Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Shipwreck: Abyss / Review

I've been looking forward to the actual release of this record since I first heard an unmastered, unmixed and thus blatantly unfinished version of it back in March in Shipwreck's van. Despite it not being done all the way, upon first listening this record immediately impressed me. I remember specifically being amazed by the ebb and flow feel this record has, which in turn ties in with the albums' theme.

It sure is a rare thing to have a hardcore band doing a theme album and it definitely seems like something that is hard to pull off without coming off too self indulgent or stuck up... No worries here though, as Shipwreck is one of the most sincere bands out there and a humble bunch of people as well (from what I can gather, they might have me fooled though). Basically the lyrics tell the story of a young man struggling to get through life and specifically struggling with his relationships to those of the female gender. The metaphor used for all this is an epic journey that takes this young man from the bottom of the ocean, rising up towards the surface, being swept onto the shore, exploring the land and cliffs, and finally ending upon the top of a mountain, looking back on the path that lead him there. The story is told in eleven steps, eleven songs, all titled by one word only ("Beached", "Lotus", "Thaw" etc.) and the lyrics are definitely recommended litarature. JD has an incredible way with words and there's a lot of stuff in here that really hits home and I could identify with. That has always been one of the things that attracted me to hardcore and I'm glad that Shipwreck is yet another band that reminds me of that. "From underwater the bubbles rise, each one a whisper of my muffled cries. Gravity's chains break at these depths, in the palm of the tide away I'm swept". It' safe to say that lyrically Shipwreck stand out immensely and I can only tip my hat to JD for a job well done.

The opening riff of "Squall", the album's openener (also to be found on their self titled 7" on Deathwish), immediately reveals a lot. It is powerful and pounding and crashes like a wave and Shipwreck manages to make this tension last throughout the whole album. It feels like all the time there is something huge waiting to erupt beneath the surface, a weird, eerie vibe of anticipation that keeps me hooked until the very last seconds of "Abyss", when all instruments slow down and go a little out of tune as the haunting female vocals bring the whole thing home.

As is the case with a bunch of other current bands that are doing really well these days (Have Heart, Cold World, Meltdown... all in different ways) Shipwreck clearly was inspired by a slew of bands from the (mid)90's. There is an obvious Integrity vibe to "Abyss", as JD's vocals bring Dwid to mind more than once, and when a song like "Ascent" breaks loose it is hard not think of Cleveland's hardest. But there is a lot more going on here... The more intricate and noisy bits hint at labelmates 108, but Shipwreck never get that wild, they stay controlled and keep the leash tight on this massive beast of an album. At other times "Ritual"-era Unbroken and "No More Dreams Of Happy Endings"-era Damnation A.D. seem to have definitely influenced Shipwreck, plus I cannot leave out the slight Starkweatherish feeling I get from "Abyss" as well.

In the lay out department, Jake Bannon did an awesome job. I don't know if it was intended but "Abyss" looks like it has the artwork for what could've been a Lash Out album on Stormstrike Records. Although I only got this record in the very last weeks of December, I have to say that it'll easily make its way into my Top 10 of 2007. Great work.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Blindfold: Asteroid 164* / A Retrospective Review

Everyone that knows me, knows how much I love this record. I have been known to go on endless rants praising this record and its virtues. Those of you that don't me, or just don't know me that well are about to find out how I feel about this masterpiece written by one of Belgium's most essential hardcore bands ever. You were bound to sooner or later anyway. Time to get wise... Here's my take on "Asteroid 164", Blindfold's second and final full length album.

"Asteroid 164" came out on Sober Mind Records/Good Life Recordings in early 1996 and prior to it Blindfold had already released a bunch of 7"s and an album called "Restrain The Thought" on the notoriously sketchy US label Conquer The World Records. Blindfold's line up on this record (and every other recording that they did) was Hans Verbeke (sporting an awesome Resurrection shirt in the band picture - check it out) on guitar, Jan Maelfait (now an accomplished tattoo artist with a shop in Ghent) on bass, Sacha Baelen on drums and Wim Vandekerckhove on vocals.

"Asteroid 164" came out on vinyl and CD, obviously I have both versions. On numerous occasions I have found copies of "Asteroid 164" second hand or in bargain bins and bought them for some of my friends, because it hurts to see a record this awesome being treated like that. Even though they might not listen to it ever (what's up Geert Hollanders?) I think it's cool to know that it can be found in those people's collections now.

I have a serious weak spot for mid 90's hardcore and this record is one of the many reasons why. One of the things that always struck me was how a lot bands from that era were experimenting, branching out and trying to stretch the limits of the genre. However at the same time they were all still very clearly hardcore bands, comprised of dudes that grew up on classic early and late 80's hardcore and who did not necessarily want to reach a "wider audience" or make it big (hardcore bands making a living out of what they did was still almost unheard of back then), they simply were creative and wanted to give the genre their own specific twist. And that's exactly what Blindfold did as well...

In true "we ain't afraid to be weird" 90's fashion this albums opens with the unorthodox sounds of instruments such as Tibetan bells, gongs and singing bowls. As weird as it is, I have grown to love "Ritual Of The Rainmaker", as the intro is called. It is a dark, moody precursor to what is to come. The albums' closing track "Vuur" is a poem in Dutch, read out by vocalist Wim, while you can hear a saxophone in the background. Might not do the trick for everyone, but you've gotta have balls to pull off something like that.

The album's first real song, "Stairs", opens with an epic, churning and doomy riff played on guitar only... The tension builds and when the rest of the band finally kicks in and the words "Strongest, richest, hardest" are yelled out you know you're in for one hell of a ride. The rest of the album is full of equally captivating moments. Nearly every track actually stands out in its own way... The melancholic, hazy feel to a song like "Swallow Everything"; the uneasy kind of anger of "Recessal Hymn"; the hard as fuck groove of "Grumble" (hello Quicksand) with the sarcastic "Thank you so much my friend" at the end... And ofcourse I cannot forget about "Exhibit E", this song was always a crowd favourite and it's easy to see why as this is probably the catchiest song on this album. "Greed's an endemic that will kill and it will kill us all" - you're moshing (or atleast doing the frigobazar). I love how a wide range of human emotion seemlessly comes together in these songs and can actually be felt, both in their music and through their lyrics. Anger, despair, joy, alienation, disbelief, angst and rage... It's all there.

While it definitely sounds pretty heavy, the guitar is rich in sound and texture. It sounds warm and somehow seems to capture the emotion that the songs are laden with very well. There's a lot of room for the huge sound of those guitars, since the drums are quite basic (yet effective) and focus essentially on supporting the rhythms that are usually laid out by the bass guitar. Bass player Jan outdid himself here, as the bass is the definite rhythmic element. On top of all this, Blindfold's vocals were one of a kind as well. Somewhere inbetween singing and yelling, in flawless English (hardly any trace of an accent), the vocals sound clear and easy to decipher. Full of emotion and conviction, they are perfect for the songs that the band had written.

Lyrically, this band was/is awe-inspiring, perhaps even more so today then when I was younger. I remember buying this record at the first Pyrrhus record store in Ghent, during lunch break from school. I was still 15 at the time and in the midst of finding out all about hardcore in Belgium and abroad. I knew Blindfold was one of the more prominent bands around here so I just felt like this was an album I had to have. On the bus on the way home after school, as always, I examined my newly purchased record. I would always stare at every picture for a while and then check out the lyrics and thanks list (I'm sure this sounds familiar to most)... My 15 year old brain couldn't quite handle or grasp the gist of most lyrics, still I read them over and over until I got home. Unlike most other bands, Blindfold's lyrics were angry in a more thought over and poetic way. They were insightful and intelligent. Some of the words used went beyond my knowledge of English at the time but I found them to be really fascinating. Upon listening to the record the first couple of times, lyric sheet in hand, it all made a little more sense ofcourse. But still, it's weird how words written so long ago can still have such an impact and ring so true years later. When in the song "Stairs" Wim says that "Every power needs a victim, every race needs a price. The price is power over mind" I think that says a lot about the competitive vibe of our western world, where we're all kind of pushed to chase wealth and fame and end up in a race that will no doubt know its fair share of losers and leaves us poorer spiritually. "It seems we are stuck in admiration of the absent and the most absent we admire is control" is a line that can be found in the song "Control" and speaks for itself. "Recessal Hymn" seems to deal with a friend- or relationship gone sour and has these incredible lines: "Know that you are the aim. I stab hard but it's face to face. Too much sacrifice pollutes love in my heart". Harsh, honest and sensitive at the same time. To wrap this up, my favourite line on the whole album can be found on closing track "Exhibit E": "I pity minds who wear a golden crown, they have been dragged down." All in all I have to say these lyrics still fascinate and inspire me today and I know that is one of the reasons why I still hold this album in such high regard.

It is nearly impossible to describe exactly how Blindfold sounds... So hard to pin down. Melody and groove are important factors to their sound and at some points throughout "Asteroid 164" there's similarities to a variety of peers like Framework, Unbroken, Shelter, Quicksand and Falling Forward. Obviously they don't really sound exactly like any one of those bands, but they sure help as a frame of reference. On a sidenote, when Vince and me used to talk to Jan about the songs on this album he would always claim to have ripped off Crowbar on a couple of songs. At the time we thought he was joking, but upon listening now, I can't deny that the opening riffs of "Stairs" and "Control" definitely have a heavy Crowbar vibe. Go figure.

The lay out was kept rather simple, but looks very stylish due to the warm red and brown tints in the cover art (a picture of an Ensor painting showing a mask) and elsewhere. What else can I say? I'm still trying to figure out what in the hell "Thanks and greetings to the world of 164" means and well, it'd be cool to know what "Asteroid 164" stood for in the first place. One thing I've always wanted to do was to interview every band member and discuss with them every aspect of this record, from the recordings to the artwork, to the lyrical and musical inspiration. Hopefully I'll get round to it one day. It might even end up here, who knows?

(The * after 164 in the record title was left out of this article due to esthetic reasons. Pictures were provided by Hans Verbeke and Even Skar, thank you.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Charles Henry III / Interview

Charles Henry III (better known as Chucky Edge, or Chedge) is quite possibly my favourite human being. I would gladly sit through a 24 hour Mars Volta concert if that would mean I could hang out with Chucky every day after, and God knows how much I hate the Mars Volta. This young man is the definition of a "road dog"; the ultimate roadie. His enthusiasm and story telling skills remain unmatched. One of the most genuine dudes out there... Next to all that, he's a top blogger too, check out his Casual T's blog if you haven't yet. If you're feeling old and washed up, or if you feel like you're "over" hardcore, you need to hang with Chucky. Here he is...

What's up Chucky? How are you? How was that hiking trip that you did recently?
Bjorn! What's up! I am doing pretty good. My hiking trip was awesome. I wasn't prepared but I learned a lot.

Did you discover things about yourself that you weren't aware of? What is it about solitude that intrigues you so much?
Yeah, I kinda had a self-awareness thing, I just kinda realized some shit about myself and just saw life for what it was. I'm not trying to be some sort of hippie douchebag but it was a good time. I talked to myself a few times, and realized it wasn't so much about solitude, but just experiencing nature or something most don't. I would love to go with friends but it's just not really in reach when people have daily schedules and I'm back in Cali doing bullshit dental shit. But I def love doing stuff at my own pace. It was really hard on my body too.

"The Lost Coast of California" - what exactly is that?
The Lost Coast is a 26 mile long piece of Northern California coastal mountains and beach that is basically untouched by most of human existence. Minus a house, an airfield, surfers surfing the best and most hidden North American surf spot, it's just trails. It's a really diverse landscape, and really different climates. On one side of a mountain it's 32 degrees and windy, on the other side it's 52, sunny, and calm. It was fucking awesome. The house out there has an airfield and it's a HUGE supplier of weed in the nor-cal region. The drug runners bring their surfboards to surf too cause it's a 15 mile hike to the "spot".

Your blog is brilliant in its simplicity. I'd say it's my fav blog out there. What prompted you to start your own blog? Who came up with the idea for it?
I was up at Deathwish Inc talking to Tre, Nicole and Jake. And we were talking about life, celebrities, and the internet. And I asked them what a blog is, and how easy it is to set up? and they told me in 1 minute. I have tons of tour stories and tons of shirts, so I put both together. It kinda sucks that I feel bad about wearing shirts over, but a shirt has a thousand words... So I started and I've gotten pretty good comments from friends about it. I just hope people keep up with it and don't forget about it. I'm gonna start doing interviews too, 5 question quickies. I don't have time to read 20 questions everyday. People are quick with their surfing too... Oh yeah and Ryan Hudon always wanted me to wear a shirt a day, for a year, different shirts. So he gets credit too.

Now that you're blogging it up every day, what will happen to The (One) Zine? Which reminds me that I still haven't seen the issue if was interviewed for... what's up with that?
I'm doing a pizza zine now called "Casual Pizza"; George Meltdown is helping me with it. If you can get me 50 words or less on pizza joints in Ghent I'd love to work with you on it. Get the ball rolling!

From our conversations I seem to recall that your first hardcore live experience was seeing The Nerve Agents, am I right? Would you care to tell us all about how you got in touch with punkrock and then hardcore?
I got into hardcore from Dropkick Murphys, Bouncing Souls, Pennywise, Misfits, etc. The Nerve Agents, Side By Side and Minor Threat were big influences and big transition bands. It was just different and people seemed to have their heads screwed on right. I never really liked mainstream shit cause it wasn't personal enough. It didn't hit home.

How was your first show actually? What was the full line up? Did you perform the infamous "frigobazar" at this show?
First show ruled, but I was def too scared to hit the pit. First show I ever wanted to hit the pit but didn't was American Nightmare with the Nerve Agents in Cali. That was wild. I'd like to think I only frigobazar'd only twice or 3 times, and I caught some Strife vids and got with the program... or didn't depending on your opinion. I always like watching the frigo now tho...

What was it that attracted you to hardcore? What was/is so cool about it? How come that you've stuck it out while so many seem to lose interest when they turn 21?
I got attracted to hardcore cause of the energy, message/music and just the all around feeling it gives me. It's a different feeling than any other. It's still cool to me because I get to hold onto really strong friendships and meet new people every trip. The friendships are really good, I feel like I've made friends for life, and I still get into new bands, and still listen to the bands that got me into it. I've stuck it out cause I still find ways to get the feeling every time I go to a show or listen to hardcore. When I stop getting the feeling, I'm gonna bow out. Kinda like many have, but you can't fake it. So who knows when it happens? But I can't fake it. I've gotten into stagedives in the last 1.5 years, that's some good shit. But I'm all about the mosh. Or Joe Hardcore's "church of the holy mosh". I'm about to start 2bands too. So that's gonna let me give back more than what a roadie can.

What was the Bay Area scene like at the time? Were shows violent? Boring? Different from how they are now?
The Bay Area was awesome. Bands like For The Crown and Allegiance and Lights Out were playing every weekend. The Damage Done, Kyle Whitlow ruled as a frontman. It was the same 200 kids going to every show every weekend. It has changed like everything in this world and it's just different now. I don't really know Bay Area hardcore anymore cause I've been in Boston, but I still see friends at shows and hang. Change is unavoidable. I just can't wait to do a band.

Another thing I remember is you telling me about how you got your first order from Revelation (a Side By Side hoodie?) and you freaking out over it. Can you describe the day that package arrived at your doorstep? What happened when you opened it? What did you do?
I came home from school and the package was in my room, I put it on, and screamed around the house moshing in my room and practicing stagedives on my parents bed. I sang Side By Side songs in the shower and wore it to school every day for 2 months even if it was hot. I still have that hoodie. Its black/grey now... haha. That hoodie means even more now cause one of my best friends Ben Pritchard, who got me into hardcore and straight edge, passed away in June of 2007. So every time I see that hoodie, I think of him constantly. So it's an ode to him. He had a heart attack at 25. Life is fragile. The time is now...

At one point you decided to travel across the States with a few friends to attend Posi Numbers Fest... What year was that? Why did you want to attend the fest so bad? How was it?
I had always wanted to go to pos-nums, and i had a soccer mom van at the time. My friends Scott, Madball, Justin and Ross all decided we needed to go to Posi Numbers 2004 and we were gonna drive. The week before nobody could go but Ross and me and then everyone could go, on the last night we finally got it all set. We drove non-stop and it was the best shit ever. We all threw in 180 in gas and just ripped the country in half. I got knocked out during Death Threat but was moshing for Mental on the last day. Fell asleep in Wilkes-Barre on the last bench and woke up in Iowa? It was FUCKED. We all learned the words to "And You Know This", the Mental song, and I listened to "One With The Underdogs" and "Age Of Quarrel" and "One Voice" NONSTOP. It was awesome, we didn't give a fuck and bought tons of fireworks and set it off (Madball) on the drive.

When did you decide to move out to the East Coast? How did you handle the move? Did you go to college as well out there?
I dropped out of college in Chico, and just wasn't happy with where I was at in life. I had only gone to pos nums and hadn't really seen the world. I needed a change. So I worked a landscaping job for a bit, visited a friend in boston, and then moved 2 weeks later. The Sox beat the Yankees in game 7 the night I flew in, in 2004. It was awesome. I've fallen in love with the city of Boston, and I've met some of my best friends out there. Without Boston I wouldn't have matured to where I am now, and I wouldn't have learned half the shit I know now. Boston is a perfect fit for me. I should go to school, but "real life just has to wait".
The move was kinda big at first, but I fell into a good group of friends out here, and I'm at a good place. The east coast is cool, the west coast is always home. But so is the east coast. Nowhere USA to the max.

Was the Verse / Evergreen Terrace / Cursed / Bane tour your first "real" tour or am I way off here? How did you get into touring / road dogging?
That was the 2nd tour I did. I asked Sean Murphy at the March 2005 ICC Bane show if I could go on the tour, and he said yes, and I was on!
The first tour I road dogged for Guns Up! on the Have Heart, Verse full US tour. I didn't know the Verse dudes yet, and only knew Hudon and Pat Flynn from seeing them at a Hot Water Music show and maybe 5 other hang outs. Dan from Guns Up! was my roommate at the time and we were/are best friends. So he asked me to go on tour, and I said yes before he even asked me. The first tour was cool, but I kinda bummed around, cause I was 240 pounds, but I moshed and had fun. I drove a couple times, and the van broke, so I wasn't really allowed to drive.
After the Verse tour, I really got into the tour mentality. The first tour was kinda meeting people and falling in love with the road. The Verse tour I road dogged for was when I learned the value of hard work. I was home for 3 days and then went on the Guns Up! US 2005 summer tour and that was awesome too. Somewhere along there I got to be friends with Greg Willmot and was on the Lockin' Out mailorder staff/Halo team. I went on a Mental tour after that, and the rest is history (101).
So mainly Dan Heselton of Guns Up! is the start of my touring, and I thank him for that. From there, it's all just working hard, hitting the pit and having a good time.

Would you want to make a living out of touring one day, be it with your own band, or as a well paid roadie / merch dude / tour manager?
I would love to. It would be great to be paid to road dog. I'm sure it will happen in the near future. I want to sing for a band, and it's happening, we'll see how far that goes too. But yeah, to work and get paid, that's the life... but it's not only about that.

Out of all the tours that you have done, which ones stand out the most and why? What are your favourite cities to hit and which ones are your least favourite?
I can't choose a fav tour or band to tour with, cause there are too many good times to compare. So I'll just say, my first tour was Guns Up!/Have Heart/Verse, and the last tour I did was Shipwreck/Ceremony/Blacklisted. My favorite cities to hit are: Seattle, Richmond, San Francisco, Los Angeles area and Montreal. Montreal is like Europe. Kids are siked to see USA bands too.

After touring with bands like Mental, Blacklisted, Down To Nothing, Have Heart, Shipwreck, Guns Up!, Verse etc. you must know the members of those bands quite well. Please share with me some fun / interesting / unexpected facts about some of these bands and their members...
Haha. There are sooo many stories, and sooo many good people. Things that stand out in my head right now currently:
- Mental = FUCKING ROAD DOGS. We would sleep on the side of the road. Didn't give a fuck. That band was a machine. DFJ is constant entertainment. Those dudes are all individuals in that band, that make one good band. We def had fun on long drives.
- Blacklisted = more like brothers to me. Fuck everybody mode... Henry Rollins book on tape... Tim Smith, Dave Sausage, Todd Jones, G, Beansie, Chris Ross, Foley, those dudes are my dudes. We have fun giggin' nonstop, and sooo many inside jokes about stuff we listen to, or stuff we watch. Those dudes are tight like a rope... hahah what does that even mean?
- Have Heart = more like being at home with roommates, so that rules. I'm so proud of these dudes cause they are doing well. I love joking with these dudes, and I've gotten to do some great dives to HH gigs. I hope they get me in on more tours in the future.
- Down To Nothing = so much fun. Rowdy town. Swimming everyday. Fucking with Sinking Ships. Hanging out. And moshing and getting a tan somehow. Too much fun. And they stayed at my house when they recorded. That was nonstop too.
- Rise And Fall = it was my pleasure to go on a full US tour with them, and ride in their van in EU06. I hope they weren't too bummed on me for getting them to shows hours early, we had tons of fun in a minivan. Sooo many jokes. Weather changes daily. Las Vegas sun tanning. I want to tour with this band again. How much are plane tickets to EU? One way??? Meet me in the mosh pit to the new record. I'll be human sacrificing.
- Guns Up!= last show was awesome. It was great. These dudes are old friends now, but still good friends. I could write a book about them as people.
- Iron Age = never toured with them, but I'm on tours they do. LOVE this band. The dudes are in outer space and still on planet earth and they rule. Tons of fun and something new everyday. I wish I could have recorded conversation topics with Wade. Bitter End is up there too as a band I want to tour with.
- Bracewar = when I was on tour all summer I ended up in their van for like 2 weeks and it ruled. I don't think they know how much it meant to me, but these dudes are great too. I would love to do a full US schedule with them.
- Cold World = I'd tour with this band just to be Albite's personal road dog. Get him Starbucks Pumpkin Latte's everyday. And somehow get Hoodrack on that tour... and it's a nonstop fun time. Cool band, cool dudes, good tunes.
Sorry to any bands I've left out, this is my first real interview...

Your first taste of Europe was when you road dogged for Blacklisted on their tour here in Oct / Nov '06... How did you like Europe? What were your first impressions upon landing in Brussels? What were some of the coolest places and things about Europe?
Europe ruled! I liked it all. Germany can be kinda overbearing and lame. Ghent and London were my fav places but I like Ghent 10 x's more. Ghent rules. I just liked to see different stuff. I wish I'd moshed and dove at Maximun Destruction festival. The food was cool, and I like the tour van R'N'F had. All in all I'd tour Europe twice a year if I could.

Out of all the Euros you have met and talked to, who has the craziest accent?
Oh Bjorn... your accent is my favorite. It's got tons of enthusiasm behind it. Martijn from No Turning Back has a cool accent. Vince has a wild party dude accent. Basically your band, everyone has an accent that describes them. It's cool. Erik Tilburg has a very knowledgeable accent too. Dude rules. True Blue crew. Kitzel has a cool accent, cause it's a mix of Upstate New York. SIX FT DITCH. I need their CD.

I heard you tell the story of that Integrity show in CT. (feat. Hatebreed members moshing) a couple of times and yet it never ceases to amaze me. Could you please describe into detail the events that took place that night?
I feel like I've taken up a lot of space so I'll just say this: Dead Wrong played a reunion that show, and I pitted hard (pics to prove). Mental and RJ's played. It was one of my favorite shows of reunions or benefits. The Floorpunch one was cool too. A lot of people left before Integ but when Jamey Hatebreed hit the mic, the place demonstrated its style (Madball). It was a bomb of camo and CT mosh.

Please comment on / discuss / evaluate the following:
Barry Bonds: Stand by your team/man. No fairweather fan here...
In-N-Out Burger: Good tour food. I don't rip off the road. Maybe once every trip home? Tour food!
"Eye For An Eye", the song: Oh my god... I get the chills just thinking about it. George is a genius.
Judge and getting their logo screenprinted on your camo jacket: Thanks Greg Bacon. I mosh in it!
Females: They are cool. So is hardcore. So is baseball. But you can't really compare all at once.
The word "flavourful": I'll use it when I cant think of anything else to desicribe flavor that is full.
Sharing a room with Kei Yasui: The best. So many good conversations or just daily banter. I miss it.
All Out War: Yes! I like them a lot. I think they pull of "hard hardcore" or metal core perfectly. They do it just right, lots of bands don't.

Rumor has it that you're about to start a band with George (the Mexican who is not a Mexican) from Meltdown... What can you tell me about that? Is the band going to be called Killer Series (as planned)? How about the mic in pocket mosh?
Haha YES. The band is gonna be cool. He is working on the music, I am gonna show him some Entombed parts, that he is gonna make sound like Antidote/NA and we're golden! It's gonna be called WORLD PEACE. I'm gonna contact you more about some dl shit. But there is gonna be some really 'different' lyrics. It's gonna be the pocket mic mosh intro and lots of Shark Attack sharp vocal patterns. Vocal patterns are a big part of this band.
I'm also doing a band with Hudon, a straight edge band called (as of now) Boston Wolfpack. Road dog Steve Reddy was in NY Wolfpack, it just kinda works out. That is a Judge/Raw Deal band. Siked on that band too. DEMOS IN 08!

What else is good these days? Please hit me up with a Top 5 of your favourite records, food items and shirts of the past couple of weeks.
1. Silk nog.
2. Wet Californian burritos (that place we went to near my parents house with TxJ)
3. New Shipwreck.
4. Collegiate state shirts (California, Mass, Washington, etc...)
5. Hanging out with friends. (I used to take it for granted but now I value it.)

That's about it Chucky. Thank you for your time. If there's anything you'd like to add or any shout outs you want to give, do it here and now:
Thanks to Albite for the shirt opportunity, Tre/Nicole/Jake for the inspiration behind Cas-T's, roommates of house of scum, mom and dad, my girl Molly, the bands I've toured with, Scott Vogel for the amazing stage presence and good basketball skills, Notre Dame football for the worst season to date, Bjorn for my first real interview, sorry if it doesn't make sense.
And... RAMBO 4... 1-25-08 MEET ME IN THE THEATRE. Catch me wearing my sleeveless Judge jacket. Camo son...
Love you Bjorn and everyone who reads this: the positive youth will always remain.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Chris Pupecki / Interview

I met Chris when my band got the chance to tour with his current band Doomriders. Being the nerd I am I started freaking him out and asking all about Cast Iron Hike as soon as we shook hands. He took it real well though and turned out to be an awesome individual with a great taste in music. Reason enough to send him some questions to find out more about Doomriders, Cast Iron Hike, Backbone and the power of the riff... Enjoy.

Chris, do you remember exactly how you came into contact with loud/heavy music and eventually hardcore? What were some of the first hardcore records you got into and some of the first shows you saw? What kind of impact did those make?
I think it was probably 5th or 6th grade around 1984 when an older kid in the neighborhood would take me in his 4x4 truck to the local landfill, crack a couple brews and drive up and over these giant hills of sand at ridiculous speeds, all the while cranking Bon Scott era AC/DC and Black Sabbath. That's when I decided loud rock n' roll was where it's at. I was always craving harder, faster and heavier stuff though and at that time it was very difficult to come by. I loved Judas Preist, early Motley Crue, but I never heard a band that matched the anger that I felt at the time. Then I discovered "Ride the Lightning" and loved the speed and raw fury Metallica provided. My first punk rock experience was actually over the phone in the seventh grade, I had gotten a phone call from a buddy, he was about 3 words into our conversation when I stopped him and excitedly said, "what the fuck are you listening to?!" It was the most gnarly, raw and angry shit I'd ever heard up to that point and HAD TO HAVE IT! "It's Suicidal Tendencies" he said. Probably that day I went to the tiny record store in my puny town and special ordered the first Suicidal record and wore down the grooves on that fucker. As far as hardcore that most affected me; Black Flag, D.R.I, Cro-Mags, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and Agnostic Front were probably most influential. It's funny how these same records are most hardcore kids' first love records 20 years later. I feel lucky to have been part of that scene, at the time it felt like something important was happening in music. The first show I went to was Gang Green in '86. Other bands I saw around then were Uniform Choice, Youth Of Today, Slap Shot, Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, Scream, Cro-Mags, etc. etc. I could go on forever.

Was Backbone the first band you ever did? How did that band get together and how would you describe the band's sound? What kind of shows did you play? I imagine you must've played with Wrecking Crew and Eye For An Eye a bunch - how were those shows back then?
Backbone was my second band, my first was actually called Youth Crew named after the Youth Of Today song, but before it became the kind of hardcore movement it is today, back then it was just a song by one of our favorite bands. We played maybe 4 shows. Aaron Bedard (Bane) had a band called Raging Hope, he gave me a call one day and said he was starting up a new band and asked me to join. I really dug Raging Hope so I was psyched to start something up with him. That's how Backbone started, back then I loved Breakdown and Life's Blood and that's pretty close to what we sounded like, according to a MRR review at least. We played some badass shows back then, we played with Killing Time, Underdog, Supertouch, Slap Shot, Uppercut. Bunches of shows with local buds Wrecking Crew and Eye for an Eye (who's drummer Thos Niles is now in my other noisy band Blacktail). Wrecking Crew shows were some of the best I've ever seen, that band smoked in their prime. We actually played shows with Neurosis and Pantera as well, who were new bands at the time.

What did Backbone ever record and/or release? How long has it been since you've listened to any of those recordings? We released a demo tape in '89 and recorded a song for the "Boston Hardcore '89-'91" compilation on Taang. It sounds pretty amateur to me now, although it was recorded on a 4 track in my dad's garage by a bunch of kids!

After that band was done, how did the plans for Cast Iron Hike take form? What kind of sound did you have envisioned for that band?
Dave Green (the drummer from Backbone) and I started jamming again a year or 2 after Backbone broke up. We were a bit older and had much more varied taste from the Backbone days and really wanted to do something interesting and new. I'd say our early influences were Melvins, early Helmet, Sabbath, C.O.C., Bad Brains, and Cro-Mags.

While Cast Iron Hike in my opinion definitely had a hardcore groove and energy, you had a sound that was a lot broader and very different from what was going on at the time. What inspired this sound? What kind of bands were you heavily into back then?
We appreciated all kinds of music and wanted to incorporate it all. We also really wanted a singer who sang because we liked the idea of writing memorable melodious songs with catchy choruses... Plus we knew it would bum out most hardcore tough guy types! We loved the brutal experimentation of Melvins, the blues groove of Sabbath, the bounce of Bad Brains, and the aggression of the Cro-Mags. All of those things were a big part of the Cast Iron Hike recipe.

After two EP's you signed to Victory, with whom you released the classic "Watch It Burn" album. How did that work? Who signed you to Victory? What prompted you to make this move?
Tony Brummel signed us, basically we just held off for a while and let the buzz grow until the best 3 hardcore labels were in a bidding war over us. Revelation, Equal Vision and Victory were the 3. They all wanted us pretty bad and in the end Tony made us the best offer.

What was it like being on Victory at the time, considering they were home to all the biggest hardcore bands at the time, like Earth Crisis, Strife, Snapcase and Integrity... Did you feel like Cast Iron Hike was overshadowed by those bands? Did Victory want to turn you into a band like that or did they know they were dealing with a different type of band?

When we signed to Victory all those bands were already doing well for themselves, we never felt overshadowed by them. We felt like we didn't belong anywhere actually, we were too rock for hardcore and too hardcore for rock. We were just happy to have our record available around the world. Victory didn't try to turn us into anything, we would have laughed in the face of anybody who tried. We were doing our own thing and that was it, if you didn't like it, fine, but no one was going to make us do something we didn't want to do. Tony actually had really high hopes for us, unfortunately we broke up about a year after the record came out, we were barely a 4 year old band.

Cast Iron Hike did a lot of touring as well. Did you have a booking agent or how did you get on these tours? What type of crowds did you draw? Generally speaking, how did those tours go and what was touring like in the mid 90's? We had a couple of friends booking shows for us, some better at it than others. We were asked by Sick Of It All themselves to tour with them. It was incredible to watch them shred the shit out of every band before them every night. Total pros, a well oiled machine. Most of the people who dug us were older, more open minded people and sound guys, the sound guys alway loved us. I thought that was cool because they see dozens of bands every week. Touring was rough in the mid 90's, no one had cell phones, not many had the internet. No Mapquest! So if you had to reach a promoter for something, you had to find a phone booth, and hope he's by a phone. Also discovering new music was tougher, you had to *gasp* go record shopping! Or read, or talk to friends. There was a much higher level of dedication back then. Especially in the 80's, not only was it a total bitch to find hardcore and punk records, everybody hated you for being a punk/hardcore kid. So you really had to be dedicated because it was kind of a lot of work at times.

I remember you toured with Sick Of It All at one point and Weston at another. Who else did you tour with? Which one of these tours sticks out the most?
We toured with Snapcase, Damnation A.D., Strife, Shift, Stillsuit, V.O.D., Ignite and a few more. We were supposed to do a tour with Hot Water Music and a European tour with a new band called The Hellacopters, but we broke up before those could happen. Touring with The Hellacopters at that time would have been life changing for me as I've since become a huge fan. They were a big inspiration to form Doomriders for me and Nate.

What do you remember about recording the "Watch It Burn" album? Any specific stories or anecdotes? Where did you record and who with? How long were you in the studio for? Do you feel like you managed to capture the sound you wanted to?
We recorded it with Jim Seigel at the Outpost in Stoughton, MA. He's also recorded Dropkick Murphys, Morphine, Blood For Blood and tons more. Brian McTernan (Battery/Miltown) and Ken Olden (Damnation AD/Battery) helped out with production. It was our first time recording in a serious studio where it wasn't one of our friends recording us so it was nerve racking and pretty new to us. I think we were in the studio for something like 12 days. There were very few overdubs and the whole thing is pretty bare bones.

When you listen to the album now, how do you feel about it, looking back? Is it weird to know it's become somewhat of a cult mid 90's hidden gem type of record?
I think the record has held up really well actually, sometimes I'll pop on a record that we loved around that time and it'll sound real dated. I think we avoided that for the time being. I talked to Brian a few years ago (who is a kick ass engineer now and has done some big records like Thrice and a bunch more) and he was saying he regrets not getting a bigger guitar sound for our record and I have to agree with him, I've never heard on tape what my guitar sounds like for real, I have to say Kurt Ballou has come really close though, he's good! I wasn't aware of any cult hidden gem status. That's pretty cool though, it's weird when people tell me they still listen to it often. I get bored of records really quick so it's always kind of a shock.

What caused Cast Iron Hike to break up? You still seem to be a friendly terms with everyone that was in the band, that is pretty cool. Could you tell us what those guys are up to now?
I'm still on good terms with all the guys, we've known each other for 20 years so we're always going to have a bond. We broke up because our singer Jake lost his passion for heavy music one day... Yeah I know, kinda weird. So now he's kind of doing singer songwriter type stuff and seems more at home doing that. Mike Gallagher is playing guitar in Isis, Pete Degraff is in a rock band called The Black, and Dave Green went to school in England and will be moving back to the States with his wife soon. I'm doing Doomriders and Blacktail (noisy, AmRep style stuff, we're currently unsigned and quite good, hint hint..)

What was your state of mind after Cast Iron Hike's demise? Did you do anything musical in between that and Doomriders?
I had a rough time when we broke up, our future was looking really bright and on top of that I was dumped by my girlfriend of 6 years just a few months prior. We tried looking for new singers but decided it wouldn't be the same band.. In retrospect we probably should have trudged on and found someone else but hey, live and learn. I jammed with dozens of drummers who were either really good flakes or not so good non-flakes.

Cast Iron Hike also recorded a GG Allin cover that appeared on the "And They Came From Mass." compilation, which I think sounds incredible. Whose idea was it to cover that track? During what recording session did you record this cover?
I forget whose idea it was to do a GG song, but it was my idea to do that song in particular because it has that whole "we are the real rock'n'roll underground" anthem of a chorus which I knew was perfect for us, and the riffs were pretty epic rock'n'roll for a GG song... And it wasn't about sleeping in your piss or anything dumb, it actually had an empowering message. You know, shoot, knife, strangle, beat and crucify! OK, maybe it was another dumb GG tune, but we thought it was less dumb than most. We recorded this real early on, it was after the Salmon Drive EP, but not long after as it was recorded in Brian McTernan's first apartment studio in Boston, it was in a dirty, sketchy basement. Brian and Jonah from Only Living Witness helped out with backing vocals on the song too. So probably '94 or early '95.

There's been some talk of an upcoming Cast Iron Hike DVD, I've seen the trailer for it as well... When can we expect this to drop? Who's working on that DVD and what should we expect? Also, rumors of a one off reunion to promote the DVD has been floating around - what's the deal with that?
My good friend Bruce Millet is the one working on that, we weren't psyched on the recent interview footage we had done, so it's kind of on hold for the moment. I just need to go through the footage with him to decide what to use and what to scrap. Bruce was there from the beginning of the band, most times video camera in hand, so there should be a good amount of footage to look through. He's got some Backbone footage as well, although I don't know if I want that to see the light of day. Hopefully it'll be out soon though. I think we'd all be into doing a handful of shows at some point, although Mike is really busy with Isis and I'm not even sure what coast he's on at the moment, he's kind of a nomad. I know the other guys are down though.

I seem to remember Doomriders primarily being the brainchild of Nate and you. How did the idea for a band like that come about? I imagine the fun of rippin' it up and playing loud had a lot to do with it?
We met when he was in Jesuit and I was in Cast Iron Hike and we were huge fans of each others bands. Every time we'd play Virginia Nate would be there and we'd excitedly talk music for way too long, we have always had very similar tastes and started talking about how we should start a band someday, We talked about how we wanted it to have elements of our favorite styles of music but remain our own sound with lots of guitar harmonies, punk/hardcore energy, and lots of rock riffin'. The main purpose of Doomriders from the beginning was to be a fun band to play in as well as to go and see.

Doomriders is the kind of band that wears its influences on its sleeve (Danzig, Entombed, Thin Lizzy, Integrity, Motorhead etc.) but still succeeds in sounding fresh, vital and not exactly like this or that band. What would you attribute this to?
We really make an effort to not sound exactly like any one band besides Doomriders.

Was Doomriders always meant to be a fairly busy band or would you say it's a project that got out of hand (ha!)? You guys have been to Europe, Japan, toured the States... How hard is it being in your mid 30's and juggling a job with a touring band and family life?
We never planned to do any of this, I knew when Nate and I got together we would create some badass music, but it's been great from the start with people really digging us and offering us shows and this and that. Most of the things we've done have been shows or tours we just couldn't turn down, we've been lucky with great offers pretty much non-stop. Working a full time job and being in a band where you wish you could spend more time writing or touring is definitely an issue, but I'm lucky to have done all these things. I really thought Cast Iron Hike was my one chance to do those things and to get to do them 10 years later is pretty cool.

What was it like sharing the stage with Danzig for almost a week? I heard the old fella really likes Doomriders a lot? Was he watching on the side of the stage? How were you received by his crowd? Can we expect him to be doing some guest vocals on the upcoming Doomriders album?
Touring with Danzig was awesome, especially since we were specifically requested by the man himself. What an honor. He never really left his dressing room until the end of the night, but we did get to talk to him and he said he loved us with a huge grin on his face and said he loved all the "Wishbone Ash guitar parts", it's nice to get the thumbs up from one of the masters. Guest vocals? Who knows, definitely something to think about though.

Speaking of which, what can we expect from that album? How far into the writing process are you? We're about half way into the record, it's really hard when everybody has other bands, full time jobs, and wives. JR's wife Steppl is having a baby in February as well so that should be interesting. The material is getting better and better though in my opinion, we're really utilizing the 2 guitars to make a more interesting racket and we're also really finding the Doomriders sound.

I know you are an absolute music freak so I would like to know what some of the best shows have been that you have seen in your life... Let's go for a Top 5 or Top 10! I also remember you telling me about seeing the Bad Brains & Leeway together, make sure you don't forget that one.
Yeah, Bad Brains/ Leeway was incredible, it was in '88 or '89 at the Living Room in Providence, RI. I remember HR playing a trumpet, the intense smell of weed all around me, and the fact that I could literally lift both of my feet off the ground at the same time and just hang there... That's how packed it was in there. Slayer on the "South Of Heaven" tour was epic as well, I remember feeling my eardrums folding inside out. I saw the Melvins a bunch, but one time with the Obsessed was mind blowing, Wino is definitely one of my all time guitar heroes, and to see him in his prime was a blessing. Other shows I've seen more recently that have blown me away were Comets On Fire, Dead Meadow, the Hidden Hand, Dungen and the Sabbath reunion in '01.

That's it Chris. Thank you for your time, feel free to add whatever you want right here...
Thanks for the interview Bjorn and for giving a shit. Check out Doomriders and Blacktail people! RIDE THE RIFF!!!