Over the course four years, or so, Brian Campos established his voice within the Des Moines music community; not strictly through his own music, but largely through his work as a podcast host. Then, with well over one hundred episodes of his Pants OFF! Podcast behind him, he pivoted slightly to work with Bo Becker on a series called upstairs IOWA, transplanting his skills into the realm of video. Along the way, he was honored by the Des Moines Music Coalition, in large part for providing a platform for local artists to “share their stories of both success and struggle”… and then he moved on. Now, despite having long-since quietly put that work to bed, Brian was willing to discuss his experience, and speak to what he’s taking away from the entire journey, a few years removed from it all.
villin: One of the reasons I wanted to reach out aligns with broader questions of creative intention and purpose that have been on my mind, with projects like what you did with the Pants OFF! Podcast or what I’m working on here. You started as a way to reconnect with a scene that was important to you, but over the course of 120-some episodes, there’s no doubt that the ideas of intention and purpose changed. What led you to stop releasing new episodes and do you still have a desire to remain connected to the scene, or music community, as you did when you first began the series?
Brian Campos: First off, thanks for asking me to do this, although I was admittedly hesitant to do so. I have turned down things like this in the past because I feel as though I’m not contributing to “the scene” like others who are active and engaged to elevate it. Wouldn’t want to steal that time or spotlight. Also, I’m quite boring these days. Yet, here I am in true hippocratic fashion! villin is doing some cool stuff, so good on you.
I did 124 episodes, with some various live things sprinkled in there. I think from the beginning I had ambitions to not only cover/interview local musicians, but national touring artists as well. I was kinda surprised how seamless that all happened. I stopped because I had a job change in late-2017 and my new job didn’t give me much time, as I was working almost 80 hours a week (I bartend on Saturdays). Prior to all of that happening I was starting to burn out, to be honest. I was going hard from 2014 up to completely stopping in late-2018. I did all the editing, recording, PR, flyer-ing, social media, you name it. I did of course, have help along the way.
Phil Young helped me out a ton as far as figuring out my recording setups. Shout out to Phil! But, yeah, burnout and couldn’t figure out how to pivot the format or trajectory of the show as I felt it was getting stale. I generally became disinterested and it started feeling more like a job. I did give an honest effort in 2018 to try and keep going but sitting in my room editing for hours on end is not something I have any interest in doing again. All that, as well as existential crises about my own perceptions about the show I’ll get into in a bit (lol). As far as remaining connected, I’m a lurker. Always have been. I was involved in the early 2000’s. Stopped. Drank myself stupid. Got sober. Came back. Left. Back to lurking. As far as still wanting to be connected, I have a career and family now so that is my priority.
villin: At some point you pivoted to working with Bo Becker on upstairs IOWA. Did that project provide something for you, creatively, that the podcast didn’t, and are there any fond memories from putting it together that stand out to you now?
Brian Campos: Love me some Bo Becker. Great dude. Very creative and talented. upstairs IOWA was mostly all him and his production company Transpiritus. I was just happy to be there. I had so much fun doing it because it felt like leveling up in some ways to what I had been doing. But it also was very different, as I had to narrow down my questions to the very best, and not much room to get deep into the weeds of conversation which fosters the good responses.Gotta get to the point quick. Also, things are way different on camera rather than just two people and two mics in a room alone. So that was challenging and fun.
I had initially just hired Bo to shoot a live show we did at the Mews and we realized we had similar drives as to what we wanted to accomplish. He gave me lots of wiggle room but I was very open to his direction. We worked very well together. My job change hampered that and he went on to be a famous rockstar or something. Just kidding. He has his projects in Glass Ox and Modern Life is War, so we both kinda went in two directions and it just sorta ended. No fanfare. Just like the podcast.
When people make a big deal of ending a project, that shit is bunk. My good buddy Jay Lenihan (ex-Hunger Pains) always used to remind me when I was younger, “the most important point is; nobody cares.” He was being flippant, but it was also profound. Does anything we do truly matter? This is the shit that runs through my head, but also reminds me not to take things or myself too seriously. I should add, if Bo were to have kept going or restart it with someone new, I would totally support that.
villin: You’re no stranger to making music, yourself, and in discussion about your own musical beginnings the horrorcore genre came up, along with mention of opening for the likes of Tech N9ne along the way. I’m wondering how you view those experiences at this stage in life?
Brian Campos: While it is definitely not something I flaunt today, I’m not embarrassed about it, either. It’s how I cut my teeth in the scene. We were just kids who saw bands like ICP and Twiztid and thought we could do it better, and in Des Moines, sans makeup. We (Unidentified Suspects) were playing with metal and punk bands at Hairy Mary’s, while not even legally able to drink yet. We stood out, had some opportunities, but infighting and a lack of fresh ideas led to its end. But, those experiences very much shaped me and it was a lot of fun when it was fun.
Never did a proper tour, which was a goal I wanted to achieve with it. One of us bought a van for $1000 to tour in, but it blew up on the way to Chicago for a show and that was the end of our tour dreams. I performed for the last time in early 2018. Microwave Death (Mike Cooper), my very bestest buddy, 2nd grade classmate, and ex-Suspects bandmate, opened for horrorcore godfather Esham at Lefty’s. We dusted off some old songs which was very fun but not planning to ever do it again. Getting too old, I guess.
villin: It might have been the 100th episode, where Elliot Imes interviewed you, but I believe there was mention of how your father was an avid music fan and guitar player, but abruptly gave it up at one point. Now a father yourself, I’m wondering how you’ve managed to juggle family and creativity, and if the experience of parenthood has helped recontextualize his own relationship with music?
Brian Campos: Oh shit, here we go. I saw my dad do that and was like, “Not me, maaan. Never giving up on it.” Yet, here I am in the same boat. But, now I see sort of what his point of view might have been: Family first. He once traded a gorgeous red hollow body for our first Nintendo. He passed away in 2011, so unfortunately I won’t be able to get a full perspective on it. But my Dad found new passions later in life like coaching youth football.
In 2019, I quit working 80 hours a week and decided to go back and finish school. I went into radiology. There is a sense of creativity when creating x-ray images, but at the end of the day it is still a job. Plus, I am in interventional radiology (IR) so the focus isn’t so much of shooting images for diagnostic purposes as I am more a surgical assistant in procedures that require working around x-rays. All very rad (pun intended). As of right now, I don’t have much outlet for creativity and haven’t had time with school and still working part time the past four years.
My son came (seemingly out of the blue) in February of 2023, so his abrupt arrival (he spent three months in NICU), along with taking my license boards, starting a new career, and for good measure buying a house — time for being creative just hasn’t been a priority. I do have a space I can call my own for activities in my new place ,so who knows? I still have education goals I want to achieve, so we’ll see. I still listen to music every day. I try to find new stuff, but it gets harder for me. Possibly another reason I stopped podcasting because I look at who rolls through town nowadays and I couldn’t name a majority of them. I’m aging out I think, so I have been going back, revisiting older stuff I may have been ignorant to when I was younger like Misfits or Bad Religion — who I just saw with Elliot, coincidentally, in November in Omaha. So good. I’ve also been on a Brutal Death Metal kick lately. Bands like Devourment and Dying Fetus have piqued my interest. The more extreme and chaotic, the better. That is, in my humble opinion, of course.
villin: As I continued listening, I found a few parallels between us that I appreciate: Besides being close to the same age, 311 was something of a musical gateway drug for us both when we were kids; I also gave up drinking in my adult years; and we’re both fans of professional wrestling. I’m originally from Calgary, so for much of my life, my fandom has gravitated toward the likes of Bret and Owen Hart, but one thing you also mentioned in that 100th episode was how Colt Cabana and his podcast influenced you to start your own. This is a long-winded path to an actual question, but it was also interesting hearing the shift between the introduction segments on the podcasts, which amplified your personality in a performative manner (sounding as though they could have been influenced by something like pro-wrestling), and your interviews, where you were far more casual and jovial. I’m wondering if there was ever any difficulty in reconciling the podcasting persona with who you were privately?
Brian Campos: 311 has always been my jam, besides that one stinker record. Saw them last fall at Hoyt Sherman after some time, having skipped their last several Iowa shows. They still fuckin’ rip. Pro-wrestling, much like my horrorcore roots, is not something I bring up around the water-cooler, but I will gladly extrapolate the effectiveness of subtle variations of the DDT and argue a Russian leg sweep being a modified front faced DDT, but nobody wants to hear that (lol). Bret Hart was, is, always will be my favorite (and the best there is). Met him in Vegas in 2019. I showed him my Bret tattoo and he was characteristically unimpressed. Too funny.
I think who I was on the show is who I am in private although maybe more irreverent and pessimistic (lol). As far as finding “my voice” in the show, the intro segments were meant to stir some kind of excitement. I still think it’s lame if the host isn’t at least excited about his guest. But I don’t know? Maybe I was jazzing it up too hard. As the show went on, I was constantly calling into question my own motives and intentions. Maybe I need to be more natural and less showy with intros. What was I trying to accomplish? What was I trying to accomplish basically holding up others’ accomplishments? Was this all about me?
I occasionally had guests on to further networking and/or present good optics. Near the end I stopped doing that. I never did T-shirts or merch because monetizing it felt dirty. Instead, I donated all the mixtape money I made to the food bank and matched it. Not so much that I am such a great person, but that I didn’t want to compromise my own values.The way I approached the podcast was how I approached a band, trying to be as organic as possible. I took business classes in hopes to gain better marketing strategies and sat in on workshops on how to improve audience reach and understanding analytics. This all makes total sense for someone trying to grow a “brand.” The juxtaposition inside me was that it felt so in conflict with being organic or pure.
To me, employing business and marketing tactics to art tarnishes it. The idea of brand building, networking, optics, market reach, etc. made my stomach start to turn. The more of the conversations I had with non-band people about marketing concepts and what I “should be doing to increase the podcast name” really started turning me off to everything about what I had done. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 creator Joel Hodgson once told network executives grilling him about who MST3K was supposed to appeal to, “The right people will find it.” You can’t force art or entertainment although, I attempted to at one point. Not proud of that. Either it takes off, or not. Given everything going on in my head as well as my turbulent work life at that time, I needed to stop and regroup. If I never went back to doing it, I was happy with what I had done up to that point.
villin: In the years you were most active in that world, you supported a showcase at Maximum Ames featuring Traffic Death, Druids, Courtney Krause and Tha Füt, and were honored as “fan of the year” by the DMMC. Of all the opportunities and situations that arose out of the podcast, which surprised or excited you the most?
Brian Campos: Anytime the podcast was recognized or written about it was cool. I remember a journalist friend of mine trying to get write up for me at the Register but was told by the editor it wasn’t “sexy enough.” So instead they ran a story about some east village store that had a couple pairs of shoes and a small rack of clothes literally called Sex and it closed six months after it opened. Hilarious. Fuck them.
Anytime I scored an interview with a national touring artist based on my own credentials was awesome. When I would do the interview and it came off good in a green room or bus, I was almost high when I was done. The most listened to episode was the Bob Nastanovich episode which Bob had hinted at a Pavement reunion on Stephen Colbert. That got picked up by Stereogum, Billboard, and then Rolling Stone! All with links and references to the podcast. Those two days were wild. But I am also unfortunately self aware to a fault that I realized within the moment that this was probably the most spotlight the podcast would ever get so it was also a tad depressing. Also, I got several nods on Theprp.com and Lambgoat. Theprp is a hardcore, punk, and metal news site that I’ve gotten my news from since I was coming up. I think wook has had it going for 20 plus years now? Which is crazy to think about. I only ever wanted to be Theprp.com of podcasts so to have been mentioned on there a handful of times was a thrill and an honor. I am still grateful for all the relationships I made during those four short years. I still talk to many of them today. I still talk to Josh Newton from Shiner, so to me that is a win.
villin: In 2017 you released a compilation album of musicians featured on Pants OFF!, staggering podcast clips with full-length tracks from the artists themselves. In a review of the release for Little Village, Nate Logsdon wrote, “Campos also leads artists to revealing reflections on the creative process, which is one of the podcast’s greatest strengths.” What are some of those creative reflections that still stand out to you from the series, and what was your favorite part of the creative process around putting the podcast together?
Brian Campos: Just overall, I’m proud I was able to produce 124-ish episodes, and for its time it added a different dimension to the music scene. If it motivated people to create more, whether music or even their own podcast, that’s great! And hopefully they were motivated to do it better than me. Even better! Push things forward. No one ever shit talked to me to my face which was disappointing. I came up in a scene that was very competitive, back biting, and volatile but that also motivated you to level up your game. Always be ready to defend yourself. It’s not like that anymore.
I know it didn’t fit in perfectly because I didn’t cater to just one facet of the scene and tried hard to reach many corners of it. My values and principles as well as penchant for a good dick and fart joke turned quite a few off but I that was/is me. I’m sure I would’ve been cancelled by now because I am not very PC. That’s what happens when you talk too much and will bury yourself just to ride out in a blaze of glory. Instead, I chose to fade away quietly. Probably for the best. I embarrassed my family enough during my drinking heyday. Thank Buddha, cellphone videos weren’t as abundant back then. When I did the actual interview and after the audio wasn’t fucked, that was my favorite part. It was also satisfying listening to a final edit in my car, checking levels, and saying “OK, let’s publish,” and roll on to the next, which unfortunately meant starting to edit the next episode ASAP.The editing can take a hot piss in the wind. But, I’m in a good place now. Things are good. Keep moving forward to what’s next.