CHRIS STORY has been a part of my life for over a decade, although he has only been aware of this the last year or so. When I first started the OPENmind/SATURATEDbrain blog and posting stuff, Chris was one of the first people to thank me for posting obscure/sweet bands. It wasn't until I started naming bands as reference points (Makara and The Anasazi, in particular) that he made it known that he was in those bands, as well as Jenny Piccolo and the extremely influential Yaphet Kotto. It has been a ridiculous past year getting to know someone whose music I have grown up on. He was extremely generous and answered 7 pages worth of questions. Chris, you are the man.
I also feel the need to mention that I'm doing some vocals for Chris' solo project named мятеж. He posts some random songs now and again on the bandcamp page linked here but we are working on a fair amount of new stuff and should have something out later this year. Chris is also doing a joke band with his friend called Anal Knievel that you can listen to here. Lastly, he has been dabbling in ambient/drone/experimental stuff which he writes under the moniker letgetbywith which can be heard here.
What was the latest band to come out of nowhere and destroy your face?
Oh man……there have been quite a few as of late that, even though they may be older, have made me wonder why I had no idea they ever existed. Isaie Buried Memorial really comes to mind.
What are your top 10 records of 2013?
I can seriously never answer this question. The new Mogwai is really good… there’s just so many. It also depends on if older bands I heard for the first time this year count…
Where do you find out about new music?
As silly as it sounds I find out a lot on the FB groups I follow. Bandcamp has also been invaluable. Tumblr etc.
Besides music, what do you spend your time doing?
Working. Aside from that I spend quite a bit of time at home with the dog and cats. It’s where I feel most comfortable. I look up new music, play video games, read, do at least one crossword puzzle a day, play pool at least 1 or 2 times a week, watch movies and drink whiskey and cheap beer. I love riding bikes around town. I also spend time with friends which usually involves drinking whiskey and cheap beer, lol.
Can you guide us chronologically through your musical life?
I guess the first “real” band I was in was Kite Eating Tree with James (Mohinder) and Adam (Indian Summer). It didn’t last very long although it was the first time I ever played shows. Then it was Jenny Piccolo, Makara, my 2 week stint playing bass on the ill-fated Sharazad tour, Howdy Partner, Yaphet Kotto, the Anasazi, El and I guess now мятеж which I decided to definitely keep doing in one way or another. With the help of you no less… A lot of those overlapped at various points but I think that looks about right.
You seem like a very humble person, what is it like to have been part of some extremely seminal bands that are talked about on message boards and at shows with (generally) almost cult-like status? Yaphet Kotto, in particular, come to mind as one of the few bands that screamo lovers unite around.
I find it weird honestly. I mean, I never did this stuff for anything more than myself. As cliche as it might seem it was my only release I had during that time. You set up in someone’s living room or basement you make a ton of noise for 10 minutes, draw some blood here and there and call it an evening. It was profoundly therapeutic for me. But even though I say it’s “weird” , when I see references to past bands I was involved in it is very humbling to me. It’s nice to know that for whatever your reasons for doing something were, it did also have some sort of effect on someone else. Be it positive or negative…. you still incited a response.
We’ve spoken and you’ve used the term “skramz” but seemed hesitant to use “screamo”. Am I crazy? What are your thoughts on those genres and genrefications in general?
I honestly hate both of those terms. But these days it seems thats what you have to say for people to get what you’re talking about. Screamo to me is My Chemical Romance. Skramz is Orchid. The terms screamo/skramz or whatever, never existed when we were doing Makara for example. We were just punk kids. Maybe It’s just me getting old or something…
Did years of touring and being in bands take it’s toll on you? From what I can tell you’ve basically stepped out for the last decade.
I wouldn't really say it took a toll on me. I was just tired. I lost inspiration. I don't know. There were lots of things I guess. It seemed like the right thing for me to do. Pack up and leave the Bay. Try something else.
Did being in a band leave you with any physical or mental scars?
Sitting in a van for 6 weeks with your bandmates will definitely mentally scar you lol. As for physical, the corner of my right thumb is permanently calloused and partly missing from guitar. The callous sometimes peels off which doesn't feel too good. Al once threw a plate of rice at me during a show we played in Toronto with Acrid. That didn't feel too good.
Why did get back into making music?
Honestly it was me getting Logic Pro X and trying to figure that out.
What is driving you now that you’ve started?
I think it’s because I realized that after all these years I really actually needed this. Almost like something ingrained in me was missing yet I didn't realize it until recently.
What keeps you going? I’m sure what drives you has changed numerous times in your life, can you remember when and why they changed?
It’s a long story, but in a nutshell, there's been a lot of very low points in my life. And while it would have been so easy to give up and throw in the towel, there's something inside me that refuses to stop fighting everyday. What it is I cant be sure…… but I’m glad it’s there regardless…..
What brings you the most joy?
Music, my cats and dog…… pretty much most everything I do in my spare time.
What irks you?
Humanity. People. Though its not as cut and dry as just that. It’s way more complicated and would really be difficult for me to explain it without sounding like a complete sociopath/asshole when I’m really not. I leave that to myself.
I know you are experimenting with different sounds and styles, what can you tell us about them? Are you focusing on some more than others?
Hmmm. I like such a wide range of styles. But I guess I’m still experimenting with the extremes. Mixing “Crossed Out” with “Explosions in the Sky”. Also messing with ambient stuff, guitar layering and incorporating that into ‘skramz” stuff. I don't know…back when we were doing Makara we experimented with adding more and more “pretty guitar” parts within the chaos. Nowadays its commonplace for a lot of bands to have these interludes within the songs. But back then it wasn't that common. Sure bands were doing it but nowhere to the extent of bands today. So I guess I’m still kinda following along that path. We were listening to a lot of Mogwai and Codeine back then and to be honest…I still listen to a lot of Mogwai and Codeine.
Is it strange writing music after such a long time away with so many new different musical influences?
Not really. I’ve always been limited as to what I could do anyways. I’ve never taken one lesson. I barely remember what strings are what. I just put my fingers somewhere and if it sounds cool I expand on it. I don't know how music itself works asides from if it sounds cool to me or not…but I’m still in the mindset of less often expresses way more. I just do what feels right with me so its pretty much the same as it was years ago.'
What styles are the easiest for YOU to play? The most difficult?
Punk is pretty easy. Everything else…not so much
Are you hoping to release or play these songs live in the future?
I would definitely release this stuff in one way or another. As for playing them live…I don't know. The logistical aspect of being one guy seems daunting to me. Plus, and as sad as this may sound, there’s a strong possibility that by the time I had enough stuff to play live I very well might have forgotten how to play the earlier stuff.
What were the easiest and most difficult aspects of learning the drum/recording program?
I guess the easiest part was, even though I’m not a drummer, I knew how I felt the drums should sound. The most difficult was, I’m not a drummer, so trying to incorporate what I thought they should sound like using a midi keyboard proved challenging. It took quite a bit of time messing with it…doing a lot of stuff slowed way down and for longer times so when you speed it up to regular tempo it sounds somewhat right. Doing 4-5-6 separate tracks of various drum components and joining them together to make it sound as close to a real kit as possible. I’ve got a lot to learn still and I’ve been experimenting with more complex stuff but I guess I can only get better. Or just learn the drums.
What does the future hold in store for your project?
Who knows? Never in a million years would I have thought when I first started playing music I would have been able to do all the things I’ve done. All the tours, records, all the awesome bands I’ve played shows with and met as well as all the amazing people along the way. I feel truly honored to have been a part of something important. I’m definitely gonna keep doing it. As for where it takes me…
If you release the songs and you had a physical release, what format(s) would you choose and why?
Tape. Only because I have no idea how to mix anything properly yet.
We’ve talked about adding vocals to your songs. Is there any reason why? There are quite a few instrumental bands.
I’ll definitely keep doing stuff that will remain instrumental. But when it comes to the other hardcore stuff, I feel that needs vocals. If anything because it’s a perfect avenue to really let go and get something thats on your mind out…why? You know anyone….? *wink wink*
You were associated with the 31G bands, what did you want to say about the label?
Justin is one of the most wonderful people in the world. And I’m so happy to be able to call him a friend. He helped us out so much in the beginning. I owe him for everything I’ve been able to experience through just playing in bands.
Your video for “Forgotten” on the Circumstantial Evidence DVD is fucking epic. Do you remember that show? What was your most memorable show out of all the bands?
If I remember right that was at Columbus Fest in 96-97? It was our first fest we had ever played and it was such an amazing few days. Playing with and meeting and hanging out with all the bands. It’s also actually the first time we met Kerry (Makara) who was on tour with Constatine Sankathi (sp?) at the time. It was a truly a magical experience. Except when the AC broke during Avail and when the toilets overflowed and The Promise Ring blamed us during their set (very jokingly of course).
Why the names?
YAPHET KOTTO You’d have to ask Mag. YK was a band long before my time with them. Though if I was to guess it’s because Mag loved the guy as an actor.
THE ANASAZI It’s the name of one of my favorite X-files episodes and a fascinating story of an Indian Tribe that seemingly vanished overnight…
MAKARA Kerry thought of it. I really have no idea.
JENNY PICCOLO When James, Al, Jeff (original second guitarist) and I first started out Al one day just blurted out “LET’S CALL THIS SHIT JENNY PICCOLO” or something like that. Apparently he had been watching a lot of Happy Days or something. We found it hilarious and fell in love with it.
How would you describe your band?
YAPHET KOTTO/THE ANASAZI/MAKARA/JENNY PICCOLO = Punk
What were the band’s broadest influences, in terms of members?
YAPHET KOTTO I dunno.
THE ANASAZI Honeywell/Crossed Out
JENNY PICCOLO Crossed Out
Can you reveal anything interesting about the band members?
YAPHET KOTTO I could but I won't.
THE ANASAZI Nothing really.
MAKARA Nothing really.
JENNY PICCOLO Al is a 7th or 8th degree Black Belt in Tai Kwon Do. He was never afraid to prove that point either. I’ve seen him lay down the law on the local Skins a few times…
What was your favourite song?
YAPHET KOTTO= "First Meetings Agreement"
THE ANASAZI "Mosquitoing Vector Control"
MAKARA The first one off the split 10” with Sharazad…whatever it’s called. ("Missing Green")
JENNY PICCOLO "East Reed"
Why did the groups disband?
YAPHET KOTTO I kinda intentionally got myself “kicked” out. They kept going so I’m not sure what their final demise was.
THE ANASAZI James was done with it and wanted to focus on Drum & Bass.
MAKARA Internal falling out. We were all a mess in those days.
JENNY PICCOLO Smarty pants Al got accepted to Georgetown University.
What else would you like to say about the bands?
YAPHET KOTTO Awesome.
THE ANASAZI Our recordings sucked but it was fun as hell.
MAKARA Super fun and awesome with good people that unfortunately fell apart due to internal shit. Glad we reconnected over the past couple years.
JENNY PICCOLO The best time of my life.
Out of all the bands, which music did you enjoy writing, playing and touring the most?
That's hard. I think Yaphet honestly. Even though I mentioned that the JP days were the best of my life, I really enjoyed playing the bass instead of the guitar. It gave me a chance to be a part of something that wasn't just power and octave chords and help create something that somewhat resembled musicianship if that makes sense. As for touring…that's also hard. I’ve done I think 4 US, 2 Europe and 1 Japanese (not mentioning the ton of west coast weekend/week ones) and they were all amazing. Sure some had problems but in the end they were all worth it.
How do your influences play into your sound? Do you sound like your influences?
I can’t think of how other than they just do. Whether or not I think about it or I don’t. As for sounding like them…… yeah probably.
Do you find it hard to balance objectivity with emotion when listening to/playing/talking about music? Can you keep emotion out of music when listening, playing and talking about it, or is emotion inherent in music?
That's a tough question to answer. To put it simply: not really. Whether or not I like or dislike something I’m listening to, if it incites even a small tinge of emotion it’s hard to be objective. Emotion is intrinsic to music. It wouldn't exist without it. Music is one of the handful of things that truly brings out the emotional side of me. Be it playing it or just listening to it. I can’t even begin to think about how many times a song has brought me to tears. Almost every day I listen to something that makes my eyes water up. Same with some of the stuff I’ve recently recorded. I’ll listen back to it and get totally weepy. Probably sounds silly to the average person, but people who play will understand where I’m coming from.
What band/song would you like to cover?
Right now I am messing around with a couple covers. “Face Up To It” by Heresy and “Poetic Justice” by Ripcord. I absolutely love 80’s British-hardcore but from what I’ve worked on so far I just haven't been happy with the results. I’ll probably get them done one of these days but they’re not my main focus. Just something to do when I draw a blank on creating something of my own. Though I do have ridiculous pipe dream of one day covering the entire Stupids “Peruvian Vacation” LP.
Is there anything that you try to avoid when writing a new song?
No. All bets are off. I just do whatever comes to mind.
How has your hometown/upbringing influenced your music? You, as a person?
Apple Computer and the Sun Microsystem world HQ campus’ (along with umpteen other companies) were and are still (don’t think Sun is anymore) within a walking distance from my parents house were I grew up (they still live there and when I visit I still get agitated) and rock throwing distance from the old Makara apartment , and the old Rancho neighborhood. The tech shit we have today was built within a 2-3 mile radius of where I spent 20+ years of my life. It’s definitely influenced me. Me being someone who missed the orchards…the lack of the freeway spurs and housing tracts that now dot the hills of Cupertino…Us “degenerates" from then and there were a direct result of the things we loved as children disappearing in the name of progress.
What is the most positive and negative influence in music? Your local scene?
Who were your primary influences when you started playing music and who are they now?
Anger. Rage. More people.
I love Neil Perry. You love Neil Perry. Talk about Neil Perry.
Those kids were so fucking good. Personally I wasn’t entirely into their later stuff but gaddamned they were good. Steve from Saetia/Off Minor at one point when he was drumming for Yaphet on our tour in Japan with Envy and This Machine Kills…said that Jenny Piccolo totally influenced early Neil Perry. To this day I have no idea if he was serious or just talking nonsense when I was drunk in Tokyo one night. I don't even care…those guys were fucking amazing.
You frequent a fair amount of online communities, what do they bring to the table? Do you find them useful? Do the comments and posts annoy you at times?
The only thing that I truly find useful from “online communities” is new bands and cool people who have something legitimate to say. I generally look over stuff during the day and most of it is complete garbage.
Is there anything of political nature that you would like to share?
I generally keep that all to myself. Nothing good usually comes out of it…especially when drinking is involved.
What is/are your:
top 10 records, including favourite release of all time?
Its so hard. Best release of all time is definitely Plastic Surgery Disasters by Dead Kennedy’s. But fuck…anything by Hassan I Sabbah, Love Lost but not Forgotten, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Descendents, DI, Orchid…makes my brain hurt…I could go on for hours.
favourite cover art/packaging?
The original LP version of Three Mile Pilots “Chief Assassin to the Sinister” . Where each one was sewn into a burlap sack with each having different stuff sewn onto it and random shit thrown in the packaging……. that was truly amazing
Regarding live shows:
the best show you've ever been to?
That's way too hard too answer. But I will say that seeing Envy play every night when we were on tour with them in Japan was something words cannot describe.
the band you would like to go back in time and see?
Dead Kennedy’s circa ’82 when Plastic Surgery Disasters came out.
What are your recommendations for: movies?
Big Star “Nothing Can Hurt Me” is a fantastic documentary for those who are familiar with Big Star or Alex Chilton for that matter…and Apocalypse Now is in my opinion the greatest movie ever made.
Peed/Kentucky Ham by Burroughs Jr. Anything Bukowski, and anything Cormac. And anything Burroughs Sr. as well.
Is there anything else that you would like to recommend or say?
Thanks for this Dave. I truly appreciate this and genuinely humbled by your interest in stuff that I’ve been involved in. And to the rest of you (and this is going to sound so cliche): Stop caring so much about what other people think of you or what you do. Do it for yourself and do it because inside you love doing it. Trust me, I know it’s hard sometimes but if you think long and hard about it you’ll realize that in the end it's all that matters. And for fuck sakes go listen to more Dead Kennedy’s…or French hardcore…or something besides punk…Listen to some Serge Gainsbourg or Herb Alpert. There's so much amazing shit out there.