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.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Interview with Ben Wixson

Interview with Ben Wixson of the A-Gang and Frank White

1. When did you get your start in music?

I started playing the guitar around at 11 or 12, so I guess you could say that was the beginning for me in music. The first few songs I wrote and recorded were Industrial sounding, which is a genre I still enjoy today. The few songs I did record were under the name "Teknologikal". How original? Haha...they weren't very good. My start in "punk" came in high school with my first band ever, Things About Nothing. We're actually playing a reunion show Dec 26th at Hatchy's in Utica. I can't promise it will be any good, but it will be a lot of fun.

2. What were your first punk rock albums? Are they still influential to you today?

My first punk rock albums were Shut Your Mouth Open Your Eyes by AFI, Let It Happen by MXPX, the self-titled Unwritten Law record, London Calling, Live Fast Diarrhea by The Vandals and one of the 90's Bad Religion albums. Now, I understand these aren't very elite by any means, but you have to understand my coming of age was in like 1998. I still listen to all those bands, so the answer would have to be yes.

3. How did Frank White come to form?

The formation of Frank White was rather odd. We actually had a drummer named Jake Salk for about 2 practices, who I knew from playing shows with my old band. He also knew Jesse and Jeff from their years with Before I Go (who I liked a lot). One day he called me and asked if I wanted to play bass in a band that sounded like Rancid. I said "Hell yeah!" I don't really remember what happened to Mr. Salk after that, but when he was gone I called up Jake Brusokas to play with us. I remember at the first or second practice someone coming up with a rule along the lines of "you can only write choruses while taking a shit".

4. What made a Frank White show so legendary to go to? Punk, hardcore kids, crusties, pop punk kids, everyone came out for Frank White.

Don't forget about the ska kids! They probably just wanted to see 4 guys in their 20's make fools of themselves. Really, it was all about the music for us. That's why we played music that hadn't been relevant since 1995. Hopefully it was because it was fun to hear and see live. It was fast, but it had melody.

5. What material did you release while the band was together? Would you ever consider re-releasing it as a CD or an LP, given proper time and funds?

We released a 5 song EP, a 6 song EP, and 5 songs that were online exclusives. I would love to see this all pressed on a 12" record. There is so much unreleased material that we just haven't had time to put out. One day though...

6. What made the stage banter so prevalent at live shows?

Alcohol, and the love for baseball and cheap action movies.

7. Why did Frank White go on hiatus? Will Detroit ever see a semi-permanent return to the stage for them?

Well, at the end of 2008 we were starting to lose steam because everyone was so busy with other things. I think sometime in the near-ish future you'll see more of Frank White. We definitely need to get some new material out first, but I think a lot of the things that have been holding us back for the past few years are starting to go away. We played a few shows in 2010 that were a lot of fun. We might have a proper "return" show some time in 2011.

8. What prompted the A-Gang to come about? What common bands did the initial band members bond over?

I have no Idea what caused this band to form. The A-Gang had many member come and go before I was actually in it. Jesse (of Frank White) was one of these members. There was actually a show played with Drew Podgorski (of Just Ask) on vocals about a year before I was even in it. The band didn't do much of anything during that period, and there wasn't really anything recorded. Actually, the drums to the EP we have out were recorded before I was really even in the band. Rich just called me one day asking if I knew anyone that sang, and I told him I would be interested. I'm not sure there are even all that many common bands the band bonds over which is why we sound the way we do (not that we sound all that unique). We all like 80's punk and hardcore... but who doesn't?

9. When did the first set of songs get written? When did they finally get recorded, mastered and released?

I couldn't tell you when the first songs were written. Probably a year and a half before I was in the band if I had to guess. The first recording came in the form of our self-titled EP. The recording of the record took place from Oct 2008 to like Oct 2009. Too long if you ask me. It was finally released in December of 2009.

10. Who have the A-Gang opened for since their inception?

These are all from memory so I might miss something significant - No Use For A Name, The Germs, Anti-Flag, The Menzingers, Telegraph, Swingin' Utters, Only Crime, Cancer Bats.

11. Is the name of the band a play on the 1980s television show the A-Team? Or is there another meaning behind the name?

Is far as I know there is no meaning behind the name. I always thought the "A" stood for assholes.

12. Does the band have any new tracks in the works?

Yes! We have about 6 songs we've been kicking around. We have plans to release a full length and a 7" sometime in 2011. The process of recording these will be MUCH faster than the last EP. So far the new songs are awesome.

13. What does the future hold for the A-Gang?

I have no idea. Hopefully some shows on the East and West coast. I would love to play in Europe, or South America, but those are just dreams! We'll keep playing as long as our hands and throats still work.

14. Is there any chance of an A-Gang/ Frank White split, a la Skolars/ Telegraph?

I would say probably not. That would require an immense undertaking by me and right now I don't think there is any way I could commit that much time to a project like that and have it sound halfway decent.

15. Anything additional you would like to say?

Playing music for a living is not an easy thing to do, and it's not something I've ever done. Some friends of mine play in the groups We Are The Union and the Swellers. These aren't just fly-by-night-let's-get-big-and-make-crazy-money kinds of dudes. These are people that do what they do because they truly love playing to people. Now, say what you will about either of these bands. My point is this: If it weren't for people like this making sacrifices to help keep the scenes in our cities alive, we wouldn't have the great music we have. Please support musicians when ever possible and keep the culture alive.

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