Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beautiful Mother - Vanilla (2011)

My nice friend and roommate Andy has collaborated with my other friend Dan on a collection of songs about sexual shame and dysfunction. Andy also plays bass in Like Rats and guitar in Weekend Nachos. Dan plays drums in Like Rats. This is highly recommended for fans of Steve Albini, Skin Graft Records, and nullos.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Steve Taylor - I Want to be a Clone (1982)

Here is a bizarre, Christian new wave record that is cooler than almost every black metal record I've heard. Abort all fools.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Jimmy Jones - Watch Out for da Big Girl (1996)

Watch out for da big girl. Watch out for da big girl. Watch out for da big girl. Watch out for da big girl. Watch out for da big girl. Wath ouy foe ad gig birl.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hossam Ramzy - Best of Hossam Ramzy

Biggest seller on this thing is the version of "Khusara Khusara," popularly known to white people as the song sampled in "Big Pimpin'." This was part of a healthy stash left in our apartment by previous tenants. Get high off of my supply.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cianide Interview

I interviewed legendary Chicago death metal outfit Cianide over at Invisible Oranges, so take a look ya turkey: Cianide interview

"We're just neanderthals. I'm cutting my lawn with a Venom shirt on, just sweating. Total neanderthal shit, man."

Their new record is also amazing, so consider enjoying that.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Arab on Radar - Queen Hygiene II (1997)

As a man afflicted with sexual dysfunction in the form of debilitating delayed ejaculation, Arab on Radar comforts me. I'm not the only one. I'm not the only one who is broken.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Huey "Piano" Smith - Having a Good Time (1959)

This chunk of proto-rock/proto-R&B has the same song over and over, but at least it's a good song. It also has the same descending piano lick over and over, but at least it's a good lick.

"Don't You Just Know It" was on these Wolfman Jack compilation tapes my dad gave me as a youth, and I was obsessed with it. I had impeccable taste, even as a child. Somehow that all went wrong around the onset of puberty when I got really into ska.

Anyway, this shit is unbearably catchy, and you can probably make some friends with these call & response choruses.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Patrick Stump Interview

I interviewed Patrick Stump not too long ago when he played at Schuba's in Chicago, and I present here the un-truncated transcription. If you're interested in the mind of a pop song genius or two guys nerding out about Michael Jackson, keep reading. Also, his EP Truant Wave, is, as expected, weird, super-catchy, and vaguely reminiscent of Prince, so track that down.


Bottled water? Pillaging the earth of its resources?

Actually, I’m super against the bottled water. But, on this tour, logistically it was kind of rough. I was going to get the water bottles that have the filter in them. I figured I’d take water off the rider, because, even if it’s coming out of the pipe brown, if it’s going through a filter, it’s going to be fine. I couldn’t find it in time.

Consumer ethics on tour are tricky.

It’s rough, man!

Eating at McDonald’s and…

Well, I still don’t break that rule. I won’t eat at McDonald’s on tour. I will occasionally in other countries out of morbid curiosity. I just want to see what happens there.

What does happen there?

Everything is regionalized. Everything is regionalized. If you go into Canada, you can get poutine. You go to Japan, and you can get wasabi for the nuggets. They have lobster in Maine. Sometimes it’s cool to try it. Well, I haven’t done the lobster, since Maine is in America and that breaks my rule, but…

[laughs] You’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

So let’s get into this a little. One of the things that I’m very curious about is that, since you’re doing this by yourself and there’s a lot going on in the songs…is this all a fully-formed product in your head that you then pick out or do you create something then layer it?

It’s hard to describe, because it kind of is a fully-formed thing in my head. It’s just a matter of what sounds am I going to use to achieve that. Somebody like Michelangelo, you know, somebody huge….was saying that he starts with a rock…well, “started,” he’s been dead for awhile now…Anyway, he would see his finished product in there, and it was his job to get it out. It’s kind of like that, in that I know what I want to get, and I know what I want it to sound like.

Actually, you can go overboard trying to get it, too, since you’re by yourself, and there’s nobody there to stop you, and you can layer on as many things as you want. There is a lot of experimentation, but I usually have a pretty good idea of what I want it to sound like.

I imagine a lot of details like that come out in “jamming,” but you can’t really just “jam” if you’re doing it by yourself.

That’s interesting because I don’t really “jam” that well. Sometimes I have creative dreams where I’ll get flashes of it, and then I just have to figure out how to do that. That happens to me a lot. A lot of these songs are things that I heard it in my head pretty much as it is, and then I have to go back and reverse engineer it to get it that way.

Similarly, something like Prince, where that dude is just a maniac…

And I know for sure that he just does kind of screw around sometimes and he is just experimenting with things.

I think in some other interview you referenced Timbaland.

Yeah, yeah! His drums are huge to me!

So, something like that is just layers upon layers. So, you have a pretty good idea of the rhythm you’re looking for?

Yeah! I’ll know the general groove. Lyrics come last in that context. They might be written beforehand, but they get applied to the song last.

On my version of Thriller, it has the home demo of “Billie Jean,” and I was blown away because it has the little violin part [at the end of the chorus]. I was like, “whoa, that dude was planning on doing that all along!”

That’s what’s crazy, because there’s so much you think is maybe Quincy Jones. But it’s really just Michael just going nuts. Or the home demo of “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.” You can hear him talking to Janet because she’s in the background singing harmonies, and he’s like “I need more cowbell in the phones.” But the song as a whole sounds pretty remarkably like the album version.

Speaking of which, did you hear the new Michael Jackson record?

Yeah, I did. It was a tough decision, because I was like “do I listen to this and commit sacrilege?” But, at the end of the day, it’s still a new Michael Jackson record, and that’s amazing.

“Behind the Mask” is insane.

There’s a few songs on there that I’m like “if he were still alive, that would have been a hit.” Like “Hollywood.” There’s that one song that they released first…”Breaking News,” which is just scathing.

He’s pissed!

He’s so pissed off! I was psyched on it, because it’s like hearing him yell. He’s mad. I was like “killer!”

Although he didn’t drop any racial slurs in that one.

[laughs] Next time, next time.

So, at some level, these new songs of yours sound like hip-hop, where the focus is on a beat or a groove. However, Fall Out Boy is much more melodic.

Everything has always been rhythm to me. Even in Fall Out Boy where it’s more melodic. I always kind of wrote music like a hip-hop beat where it’s kind of separate from melody. You leave space for it to be melodic, but it’s more or less thought out before the melody was there.

And sometimes it was even separate. I would read Pete’s lyrics and have a melody without any music. And I would find songs that I had already written the groove to that it would fit over. It was always different. I still rarely ever do the thing where you freestyle the melody and come up with the words later. Words are everything to me. If I don’t have the words first, then there’s no song.

One of my biggest struggles in writing songs is combining my gibberish words with actual lyrics.

That’s the thing! I find that it’s easier to take words first and make a melody out of them rather than trying to go the other way around. I kind of learned the way that I do it now by accident, because that’s just the way that Fall Out Boy wrote. It’s really rewarding for me as a writer. I’m always happier with the lyric when I spent some time on it just as words first, and then later found a place for it.

Speaking of that, Saves the Day’s Through Being Cool is really hard to sing along with because of that phenomenon. You can tell that dude had his melody, and just kind of jammed lyrics into it.

There’s a lot of strategically placed “whoa”s that fill in those gaps.

People will put on “Shoulder to the Wheel” and sing along with every word, and I’m like “how are you even doing that?”

You just love that song that much. You just know it. [laughs]

In a lot of your songs, I find the pre-chorus to be catchier than the chorus. Do you ever do that on purpose?

[laughs] Yeah, sometimes. Speaking of Michael Jackson, his choruses are almost never choruses. When you look at “Billie Jean,” it’s all about the [sings]”People always told me be careful what you do.” Also, Prince! Look at “Controversy.” [sings]”Some people want to die so they can be free” is the catchy part. There’s almost no chorus in that song.

It’s not usually conscious. I’ve tried a lot of different types of song-writing, and that’s kind of the A-B form that’s been sticking with me lately.

Even something like “Spotlight” where the chorus is kind of big, the part of the song that actually sticks with me is the pre-chorus.

And that’s what I wrote it around, too. In fact, they may have been two separate songs originally. I think I might have been singing the pre-chorus, and then just threw in the “Spotlight” at the end. And I was like, “Oh, that could be more of a hook!” And I made it into a whole song.

How did you become such a good singer? Just listening to your discography, you get markedly better throughout time.

I got less scared of my own voice. I did get better, but I also think that I was better than I was singing. I started out, and I was in this punk scene with all of these pop punk bands. I was a drummer and I always wanted to sing back-ups, and all of my bands were really disparaging of my voice. They were all like, “Ugh, your voice is so pretty.”

So, I was really scared of it. I was kind of ashamed of it. I wasn’t trying to sing in Fall Out Boy, I was trying to be the drummer/songwriter or whatever. So, when they asked me to sing, I was like, “Ok, I guess you want me to sing ‘pop punk.’” So I affected my voice a lot more. I was still really hiding behind that.

I never really sang the way I actually sing in front of them for years. I did a little falsetto at the end of that song “Saturday,” and I was just messing around, and Pete was like, “Do that! That’s awesome!”

They embraced the way I sang, and that got me to relax a bit and be more honest about the way I sing. And it’s not even like I was dishonest, I was just terrified. It’s a lot easier to do an impersonation of what you think a singer is supposed to sound like than to go out and be yourself.

That’s one of the things that my mom said when she heard this new EP. She’s like, “You finally, totally sound like you.”

That’s a good compliment.

That’s a big compliment. That’s a huge compliment. That made me feel really happy.

I’ve worked with a lot of really amazing singers in the studio, too, who have these really amazing voices, but they’re kind of hiding behind something affected. The biggest lesson I ever learned is just let it out. You singing in the shower? Do that. That’s better than all the other stuff you do.

But also the shower just has really nice acoustics.

It does! It just makes you want to sing.

What do you sing along to?

You know what’s weird? I used to sing along a lot. I used to sing along to everything. To Michael Jackson records, to R&B records, to punk records. Now, when I’m not making music, I don’t listen to music. I just relax. It’s weird. It’s a totally different thing now.

I said this once to somebody, and I was like, “You’ve gotta think that porn stars might have the most vanilla sex lives.” And this guy was like, “Actually, I know Nina Hartley and she’s very prominent in the swinger’s scene.” And I was like, “Sorrrrr-ry. I don’t go to a lot of those parties, I’ll be honest. And I didn’t know that.”


When I go home, it’s kind of quiet. I can’t be very passive, when there’s music around. It’s hard for me to watch shows, because I want to play. I can’t dance because I want to play. So, I don’t sing along anymore.

So, when you write songs, do you steal? I know I have a list of songs that I want to take an idea from, be it a chord change or…

I think everybody does something akin to that. Some people outright steal, some people pay homage…I’ve done all of it. There are songs that happen where you don’t know where they come from, and there are songs that happen that you know exactly where they come from.

There’s a song that I’ll play tonight that’s on Soul Punk, and it’s called “Everybody Wants Somebody.” And I know that I built that song around wanting to play live drums like an old Linndrum from Minneapolis. Like Prince, or The Time, or Vanity 6…something like that. I wanted it to sound like those kind of drums. It’s kind of a composite groove of the best of those drum grooves. Sometimes there will be simple things like that, and that’s what starts the song.

Everybody steals. It’s important to know…how to be comfortable with it. Fall Out Boy, early on, took a lot from Saves the Day and Green Day…some Lifetime, a couple Kid Dynamite things. Just as Green Day is fairly open about taking from The Who and The Ramones. You take from your heroes, but you’re you, so it’s going to sound different.

I also feel that the more further removed the genre is, the more comfortably one can steal.

That’s one of the things that’s funny…I was reading something about Prince. A jazz musician said he saw Prince at the show, and he did this one drum fill…a very signature drum fill that was his drum fill…and then Prince’s record came out, and there was his drum fill. And it’s like “whatever.” It wasn’t on MTV so no one knew it unless you were at that show. But everyone does it. And most of us don’t even know we’re doing it half the time. It’s just being open to the experience, I guess.

You did vocals for the new Weekend Nachos LP. Are you still in touch with any hardcore or metal?

Yeah, yeah. It’s one of those things where…it’s not one of those things where it goes away, where it’s not part of my life anymore. I was really attracted to a lot of the political bands, you know? Tim from Rise Against…I was always into all of his bands. I was really into Racetraitor. You know, I was into a lot of the political hardcore bands in Chicago.

And right when [Fall Out Boy] started, a lot of the people were abandoning it and making different music altogether, like Pelican. Then you also had a lot of the really tough guy crew hardcore bands. I always dug that stuff, but I didn’t feel as communal with it. I didn’t feel like I could hang so much.

So, it’s cool now seeing bands like Weekend Nachos. Weekend Nachos in the first place kind of started out as a joke then got really good. They weren’t taking it seriously, then got kind of awesome.

So yeah, I still keep in touch with some of my friends, but it’s hard to keep in touch with anybody anymore honestly. I’m kind of an outsider now. I’m kind of back to being a mailorder kid. [laughs] I came full circle.

Sending away to Asian Man Records.

Yes. Or what was it?


No, no. Very Distribution.

I don’t think I ever ordered from them.

Very was this giant catalogue, and it would just be full of…they had every hardcore record you could ever want in there in like five different colors.

My money all went to Asian Man, Hopeless, Lookout!, and Dr. Strange.

Absolutely. I sent a lot of money to Asian Man. I sent a lot of money to Lookout!.

So, you have a mainstream audience at this point. But you’re still someone who came out of this subcultural scene. I think this is really interesting because, speaking of those political hardcore bands, it’s like “oh yeah, all the kids in black t-shirts can hang out in the corner and be mad about stuff together.” But you get to talk to people outside of that group with your music.

Which is something of a….something of a plan. Definitely not a full on plan, but it’s something that I’m not going to shy away from. I was always attracted to making more or less pop music. But I’m still as into the things that got me into the punk community in the first place. I’m still as into the politics.

So, I get to say a lot of things to an audience…Well, I would have gotten to say these things to a punk audience, but they would all agree with me so that’s whatever. I think that’s potentially more powerful.

See, but that’s the thing. Fall Out Boy got slammed a bit for leaving politics behind. We were a vegan straight edge band when we started. There’s one straight edge vegan in the band now. We ended up not singing about that stuff as far as people know. But, we really got into metaphor, and disguising a lot of things. Especially on the last two records [Infinity on High and Folie a Deux]. They were very political…openly political. And people were like “oh, they’re talking about being famous.” And I’m like, “Fuck man! That’s not even close!” Especially on the last record.

I could be accused of the same thing when you listen to Soul Punk. On the surface, a lot of these things sound like I’m talking about girls and parties. I’m not. Ever. Everything is something else, and that’s kind of the point. And I get to do that. I get to say really extreme shit, but I’m disguising it as a girl. I’m disguising it as a drinking song. I can say pretty left wing shit.

So you are actively using your “fame?”

Yeah it’s not like…not in a contrived way. Artistically, that’s how I want to say it now. I don’t want to scream anymore. I’m tired of proclaiming it. I want to express what I’m thinking, and that’s the way that’s been cathartic for me to express it. I feel better after writing this way. Not to sound too posi. [laughs]

So, even as a celebrity…I mean how many Twitter followers do you have? When you say something, people are going to pay attention.

Yeah, well...sometimes. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t. I wrote about rescue animals. I wrote something about making an effort to get rescue animals a home. I also wrote about having never seen an episode of Jersey Shore. I’ll give you two guesses which one got retweeted more.

But then again, if you blog or anything like that, you can sort of figure out how to push people’s buttons so they comment or whatever.

Yeah, and there’s definitely some psychology to it. But, I always just try to be honest and say what I’m really thinking. I never want to be full-on contrived, but I do want to say things to people.

And…this is actually one of the things that I think I’ve learned. This is a big difference between me now and me ten years ago. I used to be so angry that the only way I could handle it was confrontation. I had to confront you about what you’re doing wrong. About how fucked up what you’re doing is. Now, I’m just as pissed off, but now I’m going to empathize with you and force you to empathize with me so you understand where I’m coming from. So we listen to each other and actually get something done. Because I really do believe in this shit.

Yeah and that perspective…it’s sort of like when you’re sixteen and you get all mad about bands “selling out.” Then you get a little older and you’re like, “oh wait.”

Yeah, and with selling out…I used to believe that it was this thing that you had a choice in the matter. But you don’t! You have no choice!

I remember sending an angry letter…[laughs]

Tell it! Tell it!

I’m having a hard time speaking because this is so funny to me. I sent an angry e-mail to Thursday when they signed to Victory Records. [laughter]

The thing is…there’s perception that somehow going indie is more legit or whatever. There are dishonest douchebags everywhere. That’s another really dark lesson I had to learn. The indie dudes aren’t cool, either. They’re all trying to cheat you.

We [Fall Out Boy] didn’t think anyone was going to come to our shows. We didn’t think we were going to be a big band. You don’t really make these choices.

And the thing that fucked us up, is that on each record, we actually did try to get more and more weird…more and more out there. Because we were really scared of being this big band. And somehow we got even bigger. And I was like, “Well, shit…”

I’ve got one more thing I want to ask you. So, you have this EP. You have this LP. I assume you have years of weird backlogged material. How do you approach this? Are you releasing an album? Are you releasing a compilation of your best material?

The first thing I tried was recording my “best of.” Recording all my best songs that hadn’t been released yet. I tried that and it sucked. I was happy with all the songs, but it didn’t make any damn sense as an album. So I went back, and scrapped most of it. I picked a couple songs that made sense with each other and made an album around that.

Which, again, is why the music and the lyrics got to be so distinctly metaphorical. The songs that I thought really worked together had that vibe. There were some songs that had that angry political vibe. And there were some songs that were musically very different. So, it is very much an album to me.

And that’s the other thing is where do I go now? I have a potential second record that is totally different. Maybe more poppy. But I don’t know that any of that is ever going to come out. By the time I make record two, what am I going to be doing?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gorguts - Obscura (1998)

One of my first trips to Chicago's Metal Haven (RIP) was part of a lunch date with my mother. I had recently gotten into "technical death metal" and I was obsessed with Cryptopsy. I hadn't heard Gorguts, but I was aware that they were another totally crazy French-Canadian death metal band. A promo copy of Obscura was in the used section, and I bought it (along with a dumb Marduk CD I think). I put it on in the car ride home, and my mom immediately asked me to turn it off.

This record is absolutely insane. So heavy. So weird. Consistently one of my favorite albums ever since that fateful day what must have been eight years ago.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Party Boyz - The Bass, The Booty & The Cash (1992)

I've been posting a lot of serious metal records recently, so maybe you guys forgot that I like Miami bass. While Miami produced many impeccable singles such as "Tootsee Roll," "Face Down, Ass Up," and "Whoomp! (There It Is)," the full-length albums from these artists were surprisingly good as well. We've got a sort of Motorhead effect, where consistency and steadiness rule the day. Clearly, there is a Miami bass framework, and, if you just plug in clever and vulgar lyrics, you can create LP after LP of songs that I want to listen to.

The highlight of this record is obviously "give me hed til I'm ded." I too am the one who wants head until I'm dead.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tom Warrior Interview

When Triptykon came through Chicago a few months ago, I got to interview my musical hero Tom G Warrior. I also gave him a Like Rats 7", so hopefully he thought that was cool. The interview ran on the Alarm Press blog, but I'm posting the full thing right here right now. Enjoy.

You’ve taken control of everything at this point. Having read your books, you’ve experienced some shady practices in the music industry. For the new Triptykon LP and this new EP, have you successfully navigated the treacherous waters of the music industry?

I would say yeah. We had the advantage of having a huge framework in place because of Celtic Frost’s last album. When we reformed Celtic Frost, we decided to keep control over everything. We formed a record company, Prowling Death Records, we formed our own music publishing company, and we put a framework in place of a manager and a combination of other things. When I left Celtic Frost, all of these people decided to come with me. I’m very happy about that, actually, and I was able to build Triptykon on the basis of that.

We retain control of everything. We have partnered with Century Media, which is a fantastic partnership. But, at the end of the day, we call all the shots, we own all the rights, every single sentence that is being released in the advertising goes over my desk, and so on. It’s a much better proposition than it used to be in the 80s when record companies just did whatever they wanted to do with everything we created.

The Shatter EP and the Eparistera Daimones LP are part of the same body of creative work. Can you comment on what you’re trying to accomplish with this, be it an emotional agenda, a political agenda, or any or all of the above?

Probably all of the above, but, on this first album, it’s predominantly emotional. Of course, the sessions from the first album reflect some of the turmoil that existed when I left Celtic Frost. There’s no way around it. There’s some social commentary in songs such as “Goetia,” but, by and large, it’s my own feelings about leaving Celtic Frost, leaving my own band, leaving the summary of my life behind in a forced manner.

I think the next album will be slightly more balanced. Nobody’s forced to read the lyrics, nobody’s forced to read the liner notes. We provide very detailed information but by no means are you required to read all that. Music is music at the end of the day, and, with music, you should create your own images in your head. I think it’s perfectly possible to listen to Triptykon without dealing with the lyrics or the liner notes. The music is intense and dark enough.
When I was a teenage fan, I didn’t speak English so well, so I just listened and the music created its own images in my head, and that’s the way it should be. It’s probably better that way.

The EP is simply the remaining tracks from the sessions. It’s not us releasing garbage or anything like that. We did very detailed pre-production before heading into the studio and we weeded out the songs that we felt were not suitable. Everything we recorded in the studio was designed to be released, but the album had such long playing time that we decided to do an additional EP later on. The song “Shatter” is, to me, actually one of the most important Triptykon songs written so far. It’s a very personal song, and, for me, musically very interesting. It’s really a standalone product, it’s not just us throwing out some material that was still on the studio floor. It’s a legitimate product.

Do you consider your body of work to be albums or to be a line of consistent creative output that is then delivered to the public via albums?

Well, the albums are of course the landmarks. But, as I’ve grown older, the album has grown less and less important in society, especially with the advent of the internet. Albums don’t mean so much anymore. They’re still somewhat landmarks for bands, but…I think you have to be consistent. Whether it’s an album or not, every song counts. For us, since this is only our second release, the EP is a very important release. It’s half of what we have released so far, so it is significant. The albums are, of course, the big project where you have all of the elaborate artwork and things, so, even in a diminished role, they’re still the most important thing.

Having read your books, you describe your musical influences in detail. You reference the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, particularly Venom and Raven amongst others, but also some punk stuff like Discharge. To me, those artists are still very “rock” sounding. They still use the pentatonic scale and have conventional song structures, whereas Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost is this chromatic, atonal thing that, to me doesn’t sound like anything else. Where did that come from?

Good question…probably from my weird mind. That’s the thing, I never went to music school, I never learned to analyze music the way you’re supposed to do it. I don’t know…it’s probably because that’s my own interpretation of what music should be like. Yeah, it probably is weird by necessity. I never knew that you’re supposed to play in the blues scale, I just played whatever was in my limited mind, and what was within the limited capabilities of my fingers. And that’s what resulted. It’s all based on my emotions, and much, much less on any theory or musical heritage. I started from scratch with a bassist, Steve Warrior, who was equally untrained, and we just did what we could. It’s very authentic, at least.

Similarly, the intro track on “To Mega Therion,” to me sounds very classical. It sounds like Richard Strauss or something.

Those are quite big words. I would never remotely rate myself anywhere near Richard Strauss. But I’ve been deeply fascinated by classical music, by the epic emotions that classical composers were able to convey in their music. Without any amplification, without any modern means, they were able to bring across such intense atmosphere, such pride, such epic landscapes. It pulled me in deeply as a child when I heard classical music. In my own tiny, minute way, we tried to do something like that on To Mega Therion in ‘85. Absolutely.

Initially, it seems that Hellhammer and Celtic Frost were sort of a novelty. This extreme thing. However, by today’s standards, those recordings are not particularly extreme. But people still care about it. For me, for example, I was listening to Suffocation and tracing my roots, and I listen to Celtic Frost and I’m like “this is pussy shit.”

The same thing happened to me in my generation.

But at some point, something clicks. What do you think makes it hold up?

That I don’t know. It’s totally inappropriate for me…I don’t know if it stands up to other people. It’s my music, I cannot rate it like “yeah, it stands up.” It would be kind of a star trip to say that. I don’t know if it holds up. People like you and our audiences decide about that.

I can repeat from before, it was very authentic. It was very honest music. At that time, there was no corporate view on extreme metal. There was no extreme metal scene. You had to devise it yourself. Everything you created was original by necessity. You had to invent it. Maybe that makes it somewhat timeless, I don’t know. It’s very honest music, and maybe the rawness has a certain appeal. When I listen to many modern extreme metal albums, they’re very over-produced. Which on one hand is fantastic; you hear all the details. On the other hand, it’s called extreme metal, after all, and it should be extreme. Maybe the rawness of the early recordings is something that appeals to people, I don’t know.

You’ve often expressed a deliberate avant-garde intention in terms of combining different genres. However, in terms of actual song-writing and riff-writing, do you do that with intention or is that more spontaneous?

It’s very spontaneous actually. My song-writing is very honest. It’s based entirely on the mood I’m in, or the emotions I’m feeling. I think it’s best evidenced on Triptykon’s first album, which is completely based on emotional turmoil and a lot of those songs happened very spontaneously. Even though afterwards I worked very extensively on these songs, but the core of the songs usually happens very spontaneously.

But the word avant-garde is a huge compliment and it’s very flattering, but it’s not something we apply to ourselves. It’s something that the press applied to us starting in the late 1980’s. It was surprising for me to read that, because I associate “avant-garde” with real art, and art is a big word to me. It’s a word I approach with a lot of respect, and I have no idea if my music actually classifies as art. So the term “avant-garde,” while very flattering…I’m very careful about it. There are real artists in the world who have really changed the world with their art. We’re just creating noisy music.

Do you think it’s possible with metal to achieve anything other than subcultural success? Do you think it’s possible to make some sort of change in the world other than having people who like “noisy music” like you?

Yeah, I actually am certain about that. Of course not on a global scale because the metal scene has been pushed back into the underground. It’s now an underground scene again, and you reach only so many people with that. But yeah, of course. Metal fans are by no means stupid. They are intelligent people. They have a very good instinct. My experience is that yeah, you can change things if you want to change things.

It’s not mandatory, metal can also be there to headbang and have a good time, which is just as legitimate. But of course if you want to convey a certain point, you also want to think about certain things. Not take everything for granted, and think a little bit behind the scenes. “Why is this like this? Why do human beings act like that?” But of course you can, you talk to those fans by means of your releases. And I’ve had uncounted amazing discussions in my life with fans who read our lyrics or… through something we did, our artwork or whatever we did, came to me or came to Martin and discussed these things with us in extreme detail and sometimes, in turn, made us think again.

Yes, definitely it’s possible. It really depends on what you want to achieve with your band. You don’t have to be a missionary. But of course, it’s also nice if you’re given this platform to talk to several generations of people and your peers that you say something meaningful, and not just sing about beer cans, you know?

Or toxic mutants or whatever.

(laughing) Exactly. Although, if you look at Hellhammer’s lyrics…

(laughing) Kind of similar, although with maybe less obvious humor

(laughing) Yeah, exactly.

Someone just posted the “A Dying God” documentary that was on Swiss TV with English subtitles

Oh Jesus…I haven’t seen it yet.

I was happy, because I tried to watch it when it came out, and I speak mild Spanish and English, so…

That probably won’t do any good.
You said something along the lines of “Celtic Frost doesn’t work when I’m happy.” Do you still feel that way about Triptykon?

That’s a good question. It’s probably less so in Triptykon, because I’m very happy in Triptykon. There’s two states of happiness, there’s your current happiness that you’re living in right now, and then there’s the feelings that you have about your life as a sum of things. And my life, as a sum of things, is rather less happy. And that’s probably where I derive my music from, and that’s why the music is so dark. But here on tour and in the band, I’m very happy because it’s a circle of friends. I know it sounds like a cliché, but Triptykon is actually a circle of friends, whereas Celtic Frost was a congregation of enemies. There’s a huge difference in that, of course, especially when you’re on tour or in the studio and you talk to each other for 24 hours a day. I’d much rather play with a band that is a substitute family than with a band that, when I turn around, stabs me in my back.

So I am happy, but there’s been enough events in my life to keep my music dark, I suppose. The one album that I made when I was happy was made twenty two years ago, and I don’t think I will repeat that mistake again.

That thing…honestly, those are still obviously your riffs.

Well not really…

Oh come on, some of them are. You have a certain rhythmic thing that you always do that still shows up on that album. So I still kind of like it, because I really like the way that you write riffs.

You know, if you write that down, they’re going to burn you at the stake. (laughing) They’re going to lynch you. Like Frankenstein. They’re going to stand outside your home with scythes, pitchforks, and torches.

Hey, I’ll defend that opinion. I don’t think that many people have honestly heard that record.

Of course not. And I’m happy about that. (laughing)

But there are still good riffs on that thing. I can listen to a lot of stuff that I don’t like that much, and still appreciate chunks of it.

Of course, of course.

Something like Slipknot, that band has riffs.

I know, I know! But even the worst Slipknot album is still a million times better than that album, I’ll say it myself.

What about that one part where you’re like “Check this out!” (on “Seduce Me”)? That’s so awesome!


You know, I haven’t heard that album in about twenty years. I don’t own it!

See, I understand, because, if I listen to stuff I made in high school…I gotta hit the stop button on it.

I’m working on my thirteenth album, I prefer the other twelve.
“Check this out,” huh? Jesus Christ…(laughing)

It’s so good!

It’s so good, huh? Sure!

You know, because you’re so famous for the “OOOH” and then you kind of tone it down into “check this out.” It’s amazing. And it comes at a really good part, too.

I should end this interview here (laughing)

Relisten to it just for the “check this out,” it’s in the first thirty seconds of the album.

I will not listen to this album until the day I die!

Listen, it’s in the first thirty seconds of the record, you’ll hear yourself say “check this out!” and you’ll be like “that’s cool!”

I’m not gonna listen to it! I don’t own it! (laughing) Seriously, I don’t own it! I would have to illegally download it!

It’s on all the blogs, that’s where I got it.

I’ll also ask you, what did you do in the 90s?

I wonder myself. Well, I worked on Celtic Frost’s last album that was never completed until early 1993, then the band fell apart. I lived in America at the time, first in New York, then in Texas. Then I moved back to Europe with my then-American wife. I completely left the music industry for a couple of years. I was totally fed up after all the events of the 1980s. We got screwed so royally by the recording industry that I just…I didn’t know if it was a permanent break or just a temporary break, but I sold all my equipment, I completely retired from this shit. I became like a normal citizen for awhile.

Then a Swiss band approached me to produce them in 1995 or so. That never happened, but I became very close friends with the guitar player, Erol Unala. Eventually we decided to form a project together, which was the industrial project Apollyon Sun. There was no timeframe set for this project, we didn’t know whether it was going to be a long-term thing. Eventually, we recorded two CDs with Apollyon Sun. To me, that was good enough. It really provided me with a musical break that I needed. I had been playing extreme metal all my life, ever since Hellhammer, and I’d never done anything else. I really needed to have different horizons. A complete, drastic change to really clear out my mind. And it was nice being, for the first time, not the leader of the band, but one of five song-writers and just basically the singer. I hardly ever played guitar. It was very refreshing. It put a very different spin on making music.
I came out of that project completely ready to continue where I had left off. That’s ultimately the reason I reformed Celtic Frost. I came out completely refreshed and I think that, without Apollyon Sun and the second half of the 90s, that wouldn’t have happened. We wouldn’t be sitting here right now. My 90s in a nutshell.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Varathron - His Majesty at the Swamp (1993)

For a brief period in the early 1990s, Greek metal bands zeroed in on the "epic but not cheesy" market. This album is the best of the bunch as far as I'm concerned.

Tempos rarely rise above a mid-paced stomp, giving this album the feel of Celtic Frost's "Procreation of the Wicked" or one of Iron Maiden's longer epics, and this album is full of harmonic minor single-string riffs. Also, do you guys remember when Dave Mustaine freaked out about sharing a bill with Rotting Christ and also had beef with Dissection? Hilarious.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Zero Kama - The Secret Eye of L.A.Y.L.A.H. (1984)

While Zero Kama's back story is tailor-made for angsty pseudo-goth teens (instruments made out of human bones!), this record is totally unsettling regardless of any attached narrative. Steady rhythms touch the innate capacity for ritualistic behavior while aimless melodies induce crawling skin and altered perceptions of reality. If you want to doubt your own humanity for an hour, this recording is for you.