NEW YORK, MAY 21, 2006

New Jersey
Section 14, Page 8



In Their Rooms,
Shrinking Violets Sing

For Bedroom Pop, All You Need
Is a Guitar, a Dream and Recording Gear


F.M. Cornog, above,
known as East River
Pipe, entertains his
daughter, Bridget, in
his recording studio
set up in a spare bed-
room. R. Stevie
Moore, in his Bloom-
field home, has been
recording in one-bed-
room apartments for
37 years.


Step outdoors one spring night soon –
after midnight would be best – and
you just may hear them. Just above
the rustle of leaves and the hushed
splashing of lawn sprinklers, you may hear
guitars strum and voices murmur as sophis-
ticated recording equipment hums. They
are 21st-century Dickinsons and Whitmans
with names like Boxcar Nancy and East
River Pipe making music that will go
straight to the Web or eventually appear on
self-produced CD's.

      All they need is one small, quiet room and
their dreams to lose themselves in the ob-
sessive world of what has become known as
bedroom pop, bloglike music that tries to
make the world a better place through a
perfect homemade song.

      New Jersey, in its bottomless suburban
desperation, may be to bedroom pop what
Seattle was to grunge. And these days, a guy
who goes by the name of East River Pipe
may be the movement's self-effacing Kurt

      Not many linoleum salesmen cut quite as
romantic a figure as F. M. Cornog. By day,
he ties on an orange apron at the Home De-
pot where he works, but by night he be-
comes East River Pipe, the ultimate mu-
sical do-it-yourselfer.

      His latest self-released CD, "What Are
You On," which came out earlier this year
(and is distributed by Merge Records),
gained him unexpected attention from mag-
azines like New York and Rolling Stone.
Quite a change for someone who has spent
his life second-guessing his musical ability,
and who has battled a drug addiction that,
for a while, left him living in the Hoboken
train station.

   "There's something to be said for humbly
and quietly living your life," said Mr. Corn-
og, who is 45, "going to work, doing your
job, taking care of your family."

   "People at Home Depot always ask me:
'What are you doing here, giving ceramic
tile demonstrations? You could be meeting
famous people.' That's effectively what
drives a lot of people, but it's not what
drives me. I'd rather hang out with a plumb-
er than a musician. It bugs me that mu-
sicians are looked upon as royalty."

    Mr. Cornog's seven CD's, each recorded
in a 9-by-12-foot room in his house here, near
Overlook Hospital, are made exclusively to
his sepia-tinted standards. Producers and
engineers are as foreign to him as Il Divo
groupies. And if his listeners' impressions
count for something, they will never get to
tell him directly. Mr. Cornog, who declined
to say which Home Depot he works in, limits
his live audiences to three: his wife, Barba-
ra Powers, their 3-year-old daughter, Bridg-
et, and the family's Dalmatian.

    He readily admits that the self-paved
road totally runs counter to the lines drawn
on traditional maps to musical success. But
for many other New Jersey artists, some of
whom have never even heard of East River
Pipe, it has become the only way to travel.

    All it takes is a minimal understanding of
inexpensive recording equiment, time to
kill and kill again, a heavy heart to spill and
one small room. And a quiet cadre of home-
state pioneers helps, too, like Boxcar Nancy
of Carlstadt, Mattias Gustaffson of Jersey
City and 13 Hands of Montclair.

    Then there is R. Stevie Moore, a Bloom-
field musician who is arguably more reclu-
sive and shrink-wrapped in his own thoughts
than Mr. Cornog is.

    Mr. Moore, 54, has been recording in one-
bedroom apartments, first in Montclair and
now Bloomfield, for 37 years, long enough to
churn out a Guinness Record-worthy 500 al-
bums, and to have established a small in-
ternational base of fans. Though he is first to
admit that his CD sales are spotty, and that
he has "shot himself in the foot for years
with this approach to making music," he ac-
cepts the crown of godfather of the move-
ment with the same uneasy appreciation
that Neil Young brought to acknowledging
his title as the godfather of grunge.

    "It's hilarious to me," Mr. Moore said in a
recent telephone interview. "I guess be-
cause of my age, because of my bitter strug-
gle to make a living and get some notoriety,
I scoff at it. I'm supposed to say I'm the
proud grandfather, the pioneer of the one-
man band concept, and I should be very ex-
cited for this new generation sprouting up
because it's do-it-yourself. It's fine – but it's
all just hardware compared to talent.

    "A lot of these bedroom pop people aren't
breaking any new ground stylistically. What
it comes down to is to demonstration and pre-
sentation and what you can do without an
A & R guy breathing down your neck. A lot
of the music coming out of these bedrooms
is not even interesting, not worthy of being
heard. But some of it will be."

    Perry Watts-Russell, a senior vice presi-
dent for artists and repertory at Warner
Brothers Records, said that he saw the
trend toward sensitive artists retreating
from professional studios to bedrooms "or
kitchens, or living rooms or bathrooms –
whatever." coming more than 20
years ago. In essence, it started his

    "In the early 80's, I was working
with the group Berlin," he said.
"They didn't have a record deal, and
they were making a four-track re-
cording at a friend's place. That was
their debut EP, and it sold a million
copies. It cost $3,000 to make. Once
the act was signed to Geffen, they
gave us the opportunity to rerecord,
to make something more polished.
But our response was we don't want
to–what we had captured the spirit.
What was released ended up being
that same music made at the friend's
house, that four-track recording."

     Mr. Watts-Russell, who is respon-
sible for starting the careers of Ra-
diohead, Everclear and the Dandy
Warhols, among others, added: "My
own attitude is the more polished the
presentation, the visuals, the packag-
ing, the worse the music inside. The
technology developed over the last 10
years can actually make some pretty
respectable recordings, and more
and more people have access to the
technology with their computers.
Are we seeing more of it at Warner
Brothers? Over the last two years I'd
say it's been increasing. Damien
Rice was signed here" on the merits
of a home recording, he said.

    "The message I would want people
to know," he said, "is that you don't
have to have thousands and thou-
sands of dollars to make an emotion-
al impact. A lack of cash is often the
impetus for creativity."

    That translates to Mr. Cornof's re-
luctance to quit drawing a Home De-
pot paycheck, and to Mr. Moore's
staggering production despite con-
tinued cries of poverty. It also makes
a lot of sense to Deb Ferrara, a Long
Valley-based songwriter and pro-
ducer. As the host of the monthly
"Songwriters in the Round" sho-
case at Maxwell's in Hoboken, she
regularly sifts through home-re-
corded submissions that cut a wide
demographic swath.

    "You can get a decent home setup
for about $500 now, and in some ways
that's made it harder," she said.
"Rarely do I get something that
doesn't sound professional, and not
only that, because people know how
to do everything soup-to-nuts in their
own houses, by the time I get a CD,
it's packaged, it's bar-coded, it's
ready to go.

      Ms. Ferrara estimates that 75 per-
cent of the scores of submissions she
receives monthly are made com-
pletely in suburban homes, by agora-
phobia-gripped New Jersey musi-
cians who "either have a knack for
figuring out home equipment or who
go someplace like Sam Ash or Guitar
Center in Totowa and ask for help."
Besides serving as demos, the re-
cordings often go straight to Web
sites like cdbaby.net and awarestore
.com, where a hopeful bedroom art-
ist awaits curious buyers and word-
of-mouth – like a teenage Elvis wait-
ing in his dreary Memphis bedroom
to be discovered.

      "What you can do is ship them 20
CD's and a bio, and they'll put them
in the appropriate genre and in some
cases do a little review," she said.
"Then when somebody buys a CD,
they send it out and send you a few

      Ms. Ferrara, who has written
songs for MTV and Hollywood films
and does her own "full-blown produc-
tions from home," said the quality of
submissions she receives often
leaves her questioning why any sin-
gle, unsigned musician would go the
studio route. "It's slow and it's ex-
pensive," she said.

    You won't get any argument from
East River Pipe, who took that name
because, while living in Astoria,
Queens, more than a decade ago: "I
was looking at the East River spew-
ing out raw sewage, and it became a
metaphor: I was the pipe, the sew-
age is my songs and the river is the
world. I was further sending unneed-
ed pollution into the polluted world.

    Except now, Mr. Cornog has this
unexpected attention to deal with.

    "Even when major labels came
knocking, I tried to remove myself
consciously from the scene," he said.
"It's not like I don't want to connect
with people – if I didn't care at all
I'd be like Howard Hughes. I just
want to maintain my artistic hon-
esty. I'm just a quiet guy who likes to
do his thing here.

    "I'd much rather have that flow,
the flow I can get here, than have
something that's digitally adjusted
and tampered with electronically.
The prettiest girls aren't the ones
where everything's aligned and per-
fect. On the prettiest girls, things are
slightly askew. It's the same way
with songs."



please buy something at