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Man of Mystery

Barry 'Konrad' Konarik on his 1982/2014 album


On a summery Saturday morning, Barry "Konrad" Konarik sat dressed in a black T-shirt, black jeans and black motorcycle boots, the sun coming through the window of a Bench-area diner glinting off his clean-shaven head and casting a shadow across his face, halving it into light and dark. He was there to talk about a defining moment in his life: EVIL, an album he released under the pseudonym/alter-ego Konrad in New York in 1982, and which was restored, remastered and re-released in July 2014 by Ethereal Sequence Records.

As the hours passed, the 57-year-old Konarik talked about being adopted, his belief that he is directly related to Jim Morrison, his belief in aliens, his theory of "geometric acceleration," being a foster parent, meeting John and Sean Lennon once, seeing Paul McCartney at a party, his years working in the music industry, adjusting to life in Boise after moving here several years ago and more. Konarik is a man of a hundred facets and a thousand stories, but there is one that stands out and, in many ways, defines him: Though Konarik released other albums (some under the name Morrison), none seem to engender such self satisfaction as EVIL, which he wrote, sang, performed, produced, arranged and engineered, and whose 13 tracks express Konarik's feelings on capitalism, war, peace, good, evil, love, regret and redemption.

"It's from a place that never was, a time that never will be," Konarik said, describing the difficult-to-describe EVIL. "It is its own thing. ... It's not from a period. It is no period. It is its own music genre. That's what I felt was going to be my advantage. Even if people didn't like it, it wasn't going to be put in any pigeonhole."

Konarik isn't wrong. EVIL is filled with incongruities, an album comprised of spacey jazz, pop, rock and instrumental tracks that seem to have little more than their creator and recurring Casio-keyboard-sounding synthesizer lines in common. Even the album sleeve is a study in contradictions.

On the front is a picture of Konarik with a dark beard and mustache, wearing a hooded robe, and staring directly into and pointing at the camera. He looks like he came right out of central casting for a B-movie about Satan worshippers. In contrast, Konrad's name and album title are emblazoned in big letters in a festive hot pink--the same bright color covers the back.

All that divergence somehow works, and though it wasn't a commercial success, a few thousand copies of EVIL managed to sell over the years, and it became a kind of cult classic.

"Something happens to people with this album," Konarik said. "There's a turnaround. People will say, 'It sucks, it sucks, it sucks... wait, this is really good.' There's always a turnaround."

Then there are those like Douglas Mcgowan who loved EVIL from start.

Mcgowan owns Yoga Records, a small label that specializes in reissuing rare and obscure records. In 2007, McGowan, who lives in Oregon, posted something on his blog Waxidermy about Konrad and EVIL, which garnered quite a few comments from people who also felt strongly about the album--fans have paid as much as $300 for a copy. Though "not much of an online guy," Konarik happened across the post and seeing the comments, left one of his own, posting his phone number and telling his "konverts"--his word for his fans--to feel free to give him a call. Mcgowan did and in the years that followed, the two forged a relationship.

"Barry is insanely creative and has an incredible imagination," Mcgowan said. "And he has retained a sense of childlike innocence ... which is almost always extinguished in people by their teenage years. He has a very open approach to creativity and to the world."

Mcgowan wanted to share EVIL--and Konarik--with a larger audience, so he asked his friend, cinematographer Niels Alpert, to visit Boise and film a short documentary about the mysterious musician. Alpert was soon as captivated by Konarik as Mcgowan was.

"He's truly unique ... and he's a dreamer," Alpert said. "His music and his childlike innocence make you open up and feel."

The seven-minute short Alpert and Mcgowan filmed reveals some of the motivations behind Konarik's 32-year-old magnum opus. It affords a rare glimpse of a man who is a little "out there." It's a bittersweet view of what could have been. Above all, though, it accentuates Konarik's charisma and engenders a curious desire to know more--about the music and the man.

As the interview wrapped up, a man who had been sitting at a nearby table walked over to Konarik.

"Excuse me, sir," the man said, holding his rough hand out for Konarik to shake.

"I was wondering where I could find your music. I hope you don't mind, but me and my wife and her mother were listening to you while we ate our breakfast," he said, pointing at two smiling women. "The way you talk about your life, the way you talk about your music. I'd sure like to know more."