“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.
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.
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.
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.