Vice Cooler interview

Around 2000 rumors of this band XBXRX appeared, and out trickled mysterious images and tales of shows of pure unhinged abandon. The album GOP 1st Minee appeared on the Kill Rock Stars offshoot 5RC and answered few questions but intrigued further with its blast of mutant noise punk and synth slather( https://youtu.be/SsHeSXUoSLs)

I emailed them for a show they couldn’t do but they reached out about coming through later with the Toronto band Sick Lipstick. I offered my basement in East Lansing and thus set up my first show. I was at the time in the midst of discovering a vibrant underground of antisocial noise that seemed an antidote to the drab emo, listless post rock, and shiny “indie” of the time, so GOP 1st Minee sat alongside Soak the Saddle by Arab on Radar, Other Animals by Erase Errata, Man, the King, and the Girl by Deerhoof, 3 by Black Dice, s/t by Wolf Eyes, Ride the Skies by Lightning Bolt, and Uterus and Fire by Old Time Relijun in showing me a new thread of musical expression. Lacking the machismo of the Midwest noise rock sound and exploding with new colors and tangents. One that could maybe involve a complete amateur like myself. And this show brought the reality of this scene into my own basement. XBXRX represented this moment for me and has always been high in my pantheon of bands. All these years later Vice Cooler was nice enough to answer a couple of those long lingering questions.

What inspired teenagers from Mobile, Alabama to start a band? What was the town’s reception? Atmosphere for punk rock in the south?

XBXRX playing my basement in East Lansing. Photo by me.

XBXRX originally started in Mobile, Alabama with myself, Steve and Alicia. Though we weren’t even old enough to drive at the time we still had a very deep and meaningful connection with music- especially any sounds that came from a DIY background that was both noisey and aggressive.

I believe what made music appealing was our need to escape from the gnarly atmosphere that we were surrounded by in the South. The world that we grew up around was full of homophobia, racism and sexism that was influenced by the evangelicals who were surrounding us. We always found these behaviors disturbing and thought we were alone until we found out about bands like Nirvana.

Around February of 1998 XBXRX started as a noise trio. We quickly realized that we had considerable limitations both musically and as players so we expanded it into a five piece band shortly thereafter. Now with two guitars, bass, drums and synth we all became very excited to try and play some live shows. We spent a good year playing shows almost exclusively at houses, trailers, record stores and a few different coffee shops around Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The reception was ok and a mixed bag. People reacted in all extremes imaginable from pure excitement to complete violence. While our purpose of playing was for the sake of a fun creative form of entertainment it was often misinterpreted with bad results. It became rough sometimes and was common for grown men to smash our gear or attack us.

An example of this would be at a show that we played on a farm in Mississippi in the late 90’s. When we were playing a crust punk started smashing a bottle against me and ripped up my finger really bad. I was probably only fifteen at the time and had never been in a situation where a stranger assaulted me and in hindsight made me worried that every show would end up becoming a warzone. What stuck out as well was an awareness that you could be in a room with adults and if they saw someone attacking a kid none of them would stop it or help you. Shortly after that we played in Birmingham and the sound guy smashed Steve’s guitar into pieces and charged at Joey, one of our members, chasing him out the door threatening his life. This type of environment to perform in became normal to us.

But overall we experienced many great things too. We played shows with Quintron, Miss Pussycat, Bobby Conn, Deerhoof, Scarnella, the Make Up and the Third Sex all within our first fifty shows. We had support from people like This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb who would put us on shows at Sluggos in Pensacola, Florida. This was first generation internet so we did a lot of booking for out of town shows through Book Your Own Fucking Life and traveled during a time without cellphones or internet. We also got around in a really old van that we put our money together to buy. This $500 investment was very dependable in getting us around and I remember how exciting it was to purchase our first vehicle with our own money.

While I don’t reflect back that much on my creative past I do try to remember that we were all very lucky, had a lot of help from caring people and got to experience the world while we were teenagers. We made a considerable amount of lifelong friendships with very talented people. If you get really lucky those experiences might happen once in one’s lifetime. So I consider us fortunate to have had it for as long as we did.

I’ve heard the Unwound, Deerhoof, and Peechees tour made a big impression. Tell me about that event and what future connections built from it? First hearing of Kill Rock Stars?

Being in Alabama during the 90’s most of our music would come from mail order. At the time all of the Kill Rock Stars releases would come with a fold out catalogue where you could order directly from their Olympia house. Through AOL chatrooms and reading zines we would get suggestions of bands that we should check out. Me and Steve sourced our orders mostly by not eating at school and saving our $2 a day lunch money to get a few new records a month. We made some great choices and ended up with records that really inspired us from Emily’s Sassy Lime, the Need, Bikini Kill, Free Kitten, Sleater Kinney, Mocket and the Frumpies.

The first time I heard about Unwound was when I was visiting this record store in a Pensacola house called the East Hill CD exchange. The owner was a man named Elvis and he knew that everytime I came in that I would be digging for anything he had that was Sonic Youth related. One day he pulled out an Unwound cd and said “hey you should check this out too!”. He put the discman on the counter and I loved what I heard.

About a week later we were back at Satori in Mobile and there was ONE flier that had been dropped off there for a Deerhoof, Peechees and Unwound  show. Me and Alicia went to see it and I was hanging out at the merch table that Steve Dore was working (Casual Dots, Deep Lust). We started talking and he immediately introduced me to Rob Fisk from Deerhoof who then brought over Greg Saunier. I told them that I was trying to save up $100 from my job at the movie theater so that I could buy a hagstrom guitar that I saw on Harmony Central and start a band. Greg immediately said, “Oh yeah that is a great idea, when you start a band bring it to California and we will tour together”. A quote that I’m sure Greg regretted later because we took him up on it! Ha.

What were the early shows and tours like?

I have to admit thinking back that far is somewhat foggy. A lot of crazy shit has happened between then and now. What I do recall is having every feeling that you could think of. Being in very violent adult scenarios, seeing things I never thought I’d see on my own terms like the Grand Canyon or a German castle and getting to see and become friends with bands that I admired. The experience was all over the place and in hindsight probably wasn’t the safest lifestyle for children to be growing up in. But also at the same time we were surrounded by incredible adult musicians who took good care of us and were great examples to be around.

What led to the Deerhoof tour and 5RC release?

Greg Saunier had offered to bring us on tour and booked us a tour up the West Coast. One show was in San Francisco at Kimos. Sadie Shaw was there, who was a filmmaker managing 5RC at the time while also playing in the Lies, and really enjoyed it. She proceeded to tell Slim Moon to come to our show a few weeks later in Olympia.

I don’t actually remember how the talks started but I do remember feeling so happy and lucky that any of it was happening. One of my favorite parts of our first west coast tour was being invited to the Kill Rock Stars office and meeting Slim, Maggie and Tobi. They gave us a lot of great records and posters that I still have to this day. Their whole set up of running a label out of a small house with incredible music everywhere really inspired us.

You toured with Sissies and Q and not U. Two bands I loved at that point and it’s too bad Sissies are forgotten (love their albums. Hannah’s other band Devil is Electric is one of the only other bands to play my East Lansing basement btw).

You seem uninterested in hardcore and its macho culture yet your sound seems similarly aggressive. What inspired this choice? And the show antics that sometimes involved hospitalizations?

It is completely true that none of us listened to hardcore. To this day I still haven’t heard any of the hardcore classics as at that time I was listening to a lot of noise bands, Daft Punk, Juvenile, DJ Jubilee, Beck and the Spice Girls. I think this is why people from the hardcore circuit were a little confused when we would tour with the Sissies or Q and not U instead of Municiple Waste (who we played their first show with- totally nice guys!)

People like to talk to me about the speed at which we played and how it sounded like the fastest hardcore band they had ever heard. From my perspective XBXRX was just playing rock songs but as a result of not playing well and social anxiety the songs ended up being played too fast. I remember so many times we would hear back a live version of one of our songs and not even recognize it because it would be double the time we practiced it.

When did you first encounter the Providence/Fort Thunder scene of Lightning Bolt, Black Dice, and Arab on Radar etc. What was your impression of them? 

All of the bands you mentioned were on the same tour circuit as us. Everyone played The Smell in LA, the Modified in Phoenix, and the Fireside in Chicago. Every night of tour people would talk to us about those bands (along with bands like The Locust or Milemarker). Most of them became friends because me and Steve were setting up so many shows along the Gulf Coast. Most of those shows in the South were barely filled, which seemed normal at the time, but in hindsight I feel awful putting bands through painful, barely attended, low paying shows in New Orleans, Mobile or Pensacola.

I would also tour with blank cassettes and VHS tapes. When we would stay with people who had music or videos that I couldn’t find- like homemade Miranda July films or rare 7″s- I would stay up at night copying them in order to bring home and absorb later. Strangers’ personal collections really helped expand my taste in music and art. And I believe this is how I initially ended up with copies of a lot of the GSL and Load Records stuff.

I was blown way by 1st GOP Minee. How was recording with Albini? Also did some sessions with Mackaye and Zientara? How did those occur? 

The band, like all of our peers, were big fans of Steve Albini’s sound. Being teenagers and having the opportunity to record with an engineer like him- in a studio like Electrical Audio- was a special experience. Around 1999 we worked with a label who suggested we record with Steve Albini. We all thought it was impossible but the label really encouraged us to do it. If my memory is correct Steve (XBXRX) then sorted out all the details, including an affordable rate, with the studio booking. We then paid for it with money we had all saved up collectively uncertain of how we would release it.

We recorded the album very quickly. The first day we did our set up and all of the basic tracking. While we did all overdubs and mixing on the following day. Considering Albini was not only recording us but also babysitting it’s really unbelievable that we turned the whole thing around in a 48 hour period.

Albini was really patient, kind and supportive. Having someone as talented as him keep himself accessible to bands like us really says a lot of great things about his ethics. Gop Ist Minee is probably our best sounding recording and I’m so happy that we worked so hard to get the album recorded with him. What is also cool glad it still lives on in other forms (for example the Deerhoof Milkman song’s “Desaparecere” and “Giga Dance” both use drum samples from “Gop Ist Minee”)

The band always had a very hard time translating our vision to the world. Our live shows were mostly failed and misunderstood concepts. An example would be this one show that we did in Fairhope where we hid behind massive cardboard box walls. A few days before I had found a bunch of furniture boxes and thought we could make a huge cardboard castle wall with a door in the center. The idea was that one of our interpretive dancers would run out of the center door and would be the only person you’d see for the first song. The show would then turn into chaos as we would throw all of the boxes around the venue as we destroyed the wall. This concept in reality was a complete mess.

These comically dumb ideas usually only happened for one show. So we began to film everything with a borrowed VHS camera. Between tours I began to edit them by using two VCRs to create collage videos that were basically bloopers reels. I would then dub them and hand make casings for us to sell on tour. It was during this time that a promoter in Mississippi randomly bought one. He then dubbed it and sent it unsolicited to Ian Mackaye. I guess he liked it because one day we randomly got a postcard from Ian saying he enjoyed our video. We later met in person at a show in DC and got along really well. Since we had a hard time with recording engineers the idea was brought up that it would be great to ask him to record us since he actually understood what we were doing.

It was really enjoyable recording in DC at Inner Ear with Ian and Don. By the time we got there XBXRX had some extreme lineup changes. At that point we were touring as a four piece with vocals, baritone, synth and drums. This lineup only lasted for a few tours so getting that stuff recorded during the small window of this era was a great thing to have happened. Like all of our recording sessions we did everything in one or two days.

My first show ever was setting you up in my basement with Sick Lipstick. It was a hugely inspiring event for me. How did you come in contact with them? What led to the wonderful 7” together?

I believe Mark Mclean reached out to me and Steve. We happened to have two songs left over from when we recorded the GSL “Mardi Gras” 7″ in Austin, TX. He took care of sorting the label and everything. I was actually pretty disconnected from this release outside of approving things. I also don’t have the pink vinyl version of this record.

Also how did you get banned from Canada?

We were deported from Canada on tour. I believe that we looked highly suspicious to customs considering that our trashed van with Alabama plates was a sardine can of merch, equipment and underage kids. At the time our Canadian promoter convinced us to give them this fake, printed out sheet of paper that said we were recording in order to get in. Customs quickly separated us for interrogation while other agents ripped apart our van looking for anything to get us with. Between the seats they found the fireworks and claimed that we had explosives. The main agent eventually put together that we had shows but didn’t believe that we were traveling into Canada just to play in a basement and to sleep on floors. They began an attempt to shake us down for money but collectively we only had around $60 cash. The agent then asked if we had bank accounts or credit cards- which we did not. They began to threaten us with arrest but eventually due to our age they just gave us deportation papers and asked us to leave. It’s comical how confusing our lifestyle was to all of the agents.

Meeting both of you alongside my housemate Nate Powell(did you know him from the Arkansas punk scene?) inspired me to become vegan for a period of time(and still eat informed by that diet and may switch back entirely). How did you discover veganism? And what’s your thoughts and evolution on the subject?

Me and Steve were in a band who did a tour where we played a lot with Nate’s old band Soophie Nun Squad. He is a really great and talented person. I probably heard about veganism around the same time that I began going to see shows. I was resistant to the idea at first because I didn’t understand it. I became vegan on tour with Q and Not U because I got sick from some old cheese at this pizza spot in Athens that Jerry Fuchs (LCD Soundsystem, RIP) brought us all too. That was maybe 2000 or 2001 and I have eaten this way ever since.

Costumes, lights, and other elements of the show. What led to them? Reaction or commentary on the po-faced indie/hardcore scene? Sense of fun? 

From my perspective there was nothing reactionary by doing it. We just wanted to put on a really good show that would be something that we would like to see. At that time we would have had a full on vegas style show if we had the resources to do so. We also loved the WWF and Man Or Astroman a lot. MOA was doing wild things at their shows too like setting shit on fire and using projectors. That kind of showmanship really influenced us a lot.

How did you connect to Erase Errata?

Jenny and Bianca had a band prior to Erase Errata that was called California Lightening. They had reached out to us through Toyo Records to set up some shows for them along the Gulf Coast. During this leg of their tour they took some days off and stayed at my mom’s house with us. We all really got along. A few months later Bianca sent me a cassette demo for her new band Erase Errata.

Erase Errata also had us book their Southern shows for their first tour. Bianca asked a few different bands I was in to play these shows with them. Three different bands I was in played the shows from New Orleans up to North Carolina on this stint. They were a really incredible band.

Tell me about your label NFJM? I have a couple releases including that 7” comp and the Deerhoof Shaggs cover. I remember I had a zine by you forever ago also but can’t recall the name now. 

NFJM started around 1998 because Steve (XBXRX) had found some deal through this LA label Black Bean and Placenta had a scheme where we could print 7″s through their label for extremely cheap. We ended up putting our money together to do the first release for XBXRX and NFJM this way. To save money we did the 7″ with blank labels and did stolen xeroxes for the cover. We hand assembled all of the releases at home.

Later on I had a job at a pizza place where I was being paid $2.10 an hour by a shitty boss. I began stealing hundreds of dollars a week from him that funded all the 7″s that later came out. One of these records was a 7″ with ten bands on it. The first pressing of that single had a zine inside of it. That could be the zine you are thinking of. 

You connected to and dropped the names of some interesting figures from the Wicker Park nineties now wave/no wave scene that quite expanded my ideas of what was possible then. Bobby Conn, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Zeek Scheck, and Weasel Walter. How did you discover them?

One of our first out of town shows was in Mississippi with Quintron and Miss Pussycat. At the time we were all obsessed with the Quintron album “Satan Is Dead”. Afterwards Miss Pussycat invited XBXRX to play their Thanksgiving show at the Spellcaster Lodge (their speakeasy in New Orleans). This show happened to be with Bobby Conn.

We were already fans of Bobby Conn’s record “Rise Up”. One of us had bought it because Jim O’Rourke was the producer on it. Afterwards “Rise Up” was an album that we listened to in the van constantly. At the show Bobby watched and enjoyed our set and we became friends. We then began playing lots of shows together through the late 90’s and early 00’s.

On our first tour we played the Fireside Bowl in Chicago and Weasel randomly was in a noise band that also played. We became friends through our mutual love of chaos. Eventually we kept crossing paths and eventually moving into the same warehouse in Oakland.

Chicago has a great legacy of bands from this period- Zeek Sheck, Monotrona, Collosamite, US Maple and so many more.

Tell me about the Bay Area move? Was there an intention on starting a new lineup? 

Me and Steve decided to get out of Alabama once XBXRX did one of its main break ups. We had wanted to get out of Alabama for years but were kind of stuck there due to our age and circumstance. Once we were in the bay area we began to play with people to see if anything would stick. We did some playing with Eric Landmark from Numbers and then wrote maybe a dozen songs with Paul Costuros and Sergio Iglesias. But none of them panned out for longer than a few rehearsals.

In Oakland we lived in a warehouse with members of Erase Errata and Burmese (and sometimes Brontez squatting). Weasel moved into one of the rooms from Chicago and we discussed starting a project. I don’t remember how but it somehow became a new version of XBXRX. We did that whole Narnack 7″ in the warehouse in only a few hours and it was off to the races.

While I don’t think about it that much I look back at the history of XBXRX as a band that has no end. It’s comically always splitting apart and then finding its way to life again. While I personally have no interest in ever playing in the band again I also would not be surprised if it pops up again in another form before I die.

Tell me about Hawnay Troof?

I have always been into all kinds of electronic based productions in the late 90s. However I could never figure out how people made it until a friend of mine showed me how to use Fruity Loops and Cool Edit. I have always had a better workflow with songwriting by using a computer over hardware.

An aspect of XBXRX in the first five years was always wanting people to dance rather than mosh. This wasn’t a political statement but rather because we viewed, naively, that the music we made was something to dance to that was more in line with Abba than a band like Earth Crisis. However it never translated to other people as this and when we played people would still beat the shit out of each other. But I look at the heart of all of the music I have ever made as an attempt to make something that would work in a dance club.

So when I started Hawnay Troof it was just a way to focus that kind of energy now in a more refined way since I had access to “electronics”. I was writing so much music then. Though in hindsight the production is pretty whack, everything is out of key and the records don’t sound good. I have thankfully learned quite a lot since then. Most of the music that I did- with any of my bands before 2010 – sonically sound like shit and the music feels rushed. I rarely revisit or think about any of it.

How did you meet George Chen and Kristy of Lil Pocketknife? How did Kit form and what was its intention? I saw you in the first lineup when you destroyed the Meow Meow game room during a Dear Nora show. One of the greatest things I’ve ever seen! We all ate Mediterranean food beforehand. This band had two periods of activity in slightly different lineups, give me a brief history? Both full lengths are great and a little different. Tell me about their recording?

In my opinion Kit was usually an extremely confused and unfocused band. Honestly it’s a surprise we even got two albums done at all. Part of this somewhat chaotic atmosphere meant that we kept switching up who played what while keeping the same four members.

The first album was done over a few years and all tracked in my bedroom and kitchen. The second one we did was recorded with Phil Elvrum in Department of Safety in Anacordes. I am glad that I got to see Phil’s approach towards recording. We did it on a small 8 track mixer to tape so were working with a lot of limitations. For example he used only three microphones for the drums and said he never records anything in one particular way. At one point while doing overdubs we needed to have a guitar reverb go quickly from completely wet to completely dry. For this effect Phil had me hold a long mic line and walk up from a basement cellar into a hallway where the amp was being played. Eventually I ended up with the microphone tight against the amp to create a “dry” reverb tone.

Tell me about the Bay Area lineups of XBXRX and the recordings. Who plays on those? I love the intense edge Weasel’s drumming brings. How was the songwriting and recording in those lineups? 

The bay area era of XBXRX was centered around myself, Steve and Weasel. We switched out the fourth members every few years. For example the Narnack 7″ has Paul Costorous from Total Shutdown on Bass while Sixth in Sixes that role was performed by myself. Once the album was out we added Ed Rodriguez into the band and he fulfilled those duties on both Wars and Sounds.

I’d say we were at our best around the time of Sixth in Sixes. We rehearsed every afternoon. The band was in a constant state of writing as we were all bringing in ideas for new material almost every day. And once XBXRX had Ed in the band we felt like a really well oiled machine.

My PDX band Hustler White was supposed to play with you but had to cancel. What was your connection and opinion of the PDX scene in that period? I know you had some connections to Get Hustle, JXATG, and Sleetmute Nightmute.

What’s really great about scenes is that there is always one happening in every big town. Literally any place where there is a concentrated group of creative kids in their twenties there will be incredible things coming out. As ours phased out in Oakland other stuff bubbled up and took its place. Stuff like that band Mansion.

During “our time” there was so much fun stuff happening along the coast especially in Portland. Bands like Glass Candy, Yacht and Yellow Swans were all sonically different but were equally impressive. Get Hustle, JXATG and Sleetmute, who you mentioned, were so insane to see. They really pushed music into strange creative territories.

Tell me about Modern Reveries? I love that 7”. 

I was a big fan of  Layla Gibbon from Skinned Teen. When she moved to the bay area we began talking and decided to start playing together. It went well and we ended up writing some good material but both decided that we needed a third member. That is when I asked Miya from 7 Year Rabbit Cycle to come in on bass. And we were all lucky because it happened to work out really well. We were around for probably two years and did one tour up the coast, a seven inch, and after a handful of local shows let it die.

Move to Los Angeles and later lineups?

After Weasel left XBXRX me and Steve just stopped talking about the band. Steve moved to LA for school and I stayed in the bay for a while because of my touring schedule. I ended up moving to Los Angeles a few years after him in 2009. Once I got here we started a joke band with Josh Taylor (Friends Forever) and Kyle Mabson for a one off show at Pehr Space. Afterwards me and Steve talked about what to do with XBXRX and both agreed that the lineup felt like it was it. So we all decided to try it again. We ended up writing a lot of songs, doing a few singles and toured with Future Islands a few times. We finished recording an album that was set for release on Polyvinyl but it never came out because the band completely fell apart overnight. I feel fine about it because we got a lot of miles out of being around for two decades and it freed me up artistically to move to other things.

And as a huge Raincoats fan I have to ask how you ended up drumming for them? What did you have to do with the Bikini Kill reunion? What’s your history with that band?

I have been a lifelong Raincoats fan. One of the first mail orders that I did was The Raincoats Peel Sessions EP on Smells Like Records. I then got their other records as I began to tour. Their music was so inspiring to hear as it was written, composed and recorded in a completely raw way that really showcased all of their strong ideas and personalities.

As I began to tour a lot – and I’m talking 300 shows a year for about 15 years straight – I found myself playing in London every few months. This amplified once I got a booking agent and became friends with everyone at the London based label and show promotion company Upset The Rhythm. Its founder, Chris Tipton, was really into keeping the bands happy and would always ask who they wanted to play with. As a Raincoats fan a common request of mine was for Gina or Ana from the Raincoats to play. And to my surprise it happened. Over time I developed a friendship with all of them and kept in touch as I traveled.

During one of my European tours I was emailed by a label who was putting together a Rough Trade tribute compilation. I expressed interest in covering something from the first Raincoats 7″ but wasn’t sure how I would do it. I realized I was going to be in London a few days later and emailed Ana to ask if she wanted to play on it. To my surprise she agreed and suggested that Gina come to play with us as well. We booked some studio time and ended up covering the first 7″ in a few hours. We wrapped up the recording and went about our ways.

Later I received an email from them asking if I’d like to fly to Europe and drum for them at a festival. Their other drummer, Jean Marc, couldn’t make it due to his commitments playing in PJ Harvey’s band. I was able to do it and flew to London to rehearse. The show went well and I have been touring with them ever since.

I am always excited to play shows with The Raincoats because they embrace parts of playing music that are usually trained out of a seasoned musician. For example we sometimes might cut out half a measure in a song just for the purpose of it feeling right. They also encourage me to not use cymbals and to tape up the drums until there is almost no resonance. I welcome untraditional approaches to creating music and have such joy playing those songs with them. They have also created so many memorable musical moments for me as their shows have had guest play with us like Angel Olsen, Lora Logic and Viv Albertine. Through them I even did a stint as a drummer for Chicks On Speed. I have also become friends with one of my favorite drummers Palmolive – whos Raincoats parts I try my best to adapt and channel on stage for every show.

My connection to working as a tech for Bikini Kill is actually attached to the Raincoats as well. A few falls ago we had a set of shows at the Kitchen in New York for the release of Jenn Pelly’s 331/3rd book on the first Raincoats LP. These shows were three nights of very inspiring people and energy. Bikini Kill played unanounced at the third show. It was their first time playing together since the 90’s. They performed just the song “For Tammy Rae” and it was really touching.

After they announced the official reunion I received a text from Tobi asking if I’d like to be her drum tech for the LA shows. I was surprised and happy to have the honor of doing this for her. I ended up doing a lot of the reunion shows as a tech and it was so much fun. They travel with a small crew who are all so talented and amazing. Its a really special thing to experience how uniquely a band like them operate and I feel fortunate to be able to learn so much from them just by being there.

Tell me about your later work as a producer? And current music projects? I’ve heard you prefer to listen to electronic music more than the music you’re commonly lumped in with because of your bands? What’s your preferred listening?

I have spent most of my life being nomadic- both personally and creatively. This applies to what I creatively absorb and invest time in. This lifestyle has made my creative past full of random and seemingly unrelated things. For example in 2018 I released a book on southern California haunted houses, did a mini documentary on Sonic Youths archive and studio while also having production work on a Louisahhh single come out. Those are three things that are in completely different categories.

I do love playing live shows. It feels natural since I grew up on the road. But around 2010 I hit a point where touring the way I was had created complete financial instability. I began to phase out touring and focus on other things like songwriting and production. It took a few years to learn how to redirect that time constructively but I have since done a considerable amount of music production work.

Another creative outlet I discovered was working in film. I have had a great time directing music videos and documenting really talented artist. At this point most of the film that I do is for this great pedal company Earthquaker Devices.

Since 2010 I haven’t played that many live shows outside of a rare solo performance or something drumming with the Raincoats. Focusing less on touring made me realize that I now had more time to be creative. It is nice because I usually wake up around sunrise to work on whatever I want for the rest of the day. Over time I have developed great creative relationships with other artist and companies that have kept me steadily busy. 

A realization that I recently had in regards to production is that I really love writing music now more than I ever have in my life. It’s extremely satisfying to produce records for artist and help them make something that can become enjoyed by the public. The flow of working with different people also helps expand my experience and keeps me in a state of constantly learning. I love getting to the other side of musical challenges.

Some current projects that are in the works production and writing on the upcoming Louisahhh and Ah Mer Ah Su records. I also started a quarantine band with Erica Dawn Lyle from Bikini Kill. That project is currently finishing up a record where we will have a different singer on every song. Once the album is released all of the proceeds will benefit Soul Fire Farm. In regards to video work theres a lot in the works including a top secret series for TV that is a punk Austin City Limits type show and a really great series for Earthquaker Devices with Sylvia Massy.

I honestly just try to stay busy and keep moving. Part of this is listening to music and I will listen to almost anything. Today I listened to Princess Chelsea, Zowie, Deathgrips, Kero Kero Bonito, Special Interest, Hannah Diamond, The Smashing Pumpkins, Lisa Mitchell, Wolf Eyes, Brian Eno, White Zombie, Sophie, Swans, Kano, Lil Kayla, Kate Bush and 100 Gecs. But it changes every single day and is completely all over the map.

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