Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Interview from '09!

Our interview from Law and Order zine (out of Sweden) from 2009 (while we were on tour with Bishop) was just posted online. Stories on Dave and I becoming straight edge and some really solid writing from the interviewer. Check it out!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Black Friday

Same shit, different year.

Black Friday (off The Rage That Guides)

Work today
Cash rules everything around me
And everything around me is empty
But how can we run escapeless seas?
I put one foot in and sink
I put one foot in and think
We're all sunk by the misery of deceit
Check out today
Cash rules everyone around me
And everyone around me is empty
Disinherited of life
Off the plank we dive
To depths so low
To depths so cold
We choose to breathe below the sea
We choose to sink
Our spirit's poverty
Turns to fury
Turns to frenzy
Believe us when we say that today's casualty was an act of love
We sink
We sink
We sink

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Studio Stories, part 5

"I'd now like to quote the great American poet, Jamie Jasta.

'I can justify your suffering, can you justify theirs?'"

Chuckles rippled through the crowd. The guitars, bass, and drums tore into Hatebreed's* song "Filth" and laughter fell into pure fucking chaos. Multicolored confetti flew through the air, so much, and so thick, that I had to wipe my eyes every few seconds to rid them of the build up. Kids punched out ceiling tiles and smashed them on the ground releasing fiberglass into the air and our throats stung and skin itched instantly. People hit walls, did flips, circle pitted, stage dove, crowd punched, beat the stage- it was absolute mosh mayhem. I ran back and forth, partly singing and partly laughing, and then, before I knew what was happening, completely puking.

Big unchewed chunks of stew and soggy bread spewed from me all over some dude's arm. Thankfully, he was looking back at the venue getting destroyed** and missed it. With puke caught in my nose and myself caught in a total gross-out, I thought, "God damn it, I knew I shouldn't eaten before we played!", and skipped to other side of the stage before anyone noticed what'd happened.

It was my tendency to puke while singing that I was thinking about the morning we recorded vocals. How to give myself enough sustenance to make it through the day so I didn't carpet Mike's garage in vomit. Early eating. That was the key. James, Dave, and I woke up and went to Harrison St for (vegan- duh) french toast and biscuits and gravy. Bleary eyed I drank coffee and watched Richmond's cornucopia of sub-culturals filter into the cafe. I was finally getting to make my contribution to the new songs, and while the coffee didn't do much to help me cope with the morning (I see very few mornings), that energized me. I was ready to record.

At Mike's, I grabbed a mug out of his parent's kitchen and microwaved the first of my zillion cups of hot water that day. Warm water helps keep your throat loose (that's what she said), and when you're going to spend 5+ hours screaming, you reaaaaally want to make sure you don't do any damage.

A side note for vocalists: It's very easy to damage your throat while singing for a hardcore band. It's very easy to lose your voice as well, and when you're say, on TOUR, that's mega bogus. So let me share a few tips with you:

1. Always, ALWAYS warm up before you play (shows, practice, records, whatever.) I start by humming up and down scales for a couple of minutes, then I sing scales. Up and down, I belt it out- going as high and as low (and loud) as I can. This warms up the ol' chords, and just like warming up before lifting at the gym, it helps prevent injuries. You'll feel really dumb while you're doing it, but it will save your voice, so suck it up and do it (... and, that's what she said.)

2. Drink room temp/hot water before you play, if possible. (A literal warm up.)

3. Drink as much as possible during playing.

(for more info here's something Greg Bennick wrote on the subject and those zen of screaming dvds that everyone raves about)

We started with the song that was the hardest for me to do. In the new record, I tried some new things- and in that song in particular, I sang. Not like, sang sang, more like screamed in key. More Rancid than Crowbar, if you get what I mean. Anyway, it was challenging.

After that song was finished, Mike and I were in the kitchen getting drinks and he turned to me and gingerly said, "Soooo... Davin, that song took 2 hours to track- I'm not saying that that's bad, it's just... well, if they all take that long..."

I assured him that the rest would go quickly, and they did.

"Yo, lemme do that 'blahp' again, that one wasn't hard enough..."

Recording hardcore is ridiculous. It's especially ridiculous when you're recording "uhhhs" and "yeahhs" and noises that sound like hocking loogies. Let me try to paint this picture for you.

You're standing in the middle of a garage with a dude you only kind of know. In front of you is a mic stand with a giant spit guard/noise dampener which is so... clunky... and stationary... that you kind of feel like you're in Aerosmith. You have gigantic headphones on that block all noise but what comes through them, and what comes through them are your songs, and you have to pretend they're being played live and then scream in that big quiet room, in front of a dude you hardly know, who does not hear what you're hearing- he only hears you yelling. And since you're probably passionate about your subject matter, you're worked up, huffing and puffing, dripping sweat while he's kicked back in his chair drinking a soda. It's a very unnatural environment for hardcore. How do you whip up energy standing in a room with only 1 other person it in, and he's sitting half asleep in a chair? How do you make your songs feel live when they're recorded in bits and pieces over days and days?

But forget that, and imagine that scene again, only instead of shouting your oh-so important words, you're belting out, "BLAHP!" (or "huuuahhh!" or "bwllleaaahhp!") And of course you can't stay still when you do that, so you move a little. In front of the big Aerosmith-y mic stand. And how do you move when you're blahping, Mr. Tyler? Probably like an idiot. I know I do. Robby Red Cheeks' cheeks ain't got shit on those of a vocalist recording grunts.

Despite that, when all is said and done and you've thrown an echo effect here and there, you're glad that you did it. In fact it's the greatest thing you've ever heard. The "blahp" is a fantastic and unexplainable phenomenon, hardcore's version of rock and roll's pointless "la la la"s, existing to serve no purpose other than to please the ear. But why, I wonder, instead of a melodic vocal tune do we prefer a mucousy sounding expectorant cough?


Hours passed and the dudes ate a couple of times, but I didn't. The sun fell and the garage grew dark and I sang empty-bellied. It had all gone well, in fact I wasn't even hungry, theeeeeen at some point in recording song 6, the puking started. But because I hadn't eaten since the early morning I didn't really puke, I frothed. I'd scream a few lines, then my mouth would fill with white froth. Another few, froth. Yelling, frothing. It was gross. But in the name of song 6, I pushed through.

Then, without warning, the room spun around and I saw spots. "Ineedtoeat... right.... nooooowwwwww." Thus ended day 1 of vocals for me.

After some Chinese food Dave recorded his back ups. I laid on the couch, my entire body feeling like it was shutting down. My head spun. My muscles ached. My temples pounded. When Dave and Mike were done, we loaded into the car and, in tired silence, went back to the warehouse and went to sleep.

*Covering Hatebreed is debatably lame. We know this. It's not as unforgivable as covering, say, Guns Up or Down To Nothing (both of which we've seen- and I'm sure you have too- numerous times), but it's still not really all that cool. But you know what it IS? Fun. So much fun. And you know what's lamer than covering Hatebreed? Getting so caught up in what's cool and what's not that you become so self conscious and cautious that you forget how to let loose and have a good time. If what we have in our hearts is what we take to our graves, I sincerely hope I don't take myself too seriously even 6 feet underground. That ain't no way to live or die.

**This venue was getting bulldozed the following day, it's not like we encourage the ruining of show spaces- we don't!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Studio Stories, part 4

Ever noticed how punk kids are infatuated with garlic? You know, those new wave peace punks- the ones that run Food Not Bombs and live in collective houses and silk screen bike (or garlic) themed patches? These folks have more garlic tattoos than any other group of people on earth. The bands they listen to have garlic-themed art in their records. Their sub culture and that vegetable have intertwined in my mind so completely that when I'm chopping garlic (aka "upping the garlix") for my dinner I feel almost subversive.

This is relevant, because on day 3 of recording, James, Dave, and I swung by Elwood Thompson's (a local health food store) on our way to the studio (garage) and got something for brunch that was the fucking holy grail of garlic. How we didn't have to beat through a line of hippie punx to get it I don't know. $3.50 each got us calzones stuffed with daiya cheese, mushrooms, spinach, tomato sauce, and WHOLE ROASTED CLOVES OF GARLIC. Like 15 cloves per calzone. Is that even healthy? Can you OD on garlic? And if you do, do you ascend to a place where everyone wears patched pants, giant pots of stew are always simmering, and you're seated, eternally, behind a table of anarchist literature at a never ending crust show?

At the studio Mike had moved things from the garage to a bedroom. We recorded bass while James, always the snoozer, slept on the bed, I hung out on the plushly carpeted floor, and Dave (who recorded bass just for consistency's sake), kicked back in a cozy chair to lay tracks. He played a Fender P-bass and recorded directly (no loud amps like the day before) via a Sans amp.

Bass was done within a few hours, and then it was time to do vocals. Something was off for me and nothing I did sounded good, so we scrapped the day. We went over all the things that could have thrown me, and realized that it was singing in natural light (with was pouring in through the bedroom windows)- something most hardcore vocalists never do. We tried to think of any times we'd even played in sunlight, and only Fluff Fest and Ieper Fest came to mind- and even those were incredibly awkward, but the presence of huge crowd helped offset the weird. In the bedroom, the situation was made weirder by the presence of... well, a bedroom. So we told Mike that we wanted to move back into the garage for vocals, which were set for the next day.

With a half a day still left, we did what we always do- we ate. This time we went to Panda Garden. After eating some mock meat, we spent about an hour filming each other saying rapmetal things like, "No one understands me." and, "My parents kept me in their cage for 15 years!" thinking it would be SO entertaining to show y'all in our video update, which of course it would not be. Don't worry, we'll leave it out of the videos.

At the cash register, I overheard one waiter teaching another to count in Chinese. I asked if she was learning Chinese, she said yes then asked if I was learning Chinese, and I said, "No, but he is!" and pointed to Dave. Dave has been learning Mandarin for the last couple of months (his 5th language of the year- he's been studying Russian, German, Italian, and Portuguese as well) and, upon hearing this the Chinese-speaking waiter grabbed the Chinese-speaking owner of Panda Garden and rushed him to our table, where Dave was thrust into the spotlight of having a conversation in Mandarin with an entire restaurant gawking at him (including me and James.) But he did it. Amazing right?

Back at the warehouse, a Blink 182 cover band was practicing and people were baking goodies. The night wore on in a blur of chatter and snacks, then Fire and Ice started practicing. (Richmond was being very Richmond, as usual.) Then I don't know how it started, but I got my face paints out (I've worked as a professional face painter for the last 5 years) and James was sitting in a chair, face up, waiting to be transformed. Without telling him what he was going to be, I painted him into a koala as everyone stood around giggling madly.

Next up was our friend Brandon (a dragon):

Then Dave (a pig):

Then I ran into the bathroom and painted myself:

(btw- all these faces are copyrighted by Stacey Hogan!)
Fire and Ice finished practicing, and after taking almost an hour of video of us acting like what we were painted as (including Brandon breathing fire), we went downstairs and skated, moshed, and randomly played instruments until 2 in the morning.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Studio Stories, part 3

In the first Ninja Turtle movie there's a badass warehouse where all the foot soldiers (and their recruits) party. Remember it? Of course you do. Remember the first time you saw it and you wished with all of your might that a place that like that existed, that some day you may find it? Oooh, to skate during school hours. Oooh, to play until sun rise. It was like Never Never Land for punk kids, a slightly seedy and lawless lair where the only thing expected of you was to hang, and hang tough. And despite that you had never seen a place like it the warehouse seemed so possible that, unlike Never Never Land, it stuck with you all these years, you carry a little torch for it in your heart, you still hope, dear readers, however old or young you are, that you will find it. We all do.

Well, consider it found.

In Richmond, some of our old and dear friends made it a reality. There are, however, a few key differences from the food soldier's spot. For one, everyone's straight edge. No smoking behind Mom's back there. For two, everyone's vegan. No pepperoni pizzas getting delivered. And for three, it has hardcore shows. YES!

This is where we stayed while we recorded. Day and night vegan kids (associated and not associated with hardcore) filtered in and out of the little kitchen, doing nothing (so far as we could tell) but baking treats ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT. No matter what time we were there, people littered the hardwood floor munching sugary delights. Someone always in front of the stove, someone always mixing at table. Treats, once out of the oven, were for everyone. It was a vegan diabetes-inducing free for all.

Downstairs, ramps and skate boards await who ever wants to ride. A stage stands in the middle of the floor with gear piled all over and around it, the heart of the giant cement building, wires spilling out like arteries. Bands play, practice, and form right there in the center of it all.

We awoke sprawled out on dumpstered couches, peeked into the kitchen (where various baked items lay on cooling racks), and headed to Strange Matter for some heart-stopping southern breakfast. After chest pains were achieved, we rode out to "the studio" (Mike's parents place) to finish laying the guitar tracks.

Ok, you gotta forgive me here. I am not knowledgeable when it comes to gear. But for those who are, Dave gave me a list of what he used on the record.

"For amps, we used a Sovtek Mig 100 and a Peavey 5150, both through the same Marshall 1960 cab. My guitar is an Epiphone SG with EMG 81/85 pickups. For strings, Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottoms, and picks Dunlop Tortex .88mm.

I didn't pre-write (nor have I ever) the little guitar solos in the songs, since if too much scrutiny went into it, then there wouldn't be any soul or attitude to 'em. Which is also why when we play songs like 33/45 live, the solos vary nightly. It's pretty common practice among blues players, which is more what I am anyway. So, I just let it flow during the recording."

James lay on the hard garage floor, hilariously falling asleep over and over despite the INCREDIBLY LOUD amps blasting the SIQEST SONGZ EVR in his ears, which we took ample video of. I sat outside combing through the lyrics over and over, making sure every word was where it ought to be. Dave sat on a little stool, click track mechanically dinging away over the drums, riffing up a storm.

After all the guitar tracks were laid came the real fun. Pick slides, "noodlies", and solos. Dave (aka Hans Solo) laid the first one down no problem. But the second... well, let's just say we edited over 20 minutes of  video footage taken while he attempted to get it juuuust right. The video will do it more justice than my words can (vids coming soon, btw.) When we were all on the brink of hanging ourselves on discarded guitar strings, Dave nailed it. The perfect solo. Fuck yes.

Pick slides were done with a credit card ("I saw Unearth doing this on their DVD!") and when those were done, the Endless Fight of recording guitars reached its Bitter End, (which was actually pretty sweet.)

Back at the warehouse, Naysayer was practicing downstairs, upstairs brownies and various other vegan treatage was being made. We plopped down on the kitchen floor, grabbed a snack, and hung out until the wee hours of the morning.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Studio stories, Part 2

Richmond, Virginia. A city so overrun by hardcore and punk kids you start to wonder if there's anyone else there. You look one way, a slew of hardcore kids whiz by on bikes. Look another, a crew on mopeds. Girls with teased hair pinned in creative piles on their heads walk by laughing. In a diner window, every booth seems to be occupied by people with hand tattoos. Crusties with sleeveless black shirts and facial piercings hang on the corner and as you pass them you hear the word "solidarity" used in casual conversation. You start to wonder if anyone in the city DOESN'T own a Naysayer shirt. Richmond contains subcultural worlds within worlds, and it is truly amazing to witness... especially over vegan brunch- a breakfast burrito to be specific, which is where our story starts.

Recording Journal, Part 2

Dave, James, and I sat at a booth downstairs in Harrison St. Coffee Shop trying to wake ourselves up so that we could finish recording the best record ever. I absentmindedly chewed my tofu as countless "fun punks" with flop-hawks, Lifetime/Kid Dynamite kids with freshly cut hair, dudes with shaggy black swoops, and what appeared to be a hardcore band (if I had to guess) came in the door. Remarkable. As vegan biscuits and gravy and french toasts hit the tables of the people around us, I realized that there's no place I feel more IN step with the world than in Richmond.

At Mike's place (Mike Reaves of the pop sensation known as Swamp Thing- also the dude who is recording us) we got right to work. It should be mentioned that Mike records in his parent's garage. And yes, we traveled to record in a garage. But before you judge that, let it be known that his garage recordings come out better than most studio recordings. A wise dude once said to me, "You can throw a coat of varnish on shit, but it won't make it better, it will just make it varnished shit."- it's the same with sound engineers. You can throw a talentless dude in a studio, but all you're gonna have is a talentless dude in a studio. Put a sound wizard like Mike in a garage, and shit's bound to get magical.

So, anyway. We put the amp and cab in the laundry room (yup), adjusted mics and levels, then and Dave and Mike laid a few 1st guitar tracks in the garage as bicycles and lawn tools hung next to their heads. We cut the day short due to some computer issues, which was fine for several reasons.

#1. VINYL CONFLICT. This is an all punk/hardcore record shop run by Brandon from Government Warning/ No Way Out Records

#2. Harrison St Coffee Shop, again. This time for tempeh artichoke subs, faux-tuna sandwiches, and tempeh ruebens.

#3. A Strike Anywhere show (all in walking distance from #2, and #1.)

Seriously. How much better can a day get? At the Strike Anywhere show we ran into members of DTN, and I got to thinking... how much more Richmond can a day get?

I don't follow any religion- in fact I don't even believe in God- but I do have have faith in, draw inspiration from, and seek guidance within certain things. Hardcore is one of them. And while most bands offer nothing in the way of substance, sincerity, or authenticity, Strike Anywhere offers all 3. Seeing them is almost a religious observance for me. It's like this:

You know when you're at a show and there are those moments that are indescribable to anyone who hasn't experienced them, where the only thing that matters to you in the whole entire world is being a hardcore kid? The feeling of sharing an outlook with a band or the people around you where you actually start to believe that the whole world is with you? When you love a band so much that you dance unselfconsciously, that you scream along without caring how stupid your voice may sound, where you jump on people's heads even if they're like 13 years old and you weigh WAY too much to be doing that, where if you get hit you don't even feel it? A renewal of faith for the faithless, a rebirth (of hardcore pride), going from a chorus of disapproval to a chorus of one? That's how I feel when I see Strike Anywhere.

Thomas, the vocalist, talked about the hc/punk community, the friendships forged over years, the sense of coming together, as he always does. I could literally feel myself filling with what can only be described as "good vibes", and I decided I was going to-that I had to- hold onto that feeling, that moment, and put it into our record. It would pour through me onto our tracks. The sound of unity, community, punk rock... but... well, here's what happened:

Strike Anywhere started playing and the crowd- a mix of punk and hardcore, bro and sorority girl, goth and fuckknowswhatelse, surged forward. This is not my favorite thing but when you're at a show like that you've got to expect it. 7 rows of people squished together, smashing the front row breathlessly against the stage, leaving everyone else trying to not penetrate each other, but everyone, no matter what their situation, was singing along. In the spirit of good vibes, I threw my arm around the person next to me and we screamed every word together, smiling.

There had been a girl at the front of the show all night. She was, from what I could gather, a Hot Topic mall type who wanted more personal space than the front of a show allows. She seemed outraged by anyone who so much as brushed against her, and spent her night throwing elbows into those who did (which was everyone- it was a sold out show.) Throughout the course of the evening I found myself beside or behind her at times and caught countless jabs to the ribs, but it was alright. Strike Anywhere was playing and I had hymns to scream toward the stage with my brothers and my sisters. Peace and love man, peace and love.

But guess what? When the crowd ran forward as I just mentioned, and I threw one arm around a kindred spirit and the other toward the mic, my sides were left open for hits, and who just happened to be trapped in the human wall beside me, freaking the fuck out? Elbows.

The crowd rocked and swayed, pushing me into her, which resulted in numerous panicky hits to my ribs. Very quickly this became very annoying. I was unable to get away or nearer to tell her to stop, and she was freakin' relentless. The crowd went to the left. Bam! The crowd moved forward. Bam! I breathed her air. Bam! She was an animal. Desperate, I grabbed her arm and gave it a light squeeze, shooting a pleading, "please stop hitting me, look around at where you are, there is no way for me to get out of your personal space" look, but she went wild before she saw me. My touch sent her flapping her arm like an injured bird, trying to thrash me off. Which she did. Then she planted her wing into my side, hard.

It was getting absurd. I could not understand why someone who obviously required so much personal space would choose to be where she was- the only place with less personal space would be in a gang bang. Annoyed, I leaned across sweaty arms to tell her to stop, but as I neared her ear she dipped her head away from me. My words were as unwelcome as my touch.

Frustrated, I put my hand on her head to get her attention. I got another elbow. Furious, I reached out quickly and palmed her head like a basketball. She shook me off like a snorting mare. Her elbow flew back again and again like she was trying to start a chainsaw. Still, she hadn't looked at me. Not once. I couldn't handle it. It was Helsinki all over again.

While her bony arm jabbed hatefully at the air a final time, her hatred of being touched transferred to me in a more general way. I hated being at a show with people who were not hardcore kids. I hated the shirtless bro dude who kept yelling "YEAHHHH!", I hated the idiots that shoved everyone forward for no reason whatsoever, I hated the push moshing, I hated this Hot Topic mall girl who was passive aggressively getting really god damn aggressive with me. Fuck a community. My earlobes burned.

I grabbed Elbows by the hair and dragged her head to my mouth, and screamed, "TOUCH ME AGAIN AND I WILL FUCK YOU UP." She stopped struggling and looked over at me. She didn't nod, speak, or throw an elbow. She just sunk back into the crowd.

I realized something about myself at that moment- that while Strike Anywhere may be one of my favorite bands, 100 Demons is another. That while I may catch a good vibe here or there, I lack the ability to hold onto it. "You know who I love? Nobody." No sloppy punk shows, no sharing music with a group of idiots. I am, for good or bad, stuck in the sub-sub-sub-sub culture of straight up hardcore, and no matter how many mohawks or tattoos are present, kids like us are always out of step with the (that) world. It was an indescribable hardcore moment where I understood my faults my limits, my loves and my hates, my disgruntled place in this world within a world. It's a place of no bullshit, a place of accountability, a place of stage dives and crowd punches and hype parts and mosh calls and all sorts of things that are outwardly embarrassing but secretly awesome. A place without push moshing or beer sloshing, a place where good ol' Elbows would be afraid. That's my place. That's what would flow through me onto our tracks.

The show ended and in the company of sane hardcore kids (who had been wise enough to stay out of the thick of idiocy) Dave, James, and I went off in search of vegan chicken nuggets and worn out couches to rest our sweaty heads upon.

Stay tuned for more updates, videos, and other stuff!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010