Tag Archives: Interview

The talking DEAD

DEAD @ Black Wire, Sydney 17/12/10

I recently reviewed DEAD’s brilliant ‘Idiots’ LP. Like most of bands on Eolian Empire they play horrible, heavy music but in a way that’s skewed and artful. Thinking man’s bludgeon, if you like. I was intrigued enough to ask them some questions, and they were kind enough to answer them.

Jem plays drums and Jace plays bass. Both have some thoughtful things to say.

 So, tell us about DEAD. How, when and why did the band get started?

Jem: We started in late 2010. We both played together in “Fangs Of…” and wanted a band that could tour more often. We thought about who else we could do this with and then realised if we operated as a two-piece then we wouldn’t have to rely on anyone else. I think we originally intended to try having a floating third member that could just make noise over the top of our songs. But we seemed to fill the sonic space ourselves pretty quickly without that.

Touring was a priority from the start. I booked our first tour before we’d even written a song. So the band very much was formed on the stage.

Jace: Basically we knew we were very compatible bandmates. I wanted to be in a band that could be creatively fluid and basically do MORE of everything, Jem was definitely on the same page about that. We both enjoy pushing ourselves artistically and we’re always trying to get more done than is physically possible. We’ve been great mates for ages, so working and touring together is a lot of fun.

What was the original idea behind the band? Did you set out to do or sound like anything in particular?

Jace: Volume! No. I write a lot of material and it’s rarely if ever planned and at the risk of sounding like a wanker, artistic freedom is way too important to me to set boundaries for myself. I listen to a lot of different music and I’d say it all influences me to varying degrees. There are definitely bands that I’d say we relate to sound wise in certain ways but I think that’s more due to an aesthetic rather than copying a style. I definitely look up to a lot of bands and musicians, and visual artists. I’m regularly blown away by what people have created which always pushes me to work harder.

Jem: The only idea was to have fun and make music together. We didn’t set out to make a particular sound but we definitely had ideas of things we wanted to avoid – mainly things that a lot of other two pieces use like excessive effects, delays, loops etc. I know I pushed that idea a lot. I wanted to exploit the rawness of the two piece format rather than try to compensate for it with gadgets.

I think Jace probably had to consider his sound and playing a lot more than myself being that he often is playing the role of a bass and of a lead guitar at once.

The idea of aiming for a particular sound has never appealed to me and I don’t think we’d be much good at it. I’m not claiming that we have an entirely unique sound of course, our influences are not hidden. But we never set out to make a particular kind of music.

Now that we’ve doing it a few years I would say we have honed our sound to a degree. But if we’re making a particular genre of music it’s news and I’d love to know which demographic we can sell it to!

There’s only two of you. Clearly. Was this a self-imposed limitation, or was it just too difficult to find other people who wanted to make music like this?

Jem: A bit of both. We wanted to be more active musically than we had been in our previous bands and not have to compromise on that based on other peoples’ availability or lack thereof. A lot of people seem to focus on the limitations of a two-piece format but I think every format has its strengths and weaknesses. The dynamic of a two piece is unique, it’s very intimate. It probably means we both have to work harder (both playing wise and as far as running the band) but we’re not afraid of hard work.

It still surprises a lot of people; the idea of a heavy two piece band. But for us, by the time we started this band, the precedent had long been set and I’d played in two other drum/bass bands already.

Finding other members wouldn’t be difficult but I don’t have any reason to believe it would improve the band.

We have plans for some recordings as a three-piece with an artist called BJ Morriszonkle but the idea is that the he won’t be locked into any long term commitments. This project is sort of an offshoot I guess.

Jace: We definitely floated the idea of having other band members but from pretty much the first rehearsal it felt exciting just having the two of us. We also quickly realised that there was no gaping sonic hole that needed plugging so why complicate things? It took a while for me to figure out my sound and a technique that I was happy with but the challenge was too good to pass up.

There’s a ton of people we’re both interested in collaborating with but at the moment I can’t imagine including anyone else permanently.

What can you tell us about ‘Idiots’? Despite the deceptively simple set-up there’s a lot going into it…

Jace: Compositionally the album is fairly unconventional a lot of the time so despite not being overly complicated I think it’s a relatively challenging listen.

Jem: Recording-wise most of those songs are tracked live on the first take. There is very little in the way of overdubs. We took this approach because we didn’t have the money to spend long in the studio (not in a decent studio anyway) and decided we’d rather highlight the rawness of the band than try and smooth it all over. Overdubbing can fill out the sound but can also squash the instruments. We go for a pretty big sound most of the time so leaving those sounds room to breathe in a lot of cases made it sound heavier, and more confronting than if we layered the sounds.

I made mistakes all over that recording but I think it still sounds good – it’s an honest account of where we were at there and then. Making a recording that, for the most part, honours our live sound made sense too since we were and are predominantly a live band.

Of course if we had more budget to work with we would love to make a more studio based album too – many of our favourite records are like that. That’s something that we have always wanted to do and hopefully we will do one day when we have the budget to do it properly.

What kind of themes or ideas do you explore on the album?

Jem: Jace writes most of the lyrics. For the most part I don’t quiz him too much about it because I trust him and it’s a personal thing. Jace doesn’t spell things out in his lyrics anyway. That’s one thing we both like to avoid for the most part. Being around a lot of punk bands we get very tired of singers lecturing us like we’re idiots. For us the voice is more about being an extra instrument at our disposal than trying to tell the audience something specific. I generally find that kind of approach condescending to the listener.

Any lyrics I write seem to be about racism or anxiety and I guess that’s because they’re close to me.  But we’ve never been concerned with pigeon holing our themes or spelling them out. That seems far too limiting to me.

Most of the music I have made in my life has been instrumental. For me I often find lyrics a distraction from the mood of the music, or at least they can limit the possibilities that music could have had. At the same time vocals can also be the most primal instrument of all so I guess we generally try and approach it with that in mind.

Jace: For the most part my lyrics are open to interpretation. It’s more important to me to create a mood rather than to directly describe something, that’s not to say they’re meaningless, I just like giving the listener space to engage in a non-linear way. Sometimes my lyrics are more like short stories that are probably easier to get a sense of but I still like them to be a bit of a riddle. Some of the singing is probably indecipherable which becomes more instrumental or textural which I also enjoy. I don’t mean to be evasive on this question, the lyrics can be found on our bandcamp page with every track so they’re there to be pulled apart if anyone has the energy.

The spoken word vocals on ‘Murder Hollow’ are great. Who is Linda Dacio and how did you get her involved?

Jace: The lyrics for this track are a short story so we wanted them to be very audible. I was Jem’s idea to get Linda involved, her voice really suited the track she did a killer job.

Jem: Linda J is a national treasure. I first saw her play when I was in High School and she sang ‘RX7’ with “Legends of Motorsport.” It’s well worth looking up the recording of that, it’s a great Australian performance in my opinion.

I originally asked Bliss Blood (Pain Teens) if she would do some vocals on that track but she declined. Which turned out to be a blessing ‘cos then we got Linda. Linda is an amazing singer. But I have always had a real thing for people who can sing well and choose not to over sing. Like Shannon from Cows or Bliss Blood – they were both great at blurring the line between singing and speaking. So I felt kind of bad when we got her in and I kept asking her to sing less and talk more. She is a great singer with a belter of a scream and a natural distortion. But she did a great job, a total professional in a very punk rock kind of way – her performance gives me goosebumps. I was really happy with it how it came out. The fact we all three sang on that song gave it a different dynamic, one that you just can’t get with only male singers.

Since the LP came out you’ve had a couple of split 7”s. How would you say your sound / songwriting has evolved?

Jace: This question is HARD! I’m constantly writing songs so I hope it’s evolving. I set challenges for myself when writing. I’ve been trying to incorporate more melody into our material whether it’s done vocally or instrumentally. I just try to write songs that will push our playing in some way so that they remain interesting and exciting to play.

Jem: The split with No Anchor was recorded before Idiots, during the demo sessions for Idiots actually. The Split with Vaz was recorded in Japan at the end of a tour there. Sound-wise I think we’ve honed it a fair bit since the beginning but I have no idea how different it sounds to the outsider. I know we started doing a bit more metal stuff. Metal in the traditional sense.

It’s funny we talk a lot about the kinds of songs we want to write but It doesn’t mean that what comes out the other end is closely related to what we discuss. It’s more of a starting point I guess. I just try and find our strengths and work on exploiting those.

How did these split releases come about? Also, have to say it – Vaz kinda seem like a perfect band for you to share a record with…

Jace: I’ll let Jem handle the first part of this question.

Jem: No Anchor are friends from long before we started DEAD. Got a lot of respect for the way those guys operate. They’ve managed to do everything on their own terms and despite making music that isn’t especially accessible they’ve developed a cult following.

Working with them seemed logical to me. I honestly can’t remember if it was their idea or ours though. I think it was theirs. Which just proves even more what good blokes they are; clearly not driven by popularity.

Vaz are just one of our favourite bands around right now. I love how every album evolves form the last. We played with them on our first US tour and they moved us a great deal. We invited them to Australia and they came over. The only bummer was the tour we did with them was really hard work. Everything that could go wrong did. It bummed me out ‘cos they are such a great band and deserved better.

Jace: We saw and played with Vaz on our first US tour. We both thought they were incredible. They were great to tour with, very experienced and professional and they didn’t whinge about the long drives. Seeing them night after night was a real treat, they’re all great musicians who have a unique take on their instruments.

Australia seems to have a funny old scene: loads of great bands who it’s relatively hard to discover, even today in this Glorious Internet Age. I guess it’s partly because overseas tours are scarce and it costs a shitting fortune to send records or t-shirts anywhere. Do you think this imposes a kind of insularity on Australian bands/musicians?

Jace: It probably does but I really don’t know what other bands think. I think that could probably be said about most countries in a way whether it’s geographically or self-imposed. Even ‘scenes’ within ‘scenes’ adopt insularity so I don’t think it’s special to Australia. I certainly don’t feel limited by living here, it’s just a different set of challenges.

Jem: It might. Probably less so than in the past as people have more and more access to overseas travel and the net. Most of the great bands down here you’ll never hear about because they won’t tour overseas and/or they won’t get support from an overseas label.

But I think yes a lot of people down here do exist in a bubble to an extent. Big fish in a little pond kind of thing. People acting like rock stars ‘cos their band is big in one or two towns. I’d like to think it also fosters a unique sound, and for some bands it does which is great. But it seems most bands are just mimicking the bands sold to us from the US and the UK.

How do you view your homeland, and how do you think you fit in with what’s going on over there musically?

Jem: I try not to waste too much time on this and I say that because I probably have wasted too much time on it. I think there is some fucking great bands down here. We lack a good touring culture here though so most of them rarely get out of their hometowns and don’t get to improve to the level they could if they could tour. The heavy music scenes are predominantly limited to the major cities here which is also a shame; it’s seems the regional centres struggle to sustain much of a scene.

I think for the most part the underground scenes here are very conservative, even if they would like to think otherwise. Even within more extreme forms of music it feels very segregated. Most of the bands I see getting celebrated are not especially original. And there is an obsession with nostalgia which is at the expense of embracing new and creative music that is happening right now.

We’ve always felt like outsiders from any of the specific scenes and that’s okay with me. I’ve always liked a broad range of music and I have no interest in subscribing to a particular sub culture. It doesn’t feel honest to me. I’ve been playing music long enough now to see how stupid people look jumping from one style to another. It’s nice to have somewhere to belong but not if it means limiting yourself.

As to where we fit in… well basically there are bands, promoters and venues all over the country we get along with. We don’t care what genre of music they make as long as they are passionate about it. And that’s how we like it. We’ve never aimed to find other bands who sound like us. We think of it as more of an extended family than scene.

Jace: I would say that to a large extent we don’t fit in, which isn’t something we seek or are bothered by. Obviously some kind of scene is helpful but we don’t really have a home that we fit neatly into. We realise we’re a relatively ‘difficult’ band sound wise so it’s just part of the territory. Also I’m old and who wants to hang out with an old dude right??!!?? I do find it funny that people who consider themselves cultural outsiders often fall over themselves to try to fit in but hey live and let live, the last thing I want to do is worry about other people.

Kinda related to the above: is there any sense that you’re continuing some sort of foul Aussie tradition, following the likes of Feedtime, Venom P. Stinger and X? In many ways it’s a peculiarly Australian sound: arty and considered, but also yobbish, aggressive and in-your-face…

Jem: Well I think you’ve described our sound better than maybe anyone else ever has. It’s exactly what we go for. I’d add to that list bands like Nunchukka Superfly, Dad They Broke Me, Pure Evil Trio, Warped and especially Midnight Oil.

I see so many bands who would fall into the “arty” category who are too fucking pretentious to play something primal and heavy. As if they are above that ‘cos they did an arts degree. And so many rock bands who snob anything that might be considered a bit intellectual or arty. I’ve never understood why the two can’t co-exist more. Through our label we just released a split 7” between The Hard Ons and The Necks. These are two bands who have complete respect and adoration for each other but a decent chunk of each other’s crowds would never give the other band the time of day.

For me my biggest drive in making music has always been to tap into the inner cave man/woman inside all of us. For some reason people confuse primal with limited or stupid though and that’s really far off the mark. I think one of the strongest primal urges is to discover new things and to learn. You can see that in babies all the time.

People always think AC/DC is simple but I challenge those people to try and play their songs half as well as them. You won’t find a tighter band. And they have no bullshit to hide behind. Or a band like Midnight Oil who made a lot of hard, driving music but there is so much going on it if you look under the surface.

So anyway yes our music is considered, we spend a lot of time thinking about it and trying to improve it. If we have a simple idea and we like it we will back it rather than try and cover it up with bells and whistles. And if the art wankers think it sounds like yobbos shouting then it’s their loss.

As far as continuing an Aussie tradition; well we are Australian. That’s just who we are, we would never try and be anything else. But we are not trying to emulate anything nostalgic. Those bands were great because they were innovative and that’s the main thing we’d want to take from them; an attitude more than a style.

Jace: I don’t feel like we’re deliberately continuing anything but I’d say we are somehow undeniably attached to that aesthetic. I’ve always really liked the tension between those kinds of elements. I’m a big fan of a lot of post-punk and experimental music but I also love AC/DC… have you ever studied their backing vocals?? Genius!!

I’ve never really thought about it being a uniquely Aussie thing but maybe it is. Having said that there are some current US bands like Rabbits and Drunk Dad who I think relate closely to this sound too.

What does the future – short and long-term – hold for DEAD?

Jace: Before we tour our new album in November we are doing a couple of support shows that we’re looking forward to, one with Torche the other with Windhand.

Other than that, we’re writing a ton of new tracks that keep us stoked.

Jem: We just released a new song on the Rock Is Hell 10th Anniversary 2×10” compilation………………

Right now we are writing our new record. We have a lot of material so I guess it’s a matter of picking what we like best. Or maybe we’ll record a double album if we can manage it. Sometime soon we will record the collaborative record with BJ Morriszonkle.

In November we will release our third album ‘Captains Of Industry’ and tour it in Australia. Early next year it will be released in Austria (Rock is Hell) and in the USA (Eolian Empire).

Mid-next year we will do our third US tour. And hopefully after that we can get to Europe!

www.deadsounds.com

 

Boilermaker interview

it’s almost 3 years now since Terrin passed away, and through the magic of the internet i am able to bring you this old interview from like 2001 or something that i did. it was a pretty weird afternoon, thinking back. Terrin and his wife were honeymooning in Europe and he called me up, asking if i wanted to meet up and do an interview. i had never spoken to him before, and being a terrible unsociable geek, was more than a little bit nervous about it. i shouldn’t have been, i had a tonne of fun, and i hope this interview goes some way to showing that. thanks to Terrin, you are missed.

this interview was conducted whilst sitting on a wooden bench on Elm Hill, Norwich. it gave us green butts. it was damn good fun, and i am very grateful for spending a couple of hours in the time of Terrin and his lovely wife Adrienne. they are the nicest folks, do ya hear! ok, here is what we talked about, i edited out a tonne of it because people don’t normally go around printing their conversations on the internet. so i just left in the stuff that i guess you could consider more ‘relevant’, and some of the fun bits that were almost relevant. whatever, it was all enjoyed. take it away…

terrin: (into dictaphone in cockney accident) brilliant

 

andy: right! ok, so introduce yourself and what you’re doing over here!

 

terrin: blahblahblah, this is Terrin from Boilermaker, i am on my honeymoon with my beautiful wife, Adrienne…

 

andy: who’s just disappeared off down the road somewhere

 

terrin: yeah, she’s just checking out the artists gallery

 

andy: the bear shop

 

terrin: and the stamp corner

 

andy: ok, we’re sitting down Elm Street here in norwich, a bit of old school Norwich to show the American tourists, and really impress them and let them see what England is all about

 

terrin: it looks like Disneyland (laughs)

 

andy: ok, we’ll start with the band… Boilermaker having just reformed… did you ever split up or was it on hiatus?

 

terrin: 2 years. it was a 2 year long tour where we didn’t play any shows, and we played for coming up 6 years, and we all went our seperate ways and started doing other things. our drummer moved up to san francisco, and i joined the Farewell Bend and was gone for a while, but that didn’t work out. so i came back, and then what basically got us back together again was that we got the rights to our old records back. we’d been waiting for about 6 years for that to happen, and i think we just went through periods of time in our lives where our music styles changed, and we had differences, though never any fights or anything like that. kind of all of us were going our seperate ways with music. and being away from it, it’s like we all went it routes of jobs and school, the guitar player went into school and had to drive 45 minutes to an hour to get to school for the last 2 or 3 years.

 

andy: just the kind of things that makes it hard for a band to get together.

 

terrin: yeah. besides all the other personal stuff in our lives, and doing music became the thing which we needed a break from.

 

andy: so is it all the same members back together?

 

terrin: yeah, all the same members, and a friend of ours called Mike who is sitting in and playing guitar with us at the moment, adding some stuff that we never had before into our shows. i don’t know, i think all of us being away from it, it made us all realise how much we liked playing music, and playing with other people, made us realise how much we liked playing with each other. we never really made any money, but it just worked. we felt that what we had always written together, even though we came from different aspects of music, that what made it work for us was the combination of these things coming together.

 

andy: were you still writing songs even when you were taking a break from things?

 

terrin: well, i was working probably between 10 – 13 hours a day, monday to friday for the last 3 years. and it was something that i thought about every day. not a day would go by where i wouldn’t think about writing new songs and thinking about music. i just never really found the time to put towards it. so after 3 years it was starting to get really frustrating, and i was itching to play music again. basically my job ended just at the exact same time that we were talking about making these 2 new songs, so it was perfect timing. we worked on the songs, and started writing them, and Tim (drummer) came down from San Francisco and then we got out our recording stuff, went to a friends house and recorded the drums. and then we had about a good month where we just would do the rest, working on vocals and adding everything. and we did it all at home, so it was the first time we really got to sit down and spend the time on each song, as far as what we wanted to add to it, rather than going and paying thousands of dollars for a couple of hours to record.

 

andy: where it’s more pressurised… so, do you think the music has kind of changed, or the same kind of direction that you were going in before?

 

terrin: these 2 new songs are pretty different, i think there’s, well, both of them are pretty slow. if you listen to like the old records, there’s some faster songs on them

 

andy: the records got slower from the first to the last…

 

terrin: yeah, but i that came from us getting older, so we’re all 27, 28 years old, when we started it was like 1992, and we were fresh out of high school, just getting out of our punk rock phase.

 

andy: (laughs) yeah, just make a noise…

 

terrin: yeah, we still had this noise, and not aggression, but we came from that punk rock…

 

andy: a bit more hardcore sounding…

 

terrin: yeah, even though i never considered us hardcore, or punk or anything like that. but we come from those roots.

 

andy: those were the kind of bands you were associated with, like you were on the Tree Records comp with all those other emo bands (Indian Summer, Embassy, Current…).

 

terrin: yeah, i mean that was maybe our 3rd or 4th song… so it was a natural progression that a lot of bands take as you start getting older. we don’t feel a need to play the hardest parts. it’s more about, i want to hear some music than i can relax to. i don’t want to feel that i am going crazy and on edge…. (pause) ….i don’t really know where i was going with that!

 

andy: that’s ok! you’ve played your first show back as a band, in San Diego?

 

terrin: actually, it was really really good. we played at this place called the Che Cafe in San Diego, and that was the place where i first started going to shows in high school. it didn’t even matter what bands were playing, we would just show up every friday night, ‘oh we gotta go to the che cafe’…

 

andy: just somewhere to hang out…

 

terrin: yeah, somewhere to hang out and see some bands we’ve never seen. so it was really comforting to come back and play our first show back in a place that we were really familiar with and a place that, for me, felt like it was my home. that was where i was seeing shows from day one. and it helped that it was a sold out show. people seemed really excited to see us again.

 

andy: it was encouraging that people still cared enough to come a long…

 

terrin: yeah, exactly.

 

andy: sorry! i just turned it off. (referring to the tape)

 

terrin: (into mic) unfortunately we went to starbucks. damn us! we try not to support corporate america.

 

andy: no! down with corporate america!

 

terrin: especially not a corporate america in europe!

 

andy: who don’t take your card.

 

terrin: exactly!

 

andy: we’ll go and fire bomb it later! (laughs) alright, so you’ve been over to europe with the Farewell Bend, very briefly. so how long were you over then?

 

terrin: we came over for a month.

 

andy: that’s quite a long time!

 

terrin: it wasn’t long enough!

 

andy: really? did you get to look around or just play, play, play?

 

terrin: it was pretty much like driving 8 hours from show to show. sit down and have dinner with people from the shows. when we first tried to come over we got stopped in dover, we didn’t have our working papers. and then finally they let us in. they sent us back from dover the first day – saying ‘no working papers, you’re kicked out of the country’. we paid something like $250 to get the ferry across. and then they sent us back and we spent the night in calais, france. and they put us in the holding cell for six hours in dover!

 

andy: like you’re an asylum seeker or something! (laughs)

 

terrin: we said to them, we’re not going to play any shows… but all of our places to stay are in the UK. so we can either go and sit in France for 6 days, or we can go and stay with the people we planned on staying with. so we lied, and played all the shows. and the only problem was, coming over to Europe this time. in my passport, it’s stamped that i’ve been denied.

 

andy: so you’re a marked man.

 

terrin: yeah, so the lady in customs was kinda giving us a hard time when we showed up.

 

andy: maybe she thought you were coming over to busk in the streets on your own.

 

terrin: yeah! she gave us the whole line of questionning on why we got kicked out before and she didn’t believe it! finally she gave Adrienne the 6 month stamp, and she looked at me, and, i don’t know, she wasn’t very nice… i don’t know where i am going with this story! (laughs) actually she asked if i had any friends in the UK, and i said, yeah, i have a friend in Norwich, but actually i pronounced it norwick. so she got mad! like ‘WHERE? WHERE DOES HE LIVE?”. i don’t know, Norwick, Norwich?

 

andy: yeah, it’s Norwich. it doesn’t look like it at all, a lot of people would say the same. it’s english names for you. (proceeds to talk about about Wymondham and Chichester)

 

terrin: ok, so i went to stonehenge yesterday, quite an amazing experience. we visited and saw all our hippy friends there (laughs)

 

andy: did they pass round any illicit substances for you?

 

terrin: oh, i wish! (laughs)

 

andy: dance around the stone circle…

 

terrin: oh yeah, pray to the druids. (there was then some random chat about these and woodhenge and seahenge too)

 

(terrin farts)

 

andy: i hope we got that! oh dear. erm, so are boilermaker going to start touring again?

 

terrin: i really want to. i think…

 

andy: (disgusted) that smells.

 

terrin: yeah, sorry about that. (laughs) we are actually supposed to do a US tour, and it seems like at the moment it’s not working out so we are kind of postponing that, and spending time making a new record. and i’m trying to work on getting something set up for europe. we’ve done the US like 4 or 5 times. i think touring over in europe with the Farewell Bend made me realise how awesome Europe is. it’s a different experience coming over to Europe. right next door you have people speaking different languages, and you can drive 2 or 3 hours to get to a different country. and it’s amazing coming over. today everythings so close because of the internet. but it’s just awesome to come over to different countries, and to have people who have heard of your music, whether it’s 1 person, 2 people, 20 or 100 people. it’s really a fantastic experience to know that somehow they’ve heard it. like we went to Prague, with Farewell Bend, and this kid who let us stay at his house… we were sitting there with nothing to do and i was flicking through his 7″ collection, to see what he was interested in. like what do kids in Prague listen to? and it was the weirdest thing, because i knew bands from every other record. like ‘i know that band’ and finally we got through and there was a Boilermaker 7″ in there. and i was ‘oh my god! how does this kind find this in czechoslavakia’ when there are kids 15 miles away from us who wouldn’t know about it. it’s amazing.

 

andy: cool. so you’re off to ireland, looking forward to that?

 

terrin: yeah, definitely. gonna go to dublin, go golfing! where it all originated.

 

andy: gonna get the big old trousers and funny hat.

 

terrin: yeah, Payne Stewart style.

 

andy: yeah, a bit of old school golf there.

 

terrin: we’re gonna go stay with Redneck Manifesto. give a shout out to Redneck Manifesto! bunch of great guys, fantastic band. they’re gonna put us up with a place to stay. stay a couple of days…

 

andy: sit in Irish bars? (laughs)

 

terrin: have some warm Guinness. (we then discuss beer)

 

andy: and then off to mainland Europe after that?

 

terrin: yeah, we’re gonna go pretty much all over. gonna stay with some people we met on the Farewell Bend tour. and we’ve rented a car and drive all round and sit in traffic.

 

andy: how do you find driving on the wrong side of the road over here? (laughs)

 

terrin: actually we weren’t planning on that! i think what made us rent the car was that we wanted to go see Stonehenge, rather than take a 6 hour bus ride. (we talk about driving and Terrin is proud he hasn’t driven the wrong way down any streets yet. then it all just goes all over the shop, talking about bowling alleys, and Toys R Us, Thunderbirds and Zippy from Rainbow, adverts before films, and it was all good fun but you probably don’t want to read this stuff!)

 

andy: so maybe you should start busking, put a hat down and people will come a long and pay you money. raise money for the rest of the tour

 

terrin: i thought about that. maybe that’s what boilermaker should do. a street tour.

 

andy: yeah! we get these guys coming over from Peru, dressed up in Peruvian gear with pan pipes and stuff!

 

terrin: would we need a permit for that?

 

andy: well it seems they let people in until it comes to the people who come to make money. there seems to be a kind of odd approach to it.

 

terrin: it’s because they want their cut. they don’t want people sneaking in and making money. (we then talk about VAT and taxes. woo woo! Terrin and Adrienne are pretty shocked at the 17.5% rate!)

 

terrin: screw the government!

 

andy: bring it down!

 

terrin: screw Starbucks, don’t eat at McDonalds, especially with all this mad cow going on. you just don’t wanna eat it.

 

andy: a bit of punk rock thrown in there.

 

terrin: 3 cheers for the punk rockers! (laughs)

 

andy: enjoyed norwich then?!

 

terrin: i loved norwich.

 

(terrin farts violently)

 

adrienne: eww.

 

andy: can’t take him anywhere. i hope your bed and breakfast room isn’t too small.

 

adrienne: we had seperate beds actually!

 

andy: did you request that? (laughs)

 

terrin: it’s all they had left.

 

andy: they didn’t give you the honeymoon suite? (laughs)

 

adrienne: no (laughs). the honeymooners have seperate beds (laughs)

 

andy: ok!

 

terrin: thank you very much!

 

andy: it’s been great!

 

terrin: thanks for showing us round norwich!

 

andy: awesome! (laughs)

an interview with Sauna Youth

sauna youth is a punk band, they have a 7″ out. they have a website. here is some words what i asked them and some words what they told me.

Sauna Youth. So, who’s sitting around in the steam with a towel on their lap?

We have Murphy, lounging back on a deep red number, thrown so carelessly around him as to barely conceal his dignity. Next to him Reza relaxes with an Azure shade wrapped around his waist, handling the coals, frequently and steadily keeping the temperature high and the steam strong. Lindsay, with his Aubergine towel, perched at the back keeps the conversation animated whilst sipping on an exquisitely constructed mojito cocktail. I, Richard, stand and sweat in white.

How did this come about? It would appear that several of you chaps did “time” in pop punk / melodic hardcore bands. How did you get from that to this, and why are you all bumming around in a DIY punk band, what keeps you doing this shit?

I once asked a man who had been working at CERN for the last 30 years how something like the Large Hadron Collider could ever be conceived, what is the starting point for something like that? and he replied, “2 people sitting around drinking coffee”. He also laughed in my face when I asked if anyone knew how it worked.  It’s all just different variations on pop songs really. I think the transition from what we were doing before was quite natural. With Sauna Youth we wanted to experiment more, not back ourselves into a corner with the music or lyrics, employ a more diverse range of things that actually influence us but it still be a punk band. Also, we really wanted to be in a band that sounded like the Undertones or The Ramones. I think we might be failing in this respect but i’m ok with that.  Why do we still do this? That is a very good question indeed! We’ve all done “time” in a number of other bands, I think there’s been a 2 week period of my life in 13 years when I haven’t been in a band. Often it can feel like bumming around for sure when you’re involved with DIY punk rock but it’s only when you peer outside it’s walls do you realise the freedom that exists within it. It’s good to feel like you’re a part of a network and community that can exist outside of the more conventional means.

The seven inch is based around the concept of youth. I want to ask you a bunch of questions about this! How old are the folk in the band and do you consider yourself youthful?

Ah, now that would be telling… I will say that ¾ of us are falling off the wrong end of our twenties though. I think we all still definitely consider ourselves youthful, the world still fascinates us and we all still collectively do something that we’ve been doing since we were teenagers.

Does one stop being youthful when they hit a certain age? How important do you think it is to maintain such an outlook? Can it conflict with growing up and is being mature a good thing? What if you’re like the Get Up Kids and still farting about in 10 years time, would the band name still be appropriate?

There’s that benjamin Franklin quote, “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing” I would stand by that wholeheartedly. My nan is 87 and still plays bowls, won her last 2 matches, and she works for her local meals on wheels delivering food to people that are 10-15 years younger than her. The conflict? I don’t necessarily think that there has to be one, maturity in my eyes is more to do with taking responsibility for yourself and learning that experience should come pretty early in life. It’s like if you’re a kid and you act like a dick and blame your behaviour on other people, your friends will eventually see through it and won’t want to play with you anymore. I think there’s a difference between that and running around and shouting just for the fun of it. If we’re about in 10 years time the band name would be wholly inappropriate but all the better for it.

I am fully behind the fact that you put your own record out. Was it a collective effort from all the band? How are you going about distributing it and how has the experience been?

Thanks. The whole thing has been pretty self-contained, down to recording, mixing, putting together & printing the artwork. We were going to scrape together the money ourselves but we played up in Cambridge for our friend and he heard about the record & said he would lend us the money to put it out, so that was great. It also has given us a good incentive to really work at selling them so we can pay him back. So far the experience has been great, especially as where I live, in Brighton, there are such a wealth of great record shops. Getting to wander about going into the Punker Bunker, Resident, Rounder and Edgeworld records hocking our gear and talking to the people that work there has been wonderful. It’s also good having distros and shops that we buy records from ourselves taking copies.

Good idea with the female backing vocals that feel wonderfully out of place. Who’s idea was this and was there any particular reason to add something that is perhaps not what people would expect to hear?

It’s either a very considered, well thought-out idea coming from a love of girl groups from the 50’s & 60’s with a view to eventually having a trio of singers on stage with us, or an off the cuff experiment in which an acquaintance was harangued into singing along to something she’d never heard before in her life. Or both. There are very particular reasons for adding unexpected elements to the music, we’re not attempting to introduce any new sub-sub-genres but we’d like to make things more interesting for ourselves. Also, eating peanut butter with celery AND/OR cheese and honey on toast.

Bizarre old question I used in a bunch of old interviews when the C was the most emo thing in the world: what is your favourite weather condition?

Sitting in the shade in a crisp sun-soaked park with a mild breeze flowing through.

Thanks for doing this. What next for Sauna Youth? Anything else you’d like to add? Stay youthful!

Thanks for the interview. We have a 3 song tape coming out on Suplex Cassettes in the next few months, called “MAD MIND”. After that there’s talk of doing a 7” with Sex is Digusting. We’re going to be recording our LP “DREAMLANDS” over summer and hopefully we’ll work out a way of putting that out soon after. Always!

an interview with snuffy smile

alex deller interviews a very jaded seeming yoichi, several years ago…

Snuffy Smile is a great little punk label from Japan that’s been around for a good few years now and released records by bands like the Urchin, I Excuse, Minority Blues Band and plenty more besides. It’s run by Yoichi, who was kind enough to tap out some responses to a few questions I had about what keeps Snuffy Smile ticking…

C: Give us a brief history of the label – how long have you been running it and what made you start? What significant obstacles and difficulties have you faced, and how have you overcome them (starting to sound like a job interview there…). Do you still see running Snuffy Smile as a learning process, or is it all “second nature” to you now?

Y: I started the label in 1993 and I really can’t remember what I was thinking at the time. I just started it to release the bands I thought should have records out as there were no good labels to release stuff by the bands I loved. Before I started the label, I had many favourite labels like Rugger Bugger in the UK or Allied in the US and I wanted to do something like them, though they were still much better than mine.

I got a lot of backstabbing by many people about the things I did as a label, and I still don’t know why so many people seemed to hate me. I think Japanese people dislike those who do their own thing. I received a lot of help from the bands themselves, but basically made my own decisions and had my own opinions as to how things should be done. Some people didn’t like that and preferred useless negotiation. But all those people seem to have gone away and nobody pays me that much attention, so it seems like a waste of time to complain about them.

The label is everything to me and I’ve never done anything I like besides it, except for drinking, reading or travelling. I can’t say exactly what it is – it’s like a learning process but at the same time it’s all second nature to me too.

C: What advice would you give to anyone setting up their own label or putting out a record?

Y: I can’t see why anyone would want to start a punk rock label nowadays – nobody needs it anymore. I still am because I don’t have anything to do besides it. If you are enjoying your life in other ways I’d say don’t have any such a stupid ideas. You won’t get any new ideas for a punk rock label from me. It’s dying but I still love it.

C: What has been the most positive aspect of running Snuffy Smile? Is there anything about it that you don’t like?

Y: The most positive aspect is definitely meeting great people. I’m fuckin’ old but I still love to sleep anywhere and live in a way not many other people would want to. I can do it because I’m q guy involved in this punk scene and I’m proud of that. But it also makes me depressed – I’ve been losing friends along the way. There seem to be very few people who want to carry on the punk way of life for any length of time in Japan.

C: Let’s talk about the Snuffy Smile “sound” – often gruff, usually melodic, always punk. Do you go out of your way to seek these bands out, or do they gravitate towards you? Were there many bands like this in Japan already, or has the label itself led to more bands adopting a certain style?

Y: I don’t think about such a thing. All the bands are just ones I love and they’re playing the music I like. I listen to many kinds of music, but my favourite stuff is always like Leatherface, Jawbreaker, Stiff Little Fingers… so you know my taste.

I just meet the bands when I go to shows or when I’m touring. I’ve been doing the label for over 12 years, so some of the oldest bands influenced younger bands and they influenced other bands… and so on and on…

C: How do you feel about the term “pop punk”? Nowadays it seems almost synonymous with bad, vacuous Blink 182-type bands and Vans-sponsored tours – do you think this leads to a lot of good bands going unnoticed because of the stigma this genre has?

Y: I don’t care. I’m always doing my thing in the underground and I don’t know what’s going on in the “proper” music scene. Punk was pretty much dead a long time ago now it’s living a living death. The whole music business is of no concern to me anymore. All the good bands go unnoticed by ordinary people in Japan, but that’s okay because I’m not interested in mainstream culture at all. If someone doesn’t listen to the bands on my label because it’s “pop punk” then that’s not a problem – I don’t have any responsibility for saving people from being victims of media control or anything like that. In my opinion it’s better to build the wall and keep them out.

C: Boring question: which new bands would you recommend we check out?

Y: Blotto is definitely the best band in Japan at the moment. The Because are great too.

C: How has Snuffy Smile built its relationships with overseas bands? Do they contact you, or vice versa? Are you usually friends with them beforehand? Does the distance ever prove to be a problem?

Y: Once you get one friend in punk scene it’s just a beginning – soon enough you have a hundred friends. It’s easy. I always wrote letters to the bands I loved and asked them “hey, are you interested in doing a split 7inch?”.Basically I pretty much know who can do it and who can’t, though a few times it didn’t work so well.

C: What’s in the pipeline for the label – do you have any significant plans or schemes? Are there any bands you’d particularly like to work with?

Y: There are never any future plans for the label. I’m just doing what I want to do right now. But if the Tone get back together I’d want to release something with them again, for sure.

C: If you had the chance, which band would you most like to have put a record out by?

Y: Dillinger Four. I tried but it didn’t happen. Also, the Strike and Hellbender.

C: Any last words or requests?

Y: Life is a waste of time, so let’s waste the time on the things you enjoy. Thanks a lot for the interview.

An interview with Tubers

by alex deller. i interviewed 12 hour turn quite some time ago. here alex catches up with tubers. quite some time ago.

Another oldie. This one was pieced together sometime after that first awesome Tubers LP but before the second one. At least they’re still having at it…

Let’s put this in simple terms: Tubers are fucking great. A splendidly fluff-free punk rock act just kicking back and playing the kind of songs you’d kill to have written yourself. Bastards. Jeff and Rich were kind enough to answer a few of my questions via email, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

Collective: Hey there, Tubers. Herein you will kindly do the “standard” punk zine thing and tell us all just who you are and what you do. Unless, of course, you have any better suggestions for starting the interview?

Jeff: I’d say this is a fine way to start an interview. My interpretation is that we are three buds that like to play the rock-and-roll together. We all do many other things, however. I tend to serve food to people at a fancy restaurant in a fancy hotel, go to school, surf or kite-surf when I can (which is not often enough), and play the kicker in my living room. I also try to grow vegetables.

Rich: I’m a teacher for trainable mentally handicapped in the public school system of St Augustine, Bakery Outlet labeler, Tubers, Solid Pony and Verde bands, runner, gardener, perpetually learning “surfer.”

Collective: So, how was the (now not-so-recent) European tour? Any harrowing tales of woe or entertaining hi-jinx? Was it odd to be playing something like Trashfest with bands and in front of crowds who might not necessarily be kindred spirits musically? What / who are you particularly looking forward to on this year’s bill?

Jeff: The not-so-recent European tour was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, and luckily not too heavy on the woe. Lenny head-butted me over a game of kicker. I almost did not get in to England because the officers did not like my ‘story,’ nor my lack of plane ticket back home, which resulted in a missed show in Brighton. Our big van breakdown occurred on our drive to London, resulting in interesting night sleeping five inside the van in a weird industrial part of some weird city, as well as a missed show and a quite misplaced 400 pounds (about 750 dollars for us). Lenny and I also got dick-milched right in the strasse, as Rich put it. Hi-jinx? Well, I’m pretty sure we played with Keanu Reeves’ band in Newcastle.

Rich: Europe was fantastic. I had been telling my bandmates how great it was to be there with my previous band 12 Hour Turn and Ingo (of The Company With the Golden Arm) who arranged tour. Ingo offered to set up a tour for Tubers / Solid Pony and it turned out to be all I remembered. How we would ideally like to tour DIY in a mostly organized fashion, meeting lovely people and seeing beautiful places. Receiving acts of generosity like meals and places to sleep and inspiring us to do the same at home. 12 Hour Turn played Trashfest and it was chaotic as was this time around… We were unfamiliar with it otherwise but had a great time and look forward to it this time also.

Collective: As I understand it at least one of you guys had already been over to Europe with other bands. What did you learn from your previous experiences, and did this familiarity help ease your passage? What do you like best about playing over here as opposed to playing gigs in the States?

Jeff: It was actually everyone except for Rich’s first time touring in Europe, though a couple of us had been over there before just to travel around. As to the second question, I can pretty well answer with a resounding “everything.” Show-goers and promoters are hospitable, enthusiastic, attentive, and just generally excited. Breakfast and dinner were the norm and not just the exception, as it usually works the other way around here. Delicious and nutritious to boot. It made me feel (whether it was true or not) that we were genuinely appreciated, musically and otherwise. That’s a nice feeling.

Rich: What I learned was that Ingo, our driver, their friends and the venues etc. really take care of us. It’s unreal how much generosity there is.

Collective: I think you may have explained this self-same issue at some of the UK shows, but as you weren’t able to make the London gig I couldn’t get to hear the tale for myself. Could shed some light on why you decided to call yourself “Tubers”?

Jeff: Our name was actually a difficult process – we all had other ideas but nothing that jumped out enough at all of us to the extent that we could agree on it. I put Tubers on the table, and it was actually a sort of settling, though of course now we are all very happy about it. The three main Tubers interpretations we encourage and usually explain include Tubers as rooted vegetables (potatoes, carrots, ginger, and the like); Tubers as those who float down rivers on inflatable inner-tubes, which we very much enjoy; and Tubers as those who get tubed in the ocean while they are surfing, otherwise known as getting “barrelled” or “shacked,” which is one of the heights of the surfing experience.

Collective: The LP has this really great sound to it that I just can’t stop harping on about. It seems really spacious and “booming” – was this a particular sound you were gunning for, or merely a happy coincidence? How was it achieved? This all kinda ties in with what I take to be a homespun and communal feel to the record – I don’t know if I’m being way off the mark here, but hey…

Jeff: I am the worst person to talk to about sound and the most aloof during the recording process. As far as the sound on that record, however, I guess I’d attribute it to Rob McGregor’s knowledge and expertise, as well as Rich’s meticulous and perfectionist nature. Rob has been recording bands in Gainesville for decades, including some of my favourite bands and records of all time.

Rich: It’s a sound I think we all like, but we just went to Rob McGregor since we’d all worked with him in the past and that is what came out without very much suggestion about it. Rob just did an amazing job with it and he’s always getting better and better. We’re all stoked on how it came out.

Collective: Some of your songs sound like they’re really aimed at specific individuals (e.g. the line “I’ve seen you age enough to know where I don’t want to be”) and the shadow of alcoholism looms over much of the album. At certain points it really seems like you’re letting all and sundry read your private mail. Was this not awkward for you at all?

Jeff: Rich wrote the lyrics for all but two songs on that record, so I must give recourse to however he answers the question.

Rich: Some of the lyrics are pretty vulnerable. I write songs at home where I don’t think about sharing them with anyone, so when they’re done there is no hiding. It’s nice this way I think, though sometimes maybe they’re melodramatic. Lyrics for me always start with a specific subject but hopefully can translate to more general terms. And yes, alcohol is something to cope with for me – you can’t escape its presence. It’s part of a destructive lifestyle our culture participates in with addictive fervor, but I can’t condemn it. Although I seldom do it anymore, I’ve definitely had some great times with it, and also taken some years off my life because of the trouble I’ve caused. I love many people who love the bottle.

Collective: There seem to have been a nice little crop of simpler, rootsier (for want of a better word…) bands popping up over the last few years (like, say, Reactionary 3 (RIP…), Tiny Hawks, Sinaloa…) playing a swell, no-nonsense brand of emoish punk rock, and I guess it’s convenient to bracket you guys in with them. Was there anything you wanted to sidestep, avoid or specifically achieve with Tubers? What were you initially aiming for with the band sound-wise? Are there any up-and-coming bands you’d like to recommend who follow a similar blueprint?

Jeff: I’m with you on the appreciation of the no-nonsense, simpler brand of punk rock, what with all the over-production and pretentiousness (both in sound and on-stage) that tends to abound these days. I’ll actually take it as quite a compliment to be bracketed with some of those bands. Not to drift, but I’d like to just say that my favourite bands have always been the bands my friends are in – or, at the very least, bands that you can go see without a stage and have real conversations with afterwards. Twelve Hour Turn (Rich’s old band) is actually still one of my favourites. I think if I just had to listen to bands from Richmond, Virginia and Gainesville for the rest of my life I’d be just fine. True North (and everything else those guys have been or are involved in) will always stand out, as will Stop It! and their new creations, like Brainworms and Pink Razors. I must also recommend Jacob’s other band, Environmental Youth Crunch, who will be touring with us the first two weeks when we return to Europe. Also, pretty much everything Rich puts out on Bakery Outlet will be most radical – I can guarantee that.

Rich: We didn’t have any specific agenda with Tubers – just to write what comes to us as a band. So far I think we’re all very happy with what comes out and I’d perhaps feel uncomfortable if we did aim for something else.
Bands. . .. hmmm. .. .well I’d have to say Bakery bands past releases and future (future = R3, Matty Pop Chart, Emperor X, Environmental Youth Crunch, Alligator [I hope], Twelve Hour Turn…) I’m elated that all these great people have wanted to work with me. They truly are my favourite recent / recently-deceased bands, along with other friends’ bands as Jeff has mentioned.

Collective: What’s on the horizon for Tubers? The LP seemed to arrive out of nowhere and it’s all been rather quiet since. Any new releases planned?

Jeff: We finally got our act together again and recorded a new album just a couple of months ago, and we should have copies of the CD when we come over. We did indeed have a lull, owing in part to separation but also a slight creative slump. I guess with all the other things going on in our lives – be it other bands, work or school – we tend not to be a “full-time” band. Although I believe we would love that, I don’t see it happening any time in the near future. Oh yeah, let’s go ahead and say we’re shooting for an Australia tour / surf trip summer 2008.

Rich: Well, we return to Europe in June / July, though unfortunately no UK this time around. Lenny (Solid Pony and Bakery Outlet partner) built a studio in his house a short time ago, and we recently finished recording the new Tubers album there, so the CD should be ready for tour. Bakery Outlet / The Company With the Golden Arm will release it. There’s also talk of a split something or other with Brainworms from Richmond, VA.

Collective: Anything else you’d like to add, say or recommend?

Jeff: Thank you very much for your interest. When I read interviews, the last thing I want to be is bored, so hopefully we’re not boring. I also recommend reading books and going outside as much as possible. That’s about it.

Rich: Thanks!

An interview with Tiny Hawks

This interview is from a long ol’  time back, roundabouts the time ‘Fingers Become Bridges’ came out. Lawks.

Collective: Generic introduction: herein you will give a brief, insightful run-down of the band that is Tiny Hawks – roles, reasons and rationale.

Gus: I’m Gus. I play the drum kit, and electric bass. Recordings have some upright bass on them. Art and I befriended about four years ago when I moved to Providence. Our interests in life, politics, and music brought us to the idea of playing together. At that point, it had been quite some time since I had played music with people, and it worked so well with just the two of us. Our differing personalities really bring us together. I think we compliment each other in our approaches to songwriting. I mean, we are both generally happy people, Art is a bit more outgoing than I am, which is most apparent at shows. We both have a genuine love of the music we make and the friendship therein. I appreciate the opportunity to do Tiny Hawks and hope it brings real inspiration to those who listen. It must be said, we are just a band. But music is the great motivator, and if it keeps motivating you, why stop?

Collective: Tiny Hawks have a pretty original sound, especially in a day and age where you’re pretty much guaranteed to come across a clutch of bands tilling the same soil. What would you say has helped shape the band’s sound? How has what you’ve done in the past shaped what you’re doing now? Did you set out to achieve any specific goals with this band?

Gus: Thanks! I think it’s kind of a bummer how marketed genres have become. Even in DIY/punk/hardcore, whatever you want to call it. There is an obvious divide. I mean, people like what they like., but when you start to feel uncomfortable and judged at a show or walking down the street because you don’t have a certain sound or aesthetic it’s a bit unsettling. I think back to stories I’ve heard from late 70s early 80s when punk had no real guidelines – it gave people the freedom to really voice what they were about, for better or worse. I think at first, we just wanted to rock out? Now, having so many influences and a couple of years behind us, it’s morphed what we are. We just write, musically, what feels satisfying to us and evokes what we are trying to get across. We are not trying to mimic a sound or appeal to any certain person. I wouldn’t say we have a clear direction as to where we are going as a band and I really enjoy that.

Art: In thinking about shaping sound, I think we bring similar inspirations and motivations from bands and music we’ve both loved and I think we try to play what comes naturally rather than try to mold songs into some formula or pattern. I haven’t really played in a formal band before this aside from a band in high school (albeit meaningful!), and I have been playing guitar alone for a long time, some songs that ended up being some of these songs. I think we pay attention to feel rather than approach, assessing what viscerally feels right rather than what sounds “good”.

Collective: Am I right in thinking one/some of you were in Spirit Assembly? What would you say have been the major changes in the emo/hardcore landscape since then? Which have been for the better, and which for the worse?

Gus: Yes, I used to play bass in that band and it still blows me away when it gets mentioned. It was an exciting time then, 93-95ish. A true movement that I was completely enamoured with. It shaped so much of who I am, but, I took what I experienced/learned from that and moved on. It’s real unhealthy to live in the past, to idealize those days as being better than what you have now. You have to push for growth and change. If you don’t, things get stagnant.

Collective: A lot of the folks who would’ve been your contemporaries in the 90s emo scene have either upped and left music entirely or moved onto less traditionally punk pastures – (e.g. country, indie, electronica…). What has made you stick with punk rock – what’s the lasting appeal? Could you see yourselves ever just jacking it all in and forgetting this particular piece of your past?

Art: Punk rock. The lasting appeal continues to be in how people stretch it, what we do with it when the song is over, and what those songs did to bring us to where we are. The connections and people I have met over the years through punk circles (zines, music, politics, fests etc.) continue to inspire and enrich my life and I feel very lucky to be a part of it all. Punk has made and ruined and confused a whole lot of people it seems. It’s a positive signifier as much as a way to alienate. I don’t really see myself losing the drive to be participating in or playing music that would be considered punk. There is a lot of hope left in it, a lot of fearlessness, and a lot of room for it to keep changing and keep it challenging.

Gus: Punk has an energy. That word alone has so much weight behind what it has stood for… and still does for a lot of us. We both listen to such a vast collection of styles of music, and all have had their little part in what we are. But the statement punk has made (of course, I’m not talking about big money “punk”) will have a lasting effect on my life’s decisions and philosophies.

Collective: Are you still as pissed off about things as you were when you first started making music, or have your focuses changed?

Art: Are we still pissed off? I think anger can be a pretty amazing force if used the right way. We’re pretty much overwhelmed with enough things in the world today to level us on a minute by minute schedule – so how to deal with it all, how to use the anger there or frustration to make something or be something more than that, to turn that adrenalin into something positive? Phil Ochs said, “you must protest, you must protest, it if your diamond duty, ah, but in such an ugly time, the true protest is beauty.” Sure, anger is there, but I think anger implies negative reactions. Remaining critical and open and responsive and resolute and with a certain amount of courage seem to be stronger impulses.

Gus: As you get older – I will be 30 this year – I think you find ways of bringing your ideals into everyday life, how you live it. Simple things like how I treat other people, knowing your neighbours, trying to stay informed on what the hell is going on. Yes. I am pissed off about the US occupation of Iraq, I am pissed off about South Dakota deeming abortion illegal! There are so many incredibly frightening actions by government and power figures… most of which are against what the people want. It’s all so overwhelming sometimes, you start to wonder if we can bring change. It’s an anger with hope that we need more of, and I say that as much for myself as much as I do others.

Collective: Tell us about your relationship with Moganono – how did it come about? It seems to be one of those reliable, understated labels standing out like a beacon in a sea of shit. Does the label guy cherrypick all these great bands (Anton Bordman, Kolya, Ettil Vrye…) or is he just lucky enough to have found himself sitting amongst a slew of neat acts with broadly similar ideas and ethics? What is the hardcore scene like where you hail from and what kind of bands do you generally play with?

Art: My personal relationship with Moganono goes back a long time to me being 14 and living in the Merrimack Valley and going to shows featuring bands whose members would later be in Moganono bands, and whose brother team were very open and friendly to me. I grew a lot through knowing Peter and Mike, through their examples in how they made genuine efforts in punk circles and their own lives. They used to book a fest every year as a breast cancer research benefit called “tin can full of dreams”, whose overarching value and richness was not wasted on me. It was a family thing, the Zetlans representing behind the refreshment table, the brothers making things work, and bands and people growing ever tighter over the years, finding each other at these events, and building relationships that would last. I am inspired by the memory and the people, and as a label, am always impressed. Peter keeps putting effort and love into bands of friends and releases that are timeless and hand done with care, and I feel so honoured to be a part of that history. He is a great person, and his friends and the music they create can speak to that fact. I don’t think I could generalize about the music scene here in Providence, there are many bands I love, who continue to push boundaries and experiment, and there is an earnest dedication to creating something personal and unique and honest that is awesome to see/hear. We’ve been lucky enough to play all different kinds of shows with bands playing all different kinds of music, so it’s nice to be a part of a community of music/art makers that continue to challenge us in that way – to not settle.

Gus: Pete is a wonderful, wonderful person. I met him through Art, when we started playing shows. He always struck me as genuine. He’s extremely dedicated and cares about what he is doing. It’s kind of like he’s the keystone in creating this little family of New England bands with similar views, for no other reason than a genuine interest. There is so much music going on in Providence. It’s a very diverse scene that has been through many hardships the past couple of years. Losing warehouse spaces (living and otherwise) and increasing rents are forcing people to keep things on the DL. There are now a handful of show/art spaces and only two or three are DIY. I think there is an underlying fear of those spaces being taken away.

Collective: Your lyrics are often kind of oblique, though can be picked apart for a sense of meaning. Is there anything in particular you’re looking to impart or are your songs more an opportunity to vent or try to understand particular situations for yourselves? Would you mind going into any detail as to what “Four Days After Ariel Was Shot” is about?

Gus: Not to discredit myself but Art is much better versed than I. He writes most of the lyrics where I write more straight forward words like “Daniel Striped Tiger”. I guess for me it’s a venting of sorts, trying to tell a story or put across and idea. That song, in particular, was at root a motivational. As is my part in “Whenzy”.

Art: The songs lyrics aren’t oblique on purpose, I think in the lyrics I write I just end up being a little indirect. Less venting, more trying to understand particular situations, think around things, pay attention. “Four Days…” was about living in Lawrence, Massachusetts after a killing had occurred in my neighbourhood and walking home from work through the park one night when a cop pulled up to me, not to arrest me, but to offer me a ride home because it wasn’t safe for me there. I think it was a critical moment in me thinking about privilege and whiteness, and the power of those things, their hidden meaning and weight. I loved my neighbourhood, met many of my neighbours and worked in a local charter school with kids living down the street from me, and was part of a small dysfunctional collective there. I felt part of a community and was not blind to certain aspects of it that made it “dangerous”, but tried to accept them as things that exist in a society that sets them up to be there in such a way. Killing or mugging or stealing were not exclusive events, like in most cities, and how you interpret or deal with those things ends up marking how you live within them. Are they constants or negotiable? Can you stop them? When does a neighbourhood start turning into a gated community? Many easy answers are found when someone can throw out “gang related” after a killing rather than looking at the root of these kinds of conflicts or issues. And I am no better prepared at handling those issues than anyone else, and so, the song is about that, being hit by all of it kind of profoundly and still coming up with not many answers. And no, I did not take the ride home.

Collective: What does the term “Fingers Become Bridges” mean to you? Why choose it for the name of your record?

Gus: I’ll let Art carry the torch on that one.

Art: “Fingers become bridges”. I like the thought of bridging things, finding connections and meaning and relatedness between disparate ideas and worlds, and personalizing it, seeing yourself as integrated, part of a web, connected and capable of building bridges, seems pretty empowering to me. You make what you want to see.

Collective: What are your plans for the band, both immediate and long-term? Is there much on the horizon by way of gigs, releases or grand schemes?

Gus: just want to play music and feel good about what we are doing. My hope for the band is that we keep progressing and stay true to ourselves… maybe inspire people outside of music too. We are planning a US tour in May/June to the West and back. Our new record “People Without End” will be out in May on Corleone records. We may be heading to Europe in the fall if all goes well and we can pull ourselves away from personal obligations to work we love.

Art: Plans include getting the new record out, going on an almost month long tour out to the west coast, hopefully going to Europe within the year, playing more guitar and bass songs, feeling less stressed out and more in control, recording a split with Fiya, figuring out how to use the fourtrack, having an updated and cohesive website, being better about lyric sheets, keeping it punctual when talking between songs, learning new ways to play music, trying trying trying.

Collective: Any last words or snappy closing comments? Use this space…

Art: Thank you very much for your thoughtful questions! I hope these weren’t too long winded for answers! Please write if you’d like: po box 1652/Providence/RI.02901. Thank you!

Gus: thanks so much for the opportunity and intelligent questions!

By Alex Deller

Tombs Interview

Tombs L-R: Mike Hill (g/v), Andrew Hernandez (d), Carson Daniel James (b)
Tombs L-R: Mike Hill (g/v), Andrew Hernandez (d), Carson Daniel James (b) - Photo by Jimmy Hubbard

Mike Hill is probably one of the most hardcore people on the planet. A fierce work ethic that has seen him serve time in the excellent techy hardcore band Anodyne through to myriad other projects has eventually led to what appears to be the most cohesive unit in terms of playing and sound. Tombs sound like no-one else at the moment; a transcendent wall of sound mired in doom and gloom. Mike was kind enough to write me back with some answers to some questions. Enjoy!

Can you give a rundown / timeline as to your activities post the dissolution of Anodyne and the formation of Tombs?

After Anodyne broke up, I did a band with Jamie Getz (Lickgoldensky, Gods and Queens). This actually overlapped with the final months of Anodyne’s existence; we rehearsed in the same room and it was great, I was playing pretty much six or seven days a week between both bands. When Anodyne disbanded, I focused on the Getz collaboration as a more full-time gig. We actually toyed with the idea of calling the band Gods and Queens but eventually settled on Versoma; our first choice for a name “Matamoros” had some alleged white power overtones. I always thought Matamoros was a bordertown in Mexico.

Versoma released an ep on Robotic Empire, did a tour with Red Sparowes, played some dates with Isis and fizzled out due to lack of interest. Jamie and I wanted to do different things so it didn’t really make sense to continue. I also managed to alienate our rhythm section during our CMJ showcase so the band was more of less broken up anyway.

I moved directly into working on material for the band that would ultimately become Tombs. At that point, it was me and the original drummer, Justin Ennis kicking around ideas and experimenting. Some of the material was culled from ideas that I was working on for Versoma so much of the first EP has a kind of “shoegazey” vibe.

There have been some lineup changes over the last couple of years. Justin was ejected from the band and Domenic Seitia, our original bassist formed A Storm of Light with Josh Graham. The current lineup of Tombs is solid. We all have similar work ethics and everyone is civilized.

When comparing the sound of Defeatist with Tombs, one could construe that you wanted to do something more epic and song-based whereas the other two just wanted to strip things down and grind it out. Would this be about right? Were there other factors not to do with musical differences that contributed to the eventual split of Anodyne?

It’s solely a musical thing. I love both of those guys and we remain close friends. Defeatist and Tombs have shared many bills and I think that they’re one of the more interesting bands working in the grindcore medium thiese days. I wish they would play more.

I think the primary departure was that those guys wanted to do something more extreme and stripped down. At this stage of the game, I want to create bigger productions using more layers and more diverse instruments.

Was it a conscious effort on your part to try something different? How would you personally describe the sound to someone who had never heard you? How would you “sell” it to a potential listener?

I just follow my instincts. I wouldn’t say that it was a conscious effort. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to rip off My Bloody Valentine and buy a ton of effects pedals. It was a gradual kind of thing where I would test the waters. I think that some of the material on “Lifetime of Gray Skies” gives a hint of some of the concepts that would be used on the Tombs records.

I don’t know how I would describe the band. Ultimately I end up saying that I want to be like Richie Blackmore during the Deep Purple Machine Head era, but for you, Kunal, I’ll give it a try.

Tombs = gloomy blackened doom-core with a shoegaze sensibility.

How is the dynamic different in this band compared to your previous ones? Is it a democracy or a dictatorship? What is the songwriting process like for Tombs?

Honestly, and the other guys will back me on this, the writing is more of a dictatorship. I write 99 percent of the material on my own and bring it to rehearsal. We arrange the songs as a band. I’m open to what the other guys say because we all share similar tastes in music. Usually, if Andrew suggests something it’s on point so “being open” isn’t really an issue. Nobody’s suggestions are coming from left field.

Tombs' first EP
Tombs' first EP

How did the Relapse hookup occur? How has their treatment of you been (or can you not say)?

It was a pretty low stress scene with the Relapse thing. Greg Drudy, who works at Relapse as well as doing Level Plane / Enucleation records, gave a copy of a demo we recorded to the point men at Relapse. They dug it. We were on tour, played a show in Philly and the offer followed. So far things have been pretty right on.

Your touring schedule is rigorous. Do you have regular jobs and how does “real life” fit around the band?

Somehow it all works out. It’s a tight rope walk and at times things get pretty shakey but we all make it happen with respect to our “day-jobs”. My “personal life” is currently in a shambles but that kind of stuff happens from time to time and I just have to deal with it.

How has the response been to the live show? When supporting bigger bands, is it the usual indifference to support bands, or is there a marked difference according to who is headlining? Have you had much chance to headline gigs yourself?

The response has been really good on the last few tours. The opportunity to support Isis, Pelican and Wolves in the Throne Room were amazing. It was the perfect situation for us to get out there with those bands. It’s easy for me to take the cynical path and say that I don’t care if anyone likes us or not, but after years of touring I have to say that it definitiely helps.

Is being a band in New York tough? Are practise rooms expensive to hire, or spaces tricky to find, and venues difficult to park at and so on? Is there a scene as such in the densely populated metropolis?

It’s hard to be a band in NY. Rehearsal space is overpriced, parking is tough and in general there isn’t much of a scene.

I don’t want to be part of any scene; I don’ feel comfortable with being a New York Band or a Brooklyn Band because we do’t have anything in common with a lot of the bands in this city. I just want to be on the road.

Tombs - Winter Hours
Tombs - Winter Hours

Have you had interest in Tombs from quarters that previously would have given, say, Anodyne short shrift? Would you attribute this to your sound or the involvement of a large independent label?

Anodyne had a very specific audience so yeah, a lot of people that wouldn’t have been into Anodyne seem to be into Tombs. To me, I don’t see the difference, but I guess Tombs has more melody and it’s easier for people to relate the the music. I don’t know. Being on Relapse has definitely been a big help and they have allowed us to get in front of a lot of people.

“Winter Hours” seems to have picked up a number of very good notices. How important is the critical reaction from the press at the end of the day? Have you had much audience response in this respect, at gigs or via fanmail and so on?

The media, though, I admit is important and necesary, doesn’t play as big a part in the success of your band. I take it all with a grain of salt. Anodyne got really positive reviews but we were always a super obscure band to most people.

I have to admit, that I do get a fairly steady stream of email from people regarding the band. It’s important to me that I answer everything, my point is that everyone is busy these days and if you take time out of your schedule to put together some kind of correspondence, the least I can do is write back.

Your label Black Box has put out a handful of great, well presented releases. Do you plan on continuing with it or does Tombs occupy too much time? What were your reasons behind starting it and what are your aims with it?

Tombs has definitely moved up on my action item list. I’m still doing BBR but all of the touring has made it difficult to manage everything. My next release is a split 12-in with Dead in the Woods and Diet Pills. It should have came out in the spring, but the touring set it back. I’m going to be home all summer so the revised release date is fall 2009.

I started the label because I wanted to put out quality music that I thought was important. I feel like a band like the Wayward should have their own section at the local record store. I would like to do whatever I can to facilitate that.

Judging by the (often personal) commentary in your blog, it seems like touring is more gruelling than rewarding. Is it something you enjoy or something you feel you have to do as part of the band lifecycle?

At this point, it’s part of who I am. It’s important in the business end but I also need to travel aspect of it. Every night is an achievement and I love to achieve.

You’ve been doing this for a long time. What keeps you hungry for it? What do you hope to achieve with Tombs? A similar longevity to Anodyne (which I would consider to be lengthy within the hardcore genre)? Absolute world domination?

Absolute world domination. I want to have my own country and I want “Seven Stars, the Angel of Death” to be it’s National Anthem.

Links / Tombs / Black Box / Relapse