The Tragedy of Comedy: Drugs and Depression

In 1997, I had my first session with a therapist. She regarded me with uncertainty,  as though she wasn’t really sure what I was doing there. She looked at me as though we were acquaintances out to lunch and I was inappropriately dumping all my shit on her. “Aren’t you going to ask me some questions?” I asked her. “What do you think I should ask?” she asked back.

Convinced by her underwhelmed response that I was only feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t seek therapy for another 2 years.

It was right around 1999 that some my friends started going to EMDR therapy. I called their doctor and got a referral for someone in this field closer to where I was living. I found Susan. I loved going to Susan. She made the future seem bright, my problems seem common, and the obstacles I faced surmountable. She assured me I would only be in therapy for a couple of months and that the work we were doing would give me the tools I needed to move on and have a normal life.

Occasionally, seemingly for no reason, I would have to fight the urge, with all my being, often in public, to cry uncontrollably. I shared this with Susan one day and her eyes became wide and fearful and her usually calm and soothing voice took on a sense of urgency and panic. “You have to call a pyschopharmacologist,” she said. “You have to call a psychopharmacologist and get a prescription for antidepressants.”

First of all, the word “Psychopharmacologist” is absolutely terrifying. It literally breaks down to “crazy killer” + “chemical brain drug maker”. I imagined a man in a white lab coat, erasing my personality forever. The face of my beloved therapist became the face of Nurse Ratchett.

Also understand this was 15 years ago. Prozac had just hit the market and it seemed like a fun thing for self-pitying rich people to do. It seemed like a weapon of mass obstruction, the true opiate of the masses. I was convinced that the root cause of my sadness, of all sadness, was alienation from living in a capitalist society. That the causes were external and if I organized towards a just and better world, then I wouldn’t feel so fucking terrible all the time.

I understood Susan’s diagnosis as a failure over my own resolution to be happy, and on some level, being ungrateful and selfish in a world where I had so much and others had so little. I started a drama club at the school where I worked, I went back to graduate school, I organized with a campaign for an independent candidate running for office. As long as I didn’t have any time to be in my own head I would be safe.

The bouts of depression became just a part of who I was, part of my personality. Rather than go on medication from the evil pharmacy companies, I preferred to suffer. Stoically. Like a good Irish Catholic. Some luxurious affliction like depression was unthinkable. Irish people got real diseases, like stomach cancer and cirrhosis. We died at the hands of Imperial Englishmen, not because we were sad.

I had a good run masking my symptoms and self-medicating. I ended back in therapy with a woman in Jersey City in 2012. As I write this now, I realize her name is unisex, meaning that it was also the name of this bartender in Greenpoint…in this very moment, I understand why he didn’t respond to my text, that could have been construed by him to be sensual and enticing, but that was accidentally sent to her, who probably found it disturbing and unnerving. Oops.

I went to see her for probably around 3 months. It went like this. I would get there, cry for an hour, and then make an appointment to do the same thing again the following week. Eventually, she gave me the same nervous, wide-eyed panic stricken expression that Susan had given me. But she said something like, “You need to go to the emergency room right now and tell them you are depressed! They will give you psychotropic drugs.” Everything she was saying made me feel like a character in a Joyce Carol Oates story. I saw myself as the middle aged woman with bad teeth and broken dreams sitting with the dispossessed of the ER in the middle of that sad and grey short story right before the serial killer custodial worker no one notices comes and kills me and eats my skin. No thank you.

I doubled down on my SAM-E, on my yoga classes, going to the gym regularly for boxing, juicing, meditating, reading self-help books… the causes were internal and if I could find the secret to being happy inside, I would be cured. That was the up cycle. I live in Jersey City which gave me the opportunity to drink socially with a different group of people every night, so I could go for weeks without having to address any issues. I was happy, funny, hysterical even. I convinced myself I was better.

Last September, I was lucky, but so lucky, that one of my friends had the courage and love to tell me, calmly and without scary words, that I was depressed. I was lucky, but so lucky, that another friend of mine had a mother who was a psychiatrist who would do my intake over the phone. I was incredibly lucky that she could prescribe Wellbutrin and that Wellbutrin would be successful in helping neurotransmitters in my brain do what they needed to do.

Almost a year after taking anti-depressants, I am still me but happy. I don’t lay in bed all day unable to move because I am in so much physical pain. I don’t lock myself in my apartment anymore because the idea of smiling and pretending to be happy is too much to bear. I am sharing this because I don’t want anyone else to lose so much time waiting to be happy. I am sharing this because everyone deserves that friend who can tell you calmly and without scary words, You are depressed, you need help.

 

ShitKilling is my business and business is Heavy.

ShitKill at The Music Building, NYC, June 2014
ShitKill at The Music Building, NYC, June 2014

Earnest, authentic hard core music, for me, speaks to the part of us that feels good when we say, Fuck you. Or Fuck off. Or fuck that. ShitKill is all of the above and it feels great. Listening to their self titled, self-distributed CD, I feel confident that I could throw a chair through a Starbucks Window while beating up a bunch of nazi skins with one hand. There is something serious in how Damien Moffit (drums) and Josh Musto (vocals and guitar) communicate musically; it’s tight, it’s threatening, and considering they’re all under 21 years old, it’s only going to get sicker, heavier, faster, darker. Joined by Danny Chpatchev on guitar and Karina Rykman on bass, everyone who makes Shitkill, angry; the media, religion, God, the government, rules, and maybe even you, better watch out.

I had a vision of blasting ShitKill on 20th and 6th while burning Donald Trump in effigy, and our rock and roll church was reborn out of the ashes of naked consumerism. All of our holy sites came back, CBGB’s, the Roxy…read this interview to find out why. Oh, and fuck you.

TNL: Where did ShitKill come from? Did you all meet at THOR (Tomato’s House of Rock)?

Josh: Damien and I went to school together from 4th grade on. We had a strong bond over bands like Slayer and System of a Down…and then we played in a couple bands together in 8th grade that didn’t get too serious. We all got together at Smash Studios, it started out with 8 people. Five of us were on guitar…

Damien They were people we kind of knew from high school, like “Hey you guys can sort of play instruments, right?”

Josh: One by one they each sort of dropped off or we kicked them out and weeded it down to four. We wrote a bunch of terrible, terrible music, and then the songs started getting better and we figured out what we were doing. Danny actually wrote our first riff.

Rykman: I remember that very clearly.

Josh: We kept coming up with songs, they started out kinda silly. We had a tune called “Hot Dog Man.” That was pretty good.

Danny: A little bit peculiar.

Josh: We got our shit together, a little bit. Before that, I started going to the School of Rock, in 2007. I was 13, that’s where we met Tomato, who is now our manager. That’s where I met Danny. ShitKill started in 2009.

Danny: At Guns vs. Motley Crue. *

*Shows at THOR organized around a theme so students could perform covers live.

Josh: The first time I was ever on stage, I wore this really long sleeved shirt. I didn’t realize that was a rock violation and it muted out my strings when I tried to do finger tapping. It was a nightmare.

Damien: I was there to support you. I was the School of Rock supporter.

Josh: We started rehearsing and rocking. Our first gig was somewhere in Hudson, New York at an open mic night at a bar and it was just me and Damien. We played 2 SOD covers and our song “Goatrape” that we don’t play anymore.

We played on a float going around a Flag Day parade in Hudson and I think we scared the shit out of everybody there. I think we had 2 songs.

Damien: Yeah, we were still playing covers. We played Master of Puppets -

TNL: Are you guys particularly close to Flag Day? Is that a very important holiday for ShitKill?

Damien: My dad used to live there. I think he thought it would be funny to have this metal band being rolled around.

Josh: It was a bunch of patriotic guys with the hats and the flags and then us.

Damien: Playing lyric-less Metallica. We didn’t have a mic. We were looping the songs. We thought the float was just going to go the whole time. But there were stops and slowing down.

Josh: Us falling off the thing. We started doing that. Karina was our first booking agent. She booked us a whole bunch of shows at Don Hill’s.

TNL: No way! How old were you when you were booking at Don Hills?

Rykman: At the time I was booking ShitKill, I was 15, 16? That was fun. I knew some people at Don Hills, I was in a band called “False Arrest” that played several shows there when we were 13 or 14 years old. And I knew how to hustle the system which was, ‘Oh yeah, we can draw 60 people on a Sunday night.’

Josh: We did three of those shows in 2009/2010 before the place shut down and kinda learned how to fuck up really badly and recover and play. Not to have a guitar with a Floyd Rose cause it will break, and, always bring back up. We learned a lot from playing there.

Around the same time, THOR (Tomato’s House of Rock) started, and Tomato invited us there. We started rocking together, we recorded a bunch of Shitkill songs over the summer and did and EP with him. Tomato started getting us opening slots. We opened up for Paul Di’anno of Iron Maiden at BB Kings, we opened up for Anvil at Highline Ballroom. We played with Possessed and Six Feet Under and Twelve Foot Ninja. Tomato, our manager, has been awesome.

Damien: He’s like our “not douche bag” manager. You take a manager, and you take out the parts that make you hate your manager, and there’s Tomato.

Josh: He helps boost morale a lot of times when we need it. He’s got the vision and he’s really in it with us. I see a lot of bands who don’t have someone like that and I feel very lucky we do.

IMG_9311

 

TNL Is it difficult with being under age? I went to an all ages ShitKill show at Hippie Cafe and it was packed.

Josh: There have been a couple of shows where nobody showed up because the shows were 21 and over and we didn’t know anybody 21 and over. The kind of shows we’ve been playing have been opening slots at bigger shows that can be all ages, so it hasn’t been that much of a problem. The fact that most of these venues are 21+ like Mercury Lounge and beyond, every bar, we have played at some of them. It really has a negative effect of the metal scene because kids are the most powerful market obviously. And if kids can’t get in, what’s the point?

Damien: There’s countless shows of ours where I’m inviting people in our building and other adults that I know and they’re literally like, ‘I’m an adult, I have work in the morning! It’s past 7 pm and my kid’s gotta go to bed.’ Its’ shocking how much of the scene really is teenagers and young adults.

Josh: There are so many kids in the city and you see them at Mastodon shows and Gojira shows, but then they can’t go see local shows at Mercury lounge or Fontana’s or Trash bar, and those are great venues but the fact that the law is so strict in NYC, has a negative impact on the scene because everyone’s afraid of getting arrested.

TNL: Right, there are all these strange rules now, you can’t crowd surf… on the one hand, I guess I can see it, but on the other hand that’s so weird that they’re going to legislate how you rock out.

Josh: It’s so not rock and roll.

TNL: I was your age when I was listening to the music that you’re playing now. I didn’t realize that metal had this kind of staying power or that it would be attractive to young people 20 years later. Just because I grew up with it, I see it as older people music. So when you talk about Slayer, I wasn’t even 10 when Slayer came out, so it’s wild to hear how they influenced you. What was your attraction to metal?

Josh: The first metal band I liked was System of a Down which was Damien’s fault. He pulled me over during soccer practice with a cd player in 5th grade. He was like “Dude, you gotta hear this and he played “Cigaro” and I never heard someone say the word “cock” in a song before. And I was like “Holy Shit!”

Danny: For me it evolved from other things. Avenged 7 Fold was sort of like a gate way for me. From then on, I moved into Slipknot and Pantera. When I first heard Slayer, I didn’t really like them, I was like this is too much. It’s gradual, You start appreciating heavy stuff, heavier stuff. There was a time I didn’t want to listen to Nirvana, I was like, “this isn’t heavy, I don’t want to listen to this shit.” You start loosening up, and you realize, this is good, this isn’t really that good. In terms of just style and originality.

Damien: I had a weird and diverse musical upbringing. My mom was into 70’s airy, spacey funky music. I was always hanging out with my dad while he was lifting in his bedroom and I grew up listening to Helmet and Black Sabbath, weird cool crazy metal music. I can see it: in the living room it’s my mom’s music, in the bedroom, it’s crazy metal music. Something about going back and forth, I can like what ever I want.

But playing metal music, it has a lot to do with me playing drums. The drums are this crazy instrument where you just hit shit. That’s what metal does, it hits you. You hear a riff and you’re like, Holy shit I can feel that.

Karina and Damien, rehearsal at THOR, NYC
Karina and Damien, rehearsal at THOR, NYC

Karina: The power and the energy. I play in several bands, but ShitKill is the most fun because you get to attack your instrument, and just go fucking nuts on stage. I love that.

It’s not that I only listen to metal, I listen to a whole bunch of stuff. I was born in ’93, and I was a conscious human in the 2000’s and being a conscious human in the 2000’s and not in the midst of punk when it was big or not in the midst of thrash metal when it was big, it has allowed me to draw influence from all kinds of shit. Yeah, I listen to Dinosaur JR, and I listen to Slayer, and I listen to Black Flag, but I also listen to Donna Summer and Ween and the Allman brothers without being bound to one thing,

Danny: Just appreciating music-

Karina: I fucking love heavy metal, if that was the only thing I listened to I wouldn’t appreciate it, I like contrast.

Josh: There are so many bands that are so derivative of 3 bands, everyone’s a Pantera clone or a Lamb of God clone, I think it’s very important for us to come at it from a much more musical perspective.

Karina: You can always tell, especially with a metal band that has super limited influence, they’re kind of trapped almost and don’t have any ideas that come from any where else.

Josh: We still rip off metal bands, it’s just harder to tell.

Karina: If I was alive in the summer of ‘69 and I was only listening to Donovan and super hippied out shit… then you get more into a box. It’s kind of cool to be making music and thinking about music now after all that shit has happened, so you can draw on different genres.

TNL: When I was growing up the metal scene was the dominant thing, Metallica came out…everybody I talk to, no matter where they’re from, they’re like “and then I heard ‘Blackened’ and my life was changed forever.” So my generation had a definitive movement. Now, looking at the music scene there is nothing I see as the defining trend. I was in High School when PE came out and that was so ground breaking.

Karina: We get to pick and choose from a huge scope of great music, I remember where I was when I heard Master of Puppets for the first time, I remember where I was when I heard Licensed to Ill for the first time, 2 very different things, but I love them both.

TNL: When I was working on UnBlock the Rock, I always wanted to have a female presence on stage, and it was always you and Jennifer Hernandez of Escape. In New York City! And then I met Jessica Pimental of Alkehine’s Gun who wanted to participate but she was so busy. So there were 3 women that I could find in NYC who knew how to play metal. Was that ever intimidating or scary to you, the metal scene being so male dominated?

Karina : To be straight with you I had very few female friends my age, I only had older female friends, and I continue to live that way. So to me, whether I was playing music with dudes or just hanging out, it was kind of just the people I was hanging out with. The whole reason I started playing in the first place was my friend Bobby during 8th grade recess threw a guitar in my hands and taught me how to play. I was like ‘Holy shit, I can do this? Let’s do this!’ I started playing punk cause it’s easy to play and just kept going. I recently heard someone say, ‘I’m not a woman in music, I’m a musician in music,’ I kind of dug that. I’m just trying to play like every body else is, and trying to do a great job.

TNL: So, ShitKill comes together in 2009, tell us about the name.

Damien: It was in Hudson NY where my dad lived at the time and it was just me and Josh going to do an open mic.

Josh: We didn’t have a name, I think your dad put us down as “Children of Metal”. We had a whole bunch of terrible names, like “Blind Justice.”  We were driving up and looking at these signs, Fishkill and Sawkill, and Catskill, and you know what? Shitkill, just for the day, wouldn’t that be funny?

A lot of people we know tried to get us to change the name because they said no one would book us, but people are still booking us still.

TNL: Has it been an issue if you’re advertising a show on SOU and they can’t say your name on the air?

Danny: We had that one show in Long island and they listed us as Scrumkil.

Josh: At this point, it’s got to be more good for us than harm.

Damien: Even if we were on some talk show, it’s just got to be funny enough.

Danny: Because as soon as you say the name, people always ask, “Oh, so what do you play and how did you come up with that name?”

Josh: It’s an instant conversation everytime.

TNL: So what are your aspirations?

Josh: We want to play loud rock and roll music for a lot of people a lot of the time.

Damien: The aspiration is to share the craziness and the fun. Hopefully there’s enough money involved to stay alive. That would be a nice feature.

Josh: I assume I’m going to be eating ramen noodles for the rest of my life and I’ve made peace with that.

Me: After you opened for EHG the other night, Jimmy Bowers told you your future was bright. The music you played that night sound much more hard core than the music on your cd, is that a direction you’re evolving in?

Josh: I’ve been getting into a lot more hard core music, we’re kind of drifting a little bit, we’re finding out own thing.

Danny: It’s also the last sequence of shows we’ve been playing.

Josh: Metal played with that real disgusting evil raw energy, that’s why Slayer was so great, because they were into Minor Threat and Black Flag and Dead Kennedys. To me, that’s what makes it real.

 TNL: Was there a moment where you were like, this is it, this is what I want to do!

Damien: When we played in the THOR show at the Highline Ball room, and we were introduced…normally, clapping and screaming is next but that was the first time it all blended together into this roar. Hearing that sound, maybe that wasn’t the moment, but hearing that sound was, it was great.

Josh: Everytime you get on stage, whether there are 3 people or 500 people, getting up there and putting my foot up on the amp and getting my sound and screaming in the mic, I’m more comfortable there than any place in the world and I can’t imagine a scenario for my life where I don’t try to do that everyday. I don’t know if there was a moment I decided that, I just knew.

Danny: It’s always the most recent amazing thing that we do, whether that’s a show or a new song we wrote, it grows on top of what we already have. That keeps you going. There’s so many other things that I do, music is just not something I’m willing to give up.

Rykman: Going back to the H20 show at the Gramercy, and we shared backline with everyone and we had the entire stage. I hadn’t felt that feeling of being able to run around and occupy the stage…it just felt so fucking good. And the DRI show recently, a couple of songs I looked up and the place was crazy and people were going fucking bananas…

Danny: there were moments during DRI where I would reach out and shake hands with people I didn’t know, it was crazy

Josh: A guy came up to me at a ramen joint on 52nd and he was like, “Hey Shitkill, you guys were awesome! Just the fact that people know our name, that’s kind of amazing to me.”

 

ShitKill, Europa, BK June 2014
ShitKill, Europa, BK June 2014

Catch ShitKill July 13, 2014 at The Emporium in Patchoque NY, opening up for Coldsteel!

More info: www.shitkill.com

 

Break Everything and Smile: Godmaker

Godmaker, May 2014
Godmaker, May 2014

 I was initially blown away by Jon Lane when Bröhammer played a benefit at the Trash Bar in Brooklyn for UnBlock the Rock, a campaign for Cuban metal. Years later, I would meet Kyle, knower of all things metal in Brooklyn, at an Eyehategod show who said, “If you liked Bröhammer, you’ll love Godmaker.” Lo and behold, there was Lane once again, the brains and the beats behind the emerging band Godmaker. Friday the 13th brought me good luck and I got to skype down with Andrew Archey (bass) and Jon Lane (drums) and their dog to talk about their place in the Brooklyn metal scene.

 TNL: How was Godmaker born?

Jon Lane: I was playing in Bröhammer and I was in Crows on Vultures and they were both fun, they were all people I loved, but we weren’t playing the music that I was really wanting to, music that I felt like was me, so I sort of hashed out an idea in my head and there was a cute little door girl who worked at Guitar Center who kept trying to talk to me about music, who turned out to be Andrew Archey…

Archey: He’s not lying.

Lane: Seriously, he had amazing girl hair and a chin strap, it was fantastic.This kid who we worked with pulled us together to jam with him for some Lamb of God-y, not horrible, but very generic-y metal stuff, at Ultrasound, and it was just very obvious watching us that the only thing happening in that room was me and Archey jamming together. So, it started this long agonizing process of trying to put this band together.

TNL: You get the sense, watching Godmaker on stage, that what makes you so tight on stage exists off stage. How did you guys find each other?

Lane: After a year, our friend Jess who heard about what we were doing, introduced us to Pete (Ross, vocals), and the first time I hung out with him, he was talking about getting a hamburger tattoo, he was wearing a Floor shirt and a Godflesh hoodie. And I was like “This guy’s ok, we’ll talk to him.”

By the end of the first practice we knew he was the guy. A couple of practices later he came out with the main riff of “Megolith”, and I told him he no longer had the option of considering not being in our band at any time.

I had a random conversation with Chris (Strait, guitar) with whom I had been in a hardcore band, a very techy, mathy, cathartic hardcore band, in Kansas for many years. I hadn’t even considered him as an option because it was so far from what we had been doing. He told me he was going to move to LA and be in his friend’s band and play bass. I was like “Dude, you’re not a bass player, I don’t want to be a dick but you don’t waste hands like that on bass.”

Archey: I’m just going to pretend you don’t exist for the rest of the night.

Lane: I get that a lot. I was like “Dude if you’re talking about moving across the country to be in a band…A. fuck LA, B. our band’s better.” He responded with, Is this the band that’s “crushingly destructive, and very 70’s”?                                                                           We moved him in on St. Patty’s Day.

TNL: Let’s talk about Bröhammer for a second, that was such an incredible line up of musicians, Nick Cageo who is now in Mutoid Man, James Danzo who’s in Deceased…

Lane: That band started as a joke. Which is why it’s pronounced, “Brew Hammer”. It was originally me and Nick (Cageo), and Jeff. Jeff was already playing in Vermefug, Nick was playing in various bands around town, we worked with this guy Pete Macy (Early man), a giant sweetheart and ridiculous guitar player.

BroHammer was the original joke name, and then one of them, I forget who modified it. They were like “Dude, we don’t hammer bro’s, we hammer brews!” Genius. And then Joe Silver joined the band, and we’re like, Oh, this guy’s insanely talented. We conned James Danzo from Vermefug to jump in and suddenly it was a real band and we didn’t know what to do with it, which was a recurring theme.

TNL: Archey, where did you come from musically?

Archey: In the interim of us trying to figure out band members, I was just doing random hired shows, which caught me for about 6 months playing in a goth synth rock band. Which is a completely different story for a completely different time.

Lane: He or we are all lucky enough that he grew up in a family who knew the music industry pretty well and had a really vast catalog, like Archey knows shit about Kansas bands that I know people from Kansas don’t know.

TNL: How and when did you start playing drums? How and when did you start playing bass?

Lane: I started playing drums before Andrew Archey was born. That’s not a joke.           My brother was into music for like a month a half when he was a kid which was just long enough to bring home “And Justice For All”. By the time “Blackened” was over, I knew like 3 things: This is my new favorite band, I have to be a musician and I have to play the drums, get me lessons right fucking now.

With mild dry spells involving college -

Archey: What’s that?

Lane: I’ve been going for 25 years.

Archey: I started playing bass at about 9 years old. The thing is my dad used to work for Gibson guitars. I grew up in their office around instruments all day.

My brother started playing drums around the same time. All the bands I played with in NJ were with my younger brother, who is now off doing things I want to be doing instead of you know, working to pay my rent,

I had a bizarre upbringing ‘cause I was kind of exposed to just about everything. I would learn random rock and punk songs and all that kind of shit in the midst of taking lessons. Toward the end I was learning old Motown tracks and I think that’s where became not as white as I am or appear to be and I actually grew a bit of a pocket, which seems to be a little too deep every time we jam.

That’s about it. I wish I had something glorious . I could say I played tambourine when I was 5 for Hootie.

Lane: Let’s not gloss over that.

Chris Strait, Saint Vitus, May 2014
Chris Strait, Saint Vitus, May 2014

TNL: I think that ‘s crucial, that should be in the liner notes.

Lane: I’m looking at the tambourine right now.

Archey: Dude still remembers me, I don’t remember being up there.

Lane: How could you not remember that?

Archey: Would you want to remember that?

TNL: NYC is the place where it seems some people make it really easily, because they have certain connections. For bands who are just really trying and really talented and really amazing, is it much more difficult these days to break in?

Archey: There are definitely bands that happen to be in the right place at the right time, they were where they needed to be to be looked at by somebody. For everyone else it’s never not a struggle to get noticed, especially out here, because the metal scene out here has grown so much and has become so diverse. You definitely have to find ways to stand out, but you definitely have to work your ass off. You have to play and bring it every time you play a show find ways to separate yourself from everyone else.

It is difficult now because you have so many ways to absorb media, you have Youtube, you have Bandcamp, you have Facebook which links to all of the above, and there’s a million and a half record labels now, kids are starting them in their fucking basement. We want our ep out, it ‘s just that finding the right way so that it’s exposed to as many humans as possible.

TNL: Making sure it got out there and it’s distributed, more than before, artists have to be their own distributors, their own agents…

Archey: I know people who’ve done the whole DIY route and had great success with it, because they don’t have to pay anybody. You’re your own boss. Yeah it takes a lot more work to get it done with the way you can absorb media now, it makes it a lot easier for DIY bands to have a further reach because there’s so many outlets, it’s how you use them.

 TNL: But it’s time consuming, it takes time to post on FaceBook, it takes time to tweet, doesn’t that take away from your time to rehearse?

Archey: Between that and… keeping a roof over our heads, takes precedence, I kinda wish it didn’t, unfortunately money still rules 90% of our lives.

Lane: All of us work full time. Chris has two jobs, we’re working 40 to 50 hours a week.

Archey: Pete’s got a big boy job.

Lane: At the same time, Archey and I are just fucking waiting for the day when we shove all our shit into a storage unit and get the fuck out of town and tour. That’s kind of the goal.

TNL: How do you guys feel, as part of the metal community in BK, about this huge gentrification going on?

Archey: Ok, it’s pushing us out of the expensive neighborhoods, that used to be cheap, but with that it does expand places for us to play. The Acheoron is still in a fairly desolate area-

Lane: It still costs a fuck ton of money to live over there.

Archey: My biggest joy about being out here is that the metal scene is pretty much the biggest brotherhood of friends that I ever had. When I played in NJ, everybody hated each other, nobody liked each other, you had maybe one band you were friends with…out here we all hang out together, are possibly in two to three side projects together, hang out at each other’s houses, throw parties…

Lane: I grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, it was a tight little group, a handful of bands that were pretty successful. I’ll still rock a “Coalesce” t-shirt, I’m actually wearing an “Esoteric” shirt now that I look. It was a very positive scene, when I moved out here I never expected to find that again.

Saint Vitus to me is what the Bottleneck was in Lawrence, it has such a familiar vibe where you just walk in and know everybody, and there’s so many familiar faces, it’s like that everywhere.

TNL: It is very communal, I’m new to that scene but already I saw like 10 people I knew at your show the other night (Grand Victory, June 2, 2014). At the show, moreso than before, live Godmaker sounded like if the Allman Brother’s went really heavy. There’s such a country influence, something that seperates you from everyone else.

Lane: I wouldn’t use the word country. A thing that’s really important for me is swing. I need music to have a little swagger to it, I hate that teenage hip hop fans have ruined that word, I need that.

TNL: It’s not country perse, but if I heard the music and someone told me half the band is from Kansas, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Lane: What’s funny is that zero percent of that is Chris’ fault as of yet. Pete writes some pretty fucking redneck riffs now and then. There’s a song that will be on the next record that the first time Pete played the riff, I was like, “No, no. That’s awesome but you have finally done it, you have finally written a riff that is too hill billy I can’t do it.” I then walked around with that riff stuck in my head for an entire week and figured out a way to make it work and thought, Ok now, now we’re going to do that. I’m insisting that we call that song “Purple Drank”, so you’ll know it. But Kansas isn’t the South.

Jon Lane, Grand Victory, June 2014
Jon Lane, Grand Victory, June 2014

TNL: The south isn’t country either, I think blues is more the south…

Archey: There’s a lot of that with us too.

Lane: My friend Jeremy and I had a hard core band when I was back in Kansas. We both wanted a band that created this atmosphere that when we were on stage… I’m a total priss about my gear, because I was a po’ kid and never had nice shit, and spent a lot of money on my shit, but my goal in that band was: “I want this band to make me want to break everything on this stage that belongs to me and fucking smile while I’m doing it.”

I need that. And Godmaker does that times ten. I’ve never put so much into a band, and I’ve never gotten nearly as much out. We haven’t really done that much with it yet, but every time we’re on stage…

Archey: I don’t even think she saw Pete shake his ass yet

Lane: When Pete starts shaking his ass on stage it’s kind of the best thing ever.

TNL: I think I’m afraid to see that. That idea kind of terrifies me.

Lane: It’s wonderful.

Pete Ross, Grand Victory, June 2014
Pete Ross, Grand Victory, June 2014

TNL How did you come up with the name?

Lane: We spent an awful long time trying to find a name that was as big as we wanted the sound of this band to be. It took us forever. I remember stumbling over the name Kingmaker, and thinking that’s good, I need something bigger than that. Wait a minute, google search, google search, no one has used that yet!

 Archey: Pete actually suggested Pink Disaster.

Lane: Don’t look into that.

TNL: Tell me about the new EP coming out.

Lane: Well it’s us, so it’s four songs and it’s about 33 minutes. It’s kind of the “Hi, we’re Godmaker thing.” It’s fully done, it’s fully mastered, we’ve got cover art by Joe Silver, which is fucking ridiculous, as you would probably expect if you’ve seen our shirts which is also his.

TNL: If you were forced to label this record, if you were forced to qualify your music, categorize your music, how would you pitch it to someone, what genre would you put it in?

Archey: Loud.

Lane: Very fucking loud. I always thought the best bands that don’t know how to describe themselves are usually the best ones because they’re usually not aiming for a thing. Ours has always been about no boundaries, it’s always going to get weirder.

TNL: That’s the point right? To keep pushing yourself, and to not do the same thing over and over again.

Lane: People will lob stoner and doom and there are definitely even prog aspects to it, which I don’t like to use because then everyone puts on their glasses and starts counting beats…

 Archey: I kind of like to keep it as “metal”, the whole subgenre kind of annoys me to an extent because it confuses 90% of the people who don’t know what it is. They’re like what’s stoner metal? What’s prog metal?There are parts that are all over the place and touch a lot of different aspects in different subgenres and quite honestly, there’s a lot of straight up rock shit going on.

Lane: We’re a fucking band, you know?

You can catch Godmaker at The Acheron on July 18th, killing it with Mammal and Mortals at their CD release party. For more info on Godmaker: facebook.com/godmakerbk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eyehategod Iloveyou. Europa, Sat. June 7, 2014.

I want to place my palms on Mike Williams’ chest and ask a question because I know he will tell me the truth. He is wearing a Ouija board shirt, hanging out in the green (red) room of Club Europa before the show Saturday night. Mike Williams is the truest of the true, you know this intuitively when you see EHG live. There is no fucking around. There is plenty of fucking around.

Eyehategod rocks. Literally.  Drummer Aaron Hill’s pounding announces the beginning of the show and the band begins to sway, forward and back, as though in a trance, summoning? Exhuming? Doing whatever it is they do before bringing us, the audience, where we need to go. It’s a meditation, a private ritual we witness. It reminds me somehow of the ascension of a roller coaster; looking straight up into the sky with the anticipation of careening straight down with your hands up.

Jimmy Bower is wearing a t-shirt, on the back it says “We owe you nothing.”  They give us everything on stage, everything is up for grabs, for us to take and annihilate.

Eyehategod’s self-titled release on Housecore Records is the insides of Charles Bukowski, including his obliterated liver and sad and genius brain, reconfigured as a collection of punk rock sludge metal.

I was introduced to EHG by David Peisner, a writer who has written for, among others, Rolling Stone and SPIN. David and I collaborated on UnBlock the Rock, a campaign to bring Cuban metal to the United States back in March of 2013. To raise funds for airfare and visas, etc we put together a compilation, “The Red Album” including “International Narcotic” by Eye Hate God solicited by David. Which begins like this:

“They take the most holy man they got, you dig? And treat him as worse as they can, degrading, drag him through all kinds of shit, spit on him, cuss him, just do everything and then turn around and go to church and worship him on Sunday. And think you’re gonna get away with it….Don’t work that way.”

I email Mike, Is that you.

That’s Charlie Manson, he writes back.

Eyehategod’s self-titled release on Housecore Records is what punching someone in the face sounds like. And/or fucking.

Only EHG can do what they’re doing. Can play the music they’re playing. The heavily textured and complex wall of noise that is EHG sounds like mental illness, sounds like drug addiction, sounds like the inside of a prison cell. Sounds like a criminal record.

Eyehategod’s self-titled release on Housecore Records is finally here.

In November 2013, I was recovering surely but slowly from a long bout of depression where I did not leave the house. Depression is debilitating, mentally and physically, and sometimes I just could not open the door. With the help of some meds and an incredible support network, I could face the world again. The first place I went was The Acheron in Brooklyn, to see EHG perform for the first time.

I suppose a cousin of depression is anxiety and I was anxious about being around other people. I was anxious to be out. There is always a moment where I am wishing there is a flash flood or a regional earthquake that ruins everything and everything  is canceled so I can justify staying inside. Thankfully The Acheron is not a douchy rock club. Thankfully the people who go there just love metal.

Before EHG, I position myself at the front of the stage, where I meet Kyle, knower of all things metal in Brooklyn.  I am sandwiched in between him and another guy who is a metal afficionado. “Have you seen them before?” Kyle asks. “No, this is my first time.” Kyle exchanges knowing glances with the other dude, smiling. “I love seeing people at an EHG show for the first time,” the other dude says and then Kyle launches into a quick history of the band. I still don’t know what to expect. I’ve been going to shows all my life. I’ve had my share of black eyes and broken toes. Why are they smiling?

EHG takes the stage a couple of minutes later, and I am submersed in elbows and sneaker heels almost immediately. I am still shooting but nervous for my flash which lands at my feet. I am still shooting but nervous for me because now I am old and I smoked for a long time and took Depovera forever, and am a serious candidate for osteoporosis. I seek refuge, trying to navigate my way to the outer circumference of the crowd, but The Acheron is “intimate” so the crowd is dense. I make my way into the bathroom to investigate my flash. Not only is my flash ok, I am better too.

I am reborn.

Eyehategod’s self-titled release on Housecore Records is everything we’ve been waiting for.

As of June 10, 2014 EHG is all over Billboard, cracking the Top 200, and as number 7 on the Tastemaker chart right under Michael Jackson. A review of their show on Saturday was written up passionately by Ben Ratliffe for the New York Times. Their future is bright, it only took 26 years and the tenacity to continue after the death of drummer and founder Joey LaCaze last year. (LaCaze is the drummer on the album). There is no question where EHG is headed, although I’m not quite sure how much redemption and destruction they’ll leave in their wake.

Eyehategod’s self-titled release on Housecore Records is 1234567890 goodbye.

More photos of Eyehategod available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjYM3NHX

 

We Are the Mayor: The Election of Ras Baraka

I want to say I’ve worked on 3 campaigns for Ras; one when he was a 24 year old returning graduate from Howard University and ran against incumbent Sharpe James just because. Because no one else ran against Sharpe James. Two other campaigns when he ran as Councilman-At-Large for the City of Newark. I’ve worked on three campaigns, but I worked 5 election days for Ras, as he has always won, but for some reason or another, there was a run-off and he had to run again.

Working Election Day for an independent campaign is an eternal vacuum of time and space punctuated by a brown paper bag with a sad white bread cold cut sandwich and a can of warm coke. You arrive at a polling place at some ungodly hour in a ridiculously large t-shirt to zealously attack the unfortunate souls who go to vote on their way to work with your literature a designated amount of feet away from the door. Because of course, they left for work half an hour early to vote even though they weren’t sure who they were voting for until you jumped at them armed with a smile, a slogan and a sticker.

After a flurry of 2 or 3 early morning voters, you are left to commune with the facade of a school, the mailman and a tree should there be one. If you get too close to the entrance, someone will come and yell at you to go farther away. Until, around 5 pm, there is another flurry of voters, when the opposing, well-funded candidate’s people show up, in their well-fitting t-shirts, outnumbering you with their arms and hands and door tags, but they cannot outnumber your voice, they cannot shout you down, even though in your boredom you have smoked a pack of cigarettes, your only accomplice for the day, your only witness to the slow passage of time. You can shout louder, because even though you’ve spent the day alone, you are imbued with the power of the people. 8 pm arrives, and you are hopeful and hoarse.

The last campaign I worked on in 2000, I had an idea that I wanted to document the campaign, but I couldn’t stop working on it. I didn’t know then the difference between observing and participating, how you cannot do both. You cannot pick up a phone to call potential voters in one hand and a camera and a notebook in another. But I couldn’t not work on the campaign. I grew up in many ways campaigning for Ras, and in campaigning for Ras, campaigning for the people of Newark, and in campaigning for the people of Newark, campaigning for all of us. Campaigning for me.

I was a 20 year old Rutger’s student the first time I went to Newark and met the Barakas. In my subjective memory, as student organizers from Rutgers, my friends and I were immediately committed to waking up early every Saturday to go door to door and campaign in Newark. it was an easy sell. We liked going to Newark. We liked organizing. We were proud to be a part of this movement.

Six years later, I would move to Newark. I lived on Clinton and Fabian in the South Ward, only a few blocks up the street from the Barakas. The bus stop for the 34 which took me to work at Thirteenth Avenue School was right on the corner. As I waited for the bus in the morning, young men would stand, obviously, shuffling from one foot to the next with their hands stuffed in their pockets on the corner across the street. As cars, nice cars, I suppose from Montclair and other fancy places? Summit? pulled over to talk with the young men, old boys really, they ran over to where I was standing, past me to the doorway of the laundromat where, on the ledge above the door, they grabbed little packets and ran back to the cars, idling across Clinton Ave. We became friendly. “I totally thought you guys made your own hours!” I said, with a sense of wonder.

It was during this time that I would work on two more campaigns for Ras, campaigns born out of that Brick City pulse, campaigns born out of generations of theory and practice.

There is a very fine line between participating and observing, and once you master that line, that is where you find true art. It is the practice of going into real life, head first, emotionally, spiritually, physically, politically and culturally, openly, willing to be completely exposed and vulnerable and then knowing when to pull back for a moment and process everything that has happened. And then recording that experience. That is Picasso’s “Guernica”, that is Ginsberg’s “Howl”, that is the “When I’m the Mayor, We’re the Mayor” campaign for Ras Baraka.

Youth for Baraka canvassing in Georgia King Village moments before voting closes. May 13, 2014
Youth for Baraka canvassing in Georgia King Village moments before voting closes. May 13, 2014

The mastery of this fine line is what makes Amiri, Amina and Ras such great poets, such authentic revolutionaries. Consistently immersed in Newark, specifically, and the lives of black people more generally, and the lives of working people even more generally, they know exactly when to pull back and record the experience either as a poem, or a collection of poems, or a people’s campaign (which is poetry in action if you think about it). (Or the scientific application of love.)

I left Newark after living in three different apartments over a period of three years. I didn’t intend to leave Newark, Newark kind of kicked me out. It was for the best. I continued to teach in Newark, until 2009, after our amazing principal left and was replaced with some knucklehead dummy that the Newark Board of Ed, a visionless collective adorned in cheap suits, put there to carry out “No Child Left Behind” a nationwide educational policy imposed on public schools under a president who had every educational opportunity afforded to him but still could not negotiate proper, basic subject verb agreements.

Mayor-Elect Ras Baraka on the steps of City Hall after his acceptance speech.
Mayor-Elect Ras Baraka on the steps of City Hall after his acceptance speech.

I had not been back really. Newark was like an ex-lover it would be awkward to see, we would look down at our feet and make small talk not knowing really how to begin or what to say.

When I got to the South Ward HQ at around 1 pm on May 13th with another friend I had cut my activism teeth with, Barbara Horne, it wasn’t long before we ended up on the Baraka bus, splayed with, “When I become Mayor, We Become Mayor”. Gone were the days of the lonely poll worker.

Barb and I got on the bus with some dedicated supporters and drove around, and like renegades of injustice, blasting music and dancing at the polling places. In the streets. At the gas station. Where ever we showed up, volunteers for Baraka danced with us, sometimes even the volunteers from the Jeffries campaign would join in.

I wasn’t surprised at all to see the overwhelming, not support, but collaboration with Ras, his team and the people of Newark. Not only am I personally elated, not just for Ras and Amina, and Bird and Aziz and Juba and Mark and everybody who has been working with Ras to transform Newark for the last 20 years, but I am ecstactic that Chris Christie will have to contend with someone who is smarter and more compassionate, and who has ties with the people that Christie has been stomping all over for the last 5 years. Christie may have been able to buy Corey Booker, but Ras Baraka, and indeed the city of Newark, is not for sale.

That night after Ras gave his acceptance speech at the Robert Treat Hotel, Ras, followed by throngs of people, left the hotel and took to the streets marching toward City Hall. Around 10 pm? 11 pm? Everyone congregated at City Hall, some people assembled on the stairs of City Hall, some people assembled in front. It was that historic moment where the people of Newark stood, at once observing and participating, witnessing their own victory, seeing themselves as governing and governed, recognizing the relation between the two, and became the Mayor of Newark.

More photos on The Election of Ras Baraka here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjY2JpV5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Godmaker, #becauseloud

Godmaker, #becauseloud

It’s almost impossible to reconcile the sweetness of  Pete Ross with his severe on stage presence as the lead singer for Godmaker. As they’re loading out of their rehearsal space, Pete says, “Tracey, do you want to see my new guitar?” He lovingly takes it out of his case and presents it like a first time father presents a new born. A little later we’re talking about all the events in his life that led him to Godmaker: Laguardia, Julliard, a hard core tour . “I was kicked out of my last band,” he tells me. “For drugs. This summer I’ll be sober for a year.” I’m kind of thrown by his openness, his willingness to be so vulnerable so immediately. Later, when Godmaker hits the stage, I realize it’s the same thing he forces from the audience; there is no small talk, it’s an immediate moment of truth.

Bassist Andrew Archey is covered in tattoos and recovering from a particularly social weekend packing t-shirts to bring to the show. This band is ambitious, they have every size in three different styles. While Jon Lane, one of the most powerful drummers on the east coast, breaks down his kit at the practice spot, they banter back and forth like brothers, and there is something so familial about it, it’s hard to believe they didn’t grow up in the same house. Archey is from Edison, NJ and Lane is from Lawrence, Kansas.

Chris Strait, Godmaker’s guitar player, also from Kansas, pulls up in a spray painted  Kombucha Brooklyn van, exuding health and wholesomeness. And there is something wholesome about Godmaker. Live, they have devised a way to find every empty particle of space and fill it with immediate noise. Every molecule is a hypnotic explosion.  If it’s not love at first sight, you can’t not like this band. They’ve taken everything that’s great about sludge metal and made it their own, but right when you think it’s going to get even heavier, you’re being lured toward some country. Cool country. Country you can smoke blunts to at a friend’s barbecue in their backyard on the 4th of July kind of country. Actually out in the country type country. Kansas type country.

There is something holy about this band. Something about their music will restore your faith in the power of metal. Come and be healed

June 10, 2014 at Grand Victory, 245 Grand St. Brooklyn.  More info about Godmaker here: https://www.facebook.com/godmakerbk

A Letter to Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez

Dear Negro,

After the Vulcan show at the Blue Note, now, almost a month ago, I asked you “If I wrote you a letter about what I was thinking while Vulcan was playing would you read it?” You looked at me with the same earnesty I asked, Yes, you said, yes.

At that champagne and vodka and throbbing explosive flower pussy 3 am moment, everything I had to say was pulsing on the surface of my skin, fresh from the experience of live Vulcan but I was tired and it was loud.

First, know this: in January of 2010 when you came to perform in Cuba, when we saw each other. I was there, as you know, living in a budget hotel in Havana during a cold winter I had not prepared for. The shower in my room only had cold water, and when I went down to the front desk to ask if I could switch rooms, they would accompany me back up to my room, run the shower for like 10 minutes until it got a little less cold, and tell me it was hot.

I was into my 6th month of filming “They Will Be Heard” and trying to adjust to a daily existence of documenting a metal band within the context of not understanding anything. Not just the language, but why things were the way they were. Why cold was hot. Why everything had to be so difficult and impossible all the time.

There was also a strange and difficult relationship with Escape, as a first time director who had personal relationships with the band, and, trying to reconcile what my relationship as someone from a country where not having hot water in the middle of winter was something new.

I’m trying to condense a lot of what I was feeling and experiencing at that time, where general frustration was no longer something I experienced every now and then and could step back from, but it became part of my personality, it was how I woke up each morning and greeted the day. Escape could not understand this. They never expected things to get better, so they were never frustrated. I was unable to do that. I always wanted things to be better. For everyone.

On that morning when I met you and Jenny and Josefina at the hotel in Havana, and you were so happy, I realized I had forgotten to smile. And you just being there, arms open, “Traceeeeey!” So much weight was taken from me, I physically felt lighter. Without even knowing you taught me in that moment that it’s almost always in reach to be happy. It’s almost always easier to be happy. And I want you to know how powerful that was, your smile.

On March 18th, 2014, in NYC, I arrived with Jenny and Edgar at The Blue Note, and we were sat in an awkward spot until Jenny recognized a friend and who invited us to join them. I was sat up front, almost up against the stage. I had my camera, but when you shoot you immediately become an observer, a witness. I made the choice to become a participant in the performance, to allow myself to become mesmerized by each moment and not step outside what was happening. Yet each piece was compelling me to act, to be, to exist. I could not stop my mind from racing, trying to explain this music, these songs to someone else, what would I say? Over and over again, I thought, How did they know to get together and do that? Hearing Vulcan is hearing a battle cry, a spiritual, a message from our ancestors, something holy and sacrosanct, a ritual that involves fire and rebirth.

I woke up this morning to find the Blood Moon tonight. It was 3 am, and I didn’t want to roam the city streets by myself with my camera so I jumped into a taxi with an Egyptian taxi driver, Hamada. We drove around Jersey City, trying to find the light, trying to find the moon. The moon was no where to be found. “Maybe you come back earlier tomorrow night and you find it,” he told me. I got home and put on some coffee, thinking I would try again. But this letter was fighting me. It was insisting to be finished this morning.

In my life, I’ve always decided to do things and then I’ve done it. This documentary, like everything Cuban, is unnecessarily complicated and taking too long. Not only the film, but my own personal journey of getting where I want to be on many levels, has been the Rock of Sysiphus.

When I began making “They Will Be Heard,” I believed with all my heart it would be completed and be successful. That I would be completed and successful. That if I followed my dream and was determined and committed that the “right people would show up at the right time.” That the “universe would conspire to help me.” I have learned, trying to finish this film, that belief and universe and the secret is all bullshit. The “law of attraction” works for people who are well connected or have awesome hair. I’ve learned over the last four years, not without a great deal of pain and sadness, which I suppose accompanies every transformation, that there is no special force outside of us, no level of energy that brings us material well being, no special thinking that brings us success. What there is, happily, is people. What’s made the last four years tolerable is the incredible support of my friends and family.

The best thing about the last four years is that it’s over and I heard the performance of Vulcan as both a goodbye to that era in my life and a hello to what is about to come. The music that isn’t a magic coming out of thin air, but a magic coming from the hearts and blood life and fingers and breath of who we all are. Vulcan doesn’t come from a mystery, it comes from what people want to say.

There was a Vulcan piece, in the beginning, that reminded me so much of when I was 8 years old. Our living room was small, there was a record player and the speakers were placed on top and below the record player. During the day, when my mother didn’t work, she would play Olivia Newton John or Linda Ronstadt or the soundtrack to Star Wars and she had a million things to do. I would grab on to her legs like they were an old lover and she would let me dance there. This record player was also where my parents would play records before we had to get to bed.

Listening to Vulcan at the Blue Note that night brought me exactly there. To where I knew I was safe, to where I was hearing what I was ready for, but there, in the back of my dreams, the sounds of what was to come. That is Vulcan.

Love you always,
Tracey

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