I recently caught up with Ryan Young, vocalist of the Minnesota punk band, Off With Their Heads who will hit the road later this month in support of their latest full-length album “Home.” In the interview we discussed the new album, working with producer Bill Stevenson, his experiences growing up as an Altar Boy, what happened to the rumored split with Dillinger Four, their upcoming music video, visiting Kurt Cobain’s house and what fans can expect on the NEXT Off With Their Heads album!
You can read the interview here.
DyingScene: On this album the concept of “Home” is the overall theme. You guys are originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, but you have since moved out to L.A. What has the transition been like so far?
Ryan Young: I’m actually the only one that lives in LA. We are all scattered. Justin (who played drums on the record) is actually the only one who still lives in MN. We have people in Boston, New York and Chicago. I haven’t actually lived in Minneapolis for about 5 years. I met my girlfriend in Chicago while we were touring. I just started to go back to her house as opposed to going to Minneapolis. She then decided she wanted to see what life was like in California. I told her it didn’t matter to me at all where we were based out of, so she moved to San Diego for a year, and then up to LA. We have been here for about 2 or 3 years. I like it. It has a bad reputation, but its just like any other city. If you know where to go, you can bypass all the shittiness pretty easily.
A lot of musicians move out to L.A. because it’s where the industry and bigger shows are, but that didn’t really weigh in on your decision?
Not at all. There are tons of musicians here obviously! I am not much of a schmoozer, so it doesn’t really benefit me in that aspect. I like it here because I have a bunch of good friends and its always warm.
I noticed that a few songs “Don’t Make Me Go Home” and “Stolen Away” stray a bit from the usual OWTH songs. They’re slower and more ballad like. How did those songs come about? Do you think it made the album a bit more dynamic?
Yeah. I wanted to work towards making a record that had a little diversity to it. I love those songs. I need to learn how to just sit and write, and not be concerned with a genre. I think that’s when I’m at my best. Those songs were the product of that line of thinking.
I’ve already started working on new stuff. I think the next record will be even more diverse. I’m old. I don’t care anymore.
“Altar Boy Blues” and “Focus on Your Own Family” seems to be a song criticizing religion. You mentioned in an interview that you were an Altar Boy when you were younger and that your parents are religious. Did that create a conflict when you got into punk rock music which tends to question religion? Was it a shock to them?
I made it pretty clear to my parents that I thought it was all bullshit. I told them my feelings about it when I was really young. All that did was make it worse. That’s when I was forced into being an altar boy. I wish I had pictures! I haven’t gotten along with either of them since I expressed my feelings about God and the Catholic church.
I was told by my mother that you can’t have a solid foundation for your life without the church. I’m not sure that’s true. Its hard to take someone seriously, especially when they made you drink liquid dish detergent. If that’s what being religious and having a foundation is, I’ll pass.
For this latest album “Home” you decided to work with Bill Stevenson for the first time. You mentioned in a previous interview that Bill has a more hands on approach compared to your previous producer. How did that approach affect the album’s end result?
We’ve actually never had a producer before. Jacques Wait engineered everything for us, but didn’t really do much in the way of having input on song structures and stuff like that. I wish he would have, because I like his ideas, but we never had demos for him to check out. We did all those other records on the fly.
I liked that Bill gave his input. That’s one of the reasons we wanted him to do the record. I just disagreed with the way he went about sharing his opinions with us. It turned out fine though.
Before recording your latest album “Home,” OWTH did a split with Discharge. On the OWTH Facebook you mentioned that the songs that you guys recorded for that split were actually unreleased Beltones songs. Was it strange to use songs from someone else’s band for your own band?
Discharge had their song recorded for over a year, and I was slacking in the songwriting department. I made a joke to Bill Beltone saying that if he wrote me a song, I would give him $30. He sent me a bunch of demos that he had recorded over the years. I wound up recording 2 of them. I love that guy and his songs, so it was a pretty cool experience. If you would have told me that entire thing would actually exist when we started OWTH, I wouldn’t have believed it.
What was it like to have the legendary Mike Watt (Minutemen, Firehose, The Stooges) record songs for the split? It must have been a pretty crazy experience!
It was awesome! He learned the songs quickly, and did it for 3 lemons off Todd C’s lemon tree in his back yard. Mike is an amazing guy. I love talking to all the older punk guys from southern CA. They all have the best stories. He has lived a unique life. I’d love to see him again and get him to spin me some tales.
Speaking of splits OWTH have done numerous splits over the years including ones with Discharge, Dear Landlord, J-Church Detournement, etc. A while back I heard a rumor about you guys were possibly doing a split with Dillinger Four? Is that something you’d still like to do?
Haha. Of course.
We actually recorded our side of the split. It was going to be one of those BYO Split Series records.
D4 have a reputation for taking forever to do anything. For some reason, I thought they wouldn’t this time. Eventually, I realized that they weren’t going to get it done. Those songs wound up becoming half of In Desolation. But yes. I would love to do a split with them. They are one of my favorite bands of all time. I’m just going to wait for them to record their side first. Give it another 10 years or so.
Did you guys recently shoot another music video for “Please Don’t Make me Go Home” while in Seattle, Washington? When is that going to be out? I saw that you had posted some pics of Kurt Cobain’s home or something?
We did shoot a video for that song, but not in Seattle. We did it here in LA. When we go on tour, we do a lot of tourist shit. Its a good way to break up the routine. Nirvana is probably my all time favorite band, and I had never seen that house before. We just swung by to check it out.
The video for “Don’t Make Me Go” is in the final editing stages. I think it will be out within the next month or so.
What was it like to visit his home considering that in the segment we did together a while back you said that Nirvana was a band that made a huge impact on you?
It was pretty cool. It is in a very fancy neighborhood. I wonder what it was like when he lived there. I wonder if the neighbors hated them. I’m sure they did. Courtney lived there. There can’t be a worse person to live next to.
I saw you bought some cool albums recently like an album by the Meat Puppets as well some albums by Elliott Smith and Samiam. I thought that those were some sweet choices! Is that the kind of music you listen to most days?
Amoeba in LA has a HUGE clearance section for CD’s. It is filled with all kinds of 90’s rock stuff that I haven’t listened to in ages. Every now and again I just head over there and kill an hour or two digging through it. I leave with 10 or so CD’s for less than $20. Its an activity that I really miss. It has gotten me back into Dinosaur JR in a big way. I try to mix up what I listen to. You have to be diverse to find inspiration.
I listen to everything from The National to Misery Index. I can find something I like in every single genre of music.
You’ve got a big tour coming up soon with Alkaline Trio and Bayside. That’s gonna huge. You stoked for that? Do you think it will be strange to play in more of a mainstream audience instead of just people who mainly listen to punk?
We have done more than our fair share of those kinds of tours. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I love Alkaline Trio. They were a big influence on OWTH. I don’t really know them though. We have a bunch of mutual friends, so I’m sure it will be fine. Tobe from Street Dogs is their guitar tech as well, so that rules. Those tours can be really fun, or can be the worst. I’m excited to get out and play again. Hopefully I won’t be having any meltdowns.
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