By Jorge and Howard
This interview took place on September 27 at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. on their tour with The Icarus Line. Thanks to Greg (lead singer) for being so cool and talking to us about the band, and their future plans. Also, thanks to the folks at Epitaph for setting us up with the interview.
Jorge: You are out on tour now with The Icarus Line, what have been your impressions of the tour so far, especially now that the new EP, Irony is a Dead Scene, is out?
Greg: It's been pretty crazy man. The turnout has been pretty big compared to our last tour, which was only like 9 months ago. It's hard for me to understand how so many people like our music, because it's kind of a difficult listen. So far it's been awesome, besides the fact that I have a little bronchitis right now. So for the whole day long, I've been shitting my guts out, because I'm so worried about sounding like shit, haha, and I will, haha. It's been an awesome tour; I can never get over the amount of people who come to see this band, it's weird.
Jorge: Irony is a Dead Scene just came out last month, tell us how the collaboration with Mike Patton came about. Who approached whom? What was the motivation? How satisfied were you with the final product?
Greg: I guess we started our relationship with Mike Patton a few years ago before I was in the band when they toured with Mr. Bungle, and ever since then, Ben, our guitar player, and the rest of the band maintained a relationship based on mutual respect for one another's work. When the split with Dimitri happened, they had a few songs lying around that they wanted to put on the full length, but they didn't want to sit on because they didn't know how long it would take them to find a new singer. So, I guess they approached Mike about putting an EP out on Ipecac, it was originally going to be instrumental, he wrote back in an e-mail saying "if you need anybody to do vocals," so everybody was pretty psyched. We gave him total control creatively in terms of vocals, we demoed the music separately, and sent it to him. We were all over the place, so it took us a while to get in the same room together, it was a process of sending the tapes back and forth, until we were satisfied. Then we get off the System of a Down tour; we get in the studio and recorded it. We were extremely happy for that. Personally, as a vocalist, it opens up a lot for us, because it gets people to hear us do different types of stuff over this type of music, instead of just screaming. That gives me creative liberty to do pretty much whatever I want on the next EP and not having to worry about, you know what I mean, criticism.
Jorge: Have there been any discussions with Patton playing some live shows with the band?
Greg: Um...we did a show with Tomahawk. We opened up for them up at Irving Plaza in New York about a month ago. He came out, we did three songs, the three originals off the EP without him, and the he came out for the last song, and did the cover of "Come to Daddy." It was awesome. We don't know whether he's going to show up in San Francisco, because he lives there, when we play that date on this tour, if he does, I'm sure there's bound to be some kind of collaboration. I'm sure everybody's going to expect it.
Jorge: How have you adjusted to the band? Will you be involved in the writing process for the next full length?
Greg: Umm...Actually, there weren't any new songs written when I joined the band, so every song written for the full length has been written with me, we have about 5 songs done, not recorded, but ready to record. We just need to get off touring for a little while so that we can have some time, because for some reason, we're not a band that writes on the road. We always say we're going to, but it happens so slowly, we just need Ben and Chris, off tour for a while, they are the ones that write most of the music, so we can finish the album, we're so eager to put it put, because it's been so long since Calculating Infinity.
Jorge: The EP was released on Epitaph Records, what has Epitaph brought to the table that was missing from Relapse, Hydrahead or Now or Never?
Greg: Man, Epitaph, we didn't know what to expect from them, because they are a pop-punk label. We didn't have a whole lot in common with a lot of their bands, so we were at first kind of iffy about them, but they seemed so excited about putting out the EP, so we were like, "if they are going to be that excited, lets give them a chance." They've worked so hard; they've done so much. We've gotten more promotion from them, honestly, over the last 3 months since we put that EP out, than we had with Relapse for the last 3 years. I know a lot of kids were a little skeptical about a band with hardcore roots putting out an album on Epitaph, because they also put out Offspring and shit like that, but that has nothing to do with that, they are so into it and so competent, they show up at almost every show, making sure we're happy with things, and making sure we have enough EP's, and we're not running out. There are always flyers everywhere; they've worked so hard.
Howard: How do you fit in, now that you are the new singer, in terms of the conceptual aspects of the band, compared to Dimitri?
Greg: It's weird man. I was really worried that I was going to be seen as the "new guy." We bonded musically and personally so fast that we played our first show a week and a half after they told me I was in the band. I've been in the band for like a year and a month or two months now, and it seems that I've known these guys for a long time. I've had original input from day one. That is really awesome, because I didn't know how it was going to be, if I was going to be looked at as "you're new." Every decision that's being made, each of us has 20%.
Howard: Is this actually your first experience in a live band as far as singing?
Greg: No, I've been singing for a really long time, I just wanted to put it off until the right opportunity came. Being in a band is a huge commitment, I didn't want to waste a lot of time that I could be spending just on my own, bettering myself vocally, so when the right opportunity came, I'd be ready for. It was doing stuff at home like on an 8-track just getting better and better and just waiting for the opportunity, and this was definitely the one.
Howard: So you just lied and waited for your golden opportunity so to speak, hehe?
Howard: Lyrically, is the new full length going to go along the same route as the previous work, or is it going to be different? Where do you draw your influences from, lyrically?
Greg: Lyrically, is probably my last thought as a vocalist, I always write along lines of sounds and things like that first. We have five songs done, but I don't have lyrics for any, haha. I have lyrics for one. I've always considered my voice as more like an instrument, lyrically, I really don't know. We've so much stuff written down that I want to pick from, but I don't know, there's no real one theme that runs through it all. And Ben writes a lot of the lyrics too. A lot of times when he writes the song he has a vibe in mind that he wants to keep with, he would send me a few phrases that he was thinking of when he wrote a certain riff, sometimes I'll just go on from that. It's usually he and I sitting down.
Howard: So it seems like you guys work on a simultaneous page? He gets an idea and you work within that, and vice versa?
Greg: Yeah, definitely.
Jorge: What are three underrated bands that people should watch out for, and what bands should get more attention than what they're getting now?
Greg: I certainly would have said Botch a few months ago, but no it's such a huge shame (they broke up). There's a band called Your Enemies Friends. I don't know, there's so many musicians that are so talented, that get so overlooked, if I sat and thought about, I could probably think of tons in every genre of music, people that should be huge, that aren't. More so than anything in this style of music, and probably in hip hop too, there so many people that should be huge. So many rap bands that are so much better than Puff Daddy and stuff like that, haha. We only take bands on tour that we really feel have something interesting to present. I would say the Icarus Line, and not just to plug this band, but because a lot of these bands that are out like The Strokes, The Hives, and The White Stripes all these stuff that people are really into right now; this band was doing that before all that hit, and they're kind of bummed about it, because a lot of those bands knew about this band and kind of took things from them and they had to change, and because of the other bands they would be seen as copycats when they were doing it first, that's kind of annoying, but you know. I kind of wished that Botch had gotten more attention than they did, because they were an amazing band that for some reason never got big. I don't know if it was because they didn't tour much. I definitely urge people to own Botch albums. We felt like that band was our brother band. It'll be them and Converge, which we feel are closer to us.
Howard: So would you say you guys draw some influences from Botch, in terms of what you guys are doing now?
Greg: One of the band's big tours, long before most of the people in this current lineup, was with Botch, and that opened up their eyes as to the possibilities in HC, and things like that. Not so much now, but early on, like the stuff Dave did on guitar, he was a ridiculous guitar player. And their live show, they did a lot of neat stuff with lights that definitely influenced a lot of what we do. If we had a bigger budget our live shows would be out of hand. We're all big fans of trying to make the whole package. There's stuff that we have in our head that we want our shows to be, it's so much more than that we're capable of doing monetarily. We see bands like Tool, their vision, like in Radiohead, everything about that band, like Nine Inch Nails, live, is a total expression: music, visuals, videos, they all have integrity, everything is from the same original vision, it's not "here's a video, here's a bunch of lights, this is going to be cool, kids will love this". It's everything down to like the key chains they make is all continuity. I know a lot of us in this band that are frustrated that we don't have the budget that Disturbed or somebody like that has. Not because we want to have money for ourselves, but because we wish we could fulfill more of what we see in our live shows.
Howard: In terms about the budget issue, is that something you guys think about in terms of looking for bigger labels that would give you more exposure?
Greg: I know that a lot of kids when bands jump from one label to another, bands like Hatebreed, you know what I mean, sometimes kids give bands like that slack, and honestly man, if kids understood how the business really works, being on a major label really doesn't pay you anymore than being on Relapse, unless you sign for a million of dollars, which a band like this will never do. Most of the money that we would even get would be for better recording or putting it into touring. Most of the money in our band is made for touring. Even if we sign to a label like Universal or some huge label, we honestly wouldn't see that much money out of signing. So any band that thinks we're selling out to get rich, it has nothing to do with that. If you're a person with integrity and your band has integrity, you're going to maintain that. I think when At the Drive In split up in Mars Volta and Sparta both signed huge contracts, I think that the results of those contracts were different than what the A&R guys who signed them thought it would be. I think Mars Volta is probably a whole lot more experimental than they were hoping for. It just didn't happen. I don't know if that label is bummed now or what, hehe. In my opinion, if you can trick a label and the label is dumb to get a band like DEP a million dollars, bring it on! Haha, you know what I mean? Because if they think that we're going to fucking turn into P.O.D., when they give us a million dollars, it's not going to happen!
Jorge: What else can we expect from the band after this tour is over?
Greg: As soon as their tour is over, we're just concentrating on the release; we're not doing anything until the release is out. We're shooting for March, but it just gets pushed back. Originally, we were shooting for December of this year, obviously it's not going to be out, I'm saying March/April, we're pretty happy with saying that is a good time as we are already halfway through writing, so if we can get done writing it by the end of 2002, and just immediately get in the studio, we should be able to get it out in April.
Howard: As far as the writing of the new material, considering how conceptually different the Irony EP is, are you guys taking anything you gotten from that experience, into the new full length?
Greg: The stuff in Calculating Infinity was written 4 years ago, the stuff in Irony was written a year and a half ago, so everybody is different now than they were then, the stuff that Ben and Chris have picked up since then has just added more. We don't care about appealing to kids, who want us to put out another Calculating Infinity; we're interested in exploring other dynamics too. Anything we have in our head and want to put in a song, we will not be afraid to do. I think kids have seen from the Irony EP that you really can't put a finger on what this band is going to sound like on every album. That EP sounds totally different, even musically, not just vocally, from Calculating Infinity.
Howard: So we should expect from experimentation?
Greg: Definitely. Our drummer is really into electronics and moody stuff like Aphex Twin, so we might throw in more atmospheric stuff. He always does samples before our songs, and are always like really moody and weird. He does all that stuff; he's a good keyboard player. There are a lot of different facets that we want to bring to the table.
Howard: I noticed on your website that you have a section where you have other people's contributions such as remixes and stuff. Is that something that you are thinking about for the future in terms of doing remixes of older songs?
Greg: Atari Teenage Riot did a remix of ൳% Burnt," and that actually is not that good, hehe, we were pretty disappointed, but whatever, that's not anything we've given any serious thought to having any kind of remix, we're more concerned about writing new stuff than regurgitating old stuff.
Jorge: Any final comments?
Greg: Thanks for being patient and waiting for our new full length, it's been 3 years; most bands couldn't get away with going that long without putting out an album. I'm definitely amazed that kids have put up with us playing the same songs for that long. Hopefully, they'll continue to be patient, sorry to the kids at this show for sounding like shit, haha. And I guess that's about it, thanks!
Jorge and Howard: Cool! Thanks!
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