that came with founding Black Moth Super Rainbow. TOBACCO rounded up the group's members before graduation, and until last year's Dave Fridmann-produced collaborative affair, Eating Us, roughly treated BMSR as a solo project, penning three albums' and several EPs' worth of sludgy pagan pop for his cohorts to realize live. He designed BMSR's album art as well, which occasionally involved scratch-n-sniff elements or hair.
But TOBACCO would come to crave a more pure musical identity, one steeped in guttural sounds that hit harder and flashed brighter. This fixation reared its ugly head as 2008's beat-oriented Fucked Up Friends, TOBACCO's official debut. Two years later, with BMSR effectively on hiatus, the man is back and beastlier than ever with Maniac Meat, a artist designed to bully his previous works into a corner, gut them, and leave 'em for dead. This is a good time to mention that TOBACCO believes he is making pop music.