Saturday, January 28, 2012

A chat with Ian MacKaye: From Minor Threat to Fugazi to fatherhood

Ian MacKaye at Dischord House. (Pat Graham photo)
"I feel like right now while we're talking, there's some kids, if they're not already playing it, they're cookin' it up-- it's comin', can't be stopped. And if it can be stopped, then we wouldn't be talking, because I wouldn't have been able to do it back then. It's never over."

By Andy

Ian MacKaye is never at a loss for words -- he's about as outspoken and insightful as they come on music (above quote), life, politics and whatever else comes down the pike.

The Washington, DC native, who will turn 50 in April, has certainly been around the block when it comes to hollering (and softly singing) into a microphone and strapping on a guitar and bass for the last 33 years. He forged his way onto the music scene by playing with valiant hardcore, post-HC bands Teen Idles, Minor Threat, Embrace and Fugazi, and for the last decade, he's pulled up a stool and toned down the tunes in the indie-rock duo The Evens.

We spoke by phone Jan. 20, about an hour before he rehearsed with drummer Amy Farina, his bandmate in The Evens, at Dischord House:

--How's that all going, you guys writing new stuff, new material coming out?

We put a single out in November and we're working on trying to finish writing an album. These last few years have been pretty quiet for us-- actually, our lives have been busy, but in terms of the band, we haven't gotten to do a lot of work. It's taken us a while: We've (Ian and Amy) got a kid who's 3 years old now, and that and along with a lot of other stuff that's been going on with our families and also with Dischord. Dischord had to change distribution three times in the last three years, so it's been an enormous amount of work, but things have settled down and I think we're finally at a time where we can finally get back to work and make it back on the road, which would be nice.

MacKaye and Farina: The Evens. (Harumi Aida photo)

--Speaking of parenthood, how's that going there for you?

Great... it all makes sense to me.

--As far as parents, what kind of an influence did they have on you to go through life and do what you've done over the last 30 years; any words of wisdom from them to keep you going?

I think my parents, with all their kids -- I have three sisters and a brother -- there was no pressure to make money or no pressure to sort of be successful in anything other than what we wanted to do; they didn't push us in any direction. For some people, that could be, many people could feel, 'Oh well, I didn't get enough encouragement.' I think in our case, our parents felt that our hearts were more important than our billfolds. I would say they had a pretty profound impact on me in terms of really pursuing music the way I have, or thinking, 'This is what I wanted to do.'

I actually think life is a wide-open field.

(He likens society to an imaginary grid, like on a football field) ...

If you're within it, you feel compelled to play by the rules. My parents at least got us to understand that there was a grid and we could choose to be in the grid or not-- it's up to us.

--(With Dischord) How does it feel 30-plus years later to have gone beyond those first couple releases and to have made such a huge impact on the alternative-music landscape?

I don't think, 'Wow, I've really accomplished so much' or, 'Wow, I've really affected culture' (laughs). I just can't think like that, because my work is always in front of me.

I think at the time, all we were doing was putting out those singles, because that's what was in front of us. And now I'm trying to finish this record with Amy and work on the archives stuff. It's what's in front of me.
I just do the work, that's all I've ever done.

-- As far as Dischord goes, there's a lot of releases over the years, is there maybe one or two you feel have really stood the test of time for you?

I have to say most of the records on the label stand the test of time for me; there's some where the production value, the way some of it is recorded, like the technique of the recording, maybe the style, the way the effects were put on it, maybe that is kind of a give-away, that might be a little dated. But in terms of the actual songs and the band, none of those things feel dated to me-- they're actually great, I just love them.
There are some bands, for instance, that I was really, really connected to-- my brother's band The Faith is a band that was very important to me; and a band like Lungfish, extremely important to me.

The Faith. (Malcolm Riveria photo)

Having said that, every once in a while, when I'm working I'll pull out some Dischord record and I'm really just blown away how good these songs are; these people are writing these great, great songs -- I love 'em.

(He finds it sad and frustrating that Dischord often gets pigeonholed as a strictly hardcore, straight-edge label, when in fact, they're just putting out great music-- period. The label features a variety of music, from Minor Threat to Shudder to Think to Slant 6 to Beefeater and beyond. He calls Dischord's catalogue a folk-music collection: musicians speaking about politics and their community and world.)

At some point, I hope people would recognize that what Dischord is is a documentation, a way of showing what was happening with an underground music scene in Washington, DC: a vibrant, thriving underground music scene that went on for a solid 20-25 almost 30 years, and maybe longer depending on whatever the hell happens next.

I hope that people at some point will kind of go back in and revisit these records, and without the kind of notion that it's, 'Oh, more straight edge, drill-sergeant stuff' ...that just drives me crazy. It's first of all inaccurate, and second off, it'd be like getting a really delicious steamed vegetable, but then dousing it with some A1 sauce or something-- you can't taste the vegetable, and I think people's perception of the label ... I think they don't actually get to the actual taste, which was what the point was in the first place.

Minor Threat: MacKaye, left; Henry Garfield (Rollins), center, skanking; Lyle Preslar, right. (Susie Josephson photo)

-- I can attest that listening to Dischord records from Day 1 'til now, it always made us think what it was like to be there in DC, and especially when the photo books came out, it kind of gave us the full picture, and I appreciate it the whole way through (the bands, and definitely the DIY ethic).

I would say that you and people like you are precisely the reason we continue to keep going, that's why we make records, because somebody out there was getting it.

If nobody is interested, I don't want a record label-- this wasn't my idea in the first place, I just wanted a way to get the music out. The actual record-industry aspect of it is horrible for me, I don't give a damn about it; I've never been to a music conference; I don't have a lawyer, I'm just not involved with any of that stuff. I'm just putting out records.

-- I always try to look for the most current news on a certain band, and I was just watching this thing on VH1 Classic the other night, this 'Metal Evolution' series they have, and they have this thrash-metal episode, and they had some Minor Threat at the beginning of it, as far as maybe being a bit of an impetus for that scene-- did you see that?

No, but I'm not surprised.

I think Minor Threat, we had a refined sound, and also we'd seen the Bad Brains and the Circle Jerks, we were aware of those bands. Minor Threat... those guys were super players, three of them: Brian and Jeff and Lyle. I think especially Lyle Preslar, the guitar player, I mean he's one of the most unsung guitar players. He's playing full, six-string-position barre chords at that speed-- that's just insane. His accuracy and his rhythms are so incredible.

When I was in the band, we were just caught up in the moment, and obviously being kids, teenagers, we were spending a lot of time screaming at each other, it was such a crazy time. It wasn't until years later that I actually, when I was working on putting together the DVD of some of the videos, that I had kind of a perspective to look at the band and think about their musicality -- and I was stunned, really, to think that Lyle was 17-18 years old and playing that way is just phenomenal.

Minor Threat setlist from San Diego gig. (Andy/Cat archives)

Minor Threat. (Susie Horgan photo)

Jeff was a great drummer... I'm not taking anything away from my work or whatever, I had a really clear vision about the music. A lot of the songs I wrote... I think that that music was something that really resonated and continues to resonate with people. And I understand how like the thrash thing, Minor Threat would have been one of the bands that would have led to that scene, because it was fast, aggressive and that really connected with a lot of people.

See, I wasn't coming from a metal place, I didn't grow up on metal. Hendrix was a huge influence, continues to be a huge influence to me, so was Janis Joplin and the Beatles.
I think for a lot of kids in the '80s era, they were into Ratt and bands like that, more metalish kind of hair bands, so that collusion of the speed of Minor Threat and punk rock joined with the sort of squealing kind of guitar of metal, I can see how that could come out. It's actually something I really love -- I love the way all the various tributaries run together to form creeks.

--(In a bit of a rambling statement, I note that I'm on the fence about old hardcore bands reforming for nostalgia's sake, adding that a retro-type band like OFF!, while sounding great, doesn't move forward musically. It's here where the conversation veered, and then he touched upon the initial subject.)

Yeah, I think it's like the blues or something. You think of a form, and I think OFF!, for instance, not only their pedigree, but they're also good at what they do. Obviously, Keith and Steve are serious veterans, and they were sort of the architects of that form with Red Cross and Circle Jerks, and the other guys are clearly -- Dmitri and Mario -- they're just great players. I think in terms of the form, I think they present it really, really well.

A friend of mine once called them reenactors, but it can still be really effective. I also believe that Keith, he's the real deal-- he's just not a bullshitter. And they've gone out and done the work-- they go and throw down pretty hard.

Keith Morris sings with OFF! (Andy photo)

(He stressed that OFF! is unlike punk bands from the past that have returned to the stage to make some cash by playing big punk fests. That's fine, he says, but it doesn't interest him.)

Obviously, I've pondered this a lot. Black Flag, for instance, they just did this thing with the Goldenvoice 30th anniversary, and Chuck and Keith and Bill Stevenson and Stephen, so those guys did that thing and, on the one hand...
I mean, Black Flag for me, that's just one of the most important bands of all time.

(He spoke about getting Flag's 'Nervous Breakdown' EP and calling Dukowski on the phone after seeing the band's number listed in an ad in Slash or Flipside. He wanted to know more about Flag and 'I couldn't stop listening to that record.' He became friends with the band through more phone conversations, and when they came to the East Coast for the first time, Ian and his friends went to New York to see them; and when they hit DC, they stayed at his mom's house when he was living there.)

That band was just so deeply, deeply important, that music was so important to me. So, on the one hand, by hearing those songs performed by Keith and Chuck (today), there's something very heavy about it. And, on the other hand, it's so out of context, I find that it's hard to take for me, to see it in this setting, like kind of a 100-percent professional production, like if you look at the staging and the security. But even the people-- it's almost like a snow globe, a bunch of people standing outside of the snow globe.

For me, part of the visceralness of punk, what was so important about it was that it was a joint effort, the band and the audience, they fused together to make something that was transcendent. So that music, I think of it a lot like gospel music in a way, because when it was live, it took on a spirit of its own and was largely fueled by the audience. So now it's sort of like a weird, slightly different thing, because the audience has a different relationship with this music.

So, it's a puzzler for me, but ultimately, it's fine: I'm sure people were psyched to see it, a lot of people were not even born at that time. I'm not somebody who thinks, 'Well, too bad, you weren't there.' It's fine.
For me, it is a puzzler, it's just a different way of thinking about life and the way time works, and how people perceive things. Having been there, and having been there in my own brain, right? because everybody was there in their own brain, they have their own takes on it. My relationship with that music ... it can't be replicated just because the same people get up on stage with instruments-- because things smell different now.

--You know from our blog entries that we've been going to shows for a long time. It's weird how time goes on and you've got your own memories of things. And it is weird to see that happen with the Black Flag thing.

But the thing is, you were there and you got to see some of that stuff, and there were plenty of people who never did-- to actually see Dukowski play live, that's kind of exciting.

Dukowski plays Black Flag songs at the Goldenvoice gig. (McHank photo)

I've been to jazz fests in New Orleans, I saw some jazz stuff, and I was like, 'Oh my god, I'm actually seeing this person play.' And even though I know it's a far sight from where this person has made their bones or whatever, just to see them in flesh and blood and actually play, cuz that's the thing, Dukowski is the real deal, he's not a bullshitter, and when he plays he's not kidding. When you see it, it's pretty mind blowing. I think especially now, it's important for people to actually experience things in the flesh and blood. Just to be there, it's pretty good.

--I'm stoked for those folks that are able to see it, kind of pass the baton in a way, 'This is your turn to check it out.'

The way I kind of try to counterbalance it is I'm always looking for the band or the musicians or the scene that is doing that thing now. And also understanding that it's gonna be a different music: they may look different, they may act different. Somewhere, something real is always happening. So I'm always interested in that. For me, the greatest moments have almost always been in rooms with like 50 to 100 people. So I just keep looking. Not only is it time-specific, but it's also geographically-specific. So had you come to Washington, DC, in 1979 or '78, it would be like, 'OK, well there's nothing going on here.' But if you came two years later, it would be like, 'Wow, what the fuck? There's so much going on here.' So I think that you just have to wait.

MacKaye with Fugazi. (Joe Henderson photos)

--As far as the Fugazi live series, how's that all going?

It's an enormous amount of work. A lot more work than I even thought. We probably spent two years putting it together, but just getting it started and up and running has been challenging. There's so many submissions, just trying to figure out the way to get all the stuff in and up and then, we have another 700 some shows to master and edit-- it's pretty daunting.

--Is it successful?

You know it's interesting, we have sold quite a few, people downloaded a lot of stuff, it's good. I'm a little startled-- I don't really check the numbers very often, but about a week and half ago, I did an interview with somebody from Italy, and they asked me about the numbers, so I asked one of the guys who looks after that stuff to do a report. So we looked at it together and I was really stunned to see that -- there are some that have been downloaded a lot -- but the number of shows, we have 150 up now, and a significant number of those, there's been one download. One. And I was shocked by that. 

(The cost of a download runs on a sliding scale from $1 to $5, and he said that a lot of people are contributing just $1. It's a vast archive -- almost too big -- he said, but he assumed that since Fugazi played to hundreds and thousands of people in each venue worldwide, there'd be at least five or 10 downloads apiece. The project is just 2 months old, so there's time for growth.) 

--I was always curious about, actually one of my favorite bands that you were involved in, was Embrace. That gets a lot of praise nowadays, people are digging back into that record or maybe for a lot of people, it never left... 

It was a band that was almost forced in a way by the four of us. The other three-- Chris, Mike and Ivor-- had already been in the Faith together with my brother singing and had already had a pretty nasty breakup, and through a series of almost comedic moves, they ended up being in a band together again.

MacKaye with Embrace. (Joe Henderson photo)

(A back story leading up to Embrace's formation:

MacKaye noted that after the breakups of Minor Threat, the Faith and Insurrection, people from those bands aimed to get new groups together in October 1984: Rites of Spring played one show around that time, but after a band member left town, they took a break.

Everything finally came together for Embrace and Rites of Spring in the summer of '85 -- dubbed Revolution Summer: 'The idea was that it was just a mark, it was a target for us all to get busy.'

Early versions of what eventually became Embrace featured, in three separate lineups: MacKaye first on bass, then guitar and finally, vocals; Mike Hampton on guitar; Mark Sullivan (from MacKaye's first band, the Slinkees, and later Kingface) on vocals; Chris Bald on bass; Jeff Nelson on drums; and then Ivor Hanson on drums.
The MacKaye (vocals), Bald, Hampton and Nelson lineup wrote songs and practiced -- a tape of that lineup exists somewhere.

As in Minor Threat and Teen Idles, MacKaye and Nelson disagreed on band direction, and Nelson soon left. Hanson returned from college and the band asked him to join.)

The problem was that they already had a breakup, the three of them, so the band almost from the beginning was doomed, and we only played 14 shows and we did two recordings. Then, that's the record-- I do think there's some great songs on there. The production value is a little tricky on that one for me, but that's an example of a really specific era of recording; but that has to do with the gear and the effects that were used. The songs were (great), Mike was such a great guitar player, they all were great at what they did-- I was really happy with those lyrics.

--It was good to hear you back in a band again.

It was also a super-confrontational time, there was a lot of problems with skinheads in this town. And that music was really not only a response, but also like a clarion call to arms, 'OK, we're gonna do our thing.' So, a lot of Embrace shows were huge confrontations with skinheads, like gangs of skinheads: They did not like the music, but that's alright, we did not like their violence. So we just stuck to it.

--With this Fugazi live series, is there anything down the road happening there (playing live again)? 

The thing about us that's just a little bit odd: the four of us, we never broke up; our lives just required us to not tour and make records. So I think in our mind, we're still in a band together. Whether we play together publicly again or not-- don't know. There's a lot of logistical problems (bassist Joe Lally is living in Rome, for instance), but I think that we're forever connected, and I think we always will just do whatever we do. And some people thought, 'Oh, does this mean you guys are playing?' No. It means that we have this archive that we want to share with everybody.

MacKaye, left, with Teen Idles. (Lucian Perkins photo)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Corrosion of Conformity: Old school or new style, the Raleigh band is blasting away with a vengeance on new record

Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin at Maryland Death Fest last summer. (All Cat Rose pics, except where noted.)
By Andy

As heavy raindrops fell from the blackened sky and hammered metal fans scurrying for cover at the tented Corrosion of Conformity merchandise table, guitarist Woody Weatherman was all smiles. He was soaking up the atmosphere of last summer's Maryland Death Fest: from sun to storm; from loud guitars to silence as Neurosis fans wondered whether the band would appear after blistering sets by COC and Aura Noir. 

Oh, the sky soon cleared and Neurosis played, but it had a tough chore of following COC, which has returned to the metal/punk world in the form of the three-piece "Animosity"-era lineup of Weatherman, Mike Dean on bass/vocals and Reed Mullin on drums/vocals.

Although the band is playing tunes from the "Animosity" and "Technocracy" records, it's not a nostalgia trip, Weatherman ensures.

"We wouldn't come out here unless we had some new tunes," said Weatherman as he took a pull from an ice-cold beer as Cat and I helped him pack up the merch and head for the band's van backstage.

Woody at Death Fest.
At the time of Death Fest, the "Your Tomorrow" single had seen the light of day and the band was rumbling through that "Mad World"/Trouble-esque tune and a few other newcomers on stage. On Feb. 28, the band will offer up its latest self-titled, 11-song ripper on Candlelight Records. I've been sporting the Brian Walsby-drawn COC "The Moneychangers" T-shirt for a few months now, and have explained to several fans that it's a new song and more "Raleighwood"-style tunes were forthcoming. (Peruse Walsby's review at the end of this entry.)

The new self-titled album is a fist-raising, gut-gripping frolic through COC's past and a head-first dive into its present. On that journey, imagine yourself stepping on album-sized slabs of stone that represent each COC album: from "Eye for an Eye" through "In the Arms of God." As you trek onward, you'll visit some punk, rock and metal destinations that have made COC fans' bodies and minds twist and turn with pleasure for 30 years. Dean's early spastic hardcore growl may have given way to a melodic gnarl, but it nails down modern-day COC alongside the firm hammer of Weatherman's chugging, smooth guitaristry and Mullin's bludgeoning drum beats. Mullin also gives his voice a workout by singing lead on "Leeches," "What You Become" and "Come Not Here."

Mike Dean at Neumos in Seattle. (Andy photo)
Much like Washington, DC, stalwarts Scream -- who were jamming in that town the night of COC's Death Fest appearance -- COC recorded its new platter at Dave Grohl's Studio 606 in LA. Both bands, who also shared a bill the night before, are matching old tunes alongside new ones with aplomb these days -- and they're digging it all the way, judging from Weatherman's grin and recollection of the previous night's gig with COC's old buddies.

As for Mullin, who was clearly stoked on Neurosis for the first time at Death Fest, he enjoyed telling a Grohl story of when he met up with his fellow sticksman at a Them Crooked Vultures show in Atlanta on Mullin's birthday. Grohl was ecstatic to see Mullin in attendance, and he pulled Led Zep/Vultures bassist John Paul Jones in Mullin's direction to introduce the two and praise the COC man's drumming style.

After seeing the classic punk-rock, wedding-reception sketch on Saturday Night Live with Grohl and others as 'Crisis of Conformity' a few years back, Mullin -- who released Grohl's first band Dain Bramage's record on his Fartblossom Enterprizes label in the '80s -- said, 'I gotta go fuck with Dave about this!'

Reed thanks the crowd at Neumos. (Andy photo)

Mullin added some extra zing to the story as he and I chatted by phone Jan. 15:

'So I showed up, and they were already playing. I knew the tour manager, he was the guy who used to work with DOA, and he got me a good pass, so I was right behind Dave when they were playing. They were like a third through the set, and he saw me and said, 'Oh my god, Reed, what are you doing here?' This is at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, place is packed, and he jumps up from his drum stool and gives me a big hug right in the middle of the set. The band's like, 'Where the fuck did Dave go, oh shit!' He runs to the side of the stage and grabs John Paul Jones, so now there's only two guys left on stage, and he brings John backstage where I'm admiring the show: 'John this is Reed, Reed this is John...John, this guy's the reason I play drums.' (I thought) What's that bullshit? Just hearing him say that made my head just fall apart-- disintegrated. For him to say that is such a big compliment, and John Paul Jones goes, 'Reed, you must be pretty good.' (Laughter)

After Mullin hung out with the Vultures all night, Grohl invited the band to record at his studio in March. And now the record is nearly ready to roll, and Mullin is set on talking about it and life in COC:

--What is it about the record that really stands out, what's gonna make it leave its mark?

Well, I think we were fortunate to convince John Custer to produce us again. I really love his creative input. We already had a batch of what we thought were really good songs that we had been touring on, but I think it's a good mixture of-- if you're a COC fan, I think it will be hard for you not to be pleased because it has glimpses of old school, the 'Animosity' era, it has glimpses of the mathy, more metallic 'Blind' era and it also has the swampy, doomy Pepper feel. It has screaming, it has melodic stuff-- I think it encompasses what the name Corrosion of Conformity says, that we pull off a lot of different styles of music, because we have done so many different styles of music.
I'm proud of it, I think it's one of our best.

--How does it feel to back behind the drum kit on a COC album?

It was as easy as eating an apple pie. Woody and Mike and I really learned how to play our instruments individually together, so we cultivated some kind of weird hybrid of whatever it is that we do. A lot of people say to me, 'How the fuck can you play with Mike Dean-- he has such a weird bass style?' And a lot of people say to Mike Dean, 'How the fuck can you play with Reed--he has such a weird drum style?' It's because we have played together for 30 years, it's just this genuine natural thing for us.

What we were planning on doing was jamming with Pepper and doing some shows over in Europe, and he ended up having some Down gigs instead. So we were like, 'What the fuck, man, this is so much fun, we oughta continue on.' So many people had been asking for years for us to do some of this old-school stuff. There's a lot of people who weren't born when 'Animosity' came out, weren't born when 'Technocracy' came out. (We said) 'Let's do it,' and we did it, it was fun and things just kept on going.

--As far as the new songs go, who's the main writer? I know you play guitar, as well, do you guys all contribute with the riffs?

Absolutely. Mike does more of the lyric writing (Reed adds some, too), but in terms of the music, we all contribute a great deal. And you will always see on a Corrosion of Conformity album from now on, 'All songs written by Corrosion of Conformity.' The way I feel, a band is a band and a solo project is a solo project. If you're gonna sit down in a sweaty basement and work out arrangements and all that other bullshit (it's a unified effort)... plus it helps the band last longer, everybody feels like they're contributing and they're gonna get something in the end.

--How does it feel to still be playing with these guys and playing your style of music so far down the line?

For me, certainly it's a dream come true that I can continue to play, do something that I love and get paid for it off and on. I don't know how to do anything, I can barely get up in the morning! The idea that I'm able to cruise the world with two of my best friends ever and get a little cash in there for it, it's certainly a blessing. (Talks about going to the gym, and preparing for gigs: 'Being the ancient creature as I am, stretching and all that stuff is super good.')

--Not many people can play with such a ferocity over that course of still have that passion and energy for it?

Absolutely, it hasn't gone away. In fact, I think it's increased. When I was a kid, it was like, 'Earplugs are for pussies,' we would just go for it all the time.

--As far as this band going strong with new music out, do you guys have any goals where you're gonna go from here?

I think this is COC and it will be together until we start to crumble-- I can't imagine us stopping now, I think we're just getting geared up... and do another 30 years, COC 90-something (laughs).

--I could push you around in the wheelchairs if need be.

Yeah, right!
We're enjoying ourselves. I think we appreciate it a lot more. From getting in the van, like Rollins would say, and touring the country and Canada, and then accomplishing a little bit of success with 'Blind,' 'Deliverance' and 'Wiseblood,' and then losing all that and sort of breaking up a little bit, I think we really appreciate it, any ounce of pleasure and the ability to provide sustenance for our bellies-- our growing bellies.

--Just seeing you guys doing this, and watching you guys all these years, you guys make me happy.

It's funny you say that-- the last couple batch of shows we did with Clutch, it was almost every night I had somebody, some kid, some person who maybe hadn't seen us before, say 'You are the happiest drummer I've ever seen... I mean, you're intense, you're playing hard, but you seem so happy, what's going on up there? Are you doing Ecstasy?'

--You're on natural ecstasy, just life, having a good time and appreciating everything.

Yeah, my life couldn't be any better: I'm married to a beautiful woman, have a beautiful house, playing some good-quality punk rock; I even got Mike Dean to do a Bad Brains cover-- with our other band Righteous Fool, we did 'Right Brigade,' and that's cool.
So, life is good, man.

By Brian Walsby

I would like to say that I am really happy and “stoked” for my old pals, Corrosion of Conformity. When I had completed my last book, MANCHILD 5: RABID PACK WITH SIRENS HOWLING, I noticed that the three of them had done what I just never thought was possible.

But let me backpedal a bit: About three years ago, I was having what I would like to call “a really bad day” and I found myself at a place in Raleigh called the Dive Bar. I was seeing Mike Dean and Reed Mullin playing together in a band with guitarist Jason Browning called Righteous Fool. They were damn good, Jason is a great guitarist and it put a huge smile on my face to see Mike and Reed play together again, to put it lightly. Plus I got to see a lot of old faces that night: Ricky Hicks, Andy Freeburn and even Woody Weatherman’s incredible parents, Toney and Karen. It was really cool, but I didn’t think that would lead to Woody eventually joining Mike and Reed and setting COC up again, which they did.

Two things were great to see: That the three of them (when I saw them eventually not too soon afterward) still sounded great and that old chemistry remained intact. The other great thing is that Reed and Mike also didn’t abandon Jason and that Righteous Fool are still a band. I think that shows what kind of people Mike and Reed are. RF will have an album out eventually, but that is another story.

So after at least a year's worth of touring, the band with longtime producer John Custer flew to Los Angeles to record what would be their almost-ready-to-be-released self-titled album, out in February. A week or two ago, I was able to get a copy of the record.

So how is it?

Well, it is great. It just might be my favorite Corrosion of Conformity record yet. After a band being together as long as them, that is really saying a lot. And one thing is clear: it isn’t some hokey “crossover” record. Instead it is a recording of three men and how they kept their chemistry intact without pandering to it. So essentially they took the risky situation of coming back and sidestepped the entire issue of nostalgia and maybe sucking. Very few people pull it off. They did. They took the bull by the horns and came out on top, no doubt about it.

And there is something here for everyone. I like every song on the record. As much of a fan I am of this trio when they last recorded together, I still can’t say I like every song on “Animosity”. The record and the songs all flow together very nicely and the record does not overstay its welcome. It is almost like the approach here is: get in, and then get out. Which is a nice approach if you think about it. Custer’s production is incredible, organic, heavy and clear. It really sounds good.

Courtesy photo
You want hardcore punk? You listen to “Leeches”. You want a musical voyage? You have the next track, “River Of Stone”. You want slow doomy punishing music? You have “The Doom”. You want Bad Brains worship? You have “Rat City”. You want some punishing new ground? You have “The Moneychangers”. You want some weird hybrid of Black Sabbath jamming with Discharge circa their “Warning” 12-inch? You have “Your Tommorow”. And even stranger: you want some weird cross between Led Zeppelin and Voivod circa their “Angel Rat” album? You have album closer “Time of Trails”. I could go on, but you get the idea.

All three of them play like they have something and yet nothing to prove at this point. I think the reason why it might be my favorite COC album is because it is here NOW. There are only so many times you can put on some old record and wax nostalgically.

Regardless of your bias with whatever era of the band that you like and don’t like, it’s a good one. You’ll like it. I sure do.

Thanks guys.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Scott Hill and Fu Manchu: Some Black Flag and Blue Cheer equals a heavy dose of rock

Scott Hill rocks with Fu Manchu in Seattle. (All Cat Rose photos)
By Andy

Greg Ginn is Scott Hill's "main man."

When the Fu Manchu guitarist and vocalist straps on his clear Dan Armstrong guitar, slashes at those six strings and furiously shakes his head -- sending his blond mane rocketing every which way -- there's some Black Flag pounding away within the walls of his band's rocked-out, punk-influenced tunes.

Equal parts Flag and Blue Cheer -- and tons of other bands from both genres hammered into the mix -- Fu Manchu has been at it for 23 years. Hailing from San Clemente in Southern California, Hill got his first taste of Flag via a live tape that a friend flowed his way in December 1980.

He's never looked back, and Hill -- along with guitarist Bob Balch, drummer Scott Reeder and bassist Brad Davis -- visited Seattle's El Corazon Jan. 14 to unleash Fu Manchu's "In Search Of..." record on the crowd, along with a host of other Fu favorites.

Hill's partner in crime on guitar, Fu Manchu's Bob Balch.

Prior to the gig, I caught up with Hill in the comfort of the band's van for some conversation about his Flag guitar reverence and how Fu Manchu came into being. Hill and I both separately attended the Flag, Misfits, Vandals gig at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in '83. He also owns a copy of my old band Sorex's "Portrait of a Prisoner" EP circa '85 ... so that's a plus.

--Growing up and seeing some of those hardcore bands, what kind of lit a fire under you to start doing it yourself?

Just love hardcore punk-rock music-- loved it, loved it. I'd go see bands, and instead of skanking or stage diving, I was watching how the guitar player set up or how he tuned, fingers where they went-- that's how I learned to play guitar, just watching... 'Oh, that's it ...oh, he's got a tuner, that's how you put the strings on.'

-- First hardcore tunes: Hearing his pal's Black Flag tape...

I was like, 'What the fuck's THIS?' And he was, 'BLACK FLAG!' I was in junior high, and we had punk day: 'Punk is Bunk,' people wrote on their shirts. I was listening to Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, Nugent and stuff, and I heard Flag, and I was like, 'Holy Shit'... took the tape and didn't even give it back to him. I got turned on to the Adolescents, you know, went from there, Circle Jerks, and it was like, 'Oh Shit,' just bought everything I could, every zine, kept my fliers, wrote bands, just every dime I had went into buying records.

Hill: hair flying, ripping on the Armstrong.

-- What was your first show?

Let's see, Circle Jerks, Shattered Faith and Minutemen... in Riverside, out at the Ritz, I believe, that was January of '81. I snuck out of the house.

--What about some of those guitar players back in the day?

Ginn. Favorite record of all time -- 'Damaged'...everything about it is my favorite, so Ginn. Starts with Ginn, and then it goes Lyle (Preslar) from Minor Threat, (Greg) Hetson Circle Jerks, (Rikk) Agnew Adolescents. Any guitar player in any punk band that I'd see was automatically my favorite. (Also mentioned digging the sounds of Bubba Dupree from Void and Rob McCulloch from Negative Approach on record; SSD and Die Kreuzen get the nod of approval, too.)

-- So then you formed Virulence, and then you came to where you're at today. How did that whole sound come about?

We started Virulence at the end of '84, and we wanted to do fast Gang Green, just BEYOND FAST-- YEAH. Couldn't play that well, so we couldn't get that fast, so it was more like mid-tempo faster. And then mid-to-late '85, saw Bl'ast! live-- shit our pants, just like, 'Here we go, slow down.'
We were at the Balboa Theater (in Los Angeles) with JFA and Die Kreuzen...they were loading up their gear, two Armstrongs, and we're like, 'Holy Shit.' Even to this day, I listen to that (debut) record once a week: it's just a perfect fuckin' record, it just sounds insane, it's just an awesome record. (Mike) Neider does all our merch, prints all our shirts; we just played with Clifford's (Dinsmore's) band (Dusted Angel) the other night in Santa Cruz. We got to be good friends with those guys.

-- Probably dipped back into your old Blue Cheer records?

My buddy, we threw his down the street, his Deep Purple, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Way seriously, skipped them down the street. Mine -- I put in the closet, I put 'em in the back, I'm not gonna thrown 'em.
Yeah, started pulling out Blue Cheer. Then probably '87, started listening to a lot of Swans and Gore from Holland and late-period Flag. We slowed down. Melvins, and we're like, 'Oh Jesus, Melvins-- fuck.' (In '88-'89) Heard Tad and Soundgarden and Nirvana and stuff-- just went from there and we slowed down even more, used a lot of single-note, D tuning and still tried to mix it with our hardcore stuff.
And that's pretty much where we're at today, I just mix Black Flag, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple-- all the colors! (Nowadays, he listens to old hardcore stuff along with Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath and Captain Beyond.)

Hill locks in with bassist Brad Davis.

-- After all these years, you still gain that inspiration from listening to that hardcore stuff? It never leaves you, I play it all the time. The stuff that you grew up with, the stuff that really had that impression on you, especially in a live setting.

That's totally what it is. I'll put on that first DYS record, and just get some 'Yeahh!' -- just STOKED on it.

--The growl (courtesy of Dave Smalley's vocals).

Yeah, that's the first stuff that just got me amped to wanna start a band. Almost every cover we've done is an old hardcore cover -- we obviously slow it down and stuff.

Balch bangs away with drummer Scott Reeder.

-- As an older and wiser gentleman, as we all are -- maybe sometimes-- how does it feel to still be kicking around and still doing your thing?

It's crazy. We started (Fu Manchu) in late '89. I had no clue we'd last this long. I didn't think I'd get to Europe or Australia (they go to Europe twice a year and are going Down Under in a couple of weeks). No clue we'd put out 10-11 records.
Slowing down a little bit, can't tour 8-9 months, I've got a 3-year-old daughter and don't like being away for too long.

-- What does your daughter think of the music? Is she a Fu fan?

Yeah (laughs). She's got her little pink drum set, I can play guitar with her. She wrote a song called 'Everyone's Odd'-- no words, she just told me that title; I was like, 'Let's go, there you go: perfect.'
She likes it. She thinks the pictures are funny with my hair flying all over, she laughs, 'Ah, ha.' I don't play our stuff for her, my wife does.
It's cool, I still enjoy it or obviously I wouldn't be doing it. We're not making millions of dollars, but it's just fun. I like getting in the van with everybody and going out for a couple weeks at a time.

-- Music still speaks to you? Just as vital as it always has been? You could see within the hardcore scene or within whatever scene, people grow out of it and go on and do other things, but just something that hit you hard at first and has never kind of left?

Pretty much. I still get stoked: I'll pull out my old zines and still look at 'em to this day.
Even if I stop playing in a band, I'm sure I'll still be playing guitar, it's just fun.
I just like making noise. Very loud, distorted guitar I love.
Anyone that's heard our stuff knows that it's pretty much what you get with a Fu Manchu record: loud, fuzzy guitar. We don't go off to mellow land or reggae land or whatever -- just pretty much straight rock.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Go 49ers, Take it All the Way!

By Cat

For the Niners finally having a kick-ass winning season, I received a new Niners bowling-bag purse to sport my loyalty. After the many years of pain that have followed us Niners faithful, it feels great to pull our heads out of the sand and stand proud. 

Not that I didn't represent, anyway, but I have to admit that my Alex Smith jersey hasn't been seen for a while; it has been tucked away in the back of the closet. Andy got me that jersey in 2006 when he had a decent season (more promising than the previous two years anyway), and at least beat the Seahawks both times=bragging rights for us up here in Seattle. The jersey emerged this year and was welcomed back into the society of my wardrobe.

So no matter how far we get in the playoffs, as I still am not 100% on Mr. Smith as our leader, in honor of the 13-3 record that we have not had since the Young days in 1997, here is a little ditty Andy found for me on 45 circa 1982 for the crowd noise and recorded in 1982--"Go 49ers!"  

Sung by Mike Chamberlin and the 49er Faithful; written by Chamberlin and Mike Vasile on Go For It Records.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Chatting about scorching bands die kreuzen, Decapitado, life and beer with Dan Kubinski

Die kreuzen's Keith Brammer, left, and Dan Kubinski in action. (All courtesy photos)
By Andy

Two pockets full of quarters.

That’s what my baggy shorts held after the doorman at the Cathay de Grande in Hollywood, Calif., gave me my change for a $20 and admitted me into the dingy club in the summer of ’84 to witness manic hardcore band die kreuzen in the flesh.

As soon as the Milwaukee, Wis., group (which means “the crosses” in German) hit the stage and the small crowd erupted into a dog-pile in front of singer Dan Kubinski, I naturally joined the chaotic scene – and most of the quarters leaped out of my pockets and pinged all over the dance floor. Oh, well. I think I grabbed a few, but since the band’s barrage of screeching vocals and gut-wrenching, blistering and well-played tunes never halted, I returned to the fray and the remaining quarters were left for the other punks, or perhaps the rats and cockroaches that inhabited the club.

That was the only time I saw die kreuzen live, but the band’s tunes have remained in my head for some 30 years.

I first heard some of their tunes on the “Charred Remains” and “Master Tape” compilations while in high school, and then the “Cows and Beer” EP and first LP followed with a vengeance. An unforgettable band, which only became more intense and intriguing with every release that followed.

Die kreuzen kept popping up in my life over the years and I’ve never let them go:

* As I looked through Corrosion of Conformity drummer Reed Mullin’s phone book one day, I saw an entry for Dan Crusin’ … cool.

* In college, a classmate mentioned going to see Mudhoney, and noted that die kreuzen were playing, too. Mud-who? It was die kreuzen whom I was more interested in and asked the guy how they were. (I’ve been a Mudhoney fan for many years since then, thanks to Cat.)

* Also in college, during one of my delivery jobs for a law office, the local college radio station blasted “Earthquakes” from the “Century Days” record and I’m sure the car swerved a bit, since it was the first time I’d heard the tune and was fired up.

* Upon Cat’s return from a business trip to Chicago, she presented me with the “Pink Flag” and “Big Bad Days” singles.

* Later, while visiting with Matt Gentling, Archers of Loaf bassist, before a gig, we discussed our shared love of the “Cement” album.

* And, just recently, buddy and artist Brian Walsby unleashed another of his fine T-shirts: a die kreuzen one, which I wear proudly (along with the person below).

So, what we have here is a Q and A with die kreuzen’s Kubinski, chatting about that band’s days on the music scene and some of his other projects like Decapitado, and life in general. A big thanks to Dan for opening up and sharing his experiences with us. Enjoy.

What are some of your earliest music memories?

My father playing guitar and singing to me from as early on as I can remember. Even to this day if/when he gets out his guitar and plays, I instantly feel a warm calmness from deep within. My Dad also plays the accordion. On holidays and other family celebrations, he would get the accordion out and the entire family would start to polka dance (bunch of Pollacks, you know). Great time for me and I think I began to understand the power of music from an early age.

My Father played records all the time, so did my Mom-- Mom jammed Santana and I thank her tons for my love of early Santana records. My Father played lots of Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Moody Blues and lots of different folk music. My father also played in a folk band of sorts before and just after I was born.

As soon as I was old enough to do some chores around the house and earn an allowance, I would take my coins to Kmart and buy 7" records; I had a pretty big collection of music very early on. I also had an AM radio that I took with me everywhere, I even slept with the damn thing and would fall asleep listening to the greatest hits of those times until KISS and Aerosmith came along and changed the game for me. I loved Steven Tyler’s screams: “Get Your Wings,” “Toys in the Attic” and especially “Rocks” hold very, very powerful emotions for me... and I wanted to scream like Tyler did. Then I discovered the Ramones, Sex Pistols and the Clash... more game changers for me. David Bowie also figured in big time here. Bowie had many, many records out by that time and I bought and discovered the gems within one by one... magical! Around this time (high school) I saw the Clash play in Chicago on a tour near to the release of "London Calling" and they totally blew me away, changed my life! My father bought me my ticket for the Clash show, much to his dismay I think sometimes. I think he wanted me to be in the military, a pilot or something, but I had known early on that playing music was what interested me most. Somewhere in my mid-teens, I bought a bass guitar and took some lessons, but never did anything with that knowledge until Decapitado needed a bass player. While I was showing yet another new bassist for Decapitado how to play our songs, I realized that I should be playing bass -- full circle.

What bands struck a chord with you in pointing you toward the punk, die kreuzen and, later Decapitado, path?

Starting with my Father’s playing and singing to Creedence to Aerosmith and KISS to the Sex Pistols and the Clash, I too wanted to make my own music. When I started to hear the Germs and Black Flag, I knew the game had changed again. By the time I heard those bands, Brian Egeness (guitar) and I already had a band going that played a ton of early punk stuff like 999, the Saints, Wire, the Damned, Ramones and the Stooges. It seemed like a natural progression to take the punk music to a whole new level. We started writing our own tunes-- the first song I remember us putting together was a little song called "Suffocate," which had a chorus that went something like "you suffocate me, you suffocate me suffocate, suffocate.” Kind of an early "All White," I suppose.

By the time I was trying to put Decapitado together, I had many, many other influences like Einsturzende Neubauten, early Sisters of Mercy, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and many, many other "noisy" and drum-machine oriented bands that I liked. The first Decapitado CD was recorded using a drum machine and we played out live with the machine for a few years.

Your vocals and die kreuzen’s music stood out in the hardcore scene—lots of rage and stellar musicianship to boot – where did that sound come from?

As far as the music goes, everyone contributed at rehearsal... all of our influences were allowed to come through our efforts in writing, so I think that’s what gave die kreuzen its unique sound. We loved the hardcore that was being played by other bands, but we always wanted to expand and grow on what we personally were doing as a band. Trying new and different ways to express the power of our music instead of just turning out the same sounding songs over and over again was always at the forefront at rehearsal... "let’s try this" someone would say, and we'd work the idea and work it again and again until we had something that not only we all liked, but something that sounded different.

Die kreuzen rocks the house.
I believe that is what punk is all about anyways... breaking the fucking rules and doing something on your own terms. I always thought it was strange how the hardcore kids turned on us... here we were doing something outside of the box, and they all wanted us to stay in the box and just play first- album-style die kreuzen tunes. In fact, by the time we recorded the first LP, we were already playing stuff live like "It’s Been So Long,” “Cool Breeze,” "Melt,” "Counting Cracks" and a few others... the so called "change" for die kreuzen started very early on. There never was a change in style, though, it was simply a progression of creativity and a love for what we were doing to keep it fresh and try new things to keep it interesting and creative. My singing came from a love of Steven Tyler’s and Johnny Rotten’s screams and later Darby Crash’s guttural tones.

It’s been said in punk fanzines that DK’s music could peel paint off walls because it was so abrasive – how do you feel about that description?

I LOVE that! There are many paint-peeling bands out there now, and if we are in the mix, that’s all the better. Not all of our stuff fits under that description, of course , but I think those words describe a power and prowess that die kreuzen had and so I’m fine with that!

Did you know you had something special with that group of guys? You could tell just from listening to the records that the chemistry was there.

Once Erik (Tunison, drums) joined our group and we changed our name to die kreuzen, I think we all knew we had something cool happening. There was a concerted effort among the four of us to try hard and to make "the band" work. We LOVED to rehearse and would go to great lengths... severe lengths, in fact… to get rehearsals in. We would rehearse for hours and hours and drive miles and miles to get to our rehearsal spots. Practice makes perfect, you know, and we wanted to be tight! Thank God we had many wonderful friends and family that let us jam in the basements, attics and wherever else we could set up and plug in.

What was it like playing with the band live? I saw a gig at the Cathay de Grande in Hollywood in ’84 when the crowd went wild, dog-piled on top of each other near the stage – a great night. I read in Your Flesh fanzine that Grant Hart tossed money to you guys during a gig because you were spot-on that night.

For me in those early days, playing live was almost better than recording. Those early tours were a whirlwind of lights, sweat and volume that were always intense. Our songs were for real, we worked so hard on them both musically and lyrically so that when we played live, there were pieces of us that were flying out of our instruments and vocal chords and through the PA systems. We weren’t trying to be something, we were just being ourselves. We were for real....

Tell us about the time in ’83 you played on the Milwaukee cable TV show that’s on You Tube these days. How did that come about? It gains a lot of praise these days.

 We had a friend that was in broadcasting school from what I remember and their final project was to create and direct a television show, thank God he asked us to help him out. That was a lot of fun, I borrowed a small PA head and speaker and we just set up and did what we would do at gigs or at rehearsals. I remember I kept yanking or kicking the mic jack out from my PA head, you might see me back there once or twice plugging my mic back in. It was different being there and playing with next to nobody in the room with us except the camera men and director, but I think we did okay and threw down some pretty rockin’ versions of early die kreuzen tunes.

So you already had “All White” in the repertoire early on, so was moving onward to the slower material just a natural next step? What was it like for the band moving from the HC scene to the “college-rock” realm? I spoke with bassist Keith Brammer at that Cathay gig and he said you guys were excited to move forward.

Well, as I said earlier, it was never an out and out decision to "change" or "move in a different direction.” We had always been striving to try different things and to be positive and move forward within our writing. The hardcore scene was dying in ‘86/’87 and we simply kept playing and doing what we were doing, which meant in part getting gigs wherever we could. So we started to mingle with bands that were doing the college-rock scene, which I believe were the beginnings of what people call "grunge.” So, yes, I think it was just a natural next step as you say to die kreuzen in order to survive in the ever-evolving music world that we found ourselves a part of. After all, we never wanted to stay in one place or write the same song twice.

I read something in Creem magazine or one of those rock mags during the “Cement” era that DK was going to be one of the bands to watch for on a national level. What were those days like for you?

Those days were crazy, doing tours with Sonic Youth and the Laughing Hyenas, having a band from NYC called White Zombie open for us on the east coast (that might have been during the “Century Days” period, though), touring Europe with Soul Asylum and 24-7 Spyz... being courted by Michael Alago at Epic records (Michael signed Metallica and was very interested in die kreuzen’s future) --those were very fun and inspiring times. We were on the verge of making our dreams come true within the realms of the popular music industry. In other words, we were about to sign a contract with a major record label so that we might reach more ears, sell more music, do more touring and be more creative as a musical force. It was fun, kind of confusing on one hand as we were about to join up with something that we had ignored and almost fought against (major record companies), but all our peers were getting these contracts, as well... White Zombie, Sonic Youth, Husker Du and Mudhoney to name a few.

Why did DK split, where did everyone go after that music-wise, life-wise?

We had reached an impasse somewhere along our tour of the States while promoting “Cement.” In my opinion, “Cement” didn’t fit the college or grunge rock scene that everyone was going crazy over at the time. The tour was going poorly, a tour of Europe was in the talking stages and doing a tour of Europe was always damn fun and much better than playing in the States as people would come to the shows and really, really have a good time with us. But making money to support ourselves in Europe was a tough one... it took so much money to pay for hotel rooms, van rentals, equipment rentals, food and paying the booking agency that there was never any money left at the end to pay the band and in turn pay our bills at home. So as much as we wanted to Europe again, we all were feeling a strain on our personal lives. We had reached a plateau and couldn’t get to the next one... not quite yet, anyways. A few weeks after we called it quits, Atlantic Records called (Mike Gitter) and he wanted to sign us to the label, unfortunately we had all had enough and couldn’t quite see trying one more time to realize our dreams.

Life was very tough for me during those times... I had lost my identity so to speak. After being in a band with the same three guys for 11 or more years, they were (and are) like brothers. We all knew each other inside and out and I think we all had had enough of each other at that point. Of course, if I could do it all over again, I would've tried harder to make it work and gone for the Atlantic deal, but such is life.

Music-wise, we all had new bands almost immediately: Erik started D-, Keith was in the Carnival Strippers, Brian started Blister and I had Frankenstein Smile, as well as Boy Dirt Car and FuckFace. Brian was also working at his recording skills and doing work in a few studios around town.

I heard Decapitado’s “Blacked” album when it came out in 2003 and was excited to hear you singing (along with playing bass) again. I called it “crushing stuff that will leave a smile on your face” in a CD Baby review--- what is that band all about and what’s its status nowadays? What keeps you playing and making a nice racket these days? You’re in some other bands, as well, right?

Decapitado is on semi/permanent retirement now. We actually have an entire new CD length recording in the can but there is no worthy guitar playing on it. So until I can fill the guitar void on the recording, it'll just sit there, I guess. I love the band and the recordings we have done and I feel as though it’s my baby and I hate to let it die, but the music world is a tough mistress and it will tear you apart if you let it. So for now there isn't a Decapitado.

I am playing with two bands at the moment, one is made up of ex-FuckFace people, we've no moniker at this point and only about 10 songs. We hope to get a proper name soon and start doing some gigs this spring. I play guitar in that band. The other band that I just joined a few weeks back (along with Mike Olson/Decapitado drummer) is a more commercial venture. They are called Enemy Star. They have a female singer who is awesome and the guitarist is one of the best the Milwaukee area has to offer. But this is all still in the working stages and we hope to be playing gigs by early spring, as well. I've seen Enemy Star play live and they are really quite good. They also seem to have a strong following around the area and I like that idea... after all I've been playing "art rock/metal" in the shadows for next to nobody ever since die kreuzen broke up and I'd like to step out into the light and actually play for people and do some bigger better gigging, which is a big selling point for me. I will be playing bass and doing back-up vocals with Enemy Star. I also still play and record with Boy Dirt Car. Our latest record will be coming out soon on the After Music Recordings label out of Minneapolis.

With DK and Decapitado, where do the lyrics come from? Is songwriting and playing live a cathartic experience for you?

 My favorite time to write lyrics is first thing in the morning. With a clear uncluttered head, I can write a stream of consciousness, so to speak. It may not look like anything or sound like it’s about something in particular, but as I work on the lyrics over the course of weeks or even months (actually, for the most part my lyrics are constantly in a state of flux) they develop and the meanings begin to surface. I never try to write something and say that "this is it, this is what these lyrics are about.” I like to veil things and reword things to give double or triple meanings... never make it plain and simple.

Sometimes there will be a bit of rage that comes out and those I will leave alone and leave plain and simple. For example Decapitado’s "Dirt Farm" is so very simple yet filled and boiling over with rage and anger. I wrote those lyrics straight out at rehearsal in one night/one sitting in about five minutes and it’s one of the few pieces I've never changed.

Yes, my writing is very emotional for me and very much an outlet. I find pain, regret, anger and frustration to be very, very powerful and I've gotten a TON of mileage out of those feelings. There are very few examples of happiness in my lyrics for some reason, maybe because happiness is so much in the forefront of popular music, and deep down inside I am still out to personally destroy mainstream, pasteurized, bullshit music!

What’s life like for you these days (family, kids)? Does the music still speak to you as strong as it did in the early days?

No, I've no children, no wife and at this point, no girlfriend. I was just in a very, very intense relationship with a girl that I dated about 20 years ago. We reunited recently and had a wonderful, exhilarating two-year run, but a few months back we called it quits. We are very, very good friends now and I love her deeply and she loves me, but in the end, I guess we are two very different people, and as much as I’d like to make things work, sometimes it’s best to let things go and see what the world has to offer next.... we shall see.....

Newer music doesn’t speak to me much; I’ve been leaning on my old Bowie albums a lot lately. I do like some death-metal stuff like Kill Whitney Dead, Impending Doom and a few others. I even played in a very cool death-metal band called Put Her in the Trunk a few years back and that was a kick! Such powerful, powerful music.... and playing live with that outfit was so damn much fun, really, really heavy! And I’m finding some dub-step stuff to be very entertaining.

Music will always speak to me, I suppose, but I actually have to try a bit to listen these days. It just seems that most everything has been done to death and now it’s being done poorly way too often... but I’m always on the outlook for something new or old that will speak clearly to me.

Your voice has survived all the years of hard singing -- what do you attribute that to?

 Somewhere along the way, I actually learned how to sing (kinda/sorta) so I like to mix up the screaming/throaty stuff and add some real singing to it. My voice does have some rough spots, though, and I will admit that it would be tough, if not impossible, to do the entire first die kreuzen LP! I keep trying new things, though, and I love to create with my voice and lyrics, so I’m sure I will do more of that in the near future as I’m just starting to record a solo project that I hope to released before the end of 2012. I’m sure it will have some harsh moments, as well as some sweet moments, but it’s too early to tell what will ultimately come out of me right now...

How do you feel about Die Kreuzen being inducted into the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Hall of Fame (in 2011)? What was it like having all the DK guys together again?

Well I am extremely honored to be in the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Hall of Fame. After all, we stand side by side with some greats like Les Paul and Liberace!

It was soooooo cool to have all of my brothers back in the same room at the same time. First time in over 20 years! There was even some talk of reforming to play Roadburn in Holland in 2012 and do some additional gigging in Moscow, London, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam and a few other European cities, but our schedules just didn’t jive this year, maybe next year. Voivod are curating Roadburn this year and die kreuzen is on their wish list. I will be heading to the fest along with my brother Erik Tunison to hang out and maybe... just maybe, play a die kreuzen tune with a certain band.... but that is all still in the working stages, but he and I will be there this year representing!

Also, what about the Burnt Hickory Brewery "October File" beer? Is it tasty?

The fine folks at Burnt Hickory Brewery are some very creative people! That was the second year of brewing a die kreuzen beer, by next year they hope to do a bigger amount of die k. beer and get some in the store here and there.. and yes, it is VERY tasty and packs one hell of a punch!! Once again, we are truly honored to have our own beer, how friggin' cool is that!