Brian Christinzio is still re-adjusting to life in Manchester after a year away against his will.
“I think I imagined this so many times that I’ve spoiled the experience for myself,” he told MM while sat in Ziferblat in the Northern Quarter.
“There’s like fifty shitty new coffee shops, this one’s good, but how did all this happen since I was gone?
“I haven’t been away that long!”
Things were on the up for New Jersey-born singer-songwriter Christinzio, better known as BC Camplight.
— NOW WAVE (@nowwave) April 18, 2016
After a promising early career in the USA gave way to depression, alcohol abuse and squatting in an abandoned church, he moved to Manchester in 2012 and accidentally saved himself.
Christinzio met a new band at the Castle Hotel, gained a cult local following and last January released his long-awaited third album, How To Die In The North, a sumptuous psych pop offering which was critically acclaimed and hit the Top 40 of the UK Independent Albums Chart.
But the revival didn’t last for long.
A few weeks later Christinzio was deported and banned from the UK for a year due to overstaying his visa.
He spent 2015 in exile from his adopted city, band and fiancée, knowing he needed to return if he ‘was going to hold onto any shred of sanity’.
However, last month Christinzio won a court appeal against the Home Office enabling him to return to the UK.
He is now back in the North West and looking to make amends with an initial run of nine shows, the first of these in Manchester this Friday, a homecoming celebration at Band On The Wall with 10% of ticket sales donated to mental health charity Manchester MIND.
“The whole experience was so strange and I feel like a privileged white prick, complaining about how I was treated because I witnessed people getting treated a lot worse during this process,” said Christinzio.
“There were so many little shady things that you don’t ever hear about where you witness it and you go ‘wow, how are they getting away with that?’”
Christinzio said that he overstayed in the UK under medical advice, with doctors advising him not to fly after he suffered a severe leg injury.
Because of his delay in leaving, the Home Office decided to refuse his visa renewal request and offered to book his flight home for him.
— Harvest Sun (@Harvest_Sun) 31 March 2016
The proposition felt uncomfortable for Christinzio so he booked his own flight and returned to the USA last February.
When he got back to Philadelphia he found out that he was banned from re-entering the UK for a year.
Had his flight home been at the Home Office’s expense it would have been ten years.
Christinzio denounced the Home Office’s not mentioning this at the time as ‘underhanded’ and admits that he had a lucky escape considering his unusual circumstances as an American musician.
“I can imagine people who had even less money than me that got a result that they were unhappy with and they’re locked away from their kids for ten years because of some shady shit,” he said.
“I had lawyers and stuff – it wasn’t like I was doing it on my own.
“There’s blame to go around and the lion’s share is with me, but it’s still really tough.”
Christinzio found out that he had to leave the UK on the day of his last Manchester gig, a barnstormer at Gorilla last January, days after How to Die In The North was released.
He was forced to cancel all UK shows in support of the album, including a scheduled performance on Later… with Jools Holland.
“As soon as there was this air of ickiness around me everybody dropped out,” he said.
“It was just such a kick in the groin because the record was so good, I thought.
“If it was one of those things where I put out a record every year [it would be fine], but I had put so much into it.
“Nobody’s going to play this record on the radio now, so as far as it being a monetary success for me, I’ve waved bye-bye to that a long time ago, but as far of the achievement as a piece of work, I still think it’s pretty darn good.
“It’s pretty much how I wanted it, and I’m glad it seems to be the kind of record that people are picking up on slowly.”
Despite his inability to tour How to Die In The North in the UK Christinzio was still able to do so in the US and Europe, alternating between Philadelphia and Paris as home bases.
Christinzio explained that initially he ‘vehemently disliked’ living in Paris, a period he candidly refers to as ‘a lot of time in Pigalle getting weird’.
“I was feeling really self-loathing and all I wanted to do was drink myself to death,” he said.
“I hated everything about the world and just felt like everybody I met didn’t have those feelings.
— Jeff Tew (@SquirrelTew) April 17, 2016
“Even the really miserable French dudes I was trying to commiserate seemed to really, really like themselves, whereas I give maximum effort to hating myself!
“We didn’t gel initially but then, like most cases and things with my life, I realized that I was being a douchebag and started treating people like human beings and all was well.”
Christinzio had a more wholesome winter visiting his family in the woods of New Jersey, spending time splitting wood, hauling stuff across the snow and playing with the family dog.
Most importantly, with his parents out at work, he found time to sit down at the piano earlier in the day rather than his usual writing process when living alone, which he describes as procrastinating, going out and returning at 4.30 in the morning smashed out of his mind.
“I need to be doing a lot less of the hard living, I think,” he admitted.
“Obviously it’s great to see everybody but I came in through immigration this time thinking ‘straight and narrow, do everything right, put your nose down, get to work’ and that night I’m lying in the back of some pub like ‘oh, it’s starting again!’”
Christinzio was happy with the songs that survived his rigorous cutting process and happily reports that he has managed to complete a new record which the band have started rehearsing.
“Now the goal is to record it legally, release it legally and tour it legally and hopefully win some sort of Grammy or something.” he joked.
Having returned to the UK five hours after he was legally allowed and reunited with his band and fiancée, Christinzio is now feeling much more relaxed despite everything still seeming ‘eerily calm’.
— DoorHandlesUKNewquay (@Door_Handles_UK) April 15, 2016
Christinzio’s determination to succeed is clear, firstly in overcoming his reputation as ‘BC Cancelled’ by actually turning up to the Band on the Wall show on April 22, and more long-term by leaving a genuine mark on Manchester’s music scene.
However, he remains playfully skeptical of his chances.
“I’m going to try to start enjoying being a musician more and being in a scene, as much as I hate all of that stuff,” he said.
“Whatever I’ve been doing for the last 36 years I need to start doing the opposite of that.
“I owe this city a lot, so anything I can do to give back to it and be more a part of it I’m certainly going to try to do.
“Until probably tomorrow when I change my mind.”
Image courtesy of Reversion Music, via YouTube, with thanks