Karol Orzechowski doesn’t want to be famous. He describes himself as “a lifer” and the Peterborough arts scene as his workplace. This analogy isn’t inaccurate. Orzechowski — better known by his stage name Garbageface — was born in Poland and immigrated to Peterborough as a child. He proudly announces to anyone who will listen that he’s here for the long haul. He doesn’t see Peterborough as another stop along the way to a bigger city. Garbageface, who has been called a “doom rapper” for his apocalyptic and occult lyrics, claims to see the doom and gloom in the world around him — but chooses to impact the world in the most positive ways he can, regardless.
With this volatile political landscape, it’s increasingly easy to fall back onto darkness and despair. So how does Orzechowski suggest we approach the incoming apocalypse?
If you’ve ever been to a show where Garbageface is on the bill, or Karol is working the door, then you’ve probably already heard about his reputation for sticking to set times. At Garbageface shows, the cover is usually higher and when he says music starts at 8:00, he means 8:00. Not 8:30. It’s part of a personal philosophy to take music seriously and to respect the time and labour of the musicians. His signature “assholes stay home” tagline is usually at the bottom of the event page — and he means it.
When asked about his reputation as an organizer, Orzechowski laughed and said, “I guess that comes from wanting to push people to a higher standard. Even when I[‘ve] had a very loose and unstructured life, I still wanted to do a good job and I wanted the people around me to put in the same effort. It’s just so easy to get comfortable doing things a certain way. Especially in music.”
“People have this perception of musicians as wild people and that gives you an excuse to either not try, or at the very least to appear like you’re not trying. We all know bands who have really carefully cultivated this idea that they’re ‘not trying’... it would be disingenuous of me to pretend like I’m not trying.”
In terms of his own shows, Orzechowski says he wants to challenge the way people think of music as ‘just the soundtrack to another activity’: “I see it as something in itself that is worth paying attention to as you consume it… I played a show recently where people were just looking at me like they were looking at a TV screen.”
“They’re looking at you like ‘entertain me’ and they’re also looking at you like you’re not looking back at them. People behave at shows as if they never consider that you’ve got your own experience of the show [as a performer].”
Orzechowski currently works remotely, doing web for a U.S. nonprofit animal protection group, as well as doing occasional freelance photo and video work. He shares his home with his partner and their rescue dog, Raoul. Although he is most commonly known for his contributions to the Peterborough arts community, Orzechowski also has a passion for animal rights and veganism. In fact, he also has a Masters degree in Communications and Culture from York University and has produced multiple documentaries about animal abuse around the world.
“I’m very good at managing my own time, so if you don’t give me too much of a structure but a lot of responsibility, I can handle it. I don’t leave stuff to the last minute for the most part,” he says of his self-managed and unstructured lifestyle. “I structure my life to be able to do this because I knew very early on that I didn’t want to have kids, I didn’t want to have an ABCs of life kind of life, you know? Even though I have more stability now, the structure that I built into my life early on to be able to do things like tour still exists.”
As of 2019, Orzechowski has been producing music as Garbageface for 10 years, a project that he says, “started as a way to have a solo project that [he] didn’t have to ask anyone for permission for.”
“If I wanted to play a show, I could do it. I didn’t have to ask anybody.”
Orzechowski says he knows his music isn’t for everyone. He’d rather have a small group of dedicated and engaged fans, even if it means that music will never be a primary source of income. He calls his brand of rap a “boutique product.”
“I feel very connected to [rap] as a cultural phenomenon, but… I feel like the artist’s job is to develop and maintain a unique perspective and a unique voice. The second I start trying to fit into things that are part of the zeitgeist, then that’s when it’s over for me.”
“The top tier of the most popular thing already exists,” he continues. “You can't win at playing a game of imitation. So, the things that I say in my songs are things that I feel and believe. And the sounds that I make or work with others to accompany my lyrics are trying to fit into the history of rap while also being a new contribution.”
Be honest. Be generous.
When it comes to living in a small community, Orzechowski says he rejects the idea that artists need to step on each other on their way to the top.
“I think that attitude exists the most in people who have no vested interest in this community as a place where they’re going to stay. In my experience, the people who are the least generous and the most mean and have the worst critiques are people who never planned to stay here at all. Peterborough will just be another stepping stone or a story to tell about ‘Ha ha ha, what a shitty small town,’ and it’s a lot harder to actually stay here and try to make the community better,” he said. “It doesn’t take anything away from me to watch other people succeed. Life is just so short and I feel like I don’t have time to live in the negative.”
Orzechowski is in the process of releasing a new album, in collaboration with local artist Patrick Holland (Dastard Hand) titled Plague Mechanic. The album was loosely inspired by various events that occurred from 2014 to 2015, including about 10 months that Orzechowski spent investigating mink and fox farms across Canada.
Orzechowski describes himself as an artist whose medium is music. He says that the type of art he makes can be loosely categorized as rap and that his lyrics are not meant to be a narrative. Instead, he hopes to create music that captures snippets of images and feelings. He says he doesn’t necessarily want to be entertaining. He just wants to be honest.
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