Monday, November 25, 2019


The final offering from Ed Gein came several years after everyone had kind of thought them to be disbanded anyway.  In the words of bassist/vocalist Aaron Jenkins, ‘we probably should have broke up a long time ago.’
But I’m glad they did this last thing that they did because it did show there was some gas left in the tank and the whole thing was an overall fun experience.
To back up a bit, Ed Gein hadn’t toured in years.  After finishing a relentless touring schedule for “Judas Goats…” where they were on the road for the better part of two years they took a hard break.  It was time to settle down for bit.  Drummer Jesse Daino put most of his free time getting Recess Coffee off the ground and that soon became a very full-time endeavor.  Aaron further developed his skills as a screen printer and eventually opened his own business (the Black Arts Studio) as well doing just that.  Guitarist Graham Reynolds, after time, became the head roaster at Recess and running a lot of the day-to-day.  Music took a back seat for all of the members.
After a few years getting situated in their new roles the band felt the itch to write new music, but definitely not tour.  They started getting together again to compose new music that was decidedly far less technical and way more just fast, metallic punk.  The result was “Bad Luck”, a record that was considerably different than other Ed Gein records insofar as most of the songs focusing on just a few parts instead of 1000.  The constant with all other material is that it remained fast.  Really fast.  It went quite underappreciated amongst fans and they only played a few shows during this time to promote it.  It retrospect it is definitely not their strongest material, but it’s a lot of fun and there’s a handful of total thrashy rippers on the record.

And then they went quiet again.  Work and adult life took over once more and it seemed Ed Gein was put to bed for good.  And yet, they got back into it one more time.  This time some of the music saw Aaron taking the lead for composition and out of that came a couple songs of slow, riffing, chunky dirges.  They followed it up with a few more fast, thrashy songs that had a renewed vigor.  The band approached me once more about doing something with it all.  It was to be the very last of the Ed Gein stuff.  For good.
The entire effort was completed in secret.  We began working on things in the late Spring and surprise released it right before Christmas.  I even managed to keep the whole project secret from my own band, who was sharing a practice space with Ed Gein.  It was tough to keep a lid on it all, but we succeeded.

The result of this discreet planning was a project Aaron and I worked closely on bringing together, as he has traditionally been the more art-minded planner in the band.  We went with once again using the unique arigato packages created by Stumptown Printers that I have used for several other records (Playing Enemy, “My Life As the Villain” and Lemuria, “Ozzy” 7” most noteably).  Aaron had a whole idea in mind that he designed and screenprinted onto the blank packages himself at his shop.  We also thought it would be fun to try doing a double 7” instead of a 10” or one-sided 12”.  I thought that if you’re going to get this cool package that’s one step away from being a box you may as well fill it with more than one thing.  So the five songs that comprised “Smoked” were spread out over two records because why not?
 Part of the elaborate screenprinted packaging for the record(s)

Plenty of time was accounted for ensuring the recording came out right, all the steps of pressing the actual records, and printing (and then the origami-like task of folding them together) the covers.  It honestly couldn’t have come together more smoothly.  I was surprised at the ease of it all.  Of course, except the part about keeping it a secret.
The guys had planned a big show for right after Christmas which was not kept a secret.  There was no mention of the new record.  About a week or two before the show the surprise was unleashed.  No pre-order, or teaser track.  Just, ‘hey, here’s a new Ed Gein record.  Enjoy.’
I knew there would be some interest, but it was far greater than I could have imagined.  It was nice to see that after all these years, and the very limited, sporadic activity from the band, people were still excited for anything they did.

And that’s really the story of Ed Gein.  Over the next year they played a couple shows and then called it a day as they transitioned into the band they all do now- Shadow Snakes, which also features former Breather Resist vocalist Steve Sindoni and Architect guitarist/recording engineer Jay Bailey along with Aaron, Jesse, and Graham.
To say that Ed Gein was a foundation for Hex Records is truly an understatement.  Before they came along the label had some well-received records.  But even now, when I meet people who are familiar with what I do inevitably Ed Gein’s name will frequently come up.  It’s almost as if the label really started with them sometimes, and they started with this label, and then they wrapped up their time as a band in the place they started with.  It’s humbling.  And after all this time we’re all still friends, we still play shows together (as infrequently as that occurs), and we support each others businesses.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Smoked” is a solid chapter to close the book of Ed Gein on.  No interviews necessary because at this point I’ve talked their ears off enough.  If you haven’t heard the record(s), give them a listen.
 I have a total of about a dozen of these double 7"s left.  If you want one (or more) it will run you $5 this week because I want to get rid of them.  You can find those HEREIf you're just a digital connoisseur feel free to drop $3 and get the tracks on sale this week HERE. Half the copies are on the bandcamp, the other half in the BigCartel store.

Friday, November 15, 2019


Yo, it's full-on Fall.  Get comfy.  Drink something pumpkin-spiced, or roast root veggies in the oven, we're going fully LL Bean here.  While other people are getting ready their year-end lists (or decade-end lists? fuuuuuuckkk), I'm over here still checking out new stuff that's dropping late into 2019 and thinking some of these jams are top 10 year end contenders and such.  Late bloomers, if you will.  Sleeper hits.  Anyway, see for yourself.

A.M. NICE, “Man On a Wire” 7”
I checked out this band’s last offering, which was straight 80’s power-pop bliss.  This three-songer is a mixed bag, and I’m not mad, it just throws me back to a different time…  in three different ways.  The first track is a nod to 90’s alterna-radio-rock, the kind of stuff that when it emerged and I was an angsty teen I thought it was kind of lame and below par of the aggressiveness I craved.  So Gin Blossom fans rejoice, this song is for you.  Track two, the title track, is an ode to Cursive, “Domestica” in every way possible.  Again, not mad about it.  They do a nice job homage-ing (if that’s a word).  Finally, they clean up with “Elliott the Man”, 90 freewheeling seconds of the kind of stuff I recall this band doing before- fast power pop straight out of the garage, channeling Ted Leo from 1995 into 2019.  It’s honestly the best track on the whole thing and quite wonderful at that.  More track 3 please.  (Phratry Records)

BUMMER, “Thanks For Nothing” 7”
Fuck yeah Bummer.  If only we got more songs on this new slab of wax.  As usual they deliver riffs heavier than a dozen TADs weighing down a garbage truck falling off the side of a cliff and somehow make how ridiculously loud they are live translate perfectly to record.  Opening track “Second Chimes” hits you with that steamrolling two-note riff of destruction and if you’re not dead afterwards “Grim Sleeper” will peel what’s left of your face off with it’s bass-driven lurch in under two minutes.  And then they do a cover of Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People”...  and ya know, it’s a generational thing because I never because I never got into that band.  But if you’re going to pick a Marilyn Manson song to cover this would be the one simply because it’s pretty fuckin’ heavy.  Finally, Bummer throw on a demo version of their song “King Shit” from last year’s “Holy Terror” full length.  So even though I’m fiending for a new full length already thanks for something.  (Learning Curve Records)

CHILD BITE, “Blow Off the Omens”
The newest full length from Detroit’s Child Bite is a lot to take in.  When you are a weirdo noise rock/punk/metallic sort of band and the core of your group is the singer and bass player I can imagine it’s tough to round up a guitarist and drummer who can properly envision what it is they want to put out into the world.  To be fair, though, vocalist Shawn Knight knows his way around a guitar and bassist Sean Clancy has a truly one-of-a-kind low-end thunder that is equal parts David Wm Sims and Brian Cook, and both long-standing members have strong artistic backgrounds that lend themselves to the exceptionally unique visual and musical experience that is Child Bite.  And they have also been a band for a long time and have evolved considerably during that tenure.  So I think with the new additions to the band they have managed to stay true to their sound while expanding ever-outward into the realms of weird chaos.  It took me a few listens to fully wrap my head around “Blow Off the Omens”, and part of that has to do with the recording by Steve Albini.  Purists will call out blasphemy, but I feel like a number of recordings he does seem to lack a bit of punch (when it’s a band where that is called for) and go for warmth instead.  It’s strange, I can’t pin it down.  But differences in recording aside, a few spins into this release and I’m a total believer and would place it right on top of the Child Bite catalog (which is vast with numerous splits and EPs scattered across several full lengths).  There’s a few less of those bellowed ‘whoh-ohs’ that Knight belts out so confidently, but when they arrive they are exceptional.  The music is heavy, weird, bombastic and is indebted to Voivod just as much as it is to Cosmic Psychos, MC5 and Dead Kennedys. They have Bad Brain roots and filter them through proggy metal and noise rock.  I love it.  And the guests on the record- from a couple of instances of Bruce Lamont’s wild saxophone, to Chewy from Voivod laying down a great solo on the title track- feel less like guest spots and more like natural occurrences.  I can’t recommend this enough, even if it takes a bit of time to digest before it fully comes into focus as the great chunk of music that it is.  (Housecore)

Upon checking out the first single from this young band out of Michigan I thought, ‘this is good, but I already own every Cloakroom record’.  But as I gave the whole thing a few spins some really interesting stuff started coming out.  For starters, there’s a significant emphasis on the interplay of the dual vocals that both have a unique cadence and timbre to them that would probably sound kind of annoying (to me anyway) in almost any other kind of band.  But here it’s just slightly odd enough to work in a strange and colorful sort of way.  Musically it plods along and songs stretching out for 6 minutes or so are commonplace.  I mean, they really do nail down those Cloakroom riffs/vibes/tones exactly and I’m unsure if that’s a little too close to source material for me to take this seriously, or if I just say ‘fuck it, who cares’ and enjoy this for being a really cool collection of songs that I find satisfying.  (Deathwish Inc)

LUGGAGE, “Shift”
This one is a real long slow burn.  Luggage, from out of Chicago, rely on minimalist noise and rhythm, Shellac-level attentive detail to tone and precision, and the patience of listeners because this takes a few listens to sink in.  I’m reminded of another record released in the not-too-distant past by Corpse Flower Records and that would be German post-hardcore group Heads who share a lot in common with the sounds that Luggage is laying down.  Both go for heavy by way of space and frequent clean guitar.  But that guitar is struck so sharply that the resulting twang is like a piano wire garrote to the jugular.  Luggage sneak in late at night, steal your shit, and leave a knife stuck in the family photo as a calling card.  It’s surreptitious, and cold-blooded, and just a bit chaotic too.  But they’re secretly controlling it every step of the way. (Corpse Flower)

SLEEPCRAWLER, “HTN” b/w “Albatross” 7”
I remember when Sunny Day Real Estate came around and then a million hardcore/emo kids jumped on the bandwagon and started bands that sounded like Sunny Day.  Some were decent, others just bad.  Sleepcrawler brings me back to that time where groups like Mineral and Ethel Meserve were doing their thing in a very second-tier Sunny Day Real Estate sort of way, and they hone in on that vibe pretty well.  Sure, it’s slightly updated with some fancy guitar pedals that occasionally go into space-rock-era Cave-In territory, but this is where Sleepcrawler are at and it’s honestly just fine.  Two songs on this record, both fairly lengthy and overflowing with earnest emotion and melody and heartfelt something or other.  (Phratry Records)

SUNSTROKE, “Bloom At Night” 12” EP
I have a bit of a regret in that I drove up to Seattle a little while back to see a show and this band was opening and I did not concern myself with being exactly on time (to be fair, I was coming from an earlier show elsewhere in town).  And due to that I only caught the last song of Sunstroke’s set. It’s too bad, because not much later I finally listened to their music and found it be quite enjoyable.  So yeah, here’s a new EP from them that has 4 new songs, as well as a Dag Nasty cover and comes in a fancy package that’s also very colorful to boot.  Sunstroke are of that ilk that take many cues from Revolution Summer-era harDCore  whether it’s past luminaries such as Rites Of Spring to more current practitioners like Give.  However, choosing to cover Dag Nasty is very appropriate for this group as they really add a good dose of melodic hardcore (with a lot less singing and more gravel-throated hollering) in their sound overall, which I’m usually doesn’t move me all that much.  Sunstroke stoke the flames of familiar sounds, which combines some other familiar sounds to create new and enjoyable sounds.  Got it?  This is definitely more melodic than past efforts, but I dig it.  Lyrically, almost all of the EP seems to focus on mental health issues and brought up in an interesting, story-like fashion.  Good on them for offering up a powerful and sincere effort, I look forward to more.  (New Morality)


TILE, “Stendell” 12” EP
My dudes.  It’s a rare gift that Tile present new music more than once every three years or so.  So getting a new EP a year after their monumental “Come On Home, Stranger” LP is like Christmas come early.  I’ll say that “Stendell” doesn’t carry quite the absurd heft their last LP had, and the recording is a little less bombastic overall as well (OK, it’s just less songs and I want more, so what).  But as a placeholder to hopefully more music in the not-too-distant future I’ll take it and play the shit out of it.  You get five new tracks of negative, down-tuned sludge/noise rock grumpiness and piledrive it into yr skull.  Things do start off on an upbeat, faster note with “Scarf Of Vain” before breaking into the thudding clomp of “Not Ready”.  The next two tracks play around with some cleaner sounds before walloping you with the heavy, and then record closer “Kyle’s Paperclip” drowns the listener in one big, gigantic heavy riff and a trunk full of bad feelings.  Tile are one of my absolute favorite current bands in the game and it makes me giddy just to have some new stuff from them.  I’d suggest getting it all.  (Corpse Flower)

Monday, November 11, 2019


            My association with Psychic Teens was a complete fluke.  I had seen their first LP, “Teen” around here and there and it’s extremely simple cover art, for whatever reason, made me think they were some kind of pop-punk band in the Screeching Weasel vein.  Whatever the case I didn’t think I would be interested in them.
Around this time I had discovered another Pennsylvania-based band called Tile whom I thought were just amazing and I considered pursuing them in regards to putting out a record.  I saw they were playing a show at Siren Records in Doylestown, PA, a store I hold in high regard and a place I had been familiar with playing before (for real, take a gander at Siren Records if you ever find yourself in the quaint burg of Doylestown).  The lineup for the show featured Tile and Psychic Teens.  It was kind of a drive for me, but there was enough cool stuff close by (what’s up Vegan Treats) to make it worth the hike.  Plus, I wanted to see what Tile were like live, and as people, before I hit them up about recording something for the label.
            As it turned out this was probably the worst show Tile ever played.  They got through about three songs, broke a guitar, and then gave up.  I was heartbroken.  It was a rough night for them and temporarily soured my opinion on them.  I’d like to add, though, Tile are one of my current favorite bands and I highly suggest getting all of their records right now and playing them repeatedly until your head falls off.
            Feeling let down I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stick around and just drive back to Syracuse.  I watched the second band, who were decent, and then figured I came all this way, I may as well see if I was right about this Psychic Teens band before taking off, as they were headlining.
            Turns out I was totally wrong.  They lurched through weird post-punk, goth, and noise rock dirges all the while incredibly intense strobe lights pulsated from behind them.  Guitars screamed as frontman Larry Ragone remained hidden behind dark shades the entire set and belted out spooky, low-register vocals over everything.  I was thoroughly shocked.  I stuck around for a good portion of their set and then decided to hit the road since I had a long drive ahead.  Before departing I left some money on their merch table and grabbed a CD for the drive home, which had their second LP “Come”, as well as their first LP on one disc. 
            I started listening to it as soon as I began my drive and was so drawn in by the sounds that I wasn’t paying attention and totally got lost in the weird labyrinth of roads that is Eastern PA.  I eventually made it home, listening to Psychic Teens almost the entire drive on repeat.  I had just never heard a band that combined influences like that and made it work in this new and original way.
            Afterwards I dug in more and saw that they had made a couple of really funny and unique videos for their songs and had toured a bit as well.  I also learned that their drummer, Dave Cherasaro, had briefly done time in Gods and Queens, another Philly-area band that I adored.  So I figured I was in good company by listening to this trio.  I reached out to them to see about having them come up around my way to play a show and they ended up coming through on a few occasions, as they had other friends in the region they had played shows with before.  I also continued to travel to go see the band- Asbury Park with Coliseum and Child Bite, Ithaca with Restorations, and more. 
As I got to know them I reached out about releasing some material for them.  They had recently released an amazing 7” through Reptilian Records and were on the cusp of releasing their third LP, “Nerve” when I offered.
What ended up occurring was Psychic Teens released their third record through channels they already had set up, and not long after they reconvened and recorded the “Hex” 12” EP as a follow up since “Nerve” was a considerably huge undertaking.  For five songs “Hex” is pretty long and feels almost like a full length record.
Since that release Psychic Teens has remained active on and off as they all have adult lives, and also all play together in a second band called Ex-Maid with their friend (and occasional PT collaborator) Miranda Taylor.
But since it’s been awhile I got back in touch with Dave Cherasaro to discuss the band a bit and the making of the most-excellent “Hex” record from Psychic Teens.

 Psychic Teens (l to r):  Dave, Larry, Joe

I initially wrote off your band because I thought the art on your first release, “Teen”, resembled something a pop-punk band might use.

That’s funny.  It wasn’t necessarily intended to be a stand alone release like that, like a whole album.  The original intention was to be a combination of a couple of songs to put on the internet as a demo and then see if somebody wanted to do a 7”.  It was sort of a brain dump of the first 7 songs that we wrote, we went into the studio to record them, and they weren’t even all complete when we went into the studio, and there was one in particular that we weren’t sure if we were even going to use it and we ended up using it.  It’s a song that we still play, whereas a number of them have not been played in awhile.

I think the art on all the releases since then are more indicative of what you do insofar as being a bit unsettling, or oddly mysterious.  It seems like you all put a fair amount of thought into the artistic presentation side of the band.

And so Larry (Ragone, guitars, vocals) is the one who sourced a lot of that.  He has been the person who found the artists that he liked and artists he wanted to work with.  He went to them and figured out how to work with them and what parameters they wanted to work in.  But that first release Larry did the artwork.  He did that himself.
I think a little bit of it was that art was really a placeholder to put up on a bandcamp page with two songs, and then it morphed into ‘this is going to be a record’.  Our friend started a label and put it out.  So we ran with it and tried to make it a little more interesting than just the heart with the ‘X’ through it by doing the large die-cut ‘X’ sticker that was on the outside sleeve of the LP version.

I think that sort of mysterious, but oddly inviting, art plays out as well in the song syllable record titles and song titles as well.

Yeah, I agree.

After meeting you all it became apparent that a big part of Psychic Teens is approaching your music from the perspective of serious record collectors.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense.  We all like records.  You are correct, we do all collect.  We want to have something that looks good as a record package.  We want something we would be interested in.  We want something that we would want if we hadn’t put it out.  I think I would be a little embarrassed to admit how much time on Psychic Teens tours we spent in record stores.  That was pretty much our M.O. on every tour we have done.  We definitely have detoured through towns we weren’t even playing so that we could go to record stores on long drives just to break up the day.  We definitely spent a lot of time on Psychic Teens tours in record stores.
I can’t think of, offhand, of any towns, or cities, that we went to where we didn’t try to find at least one record store.

Tell me this- when you would book tours would you purposefully book tours to places where you knew there were good record stores.

No, we don’t have that much booking clout.  It’s more of ‘we just want to find a show where we can find a show’ and we will find a record store somewhere.

You’re not that obsessive.


I’ve always liked the idea of how you had described Psychic Teens tours- they’re like vacations to visit record stores in different cities and then play shows.  I never got the impression that you treated the band like a career sort of thing.

For sure, that’s 100% how we have viewed the band.  We had the joke saying, and it still rings true, that Psychic Teens are regular adults.  We have never tried to make the band a full-time thing because I think we all are a little too old and maybe a little too far past that point in our life.  So we’re going to go out when we can.  We all work.  We’re going to take time off from work, but we’re going to have fun on that time off as best as we can.  So just like with the artwork and the record collecting, you hit the nail on the head.  We try to have fun and do as much as we can.

So rewind a bit and give me an idea of how the band came together and also how you came to choosing the style of music you played.  It’s a pretty niche mix of subgenres.

Well, the impetus of Psychic Teens was Larry.  He wrote the first few songs and had these ideas in his head and wanted to do a band.  I think he had a very specific influence in mind, and I don’t want to particularly call him out on it and name it, but I think it was a little bit bigger of a band than you would think given all the subgenres in there. 
So Larry wanted to do the band and he then approached me because we had been in a band together a couple years before that kind of fell apart.  So then we reached out to Joe (DeCarolis, bassist) because Larry and Joe have been friends forever and their old bands were on split 7”s together, played like 100 shows together.  And in-between when Larry and I were in a band him and Joe were in a band together that kind of fell apart after they recorded a demo and maybe never played shows or anything together.
You know that story of the insular world where everyone is trading band members.  So this is the combination that we came to this time.

I like, too, that you guys are Philly, or Philly-adjacent, and there has always been a wealth of bands to emerge from that region that are really onto something original.  I don’t think there’s a ‘Philly sound’, but instead a lot of bands all trying to do something different and keep it exciting.

Yeah, it’s very interesting how that has all played out over time.

How did the band come to use strobe lights and lights when playing?  Was that something you did right from the beginning or add them in eventually?

It took a little while.  I think it came about maybe 6 months after we started playing shows. It was intended to keep it interesting for ourselves and do something a little different.  There was one or two of our early shows where we tried to bring a projector and project stuff on us, or behind us, and that ended quickly.  We realized that was too much effort to have a laptop, to have a projector, to keep things going, and that wasn’t for us.
I had done another band, the story of all stories- and we had done the whole lights thing with cheap $10 Home Depot pots.  So I had some of that stuff.  I think one time Larry came to practice and was like, ‘I got a really good deal on a stobelight on Craigslist’.
It was this crazy strobe light that works very well.  We’ve played larger venues and it’s still effective in a large venue.
He got it on Craigslist and met some guy in a diner parking lot, or something, and got this crazy stobelight for pretty cheap.

Can you describe a bit of the process around writing and recording “Hex”?  It wasn’t that long after “Nerve” had been released that things came together for that record.

I think it didn’t seem like it was that long for other people, but for us it seemed really long.  And I think part of that was the process of writing and recording “Nerve”.  It took a long time to get everything together for that record because we entered the studio recording drum tracks a whole year before that LP was finally out.  We had spent a year and half, or two years, writing “Nerve”.  During that time we also did a live score for “The Shining”, which is a really long movie.
So we were writing all these songs for “Nerve”, and then took a break to do “The Shining” thing, and then pulled two songs off our writing to do a 7” with Reptilian Records, and by the time we finally got done and figured we were ready to record the “Nerve” songs it had been a really long time of writing and rehearsing those songs into the ground so that they were ready.
So after we went in and recorded we had a really long break where we were waiting on the availability of the studio to mix, and in that time frame we started the  writing process again because that’s just kind of what we do.  We like to write and practice, and always moving forward.
So I think before “Nerve” was even fully done we had laid the groundwork for a couple of the songs from “Hex”.  Those songs were some of the easiest songs we had ever written, and I don’t mean that in a way where we didn’t just phone it in.
We had over thought those “Nerve” songs so much we wanted to get back to something more towards how we started as a band.  We just wrote songs that went with what came through and not over-thinking a structure, or a part.  It was a bit more of an organic experience.

I think that does shine through on “Hex”.  Even though a couple songs are on the slower and longer side it just has a bit more of a feeling of being immediate, if that makes sense.  “Nerve” definitely sounds a bit more planned out and deliberate and “Hex” feels a little looser.

I agree.  I do like having a bit of the over-rehearsed thing.  But we spent so much time collectively between writing, rehearsing, and then recording and mixing “Nerve”.  And when we went to press that record it was at that peak of records taking a long time to get back from the pressing plant-era.  I mean, we knew it was going to take a long time to get back from the pressing plant so we planned our release show so far out and then our records came in really early.  We had them sitting in our basement for so long just because had built in this really long lead time to be on the safe side.
And all that time we thought let’s just write new songs, and play new songs, and not over-think it, and that’s what bore “Hex”.
 Check those neat-o records out!

I also recall “Hex” going pretty quick.  It wasn’t a super-long turnaround.  Maybe that too made me think it was a pretty quick follow up to “Nerve”.

Also, with that record, which I think confuses people to this day, is the packaging on it.  The spine is on the bottom, you can turn it around and it’s still the same thing, and then the sticker could be turned anyway and was still the same.  Was it deliberate to be that confusing?

I honestly don’t remember.  But it was likely just an idea to do something different and put the spine on the bottom and the opening is on the top.  As for the artwork, if you look at it long enough you see what side is right-side up.  But at a glance it is a little confusing, and the sticker did not help matters out at all.

(laughs)  Yeah, for sure.  So at this point the band has been pretty quiet for a bit and Ex-Maid seems to be the current focus.  Do you see yourselves keeping on with Psychic Teens, but just putting it on the back burner for now while Ex-Maid does stuff?

Yeah, I think that’s the idea.  As people get older and everybody is doing more stuff we have hit a couple of scheduling bumps where we just didn’t get enough time to practice on a regular basis.  It has caused some newer songs we had to not necessarily fall apart, but never really made it from that rough stage to the completion stage.  And when we have had the time to practice we have put that effort into Ex-Maid.  And some of the Ex-Maid stuff takes a bit longer because there is a fourth member and some of it takes more time because there’s a lot more stuff that happens in New Jersey than happens in Philadelphia, so there’s a bit more travel investment if we’re playing shows up in New Brunswick or Asbury Park.  That’s historically where we have played more than Philly.

What has been the best and worst thing about doing Psychic Teens?

I will forever say the best part is getting together in the basement and writing songs, playing the songs we have, coming up with new parts.  That’s my favorite part.  But at the same time I mentioned earlier that Psychic Teens the intention was never to do anything specific.  We’re just three friends playing together in a band, and I think overall the best part was that we have exceeded any expectations we ever had for ourselves.  We have played out more, put out more music, we’ve been together longer, played better shows, and done some longer tours than any other band we had all done before.  Psychic Teens has gotten more accomplished than we ever intended to do.
Worst part?  I don’t know.  I might have to get back to you on that one.  We’re all friends.  There’s no hate.  The worst part sometimes is the cycles of writing and then pausing to record and trying to figure out when to play shows.  It takes away a little bit of the fun of being in a band and playing shows.

What about that show in Ithaca in the record store?  Wasn’t that a really bad one because everything kept breaking on you?

Oh yeah, if you want to talk about really bad shows I can talk to you about specific bad shows.  And yes, that was a really bad show for us.  That whole tour was a specifically ‘everything-is-breaking’ tour.  It was a really great tour because we had a really great time and the shows were really fun, most of them anyway, but we were renting a van that we were perpetually having issues with.  It wasn’t anybody’s fault but we were renting this van that had just been tuned up and fixed and ready to go and we got right outside of Baltimore and it died.  We place we rented it from brought us another van, and we got into the other van and a day or two later that one started having problems.  So we spent an entire day in Kentucky getting the catalytic converter fixed while that same rental company was trying to get us another van.  We eventually got it fixed and we kept going on.  And then the day of that Ithaca show, right before Ithaca we went to some state park, maybe Watkins Glen?  So we were just walking around and when we got back to the van it just wouldn’t start.  I don’t even know what the final verdict was, something was off with the transmission, we had to put it in neutral just to start it.  So we drive to Ithaca, which is all hills, and the transmission was having trouble going from first to second, so that was a good day.
And the night before that show we were in Buffalo and Larry dropped his amp, so his amp wasn’t working right in Ithaca, which is a problem. 
It’s funny because for a band that loves records, and record stores, and record shopping, I can tell you that two of our absolute worst shows were in record stores.  And that was one of them.

(laughs)  So there ya go, there’s a ‘worst of’!  You think things will be great because you’re in a record store and it ends up sucking.

We have had good shows in record stores.  We have just had two particularly bad ones in record stores.

What was the other one?

There was a record store we played in Jersey City.  I don’t think it’s open anymore.  We played there right before “Nerve” came out.  So we played this store with a band that Joe was friends with and I’m not sure if it was conveyed to the store that we were a ‘loud’ band and I think the record store was expecting something not as loud.  Like we were going to play with combo amps or something.  But there was a problem with our volume.

I see.

That’s been a particular issue at a couple of places.  We’ve been cut short at a couple shows because we were told that we were too loud and we were told that we had to stop.
But that’s not the worst part of the band because that’s like some little badge of honor!

Yeah, right!  I can appreciate that part.

I got some records at some really great prices at that Ithaca show though so that was the silver lining!

There’s always a silver lining!

And now, if you'd like, you can get yourself a copy of "Hex" on LP, or CD, or digital, and it will be super cheap for the next week.  We're talking $5 for LPs, $4 for CDs and $3 for digital download.  And you can get it all HERELet's hope to hear more from Psychic Teens in the future, but in the meantime, check out their other band Ex-Maid.

Monday, November 4, 2019


In the first part of this interview there was a lot of discussion about how Godstopper came to be and quite a bit about some of the first Godstopper releases.  But it seemed right around when “Lie Down” came out Godstopper got really active with releasing more records.  Not long after splits with The Great Sabatini and Grizzlor were unleashed upon the world, as well as “Who Tries Anymore”- an EP on 12” format that was the impetus of what I had building up to in terms of working with Godstopper on new material.
            The “Lie Down”/”Children Are Our Future” CD was just making certain a physical version of two excellent releases would get out there, even if both had existed in the digital realm for some time already.  “Who Tries Anymore” was brand new stuff.
To my understanding Mike, and the rest of Godstopper, had already had some new stuff in the works.  Within a couple months the songs were fleshed out and brought to the studio where founder Mike Simpson laid out the basic tracks, backed by long time members Miranda Armstrong, Adam McGillivray, and Derek del Vecchio.
“Who Tries Anymore” was the most up-front about it’s pop leanings than any other Godstopper release to that point.  Whereas previous records hinted at hooks, melody, and clean singing by laying a sheet of feedback and distortion over everything this release put the singing up front and the cinder-block heavy riffs were relegated to the background (even though they certainly shine through on a few of the songs).  It was a very deliberate choice.  So naturally when it came time for artwork, and we were all at a loss as to what should be on there, I came across quite possibly the most brutal photo I could imagine adorning a record cover.  I mean, why not have eagles pecking away at a bison carcass in the snow and putting your band’s very metal-looking logo in a reflective spot-finish as the cover for a record that starts with piano and melodic singing?  Why would anyone think they didn’t know what they were in for?
It turned out to be a very cool release and I recall driving up to Toronto, records carefully hidden in my car trunk to deliver to the band, and feeling some trepidation as I crossed the border to see their record release show.  I remember the border guard asking me a rapid succession of questions about what I was getting up to in Canada- “Where you going?”  “How long you staying?” “What are you doing there?” “What’s the name of the band you’re going to see?” 
A long pause and a cold stare. 
“Are they any good?”
A brief pause on my end…  “Yeah!”
“OK, have a nice trip.”
            So travelling up to Toronto for the Godstopper record release show is, to date, the only time I have seen the band live.  It’s not like they’re coming out to the West Coast any time soon, and they simply do not play out very often period.  Mike has mostly focused on his one-man project Jack Moves for a couple years now, while Adam and Miranda also play in the band Humanities.  But when the stars align and everything comes together you might catch Godstopper emerging from the shadows to record or play here and there.
            So this is the second half of my interview with band founder Mike Simpson and delves a bit more into “Who Tries Anymore”, as well as why Godstopper remains a very part-time project.

I know the artwork for “Who Tries Anymore” is based on a photo a friend of mine took, who is a nature photographer, and I did the layout and all that.  And I know I pitched it to you and you were agreeable, but did you have any other art in mind for that release instead before I showed you what ended up being the artwork?

No.  I don’t recall having any ideas.  I can recall the title of the record coming about what I was thinking about at the time.  I wasn’t looking to spend a lot of time with the artwork.  The first record I went through four or five different artwork ideas before settling with the original thing I saw.  I admit, I may be a bit deficient in the visual end of the band because that doesn’t come to me automatically.
But the picture on that record is great.  I’m glad we have that in our discography.  I think it’s such an insane amount of overkill, it’s so intense.  I think it worked for the best.  I like that.

Throughout most of Godstopper’s existence you all have not played out too much.  What is behind that?  Yet you have a pretty decent-sized discography.

Being in Canada makes it one step more difficult.  It’s a large and sparsely populated country.  So that was something where you can’t just hop in the car and play ten shows to ten different markets.  And then to cross into the U.S legally is a lengthy and expensive process.  It makes it unnecessary in all those ways.  To do it the first time will probably cost you about $1000 between all the paperwork and forms.  You have to lie about how much money you are going to make there because if you say you’re going to make $75 because no one knows you and you’re going to be playing to 12 people in Philly it can be interpreted by immigration that you are less expensive scabs travelling to take the spot from other hard-working bands in Philly that they think are going to get paid more.  It doesn’t make any sense.  So you have to lie about what you’re going to make.  You essentially have to say you’re going to make more than Gwar.  So you’re going to lose money. 
You have to have contracts.  So, again, you have to get your buddy from Philly to fax over a contract for some gig you’re playing on a Tuesday.  So you have to forge some signatures, write up this fake amount of money you’re getting paid, and you have to submit it up to 7 to 9 months ahead of the tour.  It used to be only 45 days before you cross the border, but it was never mandated, it was just an agreement and I’ve had friends submit all their stuff, like I said, 7 to 9 months ahead, only to have to cancel their tour because the papers weren’t processed yet.  And the chances of booking something 9 months in advance in the U.S. is crazy.  You don’t encounter that at the DIY level.
So all those things make it really prohibitive to go across the border and lose money.  So there’s that.
And also the fact that everybody in the band was further along in their lives and other interests, and real jobs when the band started.  We were all already in our mid-20’s at least, no one was in their 18 or 19 year old prime.
I also don’t know if the touring lifestyle agreed with everyone in the group.  No one wanted to really commit to eating shit and I don’t blame anyone for that outlook.
 I'm proud of my ongoing run of timeless test press covers

I mean, “Who Tries Anymore”, right?

(laughs)  Yeah, that’s funny.

Where does that title come from anyway?

I don’t remember!  I was just thinking about that.  I think it’s something about trying to be cool by not trying?  It might be reflective of when people say, ‘it was a moment in time that I felt this way’.  Whatever it was it doesn’t resonate with me now.  When I look at the album cover and read the title it seems like there’s a sort of weird joke going on.  That’s what I think of.

Despite not playing out a lot you have a pretty thick discography and that it was mostly recorded and released in a fairly short amount of time.

I’d agree with that.  I feel fortunate to have been able to release like 8 different records.  I like there’s a progression there that I can go back and listen to and see how things changed.  I would say it was more on the prolific side.  I might not fully feel some of the earlier stuff we did anymore but I still like all of it.  There isn’t anything I feel like was totally off-base, or made mistakes. 

Do you think you might chalk that up to it being all your stuff and having control over it all?

I think it helps.  It’s not necessarily a given that if you wrote something you’re going to be into it 5 years later.  I think it’s more that Godstopper is the band that I found my own voice with.  I’d written music and come up with concepts before that, but it’s the one that I felt represented a unique enough combination of influences, as well as skill and talent, and a degree of conviction that created it’s own thing.  I think, for me, it was the time when everything sort of clicked.
It took a lot of people saying to me, ‘you need to find your own voice’ in order to internalize what that actually meant, and why that was important.

What has been the best part of the band and what was the worst?

I think the best part of the band has been the amount of possibilities that are available.  There’s not much off-limits in terms of what I can express in a song if I wanted to write it.  My musical vocabulary is quite broad.  The things I appreciate are quite broad.  So that’s why I feel like it’s an open book and I can go back to it at any point and it would feel right to do it.  I could make something that would work under the umbrella of what this band is.
I like playing live, just in general.  I like that it has given me the opportunity to learn how to perform a bit better on drums, or on guitar.  I like that it got some people’s attention, outside of myself.  It was the first time I had received some attention and assistance from some labels. 
On the opposite side, it doesn’t fit neatly into any one genre or scene.  I wonder, often, if that is a hindrance to others becoming aware of things I’ve done musically.  It’s a mix of several different things.  It’s not as simple as, ‘if you like this than you will like this band because they’re doing the same thing’.  When I saw that documentary “American Hardcore” someone in it was talking about how they saw the United States as each state being a different band.  So MDC was Texas and Poison Idea was Oregon, The Misfits were New Jersey, and D.O.A. was Vancouver, here in Canada.  And what I inferred from that is that listening to a lot of these bands to uninitiated ears sounds like different variations of Minor Threat or something. 
But in the 80’s there were only so many bands playing that style.  So if you were a junkie for that style when that one band came to town and it was an all ages show you just went, right?  Like when the Sex Pistols did a 10 date tour in the U.S. every single weirdo from the last two years that sprung up went because that was it.  That’s all there was.
Fast forward you get this network of bands.  I think the DIY hardcore network is great and was put together by these very level-headed young people who wanted an alternative to just being an idiot.  But I think the music can often be very predictable.  Very little has changed from 1982 to the present.  That’s how I look at a lot of the hardcore-turnover scene.  In my opinion, the music hasn’t really progressed.  I don’t want to turn this into me ranting about a scene I only know so much about.  But when you go into that scene you know what you’re going to get.  It’s very lock-step and that was my observation when I played in that powerviolence band.  You look a certain way.  You have certain political leanings.  You read the same things.  The soundtrack is always really close to what people going to a show in a warehouse were checking out 35 years ago.  There’s a degree of complacency and expectation of the familiar.
So this is turning into a long thing where I’m explaining why there’s too much of this, or too much of that and a band like Godstopper doesn’t fit into a scene where one word will tell people everything they need to know about the band.

It isn’t easily explainable.


And that’s the worst part of the band?

Yeah, I’d say so.

You’re not doing too bad then.

(laughs) You want me to say some horrible, acrimonious thing about interpersonal problems?

No, I’m saying that it’s nice that you don’t have that! (laughs)  You’ve had it fairly easy.  You’re Canadian after all, you’re very polite.

(laughs) I think if we went on some 45 day tour or something like that it would be a different story.  No one would want to be friends.  You ever read interviews with big bands who tour all the time?  People ask them if they hang out and they’re all like, ‘no’.  And just for the sake of preserving of whatever is left of the relationships you have, I mean, you’re in these touring situations where you’re spending more time with these people than you do with a significant other.  And when you’re with a significant other you can go off and do things, whatever you want.  With a band there’s always accounting for other people, and making group decisions like where to eat, or when to leave for the next town, all that.  It’s like when Metallica see each other and they’ve known each other for nearly 40 years, and they’re just like, ‘how are you?’  ‘OK.’  Like there’s this tension, but it’s really dull because they’ve known each other for so fucking long.  I think our band would be different if we were in a touring situation like that, just always being out.  There’s a danger of that happening.  It’s not for everyone. 
But the way that Godstopper would go about getting more known would require this intensive amount of touring that’s not really feasible for us.  I think it’s a pretty special scenario when you find four people who can sync up on something again and again, it’s not something that’s typical and not something I feel like humans have evolved to do.  You’re operating against certain human tendencies.  But if you find the chemistry, and it works, that’s great.

A snippet of "Halfway" from their record release show and some expert camera work by yours truly.

And that's that for Godstopper stuff!   Hopefully you all have a well-rounded overview of one of Canada's greatest musical exports (at least to me anyway).  And, naturally, if you act on it, you can get a deal for not only this 12" EP, but also the "Lie Down"/"Children.." CD.  Go HERE to capitalize on that.  Or, if you're just a digital tracks only type go HERE and grab those for cheap.