No band in recent years has made more of an impact in the independent music scene than the Dismemberment Plan. From their much received full length album Emergency & I to the recent Change, the Dismemberment Plan have become synonymous with indie music prominence. Attempting to describe their sound is as futile as trying to resist it – elegant, artistic and close to indescribable. This is the new sound, this is change.
Chris Kenny spoke to Eric Axelson last October over a Radio Shack recorder and Indian food and just recently caught up with him again. This is the result of the two interviews, in two parts, in two different atmospheres resulting in this one collection.
OCTOBER 4, 2001 Thursday – Taj Mahal in Washington, DC on Connecticut Ave. NW
E: Let the caffeine begin.
C: Um, yeah… Steve Buscemi. Did you hear that he used to be a firefighter? He was actually at the World Trade Center. Put on his old fire gear.
E: He what?
C: He put on his old firefighter gear and he fought, you know, he dug people out of the rubble.
C: Yeah. I mean, celebrities were doing their things, handing out water. But, he was actually in the dirt.
E: Right, that’s insane… who knew he was a fireman? I guess, Ozzy Osbourne was a butcher, so…
C: I was a mailman.
E: You were?
C: Three years. For three years back in ’97 to 2000.
E: Wow. How’d you land that job?
C: I was delivering a package to somebody and I saw the … they were giving the test. So, I figured, “oh, well I’m not doing anything.” I wasn’t going to school. “Oh, Let me do this?” So, took the test and like in two months, got the job. It’s not the hardest test… it’s no SAT test.
E: That pays really well, doesn’t it?
C: It pays really well. Really, really well. And then, like, leaving that was the hardest thing about coming here because I lived in NJ and it’s like – either I stay in NJ and deliver mail for the rest of my life or I – [laughs] and that’s what it was. Or I move somewhere else and make less money but hopefully in a few years, I’ll…
E: Be happier?
C: Yeah and I’m considerably happier.
E: Guess you can always get back in carrying mail like you really miss the deal that much. If things don’t pan out… it’s not going anywhere…
C: Right, yeah, yeah
E: Which may not be true, I mean who knows with computers, if mail’s gonna go away
C: That was the big fear among all the old-timers – they were like “Oh we’ll be out of here in three years anyway. So what’s it matter?”
E: Nice. “We’ll be dead by then”
C: Uh-hmm. Everybody who worked there who was over the age of forty was just miserable. You know, ‘cuz they had been there since they were eighteen or twenty. So they were all just a bunch of grumpy, old, miserable men.
E: Loaded and angry?
C: Yeah… see, this is reminding me of the… I read this David Foster Wallace and Gus van Sant interview. Where they’re just talking on the phone. Just talking… you know? Like ‘not even interviewing’ it’s like ‘Oh, so, uh, have you seen any movies?” “yeah, I saw this and -“
E: Who interviewed who?
C: David Foster Wallace was interviewing van Sant because um,… what’s the Matt Damon movie?
E: “Good Will Hunting”?
C: Yeah, “Good Will Hunting”. Yeah, it was for that. Probably for Esquire or something…
E: Of course.
C: Man, I’m already sweating. [laughing]
E: The food’s not even that hot, dude.
C: No, it’s not.
E: What are you? A sissy?
C: I am a sissy.
E: Eat up.
C: I’m a big sissy.
E: Have you read any David Foster Wallace?
C: Yeah, I love David Foster Wallace.
E: I like his short stories. I started to read “Infinite Jest”; I couldn’t finish it. I got seventy pages into it like “this is too much. I’m out”
C: – And you need a dictionary when you read that because he uses words where you’re just like… so you’re carrying around this ‘tome’ and your Webster’s.
E: Right. My roommate’s – he ripped it in half. He’d carry around the first half until he finished it. Seriously…
C: It took me over two months to finish it. I mean, I read it like non-stop. Every free moment, I’d read it, so imagine reading a book that takes you two months and like no breaks. Just nonstop reading. It just took me forever because you have to read passages over again ‘cuz he just goes off on things…
E: Right, I was. It was like it got to a point where it seems he was doing it more to show he could do it.
C: I think that’s what the ‘infinite jest’ was. It’s just this big joke… getting you wrapped up in this book because the whole book has to do with entertainment, so I think that’s maybe his joke, but uh…
E: It’s a hell of a long joke.
C: Yeah, a one thousand page joke.
E: His short stories – the one about the state fair. Amazing!
C: That’s a great one. That’s hilarious…
E: Or the one on the cruise ship?
C: I didn’t ever finish that one. I sent Travis a link to an Esquire story about… It’s called “[Incarnations] of Burned Children”.
C: it’s well written, but it has to do with a baby who knocks over a pot of water, like scalding hot water. And the parents have to rush him to the ER. It’s so good. It’s like two pages long.
E: And he wrote it?
C: It’s only on esquire.com – but it’s so good. I was actually moved and I’m the most…
C: Stoic, exactly …person…
E: Esquire does that where they’ll put in whole bits. I was talking… I just finished “Love in the Time of Cholera” and my friend was saying that a novella or a damned short novel but, uh, Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote that. Esquire printed it in its entirety it’s like 112 pages.
C: And they dedicated a whole issue to that?
E: No, it’s like, I guess the issue was 300 pages long, but the last part of it was just that book. I haven’t read it but he has the copy on his shelf was like “If you want it..?” I don’t know… magazine print seems.. I don’t know.
C: So, actually in my bag, I’m reading “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men”.
E: Is it good?
C: There’re some good stories in there. Some of them are “eh”, like any writer is gonna write stories at are “eh”. But he’s just so smart. How do you go through life just thinking all of that stuff? Are those words just common… does he walk down the street and just use some of the words -?
E: A lot of those are made up, aren’t they?
C: Some words are made up, but he uses words that I’ve looked up. A word like “sweaty” has this 15-letter synonym and he’ll use that word and, like, how does he know this? You can’t pick up a thesaurus that has words like that in it.
E: I think his parents were professors, both.
C: Um-hmm, yeah. But he went to school for math, I thought. Out in Amherst. That’s why he knows a lot of math. If you read “Infinite Jest” he goes, he’ll have whole formulas. For my magazine he did a book review of a book [Ed. Note: Rhetoric and the Math Melodrama, David Foster Wallace, Science, 2000 December 22; 290: 2263-2267] about some mathematician who was trying to come up with a proof for some formula something about even numbers and if you add two odd numbers, you’ll never get the prime. I can’t remember the exact formula, but he was trying to come up with a formula, never could, and there was a book written about it and David Foster Wallace reviewed it and it’s just … this guy knows everything.
E: Have you seen him before?
E: Saw him read on a short story reading tour and he semed like “That’s you?!?” he had a can of dip in his back pocket, bandana…
C: I saw him in New York.
E: Was it packed?
C: Yes. Yes. I mean, there were people who were just like in… stairwells full of people. People were just standing there lucky to hear him without even seeing him.
E: When I walked in, it was like “you gotta be kidding me” I mean, he had a bandana, flannel shirt, unshaven…
C: He seems real meek. When he interviews he has someone with him and he’s always just, kinda like that county fair story. He doesn’t sound like… I imagined him to be like a tough guy… real assertive, but he doesn’t come off like that at all.
E: I haven’t seen him in interviews at all.
C: Yeah, I’ve just read interviews. I’ve never actually seen him…
E: Maybe he’s shy so he uses big words. Scare people off…
C: See, I’d use as few words as possible.
E: Yeah, I think books like that – it’s fun at first, but when you open the dictionary for every other page…
C: Yeah, that was what Infinite Jest was.
E: Either I’m dumb or you’re showing off and I hope it’s the latter… but, oh well…. But, the new book’s ok?
C: The one I’m reading now? Yeah, yeah, yeah… um, it’s alright. I liked the state fair one really. That whole book
was pretty good. Except for the cruise ship one, which I haven’t read yet.
E: What I wanna get now, but it’s only in hardback is, it’s called “Word Freak”
C: Oh, Scrabble!
E: It covers the competitive Scrabble scene. Looks hilarious.
C: My brother plays Scrabble with me online. So, yeah, we go to games.com and they have a Scrabble thing. You don’t have to download any software. And, we’ll play at midnight ‘cuz he lives in Florida and the nights he doesn’t have school, we’ll play.
E: You good?
C: I’m ok. I can get over 300 frequently, so… I mean, these guys in that book….
E: Right. They know the strategy; they also know all the words that no one else knows.
C: Like the two letter words that you wouldn’t think are legitimate.
E: There’s a homeless guy in there who has a condition where he memorizes all these obscure words where he throws them in wherever he needs to…. I brought you the bass line to “What?”
C: Oh cool, ok…
E: So, I was running a little bit late. I remember to play it, but I didn’t know how to write it down, so…
C: I’ve been hunting for Alkaline Trio bass lines, too. Which are pretty fun to play.
E: Pretty straight forward aren’t they?
C: Yeah, they’re kinda easy for me to pick up.
E: They have a new drummer now.
C: Oh, I haven’t heard that. What are they doing? Are they touring or are they just….
E: They were on …
C: That thing, it was at Nation…
E: Plea for Peace – it was them and Hot Water Music, and Selby Tigers and Cave-In, but after the tour the band went home and Matt performed a solo acoustic so… but, Mike, the drummer, used to be in Smoking Popes, was in Alkaline Trio left to go do another band. So, there’s a third drummer now. The guy who used to be in Suicide Machines – I don’t know who he is. I just saw the picture on the website and was like, “ah…” so… played with them in February of last year and the time before that we had seen them Glenn was still in the band, all of a sudden they show up and we’re like, “Where’s Glenn?” “He’s no longer with us.” So then, you know, all of a sudden this new drummer….
C: So, the next time you see them, you’ll have to say “Where’s -“
E: “Where’s Mike???”
C: I never got to see them live. They played over in Maryland…?
E: College Park, yeah… St. Andrews.
C: Yeah, that girl, Erin who, yeah, she actually got to see them; she actually picked me up the CD, the newer one
“From Here to Infimary”. So, that was kinda cool. At least I got the CD out of the deal. I missed the show, but I got the CD.
E: Wonder when they’re coming through again. I know they’re going to Europe soon…
C: And so are you guys.
E: Yeah, we leave two weeks from yesterday.
C: Is that the Iceland festival you’re doing?
E: We’re not playing the festival.
C: You’re playing with The Apes, I saw, the third show and how are they…
E: They’re playing the Festival. So is Lake Trout, Sigur Ros, The Gorillaz – a bunch of bands are. We talked to them
and things just didn’t work out. So, there’s an independent promoter who does all the Fugazi and Shellac and Modest Mouse shows that we hooked up with. That’d be maybe more our speed… the more I thought about it, I wonder if…
C: I’d like to see Shellac.
E: Yeah, they actually haven’t been here for a while. I saw them here a couple years back. But I wonder if the, I’m hoping that the festival is more… like if you played in DC and the Tibetan Freedom Festival is happening, it’s kinda two different crowds. So I’m assuming that the kids who would go see us at the Black Cat over the Tibetan Freedom Festival probably the kids who probably wanna … ah, so we’ll see. Never been there before, so we’ll see. You ever been to Europe at all?
C: Never. I was gonna go to England, actually. I was gonna see your last show in London.
C: I wanted to go in November and I figured, hey, let me just go – I’ll go that weekend, I think it’s a Saturday – the tenth is a Saturday.
E: Go stay with Simon.
C: I was going to, but I couldn’t get in touch with Simon. So if he’s reading this interview…
E: “Drop me a line, mate”
C: The thing was, I e-mailed him to see if I could stay at his place. The airfare was $393 roundtrip. And that’s like, great.
E: It’s really cheap right now.
C: But, this was back in August when I was looking at prices and he never got in touch with me, so I was like [in an I-give-up voice] “Ah, well… forget it” Because it wasn’t even definite that you were playing. I asked Travis if you guys were and he said, “We’re not gonna put anything up until it’s definite”. We saw it on some website.
E: Probably on Southern?
C: Southern, yeah. And, uh, so it wasn’t even definite. I’m like, well, I mean, if I go to London, I’m gonna wanna do
something and I was gonna go alone.
E: You could go there and stay the week after and just hang out.
C: Yeah, well, I wanted to go with somebody and I would have stayed with Simon and at least I would have known someone there, but I couldn’t get in touch with him and so I figured that I didn’t want to go alone and just hang out in London alone, though it would be fun….
E: Have The Finch write him.
C: I asked her if she had heard from him and she said she hadn’t… He sent an e-mail on the Plan Mail/ Yahoo Mailing List. I don’t know who started it up, but he sent an e-mail so I know he’s alive. [laughs] He’s somewhere.
E: He’s out there! Well we’ll see him, I guess, in two weeks, so… well, two and a half weeks.
C: And then you play – where do you go? – you come somewhere else in the States and then New York, Bowery Ballroom.
E: Yeah, we’re doing, like, five shows that weekend. It’s weird ‘cuz we fly out of London on Monday, get here Monday night because you’re flying with the sun. Monday afternoon, I guess. And then we have Tuesday off and then Wednesday morning we go to New York. Then we have a couple of shows in Boston and then a show in Philly and then back to DC for four days for Thanksgiving then we go on tour the day after Thanksgiving for three weeks.
C: Just back for Christmas, then?
E: We’ll get back December 10th, actually. The middle of December, so it’s not so bad. But that’s out in the Midwest, Texas, Southeast all of that so, it’s gonna be a busy fall. Not going to see a whole lot of home.
E: Spring. Over winter… we’re actually discussing that now.
C: “Non-stop” touring. I couldn’t do it.
E: It’s fun, I mean, the trade-off is you don’t have a day job, you know. You don’t see your friends and family and touring’s fun. We have friends in all the cities, so it’s fun to be able to go and see our friends in Seattle or San Francisco or LA and… I couldn’t do that if I had to fly out to Seattle so…
C: And the van holds up?
E: That van rocks. [laughs] I shouldn’t say that – I’m gonna jinx it. It’s actually in the shop now getting looked at. No, no, when did I meet you? About a year ago?
C: About. Yeah…
E: ‘Cuz we had another van before that that was miserable. We had this old Ford that went through three alternators, geez, what else? Two engines.
C: When you bought the second engine, you should have just…
E: Well, the second one we got it and had it rebuilt and the first one died, so we were about to rebuild the second one, we’re like “you know, let’s just get a new van”, so we didn’t pay for the second engine. It’s just, yeah, that van was cursed. It was great because it was our first. Our first love.
C: Was it the same size as the one now?
E: Yeah, yeah. It was actually a hair bigger. ‘cuz it was a Ford and there were truck parts instead of van parts – does that make sense? – so it was a little bit taller and a little bit wider. It just didn’t run so well. It didn’t have any air-conditioning, so when you were crossing through Arizona in June, you’d just bring gallons of water. The defroster didn’t work. To get the CD player to work, we’d have to turn on the stereo at the same time we were slamming the door and turning on the windshield wipers. I mean, it was really weird how we had to figure it out because we couldn’t get the stereo to work.
C: [laughing] And one day it just…!
E: Someone was doing it as someone was, someone else was slamming the door and the stereo came on and we were like.. you know, it was one of those “ape moments” – you’re like [fingers pointing in opposite directions] “huh…work!” And it worked, yeah, somehow when it started raining and we had… it seemed like there was some sort of short was in there somewhere, we had to have something big electrical happening… oh wait! We eventually figured out that if we had the, uh…
C: The defroster?
E: Yeah, the defroster on full blast. You turn on the fan full blast, there was enough current to, whatever, kick that CD player on. But, also if you played more than, like, three records in a row, it would overheat and you’d have to go back to the radio for a while. It was… the van was a nightmare. But, I don’t know – I miss it. It got us through our first four years of touring, you know?
C: Where was your first show? You had that New Year’s Eve show…
E: The first show ever? Well, New Year’s Day was our first practice and then our first show was the March after that. We played a party at a friend’s house in Fredericksburg. It was our last year in college.
C: Was it a paying gig?
E: No, no. It was just us and another local band. We played a six-song set and nobody knew we were playing so after the other band played we went and played our set again, so it was … yeah, it was pretty bad. But, you know as first gigs go, you gotta jump in the water somewhere so… it was alright. We played “Rusty” that night. It’s the only song that’s lived for almost nine years.
C: And you don’t do “Since You Died”.
E: That song came well after that. That song was like, ninety….
C: That came out with the “What Do You Want Me To Say” EP.
E: We wrote that in ’96, I think. I know we wrote it in my mom’s basement. I just don’t remember when it was. It was back when we had the old Casio keyboard…
[waiter asking if we “want some more”]
C: So, did your mom move finally?
E: She’s gone, yeah. I’ll gonna see her… she’s on a road trip right now. She retired and moved at the same time, so she and her husband went out to see her relatives out in Illinois and then went down to Mississippi to do some vacationing ‘down on the bayou’ and then they get home, I guess, next week. So, I’m gonna go down to Richmond and meet them in the middle…
C: Is that where they’re living now?
E: No, they’re out on the water in Virginia. My sister’s in Richmond, so it’s a little closer. They’re, like, three hours; Richmond’s an hour and a half so…
C: See, I moved down here a year ago and I still down know where Richmond is in relation to …
E: Why’d you pick DC?
C: …ok…[looks down at the tape recorder, laughs]
E: Wait. For a girl?
C: [laughing] yeah.
E: Edit this part out
C: Let’s just leave – yeah. Well, yeah, yeah… yeah, for a girl.
E: And then, things didn’t work out?
C: No, the thing was, I was still in NJ when I realized that things weren’t gonna work out and, uh, she was moving out of her place in Dupont but was only paying $475 a month for a little efficiency. I was, like, “well, I don’t wanna deliver mail. And, I like DC and I’ve been down here a few times, had a good time, so I’ll take the apartment.” Gave up everything up there, came down here, packed up her parents’ truck with all my stuff, came down here…. I mean, that was it. It was kinda like, not spur of the moment. I mean, I had a few weeks because I had to give the Post Office two-weeks-warning but, I mean, it was probably only three weeks from when I decided when I was leaving to when I actually left.
E: Wow. Up and out…
E: You just kinda got here and kinda worked?
C: I temped. I mean, that’s what everyone does.
E: Yeah, until you find somewhere to go. We temped for years…
C: Temping’s not so bad. Well, I don’t know about that anymore, cuz’ Temps and Co., who I used to temp for, if you wanted off, you could have off. So, a lot of people who were in bands would do that… They would just …
E: You have your nights free too, though.
C: Yeah, yeah
E: Throw in a few gigs, you practice. I think a lot of bands used to do, like, the bar thing, but …
C: Ah, yeah. I think I’d rather do the temping thing. Even though it stinks to wear a shirt and tie sometimes.
E: But, I mean, the cool thing with temping also, is that you get to a job and you don’t like it you can always leave. I mean, get placed somewhere else, I don’t know… I’ve had some pretty fun “temp jobs”. Pretty bad ones, too.
C: I met some really cool… well, yeah, I had some bad jobs, but I met a lot of cool people. Met a lot of jerks, but… [laughs]
E: Yeah, it’s just like roulette, you know.
C: Yeah, yeah. [Same] with anything.
E: But the problem with a regular job is if they’re jerks, you’re stuck there. At least, you know, for ….
C: Well, my job now – the people – I’m ok with. So, they’re not jerks, and I mean they’re not great people, like I’m not gonna go have drinks with them after work.
C: Yesterday there was actually a party for some website that they just got up and running. And I was, … kinda went there, was looking around, just “I really don’t like any one here…not enough to talk to them.” So, I left. I didn’t even drink the champagne. I should have just taken a cup of champagne and left.
E: I think “neutral” is the best you can ask for in an office, though. As long as it’s not bad, it’s good.
C: I don’t really do much work. My boss works from home and she’ll ask me to do things, so I’ll do it, knock it out, then I can just e-mail all day.
E: It’s the “Science” thing, right?
E: Science Magazine, is it?
C: yeah. I used to work for Science Magazine, now I work for some, another website they run for “signal transduction” – it’s some “cell-thing” that I don’t know. [shrugs, showing that I have no idea] Too highbrow for me.
E: Are you gonna be there full-time?
C: Well, I AM there full-time. It’s my job now.
C: It’s a lot better than the Post Office, ‘cuz if you wanted a day off at the Post Office, you’d have to make sure it was available. That nobody else wanted that day off. So if you had to go to the dentist on a certain day, you had to hope you could get that day off. Or just call in sick and then they would hound you, wondering why you were “sick”.
E: Now you get “sick days”?
C: Yeah, now I can just say “I’m coming in late.” “OK” – It’s cool.
C: They pay for school, so hopefully I’ll go [back] to college.
E: Right on – you haven’t gone to school yet?
C: I didn’t finish.
E: You can always go back.
C: Yeah, I slacked off and then I became a mailman.
E: There’re a lot of schools here, though.
C: There are a lot of schools here and I applied to four – I haven’t heard anything yet because I think in November is
when they make their decisions… or I don’t know how it works. But, someone I know who works for GW, where I applied, one of the places I applied, she told me that they haven’t done anything with it yet.
E: It’s expensive there.
C: My job pays for it.
E: Hundred percent?
C: Eighty percent.
E: That works.
C: Yeah, yeah, I’ll take it… And I applied to Howard also and I heard that you can get a scholarship
E: For minority students…
C: A minority scholarship.
E: yeah, my dad’s wife went there for her degree.
C: I would definitely take advantage of that. And I want to go for English, so…
E: They have a good department there.
C: Yeah, and George Mason is another place I applied. I heard they have a good writing department but I don’t
really want to write.
E: It’s also way out.
C: Yeah, it’s WAY out.
E: You have a car?
C: No, and I moved to Glover Park, so –
E: Yeah, you’re dissed. And Howard, too. How’re you gonna get to Howard?
C: I was in Dupont and Howard was fine. When I was living in Dupont, anywhere was ok. I applied to American,
which is probably the best now.
E: For Glover Park, yeah. Well, GW also, if you go to Wisconsin [Ave.].
C: The 30 bus takes you right to Foggy Bottom.
E: 32,34,36 all go down Wisconsin, so that works. Assuming you’re going northbound. There’s gotta be a cross-town bus. Actually, you know what…?
C: The D1 takes you across to Dupont or the D2… no, D2 takes you to Dupont. D1 takes you through Dupont to Union Station
E: Oh, yeah.
C: So, I’m new to the whole bus thing.
E: Yeah, you can go online, though. Find buses that work out. Go to Catholic you can take the H2 straight across to Brookland.
C: Eh, I don’t know if I can handle Catholic University. [laughs]
E: Actually, it’s not so, well, I haven’t been there, so. I hear it’s “not so Catholic”
C: Well, then hey! It’s up my alley [laughs]. Further from Catholic, the better.
E: I guess you’re not Catholic? [laughs]
C: My family’s Protestant.
E: The rival team.
C: [laughs] yeah.
C: yeah – “from the inside”
E: “Breaking in!”
C: Lemme see – what kind of questions did the Finch want me to ask? Any plans for the remixes? You know, you guys put up the tracks…
E: Oh yeah.
C: Planning on really doing anything like, maybe – a few of the best put on a b-side on some type of EP.
E: I don’t know. I think we’re just waiting to see what we get. I saw on Jeef’s site last night that there was six remixes and we still get e-mails every week with new stuff coming in. I don’t know. We talked about getting some, uh, professional – people who DJ for a trade to remix us.
C: DJ Shadow.
E: Yeah, right…. Um, more like, someone like Dalek or someone like Cex.
C: Is he still playing?
E: oh, yeah. He just got back from tour from the West Coast.
C: I think that would be great for him – he has the whole laptop thing going on.
E: Right, right. Get the crossover. Well, he’s remixed us before. Like he did “Academy Award” and he was remixing
“The City” before we [UI] all this. In fact, the new version – er, “Change” when it’s released in Japan will have his remix of “Academy” on it. So, it’s actually on his last record “Role Model” – or the record before that – “Role Model” had the “Academy” remix, so…
C: It’s gonna be the same exact version on the Japanese?
E: Yeah, yeah. …but, I don’t know. I like the idea of putting out a record of remixes, ‘cuz…
C: You could be like The Cure…. Though it’s not even like your remixes, it’s other people’s.
E: I’m more DJ-inclined these days anyways. Like I’d rather, more times than not, I’d rather listen to DJs than to
rock music these days, so I kinda like the idea of giving our stuff to people to have them screw with it.
C: And maybe, you’ll have some new DJs out there. People who would never have done it before and they’re like, “Well, I like The Plan, lemme fool around with this…”
E: Yeah, yeah.
C: And then they come up on something and it’s, like, “hey it sounds pretty good. Lemme try it with this and this” and they go off and… you know.
E: Hope so. I think for the – I was trying to land some bigger name DJs, but at this point I’m too busy with tour planning, but hopefully over the holidays I can send out some copies and see if anyone is interested in mixing. Problem is that outside the “indie world”, I don’t know a lot of DJs [who] cross over and follow what’s happening in punk rock.
C: Yeah. A lot of my friends, they spin, or they’re into DJs and hip-hop and, I mean, they like Pavement, they like Modest Mouse, but they’re not as “indie” [flexion of upraised fingers to signify tone quotes] as I am, I guess. I mean, I don’t know how other people are out there, but from how I see things, yeah, there isn’t really a blend just yet with the two.
E: Right, it’s probably how a lot of “indie” kids know who Mos Def is and The Roots are…
C: Well, yeah, but Mos Def is great, though.
E: But they don’t know who the Beatnuts are or the….
C: The Beat Junkies
E: Right, there’s a lot of stuff that I’m sure doesn’t register. I guess you see more and more people checking out Dilated Peoples and J5 [Jurassic Five]…
C: Well, you had Dalek at your show. I mean, that was cool and hopefully that …
E: A lot of people didn’t like it, either.
C: I thought it was cool.
E: Well, yeah, likewise.
C: He was so angry; I thought it was great.
C: I loved it.
E: We’re all about it. It’s more fun to mix things up like that ‘cuz, I figure, love it or hate it you’re at least…
C: Exposed to it.
E: You’re at least moved by it. I think it’s better to mix bills up than to try to make everything sound the same.
C: That was like playing with Lake Trout.
E: Yeah, exactly – same thing. Where a lot of kids were like “What’s this!?!” and a lot of their fans were saying the same thing.
C: Well, I have to admit I was downstairs talking to The Aerialist.
E: oh right.
C: – the whole time that they were on.
E: Bonding on Jersey?
C: [laughing] Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
E: My man’s up in Asbury Park [NJ] now.
C: Yeah, that’s kinda sad.
E: Yeah, but we’re playing with Lake Trout again later on this fall and, hopefully, with Dalek again this fall. I don’t
know – doing a lot of mixed-up bills. Doing some days with Diastemata, doing some days with El Guapo, doing the whole tour with Ted Leo.
C: Oh, is it gonna be a whole thing with him?
C: Oh, that should be good
E: Yeah, the whole November/December tour will be with Ted. Excited about that. Back to the remix thing: There were no real plans yet. It was just interesting to see what people do with the songs, so it’s just fun.
C: How about the Canada shows after the whole thing… with the crowds…?
E: It was good! They were good, it was – I think some folks weren’t sure if we were coming or not. We talked to one of the Canadian zines….
C: You missed the one show in Pennsylvania.
E: Pittsburgh, yeah. We played Buffalo the day after. Played Canadian shows after that, but….
C: I need more food.
E: Get another round then… hit pause.
[coincidentally this side of the tape had JUST ran out]
E: … covered nearly as much as McGuire was.
C: nah, yeah, it’s really not.
E: I don’t know if it’s been thirty years or it’s been thirty years between Maris and … forty years…
C: yeah, it’s just under forty. I’m not a big baseball fan, but it’s these kinds of things that I get into – the whole
E: Right, well, I’m a Cubs fan, but you know how that is. Every year you get your heart broken.
C: yeah, well, hey, Sammy Sosa just did the, uh, sixty home runs for the third time in his career. Sixty home runs a year [in three different seasons] for the first time.
E: yeah. I wonder if he’ll stick around though. He seems to be getting pretty fed-up with the Cubs.
C: yeah, they’re not….
E: So, it’s kinda sad. All my teams like the Cubs, Caps, Wizards.
C: Ah, see… I’m a Devils fan.
E: Aaaw, we’re gonna fight.
C: I’m a BIG Devils fan. The opening… two nights from now they play.
E: It’s ok. We got Jaromir [Jagr] this year.
C: I saw a preseason game where he was in the penalty box and all these girls ran over to the penalty box and just
started banging on the glass and trying to talk to him.
E: That poor dude…
E: I mean look at this year in DC, though. You got Jaromir Jagr AND Michael Jordan.
C: Yeah, I was saying to my friend that this is probably the best city to live in for sports – ‘cuz you have the two
greatest players in their respective sports.
E: On two teams that can’t win. [laughs]
C: Yeah, so, maybe hey, things’ll happen that the Wizards will actually make the playoffs.
E: Can only hope…. So where were we on “rock talk”?
C: Canadian shows.
E: Mmm, people seemed really happy we got across the border. I guess a lot of bands either didn’t try – actually
historically, a lot of bands don’t make it in, like, bands try to get in without paperwork and get rejected, so I think it’s a normal thing for Canadian folks to go to shows and bands not being there and not making it because of border issues. So, I think they’re surprised because of that and also surprised we got across with everything going on. So, pretty happy. I think also that people were happy that we played and was kind of a distraction, I mean, a lot of people in different cities were saying, “you know, when I get home the news’ll still be on but it was nice to go somewhere and have fun and laugh and dance for a couple of hours and, you know, I’ll go home and turn CNN on again, you know, it’s fun to get out at least… see other people in the street, so…”
C: Yeah, I was, uh, I stayed home from work that day ‘cuz I woke up kind of late. I woke up; I actually woke up at quarter to nine – when the first tower was hit – and my snooze alarm’s on WMAL – the talk, the news – and they were saying that there’re reports in that a plane hit the World Trade Center. I was, like, “oh man, that’s terrible” – I just thought that it was an accident ‘cuz the Empire State Building had been hit by the bomber back in the 40s – where a bomber just flew right into it in a fog – so I figured, “oh man, that’s messed up. I’mgonnagobacktosleep” Hit snooze. Woke up and they were talking about it, saying how bad it was, and I kinda, like “lemme hear about this, lemme hear what happened”. So, then the second plane hit as I was listening to it and it just kept getting worse and worse. So, I called my boss, half-dressed. I was like “I don’t think I’m coming in today” Then the Pentagon gets hit and I’m, like, “I’m DEFINITELY not coming in today” and I went out onto Connecticut to meet up with a friend for lunch at Luna, actually. The streets were dead. There was nobody out. Stores were closed. The only stores that were open were… Melody Records and Kramerbooks. That was it.
E: Wow. I went shopping that day for some groceries, like, mid-day when I got tired of looking at the news. And the streets were pretty dead; I guess it was different downtown. My mom got stranded at the Capitol. She had friends that walked a couple of miles to get somewhere where they could get transportation again. I think, the north business district it was just like, everyone was either inside watching TV or on the phone with somebody.
C: Yeah, I was on the phone a lot ‘cuz people think I’m near the Pentagon – ‘cuz they kept saying “Washington, DC”. It’s in Arlington. They were talking about how Washington, DC.. you know… So, I had all of these family members, who I don’t really talk to, calling me, asking me if I’m okay. I mean, it hit the Pentagon – I don’t work at the Pentagon.
E: Right, right.
C: It’s not like the World Trade Center where buildings and other things are nearby.
E: Right, where… it’s a lot more dangerous.
C: But, we drove by the Pentagon on Sunday.
E: I still haven’t been out there…
C: Oh, it’s ….
E: It’s pretty heavy?
C: Yeah, it really is. Cars were pulled over, people were just gawking – I mean, “gawking” sounds bad -it has bad
connotations or whatever. I mean, people were looking; it’s kinda like a memorial on its own. Just there, leave it there to look like that. It’s something to reflect on.
E: Wonder how long before they get that repaired. Probably be years.
C: Yeah, I don’t know. They say it’s gonna take a year to clean up the WTC, so…
E: Wow… it was kinda weird being in Canada, too, because people look at you as Americans and wonder, not standoffish, but kinda like, “So, how is it over there and how’re things?”
C: Like there’s anarchy on the streets…
E: Yeah, how do you respond? It’s kinda like, I don’t know. It’s hard to really describe the air that week in the US. I’m saying we left the next day, but it’s just like the whole vibe of – everyone’s kinda just in shock.
C: Yeah, when I went to Luna there were maybe like, it was this time of day, but there were maybe like no more than ten people there and everyone was just listening to the radio, because they had the radio on and everyone’s just listening, waiting for updates. And, that carried over for a few days – people were just still listening to the radio, hoping that there were survivors and when the word came that they were pretty much not going to find any survivors, I think that’s when people started kinda getting back to things, like you knew, “hey, it happened and it was terrible but let’s just get back to…”
E: I heard The Diner was packed the day it happened because everyone got sent home, so my friends who were working there said it was completely dead… and around eleven o’clock or eleven-thirty, the floodgates opened and the place was just slammed all day. They said it was really strange because you’re trying to watch the news and take all this in and people are complaining about they need more butter or, you know… and you’re just like “huh….”
C: Yeah, that’s it! Since then, it’s changed a lot of people. I mean, it’s changed me. I don’t gripe about petty things. There are a lot worse things going on than whether or not I didn’t get butter.
C: Yeah, I mean, maybe … I’m not saying that it’s a good thing that it happened, but there’s a positive, there are positive things that probably came out of this – that people are gonna look at how they’ve lived their lives before and maybe just not take things for granted maybe, call your family a little more, things like that.
E: Yeah, because someone broke into my house last week and it was the same kind of vibe where it was frustrating and scary and all those things.
C: Was…was anyone home?
E: Eh, no. No, um, but they got a bunch of cash. But, you look at it again in light of what just happened and sure, it sucks to be out a bunch of money but, I mean, after being up in Hoboken and being in Manhattan the day after that show and seeing all the shrines and people’s… carrying flyers, looking for their parents or for their siblings, it’s just… I don’t know, it’s just….
C: There’s a lot… there’s better stuff to be concerned about.
E: Yeah, for real. Yeah, it’s just… there’s down on the water in Hoboken there was this park, there’s all these notes and letters….
C: The Frank Sinatra –
E: Yeah, yeah. Exactly, yeah. We had seen some of the other, up in Ottawa, at the US Embassy, there was a lot of notes and cards and flowers. In fact, the whole front wall, the whole front gate was covered in flowers and letters and candles and what-have-you. But, that was all people giving condolences and asking for peace and all that. But you get to New York and it was all personal. It was no longer, you know…
C: …Like “I hope you guys are ok”. It’s like “I hope we’re okay”.
E: Yeah, yeah. It was more like, “I dedicate this to my son who was 28 years old and worked on the 105th floor in his first job” and has this whole thing about him growing up or someone who knew, you know…she wrote about her friend who was her first kiss who died in the second tower and it was just… you see that and it’s –
E: – Like it’s a whole other game. It’s just, you know, all… it’s like everyone we knew was crying about things more on a global level and then you see that and it’s just, you know, it’s a lot more painful, but ….
C: In Adams Morgan, where the Suntrust Bank is on the corner of Columbia and 18th… they had, I think it was paper up on this brick wall and they had markers hanging down and you could write things. And, uh, it was kinda funny ‘cuz there was a lot of people screaming bloody murder, like wanting, like “Hang ’em all!” and “Kill!” “Drop Bombs!” and then you have the pacifists like “Let’s not rush into this and…” it’s like we’re still at odds with ourselves. You know, we gotta, kind of… I know there’s opposing viewpoints for how we handle this but we’re still bickering.
E: Yeah, I think a lot of it or I like to think a lot of it is just the initial reaction is for vengeance. I know mine was. I remember the first day being like, “Go get ’em!” but as you slow down and let the anger kinda drain out of you…
C: I like how nothing’s really happened yet. I mean, it’s been almost four weeks…?
E: Nah, it’s been…
C: Eh, a little less than that… eh, three.
E: Was it three?
C: It happened on a Tuesday
E: Yeah, the 11th so it’s, yeah, three weeks.
C: Yeah, it’s been… I mean we’re “mobilizing for war” but it’s not like… we didn’t rush into it, like how Clinton did when the whole Monica Lewinsky thing… like how he came to throw attention off him, like launched, yeah, launched….
E: Bombed [UI]. Embarrassing.
C: Yeah, it was like… there’s no need for that, but at least… I’m not a Bush supporter, but he’s kinda kept a level head, which is pretty good. Hasn’t rushed into it, but we’ll see what happens.
E: It’s seems also, he’s bringing in other world leaders, like I saw today that Tony Blair was bringing evidence together to show to the Pakistani government about … how do you pronounced that “al-Queda”?
C: “Al-Qaeda” – “The Base” That’s what the name is.
E: Really? No shit?
C: Yeah, Al-Qaeda, The Base.
E: So, I don’t know…. Yeah, Canada was fun.
E: Bring it full circle… It was aiight.
C: Yeah, I was afraid I was gonna bring up the whole thing, get all quiet…
[waiter taking plates away, offering more iced tea]
E: Strange though. ‘Cuz it seems that a lot of bands are canceling their European tours right now. I saw Weezer cancelled theirs. Janet Jackson…
C: I didn’t even think that you guys…. Yeah, but didn’t Weezer play that day. Didn’t Weezer play on the 11th?
E: I don’t know. I know some bands did and some bands didn’t. We didn’t.
C: Well, you couldn’t.
E: No, we could have in Pittsburgh. The show still, I think, went on.
C: You cancelled it? They didn’t?
E: Yeah, we cancelled. I don’t know if the show happened or not… Um, I think Burning Airlines played that night in
Phoenix and their logic and, I think it makes sense also is…
C: They’re in Phoenix. [laugh]
E: Well, that, too. But also they’re saying, like you know, we can play and give people something to get outside about.
C: But you guys were in Pittsburgh. And that’s still, it’s kinda iffy ‘cuz there was the plane crash right, you know, miles out….
E: Well, that morning, ‘cuz Joe called and that’s when I first heard about it, like, the phone rang and Joe as like, “We traveling today?” and I was like, “What, am I late?” and he was like, “No, turn on the news” and he gave me the list of what was going on. So, I turned on the news – I was like “Oh man” He’s like “I don’t think we should travel.” I was like “I think we should. Let’s get the hell out of DC.” And he was like “I don’t know. Let’s just wait.” So we waited and, you know, I figured Pittsburgh would be safe and all of a sudden he calls me, he’s like “Plane hit Pittsburgh.”
C: Well, that was the first report: that there was a plane over Pittsburgh.
C: It wasn’t that, er…it was that it went down near Pittsburgh. Yeah, if I hear that, I’m not gonna play. I’m sorry.
E: More of the reason was: we didn’t know all our friends were safe. We had friends up in Manhattan. One who worked in the Trade Center, who got out. And, just between family and friends, people who work for the government and not knowing what was up with national security. Like, there’s rumors about things happening at the Capitol and the State Department. We have friends who work at both of those and…
C: The “car bomb” at the State Department.
E: Yeah, it just got to the point where we just said “we don’t know what’s going on, let’s just stay home until things, things really settle down to the point where we can make a smart decision, ‘cuz right now if we take off we don’t know what’s happening or what’s going on.
C: And you wind up driving into “ground zero”.
E: Yeah, so we just camped out at home. So… it was bad news. I have a.. [pause] I’m going to Iceland!
C: Yeah, so tell me about that: the Iceland thing. Is it just to go?
E: We initially looked into it because of the festival and then as things, because they weren’t working out, we went another route and went to another guy. The only drag is we don’t really have any time to see anything ‘cuz we’re playing three shows in three nights.
C: How far [apart] are they? ‘Cuz I noticed it’s three different cities.
E: Actually, two are at the same club [laughs] – we’re playing the same club on Thursday and Saturday.
C: OK, that’s what it was.
E: I asked him, “Is that cool?” It’s like, “Oh yeah!”, so…
C: Reykjavik on Friday, is it?
E: No, the Friday show’s at a high school….yeah….I can’t explain, but…
C: Is it going to be a bigger crowd than the Portland [ME] show?
E: I have no idea [laughs].
C: I heard the Portland show was pretty ….
E: yeah, it was more because it went really late and a lot of folks ended up taking off. It was a good crowd when we
C: Was it a weeknight?
E: Yeah, it was on a Wednesday and we didn’t go on until a little after twelve… I thought it was a great show; people seemed to really be into it and dancing and then all of a sudden halfway into the set it’s quarter to one, people are looking at their watches and walking out. I’m like, [disappointed] “This isn’t fun…” Oh well… yeah, it was a rough night. You figure not every night’s gonna be a “Black Cat show”. You been to the new Black Cat yet?
C: Yeah, I saw the Butchies there last night.
E: Oh, I was there last night! I wasn’t at the show, but I was a play down the street.
C: Towards where the old…
E: At Source, yeah. “Italian American Reconciliation”? It’s written by John Patrick Shanley, who did, he wrote “Moonstruck” – the movie with Cher in it. But, my friends in Project: Wire were putting a play on and they, I went to go check it out. It was really good; I liked it a lot. I think it ends this weekend.
C: I got nothing to do. I live in Glover Park –
E: Check it out.
C: – it’s reason to come out.
E: It’s a little steep, it’s twenty bucks, but I guess for theatre stuff it’s not so bad.
C: Let me take care of it… It’s my part of the …
E: I got money. I got a job. I got TWO jobs!
C: I see that you can order the album from Desoto now.
E: Yeah, you can order, you can get it on –
E: – Insound. Had no idea that was gonna be happening. Someone else told me about that. A friend of mine e-mailed me, told me about the pre-orders.
[ten seconds of talking about the check, the parking meter outside, the bus]
C: What were we just talking about?
E: The Play?
C: Yeah, the play and then the Butchies, yeah… So, the Black Cat.
E: Yeah, I just wanted to go down there and check it out and see how it looked.
C: Yeah, I had been downstairs, previously. The bar’s a lot bigger – it’s kinda nice. I don’t like that the men’s room is
right near the entrance. It just feels weird to walk into the men’s room as people are coming in and going. I kinda liked going down into the basement.
C: But, the upstairs is nice –
E: It’s big
C: – it’s gigantic… Compared to how it was.
E: They say their capacity is that same actually legally.
C: The thing is: it’s wider. A lot wider…
E: I don’t think it’s much shorter, though.
C: They don’t have that back – you know how they had that little upper level where the tables were –
E: Right, right…
C: I mean, there IS a back level, but it’s not as “in the way” as it used to be.
E: I didn’t hang out there that long. One of the guys who works there gave me the grand tour and showed me the back loading area with the freight elevator.
C: Oh, wow.
E: Which is nice because it’s better than doing the stairs and there’s band parking in the back, which is cool. We used to have to –
C: You’d park in front and load through that door…
E: Yeah, and have to lug it all the way across the street, er, all the way across the club. Sorry. So, it seemed pretty nice though. I liked that it’s bigger. It’s cool that they own it so it’s their own place now.
C: Why, what was the deal before?
E: They were renting. We don’t play there until December, so… it won’t be a while until we actually –
C: Is it going a New Year’s thing again?
E: Yeah, we’re gonna do two shows the weekend before New Year’s, so… yeah, it was kinda cool to see it. It was weird though, too, because I had been going to the Black Cat since it opened and it’s just kinda weird to see the name somewhere else and …
C: Yeah, yeah. And you walk around, there’s the same “black cat” things. The “Felix the Cat” – Is it Felix the Cat? – it says “Come on. Take a step in” or “Step on in! – The Black Cat” is a little cartoon of a cat. It used to be … it’s just a cartoon of a cat.
E: I never saw that.
C: Yeah, it’s just an old piece of wood that there’s a drawing on – a painted drawing and, I forget where it was in the old club, maybe just on the wall, but when I went inside last night and went upstairs to see the band, it was just on the sound, the sound check, the sound-
C: -board guy, so…
E: Was it a good show last night?
C: It was ok. The men’s room was really clean.
E: Oh right. [laughs]
C: Cleanest I’ve ever seen a men’s room at a show. [laughs]
E: I know this band… I know the drummer from the Butchies, I believe, used to be in Vitapup. We knew Melissa, I’m pretty sure that’s her… in Vitapup years ago – was a band we played with when we first started out. And Trixie Delicious, we have mutual friends in Richmond…
C: Oh, they were great.
E: I came in when they were playing, so it was interesting. Ran into some friends of my sister’s from Richmond, so
it was an all-round interesting night.
C: It was interesting.
E: But go see the play though, I mean, if you can afford it, it’s good.
C: Twenty dollars.
E: Lots of yelling; it’s very Italian-American, but it’s…
C: Or I could stay home and watch the Sopranos…
E: I’ve never seen that before.
E: I don’t have cable.
C: I don’t either, but they’re on DVD or video now.
E: …oh, gotta rent.
C: Yeah, but then you gotta rent the whole series, that’s gonna cost you. I think there’s a few episodes each tape or
E: Probably, like, four per DVD or six per DVD
C: I think it’s four a DVD.
E: So, you get three DVDs for the whole season?
C: Yeah… I’m not sure how it works out.
E: These days, it’s just like with – [laughs] – two tours going up, I don’t have time for the TV.
C: Yeah, I don’t even watch it. I just moved into a place where we’re getting cable, so now I might start actually
watching TV and it’s not good because I would go out and “do things”, but now it’s like, “hmm, Bravo. Let’s see what’s on here…”
E: Exactly, exactly. “There’s a Bogart festival…”
C: “Independent Film Channel, Sundance Channel”
E: “All Buscemi, all day…yeah!”
C: It all comes back to Buscemi.
C: It’s full circle.
E: See, synchronicity.
C: That’s right.
E: Well, are there any other questions the Finch would wanna, wanna ask about? Records, tours or…
C: I’m sure I’ll come up with things as I’m walking back to work and I’ll be like, “sigh…”
E: You could always e-mail me.
C: Yeah, and just add them on to the end… ‘cuz I was supposed to do this back in Baltimore.
E: Oh, the show. Yeah, what happened that night?
C: I overslept. I took a nap –
E: Oh, ok. I was gonna say ….
C: Yeah, I took a nap and it was seven o’clock and I knew I had to get there, I think at eight. Yeah, I fucked up.
E: Didn’t work out?
E: I hope you find Simon for the London show, …
C: Yeah, it’s… I mean… I hope he goes to the shows, but –
E: I’m sure he will.
C: Yeah, but I would like to have gone out to England to check it out. There’s an office, my magazine works in Cambridge, which is some ways away from London but it would have been neat to go there, see those people who I e-mail all day.
E: Are there other UK folks on any of the mailing lists or…
C: I can only think of Simon.
E: I wonder if you could post something on one of the… you say there’s a Yahoo! List, also.
C: Yeah, Yahoo! I’m not sure of the address. Finch has it; I could get it from her.
E: Or have her post on the site that people who want to come over and are looking for places to stay –
C: Yeah, yeah. Anyone who wants to come to DC, I got, you know –
E: Do an exchange.
C: -as long as you’re not a total freak.
E: Put you up.
C: Yeah, if you’re not a nut you can stay at my place for when you guys play in December and then –
E: Probably meet people, too
C: Yeah, like how we met Simon and we met Allison at the New York show.
E: Yeah, that’s true. Oh, that was the first time you had met her?
C: Yeah, we had talked on AOL Instant Messenger…
E: Right. It’s always funny to see, we know all these people ‘cuz we see them at shows in different towns, but all of
a sudden, we were in San Diego last year and a couple of people from Holland, and a kid from Norway, and Simon were all there. You know, we’re used to seeing them at other shows overseas and all of a sudden they’re meeting people that we know from shows on the West Coast and, you know, to us it all makes sense ‘cuz they’re all – we’ve met them from our shows but it’s weird because they’re not in the towns they belong in. In fact, I think it was the same night we met Allison, so it was all everyone on the same night. It was like, wow… a family reunion of people that don’t know each other.
C: Yeah, yeah. But it’s neat to put a face to the names because you’ve mentioned Simon before, so when you said “So, have you seen Simon and Allison?” I was like,… I had to remember because you said it like I knew them and I’m, like” Oh my gosh! No, I haven’t!”
E: Oh, right, right. At the Bowery.
C: Yeah, yeah. So it was cool to see them “Oh, you’re Simon and you’re The Finch”. So, I mean we talk, me and the Finch on e-mail once in a while. That’s what this is for [pointing to the recorder].
E: That’s right. Putting you to work.
C: [in a mock-Burgess Meredith as the Penguin quack] yep, yep, yep
E: I’m thinking if there’s anything else of interest. It’s just all tours coming up.
C: Just tours?
C: Give a recap of where you’re gonna be touring each month? Europe – November.
E: October 18th until November 10th in Europe. All the dates are on the website now. We’re doing a five-day
weekend up in New York, Boston, and Philly in mid-November. And then, US tour from the day after Thanksgiving until the middle of December.
C: Ok, so that’s the only… “in stone” plans now?
E: Right. Next year, we’re looking at Japan, looking at the West Coast, looking at more Europe. There’s definitely more plans in the works, but nothing really solid yet. Just, you know, doing a lot of e-mailing to people in different places and saying “hey, let’s do something”, so I don’t know. I’m hoping – we’re working on a pretty cool West Coast tour.
C: You guys gonna do a tour video?
C: A tour video. Have someone document… [laughs]
E: No, we ain’t no Bon Jovi! [laughs] We’ll probably end up doing it now. Eat my words.
C: cub from Vancouver, they did it. They just had their little camcorder and a bunch of tapes and when they went through Canada and around the US, they just taped their stuff and …. It’s kinda entertaining to watch a band be goofy, you know.
E: I guess we could just get a digital camera and drop in a laptop wherever we go and just keep recharging it. It’d be fun.
C: I don’t know how expensive it is to press videos and –
E: We need someone to go with us, though, ‘cuz I’m not –
C: [yawn, stretch, cracking knuckles] I got nothing to do. I’ll carry the camera.
E: You got a job.
C: I’ll quit.
E: “I ain’t doing nothin'”
C: If I get to see the country, I’ll quit.
E: You never gone cross-country before?
C: No. The farthest west I’ve gone is New Orleans and that was with the girl who I moved down here for so it was…
it was tense. I didn’t enjoy myself.
E: Oh no…
C: So, I got to go to one of the most fun and hedonistic places in the world, but … I didn’t drink at all. You go to New Orleans, you think Geaux cups, you think drinking on the street, flashing –
E: Right, right.
C: – no.
E: If you have vacation coming up, rent a car or …
C: Yeah, I’m not looking at New Orleans though. I mean, I want to go out west, Los Angeles. Maybe the Finch can hook me up with a place.
E: I’m sure she could. It’s beautiful out there. It’s sunny. Go in the wintertime. You’ll be pretty happy.
C: I like the winters. I like COLD winters.
C: Yeah, I was a mailman. You gotta like – If you’re a mailman in New Jersey you gotta like the winters or you wind up being miserable when you’re forty years old.
E: [laughing] I can’t believe you were a postman.
C: Yeah. Hey, it was fun. [laughs]
E: No, it’s sounds like it – you get to walk around all day and listen to music.
C: No, you can’t wear headphones. They – it’s a safety hazard. But, during the winter, you put on your little skullie, put your headphones under it and walk around.
E: [laughs] The secret’s coming out. Well, should we hit the streets?
C: Yeah, that’s it.
E: If you have more, you know –
C: Yeah, I’ll put it in an e-mail and blahblahblah.
Our last interview took place less than a month after the 9/11 attacks and was admittedly somber in parts. Do you feel that you and the band are back into the swing of things? What has the band been up to since then?
Lots and lots of touring. We left the day after 9/11 for a two-week tour, then did 4 weeks in Europe and 4 weeks in the U.S. later that fall. And we just got home from 3 months of touring in the spring (Japan and U.S.).
The Dismemberment Plan is an odd band name that raises some skeptical eyebrows. Could you explain where it came from and why it was chosen?
It comes from the movie “Groundhog Day” when Bill Murray gets accosted by an ex-schoolmate that tries to sell him a Death and Dismemberment Plan. We thought it was funny, and kind of ironic, which we soon found out it wasn’t that funny as we got stuck on Metal and Grindcore shows. But after a year of debating the name change (which oddly had us all changing sides throughout), we stuck with it. I can only hope that 10,000 Maniacs had the same problems we did.
Who are the members of your band and what do each of you do?
Me (Eric [Axelson]), and I play bass and keys/sampler. Jason [Caddell] plays guitar, keys/sampler and some back-up vocals. Travis [Morrison] sings, plays guitar and keys/sampler. Joe [Easley] hits the drums.
How would you describe your band to someone familiar with most other popular music?
I say it’s kind of like Talking Heads, if they grew up on D.C. punk and modern R&B.
How is the songwriting handled? Who does what?
We all tend to pitch in riffs/beats/ideas, but Travis is definitely the ringleader. He’s got a knack for hearing something in practice, and marrying it to a melody or song idea he has. Actually, on the Death Cab tour he brought a laptop with scoring software, so there are a bunch of midi files of Travis’ melodies and chordings that we’re starting to pick through right now.
What are your most favorite songs that you’ve recorded? To play live?
I tend to like them all, even when we’ve been on tour and have played everything a thousand times! I guess “The City” and “Back and Forth” on record are 2 of my faves.
How has the band transfigured from its inception into its current state? When did you form and what drove you to wanting to perform music in the first place?
We formed on New Years Day, 1993. Since then we changed drummers in mid-95 (Steve quit to work in film/video), but besides that we’re all the same. We added keyboards into the sound in 95/96, and got a sampler in 98, which both heavily affected our sound, and how we write.
As for wanting to perform? I’ve always liked being in front of people performing, even as a kid. But I remember seeing live footage of U2, and Prince and the Pretenders in 1984, and completely losing myself in the music. I think around then I knew I wanted to be in a band. Then later seeing so many great live shows in DC (Fugazi, Jawbox, Shudder), it really made me want to do the same thing.
Is there a “DC sound?” Can you describe the music scene in Washington?
Not really. Especially now, no one really sounds alike at all. D.C. is kind of reforming right now, lots of new exciting bands coming around. And again, no one is really mining the same turf. From Trans Am to El Guapo to Q and Not U to Black Eyes to Measles, Mumps, Rubella to us, no one sounds that similar at all…which is great.
What are your own tastes in music tuned to? What’s currently residing in/on your cassette deck/CD player/turntable?
Upstairs: The Streets. Downstairs: Musiq (Soulchild). Lately I’ve been going retro, bought some Joy Division, some Can, some Art of Noise. But generally it’s either beat-driven (DJs, laptops) or singer-songwriter (Jill Scott, Rufus Wainwright).
Your past tour mates are incredibly diverse and varied. You’ve toured with The Promise Ring, Alkaline Trio and Death Cab for Cutie as well as Dalek, Juno and Lake Trout. Do you feel that the myriad sounds of the bands that you tour with reflect your own sound? Do you feel that you incorporate some of the differences in your own sound?
Oh yeah, we steal from everyone. Lake Trout doesn’t believe it, but “Other Side” was written after seeing a Lake Trout show, and Death Cab-ish sounds have popped up here and there lately. But we really do try to mix it up on tour. It’s boring going to shows when everything is straight-up indie rock. I’m not saying we never do that, but we really try to bring folks like Gena Rowlands (guitar and violin) or El Guapo (art rock) or Dalek (complete mayhem hip hop) on tour with us. And people in the crowd may not like the way these bands sound, but it’s at least challenging and not a run of the mill band with 4 white dudes playing SGs through Marshall stacks.
There was a two year span between albums starting with your debut LP, “!” which came out back in 1995 (followed by “The Dismemberment Plan is Terrified” in ’97, “Emergency and I” in ’99 and last year’s “Change.”) and you’re currently working on a new album. Is the new one slated for a late 2002 release or 2003? Will it be released on Desoto Records as well?
We just started writing 2 weeks ago, and we have shells for 2 songs completed. So I’m hoping, best case scenario here, to be in the studio by the winter and releasing the record by early 2003. I’d like to get this out 18 months after “Change” came out.
If you had asked me if I saw The White Stripes being almost nationally-known a year and a half ago, I’d have laughed at the thought. Are there any “small” bands that you see blowing up the national scene within the next five years?
You mean like BIG big? I think Get Up Kids and Dashboard [Confessional] are both going to make the leap from the 100,000-200,000 copies sold up to gold or platinum with their next records. But that seems kind of obvious. The Faint, they could be all over the radio too. In a big indie-sense, I reckon Pinback, Death Cab, (!!!) and The Shins will all keep getting huger too.
You’ve been performing most of the “Change” songs live since “Emergency and I” came out in 1999. Do the songs that’ve been written for the new album have a considerably different sound than anything up until now?
Not considerably, but it still sounds like steps in a different direction. The first song has a samba feel to it, and breaks down with some Trans Am/Lake Trout-ish drums towards the end. But you’ll have to ask me again when we have more stuff written.
How have the World Cup games affected your sleeping patterns?
It’s killing me. All this week, every night, I’m either staying up for the 2:30[am] match, or getting up early for the 7:30…thank God all my 5am matches were last week. Things look good for the States, if we can at least draw South Korea tonight, or beat them (and I think we will), we’ll be through, which will be amazing. I’ll be a much more rested person on July 1st.
What is one bit of advice that you give to up-and-coming bands that you can’t stress enough?
Practice as much as possible and tour tour tour. My only regret with this band is that we didn’t tour more on the first 2 records. Even if you’re losing money, and you will, playing consistently in other towns is key. Word gets out, small buzzes begin, even when our crowds were growing from 15-30 people between tours, something eventually gives way (it did for us on the first Emergency tour), and all of a sudden we had at least 100 people everywhere, which now still keeps growing each time we go out. Tour. Lots. Practice. Lots. It’s the only way.
With the amount of cross-country road trips you’ve tackled, driving through the Middle of Nowhere, Illinois and what not, how do you pass the time without wanting to kill your other band mates?
I’m one of the main drivers, so I drive. I drive enough that when I’m not driving I’m exhausted, so then I sleep. I’m not a great reader on tour, and if I am, it means I haven’t been driving enough. We keep pretty quiet in the van, which helps too. When you’re together in close quarters 6 months a year you don’t need to talk all the time.
Rumor has it that you recently shot a music video at The Black Cat here in Washington, DC. It’s not your first foray into the world of video production, however. Can you describe the experience of the most recent shoot and what happened with the last one? Can we expect to see either of the videos anywhere?
The video went really well and is being edited right now. We just saw the roughs yesterday and they looked really cool. We’ll have the video available for download off our website once it’s done, and hopefully you’ll be seeing it on TV as well. We’ll see. There’s been a lot of requests for it overseas too, so if you’re in Germany, Japan or Australia, keep your eyes peeled.
Travis’ recent tirade v. the record industry is proof of your support of sharing music over the internet, but with AudioGalaxy bowing beneath the pressure of the record industry and Napster having filed for bankruptcy, what do you feel the future holds for small record labels compared to what it holds for the larger ones?
I think small labels will always be fine, because they live within their means. Labels like Barsuk and TigerStyle and DeSoto, they all have enough bands to cover costs, make a small living, and that’s cool. So if the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] cracks down on file sharing or not, they’ll be fine. I think either way, being able to offer your music, as an independent band, for folks to download can only help as well. We’re always getting folks at shows that streamed the Real Audio off our site after hearing about us, and liking it enough to come see us live, and buy a record. That can only help, right? Plus, if they hear the music, for free, and they don’t like it, it’s no love lost and they don’t need to waste money on a CD or a ticket, you know?
What’s on the horizon for The Dismemberment Plan?
Lots of practice (4 days a week). Then lots of tour (much of the fall).
Dreams and Devotion: An interview with Strung Out’s Jason Cruz
For Strung Out’s Jason Cruz, art is more than just the music he’s known for. It’s the dreams and emotions he writes and paints as well.
For almost 30 years, Jason Cruz has been synonymous with the art he’s been crafting. That art of course, is his work as songwriter and vocalist for Simi Valley melodic punk rock outfit Strung Out, who since 1990, have been writing hard-hitting, emotionally-charged music that became part of the wave that brought punk’s into the mainstream consciousness in the mid-1990s. Strung Out’s three albums of that decade, 1994’s Another Day in Paradise, 1996’s Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues, and 1998’s Twisted By Design, proved to be the perfect answer to those who sought out the deeper underground of punk that bellowed below the surface of Green Day’s Dookie and Offspring’s Smash.
For many listeners like myself, Strung Out and many of their Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph brethren meant a world of new music wrapped in the subcultures of skateboarding, surfing, punk attitudes, and a vibrant urgency that echoed sounds of rebellion and independence. While pop culture acceptance for just about any form of art and music seems fleeting, Strung Out have never wavered from what they do; now three decades into their history and nine albums deep into an ever-impressive catalog. Songs of Armor and Devotion is perhaps the band’s finest work since they first burst onto the scene. Composed, yet still breathing fire, its tracks still exhibits that “debut album energy” but comes with the benefit of the wisdom of touring, writing, and experiencing the world three decades over.
However, for Jason Cruz, art is more than just Strung Out. He has quietly and not so quietly been honing his craft as an artist and a painter, coming to light on a musical front by painting the cover art to his band’s 2011 “Best Of” album Top Contenders: The Best of Strung Out, and NOFX’s 2013 EP Stoke Extinguisher. But one look at the wide spectrum of art he’s painted and you can see that it’s more than just album covers. His painted work, like his music, seems to come from the same passion and emotion that drives his lyrics and songwriting. Now he embarks on a new chapter as a children’s book writer, taking inspiration from his daughter to write There Are Such Things As In Your Dreams, a bedtime story born in dreams.
We spoke to Cruz not long after the release of the band’s new album to talk about the long-lasting influence of Strung Out and to discuss his art and how they share the same creative head space. We also spoke about his upcoming art exhibit and his new book and the toll and triumphs of the tour cycle.
Congrats on Songs of Armor and Devotion. It’s stellar work; how do you all feel about the release and response to the record?
Cruz: I’m glad people are digging the tunes. I’m anxious to get em out on the road and see what they turn into. See if I can keep up with RJ. It feels like another new level to explore.
But you’ve been busy with a lot of projects- tell us a little bit about the children’s book you have written? It was inspired by your daughter?
Cruz: The book is called There Are Such Things As In Your Dreams and it’s basically a bedtime story. My daughter just spoke the title one day as we hangin’ out having one of our talks and it stuck. I thought it was the most beautiful thing she ever said.
What’s the story of the book?
Cruz: It is basically a bedtime story trying to explain to a kid what the hell dreams are and how cool they can be. How the adventures you dream at night can only pale to the ones that await you when you wake kinda thing.
How long did it take to write and create the book?
Cruz: I worked on the story, which is more like a poem, and all the illustrations for just over two years. Anywhere I could set up and draw. In between shows, on planes, at the desk at home, wherever. Once I told the kid I was gonna do this book she made sure to ride me pretty hard about getting it done so she could take it to school and read it to the class.
What’s the approach like writing the book in comparison to writing songs for a new Strung Out record?
Cruz: Pretty similar process I guess since they both involve rhythm, flow and the use of imagery and imagination. With a song, it’s a collaborative process. Each member adds an element to construct this thing. With the book, it was all me. Inventing as I went along until I had enough elements to unify the idea as a whole. It’s a lot harder flying blind like that. I guess I kept this first attempt as simple as possible for that reason.
Where can we buy the new book?
Cruz: All the usual modern day outlets like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Baby. It will also be available on my site as well.
I’m looking at some of your art and I like how different the pieces are. For instance, the difference in emotion, style with pieces like “Choke”, “Rise & Fall”, and “Church Fix”. What are some of the things that inspire your art and what were some of the inspirations behind these pieces?
Cruz: Oh I guess just the love of doing is what really inspires me. To be an artist. To challenge myself. To learn my craft and grow. I could never stick to a certain style or look very long because I’m just too moody I guess. I need the freedom to move around and explore. Always trying ‘get it right’ whatever that means.
Is creating art a completely private and solo process for you?
Cruz: Completely. I guess that’s why it can be so maddening at times and so fulfilling at the same time. Like what nerve do I have to even attempt this?!?! What is this whole art thing?!?! Is this good?!?! And somewhere in between all that doubt, there is joy and fun. Problem solving and improvisation.
What are some of the things when looking back at this 20+ year career with Strung Out do you hold as the most important to you? Is it the records? The consistency with the work or the influence you’ve had for listeners around the globe?
Cruz: To be able to keep living my life in a such a way is all I can ever hope for. Making true connections. As long as I am a good person, as long as I am good to my muse and never take anything for granted and always be awake and alive I am grateful.
Is there one album you look back as particularly important to the band and yourself? Say one that you felt like thing were heading in the right direction?
Cruz: For me, I’d have to say it was the pseudo acoustic record we did called Black Out the Sky. That record was super important in our development as a band and as human beings. It kinda loosened any restraints we thought we had and really showed our fans and ourselves the possibilities of our union as a whole.
I’ve always loved Suburban Teenage and Twisted By Design because I think both records hit at the right time for me (I grew up in Indonesia and discovering your music was a big part in who I was and am); plus I learned that bands could hit hard just as much as they sang with emotion- but I think Songs of Armor and Devotion is very much in the same vein. What was the songwriting process like for Songs of Armor… and when did you guys start writing the record?
Cruz: It all happened really quick. Once we set aside the time to write and record we wasted no time and the ideas all came very fast and effortlessly – for the most part. We had a lot of ‘pent up‘ energy and angst I guess you say.
I love the song “Crows”- did you feel like it was a great stand-alone song- were there reasons why you didn’t want to put it on a record?
Cruz: Who knows? Looking back I don’t even remember. It seemed like it didn’t really fit anywhere but it was too good to just let go, so yeah, that song is kinda like a sad pretty little island.
You’ve got an exhibit coming up in October that will showcase your art and your new children’s book. Is the process of creating a new exhibit the same for you as say, planning an upcoming tour? What can we look forward to at the exhibit?
Cruz: Luckily I have help from some really great people. I’ll be painting up until the last minute so any and all help is greatly needed and appreciated. Along with the illustrations from the book I will also have on display a series of new oil paintings.
Steve Caballero is also part of the exhibit, was it a natural process working together with Steve on this? How did this come together?
Cruz: Steve is a blossoming artist and a great human being. I guess I just got extremely lucky on this one.
Strung Out have a North American tour coming up with The Casualties. How’s life on the road these days, are you guys all still enjoying being on the road?
Cruz: Ask me that on the last week of the tour and you’ll get a different answer than now.
I got to see you guys twice the last couple of times you were down in Australia; will we see you here sometime next year?
Cruz: Yes, I believe something big is in the works for Spring.
Do you have a road map for the next few years or are you happy with playing things as they come?
Cruz: It’s more a map of the ocean and I am chained to the wheel.
Jason Cruz’s Fine Art Exhibition and children’s book launch takes place Friday, October 25th, 2019 at the Copro Nason Gallery in Los Angeles. Tickets can be booked here. More information can be found on Jason Cruz’s official website. Strung Out’s new album, Songs of Armor and Devotion, is out now on Fat Wreck Chords.
All Work and All Play: An interview with The Drowns
The Drowns prove that having the right work ethic goes a long way
It’s been a busy year for Seattle punks The Drowns. The band, whose individual histories stretch back some 20 years, are a rough and tumble blend of street punk bravado and positive attitude that found its footing with their 2018 debut album View From the Bottom. With tours, festivals, and new music already checked off in 2019, The Drowns put the “work” in working class rock n’ roll with no rest in sight. Fresh off the release of a new 7″ titled The Sound, the band are prepping for their first ever Japanese tour in October and are working on their new full-length album due in the near future.
On top of the globe trotting, the band will take part in this year’s Rock The Ship Festival, their label’s annual punk rock escapade on the high seas, anchoring a lineup that includes noted bands like Cock Sparrer, CJ Ramone, and Subhumans. We spoke to vocalist Aaron Rev about the new 7″, the terrific street punk anthem “The Bricks of Ol’ Rainier”, and what they’re looking forward to next to cap off an already packed 2019.
I really enjoyed the new 7”- how has the reception been, and how are you guys feeling about these new songs?
Rev: Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. So far, so good. The reception has been incredible. And we love the new songs. We just got back from a month and a half tour, and the new jams went over great.
It sounds like the band is very in tune right now and that things have continued to go strong since the debut album?
Rev: Totally. We also have a pretty intense work ethic, so right when we are finished with something we are already working on what’s next. Just keeping the ball rolling.
The songs on the new 7” SOUND amazing- where did you guys record and produce the record?
Rev: We working with our brother Jesse O’Donnell from the band Noi!se at his studio the Autopsy Room in beautiful Tacoma WA. Working with Jesse was great. He’s a great guy, and a great engineer. He’s really got an ear for this type of music, and he pours his heart in to it.
What’s the story behind “The Bricks of Ol’ Rainier”?
Rev: I live in the south end of Seattle. Years ago I moved to a neighborhood called Georgetown. It was incredible. Tons of artists living in a kind of shitty area, just for cheap rent so they could keep creating. When I’d first moved there, it really was one of the greatest points in my life. I was surrounded by incredible people who inspired me to create. But, we all started to see the gentrification coming, because nothing that great could last forever. The Georgetown neighborhood has a huge building in the middle of it called Rainier Cold Storage, where they used to make and store Rainier Beer. They ended up tearing part of the building down, and for me that symbolized the beginning of the end of what we had. When they were tearing it down, I broke in at night and stole some bricks for the old building, and when I have them around, they serve as reminders to carry the spirit of what we once had along with me wherever I go.
You’ve been playing a bunch of shows over the last few months- how have they been? How are these new songs translating to the live setting?
Rev: The shows have been CRAZY! We’ve gotten tons of support and a great reception to all of the new material. It was a killer tour.
For those who may not be familiar yet, share with us a little history of the Drowns.
Rev: We were all friends in different bands, and we’ve all been in the game for 15-20 years a piece. Our respective bands started to slow down, so we all decided to start a project together. Also, not many bands we knew of were playing the style we wanted to play. So we got together, started writing, and just haven’t stopped.
Are you guys splitting time between Seattle and LA?
Rev: Our drummer Jake lives in LA so we just fly him back and fourth to accommodate, and we head down there. With the internet, it’s surprisingly easy to keep a long distance band going these days.
Speaking of Seattle, I saw on your Twitter that some of you were at a Sounders game- is soccer the sport of choice for The Drowns?
Rev: Totally. Huge soccer fans. MLS and Premier League. Some of us are big hockey fans too.
It’s funny because I felt that “The Bricks of Ol’ Rainier” has that stadium anthem feel to it (at least in my head), that its a great song for thousands of people to sing together.
Rev: Hell ya. I’ve worked with the Sounders in the past with my old band. I’d live to have The Downs work with them. It’d be a perfect fit.
Pirates Press has been releasing some great music this year; you guys are in great company. What were some of the reasons for choosing Pirates Press as the new home for your music?
Rev: First and foremost, they are incredible people over there. You be hard pressed to find any other label active right now that gives a shit as much as they do. They are hands on, they are passionate, and they care about the bands, and the music, and the fans. They are truly a great example of how a label should be run.
You were at Punk Rock Bowling this year- how was it? It’s such a massive looking festival from the outside- Did you guys have fun?
Rev: It was KILLER! The lineup this year was insane. The setup of the festival this year was perfect. And, we were crazy surprised when we started playing at 3:30pm and right after we hit that opening chord and turned around, there was a sea of people! We felt so humbled by how many people cane to see us. It was insane.
Are there already plans for a new full-length to follow View From the Bottom? What are the plans for the rest of the year?
Rev: We are definitely always working. So you can bet that you’ll hear about new material soon. But for now, we are going to hit Europe and Japan later this year. And keep on moving.