By Max Dropout


It was the delirium of insomnia and obscene alcohol that had numbed me to the nails puncturing the soles of my feet through worn down boot heels. The terrible thing about reaching the echelon of drunkenness where pain is bullshit is that every other sensation is strangely amplified; the holes in my flesh were nothing, but the sensation of coagulated blood squishing between my toes through spongy socks inspired stomach churning. I stood on the sidewalk, facing the street, me and my tattered balance, waiting for sweet relief in the form of a carbon-belching cab. My comprehension of time was stewed, but it didn’t seem too long before my order arrived.

A brine of piss, vomit, and gravel crackled beneath my feet as I stumbled strategically into my ride. The relief of being off my legs was orgasmic. Cold, plasmatic sheets of sweat seeped from my skin, though the acrid alcoholic stench was smothered by queer pina colada air fresheners, which hung throughout the cab like trophies. I fought my tongue’s inclination to slur and spoke my address clearly.

I relish these late night rides, where we pass the most detestable breed of person; barely upright, they surface only during the disgusting pre-dawn hour to prey on scantily clad and blacked out stragglers. This is the hour when all the most horrible things come to pass. Victimization pants on poorly lit streets like an obscene caller. We cruise scum baked nativities, the driver and I share a kindred chuckle. We know what goes on. We have a lot in common, actually.

To endure the notion that you are perceived as less than a man without reacting in the ordinary, macho sort of fashion is the greatest test of manhood. A better understanding of the value behind these trials is what separates the man behind the wheel and I from most people. It is the ignorant by which our patience has been weathered into steel idols of righteousness. We shimmering beacons of hospitality remain unflinching even the face of saliva-spewing frat boys and their mouth-breathing counter parts, both undoubtedly brain damaged from the atmosphere of cheap toilet water that seeps from their anus-like pores. I’m not saying I’m better than you, though. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just different. After you’ve had vomit thrown in your face, most other indignities become laughable. Beyond the hourly wage, there is a the spiritual reward: my tolerance thrives.

Behind my seemingly welcoming gaze lurks homicidal frenzy, not so much chained down as it is trained. I haven’t learned to love anybody. I’d rather sift chunks of puke out of urinal grating than process the universal niggers I humor on a nightly basis. Their banalities which often waft into my vicinity cleave into the very heart of my better disposition. When a pack of beady eyes surfing a heavy set of halitosis huffing jowls barks some half-witted insult at me, I still want to bask barefoot in their blood and squish the viscous between my toes like a summer baby does the salt water and sand. I want to pry their rip cage open and revel in the sputtering of their entire system gagging on fountains of blood. I want to pin them down on cork board like a fucking frog and hold Holy Communion with the contents of their bladder. I want to crack their cervix like a lobster and watch the remnants drip out of their slits. I want to send hairline factures through my knuckles by cracking them into their moron skulls. I want to bring their insides out. I want their disgusting souls to swell to the surface of their skin. I want to shellac those bruises so they never go away — and I want it on PBS so the next generation of rotting crotch fruit can see what happens when they don’t watch their fuckin’ P’s and Q’s. But instead of any of that, I embody restraint; I smile in the hope that whatever they lob at me next is something more interesting.

Earlier, behind bolted doors, I mix my complimentary drink with sickening pin sol fumes; the high is decompressing. My appreciation for silence continues to expand, and here the only sound is the willowy bartender’s clattering glassware and the few sighs we share together. This is a strange, healing intimacy. Her poor, untreated cough charges the air at the approximate time I void my lungs, and suddenly our weary grinning slap into one another. Once my bad humor has been solved and I’m sure it won’t be following me home, I phone for my cab.

Save for the driver’s peculiar accent, that night’s ride was standard. We sped and made polite gossip about underground politics as we wound Northbound toward my home. But as we drew nearer, a strange quiet infected the air between us. “Turn here, ” I told him, and he looked back at me, strangely. We swerved onto my street while rifling through my pockets for loose bills, “It’s the house with the van in front of it. Stop there.”
As we roll into my driveway, he let out a strange, agonized groan. “I know this house.”
“Oh, yeah?” I quizzed.
“This beautiful… beautiful, girl. The most beautiful girl I’d ever seen in my life. My god, she was goooorgeous.”
He draws the adjective out until he almost sprains his tongue.

“I used to pick her up at the airport and take her here maybe three times a year. But my god, she was beautiful. Did you know her?”
A remote pang of pride takes a quick kick to the gut, and my mood goes sour again. “You could say that, I guess.”

I handed him a balled up twenty dollar bill for my twelve dollar ride, and I’ve lost interest in my change. I stumble during my escape. I trudge up the lawn, all the while my stomach disintegrating as memories start moving and hollering under all the shit I’d piled on top of them. The strange coincidence had sobered me. The pain of my punctured foot pads comes skipping back. And I saw her face again very clearly, resist as I might the memory. I fumbled for my keys, slipped inside, and stood in the relative calm of my living room, a little dazed.

I did know her. I would later refer to her as the Sistine in the shape of a girl. Despite the hardship and bitterness that swelled within me after our parting, I hadn’t yet developed the disgust you can use to generate distance. Simply put, she was the sort of quality woman whom you’d need to go vampire for just to get over. There just isn’t enough mortal time left to forget. Recouping from her was like recovering from a haunting, and ghosts don’t just fade, though they might vacation from time to time.

I spent the previous summer in a haze of knuckle dragging brutality following that break-up. I had developed a sense of selectivity when it came to targeting people for violence. I reserved my misdirected fury for those who needed their ass kicked anyway. I deposited frustrations in impolite faces. I identified her with general aloofness, cruelty, and smugness, and anyone who shared these traits with her needed to be stamped out. Typically, anyone comfortable with lobbing threats of violence, or who likes to inflict pain has never really had a painful encounter in their life. The value of real suffering eludes them, in much the same fashion a grown up brat never appreciates the dollar they didn’t earn through their own hard work. I’ve always felt that there ought to be a human ritual, where the minute you turn 18, you get punched in the face by an ex-convict. Kind of like a primeval bat mitzvah. Experiencing suffering at an early age is an essential component to becoming a real human being. The miracle of Bone-crushing pain can till even the rockiest land, force the barren to produce, and plant the seed of empathy and caring toward your fellow human beings in even the most stubborn personality you might encounter.

Discipline is a dying thing. People often shuck personal culpability and will trample in the name of self interest. Taking the easy way out has become par for the course, and subsequently the hard road has been blocked off by its own un-manicured decline. Sacrifice and caring have become about as fantastic as the unicorn, and are soon to be mere ceramic likenesses on some senile old coot’s shelf alongside the mythical beast I just mentioned. And while I might have been doing some sort of good with the blunt illustration of my displeasure in the form of shattering wrists and breaking ribs, I wasn’t exactly exhibiting the sort of self control and responsibility I despised my victims for lacking. And so I retired the lost cause.

The hell months congealed, my temper cooled, and I slipped down a sloped corridor of depression and alcoholism. During July, I had been bitten during one of my altercations. Subsequently, I convinced myself that I had contracted some sort of social disease, as my weight fluctuated wildly, and I could not stay warm even in 90 degree heat. Over the last two years, I had directed too much of my own time into someone else. My life was bankrupt. All I wanted was sleep and solitude; hermitage. To be as unfeeling and preserved as Saint Bernadette would have been my heaven.

That interaction with the cab driver was gathering weight on my chest. I retreated to my room, collapsed on the ledge of that naked, dust mite vault I call a mattress, cracked a beer, and rifled through a stack of CDs; I had received an unlikely album earlier in the year by Reverend Beat-Man and Herpes O’Deluxe, which fast became a soundtrack to my sulking. It was everything I had been thinking, feeling, and saying for the last year, right down to the broken English. I would lay there in its grip, like some spirit stricken churchy gimp, mumbling the lyrics, and there was peace. Even that night, that crackling, whir and that ungodly strained voice seemed to assuage the tensions building in my chest. All the Beat-Man’s phantom fingers peel back my rib cage and strum the worms strung through my ventricles, as if it were some rotting harp. The reverberation rang through my body like a lullaby. I may relate to a number of records at certain points in my life, but there are few that I can truly say had any sort of therapeutic quality. Your Favorite Position Is On Your Knees is one of them and I still revisit it with an almost religious fanaticism. It remains a relevant faith-heeling testimony to righteous hatred and the power of suffering. Above all, if you’ve ever been the subject of inhumanity, this will vindicate your longing for the torture of others.

To those familiar with Beat-Man, this collaboration with Euro-industrial purists Herpes O’ Deluxe, came as a nasty swerve away from his previous trajectory. Despite the fact that a lot of his Lightening Beat-Man releases contain a good amount of extraneous grit and noise, it was too far a departure from the usual rant and rave roots revue that comprises the last twenty years of his catalog, which also includes numerous releases with odd ball rockabilly troop, The Monsters. And not only did it seem to alienate most of Beat-Man’s regular fan base, it also seemed to disorient most Herpes O’Deluxe followers as well. It’s too noisy for the garage punk people, but at the same time, it too poppy for the industrial fans. Ultimately, though, if one really examines the album and explores the primarily organic sound Herpes produces, this may very well be the most primitive album Beat-Man has yet to produce, which is ironic since the brutish nature of his music is something for which he is often lauded. Perhaps this record was just too primitive for most… It’s just too Beat-Man for the Beat-Man fans.

The terminology of primitiveness is associated with something’s basic origin. It refers to something in its purest form; something primordial; primeval; most unrefined; potent and uncut. Almost everything which follows merely hammers itself into the crater forged by that raw blast. That chasm is defined, studied, and all rules are determined by its shape and topography. That’s why so much so-called punk rock sucks shit. It’s a bunch of people doing something entirely unnatural. By the earliest and therefore most pure definition of punk, Reverend Beat-Man is one of the only real punk rockers to float to the surface over the last decade. Beat-Man’s energy is usually over the top, verging on purely animalistic in terms of instinct and fervor. But in a sense, the presence of Herpes O’Deluxe on his last LP has coaxed out a more vicious creature than previously seen. This is no party fodder. This is a trek through an inner sanctum… a side never before seen in Beat-Man’s work. Lyrically, it’s a giant leap forward and yet remains true to Voo Doo Rhythm’s primitive ethic. Creatively, Your Favorite Position Is On Your Knees is perhaps his most primitive and therefore most original work to date.

An example of the allure and charm of sheer primitivism is best exemplified by cult film maker Ed Wood, who’s work is often marketed as notoriously “the worst”‘; a marketing ploy that peaks the naturally morbid interests of almost anybody. There is something compelling enough to make his films not only unwatchable, but also worth revisiting with some frequency. What made Ed’s films so intriguing, aside from his obvious desire to create, aside from his passion, was his primeval skill. He was afflicted with a basic illiteracy when it came to the film making process. His blind execution subsequently defined the camp genre as we know it. There was no apprehension of meeting a set criteria or doing things the “right” way. I’ve sat through my fair share of bad Ed Wood Knockoffs, which go out of their way to be intentionally, gut wrenchingly awful, but in doing so come off as extremely affected. There’s no spontaneity or freshness too it. Another sad example of something that’s had all value stripped away from itself is trendy blues rock bullshit. So refined, boiled down to the husk, and with large plastic eyes glued to the dead hide they drape around the skeleton. It is a taxidermied culture.

Beat-Man may play off of an already established platform, but he seems to be walking the edges of this respective plateau while both drunk and blind folded. Most of his impressions of Americana rock n roll defy convention and logic, and this is why the Church Of Herpes is a veritable golden vault. There’s a difference between those who understand the music they are trying to produce and those who do not. It’s a matter of throwing theory and formula into a cage with the raw urge to spit something out. While in my own mind Your Favorite Position Is On Your Knees is a painfully logical step (backward) in terms of Beat-Man’s primitivism, I still had a ton of stuff I wanted to ask the guy about the record. I fired off a battery of questions to him late one night after he told me he’d be happy to answer them. It was several months later, on All-Saints day, that I was reminded of the pending interview, and after sending a drunken reminder off to VooDoo Rhythm headquarters, I passed out. When I awoke the next day, it was Halloween, and Beat-Man’s answers were waiting for me.

I’ve heard that you’ve always had an interest in industrial music. Tell us about your ’80s industrial past?
I began as an ’80s child. Mainstream rock or disco was very hip at the time, and we as teenagers were looking for something to shock our parents. We were looking for something that was different, and believe me; at that time it was not that normal to be abnormal. There was no internet or good radio stations around. There was only mainstream shit. So, sooner or later you jump into industrial music, ’cause the parents hated that so much. It’s not music; its noise. It’s disturbing and wrong. That’s what I liked about that kinda music the most… we went to see Test Department, Einsterzende Neubauten, and Laibach, but I loved rock n’ roll, too. Eventually, we went to a Butthole Surfers gig and that was a changing point for me… it was nasty, out of control, totally on dope and just fucked up.

Do industrial music & noise and blood & guts primitive rock n’ roll relate to one another at all in your opinion?
They do if you are open minded and not a fashion nerd. Rock n’ roller or industrial fan, you know you can find in every kind of music style lots of shit. I would say 90% of all bands who say they are rock n’ roll are just fashion nerds and 10% are the real thing. Maybe industrial musicians don’t have the correct clothes on, but in their heart they are rock n’ roll. It’s the same with industrial. There’s so much shit around as well that they think, “yea, make a bit noise”… but it’ s not only that. It’s HATE. Pure HATE and DESTRUCTION, and you have to let it out, and it’s very loud.

What made you want to play rock n roll as opposed to any other sort of music?
It was the chicks. Rock n’ roll chicks are the best …and the power of the music itself. Rock n’ roll is the most direct music in the world. You can reach everybody on this planet with rock n’ roll. We played all over the globe, from South America to Asia Europe to the USA, and all over the same people go nuts for rock n’ roll. It’s not only that it may be hip at the moment. It was the same in the 90’s when this music was dead. Real rock n’ roll or love always wins in the end

How and when did you meet Herpes O’Deluxe?
We are old buddies. The town I’m from is kind of small, and every body knows everybody, so music styles melt with each other very easily. For me, it’s a normal thing, hanging around with cats who are into industrial, or hanging out with a hip hop posse or some singer-song writer who does crap popular music. It’s not such a big deal over here. Mike, the guy on the MS20, is a very old friend of mine. First, he was a performance artist, slaughtering pigs on stage, wearing them or shooting guns over the heads of people or dressing up as Hitler for his exhibitions and leading all costumers into a gas chamber. Anyway, it was really heavy shit, and Bern was totally shocked by him. In 1999, we met each other again. I was spinning Suicide during one of my DJ sets, so he said, “why not make a record together connecting gospel music with industrial?” And we did it! In the beginning, we thought that’s an easy thing to do, but it was not. You have to know that an industrial musician has songs in the head. They build up in between 20 minutes, and my songs are 1:30 at the most (laughs). It was pretty heavy to trim them down to three minutes or so. I remember in the second year, we did a song that was six minutes. They where all so happy! They said, “Yeah, we did a six minutes song!” All I said was, “Yeah! Now we do a three minutes song” (laughs). I think it worked very good. We didn’t wanna be a Suicide rip off. We wanted to do our own thing.

As opposed to The Monsters or Beat-Man proper, what is different about working with Herpes O’Deluxe?
It’s totally, completely different. There’s only thing that’s the same: it’s the beer. We both drink a lot of beer or smoke pot. But writing music (laughs)… I do songs in two minutes, and then at the end, the song is two minutes long. That’s it. With the Herpes, you go into the room, then start to smoke pot and drink, then go to the synthesizers or drum machine and searching for sounds; and after one hour, it is so fucking loud that you cannot hear your words anymore, so you have to scream the shit. You build up a song or better a feeling what you have at the moment and try to stick together as a band. You also must realize that Herpes is a TOTALLY Analog band. They have no comprehension of computers or loop machines. They don’t use stuff like that.

How long did it take you to put this album together? Did it really take five years?!
Yeah, it was five years. It was because of the brain time changing, and we had no proper recording equipment either. The first thing we recorded on was a two-track. Then, an 8-track machine was running most of the time we were rehearsing. We did rehearsal like once a week and recorded it. In the beginning, things were not as good as the later recordings… “Home, ” “Seven Days, ” and “Blue Suede Shoes” are very early recordings. They are funny I think, but when you listen to “Higher” then you see the step into the total craziness of the two styles of Gospel and Industrial. It’s also one of my favorite songs on the record. It’s so wrong and beautiful at the same time.

Your Favorite Position Is On Your Knees in some ways a lot less primitive. It has a lot of elegant detail. It shattered many of my ideas about what you’re capable of doing. You seem to think it’s funny that many people didn’t understand what you were trying to do though. How does that make you feel? Are you at all disappointed by the reactions?
No, I was expecting this reaction totally, but this record is a part of my life and I’m proud of that… that I also can put out music that people do not like. If I just put out music that everybody liked, how boring would that be? I would be mainstream I think (laughs). But yeah, it’s totally less primitive in the recordings. It’s much more “clean, ” if you can use this word, on this record. But for me, it’s the most bluesy record I have ever done. It’s very deep and hits you on the ground. It leaves you behind with a big question mark in your brain. This is one of my records I listen a lot. I have done a lot of records so far but, this one is surely very strange, angry, and desperate the same time.

How did you predict your fans would react to the record, and how did you WANT them to react?
I predicted they’d react just like they did actually. It was perfect. They don’t know what to say. I really hope that they start to think about things, and understand that musicians are human beings, and that they have ups and downs… that they make things you can understand and things you can’t. The same with people in Palestine for example, or Iraq, or the USA. We are all people, but and everybody is 100% different from one another. We here in Europe have a lot of people who are Anti-USA, or I’m sure in the USA are tons of people who are Anti-Islam or whatever. But my message with this record is that you can make lots off different things under the same name. For me, it’s Reverend Beat-Man. This is free creativity, and I’m still the same person even when I do different things. But politicians… do they always have to say the same thing over and over again? How stupid and boring is that?

Are people negative toward Americana culture in Europe? I think of blues as being a very American thing, but I always hear they hate Americans overseas, so I was curious as to if our culture is hated, too..
You can say the same thing about Americans thinking negatively about people in Arab countries. They just don’t know any better. Most Americans seem to think people in Iran are politically extreme and violent. That’s bullshit. I know so many people from Iran. I’m blown away by this country. They are very clever and funny people. But I think it’s different with America and Europe. America is like the big brother. America is all over Europe. Americans own so much stuff over here you would not believe it. So, I think it’s more like the little one has to fight against the big one. Anyway, we all listen to American music, but we also listen to European music or African music. Politically, America has a pretty bad system. This is what I think: it’s very focused on Capitalism and it’s not actually a Democracy. I think Switzerland is the only country in the world that has direct Democracy, which means the people (seven-million) are the President. We have actually seven Presidents in our country with different directions, and they make decisions. But if it’s something very important the folk of Switzerland can decide what happens. For example, one person can say let’s get rid of the army, so he makes a voting and if more than 50% in Switzerland would say yes, we get rid of the army. They will do it. It has nothing to do with money. Everybody can make the decision.

You have said many interesting things here, but I do not think this hatred toward Arabs is as common amongst most average Americans as you might think. Arabs are such a strong part of every community throughout the country. The approval rating for our president is at an all-time low, and of the thousands of people I personally know, not one voted for Bush. I think much of our entertainment right now reflects that. Overall, it’s very Anti-Bush. The reputation of all citizens here suffers at the hands of mass media and politicians which do not reflect the attitudes and opinions of the bulk of our society.
But he got elected again. That proves the system don’t work… that maybe if you have a lot of money you can buy the minds of people or something like that. Maybe people are stupid. I think it’s the same here. People are stupid, too. They just run for a rightwing guy here in Switzerland and Germany, too. Isn’t that totally nuts to do something like that if you have a history like that in Germany? I think there are some very incredible, interesting people, but most are sheep, and they want to be lead. This is what the Bible has shown us for over 2000 years now… “run after someone. Don’t ask, just do what they say.” I think now it’s time to change. We are all part of the world and we all have the right to live in peace with each other, and we are much bigger than the others (industry bosses, politicians, etc…). I think that we have to learn to take care of the world, friendships, and… and… and.. when I’m in America, I’m also not together with the right wing guys. I’m together with people like you. People who are open minded. But that fucking money changes and destroys anybody, I tell you. I had many friends from show business who had no money at all, and now they are major stars with lots of money, and they changed completely. Not everybody, but maybe 90%. It’s so sad. We should find out something completely different. The idea of money is a thing to be changed. An apple against a few bucks or so.

Middle America is doped up from lack of real stimulating culture, and I think those people are probably the ones most responsible for putting Bush back in office. Sadly, our media is just as corrupt as our government. Certainly, there needs to be a change. Also, I think pop music has been an exceptionally important tool in making people dumb. There’s nothing to it… nothing to think about. When you stop thinking, you get stupid, and you become very easily influenced. I have no faith in the public because I see the general public whatsoever. But back to Herpes… what motivated you to affiliate and expose the Beat-Man name and Voodoo Rhythm audiences specifically to something so strange?
It was the blues. I had and still have the blues. I don’t care what people think about me, and if they expect something from me I just don’t care. I wanna do what I wanna do. Nobody can give me borders or tell me what to do… except my girlfriend or parents or my children. But the rest will not. I always had a strange sound from day number one on till today. At the moment I’m working on a new Reverend album and I use Cello and harps. I have slow songs, fast songs. I’m a man. I have love problems, and I have to write songs about it. That’s it.

You mentioned people just don’t “get” the Church of Herpes album. It makes me scared I’m not getting it either, even though I love it. Please, explain what there is to get.
Lots of people are running after a hype. Today it’s rock n’ roll, and when they hear rock n’ roll then they have a box for it, and they have an idea of how big it has to be on each side. And anything outside of those dimensions they have are therefore not rock n’ roll anymore to them, even though it really is. This Church of Herpes record is rock n’ roll, but in a very different way. I think they never will see that. When they all turn thirty, they will turn back to rock n’ roll and Bruce Springsteen or Elton John, and to them that’s great. But this Herpes album will always be underground music. It will always be something to rebel with.

The album also reminds us of a lot of ambient black metal bands. It’s thick and atmospheric. This is a haunted record! What were the conditions of the recording? Where did you record it? And are you influenced by black metal at all? If so, who?
Ambient?! Yeah, I love black metal too. I was a metal head. Venom, Celtic Frost, Master… they are all still in my record collection, but when they start with the vocals… oh, fuck, I hated that shit. We definitely didn’t want to make an ambient album. We are all around 40 years old and we did go through a lot of ups and downs and the result is on the record.
Some of your lyrics could be called sacrilegious perhaps. When you explain how you became Beat-Man, you mention that you rejected Satan. But have you rejected God, too? You scarcely write about Satan it seems. What are the differences between God and Satan and how does either affect your music today? Are you somewhere between the two?
God and Satan is the same person, and I think I’m not the only person who believes in that. We all have Satan and God in us. It’s in our heart. You can decide your self what way you wanna go. A way somebody tells you or your own way. I decided to go my own way with God and Satan in my heart. Sometimes you have to fallow the bad way to get to the good place, but all in one, we are a part of the nature and if you do something naturally it’s always good I think. There’s a Satanic Bible and there’s God’s Bible, and inside each of them there’s only advice on how you can do things. Nobody tells you what to do. You have to do it yourself. You still can decide yourself. Anyway, if you don’t know how to react to Satan, then you can not take the love of God. It’s very important to know who Satan is and it’s very important to know who God is, cause both are a part of you. If you have a problem with that, then you have a problem with yourself.

Your lyrics on the Church of Herpes record seem more emotional, sentimental, and even poetic. You are a very eloquent writer on this record. The words are arranged primitively, but it’s still very smart. You seem a lot less angry here.
You are right. It is a very emotional album, and angry and sad too. The lyrics, they come spontaneously in the recording session. I had a lot of personal problems at the time, and so did the others in the band. While jamming around and using your voice as a second instrument, you just sing whatever you wanna sing and you start to connect things together, and at the end you have a song. Different than other people with anger and hate, I have my music, and blues is made for that. Men are cry babies whether you want to admit that or not. We have always been like that, and with the blues you can let it out the best. There’s so much in this world making me angry… all the bombings, the violence, the child abusing we all see everyday in the news… and I ask you: how can you make a nice record if you have any real feelings? If I see somebody get shot in the head in front of his wife, this makes me angry and sad the same time. Then the next news is cheese from Switzerland and… and… and… It’s just so much information they wanna give us. How can we get over all that? We are not made out of stone. We have a fucking heart, Goddamit!

A lot of the lyrics focus on religion, and women, and it seems both let you down. The general feeling I get is that love and faith both make you suffer. It seems like a woman betrayed you, and god doesn’t care. What inspired this?
You are right with all you said. My answer is yes (laughs).

When I listen to this, I feel like I’m being told a story. It feels like a Beat-Man opera. Is there a story within this record that flows through each song?
Yes, it’s an opera. We were going through all the recorded songs and we saw that something was missing, and we recorded “Faith, Hope and Love” with my girlfriend Hope Urban, who was reading from the Bible on a toilet. At the end, it’s like a gospel horror movie soundtrack. If I would make a movie, I would use this record for that. It’s like a trip through Hell, but with God in the heart, and at the end everything comes together with the song “Higher.”

Explain why you chose to cover Blue Suede Shoes on this album and how it is important to this record? It’s like an assault on rock n’ roll. It’s very deconstructive and insane!
It was the only rock n’ roll song the other guys knew … we just did it for fun on a two-track. It was so different from the others. It totally fits and makes the record more interesting. I play it sometimes in my DJ set and people flip out… try it! They love it! It’s very insane, you are right.

You made mention of two shows you played with Herpes O’Deluxe, and said everyone cleared out of the room. Tell us a little more about what happened at those shows. How did all of you feel about that? And do you intend to play more shows?
No, we split up. But the shows were fantastic. Imagine this music live. It’s just not nice. The only way you can go through it is to hate it, so the people did (laughs). It was fantastic. In the final show, we had a Second World War kinda poster, and a riot already started days before we played from discussions on censorship, and on stage we had a big table with 12 girls half naked and eating chicken and drinking naughty wine. I was the preacher and Jesus and the band was all dressed as the dead. We had a huge cross at the back of the stage, which was very, very bright and the mixer was mixing the show ULTRA LOUD! There where like 800 people, and they all where blown away and didn’t know if they liked it or not. All of them had a big question mark on their foreheads.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 164 user reviews.

By Kevin Failure


Hardcore. The word seems simple enough, but it means different things to different people. For most of us it simply refers to the stripped down, barebones style of punk music that rid itself of rock ‘n roll’s past and blew the minds and speakers of white kids across America during the early 80′s. Many don’t realize the term has been used by people taking a similar approach to hip-hop and electronic musics for what’s approaching twenty years now. Cincinatti’s Robert Inhuman and the Realicide Youth Crew do. I visited Realicide in Cincinatti this past summer at their home: the Sugary Slimepit. It was a small, underground apartment/venue wallpapered with black and white flyers for shows they’d played and promoted. If you saw only the mutating psychedelic designs that were projected live on their ceiling you might mistake the scene for some ghetto house party filled with a bunch of burned out ravers – minds blown on ecstacy. However, the Crucifucks record blaring on the stereo would probably betray that image long enough for you to notice the intense look in the eyes of the inhabitants and remind you that this is no way a blissed out happening.

A friend of Robert’s approached me at one point in the night and asked what my impression of him was. He nodded at my response and said “the guy is like a bullet, he cuts through all the bullshit” referring to his hard gaze and matter of fact manner of communication. Every sentence out of his mouth felt like a statement. All cold facts. No filler.

Realicide, live, felt like a sonic expression of that same stoic brutality. Pummelling gabber kicks at speeds that’d make Discorance Axis jealous. Crushing industrial noise that makes Merzbow sound flat and empty. Throat ripping screams. All punctuated by the odd hardcore punk or hip-hop sample. It all made for a completely overwhelming aural assault. It renewed my faith in alot of things that had been treading on shaky ground for quite a long time.

Contemporary hardcore. How much more to the point can you get?

Tell me a bit about the concept of contemporary hardcore.
Contemporary hardcore is just what I’d like to think are the more useful aspects of hardcore culture (and music) executed currently and without dismissing the potential of new technology, definitions, and methods in expressive media. We are currently rehearsing a Black Flag cover with drum/sampling machines and vocal references to grind and noise. Black Flag‘s message is just as timeless as it always has been but to stay relevant language often needs to evolve; same ideas but new media. Also a consistent thread throughout our work is the very blatant pointing-out of parallels between “hardcore” cultures, be it guitar/drums rock bands, gabber producers, harsh noise artists, etc. else.

You guys seem to tour constantly, and release your music either on cassette CDr or for free. What are your feelings on mp3 technology and how do you feel it effects underground music?
In many ways mp3 technology is very much underground music at this point and this entails the good, bad, and ugly of course. The CDR and mp3 are cheaper and more omnipresent than any previous DIY medium. Pressing a 7″ seems very expensive in comparison. Duplicating tapes seems infinitely more laborious at times. CDR and mp3 media means more and faster. For a propaganda group this is awesome because the music is simply a vessel for endorsing or protesting something. And for the 14 year old kid who will grow to the 30-something year old adult with very little development of ambition or intent it is unfortunately a huge crutch and means to maintain low standards. I don’t have a lot of money, period. But CDR’s can be merely cents a piece, I know how to scam for free xeroxes, and I know how to screenprint. My publications are humble but not lazy, the media itself is a big part of the message in most cases. Yes, it is very easy to release recordings these days, but DIY methods are still something to take pride in, something that can influence just like lyrics or graphics. And as far as I’m concerned, with a positive intent and hunger for progression, the larger the edition the better. Within reason of course; then again that goes back to the mp3, an infinite edition and the closest stab at immortality a recording has to date.
Mavis: If it weren’t for online file-sharing servers such as Soulseek, I wouldn’t have found out about some of my primary influences in noise, hardcore techno, and other punk-ethic based genres of music. Websites with MP3 uploading capabilities for D.I.Y. artists offer a network to link themselves to the rest of the world. Sounclick, Myspace, PureVolume, and more are free promotion in this digital age where most of the youth audience live on the internet as if it were their actual home. MP3 technology has the ability to expose people to music they would have never given a chance if they had to pay for it. It has the ability to inspire and influence artists to move outside of their comfort zone. Try something new, put it online, promote it, no money lost on putting out a record that maybe nobody will buy ‘cuz it completely sucks. But at least an attempt to progress was made and hopefully the artist tries again and again and again. If an artist is putting out a record, MP3s are a good way to offer samples of new work, past work, and work in progress.

You often sample yourselves in your songs, how important is the philosophy behind your music to the music itself?
Ideally philosophy is all that ought matter, but that is pretty stupid when injected into the actual world. The goal is a balance between philosophy and musicality, or I could also say between valuable communication and entertainment. If a project leans too far into conceptual it will inevitably alienate the public, and if it falls into purely the pursuit of fun it will encourage sloth and weak-mindedness. The skill of creating music that provokes and stimulates change in people while remains really fun to listen to is an amazing skill I would like to become much better at. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’d like to end up a master of pop while blowing minds with earth-smashing concepts, but it would be great to learn a balance similar to groups like Crass or Wu Tang. As for sampling ourselves, it is a very necessary tradition in order to remind ourselves we are not exempt from the copyright/originality Armageddon of the twentieth century, no one is. Stealing, in art, is one of the most relevant ways to speak about yourself and your perspective on the world. This is the almighty conclusion of the twentieth century.

You seem to have crafted a very specific aesthetic that draws a lot from underground American hardcore. What is your musical background and what inspired the path you’ve set for yourselves?
I have no academic musical background and haven’t really noticed very much natural talent in myself as a musician, but I began experimenting and playing with taperecorders when I was in high school. When I started using my voice on a 4-track I realized I wasn’t really “gifted” as a “singer” or anything, but I knew I wanted to use my voice to tell people about myself and that music is traditionally a reliable sugar-coating to wrap this voice in. My drive and determination to be a vocalist has over the years forced me to make due with what I have, through faith that an emotional intensity can compensate and surpass for a limited physical capacity or lack of formal training. That is again punk ethics; use what you have, don’t be impaired by what you don’t have. Limits demand innovation. Jim Thirlwell’s Foetus albums in the 80′s are one of the best examples of music that inspired my work and direction; one of those guys who is working alone with very limited resources and creates these maniacal beastly layered songs, pouring everything in himself into his creative process. Later, when I was like 20 or 21, I finally found the value and appeal of hardcore, for it’s raw and liberating qualities, not the dogma and insecurity it is commonly associated with. Hardcore is a lot like church, and like any supreme religious doctrine it will be corrupted and misrepresented immediately by humanity. This doesn’t discredit the doctrine, it just reminds me that humanity fails. Anyway, the similarities to religious practices yet with enough malleability and open-endedness for me to work with, that’s why I gravitated towards hardcore. In that sense I guess you could see the Realicide project as a form of cult, and I assure you we are charged with heresy quite often by numerous people active in the hardcore scene, both by punks and ravers.
Mavis: I come from an educated musical background. I played classical trumpet for approximately 9 years, studied music theory, orchestration, and composition for approximately 5 years, and studied jazz bass and performance for a year. However, over the past two years of my life, I have been doing my absolute best to wipe my mind clean of most ofwhat I’ve been taught in those areas. For example, I can no longer read music on paper aside from rythmic patterns which I use when programming drum machines and sequencers. This is completely by choice. The dissection of music through formulas and catagories and rules, “you can’t modulate to this chord without first resolving to this chord through this cadence…” shit like that became less meaningful day by day after I was introduced to noise in late 2003. It became obsolete to me when I started performing noisey sets in late 2004. I am in no way against tonal music, melody, harmony, etc. In fact my current solo work is moving back in that direction after my last year and a half of drum-machine-gun/noise performances. The difference between my tonal music now and my tonal music up until 2004 is today I am no longer burdened with the knowledge that was intended to assist me in my compositions but ended up greatly detracting from their quality. And my non-tonal music is not an oppositional force to my tonal music now that they are created with the same mindset. Before I decided to let music theory go, I would use noisey elements such as mic feedback or banging on a piano to ruin tonal compositions I had written. By the mid-to-end of 2004, I was using those same elements to enhance my tonal compositions.

What role do you believe politics play in music? Is the way you play music and the music that you play as an individual inherently a political statement?
Well ok first I will go over and re-check the definition of “politics’ in my dictionary, it says “art and science of government, public life and affairs, activities concerned with seeking power.” I’d be an idiot to say music isn’t political. Everything is; everything we do is an endorsement or protest according to how we want to live or what we think is the right thing. Politics are like air or sound waves; omnipresent although not always acknowledged or don’t always have to be. I breathe air all the time but don’t need to talk about it every waking hour of my day, and to be equally verbal and mundane with political issues can often suck too. There should be a balance (again) of awareness with free fun action. Don’t be swamped and pigeon-holed by subjects you detest; don’t be tricked into becoming what you hate, an alienating and oblivious-to-reality monster like many government officials.

Politics: art and science of government. In this definition I would choose to opt “apolitical, ” to drop out because I do not believe in the human capacity to solve the larger problems we so extensively get ourselves into, my humanity is an anti-solution and surrender to an alternative perspective outside my own, although so much easier said than done.

Politics: public life and affairs. Excluding overlap with the first definition, this is really important to me. Why are we supposed to be so afraid of each other? Why am I not supposed to look a stranger in the eye when we pass on the street? Why is the world so neurotically passive-aggressive? I’d like to address these things in bands I’m involved with.

Politics: activities concerned with seeking power. Very very important. To the people who are after power over me and my peers, power over eachother, this music needs to be a total “fuck you.” And to the people scraping to take control of their own lives, to find a foothold and change things to become who they really want to be, we need to push them and lift them up as
much as we can.

In your travels touring the country, have there been certain people or places that you’ve felt inspired by?
Robert: Yes, although I’ve learned not to really envy other cities as much because things don’t vary that much in many ways. Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center in St Louis really revitalized my thirst for community and what a good all ages music venue needs to be. Rat Bastard’s International Noise Conference in Miami FL is really amazing, an annual pilgrimage of like a hundred artists to this festival that is free admission and non-paying, everyone goes just to contribute a short performance and be in the company of a lot of incredible people. Baton Rouge LA where these teenage kids had never seen noise or gabber punk before and they are ditching the screamo and metalcore fads, writing me about new bands they are starting, but a lot of inspiration comes from being in Cincinnati where I’m from, both hosting touring bands and observing the fluxuation of local artists. Brutal Cincinnati Damage fest or the Heinous Rave series comes to mind, in which hundreds of kids have come together for nights of excruciating noise, shrieking, and merciless gabber smackdowns. It is a good feeling to see spontaneous crowd-surfing or event-specific t-shirts at a gabber and noise themed event in Cincinnati OH.

How do you balance the symptoms of survival like work as an obvious example and your path as musicians?
Sometimes I enjoy having a job because it can be downtime during periods where my creative and social life is overwhelming and too hectic. I wrote all my lyrics and designed all flyers and record sleeves while I was a security guard for a while. Other times I’m working when I really don’t want to; I constantly remind myself it is temporary and keep my focus on moving past the period where I have to work the job, dedicating as little mental energy to the job as I am able. This summer I am technically unemployed. It is the first time I have decided to experiment with actively staying away from jobs and focusing on my real work for as long as I can. I am cutting lawns with a friend once in a while for rent money, otherwise I am trying to find distribution for records and books.

How important do you feel passion is in relation to skill or technical ability in creating art?
Passion is mandatory, skill is an optional tool. That’s about it, but I can include a segment of this essay I wrote spring 2005 which addresses the mystique of skill: “skills, more often than not, distract and mislead away from any true importance. Skillful art is often done to pass large amounts of time in a feeble life thirsty for glory as a default sense of worth and purpose. Skillful art is a standard and a precedent with an absurd tradition to deceive and fall into vagueness through illusion, fuzzy and faint creating a mystique assumed to be brilliant and superior. Illusionary crafts are preferred largely because they are a set of rules which make it easy to say who is great and who sucks, simply at face value. They distract for such a time that there is none left to look past and evaluate content beyond aesthetic mastery (thanks, college). Art and music that serves to instill a vaporous vibe or atmosphere is usually, in a sense, cowardly and uncertain, implying that the artists rock so hard that they could say something more direct and legible but that would be beneath them; too easy and silly of course. Bullshit; I wonder how many people can look me in the eye and tell me anything at all. I fucking wonder about that. Lives whittled away through a hypothetical worth only; the possibility of message and substance; but you know dawg possibilities can suck it; we’re gonna die and soon, so get to the point.”
Mavis: Even the most talentless, unskilled, ignorant artist will develop all of these things if they are truly passionate and consistantly active in what they are doing. Passion for one’s own art breeds original style, skills, technical abilities over time.

Although your aesthetic is rooted firmly in punk, you incorporate elements from other underground cultures. What other cultures inspire and influence you, and how do you make these influences your own?
Basically anything that can be paralleled to punk has an appeal and potentially useful influence to me. Noise should be pretty obvious, the most sensible evolution of punk music, but also grindcore (not metal as far as I’m concerned), gabber and other forms of raw aggressive rave music, and of course hiphop and rap that has firm allegiance to street life or at least real life. These are all genres that encourage inexperienced and unschooled individuals to try their hand at using music as an expressive and truthful medium. Sometimes the influence is presented very directly. For example, I have been using select lyrics by The Screamers and other bands for years now and though they originated as covers or tributes, gradually they become my own through their mutation and adaptation to our progressing style as a band. I splice appropriated lyrics with my own, I change the way the lyrics are accented or repeated. It is very parallel to the sampling process I use when sequencing electronic music. Rave culture is a good example of adapting an entire cultural phenomena to our own way of curating events. We liked the idea of a rave, the music instills such an unstoppable energetic feeling, it can be an extremely inspirational experience. We liked the ideal of an event in which the music is generated by an anonymous individual, like a DJ who is not in the spotlight and the attention of the audience is on itself instead, making the event the actions of everyone present and not one band or person. The pitfalls of rave culture are mostly all too apparent, many are cliche. We are not generally interested in drugs. We aren’t against them, but we don’t really talk about drugs or recommend them generally. So “heinous rave” is not drug-based, it is actually about the music and natural adrenaline. This makes the event even more terrifying to many traditional ravers who insist that it is impossible to tolerate gabber and speedcore without the aid of drugs. It’s hilarious. Then they want to know when the DJs are coming on. There aren’t any and when the “heinous rave” segment of the event is underway (usually after a few bands play and video gear is set up) we often just play our own tracks off a computer by the soundboard. Nobody is looking over at the soundboard, or finding some DJ veteran to hover over and worship for picking out the same mundane joke records they’ve heard time and time again. The kids that come to Heinous Rave are busy dancing, swinging off the ceiling beams, watching video feedback being scrambled, and yelling into microphones set around the room for spontaneous (and shrill) MCing. When they leave they don’t thank Realicide crew for being the sickest DJs that no one can beat, that is just the same as the rockstar shit I thought raving was a refuge from, the kids thank us for arranging the event as a whole, for taking the initiative to get everyone together for a really memorable collaboration. Heinous Rave is a means of reclaiming rave culture, the same way as a band we infiltrate and jostle the punk rock community.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 166 user reviews.

By Christina Whipsnade & Max Dropout

With a cartoon-colored image out of a Saturday morning acetate flip book, a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge, and a bubbling fountain of effervescent enthusiasm that can induce waves of disorientation when entertained by his subjects, Nardwuar has that one of a kind ability to put even Crispin Glovers charming eccentricities into perspective. While the aforementioned strange boy cult hero might seem odd to begin with, when you add the Nardo ingredient, the most potent natural oddity can seem enhanced to a sublimely absurd level, if not entirely outdone. So frenzied and peculiar, Nardwuars celebrity encounters can even reach harrowing tensions, specifically when he gets one the overgrown egos in his crosshair and assails him with a most unique assault style a caustic tirade spat through something akin to a silly straw, a shape so absurd that it embodies innocence. Continue reading

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 254 user reviews.

By Max Dropout


Two boys may begin as good as one another, so how is it that one might end up a solid citizen while the other could end up lingering on the bottom of a compost heap, diminished by the label “trash?” Where does an otherwise good boy go bad? What makes him that way? Every soul I personally know is inside of a life shell made up from a minutia of black wax, sweetened booze, and cold sweat — an amnion within which we are suspended amid a stormy serous of garbage and violence. Every man and woman begins construction of this apparatus themselves from the time they are born, the shape and composition of which are dictated by what the individual is provided with throughout their earliest years. The configuration of this strange cradle is only partially dictated by the individual in question. Some the materials used during its engineering are chosen by a free will while others are simply fated. Within this mechanized husk we have assembled is where our characters are formed. It defines and shapes us into the people we become. Of course, the heavier fate’s hand is, the earlier you may find yourself sequestered inside of this weathering womb. Fate can be cruel, and, more often than not, the elements it assigns us can be of an utmost brutal nature. This is how we are made. Some folks end up surrounded by a slightly more inspiriting atmosphere than others, while some end up stewing in a stormy mire, and for longer than necessary. Continue reading

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 245 user reviews.

By Anne Frank 2000 & Max Dropout


Photo by Photo Bill!

The year was 1980, and while Richard Pryor was setting his dick on fire, sixty-three Muslims were being decapitated in honor of a certain charisma Chernobyl’s presidential nomination, and everyone else was whining over the death of John Lennon, the punk rock scene in Dallas was lurching toward its apex, producing some of the most volatile and strangely underrated bands to end up at the bottom of the compost heap known as underground rock n’ roll. The whole mess was something of an anomaly, too, since Dallas doesn’t exactly seem like the sort of place that would cultivate any worthwhile culture… let alone a sub culture. Imagine a colony of bacteria gestating in a bucket of bleach. The odds are certainly against the scum getting anywhere in that bucket, or in Dallas for that matter. The city has such disinfecting properties that even riding the city bus can give one a cool, shower-fresh sensation. While Dallas put forth many influential early punk bands, such as NCM, the Telefones, Superman’s Girlfriend, the Deprogrammers, the Bombsquad, the Assassins, the Dot Vaeth Group, the Vomit pigs, and Stickmen with Rayguns, it all died out in the strangest way. Continue reading

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 231 user reviews.

By Max Dropout

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Prior to setting foot in Ohio for the first time over a decade ago, I had no preconceived notions or prejudice toward the midwestern region of the United States, but looking back most of my thoughts today on what that state embodies are firmly rooted in that first road trip I made to the state as a teenager. A handful of us had several friends in the state whom we’d met through various means, by participating in zines or seeing bands over the years. The internet was just starting to bud as a means of DIY promotion and communication… and it was through this that many of us had become acquainted with a guy named Mike out in Ohio. A handful of us decided to take a trip to visit him one fall… I’m not really sure why I went, as neither of us were particularly fond of one another, but I was somehow goaded into tagging along. Mike held the great distinction amongst most of our acquaintences due to the fact that he was black, actually, and therefore he held a sort of mystique amongst my largely WASP-ish clique, whom for the most part had never had a conversation with a Black man or woman that wasn’t somehow inhibited by fear or guilt — and they still hadn’t as far as I was concerned. My friends weren’t so much color-blind as they were color BLINDED, and our good negro friend was by my estimation very much aware of his advantage. Continue reading

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 281 user reviews.

By Anne Frank 2000 & Max Dropout
Imagery by Nicole Bonneau & Keegan


Art by Nicole Bonneau

I do remember signing my name on a sheet of paper, and being folded into a shrieking wheelchair, after which I was transported down five flights stairs in some ugly modern building that was, strangely, bereft of elevator. My journey home was a sedative-stained blur. All I know is that I woke up swollen and bleeding all over myself with electrodes still attached to my tits. What could have possibly happened that morning? I was more concerned with opening my bottle of Vicodin than I was with the truth. I popped some pills and sat on the edge of my bed, contemplating whether or not I should cram more gauze into my dripping orifice of a mouth. My room was beginning to look more like the waiting room of a crooked Tijuana surgeon than that of a teenage girl, with pills bottles, Autumn-hued blood smatterings, and bandages strewn poetically throughout the room. It was the first time in my life that I’ve cried, screamed, and bled simultaneously. I oozed with an unfathomable hatred. During a Vicodin-fueled rage, I violently ripped all the electrodes off my breasts and slammed them against my bedroom door. I suppose I was trying to communicate some kind of rudimentary cry for help. They are still there to this day. The only productivity that I could muster under the trauma of bleeding gum holes and constant muscle pain was mindlessly alphabetizing my record collection and sewing random articles of clothing together in the fashion of a hybrid trailer-trash/taxidermy artist. Sometimes it seems as if my own pitiful brand of self-entertainment will ultimately lead to premature psychosis. I’m just a total sissy when pain is involved.

During this past week I came to realize that finding exceptional music is a lot like excavating forgotten edible treasures from under a soggy bed of blood and stitches. It’s near impossible to do, unless you have copious amounts of free time and the incentive to get your hands dirty. Before hearing Tunnel of Love’s Rock ‘n Roll ‘n Bitches, I was sort of on a garage rock hiatus. Every other so called “primitive rock n’ roll” group with caveman promises quickly stagnated into the same mind-numbingly forgettable claptrap after the first few sloppy riffs. The new seemed so horribly dull and not worth the inevitable ten-hour wait that comes with having dial-up, so I reverted back to listening to the same old albums on repeat. Music should be impressive, and Tunnel of Love proves this concept in the fullest degree. When I first put on Tunnel of Love, the needle began to forcefully graft itself into the grooves of my new record. It remained embedded upon the sound, unable to be moved by human hands. At first I was a little worried about the permanent damage this new camaraderie could cause, but then I wholey understood that it was just meant to be. For the next few days, I listened to Tunnel of Love almost exclusively. I went through the same brand of selectiveness after hearing Guitar Wolf’s “Jet Generation” because I wanted to absorb as much awesomeness as possible into my arid skull before every member of the band dropped dead from alcohol poisoning. It’s like when you eat a really good chilidog, and you absolutely refuse to invite any flavors into your mouth for several hours, so as to preserve the hallowed spicy tang mingling on your taste buds.

No matter how many times “American Girls” or “Down in Hell” penetrates my speakers with such violating and raw tenacity, it always feels like the first time. With catchy fuzz-laden hooks and stomping guitars, there is a subconscious response that is fired through eager neurons with the same excited frenzy. This rouses the muscles and unbolts the ears to the decree of dance. Tunnel of Love doesn’t timidly request that you swing your hips; they aggressively command that you get off your lazy, flacid ass and shake it like it’s the last days of man. And you will get up and dance, because Tunnel of Love won’t take no for an answer. In fact, sometimes I half expect them to break my bedroom door down, with the same possessed expressions and matching attire they sport on the cover of their self titled album, and dance around me in a ring of imaginary fire. To me, Tunnel of Love has the kind of viscious rock n’ roll sound designed to tear off faces and rattle walls in the amusement of rowdy, yet jaded teenagers. It’s like a cooler version of that earth-shattering religious experience I never had. Growing up in the Texas suburbs has always given me many challenges, such as inevitable church visits. Until I was about 15, my parents crammed me into leather dress shoes and plunked me down in a pew, expecting me to absorb universal truth and morality until it leaked from my eyeballs. Instead, I spent these long hours daydreaming that church would be a lot more interesting if Indiana Jones busted through the stained glass window and melted everyone’s face off. During the forty-seven million hour sermons that I had to succumb to, I would often find my betraying hands scribbling dirty messages onto prayer cards and subconsciously peeling paint from the wall. I knew that this behavior was considered indecent, but I didn’t feel the desire to worship any god that didn’t find hilarity in the words “Kingdom come”.

Photos by Keegan

Anyway, while the conditions of my introduction to these storm troopers of soul lends to general delusion, the reality of their degenerate pop remained bolted firmly in place as the psychedelic swerve of painkiller overload dissipated in the weeks that followed. As I regained full faculty of my motor skills and comprehension, I began to further investigate this band to little avail. At my behest, Max Dropout managed to pry a few answers from the enigmatic trio’s drummer, Makoto Sato. I was at first worried that what his questions might yield would only pop the bubble of their mystique, but they were just the right amount of quiet. See for yourselves…

You guys claim both Boston and Brookline as your home base. Brookline, from what I know of it seems kind of like a weird town to hail from — it’s seemingly dedicated to historical monuments. I think Michael Dukakis is even from Brookline. Did you guys all grow up there? Was Tunnel of Love functioning in Brookline? Do they actually have a scene there, or what?
There was a time when we all lived in the same house in Brookline. Anthony and I were across the hall from each other and Andy was downstairs. Andy and Anthony grew up together in Brookline, they’re brothers. I grew up all over the place. There’s no scene in Brookline.

Boston’s churned out everything from kick ass hardcore to garage rock revival. What’s going on in Boston these days? What should we know about that’s happening there?
There’s a lot happening in Boston: Ho-Ag, Devil Music, Konks, Black Clouds, Turpentine Brothers, UV Protection, Karlheinz. There’s good bands doing all kinds of stuff… art/noise rock, garage, straight noise.

Does Boston treat you well? Where do you guys fit in?
Boston press has been good to us, and we have some loyal fans, but we’re not a big band in Boston. I’m not sure where we fit in. We’ve been playing art/noise rock shows for years, mostly thanks to Deb Eximious, who gave us gigs when no one else would look twice at us. But over the past couple years we’ve been playing more garage-type shows, and those folks have been really open and receptive to us. I don’t really feel like we fit in anywhere though. We just kind of hang out around the edges.

You guys have been around over seven years, I think, which is a while. And I’m just now starting to see people recognising you. You guys managed to remain elusive for a while. These records are fucking brutal and they beat the crap out of a lot of other bands who are attempting to do things that are remotely similar. How does a band that’s on top of the game manage to NOT get noticed by the majority of so-called garage punk fans for so long?
That’s a great question. I don’t really know. It’s not like we try to stay unnoticed. It just seems to come naturally to us.

What do you identify yourselves as, in terms of your sound? What are you, and where do you fit in? Is there anyone you share a comradery with?
We’re noisy rock. Cartoony. I don’t know that we fit in anywhere. I feel a kinship with any band that makes me piss myself. The first time I heard Guitar Wolf I thought they were our brother band.

Tell me a little bit about each of member of the band.
I don’t know about the other guys, but I’m not comfortable talking about my member.

Have you guys been in any other bands, or ARE you in any other bands right now?
Andy and I have done some other stuff. We’ve done some dual guitar super-noise feedback sorta psych rock. We’ve done some noise rap. Some straight backbeat garage. Nothing’s going on right now, though.

Whose pussies are on your album covers incidentally? Is it just some shitty porn you ripped off, or did someone donate the vaginas?
I’m not at liberty to disclose that kind of information.

What’s the story behind the costumes? Why did you choose those outfits? Are they based on anything in particular? The imagery is pretty fucking iconic. Are you trying to look like anyone in particular?
We’re not trying to look like anyone in particular. I guess you could say it’s the Hannah-Barbera version of glam.

On the “Grapevine” video, it states that it’s from the Tunnel Of Love Movie. Is this an actual film that’s available? If so, tell us some stuff about it.
The movie is not done. The dude making it, Jeff Starr, is a friend of ours. He’s been compiling footage for a while. It’s sort of an ongoing project. It’s possible that eventually it’ll come out.

Piero, at Profet, who put out Ghetto Child, speaks incredibly highly of you. He says you destroy every band they put in front of you. How did you get hooked up with Piero, and what do you think of his opinion?
We met Piero when we played a show with his band the Fatals. It was us, the Fatals, and the Tampoffs. It was a good show. Piero’s a smart dude who’s got great taste music — he knows his shit.

I hear you guys like to set up in obscure places when you play shows, which I’m a big fucking fan of. Can you give us a story that basically epitomizes a Tunnel Of Love show? What was a definitive show experience for you guys?
I don’t know if there’s one definitive show. They’re all usually messy, noisy, and sloppy; a lot of feedback. Sometime the drums or amps get kicked over. There’s dry humping, climbing on stacks of amps and chairs. You know, it’s a rock show. People have dumped beer and ketchup all over us. We made someone barf once because Andy’s cape smelled so bad.

What does Tunnel of Love dig? In general and in the musical sense. It seems like such a cliche question to ask, but you guys are kind of mysterious. I’m curious as to what you grew up listening to.
Oh, you know; all kinds of shit.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 237 user reviews.

Words and Photos by Dani Nosebleed
Interview by Max Dropout


Cole,  stickin it to the Mercury Lounge.

The Black Lips faced a capacity crowd of stone-faced New York hipsters and the usual crop of elite rock journalists at the Mercury Lounge. The crowd wasn’t there for the Lips, though. They were there for that afro’d mess of put-you-to-sleep-Zeppelinisms and fuzz-sludge called Wolfmother, who happened to be headlining that night. And unlike the two previous NYC shows the Black Lips had played that weekend, only about five people that had any clue of who they were had managed to get in that night. Against all odds, the show held up well. It was tense, and you could sense the that the band’s objective was one of defiance, as opposed to their usual performances, which flow from a carefree vein of just breaking shit and having fun. By the last song, Ian had fireworks dangling from his gold teeth but couldn’t find a match, while Cole sent the Mercury Lounge’s audience scattering with a golden shower.

The simple truth is that the Black Lips are a fluke. How could a band who pisses all over the stage at a SPIN party wind up with a splash page spread in SPIN magazine itself? This is a band that would ravage some shitty dive in Brooklyn only weeks prior to playing two consecutive sold out nights at Roseland… but the irony doesn’t end there: I swear, their assigned dressing room at the same Ballroom is bigger than most clubs I’ve seen them play previously. They performed to a crowd possibly thirty times larger than usual, and not even then was their onstage banter decipherable.

The loaded answer is that since they started, the Black Lips have gotten their act together on terms that dont necessarily make sense to begin with. I heard them for the first time when I was fifteen years old. I had gone to Wowsville the first day of winter break. Their first 7” had just come out and was playing on the in-store stereo while Alberto told me how these guys were incredible and just barely out of high school. This was something I could connect with! This was something I could understand! It sounded like a dusty Back From The Grave record, or maybe just sweet garbage. Either way, I was hooked.

The first time I met the Black Lips was when I was seventeen, at a NYC show on their tour with the Lids. I met their ex-guitarist Jack outside and he rounded the rest of em into the van for an interview for my now-defunct zine, Static. We all crammed into the back of the van so I could ask them questions like, “How do you go about writing songs?” … “How has the tour been?”… “How did you guys get started?” …And, of course, the always popular fanzine favorite, “What is your name and what instrument do you play?” The latter question was the only one to which I got an answer, while the rest of the responses all involved some joke that didnt make sense to me, then all four guys would join in on a chorus of asking me, “How does that sit with you?” while they passed bowl around. I felt like the lame younger sister nodding and smiling so that her brother’s friends would think she was cool. I never transcribed the interview. The next time I saw them after that was about a year later at the Farewell to Wowsville party. By then Jack had been replaced by Ian and they had new songs that were catchier. I went to school the next morning hung over with firework burns.

At every Lips show I’ve been to in the past year, I overhear longtime fans who stand mournfully still, beer in hand, lamenting that what we are about to see will be the last show that’s gonna be like this… Intimidating. Insane. Flat-out retarded. “Theyre getting so big, its not always gonna be this comfortable.” By the end of the set, that stoic hipster is drunk, covered in beer and piss, and dancing like an asshole with a big smile on his face, because even in spite of the buzz, nothing has changed, and that’s hopeful enough. The only difference now is that there are just more people with whom to enjoy it. It’s hippie bullshit, minus the hippies and the bullshit. Maybe I feel like I grew up with them, and maybe they made me feel comfortable acting my age: acting senseless, impulsive, and having fun like a dignified fool.

That's Jared in there.  I think this was taken at Rockstar Bar.

In all, the Black Lips have managed to keep it stupid and sweet in the face of creeping mainstream interest, for which they have a seemingly novel interest and even refreshing suspicion toward. We managed to catch Jared one afternoon prior to running some errands before an upcoming European tour, and he was cool enough to answer some of our questions despite his rush.

There’s a documentary on the recording of Let It Bloom; who’s idea was that? What do you guys think about it, and where can we get a copy?
It’s not really a documentary about that. It’s just footage from our west coast tour/studio time there. Our friend Ernie Quintero filmed and edited it all. It was his idea. We are working on a full movie and that’ll just be part of it. We’ll sell it on tour and Ernie will have it at his website, Factotum Productions.

Quintero… Ernie is the shit. I have a bunch of the Spits toys he makes for their tours and I love all the stuff he shoots. When will the entire movie be completed? Is he living with you guys in Atlanta, or just going out on the road? How does his presence effect you guys?
Ernie is a good solid man, and a positive addition to our team. He mediates the fights and helps with some of the dirty work. I do’t know when the movie will be done. Ernie is pretty busy with all his video stuff and Spits/Black Lips tours. Spring at the latest. His presence is vital.

How did you get hooked up with ITR, and how has your experience been thus far after shifting over from Bomp? What’s the big difference?
With In the Red, we just emailed Larry and asked if he would do it. They’re both great labels, but Larry is more involved with what he does. He is very genuinely into everything he does, and puts a lot of work into it.

Let It Bloom was originally slated with the title “Last of the White Niggers.” How did you feel about the compromise?
It wasn’t really a compromise. It would have been a bad idea to use that title. Distributors wouldn’t have played it; overly-sensitive PC college kids wouldn’t have played it on the radio, etc. We are still gonna use the title on our next release. It just won’t be an LP. We didn’t wanna put up with the headache.

Yeah, I read you were gonna put something out on Die Slaughterhaus with the Niggers title. When can we expect that?
All of that is up in the air. We have more than an LP’s worth of unreleased stuff, so who knows?

Seems you guys are poised for a larger audience, so the Pitchfork worshiping assholes out there are probably gonna be scrutinizing what you do. How far is too far for you guys in terms of compromise? Where do you draw the line?
We haven’t really had to compromise. We haven’t really had to. A lot of clubs and people out there don’t like us, but that is gonna happen no matter what. Europeans may be afraid of the word “nigger, ” but we draw the line at whatever we don’t wanna do.

How big is too big for the Black Lips? Do you guys want to live like rap stars and have booty videos and shit?
Nothing’s too big for us. But let’s be realistic. I don’t think we’ll have any bling anytime soon, unless we search for new careers.

Ian and Cole at Roseland Ballroom.

Let It Bloom seems like a real shift in terms of the quality of the song writing. These are some of the most beautiful melodies I’ve heard in a while… “harmonious” is a good descriptive term for this stuff. How did your song writing process or ambition deviate from the first two records? Like what were you trying to accomplish with this particular record?
We haven’t really thought about that at all. We don’t practice or talk about songs at all. With the last album, we just went to the studio and played what we had and kinda worked on a few things there. It’s the only time we ever really practice or play guitar together off stage. But we have been touring so much that I guess we “practice” almost every night. We don’t try so much. Maybe we should, but I think that would fuck us up.

Can you compare LIB to your other two releases? How do you feel about the final product?
I like Let It Bloom the best. We spent more time on it — two one-week sessions — than the last two.

You guys have a schtick people expect from your live performances. There’s always this moment in the show where you guys are going to do something super retarded that people are going to be talking about for weeks after they see you play. Are you guys aware of this reputation? Do you feel any sort of pressure to push the envelope?
Yeah, people always wanna see something. We don’t always do it. We know that people talk about it. We don’t feel any pressure because we can put on a good show without blood or piss or puke. We’ve just always done that even before Black Lips, so we don’t really think about it. It just happens.

Do you think it detracts from the music at all?
Maybe, I don’t know. If we didn’t have songs it would.

You guys aren’t concerned about being recognised for the wrong reasons? Like do you think perhaps people may pay attention to the puke and piss rather than the songs? IS there a wrong reason to get noticed?
We get asked that alot. we like to put on a good show, and play good music. If people pay more attention to bodily functions then I don’t really care what they think.

How has the new material impacted your live performances?
It made us tune and play more coherently. More people can get into it, I guess.

You played a sold out show at the Mercury Lounge to a group of people who were largely Black Lips virgins; they were there to see something entirely different… Wolfmother… and you guys were like this rabid black horse on the bill. You have since been banned from the Mercury Lounge because of the whole piss spitting incident. How do you guys feel about that, and how do you feel about playing in front of audiences like that?
That show sucked. If we had known we were gonna get banned for that, then we would have really done something that we SHOULD HAVE been banned for. I hated that audience, except for a few folks. Fuck those people. I hate playing places like that. We didn’t get ONE free beer! Not one. But we robbed the cooler and made off with a few cases. The only good thing about those places is that you don’t even have to try to make anyone mad or uncomfortable. ANYTHING is crazy to them. They aren’t real people.

Pope Cole,  The Innocent,  banned from The Mercury Lounge.

Opening up for a hyped band like Wolfmother, and playing for the kind of hipster rabble that goes to a show like that, does that encourage you to slant your show in any particular direction? that is to say, more or less shambolic?
It kind of makes us want to do something bad on purpose. Like Knitting Factory or any of those kind of clubs. I just want them to get mad so much. I hate those places. I just want to make their job as hard as possible.

How do you feel about being featured in SPIN, and in such a graphic manner? A lot of people seemed pretty revolted by the blood. Pretty rad.
That was really cool. I didn’t think you could get into that mag without being on a major label or paying a shitload of money. I was very surprised. Maybe some kids will take a look.

The most wonderful thing about you guys is that you seem to be opening people’s minds up, and winning over critics and garnering new fans, and yet you haven’t really compromised your identities. I haven’t seen or heard any backlash at all. You’re still the Black Lips on top of it — your hardcore fans still love you. A lot of bands who begin to move toward a wider audience tend to end up alienating their roots because in order to get to that “carrot” they have to kind of alter the formula to make it more palatable. What are your ambitions with this band? How do you guys temper your artistic ambitions with making an actual living?
We have always done things the same since the beginning. Nothing much has changed. It’s all been very gradual, and I think whatever progression has been natural and in the right direction. We have been lucky that we can keep doing what we know, and be able to move forward at the same time. We don’t know how to do anything else, so even if someone wanted us to do something else to make it more mainstream we wouldn’t know how. We aren’t very technically skilled musicians.

You recorded Let It Bloom in two places, correct? At the Distillery in California with Mike McHugh, who has done the Hunches Records. Why did you decide to record with him? He seems to have developed a reputation for very dynamic engineering. How did you find recording with him?
We went with him because he was there in LA and Larry suggested it. I had also heard good things from the Hunches and the Lamps and some other bands. He is very good.

Ian and Joe,  at Roseland Ballroom.

Where did you record in Europe? You spent a good chunk of time there — how did that come about?
We recorded in Berlin at Moon Studios with King Khan. We were on an extended stay there. Some of what we recorded there will be on Last of the White Niggers. We recorded there about two weeks ago, too. I think we might record our next one there, too.

And what were the differences in locations?
LA is in California and is very sunny with fake tits. Berlin is in Germany and is very gray with sausages.

Fake tits vs. Sausages. What do you like better?
I’m in Berlin now, and it’s alot better than california. at least in the Summer. I don’t like sausage. But i hate fake tits more, so Germany wins.

What’s the status of your label, Die Slaughterhaus? Anything coming out soon?
We have been slowly putting stuff out. Just released a CPC Gangbang’s single. Really great band from Montreal. We have some things in the works, but we’ve been gone so much it’s hard to really keep on top of it.

How has your reputation at home changed over the years? Seems everyone always adored you, personally… You’ve been banned in a lot of clubs since you started out there.
Yeah we’ve been banned from a few places. We don’t play at home so much; Atlanta’s good for us. But nothing has changed very much.

I’m really curious about what your day to day life in Atlanta consists of. What the hell do you guys do all day? He should film that.
We don’t work, so I usually wake up and either go swimming or play tennis, and skateboard. Anything to keep me from going crazy. I don’t like being at home for very long. I try to start new bands, but all my friends are losers. I’ll be more productive when I get back since we all live together now.

Tell me about that Dragon Con. footage. Do you guys go every year? I heard some funny story about the Carbonas cornering some dude that looked like Danzig one year, and singing Misfits songs to him til he was about to cry.
Dragon Con has been a tradition for the last five years or so. Unfortunately, I almost always miss it. I think we’re going on four arrests, more fights than I can count, and hundreds of nerds’ crushed dreams. It’s just an excuse to act crazy and get away with it. I don’t know about the Carbonas thing, but our old guitar player Jack got beat up by an orc last year.

Anything cool happened at Roseland? Were those people okay to you?
It was the most boring show ever. The food was good. It was too big, but when we got there with the Dirtbombs, Tom Cruise was on Letterman that night and I thought the people were standing out there for us.

I heard this story from Jeff Novak about how you guys went out to California to make this video and met with the producer, and he had this Piranha tank, and within minutes of getting into the house, you were all sticking your dicks in the tank. Fuckin funny as shit, but that coulda been brutal. Why the hell do you do shit like that?
Pirahnas aren’t really that dangerous. All that stuff you see on TV is a myth. We were doing it to prove that we have conquered fear, and we set a good example for all of those people. We like to help.

You played Horriblefest in Cleveland in the Fall. Apparently the whole thing was sort of a disaster – how did you come out from it?
We were there for a few hours and played and left the same night. I heard it went really bad. It was okay for us, but Cleveland is never a good place to play. I like the Beachland though.

Why did you choose that particular Jacques Dutronc song to cover? How did you guys get into him?
We are secret Francophones. Jaques Dutronc is awesome, and more people in the states should listen to him. It was a strong choice. We had no choice.

Seems the record is very heavily influenced by Dutronc even outside of the cover. What were you guys really into when you were writing the stuff?
We had been in Europe for a long time, I can’t remember what we were into. We write everything in the van. I guess more psychadelic stuff. It’s really hard for me to listen to all the classic garage stuff now. I still like it but
I think if I hear nuggets again I’ll scream.

Anna Rexi wants to know what Everybody Loves a Cocksucker’ is about. You would think that with a title like that it would be pretty straightforward. But lyrics like, “It’s hard to be feminine when you’re not a fag” make her wonder.
We are struggling to cope with our heterosexuality. It’s tough being a straight guy, especially when you’re like us.

What do the Black Lips look for in a woman?
We don’t do women.

Are you guys taking a break anytime soon? I know some of you have other projects on the backburner, such as the Original Three. What other bands are you guys involved in, and are you guys at all interested in concentrating on that stuff for a while?
We are on a two month break. I’m in Berlin, and the other guys are in atlanta/new orleans/touring. Ian has the Original Three, me and cole and joe have a band called the Spooks. We have a record done, but we haven’t got it out yet. Joe has a solo rap project that us and others are involved in, Cole has his solo “Old King Cole Younger” Record that you can find on Soulseek, and I am making some songs here in germany that i’ll put out on Slaughterhaus. Me and Joe are also in the Gaye Blades with Bobby Ubangi.

What IS the proper status of the black lips. After SPIN, after Vice (who changed their name recently), after the Roseland crap, what IS the band status? Anything new or crazy happening in terms of business or upcoming projects?
We are going to star in a low budget horror movie directed by Monty Buckles. We are on Vice records now, and we are doing a live LP from Tijuana, Mexico. We also have a new LP coming out on In The Red, all outtakes (unreleased songs) from the LA/Berlin Let It Bloom sessions. We never stop working, and we will be on tour for a ridiculously long time very soon.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 193 user reviews.

By Max Dropout


I had nothing better to do as a kid than drag through the bins in the front of the local record shop while friends tended to unsavory business in the store room. I would dwell on the sleeves, abuse the common turntable, and peruse the tape cases, while altogether ignoring some burgeoning new section dedicated to an alien format known as the “compact disc.” I would eavesdropped on the burnt up dropouts behind the counter lauding Redd Kross and bickering over obscure blues and jazz bullshit that I still don’t give a fuck about. I would go broke and then thieve. This is how I would spend my afternoons and evenings after work: trapping opinions that seeped into my vicinity; creeping through a poorly manicured garden of sonic delights; and spending what little money I scraped together from my several menial jobs about town. By the time I was about 13 I had dropped out of school and my face had become a fixture at this shop. I was more constant and reliable than most of the other tweaker clerks who’d come and gone over the years, and with diligence had soaked up every shred of information and advice they’d left in their wake. It wasn’t too long much longer before I found myself integrated into the scheme, officially.

While most would have balked at the small size of our shop, the sheer elitism oozing from that crop of talking heads behind the counter assured that we made the most of our space on the floor, which consisted primarily of punk, metal, blues, and jazz records, while an ample collection of rarities, collectors items, and picture discs blared behind our backs. Competing stores may have dwarfed us in terms of their rental space, but we didn’t give a fuck about blowing more money so we could house an overflowing pop section. When you couldn’t find the record you wanted at that megapower Salzer‘s, you came to us. While Salzer’s was a great store, the early symptoms of a sickness that would go on to ravage most decent shops in the none-too-distant future were evident: namely, they were pushing whoopie cushions, tit-shaped mugs, and other novelty items along with record titles. They were not primarily a record shop, but instead, an ENTERTAINMENT outlet.

But I digress. This is supposed to be about my friend Daniel. However, when I think about him, my mind drifts back to sitting behind the counter of that local record shop, blowing contact high out of my face with my floppy bangs as co-workers buzzed about the intensity and in-studio performance of the respective slab on the turntable. They’d argue and compare notes while littering the counter with sleeves. Intensity and soul was what it was about. If anything, that was the standard by which we governed the space on our floor. If it didn’t make you feel something or anything, we evicted it — it had to pull its weight. There are still a lot of stores like the one I worked at, and technology has only fortified the watermark of quality control, not to mention made many more titles available to the public. When I was a teenager, I was relegated merely to HEARING and READING about Australia’s Au Go Go records or the New Zealand-based Flying Nun label. Thanks to years of hyperbole, I had built up high anticipation and even reverence for a number of artists I’d never actually heard, though I was continually assured that when these records finally came into my hands, my mind would be thrown into some sort of ecstacy seizure. It was years before I would ever find a copy of the ScientistsHeading For a Trauma” LP — an effort, that, after having been exposed to their earliest power poppier stuff, shocked me with the robust psychedelic neurosis seeping from its shoddy seems. Salmon’s minimalist buzz-saw drone was overpowering and like nothing I had previously heard. It was not only fresh, but the recorded performances were potent and surprisingly well-recorded for their period. However, with the good also came the disappointing. One such band in particular was the Pop Group — a band that had been trumpeted as one of the most innovative, influential and intense bands to ever come out of the UK. Until maybe five years ago, this band, for me, was merely a foot note. This was one of those bands that, while listening to The Wipers; franticisms, someone would mention in attempt to one up the emotional volley between the warm and paranoid textures of Greg Sage’s sound. Without fail, the Pop Group would haunt most any musical discussion pertaining to music that contained any emotional intensity.

Years later, the Y LP sat tucked amid a forest of shit in my room. I was careful about approaching it too suddenly for fear of startling it. Records like this always take me a long time to get around to. It’s like losing your virginity. You really want the circumstances to be right. It’s a ritual that has been built up by all the other babbling sluts around you to the point that you expect something of great meaning to occur when you puncture the bubble. It WILL apparently be a meaningful and spiritual thing; stars will sing, you will psychically commune with your house pets, and you shall sweat blood like Jesus did before they hung his draft card-burning ass out to dry. Well, when I put that record on, none of that happened to me. There was no pivotal climax, No exorcism of tension. There I sat, in my arm chair, with veritable blue balls. This was some flat, overrated bullshit. What it is about white people and horns I have no idea. You can literally take the lamest recording ever, and if you put horns over it, Anglos will lose their shit. This was the record people had spent hours which cumulatively could reflect DAYS rambling about? This was the mighty flame thrower by which all my supposed affections would be torched and melted by? It was more like a sonic coozy. It didn’t do much more than keep my beer cold.

Anyway, all that much-ado about that Y record? All the hype they funnel in around records like this? And all the intensity you expect to just wash over your body and make you levitate the minute the first chord stabs at you? Well, when I first heard Daniel Francis Doyle, it lived up to the hype that all those people heap onto stuff like the Pop Group. All those empty charges of “aural assault” from dipshit collector nerds against all that obscure post punk crap you’ve wasted your money on over the last eight or so years may in fact be found on Dan Doyle’s debut, Who Are Your Customers?
Dan is an affable young guy with an infectious smile and generous nature, of average stature, bespectacled and well-groomed. To say he is unassuming in his appearance wouldn’t be a stretch; he is very far from imposing. I spent most of the winter months this past year avoiding his performances in spite of my fondness for this character, but finally, forced myself to go see what Jesse from Furniture Records was rolling his eyes ecstatically about whenever he cornered me about this LP he was putting out a one-man act from the part of Hell located beneath the surface of Berlin, or so he made him out to be.

As I approached the stage, the set up immediately piqued my curiosity. On either side of a full kit, were cabs, one of which Doyle was affixing a bass guitar to the face of with duct tape. On the ground were various triggers, including a loop station. Doyle looked up and acknowledged me with a nod and smiled past the microphone headset he was wearing. Outfitted in khaki’s, a white t shirt, and sneakers, he looked like he was about to settle in for some yard work rather than a performance, but this modesty only stoked my curiosity. And then he began…

Twenty minutes later, Doyle laid crumpled in a ball of sweat behind his drum kit, his lungs struggling to keep their host from abandoning them, and I stood looking down at his form in complete awe of what I’d just witnessed.

That night Doyle and I exchanged info for booking purposes, and I expressed interest in setting up an interview with him for a potential article. He obliged, and we both compared our schedules… “I’m up real late, ” he said, with exuberance, “so, the later the better. It’s no problem.”

After weeks of playing phone tag and a few false starts, I got home one night after work at about 2:30am, and heard the familiar voice on my machine. He’d been up all night stamping records for his upcoming west coast tour with the Tuxedo Killers, and said he’d perhaps be interested in getting the interview out of the way since he’d be leaving for an extended period in the next few days.

I called Dan back to confirm and he arrived about thirty minutes later. Shortly before he’d gotten to my house I’d been watching the Clint Eastwood film Play Misty For Me on television and spacing out. I dropped the volume as we settled into our spots… Dan is momentarily fixated on the screen over his shoulder as I set up my tape recorder…

Dan asks, intrigued by the commotion on the screen, “what’s this?”

Oh, this is Play Misty For Me. It’s a Clint Eastwood movie… he plays a radio DJ, and this woman, Evelyn keeps calling him up regularly, flirtatiously asking him to play “Misty.” One night, he meets her “randomly” at a bar, and ends up sleeping with her. That sparks all out insanity… this woman turns out to be totally psychotic, and she latches onto him. He tries to break it off, and she just becomes irrate. In one part of the movie, she goes over to discuss why he doesn’t want to be with her anymore, and she decided to go into the bathroom and slash her wrists.

It’s just basically about this woman’s infatuation with him, which engulfs his life.
Sounds great.

Really strange early seventies’ movie. Anyway, let’s get down to business. I have some questions mixed in here with mine from Jesse Hodges, your co-conspirator in two of the projects you’re in now.
As far as Tuxedo Killers

And of course, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth. Also part of the brain trust behind Furniture Records, who put out your LP, Who Are Your Customers? Alright, first question… (laugh) where do you get your hair cut?
Oh man (smiles). Barrett Walton. He’s also the guy who engineered Who Are Your Customers? I go to his studio and he gives me haircuts. I give him twelve dollars every time. Does that mean Jesse doesn’t like my haircut?

Doubt it. You have some pro hair. Alright, this is a good one: how do you respond to those who label your stuff solely as that of a crazy man?
I guess I can understand how they might get that impression, but it’s a broad assumption. I’m not, you know… crazy.

I’m gonna expound on this: in the Chronicle, they have these writers who make some pretty shitty analogies. Really lame prose that makes you go, “what the fuck does that mean?” There was one description in there, where someone said this particular band sounded like “a devil shined with WD40″ or some shit that makes you go, “FUCK! DIE!”… Similarly, they described your record as sounding like a man running through the forest with a chainsaw.
A machete.

Yeah… or as Jesse had put it, they make your record sound like you’ve unleashed you inner Jason Vorhees.
Well, I totally appreciate that anyone gives a crap enough to write about my record, and would give it three stars. But I wish they would have concentrated on the music a little more rather than trying to build it up as some crazy guy’s expression of his own dementia. Maybe they just ran out of things to write about. The first line is, “he’s probably figured out how to channel the voices in his head…” Whatever, ya know. I’m not schizophrenic.

Good segue. The next question is, How DO YOU deal with all the voices in your head?
Wow… I don’t have to deal with them because there are no voices in my head. I mean, except for my own internal dialog…? Is that what that means? I dunno.

I don’t know how fictitious a lot of the themes and situations in your songs are…
NONE of it’s fictitious (laughs).

None? Well, your record came for me at a very pivotal time. A song like “Head Up”… I’m going through a very strange break up right now. I relate to it because the girl I was seeing related to me quite specifically through a lot of my writing. When she started to drift away I was trying to drag her back through a lot of what I was doing. Trying to intensify and become a BETTER writer, and so a lot of the lyrics are a very plane parallel that I related to on a very obvious and literal level. What IS “Head Up” about?
I’m making fun of myself actually. When the relationship I was in that was so important to me WAS cut off, I was writing all these songs… song-writer type songs, trying to be clever with the lyrics and express all these feelings I was having about the situation… And after I looked back on all those songs, I thought “this is ridiculous. I’m trying to be so clever, trying to express my emotions, but really all I wanna do is yell.”
All the lyrics basically just amount to, “hey, come back please.”
All I’m trying to say amounts to trying to get her back. So, “I’ll write a pretty song to bring my love back to me” is kind of sarcastic. It’s a parody of those other songs.

… But also more direct and effective. It does sound pretty sardonic though. How did she react to it?
We never talked about it. She’s seen it live, she’s heard the record. But she never sat down with me and said “eeeehhh.” We’re really good friends now… and it’s still (contemplative smile)… It probably freaked her out. If listened to that and I were her I’d probably be really freaked out.

Of all the songs on the record, it probably comes off as the most neurotic and psychotic, just for the sheer intensity of it — it was a female who reviewed your record, right?

I think from a female perspective, stuff like that is a little more intimidating. She focused on that particular song I think. It’s completely relatable on my behalf, though. It’s more tragic than terrifying for me.
For a while actually I was starting to feel pathetic about longing for this girl for so long, and I tried to change the meaning of the song. My best friend, who I was in a band with for seven years, had the love of his life die, and a lot of the songs we would play were about her, so I tried to relate “Head Up” to her. “Bring her back. Back her to life.”
But then I thought, “you know what? I’m pathetic. It’s not about that. It’s about this girl who broke up with me.” (Laugh)

How do you feel about the song? There are performances were, like this last Friday, people popped for it. When they heard you start it up, they went nuts. People are connecting with that song obviously. You don’t see that very often, not in local audiences. When you started that song, which was an encore, I didn’t think you were gonna play it… last few times you hadn’t played it. But when you started, they cheered.
I don’t play it a lot… the ending is so over the top, I can’t deal with the audience. I don’t wanna say some pretentious performer bullshit, but I can’t really do it when there’s an audience there. Especially when it’s for a small crowd, or a lot of friends. And then another reason I haven’t played it a lot is because people will start yelling, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” right before I do the ending, and it totally kills it for me. They’ll yell, “Hey, come back to me” … thinking it’ll encourage me to do it.

People know the breaks by heart, though. That’s wild. Gotta be encouraging.
Considering the fact that the end of the song is just me doing sparse things on drums and screaming, it IS surprising.

First time I saw you do it, you looked like you were about to die. It was a very physically involved performance (laugh). But I love it. Anyway, next question. Explain “Who Are Your Customers” as a title.
The title doesn’t have anything to do with the lyrics. I’m kind of ashamed of this, but the whole album is about being clinically depressed about this girl. I love how Shellac has all these amazing, fictitious lyrics about some guy whose wife cheated on him with John F Kennedy and how he hopes he dies… I wish I could do something like that, but I end up writing about my feelings and emotions. But anyway that’s what the whole album is all about. But the title has nothing to do with that. I work at a restaurant, and this regular costumer who comes in, this science guy at UT, saw me play at the Ritz back in October. He doesn’t listen to any music like that and he was totally perplexed when I saw him the next day. We were talking about it, and he was like, trying to ask me who goes to see that kind of stuff. And he says, as if he thinks of it as me being a business, “WHO are your customers?”… “Who ARE your customers?”… “Who are your CUSTOMERS?”
And I thought that would be a really great album title. It was awesome how it came out: who are the customers? who buys your product? It has nothing to do with the lyrics or anything. As for the cover, I just thought it would be amazing to have a bunch of woodland creatures that are out of proportion with each other, upside-down and side-ways, and I had my brother do it and it worked out great.

It’s actually a great cover. Most local bands have fucking HORRIBLE covers. Shit that PAINS me to look at. But this is one of the best records to come out of this city in a long time, from packaging to content. You and the Crack Pipes have put out two of the best albums from Austin in a long time.
Wow, thank you.

Alright I have an Early Lines question here… I’m gonna modify it a bit. Your current rig… the whole mess you have on stage.
It takes a long time to set up.

Not really. You’re fucking fast actually.
Good! Good!

How did the rig evolve though?
This actually has to do with Early Lines. We put out an EP a year ago and we were gonna go on tour for it. But then one of the guys in the band, as far as touring went, was a little back and forth. Chris and I would kind of worry, “man, what if he backs out of the tour.”
He had some pretty serious personal problems going on. And I was thinking to myself, “I have all these dates booked for two weeks, and they’re really good shows. I’m not gonna let this go to waste.”
I said to Chris, “if this guy backs out of the tour, im just gonna go on the road with amps and drums, and I’m just gonna play drums to feedback and yell, and that’s what im gonna do.” But the tour happened with the Early Lines anyway, so I didn’t have to do that. And eventually the Early Lines did break up… for a bunch of reasons. And I decided, “I’m going to try that out… this yelling and feedback thing.” so the original rig was just the guitar… no guitar loops at all. Just the guitar duct taped to an amplifier and me playing drums, blasting it off and on. I put out the first three songs on my own… just CD-R’s and a little paper case. It was called “Daniel Francis Doyle Sings the Blues in E.” I played my first show at the Parlor doing that and I played four songs and people really liked it. I was kind of surprised. And so I thought, “No I gotta do more of this. I gotta do guitar loops…”

A commotion on the television tramples over Daniel’s words, distracting him from the conversation. He trails off, turning toward the screen, and clearly enunciates a, “woah!”
Jessica Walters as Evelyn is pursuing Eastwood’s maid with a gleaming butcher’s blade, attempting to silence her piercing squelch in a most cruel and inefficient method. Blood rallies round the metal at the helm of the queen psycho bitch, who lashes at her victim in an unbridled psychotic fit. Her teeth gnashed together clearly as her lips pull back into some strangely gleeful cheer. Her chin held high, she is proud and justified. What a fucking loon.

Yeah. Don’t mess with the wrong girl… Shit happens, though. With a cleaver. Anyway, you were saying?
So I added the guitar loops and I got the pedal, and all the songs on Who Are Your Customers I wrote in a two-month time span. It took a while to get used to it with the cannibal device.

The tape cuts off, and Daniel prattles on for a bit about the loop station and film before I notice and interrupt him. I insert side B, and hit record again.

We’re gonna have to repeat shit. I hate this. This all feels so contrived now… I wanna recapture that moment, we just lost, but it just seems forced. It sucks. I guess the next question pertains to films being an influence on your style of music or your lyrics.
How do they impact what you do?
I love film. I am a big movie fan. But films really don’t have any direct influence on my lyrics or my music itself. However, there is one song in particular on the album. It’s called “She Breathes, ” and it�s kind of a joke. It’s based on old monster movie previews you’d see, where the monster is coming toward the village. And people are running away and the titles jump out at the audience… “IT LIVES! IT WALKS! IT DESTROYS!”
And the girl I was hung up over for song long, she left town for a while and I felt I was getting over her. Then she came back and I realized I wasn’t over her at all. She was back in my life. I felt like I was in one of those trailers, and she was invading my village. The lyrics are, ‘she eats, she walks, she breathes… I seen it! I seen it!… I seen it” is supposed to be the villager who’s seen “it” going back to the village to report that the monster’s coming.

But you are a film fan.
I love films… They just don’t come out in the music.

I was interested to hear you say you liked Cassavetes
For my money, Husbands is the best movie ever. It appeals to me so much.

My favorite movie ever is Face in the Crowd. You ever see that?
It’s about this straw chewin’ back roads traveler, who just oozes this raw, animal charisma, who finds himself on this weird local radio show. The gimmick of the show, which is called A Face In The Crowd, is that they spotlight ordinary, every day slobs… only this guy isn’t so ordinary. And the woman who does it sort of exploits his natural charm and parlays it into a succesful national television show. By the end of the film, he’s advising presidential candidates on how to win people over. Most people who see it think the main character is kind of evil, but really he’s a reflection of the ambitions of those around him, and even their jealousy and feelings of self-frustration toward what he possesses. All the supporting characters are kind of dispicable, and as a result, so is he. But anyway, you were saying about dialog earlier when we got cut off…
Right, right… seventies films, I am in love with the slow paced dialog you find in films of that period. Like the Exorcist. The dialog is just really compelling and so rich.

I think a lot of that has to do with novels being a prevalent source of basis for a lot of seventies screen plays. Now, they’ve dumbed the format down to where just about any chimpanzee can write one. Have you ever see the Ninth Configuration?
You need to see that! It’s really dialog-driven drama about a psychologist who’s hauled up in some archaic castle with these lunatics who’ve been driven insane by their government jobs. One of em is an austronaut, and another is some military intelligent guy who’s adapting Shakespeare for dogs. It’s written and directed by William Peter Blatty, who wrote the Exorcist. He also wrote, adapted, and directed Exorcist III, which is one of my favorite movies ever.
I LOVE Exorcist III — LOVE that movie. And it’s kind of a crappy movie, but I love Exorcist II as well.
Exorcist II is kind of a gorgeous mistake.
The scenes with the girl being analyzed, and the scenes in africa are so amazing…
Gritty as hell. Did you see the fourth one?
Uhm, no… I don’t know if I can.
I’ve seen both versions and both are horrible.
Even the Schrader version?
The Schrader version despite what any snob will tell you is worse. Harlin’s is a little more entertaining because the ending is so blatantly Jew-hating. Schrader’s is just boring. It’s not even entertaining on accident, like Harlin’s. Ever see hardcore?
George C Scott plays this dutch country fundamental Christian whos daughter is abducted when she goes to LA… and Peter Boyle plays this sleeze ball detective who helps track her down

There’s this scene where theyre walkin down the street, and theyre walking up to this theater, and boyle goes ever see a stag film? And scott is kind of innocent. Gullible. So he takes him inside, and boyle hits the projector, and it’s his daughter getting double teamed by two guys. And it’s great… he goes to LA to find his daughter.
Yeah, the best part is him in this hotel room holding casting calls to find the guys he saw in the film, and it’s George C in this HORRIBLE black mustache, repeatedly asking these studs, “LEMME SEE YOUR CACK!”
That’s awesome! I also need to see this, too. This looks crazy.

Back on track, though. How do you relate to the idea of a scene… is there one, and are you a part of it?
I don’t feel like I’m part of any scene. Scenes can be kind of unhealthy at times. This sounds possibly snobby, but there are really bad bands that get supported just because they are local.

I agree with you, 100%.
I’m gonna sound like a jackass, but I think thats unhealthy

People aren’t as critical toward their friends, even if their friends are making awful music.
Yeah, on the flipside, there are bands that I love that I might not necessarily like all if I didn’t know the person, because I know where they’re coming from. I know they’re sincere.

You asshole! (laughter) But I do think the bands you feel kinship toward are bands youve been assimilated into almost, no?
In a weird yeah, yeah (laugh), like When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth, I like that band obviously, but I feel what I do or represent is completely different. I’m not really accustomed to being in a drunken, rowdy band. That’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like that. It’s good, a new experience. What I do and what I did in the Early Lines is kind of a focused, sober, spilling of complaints. That’s the kind of music I make; I complain a lot. I’ve never really dealt with having a good time before. I’ve never been all about feeling good before the show or getting some drinks in me before I play. I don’t drink before MY shows.

Never. I just don’t do it. I wanna be totally focused. I don’t feel like I need the drink.

Thats funny I could swear I’ve seen you smashed on stage.
Lemme make that clear: I DO drink before Dinos shows. I DON’T drink before MY shows.
Cause, I was gonna say, one of those Dinos shows at Beerland, you were playing “Banafana”…
“Bananafana”… and I tackled Mike. (laughs) And then there was the time when I was on that riser at Flamingo Cantina, and Brandon’s kit was below mine, and I DUMPED my kit on top of his. That’s actually stuff I might do totally sober too, though. But before my sets, I can’t have any sort of buzz. I have focusing issues; coordination issues. When I drink it’s to escape, and when I play music I wanna experience it, totally. (pause) I feel kind of pretentious saying that.

You’re worried about that a lot. You shouldn’t be worried about it. That’s how you BECOME pretentious, I think. How do you feel about playing in other bands? Are they a distraction from what you wanna do with Dan Doyle?
I really love helping people out in all sorts of ways. Like covering my co-workers shifts if they need it, and helping friends move if they need it, and I see playing in Tuxedo Killers and When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth as being indicative of that personality trait of mine. I like those bands and that’s why I’m playing drums FOR them. I feel good helping them out. But the idea of being A PART of other bands, I’m not really that idea. (laughs)
Thats so bizarre. So, you’re a very charitable individual.
Well, I totally enjoying being in these bands. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy it! I have become a better drummer by playing along with Brandon Crowe in Dinosaurs. He’s great. I love the experience and just the opportunity to get better. But the IDEA of playing in anyone else’s bands is something I don’t like. I’m just drumming for the bands.

Do you consider what you do to be “self-help” music. If so, are there any methods of self help youd recommend.
For me, it’s self help music. At times when I was really down, the only thing that made me feel good was going to practice by myself and just making up these songs. The adrenaline I get from playing and especially from CREATING this songs has been the best medication ever. Music is my ultimate escape. Even though the lyrics are just me complaining, the actual musical element makes me feel really good.

Is there any particular time you relate to? In terms of music?
I think the eighties was the best period for music ever. From 1980 to 1989 there was so much progression in music it’s ridiculous, from American hardcore to late eighties indie rock, and the solid connection between the two genres, it’s beautiful. I’m in love with early eighties American hardcore.

What bands do you mean when you say hardcore?
Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Black Flag… the thing I love about those bands is that it went way past hardcore. Like the Minutemen are probably my favorite band of all time.

Big black? A lot of so-called hardcore bands are really drawing from bands like Big Black and Jesus Lizard right now. A lot of mid-American hardcore, like stuff out of Ohio and even off the East coast.
Big Black is an anomoly. I don’t think people really get that band at all. I’m sure people take something away an impression of that bamd, but I don’t think they really get it. But back to American ahrdcore, just the progression of it is amazing, and there’s also that cut off point, where probably any band that called themselves hardcore after ’82 or ’83 kind of sucked. Black Flag were past it. Minutemen were past it. And Ian McKaye went on to do all that other stuff. Hardcore became some stupid blue print, something people kind of followed. It was a set pattern. It’s like the equivalent of some blues band going through the motions at some shitty bar.

How do you feel about the heroin problem in plano during the 1990s?
It was horrible, (laughs hard) it was pretty crappy. A lot of people died. (laughs) I laugh as I say that. It was a big problem in the late ’90s and it got a lot of attention because it wasn’t just the rocker dropouts anymore, it was the football players doing it and dying, as well as the rocker dropouts. But the fact that the ace football players were getting into it, everyone was like, “oh my god, this is horrible problem.”
Plano was a big deal with the Early Lines. We were really proud that we were from Plano because it was a SHITTY town. And I hate bands who cling to the next biggest town. We’re not from Dallas. We’re from Plano. We’re hardly ever even in Dallas.

Math: Are you a very mathematically inclined person?
I suck at math. I suck at math so bad that I was in the Math of Money program in highschool, which is a course that means, “oh, you’re a senior and you still haven’t learned geometry. We’re going to put you in this class so you can graduate and balance your check book.”

Or work a cash register. (laughter) Your shit verges on math rockish at times. It’s almost like your silences are very well calculated, invisible equasations.
So, okay the record, Who Are Your Customers? is about your emotional experience with a certain young lady. Are you over this now? Are there still songs about this left over? Or have you progressed onto other subjects in terms of your writing?
All the songs on the album are about me desperately trying to get this girl back. It’s a really desperate album. And now, the songs I am writing have to do with that, but it’s from a different point of you. And another thing, which is kind of embarrassing, I only have one new song that I play that isn’t on the album. I’ve been working on these other two songs for two months. I try them live every once in a while and always flub them. I’m running into some rhythm problems with the loops and I’m feeling limited by the amount of time on my loop station.

Has this at all specifically become about her, then?
It definitely BECAME a coping device, but it’s not about her. That whole thing just happened to coincide with the inception of this project and perhaps motivated me to delve into it very deeply. It influenced me, yes, but anything else going on in my life at the time would have, too. But, I’m not obsessed with something in particular anymore. I’m starting to think more about cool riffs, and thinking, “oh this works out really well musically.” I’m trying to think of creative guitar parts and I think it might be hurting the intensity that people were drawn to, since I’m not just yelling over really simple stuff. So, yeah pretty much I’m gonna go down hill. (laughs)

What was I was getting at was the major appeal of what you do is that everyone’s been where you’ve been. I mean, this record has become MY breakup record. There’s a great deal to be said for the emotional intensity of this effort.
Thats a disturbing breakup record. (pause) Even though this guy is a big influence on me, I don’t wanna be a Lou Barlow type character, where it’s like, “Oh yeah that’s THAT guy who’s always SINGIN’ OR YELLIN’ about SOME GIRL.”
But, this project is not about her specifically. It just so happened that this is what I was thinking about at the time. But then I had this friend tell me once that all true great songwriters write all their songs about one person their whole life. (laughter)
You’re currently in a very specific category. Youre a one-man band. And there’s a lot of that coming out of Chicago right now, with these shit heads doing similar things to what you’re doing now. Drum machines, and loops and crap like that. You have guys either doing the uber blues or that.
I probably shouldn’t go on record as saying this since I live in Austin, but I am totally sick of that: the uber-bluesy one-man band thing; the stomp box thing. Obviously, I’m one-man, and I’m making music that sounds like a band. And so I guess I’m a one man band, but I don’t feel a connection with that tradition. During SXSW, I played with a one-man band. He played keyboard and drum machine, and he was like, “awesome, youre a one man band, too. Us OMB’s gotta stick together!”
I have no allegiance to that at all. The reason Im doing a one-man band is because starting a band is an important thing to me and I wanna do it again, but I want it to be a really organic process.. I don’t wanna be like, “looking for a bassist that kicks ass!” you know?
“Lookin for a drummer who fuckin hits those skins!” (laughter)
I wanna meet someone I am really blown away by in terms of personality and music taste. And if they’re kind of good at instruments, good. I want it be this organic thing. When I did the DFD stuff, I was like, “I need to make music RIGHT. NOW.” It was a very immediate thing that needed to be fulfilled, and I didn’t want to slap some band together out of necessity. I am adding on an extension to what I do though, and the name, some people say it’s pretentious , but it’s supposed to be funny; a joke. Calling myself Daniel Francis Doyle is a joke by the way. I’m not trying to have a serious name brand. I wanted it to sound like some songwriter who takes himself too seriously.
That’s actually why I didn’t go see you at first! (Daniel laughs hard) “Daniel Francis Doyle – ONE MAN BAND” … and I was just, “oh god, not another one.”
That’s why I did it. It sounds like some really whimpy name, and then when you see me, I’m just up there screaming and making noise. But now I have this extension, and it’s called “Daniel Francis Doyle with Amanda jo Wolfson on Bass and Vocals.” I do the guitar loops and drums, and she plays bass and yells. We debut at a house party last night, and I loved that. I’ve been friends with her for a few years, and I’m blown away by this person as a friend. I wanted to be around with this person, so I taught her some bass lines, and she’s struggling with it! It’s awesome. I love working with her. I work with her at the restaurant and I would hear her shout out table numbers for the kitchen, and I was like, “man thats a great shout.” you just gotta do that in front of a mic. So she just belts it out and her face is turning red. Almost sounds like Lydia Lunch, but the beauty of it is that she doesn’t know who Lydia is. She doesnt know who Teenage Jesus and the Jerks are. And it’s great. I just tell her, “well just do this”, and I’m just thinking, “man she doesn’t know how great this is.” I never smile when I play, but when I play with her I’m just looking at her, smiling. She puts me in a good mood, and she’s just belting it out and her face is beat red. So in that respect, that’s kind of like a normal band. I’m real excited about that right now. Just something new to do to kind of deal with the fact that I’ve hit a brick wall with writing my own stuff with my own stuff. I mean, I’ve been working on two songs for two months. I wrote the entire LP in two months, and now it’s been over two months and I can’t complete these two songs. So, I think I’m gonna retire and just start a band. (laughs)

Well, it’s good to see youre not a maniac. When I first saw you, you were so meek and such a sweet person. It threw me when I saw what you did.
Well some people say I am crazy but then they say, “but thats what I like about you!”
What’s so crazy about you?
Just the fact that I get up in front of people and do what I do maybe? And at work especially I get really riled up about things. People will say, “you seem unbalanced”, “you let relationships effect you so much”, “but that’s what I love about you!”
Well one of the things I love about you, and it’s something I’ve been writing about a lot lately has to be how you demonstrate your emotions on stage. One of the things we’re discouraged from doing frequently is expressing how we really feel, particularly when it comes to anger. And people discourage you from doing anything other than smiling these days because it makes them uncomfortable. I can see how what you do could make some people nervous, and it’s good to see that. Indifference has become the new black, and I just don’t think that’s any way to live. There will be plenty of time for indifference when you’re dead and in the ground. Right now I think is the time to react with all of your heart. I respect that about you.
A lot of people are like that. I’m getting some flack for that. My friend Joey were drunk one night and yelling out lyrics to My War, and the next day we were talking about my music coming off as too melodramatic and me being uncomfortable about coming off some melodramatic guy who takes himself way too seriously. He was saying some of the lyrics to My War were ridiculous and over the top. And he asked if I felt they were too melodramatic, and I said, “no I love those lyrics.” And he said, “so long as you’re sincere about it, it’s not gonna come off as affected.”
So long as you’re not wearing a cape and people in black nail polish aren’t coming to your shows I think you’re okay.
On the last flier for Beerland that I did, I put “come see…” with the different headings for all the different artists, and I put for myself, “come see… the feedback and complaining of Daniel Francis Doyle.” I feel like I’m complaining the whole time. “Goddamnit! this and that, and blah blah and fuck that.”

Well, I think you have something to be upset about, and that’s okay. It’s okay to feel something other than the “safe emotions.” You use the word pretentious when you talk about what you’re trying to avoid, and I think a lot of people strive to be relevant, and I think a lot of people present an image of themselves as who they want to be. Not who they really are, and when you’re on stage you’re pretty naked. Warts and all, you know?
Well, the definition of pretentiousness is claiming to be something that you’re not.

And you definitely don’t do that. You’re pretty vulnerable on stage, I think that’s emotional. I think it’s a very strong and difficult thing to sit up there and do what you do. I think that’s an emotional thing. It evokes something in me because I realize what you’re doing and how hard that must be. You might as well be on a pillary wheel like the hunchback, letting villagers chuck tomatoes at you or something.
Another thing about my one-man band thing, is I talk too much between songs now because I have that microphone in front of my mouth with the headset. So any thought I have or mumble, is amplified through the PA, so I end up talking to the audience the whole time. “Oh, gettin’ up now”, “oh shit, lemme start that over.” I think it might even add to it, I dunno. But yeah. I’ve run out of things to talk about.

Special thanks to Dan Doyle for letting me write about him. Contact him here, be his friend, and buy his record.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 203 user reviews.

By Max Dropout


The fiasco of holiday lights emitted a seizure-inducing pattern of flashes; and by nauseating coincidence, all that blinking lined up in flawless tandem with the midi-Tejano arrangement pulsing from the PA located just over my shoulder. I fixated on this relationship for a few minutes, and it only made me want to haul tail back through the door I’d just staggered through. It was too late, though. A paralyzing venom distilled from alcohol and confusion had begun to drip into my kneecaps, and I collapsed against the padded bar behind me. And while the clownish terror around me gained in sickening momentum, I realized there were worse places for my body to abandon me. I clenched a five dollar bill in my hand, and waving it like a wand I summoned the fat senorita casting cheapo cervesa into the lashing tide of hipster haircuts and pearl snap shirts that lapped at her trench. She huffed, “Gracia’s, mijo” like only a real mama could and flashed gold capped teeth stained with blaring red lipstick as she handed me my change.

I nursed my lone star and sensation slowly seeped back into my lower extremities. I assumed a less vulnerable pose and continued to observe the glazed leathery man in the ten gallon hat, losing a battle to coordination. The little migrant man would drop a beat in his heat and fumble every other two step, and though I do not speak Spanish I could tell he had jumbled the words to whatever Mexi-pop jam he was struggling to keep up with via karaoke monitor; the merry brown mob he danced before would erupt with a bellowing laughter at every error, and it was all in infectiously good nature. The clamor only seemed to encourage even sloppier interpretation from the performer, whom, framed by that hazy web of Christmas lights, looked like some saint off the side of one those votive candles I regularly bought at Fiesta mart.

This joint had all the authentic atmosphere of a border town; I half expected Chuck Norris and Louis Gossett Jr. to walk in through the door at any moment and start tossing poor immigrants through windows, ala Firewalker. All the quaint, stereotypical detail oozing through the Red Scoot Inn induced a euphoric bewilderment all on its own, but systematic stream of waifish scenester rabble trailing in from the courtyard outside to pick the bar apart like ants breaking down carrion took it to a surreal level. Astral bodies were clashing, but instead of some end-all shattering collision, there seemed to be a peaceable merger between them. I was fully mobile now, so I grabbed another beer from the false batting eyelashes behind the bar and ventured out into the humidity with the exiting strand white kids.
Culture shock waited behind the swinging patio doors, poised like a beat-happy aluminum bat wielding thug, just waiting to pummel. In abrupt contrast, this crowd were all a head taller than the small, affable aboriginal folk inside, and a blaring rice paper pale… you could practically see their circulatory systems. They stood in geriatric poses, all hunched over and and weathered looking; they scrunched their faces up while choking back foreign swill, and with each little nip their faux-Euro intoned anecdotes swelled in volume. It was an art school graveyard, and these, the spectral waifs of failure wafted amongst each other in garish, dramatic fashion. I stung past the fish-eyed flirtations of the disaffected, swatting gaseous clouds of whore’s water from my nostrils and made way toward the stage in the corner of the yard. There I was greeted by my slight, obliterated friend, who’d drawn me from my home that evening with the urging that I check out this band who’d come down to play from San Antonio.

The prattling drunks flanked around had me second guessing my decision to drag myself out to this obscure corner of town until the four characters I’d been begged to come witness emerged from the crowd, assembling behind the set up in front of the stage. Immediately, my eye snags on the neon pink hoods fastened to their faces, all of which have been mutilated in a unique fashion to accommodate the specific member’s needs. The man who picks up the microphone has eye holes and a mouth piece cut from the clothe to scream through, while the others have merely forged openings through which to see. One member of the party sits perched behind an organ, with the hood merely draped over his skull, like a towel as he looms over the keys like a vulture. All were clad in black formal wear, and ornamented with blaring pink corsages. They looked like they’d crawled out of some old horror serial, as part of some collective of villainy bent on terror and world destruction; this brood looked more accustomed to lurking through gorilla infested mansions with rope-bound damsels slung over their shoulders than playing lame-ass ice cream socials like this.

A matter of seconds later, I learned that gloom can be overbearing, and even abrasive without being outright doomish as a mess of blast of keys assembled some strange, plodding melody. Its tone had same integrity as some old silent film print, replete with scratches and blemishes. Even with the more modern calamity of feedback, fuzzed out bass lines and staggering drum fills, this riot crossed the line between modern punk rock dive and the orchestral pit below the better number of Lon Chaney’s thousand faces with a veteran agility. And then came the odd tone from the man with the microphone, vibrating with anticipation. His pitch was difficult to actually suss out between the noise, which both embellished and canceled out certain tones. The show came to an abrupt start and the terrorists punctured the perfunctory gaze of the audience. It took little to provoke reaction in the drunken crowd who surged forward, forcing the organist to clamp his instrument down with his free hand. Pushing and shoving ensued as the hooded conductor gouged the audience with sputtering and hollering, which soon attracted a series of alien spectators toward the front. Several UT frat boys pushed their way toward the stage to flex their muscles and shove other kids around, in some sad attempt to provoke conflict; frontman, Leonard grabbed one of their burnt orange Long Horn ball caps, and tossed it toward the other end of the crowd. Seconds later, a skinny white fist swung the cap as someone else lit it a’flame. The fiery accessory was then flung back in the direction of the intruders who quickly disappeared to the back of the court yard, coddling each other.

More pushing, more shoving, more noise, noise, noise… all these components acted as that county fair goody contraption kneading and stretching out time like a hunk of laughy taffy. What was a mere 20 minutes seemed more like hour in amongst the blender of fists, foreheads, tits, and hips, and by the time the Skullening reached their shambolic climax, their hoods had been rended from them by the audience… my initial assessment that surely this was some concoction that had emerged from the part of hell located directly beneath Berlin was smashed to bits. They were quite human.

Closer to two years have passed, and the band have gone through a handful of changes, many of which emanated from the departure of their original organist, Dan, who was expelled after a brawl broke out on stage between he and frontman, Leonard. Ryan, one of the band’s founding members, resurfaced once again behind the keys, and with his classical training brought an entirely different pacing to the operation. Beyond the aesthetic changes, which include an new, less harmless imagery which flagrantly contradicts the Skullening moniker, the band have also gotten much speedier over the last year, while much of the gloomy atmosphere has been expelled from the general atmosphere of their performances and songs. Gone now is the confrontation and ominous bleating behind their horror show anthems, though they remain compelling nevertheless.

Scott Jennings is quiet, brooding in a contemplative way, and of the sort of physical stature that might prevent you from approaching him in any other sort of manner than delicate. Behind the facade of the hulking thinker is an affable, awkward guy with a caustic sense of self appraisal that can make you sad to observe if you’re fond of him. He is the bizarro maestro behind Skullening itself. While most consider the functionality of a drummer within the creative ranks of a band to be real “second unit” kind of stuff, Scott is Skullening’s principle songwriter. As comfortable as he may be with his percussive duties, it seems his role may have been determined merely by circumstance. He’s just one of those guys who can do a little bit of everything to some degree of effectiveness and with little effort achieves more than most people who might be entirely dedicated to their respective field.

Scott took some time to answer some questions while struggling with Summer plans for the band. Whether or not they’ll pop up in your town remains up in the air at the moment. Regardless, they’re worth seeking out if they pop up in your neck of the woods.

Your name, sound, and even imagery have always been pretty evocative. Where did the name itself come from? What does it mean?
The name means absolutely nothing at all. We went through a bunch of names in the earliest days of the band, from Blonde Ambition to the Coffin Bangers, as well as a bunch of different names that never even made it to a live performance like Cunt Rockula and Grotesques. The name Skullening was actually a song title for over a year. At the time, we were going by Blonde Ambition, and we just didn’t wanna call ourselves that anymore, so we were like yea, “Skullening seems to confuse people… lets use it!” Plus, it’s not any sort of reference. We coined it. If you search the name, the only stuff that comes up is about us.

Your early lineup had guitar, which you ditched for just the bass and organ. And strangely enough, the guitar stuff I heard was way more sludgy, whereas now, you guys have a really light, frenetic sound. What inspired the shift from guitar to organ?
Well, Dan’s guitar playing lent itself to that doomish sludgy sound cause of his playing style. The organ was floating around from the beginning. There were certain songs that Dan would play organ on that we never did live, but we would practice them. He had a bunch of Electric pianos and stuff, and eventually we realize that using the organ really set off the songs and made us sound different from anything else going on.

The fact that you have no guitar kind of throws people off though. A lot of people kind of react negatively at first, which is funny because you’re playing a style of music that got famous for defying convention. Any drawbacks to the lack of guitar in terms of either the art itself or just people’s attitudes?
Not at all, if they don’t understand it, we don’t care. The organ ends up sounding a lot like a guitar in certain ways because of the distortion we throw on it. It’s not like it handicaps or confines us. And when I think of reasons people probably don’t like the band, the organ is on the bottom of my list, actually.

Well if organ is on the bottom of the list for reasons people hate your band, then what are the reasons at the top?
Well, the cover story about us in the Austin Chronicle got us as much negative attention as it did positive, especially within our peer group. It was great to have that coverage, but at the same time everyone was watching our every move for the next few months afterword. We’d have one sloppy show and everyone would be like, “what’s all the fuss about?” I don’t regret it at all, but people get petty and jealous over stupid stuff like that.

Yeah, trust me, you weren’t the only one who got shit for that. People STILL whine about that article. These assholes get pissed off when you’re not backing their horse.
That’s stupid. But back to the organ for a second, I guess it’s not really a traditional punk instrument. And the distortion and volume of it isn’t really garagey either. It falls somewhere in between both of those genres. We get a smattering of people from both of those crowds, but it also alienates the traditionalist type fans who are into generic, by?numbers stuff. I guess the way we present that element of the band is kind of confusing to them, but it makes people have to really listen and make a decision about what’s going on.

The organ tone is fantastic, and stylistically, it’s like something oozing out of an old silent film theater. What influenced the style? I can’t compare it to any other punk band’s keys ? It’s really archaic sounding.
In the first line up, that could be explained by the fact that Dan was obsessed with anything from the ’20s, including silent films and theater actually. He was more into music and art from that era than anything punk rock. Ryan on the other hand is very talented and also into tons of older types of music, so he was able to take some of what we started with and make it his own.

So, is Dan’s departure why the Spookiness kind of left? Did he take the ghosts with him?
Well, it wasn’t like Dan was the total instigator of all that. We all shared similar interests and I wouldn’t even say Dan cared about that element of the band particularly. I can’t speak for him; I won’t even try.

Now, when I first saw you guys, you had those hoods and the black formal wear, which really went along with your sound. Was it the look that came first, or the sound? And how did one influence the other?
The sound came first, we played like less than five shows without uniforms, but the songs were the same. We just decided one day that we wanted to dress like a gang, and for over a year we were wearing all black and had matching armbands, which freaked out more people than the hoods ever did. We would show up at some of our first shows in uniform and keep them on all night, where as now we usually just change before we play. The main reason we kept doing it is because the first time we tried it, we were playing this shitty dive bar in San Antonio that isn’t even there anymore and it was like we started playing and we had the uniforms on and a switch flipped. We had a lot more energy and confidence, it was like we were acting as one being. From then on it was never a question of if we should wear them or not.

Your new stuff is definitely a lot less brooding. It has a more chaotic, modern sound… like Nintendo on meth. Even your imagery is a lot more artsy and fun these days. Why did you diverge from the melancholy stuff, and the overt menace of the hoods? You guys used to make people nervous. I miss that.
It has to do with a few conscious decisions we made after Dan left the band. We seriously considered changing the name, but it was the worst possible time to do that because of the sudden surge of interest in us (Chronicle article and playing more in Austin or whatever). Basically, we felt the “scariness” was kinda played out. I mean our fucking name was Skullening, and coming from San Antonio, which is like the metal capitol of Texas, it’s easy to get dismissed really quickly just because of our name. So we decided to make it more lighthearted, more cartoony, but keep the name so it just disoriented people in a way. We stopped wearing black all the time after Dan left; for our first show with Ryan we switched to all white… it was kinda like a rebirth. The horror stuff and imagery just seemed kinda dumb, and the new uniforms still keep us somewhat of a mystery, but its not so confrontational. It’s funnier to have tough songs and attitude but wear stuff that gets us called fags.

How do you classify what you do, if at all?
Its always been really important for us to be just a good, loud rock band. We don’t really want to be stuck in any genre. Of course there are certain bands we like that we would prefer to be associated with, like people with open minds who are offended by cliche punk rock, and who get what we are doing. But it’s fun to be liked by classic style garage bands and hardcore kids and artsy kids doing the whole keyboard revival thing.

Explain how the San Antonio scene works. What are the shows and the kids like? Do you guys do well there? And also, who do you guys play with? Who are your contemporaries? Or anyone worth mentioning for that matter.
The San Antonio scene is extremely tricky, but can be fun if you do things for yourself. You can’t rely on clubs to do anything for you, and the ones in San Antonio are especially bad about money and creating good bills or giving bands chances that aren’t in the vein of whatever’s popular at the moment. Of course there was Tacoland, where we played our first show and many shows over the next few years up until about a month before Ram was killed. Tacoland was about the only place San Antonio had to offer as an alternative venue that was worth a shit. Ram was always fair to us and gave us chances when no one else would. Now, as far as venues go it’s fairly dead, there were about two spaces open for the last year that had shows that could be fun and were all ages, but both were plagued by noise complaints and general financial problems. There is a new record store there called 180 Grams that is having in-stores and the owner is really supportive of whats going on around town. He also tries to bring national acts down when he can. As far as bands, our main allies would be Animals of the Bible and the Spark, both of whom are great bands. AOTB has made a name for themselves really. Their new stuff is really great, taking rhythm to another level and trying out percussion stuff that not really any other bands are trying right now. The Spark have played out of town less, but their list of shows in San Antonio over the last eight or so years is impressive. They have played with tons of touring acts and they gave us our first chance when we were starting. We begged a lot of bands for shows who we admired, but the Spark were the only ones to come through for us. It also helps that they are the two nicest guys ever. Coincidentally, we share a practice space with both of these bands now.

Tell me about Dan’s departure and Ryan’s return. And why Ryan left to begin with.
The main reason Dan left is still a mystery. It was getting harder for us to play with him because of things he had going on in his life. I’m not going to go into scandalous detail. We just grew apart musically and socially. One of the hugest reasons was he wasn’t interested in touring and even playing out of town was difficult for us at that time. Ryan was in the band during the transition of guitar to organ, and was also the singer when the band existed in a skeletal form while we were in high school. He didn’t play with us on guitar for long because he was busy with school and other things, so it was the obvious choice to bring him back into the fold, really.

You were the primary writer of the band’s material for a long time, which is interesting considering that you’re also the band’s drummer. A few questions here:
? Why did you choose to play drums within the ranks of the band?
? Has your role as the main contributor at all lessened over the years? Is anyone else putting anything forward?
In high school drums interested me, but I didn’t know how to play. I never took lessons and I played bass mainly. We quickly figured out that most drummers are fucking retarded, so I just started banging around on this kit made of trashcans basically and taught myself how to play. It was mainly out of necessity.
As for the songs, for a while I had written most of the stuff, and we were just playing them cause we were kinda lazy and no one else was bringing stuff. Now, it’s completely different. Ryan is the main song writer, and I only have a couple in the set. Ryan writes tons of songs; he has so many we can’t even realistically play them all. It’s really nice to be able to pick and choose. We all contribute now though, so its become a lot more fun.

Technology has really changed things for bands, in terms of making it easier to be seen or heard, and also reaching a very broad audience with less effort than it used to take. As a result, we have way more bands out there, and a lot of them aren’t even very good. Just about anybody can make a record now. I think one of the pitfalls has also been that it makes bands lazy, or more complacent. What are your feelings on technology and its pitfalls for bands like yours?
In a sense, it IS great. You have something like myspace, where you have whole communities of very like-minded people gathering who might otherwise never meet, and it’s made it really easy to share information, too. It’s made it a lot easier to reach a specific kind of person; word-of-mouth is eighty to a hundred times faster now than it was maybe twenty years ago. I mean, I’m sure it does make people lazy, though. Lately, I see no point in fliering our town when I know the same set of friends are going to log onto their computer at least once a day. It’s definitely made it cheaper and easier to set up tours and promote out of town, but it’s probably hurt the whole DIY culture too, significantly. There’s way less zines and art being produced.

Yeah, definitely. Which is odd, because it’s easier than ever to lay something out. Anyway… in terms of success: it’s a pretty bleak probability that bands that make music as edgey or raw as yours will see a big pay day or the embrace of some major label deal. There was a chance say twenty or so years ago that when you turned on the radio you’d still hear SST shit in a city like LA. Years ago, you might find bands like yours on “left of the dial.” Today, you can’t even be reached via the dial, really. Clear channel has made that an improbability, and satellite radio isn’t all that accessible yet. Success in terms of mainstream definitions of what success is, is a pretty bleak prospect for a lot of bands like yours, and consequently, I think it’s made what I call punk music much darker, more edgey, and much more nihilistic. At the same time, the audience is kind of shrinking. What do you think of this, and what do you consider success for your band? And also, how do you see underground music on an international level changing within the next few years? For better or worse?
Knowing that we will probably never be popular outside of a cult realm lets us be really irresponsible, because popular opinion doesn’t touch us, and probably can’t stand us. We have no one to please but ourselves, though. I mean, I think there are a lot more chances being taken now by bands all over the world because there’s no fucking hope of achieving even a minor mainstream success. There’s always been a desire for an alternative… alternative isn’t very alternative anymore anyway. I like that we’re not dependent on an audience or a label. We have a lot more freedom to fuck up in our own special way, and some people, the people who are sick of all the conformist mall culture crap, will naturally love it for whatever reason, which may not even be genuine. It may just be that they dig it because it’s the antithesis of what they’re selling at Hot Topic. But who cares? We’re sticking it to them somehow at least. We’ll take what we can get and some people along the way are bound to just genuinely love what we do. Besides, even if crowds are smaller, I don’t think it’s going to ever be any less fun for some of us.

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