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.”

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