Almost a decade ago I met a super nice fellow by the name of Colin May at a Phoenix Bodies, La Quiete, Ed Gein and Storm The Bastille show in Cleveland. We started talking about his bands and his art and he asked me a bunch of questions and then we became pen pals and exchanged burned cds through the mail...yes, the regular mail. We've stayed in contact sporadically since then and when I decided to review Brighter Arrows I thought I'd give him a shout. He accepted, so the interview is below. I've also included the six questions that he asked me at the end of the interview, links to all of the band reviews for which he played in as well as embedded youtube songs from said bands.
What was being in Phoenix Bodies like? From my outsider perspective it seemed like you guys were a crazy-party band, how did you see it from inside the band? Am I batshit crazy?
It was fun. Much party was had. You're not batshit crazy.
You guys toured with La Quiete. Holy shit. Talk about that.
That crew of Italians (Michele, Rocco, Cebio, Andrea, Fulvio, Angelino & Raein to boot) remains some of the nicest humans on earth, period. Real deal. Michele and I became pen pals after I bought a Portraits of Past bootleg shirt from him in the early aughts. We finally met face to face in 2003 when Mara'akate toured Europe with Off Minor. I returned with Phoenix Bodies the following summer and we got to spend even more time together. They're passionate and talented and fun and so incredibly likable. Playing with them every night was simultaneously the most enjoyable and the most demoralizing experience possible. Their music was vibrant and raw and just fucking GOOD…an absolute joy to experience. On the flip side, they're definitely one of those bands that leave you thinking "fuck. I should just stop now" (and I mean that in the best way possible!). Their positivity and enthusiasm was a bright presence…the kind that instills hope in art and community…the real kind, not the pseudo-crimethinc shoplifting look of the week malarky. We had the privilege of traveling together again in 2006 through the east coast. (That's when I also met this really great fellow named Dave! He too is passionate, likes great music, and is the real deal.) We quickly learned about their profound love for scarves, vans shoes and orange juice (all which were, apparently, difficult to find in Italy in those days). Insert sentimental tour platitudes here. Long drives and sunshine. There is a good chance all of the shows were not, in fact, fantastic, but the company easily trumped the shortcomings. We played some fantastic venues with some incredible people (Birthday Boyz, Ampere, Gospel, Meneguar, much love). Drama was minimal and it remains one of my favorite human memories. In 2008 we traveled together again to the west coast. The drives were longer and smellier but the shows were purely fulfilling. Che Cafe, Monkeywrench Books, Gilman Street…which I only mention because it still seems unreal. Never would have imagined Michele and I would be playing WITH Portraits of Past at their reunion show when I bought that shirt. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to share time with such kind people. Ridiculous, rowdy, genuine fun. One of the most incredible live sets I have ever seen was at Summer Slam fest during the Boris/Fulvio transition on vocals (La Fine era). I'm a sucker for dual vocals (go figure) and the raw power of two of them performing together was profound. Solid dudes, solid songs, through and through.
I believe you did the vocals on the Phoenix Bodies demo, what was that like? Did you intend to have someone else take over?
Phoenix Bodies started as Thomas and I in his basement….dirt floor + way too many amps. We recorded the demo with a friend but didn't have any vocals so I did them. I was taking care of my grandmother at the time and recorded whenever she was out to market so as not to worry her. The vocals were pure shit, meant only to serve as a place holder until someone more proficient came along. Derek filled that role right around the time Carl joined in. Carl introduced me to Turbonegro and is a truly fantastic human with many great talents (currently he records bands and plays in Coffinworm). Neither he nor I wanted to play bass so we said fuck it and tuned low. I insisted on adding more vocalists (thank you Neurosis), so our friends Ben (In the Face of War) and Greg/Jenna (+Hirs+) took turns until Adam joined the fray for the 7"s. Adam, for a smoker, had one of the most punishing, relentless shrieks I have ever heard to this day. He also did vocals in Hospital.
What was the transition from Hospital to Phoenix Bodies like?
Hospital was fun from beginning to end. Being friends first made all the difference. Adam was in a band with Jared (guitars) and Travis (bass) and when it ended, we all started playing together. Thomas played drums at first but then moved to California so our friend Andrew took over. Jared (RIP) and I had a counseling class together in college and we became lab partners because he liked the Creation is Crucifixion patch on my backpack. We started sharing mix tapes and hanging out in his living room, where he once drunkenly lap-drummed Suffocation's "Effigy of the Forgotten" in its 37 minute entirety. Jared later went on to play in The Dream is Dead. His command of the English language remains unparalleled. Travis is now an EMT fireman, has an awesome dog and to this day has one of my all time favorite laughs. As for transitioning from one band to another, Adam and Thomas and I were shared members so the transition was easy. Adam and I grew up in the same town and were roommates in college. You will not find a better story teller in this lifetime than Adam Norris.
The Hospital songs were recorded at a bizarre studio compound in the countryside near the small town where we went to school. It belonged to a woman with a large inheritance and was originally built so traveling rasta bands had a safe place to record. Jared, our resident dope hound, somehow procured access to the facility. We brought a friend who was studying sound engineering and recorded all we could in two days. There were actually twice as many songs recorded but half of them were erased due to a faulty something or other. The songs I sent you were actually unmixed and unmastered, hens the dynamics being all over the damn place. We later learned that the compound had been under DEA surveillance the entire time and was raided a few days after.
I remember seeing a video for you guys and the vocalist (not-Derek) wasn't in the video. What was up with that?
Thomas is an absolute sweetheart and a physiological enigma. He could have been anywhere, and doing it better than anybody in a fifty mile radius.
Raise The Bullshit Flag is one of the most consistent and spazzy albums I've ever heard, what would you like to say about it?
That's kind of you to say, thank you Dave. We recorded it during a blizzard in Indianapolis. We had to drive across town to pick up Joel, the engineer, and it took us seven hours to drive through gridlock while listening to The Fucking Champs "IV" on repeat. I suppose that contributed a certain frenetic energy to the recording. Seven fucking hours. For me, the most consistent and spazzy album is Discordance Axis "Inalienable Dreamless", followed closely by Shitstorm's split with Conga Fury. So focused and punishing. Rare flawless gems that remind you life is combat, sound is a gift and your own contributions to music are garbage.
You guys had a plethora of splits, how did each one of those come about?
So many splits! Mara'akate met Enkephalin while touring the east coast and hit it off while attempting to sled down a snowy hill with on a shower curtain. Enkephalin were superior musicians through and through and both bands shared a certain humor that united us. We recorded the tracks for the Raein, Tyranny of Shaw and Shikari splits in the same session with Mike Dixon in Bloomington. The infamous Jim Zespy was also present and was sleeping in a van parked inside the complex. The session was fun and lively and included the requisite way too many amps. We had befriended all three of those bands at one time or another and it just clicked. Friends doing friend stuff with friends. We once played a show with Tyranny of Shaw at a skate park in Florida, headlined by an adult rock band centered around an 8 year old drummer (hens the etching of "our drummer is more than 8 years old" in the vinyl). The Raein split included artwork by Chris Williams of Witching Hour Records, who also did the art for Fuck It Tapes #1 PB discography. Michele and the Italians were no slouches in the split department themselves, so joining forces only seemed natural. As for Shikari, Mara'akate had played previously with them in Europe and they're all sweethearts. We showed the others this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rrnu8UOt2g and it was an easy decision. Electric Human project had also put out some of our favorite records (as well as a split for Mara'akate) so it was an easy decision. Needless to say, we were very stoked to meet them and be a part of their anything. The split with The Dream is Dead happened for a short tour we did together, which also facilitated Carl eventually joining them at second guitar. The La Quiete split was also created in anticipation for our travels together. Our song on the split was recorded with Chris Owens in Louisville (Lords, Ed Gein, Pusher). The other songs from the session were on the Cobra Commander 7" which never had a proper release, just about 100 test presses which were sold on the tour. Equally natural was the collaboration with HeWhoCorrupts. I first saw them play in Indianapolis, flanked by bodyguards in Armani suits, while Ryan performed a Jewish wedding wearing only a toucan thong. We played many shows together after that and never a dull moment was had. Brian (drums) took the photographs for the calendar and I did the layout. It took for fucking ever but I think it was worth it. Those songs were recorded at the same place the Bullshit Flag LP was done, minus the blizzard.
Your split with Raein (The Future Of Eating, specifically) is what introduced me to your band. I noticed that on the Too Much Information cd/dvd the Ebaums GI Joe quote was changed, why did that happen?
Somebody fucked up somewhere…not sure why that happened. Too many body massages.
I absolutely love that Mara'akate dvd, and it's probably my favourite music dvd of all time. What can you tell us about the creation of that? Do you remember what your conversation was on the phone when the other members were talking shit about you on camera?
I was on the phone with their mothers. The DVD was all Brian's doing (he went on to play guitar in Thin Fevers with Antonio, Travis and Ben. He now plays in Conjuror). We were at Summer Slam Fest in Germany and he had a crush on a German girl that was traveling with us. She and Ben disappeared into the woods and he was so drunkenly angry that he burned me with a lit cigarette and passed out on the floor. She and Ben got married years later. Water under the bridge. We were all very fond of our driver, Chris The Highwayman, who makes several appearances throughout the film. He had a distro, pleasure syndicate. Probably still does. We shared a mutual affection for Honeywell. Half way through the tour he was replaced by a less charming, less hygienic German man reminiscent to Zangief. I teased him about the way he said "monosodiumglutemate" and later apologized because, you know, he could speak two languages and I couldn't.
Brighter Arrows is getting nothing but praise from where I'm standing and seems to be gathering some rabid fans. Have you noticed a difference between this and past bands?
I'm pretty out of touch when it comes to that sort of thing. I'm the shadow man. I like gear. I focus on the songs. For me the experience will always be different than that of the frontman or the person booking the shows. I'm ok with that. I'm not a super social person. I will say, however, that music making for me now vs. say ten years ago is noticeably different. My creative energy is more balanced. Sure its kept in check by teaching and responsibility but that anchor maintains a sense of perspective and appreciation. I still love making rowdy music but I'm able to step back and enjoy it more now. Also Brighter Arrows had less flagrant brandishing of cock, no dice for cash and more firearms. Tit for tat.
People have told me that Brighter Arrows is much better live than on record. Thoughts?
Its a mystery. Some bands completely destroy live, you buy the record, put it on and its like "how are these the same people?" Other bands are a total snore to watch but recorded they're magic. Its different energies. But in the end that's all its about. Some people are just at their best sitting in a chair, holding an instrument, staring at a screen and weaving. That's where they shine. Even the shittiest recording can be saved if the energy comes through. Some of my favorite records aren't great sonically but the energy just rushes through. A lot has to line up to preserve that live chemistry. Mood, the right engineer, time frame…little things can turn fantastic songs into a garbled, hurried, lifeless harumph. And then there are the gifted few that are equally brilliant in both mediums. I never would've thought a band like Tristeza would be incredible live but son of a gun, somehow they were.
Personally I feel there aren't too many recordings of loud bands that accurately replicate the sensation of a live show. Its an unfair comparison. 2D vs. 3D. Seeing pg.99 in a shitty basement, with that wall of amps and a horde of dudes losing their shit five inches away from your face will always eclipse recorded medium. I always enjoyed playing with Jake and John and Jamie. They were wonderful foils. Genuinely fun to watch and their sincerity always came through. I'm not exciting to watch…I'm looking at the drummer or my amp the whole time. So it helped to have them there for balance.
You are a very positive person, from what I've gathered. Is it inherent or practiced?
Its different for everybody. Some people have that perpetual sunshine that is impossible to piss on. I'm not that rosy by any means, but I think it takes a conscious effort to posture yourself towards the light. Being sad is easy. Especially when you're aware. I work daily with little kids, and I want to be a source of positivity for them. We don't know what other people are going through, or how drastically a little hope can help. I'm not gonna lie to them and tell them everything is fine, because it isn't. But I sincerely believe the world is easier to tolerate when you're in positive company. Not bullshit positive, just aimed towards positive. Its contagious. And sometimes the aim is as good as its gonna get but its better than the alternative, right? Right.
Now its your turn, Dave.
1. What specific live performances have had the most lasting impact on you as person?
***Phoenix Bodies, La Quiete, Ed Gein and Storm The Bastille show undoubtedly goes down as one of the craziest (and by far hottest) shows I've ever seen in my life. Not only did four unreal bands come together and destroy my life, but I met you and became friends, had a song ("Old Balls", to be exact) dedicated to my wife and I by Derek from Phoenix Bodies, met the guys in La Quiete and had the bassist run out of the venue after us trying to give us free t-shirts because of our long drive and the fact that I already had all of the La Quiete vinyl/cd merch at their table. I don't think any show will ever top that.
***Something that came close was the 2015 ABA Fest (aka Austin Blood Alliance Fest) in January. While there I not only saw a plethora of amazing bands, but I actually enjoyed meeting all of the incredible people even more than the music, which still kind of boggles my mind. It was amazing to see younger people come out to the two days worth of shows and be able to interact with the band members like normal people and fans at the same time. This annihilation of the performer/audience barrier is instrumental in making an inclusive, honest and passionate show.
***On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the Vans Warped Tour. I was introduced to punk back in the late 1990s through NOFX and skate punk so frequenting the Warped Tour before it turned to absolute shite was but a routine for me. I think it was in 2003 or so when I saw an incredible bunch of bands that, if my memory serves correct, included Coheed And Cambria, Vaux, Vendetta Red, Alexisonfire and Poison The Well among countless others. It was a great experience but when held up to the ABA Fest experience this doesn't even come close because to talk with a band member would be next to impossible considering the complete separation of artist and audience. You might get lucky in a situation like this and the band members may sit at their merch table, but let's be honest, the Warped Tour is money first and music second.
***In the middle of November 2014 I put on the first "fest" of my young career. It was actually dubbed a mini-fest with 11 bands in one evening. It was stressful getting it together and the turnout was quite weak (Toronto folk DO NOT make trips to Hamilton, as I have quickly noticed) but the bands were amazing, the reception was very warm and it seemed like all who came out enjoyed the bands. I mean, c'mon, Edhochuli, Old Soul, Black Love, Respire, Worst Gift and Terry Green were some of the bands to have played and they were unreal.
***The most recent concert with the an everlasting impact was the local band I'm in's first show. Not only was it great to finally perform in front of my wife and friends, but we played with Ken Mode, Life In Vacuum and Worst Gift, which are three of my favourite bands. To have that as a first show was nearly unbelievable, and I'm pretty sure we played quite well. I've embedded a video from our set below this.
2. How has your involvement with мятеж affected you?
That's a tough one...besides the obvious answer which is a lot. It started with Chris from all those crazy late 90s bands such as Jenny Piccolo, Makara and Yaphet Kotto asked me to do vocals for his project. That in itself was a huge motivator because I am extremely lucky to have been asked to scream for such a huge influence from my early introduction to screamy hardcore. This has prompted a new friendship, a tour with People's Temple Project and at least two split 7"s, the latter two being firsts for me in my life. I met some incredible people on tour and had the time of my life over those 10 days. Getting back to writing lyrics and finding decent vocal placements and patterns in Chris' crazy songs was a welcome challenge that I am quite proud of. The fella who records my vocals for мятеж ended up being the guitarist in the new, local band I'm in called The World That Summer, so that had a direct effect on that.
3. What things do you still want to do with Zegema Beach before you call it quits?
Truth be told, I don't ever want to quit Zegema Beach. It took almost 15 years for the idea to materialize into existence, is a labour of love and my true passion in life, so I don't see it ever stopping, maybe just slowing down during life's hills. In 2016 I have two of the most important releases I may ever do:
*The upcoming Protest The Hero cassette box set is a dream come true
*I have formed, fostered and am spearheading the release of an 8-way split 2x12" gatefold album with two bands from four countries (Sweden, Italy, Canada and the USA) that is my baby and may end up defining the label.
4. How does one recognize true love? Can universal indicators exist?
I don't know if I am convinced by "true love". I mean, I truly love my wife. I love my child unequivocally. I love my family. If we are talking about true love with a partner I would probably redefine the expression to mean, "a true, full and passionate love between two people, based on circumstance, timing and geography." Maybe that's a cold way to look at it but, just like religion, where and when you grow up are the primary, if not the only, means of social interaction and knowledge acquirement - at least, pre-internet age. That being said, two people can love each other and find meaning and completion in a relationship which is all the indicator those people would and should need. But universal indicator? I'd say nah.
5. At what point does the DIY aesthetic become detrimental to itself?
I was talking to a few people on tour about this, and they enlightened me to some of the potholes of expansive DIY. The primary issue seems to be that a super saturation of small DIY bands who may not be overly talented bogs up news and posts that could be used for more talented bands. I'm not talking about styles here, just raw talent. As a label I also see a large number of DIY record and tape labels pop up and release some really derivative and sometimes just plain bad releases. As music is subjective this entire argument becomes a bit of an issue, but I certainly see the cons in conjunction with the pros now. That being said, DIY is key to the fostering of true art and passion. Without it I wouldn't have a large portion of the beauty and drive in my life.
6. What keeps you positive?
At this point in my life that would definitely be my son. Being a source of positivity and happiness in his life is my primary goal. With my wife and I both doing this the communal happiness is palpable, plus he's a very happy child. After years of wasting away and not doing something that I really wanted to do, now running a label, blog and being in two bands is a constant reminder that I can make myself happy and do good things for other people at the same time. The amount of social interaction as a result is mindboggling to me. I've met and interviewed a silly number of personal heroes and become friends with a lot of amazing people...like you!