Sunday, December 27, 2009


The more things change…

By Jason Schreurs

They’ve often been called The Milemarker Collective due to the revolving nature of their band lineup and constantly evolving sound. But one thing that’s remained constant with Chicago-based post-hardcore band Milemarker over the years is the close friendship and collaborative dedication of original members Dave Laney and Al Burian.

“We’ve been friends for a very long time. And we’ve been stuck in a van together for a very long time,” explains Laney. “Sometimes the proximity of a lot of years spent together let’s you be a little more critical… because it’s almost like part of the family. It gives you a thicker skin, until the knife cuts in too deep.”

Laney is only joking about the knife part. He and Burian (also known for his Burn Collector writings) have found endless ways to inspire and motivate each other over the years.

Formed in 1997 by Laney and Burian, along with drummer Ben Davis, Milemarker has gone through many players in the course of five albums and a couple of EPs. The member shuffling became so chronic Laney and Burian eventually decided to implement an open door policy allowing people to leave and return at their will.

This was handy for Davis, who recently came back to the band to help write their new album, Ominosity, after an extended hiatus while he and his partner had a baby. Davis will not be touring for Ominosity but, as mentioned, there’s always someone from the ranks of past (or future) Milemarker members to take his place.

“Something that we’ve always tried to do is keep it a little bit looser with the potential to mold it around whatever’s happening,” says Laney. “Whoever’s in the band is whoever’s playing with the band at that moment.”

One noticeable shift on Ominosity is its epic collection of seven or eight-minute dark epics; Laney is clear the band was trying to move away from the “synth-poppy” material of previous albums. Even more evident is the absence of vocalist/synth player Roby Newton. The lack of her piercing wail and sultry lilt could have been insurmountable voids, but with the help of three guest female vocalists and the many different textures Ominosity offers, it’s not a growing concern.

“She definitely was a big element of the band, and a lot of people have said, ‘Where the hell’s Roby?’” says Laney. “But her leaving was just something that happened. She was in and out of the band since the band started. She is missed, you know, and definitely having a female element to the band is important to us.”

Milemarker are perhaps best remembered for being staunch critics of the fashion-conscious hardcore scene of the late ‘90s, using their Frigid Forms Sell album motif to comment on just how silly the style over substance trend had become. Oddly, only a few years later, the band’s worst fears have been realized.

“[Frigid] looked like a lot of record covers actually look now,” marvels Laney. “They do promo photos where someone comes in for $500 to do a photo shoot… It’s all so slimy, the whole industry of it.”

And while countless bands today are content being cogs in a larger machine, Milemarker measures success on their own meter of happiness.

“I feel good about the music that we’re making right now. I feel good about the live show and it’s pretty exciting to me,” says Laney. “But I think everyone that makes music feels like their thing is important. They either think they are the best band in the world or they think they’re the worst band. Either you’re self-hating or you are a Superman-complex person.”

And which one are they? “Probably more towards the self-hating. I’m not gonna call up Rolling Stone and say, ‘Hey, you guys gotta put us on the cover. Do you know what you’re missing?! Here’s our press package. Check it out. Get back with me,’ he laughs. “I never understood it like that.”

Milemarker’s secret of uncompromising success is the consistency and longtime devotion of Laney and Burian to a project they obviously hold dear to their hearts. They even formed another project called Challenger, releasing and album and an EP in the past two years during an off-time for Milemarker. But this begs the question of whether Milemarker would continue if one of them ever left the band.

“Yeah, I don’t think it could go on. That would be pretty weird…” imagines Laney, “but, whatever, bands do weird stuff. There’s a festival coming up in Chicago and the bands are The Misfits, The Germs, and, what is the other band… Black Flag…”

“No, wait,” he interjects with another imposter band, “it’s The Dead Kennedys.”
“I don’t think we’ll ever be in that position…” chuckles Laney. “That’s not gonna happen with Milemarker.”

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Can't believe I found this little ditty; it often haunts me to this day. Rollins Band in their prime, playing live in Toronto at the MuchMusic studios. Some seriously weird shit goes down here, first in the "you talkin' to me" ode to Taxi Driver, then in the extendo-jam "bad, bad monkey" section. Scary and thrilling, all at once. Ah, Rollins...

Monday, December 21, 2009


Originally published: Monday Magazine

Random thoughts: I really can't believe I missed their live show in town. One of those write-about-them-but-get-sick-before-show dealies. I've heard they are one of the best live bands, as the YouTube clip below will attest.

The Anti-Cool
Akron/Family avoid rock trappings for a whole lot of love and joy

By Jason Schreurs

Let’s face it; rock shows are a bummer sometimes. Some greased-up fools on stage, sweating and spitting, while the cooler-than-thous in the crowd stand sneering with their arms crossed. But a select few bands, such as Brooklyn’s folk/noise troupe Akron/Family, are interested in a live show that transcends the bad vibes.
“Our approach is trying to have a sense of community as opposed to a lot of rock shows where you’ll go and the band will just sort of play at the crowd,” explains multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Dana Janssen. “We like to entice the crowd to sing along, clap their hands, and really join in on the show and be part of the experience.”
And with their feel-good reputation preceding them, Akron/Family excel in their alternately mellow and jarring hopped-up-hymns in a more improv-friendly live setting. The foursome’s recorded output is free-form and inventive enough as it is, but the band must get downright giddy at the thought of jamming out more on stage.
“Oh, totally,” gushes Janssen. “I’m sure I could be happy doing the same show every night, but it would definitely get old. With this band, it’s a blessing, man. Totally a blessing...”
Um, blessing? Janssen likes to throw that word around, furthering the theory that Akron/Family is some kind of beardo religious cult disguised as a folk/noise/improv band. Let’s test the theory on Janssen: “No, no…” he lets out a high-pitched laugh. “That’s a myth. People take things and they just run with it. Some of the guys practice Buddhism, but besides that there’s no cult or formed religion.”
Okay, maybe not, but there’s certainly a strong mantra going on here. One listen to sing-along numbers like the gonzo-gospel “Blessing Force” and the phenomenally uplifting “The Rider (Dolphin Song)” and it’s clear the band has a message in mind.
“Joy, love… love, joy. That’s the message,” confirms Janssen. “I don’t know if people don’t have time for those two things, or people just fail to recognize them in every day life. Our message is to wake that up in people and make them recognize that joy and love can be found everywhere.”
Okay, got it, an Akron/Family live show is the polar opposite to the typical sex, drugs, and rock and roll. “A lot of bands want to be too cool, and kind of standoffish, and that doesn’t make any sense,” says Janssen.
So Akron/Family is the anti-cool? Does that work? “Totally man,” beams Janssen. “I like it!”

Friday, December 18, 2009


Originally published in: The Nerve (Vancouver, BC)

Random thoughts: I don't usually do Q&A style interviews, but when I do I always thoroughly enjoy them. This one was with a vastly underrated punk band from the UK called Snuff. I love reading these old Q&As; they are always a blast (even when they are done by email and aren't particularly thrilling). I plan to hunt around for some more Q&As I've done to prove that I can deliver some really thought-provoking ones. That's my 2010 challenge.



The Nerve recently caught up with Duncan from Snuff. We found him in Japan. What the bloke was doing there, well, no one really knows. Duncan was patient enough to answer my prodding, fan-boy-like questions about the new Snuff double CD on Fat Wreck Chords.

Nerve: Are you happy with how the double CD turned out?
Yes I am happy but, to be honest, the running order I would have used would have been slightly different. This isn’t really a problem, it’s just that everyone had a different idea and this list reflects the songs that got the most votes.
Nerve: Disc two is a bit of a mish-mash. More of a collector's thing, innit?
Yes, really this is for collectors and for fans that may not have certain songs released in different parts of the world.

Nerve: What's your vote for best ever Snuff song?
Duncan: Sorry, but I really can’t answer that one. There have been so many songs over the years I have really enjoyed playing that I can’t really pick just one.

Nerve: Snuff was known for your obscenely loud live shows (I'm still deaf from a show in the early '90s). How did you guys manage to play so bloody loud?
It’s good to play loud live as it feels good onstage, but what the audience hears is down to the soundman, so I guess you should blame him for your deafness.

Nerve: You guys always seemed happier than pigs in shit when playing in Snuff. You ever miss those days?
Yes, I have always enjoyed playing live and I don’t miss it so much as I am currently playing live with my side project, Billy No Mates.

Nerve: Any plans for a Snuff reunion? Fuckin' please?
Right now Snuff is sleeping and there are no plans to tour or record right now, but I`m sure one of these mornings the alarm bell will ring and we will be off again.

-Jason Schreurs

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Originally published in: Chord Magazine

Random thoughts: A really good band who I remember being excited to interview, just on the basis that their music was so interesting and it wasn't another Warped Tour interview (this was around the same time I was interviewing multiple Warped Tour bands for Chord.... uggh).

These Arms Are Snakes
A different kind of Easter

By Jason Schreurs

One of the most noticeable things on Easter, the latest from Seattle art-noise rockers These Arms Are Snakes, is the expansive guitar work of Ryan Frederiksen. He’s a bit of a guitar god on this, their second album, with an impressive array of solos, crazy noise sections, and melodic interludes.
“Um,” chuckles Frederiksen, “thanks… I think. I made a conscious effort to not do the exact same things I did last time. It was important for all of us not to rewrite [2004’s] Oxeneers. We got to demo a lot of this record and it enabled us to take a step back and decide what worked and what didn’t. As a result I got to think about my guitar parts a lot more.”
Another big difference on Easter is the variation among the 12 songs. Oxeneers felt a little samey, but this one is all over the place in sonic experimentation.
“It was way more thought out,” explains Frederiksen. “We made a conscious effort to slow some parts down here and there, and we tried to make it as varied as possible, whereas Oxeneers was all go, all the time.”
It helped that the band had a new recruit within their ranks. Drummer Chris Common joined Frederiksen, vocalist Steve Snere (ex-Killsadie), and bassist Brian Cook (ex-Botch), bringing more than just his drum sticks into the studio. Turns out the band not only landed a new member, but also a worthy producer. Common and his new band teamed up to record the album in Seattle at Red Room Recording.
“We had a lot more time with this record and actually having a real drummer this time around, when we didn’t before, we were able to say, ‘Well, this record seems to be lacking this sort of song… maybe a little breather here. We should consciously explore that and write something.’ It was just a little more prepared when we went into the studio to actually record it.”
While past fill-in drummers included Minus the Bear’s Erin Tate and ex-Harkonen dude Ben Verellen, These Arms Are Snakes are excited to finally have a permanent skin-beater, especially one of Common’s caliber.
“He’s a phenomenal fucking drummer,” gushes Frederiksen. “He has insane technical ability and he’s able to really wrap his head around a part. He brings tons of ideas to the table without being too over the top. It’s a perfect fit.”
Despite the changes, fans of These Arms Are Snakes can still expect angular, challenging arrangements and piercing Snere screams. Another thing intact is that eerie feeling given off by the classic albums by Chicago noise rock purveyors The Jesus Lizard. We’re not talking copycat at all; just a similar sound and vibe.
“I loooove The Jesus Lizard and that definitely comes through in my playing,” confirms Frederiksen. “Yeah, I’ve always loved that band, and continue to love that band.”
A deep admiration of such a monumental band is one thing, but it must be a little difficult being constantly compared to other bands, especially considering These Arms Are Snakes are still creating a sound very much their own.
“It’s an honor, but we do have our own thing going on, so I don’t think about it too much. Obviously The Jesus Lizard have a big place in my heart musically, but I also have a huge hole in my heart for bands like Doves, who I try to take a similar approach to. It’s not like we sit there and figure out how to play their songs and then say, ‘Alright, let’s change one note and then it won’t be us ripping it off,’” laughs Frederiksen. “We just try to take similar approaches and ideas to songs, and then apply our own ideas to them.”
Being part of the Seattle scene is something the band relishes, with many great bands currently coming out of a town notorious for its music over the years.
“It’s definitely a great place right now for music. It’s flourishing,” says Frederiksen. “It became dormant there for awhile, no bands were really doing much of anything, and it sucks that we lost bands like Botch and Murder City Devils. But so many bands just popped up out of those ashes, and more and more people started moving to Seattle.”
One band in particular has always shared a kinship with These Arms Are Snakes, and that’s Minus the Bear. Members of the two bands are the best of friends.
“We’ve all shared bands with them in the past. It’s good to be lumped in with those guys. It’s an honor because those guys are all awesome.”
But are the feelings mutual?
“Um,” laughs Frederiksen, “well, you’d have to ask them…”

Friday, November 20, 2009


Originally published in: Chord Magazine, Caustic Truths, ??

Random thoughts: I had a complete obsession with this Philadelphia hardcore band for a few months after Paradise came out (okay, the obsession never really stopped) and ended up writing about them three times in a very short span. For the life of me, I can't remember which of these stories printed where, but I do remember a long, intense conversation with Dan Yemin in my laundry room as I fumbled with my backup tape recorder because we played phone tag and I had to the interview from home instead of my office. Still, despite the tech difficulties, it was rad to talk to the dude!

Momma Yemin knows best

By Jason Schreurs

Paradise, the second album by Philadelphia hardcore band Paint It Black, is pretty much the polar opposite of their 2003 debut, CVA. Featuring lead vocals by ex-Kid Dynamite/Lifetime guitarist Dan Yemin, not only are Paint It Black’s new songs more developed and memorable, the messages are more hopeful, refining Yemin’s blistering condemnations on CVA into powerful rallying anthems on Paradise. And, according to the 30-something Yemin, the change is due in part to his mom.

“When my mom got the last record she was really upset. She said, ‘Do you really feel that everything is this dismal? Where’s the hope?’ And I hadn’t realized that the last record sounded so hopeless until she pointed it out. That shook me up a little bit. If you ask me on any given day, ‘Do you feel hopeless?’ the answer would be no. And I certainly didn’t mean to impart that on the first record, I feel like it was an accidental thing.”
So it took Yemin’s mom to set him straight on the lyrical path to Paradise?
“Absolutely, it took mom to remind me that there had to be room for hope, and it had to be somewhat more explicit. Just because you are hopeful doesn’t mean it’s coming across in the music.”
Explicit hope (for a seemingly hopeless world) is actually a perfect way to describe the ironically titled Paradise, which is a return to the positive energy perfected by the classic DC-punk bands (Faith, Minor Threat, Embrace, Rites of Spring, etc.), but also the kind of hardcore record that definitely isn’t generic or useless in 2005. In other words, although it is a personal and political record, this ain’t no “stabbed me in the back,” “fuck the world” batch of songs.
“I feel like it’s really self-indulgent to just wallow in darkness and negativity,” explains Yemin. “Yeah, things are fucked up, but then to embrace despair and use that as a way to justify nihilism is a cop-out.”
When Yemin’s previous band, the dynamic and vastly popular Philly act Kid Dynamite, fell apart in their positive hardcore prime in 1999, Yemin stepped away from the scene to pursue a career in psychology.
He was living a normal, 9-5 type life when, out of nowhere, he suffered a severe stroke and admitted himself to the hospital. After a full recovery, Yemin realized how much he missed being in a hardcore band and how important it was to his life.
He quickly grabbed a microphone and notepad and Paint It Black was born. So, nearly four years after a near-death experience, how’s he feeling?
“I got really lucky,” says Yemin. “I had no permanent damage from the stroke. I take blood thinners so I don’t have any more clots but, in terms of my activity, I still work out five days a week, I ride my bike everywhere, and I lift weights. And obviously I run around screaming at the top of my lungs [at live shows], and running into the walls, and running into other people, and that sort of thing. I’m pretty active, pretty hyperactive in a lot of ways, and I didn’t have to sacrifice anything.”
These days Yemin carefully balances his career and band, something he was never able to do while on extensive tours with Lifetime and Kid Dynamite. So does he consider Paint It Black a project that he can just put as much time as he can spare into?
“I don’t want to call it a project,” insists Yemin, “because we definitely tour, but we just have to do it in short bursts. I work for myself, so I can leave when I want to leave, but I can’t leave for long periods of time.”
Which kinda works out well for the other members of the band –- drummer David Wagenschutz (who also drummed in Kid Dynamite), bassist Andy Nelson, and new guitarist Colin McGinniss (ex-guitarist Dave Hause left to form Hot Water Music clones The Loved Ones) --- especially Wagenschutz who is also busy keeping the beat in Good Riddance and None More Black. Coincidentally, None More Black was formed by another ex-Kid Dynamite member, singer Jason Shevchuck.
But back to Paint It Black and Yemin’s rejuvenated love for writing and playing music. It’s a hard one to ask, but one last, important question looms. If he didn’t have that stroke, would he even be singing in a hardcore band right now?
“Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t have the stroke,” he answers. “It puts things in perspective and the awareness of your mortality is always kind of there in your peripheral vision.”
Paradise drops Mar. 8 on Jade Tree Records and, if they know what’s good for them, hardcore fans best line up for a copy of this one. Check for mp3 samples, gig info, and more.

Paint It Black
Finding Paradise

By Jason Schreurs

It’s already being heralded as the best hardcore CD in recent memory (and not just by me), so how was Paint It Black singer Dan Yemin feeling when he put the amazing new album, Paradise, to bed?
“You’re kind of filled with doubt,” remembers Yemin. “I felt great about the songs, but we took a lot of risks and it wasn’t obvious how it was going to come together until it was all mixed. But when we started mixing, I knew it was golden. I haven’t been this excited about something I’ve worked on since Lifetime’s Hello Bastards.”
The ex-member of Lifetime and Kid Dynamite has always been involved in uncompromising hardcore bands, and his latest mixes old school sensibilities with a post-hardcore melody and vibrancy. CVA, Paint It Black’s 2003 debut, stuck to the tried and true, but Paradise is “a whole different animal,” says Yemin, with a sound that sticks out in today’s watered-down hardcore scene.
“To be honest, I’m almost considering just giving up on that word hardcore altogether, because it’s come to be associated with so many things I find limiting and disgusting,” says Yemin.

“Maybe let the fashion police and the metal people have the word hardcore and we can think of something else to call it. It’s aggressive, interesting, and political music, and there’s no place for that in what people are calling hardcore these days.”
When Kid Dynamite broke up in 1999, Yemin decided to leave music and pursue his medical career. But, after a severe stroke, he realized how important being in a band was to him and Paint It Black was born. So, with all that flip-flopping, does Yemin ever second guess his decision to return?
“Not for a minute, no. I think about what my life was missing when I wasn’t playing music and I don’t second guess it at all. Sometimes I second guess how the hell I allowed myself to slip out of it.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Originally published in: Chord Magazine

Random thoughts: I barely remember this interview, but I do remember Pall Jenkins being a nice fellow to chat with.

A sad and beautiful world

By Jason Schreurs

One thing you can always count on from Pall Jenkins, leader of The Black Heart Procession, is a detailed explanation of his records. The San Diego collective’s fifth album, The Spell, takes listeners on another desperate yet hopeful journey, one that Jenkins is quick to divulge.
“The common thread is love and war,” begins Jenkins, “the idea of being captivated or feeling like you’re in a spell. You can read this record as a political record, or a love record. The spell is the concept of being helpless and feeling controlled. That’s why The Spell is a very appropriate title for the record; being tangled in things and not being able to move.”
If that sounds like aural punishment, it’s not. Really. The essence of The Black Heart Procession’s sound may be morose, dark, downtrodden… even haunting, but it’s hopefulness that always finds a way to peek through the despair, if only momentarily.
“I think we throw those elements into each one of our records. We look at our music as a journey where you go through a series of emotions and ideas,” explains Jenkins. “With each one of our records it gets really dark—it gets light as well…”
Jenkins hesitates, then adds, “Traditionally we’re not very light, we’re always on the darker side of things.”
The group, which began as the side project of Jenkins and guitarist/piano player Tobias Nathaniel after their other band, Three Mile Pilot, went on an extended hiatus, has swelled into a five-piece with the additions of drummer Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse), bassist Jimmy LaValle, and violinist Matt Resovich (both of The Album Leaf).
Although the songs on The Spell might create the impression that Jenkins and Nathaniel are coming full circle and returning to the style of their previous band, nothing is ever as it seems in the disturbed world of The Black Heart Procession.
In fact, it’s more likely their next album will see more lineup shuffling and a return to the bare minimum sounds of their trilogy of albums, appropriately titled One, Two, and Three, which were probably best known for using the melancholy sounds of a manipulated saw and pieces of sheet metal.
“I think our next record will probably be even more different. This one we wrote on purpose as a full band. I’m curious to see what our next record will be,” muses Jenkins. “Who knows, it might just be back to a two-piece and really eerie. This record we didn’t put the saw on very much because it just didn’t need it, and now I’m kind of itching to go back in this other direction where it’s the saw and all the spooky stuff.”
In the meantime, we have The Spell, an album that once again illustrates how this band’s music seems to come together in a séance of spirits from the musical netherworld. With melodies lurching and stumbling and piano keys echoing, it’s Jenkin’s pensive lyrics that complete the sordid lullabies.
“I try not to fight too hard against my words. I avoid really having to struggle hard to have the perfect lyrics. I just let the song start dictating itself and I’m there as a medium to the song,” says Jenkins.
As songs develop, Jenkins says the lyrics are added at different times, but only when he feels the mood is right. The analogy he makes is to a key unlocking a door, and he extends that analogy to its brink while explaining his unique writing process.
“A lot of it is about being patient and waiting for that time when it dawns on you. With every album and every song there’s a key, and you’re searching for that key and waiting to open the door to the song. Sometimes you have a bunch of keys on a key-ring and you’re trying different things, just to find the right vibe, or mood, or idea. Eventually it starts unfolding and you start opening all the doors and everything comes together.”
The analogies don’t end there. Jenkins also likens the band’s creative process to the making of an elaborate puzzle. “We don’t have a lot of preconceived notions and it’s kind of like making a puzzle. It’s not my fault; we’re just putting the puzzle pieces together,” he laughs. “We just opened this box from Toys R Us and this is the puzzle. Let’s put it together. That’s how I look at it.”
Ask most bands to describe their sound to potential listeners and genre names are usually thrown around, but describing The Black Heart Procession is nearly impossible, even for Jenkins. Luckily, he pulls out the perfect answer.
“I don’t like to think of us as one style of music. I like to look at our music as world music; it’s for the world and made by the world with elements of the world.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Originally published in: Monday Magazine

Random thoughts: I was talking to a fellow freelancer from Australia today and I realized I've been neglecting ye ole blog. And I've also been mentioning some of my favourite articles at work lately, and this Fishbone one kept coming up. Then I realized, "Wait, I never posted that one to the blog!" So here it is, in all of it's random glory. I love how this piece turned into a recap of Angelo Moore's shitty cell phone reception.

Phonin’ in the Phoneyard
Playing cellular tag with Fishbone’s Angelo Moore

Cell phones: The bane of a music journalist’s existence. It’s not uncommon for cell phone interviews to break up or cut off, but talking to Fishbone singer/superfreak Angelo Moore as he winds through the streets of LA is like trying to converse with an angry wasp circling its nest.
“Hold on, maybe I’ll drive over to the other side of the hills so we won’t get cut off…” yells Moore as our connection is lost for the first time. Notice I said the first time.
Without going into extreme detail, let’s just say I was working the phone lines like a maniac trying to get enough information strung together from Moore to find out about their upcoming headlining gig at Victoria’s annual SkaFest. Like, for one, do the longtime genre-busters consider themselves a ska band?
“No, we got a lot more than ska, but people know us for our ska,” says Moore. “But people will see high energy, well-oiled, badass musicians… lots of funk, lots of soul, lots of rock, some gospel overtones, you’re gonna hear some punk rock, too. And of course you’re gonna hear a lot of ska.”
Formed in 1979, Fishbone became notorious in the ‘80s for their spastic fusion (even scoring a minor hit with “Bonin’ in the Boneyard”), but the ‘90s found them oddballs out with a sound entirely too challenging for its own good. By the time the new millennium rolled around, Moore and bassist Norwood Fisher were the only two original members left, and they struggled to keep the band afloat with an influx of new players.
“Those guys don’t want to do it no more, too bad for them,” stings Moore about his ex-bandmates. “We’ve got new guys that are happy to be here and they want to see Fishbone carry on, so that’s what makes us want to carry it on, too.”
One of the new guys Moore refers to is none other than guitar hero Rocky George, who joined the Fishbone ranks in 2003, and is best known for his finger-licking work in the legendary metal/punk group Suicidal Tendencies. I grew up on this guy’s raging, non-stop guitar solos, so I gotta ask what it’s like working with one of my boyhood idols.
“You say something about Rocky George?” shouts Moore, obviously unable to hear my crucial question. Then the phone dies again. Frantically, I scramble to get Moore back on the line but, as soon as I do, it immediately starts breaking up.
“Hold on, man, I got something else to say,” bellows Moore for the last time, over perpetual static. “I’ve got this new solo project. It’s called…” The line goes dead again.
Don’t you just love technology?

-Jason Schreurs

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Hey everyone --

Sorry about my lack of postings lately. I've been really busy writing news items for Exclaim and web and print reviews and stories for Alternative Press

I hope to post more of my archived articles soon, but in the meantime, just to tide you over, here's a photo from last night of me with legendary Voivod drummer Away at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. Voivod totally ruled, as did headliners Down.

Bye for now, JS

Sunday, June 21, 2009

FANTOMAS - March 2005

Originally published in: Chord Magazine

Random thoughts: In celebration of Faith No More's recent reformation and killer set at the Download Festival, here's one of my all-time favorite articles--an interview with Mike Patton about Fantomas. Truth is, I was on cloud nine talking to Patton, but, like all of my "heroes," he was genuine and easy to talk to.

The mad genius strikes again

By Jason Schreurs

Fantomas leader Mike Patton has been in some great bands over the years. Need a list? Okay, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, collaborations with The Dillinger Escape Plan, John Zorn, Merzbow, not to mention a variety of solo projects. But none of these could possibly be as entertaining as Fantomas, featuring King Buzzo (Melvins), Dave Lombardo (Slayer), and Trevor Dunn (ex-Mr. Bungle). Stretching the ever-extendable boundaries of Patton’s overactive imagination must be a bundle of fun.
“It’s…,” pauses Patton, “ya, I would say that Fantomas is pretty fun. It’s also very disciplined, but I think the fun in it, for me, is watching these guys pull this stuff off. Writing something that is acrobatic, and insane, and full of twists and turns, and watching them pull it off, is very satisfying. Also knowing whatever I write, these guys can rise to the challenge and spit it right back at me; that is rewarding and makes me feel invincible. It makes me want to write a concerto or something for them.”
A fourth Fantomas album, Suspended Animation, on Patton’s own Ipecac imprint, is the latest entry in a sonic journal of the truly weird. Of course, the man has worked with some jaw-dropping musicians, but he must just look around at Fantomas rehearsals, astounded, and think, “This is the drummer for Slayer and the guitar player from Melvins!”
“I still have those moments, yeah,” admits Patton. “Especially on stage sometimes. The way we set up, I face directly across the stage at Dave [Lombardo], so I get to ooh and aaah at him…”
The myth surrounding Patton and his handpicked Fantomas crew is he is a slave-driver, constantly challenging them to the brink. Judging by their chaotic fury, in all of its experimental, strange glory, the demented ringleader image certainly fits. But Patton is quick to laugh off any dictator-like scenarios.
“Put it this way, I’ve got the Angel of Death on drums. Who’s going to slave-drive that guy? We’re talking about a guy who sold his soul to the devil. How can I compete with that?”
The truth is Patton did mastermind this bizarre group, and albums like 2001’s Director’s Cut (an homage to film) and last year’s Delirium Cordia {a 74-minute, one-song nightmare) were written entirely by him, so it’s pretty obvious who’s in control here.
“The only reason people might paint that portrait is because it’s my music and I know the way it should sound and…,” Patton pauses again, “I don’t have to crack any whips, really. I just explain to them what I want and we hammer it out.”
Make no mistake; this is not easy stuff to play. Even with perhaps the most loose-limbed drummer around (Lombardo), an amazing guitar player (Buzzo), and a workhorse bassist (Dunn), things can get a little complicated.
“Unfortunately, there’s no easy way of learning it. The only way we end up getting it down is by going over and over and over, through repetition in the rehearsal room. And we all make little cheat notes and have our own little tricks that we play in our minds to actually remember this stuff. It’s a real pain in the ass to play. Not that it’s technically difficult, but more-so it’s hard to remember what’s coming next.”
Themed around the wacky month of April, Suspended Animation also expresses an outright fascination with cartoons and children’s playthings. Samples of possessed toys and warped Saturday morning sound-effects are intermingled with Patton’s genius hardcore herky-jerk. If Barney the Dinosaur, Bugs Bunny, and Elmo got in league with Satan for some death metal action, this is what they would sound like.
For such a bizarre choice of sounds, packaging for this release was going to be a difficult task. The solution? None other than Japanese pop art icon Yoshitomo Nara.
“I contacted [Nara] and told him what kind of a record I was going to make,” begins Patton. “I had no idea if he knew me from… Eddie Vedder, or anybody else. I just kind of wrote him out of the blue and said, ‘I think your artwork would be great for this record and I would love if you would create some original stuff for it. Whatever you want.’”
“And he wrote me back saying it sounded great. I sent him some of our records and he loved them. He gave me 30 drawings,” he marvels, “most of which are original to use on this thing. So I was overwhelmed. I thought I would get two or three.”
Patton took the Nara originals and worked them into a calendar for April, the month with the silliest holidays (“That Sucks Day,” believe it or not, is April 15). A limited-edition of the CD is a full-on calendar, ready to hang on the wall. One last thing though, how is Ipecac going to afford to ship those things out?
“Ya,” chuckles Patton wildly, “don’t ask!”
NOTE - And another piece from the same interview for Caustic Truths Magazine.

Mike Patton invents another genre: Kiddie-core

By Jason Schreurs

I wish Mike Patton could witness my kids’ reaction when I crank up the latest Fantomas CD, Suspended Animation. I think he’d get a kick out of seeing them do this weird sort of interpretative dance while they make bizarre faces; perhaps the ideal reaction to Patton’s latest creation, a truly strange ode to cartoons and the wacky month of April. I’ll explain what this all means in a bit, but first Patton’s reaction to putting joy into the lives of slightly off-kilter children.
“Oh man, see,” laughs Patton, “these are the people I want to play for! Fuck all of these middle-aged hipsters; these are the real fans, man!”
For those living on planet Zyborg, Patton is the guy who once fronted Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, and now Tomahawk and Fantomas, as well as constantly creating solo CDs around his chronically experimental vocal chords. So with all of the musical genres Patton has invented (and often destroyed in the process), he must have ventured into the territory of children’s music before, right?
“Well, I sort of flirted with some elements like that,” he explains. “Mr. Bungle did a lot of fooling around with that kind of a thing, but I’ve never explored it deeply like I did on this record. I never incorporated it into a musical language, so to speak.”
Suspended Animation, a 30-track theme album on Patton’s own Ipecac Records, is built around each day in the month of April, extravagantly packaged and artistically rendered by Japanese pop art icon Yoshitomo Nara.
The songs are a sonic maelstrom of sampled kids playthings, like scrambled messages from the toy graveyard, egged on by the drumming insanity of Slayer’s Dave Lombardo, bass-work of Trevor Dunn (longtime Patton collaborator in Mr. Bungle), and King Buzzo, guitar god from The Melvins. Basically, the songs on this CD are like a gruesomely entertaining version of what parents have to listen to on a day-to-day basis.
“Dave [Lombardo] said that too, at a certain point when we were recording,” laughs Patton. “Because he’s the kind of guy that wakes up early, deals with his kids, and then he’d come out and rehearse for eight hours, or something ridiculous like that, and he’d say, ‘Jesus, I can’t escape! This is the soundtrack to my life. Every morning, now it’s in my rehearsal!’”
“It was driving him nuts,” says Patton with a demented cackle.
The new album was actually recorded during the same session as Fantomas’ last CD, Delirium Corda, a single, 74-minute track of challenging darkness and precision. With that particular piece of Fantomas weirdness being so moody and intense, it must have been nice to blow off some steam with the decidedly more wacky and way out there Suspended Animation.
“Well, it didn’t really work out like that,” laments Patton. “In fact, I think we recorded the cartoony, fun Suspended Animation stuff first. So it’s like we ate our dessert before the main meal.”
Back to the kiddies. I’ve gotta thank Patton, again, for doing one that the kids can enjoy. In fact, they adore it. They literally freak out when they hear any of the 30 tracks on Suspended Animation. And my kids don’t often like dad’s music, so it’s nice to be able to put on a CD and say, “Here’s one for you, kids. Go for it!”
“Very good,” says Patton with a sparkle. “I was telling the guys that maybe this time instead of playing sweaty, stinky rock clubs we should play daycare centres and comedy clubs [laughs]… Detention halls!”
Then Patton lets out a bellow: “Grown-ups suck! That’s the theme of this record.”
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Monday, June 15, 2009

BATTLES - March 2007

Originally published in: Chord Magazine
Random thoughts: Talking to John Stanier from Battles was awesome. Mostly because he used to drum in Helmet, but also because he was a smart, funny guy. Love his quote about the hard times in his previous band.

By Jason Schreurs

Describing New York quartet Battles to an unsuspecting fan of “average” music is almost impossible. Between the blips and bleeps, syncopated poly-rhythms, and high crescendo vocal emissions, this sentence might as well be written in Swahili. Listening to Battles’ latest, Mirrored, it’s hard not to wonder what the hell is going on. One thing’s for certain, they aren’t an “average” band.
“In a nutshell, we’re trying to have fun and do something new,” explains drummer John Stanier. “The cool thing about Battles is it literally was started with a 100 percent genuine blank slate. There were no preconceptions on what was going to happen or what we wanted to do. It was truly something from the absolute bottom up.”
Battles were formed by guitarist Ian Williams (ex-Don Caballero) and Tyondai Braxton (an avant-jazz solo musician who has worked with Prefuse 73), and were joined by bassist Dave Konopka (ex-Lynx), and Stanier (ex-Helmet, currently in Tomahawk).
Within a few years, Battles have astounded with heralded EPs and an undisputed live show. When Prefuse took them on tour recently they had already turned enough heads to get signed to the same record label—Warp Records—and it’s been a great pairing.
“Warp is the absolute perfect match for us,” says Stanier. “I could not be happier; it just makes so much sense. As a label they totally stick to their guns, even if it’s obviously, blatantly non-commercial stuff.”
As for the band’s evolution, it’s from a noteworthy recipe. “It was four different people from different backgrounds and age groups, and from different parts of the country, getting together and throwing all their ideas into this big pot,” says Stanier. “I use the words ‘musical economy’ a lot. It’s almost as hard to arrange the songs as it is to write them. We exercise control very well and we all realized it early on.”
Musical economy? The next stage of math rock? Like, taking mathematical musical ideas and instead of trying to punch them into constricted formulas, looking at the production, distribution, and consumption of those musical ideas? Or perhaps Stanier has a more straightforward explanation.
“Economy is just knowing what to play, when, and when not to play something,” he obliges. “Like when to stop painting, you know? That whole theory. Think about all the bands with four really good players, but it just sounds like a total wank-fest jam band. We all respect each other so much, so we’re all more interested in the end result, and every song has a life of its own. We all understood those credos from day one.”
Mirrored is their first full-length and they sound in perfect synch on its 11 tracks. But they weren’t always a well-honed machine. According to Stanier, when Williams and Braxton approached him, Battles were “very loose and unfocused.”
“It took weeks to even start tossing ideas back and forth, and then slowly and surely it started to gel. At first it didn’t seem like a real band, then the next thing you know we’re touring and releasing records,” recalls Stanier.
Hard to believe such a self-indulgent band could garner such adoration. Wait, back up… self-indulgent? “You seriously think it’s self-indulgent?” asks Stanier, leaving an awkward silence to hang in the balance. Well, these guys are out to please themselves first, and that’s what they set out to do. Just saying…
“Yeah, no, I know. You’re kind of right,” says Stanier. “I don’t know if it’s self-indulgence, but you can’t be concerned with who’s going to like your stuff. Luckily, we have elements of so many different kinds of music that we’ve been able to reach out to a wide array of people, and you can’t ask for anything better than that. That’s the ultimate goal, right there.”
A desire to create something interesting, new, and, let’s say, self-rewarding was the impetus for Battles, and Mirrored marks the apex of their work to date. After Stanier’s time in Helmet and Williams’ in Don Caballero, a collaborative and rewarding band was a necessity.
“To be honest, both Ian and I had pretty bad experiences in our past bands and I certainly don’t want to dwell on that, but everyone really wanted to do something totally new,” says Stanier.
For now Battles are stepping back to really look at the album they’ve created, and how they’ve progressed into something Stanier says “constantly amazes him every day.”
“And it’s not in a pretentious way, at all,” he’s quick to point out. “We’re not trying to do this new kind of music, or make it ‘progressive rock.’ We’re just doing what we do, we’re having fun doing it, and we hope people like it… And I know that’s a vague, stupid comment to make, but it’s true.”
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

LUNGFISH - April 2003

Originally published in: Monday Magazine

Random thoughts: I remember being exceptionally excited about this one, a rare interview with one of the Dischord Records bands.

Stickin’ to their Lungs
No giving out, or giving up, or giving in…

By Jason Schreurs
Music without compromise. For most bands slogging away under the music industry umbrella, this isn’t just a dream; it’s an unattainable fantasy. But for Baltimore’s Lungfish, the past 15 years have been spent making music own their own terms, completely outside the mainstream spectrum.
“It's really just in a different orbit,” says bass player Sean Meadows. “Our music isn't about other things, we aren't selling it at the same markets… so we don't have to compromise it in any way because we aren't trying to trade our music for something else.”
Must be nice. In an industry where most groups feel compelled to take blind leaps of faith into the music machine, Lungfish is content to remain underground. Since 1988 they’ve created nine albums of compelling, authentic, emotional indie rock. Their fans, as varied as the band’s nine albums (2000’s Necrophones is the latest), are eagerly awaiting a recently completed tenth record.
“There are certain people who hear Lungfish music and find a connection,” notes Meadows. “Other people have heard the same music and hear static and make no connection. Usually people who find the music are searching for it, since the records are put out on a small scale without all this media explosiveness that seems to be so pervasive in every aspect of our culture.”
Meadows logs time in other indie notables Everlasting the Way and Red House Blues, and was a member of the sadly missed June of ’44. He recently made his return to Lungfish (after an initial stint in ‘95-’96); a reunion he couldn’t be more thrilled about.
“I always felt like I was in the band and that we would make music together again. I was so delighted when they asked me to help them with the new record,” he beams. “It was a really amazing dream come true, and it came true twice…”
Behind every truly independent band is a supportive record label, and Lungfish have one of the best. Dischord Records exist to document the Washington, DC underground music scene and their relationship with Lungfish has been like family, says Meadows.
“There is a ton of respect in the Lungfish camp for Dischord; the way they operate, the individual people that they are, and the collective ideal within music that they represent. It's all been said before, but there really aren't enough good things you can say about Dischord. It's been amazing for me to have an opportunity to work with them making records...”

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

GOD FORBID - July 2005

Originally published in: Chord Magazine

Album: IV: Constitution of Treason (Century Media)

Random thoughts: Geez, I barely remember this interview.

God Forbid
All Eyes to the Future

By Jason Schreurs

Hands up those who like epic thrash metal like Metallica’s Ride the Lightning. For the shy few who’ve never heard one of metal’s classics, imagine six-minute thundering songs with cool intros/outros that stick until the wee hours. Or, better yet, get the latest from New Jersey metallers God Forbid, IV: Constitution of Treason, out September 20 on Century Media.
“We’re really about being dynamic, building things up, bringing things down, and trying to create that negative space,” says guitarist Doc Coyle. “We could write a three-minute thrash metal song but, for us, it would lack depth.”
On their fourth album, God Forbid raise the ante and deliver a dark, dramatic album that strengthens the foundation of their upper-tier metalcore/thrash. Often they get lumped in with fellow American metalheads like Shadows Fall, but with IV they are hoping to break out of the shadows.
“We’ve created more of a sonic environment as opposed to just, ‘Here are these metal songs,’ which is more of what our last album [Gone Forever] was; just raw, to the point, no intros, no outros, here’s nine thrash metal songs, which is great, but we wanted to do something that required a little more thought this time.”
The epic thrash is enhanced by a lyrical concept that includes a Coyle-penned short story in the CD booklet. Although it wasn’t preconceived as a theme album, the title of IV was decided early on and set the tone for a post-apocalyptic tale of morality and hope.
“The story starts in current times and, through the vicious cycle of war, eventually our society is destroyed,” explains Coyle. “It takes you through the journey of one man who tries to help rebuild things with the ideals of how humanity should be, about freedom, about choice, about living your life and not being greedy, and not all of this bullshit that’s going on now.”
Definitely reflective of the state of our world, and how near to complete annihilation our existence seems, Coyle uses the familiar setting of post-apocalypse to prove the moral of his story.
“It’s about how we keep making the same mistakes over and over again, now matter how bad shit gets. It’s about not repeating those same mistakes, and at some point people just putting their foot down.”
Sure, it shares startling similarities with well-known stories like Stephen King’s The Stand and the Mad Max movies, but Coyle’s not claiming to reinvent the wheel.
“It’s not the most original story in the world, but I definitely think it’s something different in our genre of bands, so hopefully it’s something that will set us apart and give the album another layer of depth.”
Those looking for depth need look no further than God Forbid’s triple vocal attack. While Coyle and his brother, Dallas, scream and sing away in the background, one of the best lead vocalists in metal, Byron Davis, grabs listeners by the face and forces them to listen. Davis spent many hours in the studio raising his performance level through the roof, including his first forays into clean singing, with tremendous results.
“Byron definitely is very emotional,” relates Coyle. “When he writes lyrics and goes in there and performs them, he’s very into it. It’s not, just scream here, growl low here; there’s just a lot of raw emotion. I think the biggest improvement on this album from our last is in the vocals.”
With the two brothers in God Forbid as principle songwriters, Coyle’s quick to admit a sibling rivalry has carried into the band.
“We have become more individual in our songwriting styles so we butt heads a lot, and we argue a lot,” he stresses. “It’s definitely a power struggle, so it’s bittersweet because there’s certain ways that we connect because we’re brothers, but then again there’s also a big battle going on between what he sees and what I see. Hopefully, the place in the middle is where we end up.”
And what about the issue most articles on God Forbid tend to skirt? Not many metal bands feature predominately black members.
“I think it’s become less and less of an issue, because we’ve been around, we’re established. Now it’s either the music is good, or it’s not good… In a way, it does set us apart, and if anything I hope we can just destroy conventional stereotypes of what people think.”
Coyle admits he doesn’t see a lot of black fans at the band’s shows. But there are always some, and that’s encouraging for the band.
“There’s not a lot, but at least for those kids who are African-American who are into it, it can make them not feel so isolated.”
“If we could end up being one of the biggest bands doing this that would be crazy, because, you know,” and Coyle’s sense of humor kicks in, “we took over basketball, football, you know what I’m sayin’… we took over golf! Now we’re coming after heavy metal!”

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

D.R.I. - December 2004

Originally appeared at:
Random thoughts: Unfortunately, this was an e-mail interview. Still, quite a thrill to be interviewing one of the bands who introduced me to punk, hardcore, and metal. Back then they called it Crossover!

Anyone who grew up on the uncompromising hardcore/punk/metal of D.R.I. (a.k.a. Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) understands how, in 1987, they came to coin a new genre called “crossover.” Today, with punk/hardcore and metal meshing together into phenomenal new sub-genres (okay, and some not-so-phenomenal), a lot of credit needs to be given to D.R.I. Although they aren’t as prolific these days, with band members living across the sea from each other, fans still clamor for their series of re-releases (2004 brought D.R.I. and Dealing with It, while Live at CBGB’s and Crossover are due in 2005). And I’m sure every D.R.I. fan is hanging on the possibility of some new material from the band. Their new label, Beer City Records, is doing their best to make that happen. So here’s hoping.

Jason Schreurs interviewed D.R.I. singer Kurt Brecht by email from his home in Italy in early December, 2004, on the same night that Dimebag Darrell (ex-Pantera) was shot in Columbus, Ohio.

I know you get this a lot, but when can fans expect some new material from D.R.I.?
Not sure, we are busy re-releasing our old stuff as enhanced CDs on Beer City right now.

Which of your old CDs are still be worked on for re-release?
Crossover and everything after that.

You guys must look back fondly at your past. Can you tell me a little bit about how you feel about D.R.I.'s history?
It's been like a dream come true! Very rough in the beginning, though. It's still so much fun and I feel really lucky to have a job I like, and one with which I can travel the world, making people happy. It's still a real privilege!

Do you guys ever feel the pressure to put new stuff out? I know the D.R.I. fans are pretty demanding sometimes. Does it make you panic a little, or are you able to take your time with your music without feeling that pressure?
We keep busy touring, and playing live is more important to us than studio work.

Yes, but you must feel a bit of pressure from the fans for new stuff. Even your website commented on "tons of emails asking us about new songs." Does that drive you to write new stuff?
With bands who have been around as long as we have, most people are happy just hearing the old stuff.

It must be hard for you guys to get together to write songs though, eh? I'm assuming all of the members are busy with other things?
I live in Italy, drummer [Rob Rampy] lives in Florida and the others [guitarist and other founding member Spike Cassidy, and new bassist Harald Oimoen] live in California. We don't even practice together anymore.

What about these four new songs you mentioned on the website. Any further plans to release them?
Beer City wants to get us in the studio as soon as possible, but first we have to get the Live at CBGB’s CD and DVD out and the re-release of Crossover.

Some hints on what the new stuff will sound like?
Not really, we'll have to wait and see! But I would say more hardcore than metal.

That's interesting. So do you guys consider yourselves a hardcore band or a metal band? Or somewhere in between? Does the term crossover still describe you these days?
We are in between. I've seen us mentioned lately in books about metal, and other books about hardcore. Yes, crossover still fits us pretty well.

What do you think of the current trend of metalcore? Is that today's version of crossover?
Many of those bands might list D.R.I. as an influence.

How did you feel about the re-release CDs that came out last year? Were you happy with the final products?
Yes! Beer City kicks ass as a record company!

Obviously D.R.I. is a very political band, and has had some very important things to say over the years. How do you feel your messages have changed and adapted since the "Reaganomics" days? Or have you stayed pretty much the same in your outlook?
My outlook is the same, but D.R.I. is four very different guys, so you'd have to get all of our opinions.

Your opinions on the re-election of Bush?
A sad, sad situation.

What can a politically aware American do now that they have another four years of Bush to look forward to (besides moving to Canada, ha ha)?
I don't have any answers on that subject. I watch the news and try to make sense of it all. It all scares me.

What was it like working on the Probot project with Dave Grohl? Were you happy with the way the song “Silent Spring" turned out?
It was nice to get back in the studio and the first time I'd ever written a song with anyone outside of D.R.I. Made me want to get back in the studio with my guys! Yes, I'm happy with how it turned out. The whole album kicks ass.

The lyrics to “Silent Spring” on the Probot CD are awesome. Tell me about the inspiration behind them.
I knew a lot of people would read the lyrics, so I wanted to say something worthwhile. The title is from a book by Rachel Carlson about the damage the human race has inflicted on our earth in the last hundred years or so.

What was your reaction to the shooting of Dimebag Darrell?
What can I say? This makes no sense. Sad, sad...

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Friday, May 15, 2009

NOMEANSNO - May 2004

Originally published in: Monday Magazine

Album: The People's Choice (Ipecac)

Random thoughts: One of my all-time favourite bands, this was a thrill and a half. And Tom Holliston was a really genuine, funny guy.

The Beginning of the End (as such)?
Not if Nomeansno can help it

By Jason Schreurs

Like countless fanatics around the world, I dread the day Nomeansno calls it quits. But, more than 25 years is a damn long life span for any band, so the unavoidable question arises: Is the end near?
“Well, I don’t know, would you ask the same question to John Lee Hooker?” quips guitarist Tom Holliston. “A big mistake for bands is to announce to the world, ‘Oh, we’re breaking up!’ It’s just so brazen in the first place and it’s also really silly. Nobody has to break up, ever. Maybe you stop doing stuff for awhile and just have an option open. But why would anybody just get rid of their options?”
Despite keeping the porch light burning, the masters of prog-punk (the middle ground between The Ramones and Yes) are slowing down. Touring relentlessly around the world, and juggling the band with family life has taken its toll on Holliston and brothers John and Rob Wright (who formed the band here in Victoria in the late ‘70s). So much so that their last of many jaunts to Europe had them contemplating early retirement options.
“On that tour everybody was sort of only half-joking, asking each other how much money we had in our pension funds and what we were going to do if we were looking for steady work,” chuckles Holliston.
And while Holliston believes the band is “going to take a break for awhile” after a tour through Western Canada (including a stop here Saturday night), another handful in Europe this year, and a new studio album, he says interest in the band has never been more fervent.
Remember those fanatics I was talking about earlier? They aren’t letting up, and they’re getting younger and hipper by the day. “None of us keep up with our fans. None of us at all make any effort whatsoever to keep up on what’s new in music,” says Holliston. “Basically, it doesn’t mean shit because five percent of what’s released in a year is good and 95 percent is crap. It’s a waste of time trying to keep up. Like somebody comes along and puts out a good record and then by the end of the week there’s 50 other bands just like them. Case in point is bands like The Hellacopters and The Hives and The Strokes, and then there’s suddenly thousands of pieces of spaghetti that are being thrown at the wall. I mean, who wants to keep track of that?”
Not even their fans, it seems, who are too busy delving through the massive Nomeansno back catalog (currently being re-released through Southern Records in Europe as well as select titles in North America by Mike Patton’s label, Ipecac). Those who follow the band just can’t get enough of their dark, twisted, sarcastic, socially relevant… uh, party rock?
“The band goes out to play as well as possible, to have fun and to rock, and get out some of the kinks that are the result of sitting in a van for a long period of time everyday, driving,” explains Holliston. “I don’t think we protest any more than anybody else. Everybody out there is kicking and screaming against something and so are we. I don’t think the message of Nomeansno, if there is a message, is any more important than just… sometimes things aren’t very good. I mean, we don’t have a solution and neither do you.”
So, do they consider themselves a political band? Well, definitely not in the traditional punk rock protest song sense.
“Anybody can walk on the stage and say clear-cutting is bad or Bush is an asshole. Ya?” he says, making it sound like “Duh?” “But do you really want to be in a room with a whole bunch of people who feel exactly like you do? Do you really want to pat yourself on the back and say, ‘Boy, I really preached to the converted really loudly and strongly tonight.’ So, who cares? You haven’t done anything.”
Okay, they’re getting on in years and they’re slowing things down a little, but the best thing about Nomeansno is their undying ability to push themselves forward with their patented sound and poke fun at themselves at the same time.
Case in point is their latest release, a greatest hits set entitled The People’s Choice, adorned with some band room graffiti from a 1994 show in Austria. “Give it up Grand-dads. How fucken old are Nomeansno?” it says. Ten years later, they’re that much older.
“Ya, I know,” Holliston says, giving a belly laugh, “that makes it even funnier!”

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Originally published in: Caustic Truths

Album: The New What Next (Epitaph)

Random thoughts: A couple of Hot Water Music pieces here, inexplicably they were written on the same day. Talk about a quick flipover. Was great talking to this dude though.

Hot Water Music
Learning to love The New What Next

By Jason Schreurs

So what do you do when one of your favorite bands releases a new album and you just can’t seem to get into it? Well, for starters you listen to that damn thing non-stop and force yourself to appreciate it. And, if you have the opportunity to talk to someone in the band about it, as I did with Jason Black of Hot Water Music about their latest, The New What Next, maybe you can even push for an explanation.
“We just wanted to do some different stuff and break it up a little bit more,” explains Black. “Everyone was really happy with Caution [their previous release] but it kinda got to the point where we were starting to do the same thing on every record and we didn’t really want to fall into that trap. It might be selfish of us, but it gets really boring.”
Out of the 12 songs on Hot Water Music’s new album, only about four or five stick with me after countless listens, but each time I put on this record, another tune starts to seep into my psyche. So, I’m starting to think The New What Next might be a real grower.
“It might be… It might be,” ponders Black. “It’s hard for me because I’m just so surrounded by the damn thing by the time we get it done, that it’s just like, ‘I like it or I wouldn’t have put it out,’ you know what I mean?”
Formed in Gainesville, Florida more than decade ago, with a handful of releases on the No Idea label, they were one of the bands who epitomized the emo scene in the mid-to-late ‘90s. With The New What Next, their third album for Epitaph, the band is almost coming full circle with their sound, although in much more mature way.
“We haven’t done any songs this slow or mellow in a few records, we haven’t done anything this slow and heavy in a few records either,” claims Black. “On the older records, there are a lot of different grooves on all the songs. We just wanted to try to make a record where there’s one of every type of song we can do on there, and it’s the best one we’ve got.”
At this point in their lifespan, Hot Water Music are so established in the punk/emo scene they don’t need to pander to their audience as much anymore. But considering how varied this record is, and how different it sounds than their previous two, exactly how much did the band keep their audience in mind while writing it?
“Kinda not at all,” states Black. “Only to the point where we’d call bullshit on ourselves, where we would never play anything like that, you know? But mostly we’ll try anything and it just has to feel good and work, and still sound like us.”
With the amount of experimentation and creative juices flowing with longtime producer Brian McTernan (Cave In, Snapcase, Thrice, etc.), it’s obvious this album was the result of a positive creative process for the band.
“This record was a lot of fun to make,” confirms Black. “We rewrote a lot of it in pre-production and, working with McTernan again, we kinda let go of everything once we went in this time and said, ‘Alright dude, here’s our songs. What should we do with them?’”
Okay, so they had fun making it and they think it’s one of their best albums, so that should be enough to make me sit down with this thing and learn to love it, right? Hey, anything’s possible over time, I guess.
“I think it will come,” reaffirms Black. “I think it will come.”

Originally published in: Chord Magazine

Getting Political With…
Hot Water Music?

By Jason Schreurs

When normally apolitical bands like Hot Water Music decide to spout off against the government, you know one hell of an awful President is running the country.
“This is probably one of the only things we’ve ever released that actually has some very vague political commentary on it,” says bassist Jason Black of The New What Next, their third album for Epitaph (out Sept. 21). “We try not to get political because that’s not the kind of band we are. Not that we aren’t as people, but we’ve never really wanted to be pigeonholed in any category, especially that one.”
With a nutcase like Dubya running the show, is it a necessity for bands of all genres, including hirsute emo bands from the state of Florida (where this big mess all began), to step up and make a stand?
“I think it is,” admits Black. “To us, it’s more just common sense than politics. I don’t think we are being political by saying things are pretty fucked right now. That’s just the truth.”
With every punk, hardcore, and metal release these days including at least one song about Bush and his maladjusted version of US foreign policy (heck, some bands, like Philly’s Anti-Flag write whole albums about it), it’s not a surprise to see Hot Water Music getting into the act a bit.
“I think it’s probably the first thing politically since we’ve been a band that’s pissed anybody in the band off enough to actually write about,” says Black.
“We’ve only been a band during Clinton and Bush. Clinton, I thought he was just kinda funny, for the most part,” he chuckles. “But it’s a sad state of things going on right now and traveling worldwide, which we’re privileged enough to be able to do, it’s really fucking things up everywhere. Things are fucked and it’s mostly his fault. It’s pretty insane.”
The New What Next, in addition to including some politics, also makes a brief jump into a music genre once defined by political action: reggae.
“We’ve always wanted to do a reggae song, but we’ve just never really had the balls to do it,” admits Black. “You listen to The Clash or you hear NOFX doing it… and I know we’re not really in the same world as either of one of those bands, but we were like, ‘Fuck it, let’s give it a shot.’”
“We were just fooling around and came up with that chord progression and it kinda worked,” he says with glee. “It didn’t feel too reggae, like, ‘Jesus Christ, Hot Water’s playing a reggae song?!’ But it just had a good groove to it when we got cooking on it, so we’re all pretty happy with that one.”
The album, again helmed by producer Brian McTernan (Cave In, Thrice) also found the band in perfect synch this time around. “I think everybody’s actually in a good place, for once. I think this is the first record we’ve made where we’re all in the same space, and it’s a pretty good one.”
So, politics and that dummy-head Bush aside, is The New What Next Hot Water’s happy record then? “This is our happy record,” he beams, “Ya, it is.”

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

KOOL KEITH - March 2004

Originally published in: Monday Magazine

Random thoughts: One of my all-time weirdest and favorite interviews. But words could never convey what's it's truly like to talk to Kool Keith. This one still makes me laugh when I think about it.

Keith Encounters…
An early morning conversation with hip hop’s king of Kool

By Jason Schreurs

We’ve all heard about these megalomaniacal rappers, claiming they’re the best there was, the best there is, and the best there ever will be. And then there’s Kool Keith, the delusional, truly bizarre rapper who is utterly convinced he is the king of hip hop.
I gotta tell you, this was a weird interview. Not that I expected anything different after hearing about Keith’s notoriously odd behavior. So it all begins when I call Keith at 9 a.m. at a Motel 6 in Hollywood and he answers the phone with, “You ready?” He wants to hook up with me for lunch as I scramble to explain to him that I’m actually in a different country.
What follows is a series of scattered, cryptic answers to my increasingly prodding questions. I’m trying my best to get something out of this guy, but all I get are self-congratulatory quips and very random thoughts.
Does the future of rap look bright? “With me around, of course it does.” What makes you the best rapper? “Because I’m one of the most diverse artists in the music industry.” What about the new generation of rap? “I’m gonna leave ‘em a torch, a powerful torch.” And what if they don’t carry it? “Everyone’s just gonna listen to Kool Keith, forever.” And so on…
After countless years in the rap scene, including ground-ripping work with New York’s UltraMagnetic MCs and a plethora of albums under aliases such as Dr. Octagon, Dr. Dooom and The Black Elvis, Keith was recently inducted into the Hip Hop Hall of Fame. Only problem is he doesn’t seem to remember anything about it. (“I don’t know, was I? I think I was… I guess I’m more famous than ever.”)
Then I notice Keith keeps making these deep, snorting sounds. I figure the guy’s got a cold, or allergies, so I mention it. “Aw, nah… just sniffing cocaine, you know,” he laughs, and quickly adds, “Just joking.” (Remember, it’s now 9:15 a.m.)
So I try to steer him towards the topic of new school rap, something he has been very outspoken about. According to Keith, the old school of rap (of which he belongs) is made of legends and the new rappers are fresh out of ideas.
“They don’t have any knowledge,” he’s quick to point out. “They’re just trying to do something similar to what everyone else is doing. It’s manufactured rap.”
I could go on, but you get the idea. King of hip hop? Sure, what the heck; let him have the title.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Originally published in: Chord Magazine
Album: Death by Sexy
Random thoughts: This was a really fun interview. And that Vader story? Talk about an exclusive!
Gabbing with “The Devil”

By Jason Schreurs

Heralded as the “greatest rock and roll album ever,” at least by the band members, Peace Love Death Metal, from the hilariously named Eagles of Death Metal, is defined perfectly by one word: Rock! Combining dual fuzz guitars, trashcan sounding drums (courtesy of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, who also produced the CD), and a bona fide crooner and swooner up front in Jesse “The Devil” Hughes, the Eagles definitely have that boogie woogie thing down pat. As they relentlessly tour a frantic live show with a swinging door of musicians from bands like the aforementioned Queens of the Stone Age, Ween, and earthlings?, Eagles of Death Metal are planning to unleash a sophomore album (tentatively titled Death by Sexy) of what they believe to be unfathomably epic proportions. Sure guys, just keep rocking, okay?

I recently nabbed Eagles frontman Hughes (a.k.a. “The Devil,” a.k.a. J Devil Huge, a.k.a. Mr. Boogie Man) in the middle of a busy US tour. We had a quick chat via his cell phone before a show at The Empty Bottle in Chicago, IL.

I got a kick out of that guy who posted to your website that the news section should just read: "Our super gay lead singer is just going to get gayer and gayer..." I thought that was really funny.
Ya, we found that and we posted it. We look for anything that’s really negative to kind of contrast how amazingly positive my moustache truly is.

But Eagles of Death Metal are obviously a very homoerotic band, right?
Well, sometimes the confusion lies in the fact that we… I love the ladies, man, that’s all there is to it, baby.

And the ladies love you back, don’t they?
I haven’t been having trouble with the ladies, I will not lie (laughs). I’m getting action. After all of these years, I’m finally getting laid.

Nice. I was at one of your shows recently and women were dancing up on the stage riser. Does that happen a lot?
It’s a phenomenon. It happens everywhere we go now.

Why do think that is?
Because we’re an unholy behemoth of sexual ferocity.

Do you ever get sick of people talking about the line-up of the band? Every time I hear about Eagles of Death Metal, it always seems to focus on [Queens of the Stone Age leader] Josh Homme playing drums.
Hell no, those are the coziest coattails a boy could ever ride.

Is your line-up going to continue to be a revolving door of musicians, or are you looking at getting a permanent line-up?
It’s a permanent line-up right now [for recording]. Um, the touring Eagles, it looks like are going to be [drummer] Claude Coleman Jr. from Ween and [guitarist] David Catching from earthlings? [also a contributor to QotSA]. It’s basically evolved into a super-group, you know what I mean? Which I’m all completely fine with. I’m more than happy to be involved in a rock band that involves the word “super.”

You do some pretty rippin' classic rock covers in your set and on your recordings too. Is that the kinda music you grew up on?
Ya, I love those bands, man. Actually, I steal from some of the greatest classic rock tunes of all time. But technically, Peace Love Death Metal is the greatest rock album ever written because I’ve taken every song from the greatest classic rock tunes ever. It’s an unholy cavalcade of sex rock.

Who's the best rock and roll band ever, well, besides you, I guess? And why?
Well, let’s see… Queens of the Stone Age are one of the best rock and roll bands ever because… they are. Um, The Stooges, which is a cliché, but it’s easy to say because it’s true. I love The Jacksons, I love James Brown, P-Funk… I kinda wanna be the white Morris Day [The Time leader] of rock and roll, so obviously the whole Minneapolis trip is a big rocker for me.

What would be your ideal band to tour with?
Any band I could tour with? Holy cow… I would tour with Prince because he’s rock. He’s the sexiest motherfucker next to my moustache.

Tell me the story of how you got your name again. That's a funny one.
Well, there’s the myth and then there’s the truth. The truth is that God came down from on high… no, I’m just kidding. What happened was Josh and I were in the backseat of our VW van getting stoned and our friend Cole Lou… this is an alternate version. I’m telling you something top secret now. So Cole Lou, who was Lou Balls from The Desert Sessions, was trying to convince us that each death metal band he played for us was really tough. He put on one band, I think it was Vader, and we were, like, “Dude, this is lame! This isn’t death metal, this is the fucking Eagles of death metal.”

Okay, so that’s a variation on the story I heard about some dude in a bar saying Poison was metal, and then you saying, “No, this is the Eagles of metal.”
That was earlier in the evening, and he did say that, and I did say that to him. But it wasn’t until we were stoned in the van and I said, “Dude, this is like the Eagles of death metal” about Vader, and it was a funny reference to just two hours previous. The reason I don’t tell that is I just never wanted Vader fans to think that they were on par with Poison’s.

What about your nickname, Jesse? “The Devil…” What does that mean?
It’s because I’m such a sweetheart. It’s ironic (laughs).

What's next for Eagles of Death Metal?
Just getting ready to record a new record at Sound City [Studios], as soon as we get back from tour. And then we’re going to take over the world.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

GREEN DAY - October 2004

Originally published in: Chord Magazine

Album: American Idiot (Warner)

Random thoughts: Talking to Mike from Green Day was a blast. Totally down to earth dude, furthering my theory that the biggest rock stars are always so, um, normal, or something. I really enjoyed writing this one. Oh, and my predictions about this album were right, one of the biggest selling albums of all time.


On the making of a masterpiece

By Jason Schreurs

Months before its release, when an advance copy of Green Day’s American Idiot landed on my desk, I began ranting and raving about it. This is a landmark album, I told anyone who would listen. It’s a true masterpiece that will go down in history alongside the musical greats, I screamed from the rooftops. As their new record continues to consume me, the first thing I wanted to do when I got bassist Mike Dirnt on the horn at their studio was thank him for some life-affirming music.
“Whoo, let me take all of that in,” he says modestly with a chuckle, as the hustle-bustle of Green Day tour preparation swirls around him in the background. “It’s really a genuine honor that people are identifying with this record. I feel like it’s a sign of the times also. It’s nice to… I don’t want to say climb out from the shadow of Dookie, but it’s always nice to be recognized for your work.”
Obviously, Dookie was a record that helped a lot of us through some angsty times, but with American Idiot the band has created something far more poignant in an exceedingly uncertain political climate.
“Dookie was a huge thing and we could never hope to hit that homerun again, and we’ve always been proud of every record we’ve done, but with this one we truly left no stone unturned and we scraped every fucking idea we could get off of every wall,” says Dirnt.
“We just created such an awesome environment to make this record that we obviously know deep down that we could never repeat it. I wouldn’t want to.”
When it came time to begin recording what would become their masterpiece, Dirnt and his two partners in Green Day (singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and kit-man Tre Cool) realized they had a lot of internal struggles that had been building for years and needed sorting out. In a nutshell, bad habits were bringing the band down.
“We got to a point where we said, ‘What are we doing? Let’s work on each other as individuals. Without a fucking counselor, this isn’t some fucking AA meeting,’” says Dirnt. “We decided just to tell each other, ‘You know what? I don’t like it when you say that. And you know what? You! You fucking drink too much.’ Let’s fucking call ourselves out on our bullshit.”
Luckily, for the sake of a career-defining batch of songs, the band was able to move forward, and the option of packing it in after almost 20 years of punk rock never came to the forefront. But it came close.
“Billy at one point asked me, ‘Are you even having fun with this anymore?’ I said, ‘Well lately it’s been a lot of stress, let’s get back to having fun.’ And we got back to it serendipitously, really. We finally said, ‘Alright, you guys are the most important people in my life, let’s get to work.’ And we just started recording,” enthuses Dirnt.
And record they did, compiling dozens upon dozens of song ideas and skeletons for what was supposed be the new album. One day when the band came into the studio, they went to pull ideas from their batch of unfinished songs and their computer files were gone. In what seemed like a meant-to-be moment, Armstrong had just finished writing a song called ‘American Idiot,’ so they decided to plow forward in that direction.
“Billy wrote ‘American Idiot’ and it raised the bar so high lyrically over the rest of the stuff that we had been doing, and it was just so much more meaningful for where we’re at right now. So we thought, ‘Fuck, this is where we should be going.’”
But what about the songs that went missing? Were they any good? And without their mysterious disappearance, would we still have something as formidable as American Idiot on our hands?
“Those songs were good, but they were what you would expect Green Day to come out with next,” assures Dirnt. “And where we ended up going was exciting and had this energy, maybe the same energy that Nimrod or Dookie had, that you couldn’t put a finger on it. It made you want to play air drums and air guitar.”
As Dirnt says himself, the band will have trouble matching American Idiot, but something tells me Green Day have a lot of gas left in the tank, especially now that they are riding on such a high.
“The bands I love have great careers. And the ones I truly look up to had these monumental albums and moments in their careers that we really want to emulate.”
“When I was a kid, I felt like with Dookie we created a monster. I feel like now we are the monsters, that’s the difference. And I think people won’t say. ‘This album’s a monster,’ they’re gonna say, ‘You know what? Green Day’s a fucking monster, because they did it again.’”
Hey, see this smile on my face? It’s there because American Idiot will definitely not be Green Day’s swan song.

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