Monday, August 19, 2019

HXR20YR RETROSPECTIVE: HXR030- DIALYSIS, "Ludicrous Speed" 7"

“Tell a joke!”
“Don’t worry, we’re about to play 11 of them.”
The infamous first utterances between the audience and band right before the very first Dialysis show in 2012.
I’ll never forget that.  And, right off the bat, can I state how awkward it is to write about my own band?  I know, I’ve done this more than once since starting this project, but I am committed to doing something about every record released through this label.  And just to warn you, there’s a few more Dialysis records to go.  So let’s get weird, shall we?
Dialysis was born out of boredom and down time for the long-running Syracuse black metal group Ebony Sorrow.  The duo of John Bukowski and Matt Calabrese has been the core of the group for most of their existence, going back to the early 2000s.  So at a point when that band was not doing much the two began fucking around with writing extremely short, spur-of-the-moment punk/grind songs.  On a larf, I can only assume, John messaged me to see if I would be interested in putting vocals to these short bursts of ridiculousness.  I should, at this point, point out that John has been a close friend for probably around 20 years.  His family lived right near my mom’s house and this awkward, geeky metal teenager would regularly walk over to her house to see if I was home and drop off bootlegged cassettes he would make by bringing a tape recorder to shows and recording bands live sets.  I didn’t ask for the cassettes.  He was just nice enough to think of me.  What a guy.  We’ve been friends ever since.
On the other hand, I barely knew Matt Calabrese.  I knew who he was, and that he played drums, and played exceptionally well.  But we didn’t really know each other.  Well, that guy is kind of out of his mind as well I soon learned and it’s made the experience of being in a band together pretty damn entertaining.
But back to being asked to be in a band with John.  We had previously had a ‘project’ together back in the late 90’s not too long after becoming friends called Human Shield and it was terrible.  It was intentionally a joke band.  None of us could play worth a shit and the whole idea was to ruin other’s peoples good times with random acts of destruction.  We would show up to something, sort of play, and break a lot of stuff, or pull awful pranks.  If I was maybe 15 it would have been excusable, but I was older than that and probably should have known better.  But there were some pretty clever pranks shoehorned into all the immaturity and recklessness.
So John plays me these rough room-recording Dialysis songs and I’m already hesitant about doing a Human Shield Part Two.  I hear what they got, let them know that these songs need a little extra to them, like at least 10 seconds of material to go with the 15 they already have, and see if they actually want to follow through with it.  And lo and behold, they actually did put some work into them!  So at this point I felt obligated to at least give it a shot.  Plus, I had no band at the time so why not, right?  We met up a few times, worked out a few of these songs, and then somehow started writing more of them.  And then we got to talking about other bands we all really liked and wrote some more stuff and before we knew it we had a demo.  I was kind of surprised actually.
inside art from the Dialysis demo

The notion of just having a guitarist and drummer to go with vocals made writing very effortless.  It was incredibly economical and there wasn’t too much in the way of decision-making.  I enjoyed the simplicity of just playing really fast, really short songs with a drummer who could run circles around anyone else any day of the week.  So we eventually put things to the test and played a show.  And a first show led to several more, and then some out-of-town gigs (which, if you can tour in a minivan with just a guitar cab, head, and drums I highly suggest it.  It’s soooo easy), and before you know it, it got kind of real.
I think of Dialysis as just being fun.  It’s a way for the three of us to dig into our love of music across a very wide spectrum and fuck around with those influences in the form of short, fast songs.  Plus, we all have a warped sense of humor and I personally feel like punk music should be fun while being energetic and ripping at the same time.  It’s totally possible to convey serious topics while still being humorous and that’s what Dialysis aims to do.
And I have always been one, at least with my bands, to not wait around for someone else to offer us a record when I know full well how to do it on my own.  So once I felt that Dialysis was serious enough (in terms of writing, recording, and playing out) to be a continuing project, while still being a lot of fun, I put out our first seven inch.  The title was obvious since we are all big Spaceballs fans- “Ludicrous Speed”.  And so with that I may as well get Evil John on the line and get his impressions of this ridiculous and fun record.


So it is weird to interview my own band.  However, you and Matt have a sort of different perspective because you started the band before I joined.

Yeah, I guess that’s sort of true.  We wrote four or five of those demo songs before we thought about giving them to you.  We were going to see what you thought of them.  And I didn’t want to sing because I was already doing that in Ebony Sorrow and we didn’t know who else to get, ya know?  You had recorded that one Ebony Sorrow song with us and that went really well.

Is that why you had asked me?

Yeah, and we loved the way it came out.  It also got to be that Ebony Sorrow was writing a bunch of songs that sounded like that one you were on that we had to stop because it wasn’t really what Ebony Sorrow was about.  Like the song “Hot For Preacher” on the Dialysis demo was an Ebony Sorrow song at first, and we even had it in our set for a bit.  So when more of the songs started sounding like that I thought, ‘wait a minute, we have to break this off and do something different because this doesn’t really sound like a black metal band anymore.’  So after you recorded that one song with us I thought you might be a good person to ask about doing this new thing, which was stuff that was kind of too punk for Ebony Sorrow, and that became Dialysis.




I thought you all just had down time, like the rest of the band wasn’t doing anything so you and Matt started writing Dialysis songs.

That’s how a lot of that stuff came about.  There would be a lot of days where Jay Bailey (other Ebony Sorrow guitarist at the time) wasn’t available.  So we would just start ripping out some of these tunes and once it became apparent that it would be just me and Matt that’s when we wrote “Sedative” (on the Dialysis demo and 7”) and “Opposable Thumbs” (Dialysis demo) and that’s where those ones started off.
If I remember correctly we sent you a few shitty recordings to see how you would take to them/

You sent me like six songs!  And they were all like 10 seconds and I was like, ‘these aren’t songs, write some more shit.’  I remember I was rather blunt about it because I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to be in a band.

I remember that!  I remember you were iffy about it.  But here we are, years later.

Seriously.  Why does this continue?

We just don’t know any better.  At our age what else are we going to do?  Let’s get in van, buy a few records, and play for like two kids.

That’s true.  I see that a lot of people we’re friends with in our age group still doing bands, but they’re more serious about the music, and less serious about playing out because they have adult lives.  We’re like the opposite.

(laughs)  At the end of the day if it’s not fun, why bother?  I mean, we’re really just playing for ourselves and maybe 20 of our friends.  And if we’re lucky enough sometimes we play out of town and it’s good.  It’s really just an inside joke for all of us and that’s what makes it so great.

Yeah, honestly.  So was that your intent?  Start a fun punk band and make jokes?

Not really.  That wasn’t the intention at all.  We wanted to have punk parts, but I wanted it to be grind-y like Nasum and Terrorizer, and I wanted it to have Aus Rotten parts as well because that’s the shit I was really listening to at the time.  I just ended up writing all this stuff and here it is.  It ended up not being like anything I had envisioned, it’s better to me.
Originally, when we started jamming this stuff we were going to have Gabe Hamm play guitar too (local Syracuse guitarist from a million bands, currently of Kalki), and I wanted to write riffs with him and have two guitar players.  It didn’t end up working out.

I did not know Gabe was going to be part of the band!

Before I even sent you anything I was writing parts and I thought, ‘Gabe knows punk, let’s jam with Gabe!’  We just couldn’t coordinate schedules.  We  wrote some riffs together once.  He was going to play guitar and we were going to figure out a bass player later.

We’re still figuring that out.

(laughs) Right!  We haven’t settled on any one yet.  We’re waiting for the right prospect to come along (laughs)

(laughs) ‘We’re waiting for the right person, but rest assured, we will be holding auditions.’

Did you ever expect we would record anything?  Did you even plan to play shows?
 the shirt says all that ever really needs to be said about this band

I thought that we would get a demo done and maybe play five or six shows and it would probably fizzle out.  That was my expectation.  I honestly didn’t really have expectations.  I just thought it would be something fun and that would be it.  A little footnote.

So you came up with the name.  And there has been a lot of internet confusion as well from people who are offended that we’re named after a medical procedure, to people who think we’re some sort of internet page for medical things.

And really, who likes dialysis?  You know?  That’s like saying, ‘I like getting a blood transfusion!  Where can I click on a ‘like’ page for that?’

Also, who likes Dialysis?

(laughs)  There’s at least one person who likes Dialysis, the band.
But as for the name, it was symbolic.  I was going through some bad shit and I wanted to use this fun music to filter out the bad shit.  That’s it.  So it became a personal, spiritual ‘dialysis’, for lack of a better description.

Our name doesn’t really imply what we do.

No, it really doesn’t.  But then, what name would?  It’s gone on this long, so why change it?

How did you meet Matt?

I met him through Ron (Ebony Sorrow bassist).  He was 14 years old and he came to try out for us.  And Ron was telling me, ‘I know he’s really young, but he’s really fast!’  So Matt snuck out of his parent’s house at 9:30 at night, snuck out his basement window and Ron picked him up, and I had just gotten out of work at like 10 or 11 at night and I see this young-ass kid behind the kit.  I looked at him and just said, ‘play me a blast beat’ and the kid fuckin’ ripped.  And other than Mike Dunham from Demonic Prophecy (Syracuse death metal band) he was the fastest drummer I’d ever seen.  We found a way to work around things and he’s been with us ever since.

So that’s been like 16 years now?  You guys have been writing partners forever.

It’s been about 17 or 18 years.  Yeah, it’s nuts.  It’s fucking weird.  Matt’s always down, as long as it’s not conflicting with other things he has to do, like school, or teaching.
 the variant full color cover (of 50), art by Shaky Kane


What’s your favorite thing about that 7”?

Probably being excited about it being the first thing I ever had released on vinyl.  Writing it, knowing that it was going to be on vinyl was exciting.  Getting Shaky Kane to do the artwork was cool.  I wasn’t familiar with his work until you had mentioned that you got him to do it.  It was cool to see how that came out.  The Human Shield cover lives on (“Tough Guys Always Lose”), which was nice.  I remember the writing of the record being a lot of fun. I don’t remember anything about recording it.  We wrote a song in the studio and we sprung it on you last minute, but I can’t remember which one it was.

I think it was “Population Smoker”

OK.  That would make sense.  I remember Matt wrote the riff to it and said, ‘I want to do this’, so we recorded it real quick and it worked, so we kept it.

That makes sense because it’s a very punk rock, three-chord sort of riff and that’s how Matt writes when he ends up writing riffs.  But I also remember nothing about recording it.

It’s the weirdest thing, isn’t it?  It was fun writing it though.

What’s the worst part of the band?

The worst thing about this band is, right now, is it’s tough to keep motivated when you’re on the other side of the country.  That’s really the only bad thing about it.  And there was that really bad weekend we did where like one person came to both shows total.  Those shows in Long Island and New Jersey?

Oh yeah, that was dismal.  Not only were they the most poorly attended shows, but they were in pretty shitty places as well.  There was nothing redeeming about the venues or the towns.

We had to load in through a street fair!
set list as created by an irate audience member somewhere in Rochester maybe?


The only redeeming thing was the guys in Trunk, who we did the shows with, were really fun.  They were wild dudes.

I’d go out with those guys again in a heartbeat.

But everything else stunk.  Literally.  The towns we played in smelled bad too.

I don’t think we even went to any record stores or scored any records on that weekend either!  We didn’t find any good record stores!  And I was thinking, ‘if we’re out on the road and we can’t find any record stores why are we even doing this?’

And now is the part where I hawk wares to you.  Sooo, feel free to grab a copy of "Ludicrous Speed" and with every purchase you will also get a copy of...  "Ludicrous Speed, the fuck up" 7"!  That's right.  If you read the Taxa 7" article (you didn't) you'll remember that when I went to repress that bands two song 7" the pressing plant grabbed the wrong plates and ended up pressing "Ludicrous Speed" onto records containing the labels for a different record.  Not sure how you mix up a 2-song 7" and a 10 song 7", but hey, either way, I got a bunch and I don't want them.  See picture below for details.  So you can get either the 7" for $4 or the digital for the same price (c'mon, 10 songs on a record, that's a deal).


Monday, August 12, 2019

HXR20YR RETROSPECTIVE: HXR029- BLOOD SUN CIRCLE, "Bloodiest/Sunniest" LP


When the sonically-crushing beast known as Engineer began winding down after their third LP, “Crooked Voices”- a decidedly less hammering outing filled with different ideas and some new tricks- it appeared as if the three brothers within the band- Ryan, Brad, and Bob Gorham- were intent on running their business.  Gorham Brothers Music began serving the needs of locals in a way that put the instruments of music in their hands instead of playing it for them.  To be plain, they run a shop that sells music gear.  It’s a great store and even has a performance spot where they would occasionally host shows.  However, little did most people know that after closing hours the guys would continue to mess around with song ideas and slowly began rehearsing with drummer Aaron O’Hara, a friend from near their hometown of Parrish.
Slowly those ideas began to coalesce into something more concrete and they emerged from the shadows with a demo under the name Blood Sun Circle.  It was still ungodly loud, and the amplifier worship was in full effect.  However, instead of barbaric, full throttle drumming simpler, repetitive patterns were introduced, as well as longer passages of meditation, followed by huge swells of the sort of heaviness long time fans could identify with.  Most noticeably different in this group was vocalist Bob Gorham not only picking up a guitar (making them a two-guitar unit), but also using his voice in a far different way than the gut-rupturing scream evident throughout Engineer’s catalog.  The vocals in Blood Sun Circle ranged from a cooed whisper to a wavering, lunatic howl and rarely ventured into the more hardcore bark fans were accustomed to.  It was exceptionally heavy in a significantly different way.

I was well aware of the band’s status as a limited venture.  They weren’t even sure if they would continue under this moniker at first.  But they continued to write songs, played some shows, and honed their craft in this new outing with familiar musical partners and I thought it was quite wonderful.  Blood Sun Circle is pretty much a Syracuse-only group as the members have a business to run, families to attend to, and other adult obligations like skateboarding in their free time to focus intently on the band.  So don’t expect a reply if you ask them to play your basement in Gary, Indiana.  It probably won’t happen.  However, if you are lucky enough to see the group play you would be convinced that they spend every waking moment perfecting the band because everything always comes across with such clarity and intensity.  But I guess that might be sort of expected when three of the four members have been playing music together for most of their lives.
Either way, releasing “Bloodiest/Sunniest” was a labor of love.  I knew Blood Sun Circle would not tour on this LP.  I just wanted it out there.  And after some goading and time they got down to business and recorded the damn thing.  And just like each step in the member’s collective experience within music they aimed to get better at figuring out each aspect of it on their own- from their vast knowledge of gear, to building their own guitar cabinets, to learning how to record their own music, creating the artwork for their releases, and eventually figuring out how to put out their own record.  “Bloodiest/Sunniest” was the first official outing for the band.  Since then they have self-released their second LP, “Distorted Forms” (which is somehow even better) on their own label Drops Of Us.  But for the purposes of this interview we’re going to talk about that first LP and my re-connection to working with the Gorham Brothers on releasing music.  I caught up with Bob Gorham on how it all came together.


So talk a bit about the transition from Engineer into Blood Sun Circle.  There was a lull for a couple years before BSC took off, at least publicly.

Yeah.  So Ryan (Gorham) had that house that was right near our store, literally a stone’s throw, and we had all our shit in his basement.  His basement used to be his wood shop.  So it was big and we had all our gear down there.  So we were just writing, and practicing, all the time.  We were fucking around and writing songs pretty much that whole time.  And that’s when the store pretty much just started.  That was around 2011-2012.  And all that time we were playing in that basement space with our gear down there in storage for the most part.  And we kind of just started messing around with Aaron (O’Hara) on drums because he had just moved to Syracuse.  I don’t know if you know, but Aaron O’Hara, who is our drummer, has been my best friend since I was about seven years old.  We went to school together, and I was the best man at his wedding, and we grew up together.  We’ve known each other since we were little kids.  I used to drive way the fuck out to Altmar to hang out with him in his house.  He ended up moving to Syracuse right when we opened the store and that’s kind of how Blood Sun Circe started spinning.  We would just start jamming and hanging out because he was around.


I knew he was a guy from back where you were from, but I don’t think I’d ever heard of Altmar.  Is that even smaller than Parrish?

Yeah!  It’s on the outskirts.  It’s A-P-W:  Altmar, Parrish, Williamstown.  It’s like three small-ass rural towns all combined into one school system.  He lived out there.
So anyways, we just jammed in that basement the whole time.  That’s when we ended up recording that little EP, and we recorded it at the store.  Brad (Gorham) recorded that at the store right after we opened.  We were just kind of fucking around.  By that point we had thrown out tons of shit that we just wrote for a year or two.  I think it was two years before we recorded that EP, where things were kind of cohesive.  But we wrote a shitload of stuff and threw it all out because it was kind of just finding our sound.  We were kind of just figuring out what to do.  I was messing around with my voice a lot because I wasn’t screaming.  I thought, ‘what do I do if I’m not screaming my ass off the whole time.’  I experimented a lot.
So we recorded that EP and that’s when shit kind of came together.  We found one or two songs out of five where we really liked the vibe.  We wrote a song off of that EP that wasn’t on there, but it was around the time we recorded it, where we felt like, ‘this is Blood Sun Circle.  This is what we’re going to be.  This is the right vibe.’
It actually was a song that ended up on the record.  It took us a really long time to figure out what to do.  It’s the song “The Grips” on the “Bloodiest/Sunniest” record.
As soon as we wrote that song we literally just wrote the rest of the full length.  It came together wicked fast.
And that’s also why I was sort of nervous about doing this interview because I can barely remember anything else about the writing process for the LP because it went fast.

I sort of thought the LP would have taken you all awhile to write.  I don’t think of you all as people who write music quickly.  You all see to take your time a lot, and revise, and consider every part.

We definitely do, but that record happened extremely effortlessly for us.  It was one of the more fluid and cohesive things that  we have done collectively…  like, ya know, the brothers and I.
Once we found the right vibe for that record it just happened.  We did take some time, but we didn’t struggle to write it.  We wrote those songs really quickly and had already booked time to record with Jocko (Moresound Studios).  I took some time to do vocals and find how I wanted to present things I guess.  It took me awhile to practice vocals and hear myself.  That was probably also right around the time I finally had a really nice PA to use.  That was a first for us.  That was extremely instrumental to actually hear myself and still play loud.
In Engineer we always had the worst PAs ever.  It helped me scream harder because we would always have the shittiest, smallest speakers and it was always terrible.

Yeah!  That was a big difference because a lot of people didn’t know at first that it was you doing vocals because they had always been used to you just screaming 100% of the time.  There’s a lot of different range on that record with your voice.  I think, also a lot of people didn’t know you played guitar, which you also play in the band.

That all being said, did you take on more of writing role with Blood Sun Circle than you did in Engineer?  Or has it always been shared equally across the bands?

Well, the way those two bands existed couldn’t be more different.  Engineer was all of us sitting in a room working on a math problem.  That’s the closest thing you could equate it to.
We always practiced wicked late at night because Brad and Auclair drove from Fulton (about 30 miles north of Syracuse) and they had to work late.  So we would practice from like 10 at night until 2 or 3 in the morning.  And we used to practice Engineer about 6 nights a week.  It was ridiculous.  Trying to write records like that?  It was insane.  But it was a lot of working on weird timings…  like working on a math problem.  Every ones’ head was in it so we were working on weird counts, or where to put a pause, or a cymbal catch, or some shit like that.  It was very detail-oriented I guess.  We were grinding out creative, weird rhythms, and trying the mechanics of the song happen.  I was always there, but I never really did vocals at Engineer practice.  I’d just work on the timings with everyone and we would do it together.
In Blood Sun we purposefully got away from that and tried to do something at the  other end of the spectrum.  In Blood Sun we started for fun, and it wasn’t meant to be a serious project at first.  So everybody just did their own thing and we barely discussed anything.  We didn’t really talk to each other about parts, or whose playing what.  It was more about finding a beat that we liked with Aaron and everybody just played what they played, and I don’t even know what Ryan plays, he doesn’t know what I played.  We didn’t argue.  If it sounded cool we kept it, and if it didn’t we just threw it away and that was it.  We kept the whole record like that.

And how did you find your voice in doing that?

I just experimented because I’ve done a lot of singing with other projects, like quiet singing, but it changes a lot when a band is loud and you have to project your voice without screaming.  So I had to find that balance.  I still have to project and be loud, but I don’t want to scream anymore.  I did that for so long that I wanted to try some other shit.  So the challenge for me was that we still played really fucking loud so I would have to take parts of the songs and see what I could do that others were going to hear, that I’m still going to be happy with, that isn’t screaming.  I enjoyed it.  It was like working on a puzzle.  That’s where we would work a lot of dynamics out.  Like, if the music got really quiet I could get weird and be quiet and you’ll hear it.  But when everything is full bore I’m going to have to step it up and do something else, so maybe get creative with using some effects.  Finding the range in my voice at that volume was the real challenge.
A lot of bands kind of treat vocals like an afterthought.  It’s a fucking instrument!  Put the time and effort into them the same way you would playing guitar, or anything else.  Make it creative.

Aaron is a significantly different style of drummer than Mike Auclair.  What’s the experience been writing music around a drummer with a style that’s a lot different than what you had done with Engineer?

It was just another thing to make the band different.  It was something that everybody welcomed because Engineer was a band for a long time.  We wrote a lot of music.  We pushed ourselves to do different shit.  But within that genre there’s a ceiling to all that before you go, ‘OK, that doesn’t sound like Engineer anymore. It’s just a different band.’  And with Aaron being a different drummer it was helpful to get your head out of that box, and those comfort zones.  It’s so easy to play stuff that sounds kind of like Engineer, because we had been doing it for so long, like a riff, or a part.  But with Aaron drumming it was kind of impossible to write those kinds of parts.
He’s so far from Mike that it would never happen, not in a million years.  And his musical tastes are really different and broad.  He listens to a lot if underground, indie, shoegaze types of bands.  He was a wide palette.  He draws from a lot of different places than Auclair does.
But Auclair is like a machine.  You can tell him to play anything and  he can do it on his first try.  It’s ridiculous.  He hits super fucking hard and he plays extremely mechanically.  And Aaron likes to sit in the pocket and make some shit that you want to bang your head to, but like, slower stuff.  He’s good at finding the groove in a rhythm.  He makes it sit really nice in a half-time, or a 6/8 time.
It was helpful to get us out of the box.

So, somewhat unrelated, but between when the band started, and the store opened, you also took kind of a different turn in terms of your career.  You were fighting semi-professionally?  And then doing video and design work before coming into the store.

Yeah.  I worked for the MMA school and I was a part of their team.  So I had been with them for a really long time and I was fighting totally professionally.  And then I did that for basically as long as I could.  And then I ended up working with those schools- they had me doing all their design work because they knew I could do design and video editing.  I slid right into that and did that for awhile.
I was basically just trying to fight, but I got injured twice that set me back financially a considerable amount of money because I didn’t have insurance at the time.  I  broke my hand and my eye socket in the same year.  Both time were while I was training for actual fights.  So that was super inconvenient and set me back about $12,000, or whatever it cost to fix both of those things.  So that sucked.  It’s a tough lifestyle.  It’s a roll of the dice.

It’s not really much of a life time career either.

It’s a very short-lived career for most people.  I’m very glad that it worked out the way that it did.  I knew I was going to transition into helping with the store as soon as it opened.  I just took about a year to make that transition.  I didn’t want to just leave them hanging, so I took about a year and transitioned myself out.  And I went into the store full time with Brad and Ryan after that.

The place that keeps them employed and puts guitars in people's hands- Borham Brothers Music

Sure.  And now Brad is out of the store to do other stuff?

Yeah.  He’s been out for almost two years so he could become a teacher.

He’s got kids to feed.

Yeah, he’s got two kids to feed so he opted out to become a teacher.  It’s what he wanted to do.  He had been very close to getting his degrees when the store opened.  But all of our lifestyles sort of put a cork in that for a long time.

But that’s why Blood Sun Circle has never been a touring sort of band.  Everyone has obligations.

We have done some weekends out of state a few times, but it’s really hard because this is actually the first year that we have ever had an employee.  So, up until then it was just us.  For the first 6 years it was just us.  We’re in our 8th year now.  For the first 6 years we worked 7 days a week.  We were open every day.
So if we played a show out of state we would have to drive back so we could open the store at 10AM.  And we did it a bunch of times and it was awful.  It was so, so awful.
I remember one time we did Connecticut and then Rochester in a weekend.  We did the show in Connecticut, drove back overnight, opened the store at 10AM, with no sleep, and then closed the shop and drove up to Rochester for a second show.  It was the worst.  It was a terrible idea.
But for Blood Sun Circle that is kind of what we decided to do.  We didn’t really want to travel that much.  We would pop up to Rochester once in awhile, or anywhere close enough where it wouldn’t be painful to have to drive back.  But if was like a 5 to 7 hour drive, we would like ‘nah.’  It’s just too hard with running a business on top of it.  It just didn’t make sense.

At this point, though, even if there weren’t kids, or a business to run, would you want to be in a band that toured a lot anymore?

I guess my personal perspective is that I would.  I don’t have any kids and I’ve set myself up purposefully in this situation that I have going on.  I do music every single day.  I leave here and play music.  If I wasn’t talking to you on the phone I would be home working on a mix, or working on music for something.  It’s literally all I do.  I do artwork still a little bit too.
But, yeah, why the fuck not?  I’m in this spot where I feel very fortunate to have the freedom that I have, even though the store is a business and takes up a lot of my time.  I would still tour and play shows.  It doesn’t really bother me if the shows are shitty.  I’m jaded and old and don’t give a fuck, but I love playing music.  I would probably tour, but I’d do it a bit more comfortably now, I think.  Because I’m an adult.  I’d sleep in a hotel and buy myself dinner, and have a great time, ya know?
The last bunch of time Blood Sun played out of town it was awesome.  The experience was amazing because we would just go out to dinner and party and play a show.  It was like going on a one, or two-day vacation.  We treated it like a vacation from our normal lives, so it was super fun.  It wasn’t grinding it out.
I don’t know if I’d want to do that, and sleep on floors, and play for a month straight.  I wouldn’t do that.  My taste in music has never been something that generates money, and I don’t think it ever will. 

The artwork for the LP is based on a painting you did, but then there was also the alternate cover, which was screenprinted and created as a limited add-on to the rest of the record.  Did you have trouble choosing one over the other, or was it just a fun project to do?

It was definitely, ‘let’s do something else too.’  If we were going to press a record the thought was ‘let’s do something cool artistically.’  Records are really the coolest way to do something large format, and there’s tons of variation and options.
I wanted to do something even crazier than we did.  I researched tons of weird options for that record.  I just couldn’t pull any of them off.  So we stuck with the limited screen print, which was fun.  But I was trying to take that design and do some embossed foil shit that I had never dabbled with before, but it wasn’t possible.
 The fancy alternate (and personally illustrated) alternate record covers


What’s been the best part of doing Blood Sun Circle, and what has been the worst?  Bestiest/worstiest?

That’s a good question.  The best part is probably during the era of “Bloodiest/Sunniest” was the way the timeline lined up with everyone’s lives, and where we were at when the record came together.  That was a great time.  That was all good shit.  The writing experience was really good.  Everything was very concise and everybody’s brain was in the same spot.
Equally can be said for the worst part, which was the record we did after that.  It was more challenging.  Writing “Distorted Forms” was tough because stuff started to happen.  Brad had more kids, Ryan had more kids, running the store was super fucking busy.  All of the things that culminated after putting out “Bloodiest/Sunniest” started to get really hard, like getting together and be creative, and have that ‘not give a shit’ attitude.  “Distorted Forms” came out over two years after “Bloodiest/Sunniest” and we were trying to write that whole time.  We threw out a lot of stuff.  There’s got to be 30 songs on Ryan’s computer at the store that are just unused.  It took our whole writing process and just stretched it out because everyone was so busy into an insanely long time frame.  And it makes it tough to stay on task, and stay on focus, and put it on the same record.  It makes writing take so much longer that it becomes a chore and that sucks because it’s the wrong vibe for that band.

It must be tough working with an ex-member of the band.

Oh, you mean my brother?

Yeah, I’m just fucking with you.

Oh yeah.  We stopped doing the band, but we have an entire third record that we’re working on.  We recorded it, we’re just getting it mixed.  So it’s done.  It’s not out.
But when the writing process takes forever it sucks and it kind of ruins the vibe.  And that band is all about the vibe, and harnessing the right vibe for a record is where that band existed and lived in that pocket of everyone being on the same page, and milking whatever vibe we found for the record.  But the long writing process made it almost impossible to re-create.
 And with that all being said I think I have a total of about 3 copies of this LP left and then it's gone forever.  So do me a favor and buy one of them (no limited covers left though) and you can have it for $5 total.  That's it.  Or you can get the digital for only $4 this week only.  Slide on over to the bandcamp page and get your mitts on this crusher of a record.

Monday, August 5, 2019

HXR20YR RETROSPECTIVE: HXR028- TAXA, "Ressurection Year" 7"


I still (as of this writing) have never met any of the people in TAXA.  I took a random chance on them.  I was at a lull with the label as some of the bands I had released records for had split up and I wasn’t sure how certain I felt about continuing to put out records.  I did a simple, limited CD release for the band Black Throat Wind (as chronicled in a previous entry), and that was about it for over a year.  I just really was unsure of what to pursue next, if anything at all.
And while randomly scanning that dumping ground of hardcore, the Bridge 9 board, I noticed someone posting about their band TAXA and how it was reminiscent of Shotmaker.  First off, I didn’t really expect anyone to post on that forum about Shotmaker, let alone figure that anyone even knew who they were anymore.  So, naturally, I was curious.  I checked out the music and found it to be pretty engaging.  The band was looking to have someone release it.  I got in touch saying I was interested.  And that was about that.  I knew nothing about this group, their background, where they were from, what kind of people they were, nothing.  That was highly unlike me, as I had always been mindful to get to know people in bands before I started working with them.
But like I said, I was in a lull and maybe I just needed to try something different, or a new approach, to operating this label.  It turns out TAXA call Vancouver, British Columbia home.  Members of the band had previously played in a group called Damages that did a couple records with React Records, and the sound was a bit similar.  And we knew a few of the same people in the Pacific Northwest.  And just like that, the bands two-song 7” was a reality we made happen.
Then there was the issue of getting the dang thing made.  It had been a couple years since I had dealt with any record pressing places and I needed to re-familiarize myself with that process.  The place I had been using was going out of business and I searched high and low for new pressing plants, many of whom had become extremely booked up because suddenly vinyl was a hot commodity again.  I settled on a press in New York called Brooklyn Phono, a smaller company that didn’t seem to have the backlog issues some other places were experiencing and they were a pretty down-to-earth operation.  They were also able to press in smaller quantities that I was hoping for (since I had no clue as to how trying to sell a 7” for an unknown band in 2014 was going to go).  Overall, things went well and it was a relatively easy process once I had the pieces in place.  I even ended up having to do a second pressing of the record, which I would have never thought would happen.
So that all being said, TAXA, who are kind of the Revelation Slipknot of Hex Records- a mysterious group that not many people seem to know about- continue to exist.  I caught up with Andrew Morrison, who has been my primary contact for the band since they began, and he was kind enough to give some time to discuss the group.  Fun fact:  this is actually the first time we had ever talked directly!  All other occasions have been through e-mail, or social media.  Here’s a couple of other facts- the band still exists, even though Andrew has like 500 side bands that operate concurrently.  TAXA has never toured the U.S. (though they have a bit in their home of Canada).  However, they have toured Cuba, of all places, on two separate occasions. Also, their re-press was printed incorrectly and had to be re-re-pressed.  For a band that only has a 7” and a split to their name after several years they have some interesting stories. Read on and find out more!


So how did TAXA start?

It started right around 2009 originally.  In that time we came up with the name and the general idea of the band, as well as a handful of songs.  We started because we had a good friend who played drums and we were looking for a good reason to do something with him, so we started that band with him, and shortly after it started he ended up having a baby and moving away for some time.  There was the promise, though, that he would shortly come back.  Six months turned into a year, turned into two years, until we gave up, eventually, on him ever coming back and just revived the band, proper, in 2013 or 14.
So that’s where we got it what it is now, with our current drummer.
It’s not a very romantic answer.  We had a buddy who played drums to a certain ability and we thought, ‘hey, maybe we should try to rip off Unwound, that would work for everybody for what we can do.’

Have you toured Canada, or the U.S. in TAXA or any of your other bands?

We haven’t toured the U.S. with Taxa, but we toured Canada with Taxa.  We went to Cuba with Taxa twice.  My old band Damages toured in the states.

So this is rather strange.  Taxa has been sort of relegated to Canada, however you’ve toured Cuba, of all places, twice.  How did that work?

Well, there’s an organization that used to be up here called Solidarity Rock.  And what their goal was, was to try and find musicians that were willing to go to places could benefit from  having some live band experience, and have bands not from there come in.  But also bands that were willing to do it for a not-for-profit venture.  So the way they do it is they raise as much money as they possibly can and so when we went we got a bunch of sponsorships through musical organizations that would donate gear to us so we would be able to bring a couple thousand dollars worth of gear with us that we could donate to the community down there.
So the first one we did went really well and it was a really positive experience.  We made a bunch of friends down there and just decided that we definitely wanted to do it again.  So we went through the motions and contacted the same people, gathered a bunch of gear that we could donate, and took it down.

How did it work in regards to the donations?  Did you bring your own gear, in addition to donated stuff?  Or did you just bring the stuff for donation, play the shows with it, and then leave it behind when the tour was over?

We brought it with us, used it, and then we left it.  That was a little nicer too, because it spares us from having to lug things onto the plane in both directions.

That is very cool and strange.  I take it Canada does not have any strained international relations with Cuba like the U.S. has had?

No, that’s the difference.  It often surprises our U.S. friends when we say we have toured Cuba for that reason because it seems less successful.  But that’s not really the case.  It’s a fairly, straightforward thing for us to go.

Is there a punk scene in Cuba?

Oh yeah.  Huge punk scene.  There’s very interesting stories there.  It would be easier for you to just google it, but their history when it comes to punk rock is very intense.  In the early 90’s when the AIDS epidemic first came to Cuba the overall conditions for living were so poor for punks they would actually inject themselves with HIV so that they would be put into these government-run sanitariums.  The belief being that there was going to be a cure for HIV shortly.  So, there was this community of punk people that were all forced into these government sanitariums, but they did it because they were then safe from assault by police.  They had food and clean water access daily.  They also had access to creative spaces.  The sanitariums also had music rooms.  And, of course,  the cure for HIV didn’t come within a couple of years.

That’s crazy.

Like I said, I don’t want to slaughter the facts of it all trying to explain it, but it’s definitely worth looking up because it’s pretty intense.  But that was sort of the jumping-off point for the punk scene in Cuba and what has informed what’s happened there since with their music scene.

What a wild difference.

It’s really funny because you and I are probably of an age where the sort of wild times of punk came and went before we got too deeply into it.  So you read those stories from afar about people ‘living the life’ and whatnot.  It’s kind of surreal to go to Cuba and see these people in our modern times still living those sorts of things.  They’re really adhering to the idea of what they perceive punk rock to be, and living it as a lifestyle, in the face of adversity and violence.

That’s pretty tough for me to wrap my head around, especially with the circumstances they went through.

Yeah!  That’s why you ought to just come with us some time!

(laughs)  Oh yeah.  Wait, didn’t you invite me on one of those tours?

Yes!  That’s why you ought to come!

I remember now.  I recall thinking, ‘I’m American, I don’t think I’m allowed to go to Cuba!’

Well, related to places being far away, does it feel as if Vancouver is cut off from the rest of Canada, making it tougher to tour elsewhere?

Yeah, that is kind of true of Canada everywhere though.  There’s no real easy amount of major touring between major cities in Canada the way there is in the U.S.  But that’s definitely the case with Vancouver to some degree because not only is it a simple amount of miles between here and the next major city going east, which would be Calgary.  But there’s also the mountains.  That’s quite a barrier.

So that has likely put a damper on being able to tour much, period.

Well, the only damper that that causes us, really, is a time meter.  So when we tour in Canada, because of the drive between some shows, that means you probably aren’t able to play as many shows.  Where a tour in the states may be able to be nine shows, that could just be seven up here.
 The first and second pressing on pretty colors


Are there unrecorded TAXA songs?  It’s been several years, I imagine you have some more material somewhere.

Yeah!  We took a break for a little bit to actually try and write an LP, or finish it.  I think we have a dozen songs at this point.  We’re just sitting on them until we can find a time, or a reason, to record them.


It’s nice to know that you’re all still a band because we don’t hear too much about the band.  And I know you have a million other projects going on.

The thing for us that we tend to do is rather than run out of steam by putting all our eggs in one basket we try to do as many types of bands that we can in order to allow us to play with as many of our friends and people that we respect musically, that we can.  And also, it takes some of the pressure off of those periods where a band, for whatever reason, can’t be super active.  And that has been the issue with Taxa.  Taxa came to a bit of a halt at one point because our then guitar player went to school, so she needed to take some time off to do that. And then she eventually decided to go back to school again so she bowed out of the band at that point because she was holding things back for a period of time.  So then we got a new guitar player, and right now we’re taking it a bit easy because he’s doing really well with his wrestling gig.
 ads for things, including this Taxa record

So, to be clear, the other bands that you have been a part of since forming Taxa- Black Pills and Silver Chains- is just you, or is it other members of Taxa as well participating in these bands and projects?

Well, Silver Chains is everyone from Taxa except for the guitar player who wrestles, and another friend of ours does vocals.  But all of these bands have always been myself and Heig, who is the vocalist and guitar player in Taxa.  He and I have been music partners for many, many years at this point.  So every band always includes the two of us, and then there’s some overlap.  So everyone in Taxa is also in the band Griefwalker.  Heig are both in Black Pills, which is now called Teeth To Your Throat.
Taxa guitarist by day, wrestler by night, Daniel Makabe


So for a band that has a very small discography, and has been this band that has not had a huge history as part of this label I have to say there are an abundance of unique stories and circumstances surrounding your group from touring Cuba, to being involved in numerous other projects together, to having a wrestler in your ranks.

One other unique story that comes to mind, and I don’t know how much you know of it, but are you familiar with the circumstances surrounding the re-press of the 7” I released for you?

No, I don’t know!  I remember talking with you when you said it was close enough to being sold out that you were going to do a repress of it.  Was there some aspect of it being problematic that I don’t know about?

Yes.

Oh!  Well, then, no.  I don’t know.  Lay it on me.

So, the band I play in, Dialysis had a seven inch out as well.  And when it came time to repress the Taxa 7”, which is a two song record, I went through the pressing plant I was using at the time.  They ended up using the Dialysis plates to repress the Taxa 7”, which makes no sense because the Dialysis 7” is a 10-song record and it should be pretty easy to tell which is which just based on the spaces on the record between songs.  So they sent me 200 of the Dialysis records with the Taxa labels on them.  Our two bands really couldn’t be any more different.  So I contacted the pressing plant and let them know they sent me the wrong record.  And they apologized and said they would re-do it, and, to their credit, I’ve never seen a pressing plant do a turnaround so quickly.  Within a week they re-did the Taxa 7” correctly.  And then I asked them what they wanted me to do with the incorrect ones, did they want me to send them back?  And they just said, ‘eh, we’ll let you know.’  But they never got back to me about it.  So I’ve just been sitting on around 200 wrongly labeled Dialysis 7”s and sometimes I just give them away to people.  I re-did the Taxa cover to say ‘Dialysis’ instead.

Oh!  I remember us talking about that a little bit, but I thought maybe you had just gotten some incorrect test pressings or something.  I didn’t realize it was the record proper.

No, they didn’t bother with a second round of test pressings since the first press came out right.  They were just supposed to take the same plates and use them again for the next pressing since they are intended to last for a couple thousand records.  They just ended up grabbing the wrong plates and pressing a grind band onto what was supposed to be a completely other group.

I hope you can find something creative to do with them!  It would be fun to have one, for sure.

The mix-up 7", a true collector's curiosity

But in regards to the real 7” you released, which is mainly what this conversation is supposed to be about, is there anything you’re particularly fond of, or anything you regret about it?

Well, I would have changed the misspelling of the title on the cover.  That’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Is it spelled wrong?!

Yeah, there’s a misspelling. ‘Ressurection’ is spelled wrong on the cover.

I think that ever since the 90’s band Ressurection happened I’ve been spelling that word incorrectly.  They spelled it wrong, but I always thought that was the way you were supposed to spell it.

Yeah, I knew of that band but I didn’t know they spelled their name wrong.  The thing is, though, that every one of us missed it.  The guy who did the cover missed.  Every one in the band saw the cover before it was sent to you and we missed it.  The only way we found out it was wrong was one of the places you sent the record in for review mentioned it in their review.  We read the review and the first thing they said was ‘it’s unfortunate that they misspelled ‘ressurection’ on the cover of their record’. 
So the joke that we have been running ever since then is that that is how we spell it in Canada.  Which is, of course, not true.

(laughs) Yeah, that’s how you all do it, it’s fine.  Don’t worry.  Vancouver specifically.  It’s the Vancouver spelling.  It’s very regional.

Exactly!  But otherwise I’m very proud of it, it’s a great record.  Part of the thing with Taxa too is that because the music was not hardcore we wanted to use it as a vehicle for it’s difference.  As great as it is to still have contacts and have those people you can count on, it tends to get you stuck in a groove.  So after my band Damages broke up we didn’t want to just move on to the next thing and rely on all those same old contacts that we worked with from the past.  We wanted to do something different musically, which would potentially open us up to meeting new people and work with different labels, or promoters.  We didn’t want to miss a chance to meet a world of different people that we might not have were we to just continue on working with the same people that we did in the past.  We never gave ourselves that opportunity in the past.
That’s kind of the funny thing about how we connected because Taxa was not a band, style-wise, that I had any clue as to where to go with for contacts for labels and stuff.  When I initially messaged you about Taxa it was not with the expectation that you would have any interest in the band.  But it was more that you would know maybe who I should contact for things.

So, to date, what has been the best part of the band and what has been the worst?

I think the music is the best part of the band.  There has been a lot about the music of Taxa that I really like.  It’s great to have had some of the experiences that we have had because of it.
The worst thing is probably- because there have not been any big drama things with the band insofar as bad encounters- the drag of time that comes with not being able to keep everyone’s schedules on the same page all the time.  But I guess that’s really kind of part of every band to some degree.  But I think the difference is that Taxa could have done more than we have up to this point.  It seems like the kind of band that could have a little more legs under it were we to push it a little more.  But such is life I guess.
AND if you act now you can get that tasty 7" with it's pretty cover, for a mere $3 this week only.  And if you're a digital-only sort of person a solid buck will get you the tracks.  Encourage your inner cheap-o to capitalize on a deal.  Operators are standing by.  Not really.  We don't have those sorts of things.  Just order it on your own HERE.  or go through the bigcartel and get some other stuff while you're at it.