I recently had the pleasure of asking Ryan, the drummer from CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL and founder of I've Come For Your Children and MEATcube Label Records. Grab the double cassette discography here before they're all gone.
How was the band chronologically assembled? Under what circumstances?
Matt and I were playing in a band called The Baldwin Mass Suicide from 2002-2003. At the end of 2003, the band started falling apart, so we decided to start something new together. The aim was a band more focused musically and politically. We wrote a few songs, just the two of us, before meeting Ian and having him join on bass.
Why the name, CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL?
I was reading a book, either Phillip Roth or Cormac McCarthy, and saw the phrase cease upon the day. I thought it sounded really odd, sort of off-kilter english. The last word was changed to capitol because that sounded a bit political. That’s pretty much it.
What side-projects and/or offshoots have the band members taken part in?
Haha… a lot.
So, for me, I was playing guitar & vocals in another band at the time of CUTC called Sanctions. It’s more crust punk hardcore stuff. After CUTC disbanded, that became my primary band. I also did a recording project with Lars and Sabine from React With Protest called Singaia. We did one split with Battle Of Wolf 359, but didn’t do anything else.
Matt was playing bass in a band called The Fear And The Trembling while CUTC was going on. They played spacey arena rock. After CUTC, he formed Dolcim, who released a couple of albums on RWP and toured Europe a couple of times.
Roy (our last bassist) played in Dolcim some after CUTC, but then formed Altar of Complaints with Dolcim’s drummer. They sort of sound like Dolcim and CUTC, and are still playing!
What bands most directly influenced CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL’s songs over the years?
That’s tough, because it changed over time. In the beginning, we were all european screamo junkies. But, A Day in Black & White’s first EP really blew us away and heavily influenced us for the first couple of years.
For our first album, La Quiete and Raein were some of our biggest influences, I think.
The second album was influenced a lot by Mew. We were listening to that pretty hard when writing that album.
Matt was influenced a lot by bands like Slint & Rodan.
I was influenced a lot by Envy & Dominic.
How would you describe CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL’s music?
I like to call our last stuff post-everything, cause it just felt like we’d reached the end of the line for these sub-genres we were chasing and just did our own thing.
But pretty much, aggressive, spacey screamo… That’s the easiest description.
LISTEN TO A TRACK BELOW
If you had to slap a genre label on CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL - so potential new listeners could get a good idea of your sound without hearing you, what would you label yourselves as?
Post-Everything… with screaming.
Would you consider yourselves a screamo band? What would you like to say about the genre?
Yeah, of course. I don’t like to get hung up on genre labels too much. Call it screamo, skramz, emo, whatever. There is no word that actually describes this style, just a common word to group common bands, of which we were one.
There’s usually so much going on in your songs, so I’m wondering who generally wrote the first part of a song?
Our usual writing process is that Matt would come into practice with a few similar melodies, then together we would shape it into an actual song. The recording process was a little more fun, because we’d lay down our tracks (guitar, bass, drums), and then Matt would come up with all sorts of cool guitar stuff to overlay.
You told me that you did some vocals in CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL, please talk about that.
Yeah, Ben was our bassist for most of the early stuff up to our 2006 album. When he left the band, I started doing his vocal parts and then started adding some on the new things we wrote. Playing drums and doing vocals is not that fun, though...
Songs like “3” and ”7” (which are 2 of my favourites) have both soft and hard passages. Is the shift done or purpose or does it just, sort of, happen.
Yeah, I guess so. We always strove for really dynamic songs. Part of that is soft and hard parts. I think a good balance makes for the most interesting songs. But, probably it just sort of happened a lot. We might have been jamming along, and then I drop out but Matt keeps playing or something. Even though we were more critical of songs after they were done, I think a lot of them ended up being written pretty organically.
Was there a specific person who generally is pushing for a 'slow' or 'fast' part?
I think a lot of the tracks are sort of jammed out, so sometimes we’re just flowing along and we play what feels right. I mean, I liked playing fast, so I would usually try to play something crazy over something that Matt was playing slow. Maybe my slow parts were just me getting tired. :-)
Did you generally write a song from start to end, or does it get jumbled around?
Usually the core of the song is worked out in succession. Sometimes we would add beginnings or endings as needed. In the course of writing a lot of songs, we’d usually listen to them all together and work on the structure to make sure they didn’t sound too much like each other.
How long did it take CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL, on average, to write a song?
Sometimes we’d have a song written in an hour. Tracks 6 & 9 on the 2007 album were written in the studio. Other times we could be working on a song for months, changing things when we get tired of them.
What was the most difficult song to write? The easiest?
I think the first songs we wrote were the easiest, cause we were just so into it and what we wanted to do was so focused. Probably the most difficult song to write was “A Good Death” from the split with Trikorona. I don’t think we ever even played the song live because we were so sick of it after we were done writing it. Ironically, listening to it now, it’s probably one of my favorite songs that we wrote.
Can you explain the significance or meaning behind some of CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL’s artwork?
Hmm… well, I was an art student, so most of the art I did was based on things I was doing at the time. The End of History 7” was pulled from some monochromatic drawings of Japan I was doing at the time. The 2006 album US CD edition was a combination of flower line drawings and stills from a video I did. I also used a lot of art from Cindy Rehm, a friend from university. She does amazing stuff and was kind enough to let me use her artwork for the 2007 CD & LP, as well as patches and some other things. I’m sure she had some concepts she was working on. Anyways, it was more about something that looked cool and felt right and was done between friends.
I love the 2 short songs the CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL provided the Emo death series. What inspired you guys to do the lengthy spoken word intros before the songs? Who is speaking?
Matt did the speaking and wrote the monologue (lyrics?). Lars (React With Protest) asked us to do the spoken word thing, and we decided to add music behind it. Ben and Matt actually did the spoken word for the second comp by themselves.
What were the band members’ favourite songs to play and why? Did this ever lead to arguments? Did you bond over specific songs?
I don’t think we ever got into any arguments. I think we all enjoyed most of the songs, and just didn’t play ones that we didn’t like. Track 10 on the 2007 album was probably the song we bonded over the most. Once that was written, that was our show ender until we quit, the last song we ever played.
Why the unlisted/untitled songs?
When we were writing the 2006 album, we were throwing around album titles. We always wrote our songs and referred to them by numbers, and added song titles later. So, we couldn’t quite decide on a name for the album that we all liked, so we basically just agreed to make it all untitled. I thought it might fuck with internet people too, since there are no song titles. But, they made up song titles anyways, which is ridiculous. When we wrote the 2007 album (ep?) we had to nickname the songs, since numbers wouldn’t work. We basically nicknamed them around what they sounded like. There was “Dominic”, “Coldplay”, “Happy”, “Last Song”, etc… I’ll let you guess which songs those were. :-)
How did your hometowns influence CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL?
We were all from Nashville, or nearby. The Nashville scene was always a little weird and fragmented. We had some really great bands like From Ashes Rise, Asschapel, and Process is Dead. But, when we started playing, most of those bands weren’t really around. It was kind of a dry period in the scene and it was pretty isolating for us. We’d play shows where there was literally two or three people there. It didn’t help that Matt and I are sort of introverts. I think that was one of the main reasons that we focused on other countries, because it felt so dead in America for us. Europe was amazing and welcoming, people actually came to see us play. I think if our hometown influenced us at all, it was to make us look elsewhere.
How did CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL help you progress as a musician? Person?
Well, I definitely became a better drummer and songwriter through the band. I think we both did, and I think that’s obvious in our music. As a person, I had a lot of life experiences through the band and learned a lot about myself.
What is the best CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL tour story?
Man… It’s tough to remember (over 6 years now since we were last together). A pretty good one was on our 2007 US tour with The Third Memory. We had (sort of) booked a show in Wilson, North Carolina. It was a (sort of) friend of The Third Memory who set up the show. We got there, in the middle of a suburb, and it was a birthday party for a 10 year old, with mostly his family there. Totally awkward, we tried to figure out whether we were going to leave or not. Roy ended up drinking some moonshine that the grandfather offered, Matt played something (not CUTC), and then we went to a house party afterwards. Totally weird night.
How did you become involved with React With Protest Records?
I’d been doing my label (I’ve Come For Your Children, now MeatCubeLabel) for a couple of years and had contacted Lars about doing some trades. I sent him some of our demo tracks and asked him if he’d co-release the first 7”. He passed, but offered us a spot on the Emo Armageddon compilation instead. We kept talking, and when the album started being talked about, he offered to put it out. The rest is history.
What was the biggest surprise that came CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL’s way?
The biggest surprise for me was talking to Michele (La Quiete / Raein) in Italy, and him telling me he liked my drumming. I was a HUGE fan of his drumming and he (and his bands) was hugely influential to a lot of the early CUTC stuff. That was definitely an honor for me.
Looking back, how do you feel about your older releases? The band?
I feel really proud about what we did and accomplished in the short time we were together. It was a wild ride as short as it was, but we burned bright. Even some of the songs I’m not too into have some nostalgia for me.
Why did CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL disband?
There were some personal issues in the band, we were all going different directions in life. I think it was time. We did what we were together for and ended on a high note.
Would a CEASE UPON THE CAPITOL reunion show be a possibility?
Doubtful. I’m living in Seattle now and haven’t touched a drumset in over three years. Matt and Roy are still in Tennessee, but I doubt we’d ever get back together.
What musical endeavors are you currently pursuing?
I mess around on the computer, making video game metal, but nothing serious. I’ve thought about picking up the drum sticks again, but just haven’t really found the time. Matt isn’t playing in anything either, that I know of. Roy is active in Altar of Complaints, with members from Dolcim and Dawn. Definitely check them out.
Check out the OPENmind/SATURATEDbrain review of the band's discography here.
Considering the point of this blog is to introduce people to new bands, which bands would you recommend checking out?
Wow, well, there are so many great bands in Japan right now, it’s hard to narrow them down. I would say that I try to release the best music I find in Japan, so the bands I release are definitely my recommendations.
Stubborn Father, from Osaka, play emotional, experimental hardcore that is truly original.
Tetola93, from Ashikaga, play frenetic, melodic emo-violence mixed with punk.
Mother, from Kyoto, play rocking screamo, like Yaphet Kotto.
Those are my big picks for right now, although there’s so much more it’s ridiculous.
How do you find out about new music?
These days, it’s mostly looking at other bands that play with the bands I like. I can’t physically go to the shows in Japan, so I subscribe to a lot of youtube channels and follow people on Twitter. When I find a band name I don’t know, I search them down to see if they’re any good. I find a ton of stuff that way.
Why did you call your record label MeatCubeLabel?
I did a short project with Lars & Sabine, from React with Protest (also Arsen, Resurrectionists, The Apoplexy Twist Orchestra, etc) called Singaia. We did a split with Battle of Wolf 359, and I did the art. For the insert, I made it a foldable square of paper with meat pictures all over it. At the bottom were origami instructions on how to fold it into a cube. Hence “Meat Cube.” It’s a little ironic because we were all vegetarian/vegan, and I’m a vegetarian now. I guess I just thought it had a nice ring to it!
What was the catalyst that began the wheels of MeatCubeLabel in motion?
I started my first label, I’ve Come For Your Children, back in 2003. It lasted until 2007, when I quit due to money troubles and personal problems. In 2008, my band at the time (Sanctions) was going to release our first CD. I was going to put money into it, so I decided I might as well do a new label. I didn’t want to continue the old label, it was dead and gone, so I came up with a new name. For quite a few years, I just focused on releasing local Nashville bands, as a lot of really good ones were playing around by then. The next part goes with your next question...
MeatCubeLabel deals pretty much exclusively with Japanese bands. Why Japan?
I started my first label because of Japan. I studied over there in the winter of 2002 and was totally blown away by the amazing music over there. I was going to small studio shows with bands that were ridiculously good. I could feel my heart aching at how criminally unheard these bands were. I met a lot of people, made a lot of friends, bought (and saw) a lot of good music. When I came back to the States, I made it my mission to spread the music to the rest of the world. I started the distro first, but when Gauge Means Nothing was planning to release their first EP, I offered to do it on vinyl.
Fast forward to 2011, I’ve moved to Seattle, post-CUTC, post-Sanctions. I’m mostly working and being with my family. I start a blog to post all the super-rare, out of print Japanese music I still have. Most of the bands I knew have since broken up, and I don’t really know much of what’s going on. I start getting comments, and people start paying attention. I look back into the Japanese scene and realize that it is really on fire. Probably more bands than when I was first into it. So, I basically refocused my label to be completely on Japan.
As to why Japan? Because it has some of the best bands in the world that have never been heard. Simple.
What is the easiest and most difficult part about running a record label?
Easiest… I don’t know if there’s anything really easy about it. Well, it’s easy to get excited about new bands! The most difficult is definitely just getting money for releases, finding enough to put out all the music I want to. I’ve got a little more wiggle room now that I’m an adult, but I still can’t blow my whole paycheck on an LP pressing that won’t sell, unfortunately.
What has been the label’s best and worst experience thus far?
The best experience is probably my most recent releases. There’s been a huge outpouring by the community for the Cease Upon The Capitol discography and Stubborn Father cassettes, and I couldn’t be happier.
Worst is having to stop my first label and tell people I couldn’t do releases. I really hated that.
I’m sure you’ve been to many countries. Which countries appealed to you guys the most? The least?
There’s probably not a least country. I’m a fan of just about everywhere. Japan, obviously, appeals the most. I get really excited when I find a new band in a new country. That is the funnest. A perfect example is when I found Fall of This Corner, from Taiwan, several years back. It was so cool to see this awesome band playing original hardcore music in Taiwan.
You were good friends with The Third Memory, tell us about that relationship.
Julien, Third Memory’s guitarist, co-released the European CD pressing of our 2006 album with Impure Muzik. That’s the first place I met him, and when we toured Europe in 2006, we played a show together and really got to know each other. They are amazingly friendly guys and such an amazing band. When I got back to the States from that tour, Mike (another one of the best guys on the planet) Rok Lok talked to me about releasing their recent album on vinyl. We made that happen, and then brought them over to tour USA with CUTC in 2007.
What are your future plans, short and/or long term?
Short Term is to release more great Japanese music.
Long Term is to release more great Japanese music.
Somewhere in there is to sell that music to awesome people.
What is the most exciting thing to happen to music as of late?
Cheap/free recording via software. It enables so many awesome bands in developing countries to record their music and get it out to the world. I think Russia is a great example, since there’s a flood of music coming out of there these days.
The other thing is the Internet, still. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without it, and as more people get connected in other countries it makes communication just that much easier.
What are your thoughts regarding mainstream music?
Eh, as I get older I get more relaxed with music. I really just listen to what makes me feel something. Sometimes that’s a demo from an unknown Japanese band. Sometimes it’s the new Coldplay album. I think the major music industry is incredibly stupid with their business strategies, tho.
Do you still hear about bands selling out? I sure don't.
I probably don’t pay that much attention anymore. Even though I’ve been trying to go to more shows around Seattle, and there are some bands I like in the USA & Canada these days, I still just focus on the Japanese scene. Selling out isn’t as much of a thing over there, I think.
What is the most frustrating thing about the "music industry"?
There’s too much bad music out there. It’s hard to get people to notice the good stuff. There aren’t very good distribution channels for really small labels, besides trading with friend labels. I think that’s why the resurgence of cassettes is such a good thing for small labels. We don’t have to sink a thousand bucks into 300 LP’s anymore and have them gather dust in our bedrooms.
Do you find it hard to balance objectivity with emotion when listening to/playing/talking about music?
Hmm…. I think objectivity in music is pretty hard in general. Music is good if it makes you feel something, in my opinion. Bands that make me feel the most are what I want to release. Sometimes, I couldn’t give a fuck if they are objectively a good band or not. Music that makes me feel plus good people is what I’m about.
When it comes to being “punk”, I feel like a lot of the meaning that goes into being associated with that word (besides music) are lifestyle choices. What choices have you made or are trying to make?
Yeah, to me punk and DIY are pretty synonymous. Like I mentioned before, I’m a vegetarian and strongly disagree with the meat industry and how it is ruining the environment. I still strongly believe in the DIY ethic, doing nearly everything for the label myself. Beyond that, there does become some ambiguity when you grow up and have to interact with the world at large. Having a family, working a job, shit like that. I think punk takes on a different, but even more important meaning then. When people are young, immature, and have no responsibility, it’s a lot easier for them to think they’re punk. But really, the thirty and forty year olds are where you see who’s really punk and who’s not. It’s not about still having spiked hair or whatever. I think it’s really about, are you still an inquisitive person? Do you question the status quo? Do you try and enrich the world and yourself and improve people’s lives around you? That’s really what it’s about to me.
What is your biggest accomplishment? Biggest regret?
Probably marrying my wife (biggest accomplishment). Being a good husband makes me really proud. No regrets!
What bring you the most joy, these days?
Creating things. I’m a programmer now, and creating something new, building an application is such an awesome feeling. To me, it’s the same as making art or writing music. In the same vein, releasing stuff makes me feel awesome too.
What is your favourite book?
Man, I’ve read a lot of great books. Some of the books that I’ve dug the most were Haruki Murakami’s. Books like Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World were mind-blowing.
Seeing Envy in Shinjuku in 2002. I was behind the stage, filming, and it was just life changing. This was before they turned all soft (pre-A Dead Sinking Story) and they played all my favorite songs. So amazing.
Hackers. Looooove that movie.
Sandman, Preacher, Transmetropolitan. Probably my favorite, though, one series that really made me feel something, was Ciguatera by Minoru Furuya. That comic made me feel like I’d been punched in the gut.
Cease Upon The Capitol song?
Track 10 on the 2007 album.
Vegetarian BBQ Pizza
What is your most cherished physical record?
Ekkaia - Demasiado Tarde Para Pedir Perdon LP. Gorgeous, embossed gatefold. One of my all time favorite bands/albums.
What are your top 10 records?
Dude, this is hard… haha…
It’s a little tough to do a top 10 of all time, so this is like a top 10 of the last 10 years or so.
In no particular order:
(all time favorite) ENVY - All The Footprints You’ve Ever Left And The Fear Expecting Ahead
EKKAIA - Demasiado Tarde Para Pedir Perdon
FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE - Agony
BLANKFIELD - Fast Forward to End of East
VERSAILLES - Noble
PERFUME - JPN
SORA - 灯台の上で待つ
SLEEPING PEONIES - Ghosts, and Other Things
JAKE KAUFMAN - Mighty Switch Force OST
BLUEBEARD - Self-Titled
choice for best cover art/packaging?
Probably the Mihai Edrisch - Un Jour Sans Lendemain LP. You pull the inner sleeve out and the combined image ends up being a dude hanging. Kinda hard to describe but it’s so damn cool.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Thanks to everybody for reading this long ass stuff. Lots of exciting Meatcube stuff coming in 2014.