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.