Monday, November 24, 2014

Nihilist Spasm Band interview

Nihilist Spasm Band was formed in London, Ontario in 1965 and soon became one of the weirdest music collective to the present day. Back in the late '60s music became flooded with flower power fashion and everyone tried to join a rock'n'roll band, but there were still a lot of groups who didn't care much about the fashion and tried to take their own music to the next level, among them were a lot of experimental bands like Red Krayola, Cromagnon and a lot of others. Nihilist Spasm Band was even weirder than aforementioned groups and I can barely imagine a teenager, professor or anyone in particular buying their record solely because of the cover artwork, which also looked pretty bizarre. Purchaser probably expected some innocent novelty record – but what happened next probably shocked them. We are talking about 1968, remember that. Sure you had a lot of freak'n'roll around but, mostly people were used to regular radio friendly music (not that today is any better, even worse). Right from the very start of their album you will hear loud growling voice screaming loud: "Destroy the Nations. England is dead! Destroy America. Sheuggghhhh on Canada!". You can only imagine how the recent LP owner felt when hearing this. In the following interview we will go through their musical journey. They are still active after so many years. The beginning can be attributed to Greg Curnoe (1936-1992) who was film director and wanted to do a soundtrack for his upcoming  16mm film. Curnoe decided to do something unconventional and bought a lot of kazoos and gathered some friends to perform free improvisation using aforementioned instruments. They realized they are really enjoying improvisational performance and after the soundtrack was made, they built larger kazoos and added one-string acoustic bass and unusual drum set. They made another step and plugged everything into electricity and soon they also added electric guitars, electric violin, theremin and everything that they felt it was cool. They also build some weird instrument called »noisemaker« and stuff like that and they recorded and went even to Paris and London, but most of the time they were really obscure collective of friends, playing whatever they liked and that is the main reason why I found them as one of the most interesting groups. I always have been a lover of improvisational music. I think a lot of people have whole different perception when it comes to improvised or experimental music. Technical ability is highly regarded among most of the regular listeners, but for me that is not important aspect of music, meaning that I truly believe music is an extension of individual performer who is translating the language of his soul or emotion if you like into the language of music and when everything is made without any restriction or intention catharsis is possible. To understand music you don't need any education, because music is the language we all can understand. We will always cope with obstacle of moral nature, that individual listener is experiencing while listening to music and their perception of understanding.

L to R NSB 2006
John Clement, Art Pratten, Aya Ohnishi, Bill Exley, Murray Favro, John Boyle

Greg Curnoe co-founded Nihilist Spasm Band in 1965 to make a soundtrack for his movie. What was the name of the film? Was it ever released?

Bill Exley: The title was “No Movie”, and it included scenes from Nihilist Lodge in Port Stanley, Ontario, which our group rented for two summers in 1965 and 1966, and also scenes from the first Nihilist Banquet, which included a formal programme of speeches about the history of nihilism and other toasts to the past and future, together with the singing of “God Save the King” (he had died in the early 50s).  The movie also included scenes from the first Nihilist Picnic, which featured races such as “women’s kick the shoe”.  (The 50th annual Nihilist Picnic was held on September 7, 2014.)  There were also scenes from a lacrosse game and people drinking in the York Hotel.  “Connexions” was another movie made by Greg about people and places in London, Ontario.

The Nihilist Spasm Band in performance, 1966. From left, Greg Curnoe, John Boyle, Hugh McIntyre, John Clement, Murray Favro. Vocalist Bill Exley's huge megaphone is in the right foreground. Photo: Don Vincent

Murray Favro: The movie although Greg’s project was also a collaboration.
Hugh McIntyre (later a band member) who worked as a film librarian had much to do with making it he had the connections to get editing done on ‘no movie’. He also supplied cuts of a Farnburogh Air Show as well as undersea creatures like octopuses and sea snakes.
I am unsure but think it was Drew Gilles of the National Film Board who did the actual film editing because neither Hugh nor Greg could operate editing equipment
The first kazoo involved in our nihilist activities was at the first nihilist picnic in the same location where some of the filming for the movie was done.

An original 1965 Nihilist Spasm Band kazoo

When Greg saw the film cuts of all us London people playing Kazoos at the beach that gave Greg the idea to use a kazoo sound track.
The soundtrack was recorded in Greg’s studio in that fall or winter. It was a lot of us and I believe we watched the film as we played for the soundtrack.
It was so much fun to see it and hear us make noises. And best of all it needed no synching up it would always connect up somewhere interesting. Like a sea creature cut would sometimes line up with a weird sound or a jet would make a near fart sound that exploded into wild noise. It worked as a separate tape soundtrack not actually on the film.
The movie was shown in art galleries across Canada and I think Greg had it in a local film co-op who made it available. It was never released it remained an experimental art movie.
The chaotic sounds in that sound track had an interesting high energy to it that got us rather jokingly talking about what if we formed a band. Hugh thought more of it than a mere joke because within a few days he showed up at my studio holding a small Kazoo and a funnel he wanted to make a louder kazoo for the band we were talking about.
I could not join them up so we went to Greg’s studio his power drill and somehow joined the two things together. Greg got excited about having us form a band. And was soon rounding up people to talk about it. Art Pratten was there within a day or two and Greg got John Clement who had already made a 12 string guitar as well as a Archie Leach who assured us would be a good addition since he was known to hang out 3rd story windows and shout insults to people walking by on the sidewalk below. Archie always wore a suit coat and tie and was working as a bookkeeper. He seemed a contradiction and probably a danger to himself but anyway we tried him and his harmonica, which didn’t seem to work with our stuff. He gave up on the harmonica and invented a slide clarinet that was loud and perfect for our band.
Exley and Boyle were in it by then too they would come to London on weekends from their jobs out of town. Billy Exley however did not want to ruin his teaching career so anytime we were to play in public he would wear a monkey mask. Greg, Boyle and Pratten made kazoos and we all collected used drums. Hugh had someone make him what he called a ‘gut bucket bass’ this consisted of a 5 gallon metal drum with one string and a levered neck to change the notes as he played. I played drums some of the time and a thing with strings on it that needed amplification.
Exley sang through a huge megaphone on a stand.
This was the beginning before amplification that soon came as I made guitars and Hugh had an electric bass made.
By the time of our Allied recording we were all amplified.

The late Don Vincent’s classic photograph of the Nihilist Spasm Band, with the band seen here atop the late Greg Curnoe’s studio in May 1966.

Art Pratten: "No Movie" did get some circulation and then became a myth with a lost sound track.

John Boyle: It was released and later the soundtrack was lost without a trace.

Do you know his original idea behind making improvisational soundtrack?

Art Pratten: A sound track was needed and like everything else at the time if you wanted or needed something you just went out and did it.
We had some kazoos we obtained more and a group of about 15 to 20 sat around in a circle and kazood.

The Art Pratten-designed large double-membrane kazoo played by Bob McKenzie at the York Hotel in the 1970s (with Jim Falconbridge and Melissa Hahn) Photo: Ian MacEachern, SITE Sound, October 1990

John Boyle: Someone found some red and black (actually red and navy blue) 25 cent kazoos and we thought they looked like Nihilist colours of red and black.  People sat around in Greg’s studio (he was a painter) and threw ideas around.  He decided on his friends improvising on kazoos because the film was about connections among families and friends and the interdependence of people.

How did you know him and where did you all meet?

Bill Exley: I met Greg at a party on Talbot Street in London, Ontario in January, 1961.  I had brought a recording of Ravi Shankar classical Indian ragas, and he borrowed it from me and invited me to his studio to get it back.  Greg was then interested in new ideas of all kinds, and he retained this intellectual interest in a variety of topics all his life.  He was interested in jazz, for example, but he also listened to French eighteenth century music, recordings of Ezra Pound and other twentieth century poets, and he read writers like George Grant, who had written “Lament for a Nation” in 1965, a book about the importance of Canadian nationalism.  Through most of the almost 50 year history of the Band the members conversed, not only about making noise, but also about politics, arts, ideas, etc.  This kind of discussion was a part of the vitality people felt when they heard us.

Murray Favro: I met Greg by going to his studio when I was in my last year in art school I wanted to see what a studio looked like and how do I get to rent one once I finish art school. My teachers advised me to get a studio and begin working. They knew Greg was back from Toronto and started working in a studio in London. Ron Martin another art student knew Greg and had suggested we should drop by on our way back from a trip to a Picasso show in Toronto. I was impressed by Greg’s artwork and studio.
It was at Greg’s studio that I met other people who eventually became part of the band.
Greg is the only artist I have met who could paint and carry on a conversation with a number of people. He had a lot of chairs to sit on and lots of people came and went as he worked.
Every Saturday Hugh would buy a few cases of beer they went into a big thing with ice in it we sat around and had a few beers people would show up a lot of nurses someone had met and other beautiful young ladies would arrive, Greg would put on records and it became a party. People who were around in the creative influence of that time went on to do interesting things elsewhere, one person went to head the national film board, another went to run and edit Arts Canada Magazine. Tony Pennicott later became premier of the Yukon. The point I am making is there was a cultural scene of creative and interesting people and lots of them, and a place like Greg’s studio was important as a meeting place.

Art Pratten: Greg and I grew up in the same neighborhood, went to a couple of the same schools and took newspaper from the same depot.

The Nihilist Spasm Band in 1966, before acquiring electric instruments. From left, Bill Exley, vocalist, shouting into his giant megaphone; John Boyle, kazoo; Greg Curnoe, kazoo; Murray Favro, drums;
Hugh McIntyre with his one-string acoustic bass. Left foreground, Art Pratten with his door-stop "Thing."
Photo: Don Vincent, taken in Greg Curnoe's studio. From the cover of REGION Issue No. 8

John Boyle: We were all independently friends with Greg or with one or another of his friends, some from early childhood.  We met in his loft studio in downtown London.  I was introduced to Greg by my friend Bob McKenzie in 1960.  Greg took an interest in me because I had decided to become and artist.

Curnoe was also a member of London Regionalism. Can you tell us what was that about?

Murray Favro: London Regionalism was a way of thinking for Greg not a thing he belonged to.
The way I understood him was the way he emphasized that art need not emulate what is happening in a place like New York but is as relevant no matter where it is done and need not emulate anything. In short Greg needed other creative people to talk to in his own environment. He valued the Nihilist Spasm Band because it was not like mainstream culture, and would be an honest export from this region and as relevant as any other creative works from anywhere else.
We are however not his invention I was showing my work in other cities within a year of getting my first studio here in London. Greg did encourage people to stay here though which actually is OK but rather unrealistic because the world was becoming very mobile at that time and every artist that lived in London then is long gone except myself.
The concepts of the band are no leader no planned musical direction where everyone plays what they want.
We are all individuals in the band and one of us (Bill the singer) who wants some predictable words and structure to our song pieces. We do restrain ourselves at the beginning of his reading of the lyrics. But in the past he used to insult the audiences but now likes them and insults band members to be quiet while he reads the important words.
We agree with him but just find it difficult to be quiet.

Art Pratten: The idea grew out of the belief you could find inspiration and resources locally and since none of us were interested in leaving necessity was turned into a virtue.

John Boyle: There was no London Regionalism organization.  Greg was from London and loved London.  He thought London was as relevant and important culturally as any other place, including New York, Paris or the other London.  This was revolutionary thinking for many of us, to love the region you came from.  We lived and continue to live in a colonial culture that tends to think that anything produced here is inferior to things produced in the Mother or Dominant culture, e.g. England, France and the United States.

Did any of you have any musical knowledge?

Art Pratten: We all had a knowledge and appreciation of music but no formal training.

John Boyle: In spite of what some of us may claim, the answer is NO!

What do you think was the main inspiration and influence for Nihilist Spasm Band back in the '60s?

Bill Exley: London, Ontario was a conservative (in the bad sense) and unadventurous kind of place, and I think  this environment created in many young people the desire to be hostile.

Murray Favro: In the 1960’s I cannot think of any influences on the band except to have fun making energetic sounds.

Art Pratten: I think the building of the instrument was the catalyst for the band. We could have gone on listening to music, arguing about music and  kazooing forever but when we started modifying kazoos and building new instrument we really started to compete making a noise and this created a "Noise Band".

John Boyle: We each individually had our own tastes, interests, influences and inspirations, not necessarily shared by any of the others.  We each brought ours to the group.  All of us were necessarily influenced by the others’ influences whether we liked them or not, simply because we were forced to deal with them in our group improvisations until we found something we were more or less happy with.  For example, a few of us were aware of New Wave free jazz like Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler or Cecil Taylor, while others liked Mediaeval Troubadour music or English madrigals, or the Rolling Stones.  We learned to throw our licks at each other and bounce them back and forth.  If you hated some things you tried to drown them out with your sound, and thus we became noisier and noisier.

What influences you these days?

Murray Favro: Our influences have always been the moment and the space we play in along with our equipment and listening to the other members. It is a very immediate experience and not a real influence.

Art Pratten: Just about everything.

John Boyle: I just try to listen carefully to the many improvisers we meet at festivals and performances and learn from them when there is something that might benefit or change my playing.  I like much of what I hear , but have not yet heard anything that would radically change what we do.

What was the scene in London, Ontario back then? Where did you hang out?

Murray Favro: At first we hung out at Greg’s studio but it soon changed to be at the York Hotel.
And that also was where the band began playing every Monday night we packed the place we also got a lot of press coverage outside London in magazines and newspapers.

Photo credits: Bob McKenzie (Curnoe, Leitch, Favro, Boyle);
Bill McGrath (Exley, McIntyre); The London Free Press (Pratten).
© 1969 The Twenty Cents Publishing Company

It was on one of these Mondays that Bosswell head of Allied records came to hear us and during an intermission talked to us outside the York. He wanted to bring out a record of us. Soon we recorded the album in Toronto.
That is how we got the record deal by Bosswell coming himself to hear us.

The Nihilist Spasm Band in 1968, posing against the back wall of the York Hotel, the pub in which they played every Monday night for many years in the 1960s and '70s. From left, Hugh McIntyre (bass), Art Pratten (Pratt-A-Various), Archie Leitch (slide clarinet), Murray Favro (guitar, drums), John Clement (guitar), Bill Exley (vocals, theremin), John Boyle (kazoo), Greg Curnoe (kazoo, drums). Photo: Ian MacEachern

Art Pratten: Greg's studio was the real was open and admission was a passion for something...anything... art, literature, theatre, movies, car racing, boxing, girls, beer and parties. Not necessarily in that order.  

John Boyle: London was extremely exciting in the mid 1960’s for young visual artists in particular.  Greg Curnoe had moved back to London after art school and found a large loft studio.  He and a group of friends opened a small cooperative gallery called Region Gallery showing uncompromising local work.  He also started Region Magazine where provocative local thinkers published their thoughts and poetry.  20/20 Gallery followed, and 20 Cents Magazine.  Jack Chambers moved back to town from Spain and began painting full time in his studio.  Local musicians were playing in various pubs, and the York Hotel agreed to let the Spasm Band play on Monday nights.  Artists, writers, academics, and musicians met and socialized in Greg’s studio and in other artists lofts, exchanging ideas and dreaming up projects.

Allied Records was a pretty big record company and it's quite unusual they got you signed and manage to release your LP titled "No Record". Did Greg Curnoe had any ties with them?

Murray Favro: I remember Allied Records was some offshoot of a big label, it was based in Canada Boswell actually owned the tapes himself.
He was out to record the next thing to happen in music and was recording all the experimental stuff he could in case it may be one of them that sets a new direction in the music business. Allied was doing an early scouting for new directions.
He would not have been in the least interested in us if he noticed influences by other bands in what we did.
The Allied Corporation is the real name to search out on the web otherwise you will end up only finding Allied Recordings in western USA that is not the right Allied.
Greg had no ties with Allied until later when they began negotiating with us and I got the job of designing and doing artwork for the cover of the record jacket. Someone else did liner notes, (I think it was Hugh) and do not know who designed the back of the jacket; it may have been assembled by the printers in Toronto with material we sent them.

Art Pratten: Not that I know of. A guy showed up on a Monday night and asked if we were interested in making a record and we said "what will it cost us?" he said "nothing" we said "sure why not".

John Boyle: He knew some other artists who were recording with Allied, and probably that is how Allied heard about the NSB.  Allied was looking for new experimental bands and individuals to record.  I think they thought they would discover people who might become big in the unpredictable psychedelic music world of the 60’s.  They asked us to record.

I would like if you could tell us what are some of the strongest memories from recording this album. Where was it recorded and what instruments were used. You had your own noise machine.

Murray Favro: It was done as if a live performance one take no rehearsing, which we cannot do anyway.  We gave titles later for some of the tracks.
I remember my Toronto art dealer being there with his secretary, (he had taken an interest in exhibiting and selling unusual guitars I had made a few years earlier and always was asking about the band and what we were doing. He had not heard us though until that recording day. He could not contain himself from jubilant laughter; he recognized pure creative activity was what was going on. He liked it so much that he right then ordered two cartons of the albums before they were made. I asked him later why did he buy so many and Carmen replied ‘they will be worth a lot some day’.
Some of them eventually sold for hundreds of dollars each.
I played a homemade version of a guitar with no frets on it; also the neck could be bent to change a note while playing. Look up my name on goggle and on images the guitars are there.
You mention a ‘noise machine’, I never heard of any ‘noise machine’ unless it was that thing Art Pratten tried out with doorstoppers on it.

Art Pratten: The recording session is very much a blur for me except for Archie who was hyper and shouted out some lyrics of his own. That is where "Dog Face Man" comes from.

John Boyle: We recorded the record in a studio in broadcaster Bill Bessey’s basement in Toronto.  There were several kazoos, drums and the bass.  The guitars had replaced a couple of kazoos.  Archie Leitch had made a slide clarinet and Bill Exley played a theremin that a friend had built for him.  I remember a  wife or 2 tickling Bill’s feet so he could make laughing noises.

What meaning has the material on the album. Piece like "Destroy the Nations" has some very provocative lyrics…

Murray Favro: I think ‘Destroy The Nations’ had provocative lyrics as you suggested it does. But when I actually listen to it implies that countries mentioned have lost any idealism or Nationalism has no meaning or value any longer. It is about doing away with the failed concepts of nationalism. But then again another of our songs may imply the opposite on later songs like  ‘No Canada’ where a line mimics the Troggs
In saying “Canada I think I love you,. But I want to know for sure”.
Those provocative lyrics are fun to say and fun to hear. Too much syrup is not good for anyone.

Art Pratten: They were suppose to be provocative and humorous.

John Boyle: All of the band members contribute lines, words, ideas.  We would sit around in an artist’s studio or in a restaurant and shout out our contributions with Greg writing them down.  We were usually trying to be funny and outrageous, but not serious.  Some of us were anti American, others were not.  Some were almost entirely non political.  Our sense of irony made things seem more revolutionary than they actually were.  Over the years some of us have learned that ironic comments are entirely lost on many members of the public.

How about the cover artwork? Who made that?

John Boyle: The photo is of Hugh McIntyre, our bassist for 39 years until his death.  Some friends had bought him a north African bernuse, a long gown, which he wore occasionally.  The band members agreed on the title.  I was not involved in the design.  Was it you, Murray?..., or Art?

Art Pratten: That was all Murray.

What happened after the record came out? It actually had some promotion & distribution since it was released on bigger record label, right?

Murray Favro: Your question about a bigger record label is perhaps a different Allied than the one Boswell was head of. ( ) confusing it was Allied. My impression was that they spread the albums thinly around the world to see what might happen somewhere. It was on it’s own in record stores where they did sell what they made then Allied sat back to see what might happen. Something did but it was a spread out audience and what eventually happened ten years later was someone offered to make a new album and the same has happened other times through the years and by now we have made a lot of albums, perhaps because of that first one with Allied.

Art Pratten: We were jubilant . The Band got about 50, we each took a couple copies bragged to our friends about it and promptly abandoned the rest at the Greg's studio.

John Boyle: Nothing much happened.  It did receive some air play, and we got a few invitations to play on university campuses.  Gradually copies found their way around the world and began to build our international underground reputation.  It took a long time before we got any feedback.  One copy made its way into the hands of Toshiji Mikawa and Jojo Hiroshige of Hijokaidan in Japan in the late 1980’s.  In 1991 we received an invitation sent to the mailing address on the record in London to record on Alchemy Records, Jojo’s label in Osaka.

What can you say about the concerts? With who did you share stages?

Murray Favro: The NSB has played numerous concerts and music festival things and tours, so many places that I sometimes mix them up when I try remembering what happened where.
Audiences today are better listeners than the ones in the 1960’s and more musicians can play along with us now also it seems that in the past they always wanted to bring some concept to try out with us. These ideas never worked, now many musicians can just play with no plan its all listening and reaction what they do will be a surprise to them.
Some people I remember were Maynard and the Mocking Birds, Mike Snow, Lighthouse, Sonic Youth, Joe McFee, Joe Joe and Junko, to name a few.
I have never listened to weird stuff.

The Nihilist Spasm Band performing at ICA, London, UK, 1969. From left, Archie Leitch, clarinet; Hugh McIntyre, bass; Bill Exley, theremin and vocals; Art Pratten, pratt-a-various.

The Nihilist Spasm Band performing at ICA, London, UK, 1969. From left, Archie Leitch, clarinet; Hugh McIntyre, bass; Bill Exley, theremin and vocals; Art Pratten, pratt-a-various; John Boyle, kazoo.

John Boyle: For 20 years we mostly emptied theaters and bars.  In the 1980’s we played in Quebec for the first time and received an enthusiastic response for nearly the first time ever.  We were shocked.  In the 1990’s we began to tour internationally for the first time since 1969.  Also, the No Music festival was started by some young enthusiasts and fans in London.  There were 5 festivals in all.  We played with many of the world’s leading improvisers, including Fred Van Hove, Thurston Moore, Lee Renaldo, Hijokaidan, the Incapacitants, Ken Vandermark, Alexander Hacke, Joe Mcphee, REM, and countless others.  We were always impressed by the down-to-earth civility and friendliness of the musicians, but we were never overawed by them.  Thankfully, we always felt like equals.  Of course, all humans are equals.

You even went to Europe. What's the story behind that?

Murray Favro: We have gone to Europe many times on tours and played in festivals there.
When you ask what the story is about going to Europe you must be referring to the first time we were sent as Canada’s part in an art cultural thing in Paris’s at it’s main contemporary museum where other countries sent stuff to hang on walls we played outdoors and the street audience seemed to enjoy it.
Then we went to some art school in London England and played next and came back to Canada.

Art Pratten: We represented Canada at the Paris Biennial. It was great none of us had been to Europe before, the wives all went and we had a great time and Oh yes we played a couple of times.

Your music is very unique. Did you know or listen to other weird stuff like Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart, Cromagnon, Red Krayola or even maybe to Indeterminacy: New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music by John Cage and David Tudor?

Murray Favro: Never heard or heard of any of those people like Beefart, or Krayolla or the others even never read about or heard John Cage’s stuff, only heard the name in conversations.

Art Pratten: The problem is that although we listened to various groups we can only do what we do make a noise on whatever we have at hand in response to whatever noise the others are making.

What are some of the craziest memories you have, that happened on the road or in general?

Bill Exley: There are so many funny stories.  The story Murray tells about the van in Quebec having to drive back a hundred miles to pick up Bill Exley, whom they had left behind, is not true.  It is a crazy story, but it is an invented one.

Murray Favro: I am now trying to think about the craziest things happening while traveling with the band.
We toured and made an album with Sunplexis they flew over from France and we started in Quebec from there we got in a van and came into Ontario.
I forgot most of the trip to Toronto but when the album came out Sunplexis wrote the liner notes in them were things I had forgotten but seemed crazy to read. They complained that Canadian food causes diarrhea especially that peutine stuff, then went on to say we had forgotten Bill Exley at one of the rest stops and did not notice for hundreds of miles before we went back to get him. We actually noticed almost right away because it was so quiet in the van, the problem was these super highways in Canada are one way with a turn around point which is about a hundred miles then when you are going back on the far lane (again one way) you can only wave to him and then proceed to the next nearest turnaround to get back in the right lane. So OK it was a couple hundred miles but that’s nothing in Canada, it’s a big place. I suppose in Europe it would be like driving from France to Russia perhaps but here it is necessary to get to those turnarounds and it was crazy for Sunplexis. That is my crazy trip story wait listen to this when they got to Toronto they went “whew that was a long way but at least we got to see all of Canada”.

Art Pratten: I view the Band as one single long event. Individual events just blend in.  

Do psychoactive drugs play any role in your songwriting, recording or performance as a band?

Murray Favro: We never took drugs but at a performance with Maynard and the Mocking Birds after hearing us one of them said to Hugh “we will trade you what we take for what you guys are taking”. Hughs answer was perfect “You get high to play”……”we play to get high”
And that is our attitude still.

Art Pratten: At 10 cents a glass beer was and still is the drug of choice.

It took almost ten years to record second album, which came out in 1978. What's the story behind this one?

Art Pratten: We played at the "Music Gallery". They said that they recorded all concerts and did we mind if they put out a record, we said "what will it cost us" they said "nothing"  we said "sure why not".

Later on you recorded and released a lot of albums and you had a few visits to Europe and Japan. You actually have a lot of fans in Japan. How do you feel about that?

It is good to have listeners appreciate our creative works. I think I understand why they like us, it has to do with living in their society that is so structured and with proper ways to act that they let loose when they see unstructured creativity.
As an example one of the best Japanese noise performers works at a high up job at a bank but he is an entirely different person making noise music on weekends banging his head with drumheads and making noises like a cave dweller. They need chaotic distractions.

Art Pratten: It is nice to be liked. and it was nice to go to Japan meet the players and hear what they were doing.

How did the lineup change during the years?

Murray Favro: The only person to quit the band was Archie Leach and he did it around late1969 so he actually was only in the band for about 5 years. He was about to turn 30 or had already.
Archie had told us many times he had a goal to be a millionaire by the time he was 30 and we were had not helped with this ambition of his so he wanted his fair share of any money we had put into buying amps. Hugh and I had the task of solving this by not stopping him from quitting the band or making us sell the amps to give him his fair share. A few beers and patience listening he wanted cash not any band equipment and he settled for a share of the equipment when the band breaks up and sells it. Hugh wrote out an agreement for us to sign on a cigarette carton. I’m not sure how legal it all was or if Hugh made two copies. Anyway Archie seems to be OK with the fact we still have not broken up the band.
Greg died while riding his bicycle that was hit by a truck about 1995. Hugh died of cancer in about 2008.
Aya is now our drummer; we met her in Japan where she organized our tours there,
She was truly a fan and sort of followed us back to Canada where she went to university to learn English well enough to be able to dub movies. I was never sure if it was to dub Japanese movies with English or to dub English movies with Japanese.
Either way she ended up not dubbing films and marrying John Boyle, now she travels as our drummer to all concerts. She is like a member but wants to stay out of any internal band problems so we have to decide things.

Art Pratten: Archie Leitch left of his own accord, Greg was killed, we picked up Aya Ohnishi in Japan and then Hugh died. I can not imagine adding anyone else. We will probably continue playing til a few more die and the others are not let out.   

Here is a photo of the Band (with every member except Murray Favro, who was not at the picnic) at the 50th Annual Nihilist Picnic.  We are standing in front of the Nihilist picnic banner at Poplar Hill Park near London, Ontario.  The photo was taken by Jesse Locke.

Aya Onishi: When I was fourteen years old in 1984,  my school mates and I started the band called Sekiri in which I was the drummer, and that led me to meet Jojo Hiroshige of Hijokaidan, who is the founder of Alchemy Record in Japan.   In 1996, I was working at Alchemy Record, and we organized the Spasm Band`s first Japanese tour.  During the tour, I sat in with the band and played the drums with them for the first time in my home town, Kyoto, Japan.  Later In 1998, I was interested in making sub-titles for movies so I decided to go back to school to study English again, and I told Jojo about my plan. He gave me the crazy advice that I should  go to a school in London, Ontario, Canada so that I could go to their every Monday night show!  I thought it was a brilliant idea so I followed the advice, and  ended up being lodged at the Prattens, going to school, and playing with the band every Monday night.  I got a chance to make sub-titles when the great Canadian film maker, the late Zev Asher made a documentary film about the Spasm Band called “What About Me: The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band in 2000, and the film was shown in Tokyo, and Osaka in 2004.  Looking back, I did lots of shows, tours, and projects with the band. To me, the sound of the band is unique, curious, and stubborn but never menacing. When we play with great attention to each other`s sounds, it  becomes incredible. It sounds alive. When we play like that, that is definitely my favourite moment of the band.   

Who is currently in the Nihilist Spasm Band and what currently occupies your life?

Murray Favro: 
Current band members;
Murray Favro  (lead guitar)
John Clement  (lead bass)
Art Pratten  (lead prat-a-various and second fiddle)
Bill Exley (lead vocalist)
John Boyle (Kazoo, drums and lead thumb harp)
Aya Onishi (lead kazoo and lead drummer)

Bill Exley: One of the bad things about getting older is that people fall into attitudes of hostility, narrowness, and lack of intellectual curiosity.  I am reading new books, meeting new people, and finding inspiration from people who are young or who have youthful enthusiasms.

Art Pratten: As answered in "What influences you these days?"... Just about everything

 "Constant guest performer" Aya Onishi concentrates on her drums
 John Boyle and his electrified kazoo
 A smiling John Clement enjoys the efforts of his bandmates
 Vocalist Bill Exley seems to be plucking his lyrics out of the air
Murray Favro strums his electric guitar
Art Pratten plays the latest version of his Pratt-a-various
The Nihilist Spasm Band performing at KAZOO!FEST 2014
Guelph, Ontario, April 12, 2014 (Images courtesy of Musagetes, photos by Vanessa Tignanelli)

Any advice for people who are starting a band?

Murray Favro: Tour as little as needed in a year or your band will break up. We have seen it many times a band with a gig almost every day for months. If you do this just remember familiarity breed’s contempt (sais Uncle Hugh). You will hate one another in no time if you overdo it, just do what you can enjoy otherwise your band may last a maximum of 4 or 5 years.

Art Pratten: Be bold'  there will always be people who will be surprised and amused that you have the audacity to put something out there but if you believe in what you are doing they will come to either appreciate what you are doing or at least respect you for doing it. But remember... this is for you, your vision comes first.

L to R Music Gallery
Art Pratten, Murray Favro, John Boyle, Aya Ohnishi, Bill Exley, John Clement

I would like to thank you for taking your time and effort for this Psychedelic Baby interview, which I  really enjoyed making.

L to R NSB 2014
John Boyle, Bill Exley, Art Pratten, Murray Favro, John Clement, Aya Ohnishi

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2014
© Copyright

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lonely Kamel - Shit City (2014) review

Lonely Kamel "Shit City" (Napalm Records, 2014)

The year 2014 saw the return of heavy-stoner adventurers Lonely Kamel with a new, refreshing full length, aptly titled “Shit City”, published by Napalm Records.
Formed in 2005 in Oslo, Norway, and always dedicated to the most psychedelic, bluesy and trippy elements stoner rock has to offer, the quartet (Thomas Brenna on guitar and vocals, Lukas Paulsen on lead guitar, Espen Nesset on drums and Stian Helle on bass) have managed to keep things interesting throughout 7 years of recording career and 4 full-length albums to their name by adding to their sound (or taking away from it, depending on the case) elements and reminiscences of numerous musical influences, such as doom, grunge, groove metal and funk, which one could bet make up the band members’ steady diet of listening pleasures when they’re not busy tearing up a stage or recording a new album with their own, magnificent tunes. All this while retaining a convincing, immutable style of their own and a personality (onstage and on record) second to none of the “small”, underground bands in the scene.
The different stages on their path do seem to have a few linking elements holding it all together (weed, ladies, hallucinations and friendship being among the most recurring themes in their lyrical archive), and their style, always easily recognizable, sits them pretty damn comfortably among the greats of the stoner realm. But the shifts in form and delivery, especially on a guitar/vocal level, make each new album from these young, tireless Norsemen as refreshing and interesting a listen as any output from the most experimental post-metal act. In the simplicity and directness of their language, Lonely Kamel seem to have found a whole vocabulary which allows them to effortlessly deliver, riff after riff, and howl after howl, one great album after the other.
So, after 2008’s easy-going, psychedelic-infused, self-titled debut, which came out almost unnoticed but left enough an impression on those who did notice it to guarantee their return, 2 years later, with the transitional, audacious “Blues For The Dead” (which came out on Kozmik Artifactz, was never repressed and has now become a vinyl collector’s Holy Grail. For the record, the label also picked their debut for a well-deserved, proper vinyl issue.), the Kamel hit it “big” in 2011 when Napalm Records grew an interest in the band (also following their triumphant appearance at that year’s Roadburn Festival) and “Dust Devil” saw the light shortly after. This last album saw the band mix more doom, traditional heavy-and groove-metal than they’d ever done before, making it their most metallic album to date, and the fantastic production and flawless performances didn’t do any harm either. “Dust Devil” has been sitting on my turntable and in my iPod ever since and it’s always a pleasure to get back to it, every now and then, and listen to the frantic grooves of “Rotten Seed”, the aggressive grunge of “Evil Man” and impending doom of “Seventh Son”.
So the question arises: how does a band top their masterpiece? The answer for singer/guitarist Thomas Brenna  seems to be pretty simple: leave it alone, hone the craft, sharpen the blade and get out once again with simply everything you’ve got. So, their return this year with their fourth full-length “Shit City” sees the band incorporating basically all their songwriting skills, influences, compositional ideas and unconditional love for heavy music into as diverse and multi-colored an album as anyone could expect from them.
The title-track opens up on a fast-rocking pace, tinged with raw grunge fury a-la early Soundgarden, and sets the tone for about 5 minutes of headbanging stoner delight. Even Brenna’s voice takes on a Chris Cornell-esque quality, which will make fans of both high-pitched screamers rejoice. From the start, I noticed a slightly rougher tone in the guitar sound, which is balanced by a slick production and by the crystalline, cohesive sound of the drums and bass, which lay down the foundations on which the double set of six-strings can freely do their thing. The second track, “White Lines”, slows up the pace and places a catchy melody to the forefront, mellowing things down a bit in preparation for “Is It Over?” , another ass-kicker, a devilish boogie in the vein of Blue Cheer’s finest moments. With a dark twist right at its core. “I Feel Sick” follows, and it feels  like a wrecking ball hitting the listener right in the gut, much like “Rotten Seed” did in “Dust Devil”. Side 1 closes with “Seal The Perimeter”: a panzer-like riff interplayed with spaced-out, doomy verses and bluesy guitar solos, all carried through by the constant hammering of the drums and bass guitar.
Side 2 opens with what’s probably my favorite track of the album, “Freezing”. Brenna’s vocals shine once again on this one, this time shaping almost to an angrier version of Eddie Vedder. Even the guitar work, melodies and rhythm section take on a Pearl-Jam-on-steroids feel, down to the slick guitar solo, which could make one Mike McCready green with envy. The funky heavy blues “BFD” and the tortuous southern rock of “Falling Down” again display the band’s penchant for melody (the latter track’s beautiful mid-section), while always reminding the listener just about how crushingly hard Lonely Kamel can hit when they want to. As if you found out the beautiful lady neighbor of yours you’ve always wanted to take out on a date works the hammers at the steel factory. Sexy, to say the least.
“Shit City” ends with a cover song, “Nightjar”, originally recorded by obscure hardrockers Necromandus and included in their 1996 album “Orexis Of Death”. It’s a dirge played fast forward, half Black Sabbath and half Blue Oyster Cult, and the Norsemen here re-interpret its message in their style, with their signature touch of heavy that always hurts but in a good way. Another gem in a flawless album.
That wraps up “Shit City” and it’s 40+ minute trip. A trip I would recommend to anyone who likes their rock dirty, heavy and stoned. Not as pleasant as “Lonely Kamel”, not as daring as “Blues For The Dead” and not as crushing as “Dust Devil”, but surely enough a well balanced mix of all the elements that made those albums so good.
Be sure to catch these guys live next time they’re near you; I promise, you won’t be disappointed, because on stage they totally own.
“Shit City” is out now on Napalm Records, and available on LP and CD.

Review made by Tommy Morelli/2014
© Copyright

Drugs Dragons interview with Tony “The Tonys” Sagger, Eric “Erroric” Mildew, Kevin “Bob Evans” Meyer and Luke “Puke Drugs” Chappelle

Drugs Dragons continue to probe into the nihilistic chaos of noise and distortion with their latest album II & I/III.  If you’ve never heard Drugs Dragons before I’m going to say something I never thought I would say, they sound like Wau Y Los Arrrghs in a lot of ways.  The unhinged tunes crash, burn and meld into a perfectly solid unit, stronger than steal and ten times as heavy.  There’s a whole shit ton that I could say about Drags Dragons, about how perplexing and interesting it is that they bring such heavy surf and traditional garage rock driven guitar to the table, about how they exorcise the demons of the past from their sound with a dose of tortured psychedelic punk insanity, about how they manage to create a howling mass of sound that manages to reach out and touch the listener, like shrapnel from a hand grenade!  I’m not going to try and explain the twisted genius that is Drugs Dragons, really.  To be honest, I’m not extremely interested in labeling or defining them and neither are they.  I’ve been into Drugs Dragons for a couple of years and the only thing I can really say fro sure is, this is some real deal shit right here kids.  This isn’t any of that; I wanna be on the radio, canned anger, repetitive, derivative, airwave fodder.  Drugs Dragons are something, well they’re something new.  You could call it occult street rock, primitive noise punk, psychedelic cave rock, bat shit insane surf…  I mean, you could call Drugs Dragons any manner of things!  Instead though, I’d rather you draw your own conclusions.  The harsh, and at times abrasive, sound that defines Drugs Dragons, challenges and almost taunts the listener, daring them to talk back or shut off the record, neither of which you’re be capable of.  I mentioned that they released their sophomore album on Dusty Medical Records not long ago, what I neglected to mention though, is that it’s limited to only two hundred and fifty copies.  So what are you waiting for, a written invitation?  Put some words in your eye sockets below, load the bong, chug a beer, click the link below, and if you thought the afore mentioned combination of mind altering substances messed your head up, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!

Okay, let’s start with the basics.  What’s the lineup in Drugs Dragons at this point?  Is this the original lineup or have you all made any changes as far as that’s concerned since the band started?

Puke Drugs:  The Tonys Sagger: Guitar and Backup Vox, Erroric Mildew: Drums and Electronics, Bob Evans: Bass, Puke Drugs: Vox, Lyrics, and Electronics.  This is the second line up.  The original line up included my brother Zorach Dragon

Erroric:  Bass players are fags.

Are any of you in any other active bands or do you have any side projects going?  If so, can you tell us a bit about that?

Tonys:  Erroric and I are in The Ornerys, a band not even a year old with a 45 coming out on Terror Trash soon.

Erroric:  Psychedelic landscapes, The Ornerys and Rock for Retards.

How old are you and where are you originally from?

Puke Drugs:  I'm thirty two and I'm a life long south-side Milwaukee resident.

Tonys:  Thirty seven, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Erroric:  I can't tell you that.

What was the local music scene like where you grew up?  Did you get very involved in that scene or see a lot of shows when you were younger?  Did that scene play a large or important role in shaping your musical interests or shaping the way you perform at this point?

Puke Drugs:  Absolutely.  Milwaukee's punk and rock scene has been decent for over a decade now, and the people that consistently create are generally very supportive of each other.  I wouldn't be in this band if it weren't for me doing artwork and drugs for the Night Terrors, the retarded older brother of Drugs Dragons.

Tonys:  I have been playing music in Milwaukee for over fifteen years, and for that part of my life, have been very involved in contributing to what I, and other artists, musicians, etcetera are doing here.  That being said, it’s constantly evolving and changing.

What about your home when you were a child?  Was there a lot of music around?  Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or extremely interested or involved in music?

Puke Drugs:  My father had a huge record collection, and liked a wide variety of music.  My parents pushed me in the direction of visual art, but fostered a deep love for music in me at the same time.

Tonys:  I've been a ham for attention since I was but a wee lad, and music has been a big part of growing up and showing off.

Erroric:  My Grandpa played accordion and harmonica.  But he died when I was five.

What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?

Puke Drugs:  It was probably in the womb, but those days are hazy, at best.

Tonys:  I can't even remember, ‘cause it's been so integral to my life.

Erroric:  I had a dream about meeting Ray Charles and the Pepsi Girls at the mall.

Kevin:  My two older brothers had already started collecting 45s by the time I was in kindergarten, so it was always around.

If you were to pick a moment, a moment where everything seemed to change for you, a moment that opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities that music presents and set you on the path your on musically, what would that be?

Puke Drugs:  I went to primarily African American schools as a kid.  In one of my music classes in middle school we had to invent an instrument and play a song in front of the class.  I made a shitty drum out of a coffee can that had like bells and chimes on the inside of it.  So, I covered the Offspring's “Come Out and Play” on a shitty drum using only my shitty twelve year old voice to a bunch of black kids that were howling with laughter.  At this point I knew that I was headed for greatness, because music is a journey.  You know?

Tonys:  I would say Puke's answer, but I didn't go to retard public school.  So, I'll say the release of the first Sagger 45 on Big Neck records.

Erroric:  The Expo at the Wisconsin State Fair, 1994.

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get that?

Puke Drugs:  My first real instrument was a computer with the Sonic Foundry ACID program.  I made Sub Par, Muslimgauze, and Coil electronic music with it.  I also used the computer for masturbatory purposes.  With pornography.  So, aside from that time John Coltrane beat off into his saxophone, I started the trend of musicians using their instruments in auto-erotic escapades.

Tonys:  I've had so many instruments since I was a wee little boy, trumpet, keyboard, banging on pots, a cat…  I got a couple toy pianos last year and smashed them.

Erroric:  I got a whistle at that Expo in ‘94.

When did you decide that you wanted to start wiring and performing your own music?  What brought that decision about for you, or was it just kind of a natural progression of being given the ability to create something and express yourself?

Puke Drugs:  The Tonys asked me to be in Drugs Dragons.  I said yes because he had beer and there was a promise of pot.  It's been six years now, and I'm starting to think that he didn't really have weed after all.

Tonys:  Whoa buddy, I never promised shit!  I've been performing all my life and probably decided around sixteen I could write my own songs to go along with my performances.

Erroric:  When I got a double sided tape deck boombox with speed controls.

How and when did the members of Drugs Dragons originally meet?

Puke Drugs:  The Tonys and Erroric met at a salsa dancing class.  Bob Evans met them shortly there after, when he was their boss at the Mrs. Fields Cookie Kiosk in the Southridge Mall.  I met Bob at a 2k Fun Run.  Then, I met the Tonys and Erroric at Bob's fortieth birthday.  We immediately bonded over how funny his fortieth birthday card was.  It said, “Lordy, lordy, look who's forty!” and there was a picture of the grim reaper looking at his watch.  Can you imagine?  It's like, “forty is old, and this card is just reminding everyone that you're not young”; priceless.  It still gets me to this day.

Tonys:  Me too!  He's old!  It reminds me of the time we met your not literally deceased brother Zorach.  Me, him, and Erroric all laughed and laughed at the time he was telling us of his camping expertise and then dropped all of those hot dogs in the fire and pissed on the tent.

Erroric:  We met at Bob Evans' gangbang in 2001.

What led to the formation of Drugs Dragons and when would that have been?

Puke Drugs:  Beer and the unfulfilled promise of pot led to the formation of Drugs Dragons in 2008.  I'm checking online with a number of different law firms to see what can be done about this weed situation right now.  Most of these websites are asking for money though.  Pfft, lawyers.  You guys know what I'm talking about; I'm talking about how they always want money.

Tonys:  I'm a lawyer, lawyin’ all over the place.  Lawyin’ left, lawyin right, lawyin hard all night, every night.

I almost laughed out loud when I first came across your self-titled album in the record shop.  There’s something about your name that’s just unforgettable and infinitely entertaining to me!  What does Drugs Dragons mean or refer to in the context of your band name?  Who came up with it and how did you go about choosing it?  Were there any close seconds you almost went with you can recall at this point?

Puke Drugs:  I like to think our name is about Vlad the Impaler getting dusted and throwing bodies on stakes, but Google says our name is a reference to the third episode of season two of “Mad About You,” where Paul Reiser accidentally drinks a glass of liquid PCP and hallucinates Helen Hunt as a dragon, and then wakes up in a pool of gore with his wife's entrails strewn around the room like streamers at Satan's birthday party.  Marriage humor!

Tonys:  Our name is about C.H.U.D.s!  Too many fuckin’ C.H.U.D.s!

Erroric:  Hobo assassins.

Is there any sort of creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?

Puke Drugs:  Get money, fuck bitches, eat plenty of fiber.

Tonys:  Don't forget to feed Bob his sausages and penis medications.

Erroric:  Leave me alone.

Where’s Drugs Dragons located at these days?  How would you describe the local music scene where you’re at?

Puke Drugs:  We're still on the south side of Milwaukee.  Our local scene is pretty good, if you can count a “scene” as maybe thirty people doing something at least interesting.  The rest of the music being made in Milwaukee is the product of floppy-hat models, with impeccably quaffed facial hair, doing their best imitation of music made for commercials that was popular five years ago.  We just got our first Postal Service knock off band!

Tonys:  Have you noticed Milwaukee has at least five (gasp!) partially running record labels!?!  Wow, we’re in the big time!  This shit can only happen in the rust belt.

Erroric:  We live in a town with bands.

Are you very involved in the local scene in your opinion?  Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything?

Puke Drugs:  Bob and I used to book and DJ shows as the Get Drunk DJs.  We don't do it so much anymore, since the punk and rock national scene was hijacked by some squirrely zippity-do-dah motherfuckers, only interested in social climbing and the corporate pay day that rewards those bland enough to write poppy, peppy garage rock with no discernible edge.  I'm still active in the “scene”, in that I go to shows and talk shit with my buddies and watch bands rise and fall.  Occasionally I will produce art for some of these bands, or try to get them booked for opening slots with touring bands.

Tonys:  Not so much anymore...  There’s always working, band practicing, writing/dreaming shit up.

Erroric:  I go to every show we play.

Has the local scene played a large or integral role in the sound, history or evolution of Drugs Dragons, or do you feel like you would be doing what you’re doing and sound like you do regardless of where you were at and stuff?

Puke Drugs:  The local scene has no effect whatsoever on what we're trying to do.  I feel like Detroit's music scene is closer to what we are.  Drugs Dragons isn’t really a band that tried, or tries to go for a singular sound or image, we're an ugly amalgamate of our individual personalities and tastes.  So, we'd probably sound the same if we lived in Brooklyn or Branson.

Tonys:  I agree with Puke, however, just as in Detroit or Chicago, I believe my friends and peers have definitely influenced me personally.  So much love, so little heart.

Are you involved in recording or releasing any music besides Drugs Dragons?  If so, can you tell us about that here briefly?

Puke Drugs:  I recorded a neo-gospel group called the Hormel Chili Singers, which was a challenge due to the theological differences between Christianity and me wanting to get my dick wet.  Look for the album in early 2011 on Fat Wreck!  Bob runs Dusty Medical Records and Pet Supplies, Inc. from atop a giant pile of cash, shrieking orders at malnourished Malaysian orphans slaving over online vinyl orders, and fancy tins of high priced dog food.  Once, he caught one of these starving children eating the gourmet dog food and threw a beaker full of acid in his face.  We all had a good laugh.

Tonys:  I run Terror Trash Records and also recorded Static Eyes’ side for our split. I’ve recorded too much to tell all...

Erroric:  I release music from my butt every morning.

How would you describe Drugs Dragons’ sound to our readers who might not have heard you all before in your own words?

Puke Drugs:  Lovecraftian mutant street gang rock, with a dose of humor, and totally political stances on the issues that matter.  Smash the state!  Someone once called us the Bell Biv Devoe of psych punk, but I like to think of us as the Terry Bradshaw of poundin' puss.

Tonys:  A nightmare you will never wake from.

Erroric:  Primitive death.

You all seem to take whatever sounds you want and toss them into a heady stew of psychotic noise, but there’s an underlying plan that unites it and gives it this higher sense of purpose if you catch my drift.  I’m curious who hear who you all would cite as your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?

Puke Drugs:  We're all on the same page when it comes to The Hunches, Clone Defects, Country Teasers, and The Spits.  Tonys has been really pushing a Big Head Todd and the Monsters angle for awhile now, but the reception by the rest of the band has been weak to say the least.

Tonys:  I write the music and am inspired by what I want...  Gonna get “Bittersweet” stuck in your head one of these days.

What’s the songwriting process for Drugs Dragons like?  Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff or more finished idea of a song, or do you all get together and kick ideas back and forth until you work out an idea that you’re interested in working on and refining together as a unit?

Puke Drugs:  Tonys writes all the riffs, him and Erroric jam on it, come up with different parts and shit, then I ruin it all with lyrics and tone deaf animal noises.  As we've played together more and more, we refine songs in a group dynamic, and Bob has been invaluable in this regard.  We have another entire album written, and it's some of the best stuff we've ever done; which is, admittedly, not very impressive.

Erroric:  Tonys yells.

What about recording for Drugs Dragons?  I think that obviously most musicians can appreciate the end result of all the time and effort that goes into making an album when they’re finally holding it in their hands.  Getting to that point, though, getting things recorded and sounding the way you want them to, especially as a band can be extremely difficult to say the least and recording has been the death of many a great band over the years.  What’s it like recording for Drugs Dragons?

Puke Drugs:  We treat recording as a party.  We don't tend to get hung up with how we want things to sound in our heads, versus how things sound in reality.  We're not control freaks, we tend to let things play out as they are.  We want our records to sound like they were made of filth and slime, not the product of a sterile recording session where every sound is intentional and all life has been squeezed out of the songs by demanding egos and OCD perfectionists.

Tonys:  Also breaking toy pianos!

Do you all like to head into the studio and let a technician handle the technical sides of things so that you can just concentrate on the music and getting things to sound the way you want them to, or do you like to take a more DIY approach where you handle that stuff mostly on your own, so that you don’t have to compromise or work with anyone as far as the sound is concerned?

Puke Drugs:  We go into the studio with a game plan, but the last two 12-inches would not sound the way they do without the assistance of our super-bro Josh White.  He's like Phil Spector with better hair and machetes instead of guns.  He taught us how to free-base wasp venom and the value of having a library card.  Have you ever seen Where's Waldo?  It's a good reading book we got from the library.

Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into working out every aspect of a song before you record it, with the arrangements and compositions meticulously planned and airtight beforehand?  Or, do you just get a good skeletal idea of what a song’s going to sound like, while allowing for plenty of room for change and evolution during the recording process?

Puke Drugs:  Both, actually.  We got this other book from the library called Danny and the Dinosaur.  Long story short, this kid fucks a Velociraptor.

Tonys:  True story.

Do hallucinogenic or psychoactive drugs playa a large or important role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes for Drugs Dragons?  I mean the name would imply some sort of relationship, but I’m never quite sure how seriously to take such things as I have a tendency for over analyzation.  I don’t mean it in a negative regard either, I mean, people have been tapping into the altered states that drugs produce for thousands of years for the means of creating arts and I’m always simply curious about their usage and application when it comes to the art that I personally enjoy and consume.

Puke Drugs: We all smoke weed nearly constantly.  And I myself have taken psychoactive drugs semi-regularly since I was eighteen.  I'm pretty sure all of us would live in a constantly altered state if it were at all feasible.  I view psychoactive drugs as the key to the origins, evolution, and transcendence of the human mind, so of course they play a huge part in our music.  Fuck, they play a huge role in me making scrambled eggs, petting a dog, cleaning the sink, mocking clouds, pissing into an open grave, filling a mylar balloon with rotten broccoli farts and giving it to a dying kid at the children's hospital, etcetera.

Tonys:  Are you a cop?

Erroric:  Bring me some drugs.

Tonys:  Do you guys like my hat?  It's really, really small!  What do you think of sharks that ride bikes?  I like them.

In 2010 you all put out your material that I’m aware of, the self-titled Drugs Dragons 12” for Dusty Medical Records.  Can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for Drugs Dragons?  When and where was that at?  Was that a fun, pleasurable experience or more of a sort of nerve wracking proposition at the time?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?

Puke Drugs:  We recorded with our buddy Justin Perkins at his then studio.  It was an okay experience, but since we were a new band at the time, and half of us had zero recording experience, we sorta view that record as a dry run to the latest record.  Err, I mean, it's an amazing record that can change lives and open up new musical frontiers for the listener and it’s available now on Dusty Medical Records and Pet Supplies, Inc!  And on iTunes; iTunes is a website that has music on it.

Tonys:  Maybe on youboob too?  They’re a musical website that has videos!

Erroric:  I sleep through the recording process.  We have a trained cat that plays drums on all the records.  His name is Lil’ Erroric Meowldew.

You also released two 7-inch singles in 2010, “(I’m In A) Brain Grave” and Cold Controls.  Were the tracks for those singles from the same session(s) that produced the self-titled album released that year or were they recorded during different session specifically for the releases?  If they were part of different sessions can you tell us a little bit about the recording of the material for those singles?

Puke Drugs:  We recorded those songs as demos, previous to our recording session for the self-titled album in the Tonys' basement/musky sex dungeon.  It was my first time singing on a recording, and it sounds like it.  I believe we made a frozen pizza afterwards and enjoyed a round of Wii bowling.

Tonys:  All true!  My sex dungeon has sadly since been retired.  Recorded by Ben Kastner.

In 2011 you followed up your first album and the two singles with The Milorganight 12” EP once again for Dusty Medical.  Was the recording of the material for that EP very similar to the session(s) for your first album?  Who recorded The Milorganight material?  Where and when would that have been at?  What kind of equipment was used this time around?

Puke Drugs:  We recorded the EP with Josh White in a place in Milwaukee called the Fortress.  I can't exactly remember what equipment was used, but I believe there may have been a guitar involved, and possibly some microphones.

Tonys:  And a piano graveyard!  At least two walls were there.

Last year in 2013 you released a split 7-inch with Static Eyes fro Terror Trash Records.  What song of yours was featured on that?  Is that still in print at this point?  Do you know if it was a limited release or an open ended pressing?  Where did your track from this split come from?

Puke Drugs:  We have two tracks on that split, “WAITING AROUND TO DIE” and “FESTER/BREED/SCATTER”.  It's still in print and probably will be for the next decade or two, so act fast!  We recorded with Jordan B. Davis, of Mystery Girls and Space Raft fame, in our practice spot.  We love Jordan; the person, not the country.

Just recently you all released your sophomore album follow-up to 2010’s self titled album, II & I/III as always for Dusty Medical Records.  What was the recording of II & I/III like?  When and where was the material for II & I/III recorded?  Who recorded it?

Puke Drugs:  We recorded II & I/II on the twentieth anniversary of Jeffy Dahmer's arrest for creating unlicensed sex slaves in his dingy one bedroom apartment.  Goddamn government won't let you do anything anymore.  The album was recorded in a gutted house in the Milwaukee suburbs by wasp venom freebasing enthusiast Josh White.  It was a whirlwind, adrenaline fueled, white knuckle trip into the heart of tenderness and comfort.  Afterwards we got high and went swimming.  Well, Tonys and I went swimming.  Erroric didn't swim because he forgot his water wings, and Bob Evans wasn't in the band yet.

Does Drugs Dragons have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a single or a song on a compilation that I might not know about?

Puke Drugs:  We have some stuff that wasn’t included on the first album, some stuff from a live performance at Milwaukee's only radio station 91.7 WMSE, another song from the Jordan Bench Davis sessions, and a whole album yet to be recorded.  We also have numerous demos of shit that has never seen the light of day.  Maybe Burger Records wants to put out a cassette once we buy the requisite neon-plastic sunglasses, brand new leather jackets, and dumb retro mop-top haircuts all the fey west coast dweebs are rocking.

Tonys:  Matador be knocking on the door if we move to Brooklyn, but c'mon.  Fuck that.

With the recent release of II & I/III album, is there anything else planned or on the horizon as far as releases go that you can share here with us?

Puke Drugs:  We've got another album written and will release songs on 7” in the rare event that any label is interested in wasting money on us.  WINK MOTHERFUCKING WINK, RECORD LABELS.

Erroric:  I think we're done.

Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your stuff?

Puke Drugs:  Probably through the Dusty Medical Records and Pet Supplies, Inc website.  If you buy our albums, I believe there’s a free download code for cat litter.

Erroric:  In Wisconsin.

With the completely insane international postage rates these days I try and provide our readers with as many possible options as I can for picking up imports!  Where’s the best place for our poor international and overseas readers to score copies of your stuff?

Puke Drugs:  I assume you can pick up our albums in the ninety nine cent cassette bins at most car wash places.  Do other countries even have cars?

Tonys:  ...Or ask Goodbye Boozy Gabriele.  I think that's in that Italy place.  Italy’s real, right?

Erroric:  Buy us plane tickets to tour in Europe.

And where’s the best place for everyone to keep up with the latest news, like upcoming shows, tours and album releases from Drugs Dragons at?

Puke Drugs:  Facebook, which is a website devoted to pictures of food and cats, and the inane ramblings of idiots.  The Tonys' favorite movie is about Facebook.  He's a real The Social Network head.  He has tattoos of the Winklevoss twins on each of his testicles.

Tonys:  I love Social Network!  Zuckerberg is dreamy!

Erroric:  The leprechauns will tell you.  So will lepers.

Kevin:  Facebook.

Are there any major plans or goals that you all are looking to accomplish in the last of 2014 or in 2015?

Puke Drugs:  I'm hoping to finally learn Malay so I can taunt Bob's orphan slaves, but this Rosetta Stone thing is a bunch of bullshit.  So, instead I'm just hoping to have some real good pancakes some time soon.

Tonys:  I'd like to buy a duck.

Erroric:  Goals are for losers.

What, if anything do you all have planned as far as touring goes?

Puke Drugs:  We can't tour all that much because we're real people, with real shit going on in our lives.  Touring is for delusional souls that think that playing Carbondale on a Tuesday night will somehow lead to a life of opulent luxury.  We'd jump at the chance to tour Europe or Africa once this whole Ebola fad blows over, though.

Tonys:  Bob can't be five miles away from his fridge at any given time.  Or a Culver's.

Erroric:  Nope.

Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road?  What’s life like on the road for Drugs Dragons?  Do you enjoy being out on tour?

Puke Drugs:  We just tend to get fucked up and pick fights with each other, which is fun. Once I farted while getting out of the van and it almost made Erroric barf. Life on the road with Drugs Dragons is like life on a highway, in that I want to ride it all night long.

Tonys:  Going to play Detroit (Urinefested) this year Bob had to walk up to two drive thrus after forgetting his food and/or getting irritated with wait times.

Erroric:  These guys suck.

Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with over the years?

Puke Drugs:  Your usual Midwest weirdo punk bands and your usual surly southern punk bands.  Our first show ever was with Wizzard Sleeve; that was pretty cool.

Tonys:  Timmy Vulgar, Sonny Vincent, Bon Iver featuring the Backstreet Men; nee Boys.

Erroric:  Human Eye, Liquor Store, and Static Eyes.

In your dreams, who are you on tour with?

Puke Drugs:  Diamond Dave era Van Halen or maybe Mozart.  They both seem to have a knack with snaring snatch.

Tonys:  Timmy, or people that aren't the people in this band.

Erroric:  Little Richard.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with out readers?

Puke Drugs:  Once, we were playing and I had a beer.  Beer is an alcoholic beverage.  Another time we played a show and I had a beer again.  That's about it.  Oh, and one time I killed a seeing eye dog with my bare hands, but that's pretty unremarkable.

Tonys:  We do dumb stuff.  Someone has to be there to witness it.  Will it be you?

Erroric:  Like when Puke pukes or Tonys falls down?  Nope.

Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs, album covers and that kind of thing?  Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re attempting to convey or get across with your art?

Puke Drugs:  I’m generally in charge of art work.  I try for psychedelic, Lovecraftian, cave-man visions, and pledge-huffing plastic 80's horror movie schlock.  We're just trying to get the message across that libraries are a great place for learning.  They're also good for masturbating behind potted plants while you watch people read.

Tonys:  Shut up with the library shit.

Erroric:  I close my eyes.

Do you have anyone that you usually turn to when it comes to the visual aspects of a band?  If so, who is that and how did you originally get hooked up with them?

Erroric:  Puke draws.

Puke Drugs:  We settled on me doing most of it because that little bitch Banksy was all like, “Sorry, I'm too busy with my dumb tags and crap.  I'm British or something, so cheerio mates”!  And that lazy fuck Picasso is dead, so we settled on the next best thing, having me do it for free.

With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why they choose and prefer the various mediums that they do.  Do you have a preferred method of release for your own music?  What about when you’re listening to or purchasing music?  If you do have a preference, what is it and can you tell us a little bit about why?

Puke Drugs:  We only like vinyl because then we can prove to other, less-intelligent people that we alone are fans of music.  Everyone else with their iPods and cassettes and such are just vapid posers.

Erroric:  I like records.

Do you have a music collection at all?  If so, can you tell us just a little bit about it?

Puke Drugs:  Fuck yeah!  I got everything Alvin und ze Chippenzemunks (Germany) ever released, including their rare and adorably Teutonic cover of “The Whisper Song”.

Erroric:  Don't touch it.

I grew up around my dad’s collection of music, and he always let me listen to anything that I wanted to.  But it was him taking me around to the local shops and picking me up random stuff that I was interested in that really left its mark I think.  I developed this whole ritual, where I would rush home, grab a set of headphones, read the liner notes over and over, stare at the cover art and let it drag me into a whole universe that it created along with the music.  There was something about having a physical, concrete object that’s connected to the music that always made for a much more complete listening experience for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Puke Drugs:  Absolutely.  I did pretty much the exact same thing with my dad when I was a kid, and still do to this day.  We try to create the same universe building thing in our music, but either a) the general populace isn't insane enough yet to dump their minds in our junkyard, or b) we're a terrible band and no one gives a shit; probably ‘b’.

Erroric:  I like records.

On the flipside of that picture, digital music is here in a big way these days, like it or not.  If you add the internet to the mix, well you really have something on your hands at that point.  Together, they’ve exposed people to a literal world of music that they’re surrounded by and allowed for an unparalleled level of communication between bands and their fans, which has eradicated geographic boundaries that would have crippled bands even just a few years ago.  It’s not all peaches and cream though, while people are being exposed to more and more music, they’re not necessarily very interested in paying for it at this point. Not to mention, it’s harder than ever to get noticed in the chocked digital jungle out there with everyone being given a somewhat equal voice at this point.  As an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

Puke Drugs:  It sucks for the reasons you've mentioned.  Beyond the information static drowning out the signal, there's no mystery any more.  And when there is mystery, it's a carefully crafted gimmick.  It just seems like people buy, or like music, as a status symbol now, like it's a badge of coolness to be a fan of whatever flavor of the week bullshit is being pushed on gullible and eager to impress kids.

Erroric:  Boo!

I try to keep up with as many good bands as I possibly can, but it’s hard to even know where to start these days.  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of before?

Puke Drugs:  Head on Electric, Static Eyes, Phylums, Aluminum Knot Eye, Space Raft, Holy Shit!, Moon Curse…  There's more, but you’ve got like fifty fucking questions here and my mind is in the bathroom taking a dump right now.

Erroric:  Static Eyes, Indonesian Junk, and Head on Electric.

What about nationally and internationally?

Puke Drugs:  Have you heard this Miles Cyprus girl?  She looks like Dopey from the Seven Dwarves and sings about love and stuff.  I also think Taymart Swifter is pretty good at singing about love and stuff.

Erroric:  No Bails, Liquor Store, and Timmy's Organism.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me so in-depth about the band!  It was awesome talking with you all and getting to learn so much about your creative process and history.  Since you all were so kind and generous with your time, I’d like to take this opportunity to open the floor up to you for a moment.  Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you might just want to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about?

Puke Drugs:  Library cards are great because you can find good reading books to look at.  There's these series of books called The Berenstein Bears, about this family of bears that go around messily mauling and devouring people, which is really what family’s all about, you know?

Tonys:  Seriously, thank you for your time and patients.  Shut the fuck up about the library.  Do drugs!  Fuck books!

Erroric:  I quit.

(2010)  Drugs Dragons – Drugs Dragons – 12” – Dusty Medical Records
(2010)  Drugs Dragons – “(I’m In A) Brain Grave” b/w “Predator Weapons” – 7” – Terror Trash Records
(2010)  Drugs Dragons – Cold Controls – 7” – Terror Trash Records
(2011)  Drugs Dragons – The Milorganight EP – Dusty Medical Records
(2013)  Drugs Dragons/Static Eyes – Split – 7” – Terror Trash Records
(2014)  Drugs Dragons – II & I/III – 12” – Dusty Medical Records (Limited to 250 copies)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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