East River Pipe is the guise of singer/songwriter F.M. Cornog, who began recording his melancholy one-man pop on a Tascam 388 mini-studio in his apartment in Astoria, NY. Born in Suffolk, VA, and raised in Summit, NJ, Cornog followed a difficult childhood with a series of jobs in a carpet warehouse, a greenhouse, and a light bulb factory. After a longstanding bout with alcoholism and an emotional breakdown cost him his job and left him homeless, Cornog hit rock bottom; while sleeping in a Hoboken train station, he met Barbara Powers, who eventually became not only his girlfriend but also set up the aspiring musician with recording equipment and his own label, Hell Gate.
Fatalistically dubbing the project East River Pipe after imagining a connection between his music and the raw sewage dumped into a local river basin, Cornog began issuing home-recorded cassettes like 1990's Point of Memory and the following year's I Used to Be Kid Colgate before he and Powers raised enough capital to press several hundred copies of a single, Helmet On. After the record won Single of the Week honors in Melody Maker, East River Pipe was signed to the legendary British independent label Sarah Records, which collected much of Cornog's previously recorded material on 1994's Shining Hours in a Can.