Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Posted by xCHIPxSEM |
Once again, Andrew "Jake" Jacobs comes through and brings us an interview with Joe Nelson, former member of Ignite, The Killing Flame, and Triggerman. Again, thanks to him for going above and beyond as well as Joe for taking the time to do the interview.

You were the original singer for the Orange County, California hardcore mainstay Ignite. Did you have any idea back in '93 when you joined Ignite that they would still be going strong 16 years later?

Ummmmmmmmm no, because I always looked at that band as a fun little side project for the short time that I was in it. Don’t get me wrong, I am super stoked for those dudes and they definitely have put in the work to get some success over in Germany and whatever they have here. I have also heard that they are either the biggest band or one of the top 6 or 7 biggest bands in Budapest, Hungary, which must be really fucking cool. Seriously though, Brett Rasmussen is still one of my good friends, so I love the fact that he’s still at it as we approach 40 years of age, or at least as I approach that age.

Many people in the hardcore scene consider the Ash Return demo and the Scarred For Life record to be Ignite's best work and in large part because of your vocals on both. What are your thoughts on that?

I would say they’re doing too many whippets, or sniffing too much glue, or maybe a combo of the two. That demo is God awful, it’s painful to listen to. I haven’t listened to it in at least 15 years. So maybe it’s not as bad as I think. However, I remember thinking it really, really blew once it was finished.

In our defense, we recorded it in Brett's apartment on a 4 track. That is an extremely difficult way to get a decent sound, since you are compressing all the drums into one track and then each instrument, including the vocals, gets one separate track. I’m sure we used Radio Shack quality mics as well. So for what it was, maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe in some ways, it’s like the Pet Sounds of hardcore 4 track recordings.

The funniest part of that era of Ignite, or my stint in it, is one night at some party in L.A., guitarist Joe Foster actually gave George Harrison of The Beatles a copy of that thing. I wonder what he thought of it? He must have been in a state of shock if he ever actually put it on and listened to it. He’s like, "wow I wrote songs like 'Eleanor Rigby', 'Blackbird', 'Sgt. Pepper', etc. times infinity and these blokes wrote some sort of noise called 'Ash Return'." Can you imagine?

As for Scarred For Life, it is what it is. Like I said before, I never took that band seriously. I didn’t write any songs except for the few songs you find on the first EP and probably about half of Call On My Brothers. To me, that thing is Zoli Teglas' and Brett’s band 100000%. I don’t consider myself a part of it in any way really. I’m sure Randy Johnson, the vocalist in between Zoli and myself, would have more of an opinion on Scarred For Life since he sings on most of it.

In the late '90s, you formed The Killing Flame with ex-Ignite guitarist Joe Foster. Like Ignite, The Killing Flame was a very '80s O.C. hardcore style band. Why did you decide to front another band similar to Ignite?

Whatever summer we formed that band, I was surfing a lot with Foster. We seriously were in the water 5 or 6 days a week for about 5 months straight. It was a really awesome time. Anyway, he had some songs left over from Speak 714 which were actually recorded. He also had about 10 unrecorded songs from some failed Unity reunion he was trying to “Ignite”, get it?

I thought the songs were pretty good for the most part. Like I said, that Speak stuff had already been recorded with Randy from Pennywise and some other dude, which I believe was Mark McKay (ex-Slapshot). I could be wrong on that one though. Basically, all I had to do was go into the studio and finish the vocals. Once again, it seemed like a fun little project to do. I think we banged out my contribution in two nights.

We called it The Killing Flame because it seemed like the perfect trilogy for Foster's hardcore life - Unity, Ignite and The Killing Flame. For those who don’t know, Ignite is a lyric in a Unity song called “Blood Days” and the end of the line is “The Killing Flame”. "I ignite… I ignite… I ignite… The Killing Flame”.

Neither one of us planned on doing a real band with The Killing Flame but soon enough, we were wasting our money at some $10 an hour rehearsal spot trying to learn those 10 unrecorded Unity songs and rounding out the line up to start playing live.

Getting Gavin Oglesby was a huge part of the equation for me. There’s no way that band would have made it past The Dream Dies EP if Gavin hadn’t taken the reigns and focused us on finishing the songs and adding some of his own songs into the mix. In the end, half of the Another Breath record are those old Unity songs and the other half are Gavin's, except for “Survival”, which was written by Chris Lisk during his 6 month sentence inside the band.

Another Breath, the first Killing Flame album, is literally a who's who of both '80s and '90s hardcore/punk talent. Some of the many people who appeared on it include Pat Dubar (Uniform Choice), Dan O'Mahony (No For An Answer), Alex Barreto (Chain of Strength), Popeye (Farside) and Brian Balchack (Eleven Thirty-Four). Why did you decide to pack the record with so many guest appearances?

I wanted it to be like a rap record in the sense that everyone was a part of it. I was hoping to make a record that had a true hardcore family feel to it. Getting Pat Dubar obviously seemed like a total coup to a lot of people. At the time, Dubar was so missing in action that nobody in hardcoreville had heard from him since Mind Funk. He really was a true friend and stand up dude to come in and sing on that record for Gavin and I. To be honest, I was actually the most stoked to get Tony from the Adolescents to be part of it. I know for both Gavin and I, that was our favorite guest star appearance. The Adolescents' "Blue” record is still one of the top 5 greatest punk records of all time.

Anyway, the point is I wanted to have everyone I could grab be part of that record. I also asked everyone from Mike Ness to Zach De La Rocha to be on it, so just think what it could have been like if I had locked down everyone I asked.

What are some of your favorite Killing Flame songs and why?

That’s hard. I’m sure like most dudes who are in bands, I don’t listen to my stuff or think like that. I think there are some good songs and some bad songs but I haven’t listened to any of the released Killing Flame stuff since before it was even released. I don’t even own a copy of the last two CDs, Another Breath and Nine More Lives.

To try and answer your question though, I will say that some of the unreleased stuff that’s coming out on the Double Cross site soon is pretty decent. There’s a song called “Welcome To Los Angeles” that I like and I feel is strong lyrically and performance-wise. There’s also another song called “Save Yourself" which I think is cool but maybe only because I say “Hail Satan” in the bridge.

I can also add this about The Killing Flame, which is I did feel that I was finally able to match the aggression of hardcore with real honest and heartfelt lyrics. This was coming from a person of 30 at the time too, which isn't easy. Writing lyrics that made sense was really difficult with Ignite as well, which is maybe why I blow it off so much. At the time, I was 23 or whatever and wasn’t pissed about much. I wasn’t’ being backstabbed by friends, the skinheads weren’t ruining the scene, I wasn’t angry that the kids in my high school were drinking or whatever. You know, the traditional hardcore lyrics. Therefore, I just kind of winged it for that band. Well, lyrically anyway.

However, with the Killing Flame and especially Another Breath, I really had some sincere rage to front the music with. I was extremely political at the time and I think it shows on that record. I was also consuming everything Chomsky, Vidal, Naomi Klein, Hermann, Bakunin, Zinn, Karl Marx, Mao, even Nietzsche. Their fingerprints are definitely on my lyrics and thoughts during that time.
Do you have any funny or interesting Killing Flame tour stories that you'd like to share?

The best thing I ever did with any band was a 2004 or 2005 tour of Brazil done with The Killing Flame. We were there for 3 weeks and just had an amazing adventure. We played several shows with this amazing band from Vitoria called Dead Fish. Imagine a faster Quicksand but sang all in Portuguese and you have Dead Fish. At the time, they were huge there, so the shows supporting them were great.

The shows were all crazy, It felt like a tour of the U.S. in the '80s, just total Wild West type stuff. The biggest show was a festival in Belo Horizonte where we played in front of 10,000 people. The two shows in Sao Paulo were at this sick club called Hangar 110. There is, or was, a half pipe next to the stage, so the whole time we’re playing, kids are skating next to you. There’s a video for the song “Nine More Lives” that was on MTV Brazil for a while compiled of those shows. You can probably find it on YouTube. We also played with The Lemonheads and the stories from hanging out with Evan Dando are all time classics but
nothing I can share on a blog.

When that tour was over, I remember the other dudes saying “oh man, we gotta play more shows”, which of course we did. However, for me, I was like “Why? It will never get better than this”.

Prior to both Ignite and The Killing Flame, you were the singer for Triggerman, which also included punk/hardcore album cover artist and former No For An Answer guitarist Gavin Oglesby. What was it like going from being a regular at NFAA shows to fronting a band with one of it's members less than two years later?

I knew Gavin before that band but he was such a quiet dude that we never really talked at shows except for a “what’s up?” nod maybe. I never really liked NFAA though. I thought they were way too serious, too preachy and kind of corny. I also was a Uniform Choice dude, so that song “About Face” bugged me. My crew and I even made sure when we were out fire extinguishing people in Huntington Beach to spray any dude we saw in a NFAA shirt, which probably happened only once but it still emphasizes my point on how little we respected that band.

However, after a while, I got to actually know Gavin and Dan O’Mahony better and became good friends with them. Both of those dudes are razor sharp and have a terrific sense of humor, which are really the only criteria on my friend application. Dan was probably even my best friend in the early '90s with Gavin being a close second.

Everyone knows of Gavin’s incredible art talent but I also feel he’s a pretty fucking talented guitar player. He would be the first to admit that he’s no Joe Satriani or even a Brian Balchack. However, Gavin definitely has a talent, for taking a basic chord progression and making it more dynamic. He’s not going to throw key changes at you BUT he’ll take that old bar chord and get more out of it than seems possible.

Triggerman generally got either a very positive or a very negative response from those people who heard it. Why do you think Triggerman illicited such extreme responses either way?

That was a weird time for music for me. We were all pretty much over hardcore when we started that band, or at least I was. I don’t mean over it in the sense that we thought the newer hardcore bands were lame or hardcore in general was lame, I just mean that we were in our early 20s and going to college or whatever. To me, hardcore was a young man's world. The feelings you experience as an adolescent get so amplified in the arena of hardcore. The music and the words really speak to you during that time in your life. So by the time I was in Triggerman, I never listened to hardcore at all. I was a huge fan of post-hardcore stuff like Jawbox, Girls Against Boys, Fugazi, Pavement, Superchunk, etc., plus I was constantly listening to The Cure, Depeche Mode, The Smiths and Joy Division, etc. It obviously shows in the style of music Triggerman was and also comes across in the lyrics. Triggerman lyrics are gloom and doom, man. They are extremely fucking depressing, which is funny because I didn’t consider myself a depressed person back then. I also think that I wasn’t spiritually aligned with hardcore during those years, nor was the band. That definitely brought on a dichotomy at our live shows.

The flip side of that coin is all of our ties were to hardcore. Whether we still felt connected to it or not as young men, we were still in that arena. We also wouldn’t have been able to play shows in front of more than 10 people at some lame Hollywood bar if it weren’t for our connections to hardcore. Bands like Sensefield just broke from that mold and did it 100% their own way, which is such a credit to those dudes. We were more chicken shit, or maybe prideful, to build up our following from the ground up like that.

However, no matter how anybody felt about that band, Triggerman was a great time in my life. I was either touring with Quicksand, working the door at some Hollywood club or playing in Triggerman with bands like Wool, Farside, early Pennywise, early Offspring, Into Another, Quicksand, Down By Law, Insted, Gorilla Biscuits, CIV, Shelter, Inside Out, early Green Day, Gameface, 411, Chorus, Strife, Headfirst, etc. and it really doesn’t get much better than that for a dude in his early 20s.

Prior to your stints in all 3 bands mentioned above, you roadied for the '80s hardcore band Insted and the '90s post-hardcore band Quicksand. What were those experiences like?

I was touring with Quicksand smack dab in the middle of my Triggerman and Ignite days. Those were amazing times. Thousands of stories. The stories from touring with Anthrax and White Zombie alone would take weeks to re-tell. I was also on the first Warped Tour for a bit, which was like being in a traveling zoo. Every time I run into a dude from the first Warped, we just about die laughing at how insane that tour was.

Touring is touring though. Anyone who’s ever done it in any capacity has thousands of amazing memories and stories. I toured with bands like Rage Against The Machine and No Doubt but the experience and the feeling was the same, more or less, as when I toured with Insted or Gorilla Biscuits.

You and a bunch of other dudes in the O.C. Sloth Crew recorded a rap for Insted's 1990 album What We Believe that was ultimately not used. Discuss that.

I don’t know where you heard that one. I know we all did backups and there were lots of funny outtakes on that record that never saw the light of day, but I don’t remember a rap per say.

How did you become a contributor to the Radio Silence hardcore book that came out last year?

Anthony is a friend. I had been talking to him for a long time about that book, even when it was just an idea inside his bearded little head. I think it was even called something else for a long time. Anyway, when the time came to round up California people to be interviewed for it, he called and I helped him out. That’s a great book, by the way. I recommend picking it up if you’re at all interested in '80s hardcore,

As a writer, who or what are some of your influences?

The answer is Satan for both.

Feel free to shamelessly plug any of your current musical and/or non-musical endeavors that you feel like plugging here.

I got nothing for you. That’s not my style. (bottom photo taken by David “Igby” Sattani)


Isaac Golub said...

Who is this Joe Nelson guy? This interview tells me nothing.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows the 7" on Ringside was Ignite's peak.

Triggerman song on Guilty By Association is their best.

Quit kissin' ass Jake and ask some real questions.

Anonymous said...
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