About Me

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Detroit, Michigan, United States
I'm a punk rock guru from Detroit. Part skinhead, part crusty, part metalhead, part hardcore kid, part party kid, 100% punk rocker.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Against the Grain interview

1. How did Against the Grain formulate, music-wise and name wise?
Well, my brother Chris (singer/bassist) and I have been playing in bands together for 11 years. Nick was the last guitarist in our latest band, “No Regrets”, who broke up when our singer moved to Idaho. We jammed here and there for about 2 years just messing around, but we had no desire to start a band. When I started working in a different department at work with Bryan, we were connecting over music, and decided to jam one day. My brother was upstairs and heard us jamming, and decided to jam with us. It just clicked so well that we started jamming more, and began writing songs. It was a really natural thing; it was never like “Let’s start a band!” The name came from when we were writing songs, we felt it was punk, but definitely something a little different. So the name, style and lyrical content kinda go hand in hand.
2. How long have Against the Grain members been active in the Detroit music scene?
Chris and I have been playing for almost 11 years. Our first show was at the Wired Frog. Chris was 9 years old, and I was 12. We were called “Circus Midget”, then “Say Uncle”, “Butternikles” and then No Regrets for about the last 5 years. Nick was in No Regrets for the last year. Bryan has always jammed with people for well over 10 years, but nothing too serious.
3. What made you decide to add elements of 70s hard rock to your style of punk rock?
We listen to a lot of different music. I actually feel it has a lot of blues in it rather than rock, but sped up I guess that’s how it comes across. We really just write what we feel like, and that’s how it came out.
To Quote Jello Biafra:
“Punk's not dead
It just deserves to die
When it becomes another stale cartoon
A close-minded, self-centered social club
Ideas don't matter, it's who you know
If the music's gotten boring
It's because of the people
Who want everyone to sound the same
Who drive bright people out
Of our so-called scene
'Til all that's left Is just a meaningless fad”
That’s kinda how I’ve always felt about punk.
4. Who did you record your first demo (the Redline EP) with? What was that experience like?
That was recorded with Mick from Zoinga. It was fast and awesome. Took 3 days total. No Regrets recorded out last EP with Mick, so we already knew him and were totally comfortable with him. He has an ear for producing, and is always helpful. We did it incredibly fast, a lot of first and second takes. We’re gonna go back and do a bunch more with him soon.
5. What are your thoughts about free/pirated music? Is it positive or negative?
For bands starting off and trying to get their music out there, it’s fantastic. We give our EP away for free because we just want people to hear it. (Plug: www.mediafire.com/atgtheband) But I can see when you’re to the point of trying to make a living off your music, and you’re struggling, it could definitely hurt you. I think the point in which bands are affected by it is when it becomes something you’re trying to make a living off of, and you can’t because everyone’s downloading your stuff.
6. What’s the best local band to go and see play? Why?
Oh shit, ha-ha. There are a lot of great ones. We always love seeing our friends in The A-Gang. St Thomas Boys always promise a great show. Hellmouth, of course. D.A. should be exploding soon. Core Rotten are awesome. And a lot of the new ones like The Plastic Boyz, Assault Squad, Koffin Kats, Fisherking, Superbums, DPR, Live to Kill, Downtown Brown, Aggro or Die, D.I.E., and Snakewing are bands people should definitely check out.
7. A little off-topic, what are your thoughts on so-called Crack Rock Steady music? Is it a serious genre or is it just a negative stereotype of punk rockers?
I take that whole scene with a grain of salt. I personally never got that into it, but I know a lot of people base their lives around that scene. I just never took the lyrics of LOC to heart, really. I don’t respect STZA, but I do love the music.
8. What are your opinions on 21+ and 18+ shows and why?
I love all-ages shows. We rarely get to play those because the all-ages venues have it rough because kids are generally so in and out with trends, so they can’t rely on bands for too long to bring a flow of people, and they’re not making money selling alcohol. Plus, underage kids sneaking alcohol in screws with their liquor licenses.
9. Does Against the Grain have any out-of-Detroit plans in the future? If so, where and when?
Yes, we plan on taking this as far as people would like to see us, or let us. We’re going to do (hopefully 2) 15 day tours the summer of 2011. Until then, we’re trying to spread around MI, IL, and anywhere in the Midwest.
10. Do you think the popularity of skate punk has made it trendy or watered it down? Why?
The skate punk scene is where my heart is. Never deny your roots. NOFX, Bad Religion, Pennywise, Guttermouth… that’s all what got me into punk, and their still my favorite bands.
11. I heard you’ve been shut down a few times by soundmen. What happened there? Do you think that reputation helped or hurt you?
Well first off, fuck TNTs. They promised us all kinds of shit and said people could mosh there because they saw we brought a lot of people to a different show, so they wanted to use us to make money. We get there and they say, oh no moshing. So we encouraged the crowd to have fun, because we were used. When we explain the situation, a lot of people understand, but when people or clubs hear that we have some out of control fans, I think it ultimately hurts us. Oh well.
12. How do you feel about some of your fans? You know what I’m talking about.
We hate some of the disrespect that was shown at some of our first shows. We’re trying to build a community with bands we play with, and when people only show us respect, then leave, it makes us look bad.
13. Would you ever consider hosting out-of-state bands for your shows? What kinds of bands would you host, if so?
Absolutely! Any punk band that needs to come through MI we’d love to hook up. Setting up tours is hard! We love Voice of Addiction from Chicago and just played with them. Check them out.
14. What’s the best place to get quality local music?
Record time is great with that. Flipside Records. Or the local shows. It feels great when someone buys your album directly from you after you just played.
15. What’s each of your favorite bands?
This is a tough one, so we’re just gonna say a few favorites.
Rob – NOFX, Bad Religion, Zeke
Chris – Zeke, Motorhead, Agent Orange
Bryan – Clutch, Slayer, Fu Manchu, all real blues
Nick – Ricky Martin.

16. What’s the best place to play a show and why?
Pretty much every venue we’ve played at other than TNTs has showed us respect. My personal favorite place to play is Macs. Lansing kids rule and I love playing out of town.
17. Any big upcoming projects you’re working on currently?
Writing a bunch of new songs and spreading our free CD; recording 6 new songs in the fall to make a full length. Bryans getting married in October, so we’ll be having a fill-in guitarist for a lot of shows coming. Keep It a Threat 2, June 12th! We’re excited as shit for that!
18. Anything else you’d like to add for readers?
Support local music.

Interview with the Koffin Kats

1. What are some of the band’s particular influences?
I’d have to say Bad Religion and other early SoCal punk bands like Pennywise. We really listen to everything and anything these days. Finding out about bands like Mad Sin and Nekromantix helped push us to have more of a “psychobilly” sound.
2. Do you listen to a lot of music, or do you take a Joey Ramone approach and aim to have a smaller amount of influences?
Lots of music. You have to keep your mind open if you want to have any type of progress in your song writing. Lately it seems all I have been listening to is Sheer Terror and old Waylon Jennings.
3. How did Koffin Kats arise? Did it rise from the ashes of any other bands?
Before KK I had a band called V8 Nightmare. Tommy was in a band called P.R.E.S.S. Neither bands were doing much so one day we just started jamming some songs together and then it happened.
4. Is it hard to learn to play the double bass?
If you just want to play the basic stuff then no. It’s a fun instrument. I’ve been playing almost every day for almost ten years now so everything seems easy, I guess.
5. How is Ian adjusting to the Koffin Kats lifestyle?
He is now playing like he’s always been in the band. His liver is having a hard time adjusting though!
6. Is it difficult to adjust to living on the road?
I love the road. After a week of being home I just want to get back out there. It’s easier for us now that we have been through the U.S. so much that there is usually a floor to sleep on after a show.
7. Do you embrace being as famous as you are?
I don’t think I’m famous! Ha ha. I certainly respect and appreciate that some people dig the stuff we do.
8. Why is it that psychobilly bands have a tendency to release more material than most punk rock bands?
I don’t think it’s just psychobilly. There’s a lot more punk or whatever bands putting out a lot more material out now because recording has become easier and more affordable these days.
9. Have you ever considered covering a Demented are Go! Song? If so, which one?
We actually used to do a cover of “Cast Iron Arms”. DAG actually covered that too. I’ve always wanted to do “Call of the Wired”.

10. Has psychobilly in the United States, in your opinion, strengthened or weakened since the spike in popularity in the early 80s?
I totally think it’s bigger and more accessible now then it’s ever been. The internet has helped a lot with not keeping it so underground.
11. Do you have any plans to release new material in the next year or so?
We’re planning on getting back into the studio in August with Ian. Hopefully have an EP out around November.
12. How much time goes into writing a song by the band?
We actually write the music rather quick when it comes time to record again. The lyrics usually are written a few days before the studio session, as I like to work under pressure.
13. How long have you guys been playing music for?
All three of us starting playing instruments around the same age. I picked up the guitar when I was 12 and got my first upright bass when I was 17. I’m 27 now.
14. Do your speakers go to eleven?
No, because it pisses off the sound guy when you have the loud of volume onstage. If ya want to sound good then make the sound guy happy!
15. What are your plans to tour in Europe at the moment? Is playing there better than playing here? What sets it apart?
We’re heading over to Europe in Mid-May for 6 weeks. We’re going all over the U.K. and as far east as the Ukraine. I think artists in general have a higher level of respect for them over there when compared to the States.
16. What recording are you most proud of? Why? (song/album)
Well I’m gonna go the generic route and say our newest release “Forever for Hire”. It’s our most professional recording yet. I think we kicked it up a bit in the song writing for the album as well. We have been getting a lot of requests for new songs like “Wild Ride” and “Saw My Friend Explode”.
17. Do you find much success touring in a particular area? Which one?
Well the West coast has always been a hotspot for bands like us. Especially in southern California. You have a higher population of people there into the underground culture.
18. What does ‘Mors Ex Supera’ mean? My Latin is a bit rusty.
It translates to “Death From Above”.
19. Do you guys go out to see bands if you aren’t touring? Do you watch the bands often when you are on tour?
We’re usually too broke to go to a ton of shows but I always enjoy going out and supporting friends’ bands. We actually do try to catch the opening bands. Even when there is a backstage. I like to be out drinking in the crowd.

20. Anything else you’d like to add for fans/potential fans?
Well, thank you for taking the time to read this! Hope to see ya at a show sometime. Live music and touring bands do still exist. Go out there and support!!

The A-Gang self-titled CD review

There are some who believe that all punk rock is violent and angry, despite the fact that a good portion of punk rock is happy or exhales frustration and not anger. However, there are bands that still exist that make you angry, make you burn with rage, make you want to just wake up and destroy everything. The A-Gang is one of these bands. Their first record will send you over the edge and kick you downwards into a sea of true fury that knows no depth.
“Your Best Interest” kicks off the album with some furious, clear yelling by singer Ben Wixson. The song truly unleashes the frustration and despair of being poor and how the powers that be conspire to keep things this way. “Live on Fire” is a straight-up energetic tune that just fucking rocks. No more needs to be said. “Shotgun” is a good track, keeping the flow of emotional distress going. “Kill the Routine” pushes the moving locomotive even faster, exhaling the hatred of sameness and predictability, a feeling that anyone, even non-punk fans can discern. “Gods and Bombs” is the sing-a-long track of this album, and rightfully so. It’s catchy and does not give up a pint of rage to achieve it. “Here’s To You” is a love letter of a song filled with the anger anyone should feel at the world. Finally, the track “That Sinking Feeling” is absolutely groundbreaking. This is one of very few songs the feeds the burning rage into you, makes you pick up a baseball bat and just unleash all the fucking fury the world deserves inflicted on it. A spectacular release, The A-Gang is a CD for everyone who has been angry at some point in their lifetime.
-Aunty Social

U.D.I. self-titled LP review

What if the Accused, instead of being born in Seattle, was born in a dirty Detroit trailer park? More than likely, someone like Unidentified Drunken Injury would form. While they both play amphetamine-fueled thrashing hardcore, the similarities between those two bands end there; I have never heard a band sound quite like U.D.I. does on this LP.
In many ways, U.D.I. is very unique. I have not heard a band play this fast and this efficiently in a very long time, and I have not heard a vocalist sound quite like Mike Ratt does, ever. He sounds like what a demonic, possessed child on cocaine would sound like. Most notably, I have never heard a band that made me want to drink, skateboard and consume massive quantities of speed simultaneously. U.D.I. does all of that in the short span of eighteen minutes.
Ratt’s nihilistic babbling is probably the most memorable part of this album, because it’s so fast, yet the message is so clear. The guitar is a sonic assault on the ears; it’s fast enough, loud enough, and I fuckin’ love it. The bass and drums are fueled only by anger and alcohol, yet they manage to rip like a bassist and drummer should. In any other city, the sheer ferocity of the album would likely be misplaced, but in a fucked-up metropolis like Detroit, U.D. I. is right at home. No one plays music like this; buy this album from Spider Cuddler Records and experience this septic thrash for yourself!
-Aunty Social