Blows Against the Empire
I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT I WAS GETTING MYSELF INTO when I agreed to interview the 400 Blows in my studio for our interview. Plain old-fashioned logic should have warned me that I couldn't get the better of three young bucks toting a case of brewski and half-empty bottles of Early Times.
Singer/lyricist Skot Alexander was under the table in 10 seconds flat, and guitarist Christian Wabschall wasn't far behind. The only band member who can hold his liquor is drummer Ferdinand Cudia, a real steakhouse motherfucker who reminded me of the Satanas gang Flips I hung with in the mid-'70s.
It didn't take long for me to wind up as inebriated as the boys, but, surprisingly, we were actually able to discuss their death-metal marching-band music and new CD, 3.19.98, on Total Annihilation Records.
You guys need to be on the program -- you're friggin' alcoholics. That first cut on your new CD is a rollicking drinking song.
SKOT ALEXANDER: "The Bards Must Drink and Junket." It's actually a line from Ulysses -- the lead character, Stephen Daedalus, says it to his friend as they're about to go out.
CHRISTIAN WABSCHALL: I love that song. Perfect way to begin a record -- drinking.
One thing this band has in its favor is a conceptual eye. Are any of you also visual or fine artists?
SKOT: Ferdie is in the circulatory arts. He's a mailman.
FERDINAND CUDIA: I can tell who's a fag and who's lesbian by their mail.
CHRISTIAN: I work around visual things. I do color separations for gay rags and hardcore video-box covers.
SKOT: I paint a little. I have a day job working at MOCA.
Your stage wear is unique. Please explain.
SKOT: We wear on-leave Navy uniforms. I found them at the Salvation Army. They match our equipment and the fact that we're a minimal act. ã
You won me over with those coordinating outfits. I hate it when a band wears street clothes onstage. And your record is simply recorded. Simplicity rules.
SKOT: That's why people like and don't like us. We throw some rhythms out, and you take them where they should go.
How did you nuts hook up?
FERDINAND: Through the Recycler. I was drumming in a Filipino Top 40 cover band called Brown Sugar.
SKOT: I wanted to start a band out of nowhere. I called up a guitar player and a bass player, and after jamming for a month, they kicked me out of my own band. The guitar player was into noodly solos. The bass player was twangy. He thought he was Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
You don't have a bass player now, just guitar and drums, like the Spinanes. You have to be a good guitar player to make it work.
SKOT: Christian is actually a bass player. He never played guitar until this band.
CHRISTIAN: I came to the band under the pretense that I'd be playing bass. They tricked me.
SKOT: Christian is really playing bass parts on guitar. We're an anti-melody band.
You all have a great musical rapport onstage. It's like you're lovers.
CHRISTIAN: We actually hate each other. I've quit this band a countless number of times. But Skot always makes me come back.
SKOT: Let me tell you something, I can suck a mean fucking cock.
You're so Querelle. But can you do the puppy chow?
SKOT: Like a tourist. I was the first person to suck my cock. I was in reform school, and I'd get horny and put on a show sucking myself off. It was very romantic. I was only 12 at the time.
Tom Grimley did a good job producing the album.
SKOT: Tom is a genius. He looks like the Grinch, with those huge hands of his. He's a stud. He gave us a live sound. The vocals aren't overdubbed, and there's no separation between drums and guitars. He knows his shit; he's very intelligent and open to experimentation. I told him he's the Steve Albini of L.A., and he didn't like that. He wants to be Phil Spector.
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The interview deteriorated at this point, with Skot asking me if I had any reefer. Do I look like a damn hippie? I promise never to get drunk during an interview again.
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