Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"It's More Like an Homage to You" - A Tribute to Jeromes Dream

Zegema Beach Records
, known for their compilations, is back at it again with Coniine Records and an all star line-up for their upcoming Jeromes Dream tribute compilation, "It’s More Like An Homage to You". It's limited to 500 cassettes and will be up for pre-orders May 1st. The digital release date is set for May 16th with the orders shipping out. The proceeds are going to Flint Rising
Newcomers, Our Wits That Make Us Men, covered "Remembering the Sea of Tranquility" with their own unique spin, extending the short minute and thirty second track to around six minutes. An ambient/post rock intro plays on the song's suicidal lyrics, creating a bleak, yet emotional atmosphere before ending with the original structure of the song.

1. How were you first introduced to Jeromes Dream?
I believe I was introduced to Jeromes Dream when I was about 15 years old. I was a huge fan of Thursday, to put it mildly (still am), and, through them, I became aware of this genre called "screamo." Being the nerd that I am, I read extensively about it. At the time, screamo was a term that had some mainstream cache, in the sense that any sort of music with screaming was being called screamo (i.e.: A Day to Remember, Avenged Sevenfold, etc.). I knew there had to be more to this genre than that, and, through reading, I learned about bands like You and I, Saetia, Orchid, Off Minor, and Jeromes Dream more-or-less simultaneously. This was at a time when I was discovering new types of music quite rapidly. It was extremely exciting. Because of that, it took a couple years before I actually listened to Jeromes Dream. I immediately dug them, naturally, though I won't pretend that they ever became one of my all-time favorites in the genre. I appreciated them more for their aesthetic and the way they approached vocals. My other band (Massa Nera) still refers to screaming without a mic as "Jeromes Dream-ing" it. 2. The song Our Wits That Make Us Men chose was, "Remembering the Sea of Tranquility". Was there a reason y'all chose this to be your song for the comp? Yeah! So, I had neglected to involve Our Wits in the comp due to a) our relative lack of skramziness, and b) my bandmates unfamiliarity with JD. Dave Norman (owner of Zegema Beach Records) mentioned around March 19th or so that four songs were still available, with the catch being that the files had to be submitted by either the 29th or 31st. Our Wits was scheduled to practice on the 22nd, so I figured what the hell, I might as well see if one of the tracks could work with us. "Remembering the Sea of Tranquility" immediately stood out, largely because of its incorporation of spoken word (spoken word being a huge component of Our Wits style). When I heard that, I knew we could do something...well, maybe not interesting (that's not for me to determine), but I knew we could at least do something different with it. I hope people find it interesting. 3. The original version, in typical Jeromes Dream fashion, is a short one minute and thirty seconds. Our Wits extended that to over six minutes. How did you approach this song and what was your thought process behind extending the track? Hahaha well, we knew we had to be pretentious, hence the decision to extend it to 4x its original length! In all seriousness, we knew that this recording gave us an opportunity to use some of my favorite field recordings, ones that, for one reason or another, didn't make it onto our full-length (mostly because they were too dark). Before practice, I worked on a collage of sorts, using field recordings that fit the vibe we were going for (funereal I guess), doing my best impression of the Eraserhead soundtrack. I sent that to the band. They dug it and figured it would be interesting if we used those recordings as the backdrop to a drone. At that point, I had already recorded my best friend and I performing the spoken word part. We knew that we wanted our contribution to mirror the structure of the original (spoken word followed by chaos), and that we wanted the actual heavy part to be faithful to the original. That's about as much planning as we put into it. Come the 22nd, we spent 40 minutes learning the song, followed by another 15 or so recording it. After that, we (along with our guitarist's brother) spent a few minutes improvising a drone until we found something that we liked, the only certainty being that we would use chords from the song when constructing it. Honestly, the length was incidental. I knew the song would be extended because, well, we're long-winded (look at these answers!), but the actual length was determined by chance and feeling. We prefer leaving a lot of things to spontaneity and intuition. The meticulous arranging came once my guitarist and I mixed my Lynchian soundscape with the drone and the spoken word performances we had recorded, during which we added a couple more recordings, chopped up the spoken word, added some effects to it, etc. By we, I mean mostly him haha. 4. For those that don't know, you play drums in both Massa Nera and Our Wits. How does it feel to be on the comp with so many other great bands? Who are you most excited to be on there with? It feels amazing!! Honestly, it's difficult to put into words how wonderful it is to be part of a scene filled to the brim with such amazing, talented people. It's become an extremely important part of my life over the last year. The lineup for this comp makes me excited every time I read it. I hope the people who decide to check it are similarly floored. Well, being on a comp with Coma Regalia is extremely special. I've been listening to them for a while now, so to say both my bands are on a release with Shawn is fucking surreal. I absolutely adore Commuovere, Thisismenotthinkingofyou, and Lessener. Their contributions are sick. More people need to check them out. I'm really into Senza as well. They're doing a lot of things that most other people wouldn't attempt. In terms of approach, they aren't too dissimilar from Our Wits, actually (even though we don't sound alike). I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Mrtek (Dave Norman's band). There's another artist that my Massa Nera bandmates and I have been fond of for quite a while. I'm sure I'm forgetting some bands, which is a testament to how exciting this comp is. I'm very lucky to be a part of it.

See the full track listing below:

Side A:
1) KOMAROV – “My Most Recent Right Left Brain Argument”
2) COMMUOVERE – “What Other Adjective Would You Have Me Use For The Word Good?”
3) MASSA NERA – “The Monologue Of The Century”
4) THISISMENOTTHINKINGOFYOU – “A Second Grade Art Project”
5) UNDER GLASS – “Unreleased #1”
6) Мятеж – “Exit 29 Collapsed As I Drove By”
7) WOLF TEETH – “His Life Is My Denim Paradise All Day, Every Day”
8) APT SUT EIC OCO – “The Last Time We Talked”
9) SLEEPER WAVE – “A Present For Those Who Are Present”
10) COME IN, ACTION TWO. CAN YOU COMPLETE THE MISSION? – “And Just Like That The Year Is Gone”
11) MONOCHROME NAUSEA – “The Teacher Says To His Pupil”
12) YEARS PASS LIKE SECONDS – “Untitled #2”
13) SENZA – “How Staggering Is This Realization”
14) мища – “It’s More Like A Message To You”
15) AN ANT AND AN ATOM “What I Learned At This Years Regional Optometry Convention”
Side B:
16) ALGAE BLOOM – “Just Down The Hall From Room 526”
17) EAGLEHASLANDED – “No Matter What You’re Always There”
18) PIG LATIN – “It’s Right Where You Said It Would Be”
19) SENKETSU – “Rock Song”
20) APOSTLES OF ERIS – “Double Who? Double You!”
21) FARSEEK – “I Won’t Stop Wondering Until You Stop Breathing”
22) OUR WITS MAKE US MEN – “Remember The Sea Of Tranquility”
23) LACKLUSTER – “Do We Write To Write Right”
24) MASALLE – “Life Is What You Make Of It”
25) LESSENER “A Well Documented Case Of Severe Autism”
26) GLITCHGIRL – “Thirty Dollar Bill”
27) COMA REGALIA – “True Thinkers Will Stop Time To Think”
28) BLACK KNIGHT SATELLITE – “Everyday At 3:06”
29) MONOGAMY – “The Big Fuck You”

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bushman - ANKA Album Review

"Bushman" is the first full length release from Grand Rapid Michigan's Ape Not Kill Ape and was recorded by Tommy at Goon Lagoon. It plays with the themes of death, repression, and the various depravities human beings face, with a simultaneously schizophrenic and bleak delivery. Atmosphere is key and this record sets a dark and baleful mood in which you can get lost in the many sonic textures presented on this album.

"Bushman" starts off on the right foot with the opening track: "In My Own Hell." A fuzzed out lead guitar is followed by rumbling drums and a shadowy bass line, creating the perfect foreboding atmosphere for Adis's lines, "When I'm dead/Burn my body/When I die/Throw a party". Similar ominous, dark, and manic themes persist. Not only lyrically, but instrumentally and sonically throughout the album. 

"Wilson," for example, tells the story of a bored, overworked, and sexually repressed cashier with sexual superpowers. The drums are steady with tight snare work, allowing the rest of the band to weave and wander while noise and feedback fades in and out in the background. The delivery of the spoken word is what really sells this track for me. Adis has a certain monotone way of saying most lines, only to abruptly scream a few words before resorting back to his direct delivery. The feedback swells perfectly with the screams, creating a manic energy to the track.

Carrying that manic energy, the 4th track, "Red Room", starts with an aggressive drive before dropping off into a tight grove while Adis drops some stream of conscious lyrics: "The lazy man/A spastic howl/Red room junk/Appear in town."  The lack of an apparent cohesive theme to the lyrics and shift between driving, aggressive instrumentation and tight grooving contributes to the schizophrenic feel of this song.

"Sun/Feel" is, in my opinion, the most desolate and ominous track on the album and is reminiscent of "F#A# (Infinity)". Clocking in at just under nine minutes, it's also the longest track on the album. Field recordings mark the beginning, while a violin-esque guitar plays over the ambient noise. Around the two minute mark, the rest of the band starts to come in creating a very bleak, yet oppressive, sonic texture. Abruptly ending at five minutes into the song, they come back in with a triumphant sound that makes me imagine lone cowboys riding into a far western outpost after weeks of living in the desert."He wants the sun/She wants to feel/Sun/Feel," Adis screams as the track devolves into roaring chaos.

The seventh track, "Risky", marks a shift in the album. While I feel the previous six tracks had their moments of energy and spastic attitude, I think the progression from the lumbering crawl of the beginning of "Risky" to the driving chaos at the end leads into the more manic and claustrophobic territory of the last five songs.

One of my favorite attributes of ANKA is their ability to to create a firm and dependable rhythm without making it boring. They know the correct combination of sinuous guitar, resounding drums, and bass that rides the fine line in-between. "Waltz" is a fine example of this, and has to be heard to understand just how well they pull it off.

The shortest song on the record, "Into Dust", is a dance-able minute and twenty five second banger, to be put simply. It's the most up-beat song on the album, but carries the same nihilistic lyrics you hear through out the record, "
You gave up/On yourself /I need help/Help ourselves". Proving that even when they're up, ANKA know's how to get down. "Warm Dream/Warm Death" is, like a few other songs on this album, a rerecording of a past release, and it really shows how far the band has come since their beginning. Rushed delivery is replaced by careful orchestration and makes it apparent that the members of ANKA have learned how to better work together and plan their attack. This track is also a fine example of just how good Goon Lagoon is. While the previous recording had a lofi approach, this recording articulately conveys the power of the instrumentation and better suits Adis's vocals.

"Chain Gang Depression" ends "Bushman" on the best note I think possible. Finger picked arpeggiation and smooth drumming transition to a noisy and panicked thunder and then ebb and flow in-between claustrophobic chaos and the typical rumbling thunder you should now expect from ANKA. The way Adis repeats "You think you're fucking special?" and escalates it from barely above a whisper to full blow screaming really allows the track to build to a climax before slowing easing to a gentle end.
Overall, Ape Not Kill Ape has out done themselves with this release. They have found their sound and mastered it without being formulaic or boring. They've come a long way since their beginnings and have really shown that they know how to work together to create the best and most coherent product possible. "Bushman" is artsy without being pretentious and convey specific messages without sounding preachy or heavy handed. Tommy from Goon Lagoon has outdone himself with the production on this record. I believe is fully captures the sound and aesthetic of ANKA. While normally I can find an issue with the levels or the way a certain instrument sounds, I think that Tommy did a perfect job, and I don't know if anyone else could hope to do better.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/apenotkillape1/ Bandcamp: https://apenotkillape1.bandcamp.com/album/bushman-2 Interview With Adis: http://snufffilmcollective.blogspot.com/2017/04/an-interview-with-adis-of-ape-not-kill.html Edited by Haley Szczepanski

An Interview With Adis of Ape Not Kill Ape

I was first made aware of Ape Not Kill Ape by my interview with An Atomic Whirl when they listed them as one of their favorite bands, and later when Val from Sojii shared them with me. I was first enticed by the lo-fi quality of their early recordings and their take on the noisy and artsy side of punk. The music had all of the emotion and anger of punk, but more variety, depth, and talent than most of the bands I've been listening to since starting this blog. But what really caught my attention, was the lyricism and manic delivery of frontman Adis Kaltak. After they dropped "Bushman", the first full length by the band, I was determined to find out what makes this band, and Adis, work.
1. What were the beginnings of ANKA and what inspired your unique and moody sound? It started for me around may of 2014. I started with jamming with people from college and I ended up playing some spoken word "songs" that I had written around that time. I enjoyed working with other people so I started looking for people to start a band with. ANKA went through several different lineups but the current one is definitely the most actualized form of the band. Inspiration is a tougher idea to pinpoint. For me personally, words have always thrilled me. Listening to Gil Scott Heron, Burroughs, & Nick Cave have opened me to some new ideas when it comes to sound. I just like to imagine it as human honesty across multiple mediums that work together. 2. Personally, I hear a lot of desolate and bleak undertones in a lot of ANKA's songs, both lyrically and instrumentally. Michigan is known for its harsh winters and post industrial landscape. Do you think living in Grand Rapids and being exposed to that sort of environment has influenced you as an artist? Somewhat I'm sure. I like to think that the person makes the environment. In some situations more than others. I just wanted to create the antithesis to the music that I was exposed to in GR & a healthy amount of music made by new bands. I don't know if we succeeded but the fact that we get to work together so much creates our own haven in this city.

3. Ya'll recently released your first full length: "Bushman" and three of the tracks: "Warm Dream/Warm Death", "My Own Hell", and "Into Dust", are singles that date back to 2014 and 2015. Is it safe to say that this album has been a long time in the making? What was the reasoning for including these older songs and how have things changed since you wrote them? Yeah we've been working on some of these songs for three years. It's mostly technical shit when it comes to why it took three years to release. We couldn't find a studio with someone that we trust mostly; there's a mixtape floating around America with 7 tracks that I recorded in my garage and room. That was supposed to be the album. At the end of it, we couldn't truly capture our sound until we met Tommy from Goon Lagoon. Each of the songs have their own respective beauty but we didn't really feel like they were "done" until we ended up recording at Goon Lagoon. "Warm Dream" has a more doomy theme now than the VU-like version that we had before. "Into Dust" has always been the same, Cam added a wonderful melody on the album version that wasn't on previous versions. "In My Own Hell" has more confidence in its suffering, not so pitiful, like the first version. 4. What made y'all decide that Goon Lagoon was the studio for you? Once you got in the studio, how was your experience there and how long did it take to complete the album? We loved the records that came out of there and Tommy was such a charmer. I don't know how anyone could say no to him. He knew the sound that we were going for & he didn't interfere most importantly. It took about three days to record and overdub everything. We knew the material so well at that point. 5. When it comes to writing material for ANKA, what is the band dynamic? How do you know when a song is "finished"? One of us just show up with a guitar line or bass riff and it just snowballs from there. It's finished when we make eye contact at the end of the song and we begin communicating telepathically.

6. ANKA did a Daytrotter session back in February. How did it feel to be asked to preform and record in a space where so many other amazing and influential artists have preformed? It's a nice studio with some great gear, but other than that it was a pretty straightforward experience. Drive five hours, play for two, eat Mexican food and drive back home. 7. You performed two new songs off of an upcoming album there. Can you tell us a bit about those songs and the direction the new album will be taking? "Project Diana" & "The Hunter" Cam came up with the bass line for "Project Diana" and "The Hunter" just emerged from a jam we had. I'm just providing vocals for those two thus far. As for direction, we just end up going where we feel is right. We're one unit now, we have our first album & we're ready to file the songs from Bushman as done & push into fresh territory. 8. Along with Daytrotter, you did some work with Orange Cap Pictures. How did this collaboration come about? I knew Andy from working with him on some Hailey & The Black Trash music videos. I loved his style, showed him our music & told him that we should work together once our album is done. He has three more videos for "Wilson", "Into Dust" & "Graveyard Dog". Those will be released every couple of weeks for the next few months. A video for every song.

9. I think the video for "Cops Kill" was very interesting and executed well. Where was this filmed at and who lead the artistic direction of this video? The opening spoken word is also very engaging. What was the inspiration and meaning behind this and more specifically, what did the lines "Where the retarded dogs chew on dreams, non truths, and bite at love. Aloof multicellular organisms with mutilated ideas for peace on earth," mean to you? It was juxtaposition between Goon Lagoon & our basement/house that Andy came up with. He wanted a spoken word thing to open it so I just sent him that old recording of me reciting that poem. It's mostly about child prostitution and how Grand Rapids is the USA's human trafficking capital, especially when artprize and these bigger events get going. It's to bring children in for these rich elites to sodomize and fill some bottomless pit of power. 10. When you write something like that poem with a very important and meaningful message, do you set out with the intention of spreading that message through your art or is your art just a vehicle for expressing the different thoughts and opinions you have? It's only for me to truly understand at the end of it. I enjoy the ideas that people explore through our art though. I don't really have a mission statement or a manifesto so to say. It's all human experience and I feel like it's relatable to most people.

11. "Wilson", the second track off of "Bushman", tells the tale of a disgruntled cashier with the power of magical cum. You represent some very real and everyday issues such as being overworked and under appreciated with lines like "Hoping his shit boss won't inject him with the rusty needle known as over time" and "Thanks boss; I respect every bone in your slug like being," but off set it with some more "comical" lyrical choices like, "He grabs his cock like a mother holding her child's hand across the street" and "But as he grabs the One Direction disk he busts his load." Was this choice to include some black comedy into to the song intentional and what inspired these lyrics? Also what the hell is the meaning behind this track? Hahaha, I wrote it while working as a cashier actually. I got a random boner while working one day and naturally I felt pretty weird about it. I started thinking of the various ways we're sexually repressed in society while at the same time we are subconsciously stimulated with sexuality everywhere we go. I began to imagine a "superhero" who is not bound by these rules of society, & that's how Wilson was born. The humor came (ha) partly from the way I was raised, Slavs have a very funny way of dealing with life's darkest issues so it came quite naturally. 12. This dynamic artists have between our work and our art is a strange one to say the least. What effect do you think being a working class musician has had on your art? Do you think that if you were still an artist, but never had to work, your art world be drastically different? Well if it wasn't for work I would have never met our drummer, Allen. I think shitty jobs/work are the backbone of honest art. Once that is gone I'm not sure how the medium will remain, in my case. It'll be different for sure, but maybe it's for the best. Nothing remains still, I hope we always surprise our audience. 13. "Risky" stands out on the record with its frequent build ups and driving instrumentation. The instruments build a creepy undertone for your vocals to haunt over. Lyrically, it sounds like you are playing with the themes of sexual repression in a sexual world and the danger women and children face in GR that you previously explored with "Wilson" and the poem before "Cops Kill". "Her sickness is showing/Over & over/She peers over shoulders /I wanna be free/God, hold me closer/Risky move, for a safe lady..." Where did this idea originate and what were you trying to express? I was driving around town with Mike, this guy who played guitar with us before Cam joined. This lady ran a red light so I said "risky move" which he replied "for a safe lady" I thought it was brilliant so I wrote it down and the lyrics just trickled down from that phrase.

The idea is about taking risks, playing with danger while trying to stay safe a the same time. A grand oxymoron. The idea I suppose was to create this eerie, sexual character that moved like the wind. She has supreme love for her powers but was living a lie "white girl in a white home...etc" so she broke through and made that "risky move"

14. Another song that was made into a video by Orange Cap Pictures was "Chain Gang Depression". I particularity enjoy the lyrics, "But here I am/Grasp the pickaxe & slam it down/With the force of everything you have ever loved/and I love the chain gang depression" and how you end it with building up "You think you're special?" Until you're screaming. Tell me about the story on this one and the story behind it. Another one I wrote at work. That cashier job provided me with quite a bit of down time. I just wrote it down as a poem at first, there were no plans to turn it into a song. I didn't think it would work as one. I just wanted something to wrap up my life so to say. I tried to keep it pretty vague, there's something quite misfortunate when it comes to dead on, personal lyrics I think. My family and I went through some interesting stuff you could say, coming here as refugees from a genocide. Like I mentioned earlier; I stray from writing about forward personal things in life. So this really put me in a strange place when performing it initially. Brett brought forward the melody and it was over right after that. I feel in love with it, it grooved right. I'm glad that something so personal can be absorbed by the people that listen to it and bring it up to their own light.

Also even though I slit my mother throat in the song we still cool in real life. People always seem to ask me about what my mom thinks about the song or why I wrote about killing her. Both of my parents are extremely supportive.
15.You mentioned that you came to the US as refugees from genocide. How old were you and where did you immigrate from? I was about 2 years old. So not really conscious of what was going on. We were staying in Slovenia, both of my parents were stationed there after being involved with the national army. We were by modern national identity "Bosnian Muslims" so there was no home to go to. We knew some people here in Chicago so we moved there & moved to Grand Rapids in 96'. Life wasn't so easy for us in Chicago & it was easier to find steady work here. 16. I'm sure this has affected your thoughts and opinions on American politics and culture quite a bit. On one hand, America was the country that "saved" you so to speak but on the other, it's a country rife with violent racial history and a more recent distrust for refugees and people related in any way to Islam. How did growing up as an immigrant in America mold you as a person and as an artist? What are your thoughts on the current state of American politics and attitude towards "outsiders"? I love this country, I'm glad that I was raised inside of it & got to experience the phenomena directly. But as a child there was always this separation between Bosnian Americans and Americans. I was living in two different cultural worlds. At home, it might as well been Bosnia. Yugoslav music was always playing in the living room. We spoke Serbo-Croatian at home; but as soon as I stepped out of my home I was in AMERICA. It must have taught me to create another dimension, so I could enjoy my existence within. I was always creating as a child, as well as living in fictional worlds. Video games, books, whatever I could find. I think without that experience it would have been impossible for me to find an honest medium for me to explode all of those yummy inner feelings into. I hate it currently, I always hated politics. It sucked in Europe and it sucks in America. The world is fucked and the most beautiful thing we can do is dance in the chaos

Bandcamp: https://apenotkillape1.bandcamp.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/apenotkillape1/

Daytrotter: http://www.daytrotter.com/ape-not-kill-ape/horseshack-february-26-2017.html "Bushman" Album Review: http://snufffilmcollective.blogspot.com/2017/04/bushman-anka-album-review.html Edited by Haley Sczcepanski

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Talking Comics With Grey Gordon

1. What was your introduction to the comic book world, how old where you, and what drew you to comic books as an artistic medium? It would be hard to pinpoint an exact entry point. I grew up in the 90s, so comic books were ubiquitous by that point. We'd reached sort of the peak saturation point of comic books as a mainstream medium. I mean, Rob Liefeld was in a damn Levi's commercial. Also, Rob Liefeld-woof. So yeah, I guess they were just something I always enjoyed. I grew up in a family of relative nerds. I legitimately don't remember a time when Star Wars, Star Trek and old superhero flicks weren't on the TV, and my parents were into LOTR and Dune and whatnot, so comics were just a natural extension of those interests. 2. When you started diving into comic books at a young age, what where the first few series you started collecting? I didn't really start collecting in earnest until my teen years. As a kid, it was a lot of reading shit at the store while my mom bought groceries or buying whatever single issues I could get my hands on. We were pretty broke growing up. Not destitute on the streets by any means, and there was always food on the table, but there just wasn't a ton of money to spend on frivolous things. That said, I mentioned Liefeld earlier, and that was some of the first stuff I remember actively reading. If you're not familiar, Rob Liefeld was one of the dudes who eventually went off to start Image, but he was initially a hotshot artist working for Marvel on titles like New Mutants and X-Force. His shit was everywhere, so other than Silver Age books I inherited, his were some of the first I remember reading. That said, I quickly moved away from that and into DC and what they were doing with Batman at the time. Marvel's obsession with pouches and swords and lasers just didn't appeal to me like it did to a lot of kids. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go pick up a copy of X-Force from that era and you'll get it. So, I guess Batman was my first super deep bond with a particular comic book character. As basic as it may sound, he remains my favorite to this day. 3. What was it about Batman that caught your attention? Do you have a favorite villain or story arc? I really loved that he didn't have any superpowers, for one. There was something really awe inspiring about a dude who was just so determined to fulfill his vision that he threw every fiber of himself into that process. I also didn't know it at the time, but I've suffered from pretty serious depression since childhood, so I always tended to gravitate towards things with a grimmer aesthetic. Cliche, I realize, but true nonetheless. I think I would be a fool to not acknowledge Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns as the single best Batman comic of all time, and I think most would agree with me. However, I personally have a soft spot for an early 90s arc called Knightfall. That was the one that pulled me away from Marvel at the time and fully into Batman and DC. The short version is that Batman gets his back broken by a now iconic hyper strong criminal mastermind named Bane. With him out of action, another dude named Jean-Paul Valley steps in to assume the mantle during Bruce Wayne's absence, and without getting into the convoluted backstory, his previous training and affiliations basically propelled him down a hyper violent path and he donned this gnarly fucking new bat suit with metal claws and shit. That's probably still my favorite Batman Run outside of the Dark Knight Returns. Some honorable mentions are Hush, The Killing Joke, and the more recent Batman Eternal, but that's barely scratching the surface. 4. Being a big Batman fan, what are your thoughts on the movie adaptations and tv shows? Any time you're adapting source material for a different format, it can get dodgy. By and large, I think many of the on screen adaptations of Batman have been missing something or are outright awful, but there are some excellent ones as well. I think Batman The Animated Series is by far the best non-comic interpretation of Batman. I also like the Tim Burton movies for what they are. Nicholson's joker is incredible. Forever and Batman and Robin are unspeakable disasters, but worth a rewatch for the comedic value. The first two Nolan ones are good films, but missing a lot. The last one is fucking abysmal. Truthfully, I think Ben Affleck is the best Batman we've seen on the big screen, but it was sadly in one of the worst superhero movies in recent memory, and it doesn't look like DC's films are going to get much better any time soon. I'm just hoping with the massive resurgence of interest in superhero films, we'll actually get a DC cinematic universe in the next 20 years that doesn't suck.

Part of Grey's collection
5. Speaking about the recent resurgence of interest in super hero films, do you feel like Hollywood is making a quick cash grab on these franchises? Every one seems to be set up to introduce the next character. Do you think the quality of content is suffering? Well, I mean, the film industry is just that-an industry. Not to be too cynical, but at the end of the day, it's all a cash grab for the studios involved. I don't really care, though. I'm aware of that fact and it doesn't bother me. Some people are complaining of over saturation, but I don't really get that perspective. We're finally at a point where comic book films are technologically feasible. I get to see the worlds and the characters that inhabit them realized on screen in an unprecedented way. As a pathological escapist, there's nothing I could want more. Of course you're going to have studios rushing to get in the game and making bad movies, but for every awful film, there's a great one. Marvel/Disney has been absolutely knocking it out of the park for nearly a decade. Also, for me, even a bad superhero flick is enjoyable on some level. Any time I'm not spending with loved ones is pretty much consumed with video games, comics, movies, television and D&D. Give me more content with which to ignore reality. Sure, some of it will suck, but plenty is bound to stick. I'm all for it. Keep it coming. 6. If you browse any comic forum or comments section on a movie trailer, you'll see hoards of fans foaming at the mouth because the director or writer changes an aspect of the story or trait of a character. When it comes to the execution of bringing a comic book character to the big screen, do you think that the director/writer should stick to the books, or do you think a certain level of artistic freedom should be allowed? I definitely don't feel anyone should feel obligated to stick to the books in terms of plot points. While I love seeing familiar arcs explored on screen, more open ended adaptations can also lead to incredible results. Watch Legion for a great example of that. Inversely, it can also lead to a show like Gotham, which we won't speak of any further. All that said, I do think the characters should be recognizable and at least somewhat true to the source material. At the end of the day, I'm going to see characters that I've grown to love and understand over the years, so I don't want to see some totally backwards representation of them. Henry Cavill's Superman in the new movies is a perfect example of this. He's broody, pouty, grim and essentially everything Superman isn't. If it weren't for the big S on his chest, he'd be unrecognizable as Superman. So, I guess it's just a matter of striking that balance between creative vision and respecting the source material. 7. When it comes to comic books, what do you like the most about them: the art work, dialogue, or is it something else? As I kind of touched on in the last question, I'm a serial escapist. I always have been. That's the primary appeal of comics for me. There's something incredibly mesmerizing about being able to get totally immersed in a fantasy world. The sad truth is that real life is often heartbreaking, and I just don't want to think about it more than I have to. That's probably self-centered and cynical, but it is what it is. Beyond that, I think it takes a combination of great art, plot and writing to make a truly timeless comic. For me, the pieces all have to fall in to place, but quality doesn't take a specific form. It runs the gamut from campy to extremely somber. Like anything, it's all about how effectively you can execute your vision. 8. Where are some of your favorite places for finding comics? With the rise of the internet and sites like eBay, specialty stores like comic and collector shops are starting to get pushed to the side. What are your thoughts on the shift? On one hand, accessibility and convenience are nice, but I really enjoy the small local comic book shop. Mom and pop spots like that were what I cut my teeth on. I actually used to work at a local one called Discount Comic Book Service that's about to close their physical location and I'm really bummed about it. I understand the mechanisms that have caused the shift and I accept its inevitability, but it does bum me out. I try not to get caught up in "good old days" thinking, but it's tough sometimes. I'm not sure where the fuck I fit in this world. 9. Obviously you have a soft spot for the super hero side of comics, but do you have any other favorites outside of that genre? What drew you to superheroes in the first place? There's tons of good stuff outside of the more traditional superhero comics. It's cliche now, but when Walking Dead first started coming out I was super stoked on it. Vertigo was doing a really rad sub-imprint from 2008-2011 called Vertigo Crime, and there were some really dope titles in that. Garth Ennis' non-superhero stuff like Preacher and Hellblazer is phenomenal. I could go on, but in short, I definitely like stuff outside of just superhero books. What drew me to more traditional superhero comics in the first place is something I've kind of touched on. Again, I think if boils down to escapism and fantasy. Like any kid, I loved imagining myself as in those roles. It's such a departure from the mundane drudgery of daily life. Don't get me wrong, I like my life, but that doesn't keep me from spending most of my work day fantasizing about being a member of the New Mutants. 10. Superheroes and other comic characters have been used to promote different products, raise support for war efforts, and comfort children in hospitals, while comics themselves where pretty much the first medium to allow direct marketing to children through add space throughout the comic. What role do you think these characters play in shaping our society, culture, and consumer habits? At this point, they probably have very little to do with consumer habits. As you pointed out, there was a time when comic books more actively marketed specific products to kids, and while I'm sure it influenced purchasing habits, I also don't think it accomplished anything in that realm that advertising couldn't have accomplished via a different format. Concerning their cultural impact, I think it would be hard to overstate how influential they have been on the modern pop culture landscape. There's the obvious film boom going on right now, but there was a time when the airwaves were also filled with superhero cartoons. Beyond influencing just youth culture, the tropes, catchphrases and characters of those books have become iconic in a way few things are. Superman is recognized almost universally. You would be hard pressed to find someone in the Western world who isn't familiar with him. That's quite a claim. I won't expound further, simply because this is a topic that could easily fill a book. In fact, there is a wealth of literature regarding the cultural and social impact of comics, and much of it is very interesting.

Follow Grey on Twitter : @greyxgordon Check out his newest project: https://killsurfcityfw.bandcamp.com

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

An Interview With Yowie

Yowie is music to lose your mind to… or dance to… whichever you prefer. Far from your average extreme band, Yowie have put a lot of work into distancing themselves from the more conventional strands of extreme music. Their odd time signatures and complex rhythms push the boundaries of what can even be considered music, and their talent seemingly knows no bounds. When not outwardly defying straightforward categorization, Yowie nevertheless pushes themselves to do things most bands simply aren’t capable of accomplishing. Endlessly restless, they are never satisfied with the product they produce. Their desire to grow as a band shows in the improvements they have made with each album. Most admirably, all this pushing and prodding to create something terrifyingly complex and original is for no one’s benefit but their own. They are not out for recognition or success. They just want to make music that doesn’t bore them.

1. It's not uncommon to see bands last just a few years, but Yowie has managed to last almost two decades. What do you think is the glue that has kept the band together? Stubbornness. What we are doing takes more commitment than a lot of bands have- we constantly push ourselves to play things that are really counterintuitive, and that means we are always challenged, and so that stays rewarding. We are never bored. 2. What sparked your interest in extreme music? Why did you decide to push the limits of "extreme music" even further? I've always liked art that had some form of extremity. I liked punk and metal for a long time, and still do, when it's done well. I remember one time I went to this thing called Milwaukee Metalfest. It was some crazy number of bands, mostly death metal with some grindcore and thrash thrown in- started at like 9 a.m. and went until 2 a.m., I think. 2 stages- so someone was always playing. And at about hour 14 of that, I really came to realize that these cats were fast as hell, and brutal, but it can really turn into a type of folk music with very strict songwriting conventions. Even extreme music can get pretty predictable, and therefore, not all that extreme. So I started messing around with other compositional approaches that forced other boundaries to be crossed. A lot of the time, the listener doesn't even know what those boundaries are. It's just different in an indescribable way. If you're intrigued by that, you're our kind of person. If you wince and just notice how different, and therefore bad, it sounds, then move on. Nothing for you here. 3. Yowie has an almost written rule to throw all conventional music standards out the window. What is your definition of music? Hmmmm. Well if you mean what is our definition of our music, then we really basically started out as being a type of protest music, I think. Most rock based music, in particular, is pretty formulaic. There may be differences between genres, but within them, you can pretty quickly start to decipher what the norms are, and to me, I always found that conformity boring. I tend toward art that challenges, surprises, and evokes strong reactions. So at first, we basically tried to hermeneutically decipher the various rock rules that appeared to be in effect, and then adamantly refused to follow them. As time went on, our particular way of doing that turned into a sound and style that is, I think, and hope, distinctive.

4. What place do you think extreme music has in our society? Trends shift and change with the years, so do you think extreme music will ever hold a more "mainstream" position in society? Well if it becomes mainstream, then it needs to change. I think extreme art- in any modality- is an absolute necessity for any society. We need to question our assumptions, find the areas of our lives where we have become complacent or too comfortable, and then at the very least, have those challenged by art. If we don't, we stagnate. If one day, constantly shifting odd meter polymetric dissonant rock is the norm, well that will surprise me. If my music is being played in Taco Bells in 2030, then I have failed. 5. You discussed in a previous interview that your songs are a product of intense deliberation and time. How long does it typically take to finish a song and how do you decide when it is complete? It's tough to nail down specific time frames. Like in the 5 years or so working on this album (with 5 songs on it), we had a lot happen- some medical issues, financial issues, a guitarist lost a finger- there were multiple hospitalizations and all kinds of crap happening. And the songs don't usually happen in one burst. We oftentimes will work on something for a few months straight, get frustrated with it, and then set it aside work on a different one for a while. We had about a year of recording prep for this album. So once the compositions were complete, it took quite a while to get them flowing well enough that we could say we can sit and play them relatively flawlessly as a group in the studio. We usually decide it is complete when no one is complaining about any of the transitions or the flow anymore. There are different thresholds for each of us on that. I am confident the band would agree I have the highest, and Jeremiah has the lowest. 6. What fuels this, almost obsessive, passion for perfection? It's not that we are obsessive people; it's not our character. The music itself demands it, which is a hard thing to understand, I think. We are playing music that, for large chunks anyway, is either played flawlessly or it is garbage. That is not a product of a perfectionistic personality; it is a necessary ingredient in this style. So if you're in a blues band, or a punk band, and you come in a beat early on a measure, or you play the chorus a little too fast, you just catch back up and course correct. It's not a huge problem. The concept of the song remains intact. Someone dropped an E and no one notices or cares. It's still like 95% correct and still sounds like a punk song and everyone recognizes it for continuing to be that same punk song, because honestly, you sort of know how it is supposed to go even if you've never heard it before. But if you are playing a piece of music whose very essence is defined by the interplay of 5 different rhythms happening simultaneously, which creates this massive whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts, you are doing something different. If one of them is just slightly off, you are not at 95% correct and the part still holds together; you instead have an incoherent pile of garbage. There is very little tolerance for error in this music if the idea is going to get effectively conveyed. We have a lot of sections like that, where a slight fumble creates a wholesale structural collapse, and there is no redeeming it. It's horrifying when it happens. You know when that note gets dropped, there is no way it's getting picked back up- you just have to be ashamed. So it's different in some ways than traditional rock music. You don't look at a skyscraper and say "well one of those girders is 2% off plumb, but who cares- it's still a building." And you don't tell the engineer who insists it is corrected (s)he should chill and quit being a perfectionist. You thank that person because 2% off is a complete failure in this instance. It's not "close enough," and 98% building. It's a pile of rubble that has made a lot of money and energy lost.

7. With multiple years in between releases, do you ever struggle with changing tastes or interests?

Not really; Yowie is its own thing, and so no matter what else we may be into, it occupies its own space in our minds. We did change our approach a bit on this album, but even with a new guitarist, it is still unmistakably Yowie. 8. To say Yowie is unique is an understatement. Where do you find inspiration? I think each of us finds it in pushing boundaries. Just about everything we write, we can't play at first. We have to force ourselves to expand our abilities, to be more and more ambitious. For me, I seethe with a lot of rage about a lot of horrifying things I see happening in our society, and being able to separate from that and play very intellectually and technically challenging stuff seems to help balance things out. 9. For all the gear nerds out there, myself included, what are your setups and how has it evolved over the years? Do you feel that your rigs are crucial to your sound? We may be the least gear oriented band you have ever talked to; no, I really don't think the rigs are crucial. Chris plays through a nondescript amp. Jeremiah has an ampeg, although his guitar is sort of weird- it is a custom guitar someone just made for him because they liked our music. And it is strung/tuned rather uniquely. For me, I did get an acrylic set to record this album, because on past albums the clarity on my toms was sort of lacking, and when you can't hear a good chunk of what these interlocking rhythms are doing, well then you aren't really hearing the song at all. So I guess that sort of counts. I want all the drums I am playing to be audible, which seems like a no brainer but it is actually a bigger pain in the ass than you might think with music as dense as this. 10. Was the decision to be an instrumental band conscious? 

Well our music is typically pretty thick, and so I can't really imagine another player of any sort doing yet another layer on top of this without it turning into a mess. And honestly, if somehow there were vocals, comprised of words, I would feel like it would take away from the music. The band doesn't need vocals, in my opinion. It's got plenty going on. I can't imagine someone singing along to one of our songs. What words would they pick? There was some guy who kept writing us, insisting he was going to win us over and be the ultimate vocalist for us. Eventually we told him to knock himself out and send us a recording. Never happened. I assume he tried and gave up.

https://yowie.bandcamp.com/ Thank you to Haley for editing this and to Mark for rewriting the into paragraphs. Y'all save my illiterate ass.