The first time I met Kaiser Solzie he was playing acoustic guitar in Manhattan Square Park singing about Bill Murry. I’ve seen him more and you have too, you didn’t even know.
You’ve seen him around Rochester. It could have been playing, it could have been walking; guitar and backpack in hand. He’s asked you for a dollar, he’s disappeared and returned.
The 30-year-old punkard has had a life that is hard to believe. Honestly, hard to believe. He was here for the start The Punk Rock Matinées at The Club At Waterstreet only to travel the county via Greyhound, develop lasting relationships with bands such as Less Than Jake and MXPX, trail Bill Murray between three States and be homeless while doing so. He’s had a hell of a decade.
My most recent encounter with Solzie was for an interview that came like the best, being woken up to a knock on the window to talk music. Before that it wasn’t as nice. I had to watch him get kicked out of a show I half booked. Accused of smoking Crack inside the Bug Jar, he never got to play.
His time in Rochester has been hard, to say the least. Born to a crippled mother who died when he was fourteen, Solzie spent his latter teen years jumping between group homes. He explained his jump to pop punk.
“Group home after group home, after foster home after foster home, when I turned 18 and the system said ‘snip snip,’ who did I run to? I ran to Pennywsie and to Warp Tour.”
He got enough money for a ticket to DC by an advocate and started a movie about homelessness and music. No camera, no plan, just not homeless in Rochester anymore.
Intriguing story. It was intriguing enough for Tim Armstrong (Rancid) to give him $2,500 to get going and a two month bus journey with The Greyhound Ameripass, RIP.
Solzie had gotten his ticket, literally. He made some new friends. Friends in bands such as h2O, New Found Glory, Get Dead, MXPX, NOFX, Anti-flag, Less Than Jake and more.
Following Bill Murry is a whole other thing. Kaiser Solzie got his name of being a ‘ghost punk’ after recording in a make-shift studio in Florida and watching The Usual Subjects after. Bill Murry, however, decided to crash parties under the same name. It also happened to be in Solzie’s relm: Austin. Solzie chased signs that Bill Murry was looking for too. “Kaiser Solzie is welcome here.” Solzie bumped around, wrote songs and came back here.
Solzie has made some strange reputation of himself, or at least did. He made it on to one of the last Warp Wednesdays on Fuse TV. He kicks up around band videos, the most recent being from the Get Dead bus. Flipping through merchandise they’ve been given, Kaiser Solzie is shouted out as one of the raddest dudes they’ve met.
It’s funny because when he returns to Rochester he’s just another bum.
Solzie is in the works of finishing a documentary about his travels, struggles with addiction, street performing between here and everywhere and adding the completion of the film as a narrative to the final notes. Leaving Rochester soon to finish while debuting bits of movie at South By South West, his second home. He didn’t get to play here.
“I wanna be able to play a show, and in that [Bug Jar]room, where every single one in the room is friend and family,” Solzie said. It’s something he’s never been able to accomplish. It could be that his family are the other’s over looked.
“The general public of Rochester, thinks that Ave Rats are all scums, homeless; people that are ricky-tivi; all those fuckers -‘hey man, you got a dollar?”He said.
“Those people are my fucking brethren, those are the people I write songs about. Those are the people that I’ve gotten drunk with, that have always looked out for me.”
Solzie clearly doesn’t have the triumphant return he’s dreamed about but that hasn’t stopped his documentary.
“I need to show the world there are success stories through music, and it’s not just playing songs and getting whatever,” Solzie professes. He’s a strong supporter that musicians should go through a travel phase, that struggles with drugs and alcohol should be more accepted and general stigmas have to be dropped.
“How many times has a teacher told theirt students they can’t be a rockstar?”
Solzie laughs at the irony people have about him. “People just think think I’m a drunker, more fun version of Walter the Famous Accordion player,” forget that people like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan started as street performers. People can’t learn what it takes to live on the streets and play music as your life. That’s what the documentary is for.
“It’s my will and testament,” he said.
“In ten years, some kid sees my movie and decides he wants to be a rockstar and now know what it takes, I’m happy.”
After the interview I contacted several members from the bands Solzie told me to. I have yet to get a response. So the question still remains, who is Kaiser Soilze?