Anyone familiar with Matt Henson, whether through “real life” or social media or some combination thereof, will no doubt be aware that he’s one of the more compelling people in the punk rock scene. For the uninitiated, here’s a quick synopsis in runon sentence format: In addition to playing bass and handling half of the lead vocal duties for Noi!se, Matt tackles vocals and acoustic guitars for Stadium Way, is a devoted husband and father to a young son and an infant daughter, and is a Master Sergeant in the United States Army where he’s in charge of roughly a hundred soldiers.
It’s that last bullet point that has a tendency to draw the most raised eyebrows amongst the traditional “fuck the man, fuck the system” mentality of the punk rock set. To hear Henson tell it, that’s a mentality that he personally grew up with. “There’s an inclination when you’re young and you’re angry and you’re pissed off to say “fuck the man! Fuck the establishment!” And that’s perfectly normal. I was like that, and I think it’s perfectly acceptable to be angry now. I think the political and social climates that we live in right now foster an environment of anger and frustration, and if you care at all about your family or your country, you’re going to be frustrated right now.”
There comes a point in the life of many a young, nihilistic punker at which the progression of time and the culmination of one’s life experiences provides a certain amount of added perspective that forces you to broaden those those earlier views. So while you try to hold on to some of those anti-establishment principles, you also do things like “get a job” and “pay taxes” and “start a family” and “buy a car.” Or, in some cases, you join the Army. “People seem to mistake serving in the military with a blind agreement with everything that the government does,” says Hanson, stating that people assume that “essentially a robot who’s been brainwashed to follow orders and you’re completely devoid of right and wrong and your self and free thought. And that’s certainly not true.”
If you’re like Henson and you take the heart of an idealistic punk rocker and add to it all that comes along with a lifelong military career, you end up with more than enough material to pull from when trying to write music as anything more than just a hobby. “In the Army, we have a phrase “target-rich environment,” explains Henson. “Lyrically, I would say that the United States is one of the most target-rich environments on the face of the planet, if not the universe.” While the problems experienced in the United States don’t necessarily compare to some of the more rigid environments that Henson has experienced abroad, that doesn’t make our problems any less frustrating, particularly given our quintessentially American way of losing sight of the forest because of all the damn trees in the way.
“The rhetoric on both sides (is) less about fixing any of the problems and more about demonstrating how the other side is going to make the problems worse,” explains Henson in a way that will invite anyone with even a modicum of common sense to nod in approval. “It’s almost impossible to have any sort of dialog about any sort of social issue with anyone anymore because everything’s become so divisive that if you make a suggestion or a criticism in any way, shape or form, it almost has to be met with a response from the other side. There can’t be a healthy discussion about how we can fix it and what we can do. It’s more about whose fault it is and who’s making it worse.”
He continues in such a way that yours truly will pull back from editorializing and just stick to the quotes: “There’s definitely other countries that are going through much worse social upheaval and social unrest, and that doesn’t negate what’s going on here. But being away from family, more than anything, shows you what’s important. With that in mind, you look at what’s going on here and your first thought is “how is this going to affect my family”? I have a son and a daughter and the thought becomes less about how annoying this change is for me and more about how this could potentially affect my kids and my grandkids down the line.”
With that as motivation, Henson and his Noi!se bandmates (Nate Leinfelder – vocals/rhythm guitar, Jesse O’Donnell-lead guitar and Kenny Dirkes-drums) set to work on brand new material soon after the release of their last full-length, the stellar-if-underappreciated The Scars We Hide. “It was actually our goal to (get to work) quicker, because I think Nate and I are two of the most impatient people on the face of the planet as it pertains to just about everything, music especially.” Early writing sessions would get interrupted, however, by a call from Uncle Sam. For a one-year period beginning in late 2014, Henson would find himself on deployment in Korea.
But while being seventeen hours ahead might pose some challenges, that doesn’t mean that Henson and the boys rested on their laurels. “Right now, if I had a song idea, the longest I’d have to wait is until next Tuesday so that I could take it to the band,” explains Henson. “In Korea, I would have to wait until I could get into my room, get a decent recording on the acoustic, send it to them, then call them and whistle the other leads and fills and vocal progressions so that they understood what I was talking about.”
When he returned Stateside, Henson took a brief respite to recharge and reconnect with his son and then-pregnant wife, before he the Noi!se gang got right back to work. “I was home for two weeks before we started recording,” says Henson. Why such a quick decision to get back at it? “Anybody that’s got a band probably feels the same way; once it has you, it becomes such a big part of your life. You’ve got all of these things that are pent up and trying to get out.”
The result of those post-Korea writing and recording sessions was the dozen songs that will soon be revealed to the masses as The Real Enemy, the sophomore full length that finds Noi!se raising the proverbial bar while staying true to their street punk roots. “The content is a little bit darker than we normally do, but there are some subjects that have hit pretty close to home with us recently that we really, really felt like we needed to address,” says Henson.
Chief among those things is post-traumatic stress disorder, which is experienced by roughly 8% of all American adults but more than double that rate amongst Veterans. “The War Inside,” for example, tackles the subject of PTSD in rather direct fashion, opening the album’s b-side while serving as a bit of a departure. Not only does the music veer away from traditional three-chord punk, but it also features a guest voice; Aimee Allen of the Interrupters. “Aimee’s voice and perspective add an essential element to the song that I think would be lacking without her in the mix. The backing vocals that (Aimee’s Interrupters bandmates) the Bivonas provide are incredible, also.”
With any luck, The Real Enemy will garner the band more recognition than the criminally-underappreciated The Scars We Hide did a couple of years ago. “What we’re hoping is that if the availability of this record is what we think it’s going to be, and people do us the honor of picking it up, maybe people that haven’t had a chance to listen to Scars discover it and listen to the music,” says Henson. Because Noi!se are unavailable to tour for the bulk of the year for somewhat obvious reasons, connecting with fans both new and old through recorded music takes on even greater importance. “You’re just trying to get someone else to feel what you were feeling when you wrote that,” says Henson, explaining the dividends that can still be paid in spite of the band’s inability to exist as a regularly touring entity. “That’s as quantifiable a feeling as you can get, other than playing and sharing the stage with some of your musical heroes and getting a nod from them, and the validation that you’re on the right track…if our music can get other people through the same things that music did when we were kids…it’s just a good feeling for a person to be able to help someone out in any capacity.”
Head below to read the full text of our Q & A, in which we expound on a lot of the subject matter above. Oh, and stay tuned for more news from Noi!se and Stadium Way in the coming weeks!
Dying Scene (Jay Stone): So I guess it’s an understatement, but there’s an awful lot going on in your music world between new Noi!se and new Stadium Way right now…
Matt Henson (Noi!se/Stadium Way): Oh absolutely. We took the year that I was in Korea to reset and figure out what we wanted to do, and what that essentially ended up being was a year of playing as much as we possibly could and coming up with ideas of where we wanted to go and where we wanted to take the band. When I came back, we really put our noses to the grindstone for the last ten or eleven months. So between shows and recording, there’s been a lot going on, for sure.
The new album seems like it came together an awful lot quicker than The Scars We Hide did. Was that the goal, really? To get another one out with a quick turnaround?
Absolutely. It was actually our goal to do it quicker than that, because I think Nate (Leinfelder, vocals and rhythm guitar) and I are two of the most impatient people on the face of the planet as it pertains to just about everything, music especially. We don’t want to sit on our laurels; we feel as though we always have to be doing something, and my ideas just kinda flow and there’s this sensation of just having to get it out there. So we started writing and recording for the new record, gosh, almost immediately after Scars was released. Then we had a year hiatus, and we really didn’t have enough material to release anything, so we were kind of discussing a couple of options, one being a 7-inch, then there was maybe a split; there were a couple of bands that we had been talking to about doing a split with, and we really just decided to sit on it and wait ‘til I came home to put everything together into a full-length that we could be really, really proud of. I think The Real Enemy is going to be a culmination of a lot of ideas that we had and a lot of work that we put into something over a long period of time.
With Scars coming out a couple of years ago now, I feel like that was one of the more underappreciated albums of 2014. When you have an album that comes out that you’re proud of and it maybe doesn’t get to as many ears as you want it to, does that take the wind out of your sails, or does that kinda motivate you going forward?
I think it’s a double-edged, dual-sided feeling. The name of the game in this music is getting it out there for people to listen to. And that’s really been our objective with pretty much everything that we’ve released. Really what we’re looking for is to make things available so that if people want to get it, they can. So, it was kinda disappointing that people have had such a hard time finding it and getting access to it, but at the same time, I feel like the music is still there. What we’re hoping is that if the availability of this record is what we think it’s going to be, and people do us the honor of picking it up, maybe people that haven’t had a chance to listen to Scars discover it and listen to the music. The pride in what you’re creating never goes away, because that’s not really quantified by how many people listen to it. It’s certainly a great feeling when people discover your music and what you’re trying to do resonates with them. Again, in my estimation, that’s pretty much the best honor that you can get in punk rock or any of the sub-genres. You’re just trying to get someone else to feel what you were feeling when you wrote that. That’s as quantifiable a feeling as you can get, other than playing and sharing the stage with some of your musical heroes and getting a nod from them, and the validation that you’re on the right track. Those things coupled together really would inspire anybody that’s in it for the right reasons to continue.
Is there added pressure for a band like Noi!se…I don’t want to say pressure to sell albums because nobody really sells albums nowadays… but is there added pressure to get your recorded music listened to by as many people as you can particularly because Noi!se isn’t a band that can exist on the road for six or eight or ten months a year like some bands?
I think that in a way, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Nate and I are very similar in a lot of ways, and one is that nothing’s really ever good enough. I don’t mean that in a negative way, where we’re dissatisfied with what other people are doing. That’s not the case at all. But we’re moreso not ever satisfied with being stagnant, and just doing something and it existing. We have to continue going forward and getting it out there. So if there’s really any pressure, I think it comes from within. I do have a desire to get our music out to as many people as we can reach, because in a lot of ways, the things that Nate and I were going through when we wrote, we want to share. There are common themes that I think resonate with a lot of people. And if our music can get other people through the same things that music did when we were kids, and to this day…music has continuously gotten me through and kept me sane. If our music can do that for anybody, and even taking the musical factor out of it, it’s just a good feeling for a person to help someone out in any capacity.
Does that give you sort of a surreal feeling? I’m sure that’s a thing that never gets old, when you hear feedback from people that say that they went through the same things that you went through, or that your music helped them get through whatever they were working on…I feel like that’s a thing that couldn’t possibly get old.
No, it absolutely does not. It’s probably one of the only feelings that can be attained numerous times and still have, if not the same effect than more of an effect than it had the first time. It is incredible, and I don’t think the most articulate person in the world could really describe how that feels. But it’s pretty crazy, man.
I hadn’t quite thought about it like that, but I think that you’re right in that even when you get that feeling a lot, you probably don’t get desensitized to it. It’s not like a drug, where you’re chasing the high every time.
Yeah, I think it’s totally got the reverse effect that a drug would!
The band started in 2009, but Scars (the first full-length) didn’t come out til 2014. Was that a result of family and work stuff, or was that from trying to navigate the scene by doing smaller releases first?
Well, yeah. We did Walk Beside Us, our first record, as a 7-inch maybe seven or eight months after we started the band. We started the band in August/September of ‘09 and we were in the studio in December. That’s kind of been our theme. The Army drives a lot of it, in the respect that we don’t have a whole lot of time where we know how much time we’re going to have…if that makes sense. There’s always an impending sense that I might be told tomorrow that I have to leave in a few months and that we’re coming to a rest and that they’ll have to record and put stuff out there while I’m gone. So we did that, then we did This Is Who We Are, which was a ten-inch, that came out maybe a week before I went to Afghanistan, so that would be 2011. Then we did a split with a band from Indiana called The Gestalts, which had “Coming Storm” and “Reality TV,” then we did a four-way split which had “Idle Action” on it. Those were released when I was in Afghanistan, and then I came home and we did the Rancid/Cock Sparrer show.
We had Pushing On, which was a culmination of everything we had done to that point. That was a perfect metaphor for how Noi!se really always operated. Our first guitar player, Justin, was also in the military. A week after we got back from San Francisco for that show, he got deployment orders that he had to go to Afghanistan in a month, so we immediately entered the studio and recorded as much as we could, and what we were able to record was Rising Tide. So it’s been constant; we’re either prepping for a show or writing and recording.
When you’re overseas, let’s say in Korea for 2014 and 2015, are you still able to write much or work on ideas while you’re over there, or does that focus really have to be Army stuff 24/7?
For Korea, that’s not a combat deployment, it’s basically that you’re stationed there and you’re away from your family. I was gone for a year, and I actually had an immense amount of time to write. That’s kind of where Stadium Way came from. Kenny, Noi!se’s drummer’s father, was kind enough that he saw the acoustic videos that we had done online and he said “you can’t continue to play that shitty guitar, so come pick out a guitar.” He’s probably got a hundred acoustic guitars from all over the world. So before I went to Korea, he had me over and I got to pick one out. I had a lot of time and like I said, not being a combat deployment but being away from your family for that amount of time is hard. So that’s where Stadium Way came from; I started noticing that the things that I was writing on the acoustic wasn’t for Noi!se…it wasn’t right. I write on acoustic guitar first. A lot of it, like Rising Tide and probably half of Scars was written in Afghanistan that way. It all comes from the acoustic, and then one of the cool things about the band is that I bring (the music) to them and they put the spin that they put on it and it becomes a completely different song. I just didn’t feel like the stuff that I was writing in Korea was really for Noi!se, necessarily.
Is that from a lyrical content standpoint, or is that from a musical feel standpoint?
Mostly from a musical feel, but also lyrically…I’m super lazy with lyrics. Generally I’ll write them one or two weeks before I have to record vocals. I don’t know why I do that to this day. I continue to complain about it and just continue to do it. I’m not really sure what my issue is. Weirdly, also, I always know what kind of subject I want to take on when I’m writing a song, and I could tell with the Stadium Way stuff that it was kind of dark. Noi!se is certainly not a happy-go-lucky band by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s more like a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ or something to that effect. Stadium Way kinda leaves you hanging. The acoustic project is something that I wanted to do for a really, really long time, and I thought it was just the right time, with all the time I had to sit and write and think. In that respect, Korea was great. And the ramen noodles are amazing! (*both laugh*)
I know obviously Kenny is in Stadium Way with you, but when the other guys find out that you’re writing for a project that’s not for Noi!se, do Nate and Jesse get a little weird about it, or are they totally on board?
Actually, Nate is the reason that I was able to convince myself to do it. I was so apprehensive about almost every aspect of it that I really needed some coaxing into it, and Nate was really the person to give me the confidence to go ahead and pull the trigger on it. Nate is in another band called The Fosdicks, which is more of a rock-and-roll band. And Jesse, when we started everything, was in a hardcore band called earthmother. Kenny was in a punk rock band called the Hilltop Rats, who are still going and are friends of ours. Everybody had their side projects, so there’s no apprehension on their parts whatsoever. They were really, really supportive, I just kinda needed a kick in the ass to go forward with it.
Obviously almost nobody has heard the new Noi!se album yet. What can you tell us about the direction you went in and what especially you pulled lyrically from for inspiration, because obviously there’s plenty to go around nowadays between the global environment and our political climate…
In the Army, we have a phrase “target-rich environment.” (*both laugh*) Lyrically, I would say that the United States is one of the most target-rich environments on the face of the planet, if not the universe. We’ve always been proponents of providing an objective viewpoint of the world around us, as opposed to “this is how we think and you should think this way too.” That’s just so counterproductive. I think that on this record, we kind of expanded on that. I think for a few songs, we do pinpoint a few things that have been bothering us. We kind of narrowed it down and made things a little less vague as to exactly what we’re touching on in a few songs. The content is a little bit darker than we normally do, but there are some subjects that have hit pretty close to home with us recently that we really, really felt like we needed to address.
We wanted to bring some friends in on this record. We’ve been talking about doing that forever. Al Barr (Dropkick Murphys) came on board, Gordy from The Forgotten, Aimee and The Interrupters helped us out on a few songs. So we were really, really fortunate to not only have some buddies help us out on the record, but buddies with exceptional musical capabilities lend their talents to us. Musically, I would say that we tried to…first of all, the music just kind of comes out. I don’t think Nate or I have ever sat down to write a song and said “let’s write this kind of song, or a song that sounds like this…” We just kind of vomit whatever happens to be on our minds, and it becomes what it becomes once the band puts its spin on it. I would say musically there are times where it’s a little bit more involved, without overdoing it to the point where we’re clearly trying to do too much. We’re very, very, very happy with it. Easily, to me, it’s the best stuff that we’ve ever written.
One of the things that I really enjoy about Noi!se, and which comes through loud and clear on The Real Enemy, is the amount of time that you and Nate spend both singing vocals on each song. Reminds me a lot of earlier Hot Water Music in that regard (which I mean as the highest of high compliments). Is there a conscious decision to make sure you’re both singing leads on each song, rather than turning them into “Matt songs” and “Nate songs”? By the same token, when you’re writing music, do you write verses with your voice in mind and Nate’s voice in mind, or are you just writing?
There are very few songs that I have written without dedicating a portion of the song for Nate and the same is true for him. A large part of the band is that we both provide vocals and we have tried to avoid making songs “mine” or “his”. I think that in addition to adding a different flavor to the sound of the song, the dual vocals provide two different perspectives on the same subject, lyrically, which I think contributes an added dimension to the songs. Having said that, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything with either of our voices in mind. In fact, I have had to alter quite a few of the songs that I have written once we start playing them because the vocal progression I had originally written (usually by whistling while I play the guitar) doesn’t work when actually sing with the band. One of the only songs that I sing completely by myself, “Different Road” completely changed once I started recording it because what I had originally written sounded stupid…….. an unfortunate issue that revamping may or may not have fixed. That is one of the drawbacks of writing a lot of our stuff by myself with an acoustic guitar in a different country.
Similar question, but you mentioned earlier that you had a few special guests come in and lend their talents to The Real Enemy. Aimee Allen from The Interrupters, a personal favorite of mine, takes a verse on one song and totally nailed the feeling that I think you were going for. How’d the collaboration with Aimee and the Bivonas come about, and did you write a part like that for her specifically, or did you let her pick what she felt like she could work best with?
We met the Interrupters in 2012 when we played the Rancid/ Cock Sparrer anniversary show in SF. Tim Armstrong introduced us and played me some of their music and I was blown away. Their brand of Ska is extremely refreshing and, in my estimation, just what that genre needed. They also happen to be amazing people. We met up again in Seattle the next year and stayed in close contact afterwards. Just before I left for Korea we went to see them in Seattle with the Bosstones and we started talking about a collaboration. The song in question is called “The War Inside” and deals with PTSD. Aimee’s voice and perspective adds an essential element to the song that I think would be lacking without her in the mix. The backing vocals that the Bivonas provide are incredible, also. Extremely talented people with equally amazing personalities.
In spite of the fact that the last full-length was called The Scars We Hide, there’s something about The Real Enemy that somehow seems even more intimate and personal on more than a few songs. When you write songs like that are more personal and less socio-political do you worry about how they’ll land when your family and close friends here them? Do you feel like you write from a different place on songs that are more personal rather than more social critiques?
This record is without question more personal than Scars. Some of the songs are extensions of issues we addressed in Scars and others are observations of things we have witnessed in the past couple of years. As I said before, this is target rich environment for songwriting, but the frustration that fuels the lyrics I write isn’t really applicable to my family at all. In a world where “safe space” gets thrown around (way too) often… my family is my one and only. I don’t vent my frustration very often at home because I feel like my time with my family should be reserved for enjoying each other’s company which political discussions (even ones where both parties are in agreement) typically don’t facilitate…though my wife and I have had a few discussions lately where we simply verify that one of us is just as baffled by what is going on as the other.
Does being away, like in Korea for a year for example, give you a different sort of perspective on the already ‘target-rich environment’ that is the United States?
Absolutely. I think that a lot of Americans, as the cliche goes, take for granted what we have. But it’s cliche for a reason. You look at what we experience and what we complain about every day, when we say that our freedom and our rights are being taken away, but then you go somewhere else, like Korea, for example, where if you post on social media about a protest, there’s a very good chance that you’ll be arrested. Simply for posting about that on social media.
Not even for being involved with the protest, just for posting about it?
Yes. Four people were just executed in…I can’t remember what country…Singapore, I believe…they were executed for by firing squad for drug offenses. (Editor’s note: In hindsight, it was Indonesia. No, I didn’t know that off the top of my head. Here’s the story.) And there are ten more that are on death row for drug offenses. So you look at it, and it doesn’t in any way, shape or form negate the social upheaval that’s happening in our country, but it does put it in perspective. There’s definitely other countries that are going through much worse social upheaval and social unrest, and that doesn’t negate what’s going on here. But being away from family, more than anything, shows you what’s important. With that in mind, you look at what’s going on here and your first thought is “how is this going to affect my family”? I have a son and a daughter and the thought becomes less about how annoying this change is for me and more about how this could potentially affect my kids and my grandkids down the line.
That’s kind of where your perspective gets changed. You go to a country like Afghanistan where it’s so far removed from anything that could be even thought about in our society. It really makes you think and appreciate what you have. But like I said, you still come home and this is still the country that we live in and our problems are our problems and they’re not made any less significant by the fact that there are more substantial problems in other places. Looking around, there’s just so much insanity going on everywhere that you look. When I brief my soldiers before the weekend, I have to tell them to be careful where they are. If they see a protest start to form, they need to get away. It’s really crazy, the things that have become so common to us that we don’t think twice about them, but if you take a step back and look at what you’re actually having to brief people on, it’s bizarre.
I can imagine that being overseas in a place like Afghanistan or even Korea, and knowing what our problems are, I could see where that makes somebody more frustrated by what goes on here. At some level, it should make you realize that in the grand scheme of things, we have it pretty good…how can we not figure some of this out, you know?
Yeah, it’s really, really frustrating, and what’s starting to get frustrating to me is the rhetoric on both sides that’s less about fixing any of the problems and more about demonstrating how the other side is going to make the problems worse. It’s almost impossible to have any sort of dialog about any sort of social issue with anyone anymore because everything’s become so divisive that if you make a suggestion or a criticism in any way, shape or form, it almost has to be met with a response from the other side. There can’t be a healthy discussion about how we can fix it and what we can do. It’s more about whose fault it is and who’s making it worse.
I’ve always been, for lack of a better term ‘intrigued’ by people who are drawn to both the military/law enforcement side of the spectrum…and I work in connection with that field and have friends and family in law enforcement and the military… and people who are drawn to the punk rock world, which is traditionally anti-authoritarian and about fucking the man and fucking the system and all that. Do you find yourself having to justify one side to the other very often?
There’s been several times that I’ve done interviews, especially in Europe for different ‘zines or whatever…I think my favorite (question) was “I’ve always looked at the military as being a bunch of bullshit rules. How do you put up with all the rules in the military?” And my response has always been that I’m not sure there is a vocation where you don’t have rules. You can’t live in a country that has any sort of tax system without following rules. And to be quite frank, I’ve experiences way more bullshit in civilian stuff than I have in the military. I may be an anomaly, but I don’t think that I am. I understand that there’s an inclination when you’re young and you’re angry and you’re pissed off to say “fuck the man! Fuck the establishment!” And that’s perfectly normal. I was like that, and I think it’s perfectly acceptable to be angry now. I think the political and social climates that we live in right now foster an environment of anger and frustration, and if you care at all about your family or your country, you’re going to be frustrated right now.
That said, I joined the military and continue to serve in the military because my job is to take care of people. I take care of soldiers. I take care of and defend the people on my left and my right. People seem to mistake serving in the military with a blind agreement with everything that the government does; that you’re essentially a robot who’s been brainwashed to follow orders and you’re completely devoid of right and wrong and your self and free thought. And that’s certainly not true. The United States Army is the most economic and socially diverse organization in the world. So if you’re looking for a difference of opinion, that’s a pretty good place to find one. The amazing thing about that organization, the American military, is that they’re able to put aside all the differences that life has handed them and unify under the understanding that they’re defending the principles of the country that we all love. That’s just how it is.
So I understand the “patriotism is bullshit” thing; people are totally free to think that way. That’s their right, and I’m not going to argue with someone or try to convince them why this is a great country, and I’m not going to convince them why I’m not on tour with the band. I feel like my decisions are my decisions; they’re what’s best for me and what’s best for my family. I’ve been able to make a good living for myself and my family. I do it because I love it, and because I get to take care of people, and really foster the success and personal and professional development of younger soldiers. That’s extremely, extremely rewarding. I’m not going to ever apologize for what I do to anybody, just as I wouldn’t expect anybody to do that to me.
Well, and I would imagine that in some ways, you probably get more bullshit from people in the punk rock community, which is supposed to be all-accepting on paper, for your military lifestyle than you do from people in the military, which is supposed to be more rigid and structured, about your punk rock lifestyle.
The amount of bullshit that civilians have to deal with at work is astonishing, and I’ve never experienced that level of bullshit in the Army. Yes, of course there’s bullshit, but it’s such a different kind and at the end of the day, yeah, you’re having to deal with things you wouldn’t have had to do had you not been told, but you can go home and feel as though you’re doing something that matters. Call it naive or whatever you’d like to, but that’s my reality. My buddies that work in civilian jobs, which is most of my friends, they have a hard time, and I very, very seldom complain about my job. Just taking that, I’m pretty comfortable in my vocational decision.
When you get back from overseas for a year, I’m sure you obviously dive back into family life first. How quickly after that happens does the itch to start writing and recording and playing again come creeping back in again?
I think I was home for two weeks before we started recording. Anybody that’s got a band probably feels the same way; once it has you, it becomes such a big part of your life.You’ve got all of these things that are pent up and trying to get out. I was writing for Stadium Way and I was also writing for Noi!se, and I couldn’t wait to get the songs to the band and to let them listen to them to see what they’d think. We were using the voice recorders on our phones to shoot songs back and forth, just to see what we thought, what we could add to or take away from them. And then the guys recorded three songs that Jesse wrote while I was gone. So yeah, we were back at it within two weeks of me being home.
Is that a weird thing, the idea of trading ideas over the phone when you’re 18 hours away or whatever the hell it is (editor’s note: total guess on my part, but Washington State and Seoul, South Korea, are actually 16 hours apart. Yes, I Googled it after we talked), rather than being in a room hammering songs out together? Or do you view it as kind of cool that you’re able, with technology being what it is now, to write almost like you’re in the same room?
Without exception, that is one of the hardest things. Right now, if I had a song idea, the longest I’d have to wait is until next Tuesday so that I could take it to the band. In Korea, I would have to wait until I could get into my room, get a decent recording on the acoustic, send it to them, call them and whistle the other leads and fills that i was thinking of, and the vocal progressions so that they kind of understood what I was talking about. But one of the most frustrating things about being away is when you get that email from somebody that just discovered your music and it really resonated with them or you get acknowledgement from somebody that’s one of your heroes, you don’t really have anybody to share it with. Like, I can share it with my buddies in Korea, and other than being like “oh, that’s great man, who’s that?”…there’s nobody to share it with that understands the significance it has to you. They’re going to acknowledge it because they’re your buddies and it’s cool, but you know they have no friggin’ clue what you’re talking about. So that’s one of the most frustrating things. Thank god for FaceTime and everything else, because those are life savers.
What’s the prevailing trend, musical trend, when you’re in Korea? I’m assuming there’s not a big street punk or hardcore community, obviously, but what is the wheelhouse among everybody over there?
K-Pop. (Editor’s note: – yes, I put a hyperlink there in case you aren’t familiar with K-Pop and have a burning desire to cross that off the bucket list. Click at your own risk, I guess.)
I should have guessed that.
There is a pretty big hardcore scene, as I understand it, in Seoul. I have a buddy who lives over in Korea who I was never able to really link up with while I was there for various reasons, but he’s actually trying to put on Oi! Shows over there, and he actually brought The Business over there. It’s there, it’s just very, very small. I’ve been to Korea six or seven times to train and everything else, and I was in a city called Daegu and there was a kid with an Adicts shirt walking on the other side of the street and I got super, super excited and ran up to him. And he ran away! (*both laugh*). I didn’t really think about it at the time, but I guess a six-foot-five American running at you for apparently no reason at all would be a little intimidating when you’re a Korean kid who’s just minding his own business!