Cory is the guitarist/vocalist for the dark hardcore/punk band PROTESTANT and the extremely respected label HALO OF FLIES Records. Last year Cory and I started talking, as our labels (Halo Of Flies and Zegema Beach Records) will be doing the North American release for the Amber/Locktender split 7" that will see the light of day in few short months. I asked him at the end of 2013 if he would answer some (aka a shitload) of my questions regarding both PROTESTANT and HALO OF FLIES. As busy as he is, he was able to answer them all - and surprisingly quickly, I might add. Check them out below and support his band and label! They are both amazing!!!
Describe yourself/your band.
I’m a fairly friendly, talkative, sometimes grouchy and impatient pain in the ass. But I’m pretty amusing along the way. I work hard, sometimes smart and have fun when it suits me.
The band is kinda similar. Serious, negative, a little silly from time to time (as people) and fairly consistent if not terribly busy.
Why the name PROTESTANT?
Had a different name already in use. Protestant Work Ethic (we all work hard/ a lot), our country has some interesting history regarding protestant settlers/forefathers. It has protest in it. Rorschach is a sick band.
Can you reveal anything interesting (and perhaps not well-known) about yourself and/or the other band members?
I’m really, really good at doing math in my head. I’m super competitive. Other band members? Brian loves gummy bears. Jesse skates a lot and looks like Tony Hawk. Chris used to have dreads.
How was the band chronologically assembled? Under what circumstances?
3 of us played together in a grindcore band that dissolved in 2004. We were sick of 'tech' bands and bandmate insanity and scene shit. Started this soon after and shed some members as we worked out the kinks. Erik (Northless, etc) joined on bass in 2005, recorded a demo, a split 7" (with Rhino Charge) and an LP with us. He left and Jesse joined in mid 2006 after Erik's departure. We've been us four ever since.
What side-projects and/or offshoots have the band members taken part in?
Brian does some cool stuff on the side. It’s mostly post black metal/ambient/dark rock stuff. Used to be in a melodic rock/alternative band called Evenstar. it was kinda like FuneralForAFriend. Chris sings in ShutIn (7" out soon!) and plays guitar in Quitters. I used to play guitar in PartyBytheSlice.
How do you feel PROTESTANT's music has evolved/changed over the years?
We came out of technical grind band, and had that as part of the 'lets play hardcore' idea in the beginning. I think we've gotten both darker and more melodic since then. Some people hear the melody, some don’t. The new stuff we're working on is almost black metal compared to the 'dark hardcore' we've played up til this point. I think it’s partly how we write together and separately. After time you write whatever you want and work it into how the rest of us can or will play it. We dont really care about being different OR the same just for the sake of people liking it, etc.
Discuss your thoughts and opinions regarding the genrefication of music.
I don’t care. I need words to know what something sounds like, just as i need them to sell the idea of it. There's too many genres, and whatnot, but I don’t think about it. It’s useful I suppose. Marketing is what it is.
If you had to slap a genre label on PROTESTANT - so potential new listeners could get a good idea of your sound without hearing you, what would you label yourselves as?
Dark hardcore punk, I suppose. Though i imagine that depends on who you ask.
Who were your primary influences when you started playing music and who are they now?
Hmm. I cant recall. I liked all sorts of awesome and equally terrible bands back in 1990 when Ì started playing guitar. I learned to play fast via Suffocation, learned to write songs(?) by being into bands like Hum, Unbroken, Groundwork and Born Against. I always wanted to be as good as the guys from Scorpions and Def Leppard, but that will never happen.
Does PROTESTANT sound like its collective influences?
Yes. We like everything from radio pop to reggae to black metal, and have common ground in punk/hc metal. We allow each other some space I think, and we have parts people close to us can tell one or more of us specifically likes or wrote. We like certain bands collectively as we grew up roughly seeing the same bands/hearing the same records, but if we lined up what we all listened to the previous day, it would be all four of us making fun of each other.
Please describe the people, in general, that are associated with the music that you create – whether it be during the process, talking to people at shows, etc.
Regular, somewhat older punk/hc/metal weirdo types I guess. We record with the best guy ever (Shane Hochstetler/HowlStreetStudios) most of the time, and he gets us. We have friends in bands here and those who come to see us and others. Milwaukee is a small city that works, drinks and gets pretty into what it’s into I suppose. It’s a pretty down to earth place for the most part.
PROTESTANT cover art is very thought provoking, can you talk about your favourite PROTESTANT album art?
Chris has done the majority of the art, or used others art in the process. We like evil, menacing shit most of the time. I think the 'Stalemate' 10" is my favorite, followed by the 'Antagonist 7" and the 'Reclamation' LP, which I happened to draft the front cover for.
What was the biggest surprise that has come PROTESTANT’s way thus far?
Finding out Stefan at Vendetta (Germany) wanted to do our 'Judgements' LP I guess. We were pretty honored, as I think at least most of us are into the bands he likes/puts out and Vendetta is a bigger label than HoF, etc.
What was the most important thing that happened in 2013 for PROTESTANT?
Writing new songs in a somewhat new, darker and harsher style. Otherwise, zilch.
What are your future recording and touring plans?
We plan on recording a 12" this summer. Tours are totally tba. We'll likely tour on the LP, somewhere.
What are your favourite songs to play and why?
FUNERALS, HOME, THE CULLING TO COME, THE HATE THE HOLLOW, LOST. Cuz they’re songs about revenge, death, failure, lost dreams and hopes. And I identify with those things.
Honestly we play those a lot and therefore are kinda 'fun' to play as well. I like to play songs that are either emotionally succinct lyrically or have cool parts on guitar. It’s a visceral thing, as pretentious as that sounds.
Do you still get nervous before, during or after shows?
Somtimes, tho rarely. Before, a little. I get anxious and tense. During, no. After, no.
Do you find it hard to balance objectivity with emotion when listening to/playing/talking about music?
Yes, but i know when im being an ass and declaring total bullshit. i dont care if people like what i like or don’t. Tho it’d be nice if they’d listen to my explanation. Again, I’m too busy to really argue if band A is better than band B, and I dont care if we're anyone’s favorite band. I do like it if it’s true, however, as I am human and sometimes vain, I guess.
What are your top 10 releases of all-time?
(These are mine. I can’t bother to ask them. It’d suck more.)
DEF LEPPARD - High n Dry
PARADISE LOST – Gothic
BORN AGAINST - Nine Patriotic Hymns
REASON TO BELIEVE - Demons Dance When Reason Sleeps
KREATOR - Pleasure to Kill
SLAYER - Reign in Blood
METALLICA - Ride the Lightning
BLACK FLAG – Damaged
SENSEFIELD - Killed for Less
DURAN DURAN - Rio
What unknown/obscure bands would you like everyone to know about?
KLIMT 1918, Svffer, Ef, Crusades and Not on Tour. “Obscure/Unknown” is kinda relative. I like too many bands. Others like them as well, but they’re hardly “well known”.
Is there a primary songwriter in PROTESTANT?
Hhmm, I’d say Brian (drums) and Chris (guitar) split it about evenly. Both will come with mostly finished songs or add to each others. I write, on average, one riff per record.
How would you describe PROTESTANT?
Dark heavy hardcore punk. The new record might stretch that a bit.
Could you talk about the some good experiences you’ve had being in a band? Would you be willing to talk about the worst?
We've played some awesome shows and met some great people. The European tour was a definite highlight for me. Playing a massive show in Montreal in 2012 was as well. The worst? Back in 2005(?) we had a weekend booked that resulted in a replaced radiator halfway to Missouri, then we blew a tire racing to Lincoln, Nebraska where we towed the shitrod. Once we bought two tires we drove straight to Bloomington, IL to get paid $29 I think. It was the absolute clusterfuck.
What has been your best foreign experience?
Playing a squat in Biala Podlaska, Poland that got its power from a generator delivered there in the back of some shitty car. Minutes later we had hot food and lights and less than an hour later we had a show nicely packed with awesome folks. It was a rough, cold wait, but it was worth every second.
Lately, the PROTESTANT songs names are very short. Was that initially intentional, or did it come about by coincidence, realization and then implementation?
Indeed. It’s been intentional since I noticed the trend. I tend to stay in patterns when I can.
“Misplace” is ridiculous. Can you talk about it?
The song? Its a pretty standard Protestant song. The lyrics? It’s basically my outlook at the time towards a lifestyle, possibly mine then, of kind of drifting through life, drinking too much and not giving a shit. Over the years I’ve swung from responsible hard working nice guy to general party animal scumbag and back again. My health isn’t what it should be, I’m not in the greatest shape, etc. but regardless of the circumstances or consequences, I've generally been pretty bored and just want to see how long I can survive going a million miles a minute all the time.
How did your split with Northless happen?
Erik (Northless) used to be in Protestant, for one. Two, Northless is sick. Three, Sam of Inkblot Records was doing a series of split 7"s and I think it just happened to be the right time/conversation with us / Northless for it to happen.
How did your split with Suffering Mind come about?
I’ve known Kuchar from S.Mind for some time, I think after talking to him about playing / meeting up in Lublin, Poland on our European tour back in 2010. (saldy we didnt get to meet then) He's a rabid fan of doom/grind/hardcore/crust, and I since they put out like 12 records a year, I think it was his idea. It was cool to write (basically) a grind song to go on it as well. I hate those small format for pressing reasons, but it was and is a cool little record. Anything to connect me/us to Poland is good by me. And I prefer to do cool stuff with friends. (ex splits w/Get Rad and Northless as well, etc.)
What Canadian bands do you like and which were you influenced by?
Voivod, Crusades, Titan, Le Kraken, Sacrifice, Dead Brain Cells, SNFU, nomeansno, Gorguts… I could go on. Voivod was an early fave and still stand out as forebearers of metal that is/was interesting and are ones who stretch the limits of the genre. I’ve always thought the whole storyline was 'cool' even if a bit juvenile at the time. I was 13, they were maybe 20, so what can you expect? Those first middle lps are pretty amazing considering what others were up to at the time. nomeansno are the most clever and downright smart band I’ve listened to that i can think of, and while it’s been years, I have a soft spot for a few earlier lps, on the sharp wit of them alone.
Regarding live shows:
the best show you've ever been to?
SLAYER / MOTORHEAD / OVERKILL in 88 tied with IN FLAMES in 1999 tied with GREEN DAY in 1990 in a basement arranged last minute after the club owner told em to fuck off after being super late.
the band you would like to go back in a time machine and see?
I love and hate these questions. I have too many answers. Def Leppard circa 1981; Helloween circa 1986; Minor Threat circa 1981; Reason To Believe.
You recommendations for:
Barfly, Ice Storm, Lord Of The Rings - all, The Bad News Bears, Goonies, Some Kind Of Wondeful, STAR WARS Ep. 4-6, Star Trek - The Wrath of Khan, Swamp Thing, The Thing (orig), The Omen...
The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade by Alfred W. McCoy
HALO OF FLIES Records Interview
When did the birth of Halo of Flies truly begin? What was the catalyst?
In August of 2006 we (Protestant) were on tour with Rhino Charge and we had been talking records, labels, etc. We had previously arranged the split 7" along with the labels who put it out, even trading our copies, etc. and similar things had happened both bad and good regarding the first Protestant LP. It was basically just, "Why don’t you just put out records?!". So I started talking what I would release, etc. and so since Protestant was already writing for a new record, that seemed a smart first release. Our friend, and the band threw in to make it happen, and to make the second release happen. I had little/no money, and needed to get over the initial hump of getting the records out, paid for, etc.
Basically I am kind of a control freak, and I was seeing both Protestant get active as well as others locally get really active, and I wanted to contribute to it. It spread quickly out from local to international, but that was the initial idea. To work with my friends here.
Why the name, Halo of Flies?
I’m not sure… I’ve had to come up with band names before, so I’m used to the pain of that. But it just came to me. It’s a great song from THE ACCUSED first and foremost.
What are your guilty pleasures, musically speaking?
Oh man. I’m not terribly guilty about any of it. I love power metal, 80's pop, some current pop… I’d prefer to listen to A-HA's Hunting High And Low record than whatever cvlt metal or hardcore band is cool right now, I'll tell you that much.
Could you talk about the best experience you’ve had related to starting a label? Would you be willing to talk about the worst?
Probably the friendships I’ve formed over the years with bands, label folks, etc. blindly emailing Fall of Efrafa in winter/spring of 2007 and then getting to work with them right away was a pretty amazing turn of event. As for the worst.. probably a few hassles I’ve had with things not going the way I wanted in production, bad printing, human error both on my part of the manufacturer. Delays… endless delays. I once mistakenly ordered 1100 inner sleeves and they came out wrong (my fault). I ate the cost and finagled a reprint at a reduced rate. It took a coffee cup of vodka to calm me down (it was 2pm).
What is the most exciting thing to happen to music as of late?
The acceptance of extreme/weird/non mainstream musics in more mainstream arenas I suppose. I mean look at how big Deafheaven is. Or how non-traditional some larger pop artists are. It’s the overall move towards greater diversity in all things I guess, and while great ideas and new ventures are bound to be co opted by parties who could give two shits where it came from, it’s interesting to watch.
You mentioned Dominic. Can you talk about them?
They’re a great post hardcore band from Norway on Denovali. Thats about it really. I think they're great. I also think that they remain far too obscure (outside of Scandinavia/parts of Europe) due to a lack of a more 'punk' label or a label in North America. The last record is amazing.
How do you balance work with the label and PROTESTANT?
Luckily Protestant is only about 3 hours a week. When I have to write lyrics for records we're working on, then I have to put the label aside more, and that is hard. The rest of the year, it’s easy.
How would you describe the music (in general) that Halo Of Flies releases?
Heavy, mostly dark. I cover about 5 genres so I can’t cleanly put it all under an umbrella. doom/grind/crust/punk/metal
What labels, people and things have influenced you and the label?
Labels? Ebullition, Havoc, Lookout, Vermiform, Gravity, Prank. If you ever get the chance, interview any of them. Not sure what Sam is up to really, but in the early 90's how he did things and said things was spot on. Kent McClard, I think, is one of the backbones of the current DIY scene. Ebullition is a great DIY distributor and the man is a wealth of experience, energy and opinions. So many people have influenced me over the years. In the early 90's a guy locally (Pete Proedehl) was very handy in helping all the young bands and zines at the time in the milwaukee scene. He was 24/7 punk rock back then and showed us a lot of tricks we needed to be super diy before most people knew what the fuck that was. My little brother laid down his guitar long enough for me to pick it up and learn a bit, and I’ve seen him navigate the diy scenes and non-diy scenes over the last 20 years and I’ve learned a lot, as well as been pretty inspired by his success and perserverance.
What has been the easiest part about running a label that was not anticipated?
Finding awesome bands to do records with.
What is the most tedious task when running a label?
Stuffing records/putting records together. But I’m too stubborn to let the plant do it.
You must have accumulated a lot of memorabilia over the years, what have you done with it all?
Yes indeed. I have sold my records a few times for money reasons, but since 2001I haven’t sold more than a dozen of my personal records.
So i have a shit ton of records. More all the time. And, I’m addicted to buying band tshirts. I have close to 500 band tshirts. Most of which I wear. It’s nuts. I also have like 3 boxes of label/band related stuff filed in the basement. It’ll be an interesting month when I go through all of it one day.
Do you still hear about bands selling out?
Hear about? Sure. I’m fine with bands signing to bigger labels or having a booking agent or a PR company do work for them. That’s fine. But in most cases if you wanna go that route, I don’t have any use in working with them. Also, Scion a/v, while a dead horse, is a stupid gross thing I abhor. Lazy fucking bands.
What other instruments do you play?
None. I could never play another instrument well enough to play in a band. Maybe bass in a pinch…
What part of history do you find the most interesting?
Hmm. For the most part WWI - WWII era history. The changes in the world from 1910-1950 were incredible and lasting. Borders changed, governments changed either in structure or alliance. A lot of negatives of course, but you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. The world is a (sometimes shiny) toilet and the 20th century is to blame, but alas it’s what we have.
How have you progressed as a musician? Band? Label? Person?
Yes. I’m slightly better at playing/writing than I was when I started 20+ years ago. I still wish I would’ve tried harder early on, as I really just want to shred like the heavy metal idols of my youth. The band is more comfortable in our old age about how we do things. We don’t care about getting big or playing a lot or if people really like us as much as the flavor of the month. I’m way better at making things happen with the label and have learned many many lessons with the label. I have to keep learning. I still make mistakes and that kind of keeps me on my toes and humble. As a person, I think I’m just a little smarter, less insane. I work quieter and harder than before and have accepted I can’t be everything to everyone. I’m just glad to be able to be who I am and be where I am after all these years. Not sure how I will accept the middle aged years I’m staring at now though.
What are your thoughts regarding mainstream music?
It’s hard to deny mainstream music as we've all been exposed to it or are or have been fans of it. I mean MTV in 1982 was huge for millions of my peers. Def Leopard is still my favorite band (1978-1983 only), and it’s not like I saw’em in a bsasement. I like a few current things that are clearly mainstream, though some of it is probably punk/pop punk or metal and not nearly mainstream when I was younger and was discovering punk/hc/alternative musics.
What has been the most rewarding part of running a label thus far?
Getting to know people literally all over the world.
Which band has inspired you the most that you have worked with?
Hmm. That’s a tie between Thou and Alpinist/Jungbluth. Thou for being steadfast creators of art vs commerce, even though they are pretty friggin huge and have tip toed around some huge / gross things over the years. And Alpinist/Jungbluth for being so goddamn down to earth and so damn nice. But this isn’t fair to the rest of people I’ve worked with over the years. I mean, I’m a huge fan of the people in almost all the bands I’ve worked with. It’s insane how lucky I have been.
How do you decide on which bands you will release records for? Do you generally contact them, or do bands send you demos?
Well I have about 6-8 bands now that i work with fairly often or plan to, so I have half my schedule written for me in that regard. It always changes as bands and I are human, and sometimes things fall into my lap or I pursue things that I didnt plan on.
Bands contact me daily. I get about 500 emails a year asking to do a record or help, etc. I’d say I end up doing 1-3 of those per year.
I prefer to work with awesome bands I love and happen to be friends with. So I keep an eye on certain bands, or keep in contact with them or the friends I have in them and try to work out ideas/plans. It’s pretty natural really. Over the years it’s been about 50/50. I could give specific examples, but it’s kinda boring really.
What was the first record that you remember thinking, "Damn, I wish I'd released that."
Hmm. So something post 2007? That’s hard to say. It’s cynical for the most part. Thou, Celeste and others come to mind.
Do you have any thoughts or opinions on lyrical content nowadays?
I like good thoughtful lyrics. Or downright hateful and pissed lyrics. I prefer the bands I like to have something interesting to say. Most don’t. But I barely go to shows or spend an insane amount of time with most records, so it’s in passing that I care. i should mention that I like bands with great lyrics 10x more than ones with inane lyrics.
These days, im not sure what matters. Political lyrics better be good and informed for me to care, and I think some of it is just as trite as beer and zombies.
What are your thoughts on the young generation? Your generation? The older generation?
Garbage in three different forms. All three have been vast resources of good and evil. I’m not here to cast judgement. Most people are terrible in some way or another, just as people are equipped to be wonderful and shockingly good in equal measure. We're taught a lot of different ways to fight boredom and to get ahead of each other, and that generally leads to some dark shit from time to time.
Everyone has phobias, especially irrational ones. Yours?
I have a fear of heights, though it seems specific to my relation to things (up high) around me. It’s hard to explain. I can climb high and be reckless up high, but hate balconies 20 stories up for example.
Corporations + Governments = Suicide. Agree?
Yes. There should be a 'shoot the board and CEO' Friday every month just to keep’em a little nervous.
What gives you hope?
Small victories by regular, unimportant people. Watching people overcome adversity. I root for the underdog.
What are your views on drugs?
I don’t care. Most are bad for you, but I’m not one to judge. Heroin, meth, et al are obviously stupid in so many ways. But people want to escape and I don’t really blame them. The war on drugs needs to be fought with treatment, not with jails.
How do you feel about eating meat?
It’s unnecessary, but most things are. I don’t eat meat, but I don’t care if anyone else does really. It seems beneath us as a species, but not everyone can make dietary choices based on conscience and politics and taste. It’s also about how people respect (or don’t) the source of food in general. The first world deserves to be poisoned as we've happily let them poison us for decades.
What are your views on the space program, or lack thereof?
It’s amazing, and leads to other scientific discoveries not typically examined via usual means. re: geology, phyics, etc.
We might need to leave, and while I will be dead long before we do, I’m all for the search for new frontiers. I’ve always loved space, and science fiction, so.. yeah.
Science vs. Religion. Go.
Science. I think organized religion is just silly, but whatever stirs your soup I guess.
What makes you proud to be American? What would you like to change about America?
Not much. I was born here. So be it. It’s a rich, vast place with neat little curiousities and endless vapid swaths of excess as well. I don’t know. America.. money, big this big that. It’s kinda garbage in its overall sameness, but every little place has its little quirks.
Education is the only thing that will prevent the US from becoming a 2nd world country full of massive prisons. Public education is being taken apart, people are being left to starve or rot in poorly managed 'care' facilities because its not profitable to help people.
What are you opinions regarding reality TV?
It’s a bright light being shone on exagerrations for the most part. I find it amusing or interesting, depending. House renovations, cooking competitions and the like are my favorite things to watch when nothing else is on.
What is your:
most cherished physical record? (all time + your label)
HEAVY LOAD - Stronger Than Evil LP + LIGHT BEARER - Silver Tongue DLP
The former cuz anything by them is hard as fuck to find and it rules. The latter cuz it was my most ambitious release and it came out amazing, even after a pitfall or two.
disclaimer: I’m sure there are others I could argue if I bothered to go through all my records. Something I won’t do soon.
favourite release of all time? (all time + your label)
DEF LEPPARD - High n Dry + JUNGBLUTH - Part Ache
disclaimer: It’s not fair. I like so many of my releases.
choice for best cover art/packaging? (all time + your label)
tie: MY DYING BRIDE - The Angel and the Dark River / CELTIC FROST - To Megatherion / MALACHI - Wither to Cover the Thread