In February 2023, Ian Brennan traveled to Mississippi to record with the prisoners of the notorious Parchman Prison. The institution has a rich musical history with Son House, Bukka White, Mose Allison and Elvis Presley’s father, Vernon Presley, having been former residents, and Brennan has helped to add to that tapestry with the release of Parchman Prison Prayer — Some Mississippi Sunday Morning (Glitterbeat Records) on September 15, 2023. The bureaucratic process for his visit took over three years. Granted approval a little more than a week before, Brennan caught a red eye flight to be there on a Sunday morning for the few hours he was allowed to record.
Tune in this Thursday, November 9th at 7:00 PM to catch Surface Tension‘s interview with Ian Brennan and hear about this project, glean some background on how Fugazi wound up playing the 20th Anniversary of Food Not Bombs concert in Dolores Park in 2000, and discover other fascinating aspects of Brennan’s far-reaching adventures.
Born in Oakland, raised in the far East Bay, and now residing in Italy, Ian Brennan is an author, violence de-escalation teacher, and GRAMMY-winning music producer (Best World Music 2011) with three other GRAMMY-nominated records (Best World Music, 2015; Best Traditional Folk, 2006 and 2007).
In the studio, he has worked with the likes of Kyp Malone & Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio), Flea, Tinariwen, Lucinda Williams, David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Nels Cline (Wilco), DJ Bonebrake & John Doe (X, the Knitters), Jovanotti, Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), Bill Frisell, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Jonathan Richman, Richard Thompson, and more. He has produced live-shows of up to 15,000 people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington (DC), Portland (OR), Tucson, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, and Boston with artists as diverse as Green Day, Fugazi, Merle Haggard, film-maker John Waters, Kris Kristofferson, Tammy Faye, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Vic Chesnutt, Peaches, and the Vienna Boys Choir.
His benefit concerts have raised over $100,000 for local charities and political causes. Additionally, he was instrumental in pioneering the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur as a music-venue by bringing the first national touring acts there in 2001 (Loudon Wainwright III, Jello Biafra, et al); created the “Live Nude Bands” benefit game-show; hosted a weekly free performance in a San Francisco laundromat for five straight years that resulted in three “Unscrubbed” CD compilations; wrote a local-music column for ZERO magazine from 1998-2001; directed the weekly cable-access show “Squawk” documenting the Bay Area arts community; created the first “Boxing Bush” online video-game; spearheaded the “Million Band March” (protesting misuse of artist’s living-spaces by developers); and booked the music for “Food Not Bombs” 20th anniversary free-show in Dolores Park.
Brennan is author of the books Anger Antidotes: How Not to Lose Your S#&! (2011), Hate-less: How to make friends with a f&#!ed up world(2014), Sister Maple Syrup Eyes (2015), How Music Dies (2016), Silenced by Sound (2019), and Muse-Sick: A Music Manifesto in Fifty-nine Notes (2021). He and his wife, Marilena Umuhoza Delli, co-authored the Italian language work, Negretta: Baci Razzisti, based on Delli’s life growing up in Italy’s most conservative region with an immigrant mother from Rwanda, and published another book together, Pizza Mussolini, in 2023. Brennan’s new book, Missing Music: stories from where the dirt roads end, will be published in March 2024 with PM Press