- Off The Record : An Interview Of Fss Members List
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- Off The Record : An Interview Of Fss Members 2017
- Off The Record : An Interview Of Fss Members -
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interview by Black Bubblegum, photos by Zach Dilgard
DOWNLOAD:Om - Gebel Barkal (MP3)
DOWNLOAD:Om - (Version) (MP3)
DOWNLOAD:Holy Sons - Gnostic Device (MP3)
Al Cisneros & Emil Amos
Om is the brainchild of Al Cisneros. In the wake of Sleep's dissolution, Al founded Om with his former Sleep and Asbestosdeath band-mate Chris Hakius. Sleep's guitarist Matt Pike went on to form High On Fire. Over five years, Om has carved a unique path.. retaining the doom appeal of Sleep, while forging a new somber, yet also oddly calming tone over the course of three studio albums and various vinyl releases. Chris Hakius recently left the group, but was quickly replaced by drummer Emil Amos of former Om tourmatesGrails.
Emil Amos is a juggler. Besides Grails and his new venture with Om, Amos also has a solo project called Holy Sons. Of course, Al Cisneros is also on the move, most recently forging an indie metal supergroup of sorts called Shrinebuilder - a four piece with Scott 'Wino' Weinrich (of Saint Vitus, Hidden Hand, The Obsessed, many others), Scott Kelly (of Neurosis and Blood & Time), and Dale Crover (of Melvins and Porn).
Om was one of many bands who performed at the ATP festival at Kutscher's resort in upstate NY this past weekend. While there, we were able to coax the duo into taking a ride with us in one of the 'sea nymphs', aka rowboats, on Kutsher's Lake. Along the way we paddled, and poked and prodded the band about Om, Shrinebuilder and their many other projects including, 'Gebel Barkal', a limited Sub Pop 7' they recently put out (both songs from it are available for download on the top of this post). Among other things, we also found out about an electrician who happens to be very talented on the guitar.
Warning, if you have an aversion to poor yachting, please look away now.
So I managed to catch your show yesterday..
Emil Amos: We were really happy. We were psyched.
It was the first time I saw Emil play as a member of Om and my first thoughts were of your drumming style and how bombastic it kinda is.. especially compared to Chris Hakius's more measured style with Om. Are you guys heading in a heavier direction? Is that the plan?
Al Cisneros: It will be heavy. We have the ability now to color with different elements with what Emil's bringing in, which gets us out of those typical fixed parameters. All of the things that were in those parameters will still exist, but now we have the ability to go outside of them. The music's more realized. It feels that since we've been working together, it's one of the first times in my life that when I listen to what we've done, that I've said that's what I was hearing before we started.
Your vision for the song?
Al: Yeah and that's been happening at our practices. To get back to your point though, I think there is no way we can escape the [Tony] 'Iommic' influence. I think that's at a cellular level for me at this point.. [Geezer] Butler's tutelage. I don't fear that we'll ever stray.. that's always going to be part of what we're offering. It's always there.
Emil, I know you play a lot of different instruments in Holy Sons and Grails. Do you guys see the music moving away from just a bass/drums format? Adding different layers to it..
Al: Well, we kinda did with melodica on '(Version)' on the Sub Pop seven-inch..
Emil: We kind of experimented with organ on some stuff but I don't think there's going to be any huge shockers. It's still gonna sound like the same band. Musically, when we first met, the three things that we immediately in conversation bonded on was dub, Pink Floyd, and Billy Cobham, the great drummer.
Al: Like Augustus Pablo, Scientist, King Tubby..
Emil: Obviously, we aren't going to make a real dub record, although we have all these different little ideas. But somewhere in between those three things spells out the new vibe.
Al: The core of it.. the important thing is that whatever we use to add won't be so extreme as to take away the emotional thread that runs through it. That's always going to be preserved. Otherwise, those extra things would defeat the purpose. It's always going to be in context.
What were the circumstances behind Chris's departure from Om? Was it amicable?
Al: He said his heart wasn't in it any longer. If one feels that way and can't shake it then they should, out of respect for the music, move on. Music, without the heart behind it, isn't music.. but hollow sound.
If you got a call from Matt Pike and Chris today to reunite for a show or two, would you be into reforming Sleep?
Al: Reforming? No.
One thing that I think many people are curious about is this Shrinebuilder project, which is the convergence of many different forces.. Wino, Scott Kelly of Neurosis, and Dale Crover Of The Melvins. Whats the status on that? I would imagine it must be tough to get all of you guys in the same room together.
Al: It happens. I am actually rehearsing next weekend.. Going up to Scott's and Wino is flying in. We're going to be working on some of that stuff. Dale's on his full length tour with Melvins. We are looking to try and record in either November or December.
(At this point another rowboat comes very close to ours)
Al: Wait! It's the 'sea nymph'! We gotta hit the 'sea nymph'!
Emil: Got it.
Al: So it's a really special time right now. Watch out watch out. We gonna all crash! (joking)
As far as the tunes on Shrinebuilder, what direction do you hear the material going towards? I know that just having you and Wino and Crover in a band kind of denotes something Sabbath-y, but obviously Scott Kelly to the mix changes things slightly, or maybe you guys want to do something completely different..
Al: Its a convergence of the four schools we've all put our lives into. It sounds like Shrinebuilder.. you can hear each of those spheres crossing.
Who is going to do the vocals for Shrinebuilder? Has that been decided? Will it be collaborative?
Al: We're sharing duties on some of the material, on other sections just Wino.
Emil, you have a ton on your plate too..
Emil: Yeah, Holy Sons is releasing Decline Of The West on Tuesday (Sept 23rd), and Grails comes out on Oct 7th. We are about as busy as you could possibly be.. I think I have five records on my computer that are coming out soon.
(A few other boats edge closer to ours)
Emil: YEAH! 'Nymph' war!
Emil: You guys should have had a video camera for this one. I'm ready to take some people DOWN!
Five records? Wow. What else?
Emil: The records on my computer are all basically finished but I have four Holy Sons records.. A new full-length called Drifter's Sympathy for Important Records, The Squanderer which is the next full length after the Important record, a cover record in the style of Kicking Against The Pricks, and My Only Warm Coals, a 35 song retrospective. I'm finishing up a huge Grails DVD project for Temporary Residence, which will be out in March. I did a show with Damo Suzuki, Yellow Swans, White Rainbow, and Valet, but haven't ever had the time to mix it.. And a live Om record that we're almost done editing. Seven simultaneous projects..I might die from overload.
So obviously Holy Sons is going nuts. Whats the deal with the Grails DVD exactly? Did this sprout from a compilation of all of the wild clips that we've seen over the years?
Emil: The Grails DVD has taken me over a year of work.. it has six music videos, an entire live show in NYC with material from Doomsdayers, Impurities, & Take Refuge, and a 25 minute movie of early European tours & the recording of Interpretations in London in 2004. .. If I can, I'll also include the commercials I put together that people have seen on the web. It was a huge project with hours of scouring through library vaults and scanning through Vietnamese instructional videos of 'what to do in case of rat infestation' or conspiracy theories about the secret society who built the moon, very satisfying though.
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I gotta say, those commercials were both great and creeped me out. Kind of reminded me alot of Alejandro Jodorowsky. What was it like working with Damo Suzuki? Can was great.
Emil: The Suzuki show was great.. it's just a shame I can't get to it because of time. Damo's a lover.. a saint of a man.. but the more people you play with out there that you've gravitated towards from their music being amazing, the more you realize how many of these people are incredibly sweet and down to earth.
So what's that live Om record exactly?
Al: It's from 2008 in Tokyo.
Emil: You can see the clips online, there's a myspace video. We kinda didn't really have time to do it.. I think it's supposed to be for March.
Om Live in Japan - Flight of the Eagle from The Fact Facer on Vimeo.
Al: Actually we are trying to have that out on Important by mid-February, that's Important's plan.
So what about a new album?
Al: We're going to be recording our next studio album in March with Steve Albini.
Emil: Yeah, that's written, basically. It's already booked.
Al: We have one more song to just.. completely solidify but, like I was saying earlier, it's.. there. It ís not like what I was used to in the past, the exception being Sleep's Holy Mountain, but on Sleep's Jerusalem and even certain areas in Om's early discography- to me the music was almost, but not fully realized. When Emil & I work we noticed that it's like a greenhouse, it just happens. And the work stands on its own.
Emil: Yeah, the majority of the record was written in one weekend session pretty much.. and we are already talking about some special split ideas.
Al: Prior to that, we are just making an extreme focus on completing the Albini record.
(The band, sitting next to each other and each holding an oar, look around and see that most of the 'sea nymphs' have returned to the dock)
Emil: Should we head back? You have any more questions?
Just a few, but we can just head back and chill instead of staying out here.
Al: Grab a beer or something.
OK sounds good. It might be easier if I took both oars and bring us back in.
(Emil looks at Al, they attempt to coordinate rowing)
Emil: No. This is like a trust test.
A true band test here.
(Emil looks at Al again, somewhat seriously yet obviously jokingly)
Emil: I need more power from you.
So getting back to the [Sub Pop] Gebel Barkal 7'. Are there any plans to re-press it?
Emil: We can't. We're not allowed to because of the subscription thing. This happens to all bands, especially Grails has been burned by this, because labels perpetuate this whole limited culture. I don't think that the band's thrive off the fact that people had to buy that 7' for $101 on ebay. Did you see that? They don't care. They don't want that going on. So that seven inch is kind of..in a sense.. I don't want to say doomed, but it's not a real record because nobody can get it. It kind of annoys the shit out of us. I mean in general, that's not a stab at them. It's just fucking annoying.
Who are you guys hot to see this weekend at ATP?
Emil: Polvo definitely. It's funny, cause Polvo are from Chapel Hill and Ash put in new outlets in my mom's house, so it is totally amazing for me to bring it full circle. We played withDinosaur Jr. two nights ago and when I was in high school they were my favorite band of all time. It's pretty surreal to smoke pot and play on Murph's drums. It's fucking amazing. They are on the top of their game live. But Harmoniawas awesome too. They were fucking amazing.
Al: I'm looking forward to seeing Dinosaur Jr. tonight because we are not playing and I can really focus on it.' width='600' height='400'/>
Since people seemed to appreciate our archivalinterviews, we decided to ask a friend if we could reprint some of his early interviews as well.
The second is our reprints from Fracture Magazine is an interview with At the Drive-In. The interview originally ran in the UK-based 'zine run by Dave 'Monk' of Newest Industry. In it, Dave along with Hilary Ellis and David Stuart. spoke to Cedric and Tony in the months leading up to their final full length, Relationship of Command.
The band split in half in 2001 after nearly a decade together and members went on to form the Mars Volta and Sparta. In 2005, Fearless Records issued This Station is Non-Operational, which compiled both favorites and b-sides from the bands many albums.
If you enjoy the interview, be sure to pay Newest Industry Records a visit and check out their great roster.
You've been doing a huge tour. You've been to 15 countries or something like that. What have been your overall impressions of it?
Cedric: Having fun. Some of the… like I mentioned before to you guys, the Italian shows were kind of weird and I think there's a lot of almost fascist, militant DIY ethics that are involved when it comes to some of the Italian squats and stuff and that's a little bit of a turn-off. Because I think pretty much you regress in the idealism of punk rock once you start shoving that down bands throats. It's just a big turn-off. But overall, I think very good. I was looking forward to leaving California after we recorded our record to come over here and stuff.
So has this been more like mainland Europe that you've discovered that attitude. Was it like that in Britain at all?
Cedric: No, not at all. People told us it was going to be like that but no-one ever gave a shit or anything like that at all.
Tony: The only weird thing… In Southampton the kid that did our show, he was really, really nice, but the people that he usually put on shows with didn't want to do it because we're a major label band now. So when he made the flyer for the show he put 'just off a tour with RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE' and 'their record produced by Ross Robinson, who produced METALLICA, SLIPKNOT and KORN'. METALLICA should find out that he produced their record, because he didn't! That made me personally feel weird because I didn't know how to take it as a compliment, or was he making fun of us? He turned out to be a great kid, but that made me feel weird because I think in general we feel weird… we don't know how some people are accepting what we're doing now. That was the only weird thing in the UK in general. But our show turn-outs were great, people turn-outs were great, the flyer was just the weirdest thing I've ever seen in my life.
I think he did that just to get people in.
Tony: And it worked because I saw kids with SLIPKNOT shirts, and KORN shirts and MACHINE HEAD shirts! It was like 'Yeah they probably sound like that!' They were probably kinda surprised.
Cedric: One of those kids, I was talking to him, he was like 'I heard one of your songs on the radio station,' and he was like 'it's cool' and he was wearing a SLIPKNOT shirt so I was like 'well that's cool, I'm glad to see you're open-minded about it.' It was just a relief, I didn't want to judge him because of the bands he liked, thinking that he'd go and be rowdy and rude and very macho and stuff. Not that those bands just represent that stuff but somehow the majority of their fans are like that. Every time I always have these preconceptions about something or I show up to a place where it's a skinhead crowd or a punk crowd, always the kids end up being super cool. I feel like such an ass for thinking the situations going to be bad in any way and they're all really open-minded.
Tony: But that's how we are, everybody is, as humans. When we walk in a room and they see these guys [Cedric and Omar] they're like 'Oh, they must be hoodlums, with their hair or whatever.' So people do it to us. As humans, I think we do it to each other. Those kids probably turned out to be the nicest ones at the show but we thought they were gonna be total metal heads with SLIPKNOT and MACHINE HEAD shirts. I have to say in general the tour's been great. It's just been really, really long and we're ready to go home right now. We have two shows left tonight and tomorrow. It's been six weeks, and we were in the studio prior to that for several weeks straight. We had three days off, flew to Austin, played a show, flew to New York, mixed some of our songs and flew to Europe. So we're ready to go home.
I'm just curious… What happened with Fearless Records? They seemed to do a great advertising job for you in particular.
Cedric: Yeah. What we signed for just ended. We signed to them for one of our records and they had always told us they wanted us to move on and go to a different label because I think maybe they're having a harder time filling out orders and stuff like that now. They were always very supportive, they were like 'We know you're going to move on in the future and we want to help you.' They even helped us look for different labels too. Because they knew just as much as we did that we were the oddballs on the labels. But hell, the name of the record label is Fearless, and back when they took a chance on us, no-one else was taking a chance on us. All the other labels that represent certain genres of music never wanted to take a chance on us, and now they give us a lot of calls and stuff… It ended pretty much on good terms, we still talk with them and work with them.
Tony: We're good friends with them.
Cedric: I have nothing but good things to say about those people. They took a chance on us when we were totally down and out. We were going to put out 'In/CASINO/OUT' on our own, if that's what it came out to be. They took a chance.
I think pretty much you regress in the idealism of punk rock once you start shoving that down band's throats.
Was 'In/CASINO/OUT' recorded live?
Cedric: Pretty much, very little overdubs.
Tony: He [Cedric] went back and did a few songs on vocals because we would literally play some songs three times in a row. He was singing like he sings live all three times so he had to go back and do some stuff, but that was it… a few guitar punch-ins. We recorded in three days, we were tracking till like four in the morning every day. We did 14 songs and we mixed in one day for 22 hours straight. Alex recorded us, and he's a great guy. He went through it and he half asleep mixed our record for 21 or 22 hours.
That's a big difference with seven weeks isn't it?
Cedric: (laughs) Oh yeah!
You didn't want to try it again?
Cedric: Well, I think the thing with 'In/CASINO/OUT' is there's a lot of backing vocals that are missing. There's a lot of ideas that are missing because we were rushed. In the end we heard the final product and we were like 'Oh fuck, there's supposed to be backing vocals on that song' or 'Shit, we wanted to do this on this song' and we didn't get to execute maybe 30% of the ideas that were initially planned for the record because of lack of time. Being rushed is cool. I mean, we work really good under pressure, I think. It really pushes our buttons.
Tony: We wrote 'Vaya' under pressure, we wrote 'Rascuache', '198d', 'Metronome Arthritis' in probably a day and a half or so, two days. We recorded it three days later. We work both ways and this was the first time ever that we worked really slow, and it was new for us and it was also a great experience because we got to write songs in the studio. We slept in the studio, we lived in the studio the whole time. We were totally alone the whole time, and we wrote songs, we got to experiment, we got to just take our time and make things exactly how we wanted them.
Where was that?
Cedric: In Indigo Ranch, in Malibu, California.
Was that the producer's own place?
Cedric: It's not his own place but he works there a lot. It's a place where LENNY KRAVITZ has recorded and stuff like that. We saw the list of bands that had recorded there and it's like 'Oh my god, I can't believe we're here.'
Tony: Everybody you could imagine has recorded there.
Cedric: Even Alf, the TV sitcom, the voice-overs were done there!
Why did you choose to do it with him? Was it anything to do with the label you're on now? Did they choose him?
Cedric: They didn't really push it on us. They were just like 'Hey, give it a chance. What have you got to lose?' Whereas when we met Ross we were like 'I dunno, I don't really like the bands he's recorded.' When I first met him I was really turned off by him, the way he works and stuff, he's just a very intense person. He comes up to you and he's like [in macho punch-air voice] 'Yeah! I really like you guys! That's what I wanna get on tape!' I'm like 'We already wanna do this and that.' We were really set in our ways, Ross just buried in our faces what he wanted to do with us. We told the people at the label 'We'll give him a try but we don't really like what's he done.' Then we worked with him and we got to see what it's like to work with him, and it was really to say the least, liberating. I've never worked like that before. Whereas 'In/CASINO/OUT', it's live but we're all pretty much stiff and trying to get it right, and we're like 'Oh my god, there's all this money, we gotta do it good, we've got to do it today, we've got to finish this song today.' We wanted everything to be perfect, but with Ross, he came to see us play with the GET UP KIDS and he's like 'When you come to record with me, I don't want you to stand there, I don't want you to give me this half-assed studio album.' He's like 'This whole studio, I want you to treat it like a live show,' and when we first worked with him just to try one time, I felt weird. He was like 'Alright everybody, gather round, I want you to tell me what this song's about, Cedric. What are your lyrics about?' and I felt so naked and embarrassed. I'm like 'Oh no! I don't want to explain it, Ross. Everybody's gonna laugh at me.' He's like 'No way, man!' and he talked me through it, it was like therapy. We were talking about the song, how it made us feel, what the mood of the song was. He would create situations in our head for different parts and he'd be like 'I want you to channel that energy. If you want to break this mic, break the fucking mic, if you want to jump up the wall… I wanna see what you do live.' We were thinking, well yes we've never done that. Some people say 'I like your record, but it's nothing like it is live,' and so we were like, let's give it a chance and…
Tony: We played like we play live.
Cedric: We came out with shortness of breath, staggering…
I guess I've grown up knowing that punk is about provoking stuff and making new ideas. You can either play for the same crowd all your life and it'll be safe or you can have the courage to stand in front of a huge audience and not preach to the converted and see if they dig it or not.
You didn't break any of his expensive mics?
Cedric: No… he's the one that likes to break stuff!
Tony: We don't like to break stuff.
Cedric: Yeah, he would throw shit at us. He would throw water in the room, throw trash around, break light bulbs. Just to get your adrenaline going. And it worked. It's kinda like pushing your buttons, it puts you on edge. He would take our bass player while we were recording the record and they would go in his car. He would haul ass in these hills, at just really fast speeds, shaking up our bass player, going 'C'mon! C'mon! I want you to get fucking crazy!!' and our bass player was like 'OK! OK!' and he went in and he was totally in that frame of mind. And it came out on tape. I mean, I don't know, when people hear it, they may not think it, but it's definitely what we do live. We were jumping off the walls, sweating, laughing, crying, everything. It was just one emotional rollercoaster and I've never done that before recording. I overlooked KORN, LIMP BIZKIT, all that stuff that Ross does, and I focussed on what he cannelled through us. He taught me how to do that.
When he got you to go through your lyrics, was that like psychoanalysis?
Cedric: Yeah pretty much. It's just like you're naked in front of everybody. You're prone to being laughed at. No-one's gonna do that, no-one in the band's going to laugh at me or anything because we're all good friends but it's still hard. You're just naked, that's the only way I can explain it. To have everybody tap in and be in tune with that, it's just intense.
I was wondering about some of the lyrics, because of the song titles like 'Rascuache', 'Chanbara' and things, where you got your inspiration… whether it was that you were interested in reading things like history or things like that or whether it was from your environment.
Cedric: I think it's certain books or influences, certain writers, and living in El Paso, and moving away from El Paso too. I've said this in a couple of interviews, but there's a writer who's from El Paso, his name is Oscar Acosta, and he was originally the lawyer for Hunter S. Thompson. He's the supposed Samoan. They call him the Samoan in Fear and Loathing, but he's actually Mexican, they just call him the Samoan. But he's from El Paso and I got the title 'Rascuache' from a book about him. They described him and the way they described him was with that word, and it means like gaudiness, campy-ness… kinda like velvet paintings of Elvis Presley, you know, just tackiness. That's what you see when you're in El Paso, just the gaudiness of it all, it's so seventies and stuff. Just living in El Paso. 'Chanbara' actually means, it's Japanese for…
Tony: It's a Japanese sword fight. I was taking a filming class, and when we wrote that song, the first thing that came to my mind was a Chanbara, a sword fight, because it's so up-tempo and in-your-face. So I brought it up.
Cedric: And it fit well. Lyrically, I'd been reading about the Shining Path Liberation Front in Peru and all the stuff that they had been doing for years against the government and stuff. And it's not really like we're a left-wing band or anything or totally political, but it was just kinda inspiring, the way they operated, and one of the lyrics is 'ayacucho' and that means Corner of the Dead but I misspelled it on the record. It's one of those things, you're rushed and you forget to do your homework and you have a little budget to work with, and later on you're like oh my god! Some people sing along and it's the wrong fucking thing they're saying, you know! It's different things like that, and definitely living in El Paso.
But when did you move from El Paso?
Cedric: About four or five months ago.
Tony: We moved in October '99 to Los Angeles in the Long Beach area and we haven't really been there too much since we moved! So this time we'll have a few months off and actually live there for a little bit.
What were the reasons for that? Just label commitments?
Tony: Yeah. When we moved in, in October, we did a festival called Coachella in Los Angeles - it's a huge festival - then we went on tour with the GET UP KIDS right after that. When that finished, we had four days off, then we went on the RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE tour. When that finished, we started practising and writing our new record and then we had a few days off for Christmas. Then we went back and wrote our record and then we were living in the studio. We were paying a lot of rent for places that we weren't staying at.
Cedric: But we were going to stay in the LA area - that's mostly where the people that work with us live - so we decided to move there. I think the frustration of living in El Paso… it got to me. I've tried to help different people set up shows and stuff. When we've played a lot of shows around, well Italy's a good example, or some of the spots in Sweden where we played, it's like kids don't care. You'd have to play with the people from Refused in order to get a good show. That's pretty pathetic because it's the same thing in El Paso. When you come to El Paso, Texas, you're gonna have a shitty show. You have to play with us, and I fucking hate to say it but it's the truth and it's the only way you can have a decent sized crowd or you'll have five people. And since '93 or so I've been helping people, Jim's been helping people, Omar, all us of have been involved in putting up bands, putting on shows, making flyers, food, blah blah blah, the whole thing, the whole DIY thing, and it's frustrating because there's nothing to do in El Paso. The kids leave as soon as college comes up so it's primarily high school kids and they'll all leave. They'll all go to Austin or somewhere else. I just got tired of having to start from scratch and having to rebuild a fanbase of people, try to let them know 'This is how you do shows, not the way you see on TV, this is how we do it, it's not all slam dancing and fucking big productions, these are house shows' and it got frustrating. It wore me out. I got tired of telling bands 'Come to El Paso, you'll have a good show,' and then I'd grin and bear it and know I'd be lying out of my teeth. It got old. There's not a lot to do. I'm more prone to getting my ass kicked if I go out at night in El Paso than I am in the LA area, that's for sure. I just got really tired of that, whether it be rednecks or Mexican rednecks, and I was totally sick of that because it's a border town and everything. It's just hard there.
You said while you were on stage in London that you had violent crowds in the States.
Cedric: Oh yeah, totally. At the GET UP KIDS show… the GET UP KIDS!
Tony: That was the scariest. It was in Philadelphia and we got on stage. We played in a church auditorium and it was probably the biggest show in that place - there were 800 kids in a really crowded auditorium. So we played and everything was OK. We noticed there was a whole bunch of big troublemaking-looking guys. When the GET UP KIDS got on stage, the GET UP KIDS have nothing bad to say, they're just a good fun band, and all of a sudden you're seeing people fighting. There's this gang of hardcore kids there and what they do is beat people up. They just pick somebody and beat them up. They beat up the sound man that night, they broke his nose. They beat up five guys outside just for the hell of it. We said to ourselves if that happens when we're playing, we stop. It doesn't matter. We don't want people slam dancing. We don't want people stage diving, because the last time that happened, at another GET UP KIDS show in Los Angeles, we have two friends hat always come to our shows, these two women, this guy tried to crowd surf or whatever, his leg hit one of the girls we knew, and she slammed her head on the monitor. I saw it, and from then on we stopped the song and we started on a commotion and we got the guy kicked out and the guy doesn't like us any more.
Cedric: Now his excuse is 'You're not FUGAZI, you can't do that, you can't say no slam dancing.'
Tony: No-one made the rules, of course they did it first, but we're following a good example. If we are following FUGAZI, we're following an amazing example. We don't want that happening at our shows, we like people to dance and have a good time, we don't want people to sit there, but at the same time, we don't want people to hurt themselves and hurt the people that are at the front that can't protect themselves. Because if I was in the front at of one of our shows I couldn't protect myself.
Cedric: It's just hard, it's old tradition and I get tired. The whole nature of the dance is violent. People say 'Well they'll pick you up, blah blah blah' - it's not 1983 any more, it doesn't work like that any more, people get hurt, windmills, karate kicks. Once you get the whole hardcore label tagged to your band you get a certain sort of crowd that come in. Say you have your aggressive songs, they're like 'This is for me! I'm gonna whoop ass on this song!' And then they hear our mellow songs and they don't know what to do. It's like just invent a new dance, man! New ideas!
Cedric: That's all it's about.
So what do you think's gonna happen next time you go to England, because with the new album coming out, and the media interest which has already started, next time you go to England it's gonna be a completely different story.
Cedric: Oh really? Wow.
It's gonna be bigger shows. It's gonna take off. I may be wrong, but then you're going to be dealing with a completely different crowd.
And you may not be able to do shows like Southampton, where it's a small, intimate crowd. Does that worry you? Is it that way in the States?
Tony: I think a lot of people here in Europe and the UK think that we're really big in the States just because we toured with RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. But we're really not that big. We'll play like 300 capacity, sometimes 600, but that's it. We're not that big, so keep that in mind. We're still able to do small shows at squats or big shows if we want to. We're still in control. And if we do lose that control, like you're saying, then we'll still do it our way and make it as comfortable as possible for all the people that have been to our shows from the beginning.
Cedric: If it takes playing LA four times in one spot just so people can get in I think we'll do it. I hate to use them as an example here, but when FUGAZI plays LA they have to do four nights in one place. I think we'll still be playing inside the regular venues, we'll try to be. Even if it means we have to do it unannounced, we'll still do it. We did that before at this place called the PCH Club right by our place in Long Beach. We did it unannounced and a lot of people showed up and kids came up and they were like 'Thank you for doing that for free and unannounced and it was cool, it was intimate.' It was the same people that were complaining about not being able to see us at RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE but to that crowd I would say 'Don't come see us with RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. You're not going to like what you see,' because it's awkward…
Tony: And we were just there a week before so we felt pretty justified doing that tour. People wouldn't feel that they had justification telling us not to play with RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE because a week earlier we had played the same places, at smaller places. We just got asked to do the RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE tour and it went to the same places. It was just about experiencing something new.
Cedric: If we wanted to we could just spend our whole life as a band playing to the same people. I guess I've grown up knowing that punk is about provoking stuff and making new ideas. You can either play for the same crowd all your life and it'll be safe or you can have the courage to stand in front of a huge audience and not preach to the converted and see if they dig it or not. If you get four or five kids who come up to you like 'wow, that's cool' you might play for the kid who's turning from 17 to 18 during that age when you realise that there's more to life than just fast music. If you can be that one band that can change their mind, you can turn them on to a whole shit load of other kinds of music. I'd love them to listen to what I listen to, not just RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE type stuff. And they will. Those kids will grow up, and I think that's why we do it. It almost seems like a cop-out but we have kids writing to us going 'I didn't know that kind of music existed.' Our friends, the MURDER CITY DEVILS, played with PEARL JAM on tour and these kids, all they see is TV, they see PEARL JAM and that's all they know, but MURDER CITY DEVILS come to town and they're like 'I didn't know this kind of music existed' and 'What is this scene you're talking about?' and maybe some of those kids will get involved and we'll get better attendance at smaller towns and you'll reactivate an interest in underground music instead of letting them just feed off the TV all the time and listen to boring music.
Tony: One thing I'd like to stress is that, I had this one guy talk to me, and he was like 'You guys are really nice. I thought you guys wouldn't be that nice,' and I asked him 'Why? Just because we're on Grand Royal now,' and he was like 'Well yeah kinda,' and I was like 'Well, just because we sign to a label doesn't mean that we become assholes.' We're the same people regardless. We've always been the same people, anybody can talk to us. We don't have big heads. I really want to stress that to people, like you say 'What happens when you can't do an intimate show in Southampton?' If we can't one day, if it does happen that way, then I want to stress that we're still the same people, we still love talking to new people all the time. Please don't make up any perceptions. Talk to us first and then get your perception.
So is it Grand Royal?
Once you get the whole hardcore label tagged to your band you get a certain sort of crowd that come in. Say you have your aggressive songs, they're like 'This is for me! I'm gonna whoop ass on this song!'
Is that something to do with DEN?
Cedric: Well, the people that run DEN, they manage the BEASTIE BOYS and SONIC YOUTH and stuff, so from what I understand, Mike D ran into the office while we were recording and he was listening to our record and he said 'Why don't we distribute that record on Grand Royal in Europe?' and we thought OK cool. Then weeks later it was a hush hush thing. They were like 'OK guys, you're not on Digital Entertainment Network any more,' and we thought 'What's happening? We fucked up on this choice.' Then they were like 'Well you're gonna be on Grand Royal now and Mike D wants to put his company together with his manager because it's over with Capital.' I was excited.
Tony: Mike D's our boss. It's kinda cool.
Cedric: Exactly. It's not gonna make me tailor-made for the radio or anything…
Is it frustrating when you've got that excitement and yet you've got so many punk kids who the first thing they'll hit you with is what's up with the new label?
Tony: It is frustrating but I think the best thing that we've done when different people have complained to us as individuals, especially on this tour…
I take it you've had a lot of that.
Tony: Not too much but I see more in the future.
Cedric: I think they're just concerned. Which is cool. It's like a best friend being like 'Hey, be careful.' I appreciate that because that's a sign of friendship.
Tony: I always want the chance to explain ourselves and I think after we explain ourselves in sometimes one-to-one or email or a mass email or whatever, I think people understand what we're doing. We're doing things still our way. Our record is our record and if people don't like our new record then they can't blame it on Ross, they can't blame it on Grand Royal, they have to blame it on us, because it's our record. We wrote that record. Nothing changed because of certain people that we worked with.
Is it true about IGGY POP? Did he come and sing?
Cedric: He came cause he likes… oh god!… he's kind of into that stupid 'Nookie' song by LIMP BIZKIT so he followed Ross going 'I really like that LIMP BIZKIT stuff.' Ross is like 'Dude, no!' because Ross doesn't like that shit any more now, he's totally embarrassed of it and he's like 'Dude, no! You've got to get over that! If you want to work with me, look past all the stuff I've done in the past… ' Then IGGY called up a couple of times and Ross is like 'Well why don't you come over to the studio and see how I work' and we were there and he was like 'I'm working with a band that reminds me of you' and we were in the background going 'What're you talking about! Shut up!' He was like 'Why don't you come and sing a song with them?' We're like 'No, Ross, o!' and IGGY's like 'OK!' just like that, never heard of us. So we sent him a CD, he liked it, his only comment was there was no lyrics on it. He was like 'I like it but I don't know what to do, I mean I want to do something.' Ross was like 'Well, Cedric has it all mapped out for you.' He's like 'Good! I don't like thinking.' He hadn't showed up in a long time, we're thinking it's not gonna happen, no big deal, and he showed up and we did it and it was fun. He was a totally nice guy. People think of IGGY POP as this god-like figure, he was just this little man, he was really nice, tame, and we were always asking him did he take off his shirt and cut himself. He's like 'no!' but the way he carried himself on the microphones… he was cool to work with.
Going back to the whole label thing, just to drag it out, you made some comment live about an indie ripping you off or something. What label was that?
Cedric: It's safe to say it now… Offtime Records.
Off The Record : An Interview Of Fss Members List
Tony: Maybe 'ripping off' is not the correct word but I would have to say that the correct word is… suppose you have a best friend and he's making you a lot of promises and you believe him because he's your best friend or a close friend and when it comes down to it, none of those things were true. I think that's happened to everybody in their personal life and it happened to us in our business life. We trusted somebody in the beginning of this line-up and we got screwed. We did a four-month tour in February of '97 to June of '97. We toured that Offtime record and it didn't come out till September of '97 so we were touring on that record for four months straight and it wasn't out. We took a two month break and we went back on tour for it and it wasn't out again. When you get promised a lot of things and nothing works out, from promises to get flown to Europe, to do tours, blah blah blah, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that, and other promises like 'If another label goes after you, you guys are welcome to leave because you guys are my friends and I want you guys to get bigger' and when that did happen and it didn't work, he didn't let us, he threatened to sue. I don't like talking about it really, I just want to set the story straight. It's not about ripping us off, it's about when you sign … I want to stress this to a lot of bands… when you sign a contract and you trust the person cause you've known him for most of your life, like these guys have known him, take it to a lawyer regardless because friends will fuck you, family will fuck you, and so will your next door neighbour. And that's what happened to us. Good luck to him, good luck to his label, good luck to us. It's over with and that's pretty much what I want to finish that off on. It's just over. And we've moved on.
Cedric: And at the same token it got weird. It was on Offtime and then all of a sudden last year we came to Europe and some kids like 'You're on One Foot Records' and we're like 'No we're not' and he's like 'Yeah you are… look!'
Tony: And he had it and we didn't even know.
Cedric: We're like 'Oh thanks for telling us guys!!'
Tony: We saw our own CD with One Foot on it and we had no clue about anything. That's when you draw the line.
Cedric: It sucks when we have a new EP out and people think 'I got your new EP' and it's one from 1997. We're like in the year 2000 and it's like 'Uh… it's not connecting here guys!'… They're just trying to make money off of it…
Tony: Next question! (laughs)
Have you been writing songs while you've been touring or anything or do you just write them in the studio…
Cedric: I know you have…
Tony: Yeah I have.
Cedric: And Omar has. I'm kind of trying to cause I want to record future stuff right when we get home. I just like writing new songs.
Tony: Cedric and I have been talking so much. We just finished a whole record. We wrote 13 songs for this record. Instead of waiting for it to be released, we're already thinking of writing new ones, so in some senses it's bad. Not bad, but you know what I mean. But I think we'll end up writing in our next break and recording when we have time. We love writing music, we love experimenting and we'll see what happens. Right now we haven't written anything. We all have stuff as individuals but not as a band.
Do you think the songwriting style will change with the relocation to Los Angeles?
Cedric: Good question… I wonder. Cause we're never there long enough to find out!
Tony: What I've got to say about that is before we actually wrote the record, in the interviews we kept on saying 'it's gonna be a lot more electronical' and people were like 'what's this band talking about - electronical?' What we mean is a little bit more electronical - samplers, keyboards, blah blah blah, and we ended up writing our most rock record ever. And it wasn't because of the influence of anybody, it was just when we wrote, we wrote rock songs, and we hardly ever turned on the sampler or the keyboard. It was like 'Wow this works, this rock thing' but we also incorporated a lot of our drum machine and dance stuff, our keyboard stuff into our new record, but for the most part I would have to say it's a rock record. Maybe LA did that, maybe not. We haven't really been there that much.
Cedric: But that's what these breaks that we have coming up, I think that's where we're going to start to get to know more of our toys that we've bought…
Tony: Yeah we have a lot.
Cedric: Samplers and stuff like that. So probably if there's an EP out in the future, or the next record, you'll probably hear more experimentation, whereas after 'Casino', on 'Vaya' there was a little more experimenting with different things. The new record's almost like 'Casino', it's like a lot of rock, but the next one might have more off-the-wall vibes.
When's that going to be out?
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Cedric: The new record? It'll be September 12th.
Off The Record : An Interview Of Fss Members 2017
Tony: It's called 'Relationship of Command'.
Do you have anything else to say at all?
Cedric: Just thank you for doing the interview. We really appreciate it.
How was Copenhagen?
Cedric: Oh it was nice! We were doing a little sight-seeing today. It's beautiful.
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Because Cedric was saying a little bit earlier that there were people taking the mickey out of you. Was that because of the hair?
Cedric: Oh totally. That's every day! (laughs) I get a little tired of it… oh well. It's grown! It's just funny cause there are a lot more stranger looking people than Omar and I and people just kinda go gulp or they just kinda laugh at us. It's hysteric, man. I'm sorry if it's a little peakier than yours (laughs). I shouldn't even be apologizing for that!