Monday, March 18, 2019

HXR20YR RETROSPECTIVE: HXR010- ACHILLES/ ENGINEER , split 2xCD


This is kind of where the second wave of Hex bands became established.  Ed Gein and Minor Times sort of started it off.  But here were these new kids coming around the bend, looking to do some stuff of their own.  Building On Fire had broken up and Rob got some new stuff started with one of my favorite people around, and a hell of a frontman, Rory Van Grol.  Right off the bat they hit me up to do a record for them but I was feeling a little hesitant since Building On Fire sort of split with all these unfinished ideas and a loose plan for a second full length.  I wanted to see if this new project- Achilles- would be able to keep it together.  They self-released a demo and began touring around with little hesitation.  They had a lineup that worked and got along really well, and had ideas that they would see through.  So, not much later I was agreeable to doing whatever it is they wanted to do.
 Engineer house show

At the same time I had been noticing things brewing just north of Syracuse, in that strange, rural North Country area.  A cast of characters up that way had their own scene going on- a totally vibrant, young, and completely independent scene full of weirdos who played huge shows in little, middle-of-nowhere towns like Fulton, and further north in Oswego.  They were all bound by their rural restraints, and inability to get down to the big city of Syracuse (it’s not big), so they just went and made their own noise.  And it wasn’t like crappy little punk bands.  All these bands had their own sound, their own thing, happening that only emerges when you have a lot of time and your own brain to come up with whatever your imagination sets forth.  One such band that really caught my attention was Forever Yours, primarily consisting of brothers who wrote chunky and metallic post-hardcore.  I really started liking what they were doing, but unfortunately, I caught them as they were thinking of calling it a day and moving on to other things.  Well, that other thing quickly emerged as Engineer, and it was sonically more devastating than whatever they all had going previously.  Once again, they moved quick.  They wrote and recorded a bunch of stuff fast and released it on some label from who knows where, and that was the “Suffocation Of the Artisan” EP.  I immediately roped them into doing something for Hex, even before the EP came out, and they seemed agreeable (honestly, I’ve known the Gorham brothers for over 15 years now and they continue to have the most poker-faced affect of nearly anyone I know.  I can almost never tell if they’re excited, pissed off, happy, or just so laser-focused on whatever it is they’re doing that anything else becomes background noise).
 Both bands together showing some bias towards a certain band they all liked.

Both bands had some material ready to go, but what to do with it?  I wanted to give both bands an introduction before setting forth with a full length, so the idea was hatched to do a split.  Both bands got along immediately, having played some shows together.  They would go on to tour together and play together frequently in one of the better bonding experiences of bands I had the good fortune of releasing material for.  Additionally, both bands were artistically-minded and they came up with a design scheme for the package that I added my two cents to- recently, Breather Resist and Suicide Note (bands that both Engineer and Achilles looked up to) released a split that was a CD for each band in one package and I thought that was such a cool idea because it gave each band their own side, so to speak.  I thought of doing a similar concept for this split, but with a different kind of package.  Bob from Engineer came up with this design idea, based off of a stencil of people in suits with different colored beams of light coming up from their necks instead of heads and Rob from Achilles created it.  Rob also created these stencils of band members faces and used them for the CD faces.  He did this one of Rory that he ended up making a few actual canvasses for.  I ended up buying one from him and I think it’s the first time I actually ever bought art to hang on my wall.  I still have the piece and it has remained on a wall in whatever living space I have occupied since.  We used these dual pocket CD wallets and everything was printed and reproduced at different places.  Once it was all printed up everything had to be put together, all 2000 copies.  So, once that was ready I got a few friends together and had a little work party at my apartment to put together both CDs in the separate pockets of the wallet, along with a small insert for each band.  We did this all assembly line style.  The final piece was getting them shrinkwrapped.
                           The infamous Rory painting/stencil

At the time I was employed at a sheltered workshop as a vocational counselor.  What does that all mean? So, for years, I have worked in one capacity or another in helping people with disabilities.  One common route for many people living with disabilities is to have supports with helping them find and maintain employment once they become adults.  Some people are just ready to go out there and get a job, whatever.  Others need to form some skills in an environment where they are with other people in the same situation before they are ready to go out and look for community-based employment.  So these places where people with disabilities work together have been called sheltered workshops (they’re starting to become less common these days).  They generally work on simple contract jobs on tasks a lot of places just don’t feel like doing themselves- washing parts, putting together small packages, small assembly line work.  And I was a counselor there overseeing people’s work and helping them learn skills so that eventually they could leave and find something in the community that paid better.  In this workshop we had a shrinkwrapping machine.  So I subcontracted my workshop for a job to shrinkwrap all these CDs once they were all put together so I could ship them out.  So this release was partially packaged by a bunch of people with disabilities in a sheltered workshop, which is sort of unique I suppose.


This is also around when my relationship with Lumberjack Distribution officially began.  They had been buying hundreds of copies of the Ed Gein stuff and Minor Times EPs from me and they had decided to take me on full time, which was a really interesting spot to be.  I had deadlines of production, shipping, making one sheets, and all that stuff that I wasn’t used to.  Honestly, it kept me a little more disciplined and taught me quite a bit about how the distribution business works.  They were also, at the time, kind of the high water mark for independent punk distributors and exclusively carried most all of the record labels I really liked.  I signed a contract and I was pretty excited to be a part of it.
         Achilles at Westcott Community Center

Some notes regarding the recording of this double EP- Achilles were, to my knowledge, the last band to record at the short-lived Hopewell Studios in Canandaigua (just outside of Rochester) where a bevy of groups were quick to record since their prices were cheap and the owners were punk dudes who also played in bands from the area.  My band at the time, The Funeral, also recorded our last album here several months prior to Achilles.  On Engineer’s side, they were one of the first bands to record at a brand new space that Syracuse recording guru Jason “Jocko” Randall had just gotten the lease to.  This is where Moresound Studio would end up being and where it remains today- an old two story brick building right next to the Highway 690 overpass.  I don’t think Jocko had even moved all his stuff in at this point, and he was going to gut most of the insides and remodel it to his studio specifications.  For their track “Decades”, as well as the intro and outro of their side off this split, they went up to the roof of the building, which was right next to the highway and recorded the sounds of cars passing by for background sounds in the song. 



This split also has my, by a longshot, favorite Engineer song “The Great Mistake”- one of the heaviest and meanest sounding songs to ever occupy space on a plastic disc.  



I think this is one of the more creative and interesting endeavors to come out on the label, as I am always down for an interesting art/packaging concept for a record.  It was a very collaborative effort between two incredible bands, a few friends, buddies who did recording, and one sheltered workshop.  And I think it laid the groundwork for two bands that would help define the direction of Hex Records and represent that sort of second wave of bands on the label.

And now, you can get that wonderful split and it's really cool package for only $4 through the webstore HERE for the whole week.  Or, you can get the digital tracks via the bandcamp page for a scant $3. This deal is good for the entire next week, so get to it!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

REVIEWS FOR SMARCH

Generally speaking, March is one of the ugliest months for me.  By this point I'm so sick of Winter and hoping for some shred of sunlight, or mild warmth, to come forth.  but it's a cruel month that makes you wait at least another 31 days until you hope again (and then it's April Fools Day and it snows again).  But I remember that now I live in a place where when March happens it's pretty much assured you can start expecting warmer temperatures and the rain begins to stave off for the most part.  That's right.  I'm going outside again suckers.  And I *might* wear a light jacket.  Oh, and it's a time when it seems like bands come out of the woodwork and begin releasing some really cool stuff.
So betwixt all my endless packing of records (P.S- in case you didn't know, I just released the Great Sabatini/Great Falls split and The Funeral discography, with the new USA Nails LP quickly on the way...  you really ought to get them all if you haven't yet) I actually came across a bunch of new music (and one book) and I'm going to share it all with you.  So read on and check out some new shit, in addition to, of course, all the stuff I just put out.



ALL YOU KNOW IS HELL, “Gape”
I believe this might be a one-person project, but it sounds as if there’s a dozen people all tuning super low and hitting the same note over  and over.  All You Know Is Hell brings a very Godflesh-inspired brand of sludgy industrial-type heaviness.  Right off the bat it lets you know exactly what’s to come.  However, the songs tend to err a little on the lengthy side and the pace remains consistent through the entirety of the album, which is pretty slow and primitive.  A little more variety in the tempo might keep things a bit more interesting, but if the objective is to crush you slowly and repeatedly then I guess mission accomplished. (All You Know Is Hell)


ANEURYSM, “Awareness”
Great, off-the-rails punk hardcore rock.  Some times this band tears ass like Turbonegro or Burning Love, peeling out and leaving tire treads all over your face with endless riffs and solos, and other times they’re a messy accident on the highway, just bashing away until blood and flaming auto parts mix incoherently like the most unhinged side of Nirvana.  I prefer the Nirvana bit a little more, but I’m perfectly happy with both sides of this band co-existing happily.  “St. E's” is lyrically the soundtrack to my experience with dealing with Northwesterners who make a habit of going slow all the time and are never in a hurry for anything, ever.  I feel you.  “Handbook For the Recently Deceased” is not only a great Beetlejuice reference (and long-lost Spark Lights the Friction track), but it’s probably the fastest and rowdiest song on the record and I love it.  It’s their “Tourettes”, if you will.  So yeah, great wild tunes and super weird and cool artwork make for an overall killer experience.  (Tor Johnson)


DESPERATE LIVING, “New Concrete” EP
Philly characters that go way back do some musical chairs and come up with another iteration of the crazy-heavy, noise-rocking, riff-shitting, ear-blasting rock that they crafted back in Inkling, then to the Minor Times, into Ladder Devils, and now as Desperate Living.  This time, Brian Medlin, accustomed to usually playing drums in most of the bands he has done takes the guitar and mic, and our man Tim Leo…. well, he still plays the guitar too.  Vocally, it’s a bit more strained and howling, and definitely less on the screaming, but the music falls in line with where Ladder Devils left off.  The band keep things a little more primitive for the most part by just plowing through fast and ripping songs (“Ape” being the quickest and dirtiest of the bunch), with the exception of one slow song, aptly titled “Slow One”.  Yet it’s singular, smashing riff might make it my favorite track on this 6-song EP.  So far I believe this is only available digitally, but it’s worth the price of your time to listen to it repeatedly until your neck snaps off.  (Brutal Panda)


EGG CREAM #1, by Liz Suburbia
Egg Cream is the new book from punk comics creator Liz Suburbia and continues the tale started in the gigantic “Sacred Heart” released a couple years back via Fantagraphics.  This smaller book picks up on the Czap and Silver Sprocket imprints and gives some background (mixed with a little ‘where are they now?’) to that story’s yarn about a town full of teens and how they get by minus the whole town’s parental units gone missing.  Egg Cream gets into why all the parents went missing in the first place, why there is no alternate supervision of the town’s youth, and several years after the events that closed out “Sacred Heart” took place what those now grown-up teens are up to…  a little bit anyway.  In addition to the bulk of the book being about that story, you get a fun mix of Suburbia’s more funny pages style of things that she excelled at while doing her Cynanide Milkshake zine several years ago.  So there’s a fun section about various dreams she had, and a few pages of various illustrations.  So it’s a good mix of all things fans have come to know about Liz Suburbia’s work and I, for one, am pleased with it.  And, of course, her fun and cartoon-y style of drawing is wonderfully on display as always.  I’m glad to see another project from her and I always look forward to what’s next.  (Czap/ Silver Sprocket)

LASSITERS, s/t EP
This English band starts out strong, coming at you with a sort of Scratch Acid appeal.  But by the end of this EP they’re getting loose and messy as if they took a cue from Drunks With Guns and just abandoned all sense of taste.  For real though, it kind of sounds like this band went into the studio with a six-pack each and went to town and a couple songs in they’re three sheets to the wind with the record button still on and de-constructed the remaining songs into messy free-for-alls.  I appreciate the de-evolution happening across these four tracks though.  It just gets uglier as it goes on.  Overall, Lassiters have a heavy, dirty punk/noise rock thing happening that is rowdy and ugly and there’s nothing wrong with that. (Lassiters)


MUTANT SCUM, s/t LP
Mutant Scum are quite an anomaly that I’m appreciating for definitely not taking the expected path that a band with a name like Mutant Scum, and who have total thrash-style artwork, an obsession with slime and sewers, and other thrash-revival tropes would take.  Sure, there’s some thrashy punk up in their musical mix.  But there’s a low end that sounds so similar to the very distinct KARP and Big Business heaviness that it really throws the entire record off-kilter from what you think is supposed to be happening.  Plus, a bunch of this record lurches a little slower and even throws in some occasional psychedelic weirdness to the stew.  I mean, in all honesty, if you’re going to focus on themes of slime and sewers and mutation having a slimy, oozing musical soundtrack would certainly be apropos.  It’s just that that Troma films- thrash metal connection has created an expectation I guess and Mutant Scum are taking that in their own unique direction.  So hat’s off to them.  In addition, this comes in a cool gatefold package and on bright green slimy vinyl to boot.  My understanding is that they also play live wearing wild mutant costumes, so there’s a bonus right there in case you hate recorded music.  (Handstand Records)


OUT OF BODY, “Son Sun” EP
This Austin, TX-based band perfectly nailed everything great about 90’s post-hardcore and brought it up for the here and now with their debut LP, “Voiceless”. It was that perfect mixture of Handsome, Shift, Quicksand, and Stillsuit that I love so dearly.  And then they sort of stopped for awhile.  A couple member switcheroos later and they are back with a quick EP just to let everyone know they’re still in the game.  The lead-off track, “Leaping Faith” brings and energetic and melodic feel and lifts a part directly from “My Mind’s Eye” by Handsome for the chorus.  It’s not like those guys were using that part, so someone else ought to use it.  It’s a really good part.  The next song, the title track, goes for a little more stop-start aggressiveness that could have emerged from a Helmet song, but adds those melodic vocals and positive vibes for a quick burst made for jumping/head bobbing.  They close things out with “Interstate 108”, which not only clocks in at (wait for it) 1:08, but I’m guessing is a little nod of gratitude to one of the best hardcore bands to ever exist even though the track itself is a experimental little almost acoustic outro.  It’s good to know Out Of Body is still doing their thing and looking towards the future by referencing some great stuff from the past.  (Out Of Body)


SILVER CHAINS, “All Hail!” demo
From the rotating cast of Western Canadians who brought you (still bring you?) Taxa, Damages, Mouse Ear, and Black Pills is yet another project of players doing some unhinged, relatively scary/crazy Birthday Party worship.  Silver Chains has a murderous streak in them that sounds cold and calculated, but at the same time random and violent.  They go from upbeat, somewhat early Jesus Lizard-inspired chaos to lurching and grating heaviness (like on closer “Participate”).  Out of all the bands these people do together the vocals here are the most vicious, like Nick Cave on a drunken bender and having snorted a canister of Dust Off, and it’s an exhilarating display that I fully back.  I’m guessing they won’t get out and about all that much, but it definitely is worth your time to listen to and get freaked to.  (Silver Chains)

Monday, March 4, 2019

HXR20YR RETROSPECTIVE: HXR009- CURSED, "Hell Comes Home" 7"


You would think that given their sort of cult status now Cursed was a successful band during their tenure.  Yes and no.  By the time they began the members had played in a number of influential bands and had a pretty good resume.  So when they did get rolling there was certainly some talk about them and they quickly released their first full length on Deathwish, which was already gaining momentum, but not nearly as established as they are now.  However, even though they were a touring machine Cursed often played to crowds where they could dedicate each song to a different person in the room and still have part of their set leftover to shout out to no one.  It really wasn’t until they were wrapping up that people really started to pay attention.  I had already known these guys for awhile and it wasn’t long before they came down my way and I booked a show for them in Syracuse.  On a couple of other occasions my band went up to Canada and played with them on their turf.  Each time was far less people than I expected, which was bizarre to me considering they were a pretty established group of people. It didn’t really matter either way though because they were always a treat to see.

I can’t count how many times I saw them play in some tiny hole-in-the-wall place (a gallery space in Ithaca, the basement of Sonic Unyon in Hamilton, ABC No Rio, the Hamilton Street Café in New Brunswick) and no matter the place they brought their wall of amps, cramming as many guitar cabs in as they possibly could and cranking things up to 11 so your teeth rattled while they played and your chest caved in from the total disregard for any one else’s hearing or well-being.  It was incredibly confrontational in the sonic sense, but also in frontman Chris Colohan’s forays into the crowd, getting all up in their confused faces.  Cursed just annihilated through and through.
So since we had a pretty good rapport going I talked Chris into doing a Cursed record through Hex.  The talks went back and forth for a quite a long time too, but mostly we talked about our shared love for the Rollins Band and our lot in life as short, scrawny frontmen with a very similar stage presence.  So the idea was that they would do a 7” record with a Rollins Band cover and an original song.  But being that Rollins Band songs are pretty tough to cover they decided to do a cover of a song that I guarantee had a huge impact upon the Rollins Band- “Search and Destroy” by the Stooges.  So it was more of a cover of a band that the band they wanted to cover would probably cover themselves.  In addition, there was a demo version of “Hell Comes Home”, which would become the lead single of their next full length (Cursed, “II”).  So this record acted as kind of a lead up to their second LP and I’m OK with it.  It was also the first time in awhile that I had done a 7” so I thought it would be fun to do several colors of vinyl for it.  Why not?  In all, 2000 copies of the 7” were made and they all flew off the shelves, so to speak.  I made an oath that it would be a one time pressing, never to be repressed, and I’m sticking to that.

A lot has changed since Cursed has split.  Most of the guys from that band have more or less stopped playing music, or do so in a non-touring sense.  Chris joined up with Burning Love for several years, another wild punk band that I thought was just excellent before that ended.  He currently fronts Sect, a decidedly vegan straightedge band featuring members spread out all over from bands like Earth Crisis, Fallout Boy, Day Of Suffering, Catharsis and Undying.  He also is the man behind Vegan Magic and Parmageddon, a couple food items that are amazing and versatile.  I’ve also interviewed Chris Colohan like seven times over the years so what’s one more time, right?  This time we’re talking about probably the same shit we were ten years ago, as well as that seven inch they did on the label all those years ago.


                               Chris, in mustache phase

At the time of this 7” you were between the first and second LPs.  What was going on with the band at that time?

Man, it’s a blur. We set it all in motion but it took us a year or so of lining up our lives (aka putting them in storage) to be able to go with it. So at that point, Radwan had moved back to Lebanon, I think Tom was with us on bass and it was 4 piece. I was back in Toronto from Montreal, and we were just going from one tour to the next.

Did Cursed end up having a lot of people ask you all to do records?  It seems like most of the attention to the band came after you all split up.

That’s pretty much right on. We were approached by labels from Relapse to Interscope (to a resounding "yeah right, whatever narc") and hardcore labels obviously, but we preferred not to look up like that, not to have anything dictating the thing we were making. And you’re right, in true form, most of it went over people’s flip phones (that they were texting their girlfriend on waiting for Evergreen Terrace to start) until the last year or two of the band, by which point we were in a total tailspin internally. 

I’m trying to recall exactly how doing the “Hell Comes Home” 7” came up between us.  When it did we had known each for awhile at that point and I thought the idea of doing a record for one of your bands would be fun.  But I think it revolved more around the idea of recording covers and how we had some shared interest in certain bands that would be fun to cover.  What’s your recollection of it?

I think I was like “Hey Hex, want to do a 7” and I’ll totally flake on getting you the artwork until 4 minutes before it goes to the printing press?” and you were like “dude, that sounds like it would be an enjoyable and non-stressful experience”, and then we went for rib-eye steaks, spat in our hands and shook on it. 

I know the initial idea for the 7” was to have a Rollins Band cover on it.  Was there any particular reason that ended up being a Stooges cover instead?  Did the rest of the band not share your (by ‘your’ I mean ‘our’) passion for the man/band?

Answer I: Come on. We’re both short, angry men. We know what kinda Danzig Syndrome this is really all about. 



Answer II: No, we all loved Rollins Band. Christian and I in particular, we saw them and COC in 92 here and it was a pivotal night of life. Rollins connected with a lot of young peoples’ aimless pent-up dad-hating anger, or, whatever we were all trying to prove connected with whatever he was trying to prove. That band though was worldly in its influences despite the cartoonish hyper-maleness of it, and led me to a lot of older bands like the Pink Fairies (Do It). That OG lineup was just ferocious and the production was great in a way that still holds up. If anything, I have to roll my eyes at Rollins’ part in it, but I feel like he’s smart enough to see that he laid that on a biiiiiit thick. I get it, Black Flag was a 5 year hazing ritual. But look at Kira. She’s not Joe Rogan about it.

 Cursed at ABC No Rio.  Dan Yemin from Paint It Black getting hearing damage in background

The main track off that record was “Hell Comes Home”, which dealt with the current, at the time, situation of getting into a war on false pretenses and how that will eventually come back to bite us in the ass, so to speak.  Was there any reason that was the song used, or was it the only thing demo’ed at the time for Cursed, “II”?

No, it was intentional to make that song a 7". That was just after Iraq part II kicked back up post-9.11. Things were getting hairy, aimlessly xenophobic and war-minded, and you could see them laying down the groundwork that led us up to the current state of authoritarian overreach and total dependence on misinformation. So I thought it was important to put that front and centre, if only to say “look at this objectively outside of the fear, keep looking when they want you to look in another direction and remember it the way it really went down”. Now as always the people that put that into motion are safely off the hook and we can look back at it truthfully, that there weren’t WMDs, that it was a wind-up, that it didn’t achieve any lasting stability, and have Trump saying flat out “yeah we shoulda took their oil”. Yet you couldn’t talk about that, or 9/11, in real time. And likewise right now you can’t make a truthful picture like that about post-Chavez Venezuela, so we’re going to watch them install a US employee as leader, secure the natural resources (which had been nationalized) for private corporations, the money from which will never make Americans any better off , but then we’ll be able to say it out loud in 10 years, when it’s done, and so on. That was the Hell Comes Home situation, but regarding the reality that if you export dominance and greed, of course it doesn’t end there, and you end up importing resentment and desperation in the form of terrorism and backlash proportionately to the injustices you put out there somewhere outside the bubble of the West, which everyday people on both sides will always pay the price for.


The band also began touring quite a bit more during this time period.  Would you say you were doing better with getting audiences by this point, or was it hit or miss?  Were there any bands that stand out that you toured with that you formed a kinship with?

Hit and miss for sure. There was never any correlation between how much we toured and the reality of the world asking for that. Most of our lifespan was playing at ourselves and handfuls of people that were into it, and we were fine with that. Touring with our friends and making trouble. Mi Amore from Quebec City were probably our closest kin on this side of the border. And I think the Louisville family of Coliseum/Breather Resist/Young Widows were our tightest friendships that came out of touring down there. But we had great times with a long list of great bands, American Nightmare, Daughters, Mare, KEN Mode, Converge, Darkest Hour, Bane, Verse, the Secret, Ringworm, Disfear, Rotten Sound, too many more to list.

I thought it was kind of a weird transition to do your first record with a very well-established label like Deathwish, to doing the next two through Goodfellow/Sonic Unyon.  Can you talk a bit about how and why that came about?

Hooking up with DWI was pretty random. Two of us were living in Montreal when Cursed started and 2 in Ontario. Our first weekend of shows were with Converge at Salle L’ex (a fantastic, long gone Montreal club). It was early on for both Deathwish and us, but we’d known all those guys through years of seeing and playing with Converge and their other bands. Jake just asked and I think we said “sure” that night. There’s miles of story between then and everything that went down in the next few years, but Goodfellow when it happened made sense too after us being awful if not self-defeating communicators and wanting to go back to our smaller home town circles, and run out of the building we practiced in the basement of. We’d had offers from bigger and different kinds of labels but we weren’t looking at anything like there was an up or down, just forward for however much longer we could get away with it. 

So the rest of the guys who were in Cursed over the years are pretty much not active with music anymore, or in a very limited capacity.  However, you still play in a pretty active band.  How is it the guy that doesn’t write music stays the most active?

Hey man, have you seriously never heard my mouth riffs? 

There’s another interview we did years ago when The Swarm was active where we were talking about if we could picture ourselves at 40 and you mentioned not wanting to still do band stuff when you were 40.  But here we are, each into our 40s and you’re still doing band stuff.  Does your past self hate you for your betrayal, or does your current self reflect to your past self and say, ‘listen man, I’m not dead yet so cut me a break’?

Don’t worry, my current self hates my current self and my future self hates my past self as much as my past self hated my then-future present self. I couldn’t picture life more than 6 months ahead at that point and even now I still can’t work that far ahead. I guess time and age just happen by default. I know that every time something would burn down and I was faced with stopping I had a guilty teenaged Black Flag fan on my shoulder making me just turn around and double back down on the next and the next thing from scratch, and here we are.  Sect is the most fun I’ve had in years and for me it brings  the whole thing full circle to play with people my own generation and starting point. So maybe bump that up to…70? And I’m basically dead inside, so you don’t have to cut me a break. Loop Hooooole. 
 excerpt from our first interview together back in 1999

What was your favorite thing about being in Cursed?  What was the thing you disliked the most?

Hrm. I mean, we went about it in a very self-punishing way and with a lot of internal bravado aimed at each other. It was more of a sick dare after a point than a band, and we all paid for how far we let that go in different ways. I think by virtue of sheer exasperation with ourselves and life it was very unfiltered and self-honest. So I’m proud of my part in that. We played shows like we were trying to kill each other, regardless of anyone else in the room. It was never an option or question not to give it our all, no matter how bad things got, and looking back I’m proud of that. I’m not as stoked on the damage we did to ourselves, or the fact that we all came from straightedge and we weren’t more honest with each other when it went in two extreme directions in real time. We let a lot of things between us fester and grow into something that consumed it all. And honestly, i don’t even know if I can say I dislike that, it’s kind of perfect for what we were to end in genuine disaster. But it left several people permanently damaged and myself, sober or not, pretty raggedy in the mental health department as well. If anything I’d change that but again, you buy the ticket, you take the ride. I like what we left behind. 

An Ithaca policeman after Chris showed him his dick.  Yes, really.

And there you have it.  You can catch Chris traveling all over the place with his current band Sect and you will never see Cursed play a show ever again.  Or will you ever see this 7" in print ever again.  And don't even try to get your hands on my copy of the test press, it's the only one I have left.  You can. however, get a digital version of this great record for just $1 this week on the bandcamp page instead.

Monday, February 25, 2019

HXR20YR RETROSPECTIVE: HXR008- ED GEIN, "It's a Shame..." CDEP



“It’s a Shame That a Family Can Be Torn Apart By Something As Simple As a Pack Of Wild Dogs”.  That’s the whole title.  It’s funny though, right?  But you will never see me actually use that whole title to describe this record, except for right now.  As it stands nothing has topped this record insofar as how many I have sold and it still gets more plays digitally than anything else I’ve released.  And I would say a lot of that is due to how hard Ed Gein worked as a band that toured relentlessly.  At their peak the guys were on the road for probably almost 9 months out of the year playing every corner of the United States that they possibly could.  I think in one year they toured the country 4 separate times.  They even had their van (and all their gear) stolen at one point and still finished a tour.  Luckily they got the majority of that back a few months later.
But I couldn’t believe the reception this got from people.  It was just crazy.  I had distro’s re-ordering hundreds of copies from me each month, which was really weird for me to think about.  On my side of things it is where Lumberjack Distribution officially picked me up as an exclusive label.  That meant a lot to me at the time.  They carried all the best punk and hardcore record labels and it opened plenty of doors.  It also meant that I had to learn a lot about deadlines, street dates, and all that other stuff that goes along with it.  Up until that point if I decided to put out a record I just put it out and let it go from there.  Now I had to plan my releases 3-4 months in advance and start coming up with ad copy and press releases way before I knew exactly how the record was going to look when it was done!  I was also still mostly just pressing CDs and this new Ed Gein would be in a somewhat different sort of package than I had done in the past.  I had just been doing jewel cases for the most part, but they wanted to do something a bit more artistic and who was I to argue?  I knew people were already excited about them and that whatever they did next would probably go over well, so we worked out some ideas and the band set off to do what they do, which was to write ridiculously fast and complicated songs with stupid long titles.  Our old friend, and Syracuse go-to guy, Jason “Jocko” Randall recorded things, which, in turn, helped gain him some attention within the metal world for his skill and engineering know-how.  “The Marlboro Man Is a Douchebag” will likely never be topped as a wacky song title with some of the most aggressive and pissed off music ever committed to tape, at least in the Hex Records catalog.  If things set off early on for these guys this was the one that fully unleashed Ed Gein upon the world.
There’s not really too much else to say about this one that hasn’t been said a million times already and you all know it.  So instead, this just gave me an excuse to catch up with my long time friend, bassist extraordinaire, screenprinting expert, and beard farming champ Aaron Jenkins.  We reflect upon the times when each of us still had hair on the top of our heads.

OK, so the 3-song EP was out, you all were touring, and you’re getting ready to write, record, and tour for “It’s a Shame…”.  What was going on with the band during this time period?

Oh man, you’re talking to the member of the band with the worst memory so I’ll have to stumble around to remember stuff.  So, we put out the three song thing around 2002.  I think we were practicing up in Oswego (NY) at the Wet Paint Factory at that point.  That was wild.  So when we were writing “It’s a Shame..” we were practicing about 7 nights a week, for 4 or 5 hours each night, if not more.  We would just go up there whenever Graham and Jesse got out of work and I got out of school.  I was going to community college…  I think maybe Jesse was too around then.  I took a year off between the end of high school and going to college, so it was around 2001 or something.  So we all would get out of work or school and then just go up to the practice space in Oswego and just be there all night until 3 or 4 in the morning.  We’d be there all night just writing music and goofing around.


Discuss your practice space, as it was kind of the stuff of legend.

Yeah, we had this huge room on the top floor of the Wet Paint Factory.  Were you ever there?

I know I passed by it, maybe I went in before.  It was called Wet Paint Factory?

Yeah, I don’t know why.  There was a store in the first floor or something.  Maybe it was the name of the paint store.  I never paid much attention to that part of the building.  But I believe Anthrax practiced there at one point.  It has some history to it for sure.  Anyway, we had the whole top floor of this place, like where the old ass elevator mechanics were, like an old lift elevator.  And it was this really old brick building, so the bricks were pretty much falling out of the building.  Snow would come in the holes in the bricks and pigeons would be flying around in there.  It was a mess.
So we made this place awesome because it was so big.  We put a couch in there and rugs, and everything was running on kerosene heaters because it would get really cold in there.  We had an N64 in there.  Me and Jesse would be like, ‘hey Graham- go write some riffs’, and we would just play video games while Graham would write some weird shit.  And we would do that for 6 hours.  Go grab a pizza and hang out.  We had a white board where we would have to write out sequences for songs and riffs.  It was all mathematical.  We would pick out a random sequence of numbers and then try to write songs to it, play it over and over, and over until we remembered it.  That’s how “It’s a Shame…” came about, just from all that.  For six nights a week.  At least.

Were you touring at that point?  Or just playing here and there?

We were playing around here and there.  I think we did a week with Found, Dead…Hanging out to the Midwest or something.  We didn’t go much farther than maybe Pennsylvania or Ohio.  We did a bunch of solo weekends on our own around the Northeast too.  I know we definitely did a couple things with Found, Dead… Hanging.  I know after “It’s a Shame” came out is when we did our actual first tour and that was with The Minor Times.

Can you talk a bit about where you all grew up, which was literally in the middle of nowhere.

The first point to make is that I’m not from there.  I’m from Syracuse and I moved up there with my mom after my parents got divorced.  I was dragged up there against my will and hated every minute of it.  There is literally nothing to do up there.  You’re so isolated from everything up there.   As a kid you couldn’t be in a worse spot.  You were stuck.  I did not belong in that area.  It sucked for me.  I hated it up there. 
But for whatever reason the Central Square school district spawned a lot of bands.  When I was in high school there were 30 or 40 kids who were straight edge, just in one high school!  And we were in the middle of nowhere.  Maybe it was because we were all bored.  So you’d hear that a couple kids were going down to Syracuse for a show, lets pack everyone into a car and go.  The people from up there seem to embody that whole DIY thing.  It’s even more ingrained in us because what else were we going to do? 

You literally have to do it yourself.

I mean, Jesse, Graham, and Adam (Williams, co-owner of Recess Coffee) are all from there and they have Recess going.  The Gorham brothers (Engineer, Blood Sun Circle) are from the North country too, but further west and they have their store going.  The owner of Strong Hearts Café in Syracuse is from there and he’s an old hardcore guy.  It kind of seems like North Country people all run stuff in Syracuse (laughs).
I spent part of my life living in the Westcott neighborhood in Syracuse when I was a kid before I moved up north, so my early childhood was running around Westcott and it’s where I’m most comfortable so that’s why I moved back here.

What was the reaction to the band early on and up to when “It’s a Shame…” came out?

It’s not what we expected at all.  We didn’t give a shit what people thought, at all.  I was in a really terrible band before Beyond Fall and I just needed something to do.  Graham and I have been playing music together since I was 13 or 14.  I started off playing drums and I was horrible at it.  At one point I heard my brother say ‘bass guitar is pretty cool’ so I decided to do that.  I started screwing around with it on my own and then I heard through the grapevine there was this kid named Graham who was a really amazing guitarist.  I had never met him before and I was at a friends birthday party and some kid said ‘hey, that’s Graham over there, you ought to go talk to him’.  He was this skinny little nerdy kid with long hair, hunched over in his own space, not really talking to anybody, all shy, and his arm was broken and in a cast.  And I said, ‘hey, I play bass, you play guitar, we should do a band!’ And he said back (imitating a shy, nerdy voice), ‘OK, sounds good man, I broke my arm though.’ (laughs)

And he’s still pretty much the same!

He’s still Graham, Goofy Graham, but me and him have been playing together for a long-ass time and we did Beyond Fall together and it was just bad metal.  So we wanted to do something that was faster and crazier, and we didn’t give a shit what people thought of it.  When we did Beyond Fall we kind of got tired of doing a thing that people sort of expected us to do, and do something weird, and we didn’t think people would like it at all.  We thought people would see us and just think, ‘what the hell is this crap?’  But, for whatever reason, people were immediately stoked on it.  It really surprised us.

                                       GrahamnationAD on the guitar

When you all were still doing Beyond Fall you played out of town a little bit, but once Ed Gein started you began touring quite a lot.  How did you all manage to make that jump and find contacts and out-of-town shows?

I did all of the booking pretty much.  I kind of got the reputation in the band as the band dad, and more of an asshole.  When we toured with All Else Failed they gave us all nicknames and they called me General Gein.  Like I was a commander.  Whatever, I was cool with it.  Someone had to do it, right?  Otherwise nothing would have gotten done, we wouldn’t have really done anything.  I’m totally cool with that role.  Yet out of the three of us in the band I have the least musical talent, but I have the most drive and ability to get shit done.
But as for touring we were doing this kind of before booking was all through the internet.  I think I got some of my initial contacts from doing shows with Found, Dead…Hanging, and Keith (vocalist) had all these contacts too.  I’m sure I asked you for contacts at one time or another.  Plus, when I was 13 or 14 I would be reading Maximum Rock n’ Roll and hearing stories about bands writing letters, like actual letters, to get shows booked.  Ya know, just going and doing the damn thing.  Since I’ve always known that that’s the way you do it- you just fucking do it.  You figure it out.  So I hit up some people up for contacts, I sent MySpace messages, or whatever we used at the time.  Maybe I was just using an AOL account or AIM at that point!


Were the other guys cool with just getting in the van and going for it as well?

Oh yeah.  Definitely.  Graham’s dad had this old beat-up Dodge van from the 70’s and it had a bed built in the back that they would take camping.  So we had a van we could use.  And we were all like, ‘we’re just going to do this.’  Looking back I don’t think we had a discussion about it, it was just me saying, ‘I’m going to book us some shows’ and that was it.


What was with the long song and album titles?

Ah….  We were pretentious douche bags?  We were kissing As the Sun Sets (pre-Daughters band) ass?  That’s it.  Ed Gein was basically an As the Sun Sets rip off band.  Bottom line.  But I suppose, at the time, we just didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing.  But we were just straight-up ripping other people off too kind of subconsciously.  The more you try to be different the more you’re going to be like everyone else who was trying to be different, ya know?  We just tried to put our own stamp on it.  Even our band name.  We didn’t want something like Poison the Well, or some generic metalcore band name.  Plus, I kind of suck at naming things.  So that’s where it came from- trying to do something different and that I suck at coming up with catchy names.

                                               It's a long title

At the time of recording “It’s a Shame..” were you set with recording with Jocko (Moresound Studios), or did you look around a little bit?

That’s a good question.  I honestly don’t remember.  We did the three song EP with some weird guy down in Liverpool (Syracuse suburb).  It was really random.  This guy had no idea of what we were trying to do.  I think he was listening to douche-y rock shit like Buckcherry when we got there.  The guy was a total weird too.  At one point he was setting up drum mics and he was all hunched over and had like plumber butt going, but he didn’t have plumber’s crack.  He was wearing this pink, frilly thong!  Ad we were kind of poking around at this studio, which had this apartment attached to it, and I went into this storage area and there was a tanning bed in there.  It was just weird and he was a weird guy.  Plus, when we recorded that I was probably around 18 so it was just a weird situation for kids that age to be in.  The guy was like, ‘I don’t know what this is, it’s just noise to me, I’m going to press record and you do your garbage, and then get out.’
So we didn’t want to do that again.  Maybe you might have told us about Jocko.  Everyone had sort of started going to him at that point.  It was still in his parents basement.  I hadn’t really met him at that point. 
It was really cool.  I think I met his mom once while we were there.  I mean, they let him take over that whole basement.  And to let loud stupid bands to come record all day, they must have been the coolest parents ever.  Extremely tolerant.

What were some of the friendships between bands, promoters, people in other towns, that you began forming during this time that continued to last?

The Minor Times guys for sure.  We did our first real tour with them.  In fact, I’m looking at pictures from that tour right now.  My memory really sucks, but I have very clear memories of that tour.  Those guys are just fucking awesome.
We also did a couple things with Anodyne (pre-Tombs)- Mike Hill and those dudes Joel and Josh.  The earlier days of us touring are the memories that I hold on to more.
Some of those people and bands from then I almost consider family.  I don’t see them much or talk to them much.  It’s a weird connection.
The dudes from Anodyne, Minor Times, the guys from Breather Resist- we did a bunch of stuff with them.  We toured with All Else Failed.
We did this ridiculous tour, it was probably almost two months long.  We went around the country, starting in Syracuse, down South and then out West with Breather Resist.  Then we got to Northern California, or something, and met up with All Else Failed and then went back through the country for almost another month.
Those guys are all great.  The All Else Failed guys are all hilarious.  They were a band we all loved for years before we ever started Ed Gein, they were one of our favorite bands.  So when we were touring with them years later we were like, ‘man, these guys are old and they’re still doing this!  That’s awesome’.  At the time they were not old at all, it was just a weird perspective to me since I was a bit younger.  I had no perspective on time, or a band’s life expectancy then.

                     Aaron, pre-beard takeover, pre-chrome dome

What were some of the things that happened that made you think- ‘we could do this all the time’, such as bigger shows, or tours, or attention from larger bands and so forth?

I don’t know.  That kind of stuff didn’t stick with me.  We were young and stupid and we weren’t really thinking about that sort of stuff.  It wasn’t a thought with us.  That sort of stuff kind of came later on when we were touring on “Judas Goats…” when we had to start thinking about paying rent while we were on the road, like adult stuff.
During the “It’s a Shame..” years we were just flying by the seat of our pants and still living at home with our parents.  As long as we were making enough money to put gas in van we would just keep going.
It’s strange because I thought of some of the stuff we were playing then was sort of a flash-in-the-pan genre.  And a lot of the bands that spawned out of that style I don’t like at all.  So I’m surprised when people are still into it.  I’m not really sure why we even played that style.  It’s just sort of what came out of us.  We didn’t sit down and discuss what kind of songs we were going to write.  The only discussion we had is that we didn’t want to be Beyond Fall part 2.  We just wanted to write weirder and faster songs.  We were listening to a lot of As the Sun Sets, but we didn’t say ‘we want to be like them!’  Personally, I was probably listening to more stuff like Turmoil and All Else Failed.

There was a vinyl version that eventually was made of “It’s a Shame…”.  Can you talk about that a little bit?

That was the three song demo, plus “It’s a Shame…” record on record.  Our friend Tim from Shock Value Records did that.  He was in a couple bands we would play with every now and then.  He was out of Long Island.  I think he asked us if he could put it out because he was into records.  It came out a year or two after the CD version I believe.  It was on bubblegum pink vinyl.

              The limited vinyl version of the EP


Did you do the screenprinting of the covers of that?

No, that was done by someone else.  I was interested in it at that point, but I didn’t know how to do it.  I hadn’t figured it out yet.  But I was interested enough in it that I knew I wanted to have screenprinted covers for it.  So I asked if the covers could be screenprinted and they agreed to it.

What was your favorite part of being in Ed Gein? What was your least favorite part?

My favorite thing was probably travelling and hanging out with the guys.  In fact, my favorite thing and least favorite thing are probably the same thing honestly!  Ya know, travelling around is great.  I’ve been to every state except Alaska, Hawaii, and North Dakota.  So that’s cool, even if a lot of it is just Interstate highways and rest stops.  Even then, just hanging out, making stupid jokes, and sleeping in the van almost every night was great.  I’d rather sleep in the van than at some random person’s house.  I have great memories of doing that.
The worst thing is spending that much time with people, and that much time away from home is tough.  The relationship between me, Jesse, and Graham is weird.  We’re all friends.  It’s more like brothers.  But not in that family sort of way, more in that awkward, resentful, but I still-love-you sort of way.  We’re brothers in that way.  They love me and hate me at the same time and I love them and hate them at the same time.  It’s awkward and weird, but I love them.
I want to add another thing to the ‘best’ part.  I have an associates degree from college.  But I learned more about just dealing with people, organizing things, and the world in general by touring and doing this band than I would have ever learned in college. It’s like a master’s degree in just doing shit.  I’ve been to 47 out of 50 states just from touring. You really just have to go out there and do it.  Just go for it.  And it all kind of ties back to living in the middle of nowhere and having to be DIY about things.  But after having been in that band I really realized that I can do whatever I want.  I can do anything because of that attitude I learned from touring with this band.

So now that you've gone through that feel free to head over to the Hex webstore and pick up a copy of "It's a Shame..." for only $4 this week HERE.
Or, if you're a digital-only sort of person go over to our bandcamp and score the digital version for only $3 this week.